Releasing a new book is a process! But it never gets old!

The butterflies arrive first. They settle in my belly from the moment I wake up on “Release Day” until every link is checked and the book is announced in my newsletter and fluttering about on social media, hopefully finding the readers who have been eagerly waiting to read it.

Slowly, very slowly, as every item on my Bullet List gets marked off, the panic recedes and a smidgen of euphoria blows the butterflies away…until next time.

That’s my process for a self-published new release.

But I remember feeling similar panic when I opened the first print copy sent by my publisher. Did they spell my name right? Does the back jacket copy match the book? Does my cover art work? Is the blurb too vague? Will readers love it or hate it?

These days I’m stressing about a wide array of technical questions–in addition to all of the above:

1. Is the book live at all vendors?

2. Did I remember to upload the right copy?

3. Did I make that final change my copy editor mentioned?

4. Is the first chapter of the next book in the back matter? Do the buy links work?

5. Will readers love it or hate it? (Some things never change.)

Only time–and reviews–will answer the last question, but the rest is all on me, and believe me, my fingers will be crossed from now until early Tuesday morning. 

DebraSalonen Stranger meme2


But here’s one up-side of self-publishing: I can offer discounted books any time I want, and since the heroines of BLACK HILLS RANCHER and BLACK HILLS STRANGER are twin sisters, I figured readers would appreciate being able to buy BLACK HILLS RANCHER for just 99¢ before STRANGER releases on Tuesday! Who doesn’t love a bargain? And these twins have some pretty interesting stories to tell. ;-)

DebraSalonen Rancher 99.jpeg

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PS: I highly recommend seeing the movie HIDDEN FIGURES! I loved it!


Home sweet home

Travel is great. Travel opens your eyes to new places, new possibilities. Travel rocks.

That said…it’s wonderful to be home.

I promised to share a bit more of my South Dakota trip, so here you go. This was a working vacation for my hubby, who is a general contractor. His brother wanted to build an enclosed sunroom at his place on Lake Poinsett in eastern South Dakota, and since you can’t build in the winter, it was hit the ground running once we settled in.

The project went from this:


to all five brothers working as Team Salonen:


To this:


Until we ran out of material (the walls are reclaimed barn wood) and umph. :-)

We spent our final few days exploring Sioux Falls–a really lovely, clean, progressive city that until this trip I still considered our rival from high school-LOL…


We also had a chance to catch up with old friends at a Brookings, SD, landmark: Nick’s Hamburger Shop. Kismet/great timing is a beautiful thing!


photo credit: Steve Bailey

Also during this trip, I managed to put the finishing touches on Caleb’s Christmas Wish–a book that Harlequin published in 2002. I was thrilled to get my rights back to this one because it’s such a deeply emotional story set in the foothills not far from where I live. I love the new cover from Rogenna Brewer. I hope it will attract a new group of readers who will love this book as much as I do. It’s available on pre-order now, but will be live tomorrow. I have a number of review copies (ebook any format) available, if you’re interested. (email me at


How far would you go for the sake of a child?

Black Friday. Black ice. Lives changed in a blink.

The lines in Miami financier Jake Westin’s world are crisp and easy to delineate: black and red, profit and loss. On paper. Until the day after Thanksgiving when Allison Jeffries—a woman he’s heard about for four and a half years but never met—calls to tell him the world they’ve shared from opposite sides of the country will never be the same.  Pam and Kenny Rydell–Jake’s best friend and only link to the “bad ol’ days” of his youth—died in a car accident on the way to a Sierra ski resort, leaving their son, Caleb, with his grandmother, who upon hearing the news of her only daughter’s death went into cardiac arrest. In an instant, Caleb’s godparents–two grieving strangers who never imagined the worst-case scenario becoming a reality—must decide how to best care for the little boy they both love.

Jake is determined to do the right thing for Caleb–even if that means facing demons from his own loss-filled childhood and dealing with the woman Kenny called “a sweetheart but wound too tight for her own good.” Allison suffers no illusion that she’d make a good mother. After all, hasn’t she let her computer business fill the gap left by a failed marriage and aborted pregnancy? But she’ll do anything in her power to give her godson the life Pam intended for her son–even if that means sharing a house with the charismatic stranger Pam teasingly called “Jake the Rake–a broken heart waiting to happen.”

Read the first chapter for FREE:

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Happy reading, my friends!



What are you reading?

I get asked this all the time, but this week, the question came up more often than usual…because, I as I learned, it was READ ACROSS AMERICA Day on Wednesday.


Who knew?

So…what are you reading?

I’m finishing up the last of my six RITA books, which are top secret so I can’t discuss the titles or my opinion of them. But I can tell you that for the first time EVER, all of the books were from Indie publishers. Not a single title from a New York traditional publishing house. Wow.

On my Kindle, I’m reading:

Exposed by C.J.Carmichael             AMAZON


This is the third book in the trilogy, but BURIED, the first in the series, is FREE. I highly suggest you give it a try if you like mysteries. I am really enjoying the series and will be sad when it’s done. (But I’m also looking forward to some answers. ;-) )

Speaking of FREE books, MONTANA COWGIRL, Book I in my Big Sky Mavericks series is free for a few more days. Here’s how BookBub described it:

A heart-tugging Montana love story! Fifteen years after leaving for rodeo stardom, Bailey returns home to rebuild her shattered life. Can she find a second chance with Paul — the man who cursed her for leaving him behind? 


$4.99 Free!

Available for a limited time

New again

So this happened: I got the right backs to a bunch of my previously published books. These are books that sold well and reviewed well in print, but found NO audience in digital. (Not surprising because they were more or less dumped into the market with no support along with a million or so other titles.) I’m so excited to have a chance to rebrand these books and hopefully reach a new audience. But that means starting from scratch–review-wise. If any of you, my faithful readers, are so inclined, I would gladly send you a review copy for FREE. Please email me. I’ve refreshed the text and made a few changes so I think you’ll enjoy this fun, heartfelt story.

Deb_Black Hills Baby300dpi2400x3840

I shared this fun “first kiss” scene on my FIRST KISS: TUESDAY blog, in case you missed it.

“Does the cabin have DSL? I’d like to check my email.”

She stopped and turned around. Her eyes-–an unusual shade of golden brown that could have sold a fortune in contact lenses if it could be duplicated-–opened wide a moment before she burst into laughter. “Sorry. I guess I should have sent you a picture of the place before you came. My dad ran power to the cabin when Gran was living with us, but there’s no phone. Or TV. We don’t get cable. Some people in town have satellite, but it’s never been high on my list of priorities.” She looked a little worried. “Are you going to be able to handle that?”

He shifted the strap that was biting into his flesh on his shoulder. “Of course. I just assumed that since you reached me via the Internet, I’d be able to do the same.”

“Oh, you can. In the house. I have a desktop computer. In my bedroom,” she added softly. “I…um…I’ll see about moving it to a more central place – the dining room would probably work — so you can use it, too.”

She’s a prude. Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming need to test his theory. That’s what his character would do, he was sure of it. So, he slipped the strap from his shoulder, let the heavy leather bag drop to the ground, and cleared the distance between them.

She stared at him, questioningly, mouth slightly agape.

“You can leave it where it is,” he said, removing his sunglasses so they were looking straight into each other’s eyes. “After all, we’re going to be sharing genetic material. That should entitle me to at least see the inside of your bedroom, shouldn’t it?”

Her bottom lip moved up and down, but no words came out. For the pure hell of it, he leaned in and kissed her. Neither of them closed their eyes, so he could read her instant shock. But she didn’t pull back or react in any other outward response.

That lack of reaction never happened when he kissed a woman. He’d been kissing women long enough and often enough in front of other people to know that he was damn good at it. She should be swooning. Unless he’d lost his touch.

Determined to trigger a reaction, he pulled her against him and tilted his head. This time he did close his eyes. He felt the thudding of her heartbeat that was outpacing his.

His brief moment of satisfaction was lost, though, when she let out a tiny moan, followed quickly by a sharp, “What the hell are you doing?”

She pushed on his shoulders with a strength that surprised him. He stepped back, and promptly tripped over his carry-on bag. He went down gracelessly and hard.

A pain shot down his leg and straight up his spine. “I think I’ve broken my coccyx.”

“Good. Then it will save me kicking it.”

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As you might be able to tell from this snippet, the road to their HEA is paved with obstacles, including a dinosaur named Seymour (as in See-more). This is an 8-book series. BH BILLIONAIRE  and BAD BOY follow in coming weeks.


Please email me at, if you’d like a FREE review copy.

Wishing you a lovely weekend in preparation for new week’s big V-day celebration.


The Merry-Go-Round called “Free”

Who gets dizzy on a Merry-Go-Round?


Me? Not usually. But when I think about the sensation of going around and around, doing the same thing over and over, I get a little queasy.

Probably because I’ve been riding the promo merry-go-round all week.

First, one of my books was included in Tule’s 10-author Father’s Day Romance Collection. It opened at 99¢ for a short time, so the authors involved got on the bandwagon to share the news. Here’s my contribution to the hoopla.

Father's Day Tule

This is exciting–and good business, believe it or not. For a low investment, a reader can buy 10 full-length books, which can be a great introduction to a new-to-you author. (At least, that’s the standard school of thought.)

Personally, I love the cover and the other super-accomplished authors, and was thrilled to be invited to the party.

My second big deal this week started yesterday when my second Big Sky Mavericks book, MONTANA COWBOY, went Free.

Montana Cowboy FREE

Free, you say? What’s in it for the author?

Very good question. General wisdom suggests free is only beneficial when you have a connected series to take up the slack. If a reader reads your free book and likes your characters and setting and style, she might buy the rest of the books, so the cost of free is spread across 3-4 titles. One hopes.

But to make the most of FREE, you need to get the word out to the general masses beyond your usual circle of influence–and that’s where the merry-go-round speeds up and life gets a little crazy. There are literally hundreds of online sites, newsletters, blogs, and Facebook groups willing to hawk your book for you…for a price.

So, you set a budget, ask for advice even knowing what worked last week might be a bust this week, and you cross all fingers and toes…and wait for your sales numbers and ranking to come in.

Can I be honest? My head feels like it’s going to explode. And, the worst part? It’s damn hard to write when your fingers, toes and eyes are crossed. I’m seriously thinking about pulling an Ernest Hemingway. ;-)


So, anyway, that’s been my week. We know what I’ll be doing all weekend…not drinking so I can make my deadline. Wish me luck.


PS: In case you’re interested in grabbing the bundle while it’s cheap, here’s the link: FATHER.

And my FREEBIE is available on all platforms. If you already read it, but want to see the new ending (Subject of a future blog), I suggest you grab it on another platform. GooglePlay is super easy, I’ve heard. Here are the links:

iTunes -
GooglePlay -
Kindle -
and BN coming soon!



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All Six On The List (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Mother By Fate is out this week.  Which means I’ve been on Amazon checking sales statistics.  This week, the process has been…thankful.  I stand up for this series – Where Secrets Are Safe.  I feel that it has something good to contribute to the world beyond reading enjoyment.  According to what Amazon is telling me – you all do, too.  Mother By Fate is the fifth book in the series.  The sixth is out in June.  And this week, all six books – including June’s not yet released one – are on the Amazon Superromance bestseller list.  Not only on the list but on spots #1 & #2.  So, today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about each of the books.  You can click on any of them to purchase.


Click To Purchase

Mother By Fate – I had a friend for many years who struggled emotionally. I took on her daughter as my own. I loved that little girl, took her into my home, my family. And when the friend moved on, when she determined that she no longer needed my help, I was left with an emptiness in my heart that I couldn’t do anything about.

That emptiness is the basis of Mother By Fate. I don’t have the answers. But I understand the pain. And believe that love really can heal whatever cuts we carry inside us.

Click To Purchase

Click To Purchase

Child By Chance – Child By Chance is the story of an ex-stripper. I took ballet class for five years.  I learned to respect the physicality of dance. The athleticism of dancers. I learned about dedication. And I learned about finding my center and ‘pulling up’. Talia, the heroine in Child By Chance, knows all of these things. But this isn’t a story about dance. It’s a story about life’s tough choices. About making mistakes. And making amends. It’s a story of heart, redemption, and the true meaning of love.  All kinds of love.


Click To Purchase

Click To Purchase

Husband By Choice -  One of the hardest things in the world to do is to give in to the intangible, often seemingly illogical ‘something’ inside of us – to trust it – and to follow it’s dictates.   Husband by Choice is the story of one such situation. And the woman who thought herself weak, but who is actually strong enough to listen to her heart – to act upon the instinct inside of her even though it drives her straight into danger. This story is fiction. I don’t recommend that any woman face violence on her own. I do, however, fully embrace every woman’s right to live by her heart. To fight for that right. And to know ultimate joy.

Click To Purchase

Click To Purchase

Once A Family – Families are tough. Maybe more than anyone else, we trust our family members to have our backs. To love us no matter what. And with that trust comes the capacity for great pain. If our trust is broken. If family members aren’t who we think they are. We misunderstand. And we understand, too. We know that family is heart. And heart is the one thing that we can’t ever completely walk away from.  So we run to the Lemonade Stand, Where Secrets are Safe, and pain can be healed. Come on in. Get comfortable. But be prepared to find family and be loved.

Click To Purchase

Click To Purchase

Wife By Design – Happiness comes through the choices we make in face of life’s challenges. Every woman deserves to be happy. We are special – the nurturers. Sometimes people take advantage of that which makes us most precious.  Sometimes we have to ask for help.  And sometimes there is pure joy at the end of the tunnel.   Meet resident Nurse Practitioner, Lynn Duncan and her precocious three year old, Kara. You’ll also be meeting Kara’s homosexual father.  There’s a a mentally slow child care worker, and the man who loves her. There’s struggle and challenge, fear and pain.  There is also pure joy.

Click To Purchase

Click To Purchase

The Good Father – Coming in June!!

Sometimes we create what we most need to have and that’s the case in the story of The Good Father. This is a very special book in the Where Secrets Are Safe series. It’s the story of a man who created his own safety net, he just didn’t know it.

If you’ve read any of the other books in this series, you’ve heard about the mysterious founder of The Lemonade Stand – a unique women’s shelter set on the coast of California. We hear of him, of his generosity and his decisions. We just never meet him. We have no idea who he is. Nor do any of the people who work at and are associated with the stand.

Brett Ackerman is a man with secrets. A man with an atrocious past who limits his future rather than risk any more atrocities in his life. He is also the founder of The Lemonade Stand. He created something he’d wished had existed when he was growing up a victim of domestic violence. Stepping outside the story, I created The Lemonade Stand, because I wished something like it had existed when I was a young newlywed unable to tell anyone what was going on behind closed doors.

I’m not Brett. But he and I have something in common. We both hid from our pasts, tucking things away, thinking we’d dealt with them, only to find that they’d been there all along, preventing ultimate happiness. I hope you’ll give Brett a chance. Follow along with him on his journey as he struggles to help a friend and finds himself in the process. I promise you warmth and happiness at the end.

I am deeply committed to all of my stories. And in this series, I feel as though I am a character, one of the peripheral, unnamed woman who also live at The Lemonade Stand. Because everyone is welcome here. All you have to do is want to find happiness and joy. And to understand that when life hands you lemons, you can make Lemonade.

Release day, Part 2 (a new baby)

Life is quirky, and the timing of even the best things can be interesting.

Point in fact: last Friday my new book was released–and a few hours later, my daughter called to tell me she was starting to feel labor pains. Two new releases in two days–now, that’s interesting timing!

The pains remained few and far between all of Friday, but by Saturday morning they were coming faster, harder and doing some serious work. My eldest granddaughter woke us up at 7:00, her bag packed. “Can I ride with you?” She’s eleven, and although she witnessed one home birth–her younger sister–she was only three at the time. This time, she planned to take notes.

This new baby is my daughter’s second. Her first, Daisy, was delivered at a hospital. Although it was a good experience that went off without a hitch, my daughter wanted very much to have a home birth this time (in the new home you might remember me talking about in an earlier blog). Kelly is a school bus driver and she teaches work out classes in her down time at a local gym. She’s in the best shape of her life.


Kelly, two days before giving birth.

Her wonderful midwife, Jenny, was called, and we were told to relax, take a walk and get the bed ready. My wonderful daughter-in-law, Ruth, went to Kelly’s to prep the room and make ginger tea (which is both soothing and makes the whole house smell inviting). Eldest granddaughter and I headed over about 9:00.

We heard moans.

Eldest granddaughter changed her mind about watching.

My husband was in charge of picking up my youngest granddaughter from a sleepover. This is the perfect sort of a job for a dad who doesn’t like to see his daughter in pain. he took middle granddaughter with him. They returned in time for the worst of it, though.

If this sounds like a house party…well, it sorta became one. Kelly encouraged her daughter and her nieces to be as involved as they wanted to be. All three (11, 9 and 7) stayed occupied elsewhere. Team Baby consisted of my daughter-in-law, the baby’s daddy, the midwife and her assistant, and me…with my hubby in the background as moral support.

The birth was flawless. (I won’t say painless–we all know that would be a lie.) Poppy Ray was born at 11:57AM, weighing 7lbs 14oz, and 21″ long.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Welcome to the world, Poppy.

Big sister came around once the “gross” stuff was over.


Daisy and Poppy.

And Grandma Deb has a new princess to spoil.

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt  (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

I wore my pink Tule t-shirt (the image is a heart made of books) to get her started off right. A new reader in the family!

So, my past week as been pretty eventful. How was yours? ;-)


PS: my new book, MONTANA DARLING has 32 fabulous reviews and is making me very proud! Click HERE , in case you missed it.

Christmas Music

images-3 I have a love-hate relationship with holiday music. I love certain songs, but hate others–particularly the songs that get played over and over and over and…you know what I mean. If the barking dogs begin to bark Jingle Bells, I run out of the store. If Grandma even comes close to getting run over by a reindeer, I have to leave the room. Same with Alvin and the Chipmunks singing anything, several versions of Santa Baby and most anything by Mannheim Steamroller (saturated my brain in the 1980s).

But I love making Playlists for my books, and I had a lot of fun with the one for HER FOREVER GIFT, including a stroll down memory lane. (Anybody remember Dolly Parton’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?)

Here’s the link: PLAYLIST. I don’t seem to be able to make my YouTube embedding function work. Sorry.

What’s your favorite holiday song? By the way, HER FOREVER GIFT is finally FREE on all platforms. Amazon * Kobo * BN  * iTunes

The system failed him, but she never would.

The system failed him, but she never would.

It’s short, sweet and heartwarming. If you read it and enjoy it, I’d so appreciate your kind review (reviews are vital for Amazon and for procuring advertising). Have a great weekend. And enjoy the music of the season.


The Future of Publishing in 3 Easy Steps (Maggie)

I just read a (way too long) piece about the future of publishing, that used big words and convoluted sentences and basically said nothing at all.  As I read it, I realized the headline was designed to draw readers to the site, (I had to jump through significant hoops just to get to read the piece) while delivering nothing that the title promised.  NOTHING.  I was very disappointed, and I thought, I can predict the future of publishing better and more accurately than they just did. Because not only have I been in this business for nearly 20 years, I know how the Universe works.  So then I decided that’s exactly what I would do with today’s blog post.  So here it is, The Future of Publishing in Three Easy Steps.

First the obligatory setup.  Right now, publishing is in flux.  Publishers are hurting for money and taking it out of the skin of their authors.  They’re also driving us nuts trying to push us to write what their marketing departments think will sell, pushing more of us to try to take the do-it-yourself route.  The choices seem to be:  A.  Write what they tell you for 8% of cover for print and 12.5% – 20% of cover price for e, or B. Write whatever you want for 70% of cover price in e.  Authors are making an apparent mass exodus from their publishers.  At least, they are if you believe the Internet buzz.  I don’t really buy it.  I live from advance to advance, and if I skip one, my bills aren’t going to be paid, for one thing.  I think most authors are like me.  Besides, I like my publisher, I love my editor, we get along well, we have a nice thing going, and I’m really not about casting them in the role of Big Bad Enemy of the Universe.

Yes, Jo Konrath, I write for Harlequin.  I signed the contract.  We disagree from time to time.  We discuss it privately.  This is a business, and I am a grown up making my own decisions. The terms to which I agree are between my agent, my publisher and myself, period.  If you disapprove of what I do, I can only drop my favorite quote on you,”What you think of me is none of my business.”  I love my job. I am the luckiest person in the world to be paid to do what I love to do best.

So back to my topic.  The flip side of this current boom in electronic publishing, is that everyone who can string together a coherent sentence, and most of those who can’t, are now self-publishing, calling themselves authors, and glutting the net with their titles.  They’ve become more and more savvy about cover art, so you can’t tell anything by that anymore, and many of them have figured out how to manipulate the system to hit the Amazon bestseller lists, even though they have grammatical errors in their one-paragraph book description. Yes, it’s true.  I’ve talked to them, visited their book pages at Amazon and BN, and they’re all over the bestseller lists, and they can’t spell.  It’s insane right now.  People who can’t write their way out of a paper bag are outselling seasoned, award winning novelists.  And it’s enough to make a lot of people consider tossing their careers and starting to look for new ones. It’s unfair, authors yell!  It’s criminal, even, they moan.

But, authors, colleagues, friends, scribes, remember this bit of wisdom.  No one can sell enough books to make you sell fewer.  And no one can sell poorly enough to make you sell more.  Each person’s journey is her own, personal, private journey, and the things you experience come to you according to what you are attracting, what you believe in, what you expect, what you focus on.  Period.  No one else matters.

So take a deep breath with me now, fill those lungs to bursting.  And now hold it for a beat or two.  And now blow it out, all of it.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  And read on.

Here’s the future of publishing in three easy steps.

1.  The cream will rise to the top as it always does.

Some indie authors who are truly talented will take their place among their peers, as they should, and those who can’t write and shouldn’t write, will eventually move on to their next get rich quick notion. Not that what they do matters one little bit.

2.  Some publishers will figure out how to master the new frontier of ebooks while making money and paying their authors decently.  Those who embrace change, and are open to new ways of doing business will thrive.  Others, those who resist change, and fear it, will not, and they will fade away.  Some of the new publishers who’ve sprung up almost as thickly as the rash of new “authors” have, will prove themselves worthy and will thrive.  Most will not.  Most will vanish.

But some new presses are going to emerge from this book revolution as real, viable new options for authors.  Already several of the new houses born of this chaos are looking very promising.  (Entangled is my favorite new publisher, I like what they’re doing and would buy stock if it were available.  I have nothing invested there, and get no cut for saying so, but I love their unique, forward thinking business model immensely and I believe they’ll do very well going forward. They are positive thinkers, innovative, outside the box people, highly creative, and open minded, and that’s just the type who will do well.)

And some of the long time, old school publishers whose names we’ve long known, if they cannot adapt, will become extinct.  Like dinosaurs.  And that’s okay.  That’s their journey.

3.  In ten years, maybe five, because this is moving fast, we’ll see a new publishing landscape, with new players on the scene, but things will once again have settled into a comfortable, navigable pattern.  Some of the big publishers we currently know will still be in existence.  Some will not.  And some new ones will be standing beside them.

There will still be print books, and there will still be ebooks, and there will still be hardcover and paperback, and maybe trade.  It’s okay.  It’s all going to be just fine.

Some authors will have gone away, some newcomers will have risen to stardom, and some old beloved bestsellers will still be bestsellers.  Some authors will be publishing independently and having great success, others will be publishing traditionally, and having great success.  Some will be doing both and having great success.

Some authors will still be bitching that the world is ending and that everything sucks and that terms are unfair and that Amazon or Harlequin or both are the Anti-Christ, and they will not be doing so well, but I suspect they will be enjoying wallowing in their misery.  But that misery will have nothing to do with Harlequin or Amazon (or the Anti-Christ, for that matter.)  It will have to do with their own vibration, expectations, mind-set, focus.

Basically, those who are acting right now, today, based on fear and panic, running around shouting that the sky is falling, certain that it’s the end of the world as we know it, aren’t going to make it into publishing’s future.

Those who are acting right now from a place of recognizing this time as one of great opportunity, who are excited about the new horizons in publishing and seeking ways to embrace them and make the most of them, are the ones who will not just survive, but thrive.

Be excited about the future.  Expect good things, and good things will come.

That’s not just the future of publishing.  It’s the future, period.

You’re welcome.

Audio Redux (Anne Stuart)

God, so I love audio books.  I love them with a fierce passion, and it’s probably easy enough to understand.  I assume everyone who reads this is either a reader or a writer and a reader.  We all started out loving books. Nancy Drew, horse books, ballet books, Cherry Ames, our grandmother’s Harlequins.  It doesn’t matter what, we loved them.

I had a pretty awful childhood, with an alcoholic father and a raging mother, and books kept me alive.  I would go in my room and read, anything and everything, usually with a box of oatmeal cookies under my bed to nibble on.  The YA room at the Princeton Public Library (not the new one, the old one in a house from the 1700s) was my save haven.  It’s really hard to communicate just how much I loved it there, loved those books.

It continued, of course.  I read MISTRESS OF MELLYN by Victoria Holt when it first came out, and my life was changed.  I became a writer then, whether I knew it or not.  In fact, a writer of gothics, which I am to this day, no matter what form the books take.  Look hard enough and you’ll see gothic elements.

I gave up my day job when I was 23, moved to Vermont to write gothics, mainly because there weren’t enough to read.  Nowadays business-savvy writers know that means the market is drying up, but that was in the old days, and I spent that first winter alone in my family’s vacation house in Vermont and wrote my first book.  And sold it.  All the while reading everything I can, ordering books from the back pages of books that I loved (people actually used to do that).  I got pretty desperate, living in such isolation.

But the more I wrote, the harder it became to read.  I worked so hard at my craft that I became increasingly impatient with the occasional clumsy phrase or mixed point of view.  It got to the point where there were only a few writers I could read, like Loretta Chase and Laura Kinsale, and I lost what had enriched me and sustained me for most of my life.

A couple of my old Harlequins came out as abridged audio books, and I listened to one and shuddered.  I tried a later one, and while not quite as bad, it still was a far cry from enchanting.  I’m not sure what turned me around.  First, some of the ICE books, which were my absolute favorite, came out on MP3 and I could listen on my iPod.  And then I saw my favorite Georgette Heyer mystery, BEHOLD HERE’S POISON, was available on iTunes.  I downloaded that, and became obsessed.

Because listening to books makes me able to turn off the overly critical mind, the competitive mind, the jealous mind, and simply enjoy.  I listened to favorite books, and then started branching out into books I hadn’t read in print first.  Right now I have 465 audio books in my Audible account, and probably another 25 I downloaded from CDs. I’m hooked.  But more importantly, I got the joy of reading back.  I glom audio books the way most people glom paperbacks, and a huge, gaping hole in my life is filled again.

Some people hate to listen to books — Jenny Crusie can’t stand to be read to.  Some haven’t tried it.  For others, holding onto the book is important (they also don’t like e-readers for the same reason).  But for me, my iPod is now my best friend (and I keep buying more iPods to fill them with audio books).

This all is in honor of ON THIN ICE, which was an Amazon exclusive (meaning you couldn’t buy a physical book of it, though we’re working on that).  It’s been recorded by the divine Xe Sands, who did a brilliant job on the previous ICE book, FIRE AND ICE, and it comes out today at Audible and on Amazon, among other places.  And I can’t wait.  The book was a labor of love, and having an audio version of it was the best reward.

Go listen to a sample, either of this, or of one of your favorite books available on audio ( has them).  And see if you might not get hooked too.