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!

Throwback Thursday, literary style . . .

P1050882For a throwback today, I thought I’d offer a little snippet from my first novel, Unexpected Legacy. It’s one of my favorite scenes between the hero, Matt, and heroine, Kate, and it just happens to occur in a pumpkin patch shortly before Halloween. Unexpected Legacy is fiction with romantic elements. It’s about a dad who meets his son for the first time when the boy is sixteen years old and recovering from a serious car accident. Kate is the high school principal who steps in to help the kid, but with a different agenda than his father. 🙂

Matt caught up to her, and rested his arms against the fence.
“Let me guess,” he said. “You’ve loved horses since you were a little girl.”
She leaned against the fence, pushing back a strand of hair that had come loose. “Is something wrong with that?”
“Not at all, but I’m intrigued. I think I’ve stumbled across a soft spot. You put on a tough front in your profession, but your home is full of soft things, and you like ponies.”
“Excuse me, are you a psychiatrist?”
“Hell, no,” he laughed. “I’m just making this up. Basically, it means you’re such a girl.”
She laughed then, and smacked his arm. When she tossed her head back, Matt reached out and pushed the loose strand of hair behind her ear again. His hand lingered near her face, while his thumb skimmed her cheek.
And in the next instant his lips brushed against hers.
Maybe it was the warm rays of sunshine surrounding them, or the light smoldering in Matt’s eyes. Maybe it was purely Matt Dalton’s sensuality that sent liquid heat surging through her veins. She felt deliciously enveloped in warmth.
So when he pulled her against him, she lifted her face, welcoming his kiss. His arms went around her, pressing her closer, and she melted against him. He murmured her name, and her heart pounded as a wave of desire washed over her.
Kate clutched the taut muscles of Matt’s arm with one hand, while the other one curved around his neck and wound into his thick, coarse hair. His hands splayed across her back, sending shivers rocketing up her spine.
When his lips trailed kisses behind her ear and down her neck, she moaned softly, lost in his arms. When Matt shifted, his arousal, hard against her hip, jolted Kate back to reality. She drew back and turned, leaning against the fence.
One of the horses nuzzled up to her. Breathing in light gasps, she held out a shaky hand, grateful for the diversion. She couldn’t look at Matt. Kate knew she was playing with fire. She shouldn’t have come. She thought she could get past her attraction to him and simply enjoy the day, but when he touched her, her body had a will of its own.
“I’ll get these loaded up,” Matt said finally. His voice sounded strained, and she looked up quickly. He gave her shoulder a soft squeeze, then turned toward the wagon.
She followed behind while he wrestled with keeping the wagon upright in the uneven dirt and ruts. When they reached the tent near the entrance, Matt pulled out his wallet.
“Oh, Matt. No. I’m getting these,” she said, fumbling for her purse.
“Kate,” he said, his voice brooking no opposition. “Go pick out a couple of mums.” He nodded toward a grassy area to the side with a display of colorful mums in varying stages of bloom.
Swallowing hard, she turned and marched across the lot. The man had a bit of a bossy streak. Hardly even looking at them, she picked up the two closest purple mums and headed back toward the tent, until she realized Matt was already loading pumpkins into his car. He motioned to her, and before she made it halfway, he was at her side, taking the mums. She whispered a thank-you and hurried toward the car.
Kate sensed the electricity in the car as she sat with her hands in her lap, staring out the window. When he pulled into a parking lot, she turned and looked at him. “What are you doing?”
“I’m buying you lunch, of course.”
Oh. Right. Still processing her emotions, she’d forgotten about lunch.
“Matt, maybe we should just head back,” Kate said softly, not meeting his eyes.
“Kate. Come on. It’s almost one. I promised you lunch, and I’m starving. I know you must be, too.” He opened his car door, leaving her little choice but to do the same. He waited for her to round the car, then ushered her up the stairs of an old Victorian farmhouse.
Snap out of it, Kate told herself. Great blazes, it was one little kiss. She stepped onto the porch determined to be cool and collected. Taking a deep breath, she looked around at the stately old home.
“This is a clubhouse?” she asked.
“No. I thought you might like this better. My mom and sister love it.”
“Oh. It’s really cool.” It was absolutely gorgeous. With massive pots of flowers and cushioned wicker furniture, it looked like something from a magazine. The tranquility of the place went a long way toward restoring Kate’s equilibrium.
A hostess appeared. “Terrace this afternoon, folks?”
Kate couldn’t help but smile up at Matt. “Would that be okay with you?”
“Of course.”
Kate nodded to the hostess, and she led them to a table outside with a view of a small pond and lovely gardens. “Wow,” she breathed. “It’s incredible.” She picked up the menu and read the brief history of the Mansion. “Oh, I think I’ve heard of this place.”
“Glad you like it,” Matt said.
Kate’s heart sank at the stilted, formal tone to Matt’s words. How could they recapture the easy mood of this morning?
She ordered a salad and iced tea, glad to have the beautiful scenery to look at and take her mind off of . . . other things.
“Kate, I–”
She held up her hand and gave him a shaky smile.
“Matt, please. That shouldn’t have happened, and I shouldn’t have let it. Why don’t we just let it go, and enjoy the rest of the day, all right? I’ve had a lot of fun. You were right. I needed a day away.”
She didn’t add that she’d actually enjoyed it a little too much.
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. His gaze met hers, and slowly he nodded. “Okay, we let it go today, but Kate?”
She caught her breath, held captive by the intensity in Matt’s eyes.
“This conversation isn’t over.”
The ride back was quiet. Once, he reached out for her hand. He squeezed it gently then caressed the top of it with his thumb. The soft movement sent shivers up her arm. Kate kept her hand where it was, but she ached inside. She couldn’t help but feel cheated – here was a really great guy whom she liked and was attracted to, but he was off limits. It wasn’t fair.
For her, this was a fairy tale day. It couldn’t be real. She was like Cinderella, and Matt her handsome prince – only there was no ball, and no glass slipper. When the clock struck midnight tonight, she’d be left with nothing but pumpkins. And no fairy-tale ending.

Unexpected Legacy on Amazon

Speaking of throwbacks, do you have any books so near and dear to your heart that you occasionally re-read them? I have a couple of oldies but goodies that I enjoy re-reading. In romance, two of my faves are Paradise by Judith McNaught, and Montana Sky by Nora Roberts. And yours?

Sometimes you just can’t force it

CSAZCgNWcAAZdCxI see this meme or some variation of it posted a lot: children become readers on the laps of their parents, or children who are read to become lifelong readers. And I’m always tempted to like and repost and say “yeah!”
But then I remember, there’s no guarantee. I wish I had hard and fast scientific data. I don’t. But I do have two children. One girl, one boy. One a reader, one not. I read (or attempted to) to each of them when they were little. So why did one become a lifelong reader, and the other have absolutely no interest?

Despite my repeated efforts – years of efforts – my son is not a reader. The little book pictured here is one of our very earliest attempts. You can see that it is well-worn. Looks well-loved, right? It did, actually, become a favorite chew toy. :-/ P1050866

There were a couple of glimmers of hope through the years. He seemed to enjoy Captain Underpants. Yay, boy humor. OK, I could roll with that. We bought the entire series, and he even dragged them around when we went out to eat or to an appointment. A few years later, I was again encouraged when he discovered Lemony Snicket and the Series of Unfortunate Events. But that was about it. From then on, I don’t think he read many other books except those that were required in school.

We subscribed to Time magazine and National Geographic and Sports Illustrated for Teens, and I hoped the shorter non-fiction might appeal to him. Mmm, not so much. When he was in high school, I tried to read the required books, too, so that I could talk to him about them and make sure he was understanding and processing them. He was. It wasn’t that he couldn’t read. He simply didn’t enjoy it. Unlike my daughter, my son did not entertain himself for hours lost in imaginary play. He didn’t work puzzles and create elaborate set-ups with Legos or Playmobile sets the way my daughter did.

For a reader/writer mom, this is hard. I can gnash my teeth and lament, “where did I go wrong?” But the fact is, it was out of my control. He needed more action, more stimulation. In grade school and middle school he played soccer and tennis and baseball and basketball. His dad tried to get him to play golf, and that didn’t work out. Too slow for this kid. He played soccer and tennis into high school, and plays tennis in college. Lots of action, constant running and movement. We joke about whether he’s ever stepped foot inside the campus library, or could even identify the building (he can). And, yes, he can read and write, but it’s not his personality to sit and read for enjoyment. Not his thing. Never has been.
His dad isn’t a reader, either. So, I’m thinking maybe it’s genetic. He just didn’t get the reading gene!

What’s the ‘right’ way?

P1050861So here’s my pet peeve – I mean public service offering – for the day. As a writer with a degree in journalism, I do some kind of auto-cringe thing when I see misspelled words and incorrect word usage (as in your when it should be you’re or it’s when it should be its) in a written piece that’s being distributed in public. I can’t help it. When I was in J-school, the Associated Press Stylebook was The Bible. We studied it, memorized it, lived by it.
As an author, I still use it today. Of course I still have my trusty Webster’s dictionary, and Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, along with a smattering of other editing books and style guides.
Mistakes happen. We all know that. And they are a hundred percent easier to spot once they’re distributed, or in print. That’s a given.

My issue today is the fierceness with which some people cling to an incorrect usage. It’s as if they’ve seen something spelled incorrectly (think alot) for so long, that they bought into it, and now insist that it become a legitimate “form” of the word!
I recently offered a polite correction on a Facebook feed because I genuinely do want to help other writers when I can. Well, let’s just say my efforts weren’t appreciated.

But for the record, here’s how you spell that word that starts with an A when you want to thank or acknowledge the people who helped you with your book:
Acknowledgments
There’s no E after the G. I double-checked the AP Stylebook. Now some dictionaries may have acquiesced to the “other acceptable forms” concept, but I also went and looked inside several books on my shelves published by famous authors. Guess what? Anthony Doerr, Nora Roberts, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, Jan Karon, Rebecca Wells, Nora Ephron, and more all spell acknowledgments the same way – without the extra E.
Perhaps acknowledgments is the preferred way of spelling the word.
Just a friendly FYI! 🙂

Happy reading and writing!