'Tis the Season to Read Christmas!

Who doesn't love to read Christmas stories at this time of year? Just check out Amazon's bestseller lists and you'll see that the season is upon us. for the next few weeks we'll be featuring lots of Christmas/Holiday reads so stay tuned!

Today on THE BEACH, we have multi-published, former school teacher, Patricia Kiyono, author of Christmas Wishes, now available at most ebook sites. Thanks for jumping in last minute, Patricia!
Take it away . . .

It's the season of giving thanks, and one of the things I've always been thankful for is my family. My parents were always supportive of my interest in all things creative, doing without so that I could pursue a career in teaching and performing music. I was fortunate enough to enjoy twenty-eight years teaching elementary students in west Michigan, and one of the highlights of each school year was the annual Christmas program. When my children were small, I volunteered in their Sunday School by helping with their Christmas pageants as well.

Sophie Gardner, the main character in Christmas Wishes, has grown up in a loving, encouraging family. But she can't wait to go out and make a name for herself in the world of screenwriting. Her family is there for her, yet they support her desire to pursue a career that could take her far away from them. What more could anyone wish for? But life never happens as you expect it to. Sometimes dreams change. And sometimes we need help to find out what we really want.

Photographer Mitch Carson is tired of big city life. He just wants to settle down in a quiet town with his daughter, Angie. Even that doesn't quell his fear of losing his daughter to his scheming mother-in-law.
Sophie Gardner wants to be a screenwriter. She's ready to leave small town Zutphen, Michigan and go to Hollywood. With a theater degree under her belt, she's busy writing scripts while helping out her sister Joanie, who's bedridden with a difficult pregnancy. Unfortunately, Joanie has somehow coerced Sophie into directing the Christmas pageant at Zutphen Community Church. 
When Sophie and Mitch meet, the attraction is instant and mutual. But each wants what the other is trying to get away from. Can they deny their feelings and pursue their dreams? Or will the holiday prove to them that their true wishes might not be what they'd thought?

“Hey, little sis. How’s it going?” Sam settled on the sofa next to her. “Joanie says you worked really hard this week. She says she couldn’t have pulled off the family holiday without you. In fact, she says she wouldn’t have survived the pregnancy if you hadn’t been here. She’s lucky you were available.”
“It was lucky for both of us. I needed a place to regroup and earn money for my next move.”
Sam nodded. “Gonna go to California and do the screenwriting thing, huh?”
“Yeah. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I think the cooking thing was just a rebellion. Or a reaction from Nate going off without me.”
“Yeah, that was kinda puny of him. Never did like the guy. He was way too full of himself. I really wasn’t surprised when he took off.” As if just realizing who he was talking to, he stopped his rant. “Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. You’re not going out there to chase after him, are ya?” He waited until Sophie shook her head. “Okay then. Go for it. I’ll look forward to seeing your name on the credits at the ends of the shows.”
He got up and retrieved his toddler daughter, who was eating a plant.
Sam wasn’t known for heart-to-heart talks, but Sophie thought about their conversation as she dished out desserts. What was the real reason she wanted to go to Los Angeles? She’d never thought about going until she and Nate had made their plans to take Hollywood by storm. She’d always liked to write, and her teachers had always praised her work, but it hadn’t been a passion. She’d written little stories, even published a few. But could she really make it as a screenwriter? More importantly, did she really want to?
Or did she want to stay and see if there was anything to the chemistry between her and a certain photographer?
Enough of these doubts. She didn’t want to waste any more of her life in her hometown. It was time to make some of her dreams come true. She had a handful of scripts for her portfolio. Now she needed to get them into the hands of people who would read them. The first thing on tomorrow’s to-do list: submit scripts to more agents.

Bio: In a previous life, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary school students by day and changed diapers at night. Now she teaches college students part time and changes diapers only when she's taking care of grandkids. She loves to do anything that doesn't involve exercise. Right now her favorite activities, other than writing, include scrapbooking, sewing, and making music. She and her husband live in southwest Michigan, near their five children and nine grandchildren.

Buy links: Christmas Wishes can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other ebook outlets.

Author links: Patricia Kiyono can be found at her website, blog, facebook, Amazon, and twitter @PatriciaKiyono

Tumbling down the homestretch of NaNo!

Joining us on THE BEACH today is author of Shameless, Rebecca J. Clark. Mired in the thick of NaNoWriMo, she's here to tell us how it is to write a book in 30 days. Take it away Rebecca..

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month (check out the official website here). It happens every November, and has participants from around the world. The goal is to write a book (50,000 words) in a month. Everyone who achieves this milestone “wins.”

I’ve participated several times before, but I’ve never won. I’ve always gotten stuck, or missed a few days and fell too far behind, or whatever other lame excuse I had. But this year, I’m on track to win. As of this writing, I’m at 28,000 words. I’m at the point where normally I’d have stopped, gone back to the beginning to try to fix what’s wrong, taken time off to do some research, or whatever. But in NaNo, you don’t have time to do any of that. You have to keep going, day after day, no matter what. You need to average 1667 words a day to win.

Going into this NaNo, I had no idea how it would go. Usually when starting a book, I’ve been thinking about it, writing notes about it, doing preliminary research for it for weeks/months or even years. This time was different. I came up with a brand new idea and started writing it four days later.

Also, I’m on a team this year—Entangled Publishing and Savvy Authors teamed up to offer a bootcamp, where writers can work with editors for a few days leading up to NaNo to get a good synopsis written before starting the actual writing. (This is the reason I started a brand new story—they weren’t crazy about the story idea I’d originally planned to write.)

Anyway, being part of a team has really kept me going when otherwise I might not have pushed through. My teammates are going gangbusters—I can’t allow myself to be the only slacker. :)

Some of my writer friends are envious that I’m writing a book this fast, they wish they could write so fast. Well, push that envy aside, fellow writers. Yes, I’m writing fast and being very prolific, but it’s total crap. LOL. Probably the worst first draft I’ve ever written. However...I am thinking of this draft as more of a detailed outline. By the time I get to the end, I’ll know exactly where I’m going, and will be able to revise it into a decent draft.

So, now you might be thinking this NaNo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if it means writing a really shitty first draft. But here’s the thing—my first drafts are shitty whether I write them in a month or six months. So I might as well just get ‘em over with. Because revisions are where the real writing begins, at least for me.

Another lesson I’m learning from this NaNo: I have the time to write every day. No more using that as an excuse.

I can’t wait to get this draft done and reread it. I’m hoping it’s not as bad as I think it is, but even if it is, I’ve still proven to myself that I can write a first draft fast.

Rebecca J. Clark writes contemporary romances. You can learn more about her writing on her website. When she's not writing, she works as a personal trainer at a little gym in the Pacific Northwest. Her first diet book releases late 2013/early 2014. 

Secrets, Suspense and Seduction: Dispatches from Russia

Now on Amazon
Today we are so excited to welcome Nikki Navarre, who culls from a world she knows as a diplomat to share her insights into international espionage--okay, to share her imagination about dark heroes and hidden agendas in Russian alleyways. I read and LOVED her first book, The Russian Seduction, and am so excited to read The Russian Temptation on my vacation next week. Take it away, Nikki...


Secret cities.  Remote, real-world citadels scattered across the wind-blasted Siberian tundra that don’t appear on any map, which you can only reach through buying a train ticket to someplace else. When the train pulls in to one of these secret cities, militia with machine guns and combat fatigues patrol the platform. Even snapping a quick photo through the window is forbidden—with a stern interrogation, a passport inspection and the confiscation of your camera the inevitable result.
Sounds like something from a James Bond movie, doesn’t it?

In fact, dozens of these Stalin-era “closed cities” still linger in remote regions of Russia and other little-known corners of the former Soviet Union. In Communist times, they churned out metric tons of chemical weapons and other apocalyptic nasties. These days, some international cooperation is permitted. I visited many of these places, armed with my black diplomatic passport and an encyclopedic list of security protocols, during my real-life career as a weapons of mass destruction specialist for the State Department.

Sexy, glamorous and postcard-pretty these secret cities are not. I visited one on the frozen steppes of Central Asia where the icebox guesthouse was so frigid the water froze in the toilet. As we shivered, our warmhearted hosts proudly served roasted sheep’s head and fermented camel’s milk to warm us. On another occasion, as my delegation flew in an aging Tupolev over the Caucasus, it was literally raining inside the plane. My colleague fell asleep with his face against the window and froze to the side of the plane.

It’s these real-life adventures from my government past that inspired my new sexy spy romance, The Russian Temptation, Book Two in the Foreign Affairs series. Dr. Skylar Rossi is a U.S. ambassador and chemical weapons expert who penetrates a secret city to thwart a terrorist plot. Ex-KGB agent Nikolai Markov has orders to stop her. But the chemistry between them is far more dangerous.

EXCERPT: The Russian Temptation

“Tell me, Mr. Markov,” she said huskily, beneath the slow pulse of music made for sex. “Do you ever dance?”

That depends on my persona—the fa├žade I happen to be wearing at the time, he imagined telling her. Just like my clothes and my cocktail and the way I seduce a woman.

As for himself, the real Nikolai…whoever that was…he hadn’t one bloody clue.

“Let’s find out.” Indulging the impulse, he pivoted toward the dance floor and gripped her elbow. Beneath the soft cashmere, she was electric, a ballerina’s delicate lines fired with supple heat.
A frisson of awareness, purely sexual, arced between them. His pulse kicked up like the recoil of his Walther TPH.

Keep your mind on your business. Find out what she’s up to.

When she slid gracefully from her stool, a buzz of masculine satisfaction hummed through him. Together they wove between tables to reach the crowded patch of floor.

The mirrored ball revolved overhead as he positioned them beneath it, within striking distance of the exit. Sparkling light swirled over the swaying couples, camouflaging every casual movement, distracting him all over again.

Swiftly he spun her into his arms. His fingers laced with hers, palm to palm. His free hand closed around her waist.

She was tall for a woman, eyes level with his, which he found refreshing. He didn’t see many women who approached his six-foot height wearing low-heeled boots. Her tapered fingers twined with his, cool and capable, impersonal as a handshake. Her sinuous form undulated, heating the scant few inches of space between them.

But she kept turning her head, studying the neighboring couples—especially the men.
Unexpected anger flashed through him, a sensation as foreign to him as carelessness or impulse. Suddenly impatient with the waiting game, the check-and-checkmate tension of the geopolitical chess match their governments had set them up for, he tightened his grip on her waist and pulled her toward him.

Her lithe dancer’s body collided with his. All the breath spilled from her lungs in an audible gasp.
The soft fullness of her breasts pressed against his chest. A flash of heat pulsed through him. One lean thigh slipped between his as she shifted to regain her balance.

Darkening to navy, her eyes snapped toward him. She tilted her chin to confront him.
“Pardon my language,” she said, “but what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“My sentiments precisely,” he countered, low and swift. “I was about to ask you the same. Why were you so determined to come here tonight?”

Startled by the sudden flare of confrontation, his lightning shift from urbane companion to sharp-eyed predator, Skylar’s thoughts eddied into a tailspin. Fighting for composure, she sucked in a ragged breath as adrenaline spiked through her.

 He was holding her far too intimately, their legs entwined like lovers, her palm spread across the hard plane of his chest. The expensive lapels of his jacket had parted. The snug-fitting silk blend of his black turtleneck was soft as a kiss, barely shielding her from the understated power of his knife-slim body.

She stared into his dark gaze, shimmering with amber like the expensive Scotch he’d barely touched. A searing awareness burned through her of the inconvenient and downright dangerous attraction she’d been battling all day.

She hated the cloak-and-dagger shenanigans his government was pulling. He was the man behind the curtain, the one calling the shots.

Yet her body was tingling with sensual response, breath short and tight in her lungs, face warm with the heat building between them. And his fragrance was making her dizzy, that blend of amber and cedar and expensive cigarettes that purred money and sophistication like a purebred cat, claws barely sheathed under velvet.

“Well, Dr. Rossi?” he murmured. “I’m waiting. After the close calls you’ve had today, why are you here in this working-class dive bar wrapped around a Russian security official instead of safely locked into your hotel room, packing your suitcase for the midnight train?”


In her other life, Nikki Navarre is a diplomat who’s lived in Russia and works on weapons of mass destruction issues. In the line of duty, she’s been trapped in an elevator in a nuclear power plant and has stalked the corridors of facilities churning out nerve agent and other apocalyptic weapons. In this capacity, she meets many of the world’s most dangerous men.
Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Nikki writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance spiked with political intrigue. A member of Romance Writers of America and a Golden Heart finalist, she has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award, the Golden Pen, the Duel on the Delta, Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages, and other awards listed here.
Previously published with Samhain and Dorchester, Nikki's newest releases include the epic medieval romance By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012) and The Russian Seduction (Affluent Press, August 2012, writing as her alter ego Nikki Navarre.)  She teaches writing workshops on "Sympathy with the Devil:  Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction."  Nikki divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients, and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her Siberian cats Pandora and Delilah.

Self-Publishing Madness!

This week on the BEACH, we have Amazon Bestselling Author LORI LEGER, pronounced Laygay, with a soft 'g'. She's such a busy girl these days and we are honored to have her stop long enough to pull up a lounge chair, grab a fruity cocktail and speak with us about publishing.
Not only is Lori a BRA member but she's a successful publisher, as well. Take it away, Lori. . .

Just realized I missed my spot in this week’s blog. My apologies to my fellow bloggers, though you were warned in advance that I’m a horrible blogger. L 

My excuse? (Cue the Vincent Price worthy background music here . . .) Self-Publishing MADNESS! That’s right. If any of you out there have ever shared in this experience, you know what I’m talking about. It’s the tunnel vision that develops in your brain and body when you’re near, at, or even a few days after your publishing date deadline. Let me tell you, there’s a reason they call it a deadline. By the time you’ve hit that SUBMIT button for the final time, you’re near dead from sleep deprivation—that’s after the buzz from the caffeine overload wears off. Honestly, it’s a bit of a rush.

I’ll walk you through a little of the process:

Since this was a collaborative effort for a seasonal anthology, set deadlines for all the writers involved. I usually set it for two weeks prior to the publishing deadline.

The necessary evil: editing! The thing I hate most about writing. One of the author co-authors, Karen Sue Burns, graciously offered to copy edit for us. After she has a go at it, I send it to the authors, they add the edits into their work and get it back to me. Then I read each story start to finish, add edits of my own, determine if the openings, chapter endings, and story endings have enough punch. Here’s where I make a few suggestions, give them an example, or on some occasions, re-write or add an entirely new scene. I usually end it with “Or something like this . . .” (Secretly, I’m hoping they love every line of it and keep the entire thing. ;-)  )

Next step is to get the stories back to them.

While I’m waiting for their return, I either start or tweak the cover. Although I pay a professional for my personal books, I do my own covers for the anthologies. I pay for my royalty free images, using Deposit Photos, and pay a subscription for one month and download five a day for 30 days. It’s well worth the money.  The most time consuming part is settling on one image out of thousands. Other decisions are title font, author font, back blurb font, spine font, placement, order of authors names, etc. Since this was a Christmas anthology, I decided to place the names in order of short to long this time to form a Christmas tree pattern on the title page, so I had to use them in the same order on the cover.  These books are paperback, as well as e-book, so I do the entire layout of front, back, and spine, then clip the front for the e-book cover.

By the time I’ve tweaked the cover to my satisfaction, I have the stories back from my authors. At some point in all of that, I force myself to correct my own sea of red, hound everyone for two or three sentence blurbs, go to Bowker and fill out info to have one ISBN assigned to the book from the block I’ve already purchased. Make sure it’s in the front matter of the book.

Hound the authors for updates to their personal info, pictures, publishing info, dedications, etc. for the section at the end of their stories.

For the anthologies, I always choose illustrations to match each story and Photoshop each one for personalization. The Christmas stories get extra illustrations used as scene breaks.

Slap it all together and send it to them in a pdf so authors have an idea of what it will look like in print. They’ll either accept it as is or get back to me with more changes.

When everyone is satisfied, I go on to Createspace and KDP, download the book info, author info, blurbs, ISBN, download the cover, download the book, save changes, and finally hit the magical SUBMIT button. Phew! I should be finished, right? In my dreams. I’ve done this twenty times over and have yet to hit that button only once. Depending on my level of perfectionism at the time, I usually go through the submission process four or five times per book. It’s not bad for the e-book submission since you see the results right away. It’s more time consuming for the paperback version since each submission takes approximately twenty four hours to get back to you. Grrrr. As a result, the paperback version usually follows the e-book version by five or six days. There’s dozens of things to check besides your basic typos: Line spacing, margins, blank pages, illustrations, gutter spacing, heading info, heading centering, first page placement for each story (odd page on right side), and dozens more issues. It’s a huge relief to finally hit that button to say you Accept the Proof. From that minute on, your paperback is available at the Creatspace store, and within a day of Amazon.

So, it’s done. Time to sit back and relax, right?  Snort! Yeah, right. Everyone knows reviews are vital to books. So, it’s time to submit the book to review websites. Since I’m an Indie Publisher, my top of list reviewer is InD’tale review magazine. Ms. TJ McKay runs a top notch website and it’s well worth it to submit to them. The review is free, but if you want to pay $10 per title, you can submit the cover and it runs on the first page of the website for that month’s top reviews. It’s well worth the extra bucks for the fabulous promo. Plus, any reviews with 4.5 stars or higher are automatically entered in a contest. There are several more review sites I submit to.

Promo is next. Plaster it all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads. Blogs, such as this one are also important to get the name out there. Utilize every bit of free promo you can before turning to paid promotion, which can run up a tab pretty quickly.

We don’t expect huge sales from our anthologies, because not everyone gets into short stories, but it’s a way to expand our readership, if nothing else. Anthologies are great practice for small indie publishers such as myself, though. It gives me a chance to participate in every aspect of the publishing from start to finish, and hopefully, perfect my process.  I publish each of my personal books in three formats: e-book, 5x8 (11 or 12 pt. font), and 6x9 for large print (16 pt. font). I don’t publish the anthologies in large print.

The entire process is exhausting, and I’ve done it twice in the past five weeks. Hopefully, our readers will be completely satisfied with all our hard work. What do you think?

I’ve gone through this same process six times in one year and it is exhausting. So much so, that I’m thinking of cutting back on the anthologies to one annually and just at Christmas. I have to say that I adore working with the other authors, though, and my daughter in law, Trish F. Leger, and I have decided to co-write a book together. She’s super at description and I’m good at dialogue, so maybe we’ll be a winning combination. Not too sure where that will fit in—either in her Druid series or one of my two: La Fleur de Love (All Romances with a Cajun flair) or my Halos & Horns series (Romances with a Cajun flair and a side order of Cowboy).