Tag Archive for Karen Stivali

Double Finalist in the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Contest!

 

I’m very excited to announce that I’m a double finalist in the RWA First Coast Romance Writer’s NERFA contest! LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON made the final round in the single contemporary romance category and DECADENCE made the final round in the novella category. For the full list of finalists, you can click here. Very proud to be in such excellent company!

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FREE READ! A Christmas excerpt from Meant To Be

There is a Christmas chapter in MEANT TO BE that captures the spirit of Christmas and the budding friendship between the main characters, Daniel and Marienne. It’s always been one of my favorite scenes in the book and that’s why I’ve decided to share it as my holiday gift to all of you.  To read the story, CHRISTMAS COOKIES, click here.

To read the rest of Daniel and Marienne’s story you can purchase Meant To Be and its sequel Holding On at most major book retailers.

Amazon     Barnes&Noble     AllRomance     TurquoiseMorning

(And if the read makes you hungry for the cookies, click on the various recipe links throughout my blog so you can make some of the recipes mentioned on the pages of Daniel and Marienne’s Christmas tale.)

Happy Holidays!

xoxo

Karen

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Now Available in Paperback!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEANT TO BE and its sequel HOLDING ON are now both available in paperback! You can purchase copies at most major online book retailers.

Amazon   Barnes & Noble Turquoise Morning Press

Reviews/Quotes:

“The characters are charismatic, their fears and trust issues are palpable, the lust is like molten lava…hot and dangerous, and the love is so darn endearing that it will make you sigh with pleasure.” ~BlackRavens Reviews 5 stars; Recommended Read

“I don’t know if there is a ‘talented writers gene’ that sets some apart from others; but if there is, then Karen Stivali has it. If you want to read a book that will make you grin, laugh, love, forgive, understand, and lust, then I highly recommend Holding On.” ~Literati Literature Lovers 5 or 5 stars

I love when I read a sequel and like it as much as the first one. I couldn’t have asked for a better story for Marienne and Daniel to show what it’s like after the Happily Ever After ending at the end of Meant to Be. The beauty of this story is the way the author develops her characters and their relationships and gives you a true sense of how people would react and interact. Karen Stivali is a superb writer in contemporary romance.” ~Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews 5 of 5 stars; A True Gem

“Sigh. That’s what I always feel like doing after reading one of Miz Stivali’s novels. I just want to sit here, with my hand over my heart, and sigh. And smile. Because there is something so innately sweet and heartfelt about her characters and their love. I loved Marienne and Daniel in Meant to Be and I think I may love them even more in Holding On.” ~Romantic Book Affairs

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Coming 12/12/12 – FELT TIPS – The Erotic Office Supply Anthology!

You’ve probably been hearing rumors for over a year now, well they’re finally coming true. FELT TIPS, the world’s first office supply themed erotic anthology for charity will finally be available to the public!  This collection of erotic short stories is edited by Tiffany Reisz and contains steamy, lusty, office-supply filled tales penned by an incredible collection of authors. All profits will go toward charities that provide school supplies to underprivileged children and work clothes for adults looking to re-enter the work force. Want some quick, hot reads? This is the place to find them! To check out all the stories including my naughy short, HARD AT WORK, be on the lookout for info on where to purchase FELT TIPS. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at the cover. Enjoy!

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Cover reveal for THEN, AGAIN – Coming May 2013 from Samhain Publishing!

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my upcoming contemporary romance THEN, AGAIN which will release from Samhain Publishing in May 2013. Stay tuned for the blurb and further details of this romantic beach story!

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Losing My Romanticon Virginity–Ellora’s Cave Style!

The Karens at Meet and Greet

A wise friend recently told me that he didn’t like to use the word “losing” in regard to virginity as losing implies something you accidentally no longer have whereas, in good situations, virginity is something that is actually given away freely. That certainly applies to my virgin status at Romanticon. I’ll admit, much like when I “lost” my actual virginity, I thought I knew what to expect, but in reality I didn’t have a clue. I figured it would be fun—most conferences are at least a little fun—and I knew I’d get the chance to meet a lot of people who I’ve been chatting with online for a long time, which is always great—but I still had no real concept of what my first Romanticon experience would  be like.

I have a very vivid imagination. It comes in handy a lot. When I’m bored. When I’m planning a party. Certainly when I write. Even my imagination couldn’t have come up with a more fabulous experience than the one I actually had at Romanticon this year.  Not even close. Best. Deflowering. Ever.

The Karens with new Alpha Caveman, Nick!

Some of you may know that in addition to my general tendency to worry about travel (I hate flying and it often wreaks havoc with my ears) and others may know that I’m currently being treated for Lyme Disease (which means I have to be on an annoyingly strict sugar free and gluten free diet for the duration of treatment and means that I have fluctuating bouts of flu-like symptoms and joint pain as my body heals). None of that is conducive to traveling, so I had some legitimate concerns.

I shipped a bunch of things ahead (swag, costumes and food I can actually eat). I arrived in Canton after 11pm on Wednesday night and shot an email to Valerie Plucinski around midnight, just telling her I’d arrived and asking where I should go to pick up my boxes in the morning. Within fifteen minutes I heard a knock at my hotel room door and opened it to find Val, in her PJs wheeling a dolly with my two boxes. She didn’t want to risk me going hungry overnight so she brought the packages straight to my room. Val is awesomeness embodied. That is literally one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me (thank you, Val!) and it got Romanticon off to the most positive start I could imagine.

One of my favorite things about all conferences is that I attend them with Karen Booth, my amazing critique partner, sometimes co-author and frequent anthology buddy. Not only is Karen B tall, blonde and blue-eyed while I’m short, brunette and green-eyed, but she’s a Southern belle while I’m a Northern gal, so we don’t get to see each other too often. The twice a year conferences we’ve gone to have doubled as our girls’ getaways.

Northern gals heating up Book Fair!

Karen and I started this getaway the night we arrived. I’d traveled with the lovely Frances Stockton (a fellow Northern gal) and we three shared a limo from Cleveland to the McKinley Grand. I think our driver was a bit intrigued to hear that he had a car full of romance authors. No sooner did we arrive than we met two authors I’ve “known” online but had never had the pleasure of meeting in person—the fabulous Sidney Bristol and Voirey Linger. Karen and I both share two publishers with Sid and Voirey, Ellora’s Cave and Turquoise Morning Press, so it was doubly awesome to finally spend some face (and boob) time with these wonderful women.

Sid and Sasha

The next morning Karen and I woke early and met up with the lovely Sabrina York. A fellow special-needs diet writer, Sabrina had rented a car and graciously offered to take us on a field trip to buy some gluten free food. Loaded up with apples, cheese, gluten free bread and some new mascara (hey, I have other needs, you know) we returned to the hotel and wound up having a lovely lunch chat with Kelli Collins. Karen and I had had the pleasure of briefly meeting Kelli at the RT Booklovers convention in Chicago six months ago. We were about to introduce ourselves again but that wasn’t necessary—somehow Kelli remembered both of us and said our names before we even had the chance. Talk about making authors feel like they matter. I’m in awe of how she manages to know everyone and keep them all straight. It’s just one of many ways that Kelli is an amazing woman.

Karen and Voirey

Karen and I knew that we were going to be signing paper copies of Long-Distance Lovers (our co-written novel and both of our first full length novels to appear in print). What we didn’t know was that our handsome hunk of a cover model was none other than newly crowned Alpha Caveman Nick. That night at the meet and greet we not only had the undeniable pleasure of watching Nick move (and I don’t think anyone can disagree that watching Nick move is pleasurable) but we got to meet and chat with him. He’s as sweet and charming as he is fun to look at. It’s no surprise that he’s from Dallas, the land of handsome, sexy Southern gentlemen. In fact it’s no surprise that a full 1/3 of the Cavemen hail from Texas. Is it something in the water there? And if it is, can someone ship some of it up North for us, please?

The Karens with Nick

I can’t possibly name everyone I got to talk to that night, but a definite highlight was that Karen and I finally got to meet our crazy-cool editor, Jillian Bell. It’s so nice to be able to put a visual with the woman who’s helped me edit more sex scenes than I can count—and the woman who offered me my first ever publishing contract (thank you, Jilly!). The rest of the evening was spent laughing, chatting and posing with Cavemen (one nicer and hotter than the next) and other amazing authors.

The Karens and Jilly being photo bombed!

Karen and I had been looking forward to seeing super-sexy Sasha Devlin again (we’d met at the RT Convention) and she was even sweeter and funnier than we remembered. We were also thrilled to finally get to meet Piper Trace, who is somehow even sexier and more hilarious in person than she is on Twitter. The four of us closed down the bar that night analyzing plot ideas, dissecting storylines, and comparing sexy boobs and sexy butts—just a normal Thursday night, right?

Sasha and Piper, all chromed up

Everything beyond that night has become a blur of busyness. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners with more fabulous authors and fans than I can possibly recount. Dancing ‘til all hours. Laughing so hard I’m amazed I never snorted anything out my nose. I got to take a lap dancing class with Shoshanna Evers and Cait Miller. I met the supremely sexy Syneca, who has designed all three of my smexy EC covers. I’d be bragging and name-dropping if I listed all the other fabulous people I got to meet—suffice to say there was awesomeness everywhere and I enjoyed chatting with everyone more than I can say.

Syneca with the super cover she made for us!

The Karens glammed up for the Last Dance!

Among the highlights of the conference were the insanely well-choreographed dance performances by the ever-talented Cavemen, the themed evenings where everyone was decked out in spectacular costumes and stunning outfits, the awards ceremony and incredibly touching tribute to the beloved Angelo and the book fair.

Book fair was nothing short of incredible. To see an enormous ballroom crammed full of readers who were there because they read and love our books was extraordinary. I get a lot of questions from people about the content of my books. In addition to writing erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave I write contemporary romance for Samhain and sexy women’s fiction for Turquoise Morning Press. There are two things all of my books have in common, they’re all love stories, and they all have sexual content. It’s how I write, it’s what I write and I’m proud of that.

I write about relationships and I try to keep my stories as realistic as possible….and real people in relationships have sex, so it’s in my books. It’s that simple. I never want to offend anyone with the content of any of my stories, but I so often feel like I’m being judged for what I write. Not how well I write it, but the fact that I “go there”. There’s no closed-door sex in my books. It saddens me that some people look down at that.

Being at the book fair at Romanticon I had to laugh because there were readers who stopped and asked “So, what are your books about?” and when I told them they were sweet love stories with steamy sex some of them said “Okay, I prefer the kinkier stuff, but my friend here likes your kind of stuff.” Instead of feeling bad, Ellora’s Cave makes you feel good (about being a little bad). That’s invaluable.

There were a few stand-out moments for me during the signing. Signing the first paper copies of my book Long-Distance Lovers and sending readers up to get Karen Booth’s autograph on it too. Having my kickass cover model Nick stop by and sign copies for me. Being told by a reader that she’d read everything I’ve written and wanted to buy the paper copy anyway. And, the most unexpected highlight, having a reader stop by and tell me that when she saw my name on the list of authors in attendance she was so excited because she’d loved my (recently released) women’s fiction, Meant To Be, and couldn’t wait for the sequel. I’m so happy that I got to speak with her and sign a cover flat for Marry Me for her. I worry about reader reaction to my writing in different genres and having someone appreciate both kinds of stories was so validating. (Thank you, Eileen, you made my day!)

Photo shoot with sexy Cavemen!

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the photo shoots. Dear God, the photo shoots. When I read in the program that there were photo shoots I assumed that meant we’d get to watch while the Cavemen posed for cover shots. I had no idea they’d be posing with the conference attendees. I am notoriously reluctant to have my picture taken, ever, under any circumstances, but this conference was such a safe, encouraging, empowering atmosphere that even camera-shy me stepped out (way out) of my comfort zone and I did a shoot. I was lucky enough to have Nick there to talk me through and,with Rodney in my line of sight laughing and telling me “you’ve got this”, I managed to giggle my way through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of comfort zones. I love to dance and haven’t been able to for months (see above Lyme disease woes) but the music and surroundings at Romanticon were too enticing to ignore so I wound up on the dance floor every night. As much as I enjoy dancing I’ve never been a lap dance lover (no pun intended, well, okay, maybe a little bit of a pun intended) and I’ve certainly never been one to bump and grind with men I don’t know. Once again the safe, warm ambiance of this conference changed all that.

How much sweeter can these guys be?

I’ve been asked by several people who’ve seen the photos from Romanticon “Wow, what went on there?”, “Don’t people’s husbands mind?”, even “How could you do that?” I wish I had an answer eloquent enough to do justice to an explanation. Writing is fun and we all do it because we love it, but writing is also hard, stressful, never-ending work. You’re never “done” with any project, there’s still editing, or promoting, or waiting for reviews, or responding to comments, or blogging. It’s an amazing, fantastical job, but it’s still a job. We Ellora’s Cave authors write (amazing, steamy, mind-blowing sex). A lot. We spend a good deal of our time creating characters and exploring their sexuality. Well, guess what? We get to be sexy ourselves once in a while. Besides which, we’re a damn smart group of women and if we were doing anything shameful or inappropriate we sure as hell wouldn’t do it in a room with a few hundred people who are all holding cameras.

Anyone who thinks that Romanticon is sleazy or slutty clearly hasn’t attended the conference. There’s nothing wrong with a talented group of women, a sexy bunch of avid readers and a dozen to-die-for cover models spending a few days celebrating, laughing, talking, dancing and having an overall blast together. Did I get a lap dance from Caveman? Hell, yes. First one of my life. And it was more fun than I could have imagined. Not just because my dancer, Nick, has an awesome body and moves to match, but because I was comfortable doing it—something I never would have imagined possible.

Sexy? Yes.

Nervous? No.

What’s the difference between this and going to any old strip club? Tons of things. Less stripping, for one—these were men in pants (pants they looked super sexy in, but pants nonetheless). These also weren’t strangers. My lap dance came from someone I’d talked with several times (not to mention that he’s my cover model). It wasn’t threatening—there was a clear level of respect. I was surrounded by people who were being supportive (hell, I was pushed into the chair) and didn’t for one second feel like I was being judged or doing anything in the slightest bit wrong or inappropriate. It was just another let-your-hair-down, live-a-little moment.

I don’t get enough of those in my everyday life where I have a million responsibilities on top of all my writing commitments.

I’m beyond thankful to Romanticon, its planners and its attendees for giving me the opportunity to pack so many wonderful new experiences into a few short days. I left with new friends, incredible memories and feeling more relaxed and revived than I’ve felt in a long time. Priceless.

 

I don’t know who’s giggling more, me or Karen B as she takes pics!

Until next year….Cheers! And here’s some more random awesomeness in case you haven’t seen enough.

 

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Meant To Be is NOW AVAILABLE!

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Meant To Be, my first full length work of women’s fiction, for two years. Well, it’s finally available! Digital copies can be purchased now and print copies will be available within 4-6 weeks.

Buy now at the following retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords 

AllRomanceEbooks

TurquoiseMorningPress

 

Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.

When NYU professor Daniel Gardner’s career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it’s a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.

 

Want a sneak peek at an excerpt? Here you go!

 

Chapter One

Marienne watched as Daniel grabbed a bottle of Coke out of her fridge.

He unscrewed the cap and took a drink. “It’s quite difficult to understand American slang when English isn’t your native tongue.”

He continued speaking but Marienne’s mind was caught on the words native tongue. Or, more specifically, tongue. More precisely still, Daniel’s tongue. She’d always loved the sound of his voice, the expressiveness of his choice of words, but sometimes she just enjoyed watching his mouth. This was one of those times. She studied his tongue as it moved to form his words, as it licked his lips when he paused to think, as it pressed against the Coke bottle when he drank. Heat prickled through her.

Is it hot in here or is it him? She was unable to focus on the thought as once again she was mesmerized. Now it was curved upward, pressing against the back of his top teeth as he looked at her, eyes narrowed.

“Are you all right?” he asked. The concern in his voice caught her attention as did the puzzled look on his face.

“What?” She no longer remembered what they’d been discussing.

“You’re not listening to a word I say, and that’s not like you. I’ve been speaking total gibberish and you didn’t even react. Are you okay? You’re all flushed.”

She tried to think of a way to explain to her best friend that she’d been too busy obsessing to concentrate. He’s divorced. Frank’s gone. Maybe I should. Her heart galloped.

He leaned over and felt her forehead. She held her breath, dizzy from his touch. She wanted to scoot forward and kiss him, hard, on the lips, but didn’t dare to move. Thoughts of the kiss, and his tongue, flashed through her mind.

“You’re really warm.” His hand trailed to her cheek, flipping over so he could assess her with the back of his fingers. They felt cool and silky along the contours of her face and she pressed against them.

His brow furrowed. “You’ve got a fever.”

What? Her hand flew to her forehead. “Shit,” she said, as even she could feel the burning warmth.

He grabbed a glass from her cupboard and held it beneath the ice dispenser. The crystal chunks tumbled into it. “You must have finally caught whatever Ella had last weekend.” He filled it with water and handed it to her.

“Oh, God. You’re right.” Ella had come home sick from preschool three days ago and that was the standard grace period Marienne usually got before catching things from her daughter. She rested her head on the kitchen table.

****

Daniel smiled at Marienne’s whining; she was acting like Ella.

“Drink your water.” He opened another cabinet and reached for the Tylenol. He shook out two and returned the bottle to the top shelf.

“Here.” He rubbed his knuckles against the top of her hand. “Take these.”

She groaned.

“Take them.” He nudged a second time. Heat radiated from her skin. Enticing. Alluring. He shuddered, trying to shake the thoughts from his mind. “Come on now, be a good girl.”

She sat up and scowled. He smiled and dropped the tablets into her upturned hand. The backs of his fingers grazed her palm and a tingling flush rippled through him.

She stared at him, eyes defiant, then popped the pills into her mouth and took a sip of water. She flipped her head back and swallowed hard, an action that caused Daniel to gulp as well. He wanted nothing more than to swoop down and kiss her with total abandon, to feel her overheated body, to be immersed inside her.

He said the only words he could think: “Let’s get you up to bed.”

****

Four Years Earlier

Daniel Gardner hated being late. It seemed disrespectful. Like other people’s time wasn’t as important as his. He willed the train to move faster, but to his dismay it slowed to a stop. A collective groan rose from the passengers. He peered out the window. He could see the station right up ahead. What the bloody hell….

The conductor’s voice came over the PA system. “This is New Jersey Transit. Sorry folks, there’s a problem with the tracks. We should be arriving at New Brunswick station in just a few minutes.”

Daniel raked his hand through his hair. Bugger. He was already running late because so many students had questions after class. It was to be expected as it was only the first week of NYU’s summer session. He’d stayed to answer every question and had missed the earlier train by an annoying two minutes.

Normally he wouldn’t have minded, much. He’d have sat and read while waiting for the next train. His wife, Justine, was hardly ever around these days, no matter what time he got home. The grand opening of her women’s spa was only a week away, and she spent practically every waking hour there. Tonight, however, Daniel had someplace he wanted to go.

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I’m going on a blog tour!

 

I’ll be doing a virtual book tour for Meant To Be during the first week of October. Stay tuned for a list of blogs where I’ll be guest blogging and offering prizes!

 

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Foreign Affairs – Karen Stivali Featured in New Anthology

 

Are you a sucker for a sweet guy with a sexy foreign accent? If you are, then Foreign Affairs is sure to please. This anthology is a collection of six romantic short stories that feature foreign men at their charming finest.  My story, All I Need, is a prequel to my novel Meant To Be. Want a glimpse at Daniel in his younger days? Then you won’t want to miss FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Available digitally and in print in August 2012—stay tuned for details.

 

 

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Marry Me (Now available!)

I’m so excited to announce that MARRY ME is available as of June 1, 2012. You can purchase it at any of the following places: Amazon, Ellora’s Cave, Barnes and Noble, or AllRomance. Here’s another look at the cover and the blurb. Scroll down to read a quick excerpt so you can finally meet Julia and Ben!

When British drummer Ben Davis lost his childhood sweetheart, he was certain he’d never love again. He focuses on music as his band rises to stardom. A never-ending stream of groupies satisfies his needs until he meets intriguing clothing designer Julia Jones.

Julia’s career rocketed from seamstress to up-and-coming designer for the A-list, but her personal life didn’t fare as well. Her last boyfriend crossed from controlling to violent and she vowed never to be in that position again.

Sparks fly the instant Ben and Julia meet, but she resists his intoxicating charms, certain a celebrity romance will bring only trouble. But before long the heat between them becomes undeniable and she allows him into her bed and her heart. The more in love Ben falls, the more he fears losing her. When Julia’s life is endangered, Ben’s reaction terrifies her, forcing them both to confront their biggest fears if they want a chance at a future together.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

“Marry me, Julia.”

Julia smirked, trying not to prick herself as she pinned the cuff of Ben’s trousers. “No. Now hold still before I have to redo this.”

He shifted, coming dangerously close to falling off the platform where he stood. “Why not?”

His voice alone was almost enough to make her say yes—crooning and velvety and unmistakably British, her biggest weakness. “How about because we’ve never even been on a date?”

“Is that all?” He let his hands smack against his legs. “Well then have drinks with me.”

“No.” She couldn’t keep the smile from creeping back across her face.

He was unbearably handsome. Over six feet of pure seduction. Long, muscular legs, impossibly slim hips, broad, smooth chest, a face that could have been chiseled out of stone, all topped off with a mop of blond hair that was begging to be touched. This was the third fitting he’d had with her over the past three months—the first two for concerts for his band’s Northeast tour and this one for a photo shoot with GQ. She knew every inch of his perfect body. Well, nearly every inch. Her gaze drifted up toward his crotch, a tempting few inches from her face. A heated flush swept across her cheeks as she realized what she was doing. Jesus, Jules, be a little professional, would you?

“How about a burrito?” he asked.

“What?” The twinkle in his blue-gray eyes was unmistakable. Dammit, he can tell he’s wearing me down.

“I’m in the mood for Mexican. Come with me.”

The way the last words purred out of him almost made her fall over.

A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “It’s just a burrito. Something smaller, perhaps, if you feel a burrito is too much of a commitment. Maybe just some chips and salsa?”

Say no, say no. “Fine,” she said, unable to control the electricity that zipped through her when he grinned. Heartbreak, here I come.

 

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