Interview with Leah Braemel...and a chance to win Texas Tangle!

Today my guest is Leah Braemel, the terrific author of Texas Tangle, which released this week from Carina Press. I've been salivating to read this one ever since I saw that delicious cover - seriously, does it get any better than that? Leah agreed to answer a few of my burning questions, and I'm also at her blog today, discussing how to keep the spark alive in your romance - Ex Appeal's Ty and Jenny definitely could've used some tips, until they figured things out for themselves. ;)

After you read Leah's interview, leave a question or comment to be in the running for a PDF copy of Texas Tangle! It's that easy. Winner will be picked by random drawing. Contest closes July 1st at 10 pm EST.

And if you need more fun...I'd love it if you stopped by Leah's blog to offer your own tips on keeping the romance in your relationship!

1)    Tell us about Texas Tangle. What inspired the story?  

Back in 2007, I’d only just decided to get serious about my writing and joined the Romance Writers of American.  My critique partners who both live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area convinced me to register for the RWA National conference that was being held in Dallas that year.  One of my critique partners breeds Arabian BLUE horses and after the conference she invited me out to her place where she took me riding and even introduced me to her dad who taught me how to shoot a variety of guns including an old fashioned Colt 45. I’m a writer, so I’m constantly playing what-if and I started toying with the idea of writing a contemporary western. Of course, that idea had to be pushed aside while I worked on a couple other ideas I had (Private Property—which is based on my other critique partner’s area, which was followed by its sequel Personal Protection.) But finally the characters of Texas Tangle decided they’d had enough of sitting in the closet fighting off the dust bunnies so I pulled it out and started working on it. Originally it was supposed to be a novella, but as I was writing Dillon’s best friend Brett walked in to help investigate Nikki’s break-in. Turned out Brett and Nikki had a history…yup, the plans for the novella quickly flew out the window.

2) Carina Press, the all e-print of Harlequin, is just launching this month. Why did you think your story would be a good fit there?

Carina press is the digital-first line of Harlequin. Harlequin. I have to admit I was worried that submitting a story about a polyamorous romance to them, again, this was Harlequin and I’d never seen them actually publish a ménage. But Angela James repeatedly posted on the Carina blog and on Twitter that yes, they were looking for erotic romance including ménages. Since I got the offer, the people at Carina have been great to work with—the editing has been detailed and thorough, and I’m really pleased with how Texas Tangle has come out.

3) Texas Tangle is a menage story (yum!) You've written menages before. Why does that particular setup appeal to you as a writer?

I think ménages with two men pleasuring one woman is a fantasy that many women have. And it’s so much fun to write. With Private Property, I took the concept that the boyfriend who suggested it got cold feet part way through which caused some wonderful internal conflict for him.  With Texas Tangle, the conflict is that the two guys are expecting the woman to choose between them. So I guess it’s the conflict they can create that appeals to me.

4) If I was going to try one story of Leah Braemel's, which would you suggest? I know La Nora's answer would be whichever is on sale now but sometimes an author's "baby" is their first release. Which is it for you?

OMG, I asked this of some of my guest bloggers last year and they said it was like asking to choose which of their children they preferred. Now I know what how they feel.  I love Private Property, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Personal Protection and its hero Sam. And now Texas Tangle is right up there—I love Dillon because you just can’t get him down, he sees the positive side in everything, while Brett is the dark and tortured hero I also love. I know, I know, you’re saying “so which one?”  I think I have to borrow La Nora’s response on this one – Texas Tangle.

5) Any advice for someone trying to break into the writing business?

Wow, I could write several pages of advice on this one.  I think the best advice I can give is also the simplest. Write.  I’ve met a lot of people who tell me they’re writers and they’d love to get published, but when I talk to them about their projects, they usually tell me they’ve never actually finished a manuscript.  If your goal is to be published, unless you’re writing non-fiction, you have to have something finished—and polished—to hand to an editor or an agent. They can’t publish a half-finished book. So finish it. Even if you write 250 words a day, a couple paragraphs, by the end of a year, you’ll have written over 90,000 words. So put your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard and finish that story.

6) What are you working on now?

I’ve got a couple projects I’m working on, but mainly I’m trying to finish up the next in the Hauberk series for Samhain.  This one is Chad’s story and it’s been kicking my behind. It’s a reunited love story, about a couple who have let life drive them apart and have to find their way back together again. I’m finally done the first draft and am editing it, so I’m hopeful for it.  Of course, it still depends upon my editor liking it.

If you want to know more about Leah, you follow her on Twitter, or join her Facebook fanpage.  You can read more excerpts of Texas Tangle, and her other erotic romances, Private Property and Personal Protection, on her website or on her blog.

Now for the really good stuff...

Texas Tangle Excerpt:

They worked in a companionable silence, though she’d never been so aware of having another person in the barn with her. When she reached for a bag of grain, Dillon took it from her as if it were no heavier than a bag of sugar. “I got it.”

His stomach muscles taut, he carried it to the spot between Bashir’s and Witness’s stall doors before dropping it. He bent over to rip it open, his jeans pulling tight over his ass. Paying so much attention to the delectable sight instead of where she was walking, Nikki stumbled over an empty bucket she’d left on the ground.

“Whoa, watch out there.” Dillon grabbed her, his arm whipping around her waist.

She landed against him with an oomph, aware of how his thigh muscle pressed against hers, his arms banded around her waist, his muscular chest mashed into her breasts. She could have blamed the heat flooding her on the sultry August evening, but she had no explanation for the electricity arcing between them.

His breath whispered out of him, a soft caress over her cheek. The brim of his cowboy hat brushed the top of her head as he closed the distance between them, skimming his lips over hers.

Holy crap, he was kissing her. In real life, not in one of her fantasies.

She tilted her head, her hands clutching his arms half afraid he might disappear if she let go. While beneath her hand, his heart pounded in a steady beat, her own pulse spiked as fast as a hummingbird’s.

The tip of his tongue brushed the seam of her mouth; she parted her lips, allowing him entrance. He didn't plunder, but he didn't let her escape either. A hint of burnt coffee and spicy male teased her taste buds. Her breath hitched when he shifted positions, pressing the hard length of his erection into the cradle of her hips. Savoring the taste of him, her mind swirled into fantasies of getting naked with him, his hot flesh sliding over her, into her.

One of his hands slid under her tee and splayed over the small of her back. A shiver zigzagged along her spine, following the path of his calloused fingers and palm as they rasped her skin. She made a tiny whimper as she ground against him, urging him on. Taking the sound as encouragement, he deepened the kiss, took more from her. Demanded more. She gave everything he asked of her, but took equally from him. Her body pulsed with need by the time he finally ended the kiss, the stiff stubble of his beard abrading her cheek as he withdrew.

Interested in your very own copy of Texas Tangle? Just leave a comment and you're in the running! Thanks so much for being here today, Leah. Congratulations on your latest release!


Welcome Ellora's Cave author Kaily Hart!

I'm so excited to have fellow Ellora's Cave author, Kaily Hart, with me here today! Not only is she a good friend, she's an amazing author and I loved her debut release, Picture This. Trust me, you WANT to read this book! In honor of her novella's release, Kaily's going on a whirlwind blog tour and my blog is her first stop.

First off, I’d like to thank Cari, not just for having me here today, but for reaching out to me last year, for being the first person to ever comment on my blog, for critiquing Picture This, for being the first author I profiled on my own ‘Just Published’ blog segment and for her continual support and encouragement. Come to think of it, this is the first interview I’ve done about being a published author. Cari, you’ve been amazing, so thank you!

Kaily, you're welcome. And I'm honored to be the one to host your first "published" interview - and I fully admit I campaigned for this designation, though Kaily's too nice to say so - and to have been the first one to comment on your blog. As soon as I read your posts, I knew we'd get along well. I'm so excited about Picture This's release!

1) Your first book is about to be released. Does it feel the way you always thought it would? How are you combating release day jitters? (seriously, I need some tips! LOL)

I know, don’t remind me! I’m trying hard not to hyperventilate here. Seriously!  June 29 has been approaching like a freight train since I found out the release date and I have no useful advice, I’m afraid. It helps to know (maybe a little LOL),  that when the buy link finally opens I have no way to know how Picture This is selling, so being nervous or anxious or stressed, isn’t going to contribute anything. It will simply just be amazing to see it out there and available among the works of many wonderful authors with the possibility that someone might actually read it. Honestly, it still doesn’t seem real. Does it feel the way I thought it would? Yes and no. When I started writing, I pictured my first published book available in bookstores across the country. I envisioned walking in and seeing my book on a shelf, being able to pick it up and perhaps one day see someone reading it somewhere. My first book turned out to be an ebook and won’t get a print run, but it will be available online. WORLDWIDE!!! Guess that’s not a bad trade-off. I’m going to still want the bookstore scenario at some stage, but I’m happy with how things have turned out.  I think it really set in that I was going to be a published author the first time I saw my cover. It was suddenly tangible and all I could think was “my name is actually on a book cover!!”.  I’m not sure about other writers, but I visualize things very clearly (and I’d visualized this very thing), but the feeling I got from that first look was like being jolted with electricity. Maybe it’ll be the same for each book. I sort of hope so, but I’m not sure.

2) What was your inspiration for Picture This? It has such a fun, unusual premise.

It’s kind of a funny story because I wasn’t intending to write a novella at the time, nor was I at the point where I was going to submit to an epublisher. I had that planned for later in 2010. It just kind of all happened by accident LOL. I regularly check out the call for submissions on the major epub sites. I happened to see a call on the Ellora’s Cave site that asked for stories  to do with the ‘fine arts’. My story premise just hit me in that instant and I got a visual of this large, very explicit but seductive painting of a beautiful, naked woman. I immediately started to think about who she could be. She became a woman who’d posed nude in her early twenties because she was desperate for money. I kept digging deeper and the character for Jillian was suddenly 3D! Sam was easy from there. A total alpha male, crude and rough around the edges who had become successful and overcome tremendous hardship, obsessed by a painting. It throws him off his axis and I always love that. For him, not being able to control something as basic as his reaction to anything, is just unacceptable. I played with it in my head for awhile and moved on. I really intended to leave it at that, but the story just wouldn’t let go. Or I should say the characters wouldn’t let it go. They demanded I tell their story. I guess it’s an occupational hazard. So, I relented. I wrote and polished it in seven days and discovered the allure of the novella in the process. I sent it in and… the rest is history.

3) There are lots of "shoulds" and "have tos" in this business. What one piece of advice would you advise an unpublished author NOT to follow?

Mmmm, interesting question. There’s a lot of information available to the aspiring author. I know, because I’ve immersed myself in it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, confused or just plain frustrated.  I think as writers we have to follow our instincts and do what’s right for our stories and how we tell them (our voices). There is a mega amount of different (and sometimes conflicting) information out there about the craft of writing, submissions, promotion and marketing, publishers, agents, and everything and anything associated with writing and this industry. You have to be educated but I would say don’t take any advice unless it feels right to YOU. It has to resonate with you in some way. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ industry and I don’t think you can be greatly successful by being like everyone else. You have to find what’s unique about yourself and your writing and build on that. DON’T STAY IN YOUR COMFORT ZONE.

4) What keeps you at the keyboard when you're not sure if you should keep going?

That’s another good question. Honestly, I’ve never been at the point where I wondered if I should keep going (*knocks on wood*).  When I started seriously writing about eighteen months ago, it was with a deep seated surety that it was what I was meant to do. I was confident I’d get published. One day. It was just a matter of how long it was going to take! Now, that’s not to say I haven’t faced rejection. I have! My very first query letter resulted in a very polite response that the story line had already been done and wasn’t very original.  Huh. They didn’t even want to see a single word I’d written in that book.  It was a bit of a blow, but it didn’t deter me at all. I looked at it as the ‘book I needed to write’. I learned an incredible amount with that book. It may never see the light of day, but it proved to me that I could actually write a full length novel and at the end of the process I’d found my writing ‘voice’, the style and tone that’s uniquely mine. So, it more than served it’s purpose.  As to the motivation to write, I just have too many ideas, too many untold stories and too many interesting characters to ignore for long.

5) Do you have a "dream" genre or book of your heart you'd love to write?

Actually, I have many! Books I’d like to write, that is. This is one author who is never short on ideas. I keep an ‘idea file’. It currently has bits and pieces for over 35 books across a number of genres. I don’t think about love, sex and romance in the context of any one genre and I’ve read across all of them. I have a contemporary trilogy I’m currently writing targeted at Harlequin Blaze. They’re related books with a unique twist but are not dependent on each other. The first book is currently sitting on an editor’s desk (*fingers crossed*) under consideration! I’d really love to see this  book published because I’m so totally in love with the hero, Callan. I love writing the tortured, ‘rough around the edges’ hero who’s never really cared for anyone, but by the end of the book will lay down his life for the heroine. Sigh… I have a total of five books outlined in the same vein as Picture This and I also have two small paranormal series outlined (four books each) that I would love to write. I started writing contemporary, but I read quite a bit in the paranormal/urban fantasy genre and I know I’ll write in this space at some stage.

6) What are you working on right now?

A lot!! Firstly, I had a lot to learn about promoting a book and I’m still learning. I probably won’t ever stop on that front! Over the last couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and weighing options and ended up selecting a few key things to do. I have a blog tour throughout the month of July and I’m participating in a few promotional activities some of the writing forums hold. At the end of the day, nothing will compensate if you don’t have a good story, well told. It’s important to market yourself and your work of course, but I think the best thing, particularly a new writer can do promotion wise, is to write the next book and have it be better than the last. I’ll also be attending the annual RWA conference in Orlando next month, so I’m starting to think about that. I’m really excited. It’s kind of like an extended girls weekend with a few hundred of your friends all interested in the same things! On the writing front, I’m currently working on two additional stories for Ellora’s Cave. One will be finished and off to my editor in July, the other in August. They’re along the same lines as Picture This with an intriguing premise, a confident but vulnerable heroine and of course, a hot alpha male who so has it coming to him. Hot and steamy sex doesn’t hurt either!

Thanks again for having me today, Cari. I admire you as an amazing author and for being such a supportive friend. Congratulations on your own publishing success. Harlequin Blaze will be ours this year, my friend!

Thanks so much for being here! Let's hope Blaze is one of the next stops on our journey! 

Want to learn more about Kaily? Visit her website HERE or her blog HERE. 

Better yet, do you want to buy Picture This? I know you do! Go HERE to pick up a copy.


Release Day Introspection

Normally on a release day, an author pimps their book and advises for everyone to go buy. I will do that, but it'll be at the end of this post. A good friend of mine, J.A. Saare, also has a release today, Crimson Moon, that you absolutely have to go pick up. She's an amazing writer and this book is really a book of her heart.

But before I get to the hardcore pimpage, I wanted to post a little about writing, and insecurities, and how for every step you take, it seems like you take a half-step back. Sometimes more. Either you get less-than-complimentary scores in a contest or difficult edits from a CP or editor or agent, or maybe a scathing review. Or even one not so scathing. As my CP Taryn Elliot and I like to say, "nothing is worse than meh." I'd almost rather you hate something I wrote than feel nothing.

And sometimes the step back is that you lose the connection with the stories you're writing. We all want to make a little money and get a little attention for our work. Writer's prerogative, right? But what happens when you forget the point? When the stories stop being meaningful to you, when your characters become a vehicle for you to get where you want to go as an author...that's scary. And it happens, because I know it's happened to me.

Not with Ex Appeal. No, Ty and Jenny came out kicking and screaming and wouldn't have relented until their story was told. But it's happened to me with other things I've written in the past. I like parts of them, but the original thread of why I wrote them became lost. It also means that now that I know I sometimes lose sight of the end goal, I need to be super-vigilant. The end goal is to become better at my craft, while hopefully entertaining people, along with supporting myself and my family. And to tell the stories that matter. To me, first of all. If I ever feel "meh" about what I'm writing for more than a little while, either something needs to be fixed in the story or I wasn't supposed to be writing that one anyway. Regardless if my head wants to write it, my heart needs to be involved in the process too.

Having confidence in yourself as a writer is a tough thing - and worse, it's not static. You can be flying high this morning and on a one-way-trip to crapsville tonight. But part of becoming confident in your words is trusting yourself that you can keep your promises and deliver the story you've agreed to. As authors, we're offering a sort of guarantee to our readers. "Buy my book, and you'll get 7.99 worth of enjoyment from me." Well, that's not good enough. I've phoned it in before, because I'm human. You get tired and sick of your story. Maybe your CP isn't available or you're not sure she'll like your latest offering so you don't bother sending it to her (red flag, btw.) So parts of that book become your best at that minute, when maybe you could have given just a bit more.

Well, I'm reaching for more. Truthfully, I needed to give myself this lecture. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed and undercapable at the moment, so my way of combating that is to come clean and man up. Honesty is one of our greatest tools, and maybe some other writers understand what I mean. I can't claim not to know my tendencies to give "good enough" when excellence is the only good enough there is. And really, what better day is there than a release day to declare you'll only give your readers your best?

With all THAT out of the way... ;)

Today is Ex Appeal's release day from The Wild Rose Press's Wilder Roses. It's now live here. I love this story, I love the cover - which really fits Jenny and Ty to a T - and I never once forgot my connection with these characters. They weren't about to let me use and abuse them, that's for sure. Here's the blurb:

As the webmistress for one of the Northeast’s hottest dating sites, Hunk Du Jour, Jenny Talbot is no stranger to reading the applications of potential clients. But when the latest application that crosses her inbox belongs to Ty Randall, the guy she broke up with a mere twenty-seven days ago, she does a double take. Reading what Ty wants in bed not only gets Jenny hot, it also makes her rethink ending their relationship. All she longed for was a little more spice in the bedroom—okay, a lot more—but he let her go without an argument. Faced with the possibility that Ty may really be moving on, getting her ex back becomes more appealing than ever. But will revealing exactly what she needs allow Jenny to finally experience ultimate pleasure or will she drive away the man she loves for good?

I'll be posting teaser excerpts over the next few weeks. Won't be hard to find some, because believe you me, Jenny definitely knows how to get Ty all stirred up!

And I also mentioned J.A. Saare's Crimson Moon is releasing today from The Wild Rose Press. Another incredible story from an author who gets better with each book. And I love this cover too!

To celebrate my release day, I'm hanging out with my good friend, the amazingly talented author Lynne Roberts, on her blog. We'd love to see you!


Personal Research has a cover!

My novella, Personal Research, coming soon from Ellora's Cave, has a cover! No release date yet, but here's the (unedited) blurb. Works well with the smokin' cover, I think. I love the woman's pose...and look at the wicked placement of that heel! 

Briefs are Elena Thomas’s life, whether they’re legal at her day job or on the men in the erotic novels she writes. She’s just fine with saving her imagination for her books until temptation appears in the form of Nunzio, the smokin’ computer maintenance guy. Thanks to the scorching scene he discovered shooting out of the printer, she’s not sure if he wants her because she’s inventive or because he thinks she’s desperate. That doesn’t stop her from taking advantage of the servicing he’s offering. Up on her desk. On the copier. And oh yeah, in her boss’s chair.

Nunzio's shocked to learn Elena’s wall-hugging persona hides a wildcat of a woman with delicious fantasies and an enticing wit. She's exactly what he's been looking for in an adventurous lover—and girlfriend. He knows she enjoys their sexual research. Now he just has to convince her that sizzling sex is only the opening chapter of their blazing hot romance. 

So what do you think? Do you like it?

Getting covers is way too much fun. Guess that means I should get back to work if I want to get more of them!


Intrigue in India by April Vine is out on Friday ...and I'm at Once Written, Twice Shy!

My good friend and CP April Vine has a great new release from The Wild Rose Press Wilder Roses and it's out now! (Well, in a couple hours.) I'll be picking up my copy early in the morning. I've loved April's other stories, Blindfolded by Lust and The Midnight Rose, and I know I'll love Intrigue In India just as much.

Here's the yummy blurb and excerpt (Warning - X-rated):

“All you have to do is disguise yourself, pretend to be me, go to India and meet the man I’m supposed to marry. By the time he realizes you’re not me, I’ll have already eloped…”

After a break up with her boyfriend, Haley Kent agrees to her best friend, Anjali’s madcap plan, hoping mystical India will help her find inner peace. Instead Anjali’s arranged future husband turns out to be a gorgeous Indian God with a touch that scorches.

Rajeev Yuvaraj refuses to be outsmarted by the sexy, blonde, blue-eyed American and devises his own retribution. A bride is what he expected and a bride is what he would get even if it meant handcuffing Haley to his wrist during the marriage ceremony.

But when Haley discovers the true nature of his secret scheme, can Rajeev seduce her back into his arms again?


“Any luck?”

Haley spun around, her breath freezing as she took in the man standing in the center of the room. He had removed his bridegroom clothes and wore only a pair of black silk drawstring sleeping pants. Her eyes grazed over his golden skin and followed the contours of his wide shoulders, deep collar bones, angles, planes and sinewy muscles of his chest and abdomen and lower to the impressive bulge in his pants.

She ignored the need to rake her fingers through his midnight blue hair, denying the need to know if it felt as soft as it looked. She refused to be mesmerized by his aphrodisiac hazel eyes, veiled with the thickest, silkiest, and darkest eyelashes. She had no desire for him to drag her beneath his body while his beautifully chiseled lips skimmed her skin. She swallowed uncomfortably. Then why were those thoughts rampant in her head? It must be the air.

“Gandhi would have turned the other cheek.”

“I am hardly as saintly.” His eyes roved the length of her body, lazily outlining her nakedness beneath the negligee. She held her breath as his blazing gaze scorched the delicate red lace scarcely concealing her breasts. Her nipples swelled in supplication. He glanced back up at her, daring to her react. Haley barely resisted the overwhelming urge to offer them up to him.

She tilted her head, narrowed her eyes and hoped for a show of indifference. He licked his sensual lips and her indifference faltered. Even tightening her legs failed to prevent the drizzle of cream seeping onto her thighs.

“Have you ever been cuffed and fucked before, Haley?” he drawled, leaning onto a marble desk, nonchalantly twirling the set of satin-covered handcuffs in his long, toffee-colored fingers. The very handcuffs she wore to her wedding.

Sounds delicious, doesn't it? It's supposed to be a very hot weekend here in the Northeast, so I'll be ready to read this scorcher with my fan nearby. ;)

Here's the link to TWRP's Wilder Roses' homepage, where Intrigue In India should be up bright and early on Friday.

Happy weekend and mega congrats to April!

One last note: Because I'm completely ditzy, I almost forgot that I'm blogging with the awesome Rebecca J. Clark, a fellow TWRP author, on Friday at Once Written, Twice Shy. My topic is how the shy writer can maximize their exposure on Twitter, including my own experience of  meeting my EC editor there. I'd love it if you stopped by!


Around...sort of

I haven't doing my blog rounds as much as I should be lately, but hopefully I'll have a finished story to show for it soon. My current ms, All Summer Long, was supposed to be a 10K Quickie for Ellora's Cave. It's now 32K and not nearly done yet. I've also planned two Quickie stories to go with it, featuring some of the side characters. Consequently, I've been busy. I also received my cover for Personal Research, which I'll be posting soon. It's delicious, as all of EC's covers are.

So I leave you with a question...have you ever had a story where the characters would just not shut up and demanded to have their way with you in a much longer format than you'd originally planned? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Ex Appeal has a release date!

...and it's June 25th! I'm really excited for Ty and Jenny's story to hit the virtual shelves. I'm about a third through the third and final Hunk Du Jour story, Giving It Up, which I hope to have finished in the next couple months. Since I'm also writing a few *cough, cough* other stories, progress is coming in fits and starts. I'm thinking of adding WIP counters back on the sidebar to track my progress, but they will take up half the side of the page!

In other news, my good friend Laurann Dohner has convinced me to give creating my own - very, very basic - website a go. Once I'm a bit more established, I'll hire someone to do it up right, but this will start me off. Once I have it up and running, I'll let you all know!

In the meantime, is it June 25th yet?