Rock Star’s Heart

My book is here! Today is the release day for Rock Star’s Heart — my contemporary romance novel about an ordinary university student who stumbles into an unexpected job on tour with a wildly successful rock band and falls hard for the guitarist. I hope you love reading it as much as I loved writing it.

cover image for Rock Star's Heart

Will it be your cup of tea? Well, it has some sex and swearing, and there are some scenes that involve drug addiction and withdrawal. It was important to me not to romanticize or minimize the devastating effects of hard drug use, so if you’re squeamish about that, read with care.

Want to check out some reviews?

“Rock Star’s Heart by Kella Campbell is a beautiful and gritty rock star romance book! … Blade and Crys, together with their honest banter and sweet-hot connection, made this a great read.” — Luv My Books (click to read Joni’s full review)

ROCK STAR’S HEART by Kella Campbell proves beyond a doubt that,yes, there is room for one more rock star romance and yes, it can have a fresh face, fresh approach and can shine above the rest!” — Tome Tender Book Blog (click to read Dianne’s full review)

“What a fantastic story. Her storyline was compelling and I absolutely loved Blade and Crys as well as the the band and crew.” — The Book Enthusiast (click to read Tami’s full review)

“I’m pleased to say that Rock Star’s Heart didn’t let me down … a solid rock star romance that fans of the trope will enjoy.” — Romance Rehab (click to read the full review)

Looking for links?

Are you an ebook reader?
books2read.com/rockstarsheart
is a universal link, regularly updated with all the current ebook retailers

Paperback editions are currently available at
Amazon US
Amazon UK

I will update this list as necessary; the print editions should be showing up in more countries and on more retailers’ websites soon.

How Steamy, Exactly? Expectations About Sex in Romance Novels

I’ve been a romance reader from the time I was old enough to buy my own books — or, to be honest, from the time I was old enough to convince my dad that I needed a book instead of a comic when he took my two younger brothers and me on an evening “expedition” to Mayfair News (probably to give our mother a break).

Mayfair News was full of newspapers from all over the world, an enormous selection of comic books and magazines, and a wire carousel of romance and suspense novels. There was also a glass-topped freezer chest full of Popsicles and Fudgsicles and Creamsicles and Revellos. I loved those late-night adventures with my dad and brothers; in retrospect, we were probably home for bedtime at nine, but it was dark out.

I’m pretty sure my dad has never read a romance novel, so I’m assuming he had no idea what went on inside those shiny covers with their embossed swirly titles and partially-dressed couples. He probably didn’t even look at the covers too closely, being more interested in The New York Times and The Guardian, and in any case, the comics my brothers chose must have provided some camouflage.

But there was nothing terribly shocking in those old-school romance novels, anyway. Oh, some throbbing members and moist centers, most likely — enough to make a teenage girl blush and giggle. Still, as I recall it, the sex was mostly vanilla and not that big of a deal. I coveted those books for the love stories and the feelings and the drama, and the happily-ever-after endings they guaranteed.

How Steamy, Exactly? Expectations About Sex in Romance Novels

As romance readers, we all want to ride that love story roller coaster and disembark into the warm glow of happily ever after.

But what about our expectations of sex in romance novels?

When you read a romance novel by a new-to-you author, do you go into it with preconceived expectations about how much sex there will be? How explicit/descriptive do you assume the sex scenes will be? How kinky do you expect it to get?

We’re obviously not talking about Christian romance or inspirational romance here. I think everyone recognizes that those are firmly planted in the “sweet” category (where the sex is closed-door, saved for marriage, maybe even saved for an implied honeymoon after the book ends at “you may kiss the bride”). Definitely no whips and handcuffs. I’m sure exceptions to the rule exist, but the general comfort level is clearly defined.

We’re also not talking about erotica, because the expectations there are pretty clearly defined too. There’s nothing wrong with erotica — it is, and has always been, fiction focused on the sexual journey of the protagonist (self-discovery, awakening, exploration, healing, whatever that happens to be). As such, the nature of the genre is explicit and the exploratory nature of it invites boundary-pushing.

So, let’s say the book you pick up is a contemporary romance (I’m thinking about contemporary because that’s where Rock Star’s Heart fits in, but the same question applies if you’re into romantic suspense, paranormal romance, or historical romance). It’s a given that the main characters fall in love and develop emotionally, but what do you expect from the book in terms of sex scenes? Are you disappointed, or do you consider that the book has failed you, if it doesn’t meet those expectations?

I have to admit that I’m a little worried about this, as a writer. Many medium-heat romances (at least, what I’d consider medium-heat) seem to all but carry warning labels letting readers know they won’t be getting a barrage of steamy scenes, while others (that strike me as similar in heat) are labeled 18+ or Adult. One-star reviews for both “too much sex” and “not enough sex” are common, because there’s no standard scale to measure what you’re getting in advance. And everyone has particular words they love to hate, too — clinical and anatomical words, euphemisms, slang terms, and descriptive words that trigger ick rather than yum.

How can I describe the steam factor of Rock Star’s Heart in terms that will mean something to you, the individual reader? There’s sex, but not on every other page, and not till well into the book. It’s not kinky, because these characters didn’t develop that way, but it isn’t all tender and slow either. Body parts and fluids are mentioned on a couple of occasions, but not in, ah, veiny detail. Like Goldilocks and the porridge — is it too hot? Not hot enough? Just right?

Add Rock Star’s Heart to your Goodreads TBR now!

Come chat with me in my Sweethearts group on Facebook!

Book reviewers: ask me about an advance reader copy…

Welcome, 2018! Everything Starts Now…

This is going to be a big year for me. I’m publishing my first book. I’m writing my second book. I’ve got plans to stay on top of this blog and my newsletter and social media too, because it’s time to go all in. 2018 is my year.

Most of all, I don’t want to put things off this year. I don’t want to make choices based on uncertainty and fear. I started the first draft of Rock Star’s Heart ten years ago, and I’ve been finding excuses not to take my shot at this for a decade — but no more of that. It’s time.

My words for 2018 are optimism and courage and joy. I’m going into everything with a positive outlook, believing in the possibilities rather than the pitfalls. I’m still quaking at the giant steps ahead, but I’m not letting that stop me this year. I’m setting out to find moments of joy everywhere I can.

I’m listening to “Could Have Been Me” by The Struts. If you don’t know it, check it out (the song itself starts around 1:20, if you don’t want to watch the mini-film intro). The video has rock stars, and the kind of glamour and decadence I’ve tried to capture in Rock Star’s Heart. The song itself has lyrics that speak to me, about not living as an “untold story” or having to look back with regret on things not attempted.

Let’s have an amazing year together! If you want to be part of my adventure, I’ve got a lovely group of Sweethearts you can join on Facebook (my street team and social group) and you can also sign up for my newsletter. (And if you’re already there, thank you!)

Happy New Year!

The Dreaded Photo Shoot

I’m not someone who avoids cameras. Hey, I’ll even take the occasional selfie for Instagram.

But my last author headshot was over three years old, and… I don’t want to be, you know, the author who walks into an event and has everyone whispering “She looks a lot younger on her Facebook page,” and “Wow, that must be a heck of an old photo on her website!”

Keeping up to date with who I am now is important.

Still, I avoided dealing with the need to update my headshot. Why?

The Dreaded Photo Shoot: author headshots and visual identity

It’s not about getting older. In fact, I deliberately didn’t Photoshop the bits of silver glitter out of my hair.

So, when I heard “Let’s take your new headshot,” why was my gut reaction basically I can’t and I’m bad at this?

Hmm…

My author headshot is part of my visual identity. It’s the first thing you see when we “meet” online. So… I want to look like someone you’d want to know, right? I want to look like someone who writes what you want to read.

Potential Obstacle #1: Does my general appearance fit my visual identity as an author?

Mostly, yes. This isn’t much of an obstacle for me, given a little bit of prep time.

I don’t see my author persona wearing glasses, so I need to have my contact lenses in. I don’t wear makeup every day (I mean, to sit at my desk writing, really?), but it does make me feel more glamorous and professional if I take a minute to put on some eyeliner and mascara and tinted lip gloss before picture-time. I appreciate a chance to fix my hair out of its usual messy bun.

Lots of writers (and people in general) struggle with self-love, and I know how lucky I am not to have deep issues with my appearance — we all have ugh days, but most of the time I’m fine with myself as I am (and I recognize the truckload of privilege that’s built on). I’m also not an intensely private person, but that’s a factor for some authors.

And it’s convenient for me that my pen name and outward appearance match. I imagine the question of author profiles would be complicated for anyone who deliberately chose a gender-neutral pen name or writes as a persona that doesn’t match what shows up in a photo.

So — for me — this isn’t a reason to hesitate over getting an author headshot taken.

Potential Obstacle #2: Do I know what kind of expression I want to convey?

Smiling, or serious? Intent and passionate? Dreamily romantic? Having fun or being silly? All sexy and smouldering? Do I look at the camera, or off into the distance?

So many questions, so many choices. This aspect of getting a headshot taken overwhelms me a bit, to be honest.

Plus, what I think my face is doing doesn’t always translate to what I see in the photos. The corners of my mouth curve downward when I start a smile, leading to weird frowny faces half the time. My full smile looks goofy and shows far too much in the way of teeth and gums. I have an awful tendency to raise my chin, which looks either snotty or defiant or odd, depending on my expression.

This time, I ended up with direct eye contact and a hint of a smile. Good? I think so. I can see myself in the picture saying, “I’m going to get into some heavy stuff occasionally, but it’s really all about love and attraction.”

Making the right faces is a bit of an obstacle for me, but not an insurmountable one. Chin down, medium smile, try to look confident…

Potential Obstable #3: Can I admit to myself — and the photographer — what I want from the photo shoot?

A-ha. There it is. Admitting to anyone that I want to look polished and glamorous, maybe even a little bit sexy? Why is that hard?

My author headshot is not a humblebrag. I shouldn’t need to pretend (to myself, to the photographer, to readers) that I fell out of bed like this. But for some reason, I find it hard to step up to that and take ownership of what I want.

And it’s more than dabbing some concealer on the odd blemish and taking a minute to brush my hair. I want to sparkle in my picture. I want to channel Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. And that feels super vain and arrogant and… if anyone guesses how I’m feeling they’ll think I’m ridiculous, and… maybe I shouldn’t brush sheer glitter on my eyelids and use lip liner so my cherry cola lip gloss really pops…

There it is. That’s my problem. The critical voice saying behave yourself and be modest inside my head is my big obstacle.

So, what worked?

These magic words from my photographer: “You’re creating a persona. Go put on whatever you’d like.”

And… whatever turned out to be a ridiculous low-cut rock and roll t-shirt I found in a garage sale bin and an extreme push-up bra left over from a wedding outfit. You can’t even see it in the picture, but dressing up made me feel like a star.

T.J. Lockwood gets the credit for my author headshot — she patiently took about forty pictures to get one good one. She says: “If you have access to a really good camera, don’t waste it.” She’s a fantastic writer (and all-round creative person with an eye for photography and design), and her first novel, Violent Skies, will be published in September 2017 by Filidh Publishing. If you’re into science fiction, you should definitely give her a like on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Having *That* Conversation: When Good Friends Reject Indie Publishing

Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe not.

Yesterday, I made it official (well, as official as these things get) — I posted on Twitter and Facebook about my commitment to indie publish my novel Rock Star’s Heart in 2018.

And yesterday, I had *that* conversation again. Maybe you know the one. A good friend said he “just can’t” when it comes to reading “self‑published” books (he won’t call them indie).

“So, ah, I shouldn’t bother then?” I asked. Well… he thinks I should send my manuscript to a real publisher. He thinks it’s good enough. Otherwise, my book will just be a raisin in a bowl of rat poop.

Image of a ripped heart — Having *That* Conversation: When Good Friends Reject Indie Publishing

I’ve never thought about it as a question of “good enough” — the decision whether to choose indie publishing or traditional publishing for that first book is multifaceted and hard to make, and I’ve looked at all the different reasons to go one way or the other. Ultimately, right now and for this particular book, I want the hands-on control of my own project. After all, I do e-book production, I’ve been involved with a small press, I’ve purchased cover art for other projects… it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing.

And here’s a good friend, a dear friend, telling me that I need to sacrifice control and royalties to get external validation from a publisher — or he and a vast army of people like him won’t even consider my book.

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, you probably have people like my friend in your life. The ones who probably also say “I only read award-winners” or “I only read New York Times bestsellers” — “I have to be selective” is a common refrain in *that* conversation; “my reading time is precious.”

It’s a tough conversation, because there you are, trying to reconcile all your trust and warm friendship feelings with stunned disbelief. Your point of view is not being heard. Your feelings, and intelligence, are not being considered. Books — maybe some of your favorite books, maybe your friends’ books, and potentially your own books — are being compared to rat poop. And the person you’re talking to is saying this with love, and genuinely wants to save you from wasting your time reading indie books or contaminating yourself by publishing them.

Rationally, I know there’s no point in arguing that there are high-quality indie books being published, or that I have several solid reasons to go indie myself. When someone’s mind is already made up about indie publishing, debating it only prolongs the pain.

So here are the five things I try to hold in my mind when *that* conversation pops up:

  • This person cares about me and means well, but that doesn’t equal being right.
  • I am not a child who needs to be taught the difference between “good” books and “bad” books (either by my friend or by the branding of a publisher or award).
  • I know what I like to read, and I don’t need to have my opinions and preferences validated by anyone else; I’m quite capable of deciding not to finish reading a book that doesn’t keep me hooked.
  • Likewise, I trust the readers of the world to make their own decisions about my writing — my tribe will let me know how I’m doing, and I’ll sink or swim at my own risk, taking on this adventure with my eyes open.
  • Anyone trying to have *that* conversation with me can have a valued place in my life, but doesn’t belong on my launch team.

And I breathe. And I let it go, and change the subject.

Blog Migration At Last

After putting it off for, oh, at least three years, I finally bit the bullet and migrated my blog to my own domain and hosting.

You might wonder why, since WordPress is great as a blog host, and they offer premium domains and all that. After all, I put off doing this for what feels like forever… But as I’ve learned more about web hosting and connecting with people through my website, I’ve realized that I want the one thing I can’t have with my blog hosted by WordPress — plugins!

Right now, I’m just trying to make sure everything looks roughly the same as it did, at least till I get comfortable with my new setup. I also want to make sure I have all my security and anti-spam armor in place. Then… we’ll see. I have so many more choices now. A new look for my site is probably in order but I need some time to figure out what I want.

A website is one of the most important connection points an author has, and it’s time for me to start doing more with it, especially as I’m tired of being scared and holding back — I’m committing myself to moving forward, going indie, and publishing Rock Star’s Heart in 2018. I’ve got a year to get this right.

Brialach Tells A Story

Those of you who have been following A Husband for Deva on Wattpad will be familiar with my character Brialach Keireidhe. He comes from a land of winter rains, where it gets cold and misty and frosty but doesn’t snow often (much like where I live).

In part 10, he says:
“Not foolish. We have stories about the Noctarodhe – the Night Man – that are much the same. I have outgrown the stories, but I cannot say entirely that I disbelieve in him. In daylight I will say it. Alone at night? It is hard to be so sure.”

So when I recently needed to write a December-themed story for Every Day Fiction, I started thinking about the Night Man and what tales about him Brialach might have grown up with.

NightMan

I wrote it as Brialach, telling a story of the Night Man and how the first snow came to Isléida. It’s a story for Midwinter, for the Longest Night.

Read “The Night Man and the First Snow” at Every Day Fiction.

My First Giveaway!

I’ve wanted to try doing a giveaway for a while. And then I decided, why not just do it?

firstgiveaway

I’m giving away a paperback copy of the anthology Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps, edited by Shannon Robinson and published by Evil Girlfriend Media. My story “From the Heart” is included in the anthology, alongside stories from Rachel Caine and Gemma Files, among others (read more about the anthology here).

And because a nice cup of tea makes a good book even better, I’m also including 50 g of Dark Chocolate Delight tea and a 20-pack of tea filters to make dealing with loose-leaf tea easy (these biodegradable filter pouches can go straight into the compost or food waste bin when you’re done).

I’ll ship the prize anywhere in Canada or the United States (it’s okay to enter if you live elsewhere, as long as you have a friend in North America who can accept parcels for you).

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE
or visit my Facebook page to enter on the tab there

This giveaway is hosted by me, Kella Campbell, and the prize package and shipping are provided by me. Once the winner is announced, that person will have seven days to respond with a mailing address in North America. If there is no response or an appropriate address is not provided to me within seven days, a new winner will be selected. Ends at 12:00 AM Pacific Time on November 21, 2015.

Save

But Am I Newsworthy?

newsletter subscribe buttonI love getting newsletters from writers.

Why? I’m not absolutely sure. Maybe it’s because newsletters give, instead of asking or taking: they come with content just for me (well, not just for me, but for the mailing list members), and I’m not expected to share or retweet or comment or vote or click “like” — these social media engagements aren’t bad things, of course, but there’s an expectation of visible support, and it’s obvious when not given. While I like to show as much enthusiastic public support as I can to authors I admire, there’s something nice and pressure-free about just opening an email and reading it without having to respond. Yes, a newsletter is technically a marketing tool, but it’s also a gift from author to readers, and the best ones don’t feel like self-promotion.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to have a newsletter of my own; however, one big thing was holding me back. I kept asking myself, “But am I newsworthy?”

candy heartHere I am, thinking that I would like to give the gift of a private, special newsletter to anyone who is interested in my stories — and I’m wondering whether I’m good enough to do that.

Since when did giving a gift depend on the giver being worthy?

I woke up to this thought at the beginning of the week, and realized that now is the time to go ahead and create a mailing list, with a goal of sending out a monthly newsletter. We hear all the time that smart writers establish mailing lists well in advance of any book release; there’s no way to do that and also achieve some kind of invisible goal of becoming Important Enough For A Newsletter before starting one.

No one is being forced to sign up. If I end up sending out, say, a flash fiction story or an excerpt from something I’m working on, and it only goes to a handful of people, so what? Those people get something no one else does. No one is imposed on by the mere existence of a newsletter, right? I keep telling myself this.

candy heartBut this is exciting: I’ve realized I can do something with a newsletter that I can’t do on a blog or Facebook page or anywhere else — I can customize it to the preferences of those who sign up. One of the questions on my sign-up form is about comfort level: Sweet (prefer no explicit sex or swearing) or candy heartTart (okay with sexy description and gritty language)? That way, I can send my Sweets an excerpt that won’t make them blush, and my Tarts can get something a little dirtier.

I still feel strangely guilty, greedy, and not newsworthy enough to have my own newsletter. But it’s time to stop validating those feelings and go forward.

Be a Sweetheart; sign up!
(But only if you want to. No pressure.)

Writers, have you hesitated to start a newsletter because of doubts about being worthy? Did you end up doing it?

And readers, what do you love best about newsletters? What makes the great ones so awesome?

BIT Is Awesome And Here’s Why

candy heartOh, back up a bit? What’s BIT? Boost It Tuesday!

Every Free Chance, Candace’s Book Blog*, and If These Books Could Talk are the main organizers and hosts of the weekly awesomeness. Every Tuesday, they post a link-up (powered by InLinkz**) and invite book people — both authors and book bloggers — to add their Facebook pages. The idea is that everyone who participates goes to every other Facebook page on the list to “like” and comment on at least two or three posts, to help “boost” the pages’ visibility (since Facebook shows “popular” posts to more people).

This is my second week doing it. Here are five reasons why it’s awesome:

1.
I’ve discovered a whole bunch of fun book blogs and authors I didn’t know about before.

2.
It’s incentive to pay attention to my Facebook page and make sure there’s new content for BIT visitors to boost.

3.
I can look at other authors’ social media strategies and see what appeals to me.

4.
There are some fabulous giveaways to enter.

5.
I feel like I’m helping other authors and book bloggers by boosting their stuff. Good karma.

5.
It’s so positive! Everyone is there to say “Happy BIT” and click the like button. ALL the warm fuzzies!

If this sounds interesting, and you have a book-related Facebook page (not profile), go visit one of the hosts’ websites to join in. As I learned last week, Tuesday night or even Wednesday isn’t too late, and if this week doesn’t work for you, there’s always next week.

Also, there’s a giveaway every week as part of Boost It Tuesday, and you can apply to host the BIT giveaway on your own page (go visit one of the hosts’ sites to find the sign-up form).

So basically it’s all win-win and there’s no downside, only the time it takes to click on a bunch of Facebook pages and say hello — and it’s totally okay to spread that out over the week, you don’t have to get it all done on Tuesday. And really, looking at book covers and teaser graphics, and entering giveaways, and reading reviews and blurbs… it’s not what you’d call painful, you know?

Again, for convenience, the BIT organizers’ websites are: Every Free Chance, Candace’s Book Blog*, and If These Books Could Talk.

Give it a try, and have fun. Maybe I’ll see you on the link-up?


*no longer active as of early 2017 (dead links removed)
**BIT is now using Linky Tools rather than InLinkz