October 31, 2012

My Virgin Blog Tour


That's right, people. I published my first book a year and a half ago* and I've never done a blog tour before. Cue the Halloweenie Psycho shower scene track. But I have publicists now, doing a job I'm used to doing (*cough* ignoring *cough*), and they set this thing up, and then gave me homework.

I understand I've promised an excerpt from Easy, so let's get right to that. Under the excerpt, you'll find the list of bloggers who are doing fun stuff like reviews and interviews and giveaways!
 
* Exactly a year and a half ago, in fact! That's kind of spooky... wooooooooo!!! Okay, fine. It's not really spooky. It is weirdly coincidental, though. Like when you realize for no reason that it's your half-birthday. Or you look at the clock and it's 11:11. Or your daughter calls and says she's on her way home from work and stopping by Target and did you need anything? Right after you noticed you were totally out of razors. I have no idea where I was going with that. Let's just get to the excerpt, which is what you're all here for anyway, right?

FROM CHAPTER EIGHT (scene: Operation Bad Boy Phase):
He knocked again, a little harder, and I stopped thinking and opened the door.

Fringes of dark hair stuck out from his dark gray beanie. In the diffuse hallway lighting, his eyes took on the nearly colorless quality they’d had that first night, when he peered into my truck after he’d fought with Buck. He hunched his shoulders, hands in his front pockets, sketchpad under one arm. “Hey,” he said.

I stepped back into the room, holding the door wide. Olivia and Rona lounged in their own doorway across the hall, eyeballing Lucas, gaping at me, watching him enter my room while Erin was gone. Olivia arched a brow and glanced at her roommate.

The whole floor would know I had a hot guy in my room within five minutes.

I let the door swing shut as Lucas tossed his sketchpad on my bed and stood in the center of the room, which seemed to shrink with him in it. Without moving, he examined Erin’s side of the room, the walls above her bed covered in photos, the Greek letters of her sorority above the glittery letters of her name. Taking advantage of his distraction, I studied him: cowboy boots, scuffed to hell; worn jeans; heather gray hoodie. He turned his head to scan my side of the room, and I stared at his profile—recently-shaved jaw, parted lips, dark eyelashes.

Facing me, his eyes flicked over me and then to the laptop on my desk, which I’d hooked to a small set of speakers. I’d set up a playlist of tracks from my collection and set it to play quietly. Another of Erin’s suggestions. She’d titled the playlist OBBP, and I belatedly hoped he didn’t inspect the list and ask what that meant. I wouldn’t tell him, of course, but my blush-prone parts would probably incinerate.

“I like this band. Did you see them last month?” he asked.

Kennedy and I had seen them, in fact—the night before we broke up. They were one of our favorite local groups. He’d been weird that night. Distant. At concerts, he’d usually tuck my back to his chest, legs spread just enough to accommodate my feet between his, his arms locked around my middle. Instead, he’d stood next to me, like we were friends. After we broke up, I realized that he’d made up his mind before that night—that his reserve was evidence of the wall between us; I just hadn’t seen it yet.

I nodded, vanquishing Kennedy from my thoughts. “Did you?”

“Yeah. I don’t remember seeing you there—but it was dark, and I maybe had a beer or two.” He smiled—white teeth, just imperfect enough to indicate that he’d not suffered through the orthodontics I had. Pulling off the cap and dropping it on my bed, he placed the pencil on his sketchbook and slid both hands through his flattened hair and then shook it out, resulting in a bed-head look. Good God. When he drew the hoodie over his head, his white T-shirt pulled up a bit with it, and I got my answer on how far the tattoos extended. Four lines of script, too small to read, snaked around his left side. Some sort of Celtic-looking design balanced it on the right. Bonus: I now knew what Erin meant by lickable abs.

The hoodie joined the cap, and his T-shirt fell back into place. Picking up the sketchbook and pencil, he turned to me, and I noted that the ink on his forearms continued over his biceps and under the short sleeves of his shirt.

“Where do you want me?” More breathless than I’d intended, my question seemed a brazen proposition. Wow. Could I be any more obvious? Maybe I should just come out and ask him if he wanted to be my Kennedy rebound, no strings attached.

My insides went liquid from his ghost of a smile—the one that was becoming more and more familiar. “On the bed?” he said, his voice gruff.

Oh, God. “Okay.” I moved to perch on the edge of the mattress as he swept the hoodie and the cap to the floor. My heart was pounding, waiting.

He peered at me, head angling to the side. “Um. You look really uneasy. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

We don’t have to do what? I thought, wishing I could ask him if using me as a model was a pretense, and telling him that if so, it was a pretense he didn’t need to maintain. I looked him in the eye. “I want to.”

He stuck the pencil over his ear, looking unconvinced. “Mmm. What position would be the most comfortable for you?”

I couldn’t say aloud the answers that popped into my head at that question, but the flush that spread across my face like wildfire gave me away. He caught his lower lip in his teeth, and I was sure it was to contain a laugh. Most comfortable position? What about with my head stuck under a pillow?

He glanced around my room and went to sit on the floor, against the wall, facing the foot of my bed. Knees up, pad on his thighs, he was just as I imagined him in class the other day. Except he was in my room, not his own.

“Lie down on your stomach and rest your head on your arms, facing me.”

I did as he told me. “Like this?”

He nodded, eyeing me as if absorbing details or searching for flaws. Coming onto his knees, he moved close enough to fan his fingers through my hair and let it fall over my shoulder. “Perfect,” he murmured, scooting back to his position against the wall, a few feet away.

I stared at him as he sketched, his eyes moving back and forth from my face to the pad. At some point, his gaze began to move over the rest of me. As if his fingertips skimmed over my shoulders and down my back, my breath caught in my throat and I shut my eyes.

“Falling asleep?” His voice was soft. Near.

I opened my eyes to find him on his knees next to me, sitting back on his heels. My heart picked up the pace again at his nearness. “No.” He’d left the pad and pencil on the floor behind him. “Are you… done?”

He shook his head slightly. “No. I’d like to do another, if you don’t mind.” At my nod, he said, “Turn onto your back.”

I rolled over slowly, afraid he’d be able to see my heart hammering through my thin sweater. He grabbed the pad and pencil from the floor and stood. Staring down, he let his eyes roam over me, and I felt vulnerable, but not in danger. I knew so little about him, but there was one thing I felt unequivocally: safe.

“I’m going to arrange you, if that’s okay?”

I swallowed. “Uh… sure.” My hands seemed affixed to my ribcage, my shoulders hunched almost to my ears. What, this isn’t how you want me positioned? I barely contained the nervous twitter that bubbled up at the thought.

His fingers encircled the wrist nearest him, and he brought my arm over my head, bent it as though it had been thrown back. Taking the opposite hand, he splayed my fingers over my abdomen, sat back, stared at me a moment, and then moved it, too, over my head, crossing my wrists, as though I was bound. I struggled to breathe normally. Impossible. “I’m going to move your leg,” he said, his eyes on mine, waiting for my nod. His hands on my knee, he angled it out, leaving it flush against the mattress.

He picked up the pad and turned the page. “Now tilt your face toward me a bit—chin down—that’s good. And shut your eyes.” I fought to remain relaxed, knowing that as long as I heard the scratch of his pencil across the page, he wasn’t going to touch me. I lay unmoving, eyes closed, listening to the rasp of lead on paper, broken by the soft brush of his finger, smearing a line or a shadow.

From the laptop on my desk, my inbox dinged, and my eyes flashed open. Without thinking, I rose to my elbows. Landon? But there was no way I could check.

Lucas was watching me closely. “Do you need to check that?”

Landon had ignored my email all afternoon, when in the past he’d answered so promptly that I was probably spoiled. But Lucas was sitting in my room. On my bed. I lay back, returned my arms to their prior position, and I shook my head. I didn’t close my eyes this time, and he didn’t ask me to.

He returned to sketching, concentrating on my hands a long while, and then my face. He stared into my eyes, back and forth between that intense examination and his drawing. When he stared at my mouth for long moments—drawing, staring, drawing, staring—I wanted to reach up, grab his T-shirt, and pull him down to me. My hands clenched involuntarily and his gaze flicked there and back.

Eyes blazing, he looked down at me. “Jacqueline?”

I blinked. “Yes?”

“The night we met—I’m not like that guy.” His jaw was rigid.

“I know tha—” He placed a finger over my lips, his expression softening.

“So I don’t want you to feel pressured. Or overpowered. But I do, absolutely, want to kiss you right now. Badly.”
CLICK HERE for full description, playlist and purchase options

BLOG TOUR PARTICIPANTS:

OCT 30:  Page Turners
NOV 1:   Supernatural Snark
NOV 2:   Total Bookaholic
NOV 5:   Gone with the Words
NOV 6:   Romance Books Forum
NOV 7:   Irish Banana Review
NOV 8:   Romantic Crush Junkies
NOV 9:   Kindle Obsessed
NOV 13: The Book Binge
NOV 14: My Overstuffed Bookshelf
NOV 15: Book Crack
NOV 16: Bewitched Bookworms
NOV 19: Great Reads
NOV 20: The Book Pushers
NOV 21: Poisoned Rationality
NOV 22: Romance Novel News
NOV 23: The Ravenous Reader
NOV 26: Literary Cravings
NOV 27: Reader Girls
NOV 28: Romance Junkies
NOV 29: Oh Paper Pages

October 26, 2012

Blatant Pre-Order Bribe

When I licensed the photo for the cover of Easy, I found several photos in that same shoot. Since I'd looked through thousands of photos, I knew which one I wanted for the cover the moment I saw it. But some of the others were great, too! So I licensed several photos I knew I'd never use for a book cover, but wanted for writing inspiration, and maybe some future book swag.

Below are two bookplates I designed for the launch of the new Penguin/Berkley version of Easy. One is from the cover, and the other was one of my favorite "inspiration" photos while writing. Each is approximately 3x4 inches, and adhesive-backed to go right inside the cover of your book. (I'll sign it in the blank spot above my printed name.)



Here's what's required if you want one:

* PRE-PURCHASE the Penguin/Berkley paperback of Easy (which releases November 6th) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound. (If you pre-purchased it before this post, that counts!)

* SCAN or ATTACH a copy of your receipt (please conceal any personal financial info!) in an email to the email address on my "About Me" page of this site.

* Subject line - so it will stand out from non-bookplate-related email: THE BRIBE WORKED

* I'll need to know: (1) Your name and mailing address, (2) Which bookplate you want ("cover" or "smiling")

NOTE: If you purchased the indie-published version of the paperback, I'd be happy to send you a signed bookplate. Please mail a copy of your receipt (or a photo of you holding the book!), a note telling me which bookplate you want, and a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to the address on this page.

October 18, 2012

To the Cave!

BTL #4 is due to Razorbill UK on March 1. ("Hello, Reid.") If I want to get that writing done on time, I have several other writing projects to do first - promotional stuff for Easy. To me - it's five months old. To my publishers, it's brand new.

Self-publishing involves self-promotion at whatever level you feel like doing. If you don't want to do something, no one is there to make it sound exciting or palpable or try to talk you into it. You just say, "No, thank you," and/or don't do it. The End. When you have a publicist, they call you or send you deviously upbeat emails about the very cool stuff you should definitely try to fit into your schedule. And their emails always sound like they're smiling, even without smiley icons.

My response to such things: Okay. All right. I can do that. Hell yeah, I can do that.

But I spent yesterday doing errands I've been neglecting. OMG. And answering the emails piling up. OMFG! Don't even get me started on what the laundry room looks like. Today, at the urging of a reader, I posted photos I have of the couple from Easy's cover to Facebook. First, the cropping and resizing, and then the flurry of comments - aka crack to anyone who posts photos on Facebook.

Meanwhile, I'm reading/giving feedback on a friend's WIP. (Yes, it's freaking awesome.) And I promised to read another friend's book, uh, tonight. I'm behind on at least one book review... maybe two? It's only 11:00 pm, and I'm so tired I could end up face-first on this keyboard any minute. (Can drool + laptop = electrocution?)

I need a nap! For. A. Week! But first - I've agreed to write a few posts/columns, do several Q&A-type interviews, and do a blog tour. And also write two books. All of this requires the sort of CAVE TIME  usually reserved for noveling. So if you see me on Twitter or Facebook, please say What the hell do you think you are doing get back to your cave! Mmm-kay?

image courtesy of exsodus / freedigitalphotos.net

October 5, 2012

Penguins on Two Continents

Publishers Weekly: Penguin Divisions Team Up to Buy Self-Pubbed Bestseller Easy

It's been just over four months since I published Easy, and no one has been more continually surprised at how well it's been received than me. Each milestone it edged past shocked me - from inclusion on bestseller lists the likes of The New York Times and USA Today, to foreign translations, audio acquisition, and Penguin/ Razorbill UK picking up the UK/Commonwealth rights.

My agent had been approached with several North American offers over the past few months as well - solid offers with reputable publishing houses. None were quite right for one reason or another, usually boiling down to the question of categorization - What is Easy? Young Adult? Romance? Women's Fiction? The main characters are 19-21, the setting is a university campus, and the story is a contemporary romance... but that love story is threaded around a serious issue that encompasses the reason I wrote the book - sexual assault by an acquaintance.

For digital markets, I can and have labeled the novel contemporary romance, mature young adult, and new adult (the latter of which doesn't exist - yet - as a legitimate category), but the process for assigning a shelf at a brick-and-mortar book retailer is a whole different ball of wax. How do you classify and shelve a novel that refuses to fit neatly into an existing category? I couldn't answer this question, and I couldn't accept less than a publisher who would be willing to step, hop or leap outside the box in an attempt to do so.

No one came up with an innovative way to classify and present Easy until - in a nod to the concept of "New Adult" fiction - NYC-based Penguin Group made a unique offer to acquire Easy under two imprints: Berkley Books (adult) and Penguin Young Readers (juvenile). I have no idea how many questions and concerns they're used to fielding before an author signs, but I probably used up my quota. I can only say that I felt that my worries were taken seriously, and I felt heard. They respect what I've done with this book on my own, and I respect their reputation as one of the Big Six, but no one is so in awe that we're unable to communicate honestly. That's just as it should be, I think.

Stay tuned.