If you don't enter, don't complain!

This is the letter I sent to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Board in December 2013, expressing my dismay that the YA category of the RITA was canceled last year. Many thanks to YA author and RWA Director-at-Large Lucy Connors/Alyssa Day for forwarding it to the Board for me. The letter is verbatim except for explanatory additions in [brackets].

The rules have been tweaked for this year, making it a little easier for the YA category to make (we need 50 entries rather than 100). I have noted this change in brackets. The fact remains that if YA authors want our category to make, we have to enter quickly.

I am not dissing on RWA or the RITAs in any way. I am speaking up within an organization I love and support, because that is what you do in an organization you love and support.

If you are a pubbed YA author and want the category to make, 1) enter and 2) tell your friends to enter. If you are pre-published, you can still help by encouraging YA folks to enter. Believe me, you want this category around when you do get published.

Here's the link to enter.

* * * * *

I have entered the RITA every year I have been eligible--that's all but one--since 2006. That year, the YA category was canceled, as it had been for many years prior. I knew going into the contest that the category would probably be canceled again, and that the secondary category I picked was as important as entering. I felt like a second-class member of RWA, even though all I have ever published or wanted to publish was romance.

Incidentally, Barb [Caridad Ferrer] won contemp that year for a YA book. With a really fantastic novel, of course anything is possible. But, as I'm sure you remember, there was also a lot of grumbling within RWA that books should not be allowed to switch categories. I certainly see that--if you set the parameters for a category, it doesn't make a lot of sense to change them just because your contest is not working correctly.

More recently, RWA has really embraced YA, and thanks to Rosemary [Clement-Moore] we have a YA chapter [YARWA]. YA authors have been a huge part of RWA and the RITA ceremony--as evidenced by Simone [Elkeles] being picked as the 2014 emcee. It is really a shame that the YA category has been canceled once again, and I foresee us returning to last decade when the category almost never made.

Some people on Twitter have opined that the demise of the category came because the rules have been refined so that a book must be a romance. I actually don't have any problem with this--romance is what RWA was formed to support, after all. But whether or not this rule change had an impact, the cards are stacked against the YA category like never before, and here's why:

-Self-published books are now allowed in the RITA.

-If I'm not mistaken (I don't see anything about this in the rules), there's no limit on how many books one author can enter.

-YA is a category that has NOT taken off in the self-published and small press world. Readers are buying New Adult and other romance categories electronically, but YA not so much. Ask editors at the major houses and they will tell you that print books and bookstore shelf space are still way more important in this sector of romance than in others.

-The way the contest is set up, the first 2000 entries are accepted no matter what. The checks and balances formerly imposed by the publishing industry--they could only put out so many books in each category--are gone now. So you could have a rush of self-published books in one category--this year I imagine it is contemporary, but another year maybe it will be something else. They can take up all the available slots in the RITAs without leaving space for the 100 [now 50] entries necessary for the YA category to make.

The best thing that ever happened to my publishing career was finaling in the RITA. Having your category always on the verge of not making is really demoralizing, let me tell you, especially when I have "grown up" through RWA and see myself as a romance author through and through.

I understand that RWA needs to reevaluate the RITA categories periodically to make sure they reflect what's currently going on in the publishing industry. To me, taking stock of what's being published and what's being entered in the categories--BEFORE the rules are set for the year--makes a lot more sense than announcing a category, appearing to support it, and then canceling it because of the way the contest is set up and what people are entering in other categories. Either have a category or don't.

Thanks for listening. I have the greatest respect for the Board and all the time you guys volunteer for an organization you believe in, and I have confidence you will take another look at the RITAs and do the right thing.

Major milestone

I've published 13 books with Simon & Schuster, but I've never had a photoshoot--until now! In the past, the publisher has created my covers using stock photos, or Amy Saidens drew adorable cartoons back when that was the fashion. This time I'm writing the Superlatives series of three YA romantic comedies--BIGGEST FLIRTS (coming May 20), PERFECT COUPLE (January 13, 2015), and MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED (August 4, 2015)--and the folks at Simon Pulse decided to pull out the stops for the covers. They conducted a model search to cast my main characters, brought in lots of wardrobe options, and even rented lockers for the background.

If you've visited my web page recently, you've seen the adorable result for BIGGEST FLIRTS. Now I've received the cover for PERFECT COUPLE, too. Here they are, side by side:


The titles of each will have "glossing," meaning the publisher is paying a little extra for the words to stand out from the photo like they were painted on.

And here's how both books will look together on store shelves:


Y'all, I am beside myself with joy--not just because the end result is so beautiful, but also because these images really reflect the fun, flirty stories readers will find inside. In other words, I encourage you to judge these books by their covers. Many thanks to the talented lady who designed these and the covers of so many hit YAs recently, Regina Flath.

I hear the covers were shot for PERFECT COUPLE and MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED on the same day. Now we're just waiting for Regina to put the last package together. I can't wait to see...


dirtylittlesecretH518"Taylor Swift fans are sure to go for Echols’s latest, a countrified romance with stand-out characters.”— RT Book Reviews

"Energetic music scenes with girly jealousy, self-doubt, and revelations from a likable, relatable protagonist” – Publishers Weekly

From the author of the “real page-turner” (Seventeen) Such a Rush comes an unforgettable new drama that follows friends-turned-lovers as they navigate the passions, heartbreaks, and intrigue of country music fame.

I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister Julie was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam...

Sam’s got big plans that don’t include playing back-up while his alcoholic dad scratches out a living as a Johnny Cash sound-alike. He intends to take his high school garage band to the big time, and as soon as he hears Bailey play, he knows she’s just what he wants. That really ticks off Charlotte, the drummer for the band and Sam’s ex-girlfriend, while bass guitarist Ace just wants to keep everyone happy.

Bailey isn’t at all sure where she stands with this boy who has a lust for music and life, and who may or may not have a lust for her. Something tells her that with Sam, there could always be a catch. And yet, suddenly, her life is no longer about what might have been, and a whole lot about where she will choose to go.

Available now from MTV Books/Gallery, a division of Simon & Schuster.

♥ Order the hardcover from Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or IndieBound

ISBN-10: 1451658036; ISBN-13: 9781451658033.

♥ Order the e-book from Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Amazon, or iTunes

ISBN-10: 1451658060; ISBN-13: 9781451658064.


Yes, finally, it's my New Adult paranormal romantic comedy, better known as The Book I Love So Much That I Will Just Die If It Doesn't Sell! Good thing it sold.

llv_finalFrom the award-winning, wildly popular author of Such a Rush and Going Too Far comes a fun and sexy original eBook romantic comedy with a paranormal twist.

Twenty-one-year-old showgirl Holly Starr is sick and tired of assisting her dad, a celebrity magician, in his Las Vegas casino magic show. As soon as he keeps his promise to her and shares the secrets to his tricks, she can break out on her own. But can she really make it? For years Holly has taken medication to stave off crazy hallucinations that she can levitate objects. Just when she thinks she’s ready to make a career and a life for herself, her medicine—and her luck—run out.

Elijah Brown suffers from a similar delusion—he thinks he can read minds—and he’s out of medicine too. Determined to save himself and his old flame Holly, he kidnaps her and takes her to a town high in the Rockies where their medicine is made. What they discover there leads them to suspect their powers are not imaginary after all...and neither is the intense attraction they feel for each other.

They make a pact to stick together as they return to Vegas to confront the people who kept them in the dark for so long. But soon they’re pitting their powers against each other in a dangerous world where the nightlife is seductive, domination is addictive, the sex is beyond belief...and falling in love can lead to murder.

An e-book exclusive from Pocket Star, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Order the e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million, or iTunes

ISBN-10: 1476728046; ISBN-13: 9781476728049.


Young adult or teen books usually feature characters no older than 18 or 19, in their first year of college. Heroes and heroines of adult contemporary romance novels are traditionally in their mid-20s or older. New adult books feature the age group in between. The hero and heroine of Levitating Las Vegas are 21-year-olds who recently graduated from college.

Nicole Williams crashes my blog!

I'm so excited to have Nicole Williams on the blog today as part of the Month of Men, a campaign getting the word out about our books as they're released by Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom. Haven't you wondered about the spark that led to Nicole writing these fabulous books? Read on...

Jenn: Tell us about your journey to publication.

Nicole: I wrote my first novel five years ago and, after querying a few dozen agents and getting a lot of rejection letters, I shelved it for a few years. It was a couple of years ago when I first started hearing about self-publishing and began doing some research. After deciding this was the direction I was going to take, I uploaded my book, held my breath, and hit publish. It was terrifying. However, after ETERNAL EDEN started gaining some momentum and I was actually generating a reader following, I continued to write and self-publish. A few books and another year later, CRASH was generating a lot of publisher interest in the UK, and then HarperCollins made their offer in the US. I was thrilled to have a series picked up by a couple of traditional publishers and overall, the experience was very rewarding. I'm thankful for both self and traditional publishing and my goal is to maintain a presence in both worlds.

Jenn: What's the best thing that's happened to you as a result of being published?

Nicole: A couple of things. The first thing would be having a way to get my books on actual book store shelves. That is something I can't do on my own and something I've dreamed of since starting this writing journey. The second thing would be the editing process. I learned so much from my editor and believe it's made me a stronger writer overall.

Jenn: What's the most surprising thing?

Nicole: The stress and long hours! Once CRASH and CLASH were purchased, we were adhering to extremely tight deadlines and there were plenty of nights when I'd get a hundred pages of edits and need to go through them, make changes, comments, etc. and have them back by the next morning. It was intense and I think I lived off of caffeine and stubborn resolve for a couple of months back in the fall.

Jenn: What's the hardest thing about being an author?

Nicole: I always feel like I'm working in a way. My mind never quite shuts off. It's always working on a storyline, or trying to work out a plot twist, or agonizing over a particular sentence. I'm getting better at it, but I still struggle with trying to balance life and career. It's a work in progress.

Jenn: What are some of your favorite New Adult novels?

Nicole: I've got so, so many. I love Steph Campbell's GROUNDING QUINN, Colleen Hoover's SLAMMED series, Tammara Webber's EASY, Abbi Glines' WHILE IT LASTS.

Jenn: What other good books have you read lately?

Nicole: I just started reading BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver and I'm really enjoying it. I love Sophie Jordan's Firelight series, ON THE ISLAND by Travey Garvis-Graves, and I've got a TBR that's insane (including several of the books written by the lovely authors on this tour!). I'd love to take a month long vacation where all I do is relax on a beach and catch up on all of the great books I have yet to read.

Jenn: What's next for you?

Nicole: I'm working on a mature YA/NA book titled, LOST AND FOUND. This is a title I'm self-publishing that will be released on May 7th. It's about a tortured, troubled girl and a sweet, swoony cowboy. It's about self-descovery, moving on from your past, and letting love into your life. It's three parts sweet to one part steam. It's a story I'm very excited to put out into the world! After this, I'm planning on continuing to write stories and characters I fall in love with and can't get out of my head.

For the latest on Nicole's books, visit her blog at nicoleawilliams.blogspotcom!

My next big thing!

This is a series of questions called The Next Big Thing going around the internets. Someone tags you, you answer the questions, and then you tag other authors. It's like a chain letter! I was tagged by my friend Erin Downing, if you read YA romantic comedy, also known as Erin Soderberg, if you like hilarious MG.

llv_final1) What is the working title of your next book?

Levitating Las Vegas! Or, if you've read my blog in years past, before I sold this book, The Book I Love So Much That I Will Just Die If It Doesn't Sell.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Author Diana Peterfreund asked 10 writers to jot down a 500-word scene from the prompt, "A young woman confronts her parents after discovering that she has inherited telekinetic powers." Diana's point was that people should stop accusing authors of stealing other authors' ideas, because there are no new ideas, and 10 authors given exactly the same idea will come up with 10 completely different books. I was apprehensive about writing this scene because I'd never written paranormal, but I thought it worked out great--so great, in fact, that I decided to write a whole book around the idea for my first NaNoWriMo, in 2008.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

That is a very good question. My publisher is saying it's a sexy and fun New Adult romantic comedy with a paranormal twist. I'll take it! New Adult means the characters are between YA-age and adult. In this case, they're 21.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a
movie rendition?

This sort of question always confounds me because I watch so little TV! I don't usually think of my characters as actors like a lot of people seem to. But I do think Miley Cyrus would make an awesome heroine of this book if she would grow her hair back out.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A 21-year-old mind-reader kidnaps his high-school flame to save them both from mysterious forces trying to suppress their powers.

6) Who is publishing your book?

Like all my books, it's published by Simon & Schuster, but this one's with a digital-first arm called Pocket Star.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Thirty days, baby. Did I mention I WON NaNoWriMo?

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It's probably closest to fun paranormals like those by Jeri Smith-Ready and Rosemary Clement-Moore.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Las Vegas inspired me to write this book. I love that town. I have never been anywhere so crazy or seen anything so egregious.

10) What else about the book might pique the readers' interests?

I happen to think that the hero's ability to read the heroine's mind is very, very sexy.

So! I am tagging a wide variety of folks:

The illustrious Rosemary Clement-Moore, whom I mentioned. Her Spirit and Dust is coming out on May 14!

And three local ladies:

The hilarious Naima Simone, who writes incredible erotic romances.

The brilliant Carla Swafford, who writes erotic romantic suspense. I am not making this up.

The lovely Ella Grace, whose Midnight Secrets, set in Midnight, Alabama, is coming out April 30!

STAR CROSSED is in stores now!

Specifically, it is in my Publix, which was a shocker. I was there to buy cat food because we were completely out. While there I always run by the book section to see if any of my friends have new titles out. There I was, and I couldn't have been in better company.

star crossed publixStar Crossed is my first romance for adults. It's a bawdy romantic comedy. I hate to compare it to a successful movie because that seems a little big-headed...but I do think that if you thought the heroine of Bridesmaids was shameless and loose (I am amazed by all the 1-star reviews for this great movie on Netflix!), you probably won't like Star Crossed either, but if you liked Bridesmaids, you might give my book a try, with my thanks.

Star Crossed is...

The first novel in the sizzling new Stargazer series about a public relations firm, the stars they represent, and everything they’d rather keep private.

He said . . . She said.

Publicist Wendy Mann has always competed hotly with her rival Daniel Blackstone, but this time they’re headed for a collision. Wendy’s job is on the line if she doesn’t save the image of a spoiled young starlet who’s posting provocative pictures of herself all over the Internet in a snarky attempt at revenge on her former boyfriend. Daniel is representing the ex, a onetime teen heartthrob who never grew up. With the feuding Hollywood pair scheduled to appear on the same Las Vegas awards show, Daniel and Wendy are determined to do whatever it takes to defend their own clients.

Unfortunately, the chemistry between Wendy and Daniel is even more explosive than that of their Hollywood stars. L-O-V-E was always a four-letter word for these two ultra-competitors; they never counted on the scorching heat that erupts between them. But Wendy’s high-gloss exterior hides a dark past—one that’s lurking behind the bright Vegas lights. Their careers are on the line, and so is Wendy’s life. . . .

starcrossedH518Published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

♥ Order the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or IndieBound

ISBN-10: 1451677758; ISBN-13: 9781451677751.

♥ Order the e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or iTunes

ISBN-10: 1451677774; ISBN-13: 9781451677775.

And don't miss Sarah's story in Book 2 in the Stargazer series, Playing Dirty, in stores October 29!

Starting over.

I have four books coming out with Simon & Schuster this year. If you like countdown clocks, you can snag clocks for three of these books on the bottom left of my web site here. One of them says Star Crossed will be published in 15 days!!! I ought to be freaking out.

But I'm not. I feel like I covered that territory in the last two and a half months, when I swear I had seven deadlines, but I can't even remember now what they all were. The big one was for the manuscript of my YA romantic comedy that's coming out next year. But there was also an outline for the second book in that series, the first pass of Levitating Las Vegas, the copyedit of Dirty Little Secret, maybe the second pass of Star Crossed...I just don't know anymore. I know that it was fun. I know that this was exactly what I wanted all those years when I envied my writer friends who had multiple book contracts and deadlines whizzing by them so fast that they always stayed busy while I was writing two books a year, publishing one, putting the other underneath the bed, and spending most of my work day copyediting articles about nasal polyps. And I know that, in the throes of meeting deadlines while managing Christmas and a child home on break and a holiday dinner for 35 relatives, this got to be a little much.

And now, predictably, I miss it. Don't get me wrong--I have lots to do. I have to go back to contract on almost everything, which means I have to come up with ideas for new books in the Star Crossed and Levitating Las Vegas series, and a completely new book to come after Dirty Little Secret, because none of my YA romantic dramas are series. It's hard to come up with something when you can do absolutely anything. I'm finding the silence a bit deafening.

get-attachment-1.aspxAs Scarlett said, I'll think of that tomorrow. Right now I'm enjoying a bit of languishing. Friday I had lunch with my beautiful lawyer friend, one of my BFFs from high school, who was also a majorette and gave me pointers on The One That I Want. That's just how it works, folks--if you helped me write The One That I Want, you get a free copy of Star Crossed. Yesterday I tried to get my yard back in order after four inches of snow knocked down lots of my sissy Alabama trees. I planted bushes. I also explored Birmingham with my son: a cool hike to an abandoned mine at Ruffner Mountain, coffee at Urban Standard, and American Pickers-style rummaging for treasures at What's on Second. Today I'm cleaning?! and planning family vacations. But I do hope my muse got my message to meet me here for a business meeting tomorrow.


None of my pictures of Ruffner Mountain do it justice. Here we are WAY out in the woods, surrounded by nothing but steep hills, forest, and blue sky, and then there is this gorgeous 15-ton rock crusher. As my son put it, "Nature, la la la, nature, la la la, ROCK CRUSHER."

And these are around the corner from Urban Standard and What's on Second.



  • Current Mood
    recumbent recumbent

The paperback edition of SUCH A RUSH is in stores today!

sucharushH255A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.
High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business--until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers--and the consequences could be deadly.

Published by MTV Books/Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Order the e-book from iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million

ISBN-10: 1451658052; ISBN-13: 978-1451658057.

Order the paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million

ISBN-10: 1451658028; ISBN-13: 978-1451658026.

Order the hardcover from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Powell's, IndieBound, or Walmart

ISBN-10: 145165801X; ISBN-13: 978-1451658019.

The Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit presents Eileen Cook!

securedownloadThe Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit is a web ring of YA authors. Check here for the latest releases!


From the author of Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick, a smart, romantic novel about a teenage con artist who might be in over her head.

Sadie can’t wait to get away from her backwards small town, her delusional mom, her jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised…even though leaving those things behind also means leaving Brendan. Sadie wants a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time.

But when Sadie’s mother wipes out Sadie’s savings, her escape plan is suddenly gone. She needs to come up with a lot of cash—and fast—or she’ll be stuck in this town forever.

With Brendan’s help, she devises a plan—the ultimate con—to get the money. But the more lies Sadie spins, the more she starts falling for her own hoax…and perhaps for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn't prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own deception. With her future at stake and her heart on the line, suddenly it seems like she has a lot more than just money to lose....

Jenn: How does this book fit in with your others? Is it part of a series, unrelated but the same sort of book, or a real departure?

Eileen: This book is not a part of a series, it’s a stand alone contemporary YA. My books are connected (I hope) by being funny and having a theme of searching for identity.

Jenn: What’s the weirdest thing you were doing or the weirdest place you were when you came up with part of this book?

Eileen: The idea for this book came on a ferry. I live in the Pacific Northwest and there are many places you can only get to on a ferry. I was walking around and saw a missing person poster that had an age-enhanced photo. I turned to a friend and commented how weird it would be if you realized you looked like that photo. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew I had a book idea.

Jenn: What good books have you read lately?

Eileen: So many good books, so little time. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl were some of my favorites this year.

Jenn: What’s next for you?

Eileen: Christmas! In addition to copious amounts of Christmas cookies I also plan to be hard at work on my next book. I am working on a new YA which is currently being called LOST TO BE FOUND, but stay tuned--the title may change. It’s about a girl named Avery who decides to search for her birth mom as part of her senior project, but ends up finding out more about herself than she expected.

For more on Eileen's books, visit her at eileencook.com.