New & Improved Burnouts Series

They’re the same unique, sweet contemporary new adult love stories but with a whole new look.

I hoping to bring them to a whole new group of readers so I took a new direction in the packaging. I wanted covers that better expressed that these are definitely romance books, full of all the great feels you want when you read a romance. But I also wanted the highlight the things that make them unique in the romance category. The heroes in both books are different. No “bad boys” here. These are really nice guys who genuinely like women. These are the guys you cheer for because you like them. They are multi dimensional, real people with hopes and fears and faults and dreams.

And my heroines are truly strong, sexy, fun girls–never apologizing for their smarts, love life or the choices they make.

The stories are a little more gritty, but all my reviews thus far have mentioned how much they are like what high school was really like–the heart aches, silliness, mistakes and awkwardness of falling in love for the first time.

Here’s a sample from “Suburban Love Song”

Carrie sat down with a fork and dug into the rest of the cake. She looked up into Ben’s disapproving eyes. “Wha?” she said through her mouthful, “it’s not like anyone else is going to eat it.” She shoved another forkful in to spite him, then chewed with a smile on her face, her cheeks full.

“So where is MG?” Ben was referring to her best friend who was grounded, at least for today.

Carrie thought about answering him and letting the cake fall out of her mouth, but she was enjoying his company and didn’t want to razz him too much. She held up a finger till she swallowed then said, “grounded.”

“She got caught going out with a 22-year old guy.” Ben didn’t need that information, but it was always fun to shock him a little. Carrie’s own sometimes boyfriend, Chuck, was 21; another fact that Ben would, no doubt, not approve of.  But Ben didn’t seem fazed, or really interested.  Why did she always feel the need to press his buttons? Because you are a mean girl, her mother’s voice in her head chimed in.

Carrie put down her fork as she felt the storm clouds of guilt rain on her little birthday parade. Focus on the other person, don’t always talk about you, said the mom-tape running in her head. “So, are you still going out with Joelle?” Carrie knew he was. Ben and Joelle always walked around school holding hands. Joelle proudly displaying her purity ring between their clenched fingers. People in Carrie’s group, the druggies, would gag and make retching noises when they walked by.

His answer was a strangely weak, “yeah.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Ben filled his mouth with cake so he wouldn’t have to talk then focused on giving Christopher another bite. Carrie kept watching him, looking for more details than his lukewarm answer. Finally after swallowing Ben said, “You don’t like her much, do you?”

Carrie wondered if her feelings about Joelle showed on her face. She hoped they didn’t because she was going to lie to be nice to Ben, “She’s alright,” she said with a shrug. Ben wasn’t buying it. “OK, no, I don’t like her much, but I think the feeling is mutual.”

That seemed to get his attention, “What are you talking about?” You could hear his shock that Joelle Welker, purity ring-wearing President of the Right to Life club and outspoken Christian would have anything bad to say about anyone. Carrie knew better.

“She talks about us, about me, and MG.”Carrie paused to read his reaction, so far neutral. “More than once I overheard her and her friends calling us whores.  She calls my friends drug-addicts.”

Ben raised his eyebrows, “Aren’t they?”

Now it was Carrie’s turn to get defensive. “Some of them do drugs, but not all. Most just dress different, ‘cause they’re creative. So people judge them, people like Joelle.”

Ben carried Christopher into the living room and dropped him on the couch. Two-fer giggled. Ben picked up the remote and turned the TV to cartoons, distracting him from their conversation. “Is that why you hang around with them?” he asked as he walked back into the kitchen, “because you’re creative?”

 

“Yeah, I guess so, and they’re nice. They don’t judge.” She raised her eyebrows, challenging him.

“You’re kidding, right?” Carrie knew he was referring to them gagging when Ben and Joelle walked by.

“They only give it back to those who dish it out.”

Silence. Damn it. They were getting along ‘til she had to bring up this mine-field of a topic.

“Do you want some more cake?” Christopher popped up and looked over the back of the couch, “cate?” They both laughed.

“Not you Two-fer. I asked Ben if he wanted more because some little monster ate all his cake.” Christopher laughed and said, “meee.” Then he turned and plopped back down to watch TV. The uncomfortable tension between Ben and Carrie was still there.

Ben picked up his plate and fork, took them to the sink and rinsed them off.  Carrie was surprised he didn’t load them in the dishwasher. “Thanks for the cake.  It was really good.” He walked over and stood directly in front of her, crowding her space. “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday,” he almost whispered.

Carrie backed up into the counter. She didn’t want him to be nice, it was too real, too honest, too much. Joking and teasing she could take, distance was good too. “Why would you remember my birthday?” she smirked. She was too raw for this today.

“Because I went to every one of your parties since we were 6,” he said as if he was pointing out the obvious. Ben was looking down at her, studying her.

“What?” she said, exasperated and irritated by his scrutiny.  There was pity in his eyes, and it was rattling her cage.

“Was this your only party? For your sweet 16?”

Oh, a swift kick to the heart. She couldn’t let him see how much it all hurt.  “Yeah, well, I’m not so sweet.” She tried to diffuse the tension.

Ben was standing over her, trying to look into her eyes, like he had something important to tell her, something he wanted to make sure she heard. “You deserve better than this.”

Shit he was direct. That last hit was her undoing. A tear she fought all afternoon while she made her cake ran down her cheek. She looked away from him and tried to turn away in the small space between two stools, the counter, and Ben.

But he didn’t move. He stayed in her space, blocking her in, witnessing her humiliation. Carrie worked to shut down her pain and turn it into anger. She was about to shove Ben out of the way or say something rude when he crushed her thin defense. He reached out and hugged her.

“I’m sorry.” He spoke quietly into her hair. “I just say stuff. I think just because it’s true, I should say it.”

Carrie’s body tensed. Her brain spun trying to make sense, trying to process, trying to find a reference for his comfort. She felt a small warm spot in the pit of her stomach, and it felt amazingly good and god-awful strange at the same time. She tentatively bent her arms and touched his waist.

“I’m sorry I made you cry.” He said over the top of her head.

Carrie tried to respond but couldn’t talk past the ball of emotion caught in her throat. She was about to tease him about wanting to hug her because that’s all he and Joelle did, but she fought the urge to make him angry. It felt too good. He was tall, and warm; there was so much Ben surrounding her. And his jacket smelled like fresh air and laundry detergent and fabric softener. She felt the lump in her throat melt and the breath it had been blocking all day eased out of her.

***

I hope you liked it. If you did you can pick up an kindle copy of Suburban Love Song for just 99c for the next 5 days.

 

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Why I’m Changing the Covers & Titles of My First Two Books

The short answer is that as an indie author and entrepreneur I’m still learning, and that’s a good thing. The longer answer is that although I’ve had fantastic reviews I haven’t had much in the way of sales. It’s been frustrating, but in a way it was a good thing because it caused me to learn a very valuable lesson:

Tweet: In indie book marketing–your past books are never dead.

We all have our gripes about Amazon but one of the absolutely beautiful things about the mega sales site is that they allow you to tweek and change your product until you get it right. Unlike a retail store where once the product is on the shelf it will either sell or die, we have the opportunity to make changes then bring a book back to the market. Not only is this a product developer’s dream but it also allows those of us who are making tons of rookie mistakes to fix them.

I love the covers that I have right now. They are very cool, but they don’t work. When I worked with my first designer I just wanted a cool cover (and I got one), I didn’t understand that sometimes cool doesn’t translate for readers. What my covers didn’t do was announce that my books are romance novels. My titles didn’t help either. In my quest to be unique I uniqued myself out of what readers were looking for. Fortunately I met the amazing Whitney G. , a business-savvy indie author with a super-generous soul (and hella good writer, check out her books here). In a three hour meeting over coffee she opened my eyes to the problem. She straight out told me that if she were skimming Amazon, looking for a romance book, she wouldn’t know that either or mine were in that category or have a clue what they were about.

Now I could have gotten all offended and shut down in a huff. She was talking about my babies, my first two novels. But I want to be a successful writer more than I want to be seen as some creative genius. I have 100% faith in the stories inside the books but if I didn’t make some changes not many would ever get to read those stories. So, I’m working with a designer right now to create new covers. I’ve created new titles. I’m rewriting the blurbs and so much more. And I’m loving it. I’ve got renewed energy for the series. Half the fun of being a writer has been learning about the business side and this lesson is HUGE. Even if I had great covers, titles and blurbs they still might sell better with a new ad campaign or marketing technique. There is always an opportunity to grow and learn as an entrepreneur.

But to do that you have to be proactive–seek out other authors and ask questions about what is working for them. Listen to podcasts on the business of selling books (I highly recommend The Creative Penn). Study what the most successful in your genre are doing. Attend a writers conference that is focused on the business side of things. As I’ve noted before I had no clue I was opening a business when I hit publish on my first novel. That has made for a chaotic but still damned exciting start. I wouldn’t trade the roller coaster ride for anything. The longer I’m in it the more I feel like I’m in control of where I’m going.

How about you? Indie authors, how are your first books selling? Now that you’ve learned more about your market would you consider changing the covers? Titles? Marketing techniques? Share your stories in the comments so we can learn from each other. #PayItForward

 

The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

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The Black Lace Business Model

Tonight I’m running my business from the bed in our guest bedroom. This is where I’m writing this post, planning a class I’m going to teach and generally working on connecting with as many smart, sexy, supportive women as I can. I’m wearing my new Hello Kitty slippers and the leggings and tee shirt I put on for yoga this morning.

Despite my appearance and my lack of a real office, I know that the work I do is no less important or valid than that of suited men in nondescript glass towers. Because I represent the new business model, the entrepreneur, particularly female entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way business is done and what’s considered true commerce.

I’ve been working on refining the keywords for Karen Gordon, Author. These are terms and ideas I want tied to my work. When you type these words into Google I want my writing and teaching to appear, somewhere near the top of your results. I’m still in the process but I’ve got more direction now. Through this process I noticed that the main continuous thread in all my writing is strong females characters. Even future novels revolve around women who live their lives on their own terms.

I support women’s sexuality in my writing–in all forms. I want women to feel free to choose,without fear of social persecution, to be as sexual as they want to be or not be. I’m creating characters who are solid in their feminine power and energy whether they are sharing that with another or enjoying it just for their self.

My heroines are engaged and busy, making bank, making a home or both; they are not wasting time bringing other women down. Drama sells, but my brand is not cheap drama generated by small people. Believe me there’s enough real excitement in raising children or building a business to fill a thousand novels.

I love the idea that married or single, working inside or outside the home, all women can contribute to increasing our value in society. It’s not only the CEO’s and Vogue cover models, but women’s with much quieter goals too who are erasing old stereotypes. My writing, my business is about and for all of them.

I’m still in the process of fleshing out my exact keywords but along the way I started to think about images and the idea of black lace and my geek glasses came to mind. Alone they represent female sexuality and intellect but combined they create a potent mix. Once thought of as opposites, madonna or whore, smart or sexy, mind or body; I now see them as the perfect combination or balance of all that women can be.

I’m going to be updating some of my artwork to encompass these ideas and honing on the keywords that will hopefully bring more smart, sexy, supportive women into my tribe. It’s one of my major projects for 2016.

So what are your keywords? Whether you have a business or not, what words encompass who you are, how you want to engage with the world. Share yours with me and I’ll share mine as soon as I can pin them down. Black lace is looking good though.

 

 

A One Out of Five Review

It happened this weekend.  I got my first one out of five review.  When I published my book I knew it was bound to happen and I played the scenario out in my mind; mentally preparing myself for the blow. Ya know, the reality isn’t as bad as my worst fears.

Don’t get me wrong, it stung.  Since my book is like one of my babies, I want everyone in the world to love it, but that’s not realistic. 

So I shed a few tears, swept the porch, then decided to share yet another aspect of being a self-published writer with anyone who might be interested.  My office of one feels particularly lonely today (although to be fair, it is also located on my clean back porch with sunshine, birds singing and a cool spring breeze).

If you would like to read it, the review is on the blog The Reading Kitten and was written by a very sweet woman who was kind enough to read my book and give a first-time author a chance.  Whether she liked it or not, I am truly grateful to her for doing that.  I have read some horribly unkind, hurtful reviews for other books on Amazon and Goodreads.  This review was fair and honest and definitely not cruel in any way.  Maybe that’s what makes this so much easier.  

Reviews are there to help readers decide if a book is for them and one star reviews do that just as much as five star.  I actually read the one and two star reviews more than I do the fives.  If the issues the reviewer had with the story are not things that would bother me, then I am encouraged to buy the book.  My two-star Amazon review points out that my book has teenage drinking, cussing and sex.  That’s true and that review saves romance readers who are offended by those things from buying a book they would not enjoy.

Reviews also help me to be a better writer.  The good ones let me know what resonated with my readers, which elements worked.  The negative (or more accurately, low star) reviews give me more insight into who my audience is or isn’t.  They help me see elements that might be confusing or places in my storyline that need clarification.  

I read an article recently by an indie author who hit it out of the ballpark on her first try.  Her debut novel went to number three in her category on Amazon.  Jealously reared it’s ugly head that day.  Then I put myself in her shoes.  The slow ride may be frustrating, but instant success can be scary, very scary.  I checked out her book on Goodreads and I am sorry to say that she had some of those truly mean-girl reviews.  She has thousands of five star reviews, but something tells me it is the hurtful, biting ones that stick with her most (although I hope not).  There will always be those who feel the need to take pot-shots at whoever is at the top.  She might be ready for that, but I can honestly say that I’m not.  

I’m posting this today as a way to face another fear; pull it out into the light and examine it; see that reality isn’t as bad as what I created in my mind.  I got a one out of five review.  I cried, cleaned (a little), analyzed, shared and survived. 

Character Casting Call

For those who knew me in high school some of the characters in “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” might seem familiar.  I ran with a group of four very silly girls who laughed so much that we almost failed any class we took together.  I rarely finished my lunch because they had me laughing ’til I fell off my chair almost everyday.  But they are not MG, Casey and Gina.  I am. 

Writers love to study people.  I’ve never minded long waits in airports because it’s such a smorgasbord of interesting people.  For a few years after college I worked as a temporary secretary and I loved it; but not the typing part.  I loved getting to see the inner workings of an office and the characters who work there for a week or two.  Then I got to move on to another office to observe and study.  All my life I have been gathering ideas, images, personality types; studying motivations and actions and words.  I’m putting all that stored data to use now, creating characters for my novels. 

My character Ben is a perfect example of this idea.  I pulled together my memories (and a few borrowed from a friend) to create him.  His personality and looks are a combination of at least four different men I’ve known.  I pulled words, actions and physical traits from each then filtered them through the story I had created in my mind.  The same is true for all my characters.  Although Carrie is me, the writer, she is not me in high school. 

Interestingly, this means that I get to be both male and female, good and bad, old and young. (And it’s so much fun to be bad.) 

Lately I’ve been writing the sequel, “Popstars, Friends and Lovers.”  It’s the story of what happened to two of my secondary characters, Steve and MG. On the days I write from Steve’s perspective, I feel more like a 19 year-old guy.  I may be running mommy errands, but I’m doing it while listening to hard rock and wearing torn jeans and chucks. I flipped a guy off who cut me off in traffic the other day.  That was definitely more Steve than Karen.  I have to delve into the character’s head to see the world through their eyes and sometimes a little of that bleeds through to my real life.  (My family should be grateful I write romance and not murder-mystery.)

Most of “Popstars” takes place when the characters are college age.  I am mining my college memories for scenes, character traits, words, actions.  This might make some people nervous (and you know who you are – ba ha ha ha ha ha).  But what you will actually see might be a glimpse of yourself, a piece of an event, a character that’s similar, but not exactly like you. Because the memories are mine and the story is mine and in the end the characters are all really part of me.

Sex Positive Romance Writing is Not an Oxymoron Here

This book is so much more than it’s cover.

On the surface “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” is a simple, funny,easy read.  I designed it that way.  It’s meant to be something fun you can start and finish on one vacation because sometimes you need a book that doesn’t drag on forever and require major brain cell usage. 

But, if you look closer, and scratch beneath the very cool pink surface, there’s a lot more there.  There is trend bucking galore.  I love NA books, but I started to feel like the world of new adult romance had become over populated with motor-cycle riding, tattooed, angsty man-whore heroes and the equally ubiquitous cavity-inducingly sweet, virginal, damsal-in-distress heroines. In response to these archetypes I created Ben – a geeky, polite, virgin hero, and Carrie – his sarcastic, funny, sex-loving heroine.  

Wait, hold the phone … she loves sex?!?!  

Yep, and her friends do too.  I’ll pause here to give the overly offended time to exit (mumbling “I always knew there was something wrong with her.”) and everyone else time to switch gears to this burgeoning new idea – women can like sex and it doesn’t make them a whore or a slut.  It makes them human.  

I’m excited to be part of this new idea in romance writing.  I’m ready for more unapologetic, fully-human female characters.  And equally as important, I can’t wait for more male characters who value a woman for more than being previously unclaimed territory and smokin hot.  

I’m sure some of you are wondering how this works … she’s not a slut, but she loves sex?  Well, first you have to let go of the idea that women have absolutely no control over their lust once they lose their virginity. I’m not sure who started the idea that once we have one guy we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from wanting any and all guys – that we become indiscriminate, grabbing at any low-hanging fruit (visual pun).  My guess would be that the idea came from the guys who would fall in the low-hanging fruit category – a marketing campaign of sorts from the bottom rungs of the male gender.  There is no magic presto-chango that happens to a female upon losing her virginity. She’s the same person she was the day before with a little more life experience tucked under her belt. (Check out this fantastic post on the whole concept of what actually constitutes losing your virginity from Girl on the Net.) 

My novel is not a morality play for or against premarital sex.  It’s a slice of reality.  Some of my girls have sex, some don’t.  Some regret it, some don’t.  Some enjoy it, some pretend too.  What they don’t do is apologize to anyone for the choices they make. 

But there is still more hidden in this deceptively simple story.  There is also some really steamy realistic sex.  If you love erotica that features Cirque-du-Soleil gymnastic style moves, this is not the book for you.  If you want to believe that a well-used gym membership can make some guy is so studly he can defy that fact that 80% of women cannot come by penetration alone, this is not the book for you.  I think these myths hurt women more than help them, so I left them out.  

If you are still with me–welcome to the trend, and while I support this trend, I promise not to be preachy in my books.  For those who buy my novel for an easy read by the pool with too many margaritas, don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed.  The shiny, pink fun is there, and if you are interested, a little social history-making underneath.