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Day 22 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: The Candy of Your Childhood

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

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

The other day at work, they brought around a cart of treats for the employees. (It’s a busy time of year right now, and they do this for morale.) Everyone got to pick what they wanted from the cart, and I took a Charleston Chew.



Out here on the west coast, a lot of people at the office had never heard of a Charleston Chew. But when I was a kid on the east coast, my dad would sometimes bring those home for us. He was a steamfitter in New York City and would pick up candy at the train station on his way home from work. Charleston Chew was one of his favorites. A Charleston Chew is a long, nougat candy bar (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) covered in chocolate. My dad taught us to put them in the freezer. Then when it’s frozen, you whack it on the kitchen counter to break it up into smaller pieces and eat it that way.

I brought a Charleston Chew home from work last week and did just that. 🙂

He also sometimes came home with Swedish fish or my favorite, gummi raspberries and blackberries. You can still find both in bulk candy shops all over the country, and Haribo puts out the gummi raspberries, available in stores. They’re still a favorite.

What about you? What candies did you love in your childhood? Do they still make that candy, or is it hard to find? Those who comment today will be put 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 20 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: Romance Novel Covers

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Since both the people who commented on yesterday’s blog were in the Hall of Fame, there was no winner for the drawing. I never saw that scenario coming, but it is what it is, so we move on.

Let’s talk romance novel covers. There seems to be four major types for your typical romance novel: the clinch, the half-naked hero, the heroine alone and the artistic non-clinch. I’ve had books with all four.

The most common is the clinch cover. When you see a book featuring a couple in a torrid embrace on the front, you know immediately it’s a romance novel. Some people are embarrassed to read a book in public that has such an explicit cover, but with the surge of digital publishing, that’s not as much of a problem anymore. Here’s a classic clinch on Too Wicked To Love, my most recent historical.



Then you have the half-naked hero. My current release and first paranormal, Prodigal Son, features this type of cover. It seems very popular in the paranormal arena.



The heroine alone is becoming more popular, especially with historical romances. I had a memorable one on Scandal of the Black Rose:



Then you get the more artistic covers. Often you will see these covers on New York Times bestselling authors’ books. Why? Because the publisher doesn’t have to tell the reader what kind of book it is. Name recognition is all that is needed for someone to pick up these books. If you look at authors like Debbie Macomber or Nora Roberts or Julia Quinn (especially any of the Bridgerton books), you will get the idea. The closest I came to the artistic cover was Just One Touch, which has a far-away view of a couple on a horse. A step away from a clinch but not quite the elegant bouquet of flowers either.



Which types of covers do you prefer? Are you hesitant to read books with a clinch in public? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

Day 19 of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway: What Do You Procrastinate About Doing?

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Congratulations to Janie McGaugh, who won yesterday’s drawing! I’ll be emailing Janie to arrange delivery of her choice of book. This is Janie’s second win, so she’ll be put in our Hall of Fame.

I’ve decided to add something to my giveaway. The last post of the 31 Days of Books Giveaway is January 31. On February 1, I will not only pick the name of the winner from those who commented on the January 31 blog post, but I will be doing a special drawing from everyone who ever commented on the blog, including the Hall of Famers. Three winners will be eligible to win both a book and a $15 gift card! I’m looking forward to that one. 🙂

Now I’d like to move on to today’s subject: procrastination.

I have revisions sitting on my desk for my upcoming paranormal, Heart of Stone. It’s the second in my new Atlantis trilogy. Today I have to get going on these or else they won’t get in on time. I’ve had the manuscript printed out and sitting on my desk (the better to edit it) for over a week. Several times I’ve come into my office and sat in my chair with the intention to get going, but something has come up each time to stop me. I can’t help but wonder if that is a valid excuse, or if I am procrastinating.

It’s been said that procrastination comes from that part of our brain that tries to protect us from bad things. Humans are usually motivated by either the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain. Pleasure can be anything from those candies you love to the satisfaction of a job well done. Pain can be physical, but it can also be emotional.

I know that when I dive into this book, my emotions will be engaged in the story. That’s the good thing. The author putting emotion on the page is what makes the books you love to read so compelling. The painful part comes when I’m deep into the story and I get interrupted by some outside force—a knock on the door, the phone ringing, a text message making my cell phone chime. I get ripped out of the story, and it hurts. I believe my procrastination is coming from that—the avoidance of that pain.

The only way to get around procrastination is to consider what happens if you don’t do what you are procrastinating about. Basically, a greater evil.

Let’s say you’re procrastinating about paying the bills. You know money will be tight this month, and you don’t want to deal with it because it makes you stressed to face that reality. You keep putting it off until tomorrow…then the tomorrow after that, and the one after that. You are temporarily putting off that pain you don’t want to feel.

But let’s take it a step further. What happens if you don’t pay the bills? You start getting hate mail from your creditors, your utilities get turned off, and you get evicted because you didn’t pay the rent. Isn’t that worse than the sinking feelings you get when you have to face that checkbook where the math just isn’t adding up in your favor?

If you think about that outcome, suddenly facing those bills doesn’t seem so bad.

In my case, if I put off working on my revisions, the manuscript will go in late, my editor will not be happy with me, and the publication of the book may be delayed. It’s the second of a trilogy, and the first book, Prodigal Son, came out this past October. Heart of Stone is already coming out exactly a year later than the first one, so the release date getting pushed even further out is bad news for sure. You’re a reader. You know that when you get hooked on a series, you want those books coming out as closely together as possible.

What about you? What do you procrastinate about, and how can you get past whatever is holding you back? What’s the worst case scenario? Those who comment get entered in today’s drawing for a free paperback title from my backlist!

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 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 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!