Blog Archives

A look into the cover process

Here’s a look into how an author’s mind works when it comes to coming up with covers for indie publications. As you know, Bob, I wrote Grading the Curve back in 2013. It was my first MF romance, and if I’m brutally frank it shows. I also had a few issues with the original cover, so I came up with the graphic on the left for use in ads and other promo. While the models weren’t a perfect match, I felt they represented Alex and Ellen a bit better than my cover (e.g. an impoverished scholarship student working multiple jobs would not have a spray tan and a French manicure. Just sayin’).

Fast forward to 2018, and I got the rights for Grading back. I immediate set into gutting the story and rewriting it because hoo boy it needed it, and in my spare time I played around with turning the 2013 ad graphic into a new cover. One eensy problem — while I still liked the female model, the male model I used had turned into the 21st Century Fabio. He’s absolutely everywhere, on everything from romance novels to HIV test kits (I’m serious). We’re talking ridiculously ubiquitous. Plus he didn’t really look like Alex, whom I described as looking like Daniel Craig if you shoved a big stick up his ass. Call me fussy, but I like having my models bear at least a faint resemblance to the characters in the books, and since I do my own covers I can call the shots.

So off I went to Deposit Photos to start searching for a new male model. Luckily my Google fu lends itself to coming up with good search terms so it only took me an hour until I hit the jackpot on the gentleman at right. Not only does he look far more like my cranky, sexy English professor than 21st Century Fabio, but he also was in the right position for me to do a composite with the female model’s pic (in an aside, I love photographers who use blank backgrounds with their subjects. They make my life so much easier). After much tweaking, shading, adding of effects and whatnot, I’m happy with the final result for Belaurient Press’s edition of Grading the Curve. Now I just have to finish editing the story–

Well, no, let’s be honest — I’m gutting and rewriting the story using the skills I’ve picked up in the last five years. It’s gone from 15K words to approximately 30K words, with far more backstory for both Alex and Ellen and some new characters such as Alex’s English department colleague Amar, who is trying to get Alex to let go of his guilt over his late wife’s death. Personally, I like Amar — he’s like a Sikh Jiminy Cricket, a good friend who’s more than willing to call Alex on his bullshit but still wants to see him happy. I’ve also relocated them to my favorite imaginary college Lake Michigan University, which allows me to use Hyde Park as a setting and puts GtC in the same setting as my shirt story “Tied with a Bow.” Because I like meta stuff like that.

Mid Week Tease: Trickster

MidWeekTeaseHappy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with the first Mid Week Tease of 2014, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from my newest M/M paranormal romp, Trickster.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Delaney Smith, coyote shifter and Trickster Technologies executive, thinks humans are bland, boring, and undateable. So he gets the shock of his life when he comes back from vacation and scents his mate in the Trickster offices — a mate who is not only male, but quite human.

Mark Fellowes is taken aback when the CTO at his new contract job makes a pass at him, and even more surprised at his temptation to respond. Straight and dating a career-minded businesswoman, he’s never even thought about kissing another man — until now.

When Mark is attacked by thieves bent on stealing company files, Delaney must put aside his preconceptions to protect his mate. But will a criminal bent on destroying Trickster Tech separate them before he can stake his claim?

###

Delaney ended the call and tossed the phone on his bedside table. He understood the importance of finding out who was trying to hack into Trickster’s servers. But God, this was a shitty time to make him play Sherlock, especially with his mate as the target.

Leaving his bedroom, he headed to the guest room and knocked on the door. “Mark? Can I come in?”

There was no answer. He opened the door and peered inside. Mark’s open bag was on the bed, and the bathroom door was shut. Behind it, he could hear the sound of the shower.

His natural curiosity kicked into gear. Quietly, he slipped into the room and closed the door behind him, ignoring the faint flicker of guilt. Well, nosing around is what coyotes do, he reasoned. And Scott pretty much ordered me to check him out, so I’m just following my Alpha’s orders.

Mark’s bag turned out to hold nothing but a clean set of casual clothes, some underwear, and a dress shirt, suit, and tie. Delaney took a deep breath, savoring the warm, woody scent wafting up from the clothes. A powerfully attractive image of shucking off his clothes and joining his mate in the shower came to him. I could scrub him clean all over, yeah, then kneel down and rim him until he’s begging–

His enhanced hearing picked up a soft moan. He stepped to the bathroom door, listening. Another moan, almost muffled by the sound the falling water, and a familiar slicking sound.

Delaney went hot all over, and his cock sprang back to life. Oh, fuck. He’s jacking off. He’s four feet away and he’s jacking off. Fuck, that’s so not fair.

His hand drifted to the front of his slacks, massaging the thick ridge there as he listened to his mate pleasure himself. When Mark grunted hard and came, Delaney was almost right behind him. Gritting his teeth, he pulled his hand away, willing his heartbeat to slow down as the shower stopped.

The bathroom door opened and Mark stepped out, rubbing a towel over his hair. Another one was wrapped around his narrow hips, and Delaney wanted to take it off with his teeth.

He cleared his throat. Mark yelped and spun, bumping into the dresser next to the bed. The towel around his waist started to slip, and Delaney caught a glimpse of pale, muscled hip before Mark yanked the terrycloth back into place.

Panting, he glared at Delaney. “Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you?” he yelled. “Do you even know how to knock?”

“I did,” Delaney said, trying to sound innocent. “You didn’t answer so I got worried. Didn’t know you were in the shower until I came in here.” And you were coming in there.

Without his glasses, Mark’s resemblance to a furious faun was even more striking. “God. I do not need any more of this tonight,” he growled.

“This what?”

“You, sneaking around and following me everywhere.” He scowled at Delaney’s groin. “Especially with another fucking hard on.”

For some obscure reason, that cheered the shifter. “You noticed, huh?”

“Helen Keller would have noticed it, all right? Does it ever go down?”

“Not since this morning. I can’t help it, babe. I smell you and I get wood.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Mark muttered. “Look, I’m tired. I just want to put on some pajamas and crash, all right? We can talk about shapeshifters and–” he waved vaguely between them, “–that other thing in the morning.”

Delaney ignored the slap of disappointment and nodded. “Okay. We’ll talk later when you’re not tired.” Although you weren’t too tired to jerk off in the shower.

Mark’s cheeks blazed to life. “You listened to me?”

Oh, shit, did I say that out loud? “I’m sorry, but coyotes have really good hearing,” Delaney said defensively. “At least you got off. My balls are aching so much I can barely walk straight.”

“So go to your own damn bathroom and rub one out there!”

“It’s not about getting off, dammit!” Delaney yelled back, before catching himself. “Okay, it’s not just about getting off. God, I really wish you were a shifter. Then you’d understand.”

“Well, I’m not a shifter,” Mark snapped, “so you’re just going to have to explain it to the stupid human.”

“I — Jesus.” Delaney sucked in a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down and find the right words. “Being drawn to a mate, it isn’t just physical. It’s emotional and spiritual as well.” He gestured at his groin. “Yes, I want to fuck you, that’s pretty damn obvious. I also want to know you. I want to talk to you, find out everything about you — where you grew up, what your family’s like, whether you like sports, what your favorite food is, your opinion on Steven Moffat, what you want to do with the rest of your life, all that. And I want you to get to know me, too.”

Mark wasn’t interrupting him, so he plunged on. “I’m originally from Phoenix, I love movies with big chase scenes, I collect action figures, The Lord of the Rings bored me shitless in book form although the movies rock, and I think the Tea Party needs to be sent to its own little island where they can’t hurt anyone,” he said quickly. “And I really want to make breakfast for you tomorrow morning because I make killer pancakes, then take you back to bed and watch The Avengers while we eat. I always wanted to do that with someone.” He paused. “God, please tell me you like The Avengers.”

“Yeah.” Mark’s scowl had eased during Delaney’s monologue, but he still looked skittish. “Wait — back to bed?”

“I’m trying to be optimistic here.” He ran a hand through his hair. “What I’m trying to say is, this isn’t just about sex. It’s so much more than that. And I know this is way too fast for you, and if it’s any consolation this is scaring the shit out of me, too. But sometimes that’s just the way it happens for us. Shifters, I mean.”

That was all he had. If it wasn’t enough to convince Mark, he didn’t know what else to do. “I’m sorry. I swear to God, this isn’t how I wanted it to happen,” he said, feeling hollow. “I’ll let you get some sleep. We can talk about everything in the morning.”

He turned to go.

“Wait.”

###

Mark clutched at the towel around his waist. He knew he was acting like an abrasive asshole. It was his default mode when he was nervous as hell. The logical part of his brain said that he should be pissed off at being stalked by a freaky coyote shapeshifter who claimed Mark was his mate, then getting talked into staying overnight in the shifter’s guest room. Not to mention the hard-on Delaney kept springing every time they were alone together.

The rest of his brain was screaming at him to drop the towel and walk into Delaney’s arms. During his shower jerkoff session, he couldn’t stop thinking about the handsome executive and his lean, chiseled body. He’d tried fantasizing about Caren, he honestly had. But Delaney, with his sexy hands, broad shoulders and perfect mouth, was the one who kept coming to mind. And the sudden, blazingly hot mental image of Delaney kneeling down on the wet tile and using that perfect mouth to swallow his cock to the root had made Mark come so hard he’d almost blacked out.

It made no sense whatsoever. He didn’t know anything about Delaney Smith, apart from the fact that the man was built like an underwear model and still managed to be smart, funny, and a fellow geek. And dammit, he still wasn’t gay. But no matter what he did, his brain kept spiraling back to thoughts about Delaney, who had risked his own life to save Mark from being kidnapped. And then there was the kiss at the apartment…

Mark shivered. The kiss was when everything changed, if he was honest with himself. When Delaney kissed him, something deep inside his soul clicked, like a key turning in a lock. Like meeting the love of your life. Yes, he was still annoyed at the shifter for behaving like a jerk. But he also enjoyed Delaney’s snarkiness, and found the unexpected aspects of the man’s personality intriguing. And yes, that blatant, balls to the wall statement of desire was hot as hell.

But more importantly, underneath it all was a primal attraction so hot and deep that it scared him, and so utterly alluring that he just wanted to sink into it and bask. Somehow it didn’t matter anymore that Delaney Smith was not only a man, but a coyote shapeshifter as well. Illogical or not, Mark wanted — no, he needed to be in Delaney’s arms.

He just wasn’t sure how to do it.


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Mid Week Tease: A Boon by Moonlight

Mid Week Tease Button

Semi-Finalist EroticHappy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with a Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from my Romance on the Go story A Boon by Moonlight, which has been nominated for a Evernight Reader’s Choice award this year in Best of Category: Erotic. So if you like Zach and Jerrek, please do go vote for them here!

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Ex-Marine Zach Mayhew is willing to do anything for his dying grandmother, even find a fairy ring and beg that she be allowed to spend her last days in Faerie. But when a gorgeous Sidhe noble demands a night in his bed in return, Zach learns that a boon asked by moonlight can have unexpected consequences for his heart.

###

ABBM_sm

“I swear to Danu,” Jerrek huffed, “I’m going to wake the Sleeping King himself if you don’t get up here and fuck me.”

“All right, fine.” Zach crawled back up his body, only pausing long enough to give the sidhe a sizzling kiss before flopping to the side and rooting around in his nightstand.

He finally fished out the small plastic bottle of lube and a condom, when he noticed Jerrek’s frown. “What’s wrong?”

“What are those?” the sidhe asked, nodding at the items in his hand.

Zach blinked at the question. And then a horrible thought occurred to him. “You — look, you do use some kind of lubrication when you fuck a guy, right?”

“Of course,” Jerrek snorted. “I’m not a barbarian. I always use saliva, or sometimes oil if it’s handy.”

“Oh, my God.” Safe sex lectures tumbled through Zach’s mind, and he shook his head. “Welcome to the 21st Century,” he said, clicking open the top and squirting out a healthy dollop onto his fingers. “I think you’re going to like this.”

Nudging the sidhe’s leg over his hip, he reached down and massaged the lube into Jerrek’s rim, gently pressing. The muscle twitched, then let in his fingertip.

The sidhe’s irritation drained away, and he wriggled. “Oooooh. That’s much better than oil,” he gasped.

“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Slowly, Zach added another finger, and then a third, working Jerrek open and driving the tall sidhe out of his mind in the process. When Jerrek started panting loudly, he pulled his fingers out and fumbled for the condom packet. Ripping open the foil, he rolled on the latex, adding more lube before scrambling between the sidhe’s splayed thighs. “Is this position good for you?”

In response, Jerrek hitched his hips up, wrapping long legs around Zach’s waist. “What do you think?” he gasped.

“Got it.” Angling his pelvis, Zach pressed against the slick rim, feeling the loosened muscle stretch around the head of his cock. And then he was in an intensely tight, hot squeeze that made him want to roll his eyes back in his head from sheer pleasure. Despite his brain screaming at him to bottom out in the sidhe’s body, he forced himself to pause, trying to give the other man a chance to get used to him.

Jerrek had other ideas, and tried to thrust his hips up. “Gods, what are you waiting for?” he demanded.

“For you to loosen up, goddamn it,” Zach said through gritted teeth. “If I start moving now, I’m going to hurt you. Push back against me, from inside, and take a deep breath.”

The sidhe muttered under his breath but obeyed. The clamping sensation around Zach’s cock loosened a bit. “When was the last time you bottomed, anyway?” he asked.

“Decades, possibly centuries,” Jerrek panted, licking his lips. “I’m starting to think—ah!—such a long interval might have been—hah!—a mistake.”

“You think?” Zach held himself up, trying not to think of the incredible heat and tightness of Jerrek’s body around him. “Just try to relax, okay?”

Almost infinitesimally, the sidhe’s muscles eased, and Jerrek began to rock back and forth, eyes closed as he concentrated. Finally, he was sliding freely on Zach’s shaft. “I — yes, I think you can try moving now,” he said shakily.

“Okay.” Zach tried a short, shallow thrust, watching Jerrek for any signs of pain. The sidhe’s eyes flew open and his face lit up in surprised pleasure.

All right, then. He started a slow, easy pace, letting Jerrek get reacquainted with the sensation of having another man inside him. Fucking the tall, handsome sidhe wasn’t a hardship at all. He loved the heat and the tight flutter of Jerrek’s inner muscles, massaging his cock on every stroke. And when he leaned down and claimed Jerrek’s mouth, the sidhe eagerly opened to him, tasting like sunshine and spring and sex.

###

A Boon by Moonlight is available from the following retailers:

Evernight / Amazon / All Romance eBooks / Bookstrand


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Mid Week Tease: A Boon by Moonlight

Mid Week Tease Button

Semi-Finalist EroticHappy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with a Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from my Romance on the Go story A Boon by Moonlight, which has been nominated for a Evernight Reader’s Choice award this year in Best of Category: Erotic. So if you like Zach and Jerrek, please do go vote for them here!

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Ex-Marine Zach Mayhew is willing to do anything for his dying grandmother, even find a fairy ring and beg that she be allowed to spend her last days in Faerie. But when a gorgeous Sidhe noble demands a night in his bed in return, Zach learns that a boon asked by moonlight can have unexpected consequences for his heart.

###

ABBM_sm“I’ve never had anyone talk back to me the way you do,” Jerrek breathed. “It’s really very refreshing.”

Zach grunted at that, focusing on what was in his hand. Skin so soft it almost didn’t register against his fingertips, and beneath that hardness and a heat that pulsed against his palm. He stroked up, letting his thumb brush across the tip, and felt a bead of wetness there. “I think you like it,” he murmured. “You need someone who isn’t going to stand still for your shit.”

“I would hardly call it—” Jerrek’s complaint was cut off as Zach kissed him again, luring his tongue out and sucking on it. Jerrek moaned into his mouth, then again as he pulled away, laying a trail of open-mouthed kisses along the sidhe’s jaw and down his neck. “Oh, that’s nice. Don’t stop.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.” Zach laid a kiss in the notch of his throat, then down his sternum, using his tongue to outline the firm pad of each pectoral. The sidhe tasted like salt, green growing things, and sunshine. Like spring.

With a happy sigh, Zach took one dusky pink nipple in his mouth and sucked until it pebbled up against his tongue. He kept up his teasing until he felt Jerrek move restlessly under him, then gently bit down. A sharp gasp made him smile. He turned his attention to the other nipple, his fingers playing with the abandoned nub.

“Evil man,” Jerrek moaned, running his fingers through Zach’s short hair. “You evil, wicked man, you.”

“And you love it.” Zach brushed his lips along the central crease of Jerrek’s abs, flicking his tongue into the little divot there.

“AH!” Jerrek flinched away, cackling. “No! Ticklish!”

“Evil man, remember?” But Zach stopped, satisfied with having made the sidhe giggle like a six-year-old girl. Instead, he focused on kissing the pale skin that arrowed down toward the other man’s groin.

An utterly smooth, hairless groin. He couldn’t help but notice that the area around Jerrek’s now-erect cock was absolutely bare, with no evidence whatsoever that hair had ever grown there.

He glanced up at the sidhe, who was watching him with merry eyes. “Okay, I’m guessing your people don’t have body hair?” he asked.

“Mm, not as such. Why?”

“Just curious. You didn’t strike me as someone who goes in for Brazilians.” He shrugged. “It does make certain things easier.”

“Such as?”

In answer, Zach slid down and ran the flat of his tongue along the seam of Jerrek’s heavy sac and up the underside of his shaft. Jerrek let out a wordless noise somewhere between a moan and a gasp, and Zach grinned. “No hairballs. Sweet.”

###

A Boon by Moonlight is available from the following retailers:

Evernight / Amazon / All Romance eBooks / Bookstrand


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Mid Week Tease: Grading the Curve

Mid Week Tease Button

Happy Hump Day! Let’s celebrate it with a Mid Week Tease, courtesy of the lovely and talented Sandra Bunino. This week, I’ll be sharing a teaser from my new Romance on the Go story Grading the Curve, featuring virginal college student Ellen who’s about to enjoy the hot professor she’s been lusting after all semester long. What can I say — I think teachers are sexy.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

###

GTC2_edit

He bent his head, kissing her right nipple. His lips were brands on her skin, heating her through. He opened his mouth, and she felt wetness, warm and slick.

And then he sucked gently, the tip of his tongue teasing the erect flesh. Sparks danced across her skin and shot through her, a direct line to her aching clit.

“Hmm. Gorgeous,” he murmured, the vibration tingling along her nerve endings. His mouth moved to her other nipple, recreating the sensation. Her knees unlocked, and this time she moaned.

His mouth continued to suckle and tease her breasts as his clever fingers unbuttoned her jeans and pushed them down. She kicked off her shoes and wriggled out of the warm denim. Those fingers returned, slipping under the slightly worn waistband elastic of her panties and playing with her pubic hair. “Wonderful. I’m glad you don’t get this taken off,” he said, lips moving along her breastbone. “I like a woman to look like a woman, not a Barbie doll.”

“Can’t afford waxing,” she said, arching her hips into his touch. “I’m a scholarship student, remember?”

“Soon to be a gainfully employed technical writer. Promise me you won’t wax. Trimming is fine, but don’t take it all off. Leave some mystery.”

She’d never seen the appeal of Brazilians herself. “I promise.”

He sank to his knees, pale eyes gleaming up at her as he pulled down her panties. “Sit on the edge of the bed and spread your legs.”

She obeyed, leaning back on her arms and imagining how she must look: wanton, spread and open.

He moved closer, shouldering between her knees and keeping them spread. She could feel puffs of breath along her inner thigh and knew she was soaked, fluid trickling down into the crease of her ass.

He gazed at her in undisguised hunger. “Just as I thought,” he said. “A lovely pink quim, and already so wet for me. I’m going to taste you now, Ellen.”

He leaned forward, laying the gentlest of kisses up her thigh, brushing his lips over the delicate curls. She was ready to explode by the time his mouth finally moved between her legs, tongue coming out to lick her so delicately. Another lick, deeper, and then he opened her slick flesh with his chin, mouth closing around her clit and suckling it.

She keened. Alexander Cord was eating her pussy, and loving it from the soft sounds he made as he lapped.

###

Grading the Curve is available from the following retailers:

Evernight / Amazon / All Romance Ebooks / Bookstrand


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Okay, I need some honest feedback here

As you know (Bob), my newest ROTG release Grading the Curve was published on September 12. While I may not have promoted it quite as actively as I have my other works due to Jordan’s illness, I did do all of the usual promotion I did for all my other stories — created a book trailer, bought ads at The Romance Studio and The Romance Reviews, submitted it to Manic Readers for reviews, got lots of lovely people to host me on the blogs, tweeted and FBed about it.

Unfortunately, the sales have been more than a bit meh. They’re finally starting to pick up a little on Bookstrand and ARe, but my Amazon numbers are, quite frankly, horrible, and absolutely nobody seems to have noticed it at Goodreads. I don’t know what to do, or if I did something wrong, or if I missed a promotion trick or what. I don’t think it’s a bad story — Evernight bought it, after all, and I had various people beta read for me and they said it was a good, solid piece.

I’m wondering if maybe this is a perception issue. Up until now I’ve primarily written M/M romance, and this is my first M/F story. I didn’t want to come up with another pen name (and yet another website and social media presence to maintain) for M/F romance, but maybe I need to do that? Thing is, if it’s not going to sell I don’t know if I can spend time doing more M/F romance, as much as I would like to.

So I need your help. If you’ve read Grading the Curve, could you tell me what you thought of it? You can either email me at nicolacameronwrites@gmail.com, or leave a comment in the Comments section. And yes, I want honest opinions. I’m the one who opened this up, so if you think it’s meh, that’s a valid opinion and I need to know that so I can better budget my writing time.