Booktopia Romance Buzz
May 2013 | Edition Four
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Welcome to the May Romance Buzz!
Hello, my fellow lovers of all things love-tastic!

We have interrupted our regularly scheduled Romance Buzz, because exciting things are afoot at your favourite romance bookstore.

First, I'm excited to introduce Haylee Nash , Booktopia's new romance specialist (otherwise known as the Booktopia's Queen of Lurve). Some of you will have known Haylee when she worked in publishing - she was awesome then, and she will be even more awesome now that she's using her book superpowers to bring us the best titles that romance has to offer. You can read more about Haylee at the Booktopia blog  or follow her on Twitter at @LoveAtBooktopia

Haylee recently launched a Facebook page dedicated to Romance at Booktopia . If the Romance Buzz can't come soon enough for you each month, you can get more frequent hits of book love there. (I also learned about cat bearding - completely pointless, but oh, so compelling.)

My next exciting news is that Aussie author Fiona Lowe is our guest author this month. Fiona's book, Boomerang Bride , absolutely blitzed the romance awards last year, winning both the RITA (our equivalent of the Oscars) and the R*BY (our equivalent of the Logies, but much more fun). Her latest book has just come out and it's awesome!

Last but not least...books! Fabulous books! Books we've all been dying to read, including the last in the Sookie Stackhouse series, the mysterious new Psy-Changeling book, and the upcoming Pennyroyal Green book, which has now been added to my keeper shelf! I might just break the record for most exclamation marks in a single buzz this month!

What I just finished: It Happened One Midnight by Julie Anne Long and it was so, so, SO good! Heartland by Cathryn Hein - I can't get enough of rural romance!

What I'm reading now: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren and Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris - yes, I read the ending first!

What I can't wait for: Heart Of Obsidian by Nalini Singh, although it hasn't stopped me from featuring the book this month (scroll down to the paranormal romance section below). But hey, I'm happy to talk about the Psy-Changeling books every single month!

Until next month - happy reading, and may your endings always been happy!

Kat Mayo

Queen of Romance (tiara askew from excitement)
Booktopia

Follow me on Twitter: @BookThingo
BOOK OF THE MONTH
Click here for details or to order DEAD EVER AFTER
(Sookie Stackhouse, Book 13)
by Charlaine Harris


Look, I know it doesn't matter what I tell you about this book, because if you're a fan of the series, you're going to want to read it. As soon as I got my copy, I went straight to the last page. Oh, don't judge me!

Charlaine Harris has had a dream run with this series, and I know many fans will be sad to see the end of it. But not too sad to read the last book, right?

I should mention that this book has been particularly controversial. The reader responses so far have been very ... passionate. Yes, yes, it's a romance - but is it the romance you've been dying (ha!) to read? Can I talk about this book without spoiling you? I don't know! It goes against the grain not to drop even a tiny hint, but I think I'll let you, faithful Sookie Stackhouse readers, enjoy the story as it unfolds.

All I'll say is that it's not going to be an easy journey for Sookie. But after 12 books, how can we not hang on for one final ride?

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New to the Sookie Stackhouse series? Why not start from the beginning, with Dead Until Dark - and then come back for the rest!

View the entire Sookie Stackhouse series

 
Click here to order The True Blood Boxed Set Books 1-10
HEART-WARMING HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Click here for more details or to order IT HAPPENED ONE MIDNIGHT
(Pennyroyal Green, Book 8)
by Julie Anne Long


I love this book so much. I thought I'd get that out of the way first. Now let me tell you why!

Look, It Happened One Midnight has a plot, and I'm sure it was a good one, but although the mystery of why Jonathan keeps finding Tommy (Thomasina) lurking around the Duke Of Greyfolk drew me into the story immediately, that's not what kept me furiously turning the pages. For me, it was all about Tommy (as in Thomasina) and Jonathan - their romance, their self-discovery, and the almost excruciatingly subtle ways in which they dance around the simmering sexual tension every time they're in a room together.

Jonathan Redmond has long been one of my favourite secondary characters in the Pennyroyal Green series, and Julie Anne Long has given him a fabulous story. As the youngest son of the great Isaiah Redmond, Jonathan has long felt the shadow of his still-missing brother Lyon and the lack of faith his father seems to have in his abilities. Isaiah cuts off Jonathan's allowance until he marries a suitable (read: titled) bride, but after a few encounters with Tommy, it becomes increasingly clear that his father's ultimatum will become untenable.

I love rich aristocrats in my historical romances, but there's something delicious about Jonathan's pursuit to live independently of his father. Meanwhile, Tommy draws him into helping her in a well-meaning but illegal scheme to help abused and indentured children. Both have emotional baggage, but they're undeterred in their optimism and belief in themselves, and I found that inexplicably charming.

If you only buy one historical romance this year, it has to be this one.

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ONCE UPON A TOWER
by Eloisa James

ANY DUCHESS WILL DO
by Tessa Dare

HOW TO TAME YOUR DUKE
by Juliana Gray
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BEHIND THE COURTESAN
(eBook edition)
by Bronwyn Stuart

ROCKY MOUNTAIN REBEL
(eBook edition)
by Vivian Arend

THE UNWILLING CONQUEST
by Stephanie Laurens
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PULSE-POUNDING PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Click here for more details or to order HEART OF OBSIDIAN
(Psy-Changeling, Book 12)
by Nalini Singh

 
I can't even believe you're reading this - pre-order first and click later! If you haven't already heard, spoilers about this book have come out overseas, so Nalini Singh and her publisher have decided to release excerpts for the book in the lead up to June 4. (That's the official release date for the overseas hardcovers, but if you can wait until the 11th, you can get the local paperback edition and use the money you save to buy another book!)

If you don't want to know anything about the book before it arrives, look away now!

Still here? Fantastic! So this book is the much-awaited story of Kaleb Krychek. You can read the first two chapters of the book at Nalini's blog , but essentially, all that will do is make you desperate to read the entire thing!

So is Kaleb the Ghost? Who is his heroine? What is going on??? I can't wait to finish this book, and you can be sure I'll be doing just that next month!

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New to the Psy-Changeling series? Grab a copy of Slave To Sensation and block off your calendar for a week because this series is seriously addictive!

OATH BOUND
by Rachel Vincent

DARKNESS UNMASKED
by Keri Arthur

The final book in Rachel Vincent's Unbound series features Kris Daniels and Jake Tower's illegitimate daughter, Sera. I love this series and I'm sad to see it end, because much as I love Rachel's YA books (and I do - a lot), I think this series has been her best so far.

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Oath Bound

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If you were at the Australian Romance Readers Convention earlier this year, you might remember that Keri Arthur read an excerpt from this book at the Lady Jane Salon event. Yes, the one with the spider!


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Darkness Unmasked

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THE CURSED
by Alyssa Day

RUBY'S GHOST
(eBook edition)
by Shona Husk

LEOPARD'S PREY
by Christine Feehan
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CAPTIVATING CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Click here for more details or to order SAVED BY THE BRIDE
by Fiona Lowe

 
As acting mayor of a small US town struggling to survive in the current economic climate, Annika sneaks into a high-profile engagement party to spruik the town's charms as a wedding venue to the bride-to-be's father. Unfortunately, she comes face to face with his son, Finn, instead...then they kiss...and then she's thrown in gaol.

If you love small town romances and stories that delve into family dynamics, this is a fabulous read. Fiona Lowe takes some unexpected turns with the plot, and she doesn't always give the characters an easy time!

But what I loved most about this book was the sexual tension. It's hot and fun, and as I think you'll agree that there's nothing more thrilling that two people trying to keep their hands off each other ... and failing miserably! I laughed and I giggled and I cried as I read this book, and really, that's the mark of a keeper.

Also, be sure to see how Fiona answers our Nine Naughty Questions - you'll find it at the end of this newsletter!
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WHAT THE PAPARAZZI DIDN'T SEE
by Nicola Marsh
 
MY BOYFRIEND AND OTHER ENEMIES
by  Nikki Logan

THE COUPLE WHO FOOLED THE WORLD
by Maisey Yates

ONE NIGHT SHE WOULD NEVER FORGET
by Amy Andrews
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LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
by Lori Wilde

IT HAD TO BE YOU
by Jill Shalvis

BARE IT ALL
by Lori Foster
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HER DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
by Nicole Marsh

ONE MORE SLEEPLESS NIGHT
by Lucy King

ANYTHING BUT VANILLA...
by Liz Fielding

IT WAS ONLY A KISS
by Joss Wood

ONE BABY STEP AT A TIME
by Meredith Webber

P.S. YOU'RE A DADDY
by Dianne Drake
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ALL HE EVER DREAMED
by Shannon Stacey

HEARTLAND
by Cathryn Hein

Note: This book has been previously published as an ebook.

If you haven't heard of the Kowalski series by Shannon Stacey, there is something wrong with Romanceland. These heroes are hot!

The sixth book in the series features one of my favourite tropes - friends to lovers - and mix in one of my favourite contemporary romance authors and you have a must-read!

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All He Ever Dreamed

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If you love rural romance, the latest book by Cathryn Hein delivers: Callie, the heroine who inherits a farm; Matt, the hero who was injured at war; a cranky old man who wants Callie to keep the farm; an even crankier goose that comes with the farm; a warty horse; and loads of family issues.

If you've ever dreamed of owning a horse as a child - or falling in love with a hot farmer as an adult - there's plenty to enjoy in this book.


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BENEATH THE EDGE
(eBOOK edition)
by Donna Alward

HARLEQUIN DIAMOND COLLECTION FEATURING CAROL MARINELLI
HARLEQUIN DIAMOND COLLECTION FEATURING BRONWYN JAMESON
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SHE'S HAVING THE BOSS'S BABY by Kate Carlisle

THE RETURN OF THE SHEIKH by Kristi Gold

A VERY EXCLUSIVE ENGAGEMENT by Andrea Laurence

STRADDLING THE LINE by Sarah Anderson

THE TEXAN'S CONTRACT MARRIAGE by Sara orwig

TEMPORARILY HIS PRINCESS
by Olivia Gates
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NEW ADULT ROMANCE
If you haven't heard of new adult, it's the latest craze going around not just romance but adult fiction in general.
GOOD FOR YOU
by Tammara Webber

RUSH ME
(eBook edition)
by Allison Parr

You may have heard of Tammara Webber, author Easy - a self-published book that was picked up by a traditional publisher and has received rave reviews.

Good For You pairs a Hollywood A-lister and a do-gooder heroine.

It sounds like a cliché - and okay, it is - but as with any good romance, the writing makes all the difference, and Webber won't disappoint.


 

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This book has also received a lot of publicity among romance reading communities, and it's easy to see why. It's like a Harlequin Sexy but with younger main characters. That just-out-of-YA thrill of falling in love paired with old-enough-to-have-great-monkey-sex situations is just irresistible.

Rachael Hamilton and the darling quarterback of the NFL, Ryan Carter, don't get along, but somehow keep finding themselves thrown together. And, well, you know how that goes!


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ELECTRIFYING EROTIC ROMANCE
Click here for more details or to order ENTWINED WITH YOU
by Sylvia Day

 
Fans of Eva and Gideon have been eagerly awaiting the third Crossfire book by Sylvia Day, and I'm happy to tell you that it's coming out in a couple of weeks - make sure it's in your pre-order list!

I know multi-book erotic romances are the latest trend in publishing, but Day has been writing in this genre before it was cool. There's a reason why the first book of this series, Bared To You, was voted by Australian romance readers as their favourite erotic romance in 2012. Find out why we can't get enough of Eva and Gideon!


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HELL'S END
(eBook edition)
by Ally Blue

MORE THAN FRIENDS
(eBook edition)
by Jess Dee

Tuck is a member of a violent gang at the solar system's outermost space station. When he escapes, he finds himself in a whorehouse instead, before he's rescued by Ivan, a government soldier. Ivan begins to question his government's motives, and although he and Tuck are drawn to each other, what they uncover about the government may lead them to even more danger.

The first book in the Hellscape series is brutal and sets up a complicated web of corruption, violence and hidden agendas with a dash of romance thrown in. And, anyway, who can resist an m/m romance that also features robot spiders?

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Remember how I said I love friends to lovers stories? Well, Australian author Jess Dee writes them with a generous lashing (ha!) of sexy times thrown in.

Lucy, the heroine, tells her best friend, Seb,  that she loves him like that - including very specific fantasies she's had of him - and he's all, Huh. And then, of course, he can't stop thinking about her ... like that. I love this plot.

This book also comes with a publisher's warning: 'After reading this, you may just be tempted to jump your best friend.' So be careful who sits next to you while you're reading this book!


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CAINE'S RECKONING
by Sarah McCarty

THE JULIETTE SOCIETY
by Sasha Grey

Note: First Australian release only. This book has been previously published overseas.

When this book first came out, I had to get someone who went to the USA on a business trip to scour bookshops and bring me back a copy, and now that it's being released locally, readers who missed out on the first wave of OMG-you-have-to-read-Sarah-McCarty squeeing can now try the Hell's Eight series.

Caine rescues Desi from forced sexual slavery and is honour-bound to marry her. Desi is in a vulnerable state, and although Caine understands this, for them to have any chance at happiness together, she will need to learn to trust him ... especially when there's a bounty on her head.

If you like American Westerns featuring a ridiculously capable hero with a strong sense of honour, this is a book for you!

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I confess - this book is more erotica/porn than it is romance. You might recognise Sasha Grey as the lead in the film The Girlfriend Experience, about a New York escort whose business is affected by the financial crisis. Or you might know her as the porn star who appeared on The Tyra Banks Show to defend her choice of profession. Well, she's written a book.

Film student Catherine becomes involved in a secret society where members can indulge their darkest sexual fantasies. I'm not sure if The Juliette Society is erotica or porn - in truth, it's probably a bit of both.

But really, I couldn't not mention this book, right? If you're the kind of reader who loves over the top, hedonistic erotic fiction with some intellectual musings on the nature of sexual desire, this might hit the sweet spot.



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SPINE-TINGLING SUSPENSE
Click here for more details or to order HALF MOON BAY
by Helene Young

 
I've read all of Helene Young's books, and I love that her writing style has kept evolving, and with Half Moon Bay, I think she's hitting her stride and finding her niche between romance and suspense.

Photojournalist Ellie Wilding is still grieving the loss of her sister, Nina, while on assignment at Afghanistan, but returns home to help her small town fight a corrupt government official and a shonky development deal. Nicholas Lawson is in the middle of the controversy - little does Ellie know that Nicholas served in Afghanistan and feels the weight of Nina's death. He's not what he seems, but even though he's drawn to Ellie, he knows that letting her in on what he's really doing will put her in danger.

If you wonder why we need romances set in Australia, books like Half Moon Bay really bring the message home. The setting, the community and issues faced by the residents are all too familiar. And I have to say, it changes the reading experience for the better.

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AGAINST THE RULES
by Linda Howard

FATAL AFFAIR
by Marie Force

CARDWELL RANCH TRESPASSER
by BJ Daniels

FORGED IN STEELE
by Maya Banks
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Nine Naughty Questions with FIONA LOWE
Click here to view Fiona Lowe's latest bookThis month's feature author is Fiona Lowe, author of the hugely popular and award-winning book Boomerang Bride. Fiona also writes category romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon's Medical line. She had a juggernaut year last year, winning both the RITA and the R*BY awards for Boomerang Bride - that's a book featuring an Aussie heroine named Matilda, who travels to the USA to meet her soul mate. Except things don't quite go according to plan - most notably, the absence of said soul mate. Her latest book, Saved By The Bride, has just been released (for more details - scroll up to the category romance section).

Fiona has kindly agreed to answer our Nine Naughty Questions, and all I can say is that I totally agree with her - a partner who will do the ironing sounds pretty romantic to me!

1. I wonder, is a romance writer born or made? Please tell us a little about your life before publication.

I think it's a bit of both! I've never met an author who isn't an avid reader and I was that kid with her nose in a book. I was raised at the library and my mother suggested I read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice when I was 14. I fell headlong in love with happy endings.

Click here to order Boomerang Bride or for more detailsWriting books wasn't something I thought about doing as a child and I didn't scribble stories into exercise books but I did have imaginary conversations in my head ... it's okay, I've been checked out. I come from a long line of journal keepers and diarists and when I was overseas as an exchange student and then travelling, (pre-Internet) I wrote home every week. A few family members suggested I write a travel book. As a nurse, I had always loved all the medical TV shows like Doctor In The House, The Flying Doctors, A Country Practice, E.R.,  but it wasn't until I was at home with a new baby that someone gave me a romance with medical themes and I thought, I could write something like that.

My naiveté collided smack-bang with reality. An easy-to-read and enjoyable book does not mean it's easy to write. So I set about learning the craft of writing - structure, plot, tension, emotion - all the vital elements to a page-turning novel. It took me ten years to sell my first book and across those years I wrote four novels.  Steely determination and a will to learn can take a girl places.

2. For all the glitz and the glam associated with the idea of romance novels, writing about and from the heart is personal and very revealing. Do you think this is why romance readers are such devoted fans? And do you ever feel exposed?

My daily life is pretty devoid of glitz and glam ... I'm typing this in my pyjamas! Mind you, they do have hearts on them. Most of the topics I've written about in my books haven't happened to me per se, but as a nurse I've met a lot of people and heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of pain. I guess I channel that when I'm writing. The breast cancer story I wrote in Boomerang Bride was in tribute to a friend but again, it's a story so there were only some tiny elements of my friend's story in Lori's. My husband and I experienced seven years of infertility and now with two sons, I'm able to look back on that time and I've put some of our emotions into my books. 

Saved By The Bride is a lighter story and I focussed on family dynamics - we all have those and every family is different. My sister likes to read my books and find the one thing in each of them that is taken directly from my own life - a family saying, a kid's toy, etc. - but that said, my books are fiction. However, romance novels touch on our emotions and I believe that's why our readers love them. In some shape and form they can relate to the story. Or not. Some people get quite upset when what you wrote was not their experience of the topic but again ten people will experience the same event very differently. People often don't realise this.

Click here to order Saved by the Bride or for more details3. Please tell us about your latest novel...

I wrote Saved By The Bride when I was struggling to sell, what went on to become my RITA-winning novel, Boomerang Bride. The global financial crisis had hit and it got me thinking about rural towns. The only thing the two books have in common is a small town; think Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. I wanted to create a cast of characters that would feature across three books and make the book a fun and relaxing read. That said, each book has a more serious and grounded/real life secondary romance. Hmm, okay it has a little more in common with Boomerang Bride than I first thought!

Annika Jacobson is hiding out on her life in small town Whitetail, Wisconsin and Whitetail has just lost its major employer. If Whitetail folds, Annika will have to leave town and face the real world. As acting-mayor, she sets out to find the town a new employer, which puts her at odds with the rest of the town who believe they have the best solution to their problem by making Whitetail a wedding destination. Of course the first hurdle is convincing a Chicago business man Finn Callahan that he needs to base his business in Whitetail. Finn can't separate business and family and that is his major issue. I enjoyed exploring the concept of 'do-over' fathering. How does the grown-up son feel when his father has a second family later in life and this time has the time to be a dad. See? Family dynamics are great to mine!  Throw in a severely uncoordinated heroine, a blended family of three generations and a wedding-obsessed town, and things get a bit messy.

There are two more books in the trilogy, Picture Perfect Wedding (August 2013) where I look at quarter-life crisis and the family farm in the main romance and the effect of living under the shadow of a war hero in the secondary story. Runaway Groom is the final book, which I'm writing at the moment, and that's out in January 2014.

Click here to order The Surgeon's Doorstep Baby/ Return to Love or for more detail 4. Is the life of a published romance writer... well... romantic?

At conference time and on awards' nights it is exciting and glamorous, for sure. On a day-to-day basis, it's working from home, dealing with laundry and ideas for dinner, juggling the kids' activities and homework, and writing words on days when your muse has shutdown. My husband isn't romantic in the roses and chocolates category but he does all the ironing and that's pretty damn romantic in my book. We do try each year to have a night away somewhere around our wedding anniversary. I am excited to say though that my 18-year-old son has shown a true romantic streak with his girlfriend. As lovely as that is, I've also taught him to cook and iron.

5. Of all of the romantic moments in your life, is there one moment, more dear than all the rest, against which you judge all the romantic elements in your writing? If so, can you tell us about that special moment?

Oh, hard question! I think it is how proud my husband is of me. He is my biggest cheerleader. He commutes to Sydney at the moment and twice a week, he chats to the person next to him on the plane and if it's a woman, she always gets off the plane with my business card because he's told her about my writing. That sort of love and support is the true spirit of romance.

Click here to order This Heart of Mine or for more detail6. Sex in romance writing today ranges from 'I can't believe they're allowed to publish this stuff' explicit to 'turn the light back on, I can't see a thing' mild. How important do you think sex is in a romance novel?

I've had people say I write very mild sex scenes and then others who say they couldn't read them because they were too hot, so how a sex scene is interpreted is all to do with the reader's experiences and beliefs. Most women who read romance are reading it for the emotional journey and the developing relationship. Sex is a normal extension of a relationship and if the story requires a sex scene then I write one but when I do, I write the sex scene that suits the couple in question. Just like in real life, some people meet and jump into bed. Others wait. It's all to do with the experiences that have shaped them and if they are an 'instant gratification' type of personality or not.

7. Romance writers are often romance readers - please tell us your five favourite (read and reread) romance novels or five novels that influenced your work most?

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Persuasion
L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series
Susan Elizabeth Phillip's This Heart of Mine and Natural Born Charmer
Tim Winton's Cloudstreet

8. Erotic romance writing is 'so hot right now'. Do you have any thoughts on why?

I think that for some readers erotic romance has always been hot and popular so that hasn't changed. It was being quietly downloaded and read for years but traditional publishers were leery of touching it. However, traditional publishing takes a great deal of notice of what tiny ePresses are doing and when they saw these books were selling well, they saw an opportunity to make money. They took a chance and it paid off. Paranormal romance had a similar journey a decade ago. When there is money to be made, things that have been bubbling quietly along in a subculture suddenly become mainstream.

Click here to order Saved by the Bride or for more details9. Lastly, what advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write every day, hone your craft, be prepared to dump words, surround yourself with supportive people, don't take on board every single piece of advice - just the advice that rings true to you and your gut - know the market you are targeting, get good at allowing criticism to roll off your back and remember, just like any job, you're not an expert overnight, you get better with practice.
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