Gerry Bartlett’s Texas Trilogy

With Texas Heat, Gerry Bartlett begins a new contemporary romance series set in the Houston oil industry. Cassidy Calhoun has no idea she’s even distantly related to the owners of Calhoun Petroleum until she’s invited to the reading of Conrad Calhoun’s will. Texas HeatSuddenly she finds herself moving in with the three half-siblings she never knew about, required to work at the oil company for a year before collecting her inheritance, and more attracted than she should be to Mason MacKenzie, the oil field competitor who will be evaluating the performance of the Calhoun siblings. If they don’t perform well, Calhoun Petroleum may go right down the pipeline, or be devoured by Mason’s Texas Star Oil, which is facing its own share of financial problems.

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Cassidy has more to deal with than Mason’s questionable intentions. She has no idea why her mother kept her away from the Calhouns all her life, even though it meant living in near poverty for both of them. She doesn’t know who to trust, either—can her siblings be as welcoming as they seem? And what about the people at Calhoun Petroleum? And then the real danger begins.

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The Calhoun Petroleum story continues in Texas Fire, as Cassidy’s newly discovered sister, Megan Calhoun, sets out to fulfill her assignment in the will, working in theTexas Fire oilfields for a year, a tough call for someone who has changed jobs—and boyfriends—whenever boredom set in. And to make the situation touchier, she’s volunteered to go on the road with engineer Rowdy Baker, the long-time boyfriend Cassidy left behind. Rowdy has about as much love for Calhoun women as Megan does for dust storms, work boots, and cramped travel trailers.

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But Rowdy and Megan make up their minds to soldier on, even while Megan learns to live without credit cards and Rowdy finds himself saddled with an unexpected puppy. Megan’s fake ID, intended to deflect the feelings of people hurt by the downsizing of the oil industry in general and Calhoun Petroleum in particular, doesn’t last long, and she’s thrust into representing the Calhoun interests to everyone from diner waitresses to environmental protesters.

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As if that wasn’t enough, Megan has a guilty secret—she knows something about Rowdy’s past that even he doesn’t know. How in the world will these two share a year in the oilfields without killing each other or bringing another disaster down on Calhoun Petroleum?

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Texas PrideThe story continues in October with Texas Pride, when the action shifts back to company headquarters in Houston. Shannon Calhoun is struggling with her assignment, protecting Calhoun Petroleum’s image with press releases, when her old flame Billy Pagan, now a top drawer lawyer, shows up with yet another threat to the Calhoun family business.

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I’ve really enjoyed Texas Heat and Texas Fire, and I’m looking forward to Texas Pride (available October 3 from your favorite ebook source).

Two Meetings and Half a Dozen Books

I belong to two local chapters of Romance Writers of America, and this month the meetings fell as close together as they ever do, West Houston last Saturday morning and Houston Bay Area last night.  Both meetings featured interesting speakers on topics that I have yet to tackle myself.

On Saturday, West Houston heard from Alyssa Goodnight, who showed us how she is using the combined impact of several social media channels to promote her new release, Austentatious.  She has tied together input to Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her website, and claims that it takes relatively little work to maintain her online presence.  I could only watch in admiration–looks like a fulltime job to me.  And I already have one of those.

Last night Joan Reeves gave Houston Bay Area a very interesting talk about some of the technical and legal challenges involved in independent publishing, including copyright laws and piracy problems.  Check out Joan’s blog for a wealth of information on the field, and check out her popular ebook releases while you’re there.

This has been a busy month for West Houston authors, with a whole stack of new releases:

  • Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans is the latest in Gerry Bartlett’s very popular Glory St. Clair series.
  • How To Ravish a Rake, by Vicky Dreiling, is the third in a trilogy of charmingly funny Regency historicals.
  • The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek is the first in a new series by Jane Myers Perrine.

  • The Quakers of New Garden anthology includes “New Garden’s Inspiration” by West Houston author Claire Sanders.
  • Wanted: Undead or Alive is the latest installment in Kerrelyn Sparks’ NYT bestselling Love At Stake series.
  • The Kingdom is the second in Amanda Stevens’ Graveyard Queen series, to be followed next month by The Prophet.

I bought books for myself, and an extra copy of Jane’s book as a thank you gift for my neighbor.  Books make terrific, thoughtful, and affordable gifts.  Go out and buy one for someone you’d like to say “thank you” to.

I didn’t buy a single book today.

Of course that doesn’t mean I came home from the West Houston RWA chapter meeting without one.   I was lucky enough to win a copy of Real Vampires Don’t Wear Size Six, the latest book in Gerry Bartlett’s delightful Glory St. Clair series, the book I would have bought if Gerry hadn’t brought me a signed copy.  Glory was a bit overweight when she became a vampire a few centuries ago, and she’s been stuck with those extra pounds ever since.  Been there, done that?  As Nina Bangs describes her, “Glory is Everywoman with fangs.”

Gerry and Nina, both best-selling authors, are members of West Houston RWA, and they were our speakers today, telling us “What We’ve Learned Along the Way.”  They definitely have the experience to share, starting as critique partners and Golden Heart finalists in the 1990s.  Gerry published romantic suspense with Precious Gems and historical romance with Dorchester before finding herself the mistress of vampire humor with the Real Vampires series for Berkley.  Size Six is the seventh in the series.  Nina once thought she wanted to write contemporary series romance for Harlequin, until she sold a paranormal called An Original Sin to Dorchester.  That book came out in 1999; since then she’s written paranormal romance for Dorchester, Berkley and Avon.  Her latest release is Eternal Prey from Avon.

Members like Gerry and Nina, willing to share their experience and knowledge with others, make Romance Writers of America® and its local chapters such a wonderful resource for writers.  My own loyalty to the group overcame my instincts for self-preservation last month when West Houston was having a hard time finding someone to volunteer to be chapter president next year.  (Election of officers in the chapters I belong to generally involves sweet-talking enough people to fill the slate into volunteering.  Any actual voting is pretty much a formality.)  I told the current president, Karen Burns, that I would take the job if no one else stepped forward.  Well, that cat slipped out of the bag, and–surprise–one volunteer was plenty.

So I’ll have another job on my schedule come 2012.  In the meantime, I’ve got the contest urge again.  Time to send Bathtub Jinn out into the world, so I’ve spent the last week or two plotting the rest of the book.  Now all I have to do is write the (dreaded) synopsis and send the entries off.  By Monday evening.

 

I’m home from New York without a Golden Heart,

but my friend Jo Anne Banker brought home the Golden Heart (which is a very pretty gold charm on a necklace) in her category, Contemporary Series Romance.  It was a very exciting evening.

I managed to pack in several workshops on Friday, beginning with “Sex Through History,” at 8:30 in the morning.  When I mentioned this in an email to my critique group, Carl wanted to know if there were handouts with pictures.  No, but there were little packets of phallic candy and a very interesting Power Point presentation.  Workshop presenter Delilah Marvelle posts her research in this area once a month on her blog, A Bit o’ Muslin.

Then I attended a workshop on “The One-Page Plot,” given by multi-published author  Christie Ridgway.  If there’s anything we’re all searching for, it’s a magic formula for plotting.  Christie’s involves dividing a sheet of paper into boxes, one per chapter, and sketching in the story, with attention to turning points at measured intervals.  Very interesting.

After a stop for a granola bar (no group luncheon on Friday, alas) and a rehearsal for the awards ceremony, I went to a workshop given by Harlequin authors Donna Alward and Fiona Harper and Harlequin editor Bryony Green, on keeping emotion and sexual tension high in books with less graphic sexual content.  Do you see a trend here?  Actually, there were eight or ten workshops in every time slot, and only a few of them were about sex.  However, it was a romance conference . . .

My last workshop was on promotion through social media, and most of it went right over my head.  I slipped out when I realized I had no clue what the presenters were talking about.  I’ve gotten the hang of blogging, but Twitter and Facebook are still mysteries to me.  One of these days . . .

When I got back to our room at 4:15, I found half a pizza waiting for me, bless Jo Anne.  After I’d devoured that (the man from room service had insisted that Jo Anne eat hers hot, but mine was still delicious warm) and we’d dressed in our ceremonial finery, we joined our friends from West Houston RWA for a pre-awards drink (diet coke, as the producer of the show had begged us at the rehearsal to show up sober for the ceremony), and then met our “dates,” Gerry Bartlett and Nina Bangs, at the VIP entrance.  Gerry and Nina were Golden Heart finalists together in 1997 and are now multi-published authors; Jo Anne and I are hoping some of their talent will rub off on us if we feed them enough chocolate.  Also at our table were our other West Houston RWA finalist, Sarah Andre, and her husband Scott.

Although Sarah and I remain Golden Heart Finalists (and we’re thrilled about that), Jo Anne is now a Golden Heart Winner.  (For the full list of GH and Rita® winners, visit RWA here.)  Being completely surprised, being a Texan by choice, and mostly being herself, Jo Anne’s opening words to the crowd of more than two thousand were, “Hot damn, ain’t this fun?”  The crowd loved her.

Drinks after the ceremony were not restricted to diet soda.