Oh, the pressure of the purchase!

presentsMy Christmas list looks a little different this year. There are two new names on there – for the first time, I’m purchasing gifts for my kids’ significant others. Both kids have special people in their lives this year, and both are visiting/traveling with us for Christmas.
I’m looking forward to spending time with them and getting to know them better, but I have to say, there’s a little stress that comes with this. Will I be judged on the success of the gift? Will it be cool enough? Is it age-appropriate? The right color? The right style? Will I embarrass my child in some way? The pressure is on!
During this shopping quest I stopped a stranger in Macy’s to inquire about the person and age she’d picked up an item for. I whipped out my cell phone and took a photo of a potential gift for my daughter’s boyfriend and emailed it to her. Then called and debated the pros and cons of said item and got the thumbs up before finally purchasing the gift.
I’ve been waiting to wrap the other gift until I could get the other kid’s blessing. Strike one. Just found out this morning that it’s off the mark. Now, only a few days before the big day, I’m going to have to hit the shops again. Did I mention pressure? I think I’m armed with a better idea of her tastes, so hopefully one stop, and the mission will be accomplished. Then it’s on to the next step – spectacular wrapping! Wrap that shows good taste, and attention to detail and time invested in making it special. Whew!

The other gift-giving experience that caused some stress this year were the two group exchanges in which a participant gets to choose the gift (based on the wrapping) and then others can “steal” as the exchange goes on. Both my book club and a writers group I belong to did this. The object, of course, is to end up with an awesome gift. And, for me, to be one of the people who offers a good gift. I want the present I give to be desired! I want it to be stolen, perhaps repeatedly. And I want the person who receives it to be happy.
It’s terrible to watch the expressions of gift receivers and know that they don’t love what they got. To watch them eagerly display the gift in front of them for all to see, hoping that it will get stolen – and then to see the unwanted item sit there, overlooked for the rest of the festivities. A dud.
I’m happy to report that in both of these groups, my gift was stolen/traded at least once! Ahh, success!

Maybe I worry too much. But then again, who doesn’t like to receive the perfect gift?! If you’re still shopping, good luck! If you’re done, congrats! Hope all your gift giving and receiving is right on target! Enjoy the holidays!

Give them books

P1050936One of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts growing up was a complete boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I still have them today, and they are a treasured possession. But over the years, I haven’t received many books as gifts. I suppose it’s hard for people to know exactly what I like or what I’ve read, but books are awesome gifts (hint, hint for friends and family who may be stopping by).

What could be easier to wrap than a book? And they stack nicely. Ooooh, a tower of books would look lovely under the tree! This year, I’ve discovered another fun way to give books. Fun, easy and inexpensive! By purchasing an ebook as a gift and printing out the coupon myself, I can easily tuck it into a stocking or add to a larger gift item. Know someone who enjoys curling up with a beverage and a good book? Tuck a tasty assortment of teas or coffee into a mug or cozy throw blanket along with a coupon for a digital book. Simple!

The other great thing, of course, is shopping from your computer. Especially if the weather happens to frightful where you are. And no shipping fees. This is a biggie for me. I hate to spend money on shipping!

So, while I’m writing, my gift book certificates are printing on my home printer. Easy, schmeasy.  Happy shopping and gifting . . . and reading! 🙂

 

p.s. A digital copy of my newest contemporary romance, Her Greatest Risk, is on sale Dec. 10, 11 and 12! That’s a great price for a delightful stocking stuffer!

buy on Amazon

 

 

Something for Everyone!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00031]I hosted book club last night, and, as usual, some people liked the book. Others, not so much. There was a difference of opinion on whether the book was well-written, whether the characters were fleshed out and well developed, and whether the plot was believable or too predictable.
That’s the way it is with books. One woman’s trash, is another’s treasure. There is rarely a right or wrong, good or bad. There are only opinions!
In my book club, some of us like real life-like dramas. Others like fantasy or science fiction. Some like cozy mysteries or non-fiction best. That’s one of the cool things about books – there’s something for everyone!

I enjoy reading slice-of-life books, and that’s what I tend to write. I recently created an ad for a couple of my romance books using the tag line “Romance that feels Real.” If you’ve looked at the homepage of my website, you know that I portray my characters as “someone you’d want to be friends with in real life.”
Other slice-of-life books that come to mind are Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, Plainsong by Kent Haruf, and The Woman Next Door by Barbara Delinsky. These are all books about people, their lives, relationships, jobs, issues, etc. Like my stories, they present everyday situations that a vast number of readers can relate to. Some people hate that kind of book. It’s too close to reality, they say. They read to escape reality. They want to be transported to another world.
Luckily, like I said, there’s something for everyone out there!

I’ve recently received several new reviews for my novel The Storm Within. It’s about a woman living in a small town who has trouble coping with the death of her son and her husband’s request for a divorce. Her world is crumbling, and she turns to alcohol for relief. For some people, this is a depressing dose of reality. Even if the book is well-written, the characters seem believable, and the depiction of alcoholism is accurate, they can’t enjoy that kind of book. For me, the author, that’s unfortunate.
But, as reading goes, everyone has a different perspective and their own opinion. What one person found depressing, others find dramatic and realistic, and they form an emotional connection with the character and story. Whew! For me, the author, that’s an incredible affirmation.
It’s humbling and gratifying when readers write in a review things like this: “What I liked about this book was the fact that the way the two main characters were feeling was totally normal and the inner thoughts they had were similar to what we, normal people/not book characters, would have. It was as if was listening to my friend telling her story and the hard times she’s going through…” And, “the struggle to pull herself out of despair and depression and to stop drinking with the help of friends and her daughter is honest and touching.”

Basically, these readers found the story realistic. That makes me happy. I accomplished my goal. I made a connection. I know it’s not what everyone likes. Some readers will hate the book and feel the need to share their opinion with everyone. That’s part of the system. I’m just so grateful for the readers who take the time to let me and others know that the book seemed “real” and made an impression.

Here’s to finding the type of book that suits your moods and needs. Happy reading to all!

Bigger isn’t always better

DDshop bagIt’s Small Business Saturday, and I’m getting ready to head out to one of the very few independent bookstores left in our area to meet and greet customers. The store, called Readers World, is run by people who were displaced when Border’s went under, and it’s carved out a niche of supporting local authors – especially independent ones! Hooray!

I know the big stores offer a lot more variety, deeper discounts and the convenience of shopping for multiple items in one place, but we also need stores like this — stores that offer the convenience of a quick in and out, stores that offer personalization, cozy stores where shop owners get to know their local customers and authors. It’s a special place, and I hope enough people will continue to shop here to keep this wonderful store in business.

Don’t you enjoy going to new places and finding that little gem of a shop that’s different? Or that cute little shopping area that’s not a mall, or a strip center sporting the exact same shops you see in your town everyday? I do! And I love finding unique gifts for the people on my Christmas list. Many times, the small independent shops are the best places for finding something different – and exactly right.

I’m not doing a lot of shopping today because the weather is on the nasty side, but when I finally get down to seriously checking off my Christmas list, I’ll try to shop local, and small, because I don’t want to lose the fun shops that offer a quiet, cozy atmosphere, and unique items that my friends and family will love, and that I’ll feel good about buying!

Happy Small Biz Saturday, everyone! And happy shopping.

Darlene

Time Out!

CUdZZn0VEAA4cXZIt’s that time of year – time to take a break, sit back, relax, and reflect on the good things in your life. It’s amazing how hard it is to stop the busy-ness, turn off the television, close the laptop, ignore the calendar and forget about the to-do list for a few minutes. There’s grocery shopping to be done, piles of laundry, a turkey to cook, tables to set, etc., etc. I know!
The house is quiet right now. Everyone’s doing their own thing, so I’m trying to sneak a few minutes of calm before holiday festivities begin. I have much to be thankful for. There’s the big stuff, of course – living in the U.S., freedom of choices, and good health. I suppose, like most of you, it comes down to people. I’m so very thankful to be the mom of two awesome kids who’ve grown into decent, responsible young adults. I’m thankful they can be here for the holiday – and happy that they WANT to be here! 🙂 I’m thankful for a supportive spouse who works hard and provides our family with a wonderful lifestyle. Without his dedication, I wouldn’t be able to devote my time and energy to starting a new career. I suppose, in a way, I am also thankful that I was laid off from my corporate job a few years ago, which is what catapulted me into the world of fiction writing. At the time, it didn’t feel so good, but I know I probably would not have taken the steps that led to becoming an author otherwise.
That, of course, brings me to many other people to thank. So grateful for critique partners, editors, beta readers, friends who cheer me on, readers and followers! I recently ran a promotion in which I gave away thousands of one of my women’s fiction novels for free. Not everyone will like or even read the book, but I’ve been touched by the number of people who’ve bought one of my other books, who’ve taken the time to write a review or give a rating, and those who’ve left kind words of praise. Many thanks to all of you!

I’m looking forward to spending Thanksgiving Day away from my computer, not writing. I’ll be eating, and hanging out with family and friends, and eating some more – sharing fun times that will turn into treasured memories (that’s the plan, anyway :-). And when it’s all over, I’ll get back to work with renewed energy – thanks to the encouraging words from so many enthusiastic readers.

I know some people will be working today, some are facing personal crisis, some are missing loved ones and not feeling particularly thankful. But I hope you all can find some peace and quiet, a little time to reflect, and something or someone to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Darlene

Exposure is Good

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00031]I admit, I’ve resisted giving my books away for free to the general reading public. Of course I give away copies for review to bloggers and release day festivities and occasional promotions. But something about giving my work away for free just goes against the grain. Who wants to work for free? Every book I write is a lot of work. It takes a long time, a lot of thought, research and hours and hours of writing, revising and editing. And it costs real money – cover images, cover design, proofreading, swag, promotion, etc.

Well, I finally decided to try it, and placed an ad with Bookbub in an effort to reach more readers. To get exposure. Thousands of people responded, and downloaded the book. Now, I know many of those downloads will sit on Kindles for months and may never even be opened. A lot of people are simply drawn to the power of “free,” and download on a whim.

This morning, as my promotion ends, I’m feeling grateful, and rather in awe. Not only did thousands download the book, which is the first in my Women of Whitfield series, I sold many copies of book 2, and already have four new five-star reviews. And I’m re-energized to get back to working on the next book! So, many thanks to all of you who downloaded The Storm Within. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you bond with Claire, Mary and Dana and will want to spend more time with these three friends.
Happy reading to all!

Get your copy of The Storm Within

For those of you who are still contemplating the series, or hesitant to try a new author, please use the Look Inside feature available on Amazon, and take a look at the reviews there and on Goodreads. In case those things aren’t enough to tempt you . . . here’s a little excerpt from The Storm Within:

They shopped for two hours, and Claire’s bags were bulging with evidence of a spending spree. The new skirt and blouse would replace the ones she’d worn the night Ray was over for dinner. Those had found a new home in the landfill.
“Okay, we better put the brakes on, or I’ll need one of those ‘oversized load’ signs for my car to haul all of this stuff home. Besides, I can’t carry anything else,” Claire said.
“And my feet are tired. And we need food,” Mary told her. “What do you think? Gardenview or one of the other restaurants down here? What about the little Mexican place?”
“Sure. That sounds good.”
A few minutes later, they dumped their bags into the extra chairs at their table, and dove into the basket of chips waiting for them.
“This is what I love about this place. Instant gratification,” Mary said.
“Exactly.”
Under the table, Claire eased her tired feet partway out of her sandals. Ahhh. Now all she needed was something for her parched throat.
The waitress stopped by with glasses of water. “What can I get you ladies to drink?”
Claire spoke first. “I’ll have a house margarita on the rocks. With salt, please.”
She glanced over at Mary and caught her frown.
The waitress turned to Mary. “Ma’am?”
“I’ll have the same.”
As soon as the waitress left, Claire pursed her lips, and set the menu down. Her eyes met Mary’s.
“What?” Mary asked.
“You know what. I don’t want to see that look every time I order a drink. We’ve been having wine with dinner, or drinks and appetizers forever. I can have one margarita, for heaven’s sake.”
Mary leaned forward, her brow furrowed. “But can you? Have just one? What about when you get home, Claire? What about the other night?”
Her throat constricted. Of all people, Mary should understand. “You know what happened the other night. It was awful, and I needed to go numb for a while. Jesus, can’t you cut me a little slack on this?”
“Claire, I don’t want to argue. I’m worried about you, that’s all.”
“I’m fine.”
“All right, but if you’re fine, why aren’t you doing anything? Why don’t you come help me with concessions at the baseball field next week?”
Claire shrugged. “I might. I’m not sure how long I’ll be at Elise’s or how worn out I’ll be after that. I’ll call you.”
“When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow after lunch.”
“Want me to help you pack or anything?”
Claire rolled her eyes. “No, I do not need help packing, for heaven’s sake.”
“What are you doing with Reggie?”
“He’s staying here. I’ll put out extra food and water.”
The drinks arrived, and they ordered dinner. Claire lifted the heavy margarita glass, and held it out toward Mary. “Well, that’s that.”
“To new beginnings,” Mary said as she clinked her glass against Claire’s.
Her attorney had said the same thing. A euphemism for starting over, Claire thought. Starting over at fifty-five. When she should be settled and comfortable. What was so great about starting over?

Huge Holiday giveaway

DD Winter giveawaya Rafflecopter giveaway
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Hey, everyone, I’ve joined with a great group of authors to bring you an exciting Christmas giveaway! Okay, it may seem a little early, but the holidays will be here before you know it. And it’s always a good time to find some new reading material for those cool days when you just want to curl up with your favorite beverage and a good book!
This promotion gives you dozens of chances to win books, gift cards, swag and cash prizes! Not only could you win some great stuff, you just might discover your new favorite author!

Enter today, and happy reading to all!