Monday, February 29, 2016

Celebrating Lipstick and Camouflage! Blog Tour/Contest

Greetings everyone!

I hope this post finds you all well. Since my last, I've been writing, re-writing, revamping, and recreating my PNR series The Abcynians, which had previously been published with Ellora's Cave Publishing's Blush/Cerridwen Press imprint.

Today, I'm celebrating the release of my Romantic Suspense, Lipstick and Camouflage, Book One in the Brandt's Dozen series featuring former military and Special Operatives. Yep, the book released last month, but I had a couple of things on my schedule and a reader/author con known as Wild Wicked Weekend.

Now that I've recovered, somewhat, okay, there's a lot of caffeine pumping through my system today, I wanted to post a link to Lipstick and Camouflage on WLK Promotions. There's an excerpt, blurb, links, bio, all sorts of helpful information about a great book, set at a great price. It's my sincere hope that you'll take time to check it out, join the contest for either an Amazon gift card and some lovely soaps from Charm City Soaps, LLC, located in Baltimore City. As the book's set in Baltimore, I thought it would be fun for folks to check out soaps named after Baltimore icons, traditions, and places.

Here's the link:

It's also up on Twitter and Facebook!
Until next time,
Frances Stockton

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Abcynians: Lions, Tigers, and Leopards, Oh My!

I'm so very, very excited to make a big announcement today. I've already posted hints on various social media sites, but, I simply had to elaborate.

Many may know that there's been a lot of changes at Ellora's Cave Publishing. I'm not going to go into specifics, as it's been addressed previously on this blog and by others, however, I'm excited to let you all know that the first books published with EC under the Cerridwen Press/Blush imprints, known as the Panthera, has been reverted to me. The books, Seductive Persuasion, Rhiannon's Pride, Sea Captain's Ghost, and Arrington's Claim, are currently being revamped, re-imagined, the world of the Abcynians reborn into a bigger, better series, with at least two never-before-seen full length novels.

If you like PNR/Shapeshifters, and, are a history buff like me, it's my sincere hope that you'll welcome the Abcynians on your favorite reading devices or bookshelves. Set in my favorite time periods in history, Medieval, Renaissance, Golden Age of Piracy, Georgian, England, and, of course the Regency among them, an ancient race capable of shifting into their panthers' souls, face the trials and tribulations of defending mankind, taking on wars, plague, piracy, treachery, oftentimes facing scandal and betrayals from sanguinary rivals.

Currently, I'm working on Book One, Persuasion, and I'm truly enjoying the chance to return to favorite characters' stories that I'd thought had already been told. To those who read the old series, thank you! Hopefully, you'll enjoy the retelling of Garrick Forrester, Earl of Danford, and gifted healer, Aisley Reeves' story. Admittedly, changes have been made to the book, things I wished I'd have done from the very beginning, refining secondary characters whose stories need to be told, and expanding the sensuality and love scenes.

Incredibly, early on in the original series' release, I received many emails and messages asking about Valiant Montgomery, who first appeared in Seductive Persuasion as Garrick's squire, and each of the books that followed. My answer to those inquiries, yes! Yes, Valiant will have his due. In the meantime, I'll keep everyone updated on release dates, tease covers, blog tours, everything I can to reach readers.

The Abcynians are coming! Stay tuned!

Until next time,
Frances Stockton

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

News! 5 Stars, Updates, and More, Oh My!

I'm so excited! I recently found out that Lipstick and Camouflage received an awesome 5 Star review on Amazon.

Not only did it make me do a little Snoopy dance, the reader totally 'got' it. This means the world to me as an author, and, while not everyone will share that same opinion, it was the first review for this book so I simply had to share.

As many readers might know, reviews help a book's algorithms so that readers of the same or similar genre might be able to see a new book, especially so with Amazon, but I believe all vendors are important. Hopefully, a reader will see the review, read the book's excerpt and blurb and like it enough to add it to their bookshelf or cart.

Now, I'm a huge fan and author of several genres, predominately Romantic Suspense and Paranormal/Shapeshifter, and when I'm hunting on Amazon for a new book for my tablet, thanks to the Kindle app, I'll see a row of books in those genres.

If you'd like to see the review, it can be viewed here:

Maybe, it'll help a reader who is on the fence about the book or the genre or an author new to them. It would be wonderful, but I'm grateful for the post nonetheless.

Note, also, that I've updated my website, details on Lipstick and Camouflage and my previously released Indie title, UnMAsKed  are on the home page on the Romantic Suspense bookshelf.

Also, in coming weeks, my very first books published with Ellora's Cave under the Cerridwen Press/Blush imprints, will be going away. That does not mean the Abcynians, introduced in the Panthera series, are disappearing or going instinct, I promise they will return revamped and re-imagined. And, though they are set during my favorite eras in History, the Abcynians are a force to be reckoned with.

As soon as I'm able, I will share more details about the changes and the new release dates, including updates on my website.  In the meantime, I'm hard at work re-imagining the first book and plotting the next title in my Major Crimes Unit series set in Ocean City, Maryland and began with UnMAsKed.

Until next time,
Frances Stockton

Monday, January 25, 2016

Available Now: Lipstick and Camouflage! Updated Links!

Greetings! In the wake of a wild, snowy weekend in the Mid-Atlantic, where many in my family are located, I received word that Lipstick and Camouflage was ready for prime time! I've huge news in this regard, not only was it ready, the indie publishing process was much easier the second time around, as I've another Romantic Suspense available, check out for details of my indie title/titles, but it's available now from, Kobo, iBooks, and Scribd, and coming soon from B&N for Nook. Down the road, it'll be in print. But for now, Lipstick and Camouflage is available in digital format, at a fantastic price $2.99!

Please note that soon, the following titles through Ellora's Cave will no longer be available, Seductive Persuasion, Rhiannon's Pride, Sea Captain's Ghost, and Arrington's Claim. I can't divulge much in this regard, I apologize, but do look for them re-imagined in the future. More on that when I'm able to open up.

Let's get back to Lipstick and Camouflage! Do you like suspense, romance, hot, secretive, former Special Operatives turned bodyguards? Maybe a hunky Texan with a Joe M. jawline, and a seriously deep drawl, darlin', Travis Blake is the man for you! And, the first hero introduced in my Brandt's Dozen series, featuring a team of former military specialists, each with his or her own specialties. Travis, a former SEAL and MMA fighter can make a woman melt, Cassidy, too!

Lipstick and Camouflage
Brandt’s Dozen: Book One

Security specialist Travis Blake’s undercover assignment should be easy. The former Navy SEAL has to protect Cassidy O'Neal from an elusive assassin. Yet, nothing about this case is simple.

For Cassidy, it’s easier to believe in ghosts than to think she’s in danger. Despite a series of unusual happenings around her apartment, she never suspects why she’s felt so uneasy, or that her hot new neighbor is far more than he seems.

What starts off as simple flirtation quickly turns passionate. But, as the danger intensifies, more than just their hearts are on the line. Travis must do whatever it takes to protect Cassidy, including revealing who he really is.  

I've got awesome links to the book, please see below!

In coming days, expect to see Lipstick and Camouflage at B&N for Nook!!! I assure you all, it will be there, it simply takes a little longer than some vendors.

Please feel free to share or comment on this blog post, reviews are welcome, especially for indie authors.

Lipstick and Camouflage available at the following vendors! Stay tuned!…/Lipstick-and-Camouflage-Brandt-s-D……/ebook/lipstick-and-camouflage……/1123308368;jsessionid=5FC2F…

Please help an indie author out and share! It's available for a great price, too! 

Until next time,
Frances Stockton

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lipstick and Camouflage! Confession!

In anticipation of Lipstick and Camouflage's upcoming release, it's really almost here, I thought I'd share a little backstory on the creation of this story.

I'm not sure if you've heard of Belle Femme authors ( a group of very talented authors) awesome reader-author gathering in San Antonio, Texas known as Wild Wicked Weekend. If you haven't, consider going next year. It is coming up again in February but I'm told it's pretty much sold out. It's held at the historic and haunted, yes, haunted Menger Hotel, which is so close to The Alamo, you can literally look out a window and see the infamous site. If you were to travel back in time, and who wouldn't want to, it's likely that the hotel sits right on the actual grounds. When you walk around San Antonio, you're probably walking where William Travis and Jim Bowie (who was gravely ill at the time of the siege) had given their lives for a cause they believed just.

It's no wonder the hotel and the grounds are said to be haunted. Last year, I saw Sally White, I've no doubt about this, but someone else's version may vary. During WWW last February, one of the authors attending found a hidden compartment in her room. That, for some reason, inspired the story that became Lipstick and Camouflage. And, though it's set in Baltimore (born and raised Marylander, here), and some elements are set in Salem, Massachusetts, I'd wondered what would happen if an innocent hotel guest were to inadvertently take something home with them and end up in an assassin's path without realizing it.

I happen to love history and The Alamo, especially William Travis' story, also resonated with me and I decided to create a hero named after him, thus I went with Travis. I won't give away the ending of Lipstick and Camouflage, but let me say, you might see elements of The Alamo and The Menger Hotel pop up!

That said, I recently shared an excerpt from Lipstick and Camouflage, and wanted to add a little more romantic one. Here it is! Enjoy!

Lipstick and Camouflage
Brandt’s Dozen: Book One

Security specialist Travis Blake’s undercover assignment should be easy. The former Navy SEAL has to protect Cassidy O'Neal from an elusive assassin. Yet, nothing about this case is simple.

For Cassidy, it’s easier to believe in ghosts than to think she’s in danger. .Despite a series of unusual happenings around her apartment that make her feel uneasy, she has no idea her hot new neighbor is far more than he seems.

What starts off as simple flirtation quickly turns passionate. But, as danger intensifies, more than just their hearts are on the line. Travis must do whatever it takes to protect Cassidy, including revealing who he really is. 

“I, umm, think this is where I should go back to my dorm,” Justin suddenly decided, pushing his paper plate aside. “I’m sorry, Cass, didn’t know I was interrupting a date.”
“You didn’t interrupt anything,” she reassured.
“Yep, you can say that. You’re not getting the stink eye from your neighbor. Who, by the way, can kick my ass from here to UMBC and back again. I’ll make myself scarce.”
“At least take another slice of pizza,” Cassidy offered.
“I’ve had enough, thanks.” Justin stood up, went to the family room and grabbed his hoodie.
“What do I owe you for the food?” Travis got up, walking over to Justin, his hand in his back pocket. The two talked quietly and Travis pulled out his wallet, handing Justin money.
Shortly, Justin turned back, thanked her for dinner, and whispered, “I’m sorry,” as he left.
“He could’ve stayed,” Cassidy said after Travis closed and locked the door. “I’ll call him tomorrow and make sure he got back to the dorm okay.”
“Sorry about that, Travis. I honestly wasn’t expecting him,” she said softly, her cheeks heating up.
“No need to apologize,” Travis replied. “What’s the matter?”
Cassidy pushed back from the table and stood, suddenly feeling as if she was being interrogated. Then again, he’d been part of Special Forces. He was trained to look dangerous when he needed to be.
“It’s a little embarrassing,” she confessed. “The other night, he asked me out.”
“Why’s that embarrassing?” Travis questioned.
“Because he’s my brother’s best friend,” Cassidy said. “Have to admit, I’m glad he came over, if only to make things right, I just didn’t want you to think I was a cougar or something.”
“I wasn’t worried about that. I’m wondering why you can’t see that Justin likely asked you out because you’re an attractive woman, more so, why you’re embarrassed.”
“Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve gone on an actual date that I was tempted to accept just so I didn’t have to rely on a book boyfriend for a night. Why? Are you thinking about asking me out?”
Cassidy stopped cleaning up the table and looked across the room. Travis remained by the door, but his intensity increased, seeming to be zeroed in on her, even her slight movements drawing his eye.
“I’d like to, but I can’t, not yet,” he answered.
“Why, is there something wrong with me?”
“No, this is all on me. After getting shot, I needed to reevaluate things, make changes. If my dojo doesn’t succeed, I’ll either go back to Texas or my old job in Virginia.”
Drawn to look back at him, Cassidy shifted around, watching him jerk his shirt down his left shoulder, revealing a still angry-looking scar about the size of a quarter. Jesus, if that bullet had gone a little more to the right, if he’d not worn a protective vest, he could’ve been shot through the heart.
Feeling as if a balloon had just popped in her chest, Cassidy found herself rubbing her sternum to ward off the pain. It made absolutely no sense that she was suddenly afraid for him. After all, she and Travis met a few hours ago. The trauma with Mr. Milner and the elevator must’ve created a false sense of attachment to him.
“You’re right, it’s best we stay friends,” she said, breaking eye contact with him to continue stacking paper plates and tossing crumpled napkins on top.
Funny, she did such a good job of ignoring him, she hadn’t heard him move. It wasn’t until his big hand gently circled her wrist, turning her so she’d face him.
“SEAL training kicking in, Hero?” she dared, though she wasn’t quite able to look at him.
“That’s something I’d never forget,” he whispered, his mouth almost touching her ear. His other hand went to her waist, slipping around to the small of her back, making her feel tiny, protected, soft, and girly.
“What do you want?” she suddenly demanded, his mixed signals confusing her.
“I think you know the answer,” he murmured, his lips brushing her earlobe. “You felt what happened when you were on top of me earlier, didn’t you?”
“Yes, you got an erection. It’s a natural physical reaction. I was turned on, too, same reason. Nothing more, nothing less, I get it.”
“Do you? Because it’s more than physical, that’s the God’s honest truth.”
Cassidy shook her head, still confused by how easy it was to be this close to him, to feel his incredible heat, his strength, to smell his clean male scent, everything. Even now, she could feel the throb of his hardness brushing close, so damn close, to her apex between her thighs. It was temptation incarnate, something she didn’t want to ignore.
“Is it the ghost hunting that’s turning you off? If that’s your hang up, get over yourself.”
“Does it feel like I’m turned off right now?” he countered, shifting until his thigh slipped between her legs. “Honestly, I’ve no idea if there are ghosts or what goes into finding them, maybe you can teach me. As it is, I’m hard as a spike.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, you came to me just now, not the other way around,” she said.
“Don’t you understand? You’re the kind of woman a man keeps for himself,” he said, easing off slightly only to catch her chin in his big hand and bring her face upward. “Me? I could be here for a while or gone tomorrow, there’s no way to know yet. You deserve more than that, more than sex.”
“Maybe sex is all I want, ever think of that? You seem like the kind of guy who can give a woman a good time in bed, without unrealistic expectations afterwards.”
Trying to toss her head, to dislodge him, anything, Cassidy only managed to shift his hand until he stroked her face, gently, sweetly. This wasn’t the touch of a man out to seduce or conquer. It was the caress of a lover, of someone who cared.
“Darlin’, you’re sweet-natured and maybe too trusting for your own good, but I’d never suspect you were a liar.”
“Fine, you’re right,” she said. “But I’m not begging you to stay either, nor will I, ever.”
“Fair enough,” he replied. “Tell me to go, slap me if you need to.”
“I don’t want to slap you.” What did she want? She wanted him, same as he claimed to want her. It was crazy, but there it was.
“Ah, to hell with why I shouldn’t do this,” he said, his head bending toward her a second before she closed her eyes and his lips touched hers, briefly, as if he thought she might shove him away.
Instead, her arms went up, wrapping around his big, broad shoulders, her fingers lacing behind his neck. Next thing she knew, he swept her up close, his mouth increasing pressure against hers, his tongue slipping between her lips, entering, dueling with hers.
Cassidy had never, ever experienced a sexier kiss. The brush of his trimmed beard tickled, enhancing their differences. He was hard, strong, sexy, tasted incredibly masterful yet she wasn’t afraid or intimidated. She felt desired, soft, and feminine.
All she really knew in that moment was that this was Travis Blake, the man who’d come to her aid twice in one day, like a guardian angel. With him, she felt safe, even though his kiss rocked her world, tilting it right on its axis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lipstick and Camouflage, Coming Soon!

Greetings one and all! First, let me thank everyone, and I mean everyone, for the support and comments on my last blog post. And, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy 2016! Wow, what a year 2015 was, and though this world has lost some of the greatest talents, artists, and musicians this month, they will not be forgotten, ever! IMO, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Lemmy, and, of course, so many others from jazz greats to drummers, must have formed a helluva band already.

Not to mention, Alan Rickman, who will always be Colonel Brandon to me, though should also be commended for his presence on the big screen and on stage.

But, I digress, I'm here today to share some awesome information. My latest Romantic Suspense, the first of a multi-book series titled Brandt's Dozen, is coming soon. I'm currently doing a final read-through and then it'll be ready to go. You'll be able to find Lipstick and Camouflage at most digital vendors, Amazon, B&N for Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc, and if all the stars align, in print at a later date.

How about an introduction to Travis and Cassidy's story?

Lipstick and Camouflage
Brandt’s Dozen: Book One

Security specialist Travis Blake’s undercover assignment should be easy. The former Navy SEAL has to protect Cassidy O'Neal from an elusive assassin. Yet, nothing about this case is simple.

For Cassidy, it’s easier to believe in ghosts than to think she’s in danger. Despite a series of unusual happenings around her apartment, she never suspects why she’s felt so uneasy, or that her hot new neighbor is far more than he seems.

What starts off as simple flirtation quickly turns passionate. But, as the danger intensifies, more than just their hearts are on the line. Travis must do whatever it takes to protect Cassidy, including revealing who he really is.  

Now that you've gotten a look at the blurb, here's a fun excerpt!
Federal Hill—Fletcher Street Apartments
The whir and tumble of an old dryer accompanied Cassidy’s reading choice of the afternoon, The Count of Monte Cristo. Having been an avid reader as long as she could remember, she enjoyed the chance to get lost reading about a French sailor’s false imprisonment only to emerge as and reinvent himself as a nobleman to exact revenge on those who’d wronged him.
Hmm, at least Edmond, the hero, had a love life, albeit a complicated one. Today, in this cramped old laundry room that served the apartments upstairs, Cass had nothing but a book, a mound of laundry, and her headphones to keep her company.
She wished she could remember the last time she’d had a real date, much less an orgasm with someone other than herself and her imaginary book boyfriend of the night. Yeah, sad, but even though her brother’s roommate had asked her out on a date, she didn’t have it in her to be a cougar.
Maybe Justin was the reason she was so jumpy lately. He’d not exactly left that night with a smile and she’d wondered if he’d come back and try again.
Or, maybe it was something else, something unexplained. Ever since she’d gone to Salem and took Mike Smith’s place as the lead cameraman in a ghost hunt, something had been off kilter about her apartment and the building itself. Granted, they’d caught some amazing EVPs that night, but the experienced investigators in her group, Jerome and Sam, concluded what they’d caught on audio was residual and non-threatening.
If it wasn’t Justin Myers or a ghost, maybe it was that surveyor who’d staked out the neighborhood. He’d claimed to be doing a favor for a friend looking to move into the area and open a new business. She hadn’t believed him. That man had an aura about him that was mysterious and dark, maybe dangerous. She’d run him off, and as far as she knew, he’d not returned.
Frustrated, she snapped her book closed and set it aside, going over to check the last load of laundry for the day. Being Friday, she’d worked a half day and had plans to do laundry, eat rocky road ice cream for dinner, and continue reading Edmond’s tale of revenge, justice, and romance until he skewed his best friend with a sword.
Okay, she’d read the book a couple of times. Next week, she’d open up The Three Musketeers and have four book boyfriends, though her personal favorite was Aramis.
Yeah, like anything that exciting would happen to her, but one could dream a tale of fiction even if her day job wasn’t exactly the same as a French sailor’s false imprisonment or Musketeers saving a king from a treacherous cardinal.
Taking a moment to switch up her music, she chose her classic rock playlist and increased the volume, singing, well, mostly humming until her favorite line, We were making it,” came out loud and clear.
As if it mattered how badly she was singing while pulling bras and panties out of the dryer and tossing them into the hip-hugging basket on the floor beneath the machine.
Slamming the dryer door home and picking up her basket, she turned to go back to where she’d been sitting when movement caught her eye. Whipping around, she saw a tall, impressively built man standing in the doorway, as if he’d stepped right out of the pages of one of her novel.
A heartbeat later, he came toward her, proving he was no figment of her active imagination and seeming to get bigger with every step. Unsure what to do, Cassidy threw her basket at him and rushed for the door, getting less than two feet before her bare foot caught his boot and she went tumbling.
Certain she’d break something when she hit the stone floor, she tried to brace herself for the impact…only she never hit. The man caught her, shifting her momentum so that she landed right on top of him.
Breath caught, her headphones clattering to the floor, she would’ve scrambled to her feet if it wasn’t for the fact that she could not move. Good God Almighty, he looked a lot like Joe M. No, of course it wasn’t possible that an actor who made women everywhere drool over werewolves and male strippers could be in a laundry room with her.
If that was the case, maybe she had knocked herself out and was dreaming about her current book boyfriend, Edmond. His hands were incredibly big. She knew because they were braced right on her ass. His chest was broad, muscles beneath his black tee shirt strong as steel.
The beard that so reminded her of Joe’s, trimmed, defining a face that was incredibly good looking and sexy, tempted her to trail a finger along his jaw to see if it was scratchy or soft. His piercing amber eyes fitting to a lion’s captivated her. He was looking right up at her, unapologetic, his grip strong, maybe there was even concern in his eyes.
The only problem she could see at the moment was the bra on his head that skewed her ability to make out the length of his shaggy sable-brown hair.
Wait! That leopard-print bra was hers!
“Darlin’, it doesn’t matter who Joe and Edmond are right now, if you keep grinding your hips like that, I’m gonna make sure you forget anyone else’s name but mine, Travis.”
His hands on her ass tightened, bringing her into better alignment with his hips. No, not his hips! Jeez, he was real, she was wide awake, and still on top of him, between his spread thighs. His hard as stone fly brushed her exactly where she needed it most. Her clit woke up, she was soaking wet, preparing…for what, sex with a stranger on the laundry room floor?
“Please tell me I didn’t talk out loud,” she grumbled, dropping her head to his chest and didn’t feel the least bit ready to move.
What the hell was wrong with her? Something about him warned her that he could be as dangerous as that surveyor, yet she was not afraid of him.
“All I know is that you called me Joe and compared me to Edmond, your book boyfriend, whatever that means,” he answered, the timber in his voice so deep, his drawl southern, everything in her that was a woman was screaming ‘how do you do’ and ‘where have you been all my life’?
“And, the longer you stay here, the less likely I am to ask your name. But, take your time. There are all kinds of advantages to having you on top.”
Snapping her head back up, she growled, “Stop talking like that!” Although she wouldn’t mind having him talk to her for hours, days, however long he wanted, so long as that deep drawl of his whispered sweet nothings in her ear.
“Sorry, couldn’t help teasing,” he countered. “I sure didn’t mean to scare you. What do you say? Think we can get back on equal footing?”
Realizing that this was actually happening, common sense returned and Cassidy got to her knees, hindered in her efforts by his hands. “Let go of my ass, cowboy. As it is, I think your fingers left marks. I bruise easy.”
“Dammit, don’t say that. Now I’m gonna want to check that out,” he warned, showing absolutely no compunction to let go, not that she really wanted him to. As big as his hands were, he cupped, not injured.
In the end, he let go and she scrambled to her feet. Considering her knees were all wobbly and her legs felt as if they’d turned to jelly, it was nothing short of a miracle that she didn’t fall over him or stomp on his balls in her efforts. Would’ve served him right for being an unrepentant, cocky bastard, though he was a really, really hot cocky bastard.
And, that didn’t help anything, neither did her bra.
“Easy, I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, getting back on his feet with nimbleness that no ordinary man should possess. It was catlike, or maybe a lion.
“Okay, who are you and where the hell did you come from?” she demanded, ignoring her embarrassment by punching her fists to her hips, hoping to look more formidable.
The guy was big, like Superman or Thor, big, tall, and muscular. He should be slow as molasses going uphill in winter. How tall was this guy anyway? She was a hair under 6’ and felt tiny compared to him.
“My name’s Travis Blake, moved into apartment 2 B a couple hours ago. Came down to do laundry and found you rocking out, wanted to alert you that I was there. Never meant to scare you, I’m sorry. I’ve ID on me, if you need to take a look,” he said, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket and flipping it open.
Taking a glance at his ID, she saw he had a Virginia license, but the photo was accurate. Finally, she nodded and stepped back, assessing him with the benefit of distance. Okay, it wasn’t that much of a distance since the laundry room was only big enough for three coin-operated washer and dryer units, a couple of plastic chairs, a mini-vending machine for detergent and fabric softener, a rack for hanging clothes, and the counter where her clean clothes were neatly arranged.
“Hey, you still with me, darlin’?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned. “Did I hurt you?”
“No, no, I’m fine. I’m Cassidy O’Neal, tenants here call me Cass, take your pick. We’re neighbors, Mr. Blake.” Vaguely, she recalled the building manager putting notices on everyone’s doors about a new tenant fitting Travis’ description moving in today.
“Mr. Blake’s my dad, nice guy. When he visits sometime, maybe you’ll like him.”
“I’m sure I would,” she replied, her eyes drawn to his head. “Can I, ah, have that back?”
“What?” he asked, as if he wasn’t aware that her bra was on his head. He acted as if he didn’t care, cool as cucumber.
“My bra, although I’m not sure why you’re wearing it,” she said, gesturing to his head.

“Got to admit, never had a woman throw her clothes at me, but, damn, you stopped me in my tracks,” he replied as if she’d earned his respect.

Stay tuned for more, excerpts, links for where to find Lipstick and Camouflage, and any related information.

Until next time,
Frances Stockton 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ellora's Cave: It's Time to Speak Up

Greetings everyone! I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I hope you'll stick with me for a post that is certain to be long.

You may have noticed an uptick in former Ellora's Cave authors and/or staff speaking out about their experiences with a publisher that once rocked the mainstream publishing world with innovative, sexy, erotic, and adventurous oftentimes hardcore romances that broke the mold. For that alone, I say, bravo to Jaid Black, who decided not to kowtow to New York and write sexy stories about aliens from another universe, a result that launched EC into a huge financial success. Long before Fifty Shades of Grey, Jaid, along with many other erotic and erotica authors were venturing into sub-genres such as BDSM, Older Woman/Younger Man, Menage, M/M, and horror, just to name a few.

Many of those authors have gone on to become huge bestsellers on the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon, and B&N lists, and to them, I can only tip my hat.  Likewise, I continue to believe that Jaid's Trek Mi Quan universe is one of the most creative series I have ever read. Is it for everyone? Maybe not, but, again, props to her for writing what she loved, for sticking to her guns, and giving those books life through a lot of hard work and determination during a time when the concept of electronic books was as alien as her hot, sexy characters from a far away world.

Keep in mind, e-publishing has come a long way since the time of downloading files, printing them out or reading on a PC. With the advent of the Kindle, Nook, iPads/Tablets, buying eBooks is as easy as a 'click', and it's on your device in the matter of seconds. Self-publishing, of which I am now a huge fan of as a result of my last few years experience with EC, has become very popular and eBooks tend to be priced in such a way to make them affordable. Now, if I was J.R. Ward or Sherrilyn Kenyon, perhaps a reader would be willing to pay upwards of $6.99-$7.99, and at some third party vendors even higher, for a 100K+ novel on their iPad or Kindle. But generally, that's a lot to ask for a digital book.

That said, the following is my account and my experience with Ellora's Cave Publishing, and while it's not intended in any way to bash anyone or TPTB at EC, and I will not go into any contractual information that I have with them, I've had enough with the vitriol going on or being said about my fellow former EC authors and/or staffers and editors who are only telling their truths and their experiences. 

My first book was published with Ellora's Cave under the Cerridwen Press imprint, titled Seductive Persuasion, and was the first of an historical-paranormal four book series. Soon after the third book in that series, Sea Captain's Ghost, released, I learned that the imprint was going on hiatus. Eventually Cerridwen Press would become known as Blush. More on that in a bit. As I tended to write more sensual than erotic or explicit, this was awesome to me. But, I still had one book in the series left and wondered what would become of it. I debated turning it into an erotic story, however, given the time period it was written in, late-Georgian, and it just didn't seem to be right.

Instead, I set it aside and went back to a book I'd started a year before and stopped because it was 'out of my comfort zone', translation, erotic, featuring an older woman and a younger man as the heroine/hero. During an RT Convention in Columbus, Ohio, I'd attended an EC spotlight in support of my publisher and learned that older woman/younger man scenarios were selling very well, and, I immediately went home and wrote what would become Quarterback Blitz. To this day, that book is and continues to be very popular with readers, it won Best Erotic Contemporary from several online book review websites, and it launched a series of six books, a series titled Ink and Kink, Let me just say that I am proud of each and every story in that series, as well as those that I wrote separately or featured secondary characters in the Maddox brothers/Ink and Kink universe. In between, yes, I'd finally completed the Panthera series with Arrington's Claim for the Blush imprint.

Around the time the last Ink and Kink book was released, Switch Master, I'd begun tracking my royalty statements, primarily because sales dipped dramatically. I figured there were several causes, EC was releasing a lot of books, some re-releases, some in trade paperback per week. And, while that is their prerogative to release that many books in a given week, I also saw that more and more eBook publishers were on the rise, ditto for self-publishing, and the costs of those books were much more attractive to consumers than the pricey MSRP of my admittedly long stories. Yes, I write big books and I cannot lie. Yes, I think they are worth every penny, but I'd wished that the market would've been a bigger factor in the pricing.

The problem with the downturn in the market, therefore, my royalties, which were starting to come later and later, or in one case, a new release's sales figures were not accounted for, though quickly and professionally corrected within days, had dropped to the point that I could not afford to attend the Romantic Times Booklovers Conventions or many other conventions with the exception of Ellora's Cave's conference known as RomantiCon, and my local RWA chapter conference. I also couldn't afford blog tours. Book reviews declined dramatically and eventually stopped altogether.

All the while, royalties declined, and I thought, I'll write more books and establish a back list. EC started a few marketing campaigns, such as 1st books in a series free for two weeks, and, yes, this helped, some. But readers will rush to get a free book yet when the next book is priced so drastically above other books of similar genre and length, they move on. Now, some of this is taste, not every reader or reviewer is going to like my books, and that's their right and opinion. However, pricing and affordability makes a difference in a consumer's choice when money is tight.

With the last book in the Ink and Kink series, I'd started a new series based on some secondary characters readers had been introduced to already. Those books simply did not sell well and while I understand that opinions vary, I began to think about making some decisions about my future. My favorite genre, in all honesty, is Romantic Suspense, and I really, really wanted to go into mainstream fiction.

In 2014, many things were happening, my royalty checks were coming very, very late, and while contractually EC was to pay quarterly,they primarily paid monthly. Checks came at odd times, likewise, they were dated a whole month before they were actually stamped and mailed. In two cases, there was no date on the envelope. Authors were told this was due to a glitch in the accounting software program. I have no idea if this is true or not, that's what we were told via an author email loop.

In August of 2014, the wheels fell off and my eyes were opened. While on a family vacation and very concerned because I'd not received royalties in a while and an email inquiry as to whether my check was lost in the mail or sent at all went unanswered, and in the midst of content edits for what would become the last book I've published with Ellora's Cave word was sent to the private author email loop that many EC staffers, including freelance editors, mine, too, were being let go due to a downturn in the market and blame seemed to be placed on Amazon. In my opinion, Amazon is a powerhouse in the eBook world and will remain so, and most of the sales I'd been making came from that vendor. I was devastated, not only for myself, but for the editors, especially my editor, whom to this day is one of my favorite people on the planet and continues to be my editor for my self-publishing ventures. For many reasons, I've chosen not to include her name in this post, though I'm sure she knows that I've the utmost respect for her. I'd also like to thank her for taking a chance on a newbie and helping me through the publishing process.

Within an hour, maybe less, of the announcement sent to the authors about the layoffs, an unknown party shared that same message on a public forum. I saw and read it on Absolute Write, but it was shared elsewhere and within a very short time, I received countless messages from readers and authors outside of EC sharing their concerns for the stability of the publisher. I had them too, but I wanted to believe it would be okay. My editor graciously finished the last round of edits for Pleasure Trove and the book received a release date within two weeks of the books final draft and FLEs, Final Line Edits, were done in a rush. Guess what? Despite blogging and doing as much promo as I could, the book tanked, I couldn't get it to sell, no matter what. A few of my faithful readers were concerned that I wouldn't receive the royalties and asked what they should do. I didn't know and did NOT EVER ask anyone not to buy the book or any of my titles. I still haven't done so. However, they have graciously purchased my self-published title, UnMAsKed, and are eagerly awaiting the next, also a Romantic Suspense titled Lipstick and Camouflage.

In September of 2014, I was attending a weekend writer's workshop in Connecticut. It was a great weekend, especially as I was able to get away from the stress of what was happening with EC. I had finally received a check dated in late July 2014 that arrived in my mailbox a month later, at the tail end of August. I was grateful. Yes, my checks were coming later and later, but they did come eventually. The problem was that EC became radio silent on our private loop, primarily, I believe, because private messages were being shared on public forums. For the record, I did not like that private emails were being made public and felt that this was hurting authors more than anything else going on. Again, my opinion.

I started talking to my husband about what I should do going forward. Okay, actually, we'd been talking about this for a long time but things were heating up. Should I ask for rights back based on contract terms? Let it go and hope checks come as they were supposed to? But then at that same writer's workshop, everything got drastically worse. NOT because one of the ladies at Dear Author had written a very long 'writer beware' type of article titled The Curious Case of Ellora's Cave. That article is on DA's blog and I'm not going to go into specifics, except to say that the blogger corrected a few details recently, yet the majority of it remains.

What alarmed me and so many authors and reviewers and bloggers, as well as readers, was EC's decision to sue the writer of the post. I was familiar with Dear Author and similar sites, yet, I'm honestly not a frequent visitor or reader of it, primarily because it's a little bit 'mean girl' for my tastes. That said, the blogger had every single right to write what she substantially believed to be true, she'd researched court cases, looked at tax liens accrued against the publisher that are on public record, and listened to author accounts of not receiving royalties. That's called FREEDOM of SPEECH. It's part of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights. And, Ellora's Cave turned around and sued a blogger in what appeared to be a SLAPP suit. From there on the Streisand Effect took root. Readers and reviewers boycotted. The vitriol that resulted since steamrolled, more readers bailed on EC's books out of concern that we weren't getting paid, royalties came later and later and that all meant to me that the publishing company was in serious financial trouble.

A few months ago, EC also launched a new website. I didn't care for it visually, but I'm not a web designer by any stretch. Some say it's more user friendly, some say otherwise, and there appeared to be more than a few glitches that needed to be fixed. What I know is this, during the change something happened to all of the blurbs on my books on EC's site. They're not only missing commas and punctuation, they appear amateurish. Therefore, I have not asked my web guru to change the links on my website that directs readers to purchase my books from the publisher's site, nor have I any plans to. It seems to me that the responsibility for hunting down and correcting typos and punctuation errors is on whoever maintains that site.  

Honestly, I've no idea what the financial status of EC is. I'm not going to guess or take a jab at the ownership or current staff members, other than to say, that I absolutely believe the authors who say they haven't been paid or that their payments are way late or breached. At the time of this blog post, I have not received a check since February 2015's sales that came in September of 2015. Could a check arrive this week? I hope so, we were informed via the private loop that we would receive payment for three months in one check, yet even if it arrives they are still months behind. I hope they really do catch up, authors worked hard on their books and deserve to get paid.

Let me say that up until the last year or so, I've enjoyed my experience as an EC author. I loved RomantiCon and the friends I've made through the convention, both authors and readers. I adored the Cavemen models who danced for us, and I will miss Angelo forever. He was incredibly charming and charismatic and appeared on the cover of Field of Play, not only signing my cover flats to help the book to sell, but also one for me that's now framed and in a place of honor in my office. For those who don't know, Angelo was tragically shot and killed (for the true story I recommend the documentary produced by Joe Manganiello, from True Blood/Magic Mike, titled LaBare). To this day, my fellow EC authors and former editors remain my friends, people I respect, admire, and trust. They are speaking up, they are telling their truths. If they're asking readers not to purchase their books, respect their decision. It is not because their books are poorly written or they are ashamed of it. Despite what's being posted on social media by an EC principle and a few EC authors who are in her corner (that's their right, too), those who are speaking out or speaking up are not liars, they are not misogynists, Bad Apples, or bullies. To sick a very nasty troll after a group that follows a Twitter hashtag known as #notchilled, the same person probably best known for GamerGate, is, by my measure, very low and irresponsible and an another attempt to 'chill free speech.' That's the purpose of #notchilled, not to malign EC, but to come out in defense of a blogger's and anyone else's right to write what they believed to be substantially true.

It is because of the lawsuit that I have chosen not to write for Ellora's Cave any longer. Yes, the case settled, and there's a sense of letdown by all parties of interest, but an attempt to stifle free speech did not sit well with me, and still doesn't. That's why I made the decisions I have since August of 2014. I'll continue to write and publish mainstream Romantic Suspense, and I'm venturing into paranormal again. When or if I get the rights returned on my back titles, I'll heavily revise, re-title, re-cover, and set prices according to what is most affordable for readers. If I go with a mainstream publisher, who knows what's down the road, you can be certain that I will never sign a contract without a lawyer and hopefully an agent's assistance.

Please note that this is my experience, another author or staffer's story may vary. It is not intended to sling mud, there's already too much being thrown around by both sides of the situation. Frankly, I hope the bullying on Twitter from sock puppets and trolls ends. I hope the vitriol stops and business-like discussions resume. I do not hope EC goes into bankruptcy, there are authors, staffers, publishers, artists, copy editors, you name it, who depend upon this publishing house. I do not wish ill upon Jaid Black, Patty Marks, or anyone else involved with Ellora's Cave, nor do I seek to cause trouble for them or create further chaos. It was simply time to speak out.

To authors who remain supportive of EC, I wish you success. To authors who have chosen to speak out or request readers not to purchase their Ellora's Cave titles, whether it's a business decision or something more personal, I support you unconditionally. To my readers, I hope you will continue to support my self-published titles, UnMAsKed is available at Amazon, B&N for Nook, Kobo, and iBooks. For information on this, hit me up in the comment section or check out the following page:           

Until the next time,
Frances Stockton