Reading

11/24/15 Book News , Lies I Told , Promises I Made , Reading # , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Promises I Made Release Day!

PromisesIMade HC CToday’s the day I’ve been waiting for – the day readers will finally get to know the outcome of Grace’s story from Lies I Told. This books means so much to me, and I’ve already been getting mail from advance readers saying it’s my best book ye, the highlight of which was a reader who emailed to say, “Of all your books, Grace’s story is the one that moved me the most.”

Add that to praise from Kirkus – who called the book “riveting” – and it’s an understatement to say I’m excited for this story to be out in the world. I so hope you enjoy it! As always, please consider adding it to your Goodreads shelf and leaving a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.

They help more than you know!

<3

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11/13/15 Book News , Reading # , , , , ,

A Walk in the Sun Cover Reveal

La-di-da! Oh, happy day!

I finally get to reveal the cover for my Summer 2016 book, A Walk in the Sun. This book has a very special place in my heart. It’s about love, loss, family, and the risks we all have to take to really live. It’s a quintessential summer love story with heart, and I could not be more excited to share it with you.

So without further ado…

WalkinSun HCI just love this cover for its simplicity, and for the fact that it really highlights the setting, a family farm in a small town in upstate New York. There’s a wounded female with a spine of steel and a tough-talking cowboy with scars of his own who works on her farm for the summer, peach pie, old orchards, swimming holes, small town fireworks displays, and lots of questions about legacy and loyalty, and how much of ourselves we should sacrifice in the name of those things. Most of all, it’s a love story in the truest sense of the word. I think it will speak to the uncertainty a lot of young people feel at the end of high school, and to the healing power of love in all its forms.

You can preorder it now (even though the cover isn’t up yet), and stay tuned here for more information as we get closer.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Also, if you’d like this kind of news first, plus free bonus content and chance to win a Tiffany necklace every month, please subscribe to my email list on the right sidebar. I actually revealed this cover early for email subscribers. You can easily get in on that action.

😉

 

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10/21/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Lies I Told , Mob Boss Series , Promises I Made , Reading , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three Months Indie: An Update

Lawless_front_6ix9i_RGB

Well, I did it. Lawless released last night, bringing my first full-length Indie series to a close. It’s hard to believe less than three months ago I hadn’t even released Ruthless. I was nervous and scared, wondering if I was going to look back on my decision to go hybrid as a huge mistake.

Thankfully, that is NOT how I’m feeling.

Like, at all.

😉

I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months. At least one of the Mob Boss books has been on at least one of the Top 100 lists almost the entire time, and I’ve met hundreds of new readers, all of them passionate and enthusiastic about modern romance. I’ve also met countless Indie and hybrid authors who have been incredibly generous with their information and beyond supportive of this newbie. I lost track a long time ago of the dumb questions I’ve asked along the way, but there hasn’t been a single time that someone hasn’t offered me an answer.

To give you an idea of my progress, here’s a 90-day graph showing you my sales from August 1st when Ruthless released to today.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 8.47.53 PM

You have to ignore that REALLY big jump at the end — that was my 2300 preorders for LAWLESS dumping into the system. It makes it look like I wasn’t selling well before, but my sales actually held steady between 200-300 a day from August 10th onward. I had a quite few days where they were over 300 —  one where I inexplicably hit 411 — and fewer where I dipped to 175, usually after the 30-day sales cliff that follows a new release. But it’s been pretty steady, with sales of around 6,000 books my first month and close to 9,000 my second month. October will probably see me around 10,000 when it’s all said and done. You can see little jumps in early August and the beginning of September which coincide with new book releases, proving that new content goes  a long way toward keeping you visible. I’m very happy with these numbers, even if they don’t grow, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t with a consistent new release schedule.

Financially, this is the best decision I could have made. I’m not going to be quite as transparent here as I was in my last update, but I will say that if you know I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months, and you know I’m typically making a 70% royalty on the Indie side, you know why I am pretty ecstatic. I haven’t discounted my books at all up until now, so they’ve all sold at $3.99.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like my feet are under me, and it’s hard to explain the relief I feel knowing I’ll be paid once a month instead of twice a year (or less if I haven’t earned out) on the traditional publishing side.

But the biggest gain of all is in creative choice. If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’ve spoken before about the necessity of writing what’s selling when you make your living writing. “Write the book you want to read” is great advice — but not always sound if one must bring home a paycheck from said writing. I’ve always loved the books I write. I pour my heart and soul into every one, and I have a powerful, lasting bond with every character and every story.

But there are other stories. A near-future sci-fi thriller. A coming of age YA novel set against the backdrop of travel on the cheap. A contemporary story about sisters that deals with divorce and mental illness. An adult thriller about eco-terroism. These are all stories that I’ve shelved at one time or another because I was told the market wasn’t ripe for selling them, or that my particular brand wouldn’t support a sale in one of these areas. To be clear; I am GRATEFUL for this advice. The people looking out for me know I make my living writing, and they know I support four people with that income. There hasn’t been much margin for error.

But here’s the thing; the kind of can’t-sleep-I’m-so-excited passion I have for certain projects doesn’t come along every day. It was the way I felt about Prophecy of the Sisters when I was writing it, and it’s a voice I’ve tried to listen to ever since. Having to shelve those ideas because financial concerns forced me to play it safe was hard and sad and creatively demoralizing. Because the financial noose has loosened, I’ll be able to take more writing risks on the traditional publishing side — with the bonus of having an Indie readership who may read those books if they don’t sell to traditional publishing.

I feel like I can breathe again. Most importantly, I’m starting to dream again. Of the books I can write (even if no one thinks they will sell) and the things I can do for myself and my family and others with this bit of financial blessing. I think that’s one of the worst parts about being in survival mode; you’re so focused on getting through it that it’s hard to remember to dream. Dreaming feels like a waste of time and energy when you’re struggling to survive, but what a loss it is when we stop. It’s so wonderful to feel hopeful and excited again — about my writing and about life in general and the opportunities I might have now to travel and write ALL kinds of stories.

That I owe to the people at Authorbuzz who spearheaded the marketing campaign that started sending traffic to my book pages right out of the gate, and to my readers, who have been so lovely and wonderful and excited about these books, and whose enthusiasm has carried me forward through a difficult three month writing schedule. I also owe a thank you to my mom and my kids, because they have been right there with me, game for anything, urging me to take the leap after talking about it for years. Having people who have your back, people who believe in you and cheer for you and make you feel like you can do anything… Well, that makes all the difference.

Now that things have stabilized, my focus is expanding. I have books lined up for both Indie publishing and traditional publishing for the foreseeable future, and I’m working on a schedule for 2016 that will allow me to continue releasing my Indie stuff no more than 6-8 weeks apart with time to work on two speculative projects as well. I plan to attend a few conferences and/or workshops next year, and I’m looking forward to meeting more awesome authors.

On the traditional publishing side, PROMISES I MADE (sequel to LIES I TOLD) comes out November 24th, and my first YA love story, A WALK IN THE SUN, will be out next summer. On the Indie side, THE MUSCLE, my new serial featuring Luca, a character from the Mob Boss series, launches November 17th and will b complete by Christmas. I’m excited to share them with you!

And there’s always more to learn! I’ve found the marketing and business side of Indie publishing to be fascinating (color me surprised!), and I can spend hours reading about it or watching videos or talking to other Indie authors about the things they’ve done. I also need to work on maximizing my exposure on Nook, Kobo, and iBooks, because right now, I’m only selling a tiny fraction of my total there. I have a feeling I’m missing some promotional opportunities and methods for connecting with readers on those platforms, and that’s something I want to be better about. I’ll also be creating a dedicated website for Michelle St. James so I can further separate my two writing names and the books that go with each.

Most importantly, there’s craft, something that has always fascinated and challenged me. I want to continue getting better, and I’m excited to keep working toward that goal. Writing MORE has always been my proving ground, and I’m so very excited to know now that I’ll be able to do so for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride!

And if you’re curious, you can buy Ruthless, the first book in the Mob Boss series below;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

Fearless, the second book, can be found here;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

And LAWLESS, the final book is out now;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

(iBooks is still in review)

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10/14/15 Contests & Giveaway , Lies I Told , Promises I Made , Reading , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , , , , ,

Promises I Made ARC Giveaway

PromisesIMade HC CI can’t believe we’re only a little over a month away from the release of Promises I Made. It’s so nice to have this duet released nine months apart instead of a year, which is more standard for series. It’s always hard to wait such a long time for a book!

I’m especially excited to share the conclusion to this story. It’s a story that really speaks to a struggle I think many of us share — the struggle to believe that we are really worthy and deserving of love and hope and all the beauty that life has to offer. You can preorder it here (and with any book retailer), and if you haven’t read LIES I TOLD, you can do so here (also available at B&N, Kobo, Ibooks, and local Indie).

In the meantime, I have two very coveted ARCs available for giveaway. There are lots of easy ways to enter, and if you already follow me on Twitter or Instgram, or you are part of my Reader List, you may already have entries in the bank.

😉

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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09/06/15 Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless # , , , , , , ,

FEARLESS is Now Available!

Fearless_front_V2Technically, it’s not out until tomorrow, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I always pad my release dates by a day or two when I don’t set up a pre-order. That’s because each retailer has wildly different upload times.

Amazon is always the first to make a book live, so those of you reading the Mob Boss series on your Kindle are in luck; FEARLESS IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.

I’m still waiting for B&N and iBooks to make the book available for sale, and the paperback is also in processing, but those should be available tomorrow on the technical release date.

In the meantime, happy reading to those of you who are able to pick it up today!
<3

Buy Fearless on Amazon

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09/02/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

A Big First Month for RUTHLESS

front_6ix9i_RGB_300dpiIt’s September 2nd. A month ago today, Ruthless, my first self-pubbed novel wasn’t out yet. I had no idea what was in store, how well (or not) the book would sell, if going hybrid would change the landscape of my career like I hoped by giving me more control over my work and how it’s published and marketed.

Hard to believe that so much can change in a month.

But it did, and I’m happy to report that Ruthless sold over 6,000 copies in August. It’s a number that was far beyond my wildest expectations back when I was hoping royalties from the first month would just cover the money I spent on covers, formatting, marketing, etc.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to give self-publishing a try is because of all the Indie and hybrid authors who went before me. For context, it’s important to note that discretion is highly valued in traditional publishing. One doesn’t talk openly about advances or royalties, about the editors we find difficult, about publishing houses who have reneged on promises (it’s okay to shout from the rooftops about those we love, and we do!).

I get it. Being professional is important in any business, and much of this information is of a highly personal nature. Still, it’s been difficult not having easy, timely access to sales numbers and earn-out rates over the past few years. It’s hard to know if you need to make changes to your marketing plan or do something different without data.

One of the most refreshing things about going Indie with my adult work has been the utter transparency, both among many Indie authors and with regards to real-time data. It’s been a little exhilarating to watch my numbers climb, and those moments were well worth the few times when they dropped and I was left wondering if it was a trend, if it was due to everyone going back to school, if maybe I’d simply reached the end of RUTHLESS’s novelty as a new book. In a way, those moments were good for me, too. They were a reminder that you can watch your numbers all day long, but when push comes to shove, you need to keep your head down and write more books.

Anyway, I’m not sure I would have taken the plunge if not for all the authors who were generous and brave enough to report their experiences before me. Because of this, I feel like I owe a debt to pay it forward for anyone else out there thinking of going this route. This is where it gets a bit squicky for me, because I don’t like talking about my personal income any more than the next person, but it’s impossible to share sales numbers without talking royalties (mostly because anyone can figure it out knowing that the standard royalty on a self-pubbed book at $3.99 is 70%), and it’s impossible to give you an idea how life-altering this experience has been without talking sales numbers.

With that in mind, I’m going to be totally straight with you, with the caveat that I will probably not do this again, at least not to this degree of detail. I’m sure there are lots of ways I can screen shot and post graphs, but it’s the first day of school and I’m running on three hours sleep, so I’m going to keep it simple

August 2015

Total Books Sold (all formats) – 6,218

Print Copies Sold – 13

Digital Copies Sold (iBooks) – 19

Digital Copies Sold (Nook) – 41

Digital Copies Sold (Kindle) – 6,145

Total Royalties – $15,198.69

These numbers are with only one book – RUTHLESS – for sale. I never once discounted it, because I feel strongly that authors (and all artists) should be paid fairly for their work. This means all 6,000+ copies of the book were sold at my current full price of $3.99.

This is what it looked like;

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.26.51 AMThe vast majority of sales were from Amazon for the Kindle platform. To be honest, I wasn’t very surprised. I had heard that Kindle sales compromised a majority of the digital marketplace — I just hadn’t realized how much. And while I know this isn’t going to be popular with some, I have to say; I can see why.

Buying in the Kindle store and reading on a Kindle device is so easy, and from an Indie author’s perspective, Amazon is by far the simplest to work with in ease of upload, speed of listing, access to foreign markets, and resolution of problems/questions. Like anyone, I feel a little nervous knowing that so much of my income is tied up with one distributor, but if another retailer wants that to change, they need to do better to compete in this space. Because frankly, Amazon is killing it on every level. I don’t always love the decisions they make, but the truth is, I haven’t always loved the decisions made in traditional publishing either.

Another interesting trend; RUTHLESS killed it in the UK Amazon store. Even now, nearly a month after it’s a release, it’s sitting at 503 in all Kindle books and 29 in New Adult Romance. The book also did well in Canada and Australia, with a few copies sold in Europe, and even in India.

If you read my post two weeks into the month, you know that the Facebook ad set up by AuthorBuzz was instrumental in giving the book the push it needed to get more visibility (you can see on the graph the crazy turn things took when the ad kicked in). That continues to be true, and I can’t say enough how much I recommend them for marketing and ad consultation. The ad image was just one part of what gave the books legs. Without the design expertise of the people at AuthorBuzz (they know how to work within Facebook’s parameters for maximum success) and keyword knowledge, the ad may very well have sat in the sidebar with no clicks. As it is, I have received thousands of clicks on the ad, and it’s still going strong. That traffic to the book got me more sales, which pushed Ruthless up on the list of Hot New Releases on Amazon and gave me yet more visibility. For a long time, the book was on pages 2-4 in several categories, and that really helped as well. As more people read it, more people reviewed it, talked about it, added it to their Goodreads shelves. It was a beautiful circle of momentum that began with the ad, and I plan to continue using AuthorBuzz for marketing on an ongoing basis for both my Indie work and my traditionally published work.

There was a bit of a learning curve — and a courage curve — with preorders. I didn’t list FEARLESS (the second book in the Mob Boss series) for preorder because Amazon has some rules about preorders that made it scary for me. Namely, you have to upload the final file ten days before the release or lose your preorder privileges for a year. As someone who’s sometimes tweaking small things right up until the book goes live, I just wasn’t ready to commit to it, especially since I was working to get the books out close together for my readers.

But I decided to do a preorder for LAWLESS, the final book in the series. I want readers to be able to see that the final book will be available the month after Fearless releases, and I wanted to be able to put the link in the back of Fearless to make it easy. This meant I had to upload the Lawless preorder before Fearless is even out in order to have the Buy link for my formatter. I’m sure it’s a little confusing for anyone digging around on Amazon for book two to find only books one and three available, but it will all make sense in a few days when Fearless is up on Monday. Next time, I’ll build in lots of time and list each book for preorder before publishing the first one.

I can’t tell you how much fun this has been, and how, well, RELIEVED I feel. I don’t think I realized how scared I was all the time. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep selling books to trad pub, scared that my advances there would dwindle, scared that I had zero control over the fate of my career and my ability to support my family. For now, I still hope to sell my YA stuff to trad pub, but for the first time in a long time, I am resting easy in the knowledge that there are people who want to read my stories — and that I have the ability to get those stories to them for the foreseeable future. I’m excited to write the next series (based on characters introduced in Ruthless), and maybe to play in the serial space, too.

I know not everyone will get these results out of the gate. I’ve been lucky to have a career in traditional publishing that gave me a platform, and some of those readers have followed me to my adult work. But there is a place for good books that might not find a home in the traditional publishing marketplace, and there is some comfort to that. For you, too, I hope.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and cheered me on. Biggest thanks of all to those of you who bought, read, reviewed, and recommended RUTHLESS. None of the stories would matter if you weren’t there to read them.

<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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08/20/15 Indie , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Writing # , , , , , ,

Romance Readers… I <3 You!

Just a quick thank you to the many readers who have recommended and reviewed RUTHLESS. The book continues to defy in convention in how well it’s doing during its debut month, and I’ve been especially gratified by the number of favorable reviews that have been posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

Reviews are so super important to a book’s success, and it’s always felt a bit like an uphill stubble to get people to leave them, even when they’ve loved my books. I get it! We’re all so busy now. I actually had to make a pact with myself about a year ago that I would leave more book and product reviews, because I noticed that I relied heavily on them when making my own purchases, then never bothered to leave them for others.

D’oh!

Now I do try to leave reviews as often as possible, and I see that YOU GUYS DO, TOO!

So thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For being part of RUTHLESS and this first foray into self-publishing, for cheering me on, for leaving reviews and recommending the book to friends online and IRL, and for inspiring me to write more stories from my heart.

<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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07/26/15 Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Self-Publish , Shadowguard Series , Writing # , , , , , ,

Leaning In to Life and Work

Work_Hard_QuoteMan… it has been a crazy couple of months, you guys.

I came off BEA with a huge work high and rode it all the way into July. In the two months since, I’ve written a whole book, completed a big freelance editing project, completed a smaller freelance editing project, built a pseudonym from the ground up for the Mob Boss series (including new name, domain name, new social media accounts all around, etc.), and developed a new YA concept (with character analysis and synopsis). I’ve absorbed information about self-publishing until I’ve felt like my brain will explode (metadata anyone? covers? blurbs? ISBN #s?), and I’ve connected with lots of awesome new people in the romance genre and in the field of self-publishing. I’ve read like crazy to keep up on things, maintained my household (including the weekly monster grocery shops that seem to go with the territory of having four young people in the house), and spent time with my kids when I can (and when they’re home).

And I’m not going to lie; it hasn’t been easy.

The thing is, I’ve considered self-publishing romance ever since I wrote the Shadowguard novella series (a series of adult romances based on the world in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS) almost three years ago. I wanted more control over my career, both creatively and financially. I wanted to have the freedom to experiment and to release books as often as I wanted. But there was always a reason why I couldn’t.

I was too busy.

I wanted to focus on my contracted YA work.

I was worried about writing romance under a name most well-known in the YA genre.

I was worried about trying to build a new platform for a pseudonym.

All of which were valid concerns, and none of which have really changed or been resolved.

I’m still to busy to be doing this.

I’d still like to focus on my YA work (I’m not under contract at the moment, but I’d like to be).

It’s probably not a good idea to write adult romance under a name most well known in the YA genre.

It is difficult and time consuming and humbling to start over with a new name.

But you guys… I’m doing it. I’m working constantly. Some things have fallen by the wayside. I’m up until 3am most nights, even when I’m so tired I don’t think I can keep my eyes open. Even when it means I’m only getting four hours of sleep. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m writing this blog post instead of doing something else, and I’ll spend the rest of the day working, too.

Basically, this is me right now.

Ant_Crackers

But I’m doing it.

I think a lot about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to lean in, even though it was directed more at women in traditional careers. She’s right; it takes guts to lean in. It takes courage to risk everything over and over again. It takes heart to choose your dream over and over again.

And one thing I’ve learned is that dreams are built not on the big moments, but on the little ones. Every time you work when you want to sleep or play. Every time you push when you want to settle in. Every time you risk when you want to play it safe. Every time you believe when you want to quit. THOSE are the moments that build dreams.

But you MUST have those moments.

Because dreams aren’t built by sleeping. They aren’t built by doing the same thing over and over. They aren’t built by being comfy. And they sure as hell aren’t built by quitting.

You have to WERK, my friends.

And the truth is, even that is no guarantee of success. You may fail. You may have to recalibrate. You may have to change course, take a detour, even take a break. But make no mistake; you will not get what you want if you aren’t willing to work, sometimes for years, often through countless setbacks. But the time will pass anyway. You may as well pass it in pursuit of something you really want.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s interesting to me how many people I meet who want big things but aren’t willing to do the big work. After awhile, it gets boring hearing people TALK about what they want to accomplish.

Watching people DO is so much more interesting, don’t you think?

And when it comes to writing, doing doesn’t just mean output. It means honing your craft (go back to school if you must), learning from others, reading constantly, experimenting, and writing thousands of words that no one will ever read.

Write now I am WORKING. Because I can’t control a lot of things. Maybe no one will like my work. Maybe I won’t be able to sell it at all. But the one thing I can control is the work. I can make sure I never have to look back and wonder if I didn’t work hard enough, and WHEN I reach my goals (because I will), I can look back and say, when the ugly monster of unworthiness rears its head (for me it always does), “You earned this, baby!”

And I can mean it.

Now stop reading and get to work.

And if you haven’t added Michelle St. James and/or Ruthless to your social media sites, would you consider doing so? I’d love to keep you posted on my progress, and all content on those pages is unique to those accounts (i.e. not repeated on the Michelle Zink profiles).

Michelle St. James Facebook

Michelle St. James Twitter

Michelle St. James Goodreads

Ruthless Goodreads page

<3

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07/22/15 Reading # , , , , , ,

Mini-Review; Hardwired

Hardwired_CoverI recently started reading the Hacker series by Meredith Wild and absolutely love it. Featuring a young, savvy businesswoman seeking funding for her start-up and a sexy, controlling investor, it’s a love story that manages to represent modern women while acknowledging that love still has a hold of us all.

Oh, and lots of SEXY TIMES.

Because that has a hold on us all, too.

Obvi.

😉

Add it to your Goodreads shelf here!

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07/08/15 Indie , Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

Some Like It Hot

You guys! I’m going to have a new book for you — in less than a month.

🙂

And this one is completely different, both because it’s my first full length adult romance (the Shadowguard books were all novellas) and because I’ll be joining the growing list of hybrid authors publishing both traditionally and Indie.  I’ll be going into the details in a later blog post, but the short version is that after six years, seven published novels, six novellas, one TV/book deal that never happened (the book was written, but the TV part was put on hold which also shelved the book), and countless samples, partials, and proposals, I’m anxious to have more control over my career.

Those of you who know me know that I’m prolific, and this will give me the opportunity to publish as much as I want in any genre. All of which means MORE books in MORE genres– starting with RUTHLESS, book one in a three book series.

 

front_6ix9i_RGB_300dpi

Two years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake — until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence — while always an option — isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.

 

RUTHLESS will be out August 3rd, and the next two books, FEARLESS and LAWLESS, will be out in September and October respectively. It’s been loads of fun to read and write in a different genre, and I’ve been really impressed with the adult romance I’ve read in the past few months.

Best. Research. Ever.

Although fair warning to those of you who don’t like it HAWT; romance has gotten decidedly more wicked in the past couple of years.

😉

As part of this new chapter (see what I did there?), all of my adult romance will be written under the name Michelle St. James. It will be an open pseudonym, which means everyone will know it’s me, but I hope this will decrease confusion between my adult and YA work. I’ll be keeping the two separate to some degree, although I may occasionally post from the Michelle St. James Facebook page (Like it here to get updates, freebies, etc.) to my personal profile since so many of you follow me there. For now, www.michellestjames.com will forward to this site, and you can also follow the Michelle St. James Twitter profile. The Michelle St. James pages will have content unique to the adult genre including hot guys, adult romance recommendations, and anything else that might not be appropriate for my “mainstream” audience.

You’ve been warned!

🙂

I’ve watched a lot of my friends go Indie and have been so appreciative of the information they have so willingly shared. I’m going to try and pay it forward by being as transparent as possible, so stay tuned for updates on my progress (and some angst along the way, there will probably be angst). I’m considering this an evolution in my career, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you guys!

 

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06/06/15 Book News , Life , Reading , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Newsletter – Incoming!

After much deliberation I have decided to join the ranks of newsletter-bearing authors. One of the hardest things about authoring in the modern age is knowing how much to share, how often to share it, and whether people are REALLY interested in hearing it. Here, I’m my own worst enemy, because my assumption is always that people are busy and overloaded with information, and it takes something pretty special to compel them to read something else on their computer.

Do I have stuff to share that’s something special? I’ll let you decide. But I do have stuff to share — about reading, writing, and life.

And sometimes I even have NEWS.

😉

So after taking an informal Facebook poll and confirming that a good number of my readers would like a semi-personal, once-monthly, quick and easy to read account of what’s going on — with my writing and everything else — I decided to give it a whirl. My plan is to include a couple of real life things (recipes, things I’m loving that month, etc.) with a personal snippet and a book recommendation or writing tip. I’m planning to keep it one page, and only put it out once a month.

But the big thing is that I’m going to make as many announcements as possible to newsletter subscribers first. And that includes my next book announcement.

If you’d like to stay in the loop, you can sign up for the newsletter here in under ten seconds. And if you decide to opt out at any time, all you’ll have to do is hit the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of each newsletter.

<3

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06/01/15 Lies I Told , Life , Reading , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BEA Fun!

BEA Fun!

Whew! I’m back from the city and still recovering from the whirlwind of awesomeness that is BEA. In short; books, bloggers, books, authors, books, editors and publicists, and more fun and excitement than I usually get in a whole year (which, now that I think about it, must change).

I kicked off BEA with the EpicReads Blogger Party. This was most memorable because I FINALLY got to meet my editor, the amazing Jennifer Klonsky. It’s such a special thing to speak to someone on the phone and online and think they’re special, and then to meet them in person and realize you were RIGHT. Not only is Jen an incredibly talented editor, but it’s also so obvious that she cares deeply about her authors and their work that it’s easy to feel like you’re in good hands. I also got to meet my tireless publicist, Stephanie Hoover, who deserves extra credit,because she planned the party at the Bourbon Street Grille. And it was SO FUN. There were balloons and a photo booth and tons of amazing food and swag bags and just general all-around awesomeness. Of course, I didn’t get a photo with anyone, because I’m always too wrapped up in the moment to bother taking pictures, but here’s one of me cheesing in the taxi on the way to the party.

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😉

The next day I arrived at the Javitz Center for my signing and was blown away to find people already in line for me at 9am. This might not seem like a big deal, but almost everyone is out late partying at BEA, so I really appreciate that these awesome folks got up early and made their way to the conference center to stand in my line.  


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I saw so many awesome readers, including Rebecca, a former Borders bookseller that I’ve known since Prophecy came out in 2009.


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I had an overflow line, but the people at BEA were nice enough to move me to another table at the end of my signing time, so I was able to keep going until every last book was gone. I was sad to hear later that I’d missed some of my of my favorite readers. Darn it! But these radiant beauties got my last two books.

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After my signing, we made our way to the HarperCollins booth, where I waited through an entire cycle of books to snap this picture of my cover on the digital screen. Because I am patient like that.

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I met lots of new readers and bloggers, and even got little presents from a few, including this cute little bag of goodies from Swoony Boys Podcast (there was candy, too…. but that’s gone now).

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🙂

Then I was able to get a picture of Kenneth and Rebekah, who made me laugh, helped spread the word about my signing, and kept me from going insane or becoming dehydrated from lack of water.

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We spent the rest of the day walking the floor, picking up tons of amazing books, including the much-anticipated City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg, Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, and Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I was also able to meet up with dear friends like M.J. Rose, which is always a special treat for a hermit like me.

But of course, I didn’t get a picture!

Later that night I attended the HarperCollins author party. It was basically perfection, and I had a good mix of time spent talking to other people in the industry and time alone, gazing out at the incredible views from Tribeca Rooftop and really appreciating how far I’ve come, and how lucky and grateful I am to still be writing books for a living, and to be living this wonderful, terrifying, exhilarating writing life. I’m glad I had those few moments when I didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need anything MORE. I’m going to try and remember that feeling for all those times when I feel like what I’ve done so far isn’t enough.

Because really, it’s pretty freaking amazing, and whatever else happens in my life, I will always have published these six (soon to be eight) books. I will always have been here. I will always have done this.

Plus, there were mini donuts, warm cookies, and shot glasses of milk.

😉


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After the party I met up with my sidekicks for a proper dinner (there was so much amazing food at the party, but I never eat much at those things because I’m always too busy visiting and taking it all in) in Tribeca. The lighting for pictures was poor, but I actually took one, and let’s be honest, it’s not possible for these two to take a bad picture.

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We left tired but happy. Conferences and workshops are a good reminder of why it’s so important to stay connected to the writing community — and that goes double for people like me. I’m lucky in some ways, because I feel like I can be happy and content in almost any situation. But that can be dangerous, too, because I get stuck in a rut, writing in my isolated barn house, feeling perfectly content until I actually go out and DO SOMETHING. Then I remember that I’m a change junkie, that I LOVE learning and experiencing new things, and I get the itch to do something dramatic.

This trip came at an especially important time. Kenneth and Rebekah just graduated from college and are looking for full time jobs in the city, and Andrew will be going to college in September. Most likely, it will just be Caroline and me in the fall, and she’ll be gone two years later. It was nice to have the reminder that I can still be engaged in grown up life without kids, that I have something to offer and something to gain by being around others. I returned home invigorated about my plans for the next two years (and boy do I have some surprises for you, readers!) and even more determined to begin laying the groundwork for the next phase of my life. I don’t know much about it yet, but I do know it will involve living somewhere else, travel, and lots and lots of writing.

No matter how much fun it is to be out of the routine, it’s always nice to come home. Especially when you’re welcomed by kids who are happy to see you.

And this.

<3

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12/01/14 Life , Reading # , , , , , , , ,

A Quick and Easy Gift for the Reader on Your List!

Prophecy_PB_COVER_HRNeed a personal book for the reader on your list? I’ve got you covered!

😉

Right now through 12/8 you can purchase ANY of my books (online or in person) from Oblong Books and Music and I’ll sign and personalize it for you in time for the holidays. That includes Prophecy of the Sisters, Guardian of the Gate, Circle of Fire, A Temptation of Angels, and This Wicked Game.

Nothing makes a better gift for a book lover than a signed book, plus you’ll be supporting an awesome Indie.

Just order here and tell me to whom you’d like the book signed. Easy peasy!

🙂

 

0 likes no responses
10/24/14 Reading # , , , , , , , ,

It Was Exactly Like Waking from a Dream

Station_ElevenSad to finish Station Eleven last night. Definitely one of my all time faves. I didn’t want it to end. Some of my favorite quotes;

“She started to explain her project to him again but the words stopped in her throat. “You don’t have to understand it,” she said. “It’s mine.”

“We traveled so far and your friendship meant everything. It was very difficult, but there were moments of beauty. Everything ends. I’m not afraid.”

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

“What was it like for you at the end?”… “It was exactly like waking up from a dream.”

“If nothing else, it’s pleasant to consider the possibility. He likes the thought of ships moving out over the water, toward another world just out of sight.”

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06/17/13 Reading # , , , , , , , , , ,

Precious Blood, Seduction, and Five Book Swag!

Precious Blood, Seduction, and Five Book Swag!

I know, I know. We all get tons of book news from Publishers Weekly, Publishers, Marketplace, SLJ, ALA, and the New York Times.

But there are TONS of authors busting their asses every day running contests and giveaways, self-publishing books, promoting their work when all they really want to do is pull the covers over their heads. So I’m going to make an attempt at spreading the word for them. I’ll do a shout out on Facebook every Monday and will troll my Feed for news. No promises I can fit it all in, but I’ll do my best.

And this week is filled with book awesomeness;

WBLI.com is giving away a signed copy of Tonya Hurley’s, PRECIOUS Blood, the first book in a series about Lucy, Agnes, and Cecilia, all of whom may or may not be modern day Saints. I’ve read the first two books and loved them for the dark, Gothic tone set against the celebrity culture of contemporary New York City. Tonya will be at Books of Wonder in NYC on June 23 from 1 -3 PM for a Sunday Bloody Sunday launch party and book signing. In the meantime, entering to win the signed copy from WBLI.com is just a click away.

 

 

 

Seduction, by M.J. Rose, was included in a USA Today Fiction Roundup. I adore M.J.’s writing, and USA Today seems to agree, saying, “Readers will be enchanted by M.J. Rose’s supernaturally charged novel Seduction, inspired by Victor Hugo’s self-imposed exile on the British island of Jersey in the 1850s. Great elements of suspense are present — a remote, misty island teeming with century-old Celtic ruins, an unreliable narrator who may or may not be going crazy.” Sounds amazing, right?!

 

 

 

Lastly, you can win five – count ’em, FIVE – books, including Nazarea Andrew’s upcoming THIS LOVE in a massive swag giveway from five authors. Like this Facebook page to enter! And you can find Nazarea on Facebook here!

 

 

 

 

 

Megan Curd will release her first Steampunk novel, STEEL LILY, in August. Megan is also the author of Bridger, Traitor, and Forbidden. STEEL LILLY is the first book in the Periodic Series. AND she designed the cover herself. Isn’t it gorgeous?! Watch for it on Amazon and B&N!

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04/30/13 Contests & Giveaway , Reading # , , , , , , , , ,

Win a Fantine Necklace and Manuscript Page from Seduction!

Win a Fantine Necklace and Manuscript Page from Seduction!

This week’s recipe is being pre-empted by a contest announcement. Because sometimes great books and amazing freebies at better than food.

😉

 

Seriously, though. I know I haven’t done a giveaway in a long time, and for someone who was once legendary for them, I feel bad about that. So I’m sending you to M.J. Rose’s giveaway instead. If you haven’t read M.J.’s previous books (The Reincarnationist and The Book of Lost Fragrances among them), you’re missing out. She’s so talented at weaving historical mystery with modern characters. Her books are incredibly atmospheric, and I know I can always count on them for a really immersive (I think I just made up a word!) read.

M.J.’s newest book, SEDUCTION, comes out very soon, and to celebrate, M.J. is giving away signed manuscript pages AND the amazing Fantine necklace you see on the cover of the book.

Take a look at her website for more info! And to tide you over, here’s the summary for SEDUCTION;

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, still grieving, Hugo initiated hundreds of séances from his home on the Isle of Jersey in order to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published.

Or so it has been believed . . .

Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L’Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief. In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island’s mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles and hidden caves. But the man who has invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different— transcripts of Hugo’s lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find. Neither Jac nor Theo anticipate that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake.

Seduction is a historically evocative and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, written by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists. Awakening a mystery that spans centuries, this multilayered gothic tale brings a time, a place and a cast of desperate characters brilliantly to life.

0 likes one response
02/02/13 Reading , Sneak Peek Saturday , This Wicked Game , Writing # , , ,

Sneak Peek Saturday – This Wicked Game

Sneak Peek Saturday – This Wicked Game

This week I’m giving you the first chapter of THIS WICKED GAME, in honor of the gorgeous cover, revealed just yesterday.

I’m super excited about this book, which features a moody setting (New Orleans), creepy subject matter (voodoo!), and an awesome, multicultural cast. It’ll be out this November form Penguin/Dial.

Stay tuned for more details!

 

Claire was at the front of the store, uploading a new batch of photographs while a pot of wax melted behind her, when the woman entered through the unmarked door.

Claire pulled her eyes away from the pictures flashing across the computer screen. It wasn’t unusual for customers to use the private entrance. Other than the staircase leading to the house, the door was the only way in, and there were plenty of people in New Orleans who had a key.

But Claire had never seen the woman before, and that was unusual, especially since she had been working in the store since before she was tall enough to see over the counter without a step stool.

Still, rules were rules. The fact that the woman had a key meant she was authorized to make purchases, no questions asked.

Claire turned down the temperature on the wax and closed her laptop as the woman approached the counter. She was startlingly beautiful, her milky skin contrasting with the red lipstick that shaped her full mouth. Her clothes were expertly tailored, the white button down nipped in at the waist, the hem of her navy trousers just grazing the floor as she walked.

Claire wiped her hands on a towel as the woman stopped at the counter. “Hello. What can I do for you?”

“Good afternoon.” The woman’s voice was low and gravelly. Claire figured her for a heavy smoker. Either that or a time-traveling 1940s film star. “I have some things I’d like to purchase.”

“Sure.” Claire pulled out the yellow notepad they used for orders.

The woman opened her slim black handbag, pulling from it a folded piece paper. She pushed it across the counter with her neatly manicured hands.

Claire opened it, glancing at the long list of items. It was a big order, and Claire immediately started transferring the woman’s list to the notepad.

“This is your family’s establishment?” The woman asked the question with the certainty of someone who already knew the answer.

“Uh-huh.” Claire had to resist the urge to add “unfortunately” at the end of the sentence.

Frankincense, black cat oil, anise seed, aloeswood powder…

“It’s quite a store. It seems you have everything.”

“Just about,” Claire said. A strand of her long blond hair fell forward. She tucked it behind one ear and continued transcribing the woman’s list to the notepad.

“And how long does it usually take to fill an order?” the woman asked.

“It depends on what you need. Let’s see…” Claire scanned the list. Everything on the front page was in stock. She turned the paper over to the back. “We should be able to do this while you…”

The words stopped coming out of Claire’s mouth as she came to the last item on the list.

Two (2) vials Black Panthera Pardus Plasma.

She felt her face flush as she searched her memory, wanting to be sure.

“Is there a problem?” the woman asked.

Claire didn’t know if it was paranoia or something else, but she thought there was something new in the woman’s voice. An undercurrent of acceptance, as if she’d known the Kincaid’s wouldn’t have the plasma all along.

Claire shook her head, resisting the urge to call out for her mother. Pilar Kincaid had little patience for Claire’s “lack of commitment” to the family business. Calling her would only highlight Claire’s inability to handle the store on her own. Besides, her knowledge of the craft wasn’t exactly encyclopedic. Maybe she was wrong.

“Um… not a problem. But one of these items might take us a while to get in. I think it’s a special order.”

“And which item would that be?” the woman asked, her voice frosty.

“The black panther plasma. We don’t keep it in stock.”

No one keeps it, Claire thought. As far as the Guild was concerned, there were some things you just didn’t mess around with, even if you were an experienced practitioner.

The woman tapped her manicured nails on the wood counter. “How long do you expect it will take to get it?”

“I’m not sure.” Claire didn’t have time to really think about it. “Maybe a week?”

The woman didn’t hesitate. “Fine. I’ll take the rest of the items now.”

Claire nodded, turning to fill the order. Everything else on the list was in stock, and Claire busied herself filling vials with the powder and herbs and wrapping roots in brown paper. She could feel the woman’s eyes on her back while she worked. It made the tiny hairs at the back of her neck stand on end and caused a prickling sensation behind her eyes. She felt vulnerable, exposed.

Once the order was filled, she turned around, half expecting the woman to have transformed into some kind of monster.

But she was just the same, her gaze unflinching, her eyes so dark they were almost black.

“Here you go,” Claire said, pushing the package toward the woman and turning to the calculator. She consulted the notepad, her fingers flying over the keys. “That’ll be $357. 42, without the panther plasma.”

She had a hard time even saying it. Questions were drumming through her mind. She needed to get upstairs to her mother. She would know what to do.

The woman nodded slowly, pulling a wallet from her handbag and removing four hundred dollar bills.

Claire took the money and made change from the lockbox they kept under the counter. “Would you like us to call you when we find out about the special order?”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll see you one week from today.” She took her change and picked up the package, her unsettling gaze resting on Claire. “Goodbye, Claire.”

She turned and left through the private entrance. Claire watched the door shut behind her, listening for the click of the automatic lock. For a minute, she was rooted to the floor, wondering if she’d imagined the whole thing. Then she looked down at the list of items.

Two (2) vials Black Panthera Pardus Plasma.

She took the stairs two at a time.

* * *

The Kincaid’s living quarters were separated from the store by one floor and a two level staircase. Just a few months ago, the door between the two spaces hadn’t even had a lock, but after a rash of break-ins, the Guild families who had stores on-site had taken measures to protect their private quarters from the customers who had access to the supply houses.

The world was changing, Claire’s mother had said as the locksmith installed a heavy deadbolt on the door that separated the store from the two floors above it. Once a secret society of old-school voodoo suppliers and their clients, the Guild of High Priests and Priestesses had become too large to allow for intimate knowledge of each and every member. Now, it was up to the regional leaders to vet and approve new members based on lineage and practice.

Claire reached the top of the stairs and fumbled through her keys for the one that fit the new lock. When she found it, silver and strangely shiny compared to the old ones that went to the house and store, she unlocked the door and spilled out into the main hall of the house. She locked the door behind her and moved down the first floor hall.

“Mom? Where are you?”

She checked the drawing room first. The floor to ceiling windows were open to the terrace, the sheer draperies moving slightly in the barely-there July breeze. But her mother wasn’t there.

There was only one other place her mother would be if she wasn’t in the drawing room going over the accounts for the store or writing notecards to Guild members who lived outside the city, and that was upstairs. Claire headed for the main staircase.

When she reached the second-floor landing, she continued down the hall past her bedroom, her parent’s room, two guest rooms, and an extra bathroom.

She stopped at a closed door at the end of the hall and listened.

She heard the gentle murmur of her mother’s voice a second later, smelled the incense she burned when practicing the craft.

Claire hesitated. It wasn’t that she was afraid to interrupt her mother. She just didn’t like the ritual room. She never had.

She’d been about four-years-old when she’d first come upon her mother in the room. She had been wearing a white floor-length garment that Claire would later learn was standard ritual garb. The simple cotton tunic made her mother look taller and younger than she did in her everyday clothes. Her hair was long and loose around her shoulders as she kneeled in front of the alter, covered with burning white candles, wax figures, and dried herbs.

Her mother hadn’t looked like herself at all. Not to Claire.

She had waved Claire forward without speaking, silently inviting her to join in the ritual.

Claire had been afraid. The strange words that came from her mother’s mouth frightened her, however softly they were spoken, and the flickering candles cast unfamiliar shadows.

Claire had shaken her head and retreated. She’d avoided the room ever since.

But she couldn’t avoid it now, and she wrapped softly on the door, turning the knob without waiting for an answer and pushing the door open quietly, so as not to disturb her mother.

She was there, in the same position Claire had found her all those years ago, kneeling in front of the tea table that served as an alter. This time she was in her regular clothes. The alter was alight with purple candles that meant her mother was either working a spirituality rite or trying to channel her power more effectively. Two sticks of incense burned on either side of a bible, their smoke rising into the air in abstract swirls.

Her mother didn’t look up or in any way acknowledge Claire’s presence. Claire waited for a few seconds before she finally gave up and started talking.

“Mom, I-”

“You know I won’t speak to you until you come in properly, Claire.” Her mother didn’t look away from the alter. Her hair, still long and black as a raven’s wing, tumbled down over one of her shoulders. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be working the counter?”

Claire stepped into the room, but just barely. “I am working the counter, but-”

Now her mother looked over at her. “Then what are you doing up here, for heaven’s sake? You know you’re not supposed to leave the store unattended.”

Claire crossed the room, her throat closing against the heavy scent of sandalwood. She held out the piece of paper with the list of ingredients the woman had ordered.

Turning toward her with a sigh, her mother took it, her gray eyes traveling the front page.

“These are all basic ingredients, Claire.” She turned it over. “Surely you know how to…” Her voice trailed off. She shook her head, her face two shades paler than it had been when Claire entered the room. “Where did you get this?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Claire said. “A woman just came in. She gave me this order to fill.”

Her mother rose to her feet, pacing to the fireplace. “Which client was it?”

“That’s the thing,” Claire said. “I’ve never seen her before.”

Her mother turned to face her. “Then how did she get in?”

“She had a key,” Claire said simply.

“Are you sure the door was latching? That it was locked when she came in?”

Claire sighed. She didn’t blame her mother for doubting her. She wasn’t exactly attentive on the job. But still.

“Yes, Miss Julie was the last person to place an order, and the door locked behind her, just like always.”

“Did this woman give you a name?”

No, Claire almost said, but she knew mine.

She didn’t say it. The woman had probably been told about the Kincaid’s by whoever referred her to the store.

Claire shook her head. “And I didn’t ask. You’ve always told me not to. That if they have a key, I honor the policy, fill the orders, and that’s it.”

Her mother consulted the list again before looking up to meet Claire’s eyes. “But this is… this is impossible. We’ll have to call a meeting.”

She was still standing there, a look of shock on her face, when the phone rang from the hall.

“I’ll get it.” Claire left the room and picked up the phone that sat on a table in the hall. “Kincaid residence. How may I help you?”

“Hello, Claire.” She immediately recognized the voice on the other end of the line. “May I speak to your mother or father, please? It’s urgent.”

“One moment.” Claire covered the mouthpiece and went back to the ritual room, holding out the phone to her mother. “It’s Aunt Estelle,” she said quietly. “She says it’s urgent.”

Estelle Toussaint wasn’t a blood relative to the Kincaid’s, but all the women in the Guild were Claire’s “aunts” just as her mother was “Aunt Pilar” to the other Guild members’ children.

Pilar smoothed her skirt, as though Estelle could see her through the phone. “Hello, Estelle.” Her mother paused, turning her back on Claire. “Well, I… When?” Another long pause. “Today?”

She didn’t say anything else for a couple of minutes. Claire was beginning to wonder if her mother was still on the phone when she murmured a few quiet words. Then she turned around, avoiding Claire’s eyes as she finished the call.

“Yes, I understand. We’ll see you then.” She hung up the phone, staring at it like it was something she’d never seen before.

“Mom?” Claire finally said. “What’s going on?”

Her mother looked up like she’d just realized Claire was still there. “We weren’t the only ones who received an order for black panther plasma today.”

“What do you mean?” Claire asked.

But Pilar was already rushing from the room. “An emergency meeting has been called. Be ready to leave at six.”

0 likes 4 responses
09/05/12 Life , Reading # ,

Travel by Book

A couple of years ago I started a tradition of reading travel books over the summer. It arose out of an inherent love of travel and my inability to take a real vacation that year. Sometimes, it’s just too expensive to travel with kids, but the magic of books is that you can go anywhere and “see” anything with the flip of a page.

I love all kinds of books, but the nature of my work means that I’m almost always reading YA or adult fiction as research, for blurb, to help a friend, as part of my freelance editing work, etc. Having a finite time period to binge on travel books is something I really look forward to every year.

This summer I read three amazing ones. I highly recommend them all!

The first book I read was WILD, by Cheryl Strayed. A profoundly moving account of a young women who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone, it inspired and touched me. One of the things I loved most about the book was its intensely personal voice. Totally untrained and spiraling into serious self-destructive behavior following the death of her mother, Cheryl wasn’t a typical candidate for a hike of this magnitude. But you know what? She did it. And she was transformed. I was completely addicted to this book and highly recommend it to anyone – but particularly women – at a crossroads.

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman was next. I was so riveted to this book that for two solid weeks I actually wanted to give up my writing time for reading (*gasp*). I think this book spoke so loudly to me because Rita didn’t start traveling until she was in her 40s and because she did it entirely alone and with no real experience.

Another thing I loved about Rita’s account is that she ended up living full time, essentially, as a nomad on very little money. The thing that she valued most about travel was the opportunity to meet and learn about people and their cultures up close and personal, so she spent most of her time in hostels, backpacker hotels, and living with friends she made in other countries along the way. It was a glimpse into the kind of life I’ve dreamed about post-kids, and I’m inspired by the fact that Rita is still living abroad today (in Turkey, as of now). If you’re looking for proof that there IS another way to live, this is your book. Rita is now a big proponent of a gap year for American students (I say “American” because many other countries already advocate gap years). After reading this book, I’m in total agreement.

My final book of the summer was The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman. While geared to a younger crowd (Rachel was in college when she begins traveling), I got so much out of this book. Mostly, it just added to the increasingly-large amount of anecdotal evidence that it IS possible for women to travel safely alone. This was a book I wish I’d had when I was seventeen. It might have changed the course of my life (not that I want that NOW). Rachel spends a lot of the book trying to reconcile the very American push for her to get a college degree and a “good” job with the glimpses of another kind of life she gets from young Europeans she meets traveling abroad – young people for whom travel is an integral part of their life education, not the mark of a loser who isn’t in school. I recommend this for any young person, but especially those not sure what they want to do and not sure the traditional path of college is for them, at least not right out of high school. I gifted it to Rebekah before she left for college because I thought it would inspire her in this newly independent phase of her life.

It was a bit sad to reach the end of my summer travel reading! I still had books I wanted to read and places I wanted to (virtually) visit.

But don’t worry. They’re on the list for next year,

😉

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02/03/12 Friday Poll , Reading # ,

Friday Poll; What kind of books do you REALLY want to read?

If you’re a regular follower, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering if it’s your imagination that you’ve seen this poll before.

It’s not.

I run this poll every six months or so because the market changes just that fast (and sometimes faster) and because it’s a matter of professional curiosity for many authors. The truth is, we’re all told not to write to the market, that we should write the story we want to write and trust that it will find an audience if it comes from the heart.

But you know what? It’s kind of bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we write the story of our heart and it DOES find an editor and a publishing house and a readership. Just as often, it doesn’t Just as often (and really, maybe MORE often, because I don’t know too many writers who AREN’T writing from the heart anyway), we write a story from the heart and are told the moment has passed for a particular genre, the market is over-saturated, people have supernatural/paranormal/Dystopian/contemporary fatigue. Even for those of us who have a significant audience in a specific genre, it isn’t at all uncommon to be told editors don’t want to see XYZ genre right now.

Which kind of sucks. Because I want it to be about the reader. I want it to be about what YOU want. But publishing a business, and if publishing houses fear a trend is winding down, they’re going to hedge their bets by making a very hasty exit from said genre.

Then we have to face the very harsh reality that a book we loved, a book we slaved over and literally pulled from the depths of our soul, is going to remain on our hard drive, unread, forever.

I don’t know what the answer is. Certainly, it isn’t to chase every market trend. The publishing business moves so slow that by the time you write something, get notes back from your agent, revise, sub the damn thing, and see it on shelves, chances are that moment has passed anyway. I think the only thing we CAN do is to write from the heart and keep our fingers crossed, despite the obvious (and sometimes financially crippling) downside.

Which doesn’t do anything to alleviate the near-constant speculation. Right now, this very second, authors and agents and editors are trying to figure out what the next big thing will be. It’s almost universally acknowledged that paranormal/supernatural is on its way out (and in the words of some; dead). Ditto Dystopian. With the exception of a few big names, contemporary still seems to be spinning its wheels. If not those things, then what?

Tonight, again, I’m asking YOU, dear reader. What do YOU want to read? What would make your ears perk up with excitement? You can choose as many answers as apply. And trust me, you’ve got authors hanging on your every vote right now, so please weigh in with this week’s Friday Poll!

<3

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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