Apr/May 2017 Opinion Poll
The first time Aaron Gabriel, the hero of Fly Away With Me, meets Eden Blaine, the heroine, he’s the seaplane pilot who takes her to Blue Moon Harbor. She’s nervous about being up in a little seaplane for the first time, but he says flying’s the best thing in life. For her, the best thing in life is her family.
If someone asked you, “What’s the best thing in life?”, what would you say? This month’s winner will receive an autographed copy of her choice of my books and a blue poppy notepad from The Butchart Gardens in Victoria.
I was curious what people think about the ads that pop up on your screen periodically—like when you want to read an article or do some online shopping. Personally, they almost always annoy me and make me want to avoid the product, and that’s obviously not what the advertisers are going for when they pay for those ads! It turns out, I’m not the only one. The vast majority of people said they too find them annoying, usually they just ignore them, but sometimes leave a website because of them. They can even be a little scary, because who knows if it’s safe to click on a link without possibly getting a computer virus? A handful of people said they sometimes find them interesting or useful. Congratulations to Rhonda P from TX, who won an autographed copy of her choice of my books, and also a trade paper copy of her choice of The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn or Once Upon a Christmas by Maggie Robinson, Tiffany Clare, J.K. Coi and Elyssa Patrick.
The clocks just changed with Daylight Savings, and now the mornings are darker. It makes me realize what a morning person I am, and I’d so much rather get up when there’s some light in the sky – preferably, just in time to see the sunrise! (Yes, I do post a lot of sunrise photos on my Facebook page!. My question this month was whether you’re a night person or a morning one. People were split roughly half and half. The night owls enjoy staying up to read, or find that night’s their most productive time to work. The morning people like the peace and quiet, the sunrises, and the opportunity to get lots done before noon (yup, that’s me, too!). And then there are a few people who like to go to bed reasonably early, but also to sleep in. And those who stretch the day in both directions, burning the candle at both ends. Speaking of candles, this month’s prize is a dragonfly night light, along with an autographed copy of one of my books. Congratulations to the winner, Diane S from Florida.
In the book I’ve just finished writing, Come Home with Me, there’s a day that I think my heroine would say was perfect. In later years, it’s a day she’ll relive over and over in her mind and I know she’d love to be able to time travel back and actually relive that day. I wondered if other people have had those amazing days that stand head-and-shoulders above the rest? So I asked, if you could relive one day in your life, which would it be?
And aw, how romantic! The most frequent answer was “the day I got married,” followed very closely by “the day I met my love”. Other days worth reliving included the birth of a child, days spent with family or friends, the day a pet (or fur baby!) was acquired, a special trip, a day from childhood, and a major weight loss. There were a few regrets, too: the wish to relive a day differently, so it would turn out better.
This month’s winner, Andrea R from IL, receives a pretty notebook I bought in the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, plus an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
For the past couple of years, I’ve started each new year by identifying a theme word or phrase for the upcoming year. It’s a motto, a guideline, something I want to focus on and achieve. Two years ago it was “serenity.” In 2016, it was “be positive.” For 2017, I’ve chosen “perspective” (focus on what’s important). I asked people to do the same, and I got some wonderful responses. Such as: relax, have more fun, be happy, expand my horizons, have adventures, anticipate-participate-reciprocate. Or these: this is my year and I’m taking back control of my life, don’t lose sight of my dreams, set goals and try to achieve them, do 3 things every day to work toward my goals, relax and enjoy life, live life to the fullest, “the past is gone-don't dwell on it; the future isn't here yet, don't wait for it; the present is all you have, live it well.” Or how about: faith and optimism, try to stay positive for everyone, positive thinking, be happy with where I’m at and thankful for what I have, it’s all good, keep believing, 2017 can only be better, gentle power, serenity, young in heart and ancient in wisdom, be healthy, menopause will not win, survive, keep in touch with friends, downsize. And here are some to guide all of us: do unto others as you would have done to you, be a light in someone’s dark times, find ways to be helpful, and don’t be an ass!
Congratulations to this month’s winner, Vicki W from ND, who has won a desert-themed pendant I bought in Death Valley, plus an autographed copy of one of my books. And may all of you be guided by those fabulous mottos and have a wonderful 2017!
In late November, it becomes pretty hard to ignore the fact that the holiday season is approaching, so I asked how people feel about the holidays. Do they look forward to the season, or is it just a hassle? Most people who responded said they do enjoy the holidays, but they avoid much of the commercialism. Instead, they celebrate by spending time with family; attending Christmas Eve midnight mass; enjoying holiday lights, music, decorations and baking; watching holiday movies; giving gifts; volunteering for charitable endeavors; and sharing the Christmas spirit of kindness and cheer. Congratulations to Helen P from NJ, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a copy of Prospect Agency’s Little Black Book: A Teaser Anthology, Volume II.
With all the holiday books hitting the shelves, I asked people which book tops their Christmas wish list. Not surprisingly, the answers were all over the board. No two people picked the same book or even the same author! It’s great that our tastes are so diverse — and that there are books to suit each one of us. This month’s winner is Tracey P from CA. She receives an autographed copy of one of my books plus her choice of Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick or The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine.
The title of my new release, Holiday in Your Heart, comes from LeAnn Rimes’ song of the same name. The song plays a special role in the story. So I asked people: What’s your favorite holiday song of all time? The song named most is “O Holy Night” with “Silent Night” coming a close second, and “White Christmas” not far behind. This month’s winner is Catherine L from MA, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books plus her choice of either Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd or The Darkest Lie by Pintip Dunn.
We have so many options for how to spend money these days! My preference is credit, because I don’t have to keep getting cash from the ATM, I can collect points (which buy me airfares to conferences!), and I get a single bill each month that I always pay off without incurring interest charges. I asked others for their preferences, and opinions varied widely. Those who love cash say they’re traditional, cash isn’t susceptible to identity theft, it’s handy for small purchases, or it always works whereas sometimes the cards don’t. But some people hate carrying cash around, or find that if they have it they’re tempted to spend it.
People who prefer credit cards generally, like me, do it for the points or cash back, or say it’s the quickest and easiest. Those who avoid it don’t like having bills to pay off or are afraid of going into debt. As for debit cards, I think they must work differently at different financial institutions. Some people said their cards are covered against loss or theft; others say that debit cards don’t have the same protection as credit cards. Fans of debit cards say that using them keeps them aware of the balance in their account; others say it’s too easy to lose track of their balance.
Isn’t it lovely that we can choose the option or combination of options that meets our individual needs and personality! This month’s winner, Cynthia P from NC, will receive an autographed copy of one of my books and a pretty mini notebook in a pattern that’s called Florence Butterflies.
The cult of “celebrity” seems to be such a big deal these days, I thought it would be interesting to find out whether, if given the chance, people would like to meet up with a celebrity. Some said yes, naming everyone from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British royalty to actors Betty White and Colin Firth. Favorite authors and favorite rock stars were also mentioned. And distinguished people from the past such as Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth 1, Gandhi, Helen Keller and Princess Di. But other people said they wouldn’t want to. They’d be too nervous, or they prefer to keep their fantasies. Or they’d like to actually get to know people, but a “celebrity meeting” wouldn’t allow for that. Another person said that she’s not a big fan of celebrity and prefers the unsung heroes who just “get on with it.” Congratulations to winner Carol G from OK who receives an autographed copy of one of my books and “Prospect Agency’s Little Black Book,” put out by my agent. It contains “first kiss” scenes, written by me and 32 other authors.
I love special soaps and bath/shower products, so this month’s prize, which goes to Susan B from IA, is a bar of “I’m too sexy for my Wranglers” soap, along with her choice of one of my books. My question was whether people prefer baths or showers, and the results were pretty evenly divided. Showers are quick and efficient, they’re good for waking you up, and they can make you feel like you’re standing out in a tropical rain. But baths are the best if you want to relax and soak away the tension. You can add fancy products, candlelight, and a glass of wine. You can read!! Also, it’s much easier to shave your legs in the bath than trying to stand on one foot in the shower. But, sadly, some people can no longer get in and out of the tub, so for them it has to be a shower. Happy bathing, whatever you’re preferred method! Congratulations to Susan B from IA who wins an autographed copy of one of my books plus a bar of “I’m too sexy for my Wranglers” soap.
It seems appropriate, with summer coming up, to talk about holidays. I asked people for their favorite spots. The beach was the big winner—with some specifying the ocean and some not caring as long as there’s water and swimming. Cruising came second. Others enjoy big cities (for the restaurants, museums, shopping, zoos) or road trips to lovely parks or visiting historical sites. And don’t forget that a holiday can be a single day here and there, as with the person who enjoys getting away from the office for the day to visit the Jersey Shore. A few other specific places got mentions: Glacier National Park in Montana, Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky Montana, Ocean City in Maryland, Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario (I’ve been there!). And sometimes it’s more about the people than the place: like visiting grandparents or getting together with family and friends at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Whatever you’re doing this summer, I hope you manage to have a lovely vacation—even if it’s just a day or two away from your regular routine, doing something fun! Congratulations to winner Nikki H of TX, who receives an autographed copy of her choice of my books plus a and a “Live, Laugh, Love” peacock mini-notepad.
I don’t really “get” social media. I do enjoy posting on my Facebook page once or twice a day, and occasionally checking other people’s FB pages, but other than that I don’t do social media. I’d really rather write or read a book, go for a long walk, or hang out with family and friends. I asked people how they feel about social media. As you might expect, opinions varied widely. Some people don’t use it at all, and others love it. Some use it mainly to keep up with family and friends; others use it to follow authors they’re interested in; others enjoy “meeting” people from all around the world.
What do people hate on social media? Finding out bad news that way; oversharing; pushing political views; misrepresenting facts; negativity; people who take offense and/or tell you your opinion is wrong; the “junior high” popularity contest aspect of it. Bottom line: use it if you enjoy it and/or find it useful; otherwise spend your time reading or interacting with real live people! This month’s winner, Amanda P from Burnaby, BC, receives an autographed copy of her choice of my books, plus a blue poppy magnetized notepad from The Butchart Gardens.
Since the holiday had just passed, I was curious whether people think holidays like Valentine’s Day are a wonderful thing or do they put too much pressure on people, and maybe create more unhappiness than happiness? A number of people who responded felt kind of neutral about the holiday: it’s no big deal for them. As for the pressure, as one person said, “Any pressure on people from holidays is really self-imposed. If you choose to celebrate or not celebrate, either way, it's up to you.” And yet, as someone else pointed out, if you have no-one in your life to love, or be loved by, it can be a tough day. But if you do, then it can be a lovely romantic celebration. Even if there’s no romance in your life, you can add a touch of happiness to someone else’s with a smile, a hug, a card or small gift. And who knows, maybe you’ll receive one in return! My gift to this month’s winner is an autographed copy of one of my books and a spiced tea mat. And that winner is Ruth B from VA.
I read an article that recommended choosing a theme word or phrase for the year. It’s not exactly a goal, more like something to use as a focus and guide, to always keep in the back of your mind, and to aspire to achieving. For this year, I picked the word “positivism,” because I want to focus on keeping a positive attitude and avoiding being negative about myself or other people. I asked for other people’s theme words. I wasn’t the only person to pick “positivism” and here are some of the others: action, focused, fun, relax, mindfulness, adventure, be yourself, laugh every day, flexible, perseverance, patience, slow down and smell the roses. Aren’t they all great? This month’s winner is Taylor F from BC, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books plus a set of potholders I picked up on my snowbird trip.
At the end of a year, I always do a mental review, thinking of highs and lows. One of my highlights was staying relatively sane and meeting my writing deadlines despite breaking my shoulder, having surgery, and then getting a frozen shoulder. I asked for other people’s highlights for 2015 and here are some of the things people said: getting together with family; staying healthy; successfully dealing with health issues; retiring; moving; vacations; my husband coming home after a lengthy deployment; my husband finding a new job; moving in with my boyfriend; paying off debt and starting to save; quitting smoking; spending time in nature; reading lots of books; surviving a tough year; getting caught up on chores after a long time when that was impossible; having a calm, uneventful year; trusting myself. Congratulations to this month’s contest winner, Julie S from KY, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books plus a desert-themed night light that I purchased in Palm Springs.
With the holiday season approaching, I know a lot of people have wish lists, so I asked what book people are most hoping for. I received a wide variety of answers, and no two people picked the same book! I hope each of you receives at least one wonderful book. Congratulations to winner Joy I from AZ, who receives a pretty little notebook from PaperBlanks along with an autographed copy of one of my books.
I asked whether readers prefer series or standalone books, and the answers were about equally split. That’s encouraging for me, because my books are a bit of both. Each has a complete romance, so the reader doesn’t have to get the next book to find out what happens. But also, I do have links between the books – such as the setting and some of the characters – so readers who prefer series can follow the lives of previous heroines and heroes. Several readers said that series shouldn’t go on for too long, and I agree totally. Congratulations to Yvonne B from FL, who wins an autographed copy of her choice of my books plus some Canadian chocolate: ice wine and maple liqueur.
This month I asked readers what kind of romance they prefer—in fiction, that is! The answers ranged from Westerns to erotic to romantic suspense, from historical to contemporary to paranormal to futuristic to gothic. Some people seek out the stories with emotional resonance; some want an interesting plot. Some, like me, enjoy the variety romance has to offer—there’s something for every mood. Everyone pretty much agreed, there needs to be a happy ending. Yes, that’s what romance is all about, in my opinion. The characters face challenges and the reader follows them on that journey, but we have the security of knowing that in the end they’ll figure things out and love will win out. That’s also one of the joys of writing romance: knowing from the beginning that these two people are going to find true happiness together. This month’s winner is “fourseasons” and she receives a bar of lemongrass soap and an autographed copy of one of my books.
Because “discoverability” is always such an issue for writers and readers, I asked people how they discovered new books and authors. If I’d asked this question 15 years ago, I bet the answers would have been: bookstores, libraries, magazines like RT BookReviews, and recommendations from friends. Well, those are still sources, but of course in this online world people mentioned a bunch of other things: Goodreads, Amazon, book/review/publisher/author websites, blogs, author newsletters, contests, and social media. It seems every person has her favorites! This month’s winner, Theresa H from IA, receives an autographed copy of her choice of my books, and a copy of Prospect Agency’s Little Black Book: A Teaser Anthology—which, I hope, will help her discover some great new authors!
As I recovered from a broken shoulder, I had a lot of “down time” and, of course, read. I re-read some of the books on my keeper shelf, enjoying them and putting many of them back on that shelf to read again one day (hopefully not because of injury or illness!). I asked people if they re-read books. Answers were about evenly split. Some people rarely re-read because there are so many new books they want to try. Others re-read to revisit favorite characters, stories, and places, or because of the childhood memories that are associated with the books, or to laugh. Or, in this day of series, some people re-read previous books before starting a new one, to refresh their memory of who the characters are and what’s going on in their lives. Some people re-read for to study—e.g., to study the craft of writing or find information about hobbies or interests. This month’s winner, Lori from PA, gets a couple of new books to read: an autographed copy of her choice of my books, and a copy of Prospect Agency’s Little Black Book: A Teaser Anthology.
I’m a flower lover – and flower photographer – and I can’t possibly pick my favorite. But contest entrants did a better job. The most popular choices were roses, tulips, and bleeding heart. Other favorites included sweet peas, lilac, and stargazer lilies. People’s reasons for choosing varied from scent and color to the memories the flowers evoke. This month’s winner, Melissa K from Florida, gets Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers plus an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
I find that my taste in beverages depends in part on the season and my mood, but there are some classics: a nice cold glass of water, one of my favorite teas, and of course champagne! I asked people for their favorites and found that they ranged too: Classic Coke in the morning, hot mulled wine before bed at special times of year, raspberry tea in summer, flavored diet soda, ginger ale with meals, coffee in the morning, hot chocolate with marshmallows in the middle of the winter, tea accompanied by a chat or a book, iced tea every day, champagne on any semi-special occasion, icy Tang because it reminds me of drinking it at my grandparents’ house, wine at cocktail hour while sharing the day, or Irish Tea because it reminds me of Mum and Dad. Lots of great drinks – and great reasons for drinking them!
Congratulations to this month’s winner, Mary P from Queensland, who wins a beverage mat with a teabag plus an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
This month I asked: If you could spend an afternoon or evening with anyone – living, dead, or fictional – who would that person be and how would you spend your time? Some people chose historical figures: Catherine the Great; Churchill; talking to Jane Austen about her books; having tea with Edith Wharton or Queen Victoria; inventing something with Benjamin Franklin; finding out how Elizabeth Bathory’s mind worked (really?). A few chose fictional ones: helping Cinderella get ready for the ball; making out with Dracula (each to her own, right?). For some people, it was hanging out with family members or special friends. And a lot chose deceased parents or grandparents, to be able to get together with them again, talk about family history, share memories, and share love. I’m in that camp myself. For me the answer would be to spend a day with my mom. It would be so great to see her again and just hang out, but there are also so many things I never thought to ask her while she was alive. This month’s winner is Gerardette from PA, and she receives a collapsible bag and an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
I always have trouble picking my favorite season, though if pressed I’d have to choose spring. I love seeing more sunshine, having warmer weather, enjoying longer days, and watching flowers bud and blossom. There’s a sense of freshness, rebirth, and possibility. I also love that winter is a long ways off. (Yes, it’s my least favorite season!). Anyhow, I asked folks which season they’d choose, and it turns out that the majority also favor spring. After that, it’s pretty equally split among the other three seasons. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Linda R from CA, who wins a compact-style mirror and an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
After being away for two months, I was very glad to get back home. After counting my own blessings, I decided to ask folks what they most appreciate about their own homes. And there’s lots to love. The most frequent answer was: “that it’s mine” – including variations like “having my own space” and “it’s paid for.” There were lots of “comfort” types of answers, such as: having all my stuff around me, the comfort of being at home, it’s so cozy, the sense of being home and able to rest, and even that it smells right. People of course value having their family there, building a life with one’s significant other, or the house being able to hold all the grandkids, or feeling the presence of deceased parents – or the fact that there are no bad memories of a former life. Pets are important too, as well as the wildlife outside. Some of the other favorite features include: the library, the office/reading room, the bed or bedroom, the bathtub, big windows, the view, flowers and plants, the location on acreage, the lack of stairs, the swimming pool, the heated garage, the fact that there’s always something cooking – and even new curtains. Yes, sometimes it’s little things that can give us a real boost, isn’t it? Congratulations to winner Gayle O from NV, who wins a bar of fancy soap and an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
Social media is such a huge presence in the world today. I asked people for their views. The majority said that they use it mainly to keep in touch with family and/or friends, a number of people follow authors to get information about new releases and so on, and others use it to get the news. Many people said social media is too time-consuming and they’d rather read a good book. Others pointed out that it can be really helpful for people who live alone or can’t get out much. Some mentioned how rude some people can be; it’s like they have no filters when they’re on social media. And a number of people mentioned how scary social media is, and that a lot of people – especially young people – don’t understand the risks involved. Congratulations to winner Nancy Y from OR who won an autographed copy of her choice of my books as well as a pretty little heart-shaped box.
Last month, as 2014 was ending, I was thinking about goals, resolutions, hopes, and dreams for the new year. I asked people to share theirs, and here’s what I found. I guess it’s not surprising that at an end of the year, and after a holiday season filled with social times and rich food, lots of people are aiming to eat healthier and to lose weight. That was by far the most often stated goal, but there were a bunch of others: to read more books; to do things that make me happy; to progress with my career goals; to get better organized; to stop procrastinating; to tackle a special project; to be more understanding and patient and to communicate more effectively with my family; to write more book reviews; to finish off my divorce; to save money; to travel more; to expand my horizons. Some people stated hopes, such as the following ones: for the next year to be better than the last one; for me and my loved ones to be healthy; to move to a place where I’d love to live. I hope that everyone stays motivated to achieve the goals they’ve set, and that the hopes do come true. The winner is Catherine L from BC, and she will receive an autographed copy of her choice of my books plus a Moleskine “secret location” Limited Edition notebook.
I’m definitely an early bird and have trouble keeping my eyes open much past 10:00—even if I’m reading an excellent book. And I generally wake up early, and I love being up to see the sunrise and hear the birds welcome dawn. But it seems I’m in the minority! When I asked what you folks prefer, it was about two-thirds night owls and only a few early birds to keep me company. Congratulations to Jane K from FL, who won a carved cherry wood bookmark and an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
It’s the time of year when I buy my calendars for the next year – and give away a firefighter calendar. Aside from hot guys, my favorite calendars are lovely scenics and beautiful photos paired with inspirational messages. I asked people about their favorites. The most popular ones are scenics, animals, flowers, and hot men. Other answers included: horses, beaches, hot men, food and recipes, “a calendar that yells at me,” first responders, cute babies, dogs, lighthouses, Ireland, “comic a day,” Chihuahuas, Mary Englebreit, ones with lots of space to write in, castles, kittens, animals in costumes, inspirational quotes/photos, firefighters, Lil Bub, quilt photos and instructions, cityscapes, moonlight photos, family pictures, cowboys, Wacky Women, and family pictures. Of course there are calendars for pretty much everyone’s taste! This month’s winner, Cindy M from CA, wins a Professional Firefighters of Greater Victoria 2015 calendar – and an autographed copy of her choice of my books.
I find myself putting off housework in favor of writing — or reading, or almost everything. For some reason, I don’t mind cleaning the kitchen or tidying, but I pretty much hate the rest of the chores. The worst for me is washing floors. It’s way too hard on my back. I asked people what household chores are their favorite and their least favorite. Probably not surprisingly, cleaning the bathroom (and the cat’s litter box!) topped many lists for most hated chore. A few others mentioned mopping floors, so I’m not alone in that ‐ but one person said she loves it (would you come and do my floors, pretty please?). Washing dishes is also something some people hate ‐ but others actually enjoy. Same thing with laundry, cooking, and grocery shopping. Too bad those people couldn’t get together and trade off the chores! Other hated chores are ironing, dusting, and vacuuming. Other favorites include spring cleaning and tidying/organizing. Congratulations to Deanna S of MA, who has won an autographed ARC (advance reader copy) of Love Me Tender.
The publishers, self-publishers, and online retailers like Amazon sure are doing a variety of things with book pricing – and a lot of readers are complaining about high prices. I asked what people think about book pricing. Most thought that e-books should be cheaper than print books, but not everyone agreed. Some people noted that serialized books can get too expensive, and hard covers are often too expensive. Of course some people prefer e-books and some prefer print, and some people like to shop online while others prefer to support their local bookstores and help to keep them in business. A number of people mentioned limited budgets and only being able to afford books that are reasonably priced – or, if there’s a library handy, borrowing books. Some said that, if they really want to read a book, they’ll get it despite the price. Personally, I’d like to see pricing stabilize a bit, at a point where authors earn enough money that they can keep writing, publishers and bookstores stay in business, and books are affordable for the majority of readers and for libraries. Can’t all the interests be served at the same time? Congratulations to this month’s winner, Lois M from NJ, who wins an autographed print copy of her choice of my books plus some “pamper yourself” goodies from Galiano Island: a luxury soap bar and a menthol madness foot soak.
Because it’s holiday season for so many people—and I’m hearing lots of them vote in favor of “stay-cations”—I’m curious about people’s favorite thing to do for their vacation. The most popular answers were: going to the beach, getting together with family, and camping. Here are some other favorites: cruising to see interesting new places; exploring a place with some history, where I’ve never been before; a trip to the mountains; the amusement park; Chicago; Cancun; Disneyland; Hawaii; the Grand Canyon, England and Scotland; visiting the various United States; fishing trips; “packing the Harley and following the front tire!”; Vegas; Europe; staying at home in the country; “going somewhere I don’t have to do any work.” I’ll echo that last one! For me, I like to stay near home in summer because I love this time of year by the ocean in the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to mid-winter, though, I vote for heading to sunny climes! Congratulations to winner Debra G from CT, who wins an autographed copy of her choice of my books plus a package of Canadian maple cream fudge.
I can’t help it, in summer my thoughts turn to food! I asked people for their favorites, and the most popular treat turned out to be watermelon. Also named were other fresh fruits, fresh veggies, steak and burgers and ribs on the grill, potato salad and coleslaw and other kinds of salads, ambrosia and pavlova, homemade wine coolers, and ice cream in any form. Mmm. I’m now imagining a picnic table laden with all these goodies, and a group of family or friends getting together for a feast on a balmy summer evening... Congratulations to this month’s winner, Zelma M from BC, who won an autographed copy of her choice of my books plus a package of citrus dill fish rub seasoning.
This year I’m self-publishing some of my “sweet” short stories—heartwarming romances with no sex scenes. They’re short “reads” designed for the busy woman who deserves a few minutes of self-indulgence—on the bus or train to work, during coffee or lunch break, while waiting to pick the kids up, sitting in the doctor or dentist’s waiting room, sinking into a bubble bath before bed, or . . . well, I’m sure you get the picture. I picked the title “Sweet Indulgences” for the series. And so I was curious, how do you indulge yourself when you need a little pampering? What did people say? Books and reading time, especially in a special reading place with a favorite beverage. Chocolate, in a whole variety of forms! Other edibles like glazed doughnuts, home-made banana splits, ice cream shakes, a favorite candy bar, Kraft Dinner, or cream cheese on Town House crackers. Or how about a bubble bath, a massage, a mani-pedi? Peace and quiet without kids screaming? Collecting wonderful wools (yes, I’m a person who has trouble passing a wool store too). A walk in the park, watching old movies, slot machines. The answer I personally identify with the most is this one: “A long, hot bubble bath with a good romance novel, a glass of wine, and the darkest chocolate I can get!”
The random number generator picked Elaine from FL as the winner and she’ll receive an autographed copy of her choice of my books and some Canadian chocolate: a bar of maple chocolate and a bar of ice wine chocolate (and, by fun coincidence, chocolate was one of the things she listed as her self-indulgence!).
I truly appreciate my friends. My life is so much warmer and richer because of them. I asked people for their thoughts on friendship. People’s best friends included husbands, moms, sisters, girlfriends, four-legged friends, and a bird who was “playmate, guard bird, and confidant.” It’s quality rather than quantity that counts. You get what you put into the relationship. Trust, honesty, and loyalty are key to friendship. A true friend is always there for you, through the good times and the bad. They have your back and defend you, and they love you no matter how you look or what mood you’re in. One of the best things about a true friend is growing up through all the troubles and good times together and being able to share the “do you remember when” stories. Friends give you comfort, share crazy times, let you vent, go shopping with you, share drinks and lazy afternoons, and keep your secrets. Friendship can be your greatest joy and your biggest sorrow. This month’s winner, Emily A of ME, will receive one of my books and a set of blank cards made from my photographs—to send her friends on special occasions.
I asked people about their favorite sounds and received some wonderful answers. I dare you to read these and not smile! By far the most popular choices were children’s laughter and the sound of water (be it ocean waves, rain on the roof, a burbling stream). Birdsong came next. And how about these? My dogs greeting me when I come home. A cat’s purr. My favorite music. The breath of a baby next to your ear. The sound of a carousel. Silence, because it means peace. Fresh snow gently falling at night. The sound of someone whistling. Wind chimes. My husband’s voice (aw, isn’t that romantic?). My son’s voice. The hawks in our woods. Church bells. Congratulations to the March winner, Sue Anne E from WA, who will receive an autographed copy of her choice of my books, plus a set of blank note cards made from my photos.
February was a kind of crazy month for me: the release of one book, the due date for another, Valentine’s Day, the Olympics, and battling a nasty cold. I asked readers what February 2014 brought to mind for them and here’s what people said. Many agreed about Valentine’s Day and the Olympics. A lot of people mentioned icky weather (it’s the shortest month but feels like the longest!) and the promise of spring. A number of people had birthdays (themselves or in the family) or anniversaries, and several remembered loved ones who have passed away. There were other personal things like moves (good luck!), local events, looking forward to particular movies coming out. And then of course there’s the good old curling up by the fire with a great book and a mug of hot chocolate. That’s hard to beat, except perhaps for this one: showing your loved ones that you care. Congratulations to Melissa K of TX who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a copy of Wild Words from Wild Women.
For me, January always feels like a fresh start: an opportunity to clear the decks, set new goals, approach life with renewed energy. I asked if others feel the same. Here are some people’s view on January as a fresh start. On the broad scale, January is a time to: take stock of my life and the good and bad decisions I make or have made in the past, try to learn lessons from the previous year, set goals because goals seem more doable than resolutions, vow to become a better and more patient person, resolve to stop and smell the roses. Some people set more specific goals, such as to: get in better shape and be healthier, get outside and walk, get organized, clean the house and office, break some bad habits, read more, and plan more family time. And then there are the major life changes: move to a new home, start life with a new fiancé (how exciting is that?).
I hope everyone’s January resolutions, goals, and dreams come true over the year – and I know you’re all going to work hard to make sure that happens. Congratulations to Kirsten K from WA, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a bar of SoftKitty Lavenderlicious soap.
The hero in a romance novel is usually strong, capable, sexy—and ideally, he’s also romantic. This month I asked: What’s the most romantic thing a man can do for his sweetheart? Here are some of the answers: do things for her without being told; say “I love you” and mean it; show that he loves her; bring home flowers when she’s had a rotten day; listen when she needs to talk; tell her she’s special and beautiful; give her a foot massage; clean the house; put her before himself; hold her; support her decision without second-guessing her; little thoughtful day to day things more than grand gestures; cook supper and help clean up after; write her a love letter; give her a spa day; give her a romantic dinner, either out or at home; take her on an exotic holiday; do the things with her that she likes to do; make her breakfast in bed; defend her; make her laugh; show that he appreciates her; be there when she needs him.
Ah yes, wouldn’t it all be lovely? Ladies, here’s a suggestion: ask your guys to read this list and do at least one of these things every week! And here’s another suggestion: do the same kind of thing for your guy, because men deserve romance too.
Congratulations to winner Ginette H from NB, who receives an autographed copy of one of my books and a jar of guavaberry jam from St. Maarten.
The publishing business has experienced huge changes with the advent of e-readers and digital books, and then with the growth in self-publishing. I’m a hybrid author: most of my books are with traditional publishers (Kensington and Berkley), but I have also self-published a novel (Finding Isadora ). I asked people for their thoughts and experiences regarding self-publishing. Some people have never read a self-published book, but most have. Several have noticed a higher number of errors. For some, this has been a turn-off, but others say it’s not a big deal as long as they really enjoy the story. A number of people cited benefits to self-publishing for both readers and authors ‐ such as giving authors more control over their product, and making books available that don’t fit the standard “ommercial” guidelines of the traditional publishing houses. This month’s winner, Sherry H from AR, wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a 2014 Vancouver firefighter calendar.
With the end of 2013 approaching, I asked whether people are looking forward to the end of the year – and why or why not? Some people say they always look forward to the new year – a clean slate and the promise of new beginnings. For many, the end of the year is approaching too fast – especially if they have children who are rapidly growing up, or they’re growing older themselves and feel that time is running out. For others, sadly, 2013 has been a tough year and they’re hoping things will be better in 2014. I sure hope that proves true! Congratulations to Kat S from San Luis Obispo, CA, who won a 2014 firefighter calendar from Victoria, BC, and an autographed copy of one of my books.
Though it’s been many years since I headed back to school in September, when Labor Day weekend rolls around, that’s still what I think about. I asked people for their thoughts or memories about back-to-school days, and I got some wonderful answers. Wish I could post all of them! For some, it’s memories – and many people, like me, didn’t really enjoy school so didn’t look forward to going back (though, as for me, that changed for some when they hit college). Of course others loved going back, especially catching up with friends and meeting new ones (okay, you extroverted kids, I’m envious!). A number of people mentioned the sense of starting over, of fresh opportunities. Others mentioned new clothes! Some people have regrets, like if they had a second chance, they’d do better this time. For those with kids, some feel sad to see them go, others love having more time and peace and quiet with them out of the house, and a number of people mentioned the expense. Teachers are divided on this one – either loving or hating the beginning of the school year. For others, it’s things like the malls being less crowded (or, in college towns, town getting busier), having to pay attention to school zones and kids on the road, getting stuck behind school busses. One person mentioned the smell of Elmer’s Glue! She made me think of the lovely colors of a fresh pack of crayons and the clean pages of new notebooks. Congratulations to Susan L (no, not me!) of PA who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a dragonfly notepad.
One of the best parts of summer is the food! At least in my humble opinion. I asked people about their favorites. Top prize goes to watermelon. Loads of people chose it. Second was ice cream (big surprise, eh?). Lots of other things got mentioned too, and I kept salivating as I read the answers: blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, or just any kind of fresh fruit, Jersey tomatoes, cucumbers, a veggie dish made with zucchini plus tomatoes and onions (I make something similar myself), homemade potato salad (and yes, I went out and made some!), pasta salad, grilled hamburgers (that’s what I had for dinner tonight, as a matter of fact), anything on the barbecue (yeah, and I make my guy cook it!), blue crab, fish and chips, homemade wine coolers (and may I put in a vote for sangria?), strawberry shortcake. Mmm, it all sounds so yummy. And how about this favorite meal: chicken, mashed potatoes, and garden vegetables. Yes, I could sure go for that! Congratulations to this month’s winner, Jackie W from CA, who won an autographed copy of her choice of my books, plus a copy of the Totally Shrimp Cookbook.
For this month’s contest prize, I bought a dream catcher jar. The label says, “Put all your deep, heartfelt wishes inside, where they will never be too far away, and you will find what you dreamt closer and closer each day.” So I asked what wish you’d put in a dream catcher jar. When it comes right down to it, it seems we all have pretty similar dreams. Health and happiness for us and our families, finding love and companionship, achieving career goals, being close to loved ones, having a nice place to live, traveling and learning. Here’s the inspiring wish from this month’s winner, Diane S from Tampa, FL, who said, “I wish to live each day happily, thoughtfully and as the gift each day really is.” Congratulations, Diane, you’ve won a dream catcher jar to store that wish, and also an autographed copy of your choice of my books.
Because I attended RomCon, a reader-author convention in June, I asked people for their thoughts and experiences re meeting authors. The majority of people said they never had, but would love to. Those who have met authors enjoy gaining a fresh perspective and insights on their books. But then there’s the other view: what happens if you meet your favorite author and you’re disappointed? (I admit that one resonates with me. I once went to see a favorite singer and he came across as a conceited ass, which kind of spoiled my enjoyment of his songs after that.) Congratulations to this month’s winner, Melinda P from Ontario, who won a bag of swag from RomCon.
Because I mostly write real settings, but have ventured into creating a fictional community with my Caribou Crossing series, I asked readers whether they prefer real or made-up places when they’re reading fiction. Many said it doesn’t matter, and it depends on the story. A few prefer real (especially for contemporary) because they can identify with the place — maybe they’ve been there or want to go there. A few others prefer made-up, finding it easier to get lost in the story. This month’s winner is Kelli R from MN. She’ll receive an advance reader copy of Home on the Range from the Caribou Crossing series.
Because I was doing my website update on April 1, April Fool’s Day was on my mind so I asked people what they thought about practical jokes. Interestingly, very few people were into them: they didn’t do them, people didn’t play practical jokes on them, and in general they thought practical jokes weren’t very nice. However, if you’re looking for jokes to play on someone, here are a couple of relatively harmless ones mentioned by contest entrants: grease the toilet seat with Vaseline; use little balloons to make a birthday cake, ice over them, then invite the birthday person to cut their cake! Congratulations to Vickie M from MS, who won one of my books plus a necklace and earrings.
I love spring! I love everything about it, but the best thing is that winter is behind me and won’t come around for a long time. The thing most mentioned by those who responded to the poll is the sense of newness and freshness, of hope and zest of life. Lots of people mentioned the lovely weather, flowers and buds, and longer days. The fresh breeze and being able to sleep with your windows open. Gardening. Baseball season! The neighborhood comes alive! Congratulations to this month’s winner, Beth T from VA, who won one of my books and a silk heart pin.
Because February was launch month for Northern Heat, a book that promises to dispel the myth that Canadians are as frigid as the northern climate, I asked people what they think of Canadians. Hockey and the RCMP were right up there, along with how we say “eh” at the end of a lot of sentences. And all of that’s true, eh. (And you’ll note that I have written a hockey player hero, in The Dirty Girls Book Club.) As for personality, people said Canadians are friendly, polite, open-minded, and “rock.” Thanks for that! I notice that no-one said we’re sexy, so you folks obviously need to read Northern Heat, autographed by me.
Wow, what a creative bunch you are! I’m so impressed. Here are some of the creative things that people do: write, paint or draw, cook, quilt, crochet, make jewelry, dance, write book reviews, sew, sing and make up songs, take photographs, and make cards. Others express their creativity through the way they decorate their home, the way they dress, or through acquiring body art like tattoos. What wonderful ways of brightening not only your lives but the lives of those around you. For me, obviously the main one is writing, but I also take photographs and make cards. This month’s prize is a set of cards made from my photos and an autographed copy of one of my books – and they go to Rita W from California.
In December, people’s thoughts turn to many things, and among them is food! I asked people, “What’s your favorite holiday treat, and how do you savor it?” Some of the goodies mentioned were port wine trifle, egg nog, mulled wine, peppermint candy canes, spritz cookies, fruit cake, and green bean casserole (don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!). Congratulations to my December winner, Brenda J from Pasadena, MD, who won an autographed copy of one of my books, plus a copy of The Heart of Cooking, a charity collection put together by dozens of romance authors (including me!).
I admit to enjoying TV, especially as an accompaniment to a casual dinner, doing my stretches, autographing bookmarks, or knitting. For me, TV is most often pure escapist entertainment. I prefer scripted shows, maybe because I’m a writer myself. This month, I asked people what, if anything, they like to watch on TV. Turns out I’m not alone in liking scripted TV. That’s what the majority said, though everyone likes something different (top two named were “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS”). Next most popular was reality shows (especially “Dancing with the Stars”). And then of course there was a smattering of other things: news, documentaries, sports, house hunters, and so on. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Shelley M of MI. She wins a book and a tote bag from the Magnolia Bakery in NYC.
I keep hearing how popular e-books are, and my royalty statements show increasing sales of that format. And I know book stores are closing, downsizing, choosing to buy bestselling authors rather than the rest of us, so fewer of my print books are getting out on the shelves. So I asked people what they think of e-readers. The huge majority of people said that they prefer print books. Lots of people have e-readers and use them occasionally, but still prefer the experience of reading a print book. Now, of course this isn’t any kind of scientific study, but I find it very interesting that people who are clearly internet-savvy, many of whom have tried out e-readers, still like the traditional experience of holding a print book and turning the pages. Machines have not yet taken over the world! LOL. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Anita Y from GA, who won an autographed book (yes, in print format!) and a lovely old-fashioned notebook.
I love a cup of tea and a good book, a glass of wine while chatting to a good friend. This month I asked for people’s special drink + activity pairings. Reading was the most popular activity people listed, and the pair it with tea, coffee, iced tea, lemonade, wine, hot chocolate, Diet Coke, and Diet Dr. Pepper. We readers definitely have our preferences! Here are some other answers: picnic + iced tea or frozen strawberry colada; football on TV + beer or Coke Classic; fireplace + hot chocolate; dessert in romantic restaurant + champagne; exercise + water; chat in person/by phone/by email with friends + tea or coffee; hang out with family on holidays + White Russians. Did these give you any ideas? Congratulations to this month’s winner, Susan F from Langley, BC, who won an autographed copy of one of my books and a cute little spoon for stirring honey into tea, scooping up jam, or stirring that marshmallow into the hot chocolate.
In the Pacific Northwest, summer came late and showed all signs of being short. It made me think of all the things I’d hoped to do, but not had time for. So I asked, “What’s the thing you most want to do in what remains of summer 2012.” As you’d expect, reading, travel, and visits to the beach ranked high. Here are a few of my favorite answers: meet an old friend for drinks and reminiscences on the deck of a restaurant by the lake; lose weight before the school reunion; take my elderly mom on a fun-filled day trip; travel somewhere exotic and enjoy every moment of my trip in complete bliss with my lover, experiencing new things, diving into new cultures and soaking up those rays. Thanks to everyone who shared their summer dreams — and I hope they come true for you! Congratulations to Joanne from NE, who wins an autographed “hot off the press” copy of my September release, The Dirty Girls Book Club.
Because July is such an outdoorsy, back-to-nature kind of month, it got me thinking that, while most of us enjoy earth, air, and water, we identify more with one. For me, it’s earth. I guess, even though (or perhaps because) I spin flights of fancy in my books, I like to be grounded. Actually, so do my characters. Anyhow, I asked people which they most identify with. Interestingly, the majority were with me, as earth people. It seems we really relate to the beautiful land on which we live. Congratulations to winner, Colleen C from Goodyear, AZ, who won a set of blank cards made with my photographs, and an autographed copy of one of my books.
Though it’s a long time since I was a kid in school, I still think of June as the month when school lets out for two glorious months of holiday. But, here in BC, that might all change. Schools may be moving to a different calendar, where breaks will occur throughout the year, rather than that solid two months in summer. I asked people whether they thought schools should stick with a 2-month summer holiday. The majority voted for sticking with the 2-month break, but a number of people saw pros and cons to each approach. Congratulations to winner Melinda from Woodstock, ON, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a pair of abalone earrings.
According to “Camelot”, the musical, May is the lusty month - the month of “yes you may”. I asked people, what’s your favorite way - proper or improper - to celebrate the month. You know what? Very few people confessed to anything particularly improper! Though I did particularly like the woman who said she’d be going for a walk in the woods - with a blanket and her man. Other than that, there was lots of outdoorsy stuff like cookouts, hanging out by the pool, gardening, reading by the lake, and there were also family celebrations, Cinco de Mayo, and Memorial Day. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Barbara S from OH, who won an autographed copy of one of my books and a set of native Canadian coasters.
April is the month of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies, so I asked about everyone’s favorite treats. No big surprise - the most popular answer was chocolate. But oh, the varieties of chocolate! Such as: truffles, Hershey’s chocolate-filled eggs, chocolate caramels, chocolate-covered cashews, brownies, and so on, and so on. Ice cream was second most popular - along with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sundaes.
And yum, here are some other goodies that were mentioned: strawberry shortcake, Rice Krispie treats, jelly beans, Heath Bars, cupcakes, cheesecake, baklava... Okay, you get the idea. The list went on and on. I think I gained weight just salivating over everyone’s suggestions! Congratulations to Aline B from KS, who won an autographed copy of one of my books, and ice wine chocolates from British Columbia.
In March, I asked people to tell me their favorite things about spring, and every answer made me smile. Warmer weather, of course, and flowers, lovely colors, the scent of flowers and fresh-cut grass, the end of daylight savings, Easter, getting out in the garden, the fresh smell in the air, the smell of freshly turned earth awaiting the planting of seeds, saving money on the heating bill, the feeling of renewal - in nature and in relationships and in life, baby birds and baby animals, the sun on your face, the end of the snow, mushroom hunting, birds singing, being outside, running, fishing, people smile more, being outside on my swing reading a book, ditching the winter clothes, baseball season, airing out the house. Now confess, you’re smiling too, right?
Here’s my favorite thing about spring: it’ll be months and months and months before winter comes round again! Congratulations to this month’s winner, Beth M from CA, who wins an autographed copy of one of my books and a teal-colored pashmina I bought from a street vendor in NYC.
What lovely entries I received — and, best of all, the largest number were personal stories. In fact, many were about people’s parents’ romances. How very sweet, and touching. When it comes to fictional romance, the winner was Gone With The Wind (how interesting that it’s a romance with a sad ending, though of course most of us romantics believe that Rhett really did change his mind, “give a damn” again, and finally end up with Scarlett — and the two of them drove each other delightfully and passionately crazy for the rest of their lives!). The runner-up was The Notebook, the story of a timeless romance, but also one with a touch of sorrow, or at least poignancy. This month’s winner is Dena W from Bremerton, WA, and she wins an autographed copy of one of my books, plus a copy of Four Letter Word: Original Love Letters.
In January, I always feel reflective. Rather than ask about New Year’s resolutions, I instead asked people to imagine themselves on December 31, 2012, looking back on the year. What would they like to be able to say about 2012? The answers of course included “the Mayans were wrong!,” peace, health, happiness, family, income, jobs, and also some less expected ones like cleaning up the house, getting the yard in shape, stopping smoking, and distressing and simplifying. Two of my favorites were to have done no harm, and that we all cared about each other and lived in tolerance. This month’s winner, Karen K from VA, wins one of my books and a set of my photo cards.
Enter the Opinion Contest!
This contest is open only to e-newsletter subscribers. If you don’t already subscribe to Susan/Savanna’s Champagne News, your name will be added to the subscription list when you enter the contest.
Sexy Drink Recipes Contest!
My destination wedding books, Sex on the Beach (Jan 2010) and Sex on the Slopes (Dec 2010), have signature drinks, with the same names as the book titles. When I went looking for a recipe for “sex on the beach,” I discovered that there were numerous variations. That gave me the idea of holding a contest to find the best recipe. And then, of course I had to do the same for “sex on the slopes”. Find out the winners, the recipes, and the prizes!
Awesome Foursome Martini Contest
When one of my readers said the Awesome Foursome (the heroines of Champagne Rules, Hot in Here, Touch Me, and Hot in Here) needed their own martini, I agreed immediately – and ran a recipe contest.
Find out the winners, see the winning recipes and view pictures of the tastings.
What can I say? In December, don’t we all turn into little kids and want to send those “Please, Santa” letters to the North Pole? So I asked what people would request in those letters. And the biggest response was books! I sure won’t argue with that one. The second most popular request was for an e-reader or iPad. Congratulations to the December contest winner Natalie K from RI, who wins a firefighter calendar and one of my books.
Traditionally, November is the month I give away a firefighter calendar. I asked folks to tell me about firefighters, and mostly, of course, I heard about courage. Yes, we all think firefighters are heroes. Secondly, they’re hot! Here are a few comments: my son’s a firefighter and I’m proud; I live in NYC and I’m so grateful to them; Ladder 49 is my favorite movie; I love driving by the fire hall and watching them wash the engine, shirtless!; a friend’s firefighter husband gave mouth to snout resuscitation to a dog who was in a fire; they’re kind to kids; they do so much for their community; Kurt Russell was the best firefighter in a movie; their families are brave, too; my mom was a firefighter; I am in awe. Congratulations to Christy M from OH who wins a 2012 firefighter calendar.
Length was on my mind, as I was preparing a workshop on writing short stories, novellas, and novels. So I asked readers which they preferred. Of course each length has its benefits, and readers mentioned short stories and novellas particularly when they have busy lives and limited time. The majority preferred novels, because they like being totally immersed, getting to really know the characters, having an in-depth story, and getting everything resolved by the end. But a novel can’t be too long, so that the reader wonders when will it ever end! This month’s winner is Chris R from NY. She wins an autographed advance reader copy of the fourth and final Wild Ride to Love book, Yours, Unexpectedly.
I asked this question because I know social media’s such a hot thing right now. And yet, for me, my schedule’s crazy and in my spare time I’d rather read a good book than visit people’s blogs or Facebook pages, or follow their tweets. As for my friends, I like to get together in person for a glass or two of wine and a long chat. Guess I’m just an old-fashioned girl! But it turns out I’m not alone.
Way more than half the people who responded this month either don’t care for social media, or use things like Facebook only to keep up with family and friends who are far away. They’re not on Twitter following their favorite movie stars, politicians, and writers. In fact, they’re often to be found doing the same things as me: curling up with a good book or sharing a face-to-face chat with someone they care about. Guess there’s something to be said for old-fashioned after all! Congratulations to Chris from Florida, who won one of my books and a special gift from the Victoria Women’s Show.
The publishing industry is changing in so many ways. Bookstores are closing or converting to gift/coffee shops. Digital publishing and e-readers are huge. And people’s book-buying budgets are limited. In this changing landscape, I asked, "What’s your favorite place to get books?" And wow, people get books from absolutely everywhere: grocery stores, gas stations, WalMart, airports, convenience stores, book clubs, publishers, friends and family, book clubs, publishers, used book stores, thrift stores — and of course, bricks and mortar stores and online ones.
The most popular source named was Barnes & Noble, followed relatively closely by Amazon, and then the library. A number of people mentioned hating to see their local Borders or independent store close, and many are still supporting their favorite independent store. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Colleen C from AZ, who won one of my books plus Together Again by Mimi Barbour and No Longer Mine by Shiloh Walker.
Because my summer was busy, busy, busy, without much time for R&R, I asked how everyone else’s summer is going. Most people who responded have been having a great time: the beach, the pool, travel, picnics with families and friends, ice cream, lots of good reading — and even a wedding! Not everyone is having a fabulous summer, though, and for those people, I sure hope things look up. The July winner is Cindy from MN, who won one of my books and a New York tote bag that I bought in NYC.
Because I was heading to New York for the RWA National Conference, my mind was on theatre, and performances in general. So I asked people about their favorite live performance that they’ve ever attended. The most popular in people’s memories and hearts was family performances, especially children and grandkids on stage. Second most popular was “big” theatre — with Phantom of the Opera and Wicked topping the list, followed by Les Miserables and Cats. Congratulations to Diane S. from NJ, this month’s winner. She receives one of my books plus a gift pack of NYC chocolate bars.
Because Elizabeth Amber had kindly donated a copy of her new release, Bastian: The Lords of Satyr, as a contest prize, I asked people who their favorite paranormal character is. Edward from Twilight came out on top, but there were a lot of close runners-up: Jacob from Twilight, Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, and Sookie Stackhouse, Eric, and Bill from Charlaine Harris’s series. Now, here’s someone who only got one vote but I bet that’s just because the rest of us didn’t think of him. This month’s winner, Cheri from KY, chose the character played by Patrick Swayze in Ghost – and, as she says, what woman wouldn’t want to have him in her room every night! Cheri has won a copy of Bastian and one of my own books.
When I asked about surprises, I got some great — and often quite personal — responses. One of my surprises was receiving two responses that involved trips to Disney World, and here’s the fun part. One was for an 11-year-old girl, and the other was for a woman on her 25th anniversary. I guess that goes to prove you’re never too old for Mickey Mouse! This months’ winner is Joanne S from CA, who wins one of my books and a surprise gift — maple cookies and ice wine chocolates.
As an author, I’m always interested in readers’ opinions. We all have our preferences, and I was curious to know whether readers preferred that a romance heroine and hero know each other before the book starts, or be strangers. I’ve written both, and enjoy the challenges and benefits of each. The contest results were close, with about 60% voting for strangers. They said “new” is more exciting for them, and they enjoy seeing all the “firsts” as the couple gets to know each other and fall in love. Those who voted for a heroine and hero who’d known each other before the book started said that there was already emotion between them, it was intriguing to see how people changed, there could be a quicker progression to intimacy, and it was more believable that the couple would truly have a “happy ever after” ending. For me as a writer, the biggest challenge with strangers is taking them to the point where the reader believes they’re beyond lust to love, and that they’ve worked through some issues and proved they have what it takes to hang in there for the long term. With a couple who’s known each other before, the challenge is to deal with whatever’s in the past — whether it’s an issue like a breakup, or a relationship that’s fallen into a pattern like friendship — and turn that around into a believable romance. Thanks to all who shared their opinions this month. The winner, B.J. from M.O., wins one of my books and a chocolate-colored pashmina.
A few people didn’t care if there was a happy romantic ending, so long as the protagonist learned something and came out of it basically happy. But most people really want a happy ending. So much in life doesn’t end happily, so romance fiction should; it should lift you up, give you hope, make you believe anything is possible. The majority didn’t care if the couple ended up married, so long as they’d grown and changed, confessed their mutual love, and made some sort of commitment to each other. Some people said they like a book that leaves the reader with a hint of what’s to come, but a little suspense as well. Others said they love an epilogue that tidies everything up, such as by showing the couple married and with kids. This month’s winner, Mindy from CA, gets one of my books and a copy of In Praise and Celebration of Love.
It’s inevitable, at New Year’s, that we think about the year ahead. I asked people, “If you could have one wish come true in 2011, what would it be?” Most of the answers involved either health or a better financial situation for themselves and their loved ones. Travel also figured in, some people put reading at the top of their list (hurray!), and there were some personal goals like learning to be more patient or more positive. I hope all your wishes come true (including those of the woman who hoped to meet a Scottish hottie! — and hey, you can always do that in a book). This month’s winner is Dena W from WA, who wins a firefighter calendar and one of my books.
When I asked what made 2010 special for people, more than half the responses had to do with family. There were births, anniversaries, good health outcomes, resolution of problems, and oh, so many other things. Clearly, family is really important to most of us. Lots of other people had personal triumphs, like turning 80, losing weight, going back to work or school, or completing major projects. Hurray for all of you! And congratulations to Elaine S of ON who wins a firefighter calendar and one of my books.
I’m always flattered when people say I’ve inspired them, and always grateful for the people who have inspired me. And so I asked, Who has inspired you, and in what way? The biggest kudos for inspiration went to moms, followed by teachers and husbands. I received some truly wonderful answers. I can’t share all of them, but I’ve put together a few of my favorites (PDF). Congratulations to November’s winner, Miranda W from NY who won a firefighter calendar and one of my books.
Holiday anthologies are popular with readers and I was delighted to be in Brava’s 2010 one, The Naughty List. But its October release date struck me as early to be thinking about Christmas. I live in Canada and I’m used to having Thanksgiving (which we celebrate the 2nd weekend in October) and Halloween before my mind turns to Christmas. So I asked readers for their opinions about the best timing for holiday books. Opinions varied, but the majority of people said November. Winner Patricia C from TX receives an autographed book and a bar of Canadian sweetgrass soap that I bought at the Women’s Show.
Because September always makes me think of back to school, I asked people to share their memories, good or bad, about school. Oh yes, we do all have them! Like playing in the marching band during football games, that first school dance, working in the school cafeteria to earn lunch, getting your tongue stuck to the chain link fence, or the teacher who got you hooked on books! Or how about having to put flowers on your desk to cut the smell from the stinky boys sitting in front of you? Running for the bus and forgetting your little brother? I wish I could list all the things people said, because every one either made me smile, or wince in sympathy. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Winner Eleanor H from PA gets an autographed book and a book bag.
Because I was enjoying summer in the Pacific Northwest, musing about how it’s the perfect place to live (well, almost), I asked people where they’d like to live. There were lots of different opinions, with California being the most popular choice. Some people like warm temperatures all year round, some people like four distinct seasons, and some people actually like rain. Isn’t it wonderful that we’re all so different? This month’s winner is Selina from PA and she gets a chocolate-colored pashmina I bought in NYC (a place I love to visit but wouldn’t want to live) and an autographed copy of one of my books.
In celebration of receiving ARCs of the Brava holiday anthology, The Naughty List (with novellas by Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and me w/a Susan Fox), my monthly contest was an “XMas in July” one. I asked what people would wish for if Santa made a July visit. The answers I received ranged from books, e-readers, money, health, vacations, jobs, and cooler weather (except for those Down Under who want warmer) to a Harley Davidson motorcycle and . . . George Clooney! (Hard to argue with any of those, except maybe, for me in the Pacific Northwest, the weather ones. It’s lovely here – sunny and warm, but not too hot. No, it really doesn’t rain all the time here!) This month’s winner, Barbara in FL wins an ARC of The Naughty List two months before it hits the stores, and her choice of one of my other titles.
Paranormal is huge these days, in books and movies and on TV. There are vampires, shapeshifters, witches, wizards, psychics, aliens, succubi, people with all sorts of supernatural powers, and . . . well, you name it! I asked people what they think of all this para-normality? The majority opinion is favorable: paranormal is an escape from reality, it allows thinking outside the box, it?s imaginative and surprising, and it takes the reader to different worlds. The biggest complaint is that there?s getting to be too much of it. Winner Linda C of Twinsburg, OH receives an autographed copy of Elizabeth Amber?s Lords of Satyr book Dane and her choice of one of my books.
To celebrate my “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” Wild Ride to Love series, I asked people what country they’d most like to visit. There was a tie for most popular, between Australia and Italy. Close runners up were Ireland, England, and (thank you!) Canada. The May winner of my Red Hot Cosmo prize – a year’s subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine plus autographed copies of the first two books in the Wild Ride to Loves series – is Sheree T of CA.
In March I asked people about their favorite love stories, real or fictional. I received some wonderful personal stories, and the top votes for fictional stories were Love Story and Gone With the Wind. As for types of romances, people named everything from friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, love at first sight, soul mates, reunion/second chance love, desert island/cabin (i.e., they’re isolated together), unplanned pregnancy, and engagement stories. Hurray for variety! This month’s winner is Kimberley C from TX. She receives a bag of “swag” from the RT Booklovers Convention (including books!) plus an autographed copy of one of my books.
Because my writing career has led me to push outside my comfort zone, I asked you about your experiences. There were some terrific answers. Here are a couple of my favorites. As a high-school student, visiting seniors during the Christmas holidays – and then getting those visits incorporated as a regular annual activity for the service club. Going from shy and introverted to, once I had kids, getting involved in a lot of school activities and even serving on the school board. The biggest desire people mentioned was to travel more – and the biggest thing holding people back was fear of flying. I sure hope you folks can find a way of dealing with that fear so you can go to the places you dream of visiting! This month’s winner is Melissa from VA, who wins one of my books and a heart-shaped box from Cabo San Lucas.
Because I’m in Vancouver, BC, and we hosted the Olympics, I asked readers about their favorite event or athlete. The top pick – and my personal favorite – was figure skating. This month’s winner is Carolyn from MA. She receives an autographed copy of her choice of one of my books and an Olympic souvenir – a Quatchi mascot plush toy.
I’m a reading addict and am always looking for recommendations, so I asked readers to name their favorite book of 2009. Not so surprisingly, few people named the same title, but there was one clear favorite: Sherrilyn Kenyon’s ACHERON. Flatteringly, the second most named was my own SEX DRIVE (you folks are too sweet!). The favorite author named was J.D. Robb. I’ll give you a list of books and authors in the huge paragraph below. Congratulations to this month’s winner, Robyn from Saskatchewan (yay, another Canadian!). As for my personal recommendation, I loved FRESHWATER ROAD by Denise Nicholas. Set in 1964 (Freedom Summer), it’s about a young black woman from Detroit who goes to Mississippi to educate and register voters. The author, an actress and writer, did the same thing herself so she brings incredible authentic detail to this novel. It was heartwarming and educational, and it made me think about both how far we’ve come since then, and how far we still need to go. And, oh yes, there’s a bit of romance in it as well.
Now, here are some of the books and authors that were recommended: Robin Schone, Karen Marie Moning, Jayne Ann Krentz, Diana Gabaldon, Kristen Heitzmann; Sweet Surrender, Sweet Persuasion and Sweet Seduction by Maya Banks; Red-headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells; Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; Lincoln (no author given); Marley & Me by John Grogan; 3, 2, 1…Married by Sharon Sala, Marie Ferrarella and Beverly Barton; The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason; Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione; Twilight by Stephenie Meyer; The Shadow Queen by Bertrice Small; The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; Rogue by Sara Palin; Sliding into Home by Joanne Rock; Hot Pursuit by Suzanne Brockman; Tall, Dark and Deadly by Lori O’Clare; Flat Out Sexy and Hard and Fast by Erin McCarthy; Bullet Catchers series by Roxanne St. Claire; Soulless by Gail Carriger; Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews; The Darkest Whisper by Gena Showalter; The Second Time Around by Mary Higgins Clark; Covet, Love Avenged by JR Ward; Scorched by Sharon Ashwood; Dead Ringer by Mary Burton; Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris; Heart Change by Robin Owens; Barbara Taylor Bradford; Sandra Brown; Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer; Love You To Death by Shannon K. Butcher; Blue Heaven by C.J. Box; The Firefighter by Susan Lyons, P.J. Mellor and Alyssa Brooks; Daring the Moon by Sherrill Quinn; The Sound Of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall; Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich; Heaven by Randy Alcorn; Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge; Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris; Mexican Heat by Josh Lanyon and Laura Baumbach; Outcast by Joan Johnston; Hex series by Linda Wisdom; The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown; Suzanne Brockman’s Troubleshooter series; Skin Game by Ava Gray; The Briar King and The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes; Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber; Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett; Dreamfever by Karen Moning; The Last Stand trilogy by Brenda Novak; The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall; Having the Billionaire’s Baby by Sandra Hyatt; Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr; Promises In Death by J.D. Robb; Diamond Duo by Marcia Gruver; Your Roots are Showing by Elise Chidley; Captive of the Beast by Lisa Renee Jones; Simply Sexual or ANY of the books in the House of Pleasures Series by Kate Pearce; Deja Demon by Julie Kenner; Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell. Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena; Chasing Charity by Marcia Gruver; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.
Find more contest results in the 2009 Contest Archive >