Off the Map and Upside Down Giveaway with NA author, Lia Riley


Lia and I became CPs when we were finalists in the 2012 Make It Golden contest sponsored by the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. I had the flu, and Lia contacted me to make sure I didn’t miss the deadline for final round submissions. That’s how she rolls, and we’ve been mutual supporters ever since. I’m thrilled to host Lia and her debut novel, UPSIDE DOWN (Off the Map #1).



1. UPSIDE DOWN is set primarily in Australia. What do you think it is about Australia that so captivates people’s imaginations? And why is Australia the perfect place for romance?

I jumped on a Qantas flight the month before my twenty-first birthday for a study-abroad trip. My expectations were simple: cross the equator, pass the International Date Line and rock out (er, study REALLY HARD) for six months. Instead, I discovered a place that has become my second home.

First and foremost, I love Australians. I mean that quite literally. I married one–the perfect souvenir! Generally speaking, Australians excel at dry wit and have one heck of an anti-authoritarian streak. To me, nothing is sexier than a sense of humor, and when the guy making the jokes has a hot accent and cheeky grin?  Life=made!

Secondly, to say that Australia’s landscape is dramatic is an epic understatement. The continent’s isolation has spawned animal, plant and human diversity that are like nowhere else on the planet. Even a quick jaunt into the wilderness yields a bone-deep sense that you are in an ancient place.

This is a country of extremes. When it’s hot, it’s bloody hot. When animals are poisonous, it means they can kill you with one bite. When there’s a storm rolling in from the Southern Ocean? Those waves are going to be huge.

So if you fall in love in such a place? Buckle up–the ride’s going to be intense.

2. What are three words describe your hero? Heroine?

The three words I’d choose for Bran are:

  • Temperamental
  • Perceptive
  • Magnetic

The three words I’d choose for Talia are:

  • Sensitive
  • Playful
  • Self-deprecating

3. Can you describe your book in five words or less? 

Offbeat. Witty. Wanderlust. Heart-searching. Chemistry.

4. What did you do before writing?

Drink less! I kid, I kid. But if you ever want to see a KICKASS Michael Jackson lip-synch, slip me a bottle of tequila. I can “Man in the Mirror” you to tears. I have worked in non-profit middle management, as a legislative assistant, and barista. I’m pretty sure my mom believes I still “pour coffee.”

5. What’s your dream travel destination?

I have a massive Antarctica fetish (I’ve been once. A penguin sat on my lap. Yes, it was bliss). My ultimate trip would be to South Georgia Island smack dab in the Southern Ocean. I’d also love to visit Madagascar, Iceland, Svalbard, Palau…islands are sort of my thing.

upside_downUpside Down by Lia Riley
(Off the Map #1)
Published by: Grand Central
Publication date: August 5th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying goodbye to painful memories—and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll pretend to be a carefree exchange student. Everything is going to plan until she meets a surly surfer with hypnotic green eyes, and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he slunk back to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. A single semester abroad won’t  cover something this serious. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once-in-a-lifetime . . . or if there’s a plane to California with her name on it.

EXCERPT: UPSIDE DOWN (Off the Map #1) by Lia Riley

“Never have I ever worn handcuffs,” I say.

Bran reaches over, yanks the lid off the water bottle and takes a sip.

“Really?” My stomach lurches at the idea of another girl within five feet of him.

“Once. Wasn’t for me. I prefer more control, you know?”

“Nope—not really.” My sex life is shorter than a haiku. I bite my inner cheek and pretend not to notice his gaze slant toward me. “All right, Kink Boy, your turn.”

“Never have I ever done something I regret.”

I giggle but he looks dead serious. “Wow, that must make you alone in the universe.” I take a drink.

“Your smile, it lights up your whole face, but your eyes stay sad.”

Is he being serious or is this yet another bait? “Never have I ever sleepwalked.”

Bran drinks. “When I was eight, my neighbors woke to me in their bedroom. Don’t remember a thing. Lucky they didn’t call the coppers.”

“Whoa, crazy. Do you still do it?”

“Sometimes. Lock your door tonight. Let’s see. . .never have I ever shot a gun.”

I don’t drink.

“Isn’t that Anti-American?”

“I’m a pacifist. Never have I ever kissed in the rain.”

“This is the single most depressing fact I’ve ever heard.” He drinks.

“Hence my sad eyes.”

Traffic starts moving. I hang my hand out the window and hot wind blows through my fingers.



I stiffen. No one ever calls me that except for my mom. “How’d you know my full name?”

“Read the luggage tag on your bag—Natalia Stolfi.”

“Oh, right.” I shake my head and regroup. “Is it true you have no regrets, not even one?” Hopefully he has no idea how serious I am about his response.

“There’s no point.” His fingers tighten infinitesimally on the wheel. “The past is past. End of story.”

“Like whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?”

“No, that’s a dumb ass cliché. I mean there’s no meaning to life, despite what people pretend. Once I figured that out, everything got easier.”

“Has anyone ever said you are intense?”

“Since the day I was born.”

Lia Riley:

Amazon Purchase:

Giveaway ends Mar. 31, 2014:   Prizes – US/CAN only -25$ Amazon Gift Card + Swag pack
(Blitz-wide giveaway is set and managed by publisher, not Jillian Lark or Xpresso Book Tours)
Click here for UPSIDE DOWN  Rafflecopter giveaway

The Golden Heart Part 7: Are You Ready for the Finalists Announcement?

If you’re an unpublished romance writer, finding out you’re one of the Golden Heart finalists is the equivalent of an Oscar nomination. Since December, contestants have waited for the judging results and hoped they will receive “the call,” a contract, fame, and / or fortune.

Past Golden Heart Finalists from Austin RWA

Seated: Jan Hudson Left to Right: Emily McKay,
Katie Graykowski, and Kristin Noel Fischer (Not pictured:
Jane Myers Perrine, Jenna Stuart, and Chris Campillo)

How realistic are those dreams? The talented ladies listed above say there’s no guarantee, but they agree that adding “Golden Heart Finalist” to their subject lines and bios expedited their writing careers. It gave them the validation, confidence, recognition, and boost they needed to obtain representation, receive quick responses to queries and submission packages, sign a contract, pursue self-publication, and / or increase sales.

What advice do they have for Golden Heart finalists? They recommend enjoying the experience and doing your best to balance your family, job, and personal needs. Expect to . . .

1. Be Googled, emailed, interviewed, and envied.
2. Juggle short deadlines for revising, polishing, querying, and pitching multiple projects.
3. Network with other finalists, agents, and editors and increase your online presence.
4. Plan for the July National RWA conference plus the extra events for finalists, the wardrobe (aka awards dress), and an acceptance speech just in case you win the coveted Golden Heart necklace below.

golden_heart png
Jan Hudson’s Golden Heart necklace

What if you aren’t nominated? The past ARWA finalists have more years of experience with that reality. They’re excited about the changes in publishing today that provide opportunities not only for traditional but also for Indie and hybrid careers. Here’s their advice on handling the disappointment of not being a finalist.

1. Embrace it. Wallow in it. But not more than one day.
2. Surround yourself with the support of family, friends, CPs, etc.
3. Congratulate the finalists.
4. Indulge in your favorite comforts.
5. Relax. You have more time for revising, polishing, querying, and pitching.
6. Set new, realistic goals.
7. Keep moving forward. Being published is the end goal, not winning a contest.
8. Write.



Jan Hudson won in the Traditional category and placed second in Long Contemporary in 1986. She sold both manuscripts and later received a RITA nomination for one of them. In 1991 Jan won the RITA for Best Short Contemporary for Step Into My Parlor.

Emily McKay’s Short Contemporary Series manuscript received a nomination in 2001. Two different Harlequin judges requested the full manuscript, and one of them bought it after revisions. In 2013 Emily’s first YA novel, The Farm, won the RITA.

Katie Graykowsi is a two-time Golden Heart finalist for Perfect Summer in 2009 and Place Your Betts in 2013. She’s an Amazon Bestselling Author.

In 2013 Kristin Noel Fischer received a nomination for her Contemporary Series title, Her Soldier Returns. She signed with agent Emily Sylvan Kim in October.

Jane Myers-Perrine was a Golden Heart finalist in the Regency category in 1999. The Welcome Committee of Butternut Creek, the second book in her current series, received a 2013 RITA nomination.

In 2009 Jenna Stuart was nominated in the Historical Romance category. She loves all things chocolate and most things Scottish.

Chris Campillo’s Contemporary Single Title, Sail Away, received a Golden Heart nomination in 2011. Her manuscripts have won multiple awards.


The Golden Heart Part 1: Judging Contests by guest blogger, Jody Wallace
The Golden Heart Part 2: Entering the Contest
The Golden Heart Part 3: T’is the Season to Sparkle and Shine
The Golden Heart Part 4: Sliding Across the Finish Line with Your Synopsis
The Golden Heart Part 5: Here Come the Judges
The Golden Heart Part 6: What Do the Judges’ Scores Look Like?

Happy Spring Break!


Masquerade Celebrations: Victorian Style

Were 19th century masked balls similar to the revelry of Mardi Gras? You be the judge.

masqueradeAt the Masquerade by Charles Hermans (1839-1924)

From 1842 to 1851, Queen Victoria hosted three masked or costumed balls, which inspired Society to continue the tradition of wearing costumes. Wealthy Victorians attended bal masques and posed for “fancy-portraits” dressed as popular or historical figures.

In Twice Round the Clock: Or, the Hours of the Day and Night in London (1862), George Augusta Sala described masquerades as “very expensive.” A gentleman might spend as much as £10 for tickets, costumes or evening dress, supper, wine, champagne, bouquet, and assorted refreshments for his companion and himself. That amount would be the equivalent of $868 in U.S. currency today.

Newspapers reported the antics occurring at masquerades. In 1864 The Times detailed the trial of Mr. Caldwell, proprietor of the Assembly Rooms on Dean Street. He was fined for holding two simultaneous masked balls, one for respectable persons and the other not. Police observed about thirty known prostitutes at the latter. The Marquess de Lusignan became a topic of gossip when the electric apparatus hidden in his “Rigoletto” costume hump malfunctioned at a masquerade in 1885. After shaking hands and shocking other guests, the wires leading to his feet and hands tangled causing him to jerk wildly and collapse to the floor from the electric jolt. Despite rampant reports of orgies and other degenerate behaviors, one New York sociologist declared that masked balls were “dull affairs.” After most guests left around midnight, the only people who remained were management, catering staff, and drunks being removed by policemen.


Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion by Helen Rappaport

National Portrait Gallery post “Victorian Masquerade”

Twice Round the Clock: Or, the Hours of the Day and Night in London by George Augusta Sala

The Times, London, 31 December 1864 excerpt at the Dictionary of Victorian London

Edinburgh Evening News Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland 30 April 1885

New York Times Feb. 27, 1885


Children’s Birthday Celebrations: Victorian Style