My Five Year Birthday

Private PropertyI can’t believe Private Property was published five years ago today. It was my first published novella, and the first story of my beloved Hauberk series.

Now here I am with ten stories published, and two more to come out later this year. (For those wondering about some of the print books in the picture below, Texas Tangle is the only one I never got print copies for — and the ones for Tangled Past and Red Hot Holiday are extremely limited since Carina Press printed them specifically for a contest entry and aren’t available for sale. My hope is one day they’ll make them available as print-on-demand books. But for now, they look nice on my shelf.)
my-books-2013

If someone had told me that within a few years I’d earn more than I ever had, even when I was teaching, I think I would have told them they were full of it. I’m not sure I would have believed the stats I’ve collected — the number of months PRIVATE PROPERTY stayed on Amazon’s top 100 Best Seller’s list, and how it was still there  21 months later, or that it would have been downloaded almost eighty thousand times. I’ve been blessed to be up on that board numerous times since. In addition to reaching those lofty high numbers on Amazon, TEXAS TANGLE even reached #1 on Kobo’s Best Sellers list . (Not bestselling contemporary romance-western, or bestselling romance even. Best Selling. Top of the heap.)

For a brand new author, seeing her name sandwiched between big names like Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts, or above Stephanie Meyer or Stephen King or James Patterson was both thrilling and terrifying.

With each contract I’ve been offered since, I still squee, but now there’s a lot more relief, and even some panic. Because with each contract, and each new release, I’m more and more aware of expectations both of my own and my publishers’ as well as my readers.

While I’ve fallen in love with each of my heroes, and some of my secondary characters too,  PRIVATE PROPERTY introduced Sam Watson, who to this day is the character my fans remark about the most. Sam set the bar high, and with each book I hope that my readers will fall in love with that hero as much as they love Sam. Though it looks like Dillon and Brett of TEXAS TANGLE are giving Sam a run for his money…(Good thing I didn’t kill off Brett the way I’d originally planned, huh?) And now I’m falling in love with the Grady boys.

I have so many plot bunnies for future stories — Scott deserves his own story in the Hauberk series so that’ll be up next. I still get requests for more books in the Barnett Springs world, and I have some ideas for Griffin and his friends. I’ve discovered that perhaps Logan from Slow Ride Home deserves redemption, along with far too many other “ooh shiny!” ideas that are constantly hounding me.

There have been highs and lows since that first contract. The industry has changed with the acceptance of digital books both through epublishers like Samhain and Carina, and the exciting acceptance of authors self-publishing that puts so much power back in the author’s hands. And of course with a renewal of interest in erotic romance. Those changes have created challenges because every time you think you’ve got something figured out, the industry changes on you and you start all over again and what worked when you were promoting your last book doesn’t work with the next one. Social media has exploded so now we have to maintain presences on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and Pinterest. All time sucks when we’d rather be writing, but necessary to keep our names out there with the public.

We’ve seen lots of scandals from the #Amazonfail where authors of erotic romances and LGBT stories saw their books pulled from the search engines. We’ve seen plagiarism scandals, and scandals of authors admitting they purchased 5 star reviews so those reviews on Amazon aren’t meaning as much to anyone but Amazon who uses their numbers to determine how many people actually see your book in that all important “People who bought this, also bought…” bar.

But we’ve also seen success stories in self-publishing, like authors like Marie Force and Bella Andre taking books that legacy publishers had rejected and self-publishing them with tremendous success. And they led the way for other authors who were unhappy with their publishers or had stories they thought the public might want to read but legacy publishers rejected. They’ve given a control over our rights, and our edits and cover art and even marketing (not that most authors I know like that side of it, we’d rather just write) back to the author.

It doesn’t mean legacy publishing will disappear. Authors will continue to sign with those big 5 publishers, especially if they want their books to be stocked on shelves in B&N, or even Walmart and Costco. When people wonder why I still sign with a legacy publisher like Harlequin and their Carina Press, I tell them about how much they can give me, not only their marketing knowledge, but they give me far more exposure in the market than I can get myself.

When the mantra of the reader today is “when’s your next book out? I have wait THAT long?” puts a pressure on authors to produce 3 – 5 books a year, where back in 2007 when I first started looking at publication, most authors were producing 1 book a year, it takes some of the pressure off me. Because creating that cover art, even if I have to hire someone to do it, writing the back cover copy, determining how to best market a book, and hiring an editor, all take time. Lots and lots of time. Time I’d rather spend writing. And yes, I now have to decide what the long term cost may be, considering the legacy publishers will give me a lower royalty rate than I’d get self-publishing, but at least that’s my choice now. And I totally see self-publishing more books in the future, as well as working again with Samhain and Carina. But again, it’s my choice. And having that power over my own destiny is exciting. And scary as hell.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a blast from the past, and my excitement by reposting my announcement of Private Property’s sale. Because that’s a day I’ll never forget… it was a real Sally Field moment. She liked it. She really liked it. Something I’d written…something a few years before would have stayed on my hard drive unseen by anyone else.

SQUEEEE

The short story:

My erotic romance, Private Property, is going to be published by Samhain!

The long version:

Just over a month ago, Guitar Hero tapped me on the shoulder as I was sitting at my computer and said “I’m figuring that with your headphones on you couldn’t hear the thunder.” (It’s rather ironic because it’s thundering even as I type this post.) You see, on that day, I turned off my desktop computer and spent the next 90 minutes reading before I decided it was safe to boot up my computer again. One of the first programs to load is the gmail notifier program. And while the icons are still slowly forming on my screen, this tiny blue box pops up that lists the emails that have arrived since I last checked. A message from the Toronto Romance Writers, something from Marley, and … a message from Angela James of Samhain.

Oh. My. God.

You see, I’d subbed Private Property to her back in April, and on June 1st, she’d asked for a full. And now here was her decision. Either yes, or as I’d convinced myself – that dreaded ‘thank you for submitting, but we’ve decided…’ Well, you know – that polite way of saying “No” that we (okay, I) automatically interpret as meaning “You suck!” (Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn’t mean that, but I’m working on my self confidence.)

As I cursed Windows for loading so slowly, that little tiny part of me kept my fingers crossed, hoping against hope … as well as cursing the thunderstorm – why oh why did it have to choose RIGHT THEN to come through? Didn’t it know I was anxiously awaiting that email? The next few minutes were sheer AGONY! Finally both Windows and Firefox loaded, and I logged into gmail and clicked on Angela’s message. And there I read “I loved it and would be happy to offer a contract.“

I’m not sure I made that sound out loud, but I sure felt like making it. I immediately started doing what Gizmo Guy calls “The Price is Right Bounce.” You ever watched the contestants as they jump up and down and all around the stage like lunatics? That was me.

I ran downstairs and told the boys who gave me high fives all around. I then phoned Becky Burkheart – the lady who told me years back to take my writing seriously and get myself to a writing group. *hangs head in shame that I didn’t phone Gizmo Guy first* By the time I got off the phone with Sue and phoned Gizmo Guy, I was hyperventilating. It was so bad that it took me three tries to get out the words “I sold” before GG could understand me.

So here’s to another five years, and the years beyond that. Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride.

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Snippet Saturday – Her Man

I really should change the topic from Her Man to Her Men to match the snippet I’ve chosen today. That heroine’s first glimpse of the hero. The only book I’ve written where the heroine doesn’t already know the hero, or in this case, heroes, is Tangled Past. And although she’d met Jackson and Nate in the first scene, it was from their point of view. Now Sarah’s seeing the real side of them, the side they wouldn’t dare show society…


Tangled Past
Copyright © Leah Braemel

[W]hat if they go to the sheriff and he finds Walt has been involved in other robberies? Or Josiah? They could be sentenced to hang.

TangledPast200x300There was a rustling noise followed by a sigh. One of them, Sarah couldn’t tell which, made a hmming noise, then the barn fell silent again.

You have to tell them at least to be careful. Or to take a different route home. If Walt does ambush them, if he kills them, you’ll never be able to live with yourself.

Sarah took one step forward, only to stop when Nate spoke again. “She sure can cook too. Not that you’d know it from the way Walt ate. She might as well have poured his portion in the danged pig trough the way he slurped it up.”

“Yup. Talking of eating…I got something you can eat.” Jackson chuckled, a pleasant sound that warmed Sarah’s chest in a most peculiar way. It was chilly out, but not enough to make her nipples harden beneath her cloak.

All thoughts of warning them flew out of her head. Curious as to what they were talking about, she crept forward until she could peer into the stall. While most of the stall was in shadows, thin wedges of moonlight sliced through several holes in the walls high above, illuminating where the two men lay. They’d pulled their bedrolls together. Supporting himself on one elbow, a shirtless Nate faced Jackson.

Parts of her body she’d never been aware of before pulsed deep inside her as she watched Nate undo Jackson’s shirt buttons. He spread the fabric wide, revealing a hard chest and flat stomach. His fingers played with one of the dark pebbled nipples, flicking it between his thumb and forefinger.

Oh! Oh my. She pressed her hands to her mouth and took a step back. Josiah had lately taken to quoting passages from the bible to denounce her mother’s adultery. Some of the passages had mentioned men touching men, talked about such behavior deserving death. Without thinking she leaned closer, unable to look away. How could such tenderness be a sin?

Would a man do that to a woman too? Under the cover of her cloak, her own hand mimicked Nate’s, tugging and playing with the hard bud of her breast. Her knees weakened, and she leaned against the stall wall. Oh dear heavens, what would it feel like if a man touched her there instead of her doing it to herself?

Nate’s hand disappeared beneath the cover. Jackson moaned, hips arching up and hands fisting at his side. “Oh, fuck, Nate, I’m not going to last long if you keep that up.”

The cover fell away, revealing Nate’s hand encircling Jackson’s erection. He pumped up and down along the shaft, his thumb moving over the bulbous head. Dear God, she’d never seen anything so…scandalous. So beautiful.

Sarah didn’t think she’d moved or made a sound, but Jackson jumped up from the bedroll and stared at her as if she’d shot a pistol. She whirled and raced for the door. He grabbed her before she could get out of the barn.

“How long have you been here? What did you see?” His words cracked through the air like a whip.

An All Romance eBooks Recommended ReadShe opened her mouth but didn’t know what to say. For a woman, she was tall, but he topped her by half a foot. A sliver of moonlight slanted across his face, accentuating the sharp planes of his cheekbones while hiding his eyes in shadows. The light also highlighted his lack of clothes, the broad expanse of chest, and flat belly, a body finely honed by hard work. Her gaze lowered, drawn to his still-rampant arousal. It suddenly occurred to her how stupid she’d been, walking into the barn, alone with two men who could do whatever they wanted to her with no one to stop them.

*HARLEQUIN COVER ART: Cover Art Copyright© 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. © and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


Buy the eBook:Carina Press | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks | Kobo | Sony


Don’t forget to visit the other Snippet Saturday participants:
Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
Jody Wallace
McKenna Jeffries
Shiloh Walker
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Felicity Heaton
Lissa Matthews
TJ Michaels

Cowboys and Lawmen Blog Hop

cowboys-and-lawmen-blog-hop-button

Cowboys are known as bad-boys, but what happens when the bad-boy is also the law in town? What is it about these contradictions that make small town sheriffs, Texas Rangers and ex-outlaws-turned-lawmen so irresistible? Whether you write or love to read about the Wild West or modern day Montana, what do you love most about lawmen who are also cowboys? And what makes them so gosh-darn sexy?

When Sara Walter Ellwood put out the call for bloggers to talk about cowboys, I jumped in with both boots. Because I love reading about cowboys — and writing about them too. There’s something about a guy who is tough and strong yet cares about his horses and cattle. I pinned a picture of what I think of the quintessential cowboy to one of my Pinterest boards — a cowboy riding his horse in a snowstorm, cradling a calf on his lap. I find a guy who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, who gets the job done without wasting a lot of words incredibly sexy.

rope heart_redThe first time I was really aware of cowboys was watching the old episodes of Bonanza. Yes, I’ll admit it. I had a thing for Little Joe. (Though strangely enough I didn’t follow Michael Landon over to Little House on the Prairie.) When I look at many of the cowboy stories that I read these days, they share similar elements–successful ranchers, generally a group of brothers, facing challenges both personal and to their ranch. (Did anyone ever point out to Pa Cartwright’s love interests that getting involved with him was a dangerous undertaking? I mean, all three of his sons had different mothers!)

And while you can find similar stories set in contemporary cities, the heroes who are cowboys send me all gooey. I don’t know if it’s that rough scruff as they wake up at four in the morning to do their chores, the muscles in their forearms bulging as they pull on a fenceline or help a cow give birth. Or maybe it’s the idea of these tough guys who know how to be gentle (when needed, or wanted) with their women. Then there’s that whole thing about a man’s word being sacred–it seems to be much bigger in westerns than in contemporary city-guys, even with cops and firefighters who are equally honorable.

Maybe it’s because I grew up hearing Pa Cartwright lecturing his sons about that code of honor. Or maybe it’s their hard-working discipline makes me love writing cowboys — and the women who love them like how Nikki love Brett and Dillon in Texas Tangle. Or, like Sarah in Tangled Past, whose men Nate and Jackson loved both her and each other.

Yup, I love me some cowboys…


Like cowboys too? You can like the Cowboy Charms Blog Hop Facebook group …

Want to continue the hop and learn more about other authors who love cowboys too? Go here: http://cowboycharm.blogspot.com/2013/03/cowboys-and-lawmen-blog-hop.html

There is a contest going on — you could win a gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. More details can be found on Sara Walter Ellwood’s site. Just follow the link above.

Snippet Saturday: Try a little tenderness

A virgin bride in the wild west frontier. A jaded cowboy forced to marry her by the shotgun held at his back by her stepfather. Who knows enough his bride needs a little tenderness on their wedding night. And as he learns she’s experienced little tenderness in her stepfather’s home…


Tangled Past

Copyright © 2011 by Leah Braemel

[T]he walk up the stairs to their room went too fast. Too soon she was standing in front of the single big bed. He’d want her to undress and get into it. What if she didn’t please him? She didn’t know what a man expected when it came to satisfying them in the bedroom. Oh Mama, why didn’t you tell me what I needed to know about these things?

Behind her, Jackson flipped shut the latch on the door, locking them in.

TangledPast200x300

Was this how prisoners felt when they were locked in their cells for the first time? Her breath burning in her chest, Sarah wet her lips. What if he wanted her to do some of the things Jed had whispered? She tugged off her gloves and laid them beside her brush on the dressing table. Like her ring, they’d once been her mother’s and bore the signs of age and use. Conscious of him watching her, she fiddled with the ribbons of her bonnet.

“You look scared to death. Do you really think I’ll be that mean to you?” Jackson took the bonnet from her and set it over her gloves.

“I’m f-fine.” Her words might have held more weight if she hadn’t stuttered.

“Nice try, but I ain’t buying what you’re tryin’ to sell.” He picked up her hands and chaffed them between his large palms. “Take a nice deep breath for me, will ya?”

Honor and obey. She sucked in a lungful and immediately regretted having that slice of peach pie for dessert. Her knees lost any sense of direction and wobbled beneath her, and the light from the kerosene lantern dimmed.

“Whoa. Stay with me, Sarah.” He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and laid her on the bed. His face wavered at the edge of her vision, his eyes dark and concerned.

“Damned corsets. You can barely breathe, can you?” he growled. He bent his head and set to work on her stays like a man intent on solving a puzzle. Once he freed the last hook, she drew in the first deep breath she’d been able to take the entire day.

“Better?” The corset landed on top of her valise with a thud.

“Yes, thank you.” But she grabbed the edges of her bodice together and wrapped her arms over her chest almost as tightly as the corset had squeezed her.

vHis lips pursed together into a hard line. “Whatever you’re thinking is going to happen is probably a hell—beggin’ your pardon—heck of a lot worse in your head than it will be in fact.”

He was right. Something inside her quivered. Not in fear, but with an awareness she’d never known before. Her body softened, wanting to trust him, to rest against him and let him protect her. Her hands twitched, wanting to touch his shoulders, to play with the thin furring of hair on his chest and feel the strength of his muscles rippling in the dim light.

She took another deep breath. “All right. Let’s get this over with.” She stood up and grabbed the hem of her chemise.

“Now hang on a second.” He captured her hands. It was the first time she’d seen him smile, she realized, and it changed his whole face. With that deep dimple in his left cheek, and the way his eyes sparkled, he looked like a little boy who planned to put a frog in her bed. “Let’s get this over with? As much as a man likes to know a woman’s willing, I’d rather not think of lying in our marital bed bein’ a chore.”

“I’m sorry.” Maybe he wouldn’t be able to consummate the marriage. Maybe he could only find satisfaction with a man in his bed. She dropped her eyes at the thought. No, from the bulge against his placket, he didn’t need a man’s touch to arouse him.

Nominated for "Best Erotic Menage a Trois and More"“Uh-uh, no apologies from you tonight. We’ll take tonight right slow, all right?” He leaned back and tilted his head. “Sit down on that chair in front of the dressing table.”

Bemused, she did as he bid. He stood behind her and removed the net covering her bun, then began plucking the pins holding her hair in its bun. “Let’s start with this, shall we?” When she reached up to try to help him, he tapped her hands. “Nope, this pleasure’s all mine. You just sit there.”

He hmm’d as he removed more pins, freeing her hair from its rigid confines, letting it fall past her waist. “You’ve got beautiful hair. Why do you wear it all bound up so a man can’t appreciate it?”

“Mr. McLeod insisted on it.”

He met her gaze in the mirror. “Even when you were little?”

“Yes.” Because when it was down, her Indian blood became even more obvious.

He made a disapproving noise in the back of his throat, then picked up the hairbrush she’d set out when they’d arrived.

She found herself relaxing with each stroke of the brush.

*HARLEQUIN COVER ART: Cover Art Copyright© 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. © and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


Buy the eBook:
 Carina Press | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks | Kobo | Sony


Don’t forget to visit the other Snippet Saturday participants:

Shelli Stevens
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
McKenna Jeffries
http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
TJ Michaels
Lissa Matthews
Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Jody Wallace
Mandy M. Roth
Felicity Heaton

Snippet Saturday – Emotion

Normally when I think of emotion in my stories, I automatically think of love. Of desire and even lust. Step back into the 1870s Texas, where a woman can be forced to marry a man she’s only just met and what she must be feeling the first night she’s alone with him. In Sarah’s case, she’s sure not feeling love or lust. She’s afraid…


Her husband—how long before she got used to that phrase?—raised one dark eyebrow. “I asked if you were done eatin’ and were ready to retire for the night.”

Retire. To their room. Their room. Their bed.

“You don’t need to be afraid of me, Miss Sarah. I ain’t never forced myself on a woman.”

…a sweet, believable ménage story with the perfect balance of plot, emotion, and steamy sex. ~ Lisa WattsFresh Fiction

He probably didn’t have to force himself on any woman. She hadn’t missed the second glances some of the women had spared him as he’d escorted her along the sidewalk when they’d first arrived. She couldn’t put her finger on just what it was that made him so attractive. His nose had a bump in it as if it had been broken a couple times and not set right, his clothes were well worn, his boots scuffed. Perhaps it was his unassuming confidence that attracted her.

His lips pressed together, he pushed his chair back and stood, holding out his hand to her. “The more you think about it, the worse it’ll be in your head.”

She placed her hand in his, wondering if he’d be repulsed by her calluses once she took her gloves off. The lady at the next table over with her fine linen dress with its lace bodice probably didn’t have work-worn hands from shoveling out the barn, or hauling buckets of water not only for cooking and bathing but for the animals day in and day out. Neither did the other woman two tables over, the one with the blond ringlets and fancy bonnet with ostrich feathers who’d outright ogled Jackson when they were being shown to their table.

Jackson tucked her arm beneath his and leaned down to her, whispering, “You’re prettier than either of them.”

Reverend Glass would have chided her for sinning when a flush of both embarrassment and pride warmed her cheeks.

The walk up the stairs to their room went too fast. Too soon she was standing in front of the single big bed. He’d want her to undress and get into it. What if she didn’t please him? She didn’t know what a man expected when it came to satisfying them in the bedroom. Oh Mama, why didn’t you tell me what I needed to know about these things?

Behind her, Jackson flipped shut the latch on the door, locking them in.

Was this how prisoners felt when they were locked in their cells for the first time? Her breath burning in her chest, Sarah wet her lips. What if he wanted her to do some of the things Jed had whispered? She tugged off her gloves and laid them beside her brush on the dressing table. Like her ring, they’d once been her mother’s and bore the signs of age and use. Conscious of him watching her, she fiddled with the ribbons of her bonnet.

“You look scared to death. Do you really think I’ll be that mean to you?” Jackson took the bonnet from her and set it over her gloves.

“I’m f-fine.” Her words might have held more weight if she hadn’t stuttered.

“Nice try, but I ain’t buying what you’re tryin’ to sell.” He picked up her hands and chaffed them between his large palms. “Take a nice deep breath for me, will ya?”

Honor and obey. She sucked in a lungful and immediately regretted having that slice of peach pie for dessert. Her knees lost any sense of direction and wobbled beneath her, and the light from the kerosene lantern dimmed.

“Whoa. Stay with me, Sarah.” He lifted her as if she weighed nothing and laid her on the bed. His face wavered at the edge of her vision, his eyes dark and concerned.

“Damned corsets. You can barely breathe, can you?” he growled. He bent his head and set to work on her stays like a man intent on solving a puzzle. Once he freed the last hook, she drew in the first deep breath she’d been able to take the entire day.

“Better?” The corset landed on top of her valise with a thud.

“Yes, thank you.” But she grabbed the edges of her bodice together and wrapped her arms over her chest almost as tightly as the corset had squeezed her.

His lips pursed together into a hard line. “Whatever you’re thinking is going to happen is probably a hell—beggin’ your pardon—heck of a lot worse in your head than it will be in fact.”

2011nomineeHe was right. Something inside her quivered. Not in fear, but with an awareness she’d never known before. Her body softened, wanting to trust him, to rest against him and let him protect her. Her hands twitched, wanting to touch his shoulders, to play with the thin furring of hair on his chest and feel the strength of his muscles rippling in the dim light.

She took another deep breath. “All right. Let’s get this over with.” She stood up and grabbed the hem of her chemise.

“Now hang on a second.” He captured her hands. It was the first time she’d seen him smile, she realized, and it changed his whole face. With that deep dimple in his left cheek, and the way his eyes sparkled, he looked like a little boy who planned to put a frog in her bed. “Let’s get this over with? As much as a man likes to know a woman’s willing, I’d rather not think of lying in our marital bed bein’ a chore.”


Buy the eBook:
 Carina Press | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks | Kobo | Sony


Don’t forget to visit the other Snippet Saturday participants:

Lauren Dane
Shiloh Walker
Mari Carr
Delilah Devlin
TJ Michaels
Leah Braemel
McKenna Jeffries
Taige Crenshaw
Felicity Heaton
Eliza Gayle
Caris Roane
Myla Jackson