A Christmas gift – Sweet or Sexy

Cinnamon Hearts-webSecond Chances cover2013 - webI’m thrilled to announce that my publisher has just released a sweet Christmas romance I wrote. They’ve also re-released a better-proofed edition of an earlier steamy romantic suspense, both of which are the first books of planned series and both of which will be coming out in trade paper in the next few days as well. I’ll get links up to Amazon and other places you can buy those ASAP.

In the meantime, I’m offering a 50% off coupon for each of these e-books if you buy them through Smashwords before the end of this year, 2013. Just go here for Cinnamon Hearts and enter the code XP36S when you check out, or go here and enter the code EK52B when you check out.

For another quick hit of Christmas, by the way, see my new short story, The Christmas Gig. Sure to hit home with a couple of parents, especially those with teens or grown children.

That’s it for now. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, wonderful Kwanzaa or Ramadan or Omisoka. May your celebrations be good for your heart and soul.

 

Too dark for sweet romance?

The Party - webJumper - webSweet romance, which all my short stories are, sometimes have suggestions of sex or conflict but generally stay light, profanity free, and focused on the simple pleasures of finding love. Often in unexpected times or ways.

The most recent two stories I’ve offered (and yes, a new novel is coming sooooon), actually follow that lightness, though both have kind of dark undertones – racism and activism, with threatened suicide. Yes, everything turns out okay in the end. And everything actually stays pretty light, even with those dark topics hovering in the background. Which raises an interesting point of conversation: should you even raise dark topics if you’re not going to explore the darkness in them?

Hm. Seems to me that darkness is always with us. Even if you avoid the news, if you have an open heart, it’s hard not to see it in your neighborhood, maybe in your neighbors, in your own family. But so much of our experience of the world has to do with now only what we’re aware of, but what we choose to focus on, and what context we put things into.

As an eternal optimist and romantic, I accept the world is filled with pain, but there is also good and happiness and love everywhere you look. And sometimes it’s important to look at the darker places to find the goodness and love there, specifically. Keep smiling. Keep loving. Celebrate all that is beautiful and sweet because you make more of it simply in that celebration.

Because people look!

The Competition - web Water Dogs - webI’ve had some people scold me for not keeping this blog up to date, while others say they rarely follow blogs of even their favorite authors. Me, I mostly like reading an author’s stories more than their ramblings unless they’ve got something pretty darn interesting to report on. And since I’ve been mostly wrapped up in writing and looking after my family, I wasn’t sure I had all that much interesting to report on.

(Or I’m just too lazy to establish another writing stream? Hm…maybe we won’t go there.)

What I have noticed, however, and what the a recent RWA report backs up, is that readers do visit author websites. How, beside checking my web statistics, I can be pretty sure of that here is that the stories I’ve talked about in my blog seem to get purchased at a much higher frequency than all the other (possibly better) ones that I haven’t.

Coincidence? I think not!

Which means people actually do read a bit when they visit my website. And for that reason alone, I think it’s only right that I start blogging a little more. Not only for the shameless promotion of just-released stories like “The Competition” or “Speed Date” or “Water Dogs & Secret Hearts“, and upcoming novels likeĀ Cinnamon Hearts, but maybe to share some tidbits about love. Stuff I’ve seen, felt, observed, read about.

No promises of deep revelations, but a little more of something. Stay tuned.

Another free e-book and feedback

Hi, y’all. My short story “The Interview” has been free on a bunch of e-book sites for a little while now, finally turning free on Amazon.uk just today, and my publisher and I have been blushing furiously over the typos that made it through the editing process without being flagged. Nice thing about offering a work for free, though – someone will always point out the mistakes! Even nicer, with an electronic book you can get in there quickly and make fixes.

Can’t fix the 5000-some copies of the story people have already downloaded, and that stings a bit. If you’re one of the people who downloaded one of those and were bugged by the errors, I apologize to you. I try to write cleanly. Doesn’t always work.

And a second shout-out to any of you who are returning readers. You might notice this story’s a bit different from many of my Terri Darling shorts. Less simple and heartfelt; more quirky and glib. We tried to signal that a little by changing its original cover to one that matches my other quirky short story, “The Accident.” These two stories contain a little more language fun, a little more humor, a little more ironic detachment. In “The Accident” we’ve got two people who meet each other in the hospital emergency room after a car accident. Kind of Crash without the creepiness. Also some digs at lawyers and the whole automobile accident litigation industry. In “The Interview” we’ve got a woman who’s essentially been dumped by her husband and is having to fend for herself by going out to get a job even though she’s never held a regular job before. A little social commentary here about who’s really got the job skills in the country, and which skills are important. A little bit of romantic sparring that’s less about a knight in shining armor rescuing a damsel in distress, and more about the knight saying, “Whoah! You don’t even know how competent you are, do you?”

It’s a different kind of Terri Darling story that’s gotten a few of my readers scratching their heads, wondering where the heartfelt went. Just letting you know it’s still here, even in this story, but hey, romance comes in many guises. This one rides on a quick tongue. Is what it is. Hope it’s fun for some. More traditional stuff to follow.

Falling in love in inappropriate places

Okay, so you have this female friend who’s having an extramarital affair. The thing is, it’s not just a lust thing. And she’s isn’t having some kind of crazy mid-life crisis. In fact, she has a decent marriage. She just seem to need…something more. And maybe that “something more” gives their life just enough spice and meaning to keep her marriage intact. Rather than driving her crazy, the affair makes her a nicer, calmer, more patient person.

Unlikely? It’s apparently happening all over. So says Iris Krasnow in her book The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married. As reported in Maclean’s Magazine, women do all sorts of things to stay happily married. Having long-term, secret affairs is one of a number of popular techniques that help a woman create an identity for herself that’s not totally wrapped up in her husband’s.

Well…yeah. So would taking a job as a foreign war correspondent, or camping out in a protest to occupy Wall Street (Yeah!), or starting a stamp collection, for Pete’s sake. Why stick a knife straight into the heart of your marriage by cheating on your husband, whether he quickly notices that knife is in there or not?

I have another explanation: Love (and lust) happen at inappropriate times and places. Think about it. Have you ever in your life been attracted to someone you know it could simply never work with? Maybe they were unrealistically too old, too young, too different, living too far away, living a life too out-of-synch with your own.

Usually when that happens, we shrug and dream about it, or maybe pursue it a little, accepting it as a short-term fling, but we don’t usually let ourselves get wrapped up in knots of fantasy and regret. Unless we’re…oh, I don’t know…seventeen? Then that Faerie prince looks pretty hot. Who cares that he regularly kills people as part of his position? Better than that vampire dude from last night who was about two hundred years old and sucking out the blood of deer and rabbits so that he didn’t suck mine.

Or maybe when we’re a stuck in a marriage that’s gone a little flat, just needs a little danger to juice it up?

Come on! Get real, girls! Attraction happens. Whether you let it go beyond attraction to become something more is never forced on you. This is why God gave us brains, not just hormones. We can look at the guy who’s zinging our pleasure receptors and ask a few pertinent questions like: Is he worth it? Is the downside something I can handle? Do I really want to wake up beside this guy in the morning if it goes that far?

And you know what? Sometimes the answer is yes, yes, oh my good lord, YES! Most of my stories are about exactly that. (The Interview, pictured above and left is actually about finding that possibility while you’re trying to get a job.)

But not when you’re married, please. In my books that’s not inappropriate, it’s inconsiderate, often cruel, usually shortsighted, and usually just plain dumb. Even Ms. Krasnow, for all her reporting of modern women’s extramarital hijinks, would seem to agree, advocating you “ride that hormonal surge straight to your own bedroom and initiate great sex with your spouse.” And she goes on at length about the advantages of marriages that last, pointing out that even if a marriage has even just a spark of love left in it, it can often be saved.

So if you’re not married yet, girls, follow your heart, but let your brain hang around to help you know whether to move from lust to love.

And if you’re married already, read lots of romances and let your fantasies soar, then direct them to that real-life vampire/faerie prince/firefighter/alpha male you married in whatever guise he may be wearing now. Who knows, maybe he’ll become more than you ever dreamed was possible.

What do you expect in return for your love?

Fascinating discussion with my daughter yesterday that finally made me understand what I’ve always disliked about Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. (If you’ve never read this classic children’s tale, buy a copy and do so now. Or at least watch Shel’s somewhat abridged reading of it on Youtube here.) It’s not that the boy in the story gets more and more selfish and mean and defeated as the story progresses, or even that the tree seems to give and give without ever getting anything back other than hugs when the boy is small, and a bony-rear-end companionship when the boy’s an old man. That used to bother me a lot, that one-way relationship. Oh yeah.

But as my kids are almost old enough to leave home and my daughter is asking me just what she is expected to give back for all the things she has received from her parents, I realize with a jerk that what her parents want, more than anything else, is her health and happiness. Yes, her love, expressed in word and gesture, means worlds. Yes, her contribution to the smooth running of the home while she lives here is also valued. And her laughter, her insights, all the wonderful things a loved one can share. And if she couldn’t give any of that, we’d still want (I hope) for her to have a healthy, fulfilled life. We’ll give her apples and branches, we’ll even endure getting carved up a bit in the process and count that a small price to pay. Shel got that so right.

But the trunk? And staying in one spot, cut down to an unmoving, abandoned stump while your kid goes off to have a life? What’s a matter wit’ you? Get yer own life too! You think you stops livin’ just cause you’re a parent now? Come annnn!

Of course we all eventually get old and give up pieces of ourselves bit by bit. And will we still love our kids even as we’re on our last gasp, just withered old stumps? I hope so.

So maybe Shel got that part right too.

Jeez, you think there’s a reason his story has lasted?

 

Do you give your loved one what he wants? Or what he needs?

This was actually sparked by yet another go-round with Amy Chua’s parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. A disclaimer up front: I haven’t read the book myself; only read reviews of it. And the mixed nature of those reviews suggest it’s probably wonderfully written and thought-provoking. Heck, it’s thought provoking just reading the reviews and torrent of responses from everyone who agrees or disagrees with the parenting style discussed.

But what really turns my crank is the greater issue of controlling someone out of love. When a child or a husband/boyfriend/significant other cries on your shoulder, do you give them comfort or demand they buck up and jump back into the fight to deal with whatever’s upset them? Do you just listen and affirm or do you problem solve? Do you tell them you love them and you’ll do whatever you can to help them through, or do you actually do something to help them through?

Fact is, I bet we’ve all done all these things at one time or another, because when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. It’s just so often hard to 1) know what that thing is, and 2) know how best to help them get it.

And then there are our own needs. If our loved one is truly hurting and we can’t help, it’s awfully hard to listen and affirm. Maybe instead we crawl away into our own feelings of inadequacy. Maybe we lash out, ironically hurting the thing we treasure most.

Lord, if there was one kind of wisdom I wish I had, it would be to know the best way to respond when your loved one needs help. Until that wisdom (or delusion) settles on me like a great gift from above, I guess I’ll just muddle along, loving the best I can, using what knowledge I have, and always learning – about my love ones, about myself, about psychology and values, about ways to help and love better.

A promise fulfilled?

While I’m thinking and trying to get another romance novel finished and up, I just had to respond to a number of readers of “The Swimsuit Shop” who liked it but wished there was more. My response is in the form of…more. Namely, “The Swimsuit Shop 2,” which follows Kate and Benjamin as they actually take the vacation they talked about in the first story and deal with a very real issue standing between them and their happily ever after.

For readers of this blog, this week you can download a free copy of both “The Swimsuit Shop” and “The Swimsuit Shop 2″ from Smashwords, using the following coupons:

The Swimsuit ShopXF67Z

The Swimsuit Shop 2DC66F

Enjoy! (And if you do, please leave a review. : ) )

One more update on “The Swimsuit Shop”

Still thinking!

But in the meantime, I just wanted to thank the 6500+ readers who have downloaded “The Swimsuit Shop” so far, both for free and for 99 cents (since Amazon.com never recognized the drop to free). It’s put the story near the top of the free e-books in Amazon.uk, rising as high as number four, and at the very top of the free romances on Amazon.com. (I know, it’s not free on that site, but such are the mysterious ways of Amazon.)

It’s a very short story but it’s got lots of heart…and legs! Thanks again, all. I’m working hard to get another novel up for those who like to have something they can really sink into for a spell.

Until then…kisses.

Further update on the experiment in FREE

I’m in the middle of rethinking what I focus on in this blog, but thought I’d do a quick update on this experiment in free. I checked my sales figures for “The Swimsuit Shop” on Amazon.com this morning and found they were climbing respectably for a 99-cent short story. Then I clicked to Amazon.uk, where sales are usually about a fifth of my US sales. Sales were over 100 and rising literally by the minute! And the book had leapt into 18th place on Amazon.uk’s free contemporary romance books.

Yep. Amazon.uk’s bots had finally discovered “The Swimsuit Shop” was being offered for free somewhere in the world and taken action.

Note that Amazon.com still has “The Swimsuit Shop” priced at 99 cents and it hasn’t even appeared yet at Barnes & Noble and some other outlets. (Though Apple and Diesel eBooks already have it for free.)

So…18 days from first posting of free book on Smashwords to first pricing of free at other ebook stores, with a number yet to come.

We’ll see how this goes for another week or so, analyze whether there’s any spillover effect to other Terri Darling titles (in particular, those that are hyperlinked at the end of “The Swimsuit Shop”), then I may have Fiero Publishing kick the price of “The Swimsuit Shop” back up to 99 cents and see what effect that has. Or I may offer a new story for free. Or try something else.

You know, the writing process for each of my stories is always about the characters and the feelings, sometimes the tickle of the situations, but the selling process is a whole separate world. And electronic books have made it one whose rules and formulae are all up for grabs. Feel like I’m riding a bucking bronco bareback and having a heck of a good time.

 

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