Release Day for FOREVER IN MY HEART and a Giveaway!

Hi everyone! I hope you all are staying warm this horribly cold Winter. If it wasn’t for my birthday in February, I’d be ready to skip right to March!

Here’s some shameless plugging to promote my new contemporary romance, FOREVER IN MY HEART, which is available today! It’s the second book in my Tangled Hearts series.

perf5.000x8.000.indd

This book centers on the youngest DiFrancesco sibling, Vicky. If you’ve read UNTANGLE MY HEART, you may remember Vicky as the girl whose life was sort of a train wreck. Twenty-six and divorced, she’s had a hard time finding her happy. Now, just when she’s opened the hot new cafe in town, her high school bad boy ex returns. Jamie DiSilva is the brother of the two men who’ve caused much pain to her family over the years. Not to mention Jamie broke Vicky’s heart nine years ago. She’ll be pulled by family loyalty and her own desire for the boy-turned man who she’s never forgotten.

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt.

Vicky DiFrancesco is ready to put the past behind her. After a humiliating divorce, she’s determined to make her new café a success. The last thing she needs is her first love around, reminding her of what they’d lost. But when her life is threatened, could he be the very man she needs?

Jamie DiSilva’s homecoming after retiring from the army isn’t the one he’d been hoping for. Now, he’s trying to start a home improvement business in a town settled on holding him accountable for the sins of his late brothers. Redeeming himself to the girl he never stopped loving and her family is difficult when his brothers’ secrets come back to haunt him.

Untangling themselves from the past means righting several wrongs and deciding if their love is meant to last forever.

Excerpt from FOREVER IN MY HEART:

“What happened today between us can never happen again.”

“Because of your sister?”

“Because of my entire family. Kate isn’t the only member with a grudge against the DiSilva family.”

Just his bad luck.

“My parents and I have never done anything to warrant being shunned by them. Our parents were best friends.”

“That doesn’t change what your brothers did or how it’s impacted my family. It’s one thing to deal with you living in the same town. It’s another for them to accept what just happened between us.”

“What happens between us has nothing to do with your family,” he snapped. He was tired of being judged. It wasn’t like she didn’t feel something for him. He lowered his voice and cupped her cheek. “Things can be good between us, Vick. You know it.”

She held his gaze, and he felt her tremble. He leaned forward, determined to convince her to give them a chance.

Her hand shot out and stopped him from doing more than graze her lips. “Stop. Nothing good will come of this.” She rolled off the bed and kept her back to him.

“You’re choosing them over your own happiness?”

She wiped at her face before turning to him.

Despite the tears that dampened her eyes, her answer was clear from the stubborn set of her chin. “What choice do I have?”

“There’s always a choice.”

“And a price to pay. They’re my family. I pick them. I’ll always pick them.”

You can buy FOREVER IN MY HEART at:

Kindle  |  B&N  |  Kobo  |  iBooks  |  The Wild Rose Press

Giveaway graphic

From February 20th through March 8th you can enter my release giveaway! Stop by here for a chance to win a digital copy of Untangle My Heart, the first book in my award-winning Tangled Hearts series or a $5 Amazon GC.

FIMH FB Release Party Invite4

Also, I’d love if you’d stop by my Facebook Release Party TONIGHT, February 20th, from 7:00-9:30 pm EST. Many of my Femme pals along with other friends from NJ Romance Writers will be stopping by to chat about their books. There will be games, alpha men and prizes! Sorry, but it’s bring your own cannoli! Click here to join. Hope to see you there!!

Hugs,

Maria

 

 

Advertisements

A New Year of Possibilities

Congratulations to KARA O’NEAL, who is the winner of the Femmes Favorite Book of 2014 post! You’ll win an official Violet Femmes mug! Enjoy! I’ll be reaching out to you to send your gift.

~ ~ ~

For me, welcoming in the New Year is like buying a brand new notebook. The spine is perfect, the cover unwrinkled, the pages are blank. How I choose to fill them is up to me. But rather than that causing me stress, I’m energized with hope…with possibilities.

notebook

2014 was both a good and bad year for me. From a writing perspective, it was a good year. My debut book, Untangle My Heart, was made available world-wide in March, I completed edits for the second book in the series, Forever in My Heart, and I started writing the third story. Things were stressful at my day job but that was okay because my writing kept me grounded and brought me joy. From a personal perspective, I suffered a deep personal loss at the end of last year. Looking forward to 2015 gives me a chance for a start fresh and with it, renewed enthusiasm to strive to be the best person and writer I can be.

At the 2014 NJ Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, one of the speakers asked us to write down our goals. Here’s what I wrote with 2015 in mind:

  1. Finish writing Tangled Hearts Book 3 (Awaken My Heart).
  2. Begin plotting/scoping/writing a new contemporary series.
  3. Pitch new series at the 2015 NJRW conference.

Even as I’m typing this #3 is sort of freaking me out as I haven’t pitched in a couple years and the thought of going through that process…AGAIN…makes me feel as though I’m taking a step back. But as I think about this more, I realize it’s not going backward. Rather, it’s going FORWARD. Similar to RoseAnn who mentioned in last week’s post that she’s in RoseAnn 2.0 mode, I need to move to the next phase in my career. I’ve gotten my feet wet and am published. Now I need to move up the next rung on the ladder.

I’m 32k words into Awaken My Heart, and I’m hoping to finish it during NJ Romance Writers Jersey Romance Writing Month (JeRoWriMo) this February. Of course, Forever in My Heart is being released February 20th, which means I’ll need to spend time preparing.

In addition to my writing goals, I’ve set some personal goals:

  1. Get back to my goal weight by the end of March.
  2. Attend Jazzercise three times a week.
  3. Spend more quality time with my family.

No matter how many goals I set, sometimes those goals have to be changed or extended. And that’s okay. It’s my empty notebook to fill as I see fit. Life’s too precious and too short to be spending it not doing what you want. So have fun, enjoy life, and fill your notebook with things that make YOU happy!

Since last week we asked what your writing goals are for 2015, this week I’d like to hear what your personal goals are. Is anyone planning to run a 5k or a triathlon? How about any special trips?

Enjoy your year of possibilities!

Hugs,

Maria

 You can find me at:

Website|Twitter|Facebook|Goodreads|Pinterest

 perf5.000x8.000.indd

My Book Trailer Experiment

Ever since my first book was published I’ve been wanted to try creating a book trailer. My motivation wasn’t because I thought it would increase my sales, because everything that I had read said it wouldn’t. But when I got my cover for my upcoming release of Forever in My Heart, I decided it would be a fun way to tell about the story and reveal the cover.

So I took an online course sponsored by RWA, and looked at trailers from fellow romance authors. Here are some key takeaways I learned.

  1. Script – start with your blurb, and create a script of approximately 20-25 short phrases.
    • Focus only on the main conflict between the hero and heroine
    • Capture the essence of their goals and the conflict that’s preventing them from achieving the goals
    • Write short and engaging phrases that will entice the reader to want your book
  2. Fonts – use the same font throughout the trailer. If you keep changing it, the viewer will start to focus on the changing fonts and not the words. Here are some sites I looked at for free fonts:

http://www.1001fonts.com/    – I like this site because I was able to look up fonts by category. It helped me narrow my focus.

http://www.fonts.com/FindFonts/freefonts.htm

http://www.dafont.com/

  1. Music – choose music that reflects the tone of your book. For me, I found this difficult since my story is a Contemporary with a Romantic Suspense element. Here are a few sites you can check out. There are lots of others if you do a Google search.

http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

http://vimeo.com/musicstore

http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/

  1. Photos – I really struggled with this because searching for photos takes time and often costs money. I opted to use clips from my book cover and slowly reveal the entire cover at the end. Not the most sophisticated approach, but my goal was (a) to share a version of my blurb and (b) reveal the cover. So I felt I’d accomplished this. Regardless of your approach, make sure you use photos that are of the highest quality (300 dpi or more). And in my opinion, more pictures aren’t necessarily better. Here are some sites you can look at for photos:

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

http://www.pdphoto.org/

http://www.istockphoto.com/

http://www.depositphoto.com

http://www.dreamstime.com/

  1. Putting it together. I used Microsoft PowerPoint to build my initial slideshow. I put each phrase on a page using the font I’d purchased along with the pictures. I added transitions from slide-to-slide. When I was comfortable with this, I uploaded the slides to Windows Movie Maker and finished the editing.
    • Make sure there’s enough time on each slide to read the words. I set three seconds per slide. In some cases, I had to adjust the words on a slide because it couldn’t be read. Going through this exercise forces you to be concise!
    • Movie Maker has some different transitions that PowerPoint didn’t have and I experimented. But be careful to not have too much motion and jerky transitions.
    • Make sure you end with your book cover, your website, buy links (if available), or release date (or coming soon)
    • My trailer is just over 30 seconds. I’d suggest not going more than 90 seconds for fear of losing viewer attention.
  2. Get opinions. I showed draft versions of what I did and got feedback. This was especially helpful in understanding if it was going too fast.
  3. It’s a wrap! When I was finished, I created a channel on YouTube and uploaded it. Make sure you change the settings to public before you start sharing the link. Don’t forget to add it to your website and post a link on Facebook.

Here’s a link to my finished product. Let me know what you think.

Hopefully you got some helpful tips. Please share if you have other resources you found helpful.

Hugs and best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season!

Maria

Recap of RWA 2014

RWA photo

Last week, I attended Romance Writer of America’s (RWA) conference in San Antonio, TX. It wasn’t my first National conference and it certainly won’t be my last. For the most part, writing is a solitary job. Authors keep their characters and their stories in their head, sharing with critique partners and beta readers. Attending a conference with approximately 2,000 other writers, agents, and editors is an amazing and inspiring opportunity to break out of that shell and network.

Here’s a highlight from a few of the fabulous workshops I attended:

I was surprised and excited by the number of workshops geared towards the romantic suspense genre. There was one on Guns for Writers where I learned the different classifications of guns and the correct stance for holding a gun. There was another for Writing a Believable Police Hero, Practical Self Defense (which, sadly, I missed), and Homicide Investigation 101. In case you didn’t guess, the hero in my WIP is a cop.

Cindy Ratzlaff gave an engaging talk about social book marketing strategy. Catch the Animoto video I created at the end. Totally cool!

Kristan Higgins, Alyssa Day, and Elizabeth Hoyt gave a fun workshop on Beyond the Alpha Male and Spunky Heroine. They challenged us to get deep into our hero’s character, including things such as knowing their weaknesses, how they’ve suffered, and deepest fears. What don’t they want the heroine to know?

For the heroine, there is a fine line between a strong heroine and a bitch. Be careful not to make her too bitchy and unlikeable, unless, of course, that’s your intent. What are her ambitions and desires that define her? What is her low point and why is the hero the worst person for her? How does he bring her back to that low point? How does she find her own inner strength to overcome it?

“Writers today must be both a writer and an entrepreneur.”Sylvia Day

“Each happy ending is a brand new beginning.”Karen Rose

Random highlights

  • Riverwalk boat tour with Michele Mannon
  • Meeting Joan Johnston in the elevator and gaining some interesting career advice
  • Meeting Nora Roberts and getting my own signed copy of her RITA® nominated book, Whiskey Beach
  • Signing at my first RWA Literacy signing
  • Cheering my fellow NJRW chapter mates, Nancy Herkness, Beth Ciotta, and Marnee Bailey on at the RITA® and Golden Heart® award ceremony
  • Books – I got way more books than I intended. Look for a giveaway soon on my author Facebook Page (Maria K Alexander – Author)
  • Getting my headshot taken at the trade show
  • Cowboys – you’ll have to watch the video link below for details
  • Meeting new friends, including another early riser and co-swag queen, Anabelle Bryant
  • Meeting wonderful Wild Rose Press authors, including editor and freelance designer, Diana Carlile, who designed the cover art for Untangle My Heart
  • Meeting Julie James, whose FBI/US Attorney series covers inspired Untangle My Heart. I even gave her a bookmark!

While I’m back to the grind and the day job today, I’m re-energized to jump back into edits for Forever In My Heart and my WIP.

Check out the video below which I made with pictures from the conference.

Hugs,

Maria

 

Engaging the senses in your writing

I was talking with my eleven year old son the other day and he was explaining in great detail about these people who I later learned are from the fictional online gaming world of Wizard 101. This isn’t the first time he’s done it, either. Both my kids regularly refer to characters from TV shows or electronic games as though they’re real. It drives both me and my husband crazy.

But then I started thinking that isn’t this what writers look for when we craft our stories? We want the characters to feel so real to the reader that they could be someone you know—or would like to know. Or could imagine falling in love with. Who doesn’t want to get that little catch in your gut like the heroine does when the hero gives her a smoldering glance?

How do you write to fully engage your reader?

Here are some examples of how to use your five senses to bring your reader into the story. These excerpts are from the partially edited second book in my Tangled Hearts series, Forever In My Heart, which will be coming out soon.

Sight

Vicky bit into a forkful of baked ziti and reveled in the divine combination of garlic, basil, tomatoes, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses along with the slight bite of red pepper.

Taste

Back in the main room, Maggie poured his coffee, and he took it along with a cinnamon bun to his usual table by the window. Slathering the top with butter, he took a huge bite into a sticky explosion of brown sugar laced dough.

Sight and Smell

Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. A few strands escaped and curled against her neck. She smelled like berries, apples, and cinnamon and he had to fight the urge to reach out and see if she tasted as good.

Touch

He reached out and touched her arm. A spark jumped between them. She must have felt it, too, because she jolted. All these years and his blood still heated up being near her.

Sound

Surprised, she cried out and acted on pure instinct—or stupidity. She elbowed him in the gut. He grunted a moment before the gun clanked to the gun. She attempted to step aside, but her assailant grabbed her arm and punched her in the jaw. It wasn’t a strong punch, but it caused her to gasp for breath. Grabbing the cake carrier, she swiveled and smashed him in the head. He yelped and fell, swearing when he hit the hard ground.

 

In case you can’t tell, there are lots of food references in Forever In My Heart. I leveraged my Italian background in my story and enjoyed creating what I hope are scenes that make the reader imagine being inside Vicky’s café or at least make you crave something decadent. 🙂

Cinnamon buns anyone?

While writing this post, I did realize I shy away describing sounds in my story. It’s given me a renewed energy look for ways to go into more depth as I continue with my edits.

What tips do you have to engage your reader in the story?

Maria

Author Website Design 101

Recently, I spoke to a colleague who made her first sale. I remember the feeling for me, almost a year ago…a little numb, a lot anxious, and very excited. During my journey, I began establishing the social networking tools for publication: Twitter, Facebook, and a website. Signing that contract changed my perspective on my toolset. As a result, I refined my author repertoire in preparation for “release day”.

One of my big changes is that I completely revamped my website. Never having done a website or a blog before, I had started out with a free WordPress blog that doubled as my website. While that helped me get my feet wet, I wanted something with a little more pizazz. My domain was hosted through 1and1.com so I started there but ended up choosing Wix to create the actual website. Having a tech background, I didn’t mind rolling up my sleeves to figure out how to use the application, which is very user-friendly.

Below are some things you need to consider before you get started.

Branding

What is your author brand? Not your book brand, although the genre you write is a part of branding you as an author. What do you want your readers—yes, you’ll have them—to think about when they hear your name or first come into your site? If you write dark, paranormal stories or romantic suspense, you may want darker colors or a picture that will allow the reader to convey this at first glance.

Since I write contemporary, I struggled with my brand. Finally, I decided to keep it simple. I picked colors I liked and found an image of vines that reminded me of my Tangled Hearts series.

(more…)

Food good enough to write about

I was raised in an Italian household where food was the focal point of family gatherings. Anyone who came to my house was offered something to eat, and you got looked at strangely if you didn’t want anything. “What? How can you not be hungry?” or “Just try a little piece of this.” Not that we forced anyone to eat, but usually the tantalizing smells got to you and you found yourself eating without even realizing it.

So it wasn’t a surprise when writing UNTANGLE MY HEART that my heroine was also of Italian descent. Rather than a catering business like my family had, the DiFrancesco’s owned a pizzeria and later, a trattoria. All the DiFrancesco men and women can cook. Mama Carmen’s specialty is lasagna and canolis. Kate’s is shrimp & pasta marinara and biscotti. Her baby brother, Vinnie, makes a mouth-watering veal parm. Mr. D is all about the pizza. Sister Vicky is the baker of the family and makes a to-die-for Italian cream cake (my personal fav). Oldest bro, Nick, makes veal marsala that could make you swoon!

There were certain foods you ate on certain days and for certain holidays. At Easter, there are breads, pies, cookies you only get at that time of year. Eating them is extra special because you know you’ll go an entire year before indulging in them again. The same goes for Christmas Eve and the Vigilia di Natale (Vigil of the Nativity or Feast of the Seven Fishes).

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which we did not celebrate in my house growing up. I didn’t have corned beef until I was an adult. Now, my husband makes it and I like it (although I’ll skip the cabbage). And I certainly won’t refuse Irish soda bread or a hot toddy!
(more…)

Journey after the edits

You’ve prepped and polished your manuscript. You’ve gone through the nail-biting experience of pitching to an editor or agent. You’ve been rejected up the wazoo. After much blood, sweat, and tears, you’ve gotten “the call” and have been offered a contract. Congratulations, you’re getting published! The hard work is over, right?

Wrong!

The moment you sign that contract your life has changed. You will never again be that naïve unpublished writer in search of someone who will believe in your story as much as you do. Rather, you’ll be the naïve soon-to-be-published author with a lot to prove and in search of finding ways to reach your readers.

Discoverability. Friend or foe? Art or Science? Whether a writer or a reader, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with this word. So what’s the secret of being discovered? Actors and actresses seek it. As do authors. Below are a few tips I’ve found helpful on this leg of my publishing journey.

Marketing Plan – If you’re traditionally published, you may know your book’s release date months in advance. That’s not always the case if you’re published with a small press. I knew an approximate timeframe when my book would be available worldwide and backed into when I expected my Amazon KDP pre-release to be. It ended up being a month earlier. Unfortunately, I kept putting off preparing and had two weeks to put some type of marketing plan in place.
(more…)

It’s here…Pre-Release for UNTANGLE MY HEART!

Congratulations to Anna Taylor Sweringen, who is the winner of the copy of Timeless Keepsakes raffle!

Can a hot summer fling bring the potential for more?

I’m jumping with joy to announce the debut of my contemporary romance, Untangle My Heart, is now available for Kindle exclusive pre-release!! And soon it will also be available in print.

perf5.000x8.000.indd

For my post today, I’m sharing my Top 10 Reasons for reading Untangle My Heart.

(more…)

A Fond Farewell to an NJRW Friend

Life has its ups and downs. But knowing this doesn’t make it any easier when we lose a friend. Unfortunately, a dear NJ Romance Writer member, Valerie Luna, passed away a few days ago. This tragedy is a loss for her family as well as the NJRW family.

1450760_10201583793254257_424062518_n

Having only been a member of NJRW for four years, I haven’t known her long, but did get to spend time with Val at RWA Nationals in New York a few years ago. Val also served as a category coordinator for NJRW’s Golden Leaf contest for many, many years. As co-chair, I had the pleasure of talking with Val about how much she enjoyed reading the entries, collecting the scores, contacting the finalists, and handing out the awards.

Until this year, Val also served as NJRW’s basket chair. Each year she would collect books and other assorted donations, store them in her house all year, and host the conference committee when we came over to assemble the baskets. The one year I went to help, we must have assembled 60 or 70 baskets!

When I joined NJRW, Val served on the NJRW board as Hospitality Chair. Each month, she’d greet anyone visiting, welcome new members, and acknowledge our published authors. She’d also get the fun of handing out Hershey kisses to all members who submitted their writing (to an agent, editor, contest, etc), and Hershey Hugs to those who were rejected. Anyone who had good news to share was presented flowers. Val also handled matching up critique partners. It took me a good year of attending the NJRW meetings before I got up the nerve to ask for a critique partner. When I did, Val matched me up with Femme Joanna, for which I’m eternally grateful!

DSCF0086

Femmes Joanna, Michele, and Jaye may remember Val’s love for lighthouses. I’m sorry I never got to write that lighthouse scene for you, Val, but when I do, I’m dedicating it you!

Val, you’ll be missed forever and always be remembered for your loving nature, positive attitude, and bright smile. May you be at peace and spend eternity writing happy ever afters.

If you’re so inclined, please share your special memories of Val, as we pay tribute to this special woman.

  • Recent Releases by the Femmes

  • JB Schroeder

  • Joanna Shupe

  • Tina Gabrielle

  • Maria K. Alexander

  • Michele Mannon

  • Diana Quincy

  • RoseAnn DeFranco

  • The Femmes:

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 13,645 other followers

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Stuff