Contemporaries to covet in January – giveaway!

At the beginning of every month this year, I’m going to let you know about the contemporary romance novels coming out that month that I’m most looking forward to.

They might be books I’ve read advance copies of, or just books by authors I love. I hope you’ll share the love by letting us know what contemporary romance novels you’re looking forward to reading that month.

I’ll choose one person who leaves a comment to win a $10 gift certificate to the online book retailer of their choice AND I’ll send a $10 gift certificate to the contemporary romance author they mention in their comment, on their behalf.

Cool, huh? This way, authors get to win something too.

I haven’t read the books below, but I’ve read other things by the authors and I have high hopes for these.

Crash Into You by Roni Loren

Release date: January 3, 2012

Sometimes the past can bring you to your knees…

Crash Into YouBrynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat–a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past.

Brynn knows what attorney Reid Jamison is like once stripped of his conservative suit and tie. Years ago she left herself vulnerable only to have him crush her heart. Now she needs him again. Back on top. And he’s all too willing to engage. But as their primal desires and old wounds are exposed, the sexual games escalate–and so does the danger.  Their hearts aren’t the only things at risk. Someone else is watching, playing by his own rules. And his game could be murder.

My two cents

For an all-too-brief time, Roni and I were in a critique group together. I got to read the first few chapters of an early draft of Crash Into You, an erotic BDSM romance. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally get to read the rest! I’ve pre-ordered this book, something I rarely do. Roni’s an incredible writer, and you can get a taste of her sense of humor in the guest post she wrote last month (Why do all the romance heroes have six-packs?).

This is Roni’s debut novel, and I think it’ll be a crackin’ start to a stellar career.

A Promise of Safekeeping by Lisa Dale

Release date: January 3, 2012

A Promise of SafekeepingNine years ago, Lauren Matthews prosecuted the case of a lifetime. But her error in judgment sent an innocent man to prison. Now Arlen Fieldstone’s finally been released, and Lauren has only one thing on her mind:  asking forgiveness. But how can she make up for nine years of his life?

To get to Arlen, Lauren must first get through Arlen’s best friend, Will Farris. Will hasn’t forgotten Lauren from those days, and hasn’t forgiven her for destroying his best friend’s life. He is Arlen’s keeper—protecting him from suspicious neighbors as well as from Lauren.

In the steaming summer streets of Richmond, Virginia, three people’s lives collide. Lauren needs forgiveness. Arlen needs hope. And Will? He needs something too, something that no one can know—especially not Lauren…

My two cents

I’ve only read one of Lisa Dale’s previous books, It Happened One Night, which is a beautifully written novel that straddles the line between contemporary romance and women’s fiction. A Promise of Safekeeping looks like it has the elements I loved about It Happened One Night: a realistically difficult romantic relationship and oodles of conflict among characters who feel very real.

Giveaway nitty-gritty

Answer one of the questions in bold below. By “contemporary romance” I mean romance between human beings set in the present day. It can be romantic suspense, inspirational, erotic, category-length or whatever.

I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday January 7 10th (sorry – I originally said the 7th, but I meant the 10th, since I always pick winners on Tuesdays. I misread my calendar!). If you mention more than one author in your comment, I’ll ask you which one you want me to send the gift certificate to (sorry, folks, I’m a charity worker).

This is open internationally.

Questions:

What contemporary romance novel(s) are you looking forward to in January? Have you read anything by the authors I mentioned? Which of their books do you like best?

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Writing goals: Did you meet 2011’s? Set 2012’s?

Success and failure sign

©cobrasoft/sxc.hu

I can hardly believe another year has gone by. I don’t know about you, but I love looking back to the goals I set myself on January 1 and remembering what I’ve accomplished this year.

I had set myself some day-job goals (not to be a jerk-wad manager, since I was about to hire my first managee), personal goals (to roll with the punches, since Smarty Pants was set to finish his PhD and would be looking for jobs around the world), and writing goals.

I’m happy to say I met most of my goals.

  1. I wrote and revised my contemporary romance All Things Easy, which I pitched to agents at my first RWA National Conference in July.
  2. I wrote the first draft of another contemporary romance, No Fragile Heart.
  3. I got half-way through revising my first manuscript, First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  4. I made more friends than I could’ve imagined on this blog and on Twitter (thank you, everyone, for the many hours of chatting and thoughtful comments and conversation!).

Goals for 2012

Day job

Since Smarty Pants got a job in the Netherlands, we moved in October and I now have a new day job. I’m so excited about it because it’s full of challenges and opportunities. My main goal is to tackle all of those without sacrificing my sanity, since I usually let myself be consumed by work.

I will probably get to go to Bangladesh and India for work this year, so my other goal is to make the most of those opportunities.

Personal life

I want to start learning Dutch. In the Netherlands, people speak such amazing English that I haven’t had to so far, but I feel awful asking people to speak to me in English. Smarty Pants and I may hire a tutor or take a class so we can at least learn the basics of the language.

Writing goals

This year I will:

  1. Finish revising First Aid for a Broken Heart.
  2. Revise No Fragile Heart.
  3. Write and revise the book that comes after All Things Easy.
  4. Judge three contests and enter three contests.
  5. Go to RWA Nationals and pitch to agents and editors.
  6. Build myself a website.
  7. Continue growing my blog and social media conversations.
  8. Keep track of the books I read on Goodreads.

How about you? How did you do with last year’s goals? What are this year’s goals?

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Greatest hits of 2011 – thank you, readers!

I wanted to say a big, huge thank-you to everyone who subscribed to, commented on and read my blog last year. You guys rock, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you all!

WordPress.com created a 2011 annual report for this blog, and since you’ve all been part of it, I wanted to share it with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Since I’m completely un-musical, it’s the only time in my life I’ll ever get to picture the Syndey Opera House packed for my performance.

In case you missed ’em, these were the five most popular posts this year:

  1. The worst thing I’ve ever written didn’t kill me
  2. Why my romance novel hero is the ugliest man in the world (not popular because of the points I made but because I used two phrases that’re Google gold dust: “ugliest man in the world” and “massive penis”)
  3. Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader
  4. Five things romance novelists should know about vaginas
  5. Describing how a man smells

Click here to see the complete report, including who commented the most.

I can’t wait to connect with you even more in 2012!

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The sexiest trait a man can have

When Smarty Pants and I were living in Prague, we got caught in sudden summer thunderstorm during a picnic. We had only a few seconds’ warning before the clouds rolled in and torrential, frigid rain pounded down on us.

We threw our food back in the basket and ran for the closest cover: a copse of trees. Soaked through, we hugged each other and shivered, waiting until the rain passed. I felt Smarty Pants trying to tug the back of my pants down, something I thought was odd since we were outside, it was broad daylight, and he’s a pretty reserved Brit when it comes to public displays of affection.

Then I realized I also felt Smarty Pants’ hands on my upper back. Two hands.

He wasn’t the one pulling my pants down.

I jerked out of his arms in time to see a tiny animal, like a rat, drop from where it had clung to my wasitband. “Frickin’ hell! A rat! A giant, nasty rat!” Continue reading

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Winner of the Roni Loren giveaway!

I’m sorry this is a day late. I’ve spent the past two days in the hospital with my grandparents. Grandpa’s scheduled to have surgery this morning, so hopefully he’ll start getting better soon.

Crash Into YouAnyway, I wanted to thank everyone who stopped by to comment on Roni Loren’s fantastic post: Why do all the romance heroes have six-packs?

The winner of Crash Into You, Roni’s debut novel is…angela quarles!

Angela, I’ve emailed you asking for your mailing address.

This week you guys can win one of my favorite books, Hot Zone by Catherine Mann!

If I don’t get a chance to publish another post over the next few days, then let me wish you all a very happy new year now. Here’s wishing us all love, laughter, and lots of great books in 2012!

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Interview with Catherine Mann – and giveaway!

Catherine MannEarlier this month, I had the privilege of reading Hot Zone, a romantic suspense novel by Catherine Mann. It totally blew me away, from one of the most gripping opening scenes I’ve ever read all the way to its poignant ending.

I loved it so much, I seethed with jealousy that I didn’t write it myself.

I’m so happy to have Catherine here today, giving away a copy of Hot Zone and answering my nosy questions. Welcome, Catherine!

Thanks for inviting me to visit on your blog – and thank you very much for your cheers for HOT Zone!

1. You started off with a career in arts and teaching. You’ve got degrees in theater and fine arts, and you’ve taught at advanced levels. Can you tell us how you transitioned from that career into a writing career, especially one where you write gritty military suspense novels?

I’ve always been an avid romance reader, since my early teens, and even tried to write a novel in junior high school.  But I tabled the dream and tucked away that first attempt, because hey, what are the odds of selling a book, right?  My creative outlet then turned to the theater, which in hindsight I see now that somehow I seem drawn to careers that are difficult to break into.  But my mother always said in choosing your career, follow your dreams, your passion, and the rest will fall into place.  (Thanks, Mom!)

2. How has your theater background helped you as a writer? Do you find yourself incorporating theatrical skills (like storyboarding or having a keen eye for setting) when writing your novels?

Continue reading

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Grandpa’s Christmas atlas: Why bookshops and print books still matter

Last night (December 23rd) around 8pm, my grandma called me with a special Christmas request.

“Will you do me a favor, sissy? Will you buy Grandpa a new atlas and wrap it up and put it under the tree, from Grandma?”

Grandpa

Grandpa, mid-story, on 4th of July (hence the beads)

It seemed like a pretty random request. She’s never asked me to buy anything on her behalf, but I know that this is the first year she’s struggled to get out of the house. Pain from a few injuries and arthritis has kept her home more and more. Grandpa, too, has had a tough year. When I flew home a week ago, he looked much more frail than he had in July, when we celebrated his 90th birthday. Like the indestructible man he’s always seemed to be, he hasn’t let that stop him from working construction with my dad.

Feeling honored to have such a task – especially one where I could spend time flipping through map books – I quickly agreed and asked what kind of atlas she wanted to give him.

“It don’t matter. I just want it to be a new one. Every time you kids travel somewhere, he looks it up in his old atlas that he inherited from Grandpa Latham in the 70s. Now you’ve moved to Holland, he can’t find the town where your livin’ or the one where you’re workin’, and he’s flustrated.”

She told me, “You’re the only one I know who goes to bookshops. I don’t know nothin’ about them, so I wanted to ask you to do this for me.”

So last night my husband and I drove to the nearest bookstore and spent time looking at their atlases until we found one that had our new hometown in it as well as large-enough print that Grandpa could read it.

I started writing this post this morning, and I was going to make it about why brick-and-mortar bookshops and print books still matter: because with only one day until Christmas, I would’ve struggled to get an atlas delivered in time. And the one I would’ve chosen from the brief browse I had online before going shopping ended up not having the town where I work in it.

But this morning, as I paused in my writing to wrap gifts, we got a message. Grandma left it on dad’s cell phone early this morning, but he only noticed he had a message four hours later. Grandpa is sick, and Grandma had to rush him to the doctor at 6.45am.

We can’t get hold of her. We don’t know what “sick” means, and we’re clinging to hope because she said “doctor”, not “hospital”. My cousin Will lives with them, and he said everyone was fine when he left for work at 6, so whatever it was must have come on suddenly.

When we got the message, I was in the middle of wrapping the gift I’d bought Grandpa: a tin train full of candies, since he has a sweet tooth. The last present I had to wrap was the atlas.

Wrapping it up, and writing “To Grandpa, With love from Grandma” on the tag made my eyes swell up and my throat scratchy. My grandpa is one of Earth’s finest men, and I don’t need an atlas to tell me that.

So we wait to hear. In the meantime, Grandpa’s atlas is wrapped, sitting under the tree, with love from Grandma.

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Winner of my Mistletoe Madness blog hop giveaway!

Mistletoe Madness blog hopI was thrilled to see so many new faces around here this week, thanks to the Mistletoe Madness blog hop. I’m glad we’ve all discovered lots of exciting authors this year.

The winner of a $10 book gift certificate and some chocolates is…Andrea!

Andrea, I’ve emailed you asking for your address.

Cruise on over to PJ Schnyder’s site to see who won the grand prize: a Nook color.

Everyone, you can still comment on Roni Loren’s guest post about heroes with six-packs for a chance to win her debut novel.

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Review: Hidden Summit by Robyn Carr

Snappy dialogue and the threat of real danger sucked me in, but then the story fizzled out and left me wanting.

Hidden SummitLeslie Petruso moves to Virgin River after her husband left her for another woman and then insisted that he and Leslie can still be the best of friends. Sick of running into him and his pregnant wife everywhere, she moves south and gets a job in a construction company.

Conner Danson is the sole witness to a murder committed by a man with big-time connections. When his building supply store is burnt to the ground, the Sacramento DA’s office decides it’s time to send him off-grid until he testifies. What better place than Virgin River?

Neither Leslie nor Conner is eager to start a new relationship. But they can’t deny their attraction, and as they spend more time together they realize their relationship is worth making sacrifices for.

For most of the story, I enjoyed the characters’ snappy dialogue and grown-up attitude toward love and sex. They never take a melodramatic “I shall never love again!” approach to life, but they certainly are wary of getting involved.

Continue reading

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Spending Christmas away from home

Perfect ChristmasMy weekly post is up at The Season for Romance. Stop by and find out about my first Christmas away from home, when I was desperately trying to impress my future in-laws.

Bev’s giving away copies of THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS by Debbie Macomber and MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT, a collection of stories by Fern Michaels and a few other authors.

Also, don’t forget that on my blog this week you can win Roni Loren’s debut CRASH INTO YOU or a book gift certificate (and find details on how to win a Nook from the Mistletoe Madness blog hop).

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