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Day 18 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Where in the World Would You Like to Travel?

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Congratulations to Libby Waterford, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Libby to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

I love to travel. I’ve actually managed to visit a good chunk of the United States. Since I grew up in the shadow of New York City, I’ve been up and down the east coast, from Vermont all the way down to Florida. I’ve also been to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Washington DC and Washington State. Since moving out west, I’ve been to New Mexico, where we stayed at the Zuni Pueblo for a couple of days and visited Old Town Albuquerque doing research for my second paranormal, Heart of Stone (due out Oct. 2014). We went to Arizona (Sedona, Flagstaff, Tempe, Phoenix) and Nevada (Las Vegas, Reno and Laughlin). And of course, various spots in California from San Francisco all the way down to San Diego. I’ve been to Graceland and Hawaii. Below is a picture of a double rainbow I took in Sedona. It had just stopped raining.

I’m a language nerd. I speak four languages (English, Spanish, French and Italian), and  I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures. How cool to live in the United States, where I get to meet people from so many ethnic backgrounds!

I learned to speak the languages in high school, and at age 16 I had the opportunity to go to France in a student exchange program for a month during the summer. I paid for it myself with money earned from my job at Burger King. I stayed with a French family in Provence, and with them I went to Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, Nice and Cannes. I saw the bullrings at Arles and the red rock of Roussillon, and I walked along the top of the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct near the city of Nîmes. We took a weekend trip once to go to this huge outdoor market in the town of San Remo, just over the border in Italy. We drove through the south of France and had a pit stop in Monaco, where I watched the changing of the guard at the royal palace, before continuing on to our destination. In San Remo, I swam in the Riviera.

To this day, I love the movie French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline because it reminds me of this life-changing trip. I rode that train from Paris down to Marseilles. I saw those fields of grapes and lavender. I came back a different person, just like the title character in Sabrina.

Soon after I married my husband, he and I took a trip to Ireland and Scotland. I walked over the moors (the heather grows in clumps), visited Culloden where the bloody battle was fought, and rode in a boat over Loch Ness. We toured castles (for me) and whiskey distilleries (for him). In Ireland we visited Blarney Castle and the Rings of Kerry and stood on top of the Cliffs of Mohr. We took The Quiet Man movie tour, where a guy named Paddy Rock drove us all over the countryside in Mayo and Galway to show us all the places where they’d filmed the movie.

There are still places I want to go and things I want to see. In addition to languages, I’m an ancient civilizations nerd, so I would love to go to Greece. I also want to go back to Italy and see more than one small town. 🙂 I’d like to go back to Ireland with my entire family, and I’d like to go to England. Though I’ve set many books there, I’ve never actually been there!

What about you? Where would you like to travel? What is your dream trip? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 17 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Alpha Heroes–Would You Want One As Your Mate?

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Congratulations to Alina K. Field, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Alina to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

For decades now, the heroes of romance novels have been mostly alpha males. An alpha male is the leader of the pack, the strongest and bravest of all the men around him. If there is a villain in the book, you believe the alpha male hero will triumph over him. Alpha males can be handsome or not, but they are attractive and compelling on a primal level to the heroine. She cannot resist his sexual allure.

Because alpha males are usually the leader, they assume they know what’s right for everyone. This may conflict with an independent heroine who believes that she knows what’s best for herself. The hero’s arrogance (yes, usually there is a touch of that) and possessiveness may infuriate her even as she is fighting her sexual attraction to him. Needless to say, the alpha male is usually a thorough and devastating lover.

In the end, though, our spunky heroine often manages to tame the alpha male with her love, at least as far as their relationship goes.

There are hundreds of examples of alpha males in romances. Wulfgar from The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss is an example that leaps to mind immediately. Sebastian from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. There really are too many to name. All these alpha heroes give us that flutter in our chests, maybe a blush to our cheeks.

But could you deal with an alpha male as your mate in real life? For me, I love the fantasy, but as an independent American girl, it would probably get old real fast. But then again…hmmm…

Tell me your thoughts. Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 15 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Goal Check–How Are You Doing With Your Goals?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Congratulations to Alisha Woods, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Alisha to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

We talked about setting goals at the beginning of the month, and now we’re halfway through January already. I wanted to touch base with you all and see how you’re doing with your goals. Have you been able to make some progress in getting where you want to go?

I’ve had a slower start than I anticipated. My family’s been sick, and whenever that happens, I’m too busy running to manage my own tasks, never mind start anything new. However, I have taken some small actions to start my journey.

I’ve pulled out the materials for my eating plan, and I’ve started eating better quality foods, even if I’m not following the program completely yet. Today I’m listening to the motivational CD that comes with the kit. That’s all I can manage until everyone gets well again, and that’s okay. It’s something. It’s a start.

My revisions arrived for my second paranormal. I haven’t started my edits/rewrites yet. I’m thinking about how I want to approach things. This is my writing process. I’m a percolator. I have to let the ideas simmer in my mind for a while until they’re done. Then I hit the ground running. Again, I’ve taken small steps: I talked to my editor on the phone about the changes, and I printed out the manuscript. It’s sitting right here on my desk, and I already have an idea about how to tweak the beginning. It’s movement in the right direction.

What about you? Have you had a chance to take any action, no matter how small, towards your goals? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 14 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Let’s Talk About the TV Show Sleepy Hollow

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Congratulations to Diane Patricia Diamond, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Diane to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

It’s TV Tuesday again. Today’s topic of discussion: Sleepy Hollow.

When I first heard about it, I was on the fence about this show. I’m not a big fan of horror, but when I realized J.J. Abrams was involved with it, I was willing to check it out. OMG, I’m so glad I did! The show is part horror, part American History, part humor, and a lot fantasy.

Image courtesy of

Sleepy Hollow is a twist on two of Washington Irving’s short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, with a sprinkling of American history, witchcraft, demons, and just about every other mythos you can associate with 18th century America. In this incarnation, Ichabod Crane is not a humble school teacher (though he did apparently teach at Oxford), but a spy in the Revolutionary War, reporting to George Washington. He was ordered by Washington to kill a particular Hessian soldier on the battlefield. He managed to behead the soldier, but not before the Hessian dealt Ichabod a mortal wound. The next thing Ichabod knows, he’s waking up 250 years later in a hidden grave.

The Hessian he killed has risen, too, sans head—the Headless Horseman of legend. Turns out this horseman is one of a famous quartet, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Ichabod’s life is somehow linked to his. Ichabod’s wife Katrina, a witch who put a spell on him to allow him to resurrect, is trapped in Purgatory by the demons who control the horseman.

Enter Lieutenant Abbie Mills (or ‘Leftenant’ as Ichabod pronounces it), an officer of the local sheriff’s department who is set to leave for Quantico to start training as an FBI agent. She witnesses her mentor, Sheriff August Corbin, being beheaded by the Headless Horseman. In a search for answers, she teams up with Crane, who seems to know something of what is going on, and they realize they are the two witnesses to the apocalypse spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Quantico is forgotten as Abbie and Ichabod pursue their mission to keep the forces of evil at bay. Throw in Orlando Jones as the replacement police captain, along with threads of humor as Ichabod tries to cope with 21stcentury life, and you have a compelling hour of television.

Image courtesy of

Abbie and Ichabod have a deep, amazing relationship that is platonic and yet absolutely solid. Abbie is a spunky lady with a rough past, played with skilled finesse by the amazing Nicole Beharie. She is the perfect foil for the properly British Ichabod, played by the delicious Tom Mison. There are many out there who are cheering for a romantic connection between Abbie and Ichabod (the IchAbbies), but I feel that their relationship is more powerful without the complications of sex. There’s tension there, sure, but in the end, Ichabod is a married man who deeply loves and misses his wife. In addition to fighting evil, he is trying to figure out a way to rescue his beloved Katrina (played by the beautiful Katia Winter) from Purgatory.

Have you seen the show? If not, you might want to check it out. If you have, what do you think about Abbie and Ichabod? Are you hoping for a love triangle between Abbie/Ichabod/Katrina? Or do you feel the IchAbbie relationship is stronger as simply partners to avert the Apocalypse? Do you hope Ichabod will reunite with his love, Katrina? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 13 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Have Vampire Romances Run Their Course?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Congratulations to Joyce Ward, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Joyce to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

Let’s talk about vampires.

I still remember watching Frank Langella in the 1979 movie Dracula. He gave sexy a whole new meaning when it came to vampires.

Back in the early 90’s, vampires started to get hot in romance novels, too. Author Lori Herter wrote some vampire romances, including Obsession, one I still have on my keeper shelf. (Lori was mentioned not long ago on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website.) Paranormal was popular, especially time travel and vampires. Then by the mid 90’s, no publisher wanted to see anything even the slightest bit paranormal. By the early 21st century, publishers had changed their tune, and vampires were back stronger than ever, thanks to authors like Christine Feehan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, Susan Squires and Kerrilyn Sparks. Then Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight came about, bringing the young adult crowd into this world.

In the late 90’s, TV brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her star-crossed vampire love, Angel. (I still root for them, curse or no curse!) Later in the season, there was Buffy and poet-at-heart Spike. I could write a month of blogs on BTVS, so I’ll stop myself now. 😉

Over the past ten years or so, vampire romances have soared in popularity. It seems there are dozens and dozens of them out there, all different flavors of the vampire world. Everyone has their own set of rules, making each story unique. But are there too many now? Has the vampire romance lost its allure? Tell me what you think!

Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 12 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: What Do You Do to Shake Off a Bad Mood?

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Congratulations to Melissa Dennis, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Melissa to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

I’m keeping the topic light today since revisions just arrived for the second book in my paranormal trilogy, HEART OF STONE, and I need to start working on them. I saw something on Facebook the other day that gave me the idea for this post, and as someone who often takes on more stress than she should, I’d really like to get your thoughts on what you do when you’re having a bad day.

I realized this week that I’ve been kind of cranky. I’m generally an optimistic person, so whenever my mood lingers in the black cloud area, I start looking for ways to get me out of that mindset. One thing I realized early on in adulthood is that I really need to read romances in order to hang onto my optimism. If I go long weeks without reading, I turn into Little Miss Crankypants. Isn’t it amazing how something so simple, something I love to do, keeps my spirits up?

When I’m stressed out and need to clear my thoughts, the other thing I do aside from reading is play computer games like Wedding Dash or Diner Dash or my newfound favorite, any of the Emily Delicious games.

And, of course, there is always chocolate.

What about you? What do you do when you’re in a bad mood? How do you shake it off so you can get on with your day?

Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 11 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Historical Heroines–How Experienced Can/Should They Be?

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Congratulations to Yati Hadi, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Yati to arrange delivery of her choice of book. Yati has won twice now, which puts her into the Hall of Fame with Raonaid and Kitty!

Well, you all had definite opinions as to whether or not a couple needed to talk marriage in order to reach Happily Ever After status in a romance novel. The next topic I’d like to bring up is Historical Heroines—How Experienced Can/Should They Be?

I’ve written thirteen historical romances. My first book, ONCE A MISTRESS, has your standard virginal heroine who’s fairly ignorant about sex. She’s the eighteen year old daughter of a wealthy businessman in 17th century Jamaica. With all the pirate types running around the island in 1680, naturally her father would keep her closely guarded at all times. This fits with the story. But I was thirty years old and married with two kids when I wrote the book, and I quickly realized it was going to be hard for me to write from that innocent perspective all the time. So I started looking for ways to make my heroines more experienced, but still believable for the time period.

My next book was a Western called DONOVAN’S BED. Sarah Calhoun had a scandal in her past. She had actually fallen in love and given herself to the wrong man (which later cost her more than she could ever imagine). So this heroine is a little sexually experienced, and the scandal is an integral part of the plot. It changes how people in her small, Wyoming town see her.

Then I wrote THE LAWMAN’S SURRENDER, the follow-up to DONOVAN’S BED. The heroine in this book is Sarah’s sister Susannah, the gorgeous singer who travels around the west performing for a living. Because of the places where Susannah hangs out, she’s no dummy when it comes to men and what they want, but she has never slept with one. So here we have a virginal heroine with knowledge but no firsthand experience.

I then switched to Regency England with A NECESSARY HUSBAND. I got around the experience/sexual knowledge thing by making the heroine a widow. Problem solved. Yet in the follow-up to that book, A NECESSARY BRIDE, my heroine was once more an inexperienced woman, but she was an American with a sailor for a brother, so she had some idea of how things worked.

I stuck in Regency England for a while. In THREE NIGHTS…, the book opens where the virginal heroine ends up trading her innocence to the hero for her father’s life. She’s another one who has seen the darker side of life (her father is a compulsive gambler), but has never experienced anything intimate—until she makes this bargain with our hero.

In JUST ONE TOUCH, I had the daughter of a duke who had been kidnapped and terrorized at age fifteen and had since lived her life cloistered away at her father’s estate, away from the world. While she was not raped, the men who took her made her very much aware of the baser side of their natures. When her father realizes he’s dying, he has to find a husband for our heroine to watch over her.

In TWO WEEKS WITH A STRANGER, my heroine is married to the hero, but it is a marriage of convenience, and she soon realizes she needs to seduce her husband to make him fall in love with her in order to have the relationship she craves.

As you can see, I’ve found different ways to give historical heroines different levels of sexual knowledge or experience to make them more realistic for me to write. But what do you think? Do you believe historical heroines should be ignorant/inexperienced when it comes to men? Or is it more fun when the heroine has some firsthand experience? Or maybe somewhere in the middle, like Susannah from THE LAWMAN’S SURRENDER?

Tell me what you think. Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 10 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway – Must There Be Marriage In Order To Have Happily Ever After?

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Congratulations to Kitty Bucholtz, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Kitty to arrange delivery of her choice of book. Kitty has won twice now, which puts her into the Hall of Fame!

Let’s get back to romance novels. Traditionally, the structure of a romance novel has been boy meets girl, obstacles prevent boy and girl from getting together, obstacles are overcome, love is declared and the couple marries. This is the story arc that has satisfied romance readers for decades. But I’m wondering, given the society of the 21st century, do you feel the hero and heroine have to commit to marriage before the book ends? Or can they just be together in a committed relationship, like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have been for thirty years?

Hear me out. Yes, you have to believe the hero and heroine are together for good when you get to The End. Otherwise you don’t have that satisfaction from the Happily Ever After, which is, after all, the entire purpose for reading a romance novel. We romance readers want that warm and fuzzy feeling at the end of the book, that optimism that this couple, in whom we’ve invested so much emotion, will always be together. For many people, that means marriage.

Is it enough for you to know at the end of the book that this couple has committed to their relationship, even without any talk of formalizing it? Would that be satisfying enough for you as a reader?

Tell me what you think. Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 9 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway – We’re talking Justified!

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Congratulations to Kitty Bucholtz, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Kitty to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

I thought I’d change up the pace. We’ve been talking books, but I want to switch to TV for a minute. Specifically the FX program, Justified.

For those who’ve never seen it, Justified is a show based on a short story by Elmore Leonard called Fire In The Hole. Leonard was directly involved in the creation of the TV series based on his characters, and the world lost a great talent when he died back in August 2013. (Guess we got back to books after all, huh?)

The hero of the show is U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who is a throwback to the lawmen of the Old West, right down to the hat. He’s played to sexy, swaggering perfection by actor Timothy Olyphant. But Raylan isn’t perfect. The running gag in the first several episodes is that he keeps shooting people. The shootings are justified (wink, wink), but the frequency is still causing the Marshal service a bit of a headache. Raylan is smart and unafraid when dealing with the bad guys. It’s only his personal life where he becomes challenged.

Raylan comes from rural Kentucky, a place called Harlan County. He’s managed to escape to Miami, but at the end of the first episode, the Marshals assign him back to his home state as punishment, which is the worst thing that could happen to Raylan…but the best thing that could happen to the show. Raylan has history with the people in Harlan County. Everyone has known him his entire life, which adds a whole different level to his interactions with them in his role as U.S. Marshal. To add insult to injury, Raylan’s father Arlo is a well-known petty crook, and the two men do not see eye-to-eye on anything.

I have an ongoing debate on Twitter with authors Teresa Medeiros and Kierstan Krum as to which one of us can claim Raylan as her TV husband. <G>

Raylan’s nemesis is Boyd Crowder, a guy from a family of known criminals there in the ‘hollow.’ His family and Raylan’s go way back; in fact Raylan and Boyd even worked the mines together as young men. Performing such a dangerous job, they frequently had to watch each others’ backs in order to stay alive, and that relationship plays into their interactions years later whenever they’re on opposite sides of the law.

Boyd Crowder is a fascinating character, and Walton Goggins, who plays him, manages to finesse every nuance he can. Like Raylan, Boyd knows everyone in the area and is even related to some of them. Boyd Crowder is almost always the smartest man in the room, and you never know what he’s going to do. There are times he’s out to kill Raylan and other times when he teams up with him to defeat a common foe. Boyd never does anything without a darned good reason. And his romance with Ava, his brother’s widow, is touching and relatable. You find yourself cheering for Boyd to succeed, even though he’s supposed to be the bad guy.

That’s what makes Justified so compelling. Fantastic characters, great writing, wonderful actors. If you haven’t seen it, the first four seasons are out there for rental, purchase or streaming, and Season 5 just started on FX on Tuesday.

Whether you’ve seen it or not, feel free to join in the discussion. Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 8 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway – Which Authors Are On Your Auto-buy List?

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Congratulations to Michele, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Michele to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

Yesterday we were chatting about glomming books, so today it only seems natural that we segue into an easy topic for every reader: Who are your favorite authors?

I said easy, but as every reader knows, it’s hard to name only one! When I’m asked this question, I have to refer to my auto-buy list. Who are the authors whose books I buy without even reading the back cover? Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb is one, right off the bat. She has been one of my favorites since I read her first book back in the early 80’s. Nora was the first author who made me start noticing who actually wrote the book I had so enjoyed. I remember being confused once because I didn’t get the same feeling from a book I had just finished, and then I realized that what I had just read was by a different author with the same last name. Nora Roberts became the first author on my auto-buy list.

Since then she has been joined by Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle, Marjorie M. Liu, Robin D. Owens, Susan Squires, Cate Rowan, Susan Meier, Jenna Kernan, Beth Yarnall, Shannon Donnelly and Mercedes Lackey. There are more, but those are the top tiers.

What about you? Who are the favorite authors on your auto-buy list? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!