Monday, April 21, 2014

The Call

            I vividly remember the sunny day when I got "The Call". To anyone who has ever submitted a manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher, "The Call" means that long-yearned for phone call with the offer of a contract and an advance.

            At that point in my life as a writer I had suffered countless rejections, my hopes had been puffed up and then flattened more times than my bed pillows. To top it all off, I had just parted company with an agent who had gamely tried to sell my work to the "big" publishers for eighteen months, with no luck. I came close- I made it to the dartboard a few times, but never to the bulls eye.

            Then, out on my own again and determined not to be defeated, I began looking at publishers who accepted submissions from lowly, unagented writers. On December 9th, 2010, I sent a query to Sourcebooks.  I was advised fairly soon that they would like to read my full manuscript of "A Fallen Woman." In January, as we were all recovering from the usual over-indulgences of the season, they contacted  me again. I was asked to make some revisions and resubmit.

            And then I waited. I'd been here before— so I had learned not to get my hopes up. Meh. I feigned elaborate indifference as the days ticked by with no rejection appearing in my inbox. Of course, in the meantime, I continued sending my work out to other agents and willing publishers. The weeks passed into months.

            One day I had an email from Aubrey Poole, an editor at Sourcebooks. She liked my revisions and wanted to take "A Fallen Woman" to her acquisitions board, but first she needed to know if I had any other book ideas she could make into a series proposal.

            Did I?

            I had more ideas than I knew what to do with! More ideas than she could shake a stick at!

            So I typed up a series proposal and sent it in.

            Eventually, on March the 7th 2011, I checked  my email and there was a message from Aubrey. I almost daren't click on it to read the sad rejection I was surely about to get.

            But with a quaking heart, I clicked. And I read. How bad could it be?

            Aubrey Poole... wanted to know... when would be a... good time... to call me. Say what?! I read it several times before it sank in. I believe I walked out of my office to get another cup of coffee before I came back to read it yet again, as if I thought the message might mysteriously change into a form rejection while I was gone. Hey, one can never be too careful! Never too sure.

            When would be a good time?? Er...let me think about it...ANYTIME! It had, after all, been ten years since I started my mission to be published.

            So I sat on my bed in a warm patch of early Spring sunlight and talked to a real live editor, in person, for the first time. I felt as if I was ten years old. I don't remember what I said, but I suspect I giggled like a fool. I do remember every word she told me. Aubrey thought my book was wonderful and the acquisition board loved the series idea I had built around the fictional village of Sydney Dovedale. They wanted to offer me a three book deal with an advance.

            That same day, Aubrey emailed me the offer memo and then the contract, which was duly signed by my trembling, sweaty hand.

            All those years of struggle had finally paid off.

            The three book deal became a four book deal and then Aubrey asked me for a second series proposal which I got to work on immediately.

            I have to admit, over the years leading up to that contract, there were times when I came close to giving up. Rejections are never easy, but I started getting used to them with a dull, weary sort of acceptance. So used to them, in fact, that I began to wonder what I thought I was doing spending so much of my time typing away at a computer— typing stories no one would ever read. But I couldn't stop doing it.

            I think my family felt so sorry for me that they stopped asking about "that book" I was writing.

            But the ideas were always there, characters chattering away to me at all hours. They had to come out somehow.

            Thankfully, other people finally get to read their stories now too.

            "A Fallen Woman" was considered too serious for the title of my book, by the way, and after some discussion it was renamed "The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine". It was released online and in all good bookstores in June 2012. So that was my journey.

            And that's how Jayne Fresina finally got to see her books on a real store shelf!


The Sydney Dovedale Series (published by Sourcebooks Casablanca) includes:

The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine

The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne

Lady Mercy Danforthe Flirts with Scandal

Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction


My first book signing at Barnes and Noble. Girly flowers courtesy of my sister.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


            A dozen years ago I wrote a story called The Poppy and the Pomegranate. It was never published— oh, it needed a lot of work, and back then I didn't know the many rules to writing in the romance genre. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a "word count" requirement. And I typed with double spaces after all my periods and extra returns between all my paragraphs! Heaven forbid. That was how I was taught to write and type, of course.

            I'd been taught all wrong.

            But in my hopeful, newbie naiveté, I sent queries out to a few literary agents. I loved my story and my characters, particularly the two leads — Griff and Maddy. I just wanted to be a writer and thought that if I put a good story down on paper it didn't matter about silly things like POV and "head-hopping", how many characters got to tell their thoughts, or how many words I used to tell the story. After all, I'd grown up reading those doorstop-sized tomes by Judith Krantz, James Michener and Barbara Taylor-Bradford. Those epic stories were a different breed and belonged to another time in publishing, but I didn't know that. I'd also grown up with the classics— Austen, Bronte, Hardy and Du Maurier. Not that I thought I could compare to any of those writers, but they inspired me to try. I wanted to entertain people with my stories, the way those authors had always entertained me, even so many years after they were created.

            Well, I did get some interest from agents. Several asked to see the entire manuscript and I sent it off— great piles of paper in manuscript boxes, because this was before we all went "green" and email became the preferred method for submissions. One by one the rejections came back. Usually two lines typed on posh-looking letterhead. Occasionally it was just  my original cover letter with a big "NO" penned in the margins between the arc of a coffee mug stain and a cream cheese smear. Sometimes it was just my letter of inquiry, refolded and mailed back to me. I often wondered what happened to all those piles of manuscript paper I mailed to them. Were they ever looked at? I hope they were recycled!

            For a while I kept my rejection letters— a curious form of self-punishment, I suppose— but that pile soon got too large and too humiliating. Two house moves later and it's long gone.

            So is that original manuscript.

            Over the years since, Griff and Maddy's story changed many times. But the two main characters have not. They stayed just as I first wrote them and they live clearly in my mind, like old friends. Only their story has morphed into something quite different to the way it began. It had to change, because although I wanted to tell a story, the publishing folks weren't buying the one I'd written.

            So I started over.

            Catching a submission editor's interest requires many things your English teacher never told you about. You need a hook, a first paragraph, first sentence, that makes them stop and take their finger off the delete button. You need to know how to write an eye-catching query letter that hits all the bases, yet still leaves them wanting more. In a few short paragraphs. In the body of an email. Addressed to the correct person. With a polite, carefully worded salutation —nothing cheesy. No fancy fonts.

            And no attachments unless they ask for it. Don't you know that already?

            I've applied to colleges and for jobs with less requirements to remember.

            But if you want to be a published writer you also have to become a marketing guru with more shine and stubborn resilience than those strands of hair sprayed down over Donald Trump's head. They don't want just a writer. They want a brand. A sharp, tough, professional business person who won't annoy them, harass them or embarrass them. It takes perseverance and a hard head to get through that door and prove you're not their worst nightmare. You have to be hopeful and confident enough to put yourself out there, but you have to know when not to bug that person who is holding your manuscript in their sweaty, powerful hands while they ponder over its — and your—marketability.

            As a would-be writer you get advice from everyone. Even when you don't think you need it.

            Here's mine: Acquire a tough skin that lets the insults bounce off, because you will get a lot throughout your career. It's part of the territory. Grow up, put on your big girl breeches and realize that you'll never be everyone's cup of tea. And it's probably just as well. A swelled head is not becoming in this industry. No one has time for a diva. Creativity, hard work and professionalism are necessities. Publishing is a surprisingly small world and everyone knows everyone, so it's good to be polite too, watch what you say. Write every day. Learn when to let it go and don't be a "helicopter" parent.

            And that's another thing.

            I know people say that every parent thinks their child is the cutest, smartest pumpkin ever. Well, all writers feel that way about their work when they start out. But they soon learn that it's not productive to think that way and it's also quite soul-destroying if you cling to that idea. My work is not the greatest thing ever written, yet it's still important to me and I'm proud of it. I still think of each book as a child I've produced, but I don't create genius children. I'm learning with every book I write.

            Twelve years ago, when I wrote the first draft of Maddy and Griff's story, I was just beginning a long education in the world of publishing.

            This is a world of splinter-short attention spans. The story that winds itself up to a slow conclusion like a long, leisurely, bending country road is almost extinct, so I've been told. At least, it is in the romance genre. Writers are advised that readers don't have time any more to sit down and open a book that contains much more than 90,000 words. They want fewer pages, but more dialogue; more sex, but fewer characters; less internal monologue and detail, but fully developed, three-dimensional characters.

            Readers want that happily ever after and the publishing industry prefers that it comes neatly packaged within a fairly rigid structure— a plot or trope that's well-tried and a proven seller. Somewhere writers have to find a balance between the marketer's comfort zone and the reader's right not to be bored.

            When I finally acquired an agent she changed the title of my romance to "Seducing the Beast". My sisters laughed their pants off, but I swallowed my pride and said, in a very small voice, "ok". I was willing to do whatever it took to get this manuscript looked at and not just passed over in the slush pile. Eventually, I parted company with my agent, but I kept the title she'd given me and went on to get Seducing the Beast contracted, then published. It was a long road (yep, one of those winding, lingering roads "they" don't like in books any more) and I learned a great deal along the way.

            Maddy and Griff's story became a series, as I followed first Maddy's brother and then her daughter to their own happy-ever-afters. I had never imagined, twelve years ago, that this would become a series, or that so many strangers would get to read my work and enjoy it.

            A lot has changed since I typed the first sentence of the first draft. My writing, my life, my outlook— and even the publishing world itself has endured a few rocky changes to which they're still adapting. But Maddy and Griff are just what they were when I started. Like true friends they've been with me through it all, stayed genuine to the people they were when we all started out together, and because of that I know they'll always be special to me.

            I didn't say they were perfect, but they're still my babies and I'm proud of them!


The Taming the Tudor Male in Three Easy Lessons series is now available in e-book and in print.

1.         Seducing the Beast

2.         Once a Rogue

3.         The Savage and the Stiff Upper Lip.

Would you like to win a signed copy of any book in the series (you choose)? If so, please comment below or "Like" my Facebook author page and pm me there. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

SHOWCASE - Stephanie Berget

Today I'm welcoming author Stephanie Berget to my blog for a showcase of her latest Evernight Publishing release, SUGARWATER RANCH (Salt Creek Cowboys).

 * * * *

Bar-manager Catherine Silvera finds a waterlogged, unconscious cowboy freezing to death in front of the Sugarwater Bar. She saves his life--then runs faster than a jackrabbit with a coyote on its tail.  Any man who makes his living rodeoing is bad news, especially if Sean thinks partying is part of the competition. He’s everything she doesn’t want in a man, so why can’t Catherine shake her attraction to the rugged cowboy?



Just driving to the town made the trip worthwhile. The scenery was incredible, and the residents of Sisters had remade their community into a replica of a western town right out of the 1800s. The storefronts were made of wood with hitching rails running the length of the main street. Located in the shadow of the Three Sisters volcano mountain range, Sisters was a tourist town through and through. When the logging business went bust in the area, they’d encouraged tourism and saved their town when many others hit hard times. Sean had been to Sisters many times for the rodeo, and he’d always been impressed. Not only did the town ooze western hospitality, each trip he’d felt like he’d stepped into the past when cowboys ruled the area. Best of all, they put on one of the best paying and well-run rodeosin the northwest.
Today the town had been transformed. Quilts of every color and size were displayed in the windows and hung from the store railings, many with blue and red ribbons. The judging was done, and they were out for everyone to enjoy.
"Park the truck, and we’ll start at one end of town and go until you get bored,” Catherine said. She jumped out before he had the engine off and started toward the first store. “Isn’t this beautiful?”
The wonder in her voice had him hurrying to catch up and see what she’d found.
An eighteen-inch square quilt was made of half-inch pieces of cloth. Someone hand stitched all those tiny squares together to make a picture of flowers. The workmanship amazed him.
They wandered along the boardwalk, taking in the quilts and other handmade items. At the ice cream parlor they took a break.
Over ice cream cones, they discussed which quilts Cat liked best. Sean still couldn’t get over the amount of work people put into one of the handmade works of art.
“What do you think?” Catherine asked as she licked her cone. “Are you bored yet?”
“What?” Sean’s attention was riveted to the sight of Cat’s tongue licking the ice cream and he hadn’t heard her question.
“Do you like the quilts?” she asked, as the tip of her tongue slipped around the melting cone.
He forced his gaze up to her eyes. “For blankets, they sure are pretty. I’d be afraid to use them.”
Her smile told him she knew where his thoughts were. “I use one my grandmother made on my bed, but I keep the others stored in my closet because I can’t replace them. Except for sentimental value, most quilts are made to be used."
"You mentioned your grandmother and mom. Where are they now?” Sean gathered the napkins and cups then dropped them in the trash can.
When they were alone on the street, Catherine said, “My grandmother was a member of the Northern Paiute tribe. My grandfather was white. When they wanted to marry, her parents weren’t happy. My grandfather agreed to live on the reservation near Burns and learn the old ways. He became a part of the tribe. They passed away years ago. I didn’t know them well. Mom was born and raised there. When she married my father, he was white like my granddad. Everyone assumed they would stay, too.”
“I’m guessing they didn’t,” Sean said. “Where did you go?”
“It didn’t take long for my daddy to get bored on the reservation. He had other ideas. Big ideas. We wandered across much of Oregon and Idaho, chasing a dream he couldn’t quite catch. After each failure, he drank a little more. Let’s just say things went downhill from there.”
"I’m sorry,” Sean said.
 “Maybe you’ll tell me more about them sometime." But not now, Catherine thought. “What about your family?” she asked. “I know Frannie, and I knew of your mother. You come from nice people."
“Nice people, that’s my family,” he muttered, “all but me."
She glanced over to him. “You’re nice people. You just hide it well.” The giggle burst out of her. Sean had never heard her giggle. She didn’t seem like the giggling type of woman.
Then he realized what she’d said. “I hide it well? And I suppose you can see right through me to the warm chocolaty core?”
She giggled again then laughed outright. And laughter looked very good on Catherine Silvera. “Chocolaty core. Good description. I just need to lick through the hard sugar shell.”
Oh hell, the mental image just about blew him out of his boots.
He grabbed her and pulled her between the buildings to a private spot. “So you’re going to lick through the sugar shell?” It was his turn to laugh as he watched the blush spread up her neck and across her cheeks.
“I didn’t mean... You dirty-minded old man.” Even though she was blushing, she smiled.
“You’d better get started if you want to get to the chocolate tonight.”
His mouth closed on hers. She pressed against him and slipped her tongue into his mouth. She’s taking me seriously was his last thought before his brain scrambled.
They were both breathing hard, and if they’d been any closer together, they’d have been on the other side of each other. Sean cradled her head in his hands and bent to give her another soft kiss. He loved the way this woman smelled, like fresh air and oranges. Sliding his fingers through her hair, he heard her sigh. “I wish we were home,” Catherine said.
“You’re kidding me. This was your idea, and we’re going to finish the tour. This will give you time to think about your treat.” Sean turned her around, put his hands on her waist, and steered her back to the street.
Want to read more? Find Sugarwater Ranch at:

About the author:

Stephanie Berget was born loving horses and found her way to rodeo when she married the Bronc Rider. She and her husband traveled throughout the Northwest while she ran barrels and her cowboy rode bucking horses. She started writing to put a realistic view of rodeo and ranching into western romance. Stephanie and her husband live on a farm located along the Oregon/Idaho border, where they raise hay, horses and cattle, with the help of Dizzy Dottie, the Border Collie, and two Munchkin cats, Magic and Martin.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Showcase - Nikka Michaels

It may be the end of March, but since Mother Nature seems to have her seasons mixed up this year, why not celebrate a little bit of Christmas spirit? With all this snow around still for most of us, it would not be out of place! Are you in the mood to snuggle up with a good read as you wait for things to heat up? Then this might be what you need.

Nikka is a fellow author who writes in multiple genres. She's been kind enough to share an excerpt from one of her books CHRISTMAS WITH CADEN here today. I hope you enjoy the teaser! Read on to find out more about Nikka and where you can discover more of her work.

Paige Anthony is annoyed at spending Friday night at the company Christmas party. She’s bored until she spots the son of the boss, Caden Davis dancing and is intrigued.
When Caden saves Paige from the advances of his brother, she looks at him in a new light. A few sexy dances later, she manages to forget the horrible beginning of the night. When she decides to leave, he offers to walk her home and admits he’s wanted her for a while. Will Paige’s attraction be enough to make her forget about holidays past and consider Christmas with Caden?

“Is this how you really dance? Because you can show me the real you, you know. After all, you did just middle school dance me. I want a Caden dance.”
His slow, wicked smile made her stomach flip and heat flood her skin. “You want me? You got me.”
Slowly he spun her in a circle, her back resting against the front of his body. His hands settled on her hips, squeezing gently as he nuzzled her ear. His fingers pulled the fabric of her dress taut against her nipples as the delicious friction intensified with every move. She bit back a low moan at the sensation.
“This is me. This is how I really dance.”
Shivering at the feel of his warm breath against her ear, she closed her eyes and let her body go loose, relaxing as she moved with the beat of the music. His hands smoothed up and down her sides, teasingly light as he moved with her, not guiding but simply moving with her.
Through the thin fabric of her dress and his shirt and suit pants, heat from his body added to the sweat that beaded on her skin. She could feel his hardness pressing against her ass when she rocked back into him, though he let her lead all their movement. The club had gotten more crowded as they’d danced. The look on his face when she glanced up at him was one of hunger, his heavy-lidded eyes gone dark, illuminated by the flash of the strobe light. With the top buttons of his shirt undone, he looked as though he’d just been dragged off the floor and ravished.
Paige wanted to be the reason he looked that way.
Want to read more?

To find out more about Nikka Michaels and her work go here:

Nikka Michaels lives in the often rainy Pacific Northwest where she spends her time cooking, laughing and crafting romantic tales to satisfy her craving for HEAs with heat. A voracious reader, novice knitter and music lover she’s been known to multitask without breaking a sweat. She loves to read and write M/M romance but believes everyone deserves a love story. She currently has three releases out, Chasing Matt, a M/M novella co-authored with Eileen Griffin, Christmas with Caden, a M/F romance novella from Cobblestone Press, and “Waking up Wolf”, a M/M shifter romance in Evernight Publishing’s Alpha’s Claim: Manlove Edition anthology. Her short erotic M/M BDSM story, Room Service was released from Cobblestone Press and the sequel, Lip Service is out April 15, 2014. Nikka is currently at work with her co-author on two M/M foodie romance novels, set to be released summer and fall 2014 from Carina Press.
It's cold out there, so warm up with a good book!







Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wait -- it's the first day of Spring?

So they tell me!
Well, it might not look much like Spring out of my window, but I suppose I'll have to take their word for it.

In my last post I promised you a few more photographs by the talented Theresa Smolen and here they are. Enjoy! I also have some exciting giveaway news if you read on to the end. ;)

Just a reminder: Theresa exhibits locally (her photographs not herself, per se!) at The Short and Stout Tea Company, where they apparently have not only tea but the most wonderful cakes and cookies.

Thanks, Theresa for sharing your work with me!

If you're interested in purchasing a print or notecards with Theresa's work, you can contact her at
And now to more news. Would you like a paperback ARC (Advanced Review Copy) of Once Upon a Kiss? It's the first book in my new series, The Book Club Belles Society, and it will be out in stores in early June 2014, but you can get a signed ARC now if you message me via my Facebook Author Page at
I only have two copies to giveaway, so make like a rabbit and get over there!
(See what I did there - Rabbits=Spring?)
It's in the air!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

O Where Art Thou, Spring?

So as we face the prospect of yet another winter storm in the north east, you might want to put some
color and frisky springiness back in your step by taking a look at these photographs by my super-talented friend Theresa Smolen. Today is part one of a series I will be showing, just to remind us all (and Mother Nature) that there is light at the end of the blizzard.
Theresa has prints of her work for sale and can make some into notecards. She was kind enough to share a sample of her beautiful photos with me for my blog and to cheer us all up as we come (hopefully) to the tail end of this lingering winter. Theresa's contact information is at the end of the post. She also exhibits her pictures locally at the Short and Stout Tea Company.
Theresa and I once worked together on the same floor and that was where we discovered our shared inability to lift heavy objects without laughing. It got to the point that whenever I saw Theresa tripping by my desk to get her coffee I'd start laughing and then so would she. And we STILL laugh about it!

I'm not sure whether she was laughing with me or AT me, actually! But enough of my rambling - enjoy these wonderful photographs....
You can reach Theresa for more information about her photographs at
Ah, I feel better now I know Spring is on its way! Somewhere....

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Well, she is finally out in the world! It always seems like such a long wait from writing the last word in a manuscript until the big release day. And then, after all the build up, that wretched nervous feeling comes over me. What if no one likes it?
The best I can do - and I tell myself this every time - is write something that I love and then I just have to hope others like it too. After all, if I'm not writing something I love, what's the point?
As the first reviews come in for MISS MOLLY ROBBINS DESIGNS A SEDUCTION, I'm relieved to know I brought some entertainment and pleasure to readers. It makes the long hours scrabbling over a laptop, poring over research books and pondering out of the window with a glazed, silly look on my face, all worthwhile. It makes those hours of writing madly, squeezed tightly around working the "real" job, finally make sense to those who know me and have to put up with my anti-social nature.
People like my book! They like the characters that I fell in love with as I wrote about them.
Phew! Because you never know.
As I've said before, it's like sending a child off to school for the first time. I'm excited and yet I'm anxious. Will they make friends? Will they be bullied and come home with gum in their hair and dirty footprints on the back of their coat? You can love someone or something with all your heart, but there is no guarantee that others will feel the same.
So as I celebrate the release of the last book in the Sydney Dovedale series, I want to thank all my readers for their lovely reviews - and for befriending my little Molly "Mouse". Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for picking up my book, taking the time to read it, and leaving a review!


If you'd like to win a copy of MISS MOLLY ROBBINS DESIGNS A SEDUCTION please leave a comment below.