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Day 28 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway – Romance Heroines: The Good, The Bad and The TSTL

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Congratulations to bn100, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing bn100 to arrange delivery of her choice of book.

Let’s talk heroines: the good, the bad and the TSTL (Too Stupid To Live).

Heroines are hard for me. Even though I’m female, I identify more with the heroes in my books than the heroines. But there are a few heroines (in books, TV or movies) that I can always get behind. The ones who try hard to do the right thing.

Some of the good heroines:

  1. Eve Dallas from the J.D. Robb books
  2. Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, not the movie)
  3. Judith Hampton from Julie Garwood’s The Secret
  4. Maggie Concannon from Born In Fire by Nora Roberts
  5. Aislinn from The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Good heroines do what needs to be done, no matter what it costs them. They are women you admire.

Bad heroines are the ones who are too concerned with themselves to truly share in the love story you’re reading. They are unsympathetic people who you actively dislike and would never hang out with if they were real, the ones who make you wonder what the hero sees in them. (No examples here because I’ve purged them from my memory. Bleh!)

And TSTL? There are dozens of those. These are the heroines whose decisions make no sense. They run out into gunfire after the hero tells them to stay put. They go down in the basement with no light on when they know a serial killer is on the loose. They think they can handle everything, only to fall on their butts (or trip over a tree root running through the forest in their nightclothes in the middle of the night). They’re the ones who believe the Jealous Other Woman’s lame story that the hero really loves her, at which point they run away to nurse their broken hearts. Or quit their jobs because the hero is the boss. Or shoot themselves in the foot in some other dramatic, emotional way. They’re the ones who make you throw the book against the wall.

What are your thoughts on romance heroines? Who are your favorites? Comment to be included in a drawing to win a paperback title from my backlist!

Day 27 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: What’s Your Favorite Romance Novel World?

Monday, January 27th, 2014

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

Let’s talk about our favorite worlds. One of the reasons we read books is to be transported to a different place, whether that place is a different era, a different lifestyle or a different world/planet all together. When we are brought to a different place in our minds, we are able to—at least for a short while—forget our own problems.

What are some of your favorite worlds?

For me, I adore the Celta world created by Robin D. Owens (not just because her cats can communicate telepathically) and the Harmony world created by Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz). I also really love the futuristic world of J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas. That world seems just a few steps removed from ours.

In Eve’s world, the technology seems like something that would really be available in our near future, yet the cops still love doughnuts and people still fall in love and have kids just like they do today. She’s come up with policies that might someday exist, like legal “licensed companions” and “professional mothers.” Race is nothing more than a way to describe someone’s appearance, and people can have all kinds of work done along the lines of cosmetic surgery to change anything at all about their appearance, even eye color. Yet there are still murderers and drug addicts and fast cars and people without morals. I absolutely adore this world, and not just because a man like Roarke can exist there. Which makes me wonder…they have cloning technology, right? <G>

What about you? What are your favorite worlds in the books you read? Comment to be included in a drawing to win a paperback title from my backlist!

Day 26 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Are You a Coffee Drinker Or A Tea Drinker?

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

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

Today’s debate: coffee or tea?

I am a tea person. I honestly dislike the taste of coffee, though I love the smell. I started drinking tea for a couple of reasons: 1.) To have something to drink when the coffee drinkers were drinking coffee after a dinner and 2.) I’m Irish.

What does being Irish have to do with it? I never realized this until I wrote a workshop about building characters and the traditions passed down through the generations, but one of the reasons I drink tea with milk and sweetener is because that’s how my dad drank it. And where did he pick up that habit? From his parents, who were from—you guessed it—Ireland.

I drink black teas. No herbal for me, though I will occasionally drink chamomile if I have an upset stomach (learned that one from a pediatrician years ago). I will also drink the chamomile straight up, no milk or sugar. The poor chamomile gets lost with that stuff in it. But black teas? They’re fairly strong, sometimes bitter and need the help from milk and sweetener. Note I said milk, not cream. Anyone ever try drinking creamer in tea? It completely masks the taste of the tea, and you find yourself drinking hot creamer. Bleh.

Here in America, we are a coffee society. I will order tea at a restaurant, and I will ask for milk. They bring me creamer. I ask again for milk (as I remove the lemon and honey from my saucer). They look at me funny, but they eventually come back with a small glass of milk. It’s exhausting. However, if you drink coffee, they bring all the fixings, exactly as you would wish.

Now a few years ago, my husband and I went to Ireland. When I went to a restaurant, I ordered tea. That’s it, just tea. Not only did they bring me a big, silver pot of brewed tea (just as they would serve coffee in America), they brought milk and sweetener without me having to ask. My people!

One other fun thing about Ireland: my husband ordered coffee one day and asked for cream. The wait staff looked perplexed, but they eventually brought him some. Apparently one drinks coffee with milk as well.

Now, I’m not dissing coffee. I’m just saying I’m a tea drinker living in a coffee drinking country. My husband occasionally drinks coffee, as does my older son. My younger son has drifted into Tea Land with me. His favorite? Irish Breakfast. <G>

My husband and I went to Hawaii a couple of years ago. We stayed on The Big Island (as West coasters refer to the island of Hawaii), specifically Kona. Of course we found ourselves at a Kona coffee plantation, where my husband tried a blend of coffee referred to as Peaberry. Our tour guide recommended we try the Peaberry without anything in it. Then, if we still wanted to add something after the first taste, we should do so.

My husband tried the Peaberry black, and he was amazed at the flavor. Normally coffee beans grow two to a cherry, flat against each other two halves inside a peanut. But once in a while, the cherry only produces one mutant bean, and this apparently produces a sweeter and less bitter coffee. Because processing the Peaberry is so labor intensive (picking out the mutant beans by hand), it is very expensive, even there in Hawaii. A pound of it cost around $35! We brought some home to my son (just a little package, around $8), and he loved it, too.

So, my name is Deb and I am a tea drinker. My current favorite is English Breakfast and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee blend, which a friend brought back for me from England.

What about you? Are you a coffee person or a tea person? What’s your favorite? Comment to be included in a drawing to win a paperback title from my backlist!

Day 25 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Are You A Cat Person Or A Dog Person?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Congratulations to Diane Patricia Diamond, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Diane to arrange delivery of her choice of book. This is Diane’s second time winning, which puts her in the Hall of Fame!

Most people consider themselves either a cat person or a dog person. Which are you and why?

I’m a cat person. I like their fluffiness and the way they curl up in my lap and purr. Cats are very finicky animals. There’s a saying: “Dogs have owners, cats have staff.” I have no doubt this is one of the reasons the ancient Egyptians worshiped them. However, I feel special when the cat chooses to come to me. The secret to cats: Let them go when they want to leave, and they will always come back to you.

I do like dogs, don’t get me wrong. I grew up with dogs. We always had one, and to this day, my mom still has one. I just prefer cats, is all. You can go away for a weekend and leave enough food and water down for your cat, no big deal. But the dog needs someone to take him out, and if you leave food down for the weekend, it will be gone the first day.

What about you? Are you a cat person or a dog person? Comment to be included in a drawing to win a paperback title from my backlist!


Day 23 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: What’s Your Creative Outlet?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

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

Today I wanted to talk about creativity. Everyone has a creative outlet. It’s the way we play, what we do to relax. Maybe you paint or knit or sew, sing in the church choir, cook, bake, quilt, dance, garden… There are dozens and dozens of methods to express creativity.

Obviously my method is writing. I am never happier than when I am lost in my own mind, playing pretend. I once had to have an MRI done, and I was in this tube with no music, no TV, nothing. You can’t bring metal into an MRI machine (magnetic!), and since you have to stay very still for them to get the scan, you can’t even bring a book to read. It’s boring! The only thing that saved my sanity was plotting novels in my head. I was able to completely forget where I was and get lost in my imagination.

My husband is a singer who performs in an a cappella group. My sister is a singer, too, but she sang for NJ Performing Arts Center and got to perform at Carnegie Hall once (as part of the chorus, but still…). I have another sister who is an artist. She paints portraits from pictures. People commission these from her, usually around the holidays. My mom used to make our clothes when we were little. My aunt made Christmas ornaments for us kids every year (I still have mine on my tree). I have a friend who bakes delicious treats and another who knits these amazing blankets using a photograph as the template. Another friend makes chocolate candies.

I’d love to make my living by writing, but for the moment I still work a day job. As does my husband and my sisters and all the people I mentioned above. I know lots of writers, of course, and most of them have day jobs, too. As much as I’d like to make my creative outlet my full time career, the mundane world can be unforgiving, and the artistic one sometimes fleeting. The mortgage has to be paid and people have to eat.

But I dream of it. I fantasize about where I would live and how my day would go. No more clocking in and out, no more 30-minute lunch. I could set my own hours. If I need to go to the doctor, I can adjust my schedule as necessary. If I want to go on vacation, I could just go without worrying about whether or not I would be allowed the days off. Ah, the life I could lead.

What about you? What’s your creative outlet? And do you ever daydream about what it would be like to do that for a living? Comment to be included in a drawing to win a paperback title from my backlist!

Day 21 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Let’s talk Sherlock!

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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

Are you familiar with the British TV show Sherlock? This version of the iconic detective’s adventures has taken Sherlock Holmes and updated him to a young, 21st century sociopath who thrives on being famous and brilliant. Sherlock is played by the amazing Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness), with his partner John Watson played by the wonderful Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug). It should also be noted that Cumberbatch voices Smaug the dragon in the Hobbit movies. In addition, he narrates audio books, including a Sherlock Holmes novel!

I could write a book on how compelling this TV show is. Each season consists of three 90-minute episodes, each one based on a famous Sherlock Holmes case. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix and DVD. Season 3 started on Sunday night in the U.S. after a 2-year hiatus. Why two years? Because Cumberbatch and Freeman were out of the country filming the above mentioned movies during that time.

The writing is amazing, and the dialogue truly impressive. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is infuriating and brilliant and sexy all at the same time. (Though that might just be me. I can’t resist intelligent men, especially when they come with cheekbones that could cut glass!) And Freeman’s John Watson is more than a sidekick. He’s a solid character in his own right, an army doctor who recently came home from war in the Middle East, wounded and weary after seeing too much. Somehow these two black sheep forge a deep, meaningful partnership solving cases.

So far my favorite episode was A Scandal in Belgravia, which featured Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver. This was the first time we ever saw Sherlock distracted by a woman, and Irene definitely challenged him, both intellectually and physically. I totally bought her as the one woman in the world who could capture and hold the elusive Sherlock’s interest.

Season two ended on a cliffhanger that had the fans speculating different scenarios on what had really happened. As a result, people were glued to their TV sets here in the U.S. for the big reveal in the first episode of season 3, The Empty Hearse. I have to say, my favorite scene in that episode was when Mycroft and Sherlock were exchanging quips while playing a board game. It sounds so simple, but the writer nerd in me stood up and sang “Amen!” at the deft brilliance of that scene, both in the writing and the acting. It should be noted that the actor who plays Mycroft Holmes, Mark Gatiss, is one of the co-creators of the show.

Have you seen Sherlock? Are you caught up? What did you think of Sunday night’s episode? (If you haven’t seen it, I hear the PBS website allows you to stream it.) Those who comment today will be put in a drawing to win a 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 16 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Let’s Talk About Book Prices!

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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

Today I thought we could talk about book prices. It’s no secret that the price of paper books has gone up considerably over the past ten or twenty years. I remember being able to go into a bookstore with $20 and walk out with four or five paperbacks. Now that same $20 will get you two or three. It just doesn’t stretch that far anymore.

The increased price of paperbacks has a lot to do with things like the price of paper. Every book is allocated a certain number of pages by the publisher for cost purposes. Writers have to write something of a certain length to be published by a certain publisher or particular line. If your book is too short, you have to add pages. If your book is too long, you have to cut things.

Add in the skyrocketing price of gas in the past few years. Publishers have to ship the books somewhere, and that is costing more. They have to store the books in warehouses, and that costs more. Editors and cover artists have to eat and pay rent, so throw in some cost of living raises. Where are publishers going to get that money? From the cover price of a book. If something costs more to produce, the price to the consumer rises as well.

Enter digital publishing. When producing an ebook, the cost is much less. You don’t have to pay for paper, shipping or storage, but you do still have to pay for the people who edit and format the text and those who create covers for the books. Still, you are usually handing out less money to produce the ebook than its paper counterpart. As a result, the price of the ebook may well be less than the price of the paper one. For example, my book Prodigal Son has a cover price of $14.99 for the trade paperback. (Trade paperbacks are the bigger books. The smaller paperbacks are called mass market paperbacks.) Today on Amazon, the price for the paper book is on sale for $12.17, but the Kindle version is only $8.89.

That’s if a writer is going through a traditional publisher. There are many electronic publishers out there these days. Often these publishers only produce digital books, with the option to add a paper release if sales demand it. Electronic publishers have less overhead (shipping, storage, paper costs) so they are able to price their books less expensively. For instance, the normal cover price of a new digital release from Samhain Publishing is often in the $4.50 to $5.50 range. This means my $20 will once again allow me to buy at least four titles from them.

Enter the independently published author. This is an author who can use the tools available today to publish her own work herself, without involving a third party publisher. Indie authors still need to cover the costs of publishing a book: hiring editors and copyeditors, hiring an artist to design the cover, and paying whatever fees necessary to get her book into the correct formats for all the electronic devices out there. As a result, the author determines the price of the book. In the other models, traditional and electronic publishers determine the price of the book. The author has no control over it.

The plus side for the reader is that an indie author can price her book considerably lower than even electronic publishers because they have less overhead. These days $2.99 seems to be the sweet spot for full price of an independently published ebook. Often you will see the price dip as low as $0.99 or even free as a special promotion. This may be done if this is a new author trying to draw in readers or maybe the first book in a series.

The minus side is that some indie authors don’t go through the editing and copyediting that needs to be done, so the quality of the book may suffer. Not all of them, just a small percentage. I want to make that clear. There are plenty of indie authors who have taken all the steps to turn out a quality product and have done quite well. Debra Holland comes to mind. Also Barbara Freethy, Beth Yarnall, Shannon Donnelly, Susan Squires and Cate Rowan. Some authors have been discovered by traditional publishers after becoming successful indie authors. Some have even made bestseller lists.

Now at cover prices like $.099 to $2.99, my $20 goes even further than before. Digital publishing has changed the book marketplace forever, and independent publishing even more so. But there are still readers who prefer paper to digital, and that’s okay. I don’t think the prices of traditional paperbacks will be dropping anytime soon due to costs beyond the publisher’s control, but there are many wonderful stories out there in digital format, whether produced by a publisher or independently by the author.

I should also point out that many indie authors choose publish this way, so it’s not a case of not cutting it in the traditionally published world. Some authors were award winning, list making, traditionally published authors who stepped out of that world to become award winning, list making, independently published authors. Why would anyone do this? Because publishing their own work gives them more control over how the work is produced. It also, because they are taking all the financial risk, makes it more lucrative than a contract with a traditional publisher. It is entirely a personal choice, and these authors are careful to make sure the quality of their independent work matches anything a publishing house could do.

My goal here was to give you an insight into why books are priced the way they are. I know I’ve been reading more digital these days if only to get more titles for my money. What about you? Have you taken the plunge into digital reading? Have you discovered new authors that way? Tell me your thoughts. 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!