Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's Release Day for Homecoming!

HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER is live and now available for purchase. I want to first thank all my readers who pre-ordered their copies. Check your Kindles, friends. It's there, ready for your reading pleasure. And please, when you're finished, be kind enough to leave a review (good or bad). Your opinion actually does matter!


Well, first, it helps other readers find me. Readers do check reviews: some only read the very good and the very bad reviews; some only read the middle-of-the-road reviews; and some read all the reviews, good, bad, or indifferent. But they do read the reviews, absorb the comments, and make up their own minds about purchasing.

Second, it helps Amazon find me. The more reviews a book receives, good or bad, the more the book shows up in Amazon's crazy botland and gets bumped up out of the sea of books available to customers. 

Lastly, it helps me decide what to write next. If a reviewer states (s)he can't wait to read a character's story, there's a possibility I might not have considered writing that character's story. Now, maybe I will.

But enough about the business. Let's have some fun! Let's read a sample, shall we?

I stifled the excited screech straining to escape from my lips and stared out the windshield at the line of scrub pines adjacent to the parking lot. Rain dripped off the needles and onto the blanket of dead leaves that had blown there on some other day’s blustery wind. I don’t know why I noticed them. Since finding sobriety, some of my senses had grown stronger, no longer dulled by alcohol. Nowadays, I noticed a lot of things I hadn’t before: the smell of the air before a heavy rain like this morning’s, the softness of a puppy’s fur, the tang on my tongue when I drank orange juice. All of it was new and exciting. Which brought me right back to tonight’s invitation, also new and exciting, and my heartrate kicked up a notch.
Breathe, kiddo. Play it cool. Don’t be a dork.
When I finally got some semblance of control again, I texted back. What time?
Be ready by 5?
Two hours’ notice? Was he kidding? Or did he think I’d just spent the day waiting for him to text me and invite me someplace? Don’t answer that. I know I did, but that didn’t mean I wanted him to know it—or even think it. Okay, how did I answer him without looking like the dateless loser I was?
I took another deep breath, let it out slowly, then did it again. I toyed with the leather tassels on my keyring and continued the slow breathing exercises I’d learned in rehab.
My time-wasting ploy had nothing to do with drinking, of course. I didn’t want to look too eager. Let the famous Max Trayham think I had to consider my options. As if I had any other options, besides sitting home with a nuked frozen dinner while binge-streaming some television series from my childhood. Addicts like me never really get over their addictions. We channeled them into other habits: smoking, coffee-drinking, or in my case, TV-watching.
While I wasted time, I wondered what he was doing on the other end of our conversation. Did he worry I might say no? Was he staring at his screen like I was? Or was he scrolling through his contacts list, seeking out better possible dates? That thought had my palms sweating and my heart galloping again, so I typed a quick one-letter reply.
Crap, I was such a dateless loser.
This time, his response came back almost immediately—as if he had it already typed out, just waiting to hit Send.
Don’t shatter the fantasy for me, please. Just go with it.
Great. I need your address so we can pick you up.
We. Right. I should have realized he already had a date. He did say he wanted me to be his guard dog. That’s all I was to him. His sober buddy. Still, I was going to a party in the Hamptons. That was a PBD: a pretty big deal.
What should I wear? I asked.
Really? That was his answer? Didn’t he understand the horror of being under- or overdressed at an event? Women sweated and died, stressing about looking just right. Maybe not “died,” but I bet the pressure shaved a few minutes off their lives. Add that up over a lifetime…
Is it dressy or casual? I texted.
Both, I guess.
Oh, for God’s sake! My thumbs hammered the keys on my cell. Can you at least tell me where it is? If I knew the venue, I might have a better idea of the dress code.
At a friend’s house.
Nope. Not a clue. I tried again. What are you wearing?
The usual.
Aaargh! The man was no help at all. I’d have to muddle through on my own, come up with something casual but dressy. Rather than prolong my agony, I surrendered on the topic of clothing and sent him my address.
Great. See you at 5. Tx, Terri. You’re my angel.
Heh. He called me his angel.
Trust me, I texted back. I’m nobody’s angel.

With a satisfied smile, I tossed my phone into my purse, started my car, and headed home. I was going to have to seriously rummage for something “whatevs” to wear.

Go on. Click here to buy your copy. And don't forget to check out the other books in the Calendar Girls series if you haven't already!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Duet in September - FREE - for a limited time

I'm celebrating the upcoming release of HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER (Book 3 of the Calendar Girls series), available for preorder here, and readers get the bennies.

For the next two days, Book 1, DUET IN SEPTEMBER, is available on Amazon for free! You'll not only meet the twin heroines and their sexy heroes, you'll come across a few characters who'll feature in Books 2 and 3 (or in an upcoming book). Snug Harbor is a charming resort town where you'll feel at home during every visit.

Snug Harbor earned its name because the town bordered large water on two sides. On the southern coast, the Atlantic Ocean offered miles of pristine beach with soft white sand, ideal for the tourist trade. The rocky northern coast sat at the edge of the Long Island Sound, creating a perfect waterway for fishermen. Whereas the south end of town prospered due to multi-million dollar properties, five star restaurants, and upscale boutiques, this side—the north crescent—catered to a very different clientele. No-frills motels, bars, delicatessens that opened at four in the morning to serve breakfast for early rising mariners, bait shops, and takeout restaurants ruled here.
The north side also had a wilder beauty than the south, thanks to less development and a more rural flavor. At least, that was my opinion. Buildings were erected farther apart, with lots of open space between. Bulrushes caught the breeze and rustled. Seagulls hovered, squawking as they sought leftover food to scavenge. Across the rocky inlet, the Coast Guard station stood sentry with its lighthouse and flapping flags.
The one exception to this pristine homage to Mother Nature was Coffield’s Wharf, a miniature version of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Our replica boasted a popular clam bar where tourists and locals could grab fresh-caught seafood and pitchers of frosty beer while dining outdoors at picnic tables. For higher end clientele, there was also one five-star restaurant with spectacular water views. The various outbuildings housed a few souvenir shops, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, an expensive toy store, and of course, a Coffield’s Bluff wine store that offered free tastings on weekends. When Nia and I were kids, our parents often took us to the wharf in the evenings for ice cream or fried clams, or just to walk over to the docks next door to see the party boats sailing back with the day’s catch. At ten on a Saturday morning, I figured most of the crowds would be elsewhere: the beach, breakfast (obviously), aboard party boats, or wherever else tourists went on beautiful sunny days.
The simple joys of childhood echoed around me as I cycled toward the wharf. I passed the old elementary school Nia and I had attended. Behind the school sat the playground where I’d had my first kiss from a boy. Darren Simmons had been eight and I was seven. His family moved to Texas a few weeks later and for a while, I thought my scandalous behavior was the cause of their abrupt departure from Snug Harbor. When I’d finally confessed my deep dark sin to my mother, she’d laughed and explained Darren’s father had been offered a transfer from his company. The peck on the lips I’d shared with Darren was probably his way of saying goodbye. Of course, only a year later, my mother became the poster child for “scandalous behavior,” but at the time, her comments made perfect sense.
On the next block, I rode past the public library, a frequent hangout in my school years—before the existence of the Internet.
Everywhere I looked along my route sparked a memory to make me smile.
Why hadn’t I done this before now? My legs pumped for an uphill climb, then relaxed my feet on the pedals as I coasted down the other side. I felt exhilarated, powerful, and a little bit sexy. No wonder people raved about the endorphin rush that came from exercising. This was amazing!
A higher hill came into view, and I shifted gears to prepare. I had to pedal a bit harder than I’d anticipated, but I pushed myself, knowing I could coast down the other side. Once I reached the other side. Funny how I never noticed how steep this road was when I drove it every day in my SUV. My thigh muscles ached, and I actually rose off the seat to get more power into my pedaling. Sweat broke out on my forehead. Still, the bike and I climbed. My pace slowed with my exertion, making every motion harder to complete. At last, I crested the hill, but only found a plateau. No downhill break to catch my breath. I had to push on.
A few yards ahead of me, a man walked a large, lean dog near the curb that ran along the shoreline. The man had a great build with broad shoulders packed into a tight t-shirt and long, muscular legs in khaki shorts. Nice buns, I contemplated as I drew closer. A good handful, but no excess.
Beeeeeeep! A car horn blared from behind me, and I swerved to keep the front tire straight. The bike veered onto the road’s shoulder and slid on a patch of sand, nearly upending me.
The expensive convertible roared past me at a speed I surmised was double the town’s limit. The blond driver, her long hair whipping with the wind, flipped me the bird as she sped on down the road.
“Nice,” I shouted after her. “I hope you get arrested!” Where was a cop when I needed one?
“Paige, is that you?”
Oh, good God. Mr. Yummybuns looked at me over his tasty shoulder, and I groaned. Why had I wished for a cop right now?
“Hey, Sam.” I tried to play nonchalant as I braked my bike next to him. “Did you see that moron?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m off-duty right now. If it makes you feel any better, though, Tonya’s at the top of the next ridge with a radar gun.”
Imagining the blonde’s upcoming surprise, I laughed. “No lie?”
“Nope.” Sam’s grin sparked fireworks in my belly.
In the dim hallway last night, I’d found his smile dazzling, but in the light of day, I could easily understand Nia’s attraction to the rest of him. He looked like a sun-bronzed god, all sinew and golden skin with eyes the color of honey and the lushest lashes I’d ever seen on a man.
If only he were mute…

Hurry! This deal ends tomorrow!

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Monday, July 18, 2016

I Left My (Something) in San Francisco

This past week was the RWA® National Conference in San Diego. Because my husband had to be in Los Angeles on business the following week, we thought it might be fun to fly into San Francisco the week before my conference, spend a few days in the City by the Bay, then take the Pacific Coast Highway down to San Diego for conference week. 

I should probably mention that Hubster and I are polar opposites. He's a Type A sun-worshiping sports enthusiast. I far prefer indoor activities that require little to no sweat. Still, we do our best to compromise with each other. So when we started to see ads for "Biking the Bridge," I knew he'd want us to do it. 

It was supposed to be a leisurely four-mile ride, about an hour and a half, and then we'd catch the ferry back to town when we were done. Okay. I can do that. Can't I?

Apparently not. 

First off, a lot of the four mile trek is uphill. Having never owned a bike with speed gears as a youth, I still have trouble figuring out when I should downshift and when I should upshift. (I know, it's not rocket science, but I totally screw it up every time). And with my bursitis, arthritis, and herniated discs, I experience an awful lot of pain when I overexert myself.

Also, that four miles gets you to the bridge. It's another mile over. And then three more to the site where you catch the ferry to go back. 

I'm woman enough to admit, I cried. A lot. By the time I made it over the bridge after multiple stops for me to ease my aches and pains (four hours into the ride), I could no longer feel my legs. And because I wasn't prepared for the trip, I hadn't applied sunscreen. Remember, I always say I'm the girl who could burn under a 60 watt bulb. Along the grueling trip, I could feel my skin tightening and I knew I'd pay for my negligence within a few hours. It's been over a week now since this experience, and I'm still peeling from my elbows down to the backs of my hands. Why the backs of my hands, you may ask? Because my hands were curled around the handlebars of the bike for four hours.

When we finally reached the ferry pier, I was ready to kiss the ground. Until I saw the two-hour wait line to "catch the ferry back." We wound up spending $40 on a taxi instead because I just couldn't move more than my eyelids at this stage.

I will admit we took some lovely photos along the way. And the views were spectacular. We even saw whales.

My husband was patient with me (for the most part) and when I talk about the day now, he reminds me that I can boast that "I biked the Golden Gate Bridge." Personally, I'd rather brag I typed "The End" on my next book.

It's all about priorities, I guess. 

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

When Mother's Day Isn't All Flowers and Brunch

For the last twenty years or so, I've had a love/hate relationship with Mother's Day. As a mom, I love the way my husband and kids have always surprised me with breakfasts in bed, the perfect cards, and idyllic days spent together.

The Past

As a daughter, more of my memories are bitter than sweet. Growing up the fifth of seven children, we all had a "label" to distinguish one from the other. I wasn't the "pretty one," or the "smart one." I wasn't the "oldest" or the "youngest." I wasn't "one of the twins." I was the "other one."

No. Seriously. I would go to family gatherings and relatives would say, "Now, which one are you again? Oh, right. You're not one of the twins or the pretty one; you're the 'other one.'"

There's a helluva moniker to live up to, huh? 

That was basically how I lived my life. As the Other One, never feeling like I fit in with my own family. And my parents not only allowed it, they pretty much encouraged it. I was six the first time I begged my mother to tell me I was adopted or the milkman's child--something to explain why I felt like such a stranger in my own home, why I was always the target of all the torment and torture of my siblings. Her reply (every single time) was to say if I didn't react to their abuse toward me, they wouldn't find so much entertainment in it. My father's reply was to mutter under his breath that I was "useless" or "oversensitive" and ignore my tears and pleas for help.

I could write a book about what I put up with over the years, but there's no point. I'm not alone and this post isn't about making anyone relive their own particular brand of misery.

The Decision

It was only when I saw the cycle repeated with my own kids, who were considered not as "special" as the other grandkids my parents had and wound up crushed by the callousness of those who should've loved them unconditionally, that I made the decision to divorce my family. I cut them out of my life. And for the first year or two afterwards, I became the subject of so much online harassment and destructive behavior from my siblings, I had to involve the police. 

I can't tell you how many people tried to convince me to return to the fold with comments like, "What if your parents die and you've left this unresolved? Will you be able to live with yourself?"

The answer is yes. I tried. I really did. I spent too many years putting up with the abuse and running back for more, hoping, this time would be different. But it never was. And when my father passed away after our estrangement, I allowed my daughter to attend the wake. Naturally, my family embraced her immediately and told her how horrible I was to keep her from them. She believed them and blamed me. I said nothing and kept my own counsel, allowing her to discover for herself the truth that I knew. It took less than two weeks before my mother showed her true colors and one of my siblings attacked my daughter online, dragging friends and other family members into the mess. My poor girl found out on her own what I'd protected her from, and after that, she vowed to make sure her baby brother never experienced what we had.

When my mother passed away, there was no guilt, no feeling of a lost opportunity. There was a sense of peace for me that I no longer had to hope for some kind of resolution that would never come. Do I wish our circumstances could have been different? Of course. But I also understood that my parents were who they were, crafted from their own pasts and the relationships they had with their own families. Nothing would have ever changed. The limbo would have just continued for a longer period of time. 

The Aftermath

My kids have suffered no ill effects from not knowing my side of their family. In fact, they've flourished without that ugliness in their lives. They're independent, bright, witty individuals who know their place in the world and feel sure about where they stand. They don't suffer the self-doubt and insecurities that plague me to this day. 

I'm extremely fortunate that I have my mother-in-law. She is the mother and grandmother all kids deserve. She's loving and generous with her time. She adores all her grandchildren. Ask her about my place in her family and she'll tell you, "Gina's not just a daughter-in-law. She's my daughter." I am so grateful for her influence in my family's life.

The Others

I know I'm not alone in my experience. Nor are we the only ones who are less than thrilled to face Mother's Day this year. 

For all those who've lost the mother who loved them unconditionally, a woman who gave them support and encouragement and inspiration, I wish you find some peace and comfort in realizing how lucky you were to have that kind of mother in your life. So many of us never knew her or only knew her after we married.

If you've lost a child, there are no words I can provide to ease your burden, and I won't dare to try. I don't know your pain and I pray I never do. 

To those who are still trying to find a way to make peace with their toxic families because you're afraid of what people will think if you break away, please know I (and many others like me) understand why you're torn. You can divorce a spouse after experiencing a lot less abuse and receive sympathy and support, but for some reason, it's still not acceptable to admit you have no contact with your parents, no matter what they've done to you.

Find your joy, my friends. No matter why you may not be celebrating this day, don't dwell on the misery. Seek out whatever makes you happy and understand there are many of us who share your feelings, even if it's not for the same reason.

Wishing all of my readers love, today and always!

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Dear Romance Blogger: Maybe You're Reading the Wrong Books

Recently, I read a blog post from a romance blogger/reviewer complaining that she was "done" with contemporaries because they were all full of the following (this is not the complete list, just what I remember off the top of my head):

Step-brother romance
Women who can only find self-esteem thru sex with a man
Poorly written sex scenes
No emotional connection between the characters
Bare-chested men on the cover

Might I suggest...?

You're reading the wrong books. I have none of the above in any of my contemporary romances, and I'm not alone. In fact, I could give you a good, solid list of writers like me who think the emotional connection drives a satisfying happy ending. 

My heroes are construction workers, auto body shop owners, radio deejays, a small town police chief, and even a hospital janitor. Not a billionaire or sheikh in the bunch. Even my "wealthy" investment banker is homeless when he meets the heroine! 

The sex stays off the page so it doesn't get in the way of the emotional relationship between my characters, and there are no poorly written scenes struggling to come off as erotic. Double bonus: all my covers contain fully clothed individuals, if there are individuals at all.

So, why are bloggers and readers griping about this? You have to *look* for my books. Try typing "sweet romance" into your Amazon search engine and see what comes up. You'll find small town heroes, emotional arcs instead of pages of poorly written sex scenes, and no bare-chested men. The problem is, you haven't been looking for what I write. Not until you glutted yourself on stepbrothers and hot sex and billionaires. And the publishers noticed. So they kept feeding you the same pablum.

In my household, we call this "the Vanilla Swiss Almond effect." When my husband and I first married, a few decades ago, I made the mistake of introducing him to Haagen Dazs's Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream (at the time, my favorite.) After that, it was all my husband ever bought--until I reached the point where I couldn't look at it anymore. It's been thirty years, and maybe...I might be ready to try a spoonful again in another year or two.

The lesson here is this. If you want books that are "different," try expanding your horizons. Come to the sweet side. We have cookies. And lemonade.  

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Finding My Muse in the Bathtub

Photo Courtesy of Morgue File
I'm currently 28,000 words into the next installment of the Calendar Girls series, HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER. After spending a year working on a manuscript I just couldn't bring to fruition, it feels great to have my groove back.

Writers are sensitive creatures. Every book we write we fear will be our last. Every time we get stuck, we worry that our muse has left us for good, that we'll have no more stories to tell, that our creative well has gone dry.

This year was tough for me. After releasing WAITING IN THE WINGS last spring, I thought I was ready to finish the story for my editor at Harlequin, only to discover (some eight months later), by trying to make the story fit my editor's requirements, I'd created a Frankenstein story that I hated. So...back to the drawing board for Harlequin.

In the meantime, winter arrived and with it, one of my favorite winter activities: a hot bubble bath. And because I like to read while I'm soaking in the tub, I pulled up what I'd previously written on HOMECOMING, rather than taking my Kindle or an anticipated paperback with me. Within minutes, the story started flowing through me. I was caught up in the excitement. I loved the characters, the plot, the humor I'd begun writing last year. With a clipboard, pen, and stack of scrap paper, I wrote. Page after page, adding hot water when the tub grew cold. I must have stayed in there for about two hours. The spark was back.

And now, I'm eager to get this finished, off to my editor, and contact my cover artist to get her started.

So stay tuned, dear friends. I hope to complete at least three stories this year, and thanks to that fateful bubble bath, I'm on my way! 

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Open Letter to My Readers (For All Our Sakes)

Dear Readers, 

The following is copied from a forum I discovered through a Google Alert (links and actual names of pirate sites have been removed--emphasis, mine): 

I was planning to go for a small trip on my holiday. So I decided to read a couple of books on my Kindle. I started searching the internet and I found a lot of rubbish websites. So I am an obsessive reader, but lately I haven't had enough time to go to the store and buy a book so I really want to know a place where I can download or read book online. I am interested in the book Charming for Mother's Day (A Calendar Girls Novella) by Gina Ardito. Thank You
That particular title is under copyright, which means that's illegal. If you want a free copy then start with your local library. Most loan ebooks in addition to physical ones. If they don't have it then they may be able to get it for you via inter-library loan.

You can spend the whole day looking around for pirated e-book websites, but be sure you won't find anything better than XXXXXlibrary
It's a simple and invaluable goldmine of hundreds of thousands of great e-books. Just give it a try.

Dear Readers, please don't do this. 

I do giveaways almost every month. Whenever I have a new book available, I put a call out on Facebook and Goodreads for readers to get advance copies in exchange for reviews. I give away copies to my newsletter readers on a regular basis. I'm an email away via those same channels and my website if you really, really want a copy and can't afford to pay for it. My books are generally priced lower than a price of a cup of coffee in your favorite shop and I have scads of backlist copies in my house that my husband would be thrilled to see disappear. 

What bothered me about this particular post was that the original poster didn't say (s)he couldn't afford my book, just that (s)he didn't "have time" to go to the store to buy one. This person has time to check out pirate sites and post on a forum but can't go to Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Smashwords, or any of the other places where my books are sold through legitimate channels online? The thing with these pirate sites, as writers have been shouting about for years, is that authors do not see a dime when you download from the pirates--not on the download, and not toward future sales. Your (ahem!) acquisition (because it sure as hell ain't a "purchase") does not register on our royalty reports, and therefore cannot be used in contract negotiations, even if we received the (dis)honor of "Most Stolen Book."

These days, I work a full-time job that's more than an hour's drive from home. I leave at 6:30 am and come home twelve hours later. I squeeze in my writing before work, during lunch, and for a brief hour or two after dinner's been cooked, served, and cleaned up after. I also do editing for other authors, cutting deeper into my slice of the writing time pie. What does this mean to you, dear readers?

It means I'm way behind on books I should have released this past year, and I'm struggling to find time to market the books already out there. I'd love nothing more than to have the luxury to stay home and write all day so that I can churn them out as fast as I can think of them. But as long as pirates are still stealing the money from my pockets with posts like this, I'm stuck working a full time job outside the home to keep food on the table and a roof over my head. 

For my readers who would never dream of going to a pirate site, thank you. If you want to help your favorite authors keep churning out those stories that you love, buy their books through legitimate channels. Follow them on social media and share their posts. Recommend your favorites to friends, and please, if you have the time, write reviews on the sales sites. 

Thanks for listening.



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