Please Redeem Me

So what happens when you have a character show up in the first book of your 4-part series who is so annoying and unlikeable reviewers call him “a complete and utter PITA”? (P I T A = pain in the arse…as my mother would have said.)

Well…naturally, you make him your next HERO.

My working image of Austen Zabrinski.

My working image of Austen Zabrinski.

In Cowgirl Come Home, my hero’s brother, Austen Zabrinski, shows up repeatedly. He’s…um…difficult. He has attitude. Here’s a snippet. Tell me if this sounds like a hero to you?

She only had a vague recollection of Paul’s older brother since he left for college before she and Paul started dating. But everybody in Marietta knew Austen.

His name had been in the Courier every week since he was MVP in at least three sports. All the girls wanted to date him, although he never had a steady that Bailey could remember. He gave the class speech at graduation. She knew that for a fact because she’d been selected as one of the four freshman girls to pass out programs at the door.

She’d listened closely because he had the audacity to buck the system, showing up with his longish hair artfully tousled, a movie-star goatee and bare ankles, hinting that he was wearing shorts under his gown.

At the time, Bailey had been impressed.

Now, not so much. She’d met more than her share of promoters, lawyers and wealthy stockmen over the years. And one thing she knew for certain was money did not automatically signify class.

More nervous than she had been when she left the house, she walked slowly and deliberately, trying not to limp.

Show no weakness. She couldn’t remember if the adage applied to wild animals and lawyers, or just lawyers.

Thank goodness I called in an order. She could pick it up and run. No need to bring up the ridiculous idea of going on a date. No harm, no foul.

She went straight to the cash register, not looking right or left. “Bailey Jenkins. To-go,” she told the young woman behind the till.

The girl–about sixteen working her first summer job, Bailey guessed–spun about and dashed to the kitchen window, where a clothesline of white orders were strung.

“Ironically appropriate, don’t you agree? A To-Go order. Your modus operandi, no?”

She turned, her purse clutched to her belly–bling side out, as if the glitter might magically ward off the attack she sensed coming. “I beg your pardon?”

Austen had changed since the cocky kid at the school podium. More than the expensive suit and cover-model haircut, his style shouted, “Warning: rich, influential, angry man with agenda. Look out.”

He leaned in. Not so his words were kept between them. No. In fact, he spoke loudly, with succinct clarity so the entire jury of her peers could hear. “It’s not my pardon you need to beg, Bailey. It’s my brother’s.”

I know. Right? A complete and utter jerk. So, what on earth would possess an author to pick such an unlikable character to make her next hero?

I wish I could tell you. I honestly don’t know. But I will say I found Austen intriguing. I wanted to know why he was so caustic, so judgmental. I loved his brother, Paul, so much I figured if Paul was so great surely there was some good, something redeemable in Austen.

And I learned a long time ago, while working with my first editor, that sometimes you don’t have any choice about who your characters choose to love.

My third Harlequin Superromance is called BACK IN KANSAS. This is a spin-off from a book titled His Daddy’s Eyes. The hero, Bo, is a recovering alcoholic. And in the course of writing His Daddy’s Eyes, he proved to be a very annoying character because he constantly wanted to be on center stage. I hate to admit this to non-writers, but there came a time when I said out loud, “If you want to be a hero, you can be a hero in the next book. Now, back off and be a good secondary character so I can finish this book.”

As strange as that sounds, he did. So, when I was working on my next proposal, I talked to my editor about who I thought would make a good heroine for Bo. She hesitated a moment and said, “But, obviously he’s in love with Chloe.”

It was my turn to hesitate a moment or three. “But Chloe is a reformed prostitute,” I reminded her.

My editor replied, nonchalantly, “I’m sure our readers are evolved enough to know that not every character comes to a story with an unblemished past.”

The voice in my head is freaking out. “There’s blemished and then there’s prostitute!”

To my editor, of course, I said, “Okay. Let’s give that a try. ”

What came out of that collaboration was a story that scared me to death to write but connected powerfully with readers. And from that point on, I no longer was afraid of unredeemable characters.

The fact is every one of us has our not-so-heroic moments. We’re human. Maybe that’s what makes the difficult ones–real and imagined–easy to relate to.

Austen Zabrinski is very human. When we meet him in COWGIRL COME HOME, he’s going through an extremely tough time (off screen). He’s at a crossroads in his life and he’s questioning whether everything he’s done to that point was for naught. We don’t know any of this until he shows up on my new heroine’s doorstep needing help. Luckily, as fate would have it, she is the perfect person to help him figure out exactly where he needs to be and who he really is.

I love it when that happens. Don’t you?

PS: the title of this blog made me think of Englebert Humperdink’s 1985 hit Please Release Me. Here’s the link in case you need a laugh. I’m still giggling.

And if you’d like to “meet” Austen Zabrinski, leave a comment. I’ll pick one winner to receive a review copy of NOBODY’S COWBOY next week.

Austen--as the hero I always knew he could be.

Austen–as the hero I always knew he could be.



How old were you? (freebie)

Last weekend I was invited to do a book signing at Epic Alpacas’ Open House. It was a blast! The most fun I’ve ever had at a book signing. Here’s one reason why: her name is Paige. (That’s her mommy, Paris, giving me the evil eye.)

Deb and alpaca baby

The other reason is because I met some new/young readers who got me thinking about my reading history. These three girls–ranging in age from 12-14–hung out with me for the longest time talking about books and reading. All three were avid readers–true Book Girls. And they really, really wanted to buy my book, Cowgirl Come Home.

I told them they weren’t my target demographic. Which, given my ire about the canceling of Longmire, a TV show I happen to like, which was canceled because its primary audience was too old, seemed the definition of irony.

Longmire poster

But seriously, Cowgirl Come Home has strong language, frank sexuality and adult themes. The girls insisted they’d seen worse on TV or in movies, but, still…. I cajoled them by telling them they could spend their money on my book if they had their parent’s permission.

OMG! They brought their mothers. I told these lovely women the same thing. Language, sex, adult situations, plus: forgiveness, love, romance, hope and a happy ending. All three bought the book and said they’d read it first, and if–when–they felt it was appropriate they’d let their daughters read it.

Wow. Win-win. Happy signing!

Deb Epic book signing

But all this got me thinking. How old was I when I read my first romance?

Young. Really young. I remember finding my babysitter’s True Romance magazines. And I devoured The Hardy Boys books, always secretly hoping somehow they’d meet Nancy Drew and one of them would fall for her. I fell in love with Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners and went on to read all of her books. But I think my first novel with on-page sex scenes was Sweet, Savage Love when I was 19. I wonder if we could call it the 50 Shades of Gray of my day? Who knew love was a gateway drug to romance?

So, tell me…how old were you when you read your first romance? I’ll pick one winner from your responses to receive a FREE digital copy of Judy Uncensored, my over-the-hill-but-not-under-it romance. (Think Ethel Mertz meets 50 Shades.)





Free again…sorta

I’m happy to say I am cast-free. Almost.

photo 1

I saw my orthopedic doctor yesterday. (And met yet another hunky young intern. OMG! What is it about orthopedic/sports medicine that attracts handsome young men to the field? ;-) )

photo 2

Dr. Pistel showed me my X-ray and actually high-fived me for healing so well. LOL.

photo 3

He told me I could start to wean myself off the cast.

Wean myself off the cast? What a strange thing to say. In my mind, I’d planned to toss the darn thing in the air like a high school graduate and run from the building shouting in joy.

But a few minutes in the company of the handsome young intern who asked me to do all sorts of common hand gestures to test the strength and flexibility of my wrist proved this baby bird wasn’t ready to fly solo. Ouch.

Although my bone has knitted nicely, my muscles and connective tissue have zero strength. “Let’s go with the Marx Brother’s school of medicine,” my doctor said. “Do anything you want, but if it hurts, stop doing it.”


So where does that leave me? Weaning…and waiting for Physical Therapy to start.

I dictated this blog on my iPad using Dragon. I find the application useful for making notes, but I don’t enjoy using dictation for my creative writing. It feels too stilted and requires a LOT of editing. Maybe if I kept at it longer I’d be better, but I plan to get back to work on my next Big Sky Mavericks book today–typing without a cast!!!–right after I get back from fifth grade.

Yep. You heard me right. I’m headed to my granddaughters’ school today to talk to my sweet Miss M’s class. Miss M is an avid reader, and when the print copies of Cowgirl Come Home arrived — the feeling never gets old!–she begged me to read it.

Cowgirl come home box

No. Sorry, dear, it’s a very adult story. But, after some discussion with her mother, my daughter-in-law decided to give her my very first Harlequin Superromance, That Cowboy’s Kids.

Miss M That Cowboys Kids

Naturally, she went to school the next day and said, “I’m reading my grandmother’s book.” Her teacher, who is new to the school, sent me post-it note inviting me to talk to the class about creative writing.

I couldn’t say no because my one of my favorite memories of helping in my children’s classroom took place at this SAME school when my son and daughter were in fifth and sixth grades. I love that life has come full circle yet again.

So, I’m taking off in a bit–wrist in cast–to talk about creative imagery and how to work all five senses into your writing. Cool topic! I wish I could bring along my other Storybroads! True masters of their craft!

Take care, all. Thanks for letting me share this odd little part of my journey. Healing takes time. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. In the meantime, the Marx Brothers and I are going to do anything that doesn’t hurt. ;-)


Happy Labor/Release Day

Today is the start of Labor Day weekend.

When I was a kid, this meant: the end of summer, the beginning of school, and a new season of TV shows.

My, how things have changed!

For one, I live in California, now, and it’s supposed to be hot all week.

weather CV

Second, about half the kids I know started school three weeks ago. My granddaughters start next Wednesday.

As as for network programming, the new shows, like Viola Davis’s new series, which I can’t wait to try, are still 3-4 weeks away.


Luckily, I have something to keep me busy until then. ;-)

For me, today is a different kind of Labor Day. Today marks the release of Nobody’s Cowboy, my second book for Tule Publishing, and the first book in my Big Sky Mavericks trilogy.


As every author knows, releasing a book is a little like giving birth. You’ve labored for weeks/months. You ate right, took your vitamins, did the research, picked a name and crossed for your fingers that the fruit of your labor would be well-received by the world at large.

The thing about Nobody’s Cowboy that has me worried is my hero. Austin Zabrinski was introduced in Cowgirl Come Home. He’s that book’s hero’s older brother. He has older brother syndrome. He may have felt he was only trying to take care of his younger brother but in doing so he may have come off a bit…umm…abrasive. Or, as several readers commented, “Austen is a pain in the arse.” (So to speak.)

Luckily, so far, the early reviews have all been positive.

From Shari: “Reading Nobody’s Cowboy, my family was wondering why I was laughing so hard. Communal toilet…Austen is redeeming himself already.”

From Christina: You have no idea how awesome it was to read “Northern California” and not find out she was from the Bay Area! And the mention of Jefferson was awesome, too! Loved it all!!!”

Like any mama, I’m nervous about sending my baby off into the big, chaotic world, but I’m excited, too. Here’s a buy link, in case you want to take advantage of the release day price of 99¢. BUY

So, what’s on your Labor Day agenda? I will be R&Ring with friends on the West Coast of California–and watching the Amazon stats for Nobody’s Cowboy, like the hovermother I am. ;-)


Have a great 3-day weekend, everyone!


PS: For those of you who love to hold a “real” book in your hot, little hands, Cowgirl Come Home is finally available from CreateSpace. AND, the ebook version will be FREE at Amazon, Sept. 1-4, if you want a copy on your ereader, too. BUY