Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy YA Book Release Day for Between Now & Never by Laura Johnston

Contemporary YA Clean Romance

Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kensington PublishingKobo, and other online retailers.

A convict’s daughter should never fall for an FBI agent’s son, certainly not a feisty teenager like Julianna Schultz who is furious over her mother’s incarceration and the injustice of it all. But that’s exactly what seventeen-year-old Julianna finds herself doing when Cody Rush, the cocky son of the FBI agent who put her mom behind bars, moves into her hometown of Gilbert, Arizona.

Cody Rush—studious, principled, athletic, good looking and blond to boot—is everything Julianna hates, or so she thinks. Yet a series of ill-fated events one night brings them dangerously close, entangling the futures of two people who were never meant to be…

Excerpt—Photo Booth


We listen to the monotone voice reel off instructions. Four pictures. A light will flash before each picture is taken. Etcetera. How I ended up in this position I’m not sure. We both sit, staring at our reflections on the dark plastic and, no doubt, both stuck on the same thought that crosses everyone’s mind when they’re on this seat.
“Quick,” I say, “what should we do?”
A flash of light. Picture one down. Both of our mouths were hanging open, blank stares straight ahead.
We burst into laughter and can’t stop. A second flash. Picture number two: both of us laughing.
Our gazes meet and we pull ourselves together, his eyes never veering from mine. He leans toward me, coming halfway before pausing, his eyes seeking permission. I regard him with equal parts terror and anticipation, the intimacy of the situation whispering a thrill. He closes the distance between us and glides his nose through my hair. My heart rattles around as though this is the first boy I’ve ever been close to.
“Now smile,” he whispers into my ear. Even if I should be creeped out, forget it. My cheeks burn despite myself and I feel the corners of my lips tugging upward. A flash of light signals the third picture and I am totally seduced.

About the Author

Laura Johnston lives in Utah with her husband and three children. Growing up with five siblings, a few horses, peach trees, beehives and gardens, she developed an active imagination and always loved a good story. She fell in love with the young adult genre both through her experience in high school as well as her job later as a high school teacher. Laura enjoys running, playing tennis, sewing, traveling, writing, and above all, spending time with her husband and kids.


My husband was a special agent for five years, and while I’m sure he would have loved it if I’d written an intense thriller about Special Agent Johnston thanks to all of his crazy stories (sorry, babe…maybe someday!), I wrote a romance instead.
The convict’s daughter and the FBI agent’s son—I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t resist.
Soon, characters began taking shape. And then a certain photo booth scene that had been on my mind for years came back to me. For so long, I couldn’t shake the image of two strangers meeting in the mall at a photo booth. I frequently wondered why I couldn’t stop thinking about these two mysterious people.
The two characters now had a face, a name.
Julianna, the convict's daughter; Cody, the FBI agent's son.
Julianna doesn't realize who Cody is at first. Yet he does—Cody knows who she is, knows his dad put her mom behind bars. And he's into her. And Julianna is into him. However, Cody knows it won't last...as soon as she figures out who he is.
Add to all of this the fact that Cody knows Julianna is in danger and we have their first meeting, near a photo booth, right after Julianna gets off work at the mall.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Unique Tips for Writers to Set Up a Blog Tour, Cover Reveal or Other Social Media Event

Most authors – no matter if they are traditionally or self published – set up their own blog tours. Some authors band together with peers who write in the same genre, then do a big blog tour or contest together (like the Massive Romance Reader Squee Moment Ahead contest). Other authors send a “Call to Review” on their blogs, social media or newsletters.

But what if you want to hit a broader market? Or to target certain niche readers? A great blog tour has reviewers with both small (100+) and big (1000+) follower counts, reviewers who have relationships with the author & those who don’t know the author, as well as covers a variety of geographical locations.

For my first book – (dis)Abilities and the Gospel – I wanted to get a wide variety of reviewers. Very few people on the tour were writer friends. My goal was to have a lot of reviewers who didn’t know me, who attended different churches, and who either had kids with cognitive disabilities or were church teachers who had someone in their class with a cognitive disability.

My second book, Sweet Confections, was a whole other ball of wax. I went from nonfiction to fiction. Specifically sweet romances. I had a some great reviewers from my established circle who reviewed both nonfiction and fiction, but my goal was to hit the much-better romance market. And not just in the USA. 

It sounds complicated. It's not. It sounds time consuming. It is. But each tour was totally worth it. Here’s how I found the right reviewers for each book: 
(PS - this method works for cover reveals, contests, giveaways, etc.)

First: Get Organized.

I’m a huge spreadsheet organization freak. It’s probably the only area I’m really good at keeping everything on track (Ask my hubby. I’m horrible at keeping my desk organized!) But spreadsheets – I can whip them out like crazy and keep track of gobs of things that way. And a good spreadsheet is essential when putting together a blog tour.

So, let’s get started. Create a spreadsheet with the following fields:
Reviewer’s Name, Blog Title, Blog Address, Email Address, # of Followers, Target (for me this was either parent, church teacher, or book reviewer), Contacted On (date you emailed review request), Response, Scheduled Review Date and Review Copy Sent.

Add blogs you are interested in to this list. Once you’ve done all your research, sort the list by number of followers and pick some of the bigger blogs and mark those lines in another color. Then sort the list by targets to see which demographics you need more of and mark those with a different color. Then look for location, etc. until you have the right mix for the amount of blogs you want on your tour. Remember - bigger doesn't always mean better. Getting your book into the hands of the right reviewers is more important than getting it into a lot of reviewers' hands (especially if those reviewers have a limited reach or have a major crossover in followers).

Then start sending emails to the bloggers. I had a lot of people return my emails saying they had never done a book review or participated in a blog tour. I sent them additional information, along with expectations for the tour (I gave them the option to choose a date within the tour time frame and told them I wanted their honest opinion about the book).  Don’t be afraid to choose reviewers who don’t have book blogs, but have a connection to the topic related to your book. During my tour, one of my reviewers was a cake decorator who had a child with autism. Her review not only introduced my book to a large group I wasn’t connected with, but was also picked up by several e-magazines. (See Ashlee Marie Cakes)

Tip: The first spreadsheet is essential for research, but Google forms are freaking AMAZING! With my Sweet Confections blog tour, I set up a Google form for the reviewers to use to sign up. When I emailed them, I invited them to visit the link and sign up on the form. It saved me so much time! They entered all their info, dates they preferred, if they were doing a book review, author interview or book spotlight, etc. The form can be embedded into your blog, website or you can use the private link Google gives you. The fabulous thing is no matter which form is used (because you can have it in multiple locations at the same time), all the info goes directly into the same spreadsheet, in all the right columns, on your Google Drive. Holy awesome, Batman! You can see an example of the form here for my Love Under Construction cover reveal sign up. On the Google form spreadsheet, I added additional columns to track when I send the confirmation emails and the cover.

Start with Your Contacts

If you’re traditionally published, shoot an email over to your marketing team and ask if they have any blog book reviewers they recommend. My publisher actually had a few and even offered to send those bloggers review copies.

I also emailed out to some disability and church groups I work with to see if they had recommendations, blogs they frequently went to for information, etc.  If you write YA, email out to your nieces, nephews, church youth groups, your friends’ kids, etc and ask them what blogs or social media accounts they go to check out cool stuff. Don't forget your writers groups. My Romance Writers of America group was a fantastic source to recommend reviewers.

Blog Tour Services

For my Sweet Confections tour, I researched blog tour services that specialized in romance. Then I checked out the lineups in the current tours. Some reviewers went for just spicy and hot, while others had a mix of all heat levels. I kept track of which reviewers gave good reviews to clean romances and added them to my research spreadsheet. By pulling select reviewers from a variety of blog tours, I created a wider marketing audience.

Note: Blog tour services are fabulous for authors who prefer to go the hassle-free route. I know many authors who've had successful blog tours with good services. I, personally, feel like each blog tour service has a particular group of reviewers, who then have the same group of readers or giveaway fanatics who follow that group of reviewers. So if you are going this route, check out previous tours to see how wide their review circle is in the comment section (are the same people commenting on each blog).


Twitter was actually my best resource to discover new reviewers. If you’re not on Twitter, then you should start a profile. It’s a great way to connect with others – even if you don’t post daily.

On the Twitter homepage, there’s a link at the top that says “Who to Follow”. If you click on it, it brings you to a page with a search box. You can search for anything here (book reviewers, YA Romance, etc). You can also search for books that are like yours – for example, In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins. Twitter searches through status updates and profile descriptions to suggest friends for you. For my DAG tour, I searched for autism, LDS autism, Down syndrome, special needs, and church to name a few. I went through about a hundred profiles, checked out their activity and following. I also looked who that person followed. I often found more good leads that way. After narrowing down who I wanted to review, I contacted them through either Twitter email or an email address that was listed on the profile.

Another tip is to do geographical searches – such as Autism Canada or Sweet Romance Reader Arizona. Take advantage of hashtag searches too. Check out authors who write in the same genre and see what they are doing on Twitter. Elana Johnson did a huge Twitter promo for her book Possession using the hashtag #tagged. You could go through the postings with that hashtag to find readers who loved her book, then contact them to review your book.

Amazon & Goodreads

The awesome thing about Amazon and Goodreads is that they link to their reviewers profiles. Some of those reviewers list their websites or blogs. So you can check out books similar to yours and do some research on readers. Find a few who you really like, then send them an email through their website or blog.

Check Out Other Authors

It’s time to go hit the websites for all the big authors who write in your genre. Especially if you know of an author who has a book coming out in the next few months. They often list all the stops on their blog tour. Go check out those reviewers and their guidelines.  (BTW - Keep all this info in your spreadsheet for future reference!)  To find more authors: Go to Amazon.com, type in an author’s name and hit enter, then check out the “Related Searches” results just under the search box.

In Closing

Putting together a good blog tour involves a bit of internet stalking sleuthing.  But it’s totally worth it when you put together a completed list of reviewers from all over. The goal of a blog tour isn’t just to get (hopefully) awesome reviews, but to reach reader circles you currently don’t have connections with. Go for variety! Happy book tour scheduling!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Love Under Construction Announcement and Cover Reveal Sign Up

I've met with my editing team and am so excited to announce that a publication date has been set!  Love Under Construction will be released in September 2015. Only six months away!!!


Even more awesomeness - the cover is "under construction."  LOL.  I couldn't resist.  I've seen an initial draft and it looks fabulous. I'm organizing a cover reveal for May 4th-6th. If you're an avid reader or reviewer with a  blog or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and would like to participate, please sign up here. There will be two fun giveaways - one for anyone who signs up and another for all your followers.

In the meantime, here's the first scene to whet your romance reading appetite.

Love Under Construction by Danyelle Ferguson

The clink of china and chatter of women filled the room at City Hall where the Women in Business’s monthly meeting was well under way. Or at least they were in the middle of the best part—the food. Charlee Jackson smiled at her friend, Rachel Marconi, who sat beside her at the round table, gushing about her new fiancĂ©, Graydon.

“He’s the first guy I met who’s actually interested in conversation that isn’t all about sports, which is shocking considering he was a hockey player,” Rachel said, pushing her auburn hair back over her shoulder. The sparkle from the rock on her hand practically blinded anyone looking directly at it.

“Are you sure he isn’t gay?” Charlee asked playfully.

Kristen, Rachel's business partner and best friend, leaned close and confessed in a whisper, “Oh my gosh. I've caught them making out more than once, and let me tell you, he's definitely not gay. All I can say is steam, baby,” she said, fanning herself.

Poor Rachel's face flushed pink, as she nudged Kristen with her elbow. "TMI, Kristen."

Charlee laughed. “So, have you set a wedding date yet?”

Before Rachel could reply, Marla Belliston called the monthly meeting to order from her coveted spot at the podium. Marla was, as usual, dressed in a perfectly buttoned up, classy suit with her dark hair pulled up in an elegant twist. Charlee fidgeted in her seat, tucked a few pale blonde strands of her short A-line bobbed hair behind her ear, then folded her jean-clad legs to hide her work boots under the table. Not everyone could afford the business suits Marla wore and honestly, working at a desk as an accountant wasn’t Charlee’s idea of fun anyway. Restoring and renovating houses—now that was her idea of perfection. Taking the old, updating it, while keeping the charm of the original structure—pure happiness.

Still, a girl occasionally envies the whole put-together feminine look.

“Before we continue to our program on Community Literacy by our wonderful librarian, Eden Tate, there are a few announcements from our secretary, Victoria Lyons.”

Ah yes, another well put together woman, although not nearly as formal and uppity as Marla. Victoria was actually quite nice and relatable, which was good since she was a Realtor and worked with a variety of people. She often called Charlee when she had clients who needed help getting homes on the market or a buyer who wanted a consult on renovations before submitting an offer. Victoria was smart, savvy, and sassy--a combination that made her not just a good business contact, but a fun friend, too.

Victoria took her place at the wooden podium, dressed in dark pants and a French blue button-down blouse. Trendy, but casual. Her deep red hair was pulled back in a sleek, low pony tail. “Ladies, it’s time to begin our preparations for our annual Autism fundraiser. The committee bantered around several ideas. Generally we do either a charity concert, a dinner and auction, or a golf tournament."

Charlee yawned. It seemed like the same choices every year. They’d raise the money they set as a goal to go towards Autism research, but still, boring.

“This year though,” Victoria continued. “The committee has come up with a twist on the auction theme. Instead of having items and services donated, we are planning a bachelor’s auction.”

Charlee sat up a little straighter. Now this could be interesting. From the gasps and oohs in the room, the rest of the club was eager, too.

Victoria continued. “The committee is still working out the details, but the bachelor’s auction will be six months from now, in June. We need suggestions and contact information for bachelors. There’s a box at the back of the room with slips of paper and pens next to it or you can email me after today’s meeting.”

Several women turned and eyed the box. Charlee could just imagine the wheels turning in their heads, plotting how to get there first and who to nominate for the auction block. They may as well skip the next twenty-five minutes dedicated to community literacy because the women's attention was definitely not on anything other than their top ten local hot guys.

Victoria ran through a few additional business items, which Charlee mostly tuned out while she enjoyed her cheesecake drizzled with fudge sauce. If there was one good thing about Women in Business group, they didn’t scrimp on salads and dainty little foods that barely made a dent in your stomach. Nope, they served good portions and incredible desserts.

“I have one last announcement. City Hall has given approval to go ahead with a new shopping district. A private investor has purchased the homes along Taylor Avenue in Crystal Creek.”

That was Charlee’s grandmother’s neighborhood. Or at least it was before Grandma passed away. Her house was sold at auction last year. Most of the other homes in that area had been sold as well. It was sad to see it go from the neighborhood of her girlhood, filled with laughter and fun, to what it was now—run down and mostly vacant. Even sadder still was the thought of everything being torn down to make a new shopping district. She set her cheesecake aside to pay better attention to Victoria.

“This new shopping district will be unique. The homes will remain intact, although they will be brought up to current code standards and also renovated inside for whichever businesses decide to relocate there. Not only will the neighborhood charm remain, but the investor’s vision is for the shopping to be targeted to women and each store must be local and self-owned. No chains or franchises. The tentative name for the project is Indulgence Row. If you or someone you know might be interested in more information, please contact me. Thank you.”

For the remainder of the meeting, the other women may have been occupied with making a list of bachelors, but all Charlee could think about was the Indulgence Row project. She wondered who the investor was, because he certainly had great vision. The more she thought about the renovations and revitalizing the neighborhood, the more excited she became.

She wanted in.

She wanted to use her talents to bring her Grandmother’s home—and all her old friends’ homes around it—back to something filled with joy and people. People creating memories there again. She wanted to be a part of that.

She would be a part of it.

After the meeting, there was the expected mad dash to the bachelor nomination box. But Charlee headed in the opposite direction toward Victoria, with Rachel and Kristen following her. Eden Tate, the librarian who presented, also joined them at the table.

“Tell me more about Indulgence Row,” Eden said, as she took the chair next to Victoria. 

Victoria talked a little more about the shopping district, feeling each of them out on their interest levels. “Each house will be renovated to fit the business that wants to occupy the space. Do you have someone in mind, Eden?”

“Yes, me," the black-haired, spunky woman replied.

“Oh!” Victoria said. “I didn’t realize you were leaving the library.”

“I’ve always dreamed of owning my own bookstore. Something charming and cozy. Somewhere I could inspire a love of reading, host book clubs, genre spotlight nights, and oh so much more. I’ve been squirreling away bits of money here and there over the years. Once you mentioned Indulgence Row, I knew it was perfect for my shop.”

“Me, too,” Rachel chimed in. “Kristen and I have already talked to you about needing a new space. Our teeny tiny shop just isn’t cutting it, especially after the influx of customers we’ve had since winning the cake challenge. Just imagine the quaint sign hanging from the front of the house. Sweet Confections,” she said, with her hands raised as if framing an imaginary sign.

“Sweet Confections at Indulgence Row,” Charlee chimed in. “That could be part of the branding. Each shop has its name, but followed with ‘at Indulgence Row’.”

“I love it,” replied Victoria, jotting notes in her notepad.

“I totally want in,” Charlee said, leaning forward. “I want to get together to talk specifics and have Elliott Construction put together a bid.”

Victoria put her arm around Eden. “You have all brightened up my day. I’ll contact the investor, then set up a time to meet with each of you. This is going to be an amazing project.”

It will indeed, Charlee thought. Now, she just needed to get her boss on board.

Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.