EM: Thank you for your kind words. Years ago I decided to specialize in fiction because I knew that’s what I do best with. I also work hard to help my authors strategize to reach their goals. Part of this strategizing includes giving them book ideas and editorial feedback, based on my years as a book editor before I became an agent.
LP: What do you think about the popularity of indie publishing? What are some of the positive and negative aspects that you’ve seen over the past couple of years?
EM: Indie publishing is an amazing and wonderful development, the answer for many authors who for whatever reason aren’t right for the traditional publishers. Positive aspects are that a book can be published in a matter of days, and also that authors can reach niche/“micro-genre” readers—the long tail—in a way that many of the traditional publishers can’t. A negative aspect is that much of the material is not well edited or edited at all.
LP: How has the role of the agent changed with respect to indie authors? If you represent an author who decides to go indie –do you continue to work with him/her – what can you do for them?
EM: A number of my authors are “hybrid.” I work with them to make sure their indie books don’t compete with their “traditional” books in terms of publication months. I also handle subsidiary rights for their indie books—translation, audio, large print, film/TV.
LP: You are the author of the hugely successful THE MARSHALL PLAN FOR NOVEL WRITING. First published in 1998. For writers who have not yet read it – how can the Marshall Plan help them in their writing?
EM: The Marshall Plan® is a structured approach to writing fiction that takes away a lot of the guesswork. It helps writers produce quality, salable fiction faster. We now offer bestselling software, based on the book, that automates the process.
LP: What do you think separates the successful selling authors from authors who sell only a handful of books a year?
EP: The most successful authors write directly to the market. They study what’s hot and write it with a fresh twist. They know when it’s time to shift genres. They are also extremely savvy at self-promotion and don’t shy away from learning new things.
LP: Do you still take on new clients and if so – what are you looking for?
EM: Yes, I am always taking on new clients, selectively. Genres I’m looking for include domestic suspense/thrillers, Amish romance, extremely explicit romance, cozy mysteries, historical mysteries, and women’s fiction. Also, I often have book ideas that need authors—usually in cozy and historical mystery. Authors interest in being considered for this should have at least a few mystery or mystery-related books under their belt (indie is fine), be willing to take direction, and be unagented, of course. They should email me at email@example.com with their background and a work sample.
LP: What makes a good “in person” pitch?
EM: A good in-person pitch is a to-the-point conversation, not a memorized monologue, including a book’s genre, word length, similar-author readership, and a brief description of the plot and hook. Talk a little about any previous publishing credits and/or organization memberships. Don’t push written material on the person you’re pitching to unless it’s requested. Be ready to answer questions about your project. Don’t let the meeting drag on longer than necessary. When all has been said, simply ask, “May I email you my manuscript?”
LP: Where are the best places/conferences for a newbie to pitch?
EM: Some that come to mind are the Writer’s Digest conference, ThrillerFest, Sleuthfest, the Romance Writers of America convention, Bouchercon, Malice Domestic.
LP: What makes a good “email query” pitch?
EM: If someone has referred you, such as an editor or another author, say this right up front. Then describe your project—genre, title, similar-author readership—and give a brief description of your story and its hook. Along with this I like to see a synopsis of the entire story and the first three chapters. Details at http://www.evanmarshallagency.com/submissions/.
LP: Bonus: What is your way to de-stress after a busy day wheeling and dealing?
Duncan Kord has travelled the world for many lifetimes. The thousand-year old Viking warrior was given immortality by an advanced race of beings who literally snatched him from the brink of death on a battlefield in Norway centuries ago. Not only did they save him, they infused his body and mind with the essence of a powerful dragon. Despite his powers, Kord has lived the life of a recluse, keeping mostly to himself, wandering the world, guarding his secrets. Kord’s life changes when he discovers the invader responsible for killing his wife and family and destroying his village all those years ago, is alive and well, and living in New York. Kord is determined to confront Sagahr and after so many lost centuries, he now has one purpose: revenge.
He’s an evil corporate mogul
William Jefferson Sagahr has amassed a fortune over many lifetimes. Now living in Manhattan, the powerful magnate is head of a multi-national oil company. The thousand-year-old mercenary warrior was also given immortality and special powers by the same beings who gifted Kord. But Sagahr is nothing like Kord. In fact, he was the one responsible for destroying Kord’s life all those centuries ago. When Sagahr finds out that Kord is alive and well and wreaking havoc on Sagahr’s oil refineries in Alaska, his fury knows no bounds and a twisted hunger begins to grow inside him. He unleashes an evil in the city of New York, the likes of which no one has ever seen. After so many lost centuries, he knows there is only one man who can stop him. One man he must avoid at all cost: Duncan Kord.
To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.
Jessica Bell is an award-winning book cover designer and she is also an author, musician and writing/publishing coach. She is a multi-talented artist who weaves her background into her work. We’re excited to chat with Jessica today, a very talented creative force who gives us an in depth breakdown of what makes a good book cover.
LP: You wear at least four creative hats; author, musician, speaker/coach and book cover designer. Tell us how you came to do all of those and how you balance everything you do.
JB: I began my career as a graphic designer when I self-published my first book as an author back in 2011. Being the type of person that 100% believes in the phrase ‘if there is a will there is a way,’ I embarked on a self-taught design journey, 1) because I was penniless, and 2) because I’ve always loved a creative challenge.
Very soon after my design debut, I started designing covers for author friends as a favour. Until one of my friends told me that I should start a business. I took their advice, and since then I’ve has designed hundreds of covers for indie, traditional, and hybrid authors, many of which have hit bestseller lists, and won awards. One has even graced the shelves of WH Smiths at London airports.
Being an author myself, I fully understand the need to be able to incorporate an author’s vision into their book cover and I am sensitive to their needs. I also pride herself on prompt friendly service and an iterative design process.
I also make a living as a fiction and nonfiction author, singer, and the Publisher of Vine Leaves Press, an independent press founded by myself in Melbourne, Australia. My publishing career started in editing for an English Language Teaching publisher in Athens, Greece, where I currently live, called New Editions back in 2005. I then moved into freelance editing and writing for similar publishers such as Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, Harper Collins ELT, and Macmillan Education, before taking a full-time work-from-home position as Project Manager in the Academic Department of Education First—a multinational company of language teaching schools who produce their own teaching materials.
In February of this year, the success of my book cover design business enabled me to quit my position at Education First to focus on all the creative projects in my life—writing, music, publishing, and graphic design—and of course, teaching wonderful authors everything I know about making books!
Regarding your questions about balance, I have a hard time NOT being productive/motivated. I struggle to allow myself down time, which I have to admit, I should change. When you’re successfully running your own business, and doing the things you love, you don’t often feel that balance is an issue. Perhaps the simple answer to this is, ‘Do what you love!’
LP: Because you’re an author and a musician – do you find being an author helps you in a creative sense with your cover design work for other authors? If so, how?
JB: Absolutely. As I said above, I started designing because I was an author. I think I might be able to relate to my clients a little more because of this. I understand that bringing one’s own vision into fruition is important. So I do my best to accomplish what my clients ask, even if it is done with a slightly different angle. I try to be as artistic and original as possible, while simultaneously targeting the right readers. I draw the line, however, if an author’s vision isn’t going to work. I won’t design what they ask if it’s going to jeopardize the chances of their book selling. In that case, I patiently explain why their ideas won’t work. Sometimes clients appreciate it and let me get on with my work, and sometimes they go elsewhere. But that’s all just part and parcel of this business, I think.
LP: Who are some of your musical influences and what do you listen to when you’re working?
JB: I’m a huge fan of PJ Harvey and bands such as L7, Babes in Toyland, and Magic Dirt ever since my early teens (I was a teen in the 1990s). But since joining the band Keep Shelly in Athens, I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic music. Lately while designing I’ve been listening to artists such as Freeland, Daughter, ionnalee, Memoryhouse, Hælos, Bat for Lashes, Totemo, and Trentemøller, to name a few.
LP: Do you work exclusively with indie authors or do you work with publishing houses as well? What specific services do you offer?
I’ve worked with a few independent publishing houses, but the majority of my clientele are indie authors. I do cover design for eBook, paperback, hard cover (laminate and jacket), and audio book. I also do social media headers/banners/adverts, etc, for websites, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
LP: You do both fiction and non-fiction covers. How do they differ in your opinion?
JB: Nonfiction needs to be either extremely literal, or extremely symbolic, in my opinion. Nonfiction also, I feel, needs a ‘cleaner’ look. You need to let readers know that they are going to be educated/enlightened in some way. I feel it’s quite easy to accomplish this if you take advantage of space. The images and text need to breathe. There needs not to be any question of what the book is about.
For fiction, I think you can make anything work if you have the artistic ability.
LP: How do you come up with a concept for a design/look for a fiction cover? And what if it’s the first book of series- do you discuss branding a particular look/design for the series? How would you come up with a look for an entire series?
JB: I ask my clients to fill in a questionnaire. Some of the questions include:
What genre is it?
What kind of audience are you targeting?
What year is your book set in? What aspects of this era is prominent in your story?
What is the setting like? Please describe it to the best of your ability. What aspects of this setting are prominent in your story?
Are the protagonists male or female, and what is his/her age and what does he/she look like? (eye colour, hair colour/length/shape, etc)
What kind of relationship do your protagonists have? (romantic, just friends, siblings, etc)
What are the themes in your book?
Do you use any reoccurring symbols in your book? (For example, in one of my books, I use a wilting orange tree to symbolize a gradual breakdown of familial warmth.)
What do you want shoppers to feel when they see your covers?
I am able to come up with a concept pretty quickly if authors answer these questions in as much detail as possible.
If it’s a series, I tend to design the first two books in a series together, so that the author can see how my branding translates across multiple books. The main things I focus on when branding a series are font styles, and image positioning. I’m usually able to tell pretty quickly when designing the first prototype whether I can replicate the look over and over while still making each cover different. I tend to get more and more inspired, and gather more and more ideas as I work. So I need to actually start looking for stock images and putting things together before I understand where my designs are going to go. This is why I ask authors to fill in a questionnaire. I need to comprehend their answers and start working simultaneously to get the best result. I seen to be able to design my best covers when the author has offered me lots of suggestions and zero limitations.
LP: What are your rates for cover design?
JB: I work mostly with packaged deals and my prices are in Euros. The current deals I offer are:
400 Euros 1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x hard cover (laminate)
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x eBook cover
1 x paperback cover
1 x hard cover (jacket)
1 x 3D cover for website
2 x licensed image downloads
3 x revisions on design chosen from 3 prototypes
1 x Website Header/Advert
1 x Facebook Header/Advert
1 x Twitter Header/Advert
1 x Instagram advert(all based on same design)
LP: Pick one of your favourite covers (that you designed) and break it down for us – in terms of what you did and why.
JB: Such a hard question as I have so many favourites. I’m going to choose a cover that has a lot of different stock images merged to create one, so that your readers can see what can be done.
I am not an illustrator. So all my covers are designed by manipulating stock photography. And because I am limited to what’s available on stock sites, the less ‘specific’ an author’s ideas for the cover are, the better it is for me to get creative and produce something engaging for potential readers. I’m saying this so your readers are completely aware of what they’re getting into with me. Of course, I can modify images (even illustrated images and vectors) to a certain extent. I can even use multiple images to create one different image, but all within reason. For example, see the cover for Wixon’s Day by Phil Williams
Along with answers to the questions I’ve listed in a previous question, the author, Phil Williams also said the following:
I originally envisaged the classic lone-wanderer in a wasteland image, but incorporating his canal boat; a grey and depressive image stretching to the distance. Ideally combined with steampunk technology – either as mechanical parts making up part of the cover, or within the image itself (i.e. the mechanisms of the boat, or a broken piece of machinery in the distance).
The separate images in their original form are:
1) two men on a canal boat inspired by cyberpunk machinery
2) boat was also modified by hand to look cyber-punky by superimposing some cyberpunk piping and turning them into silhouettes
3) the moon and clouds
4) the sky
5) and the mechanical overlay
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Clouds conceal the nation of Estalia, where a lone boatman makes his way across its freezing landscape. Marquos drifts through the dystopian empire without meaning, searching for hope of a better future as he scavenges to survive.
In the Deadland of the North, they say the sky is clear, and the stars shine: Marquos dreams of seeing it, believing that there is something more to this world.
With rebels plaguing the canals, hunted by the authoritarian Border Guard, and the guards of the Metropolis pursuing Marquos for his attempts to liberate a child, the route north is wrought with peril. Both the despotic militants, who rule without true governance, and the ragged bands of fighters who resist them, vie for the boatman’s support, and Marquos is drawn into a war many others don’t realise exists. His journey is not just into the inhospitable North, but into the darkest truths of his people and their history, unravelling secrets as foggy as the world around him.
You’re an award-winning designer – tell us about some of the awards you’ve won.
“I’m impressed, because this cover is completely satisfying, with an impressive skill level in the combination of images, handling of the type, and the quality of storytelling. Great tension and anticipation, too, a winner.”
“This cover really stood out for me. Maybe it’s the combination of the hot colors, the intimacy of the moment shown, and the interesting type choices, but it seems pregnant with interesting and possibly erotic events.”
LP: What are the key elements of a good cover and why?
JB: The four most important design factors I live by are:
Subtle colour combinations. But if you’re after bold and vibrant colours, please don’t use too many. It hurts the eyes. And sometimes scares readers away. I have often found that the most attractive covers I’ve ever seen use a maximum of three different colours and include black, white, or grey.
Have a look at the covers on the right. Notice how the colours of the text in the first cover are extracted from the image, and how in the second example the black and white compliments the bright bold colours.
Less is more. If there are too many elements in a cover, readers aren’t going to know what to focus on. And if they don’t know what to focus on, they are just going to skim past it. Think of the days when we used to use a cork board. All those bills, and reminders, and notices, all piled on top of each other, pins sticking into multiple pieces of paper. You could not see everything that was on that cork board. And most of the time you didn’t even try to. Don’t scare your potential readers away by trying to fit too much in such a small space.
Take a look at the covers above. Notice how the first one has tried to incorporate too many elements and it looks a cluttered mess (not to mention the highly ambitious colour scheme.) And notice how the second one has a lot of space. There is room for the image and text to breathe and it therefore draws the eye.
Focus on portraying a particular theme or emotion. People are attracted to visuals because of the way they make them feel. Which is why you often see TV commercials implementing a narrative that doesn’t seem to have a direct relationship with product.
For example, while I was visiting family in Australia not long ago, I saw an advert that captured my attention. The narrative shifted from scenes in various homes with happy and relaxed families and individuals. Cooking, reading, playing with a baby, a writer content at his desk, etc. All the people in this advert were smiling and at complete ease. In a literal sense, it looked like it was an advertisement for either a furniture store, or a real estate agent. There was no text, until the end, when a bank’s name popped up, along with something very simple about their new easy Internet banking system.
What was their message here? Bank with us and you’ll be able to enjoy life completely stress free.
This is what I believe a book cover needs to do. It needs to create an overall ‘feeling’, not by telling readers exactly what’s inside, but by setting a tone that is going make your target audience take notice.
Notice how the covers above do not try to tell a story, but rather project a tone.
Be careful with your choice of font. Don’t go overboard with cursive fonts. Sometimes you may be able to font a suitable cursive font that looks excellent. Other times you may be better off finding something that is more ‘classic’. To know what looks good against the backdrop of your cover, however, takes a little bit of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to experiment and compare. Another thing to consider regarding font choice, is that certain fonts mesh well with certain genres. CreativINDIE has an excellent post about this, I suggest you go check it out.
LP: Who are two or three of your favourite authors and why?
JB: I’m a huge fan of writing that makes me savour the beauty of the written word. I guess that comes from also being a poet and songwriter. I therefore can’t get enough of Margaret Atwood, Marilynne Robinson, or Jeanette Winterson. There are many more, but those are the first three that come to mind.
LP: BONUS QUESTION: What is the best concert you’ve ever been to and why?
JB: I will never forget seeing STOMP back in the late 90s at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne Australia. I write about this experience in my memoir. Here is an excerpt:
All day during the lead-up to the concert, I listened to the one track I had on cassette over and over. Something about the persistent and raw percussion on trash cans and plastic containers, and whatever else they’d scavenged from the tip and turned into a drum, deeply resonated with me. For one, it further consolidated the fact that if there’s a will there’s a way (something my mother always used to say). If such brilliant music can be created with trash and raw talent, then brilliance, I figured, was purely derived from passion. And if this was the case, I could be brilliant too, no matter what resources I had at my disposal. Two, the beat of their ‘drums’ matched the beat of my heart. Sometimes deep, sometimes tinny. Sometimes soft, sometimes loud. Sometimes angry, sometimes proud. I could feel their rhythm as if it were my own private soundtrack. It spoke to me as clearly and deeply as if it had lyrics.
Crime and mystery lovers will be flocking to Toronto next week for Bouchercon 2017, the biggest mystery authors convention happening October 12-14, 2017. With that in mind, I spoke with Alison Bruce, the new Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) to see what wonderful events they have planned for Bouchercon, about her new role as ED of the CWC and her much anticipated second book in her Men in Uniform Series.
LB: Can you tell us a little about CWC and what the association does on behalf of crime and mystery writers?
AB: CWC is a national non-profit organization for Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing. Our mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media.
Our most important means of fulfilling our mission is our website: Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) . Through the website, readers around the world can find out about our member authors, their books, and their events, as well as what CWC as a whole is doing as an organization and within the larger community.
Through our free monthly public newsletter Crime Beat, subscribers access Author Events and Cool Canadian Crime– our catalogue of our members’ published books, updated quarterly – which are also available directly through the website, and they can get updates on our Arthur Ellis Awards as well as what CWC is doing at events like Word on the Street and Bouchercon.
For authors interested in what we do, I suggest checking out Member Benefits because the list is too long to include here.
LB:How has the CWC evolved as an organization and what does that mean for you and your new role as Executive Director?
AB: One of the strengths of CWC has been its ability and willingness to adapt. My new role as Executive Director is a great example of this. My predecessors played to their strengths and so will I. One of my strengths has been my past involvement with most aspects of the organization. As well as being the Publications Manager, I was the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator and the ED’s deputy.
Now Ted Griffith is taking on the Arthur Ellis Awards mantle and I have a very able and personable Assistant Executive Director who will be sharing the administrative load so I can continue to be hands on in the publications and website development. We are already discovering where our skills complement each other and I am looking forward to us teaming up for the benefit of CWC.
AB: This is one of my favorite CWC stories. It was just after my dad died and for the first time in years, I was able to get to Word on the Street in Toronto. At the time I had an urban fantasy and a mystery novel making the rounds of the publishers so I was on the lookout for professional organizations that I could join. I knew about the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and found them first, but they didn’t take unpublished authors. A couple of tables over, I discovered Crime Writers of Canada. Not only did they welcome associate members, they had a new category in their awards for unpublished first novels. I joined on the spot.
That year I was longlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award, I got involved as a volunteer on the board and later went on to become the Publications Manager.
LB: Bouchercon 2017 is taking place October 12-14 in Toronto, can you tell us a little about the event?
AB: Bouchercon is run by the World Mystery Convention, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. It is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, mystery fiction critic, editor, and author. It is held in a different North American city every year and this year is it being held in Toronto.
It is huge! There will be around 1600 people attending, including fans of crime fiction, along with published authors, aspiring writers, librarians, large and small publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers. There will be panels and special events, exhibitions and a dealers room, and CWC will be part of the excitement.
I’m excited. It’s my first Bouchercon and I’ll be in the thick of things.
AB: On Friday night, CWC will be hosting a crime-themed pub quiz. All day Saturday we’ll be sponsoring the Refreshment Room. We’ll also have a CWC table outside the dealer’s room where we will be able to sign up new members, and getting those who don’t want to join us but would like our free monthly newsletter CRIME BEAT. Each venue is a great opportunity to get our authors and readers together.
With the impressive list of panels, tours, and authors, what are you most looking forward to at Bouchercon 2017?
I’m going to be relaxed about the panels. There’s so much to choose from and I will be mostly there to work so I reckon I’ll play it by ear. Who knows who I’ll be meeting for coffee?
In addition to being the Executive Director of CWC, you are also an accomplished mystery author. Your book “A Bodyguard to Remember”, the first title in the Men in Uniform Series featured the unforgettable heroine Prudence Hartley. Will readers get the chance to see Pru again?
There is a book two or my publisher would kill me. Book 2 of Men in Uniform will see Pru Hartley getting thrown into the deep end of trouble because of a house guest her ex-husband foists on her. My working title is “Something the Ex Dragged In.”
What other work do you have coming out now?
I have a new book coming out soon. It’s a novel I wrote before Men in Uniform and then forgot about for a while. I’m hoping it will be out in time for Bouchercon so I can read from it at “20 on 20” (twenty minutes with an author every twenty minutes).
I know you have a lot going on with your new role and getting ready for Bouchercon but in the midst of all the chaos what is your guilty pleasure? I am assuming its loads of coffee!
I don’t feel the least bit guilty about drinking coffee. That would be like a car feeling guilty for needing gas. My guilty pleasure is having a treat with my coffee.
Now that is something I can also relate to! For anyone interested in attending Bouchercon 2017, the event details and links are below.
Alison Bruce writes history, mystery, and suspense. Her books combine clever mysteries, well-researched backgrounds and a touch of romance. Her protagonists are marked by their strength of character, sense of humor and the ability to adapt (sooner or later) to new situations. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.
Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, and web designer. Currently, she is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
Inspector Eli Miller’s unspoken feelings for his partner, Bex, color his whole life. When his past comes calling, will it be the push he needs to seek a future with her?
Inspector Rebecca ‘Bex’ Mulcahy has lived long enough to know that love is a street con at best, and a dangerous distraction at worst. Any feelings she has for her partner Eli definitely fall into the latter category. Will her dedication to her job keep her from finding a possible future with Eli?
Their latest case is protecting Violet Burrell, a young woman with scars on her soul stretching back to birth, who inadvertently witnesses a shockingly brutal murder at the hands of a sadist. Violet is determined to testify in court. Her strength and courage impress Eli and Bex, who will protect her at all costs.
But it is Violet’s beauty and spirit that entrances Junior Inspector Atticus Randall. Atticus is also assigned to protect Violet, and while he knows he should ignore his growing feelings for her, he just can’t stop himself from falling for the brave beauty.
Life in the Las Vegas branch of Witness Protection has never been more tangled. When the emotional landmines start a chain reaction, everyone in the blast radius is going to need a little shelter.
AR escorted Vi out to the table on the balcony to enjoy their sundaes. He liked to take his lunch out here on occasion, just when he needed to get away from his desk for a bit but didn’t want to leave the building. His dedication was paying off, since Marco had started entrusting him with more and more responsibilities, as evidenced by the woman sitting next to him now with her eyes closed in bliss. “You really never had a hot fudge sundae before?”
She shook her head, and her expression hardened. “No. Not with my mother and certainly not with the nuns.”
He pondered her ascetic life and the choices she’d made from it. It was all there in her file, but he felt like an intruder or a stalker, knowing that much about a virtual stranger to him. He’d much rather know her as a person, beyond the story of sadness and neglect. “Violet’s a pretty name.” An inane statement, but he knew he was out of his depth attempting to tackle a subject so daunting as the life of Violet Burrell.
She shrugged and flipped the end of a pigtail over her shoulder. “It is what it is. Your parents really named you Atticus? They not like you or something?”
He snorted a laugh and put the spoon back into his ice cream. “They like to read.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird, I know.” She smiled shyly. “It’s a good name. Strong, valiant.”
The heat of the summer air had nothing on him. He saw her grin, and he felt his ears burn from a blush. “So what’s the verdict?” He gestured towards her rapidly diminishing sundae.
“I think I want to eat this for the rest of my life,” she said as she dipped her spoon into the plastic cup to fish out a peanut covered in hot fudge.
“That good, huh?” He watched her close her eyes and sigh as she licked the spoon, and he had to loosen his tie. The way she was enjoying her ice cream reminded him that his wasn’t going to stay frozen forever. He dipped his spoon into the plastic cup and then brought it to his mouth.
“Damn near better than sex.”
At her words, he found himself gulping down a large mouthful of ice cream, much more than he meant to, swallowing it quickly. “Oh hell! Ice cream headache!” The sharp spike of pain that it brought was quick and excruciating, but it served its purpose driving all thoughts of pursuing that line of questioning from his mind. As the throbbing ache receded, he noticed her hand on the back of his neck, trying to help by rubbing and massaging from the base of his skull to his shoulders. So much for virtuous thoughts. Nodding to show her that he was okay now, he reached in front of her and snagged her mysterious old green book from beside her purse as she returned to her ice cream Nirvana.
“Hey, that’s not yours,” she said around a mouthful, gesturing with her spoon. But, she made no move to retrieve it from him, so he felt comfortable perusing while she continued to savor her snack.
He opened the book at the place she’d marked, reading about a gameskeeper comforting the lady of the house, in a chicken coop, that led to so much more than mere physical release in graphic and frankly gripping detail. That was definitely not what he’d expected, and the fact that she’d been reading this book all this time did things to his already heated blood that made his mouth run dry and his ears start to ring.
“So . . . ?”
Her voice, smokier than before, startled him out of the words on the page. Her purple eyes were darker than he remembered, and he found himself lost for a moment before he caught himself. “It’s ah . . . definitely colorful.” He pushed the closed book back over to sit next to her purse, her bookmark still in place.
Vi smiled self-consciously. “It’s the language. It paints this picture like a smudged old photograph, beautiful and still kind of dirty.”
And that about described the thoughts he was having at that moment. “I could definitely see that.”
Alexis D. Craig has been a writer from early childhood, discovering her calling when she wrote the Thanksgiving play for her kindergarten class in Tucson, Arizona. After moving to Indianapolis with her family in 1988, she wrote a column for her high school newspaper and two novel-length stories before graduating at age sixteen from Park Tudor School. After attending Sarah Lawrence College outside New York City, she returned home to Indiana to be closer to her family.
Alexis works for a local sheriff’s department in the communications division. She spends her free time reading and writing romance novels and investigating haunted houses.
She lives with her husband and two very excitable beagles.
I love checking out an author’s website to read about upcoming events and more importantly new books. One of my favourite romance authors is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Eve Langlais. I happened to be looking at her site last month and imagine my surprise when I found out about a local romance conference happening in my own backyard! The event, “Romancing the Capital” was described as “Swag, Prizes, Fun Events, Interesting Panels, A Book Signing, along with plenty of smiles and laughter!” I am an avid romance reader, but I have never attended a romance genre event or conference. I could already feel the excitement and who could say no to meeting authors, winning prizes, and learning more about a genre you already love… Not I.
Sadly, I was too late as the conference was sold out. But being the go getter that I am, I decided to take a chance and e-mailed Eve Langlais directly to see if there were hidden tickets or a way I could volunteer. Unfortunately, there were no tickets or volunteer positions but she connected me with the RTC Facebook group where I found an individual who could not attend and was nice enough to sell me their tickets.
Apparently, Eve Langlais, who is a local Ottawa author, not only writes steamy romances but she throws one heck of an event!
Romancing the Capital 2017!
Romancing the Capital is a writer/reader conference which was held August 3rd to the 5th 2017 in Ottawa at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Ottawa Kanata. Organized by Eve Langlais, this is the conference’s 3rd year and features an impressive line up of NY Times, USA Today & Amazon bestselling authors as well as new and upcoming talent. Attending authors are from both Canada and the US, and represent the many facets of romance from historical, mystery to paranormal, LGBTQ & erotica- there is literally something for everyone. While reading the schedule I even noticed that Lachesis Publishing own Ashlyn Chase – who I met but totally forgot to get a picture with but will next year, was also an attending author.
The conference offers two types of tickets, meals, and non-meal and reader registration include, a registration bag stuffed with goodies, access to all 50+ panels and events, as well as coffee and pastries Friday & Saturday morning. The price is exceptionally low in comparison to most conferences and with the amount of swag – including some free books, it is well worth it.
The conference started Thursday afternoon with publishing and writing panels for aspiring, advanced /published authors but readers were also welcomed. One of my favorite workshops was given by Deborah Cooke “I wrote a Book. Now What? Steps to Publishing”, which was very informative and gave you the opportunity to ask questions from a well known, long time bestselling author.
For the more advanced there were panels that focused on the business aspects of the publishing industry. One workshop titled “Indie, Publisher, and Hybrid: What’s the best Choice?” featured advice from authors Nathan Burgoine, Milly Taiden, Deborah Cooke, Elle James.
Friday Panels had authors who wrote in the various sub genres within in romance and gave attendees a taste of the type of books that are in that category. One of my favorites was Dirty Talk with Opal (Carew) and Sharon (Page). Not only did I win a penis shaped lipstick in my favorite shade or red, I also won a copy of Sharon Page’s novel Deepest Desires of a Wicked Duke! (And she autographed it for me.)
Other panels were “Romance that goes back in time”, “Exploring LGBTQ Romance”, “Bad Boy Athletes and Bikers”. If there was something you didn’t know about the romance genre, I’m sure it was covered here.
If listening to a panel was not your thing there were also crafts and game rooms where you could hang out, have fun and win more stuff!! One unique workshop was given by Viola Grace called “Get Bento”. In the workshop participants were given bento box sets as a gift and got a chance to make treats with her and chat. The “Goat Yoga with Pastries’ & Coffee” with Felicity Kates and Anne Lang was something I am sad to say I missed. But if on the schedule next year, I’m there.
Each evening ended with a themed costume ball. There was a Heroes Vs Villains ball and a Fairy Tale Monster Bash where you could win great prizes for the best costumes and shake your booty to the DJ’s set. If you were looking for a quieter evening, there was also an author hosted room with games and prizes.
Saturday featured a book signing in the afternoon, which was also open to the public. There was an option to buy books from the authors as well as a mobile Chapters station were select books were being sold.
3 Days of Fun, Laughter & Friendship!
RTC 2017 was a well-organized, author accessible event where authors were happy to talk, take photos, answer questions, or to just have a good laugh with! I was incredibly humbled at how generous some of these authors were, with their time and the giveaways. Like other attendees, I came home with bags full of books, charms, and jewelry, t-shirts, water bottles and other fun swag.
I had a great time discovering new authors and titles and also connecting with members of the local Ottawa Romance Writers Association (ORWA). I also met an aspiring author who happens to be my neighbor who I learned lived down the street from me in a home once owned by my childhood friend. Talk about six degrees of separation!
Although I was not able to attend the over 50+ workshops and panels, from speaking with other participants, everyone seemed to agree, there were no bad options.
Thinking about attending next year?
Book Early! This event sells out quickly. As per the Facebook post earlier and the RTC 2018 site, Meal tickets are sold out, but non-meal tickets are still available so stop reading this and go get one!
Connect with the Facebook group. Joining the group will keep you up to date not only on conference details but keep you connected with other attendees. Also if you couldn’t get a ticket, check the Facebook group because as they say “life happens” and someone might need to sell their ticket.
Attend everything you can. Like I said, there are no bad options and there is so much to do, see and learn. Try it all!
Bring cash to the book signing. Check the Facebook page and the RTC 2018 site, but this year cash was the acceptable form of currency. Even the Chapters Mobile site only accepted cash.
Don’t Be Shy! Everyone is there fun and authors seemed more than willing to stop for pictures, chat, and Milly Taiden gave me a hug!
If you are anything like me then a visit to Chapters, the only “bricks and mortar” store available in my area, is always a welcome adventure. (Yes, books get me that excited…especially new books). I love thumbing through their stacks while sipping my full-fat, full-sugar, vanilla-bean latte. (Don’t judge me!). As I peruse through the books I want to gobble up, the cost doesn’t cross my mind until I hit the checkout line. That’s when I thank the Visa Gods.
But, I’m going to ask you to put your imagination hats on and take a little trip with me into my favourite books store . . .
Imagine this scenario: I was in a Chapters/Indigo last week, sipping on my mocha-cha-cha-frappa-macha-latte and balancing a basket full of colourful items I couldn’t wait to get home: a cute tote bag with the words “Just Read” on the front and a neon-pink water bottle (one day I plan on going to the gym on a regular basis) along with a really cool travel journal made from recycled maps (one day I plan to travel the world) and a couple of plushy throw pillows (one day I’m going to re-decorate my bedroom). Chapters sells a ton of gift and decorative items and they are all carefully and artfully displayed in the area closest to the entrance and on your way to the cash registers. How can I resist? But – here’s the twist in our story. As I was walking to the checkout line, my eyes landed on a splashy display for a new release by one of my favourite authors. Hmm… the book was $9.99. I couldn’t believe the price! I mean, it was outrageous. I remember when a mass-market paperback cost only 5.99. I was livid. I grabbed a copy, and balancing my chi-chi latte, and my basket of home decor items in one hand, and the paperback book in the other, I marched up to the customer service desk. I tapped my foot as I waited in line, fuming as I got closer to the front. When I got to the desk, I barely gave the service clerk a chance to smile and say hello, before I launched into my tirade: ” I am outraged!” I exploded. “I have bought many, many books here,” I continue, as I haul my basket of throw pillows, journal and water bottle and tote bag onto the service desk. I slap the paperback down on the desk in front of the wide-eyed clerk. And after taking a big slurp of my moo-moo latte, I say to her: “This book is far too expensive! I am shocked at the price. This is the first title of a new series for this author. I demand that I get it for free. I don’t want to waste my hard-earned money if I am not going to like this new series.” The clerk gaped at me. She was speechless . . .
REALITY CHECK PLEASE!
C’mon – people! Would you do this in a clothing store? Nope. Would you try this in a shoe store? Nuh-uh. Have you ever thought about pulling this in a bookstore? Of course not! Because readers never think to go into a store and bargain for the books they want to purchase and stores would NEVER entertain the idea. So WHY WHY WHY do some readers believe it’s not only okay, it’s THEIR RIGHT to ask authors to either reduce their EBOOK prices or give them the book for FREE?!?!
Since ebooks burst onto the market in the late 1990s-early-2000s, determining the price for an eBook has been at the forefront of an ongoing debate for authors, publishers, and readers. For me the answer to this debate seems quite simple, authors should be paid for their work. If an author or publisher chooses to put a book on sale or make it available for free – that’s great. If they don’t then that’s okay too. Just like any other product you buy – books cost money to make, and the publishing business is just that – a business.
However, when I spoke to a few indie authors I was surprised to learn that there are some readers out there who believe ebooks should be deeply discounted or free.
As a print and ebook reader myself I DID have an expectation of paying less for an e-book, until I did some research and figured out the truth of the matter. The before-me thought: If there is no production or PPB (print, paper, and binding) cost, then shouldn’t that automatically result in a significantly lower price? The after-me realized: NOPE!
On average, ebooks are priced anywhere from $0 – $9.99 and in some cases higher ( Ahem . . .KMM Fever series *cough*…) depending on whether you have a traditional publisher or have decided to self-publish. On average, indie books are already priced lower than print between $0 -6.99.
And although the PPB costs are eliminated, there are still various costs associated with publishing an ebook, such as cover design, layout & formatting, editing (professional), marketing and other miscellaneous costs (legal, distribution, author assistant etc) all which will be shouldered by the author (or publisher). Also with fierce competition in the market, indie authors spend an incredible amount of time and effort marketing their work so that it reaches their readers, which includes offering free content and free ebooks.
What is a fair price?
That answer depends on a number of factors, in this case, the cost to produce, distribute, market and what the author deems is fair to her/his work. But keeping the above expenses in mind, the average ebook seems to be competitively priced ($0 – $6.99).
I am sure the debate about pricing will always exist in some form, and all the authors I spoke with agreed that while there are some who ask for free content, (and some readers can be very nasty about it – there are many blog posts and facebook posts out there by frustrated authors who have received emails from disgruntled readers about the cost of their books). But most authors have supportive fans who understand that this is their livelihood, their bread, and butter. After all, like the rest of us, writers do need to get paid and deserve to make a profit. Especially when you consider the time it takes an author to write and publish a book.
And in case you’re wondering about my little “scenario” at the beginning of this post, I did actually ask for a discount once. The employee chuckled, and then told me in a polite but strong tone that their store policy prohibits haggling on prices. Either pay for the book or leave it. I paid. Thank you, Visa Gods!
Not sure how to price your eBook…..
Whether you’re publishing your first novel or your 10th, sometimes it can be hard to know how to price your work or use the price as a tool to achieve your goals. Consider some tips below.
5 Factors to Consider When Pricing Your EBook
Research YOUR Market
The first place to start is by researching the market for your genre. For example, if you’re writing mystery you’ll want to look at other titles that are similar to yours and compare the prices. But if you’re writing a cookbook, depending on the type, aside from other cookbooks you may want to take other health or diet books that relate to your topic.
This research will help you to find a pricing range. EBook titles cost anywhere from $0-$9.99 and can sometimes climb higher depending on author, genre, and time of release. Generally for most novels $0.99 – $5.99 where you’ll find a sweet spot between $2.99-$3.99. So be sure to do your homework. You want to price competitively, not too high or too low.
Other questions to consider is the demand for your genre. Is your genre part of a trend like colouring books or vampire novels? Is there a wide market or is this a narrowly targeted market? Or you may have already built up a following. With built in demand and fans, you may be able to price higher.
“You Get What You Pay For”
That saying still resonates today for a reason. Price can signify to consumers the quality or exclusivity of a product or it can be used as part of an overall marketing strategy. Readers choose to purchase based on the perceived value of a product. For an author, the value of their work is not just the story they tell but it can also mean the length of the work, how many words? Pages? Bonus material? Was it professionally edited? Graphics? All these things add value to the work that you’re selling and should be reflected in the price of your work. Unless it’s on a promo from a subscription list like BookBub, I know when I buy something for $0.99 it may have typos, plot holes or be formatted terribly.
One thing about Kobo I like is that aside from the page and word count it will tell you on average how long it will take to read the book. For me, that is one contributing factor to the value of a book. The longer the book, the longer I’ll be in the world enjoying myself.
For example, I discovered author Eve Langlais and her Lions Pride series on Kobo priced at $4.99 for 167 pages 49K words. For me, this is a quick fun 3-hour read. As this author has developed lengthier titles, the price of her work has increased. Her newest title “The Assassin Next Door” is 71K words and priced at $5.99. An exciting 5-hour read for me that is already loaded on Kobo and waiting for me to gobble up.
This seems like an obvious consideration, however you’d be surprised how many authors will gloss over this because they love what they do. Passion for your work is important but does not negate the cost that you’ve incurred in order to bring that work to the public. This will mean a little simple accounting.
When considering pricing your e-book you want to ensure the price you set will allow you to cover the costs (at least some). This will vary depending on what services you chose to use i.e. professionally editing, cover design and formatting, marketing. Estimating how many books you think you can sell will help you determine a price that will cover the incurred costs. Remember: Sales-Costs = Revenue
Price as a Strategy
Setting a pricing objective or strategy can help determine your price and contribute to your overall goals. Depending on where you are in your career, a first-time author or an established author with a huge backlist, setting an objective will help determine your price.
If you’re a new author you may be looking at building a readership by having readers try your work. Instead of giving your work away for free you may want to consider a lower price to gain traffic and readers through impulse buys. Or maybe you are an established author trying to sell your backlist before a new title comes out, perhaps a sale or promotional pricing for a certain time period would encourage new readers to try your work and allow the current reader to try older work while waiting for the new release. Thinking about starting a new series and hoping to “hook” reader, giving the first book for free or at a discounted rate is always a good enticement.
Using subscriptions lists such as BookBub and Freebooksy can help bolster your readership and potentially gain readers. It was BookBub that first introduced me to author Mimi Jean Pamfiloff and her King Series. I purchased the King trilogy box set, which was advertised on BookBub and priced at $.99. I fell in love with both the series and author. I am now working my way through her backlist.
The VALUE of your work:
What does your work mean to you? As an Author, you work hard and a little bit of your soul is embedded into each book. More importantly, you still need to earn an income. Don’t under value, the time, effort, and creativity it takes to produce a book. Undervaluing your work may sell an extra copy but does not guarantee a sale and it might make you feel discouraged.
Ultimately, you, the author, need to be comfortable with the price you are setting for your eBook.
Amy Ruttan is a multi-published hybrid romance author who writes for Harlequin and as an indie author. Amy’s latest release is her 15th book for Harlequin Medicals. It’s titled Convenient Marriage, Surprise Twins. It’s a marriage of convenience trope. The hero Andrew Tremblay is a Canadian who needs to stay in the country to help the heroine Dr. Lana Haole’s brother, so she agrees to a marriage of convenience. The twist is, they both are attracted to each other and just one night of passion leads to a surprise pregnancy.
Like many authors, who sit in front of their computer all day, Amy strives for a work/life balance. Today we chat with Amy about her work and about life and how she kicks butt both on the page and in her daily routine. Welcome Amy!
LP: Tell us how you became an author and why? I always loved storytelling.
AR: I had an over-active imagination and I loved to read. It was when I was reading the Little House on the Prairie books and my father mentioned to me that Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person that I thought ‘Wow, I really want to do this!’ So started my process of creative writing, but I didn’t actively pursue it until 2006. I had my second child and he was ill. He almost didn’t make it and I realized how short life is. How fragile life can be and I didn’t want to regret not following my dream. That’s when I started pursuing romance writing (because I loved reading it) and in 2008 my first book was accepted by Ellora’s Cave.
LP: You are a hybrid author – you write both for Harlequin and independently – do you find that being an author has helped you in terms of work/life balance or has it created some unique challenges?
AR: Work/life balance was tricky at first. I was writing full time when I got pregnant with my youngest child and I foolishly thought I could still write and take care of a newborn. For me, because I know some authors can, I couldn’t. I was exhausted and my youngest child had a reverse sleep cycle. When he was about three years old I finally sold to Harlequin and instead of just writing and seeing if it sold through my first publisher, I had to learn to write to deadlines. That was hard at first. I wrote at night typically, so I had to retrain myself to work when the kids were at school and to write every day. Also, it’s hard to write some days when my sons are having a hard time. My eldest son has autism and my youngest has anxiety with some sensory issues. The school knows I work at home, so I would get calls interrupting my work day. Also, a few family and friends felt like because I was at home, I was available whenever they wanted to “chat” or do stuff. I’ve had to learn to ignore the phone when I’m writing, unless it’s the school. I lost a couple of non-writer friends to this unfortunately. They didn’t understand that I was working and running my own business being at home. Also, I have run into people who think romance writing is a formula and is easy to write.
LP: Take us through a typical day for Amy Ruttan – in terms of work/career stuff and life stuff – do you schedule everything in your life or are you more of a free spirit – and why?
AR: A typical day usually starts with me getting the kids off and ready to school. And this typical start will be changing slightly in the fall because my eldest is going off to high school. After the kids are off to school, I do a work out through Beachbody on Demand or Walk at Home after I walk our dog, but she won’t walk far. Then I can work. I try to get 2500 words a day before it’s time to pick up my kids from school. My youngest with the sensory issues has to be picked up and dropped off. My older two can get to and from school easily. Usually, during the school year, our nights are filled with after school programs. So I may be able to sneak in some more writing or answer emails in the evening, but not usually.
LP: You have been working on improving your health/weight. Do you follow a specific program or are you just focusing on clean eating and keeping active?
AR: I’m a member of Weight Watchers. It’s the only thing that’s worked for me consistently. I also try to get in at least 30 mins of working out a day and I do strive for 10,000 steps a day, but when I’m deadline that’s difficult.
Do you do a lot of pre-planning when it comes to meals etc… And does that help you stay on track?
Yes. I try to plan or think about what we’re going to eat because if I don’t, I usually end up eating unbalanced and fast stuff, which isn’t that great for me. I had my gall bladder out in 2015 and even though I don’t have a lot of side effects I don’t digest as fast as I used to. I get fuller faster, which is great, but if I over eat or eat really fatty food, even food that’s overly processed I get really ill. It’s just not worth it and I find I’m not craving the processed junk stuff any more.
What are three tips you can share that you do every day to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Before pictures are great. When I feel down or think “what’s the point”, I’ll look at those before pics of me and see how far I’ve come. Also monthly measurements and only weighing yourself once a week. I would get upset about weighing every day because your weight fluctuates. So I focus on what I’ve gained in my fitness level, how my clothes fit and inches lost rather than the number on the scale.
What are two or three snacks or meals that you absolutely love and that you think others will too. ☺
What is your physical activity like? What do you do to stay physically active and how much time and days a week do you spend on physical activity.
I walk a lot, but I try and do 30 mins through Walk at Home or Beachbody on Demand. I’ve tried to be a member of a gym, but I can’t give up more of time to get there every day.
Do you have a goal when it comes to weight loss and physical fitness or are you just focused on the day-to-day keeping healthy?
My doctor once told me for my height I should be between a certain couple of weights and I’m aiming for the lower end of what he suggested, but mostly I focus on the fact I’m feeling better than I ever have, I have more energy and endurance. I recently did a 4km hike at the Pinery Provincial Park that involved a lot of stairs and climbing over the sand dunes. I managed to do it and keep up with my kids. Last year, no I wouldn’t have been able to do that at all. For me that was a huge accomplishment. I have a daughter who is a teenager and I don’t want to send her the message that I want to be skinny to feel better about myself. I’m very body positive and I reiterate to her that what I’m doing is for my health over appearances. She sees me eat pizza or fries every once and a while and that’s great too.
In ten years where do you want to see your life and career?
Well, I hope to be continuing what I’ m doing, because writing is my passion. I love my job. I hope I’ll have hit my fitness/weight goals and that I’ll be traveling more.
Solange Delacroix is a woman of dark secrets. She steals for Le Chacal, the King of Thieves, and is the mistress of the powerful and cruel Marquis de Vernoux. Orphaned as a child, along with her younger brother Gide, her life revolves around protecting him and surviving among cut-throat killers and power-hungry schemers in post-revolutionary Paris. But everything changes when she steals a moonstone pendant from the handsome Duke of Auriano.
Antonio D’Este, Duke of Auriano harbors his own secrets. Cursed by the evil sorceress Nulkana, he’s condemned to live half his life as Shadow. When a highwayman ambushes him and steals the magical moonstone that curbs the devastating effects of his family’s curse, he is determined to find the thief and take back what is his. Attending a salon in Paris run by the ravishing Madame de Volonté, Solange’s alias, he realizes she is the “boy” thief who stole from him. His need for revenge becomes entwined with desire for this beautiful woman.
Antonio and Solange come together in a dangerous dance of secrets, thievery, and passion. Hounded by the evil Nulkana, threatened by the ruthless King of Thieves, menaced by the cruel Marquis de Vernoux, their safety hangs in a precarious balance. Antonio seeks a piece of the magical Sphere of Astarte that will end his curse. Solange seeks freedom for herself and her brother. But when their quests turn deadly, will their love help them survive?
Jill Bennett had her life planned out, and then everything changed. Soon after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack two years ago, Jill’s daughter Rachel was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the very young age of 21. Widowed and scared, Jill threw herself into caring for her daughter 24/7. Now that Rachel is in remission, Jill is finding it hard to let go and give her some breathing room at home and at her new job working for a local vet named Grant Palmer. Grant has a knack for getting under Jill’s skin, especially where Rachel’s future is concerned. The last thing Jill has in mind is getting on with her own life. So why can’t she stop thinking about the handsome Dr. Palmer?
Devoted to Her Cowboy by C. J. CarmichaeL
When rodeo champion Blake Timber returns home as the star attraction of the Sheep River Rodeo Days he doesn’t expect to find his nerdy high school friend Shelby Turner so beautiful and so not nerdy. He also doesn’t expect to find his grandmother, frail and wearing a headscarf. When Grams reveals she has ovarian cancer, Blake is shocked. He’s thankful that Shelby, who works in his grandmother’s flower shop, has been there for her. But he wants to take over the reins and get his beloved Grams the best care money can buy. In spite of his best efforts, his well-intentioned plans are met with stubborn resistance from both women. Adding to his frustrations is his ex-girlfriend Kelli-Jo Calhoun, who is the Sheep River Days organizer. Unhappily married and with a son, she seems hell bent on roping him into something that could put everything he cares about at risk—especially his growing feelings for Shelby.
Her Angel by Kayla Perrin
Tasia Montgomery never thought she’d get “that” phone call from her mom. Stage four ovarian cancer. Tasia puts her job as a chef in a busy restaurant in Atlanta on hold, to go home to Miami to be there for her mother. When her mom passes away, Tasia is left with a huge burden of guilt, sadness, and loss. Now, she is tasked with the duty of packing everything up and selling the family home. She knows her mom didn’t want her to sell but what choice does she have? Her brother Andrew, who is living in Seattle with his wife and their baby, is as distant as can be. Just like their father, who up and left them when they were kids. But when Tasia meets Malcolm Robertson, the contractor her mom hired to renovate the house before she died, Tasia is drawn to him. Her mom treated him like a son and shared things with him that she never revealed to Tasia. Malcolm becomes a good friend to Tasia, but does she want something more with the handsome contractor? As Tasia, sorts through her mother’s belongings she makes a discovery about her mom that shocks her to her core, but will it make her see the truth of her own life or make her head back to Atlanta for good?