1. A writer receives an advance payment. This is given by the publisher in hopes the book will sell enough copies to make that back. However, if a book doesn't "sell through" the author must PAY the advance BACK.
2. Publishers DO NOT give their writers money for marketing. When an author gives you a free book, bookmarks, swag, or prizes, she/he is paying for that out of her own pocket-usually with the hope you will spread the news about her book via social media, book reviews, and word of mouth. Publishers only spend money on marketing materials for BIG NAME authors.
3. Unless the author is a HUGE name, her royalty rate is pennies on a dollar. That means she might make 30 cents on a $4.99 book.
4. Book reviews left on the major sites - Goodreads and Amazon - are vital to an author's success. Publishers do monitor reviews, so if you really like a book, heap on the praise.
5. Marketing and selling a book is harder than writing it. A bulk of a writer's time is spent talking about and promoting their book.
6. You click over to Facebook and your feed is cluttered with authors promoting your book. Annoying, right? Well, what you might not know is publisher's expect (and often write it in their contracts) authors to be very visible on social media.
7. If a writer has an agent - vital if he/she wants to land a contract with an established house - he/she has to share a portion of their earnings with that agent. That means, if a writer makes 30 cents for every book sold, he/she is sharing a portion of that with his/her agent.
8. Nasty reviews hurt. I mean really, really hurt. Somewhere, out there, an author is reading a nasty review and wondering if they should forget writing all together. Think about what you say. Ask yourself if you would want someone to publicly post a similarly scathing critique of your professional efforts.
9. That being said, most published authors have received their share of rejection letters and nasty reviews. Few get the golden ticket with their first manuscript. So we do develop a tough skin.
10. Writers LOVE their readers. LOVE LOVE them. We love to hear feedback, love to get emails, love to see you holding a copy of our book, love to hear you shared our book with a friend, and love to have our books quoted. So, thank you.

Christmas Wishes: A slingshot and a wonky-eyed angel

Grace Murphy was a latchkey kid.  The protagonist of Finding Colin was the only child of a single, working mother, which means she grew up spending a lot of time alone and learning how to fend for herself.  Now, grown-up and truly on her own, Grace dreads the Holidays.
I was also a latchkey kid. I grew up in the 1970s as the only child of a single, working mother.  I wore second-hand clothes and an itchy piece of yarn with my housekey attached to it around my neck.  In other words, I feelGrace’s pain.
I was more fortunate than Grace, though.  My mother worked her slender fingers to the bones to make my Christmases special, to fill them with traditions and memories I now cherish.  (Click to finish article) 

Swank Coasters...

I just received my custom made coasters from Kurtasaurus and they're fab! I chose my favorite places in Ireland (Kenmare, West Cork, Fanad Head, Wicklow Mountains) and Kurtasaurus used maps to make original, handmade drink coasters. They transport me back to my happly places. I think they look pretty sweet with my Arnold Palmer resting on them. Don't you?
Be sure to check Kurtasaurus out before you start your Christmas shopping. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rose and the 1954 Helen coasters would make a super swank gift.

Ask Santa To Slip These Into Your Stocking

I know what you are thinking, "I am still sewing my Halloween costume.  It's too early to think about Christmas!"

Is it ever too early to spread a little holiday cheer?  I don't think so!  To celebrate the release of my anthology, Winter Wishes, I am bringing you, dear reader, two early Christmas gifts.

My first gift is news about the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway, an exciting reader appreciation event sponsored six bestselling romance authors -  Jules Bennett, Leah Marie Brown (me), Allyson Charles, Kieran Kramer, Fern Michaels, and Susan Fox.  
Starting on October 16, 2017, we will be giving away one prize per day for ELEVEN DAYS and a huge prize on the TWELFTH DAY (it's a fab final prize).

12 days of prizes, bonus material, author interviews, and goodies galore. To join in the fun and enter the contest, just visit 12 Days of Books!

**Don't forget to visit each day to enter the daily contest and score bonus material.

My second gift is the gift of books!  I have compiled a list of over a dozen new Christmas themed romance novels.  Read the back cover blurbs and then click on the cover to order the book.

This winter, let four tales of mistletoe magic and the spirit of the season cast a special glow as some of your favorite authors introduce stories of hope, happiness, and holiday hearts.  

Leah Marie Brown 
When Grace is suspended from work over the Christmas holidays, she does the only sensible thing—she travels to Ireland to find her favorite actor! But while the Colin she finds may not be a star, he’s ready to show her that gifts come in all shapes and sizes—and love is the miracle that truly counts.

Fern Michaels
Starting over in a new town with a new job, Meredith thinks buying Noah’s grandmother’s house will be a simple business deal. But neighborly Noah is determined to make Meredith feel at home—and as the holiday season works its magic, he’s suddenly hoping that she’ll find a place for him in her heart. 

Susan Fox
Jillian and Michael have nothing in common—except the child two reckless college students created eight years ago. When Michael unexpectedly asks to meet his son, they have the twelve days of Christmas to get to know the adults they’ve become—adults who just might be ready to fall in love for real. 

Jules Bennett
A blind date turns out to be anything but when Ruby finds Knox on her doorstep. A few years ago, she nursed his dying wife. Can two lonely people defeat the shadow of the past and let the spirit of Christmas offer them the most special gift of all?

"I Will" by Lisa Kleypas
To be reinstated into his father’s will, Andrew, Lord Drake, must court a respectable woman-his friend’s spinster sister, Miss Caroline Hargreaves. After he blackmails Caroline into helping him, the charade begins-but is it really a charade once love takes hold of their hearts…?
"Deck the Halls With Love" by Lorraine Heath
Alistair Wakefield, the Marquess of Chetwyn, devastated Lady Meredith Hargreaves when he proposed to another. But when he becomes free to pursue her, it’s too late for she’s on her way to the altar….. As Christmas approaches, Chetwyn vows to lure Lady Meredith back into his arms.
"No Groom at the Inn" by Megan Frampton
James Archer detests his mother’s matchmaking ways. When ordered to attend a Christmastime house party filled with simpering maidens, he produces a fiancée-Lady Sophronia Bettesford. James and Sophronia pretend to be in love for one month. But their pact soon turns into love.
"The Duke’s Christmas Wish" by Vivienne Lorret
To the Duke of Vale, science solves everything-even marriage. When the impulsive Ivy Sutherland makes him question all of his data, he realizes that he’s overlooked a vital component in his search for the perfect match: love.

All singleton Isla wants for Christmas is to be left in peace, but a surprise trip to the Alps means there’s a chance for romance in every snowflake that falls…

It’s the week before Christmas and Isla McCoy has just received an unexpected gift: a letter announcing she is due a life-changing inheritance, but only if she’s willing to make amends with the father who abandoned her. 

She has absolutely no intention of forgiving him, but who could resist an all-expenses-paid trip to the French resort of St Martin-de-Belleville? 

There she meets smooth-talking Justin and nerdy glaciologist Sebastian; two very different men, with two very different agendas. Torn between her head and her heart, Isla finds herself utterly lost in a winter wonderland of her own feelings. 

It's a Christmas affair to remember as a Hollywood mogul discovers his inner cowboy—and the woman of his dreams—amid the rugged beauty of Wyoming. 

Raine McCall would take snow-covered mountains over a star-studded premiere any day. But when hotshot movie executive Mick Branson arranges dinner on Christmas Eve to discuss a work opportunity, she's intrigued—by the offer and the man. She's a no-makeup, no-frills single mom, who's happy with her quiet life. Sharing chili cheeseburgers and sizzling kisses with Mick is sure heating up her holiday, but country girl and power player don't mix…  It's not just work that's brought Mick back to Mustang Creek. Since he first visited to oversee a documentary, free-spirited graphic designer Raine has been in his head. Her approach to life is as unconventional as her quirky holiday ornaments. Their attraction is undeniable—and so are their differences. Putting down roots in the Wild West wasn't in the script. But there are some Christmas gifts you can't walk away from, even when they turn your whole world upside down… 

Celebrate the season with this warmhearted charmer from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery

When Princess Bethany’s father, the king, sells one of his best stallions, she insists the animal get the royal treatment. Disguised as Beth Archer, a mere stable hand, she takes him to Happily Inc, California, a quaint wedding destination that’s especially sparkly over the holidays.
Rich women have no place on Cade Saunders’s ranch. He wants a down-to-earth girl-next-door type—like Beth Archer. After a few cocoa-flavored kisses by the Christmas tree, Bethany begins to fall for her irresistibly handsome host. But will Cade still want her when he discovers she’s more familiar with a crown than a cowboy hat? 

Anna Holley, the third of four sisters, has always felt a little bit forgotten. A family tragedy when she was a child had her retreating deep into shyness, and social anxiety kept her on the fringes of the cozy chaos of the busy vicarage.

After several years away from home, Anna returns for Christmas... and an important announcement from her father. As much as she once loved the village, coming back is hard and puts Anna's social capabilities to the test. 

Avoiding her sisters’ bossy questions, she heads out to the local pub one night, and meets a handsome stranger nursing a pint. Somehow, unburdened by expectations, Simon seems like the perfect person to spill all her secrets to—including a hopeless, long-held crush on her sister’s boyfriend. Confident she’ll never see him again, Anna returns home… only to discover the next day that Simon is actually her father’s new curate!

Christmas has arrived at Hope Island, promising snowflakes, surprises and plenty of seasonal joy. So snuggle up and fall in love at Mistletoe Cove …
Growing up on Hope Island, Eden Lancaster always believed that if you wished hard enough for something, dreams really could come true. But Eden’s greatest wish is also her biggest secret: she has been completely in love with her childhood friend, the charming and attractive Dougie Harrison, for as long as she can remember. And he has no idea.
When Dougie leaves his successful life in New York to return home to Hope Island for good, Eden can’t escape her feelings. Her heart is full of hope that her romantic dreams are finally, at long last, going to come true…
This Christmas could change everything. But can a lifelong friendship really turn into the perfect romance? And will Eden get the happily ever after she’s always wished for? 

All she wants for Christmas…

When talented artist Nee Sutherland returns to Butterfly Cove for her sister’s wedding, it’s only a matter of time before she has to face her own bridegroom – Luke Spenser – the man she impulsively married, then left in the middle of the night.
Nee hasn’t picked up her paintbrushes in months, a part of her is broken. She knows Luke might never forgive her, leaving him was the biggest mistake of her life – but could coming home for Christmas be the best decision she’s ever made?
Maybe all she needs is a little Christmas miracle…

Widow Maddie McLendon has uprooted her life to move to Rustlers Gulch with her son and grandson. But as a brutal Montana winter looms on the horizon, contractors have yet to break ground on their new house, leaving them to live in a makeshift camp of trailers, tents, and sheds....

Since his wife died six years ago, millionaire rancher Sam Conacher has been content to wallow in his grief alone while keeping a tight rein on his twenty-six-year-old daughter. But now the girl has gone and fallen in love with his foolish new neighbor’s no-good son....  Maddie and Sam will never see eye to eye on anything, until a near-tragedy gives them a true glimpse into each other’s souls. And as the first snowflakes begin to fall, they’ll discover that an open heart is the biggest gift of all...

 Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber 

A single dad's rambunctious teenage daughter hatches a plot to find her father a wife, and she has just the woman in mind. He may claim he's not interested in remarriage, but perhaps the magic of the holiday season will help him change his mind. 

On a Snowy Christmas by Brenda Novak 

When their private plane crashes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains shortly before Christmas, two political enemies discover that survival means more than just staying alive. In their case, it also means falling in love… 

The Perfect Holiday by Sherryl Woods 

What's a holiday without a handsome husband? To a matchmaking aunt, it isn't very festive at all! So she sends the perfect man to her single niece. But will he become the perfect groom-to-be by Christmastime?


Creepy Château de Chaumont & Catherine's Shady Squad

The first time I visited Chateau de Chaumont was in the winter of 2003 - a brief visit that lingered in my imagination for years after.  Since the castle was closed to tourists, I wandered the grounds alone in hopes I might encounter the spirits of inhabitants past.  

This might seem an unusual pastime unless you pause to consider the castle's rather unusual history. 

Chaumont was once the home of Catherine de Medici, queen to Henri II of France.  Catherine practiced what some called "the darker arts" at Chaumont, inviting astronomers, numerologists, and a host of shady characters.  
The astrologer Nostradamus was one of the member's of Catherine's shady squad.  He visited her at Chaumont on several occasions.  Legend has it Catherine attended ritualistic animal sacrifices in the castle's front hall (this told to me by a groundskeeper I encountered).  

On that first visit, when the wind eerily whispered through the ancient pine trees, it wasn't difficult to imagine the queen and her astronomer strolling through the gardens, their heads together as they tried to decipher the meaning of his convoluted dreams.  

I didn't see a ghost that day - the queen politely declined to materialize - but then, I don't practice her dark arts.  Nevertheless, a chill trickled down my spine when a trick of light created a shadow that moved between the trunks.  

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Chaumont again.  This time, the castle was open for visitors and I found it as strange and haunting a place as I did all those years ago.  I hoped to learn more secrets about the castle's history - titillating tales about seances and sacrifices, visions and predictions.  I wanted to see the front hall and learn the details about the sacrifices purportedly held there.  I wanted to know if Nostradamus warned Catherine she would become a widow before she turned forty.  I wanted the opportunity to buddy-up to one of the guides, to get them to share stories about sightings and things that go bump in the night.

Much to my disappointment, the spirits failed to materialize and the guides offered no spooky stories. I wandered through the rooms, sat quiet in the empty stairway, listening for echoes.  Though it was a pleasant visit, I learned nothing of the darker side of Chaumont's history.  

As I walked back to my car, I thought about Catherine's final days at Chaumont.  On a bright summer day in 1559, Henri II was jousting at Place des Vosges, a lovely square in Paris, when his lance shattered into a million pieces.  One of the shards penetrated his eye.  Henri II lingered for several long, agonizing days before taking his last breath.

Catherine would don widows weeds and mourn her prince for the rest of her life.  Grief didn't stop her from trading up, though...

A slight, though important, digression:  Henri II had a mistress named Diane de Poitiers.  Diane was pretty much Catherine's polar opposite - stunningly beautiful, gay, stylish.  Henri loved Diane so much he gave her the most beautiful, fairy-tale castle in all of France: Chenonceau.  Naturally, this vexed old Catherine, who burned with jealousy.

Henri was barely cold in his marble tomb when Catherine snatched Chenonceau's keys from Diane's hot little hands.  In exchange, she gave Diane the deed to Chaumont, which had a leaky roof and walls stained with sacrificial blood.  

I will be posting an article about my visit to Chenonceau so be sure to check back or subscribe to this blog.

All photographs on this blog were taken by Leah Marie Brown and are protected by copyright. Please ask permission before reproducing. Merci.

Inner courtyard.

Well located inside
the courtyard.

View of the Loire.

Strange and slightly creepy art inside
the chapel at Chaumont.
Another shot of the chapel.

Church  located near castle.

The stairs are worn and uneven
from years of use.  If you sit quietly,
you can almost hear the rustle
of stiff gowns, the tap-tap of slippers
moving over the stones.

Looking up from the stairway.

The royal chamber with a portrait of
Catherine de Medici hanging on the wall,
glaring down at all who pass.

The Royal Reception Hall - Catherine would
have received dignitaries here.

Beautiful tapestry and painted

Through a glass darkly
- stained glass window
looking out at the courtyard
at Chaumont.

Close up of window.

A Travel Tradition

Sixteen years ago I visited Mellerstain House, an 18th Century English manor home located in the borders between England and Scotland.

I was so taken with the magnificent estate that I flung my arms out and boldly declared, "It's all mine!"  

Cindy, my super fun travel pal, snapped a photo of me sitting on the hood of our rented Jaguar with my arms outstretched and the rambling manor home as my backdrop.  

Mellerstain House, England

Little did I know striking the It's All Mine pose would become one of my travel traditions. Since then, I have posed outside mansions, manor homes, castles, and palaces around the world.  

The photos document nearly twenty years of travel to three continents and eighteen countries (and my surprisingly unwavering taste for black garments). 

Flipping through the collection today, I realized, though not for the first time, how truly blessed I am to have traveled to so many exotic places (I also realized I need to add some color to my travel wardrobe).

For me, these photos have become a whimsical way to document my joy for exploring this great big beautiful world.

Do you have any travel traditions?  I would love to hear about them.  If not, it's not too late to start. Grab your passport and strike a pose. 

Chateau Chambord, France
Blenheim Palace, England

Chateau Chaumont, France
Muckross House, Ireland
Vaux le Vicomte, France

Chateau Chenonceau, France

Balleroy, France

Scone Palace, Scotland

Kasteel ten Berghe, Belgium

Glamis Castle, Scotland

Hampton Court Palace, England

Petite Trianon, France

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, France

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Cardinal de Rohan Palace, Strasbourg

Carcassone, France