Are You A Book Addict?

I started to write a post about my addiction to diet and health books, but as I was gathering the evidence for a photo, I realized I had a much bigger problem: I’m addicted to buying books in general.

No seriously.

I have stacks of unread books all over the house. Books are piled precariously on counter tops and nightstands. They threaten to topple over whenever the cat brushes past them, and on more than one occasion, I’ve had to rescue a book from the jaws of the puppy.

The last time I moved, for giggles and grins, I counted my books as I was packing them. I stopped after 5 K because it was slowing me down. And that’s not even counting what I have on my Kindle! Many I’ve re-read dozens of times. Some I’ve only read once. But lately my TBR stack has grown out of control, and I strongly suspect some of the books I’ve snagged will never be read at all.

The Japanese have a delightful word for this: tsundoku. I am tickled to know there is a word for this, because it means I’m not alone.

 

According to Wikipedia, it means “acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them.” The image I’m posting here could have been taken from house, if I had the acres and acres of lovely bookshelves pictured here.

Truth be told, it wouldn’t matter how many bookshelves I had, I’d still have an overflow of stacks of unread books waiting their turn.

That’s not to say I won’t read these books. Some day I will. I used to read five or six books a week, so buying books on this scale wasn’t unreasonable. I don’t have that kind of time anymore, particularly since I’m writing as well. I love books. I love going to bookstores and libraries. I love going to someone’s home and checking out their book collection. You can learn a lot about a person by the books they have. 

I hear people talk about decreasing clutter and getting rid of their books because they have electronic readers now. I get it, I do. I see the attraction of having your library on a single device, never being at risk of running out of reading material, only battery life. But it saddens me just the same. I envision homes of the future where blank sterile walls greet you as you walk in, and you cannot glean any information as to your host’s tastes in literature because their library is entirely digital.

And I worry about the future of writing as an industry when I see fewer people reading, and more people exhibiting signs of a decreasing attention span–a problem fostered by our addiction to smart devices. The people who used to read on the bus or waiting in line now seem to be scrolling their Twitter feeds or streaming a television show.

Maybe I’m part of a dying breed, but I came from a time when books were the major gateway to another world, a different existence. They connect us to the past, and with great minds that have gone before us. With a book, far more than with any other medium, I can step into the story and be a part of it. Books have saved my life more than once. I lived for sci-fi and mysteries when I was a teenager. I still reach for my favorite horse and dog books when I need comfort. And there are some series, like the Lord Peter Wimsey books or the Amelia Peabody mysteries, that I’ll read over and over again.

I like to think there will always be readers because there will always be storytellers. That’s the part of me that wants to believe in a happily ever after.

 

These days, I need to believe in a happily ever after. Life is kind of stressful and I need the escapism of a good book. At least I never have to worry about not having something to read! So yeah, maybe I’m hoarding books just a bit. Maybe it is an addiction. But as addictions go, there are worse ones to have. 

The Panther’s Lost Princess: Free for a limited time!

As part of a promotional thingy, The Panther’s Lost Princess is free on Amazon for a limited time! Book One of the Redclaw Security series, The Panther’s Lost Princess introduces us to the elite paranormal agency when top investigator, Jack Ferris, is assigned one of the most challenging cases of his career: find the heir to the shifter kingdom of Coreldon, who went missing as a baby.

And find her he did, tracking Princess Ariel de Winter to a hole-in-the-wall diner where she worked, oblivious to her heritage, as a waitress under the name of Ellie West.

Finding her was the easy part.

Convincing her to come with him more difficult.

Keeping her alive when assassins hit their trail: a nightmare.

But discovering his assignment was also his fated mate? Impossible.

She can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

 

Each book in the Redclaw Security series can be read as a standalone, and though there is character crossover between stories, it is not necessary to read them in order. Be sure to grab your copy of The Panther’s Lost Princess soon–free on Amazon only until 10/11/17!

Author Interview with Jennifer Julie Miller

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Jennifer, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Wow, let me see. I have a boy job by day. I’m a Brazer at a local factory and I have done that for 18 years now. I have only been writing since 2015, and I am the proud author of four books. I have two grown kids and now I have both of their better half’s also. I have a very rotten granddaughter who reminds me to play, with very supportive parents, aunts, sister, and friends. I have been blessed with my very own Happy Ever After. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who makes me smile every day, and after all these years I still miss him when he isn’t around. Rick is my very best friend in the world and I’m lucky enough to be married to him.

I began writing in 2015, after my husband had a dream about a girl and her magical Water Skippers…. He got up one morning and said, “Come on, we need to go buy a few things.” He took me to a local office max. I honestly, had that deer in the headlight look. I had no idea why we were there, anyway, he says. “Pick out a nice notebook and a pen I have something I want you to write.”  We came home and he told me all about this dream. This is what my very first book Water Skippers is all about… A dream my husband had.

The underlying theme is Love, Love…. Our lives are so much more than sex and arguing. There is no greater gift than to love or to be loved and my books hit that hard.

That is so fascinating–an entire series born out of your husband’s dream! I love too how supportive he is of your work. I have that too, but so many women writers I know struggle to find support among their families for what they do. 

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

A little town in southern Ohio, called Ironton.

I’m a small town girl myself! There’s a lot to be said for growing up and raising a family in a small community.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in my forties… so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…

Hah! I know what you mean! I think a lot of writers try out different professions and hobbies until they realize it was all just prep for writing. What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?

I only like to read things that aren’t real.. life is real enough, so of course I want to escape into my writing the same way.

Have you written in other genres?

No.

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

I am all country girl, but I can play dress up also.

I know what you mean! I wear practical clothes but love pretty lingerie and having my nails done. 🙂

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think things that are experienced are easier to write.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it! Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I have to have the ending in my head, but other than that. I write as I go.

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

1000 miles from nowhere, with room service.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

Ragon my pet dragonfly is my favorite.  He represents all the good we have in all of us.

Oh, that’s nice! Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Water Skippers. It’s the first book in my series and they are the magical creatures in all of my books. They are my little heroes, and they always help the guy get the girl.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

My husband, family, and books…. I need more than three hahahah.

If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?

I want to be a dragon.

Nice! Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I would love to write full time, just can’t afford to.

I hear you on that one. I’d love to be a full time author myself. What advice would you give to someone starting out as an author? What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?

Have very thick skin.. This is a crazy rollercoaster ride. Don’t stop; write until your fingers fall off, because when someone tells you they love it… It’s all worth it. 

Remember the little things, like the first time you held a guys hand, or that amazing awkward first kiss. Take the time to look up at the stars, and take the time to play in the rain. It’s the little moments in life you will always cherish. 

You are so right there! How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

There is a lot of my own life, and especially the way I feel about things in all of my books. All of my books are me. My mom says it’s like being inside of my head…. So many of the stories in my books, have really happened in my own life. 

Research: love it or hate it?

I don’t do it… this is fiction, just go with it.

Editing: love it or hate it?

Ohhh the misery, but I like to learn new things.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It means everything.

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Ohh yea, I have cried like a baby.

I think we’ve all had that experience. I recently wrote a blog post about handling bad reviews as a reminder to myself and others how to deal with the stinger you get sometimes.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

Yes,  it helps tune out all the background of the world around me.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

When I finished my last set I cried. It was like I had lost a member of the family.

What are your writing goals for 2017? Your personal goals?

I honestly don’t know.. my set will be put in a box set for Christmas, but other than that I’m open.

Where can your readers find you and your stories online?

Http://Amazon.com/author/jjm5325903.  I am also on Twitter www. Jenniferrick@twitter.com…. Also I love to talk so email me at Jenniferjuliemiller@gmail.com…. And I have a website https://jenniferjuliemille.wixsite.com/mysite..

Book One: Water Skippers

Book Two: A Dragonfly’s Whisper

Book Three: Earth Shadow

Book Four: Shadow Reborn

How to Handle That Bad Review

A friend of mine recently got a stinging review–the kind of gif-laden nasty review that is a deliberate slam to the author with little purpose except to wound. I went looking for a post I’d read several years ago about the best way to handle ugly reviews to share with her, but I couldn’t find it. Rather than spend several hours searching the internet for similar posts (and reading them all to make sure they were worth sharing), I decided to write my own. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all gotten reviews that made us wince, cry, or seriously consider chucking the whole writing gig altogether.

Many of us strengthened our writing skills in fandom, writing reams of fanfic because we loved a set of characters so much we wanted to spend more time in their universe. One of the gratifying things about fanfic is within minutes of posting it, you can see the counter change, indicating the number of people who’ve clicked on the link. Within 24 hours, kudos and comments start rolling in. And because you are writing about specific characters and pairings, you have a built-in audience which is predisposed to be kind because they love those characters too and are desperate for more stories about them.

At least, that used to be the case. I’m seeing a greater sense of entitlement creep into feedback on fanfic. Perhaps it’s because nearly every website on the planet encourages you, the consumer, to leave a review, that things are changing. Amazon, in particular, in conjunction with Goodreads, has given an enormous amount of power to the reviewer–the ability to raise or lower a story’s visibility, and therefore, sales. Reviews on original fiction are few and far between compared to fanfic, and are definitely blunter. I see some of this bluntness–and in some circumstances, downright rudeness–seeping into fanfic feedback these days. But I digress.

Not only are there far fewer reviews (on average) for original fiction versus fanfic, but there is a much longer delay between writing and publishing an original story and when those reviews begin to trickle in. Instead of the nearly instantaneous feedback you might receive on posting to one of the big fanfic archives, your original story goes through a lengthy editing and publishing process. In some cases, it may be months before a finished story is released. If you’re like me, after you hit ‘publish’, you keep refreshing your sales page to see if anyone has left a review. I don’t think most of us can help it. We’ve groomed our child, prepped it for school, and placed it on the school bus. We can’t help but wonder how the first day of class went.

But if you only have twenty-five or so reviews, it’s going to make the one or two bad ones stand out even more. Funny how one nasty review has the power to negate fifty or more stellar ones, right? But it can and does.

So let’s break this down.

First, with fanfic, comments are the currency of fandom. People aren’t buying your story, they are ‘paying’ with feedback. It’s one of the reasons I find the ‘kudos’ system on Archive of Our Own a little disappointing. It effectively made every story 99 cents, if you know what I mean. I appreciate getting kudos, but I miss the detailed and loving feedback fellow fans used to give.

When you are publishing original fiction, your audience is paying with actual money. So if your sales are fantastic but few people are leaving reviews, I wouldn’t sweat it. People are leaving reviews–with their money.

The longer I’ve been at this, however, the more I’ve learned to take reviews with a grain of salt–especially the bad ones. Here are some of my ‘rules’.

  1. Stop looking for reviews. No, seriously. I do a search on occasion (and my reason will be listed below) but for the most part, I avoid places like Goodreads. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solicit reviews from review sites. That’s one of the ways of bringing your story to the attention of the reading public. But don’t set up Google Alerts to notify you of every mention, and stop constantly checking your sales page for stats.
  2. Keep a file of your outstanding reviews. Not only will you want pull quotes for future promo, but it’s helpful to have a folder of lovely things people said about your stories to read when a particularly spiteful piece of feedback lands in your lap. Yes, I know this is contradictory advice to the point above, but often the people who write nice things about your stories send you that information directly. Use it.
  3. Read the reviews of your all-time favorite authors/stories. You’ll be amazed. Books that you think are outstanding, authors so good you would sell your soul to the devil to be able to write even a fraction as well–they all get horrible reviews. If someone can slam a book that you think is phenomenal, then face it, not everyone out there is going to like great writing. Not everyone out there is going to like your writing, or if they do, not necessarily all of your stories. That’s a good thing, actually. It means there is room out there for all kinds of storytelling. One person’s cup of tea might be another person’s poison, but the tea drinkers out there will appreciate your work.
  4. A mean review isn’t the end of the world. It seems to frequently be the case that one person loathes the thing 98% of readers love. Often the thing that the reviewer detests is the thing that makes me dash out and buy the book in question. Which leads me to number five…
  5. Don’t rant about a nasty review in public. Don’t post links on Facebook or Twitter with a furious rundown of the reviewer. That is tantamount to asking your fans to go after the reviewer, and that’s a big NO. No. No. No. Don’t encourage your fans to attack someone on your behalf. That review is someone’s opinion, something they are entitled to. If you find out your fans are vehemently defending you, ask them to stop. By not doing so, you wind up looking like the bad guy, even if you never said a word to your fans in the first place. The ONLY exception to this is if you can post about a negative review with a sense of humor, not outrage. NEVER give specifics. Someone on my Twitter feed recently posted about a negative review she received, citing the reviewer’s objection to her ‘liberal political beliefs’ intruding into the story. She said as far as she knew, the only liberal beliefs were that everyone in town recycled. OH THE SHAME. It was both funny and made me one-click purchase the story. 
  6. The nasty, gif-laden review. Let’s take a moment to address that. It’s my belief this form of feedback became popular after this particular review of 50 Shades of Gray. I could be wrong, but after this review, I seemed to see a lot more in a similar vein. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought this review hysterical. I also don’t feel too badly for E.L. James, as she is probably laughing all the way to the bank. But I do regret the number of people who’ve chosen to leave feedback in this manner as a result of the popularity of this particular review. This kind of copycat review has only two purposes: either to wound the author and/or to appease an audience. I call it the ‘Simon Cowell Review.’ Face it, some people tune into America’s Got Talent to watch Simon roast some poor delusional participant. People who deliberately choose to review in this fashion either intend to destroy an author’s self-confidence or like the attention they get from people following their reviews, or both. In all honesty, this is the type of review that’s the EASIEST for me to ignore. There’s another agenda at play here. Either the reviewer hopes to crush me, in which case he/she is a Dream Vampire stomping on my hopes and ambitions because someone stomped on theirs, or they are there to entertain their groupies. I have no time for that.
  7. If, however, you’ve ignored my advice about reading your reviews and you’re faced with a lot of negative reviews that say the same thing, you have to face up to an unpleasant fact: either you didn’t get the point of your story across as clearly as you’d hoped or there is a major problem with your story as told. If many people are saying the same thing, the sad truth is they are probably right and you screwed up. Still, this is not an end-of-the-world experience. Listen. If necessary, be ruthless. Pull the story, fix it. Chalk it up to experience and vow you won’t release a book before its time ever again. Take writing courses, find a critique group, pay for quality editing. Don’t bristle up defensively and double down on your position. Admit you made a mistake and fix it if possible. If you can’t fix it this time, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  8. Never, ever respond to negative reviews. Heck, I’m not sure you should respond to positive reviews–the opinion seems divided on that. But everyone agrees you should NEVER respond to a negative review, particularly on Goodreads. Why? Because authors who attempt to address negative reviews, even if it is only to correct a reviewer on something they stated that was wrong, are always the villains here. Always. Goodreads in particular is considered a ‘reader’s’ site. in that, outside of an author-run group, Goodreads is for readers. Readers want to be able to post their honest opinions without feeling as though the author in question is watching over their shoulder. The truth of the matter is most of us are watching. But at the very least, we should have the sense to keep our mouths shut. Especially since dog-piling and blackballing can get very ugly on Goodreads. It is simply not worth it to engage with a disgruntled reader. Not on any level.
  9. Don’t let a negative review derail your writing plans. I did that once. I let a lukewarm review shatter my confidence on a planned story arc, and as a result, I sat on subsequent installments of a series until fans had given up all hope of seeing a sequel. The series lost momentum as a result, and never took off as it had the potential to do. All because one review made me doubt what I had in mind. One out of hundreds which indicated the reader couldn’t wait for more. I could kick myself now.
  10. Accept the fact that reviews have the power to make your book more or less visible with the algorithms that make up sales. But you have to decide right now whether or not reviews have the power to make you stop writing. If the answer is yes, they do, then know sooner or later, you’ll receive one that’s a mortal blow to your desire to write. If the answer is no, bad reviews will not stop you from writing, then congratulations, you’re an author. Now be the best author you can be. Once you decide that nothing will stop you from writing, the negative review loses a lot of its power. That’s not to say they don’t still have the power to wound or infuriate you. But if they can’t stop you from writing, they are nothing more than annoying gnats.

Seven Shifters I’ve Known and Loved

Today I have Liza Street, author of the Corona Pride series, sharing with us her favorite heroes from shifter romances. I’m delighted to hear what she has to say, as some of these delicious shifters are new to me! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve already added to my TBR pile based on this list.

Don’t you just love this cover? Be sure to check out Liza’s links at the end of the post to find out how you can get a free story!

So tell us, Liza! List your favorite shifter heroes and why you find them so amazing!

 

 

  1. Clayton Danvers from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Clay was my first shifter heartthrob, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the violent acts he does to ensure the safety of his pack and his questionable behavior toward Elena in the early stages of their relationship (which I won’t spoil just in case there are one or two PNR fans who haven’t yet read this book), I fell hard for his southern accent and his absolute devotion to his mate. In my head, he’s even hotter than the guy who plays him in the television series. Is he flawed? Very much so. But since he’s my first, I go easier on him.

  1. Matt Barns from Gray Back Bad Bear by T.S. Joyce

It’s impossible for me to talk about how much I love Matt without saying how much I love his mate, Willa. These two were absolutely perfect together, at turns vulnerable and hilarious. Willa, especially, brought some geeky levity to their relationship, and while I adore Matt on his own, I love him even more with Willa.

  1. Arik from When an Alpha Purrs by Eve Langlais

So this guy is completely vain, especially about his hair (that is, his “mane”), but…I sort of loved him for it. Sure, I also wanted to throttle him, but I liked that even though he thought so highly of himself and his mane, he was still vulnerable with his friends. His vanity was great for laughs.

  1. Alcide Herveaux from Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Alcide…sigh. I really couldn’t care less about Bill or Eric. I wanted Sookie to end up with Alcide. Of course, a whole lot of random complications kept them apart throughout the series, but for a while there, I was Team Alcide.

  1. Lucas Hunter from Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Okay, I’ll be honest. I read Slave to Sensation a long time ago and I can’t remember any details about Lucas except that he was totally hot and there was tons of sexual tension. Hmm, might be due for a re-read….

  1. Derren Hudson from Spiral of Need by Suzanne Wright

If you love a good alphahole, you will love Derren. He starts off the story with all kinds of prejudice against Seers, and of course the heroine just happens to be a Seer. He’s controlling and derisive and super controlling. Something about Ally has him rethinking his prejudices, and you know what happens to a controlling man whose worldview is challenged? He’s cranky. So yes, Derren’s an alphahole. If you don’t like violent sex, this book might not be for you. (Not violent as in non-consensual or rapey, if I’m remembering correctly. Just…violent. Explosive. Demanding.)

  1. Adam Hauptman from Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Hello, Hot Neighbor! This dude is just solid. Solidly built, and solid at heart. I don’t want to say too much and spoil later events in the series, so I’ll just say that I absolutely adore his love-hate relationship with Mercedes in Moon Called, and the way she teases him by leaving an eyesore junker car in sight of his house. Sa-woon. I love those two.

About Liza Street:

Liza likes her heroes packing muscles and her heroines packing agency. She got her start in romance by sneak-reading her grandma’s paperbacks. It wasn’t long before she started developing her own series. Now she divides her time between freelance editing, ghostwriting, and mountain lion shifters with fierce and savage hearts.

FREE BOOKS–Join Liza’s mailing list and get Fierce Heartbreaker, FREE, as well as an exclusive Sierra Pride prequel story and other goodies! Visit Liza’s Free Book page to get started. 

Liza’s Amazon page and her website.

Make Your Hero Someone Worth Idolizing

As a writer, I’m frequently asked to pen a few words about the most influential book I’ve ever read. There’s no question which book it would be: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve been a lifelong fan of murder mysteries, particularly the British cozy, in which the body is discovered in the library and the protagonists sit around and discuss this development with wit and erudition. I still regularly re-read the classics of the Golden Age of Mystery: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allinghmam, Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, you name it.

Gaudy Night remains my favorite book of all time, the one novel I’d want with me if marooned on a deserted island.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to why.

By the time you get to Gaudy Night in the series, Lord Peter Wimsey, the dapper aristocratic peer with detective tendencies, has been seeing Harriet Vane for several years. Harriet, the somewhat cynical mystery writer, is looking to piece together the remains of her life after having been acquitted of murdering her former lover in a time when murder was a capital offense in Great Britain. Harriet is intelligent and strong-willed, determined to make her way in an unforgiving world without compromising her beliefs—the tenant of which caused the break between her and her deceased lover. Peter Boyle had first refused to marry Harriet on principle; when ‘living in sin’ was almost as much a crime as committing murder. Boyle does a turnaround and decides to ‘make an honest woman’ out of Vane, condescending to make things right with society and her family after first forcing a split with both. Harriet refuses to marry, and instead breaks up with Boyle.

When Lord Peter first meets Harriet in Strong Poison, she is a prisoner in the dock for Boyle’s murder, and Lord Peter has very little time to prove that Harriet is innocent. He also falls in love with her at first sight, and subsequent meetings shows the two of them are mentally and emotionally compatible—for Lord Peter is not a slave to his emotions. Though he would have done everything in his power to prove Harriet’s innocence, he would not have proposed marriage to someone he didn’t think he could make happy.

But Harriet, bruised by life’s circumstances and emerging out of prison bloody, but unbowed, will have none of men offering marriage. The next few books in the series continue in the usual Sayers vein: an interesting and clever murder with Lord Peter being witty and brilliant in the course of deduction and solution. Harriet is not always a presence in every story. I confess, I prefer the novels in which she is there. The interaction between her and Lord Peter take the stories beyond the simple murder mystery formula. At one point in Have His Carcass, Lord Peter and Harriet have a very telling conversation about the fictional characters in Harriet’s latest novel. Lord Peter suggests a fix for the story that would require Harriet to rewrite her story in order to make the characters three-dimensional, more real. Harriet protests that this would be a painful process, whereupon Lord Peter gets to the heart of the matter, asking her what difference would that make if doing so gave her a better story in the end?

This is a critical turning point in many ways. My hero, Lord Peter, sets a precedent for doing whatever is best for the story, no matter the personal cost to the author. I frequently say, “Everything is grist for the mill” and it is true: no matter what the trauma I might be experiencing, at the same time there is this Critical Observer taking notes. I know at some point that experience will be transmuted and used in a story. I like to think that Lord Peter guided me to this choice.

In Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers takes this concept further. For most of the series, the Lord Peter we see in the stories is the same face he presents to society: fatuous, superficially shallow, yet clever enough to solve ‘little difficulties’. He solves mysteries while never failing to produce the most appropriate quote. He’s entertaining at parties. He collects rare books, loves music, and is a peer of the realm. It’s easy to see why he is frequently underestimated by his adversaries. However when we meet him in Gaudy Night, it is a Peter who has come back from a series of harrowing adventures—and Dorothy Sayers lets this show. This Peter Wimsey is older than the one we met at the beginning. He loves Harriet, but he’s also tired of the song and dance. He tells Harriet that the next time he asks her to marry him will be the last. Sayers makes good on that earlier suggestion that an author should do whatever is best for the story.

Gaudy Night isn’t just a story about Harriet deciding whether or not she’ll marry Wimsey. She’s deciding what path to take for the rest of her life. She’s having to choose between the life of academia and quiet study, where everything seems clean, ordered, and black and white—and the messy disorder of a life more passionate, with the man who loves her, writing stories to entertain instead of enlighten. Yes, there is a mystery, but it is the catalyst within the crucible rather than the main story. In Gaudy Night, for the first time in their relationship, Harriet views Peter as a man rather than as an appendage, and that scene in which she becomes conscious of him as a sexual being is one of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read. No, seriously. One of the steamiest, most sensual scenes I have ever read. Even though there is no sex involved.

There comes a point in Gaudy Night in which Harriet’s life is threatened—and Peter does her the honor of letting her take the risk. He doesn’t swoop in and forbid her to risk her life. He warns her of the risks of kicking over the ant hill—he acknowledges she can choose to say nothing and walk the cloistered halls of her university for the rest of her life—without him. He is also prepared to be there to pick up the pieces afterward if things go badly. It is one of the most perfect examples of an adult relationship that I’ve ever seen. When at the end of Gaudy Night, Peter proposes and Harriet says ‘yes’, your heart is singing with hers because you know this is the right answer for both of them. Sayers makes Peter an honest, three-dimensional human being in Gaudy Night, putting her money where her mouth is as an author. Not only has this book influenced me in my own personal relationships, but it has definitely influenced me as a writer, too.

I fell in love with Lord Peter when I was thirteen. I named a horse after him. I feel badly for all those young girls who are looking at Edward Cullen and thinking that’s what the perfect man is like. Because Lord Peter is a gentleman who will treat me as a lady—and an equal.

It’s what I strive for as an author, even though I write in a completely different genre. Someday, I want someone pointing to one of my heroes and saying, “This. This is what I want from a relationship. To be treated with honor and dignity. To be treated as an equal and an adult.”

Because let me tell you, baby. There’s nothing hotter than that.

Cimmerian Shade: A Hot Paranormal Boxset!

 

                        ¸.•*¨¸.•*´¨
¸.•´. CIMMERIAN SHADE
 
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Dare to discover what lurks in the shadows in **New & Exclusive** paranormal and urban fantasy stories from your favorite NY Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors.
Under moonlit skies, witches, werewolves, vampires, dragons, and more, battle not only for their mates, but to stay alive…

 

Fall for the alphas who play by their own rules despite the odds, whether century-old curses or forbidden love, or worse. For them, what lies in the darkness is worth the fight when it comes to romance.

 

 

 

 
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What Lies Within Us by Kiki Howell & Gina Kincade
 
Kyna Hughes travels to Ireland only to find out her whole life has been a series of well-orchestrated lies. Thrust into days of dark magic, secret societies, mystical hauntings, and ultimately, kidnappings and satanic weddings, she struggles not to lose her heart to one of two men—a hunky former Navy SEAL hired to protect her, and a sinister Wizard hired to train her to develop her hidden powers.
 
Dating 911 by Kathleen Grieve
 
Commiserating with girlfriends over butterscotch martinis, emergency room nurse, Roxanne Carter creates the idea of The Dating Manifesto—a not so scientific research project which promises to point the way to dating success. She wades through a series of unsavory, stale dates while gathering data to find the potentially most suitable single men available, literally putting her back at ground zero.
Just when she is ready to give up on dating, in walks sin personified in the form of a sexy firefighter, tainting all of her previous data.
 
A traumatic warehouse fire leaves firefighter Jett Avery’s closest friend dead. The false mask of charm and pretense is slipping as Jett tries to repress his turbulent emotions, remorse, and guilt. After months of anguish, the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder seems to be taking over his life and he needs an outlet, fast. In an attempt to combat the worst of his depression, he decides to use his brand of therapy—Sex. The remedy, usually a quick pick me up for Jett, has lost its luster. He is almost ready to give up until he encounters a wicked seductress who ignites a fire he’s not ready to put out any time soon. The bonus? She’s an ER nurse with just the right kind of healing, the missing element Jett’s search had not yet uncovered. He finally feels alive when he’s in her presence.
 
Jett’s twin brother, emergency room Doctor Cruz Avery, the playboy of the ER, decides Roxanne is the woman for him. He places all brotherly affection aside and is in hot pursuit, complicating an already tricky situation.
 
Roxanne finds herself battling a growing competition between brothers for her affection. She discovers she’s drawn to both men, making it difficult not to compare them, and finds herself with an important choice to make. Jett hounds her during every date, and the irresistible hunk generates an indomitable need to play with fire. Yet, there are qualities in Cruz that slide right into the appropriate dating criteria of her Manifesto.
Does she choose the brother who by analysis is the perfect match? Or the one she can’t resist?
 
 
Torch Song by Lashell Collins
 
Dominic Draco has no illusions about who he is. As alpha of the dragon clan, he is also the leader of the shifter Alliance, and that sometimes requires him to be ruthless. He’s a dangerous man to know. In fact, he’s a heartless bastard. That’s the real reason he’s kept the beautiful Lucinda Lindley at bay for so many years, despite the longing he feels for the sexy human singer. But in granting an old friend’s dying request, watching over Lucinda is now his responsibility. Can he keep her safe from the perils of his cut-throat world when the Alliance’s enemies begin to circle? Or will Lucinda become a casualty of the shifter faction war?
 
Ethereal Witness by Angelica Dawson
 
Magic just became real for Paige Brown. Since she helped her roommate cast a spell, she has wanted to explore her new-found talent. Flashbacks to her ancestor give her clues, specifically to a love spell that she hopes will snag the professor she has been fantasizing about. Both Paige and her previous incarnation, Jane, find that controlling magic is more than a simple recipe. Will Paige be able to break her own spell? Will she discover the love that is closer than she knows?
 
Love Story of a Reaper by Elvira Bathory
 
What would you do if you found out that you weren’t like everyone else?
That you were special, but only in a way no one could find out about?
What lengths would you go to prove yourself to your family? A family that you didn’t know you had?
 
Morrigana was moving through life with a part-time, minimum wage job, and only a handful of friends. She was different from other people and they treated her that way. However, she was happy with her life until the day she met Kheelan; that is when her life was turned upside down. She finds out that she isn’t even human, and that a family she wasn’t aware she had needed her to complete a mission. As Morrigana and Kheelan’s adventure progresses, will their focus on business remain professional or will their growing passion take over?
 
Burning Midnight by Erzabet Bishop
 
A triumvirate of blood and fire…
 
Diana Robichard runs Moon Called, an antique shop specializing in cursed objects. A new antiquity falls into her possession and promptly disappears, her tidy world is upended. When faced with a threat to those she loves the most, witchcraft alone may not be enough to save them.
 
Alpha Aristide Benoit is a wolf on a mission. When multiple pack members and finally his daughter go missing, he is ready to do whatever is necessary to find them as well as save the woman who has claimed his heart.
 
Vampire Regent, Rand Sinclair has a problem. His vault is missing an amulet never meant to see the light of day. Endangering a treaty with the wolves, he must act quickly before the woman he loves is swept into an ancient curse that will destroy them all.
 
With This Heart by Red L. Jameson
 
Talk about a killer kiss…
 
Being a former soldier with PTSD takes its toll on Aaron and has wiped him clean of optimism along with having dreams. But he’s no longer sure if he’s living in reality or fantasy after he tries to save a friend and finds his world filled with women who have wings and…Valkyries.
 
Adala kills. Not on purpose. She’s a Valkyrie—from just one touch, she takes warriors to the afterlife. Oh, but she’d give anything for a break, for normalcy, to have one day of not wearing her legionnaire uniform. When she’s asked to talk to the human Aaron to help him understand just what he’s in for when he tripped into her world, she jumps at the chance, even though she knows Aaron more than she cares to admit, even though she has an insane crush on him, even though she can’t touch him at all. But she gets to wear jeans and talk to a man—a real-life, hero of a man.
 
From her adorable made-up swearwords to when she wears his clothes, from the fact that she’s hundreds of years old to her pet Pegasus, Aaron falls hard for the shy Valkyrie. Dare he risk his life for a kiss? He’s thinking about it, because already he’s given her his heart.
 
With This Heart is a standalone story, that’s part of the With These Wings Series—books that mix rock-hard military men with feathered-fantasy femme fatales for a sizzling hot adventure to find love. Join Chanticleer winner, Red L. Jameson, for more of this heart-tugging fairy tale series.
 
Saltwater Siren by Muffy Wilson
 
Was it love at first sight? Perhaps. Many thought it might have been the work of the unscrupulous Sea Witch, Hermione, long a bitter and banished King’s Court Matron. So, was it the crafty wiles of Hermione, scheming to seek her sordid revenge, or was it a simple matter of serendipity? All we know for certain is that two young royals, one landed and one not, met during a raging storm as fierce and intense as the love they would none too soon escape. Was it fate, design, or—perhaps—black magic? Who’s to say?
 
What we do know is that it was sensuous, erotic, and insatiable as they fought to extinguish the passions that flamed their heat by indulging in every desire that swept them into one another’s arms. Their shared carnal voracity fanned an appetite no amount of indulgence could satisfy.
 
After all, it happened…Once upon a time…
 
Dangerous Beauty, Sexy Beast by Dariel Raye
 
Drayden saved her life— but her incessant need for vengeance could mean the end of his.
Thirteen years after the brutal murder of Treva Evers’ entire family, a cloaked stranger shows up just in time to save her from the same fate. When he disappears as quickly as he appeared, she is drawn into an underworld replete with magic and long forgotten customs, a place where nothing is as it seems, including her mysterious savior, and every word or action could result in brutal consequences.
 
Rose Tears by Amanda Pillar
 
Death is coming for Lori Hardcastle.
 
Half-Succubus, half-Sídhe, Lori has been on the run since she was seventeen. Worried that her vengeful family will find her, she’s been hiding in the Borderlands, a magical plane nestled between the fae and human worlds. However, when her path crosses that of a dangerously sexy fullblooded fae, will she be able to survive the encounter?
 
Conrad Death is a cleaner (he doesn’t like the term ‘assassin’) for the fae White Queen. His latest mission: find the half-breed daughter of the Count of Tears. Easy. Except no one knows what she looks like, her real age, or even what name she uses. However, Conrad isn’t daunted by simple details – he’s finished every job he’s ever started. But when he meets a smoking hot Succubus in a Borderlands bar, his life is thrown into turmoil.

 

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Rogue by Savannah Verte
 
Everyday immortal Bree Brigand gets a rude awakening as her family is slaughtered. Not only is the cursed, suicide blade of legend and lore real, but it has chosen her. She must quickly learn to fast-track a course she’s never navigated, in a world she thought only existed in campfire stories. But, only after coming to terms with the facts…her family is not her family.
 
Truths and lies collide in a world where the hunters and the hunted trade places faster than she can discern who is which, and everyone is an assassin. Can she find and claim her destiny? Or, will being marked by a male who is not her one true mate ruin everything, and clip this dragon’s wings before she can become all she is meant to be?
 
Hexing Hearts by Alyssa Drake
 
At eighteen, undeveloped witch, Remy Vasile abandoned her island home without a backward glance. Five years later, circumstances outside of Remy’s control have drawn her back to Firefly Island, dredging up painful memories which lay dormant during her absence.
 
Sebastian Ayres enjoyed a life of pleasure pursuits. However, his blasé attitude evaporates the moment Remy’s hand brushes against his. Irresistibly drawn to his mate, Sebastian must undertake the daunting task of persuading Remy that he is not just any man, but the only man, for her.
 
Unbeknownst to either, dark secrets, hidden since Remy’s birth, are about to be uncovered and Remy will be confronted with a life-altering decision. With the help of her sister and some unexpected allies, Remy must decide if she will fight and risk her heart or continue running from her destiny.
 
Dragons Curvy Concierge by Mychal Daniels
 
When Bronwyn Scott finds herself way over her head as the first-time business owner of a personal concierge service, she’s not about to fall for a rich mystery man trying to test her professionalism at every turn.
 
Determined to make her business a great success to find and show the mother who left her at birth that she made something of herself, Bronwyn has no time for games or entitled, gorgeous rich dudes.
 
MacMillan “Mac” Kelnar is at that time in his life where his business can run itself, he’s successful, powerful, and a mature Dragon who’s paid his dues.
 
When he sees his mate across the parking lot of a Home Improvement Center parking lot as she suffers a hit and run, he’ll stop at nothing to have her, even if that means pretending to hire her as his personal concierge.
 
Determined to have his mate, this Dragon won’t stop at nothing until his mate realizes that the only services he’s interested in are having all of her.
 
Credence – Moon Dragons by Decadent Kane
 
Torren is days away from competing in the Draconic Challenge and earning the prize he needs to complete his magic credence. His sky-high dream of apprenticing with the Ancients is finally in sight. The last thing this solitary moon dragon needs is a mate dragging him down to earth, and a human one at that. Not that his body will listen.
 
Dovie is minding her own business—literally—when a handsome stranger walks into her bookstore. One spontaneous orgasm later, she’s left with no choice but to close up shop. The last thing she needs is an overbearing dragon dragging her to his mountain and telling her to shelve her dreams in favor of a stupid contest. Not that her body will listen.
 
Torren and Dovie must fight their treacherous attraction to each other or sacrifice their ambitions forever. But moon dragon magic doesn’t choose lightly, and when darker forces shatter the peaceful mountain enclave the dragons call home, human and moon dragon alike will have to reconsider just what they need to achieve a happy ending.
 
Kiss of the Fallen by Kharma Kelley

 

Dear Readers,
I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted nothing to do with the war brewing among all the Supernaturals and have grown tired of fighting all these centuries. All of us are screwed up anyway; but who am I to judge who drinks blood and who eats souls?
   
As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, I get sucked into one last mission with the vampires and the next thing I know, I find a half-naked demon chained to my bed; and let’s just say she is not happy.  And, as much as I enjoy seeing a beautiful woman grace my bed, unfortunately, I’m not happy either.
   
Of all demons, someone delivers to me a Black Blood Slayer; demons bred to do one thing and one thing only: kill vampires.  Her blood is spiked with a desire I long to tame, but if I do, I could be six-feet under… again. And this time forever.  But her fighter’s spirit and tenderness shakes me to my missing soul, wanting to claim her with a need I cannot name.  But with both of us on the run and my people gunning for us, how can I be sure she wants me to love or to kill?
   
-Commander Tristan Castillion, Vampire Royal Guard
 
Selene by Shelique Lize
 
My name is Selene and I am a moon goddess. Between my siblings and me, we control the balance of the universe. Without us, the mortal and immortal realms would be thrust into eternal chaos. Don’t ask me what that means. It’s what I’ve been told for as long I can remember. I have never questioned my existence because it was the only life I have ever known. Then one day, everything changed when I became enthralled with the earth.
 
I couldn’t resist the alluring beauty that beckoned me almost every single night. My curiosity was so fierce and dominate, it was becoming impossible to ignore it and I gave in. I found the only god brave enough to take me to the mortal realm but he wanted something in return. He wanted my body, and I gave it to.
 
I went to earth and experienced life like never before. It was like my eyes were opening and I started to question my entire existence. Feelings all of a sudden are very present and then everything changed again, when I fell in love with a human.
 
Being a goddess has never been so complicated.
 
One Last Lullaby by Kallysten
 
When Kirsten walks back into Jacob’s life after years of estrangement, it’s not to resume the relationship she once ended abruptly. Instead, she’s there to work as a mage for the same agency in which Jacob is a Special Enforcer… or at least, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Whether Andrew, her boss and one of Jacob’s fathers, hired her for her skills or to get her back in Jacob’s life is anyone’s guess.
 
Although Jacob is determined to see in Kirsten a co-worker and friend, he still loves her as much as he ever did. He used to believe she was ‘the one,’ and even years after she broke up with him he still doesn’t understand what happened. It doesn’t help that every little thing she does reminds him of what they once shared.
 
As the agency battles deadly demons night after night, the relationship between Jacob and Kirsten goes from awkward to downright painful… until one botched magic spell traps them in a strange world inhabited by the demons, and the only way back will require them to reveal to each other their most painful secret…
 
Lust by Liz Gavin
 
Magical, sinful New Orleans attracts many lost souls who find haven at kinky Club Desire. Marcel Revault is the real deal: bound to the house, haunting it for over 150 years. Clara Hervaux, movie-star extraordinaire, indulges in her dark side as a club regular. As an empath, she’s gotten hooked on Marcel’s otherworldly sexiness. When Clara goes missing, Marcel uses their empathic link to find her, but can he break the curse to save her? Or will Clara fall prey to the jealous witch who cursed him?
 
Witch Playground by Isis Pierce
 
When Samantha Smith agreed to cast a spell to sneak her friend Sassy into the hottest paranormals’ club in Vegas, she never thought she’d actually get caught. Now she’s facing a trial and the possibility of losing everything—including her magic, and maybe even her life. To get out of legal trouble, she might have to sleep with a vampire or go to hell with a bounty hunter. Maybe both. And that’s a whole new kind of trouble.
 
Frozen Soul by Catherine Banks
 
A wolf’s love is forever…and so is the bond of the pack.
Even after she broke it off with their Alpha, Tysen, the pack still loved Jess. So when they discover her current boyfriend, Jon, is literally draining her soul, her wolf family is right there to come to her rescue. Back amongst their ranks, the bond she shares with them, and Tysen, grows stronger than ever, and she can’t deny how desperately she’s missed them all.
 
But now the truth of Jess and Jon’s relationship comes blasting through the door and brings everyone to their knees; she’s sacrificed more for the pack than any of them realized.
 
The question now remains: is there a way for Tysen to save her soul?
 
Taste Of Darkness by Catherine Vale
 
Natalya should have known better than to watch the handsome fisherman from the shadows, but she found herself drawn to him, night after night. If she had only stayed away from him, he would not be facing the darkness that will now haunt him for eternity. But she couldn’t stay away, and now it’s too late; he’s been turned into an abomination, a creature that will never again be free.
 
Natalya is all that Caine has left. He just doesn’t know it yet.
 
Natalya knows better than anyone what it’s like to have her world ripped out from under her, forced into the darkness, never to walk in the sun again. It wasn’t long ago when she was turned into a blood-sucking vamp, a ruthless killer. So when she finds herself to blame for an innocent human being turned, she knows that it’s up to her to save his life. But when Caine awakens to discover what he has become, will he ever be able to find his place in a world, where he just doesn’t fit in? And can he learn to forgive Natalya long enough to fight alongside her?
 
When a merciless pack of werewolves scent the newly created vamp, they will stop at nothing to destroy him, and everything he loves. Caine must learn to embrace his darkness, if he wishes to survive.

 

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Kill Your Muse

I have to admit, whenever I read someone speak of their Muse’, I cringe inside. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with having an outside source of inspiration for a creative project. Most of us have been there. We imagine a specific actor playing the role of our hero, or we see a photograph that lights up our imagination. I have no problem with that. My problem lies with those who speak of their muse as a somewhat capricious being who abandons them willy-nilly, or leads them on wild goose chases, or shows up in the middle of the night like a bad house guest who parties for three days straight only to disappear for months on end.

No. Just no.

Let’s look at the Merriam Webster definition of a Muse. If capitalized, as most people do when referring to their Muse, then it comes from Greek mythology and is attributed to any one of the nine Goddesses that preside over songs and poetry. It can also mean, as we’ve already discussed, a source of inspiration, a guiding genius.

More interesting to me is the definition of muse when it is not capitalized, which is ‘a state of deep thought or dreamy abstraction.’ I think that is a better representation of the writing process, don’t you?

Because here’s my problem with ascribing your writing to a Muse: you are giving all the power of your creativity to something outside yourself. You are absolving yourself of responsibility for an inability to sit down and tell your story, but you are also robbing yourself of the right to claim achievement over your successes, too.

I’m often amazed at the great lengths people go to describing their Muses—giving them names and detailed descriptions and character traits. I would suggest to you if you’ve done that to take a hard look at your creation and ask yourself why you’ve given your Muse these attributes. I think you’ll see that a lot of what you feel about your writing process is tied up in this artificial construct.

I also think this fabricated being is holding you back.

So I say to you: kill her. Kill your Muse.

Or if you can’t be that brutal, show her the door. Tell her that she no longer has any power over you. She is not the one that decides when you are going to write, you are. You don’t need her to come hold your hand, or whisper in your ear, or show you what’s in your heart. You know this to be true. You know that all you really have to do is start writing the words, and more words will come. They may not be the best words, but you know what? That’s what editing is for. Whatever you do, stop giving her all the credit and responsibility for your writing.

Sure, it may be easier to say, “My Muse has abandoned me,” rather than admit that you’ve been playing Minesweeper or wasting time on Facebook again. It might make you feel better to think, ‘if only my Muse would come back, I could write that bestseller I know is in me.’

One of my favorite quotations is from Calvin Coolidge: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

If you’ll notice, there’s not one word about a Muse in there. So free yourself of the tyranny of your so-called Muse and start writing again. You’re better off without her. You don’t need her.

So get rid of her. You’ll be happy you did.

 

 

 

Every Day is National Book Lover’s Day: Share Your Favorites!

Today is National Book Lover’s Day! I’ve been thinking about that a lot today, how books came into my life when I was a sick child, frequently kept home from school, but going on adventures with my elderly dog to Middle Earth or Narnia while still confined to bed.

I was very fortunate to have grown up in a family of readers with a mother who believed in the power of books. Every couple of weeks we went to the library and checked out dozens of books–so many we had to get special permission to bring home more than the standard allotment. We wanted nothing more than to go home and start reading, but our mother made us write down all the titles on sheet of paper kept pinned to the fridge so we’d know how many books we’d checked out and what to collect to take back to the library. We chafed at this onerous task, but as soon as it was done, the books were ours.

I can clearly recall swinging in a hammock, reading a book. Sitting under a tree in the June sunshine doing the same. Reading with a flashlight under the blankets when we should have been asleep. Reading on long car trips while adults marveled at the lack of motion sickness. On buses and waiting in lines at the bank. On trains and airplanes. I can’t imagine going anywhere without something to read.

My early love (and what I still reach for on bad days) were horse and dog books. Misty of Chincoteague and Lad: A Dog. Black Beauty and Big Red. The day that the Scholastic Book Sale came to school was a major day of celebration for me.

I moved on from those early, comforting loves to the grittier books of Jack London. But I read almost anything: the Golden Age of Mystery was meat and drink to me. When I hit high school, I fell hard for sci-fi and fantasy. Oh! And I discovered the racing thrillers of Dick Francis and read them all. I love historicals, romances (especially Regencies), paranormals, and urban fantasy. My idea of the perfect way to spend the afternoon? Take me to a library or bookstore and then sit beside me on the sofa in front of the fire (or under a tree in the summer sun) and read with me. My Amazon wish list is 97% books.

So when I came across this post by The Bloggess, asking people for their favorite reads, I couldn’t help but gush over my favorites. Seriously, check out the post because the suggestions in the comments are pure gold!

I posted this: 

OMG. Where do I start? I adored the Beekeeper’s Apprentice (and the whole Mary Russell series by Lauren R. King) and the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander (And Only To Deceive not only had me cheering because it was the best book I’d read in years but also weeping because I’d never write anything that good…) And my go-to comfort reads are the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters, and I re-read Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers at LEAST once a year, and have you read the Mary Stewart heroine-in-jeopardy books? I used to read The Moonspinners every summer and now I’m going to have to re-read it again!

The Honor Harrington series by David Webber. The Heris Serrano books (along with the Deed of Pakesenarion) by Elizabeth Moon. Echo Robin McKinley, and L.M. Montgomery–if you haven’t read The Blue Castle YOU MUST! Because how can you resist a story about a downtrodden young woman who decides to say exactly what she’s thinking? 🙂

I’m trying to avoid the tried and true classics I’m sure others will name (like Pride and Prejudice, because seriously, as scary as the world is these days, I love a story where the worst thing that can happen to you is getting cut dead at a party or your sister running off to Gretna Green…)What a great post for National Book Lover’s Day!

But that’s just scratching the surface of my lifelong love affair with books. So what I want from you, dear reader, is to share your favorite books with me as well. Because I suspect when you do, I’ll be all “OMG, I loved that book/series too!!” and then we can share the joy.

Because for a book lover, every day is National Book Lover’s Day