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Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

2015 In Review

This week, I’m going over some of the things that happened and changed in my life in 2015. Next year, I’ll talk about my hopes and goals for 2016.

In the fall of 2014, something happened in my personal life that led to me being unable to write erotic romance. I won’t go into detail here; it’s something I’d prefer not to talk about right now, and I think I’ve blogged about it before anyway.

In early 2015, I tried to write a male/male romance. I failed. I couldn’t get the characters to fall in love with each other given the circumstances in the story, and given the circumstances going on in my own brain, I couldn’t get them to have sex, either. It became a suspense novel with romantic elements, Dawn Over Dayfield, which will be released in March 2016.

Dawn Over Dayfield’s existence owes a lot to someone who was pretty important to me during the first 7 months or so of 2015. He was a huge part of my overall support system, was very supportive and encouraging about my writing, and with Dayfield in particular, he helped me brainstorm the plot, helped me create the town (which is fictional, but is located in the part of Massachusetts where he grew up), and did the historical and geographical research I needed. Unfortunately, in August that person ceased to be part of my life, which is sad for a number of reasons, not least of which is that some really exciting things have already happened for Dayfield and I can’t share them with him. That person exiting my life also impacted my writing, though this time more on the romance side than the erotic.

In June 2015, I tried to write another male/male romance. This time, I barely managed to get 10 pages in before I ran into some pretty severe mental health issues. I chose at that point to put romance writing in general on indefinite hold.

In 2014 and 2015, a number of my books were taken out of print. Six of my nine Ellora’s Cave titles were pulled at my request due to poor sales. Several of my MLR Press and Passion in Print Press books were pulled, I think in late 2014. (Sorry. Fibromyalgia…I have a brain like a steel sieve and would have to look things up to be sure of dates.) As of now, I no longer have any books available from Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens Press. All told, I think my number of existing titles was cut in half in 2015.

My last erotic romance title, a heterosexual contemporary novel, was released in March. Since then, nothing has been released under Karenna Colcroft’s name. I’ve been working on promoting my books that are still out there, and on making plans for the upcoming year, as well as focusing a lot more time and energy on writing and promoting my young adult fiction under the Jo Ramsey pen name.

It’s hard to predict where my career will go from here, but I do have some thoughts and things I want to try for 2016. I’ll share those with you next week.

Bittersweet Reversion

Last week, I received an email with an attachment. A reversion letter, returning rights to me for my books Their Home Port, Reflected Love, You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This, Dancing Away, and With My Heart. The books were returned due to lack of sales, which I fully understand. Unfortunately, the best efforts of me and the publisher weren’t enough to get readers to buy those books.

It’s bittersweet because the publisher in question, Jupiter Gardens Press, is the one I credit with giving me the boost I needed as a published romance author back in 2009. My two titles published before JGP took me on were short erotica stories, with a publisher that operated more as a co-op. JGP was the first publisher to take a chance on longer stories from me, and they were also the ones who gave me my start as a published young adult fiction author under my Jo Ramsey pen name.

I hadn’t sent anything new to JGP since 2013. I’d already gotten rights reverted on a few other titles that weren’t selling, including that first 2009 book of mine that they published. Although I’ve continued promoting the remaining books, it unfortunately isn’t surprising that things have turned out this way. I’ve never been great at promoting, though I do my best, and with no new Karenna Colcroft books from that publisher in the past two years (and no new books from Karenna at all since March of this year), the backlist faded away.

I sincerely thank JGP for giving me that first real break six years ago, and for all the hard work, mentoring, and advising–and faith–they invested in me. I wish the company nothing but the best.

As for the reverted titles, I plan to re-release Their Home Port at some point in the future. The rest…well, they’re now at rest.

Teaser Thursday- Reflected Love

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Listrial sat up when she entered the room. Ralie ignored him for the moment. She hadn’t worked at her job long enough to risk ticking off her employer. Her phone was still where she remembered leaving it, fortunately. She dialed and asked to speak to her boss when the receptionist answered, then gave her supervisor a halfway thought-out excuse about food poisoning, the only thing she could think of off the top of her head that would make her sick enough to need to stay home. He expressed his hope that she would feel better soon, and she hung up.

“You talk to people through that?” Listrial asked.

“Yeah.” Ralie handed the phone to him, and he turned it over in his hands, looking confused. “Please don’t ask me to explain how it works. I’m not completely sure, and I haven’t had enough coffee to try to explain anything.”

“Coffee?” He licked his lips. “That, at least, is something with which I’m familiar. At least if it has anything in common with the drink we have at home.”

Given how little their worlds seemed to have in common, Ralie doubted her coffee would be anything like what Listrial drank. Especially since all she had was instant. “I’ll make you some,” she offered. “Then we really need to talk.”

“I agree.” He stood. “May I help you with anything?”

“Thanks, but I know where everything is and you don’t.” She would eventually have to show him where she kept things. For the moment, she didn’t want to take the time.

She went over to her cupboards and took out the jar of instant coffee and the only two mugs she owned. She filled her kettle with water and set it on the burner, then went back to Listrial, who hadn’t moved from his spot. “The water will take a while to boil,” Ralie explained, sitting beside him.

“In that jar, those brown things?” he asked.

“That’s coffee. Instant.” She looked down at her hands. “That probably doesn’t mean anything to you. How much should I explain to you, Listrial? How much do you really want to know about this place?”

“I’m unsure,” he admitted. He rested his hand on her knee. “I thank you for the place to sleep and for your care last night. I may have seemed ungrateful. Truly your assistance meant a great deal.”

“You didn’t seem ungrateful.” She hesitated. “Are you going to stay or try to find your way back through the mirror?”

“If I return home, I will return to the Unseelie ruling my world,” he said slowly. “At least ruling the lands once held by my Queen. If they truly killed her as they said, the Unseelie Queen has right to my Queen’s holdings now. As a Seelie soldier, I would likely not be allowed to live.”

“This isn’t an easy world to get used to,” she said quietly. “Even for those of us who’ve always lived here.” She didn’t know whether she would be able to handle the responsibility of helping him acclimate to her world. When she’d seen him through the mirror, she had wanted desperately to be with him. Now that she had him in her home, she wondered if she really wanted him there.

At least, her mind wondered. Her heart had no question. She loved Listrial, and looking at him, she knew that what the mirror had said was true. They belonged together. He belonged there. And she did want him.

Teaser Thursday- Their Home Port

Home Port 200

Saturday morning, she woke with nothing to do except laundry and grocery shopping. At least, she would do her shopping if she dared brave the grocery store on a Saturday morning, which she usually didn’t.

Other than those things, she would just sit and wait for Micah’s call. She hadn’t been this nervous about a date since high school, and her nerves then had come from the knowledge that her stepsister would do something to mess it up for her. Now she had no reason to be nervous other than knowing that she was about to have her first date with a man who made her entire body tingle.

Laundry sounded better than sitting around thinking about tingles. It was just a date. No reason to be all sappy about it.

Over the course of the morning and early afternoon, she made several trips down and up the stairs between her apartment and the building’s laundry room. Just for something to do, she’d decided to wash all her bedding and everything she’d worn even once since her last laundry foray. It didn’t amount to much, but the landlord had only sprung for an apartment-sized washer and dryer in the basement, shared among the tenants of the six units in the building, so it took a while for Reesa to finish all her laundry.

During her final trip up the stairs, her cell phone, which she’d shoved into the pocket of her cut-off shorts, rang. With her arms full of sheets, she couldn’t answer it, so she ran the last flight to her apartment and tossed the bedding onto the couch. By the time she managed to yank the phone from her pocket, she’d missed the call.

The display showed an unfamiliar number. She waited a few minutes to see whether the caller left a message. No voice mail showed up.

It had to have been Micah. Still, she didn’t usually return calls from unfamiliar numbers, and it took her a few minutes to work herself up to calling this one back.

“Hello?” Micah’s deep voice came from the other end of the phone.

Reesa’s heart gave a happy little skip. “Hi, it’s Reesa. Did you call me?”

“I did,” he replied warmly. “I wanted to see what time you’d be able to meet. And…” He cleared his throat. “My stupid car still won’t start. I’m having it towed to the mechanic down the street. He said it won’t be ready ‘til Monday at the earliest, though. So even though it’s highly irregular, I wondered if you’d pick me up instead of the other way around.”

Her cheeks ached from the grin which spread across her face, and she chuckled at “highly irregular.” “Sure, I’d like that,” she replied casually. “Your place?”

“I don’t have a place,” he reminded her. “But yeah, please pick me up at my parents’. I feel horrible about not being able to give you the full date experience, with me picking you up and handing you flowers and everything. I’ll crawl on my hands and knees if you want.”

She laughed. “I don’t mind a bit. You don’t even need to crawl. So I assume we’re going somewhere other than your parents’ house?”

“Bringing a date to my parents’ would make me feel about fifteen years old,” he muttered. “Like I said, I want you to have the full date experience. Maybe I won’t be able to do the picking you up part, but I can still take you somewhere nice. Would you rather spend an afternoon walking in the park, or go somewhere for dinner?”

“You decide.” Reesa hated making decisions like that. When she’d gone on dates before, she’d always let the men decide where to take her.

Of course, that hadn’t worked out too well with Charles.

Micah’s parents’ deck looked like a nice, quiet place to sit and talk. With the trees surrounding it, it gave the sense of being in the country somewhere, even though it sat only a couple miles from the city. She wouldn’t have minded just hanging out with him there. She understood his point, though.

So they’d go somewhere. He’d called it a date, which gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling. No wonder he didn’t want to just sit on the deck. Dates didn’t do that.

Teaser Thursday- With My Heart

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He chose to wait outside and checked the time on his phone every few seconds. No messages came from Cole, and the clock didn’t seem to be moving particularly quickly. Finally, at ten minutes past seven, he saw Cole heading up the street toward him. Ignoring the impulse to meet him, Merit stayed where he was until Cole reached him. “I was getting worried you weren’t going to show.”

“Sorry.” Cole didn’t sound especially apologetic. “I ended up having to work a little later than planned—” He broke off and stared at the passing cars for a moment. “No, that’s bullshit. I’m pissed at you, but I’m not going to lie to you.”

Merit’s heart sank, and he knew he didn’t want to hear what Cole was about to say. But he asked anyway. “Where were you?”

“Last night I went out with a guy from work.” Cole hesitated. “I thought about taking him home. I didn’t. I left him at the bar and went home alone. That’s part of why I’m so pissed at you right now. I had the chance to get laid, and I couldn’t do it because I felt like I would be betraying you. And then I find out you had the same chance and took it.”

“I’m sorry.” Merit could barely hear his own voice over the noise of the traffic.

“Don’t be.” Cole took a breath. “Tonight, I asked him out again. When you told me what you did last night, I wanted to do the same thing. And once again, I couldn’t. He was in my truck, hand on my thigh, and I told him to stop because I still felt like I would be betraying you. And I wouldn’t have liked myself very much if I’d fucked him just to get payback.”

“You’re a better person than I am.” Merit let out a long breath. Cole hadn’t done what Merit had feared he would. Merit didn’t know whether he would have fucked someone for revenge if the situation had been reversed, but he didn’t want to give himself too much credit. He might have. And Cole hadn’t. That was what mattered. Cole hadn’t done it.

“No, I’m not,” Cole said. “I thought about fucking him. I wanted to hurt you. That isn’t good. But you aren’t a bad guy, Merit. As you said, you didn’t do anything wrong. Let’s go in and talk about this over food. My blood sugar is dropping too much to handle this conversation right now.”

“Okay.” Merit’s stomach was churning so much he doubted he would be able to eat, but given that he hadn’t had a solid meal since breakfast that morning, he figured he should try to choke down some food.

They found a seat fairly easily and placed their orders before continuing their discussion. “I can’t forget about you sleeping with someone else,” Cole said.

“Can you forgive it?” Merit braced himself for the answer.

“You didn’t do anything I need to forgive you for.” Cole sighed. “I kind of think I should forgive you, or not. I feel like you did something wrong, but you really didn’t. This whole ‘we aren’t exclusive’ thing isn’t working for me, though. I know it’s only been a day, but I don’t want to do it. The way I felt when you told me you were with someone else last night, I don’t ever want to feel again.”

“Yeah, and I don’t ever want to hurt you like this again.” Merit stopped himself before he rambled on about how sorry he was. He hadn’t done anything he needed to apologize for. The only thing he had done wrong was suggest they see others in the first place.

It had seemed a good idea at the time. They were arguing too much, and taking a breather had sounded reasonable. He wasn’t entirely sure it hadn’t been, but looking at the man across the table from him, he could see the pain he had caused. He definitely didn’t want to do that again.

Teaser Thursday- Dancing Away

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They headed down the sidewalk. “I teach dance. I perform. There’s a lot to do,” Merit said.

“Right. That makes sense.” Cole paused. “You’ve really settled in here, huh?”

“Very much. I love living here. It’s a lot more open than our hometown.”

“Yeah.” Cole looked around at the buildings and people they were passing. “Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad you found a place where you’re happy.”

“So am I.” Merit glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He sensed Cole wanted to say something else and didn’t quite dare. Despite his curiosity, he wasn’t about to ask what that might be. If Cole had something to say, he could just say it.

Cole didn’t say anything for a moment, just kept walking. Merit stayed beside him, willing himself to stay silent. Whatever the guy was thinking, Merit refused to try to read his mind or to push him in any way.

“I work for my uncle,” Cole said suddenly.

“You told me that,” Merit said. “Is there a reason you’re repeating it?”

“If I didn’t work for him, things might be easier.” He hesitated. “If I didn’t work for him, I’d be able to move. He has everything set up so that when he retires, I take over the company, and he’s retiring pretty soon. Within the next couple years, most likely. I can’t just leave him in the lurch.”

“Did anyone ask you to?” Merit felt a bit of mental whiplash trying to keep up with Cole’s thoughts.

“I asked me to.” Cole shook his head. “I know I’m not making a lot of sense. I haven’t really thought this through, and it’s hard to figure out what I’m saying while we’re walking up the street. Too many distractions.”

“Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?”

Cole snorted. “Not always. Look, we need to sit somewhere and talk. This place looks good.” He gestured at the bar and grill they’d stopped beside. “Hopefully it’ll be quiet enough we can hear each other.”

“Sure.” Merit hoped so, because he was growing a little tired of not really knowing what was going on. Cole obviously had something on his mind, but he was jumping around so much with his words that Merit couldn’t even begin to keep up.

It sounded like Cole was thinking about moving to the city. And he didn’t have any reason to do that other than being with Merit. Merit didn’t know how to feel about that. A guy—not just a guy, but Cole Dellany—was thinking about changing his whole life for him.

He decided he was better off not trying to figure out what to say until Cole clarified what he was talking about.

They went inside and found a small table near the front window. “What do you want to drink?” Cole asked. “My treat.”

“I won’t argue with free drinks, but I’ll just have a soda,” Merit replied. “Rehearsal in less than an hour, remember?”

“Right. I’ll be right back.” Cole went to the bar to order their drinks while Merit sat and looked out at the passers-by. He’d only come to apologize to Cole for the way he’d acted on Sunday. He hadn’t planned on having a serious, potentially life-changing conversation, and yet that seemed to be where they were headed.

Cole returned with a bottle of local beer and a glass which he set in front of Merit. “Soda, as requested.”

“Thanks.” Merit took a sip. “Look, you obviously have something to say. I’m having a little trouble figuring out what it is and we’re running short on time, so if you wouldn’t mind just saying it, that would help me out a lot.”

Cole swigged some of his beer and took a deep breath. “Fair enough. I don’t want to go back. I want to stay here. With you.”

Teaser Thursday- You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This

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Eventually, the lack of music registered on her consciousness and she stopped in the middle of the floor. Her heart sped up and she turned toward the door, not knowing what to expect.

Stefan stood there with a tentative smile. “You’re beautiful when you dance.”

She didn’t return his smile. Until she figured out whether they were about to make up or whether he just wanted to tell her off, she didn’t want to let him know how happy the sight of him made her. “Thank you.”

“May I come in?”

She shrugged. “The studio doesn’t belong to me. I can’t tell you to stay out even if I wanted to.”

“You’re angry with me.” He entered and stopped only a few steps inside. “I’m sorry I haven’t answered your calls. I’m here now. Can we talk, please?”

“I think that would be a good idea, if you’re sure you want to talk.” She certainly wouldn’t force him to have a discussion if he wanted to avoid her. And given the unreturned calls, he didn’t want to say anything to her.

He held out his hand. She ignored it, and he let it drop back to his side. “When you walked out on me, it pissed me off, I admit. You didn’t even give us a chance to talk about where things are or where we see them going. I haven’t had many relationships, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure when two people are together they’re supposed to discuss things. That’s why I didn’t want to talk to you on the phone.”

“Because I pissed you off.”

“Partly,” he agreed. “Mostly because if one or both of us is going to be upset, we should be together to hold each other.” He took her hand. “We’d just gotten things started between us.”

“Yeah.” Her heart sank. “I might have messed up. You had a share in that argument, though.”

“Yes, I did.” He pressed a key on the laptop, and the opening notes of his favorite song filled the room. “Dance with me, Erin. Then we’ll talk.”

Reluctantly, she allowed him to lead her into the center of the room. Reluctant only because she wanted to sort things out with him without procrastinating. Her body took over from her mind as the music played, and they moved smoothly together through the steps and variations they’d done before.

The touch of his hands electrified her. The music flowed through them, connecting them in the dance. All the joy she’d felt dancing with him returned to her. Their argument didn’t matter. Her anger evaporated, and she allowed herself to simply feel the dance, to follow without anticipating. To do what she loved most.

He pulled her to him, and rather than releasing her in the next beat, touched his lips to hers. She cupped his face in her hands, deepening the kiss as desire coursed through her.

He tightened his arms around her. His tongue sought entry to her mouth and she parted her lips to allow it. Her nipples stiffened as their tongues touched. She wanted him, and her body didn’t care that they stood in a dance studio where students would shortly arrive. She needed the closeness of his body.

He broke the kiss, breathing heavily. “I love you.”

I Wrote That?

One of the reasons I decided to take a hiatus from writing was because I felt like my writing–especially sex scenes–had become stale and repetitive. That’s sometimes the price one pays when one tries to write too much in too short a time.

Here are two scenes that show a little of what I’m talking about. One is from one of my most recent releases. One is from a few years ago. I’ve taken out character names so there’s no hint of which book is from which year. (Both have been published.) See if you can guess which book is which. I’ll let you know at the end of the post.

 

Snippet 1:

She turned her face up to look at him, and he met her lips with his. The kiss was filled with love and heat, which quickly grew to hunger. Hers. This man was hers and she was his, and she couldn’t believe they had waited so long to say so.

His tongue met hers. He cupped her breast. Moaning, she took one hand off him to fumble with the buttons on her blouse. She craved his touch on her skin.

 

Snippet 2:

The beat of the song was low and throbbing. For West Coast Swing, the music worked well because of how easily the count of the beat could be followed. However, this song had obviously been written with something in mind that involved much more contact between bodies. The bass thrummed through her and her pussy kept time, moistening with arousal so strong it nearly pushed her out of the dance.

 

When I re-read some of my older stuff, written and published prior to 2012, I’m sometimes astonished at how good it is. Especially the sex scenes. I’ve found a few recently in books I wrote in 2010 and 2011 that I could hardly believe were actually my work. And it wasn’t only in published books; I found scenes in a couple of unpublished manuscripts, meaning they didn’t have the benefit of an editor’s guidance. I wrote those scenes myself.

When I look at some of my newer stuff, though… it’s different. The technical aspects of the writing are still good, but my heart clearly wasn’t in writing those scenes, and nothing my editors and I did could change that. Between the end of 2011 and now, I tried to write too much. I got burned out. My personal romantic life went through some changes, and PTSD did some figurative ass-kicking on me, and somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to write scenes where the characters–and hopefully the readers–are begging for more.

Reading my older stories, I remember how much I loved writing them. Even though writing sex scenes has never been exactly easy for me, I at least *wanted* to write them. My heart was fully invested in showing all aspects of the growing relationship between the characters, physical and emotional. And I liked finding different ways to show what they were feeling, without resorting to cliches, repetition, and flat out saying it.

If I wrote that way before, I will be able to again. But I think taking the step back and giving my brain some breathing room was definitely a good idea. Maybe this way, I’ll find the joy in my real life again, and that will bring the joy back to writing these books.

WithEveryTouch_covertnKiss 100

The covers above are in the same order as the snippets. With Every Touch was released in March of this year. You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This was released in February 2011.

Kicking Off 2015

My new year is already off to…let’s say a mixed start.

One of the things I’d taken a long look at during December was my backlist, especially the books that weren’t selling. Two of those books were coming up for contract renewal this year. I had already notified Siren, one of the publishers, that I would not be renewing the contract on Deep Down, so I’ll have the rights back for that on Wednesday.

The other book coming up for renewal was my paranormal romance Eternal Love. At the end of last week, I notified Jupiter Gardens that I would not be renewing that contract, or the one for one of my YA novels that I had with them. And since that YA novel was the first in a series, I requested rights reversions on the other four books as well.

I’ve always been happy in my dealings with Jupiter Gardens Press. They’re thorough on editing and are very much invested in the best for their authors, including finding new promotional venues and methods. Contract terms are good, and author-favorable. I would not hesitate to recommend them to others.

But… *my* Jupiter Gardens books have sold poorly. I don’t fault them for this, nor do I completely fault myself. It’s just one of those things.

And the publisher responded immediately to my email. As of January 31, the two YA series I’ve had with Jupiter Gardens will be out of print, as will Eternal Love and my contemporary novella Help Around the House.

It’s a bittersweet thing for me. Jupiter Gardens really gave me my start as a published author, and it saddens me that my books haven’t done better for JGP or for me. But sometimes in a business, tough decisions have to be made, and writing for publication is definitely a business. Even when it is sad.