Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Freebies or Not?

My friend and fellow author, Julia Barrett, wrote a blog about the perceived value of FREE merchandise. There's an on-going debate about what the perfect price point is for a book. Some folks won't read anything they have to pay for. Others have a top dollar price point of five dollars. Still others will tailor their book dollars to the product.

Personally, I will spend more dollars on a book I covet than almost any other item. For instance, the St. John's Bible is on my wish list for Christmas, Birthday, and any other gift day. A) Because I'm a calligrapher myself. B) Because I consider the Bible a sacred text.)

If I am particularly interested in a subject, I will spend a significant amount of money on a print book--especially for research purposes. I know fellow writers and readers who think buying such a book is insane. To each, his own, I say. In my experience, such a print book is far more satisfying than an e-book. If I have room to store it, why not?

But when it comes down to it, most folks buy novels and it's impossible to place a value on a novel. A title one reader will wait impatiently for will have zero value for another reader. So the excitement and anticipation for Book A won't mean anything for the individual waiting for Book B.

I call it the Sam's Club Syndrome. If you go to the club on certain days, you'll be bombarded by freebie food samples. Folks try them out--whether or not they would normally eat the item. Then they walk away, without buying the item, because they don't like that item. Never did. Never will.

Free books fall in that same category, somewhat. I cannot tell you how many readers have downloaded my books when they were offered as freebies who then wrote to me complaining about the book they downloaded. Inevitably, there is one sentence included--"I don't like fantasy (erotica, romance, shifter, vampire, etc.)"

Then WHY download it?

Because it was FREE.

Heh. Well, I'll bite. I'll pool all the commenters on THIS blog post and pick one or two to receive a free book. Only one caveat. The comment must be about this blog post.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rescuing Clarice

“I’m not going to have an affair with you.”

“I don’t believe that I asked you to have an affair. Actually, I haven’t even suggested you have sex with me. So relax.”

She buried her face in her hands and muttered curses. “What kind of alternate universe did I wake up in this morning? I am not here. This is some kind of erotic nightmare. I’ll wake up in a little while and discover that Mr. Larssen is a vampire or something.” She peeked through her fingers as he turned into an underground parking garage.

“Vampire? I was thinking more along the lines of a werewolf. An alpha werewolf, naturally. Alpha werewolves seem to be popular in women’s fiction if the books my mother reads are anything to go by.” He whipped the truck into an empty space and turned off the ignition.

“You’re insane. Who let you out of the asylum, anyway?” she snapped. Then it occurred to her that she was talking to her new boss—the man who would be deciding whether or not she received her raise—and she moaned again.

“Haven’t you heard?” he asked. “The inmates are in charge of the asylum this week.” Otis opened the truck door, happy that he’d chosen to bring the truck instead of his low-slung sports car when he agreed to fill in for Uncle Shamus. Clarice wasn’t likely to jump down from the truck and take off. When he made it around to the other side of the truck, she was still hunched over in the front seat. He opened her door, released her seat belt and lifted her down to the pavement making sure she had her purse, all without her saying a single word.

After slamming the door shut, he took her hand and led her to the elevator. When they were finally inside his condo with the door locked behind them, she stood in the living room uncertainly while he loosened his tie and slipped his suit coat off, tossing it over the couch arm. “I’ll make some coffee,” he said. “If you want to freshen up, the bathroom is just down the hall.”

She turned away, moving as though she was sleepwalking. Otis frowned while he made the coffee and set out sandwich fixings on the counter. If he wasn’t mistaken, Clarice was very close to the end of her resources. With her bank account depleted and no money coming in until payday, her options were nearly nonexistent. According to the employee notes Shamus had sent him, Clarice was alone, except for her younger sister, with no family network to fall back on.

By the time Clarice reappeared, still quiet and withdrawn, Otis had lunch on the table. “Ah, there you are! How do you take your coffee?”

“Cream and sweetener.” Her voice was low, a bare breath of sound.

“Fine. Have a seat.”

Following his brisk, no-nonsense direction, she set her purse and coat on one of the chairs and sat down. He deposited a steaming mug of coffee in front of her, added a cream pitcher and bowl of pink sweetener packets and went back to retrieve his own mug of black coffee. More to have something to do than because she wanted coffee, Clarice added cream and sweetener and stirred until it was a pale au laìt color.

With a small grin, he watched her stir as though her life depended on it. “If you don’t like the color of that mug, I have others,” he observed quietly.


“No need to scrape the color off. If you would rather have a different colored mug, I’ll be happy to exchange.”

Startled, she realized that she was nervously stirring the coffee so vigorously it sounded like she was mixing a cake. She froze, staring at him in paralyzed embarrassment.

“Clarice,” he said firmly. “Eat your lunch.”

Wordlessly, she picked up a sandwich quarter and began eating. When that portion was gone, she sipped at her coffee, apparently deep in thought while he ate his own lunch.

He finished and sat back with a sigh, regarding his guest with such intensity that she finally frowned at him and asked, “What?”

“Nothing. I’ve just been considering your options. You’re in quite a tight spot.”

He was deeply relieved when she seemed to snap out of her unnatural resignation. She set her mug down with a thunk on the table. “Really? What was your first clue?”

“Now, Clarice—”

“Don’t you now Clarice me! You’re not the one with four dollars and seventeen cents to your name! You’re not the one sitting at this table with a broken bra and no panties! You don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll have electricity!”

“No, I don’t,” he admitted. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not worried or concerned.”

“Concerned? Concerned? Are you crazy? What am I going to do?” Tears trickled down her face as she stared at him in bewilderment. “What the hell am I going to do?”

Otis swallowed the last of his coffee as he studied her thoughtfully. He suspected that she was not going to take his suggestion well but he wasn’t inclined to let her escape when he held all the cards. There would never be a chance like this again. Fighting the urge to gather her in his arms and assure her that everything would be all right, he sprawled back in his chair, folded his hands over his flat belly and dropped his bombshell.

“I think that you should marry me.”

And then things happened... Want to know more? It's now just 99 cents! Click on the book cover...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Between the Sheets

About three weeks ago the hunk and I purchased a new set of sheets online. The next day we discovered we'd been charged twice and when we discussed it with the support staff at the site, they told us we'd been sent two identical sets of sheets.

After some dickering, we sent one set back and they refunded our money. Now, my skin is sensitive to the finish in new fabrics (sheets, towels, clothing) so we always wash everything before using it. When we washed the new sheets, the seam across the top hem on the top sheet unraveled.

Another call to the support team. They were very pleasant. And then we waited for resolution. Waited... Waited...

Yesterday we received an e-mail. They're sending us a new set of sheets. Please dispose of the defective sheets. Hmmm. We'll see.

In the meantime, it's a good thing we had another set of sheets on hand. We woke up to a nippy 39º this morning with no heat. I would say fall has arrived!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Killer Smile

Some people fear spiders. Others aren't crazy about snakes. But for sheer terror, I think the dentist comes in first. If you're like me and have difficulties with local anesthetics (they don't work!), then dentistry takes on an entirely new level of fear.

For MANY years, I simply refused to go because dentists didn't believe the local wasn't working. But I finally reached a point when it was cave in--or lose my teeth. Fortunately, this time around I stumbled into a clinic that genuinely understood and believed in me.

So I had a hygienist appointment today. And the news was pretty good. Gums are in great shape. Teeth required minimal cleaning. But there the gravy train ground to a halt. I have two cavities back in molar land. And one of those teeth has a hairline crack. Seems that fall yesterday probably did more damage than I thought.

On the other hand, when I go back to fix them, my dentist (very hot!) will numb my mouth to a fare thee well, and take care of my ancient senior teeth.

Life is good.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Back to Front

The more you write, the stranger the process. I've written a book or two...or three. My current work in process is the first book I've written from ending to beginning. At forty thousand words, I realized I'd started in the wrong place.

After considerable cogitation, I went back to the beginning. Who were these people I was moving around on my internal chessboard? I had no idea. It took me three chapters to begin that discovery process. I still don't have it all down, but at least they've captured my attention. This is no small thing for the author. It's always a good thing if you like your own characters. Otherwise, why would anyone else?

As I've learned about my current crop of characters, I've also discovered things about the characters from the previous books in the series. Hmmmm. What will I learn about the couple coming up in the last book?

I admit this delay is costing me. I'd hoped to have this book finished long since. Life interferes. Perhaps that's another lesson to be learned.

Sometimes, life has to be lived back to front.


Friday, October 18, 2013


As I get older, I find my outlook on life is less steady. I suppose that could be general life circumstances. Bad health. Crappy economy. Or hormones. Yeah...hormones are good. Hormones have broad shoulders and take the blame for a host of things. Sex. Rage. Murder.

So my bad attitude is due to hormones.

So glad that's settled.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Playing Dress-up

Back in the dinosaur ages, I loved to play dress-up. I suspect most folks out there have done so at one time or another. When we're small, regardless of gender, we put on our parents' shoes or shirts or hats and stroll and clomp around the house, carrying on animated conversations with our imaginary friends.

The time comes, though, when we understand playing dress-up is a form of fantasy. Unless it is necessary for our job (such as acting or performance art), we know we have to get on with the business of life so we put away childish things in our public life. Except for those special events like masquerade parties or joining our children in a game, we mostly stop playing dress-up.

But it strikes me that some folks never got the memo. They don't understand the rules about playing dress-up. Over the last few years an increasing number of individuals are dressing up as congressmen and congresswomen and heading off to Washington. Our nation is paying for their pretense and playtime.

Perhaps we should require uniforms so we can tell the real congressmen and congresswomen from the ones impersonating them. Or maybe we should pass a law against such impersonation. I'm tired of watching them sashay and pretend, carrying on their conversations with their playmates instead of doing the job.

I say no more playing dress-up. Time to work for real.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Old Rituals

When I was a kid, trick or treating wasn't a deal. In Bible-belt country (and most of the U.S. was Bible-belt country back then) Halloween wasn't even on the radar. Small local communities might have the annual gimme candy festivities, but most didn't. I think I went trick or treating twice in my life.

By the time my children were old enough to be interested, it was a big deal, both in the communities where we lived and in their schools. Then came the poison candy scares and the allergy scares and the no-kid-is-safe-anywhere scares and trick or treating is slowly dying out in favor of private parties. We haven't had any trick or treaters here in the last three years.

Most of the television programs I catch are produced and set overseas so I get a flavor of how various holidays are celebrated outside the U.S. Their customs are vastly different than here. With a bit of ingenuity and research I can figure out most of them, but the variety completely amazes me.

The other thing that I find interesting is the shift in observing various holidays. For instance, when I was a kid, Easter was probably the highest, most important holiday, even more so than Christmas. There were numerous rituals and observances attached to that week. Now it's difficult to find anyone who even notices.

Christmas has been reduced to an orgy of buying and greed. Thanksgiving is a feast of gluttony. And our patriotic holidays--Memorial Day and Independence Day are picnics and fireworks. Flag Day...well, who flies a flag? Who owns one? As for parades, those are reserved for Santa and football.

In the past--two or three centuries ago--there were no doubt very different celebrations and observances. I suppose human nature dictates changes and the passing of old rituals and memories. But for every ritual lost, we also give up a bit of our human history. There were reasons the old rituals and celebrations existed. With their loss, we lose a bit of ourselves.

I wonder. What will the face of our celebrations look like in fifty years? Will we be gathered in stadiums, cheering for the gladiators and lions? Or will we be hiding in caves to serve our gods in secret?

Maybe, there will be no rituals at all...


Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Back, way back when I first started writing, I belonged to a particular editor's group called the Frogpond. It was mostly composed of writing tadpoles, beginners in the astonishing, bewildering world of publishing and romance.

One of the frogs was a writer named Amarinda Jones. Right off the bat she wrote a story duo titled Swift of Heart and Last Man Standing. They're imaginative romances set in contemporary Australia and a parallel world. And of all the many, many stories Amarinda has penned since then, they are still my favorites.

I re-read them last week. At the end, I had that satisfied smile all readers have when they finish a good book. There's romance, betrayal, daring-do... Just what we all look for when searching out new stories.

If you'd like to check them out, just click on the book covers!  

Or check out her webpage at AMARINDA...


Monday, October 14, 2013

Take it When?

I'm retired. Part of retirement is the privilege of sleeping...late (or as long as I wish). Yet I was up and about this morning at seven AM. And why would that be? Um, I needed to take my first morning med.

"Take in morning with full glass of water at least one hour prior to eating. Do not take with other medications."

"Take in morning with full glass of water at least forty-five minutes prior to eating."

"Take with food."

"Take before bed with food."

"Take before bed, at least one hour after eating, with full glass of water."

Hah. I need a spreadsheet to figure out when to take what. If I get up at seven and take my first pill, then I can eat around nine. I might point out that also means NO COFFEE until nine. My diabetes constrains me to eat early--and regularly--so those evening meds with food require a small snack at least one hour before I plan to go to bed so I can take the second evening med. With a full glass of water. Now what do you suppose is the result of a full glass of water just prior to bedtime? Uh-huh.

I'm a reasonably intelligent individual with problem solving skills so I can work it all out. But it does make me wonder about those elderly folks who can't work it all out. How do they manage?

And my schedule? Well, it revolves around when to take a pill. I have a full page of instructions about when to STOP taking my various meds prior to my surgery at the end of the month.

Aside from the financial consequences, wouldn't it be easier to figure out a way to take all this crap once a week?


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Varma, Monkberry, and Antanov

Every time I begin a new book, the name search is part of the setup. I know some writers who believe character names aren't all that important, but I think they can provide a shortcut for the reader and the writer.

Whether we want to admit it, or not, all of us form impressions based on names. John Smith doesn't have the same connotation as Danny Ling or Alistair Monkberry. Elizabeth and Margaret bring different pictures to mind than Muffy and Barbie. There is a reason why such names as Wolf and Nick are so popular in the romance field some publishers have banned them. As writers, we can use this character shorthand--or write against 'type'.

Writing against type carries a certain risk if the reader has a heavy bias against such a name. I once met a woman who categorically refused to read any book with a female character named Babs. She said it reminded her of boobs. I can sort of see her point.

But, imagine what a writer could accomplish with a really smart, kick-ass character named Buffy. Oops. That one's been taken. And there's another point. Some characters are so memorable their names end up out of circulation for a good long while.

Rourke. Buffy. Arthur. Xena. After a time, folks forget who they were and the names can be recycled. Many romance readers would recognize Rourke as the hero from J.D. Robb's 'in Death' series. But my first encounter with the name was almost forty years ago with another fabulous Rourke in Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

Names can indicate social status, ethnicity, gender, and regional origin. One or two words can provide an indelible portrait before the writer ever adds description or dialogue. A name made popular through literature or popular culture can even indicate approximate age of the character. Imagine all the Harrys and Hermoines out there.

I believe a name--especially names of peripheral characters--can serve to illuminate those characters with a minimum of additional description. But then...that's just my opinion.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Laughter or Tears

Some authors can make you laugh--you know, that hysterical laughter where you nearly pee your pants and your ribs hurt? Some can write so poignantly you need a box of tissues. Occasionally, an author will come along who can make you both laugh and cry. They are more rare than diamonds.

Writing a truly funny scene is about more than timing. The author must 'see' the humor in everyday, whacked out life. Most of us don't. We laugh at slapstick comedy, but not the humor inherent in the simple process of living.

Once I was reading a book in a restaurant while waiting for a very slow waiter to deliver our food. The hunk was watching a game on their televisions. We were content. The story was about a widow with three small boys and the single man who was falling in love with her. He volunteered to babysit. He served spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. There was an awesome food fight. Need I say more?

I laughed so hard tears streamed down my face--while I was desperately struggling to be quiet. After all, I was in public. Evidently, I wasn't successful because three people from surrounding tables demanded to know what I was reading. All three wrote down the title and author. And since I was causing a stir, the manager showed up. She wrote down the title and author, too.

And our food miraculously showed up immediately.

The other night I was re-reading another of this same author's books. We were having a quiet evening at home, watching Antiques Roadshow. In between keeping an eye on the various items, I was reading one of the most touching and heart-wrenching scenes I've ever read. As I haphazardly mopped at the tears trickling down my face with a ragged tissue, the hunk asked me what I was reading. When I told him, he just nodded and said he'd cried, too, when he read that scene.

That ability to touch the heart of the reader is a fearsome gift. It can't be taught. It must be felt deep in the soul.

Yesterday was the author's birthday. May she live long and prosper.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Discards and Keepers

Have you ever wondered what happens to old unsuccessful television series? I can tell you. They end up on services such as Netflix or Hulu. In the last few weeks while I've been under the weather, the hunk and I have watched far more TV than I've watched in recent years. We discovered Netflix has a treasure-trove of series that didn't make the grade. Since we have no frame of reference, we just randomly pick and watch to see what they're about.

Our rule is they must have less than fifteen episodes. There's some really strange stuff out there. We've watched end-of-the-world stuff. And oddball mystery. And here's what we've concluded. A lot of it seriously deserved to be canceled.

While watching I've analyzed why or why not the shows didn't catch the public's eye. My number one reason--a confusing, disorganized beginning. Seriously. Murky sets, murky story lines, just...murky in general.

I like a mystery as well as the next gal, but for the love of Perry Mason, just tell me what it is! Don't just meander around introducing characters at random, showing them performing various tasks with no context. Argh!!! Why is that man cutting flowers? Why is the girl bicycling past a canal? What is the significance of that woman looking out the window at the man washing his car? Why should I care?

Writers sometimes do the same thing. There are many reasons a book might become a wallbanger, but the number one reason is general murkiness. Once the reader is too confused to figure out what the heck is going on, they're done.

My favorite books--the ones I read multiple times--clearly state the main premise of the book in the first chapter. Too often in an effort to maintain the mystery, an author fails to reveal the premise. Then the reader wanders for as long as they can stand it before pitching the book and moving on.

If the writer can't keep the reader's interest long enough to decide whether they like the characters and want to know more about them, whether they could possibly care about what will happen to them, then that book will be 'canceled'. And for many readers, there will be no second chance for that story.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More Yarn!

In this world there are knitters, crocheters, and weavers. And then there are all those other folks... The ones who don't understand the absolute craving for yarn. The overwhelming temptation. Colored yarn. Fuzzy yarn. Glossy, soft, drapey yarn. Warm, bulky, cozy yarn. Wool, llama, alpaca, buffalo, and cotton yarn.


Breaking out the needles or crochet hook or the loom and starting a new project is one of the best feelings. There's anticipation and excitement. And...

Frustration and impatience.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Nifty Stuff

 My friend Amarinda posted a blog about her nifty adventures working in an auto repair shop. And in that odd way, it reminded me of a time when 'nifty' was more than a descriptive word.

But before we move on to that, I'll just point out the hunk is particularly nifty when it comes to crocheting--witness his latest production--a lovely fitted king-sized cover for our bed! I wish I could crochet with such even stitches...

Now...on to one of my favorite memories from my school days--my Nifty Notebook. I loved mine. Heck, I'd probably still be using it, but for some odd reason, teachers and schools weren't as enamored of the Nifty. Maybe it was the 'snapping' sound the magnets made when you closed the pencil box in the top end. Maybe it was the top-punched, two hole paper.

I don't know. But for a time, it was the Niftiest Notebook around. Mine was blue. I miss my Nifty.
How about y'all? Anyone out there remember your Nifty?