New Giveaway Begins! Plus: Five Romantic Gifts for Your Spouse (and some of them are surprisingly practical!)

Black Friday is done and now we have cyber Monday coming up. Tis the season. By the way, if you actually went out into the maelstrom of Black Friday, let me know. I’d love to hear about it. It occurred to me that many of you, however, might not have any good ideas for that special someone in your life. It’s tough being romantic, isn’t it? Jewelry, flowers, etc. get tiresome. Anyway, here are a few gifts I’ve either given to or received from my wonderful husband over the years that at first sight might not seem romantic but really are:

5. K-cup Coffeemaker. Yep. This one may have saved our marriage. Seriously. He likes lighter tasting coffee. I like really bold, dark coffee that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The joy of compromise with a plug!

4. Personal Grocery Shopping! This may actually be one of my favorite “gifts” ever. For a fee, I go online, place my order for groceries from my favorite grocery store and my personal shopper does all the work. Then I swing by with my carload of kids and pick them up. In some cases, you can prepay the fee for your significant other so she/he won’t feel weird about using the service.

3. Piano/Dance/Horseback riding lessons. What has your partner always dreamed of doing but never had the chance? The important thing here is not to just give him or her the certificate for lessons. Make sure you give them the time to do it, too! And if it’s piano or something else that makes noise, prepare yourself for some hours of not so great musical entertainment.

2. Gift certificates. What? Did I just say that? You’d be surprised how romantic this one can be, though. You see, I love almost everything in the Sundance Catalog that I get every month. Jewelry, clothes, boots, etc. If I were skinny enough to be one of their models, I would be a happy woman. My husband knows how I feel about Sundance, and he could easily just pick something from the catalog. However, he also knows that often something in particular will catch my eye and since (as he has often told me), he is not a mind reader, a gift certificate for my favorite non-essential catalog is often a better choice.

1. E-Reader. Yup. You got it. You knew this one was coming. But did you know THIS was?

ANNOUNCING! MY SECOND ANNUAL E-READER GIVEAWAY!

In honor of the gift-giving season and my recent good news about Carina Press and the release of my second book WINTER SOLSTICE, I’m giving away an e-reader. How do you enter the giveaway? Leave me a comment telling me what kind of e-reader you’d like me to give away. I wish I could tell you I would give away a Kindle Fire or an iPad, but for the purposes of this giveaway, I’m limiting it to e-readers that cost $100 or less. You can get some pretty good e-readers for $100. The Nook and the Kobo start at $99, the Kindle at $79.

You have until December 21 at midnight to throw your name into the hat. I’ll make the announcement on December 22. In case any of you don’t know the significance of the date, it’s the winter solstice!

Romance Girls Gone Goblin Halloween Blog Hop Begins! Prizes Galore!

And so it begins.

The Romance Girls Gone Goblin Blog Hop kicked off first thing this morning and I, of course, was unprepared. I have two kids class parties to attend today, plus my favorite art gallery is having a party tonight, so I had to get dinner into the crockpot. But now I’m here, and I have a grand thirty minutes set aside to update my blog.

I wracked my brains to figure out what to write about for Halloween, and I kept coming back to my work-in-progress. It’s half ghost story, half romance, and I’m working hard to get the creepy edge just right. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything close to horror, but I’m rediscovering my love of the genre. Anyway, in honor of Halloween and Romance Girls Gone Goblin, I thought I’d give you just a taste of one of my chilling scenes before getting to the good stuff (my giveaway).

Natalia.

A whisper, somewhere just outside the range of hearing. Was it a memory or something more?

…Natalia…

The light breeze from the heavy night breathed over her skin, heating instead of cooling the drops of sweat. She welcomed its touch, tilting her head back and lifting her mass of auburn hair.

Yes…come to me…

How she’d made it outside, she didn’t know. Pain pricked the skin of her legs. She’d stumbled through something, scraping them in the process. Sharp sticks? Barbed wire? She couldn’t tell, but the blood running down her calves felt hotter than it should, almost fevered.

But he was there. Wherever she was, he was there. More than a large, dark shadow now, she could feel him hard against her as he pulled her into massive arms, lowering his lips to hers. He tasted salty, as if his skin was covered with seawater, and she recoiled.

Natalia…

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for all things spooky romance, here’s my offering:

Included in this giveaway are a tote bag with the cover of WINTER SOLSTICE on one side and SECRETS OF THE LOTUS on the other, a paperback copy of Hyprink’s The Best of All Sins: Stories of Love & Heartbreak featuring my award-winning story LIFE AFTER, a $25 iBooks gift card and some swag, including the beautiful postcard my friend Shannon LuQuire of Trade Ideas, Inc. put together for me with blurbs of my two published books and a sneak peek at my as-yet-unpublished book THE SIXTH FOLD. Sorry, the pumpkin is not included as it belongs to my daughter!

Two steps to win!
1. Follow my blog. (Humor me. I know you won’t always read all my posts, but every now and then I do come up with some cool stuff, and I’ve got some great stuff planned for December, including another giveaway!) If you already follow my blog, you can skip this step.
2. Leave a comment on THIS post with your name and email address. I’ll throw your name into the hat.

Winner will be announced the morning of November 1. For a full list of participating blogs in this blog hop, check out Lisa Sanchez’s blog here: Lisa Sanchez. Lots of other giveaways out there! Good luck!

NOTE: I’ve added an Email Subscription button to the top left column (just above the HONEOWP updates). This should make it easier for you guys to subscribe and become eligible for the giveaway!

What Makes a Super-Couple? A Study of Soap Opera Characters

Hi. My name is Michelle and I am a soap opera addict.

Well, I’m addicted to one soap in particular. Days of Our Lives. My mom watched it when I was a toddler playing in the living room with blocks and baby dolls. I took a brief hiatus during elementary school (although I did enjoy it when I was sick), and then the advent of the VCR and then the DVR allowed me to become re-addicted. Nowadays, I watch it on Hulu while I’m on the treadmill. I almost never miss an episode.

It’s exciting times in soap opera world. You’re either fixing your formula so you can compete with the talk show hosts or you’re getting cancelled. Days, or DOOL as my fellow addicts and I affectionately refer to it, has chosen the first, and far more preferable, route. After years of sub-par plots, untalented (and very young) actors and a startling preference for violence over romance, the Powers-That-Be seem to be listening to the fans. They’ve pared down the cast to the most talented, and now they’re bringing back some old fan favorites and giving some others more meaty storylines.

This all got me thinking. Soap operas, at least since the eighties, have been known for creating “super-couples”. These are the couples in soaps who are truly together “until death do they part.” If you’re a fan of soaps, you know these couples are never going to be torn apart, no matter what. Well, sometimes they get divorced or accidentally fall in love with somebody else for a while, but only if they think the other one is dead while they’ve really only been kidnapped. Or maybe they did die but were brought back to life for nefarious purposes by an evil genius. Either way, love will conquer all in the end.

But what makes these couples so indestructible? How do they have such powers for forgiveness and love that they can overcome finding someone else in their spouse’s bed after they’ve fought their way out of a dungeon to get home? I’ve come up with a (sort of) formula for this, just in case anybody out there would like to attempt to replicate this heaven on earth in real life.

First, they must both be incredibly attractive, but probably in different ways. For instance, the woman is a debutante or a professional while the man is sort of a diamond in the rough. A nice scruffy beard is a plus, but just a permanent five o’clock shadow will do. And while the woman is absolutely clueless (at least at first) as to the effect she has on the man, the man should definitely believe he is God’s gift to women. (If there are any guys out there reading this, this attitude most definitely does not work in real life. Trust me, you won’t be able to pull it off like an outwardly alpha/hidden beta male can.)

Second, the man must be an alpha male, but with a tender side that the woman uncovers by accident. He’s often brusque and rude, especially in her presence, but if given the opportunity, he will save little children and kittens (accidentally in her presence).

Third, our couple must experience an element of danger. Life-threatening (mostly for her) danger is best, and if it can be brought about by him, all the better.

Finally, the woman must be so attracted to the man, she will never, ever give up on him. Even when he’s rude and endangers her life, she will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. After all, she knows there is more to this guy. She’s witnessed his bravery when small children and kittens are at stake. And besides, the five o’clock shadow is too sexy to leave.

On second thought, I don’t think I would recommend reproducing these characteristics in real life. However, if you’d care to live in a fantasy for a while, try reading a romance or two. Like these:

Excerpt from SECRETS OF THE LOTUS:
Josie let him take her hand. “No, I guess not. How do you know for sure when somebody can’t hurt you anymore?”

Dan’s thumb moved gently over the backs of her fingers in an absent but comforting gesture. “I suppose it’s when you no longer feel like they have the ability to reach into your chest and grab hold of your heart.”

“I’m not sure I ever felt that way about Eric.”

“You’re lucky.” He was still looking at her hand.

“Then you have?” She was surprised, she had to admit. She hadn’t thought he ever let women get that close to him.

Dan dropped her hand abruptly. “Only once. We should go before I get a parking ticket.”

Startled, Josie watched as he pulled on a sweatshirt and headed to the door.

“Coming?”

“Sure, yeah.” She picked up her bag. “Sorry.” She followed him, wondering which of his many conquests had elicited such intensity of feeling from him and if that woman fully appreciated
what she’d left behind.

Excerpt from WINTER SOLSTICE:
“Has anyone ever told you you’re very sexy when you’re feeling guilty?” John asked.

Becky looked up to find him smiling. With a rush of violence, she wanted to hit him. In fact, she did raise her hand to strike him, but he forestalled that by stepping forward, one arm sliding around her waist, the other hand behind her head, pulling her to him, his lips first gentle on hers, then more demanding. As she relaxed in his arms, he drew her even closer, the hand behind her head sliding down to the nape of her neck in the lightest of caresses.

It was the first time they’d kissed in nearly two weeks. It felt incredible to be in his arms again. She realized how much she had missed being with him and reveled in the heat between them, wanting more, but knowing this embrace would have to end.

He released her with obvious reluctance, tapering off the one long passionate kiss to several slow and deliberate kisses, finally stopping completely.

Four Hearts for Winter Solstice!!!! (and a little more debate about sex scenes)

Just discovered another review for WINTER SOLSTICE on The Romance Studio. The reviewer gives WINTER SOLSTICE four hearts and said she would read more by me! Those are always welcome words, so thank you to The Romance Studio for the encouragement. Here’s a short excerpt and a link to the review:

“I thoroughly enjoyed this love story. The author has created two people with very realistic problems that they must get through before truly getting together. … The love scenes were exquisite and beautifully done.” — The Romance Studio

I especially love that last line. As you know if you’ve read my blog much, I’m sort of shy about the love/sex scenes in my book. I debated about even putting them in. Some romance writers don’t. I have to admit, however, that when I read those romances, I tend to feel sort of cheated. Either the couple goes into the bedroom and closes the door on the reader, or they never actually get around to it at all.

I’ve chosen a different approach for my sex scenes, and it’s good to know it’s working, at least for one reviewer. I don’t do obligatory sex. That’s not in my personality, anyway, so I doubt I could write well about it. Sex is important to my characters. In SECRETS OF THE LOTUS (spoiler), Dan and Josie don’t get around to having sex until about three-quarters of the way through, since I used a pretty traditional formula for this book. In WINTER SOLSTICE, however, the reader doesn’t have to wait that long. Becky and John actually have sex pretty early on, but that very fact shaped the entire plot and future of their romance.

My only goal for my sex scenes is that they must somehow affect the plot and somehow develop the characters more fully. Is it possible to write a good romance without a good sex scene? Probably. Any other opinions on this?

Laboring on Labor Day

I’m spending my Labor Day writing as much as possible. I’ve latched onto a new idea and I like it, finally, so I’m going with it. I’ve wanted to write a pirate love story for some time now, and I think I’ve finally found one. I had to rename the main character last night, because I realized he was not a Roger. He needed a good solid seafaring name, but I settled on Colin, which seems to suit him and also celebrates the fact that Colin Firth, one of my favorite actors, will be filming a new movie in North Carolina soon.

So instead of a real post today, I’m going to give you a taste of my most recently published labor of love, WINTER SOLSTICE, which is all about love in the workplace:

At the end of the day, she stopped by the admissions desk to catch her breath and talk to Amy, a critical-care nurse. John approached and reached around her to drop a chart on the desk, his fleeting proximity making it difficult for Becky to breathe.

“That’s it for me. I’m out of here.” He started to turn away then paused, and his gaze met Becky’s. “I’ll be home later if you want to call me about those questions you had.”

She felt her face burn and ducked her head, hoping to hide her arousal if not her embarrassment. “Of course. I’ll do that.” She made some quick notes on her paper and when she glanced up, he was long gone, but Amy looked at her with a mixture of pity and commiseration. “You’ve got it pretty bad, huh?”

Becky hesitated, wondering if plausible deniability was still possible, but Amy shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, hon. We’ve all been there. I mean, he’s got everything going for him. He’s rich, a doctor, intelligent, and we won’t even mention S-E-X-Y. Just don’t lose your heart. He might be an eligible bachelor, but he’s also a confirmed one.”

“No worries.” Becky laughed and tossed her head, but she wondered if she fooled Amy anymore than she fooled herself.

The truth was she really didn’t know where she and John stood with each other. His continued professionalism at work did nothing to help her find her footing. If he’d grabbed her when she walked in the door and kissed her in front of everyone, or dragged her into his office and torn her clothes off, or even if he’d just asked her out for drinks again, she’d have some clue. Instead, he invited her to call him.

She groaned inwardly. She’d never expected to find herself so out of control, and in spite of her misgivings, she had every intention of accepting his invitation and probably repeating the
previous night’s performance.

WINTER SOLSTICE earns Five Hearts!!!!

Second review for WINTER SOLSTICE just came out on Romance Book Scene. They gave it five hearts! I’m thrilled. My thanks go out to the very intelligent reviewers over at Romance Book Scene. 🙂 You can read the entire review here: WINTER SOLSTICE GETS FIVE HEARTS. Or here’s a little tidbit: “Well written contemporary story for those who like drama type love stories.”

Just a note to those who review books. I have been struggling recently, wondering if I ought to hang it up for a bit (not seriously, but you know, we all wonder that sometimes). Maybe I don’t have enough to write about. Maybe what I write is too trite for anybody to care about. My friend McKenna of To Write Well calls these thoughts “negative scripts”, and she’s right. They get under your skin, and you just have to find your own way to deal with them. This review from Romance Book Scene gave me the desire to do that. I’ve been fortunate not to have anyone give me an awful review yet, but I hope when I do get one (and I most likely will if people keep reading my books), I will have enough philosophy to realize that if they reviewed it, they had to read it. And if they read it, I did my job. So thank you to reviewers. You give us the motivation to write.