Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Infinite Possibilities": One Writer's Journey and the Importance of Literacy

On September 28, 2015, I was invited to speak to Altrusa International of Anaheim on the importance of literacy, one of the ways this great group of women work to improve the community. It was my very first speaking engagement since becoming a published writer in 2011, so to say I was a little nervous was an understatement. I don't think my voice stopped shaking the entire time. But they were so warm and gracious to both me and my "assistant" (my son's girlfriend basically got volunteered for the job.) Several wanted me to publish this speech, which is basically one writer's story of how a passion for literacy changed my life.

So here without further ado... my speech.

Good evening. Thank you so much for inviting me to speak tonight. As a full-time writer, I'm a bit like that troll that lives under the bridge, so this gives me the rare opportunity to actually 'human'. I don't get out much. In fact, I call my work schedule my "vampire" hours, so if I start smoking suddenly do not be alarmed. My assistant knows my safety protocol.

I should preface this to say that I do not get paid to speak. Whenever I communicate with others, there's usually a computer in front of me. This includes my family. Having said that, thank God for technology [hold up phone.]

As someone who doesn't get paid to speak, I really had a time figuring out what I wanted to talk about tonight. I'm passionate about so many things, activism and community chief among them. I thought I'd just keep it simple and talk about the importance of literacy. As both a reader and a writer, it is an issue that means a lot much to me and has since I was a little girl. While I may have been invited because I create books, the simple truth is: books created me.

I grew up with the idea that Reading Was Fundamental. From my very first Sesame Street, to the weekly installments of Schoolhouse Rock, I’ve been a glutton for the written word since I first learned to read. I discovered at a very young age that books are magic. You can go anywhere you want to go and be anyone you want to be. Whether you’re battling dragons or falling in love, or doing both at the very same time, books transport you from the ordinary to the extraordinary. There are infinite possibilities.

Needless to say, I read a lot as a kid, but it really went into overdrive when I was in the fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Borger, spotted my passion for reading and wisely nourished this hobby that was dangling dangerously close to becoming an addiction. Nothing excites me more than walking into a large library or bookstore. You know the kind I’m talking about, the ones with shelves right up to the ceiling. Or maybe a dinky little used bookstore, with narrow aisles and filled with rows of books three stacks deep, where you really have to dig to find your treasures. I loved all of these places where I could browse titles for hours and walk away with a stack of books under each arm. Then and only then could I go anywhere and do anything.

It’s important to have that kind of magic in your hands, particularly if you’re unhappy with where you are. I learned this lesson when I was eleven years old, and my beloved father passed away. By the early 1980s, I routinely lost myself in books, so it became my refuge almost immediately. My aunt, who babysat me in those dark, depressing days following my dad’s death, used to get scads of books thanks to subscriptions to certain romance publishers. It was one of the emptiest times of my life, and thanks to those stacks of books, I could be transported anywhere. I could find love, even when I felt so alone. As a pre-adolescent girl, this was a big deal. I needed some fairytales to get me through a pretty harsh reality. My dad was a stay-at-home dad, so losing him meant I lost my best friend, and that’s a tough thing for a kid.

So I filled my world with fictional people in fabulous places. Romances are good for that. When I was depressed whenever I walked into our empty house, I could pick up a book and travel anywhere. And what I really wanted was to be anywhere *else*. It was around this time I found Janet Dailey, who had traveled all over the United States to write her stories. She published her Americana series, with romances set in each and every state. Thanks to her, I was able to see things and places an 11-year-old from Texas might not normally see. Later, I’d discover authors like Danielle Steel, who would write stories set all over the world, and in various historical periods. Whether I was on a ranch in Oklahoma or Russian nobility on the cusp of a revolution, I was encouraged to live a life bigger than my own. The possibilities were endless.

I loved stories so much that writing a story of my own didn’t really intimidate me much when I was first given the opportunity. It was a writing assignment in October of 1981. We were all given a drawing of a house, which we could color however we saw fit to honor the Halloween season. Part of the assignment included coming up with a corresponding story. Despite having creative playtime with my Fisher Price Little People and my Barbie dolls, where I routinely made up stories all the time just for the fun of it, I had never actually written a story of my own before. I wasn't even sure that I could. But I was a good student who always excelled in whatever academic endeavors were put before me, so I wasn’t that worried about pulling off a simple story about Halloween.

The minute I put my pencil to paper, however, the story ceased being simple. I really did want to write a scary story about a haunted house, but something happened once the pencil started moving. I wanted to go left. My muse decided to go right. A story began to emerge about a couple so in love that the husband built a big house for them to share lots of children. Sadly, they never had any kids at all, and after the couple died years later, it was turned into an orphanage in their honor. It just sort of happened, and I just sort of went for it, even though it was pretty far removed from any Halloween story I’d ever read.

Still, I finished the story, colored in the drawing with happy, pretty colors and submitted my paper. Only after it left my hands did I worry if I had really screwed up. I was used to entertaining infinite possibilities, you see, so in my creative world all was permissible. The people pleaser in me quickly became neurotic that I may have messed up by coloring outside the lines. By the time our papers were passed back, I was one anxious little sixth grader. That I didn’t get my paper back and everyone else did only made the anxiety worse. I needed confirmation I had aced it like every other English assignment. And I needed it yesterday.

I’m pretty sure my knees literally knocked when I walked up to Mrs. Adams’ desk to ask her, in a halting, shaking voice, where my paper was since mine was never returned. She indicated to the wall behind her. It was the part of the wall where all the important things were kept, and there was my paper, with my happy, cheerful house right as the cover. Circled in red ink was a big, bold A. It was like angels parted the heavens and sang a chorus of hallelujah. Here I was, worried sick that I hadn’t colored within the lines and the universe was about to teach me the best lesson ever in infinite possibilities. Not only could I transport through the books I read, I could then transport others with what I wrote.

My pencil became a magic wand in an afternoon.

Over the next few years, I courted all sorts of writing to find the one that fit me best. Poems were first, quick little kisses where I could examine a feeling, just a spark of an idea. In Spring of 1982, one of my poems graduated to the big wall in the lobby of my elementary school, to show off exceptional achievement. My mother’s company included my poem in their newsletter, meaning I was published by the time I was twelve.

I finished my first novella when I was 14, inspired totally by the Barry Manilow song “Ships” which I found myself daydreaming to one afternoon as I entertained endless possibilities. It never dawned on me that I couldn't or shouldn't reach out to Mr. Manilow to get permission to use his song in my book. I wasn't afraid to ask for that permission,and it was generously and graciously granted.

Like I said... No limits.

By no surprise I finished my first full-length novel by the time I was twenty-one. I started this story when I was nineteen years old, when I was living out of my car. Call it escapism. Call it therapy. But there's nothing better to get a creative through a crises than allowing them to create.

See there’s only one thing better than losing myself in a book I read, and that’s losing myself in a story I’m writing. You want to talk about infinite possibilities? There’s nothing like creating a world, and all the people that populate it, out of nothing at all. It’s magic. Powerful, powerful magic. Within the pages of a book, I could write about a homeless girl who happened upon a savior, who rode in on her shiny Harley Davidson and saved my sweet clueless runaway from the heartless and cold city streets. I needed to believe it was possible. Best of all I got to embody both the clueless runaway as well as the brave heroine, which I needed more.

Thanks to the infinite possibilities of books, I could be both, which reminded me how truly powerful I was. Powerful enough to change my circumstances - which I ultimately did.

In fact, the only real limit I found with the writing was earning the right to do it for money. Hobby writing, I had down. I fit it in wherever I could, writing a total of eight novels between 1989 and 2011. Those twenty-two years were mostly spent raising a family and keeping a roof over our heads. But whenever I needed to escape from my ordinary existence, writing gave me refuge. When my nine-day-old son died in 1995, I wrote two books in one year. I desperately needed the empowering magic of creativity. It was the only way to fight against the limitations we’re force-fed every single day.

I'm ashamed to admit that one of those limitations I even attempted to perpetuate myself, when I started writing romance novels of my own in the mid-90s. I had read more than my share, so I thought I knew what the readers wanted. I created books very much like the Janet Daily books, or the Danielle Steel books, or the Jackie Collins books (God rest her soul) that I had read all my life. One of these stories actually got the interest of a literary agent, who tried to shop it around for me, only to be told that my heroines were "too" perfect. I wrote that, because I read that. Anyone who has ever read any romance novel knows the heroine is generally beautiful without the benefit of knowing she's beautiful.

It took me until 2007 to realize it was just one more limitation. Why was I perpetuating this myth that only one type of woman is beautiful? What if we were ALL beautiful without the benefit of knowing it? What if we were ALL worthy of starring in our own love stories?

Though I had found love and passion and romance throughout my life, even though I didn't look like I was supposed to look, I usually had never read about women who did the same. Up until the 2000s, all the books I read about overweight women in particular usually delegated women like me to the plucky co-star, the funny fat friend - the DUFF who makes the women around her more beautiful and more exciting by default. I started to entertain the possibilities of what it could mean to society - and women in general - if that message changed. What if I demolished the limitations on the romance genre and wrote about beautiful women of ALL shapes and sizes, who didn't have to change to be swept off of their feet by a handsome, wealthy, exciting alpha male?

Why on earth would I limit myself to just one type of heroine, if I didn't limit myself to one type of story?

People suggested that readers wouldn't want to read about my atypical heroines, because it just wasn't realistic. But my love story was real. I was real. And I was ready to kick free from these limitations. I just needed the opportunity.

In 2011, I learned about self-publishing, which pretty much obliterated all the accepted limitations to making this my career. Between 1991 and 2011, my biggest problem was getting past a gatekeeper, who got to decide for themselves whether I had anything anyone wanted to read. In 2011, I could get those books right to the reader, and they could decide for themselves. That first year was pretty bleak. I only made $300, which is actually pretty common for self-published writers. Eighty percent of us make less than $1000 a year.

But there’s one thing we all still have – infinite possibilities.

All it takes is one reader, one blog, one opportunity to change it all around. In late 2012, I started getting some buzz about a series I had written – one where I broke a few ‘rules’ (as I’m known to do). This included writing about a size-16 girl-next-door who won the heart of a sexy rock star, because why not? Since I have no one to answer to but the readers themselves, I had the freedom to color outside the lines. In a story that I worried would (and did) alienate readers, I actually landed on a popular blog and watched my sales skyrocket as a result.

Thanks to that blog, I graduated into the top 20% of all indie writers, where I've stayed for the last three years. Thanks to that milestone, I started making an actual living with my books. I earned passionate fans who love the fact that I write about women who look like them. I was invited to book signing events. I even got an agent at last, where I published my first traditional title – a rewrite of that original story I wrote when I was nineteen, while living out of my car.

I became everything I wanted to be because of the limitless nature of books. I endured great tragedy and crisis, and got through it because of books. I overcame my circumstances because of books. They truly are magic to me. When we teach our kids that literacy is important, we’re doing more than instilling a passion for reading. We’re teaching them about infinite possibilities. Kids who read learn how to be successful as adults, because their minds are opened to the Great What If. We’re teaching them how to think critically to resolve conflict, since that is all fiction really is. We're teaching them to empathize, by living in the skin of another person. Most of all, we're giving them permission to dream of a life much bigger than what they could have imagined. When you give a kid a book, you’re giving them more than a passport to travel between worlds. You’re giving them the tools to build a world of their very own.

Whether you read them or you tell them, stories give us all tools to create our existence. And you never know, the very next child you entrust with a book can be the next Charles Dickens or Jane Austen or Stephen King… or Ginger Voight.

So thank you for allowing me to share my story, and thank you for the work you do promoting the importance of literacy. Long live books. Long live the magic. Long live the infinite possibilities.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Date with Devlin. Are you ready for October 9?? #Teaser #AdultsOnly #Sale #Kindle

She paid $800 for one date; one chance to get everything she always wanted, no questions asked.

Little did she know, Devlin Masters was about to give her so much more...


Devlin shadowed me as I walked Gus and Lucy to the door. I stood waving after them long after they disappeared down the pathway and into the darkness beyond. Devlin finally reached around me to close the front door with one hand, which ultimately pinned me between the solid, hard wood of the door and the solid, hard wall of his chest. He towered above me, so close that I could feel the heat from his incredible body. His gaze swept over me, as if peeling away every inch of my clothes with nothing more than a look, before it finally settled on my face.

My eyes met his. This was where it got complicated, I knew. We could spend the rest of our night ‘talking’, but I hadn’t paid to talk. I could have had that with Oliver without paying one thin dime. I had wanted something more than that, and had for a long, long time. I knew it, and I suspected that Devlin knew it, too. He was, after all, a professional.

So what now? Did I take a green light for granted here, or what? Did I simply ask for sex? Or did wait for him to make a move? Did we talk about it, or just go at it like a couple of people might on a “real” date? The clock was ticking and I had absolutely no idea what to do next.

He answered my silent questions with a slow, confident smirk as he locked the door behind us with a resounding click. He leaned forward, his mouth so near to my skin I could feel his breath against me. My knees nearly gave way when he said, “Alone at last.”

I nodded, gulped hard and licked my lips. He chuckled a bit before he turned back to the living room, tugging my hand in his so that I would follow. “You should get us some glasses, Coralie,” he murmured as he reached for the bottle of champagne to uncork it.

I nodded dutifully and scurried around the corner to the kitchen, returning with a couple of cobalt blue champagne flutes. He shrugged out of his jacket as I perched on the sofa to pour us our wine. It was a wonder I didn’t spill it everywhere. I couldn’t wrench my gaze away from his body if I tried. Those broad shoulders… that solid chest…the promise of that bulge in those slim-fitting pants…and for the next couple of hours or so it was all mine, bought and paid for.


My pulse raced as he sat next to me, so close that I became intoxicated on the spicy, woodsy scent of his cologne. I was sure he could see my hand tremble when I handed him his glass.

Those sultry eyes rendered me mute as he stared at me. Finally he raised his glass. “To old friends and new beginnings,” he said in a voice so soft, it felt like an actual caress.

I nodded as I clinked our glasses together. I couldn’t tear my eyes from his supple mouth as he drank. Again, I drained another glass. I reached for the bottle, but Devlin leaned forward to grab my hand. “You’re not going to need that,” he murmured in a low voice that sent a shock wave to my core.

“I’m–I’m not?” I stammered.

He shook his head. My head was floating as high as a cloud as he took the glass from my hand and set it on the coffee table in front of me. He eased back against the couch, capturing my face with his hand. His thumb brushed rhythmically over my cheek as he stared down into my face. “I think I know what you want, Coralie. I definitely know what you need. The question is… do you trust me to give it to you?”

My eyes widened as I stared up at him. Slowly I nodded. I stared at his mouth as it descended towards mine, closing over my lips finally in a soft, sensual kiss. My insides went up just like kindling as his broad tongue parted my lips and darted inside. He tasted like champagne. It only made me feel drunker.

And I blame the alcohol for the wanton way I threw my arms around his neck and kissed this enticing stranger back. I mean, I was only human for crying out loud. This man looked like he just stepped off the cover of a magazine, and here he was kissing me. He was kissing me. Me! His lips on mine, his hands on my body, his tongue penetrating my mouth with all the passion I’d only read about in romance novels. His fingers tangled in my hair as he deeply explored my mouth with that skilled tongue, and I felt my whole body come to life as a response.

I wanted more, and I was in the very unique position to take it, no questions asked.

He held me close, with one broad hand sliding up my side to cup the full curve of my breast. I gasped into his mouth as he thumbed my nipple through the fabric. He pulled away to stare down into my face. “You spent all your life taking care of everyone else, but no one has taken care of you, have they?”

I couldn’t even speak. I just shook my head.

“I’m going to change that,” he promised as he reached for another kiss. “I’m going to change everything.”


The $0.99 pre-order sale for MASTERS FOR HIRE expires this weekend! Get your copy now. ;)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Let me tell you a little bit about Devlin Masters. He really can't wait to meet you. ;)

Devlin Masters has one job. For $400 an hour, he gets to bring a woman’s deepest, dirtiest fantasies to life, no judgment, no complications–no regrets. And Devlin Masters is very good at his job.

Good Girl Coralie Cabot decides to rent this bad boy and bring a little excitement into her boring, conventional life, but she has no idea just how intoxicating it could be to meet someone that dedicated to making her lascivious dreams come true.

She thinks she's hiring him by the hour. He's about to change her life.


“This is Devlin.”

I thought I was prepared to hear his voice, but I was mistaken. It was deep and rich and textured, like pure velvet. Its timbre reverberated across my senses, sending a shiver right to my toes. I could still picture his piercing gaze as my eyelids fluttered closed. I cleared my throat. My mouth was suddenly dry.

“Hello, Devlin,” I greeted, almost haltingly. “This is Coralie Cabot.”

His voice softened. I could almost hear his smile. “Ms. Cabot. Thank you for calling me back. I had actually given up hope you would.”

I glanced at the clock. It was after eight in the evening, and he had sent his email at roughly eight o’clock that morning.

I thought about the dress and Lucy’s hair. Apparently it takes time to burn bridges. “Sorry about that. I was busy finalizing some of the details for the party.”

“Of course,” he replied. “So tell me some details about this party.”

“It’s a fundraising benefit,” I started. “We’re raising money for children affected by neurological disorders, to help their families pay for the cost of care, and provide therapy and support. Friends of the family are hosting at my family home in Bel Air.”

“Sounds wonderful,” he said. “I assume it’s black tie.”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Do you have a dress already?”

I blinked in confusion. It seemed such an odd question. “I… well… I’m torn between two,” I finally admitted. And it was true. I really was. As much as I liked the one that Lucy found for me, I didn’t know if I could show up at the party in a dress that didn’t come from Cabot’s. It was a big deal.

“I can make that choice a little easier for you. What’s your size?”

I nearly choked on my saliva. Was this an insidious way to figure out what kind of heavy lifting he’d have to do on the date? “Depends on the store,” I finally replied.

“What are your measurements, then?” he persisted. It immediately set off warning bells. All this time I had pretended that his desire for me was a given, simply because he was getting paid to bring my fantasy to life. It never occurred to me that he would actually have to pretend to be interested. That took a little wind out of my sails.

I cleared my throat, suddenly very self-conscious. “It’s, um, 46/34/44,” I finally managed, feeling, for the first time in my life, embarrassed to answer the question.

That he hesitated didn’t help matters at all. “So, size 14, then?”

I cleared my throat again. “Like I said, it depends on the store and the designer. Thanks to…,” I swallowed hard, “thanks to my bust size, it can fluctuate between a 14 and a 16, possibly an 18 if they even keep the size in stock.”

I hadn't meant for it to sound as bitter as it did. Fortunately Devlin didn't miss a beat. “Did you have a particular color scheme in mind? Did you want classic or modern?”

“Whatever makes me look beautiful,” I answered in a near squeak. I almost–almost–wanted to add, “If such a magic dress exists,” but I stopped myself. Why I felt I had to throw myself on the grenade of his rejection was a mystery to me, as if making fun of myself first would make it hurt less if he did it. I hadn’t pulled such a juvenile stunt since I was in high school, when I tried to be the quirky, funny sidekick to Lucy’s pretty Queen Bee. And why was I trying to impress him anyway? He was the one who needed the job.

He chuckled then, which took me by surprise, as if he could read my thoughts. “All women are beautiful if you just know where to look.”

It was out of my mouth before I could stop it. “That has to make your job a little easier.”

“Indeed,” he replied. “I tell you what. Send me photos of yourself in the outfits you’ve already purchased.”


“Because I have a few ideas how to make you feel beautiful.”

I couldn’t help but notice he said ‘feel’ instead of ‘look.’ There was probably a very good reason for that. “You don’t even know what I look like,” I pointed out.

“Hence the photos,” he replied, humor lacing his tone.

“You know, I’m not even really convinced that I can go through with this,” I started. He was quick to cut me off.

“Of course you can. Now send me your photos, Coralie.”

I gulped hard. It was unusual to hear anyone call me that name, aside from my father. And there was nothing at all fatherly about the commanding tone of his voice, which flipped the script immediately. No longer was I the one hiring someone who needed a job. I was being commanded, taken in hand, by a man who knew damn well how to do that very thing. I found myself stammering in response. “I’ll have to go change.”

“Fine. You have ten minutes. Then call me back.”

“Okay,” I found myself replying, though I didn’t know why. This was pure craziness, which was exactly what I said to Lucy when she entered the room. She handed me a frothy, frozen pina colada with a smile.

“Here's to getting a little crazy.”


Author Ginger Voight (that's me) brings all her amazing readers (that's you) another epic saga starring an flawed, mysterious Book Boyfriend named DEVLIN MASTERS.

Here, at long last is the cover of my new book MASTERS FOR HIRE, Book 1 in the Masters series.

It's only a taste of what kind of things Devlin will do to you once you get cozy with him in between the (book) covers. Needless to say this read is intended for readers over 18. And for a LIMITED TIME ONLY, you can pre-order MASTERS FOR HIRE for only $0.99 before it goes back up to its regular price of $2.99.

Don't miss out on Devlin!! Add MASTERS FOR HIRE to your TBR list NOW.

If you're a blogger who wants to participate in the book launch, either with a release day blast or a review, please use the sign-up sheet here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

It's #NationalReadaBookDay HURRAY! Here are some of my faveys.

Finally! A "National [Celebrate Something Here] Day" that won't make you gorge on unhealthy food! Way to go, America! Not sure why we need a national day to celebrate things like donuts, pancakes, hot dogs and pie in this country, but almost daily I find out what kind of "National" day something is, where something ordinary is given the royal treatment and made star for a day.

I like some more than others. National Hug Day, National Kissing Day, National Orgasm Day, National Leave a Review for Your Favorite Author on Some of Her Books Day...*ahem*...

You get my drift.

If anything should ever be given the royal treatment, it's reading a book. I was a reader long before I was a writer. Thanks to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Borger, I took my natural affinity for reading and turned it into a passion. I wasn't just reading textbooks at the top of my grade (or higher,) I learned how to read for nothing more than sheer enjoyment. I grew up with these...

... so I understood the importance of reading. I also learned the magic of reading very early on, when I realized all I had to do was crack open a book and I could go anywhere, do anything-be anyone. Imagine a magical pair of shoes where you can step into them and live the life as a whole other person. That's magic! Books are passports, and nothing... I repeat NOTHING... holds more promise than a book in your hands. Yes, I'm old school. I like actual books. I will prowl bookstores for hours. When I was a kid, there was nothing more exciting to me than going down the Scholastic list and picking out which books I wanted to read next.

Like Lays potato chips, man. You can't stop with one. And unlike potato chips, you don't have to. The more you read, the bigger your world gets, and that's a good thing. No. That's a GREAT thing.

So in honor of this fantastic day where reading is rightly celebrated, here are a few special titles that reminded me just how magical finding that perfect book can be.

One question we're always asked as authors is, "What is your favorite book?" I have a bunch I love for various reasons, but if you nail me down to a favorite, there's only one:

THE BLESSING STONE by Barbara Wood is the story of a stone that crashed to earth millions of years ago, and was intercepted by a long line of women at various stages of our history. I can't even get into how much I love historical fiction, it's honestly surprising to me that I don't read more of it. Give me a book where I can get emotionally involved with characters trying to survive the things we only learn about as facts and figures, and I'm a happy girl. It breathes new life into something stale, something that I normally wouldn't care to read otherwise. A book about the Civil War, not so much. NORTH AND SOUTH, with all its human complexity, conflict, sex and drama? Sign me up. Sign me up yesterday. It makes the past come alive for me and makes me feel connected to something so much bigger than my own small life.

Believe it or not, Danielle Steel was the one who originally introduced me to this concept (and she's on this list too, for that very reason,) so I was excited to read this book recommended to me by my best friend (and fellow bibliophile,) Jeff.

THE BLESSING STONE is one of those books that widens perspective, which is a beautiful thing. This stone landed in the hands of women who were pushing the boundaries of what was traditionally accepted of them. It started with the Homo sapian girl on the African plain who, though she couldn't talk or really apply deductive reasoning past their own limited experience/knowledge, understood that the leader of their tribe was dooming them to certain death by not turning away from the distant plumes of an active volcano. In a world where they depended upon tradition, Tall One, as she was known, was being compelled by an entirely new human trait that developed long before civilization, religion or democracy, simply because it had to.

She, instead, was being compelled by intuition. And she had to learn what all of us humans have had to learn. Do we trust that inner inkling that something isn't right, that those constructs we had always trusted and never questioned might actually do us more harm than good? Or do we follow tradition blindly, even if it means heading right off a cliff?

Delicious conflict, no? And that's only the first story of many.

This stone ends up passing through the hands of many diverse and interesting characters who defined our journey, particularly as women, as we shaped the changing world around us, from the ancient world to the 20th Century. This sweeping saga is filled with beautiful, empowering stories that touch upon several key points in history, everything from the time of Jesus to the irresistible call of Manifest Destiny, and as such touch upon the key emotional and practical evolution we've experienced as a unique species upon planet Earth. I love, love, love this book so much I can't believe I've only read it once. Might be time to correct that, and what better day than #NationalReadaBookDay?

If you want a light and easy read, this ain't it. But if you want to read an important, perspective-altering book you'll remember for years after you read it-do yourself a favor and get this book.

As much as I loved reading as a kid and young adult, writing screenplays did a lot to wreck my stamina. I was retrained on the concept of "economics," which bled over into everything else. I process information much differently now, particularly stories. I need to connect the dots quickly and keep moving, so there are a lot of writers I used to read I haven't been able to read for a long, long time (even cherished favorites) because they take a little longer than I can stand "getting there."

Honestly, I thought this would doom me for reading books ever again, especially the big, dense books I used to inhale in one sitting. I still read, but not as much, and it's a lot easier for me to abandon a book rather than see it through to the end. I have shelves of unread books because of this. On one hand I hate this, because like I said before, there's nothing more promising to me than an unread book in my hands. I want to go wherever it leads, and nothing disappoints me more than running out of gas in the first few chapters. It takes a really freaking special book to pull me in and keep me vested from the start.

On the other hand, though, finding that rare and special book is like finding a forgotten hundred-dollar bill in my pocket, which makes the whole experience that much better. Hell, I'd even say it's magical. And that's exactly what happened with WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.

If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book first. The two are completely different experiences because they had to be, and I really, really want you to experience the book in its most beautiful form. Let the story unfold page after gorgeous page and hook you in, just like it hooked me.

Truthfully I didn't read WATER FOR ELEPHANTS because I was captured by the blurb. It's about circuses, and I could give a rat's ass about that. No, I read this book because it is a NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH (NaNoWriMo) success story, and that interested me way more.


If you're not familiar, NaNoWriMo is the much-maligned annual event where optimistic writers the world over attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. It's maligned because for some weird reason, we like to discourage writers from, you know, actually writing. In every other endeavor, the more you do something, the more you're regarded as an expert in your field. In writing, however, we treat authors like they're given one tiny speck of brilliance that they only get one or two shots at harnessing, and even if they DO harness it, we expect them to take years and years to make it marketable.

There are a lot of folks out there, both readers and writers alike, who believe that it takes years to write a book worth reading. I hate this kind of mentality usually, because the writing process is one of those things that differs for each and every writer, and lumping us all together like that is unfair to the point of being offensive. The more you throw a ball at the basket, the more you're going to sink it thanks to the experience and training. Excellence, therefore, isn't some accident. It's the product of lots of hard work to prepare one to be as skilled as they can possibly be. If a talented, seasoned writer can sit down at a computer and bang out a book in a month, we should all get out of the way and let them do it.

I honestly don't know where we came up with this wretched, small-minded idea that all writers need to pull every single word they write from their soul with a dull butter knife, and if, by some miracle, a writer can produce faster or easier than that, it's clearly not any good. Some people just write faster, or are filled with stories they need to tell or it'll drive them insane, so they're driven by their muse like a pack animal to write, write, write before their she takes off again like the flighty bitch is known to do.

Some writers have a couple of books in their soul. Some have a hundred. And it's okay either way.

Brilliance is unpredictable, which means there's no paint-by-number formula or one-size-fits-all way for any one writer to produce any one book. Genius can and does happen in a flash. ROCKY was written in a week. THE BREAKFAST CLUB was written over two days. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which has given birth to many other incarnations of the story since, was written in six weeks.

Is everything written in such a short time frame fabulous? Of course not. But neither are books that take years to write, either. Time is not the important variable here. Each writer should be given the freedom to manage their Muse however way they see fit. The opinion that matters beyond that belongs to the readers themselves, who pay their hard-earned money for these books, who don't care how it was written as long as the book was good. They realize the quality of any book depends entirely ON. THE. BOOK. If you haven't read it, then you can't assign a value to it based solely on how long it took the author to write it. What a ridiculous, silly standard.

This is why I needed to read WATER FOR ELEPHANTS myself.


I believe I was traveling when I first started reading the book, either on a bus or on a plane. Given that I'm a captive audience in those situations, that's usually where I start (and likewise abandon) books. I bravely opened the flap on that book and started to read, hoping beyond hope I'd make it past the first chapter.

Boy, did I! Sara Gruen delivered with a prologue that practically punched me right in the face. It plopped me down in the middle of the action where, thanks to her finesse, I *thought* I knew where I was going from then on, and thereby locking me in to her roller coaster immediately just to see if I was right. (In fact, reading this book is what inspired how I wrote GROUPIE, among others.)

Of course, I wasn't right about where we were going from that prologue, and that, my dear readers, is what I loved most about it. As I impatiently crawled through the rest of the chapters to fill in a story that I thought I knew, Ms. Gruen was preparing me steadily and surely so she could yank the rug out from under my feet when I least expected. And it was glorious. I prepared for one thing, she delivered another... something better, something I didn't even know I wanted till we got there. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS singlehandedly restored my passion for reading in one beautiful book. If you haven't read it, stop reading this blog and get thyself to Amazon ASAP. You can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. And I'm pretty sure you'll thank me for it, even if you don't care for circuses.

Another story that circumvented my expectations was THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a young adult romance that centers around two kids afflicted with cancer. Yes, it is a heavy topic and yes, you're going to need your hankies for this one. It leveled me, even though I thought I spent the whole book preparing for what I thought would happen. (John Green is as crafty as Sara Gruen, maybe even more so.)

But though it is a heavy, even depressing read, it is also beautiful. The characters are so well crafted and engaging. I wanted to know them. I wanted to spend time with them. And I don't know that there is a more romantic book boyfriend anywhere as Augustus Waters. Just thinking about him makes my heart melt and my eyes water. He was absolute perfection in how he plopped into our heroine's life and made her world better for having done so. He wasn't the bad boy, she was the damaged one. And he healed her, as much as anyone dying of terminal cancer can be healed. You know what? I can't even talk about it. It's beautiful. Go read it. But have tissues handy.

For a lighter read, which I read around the same time as I read TFIOS, pick up THE ROSIE PROJECT. It's a romance too, but it's atypical, which is why I love it. If you are a fan of Sheldon from THE BIG BANG THEORY, you'll love this book. It's funny. It's quirky. It's smart. It's also brave, because it centers on a character that, like Sheldon, can be quite off-putting. Don Tillman is quite open from the start that he has difficulty fitting into polite society because he has difficulty empathizing with others. It also makes his quest to find a female companion a lot more challenging. Since he's getting a little long in the tooth, this learned man decides to approach the whole endeavor logically. He makes a list of all the qualities he'd require in a mate.

Enter chaotic Rosie, who tears that list a new one in the space of a date. He realizes at once that she is NOT the one for him, but decides that he can help her with her own project, instead. In doing so, he learns a lot more about empathy, about relating to another person, about love and desire and how we choose our life partners for real, than he ever expected.

(*There's now a book 2, which I didn't realize... this is great news for #NationalReadaBookDay!!)

Ok, I told you earlier that I love historical fiction. I adored Danielle Steel for years because of the magical way she could combine exciting fictional characters against the dramatic backdrop of factual events. Thanks to her, I was able to board the Titanic, survive the great San Francisco earthquake, endure World Wars I and II, survive and rebound from the stock market crash in '29 and walk in the shoes of nobility and royalty. Danielle's books are lavish. Granted they all follow the same kinds of patterns. Girl has everything, loses everything, gets everything back, loses it again, finds love, loses love and finds it again. These are more than just "romances," though that's where you'll often find them shelved. These are about the lives of these women, who become the focus of the book regardless of the men they love. (Again, I applied that same idea to one of my own books, SOUTHERN ROCKER CHICK, because these are the books that I love to read.)

Of all of these historical sagas, FULL CIRCLE is my favorite. (PALOMINO is my favorite romance, because its plot is mostly contained to one primary relationship. HEARTBEAT comes a very close second to that.) In FULL CIRCLE, however, the story is about four tumultuous decades of one woman's entire life. I fell in love with Tana Roberts almost immediately, because as a young woman she goes through a traumatic experience similar to one I had experienced. And if I was raised in a different era, I can see myself forging a very similar path, where she uses her negative experience to promote positive change. I mean, I do that now, only instead of marching with Dr. Martin Luther King for civil rights, I'm banging the gong for marriage equality.

Still, we were both crafted into fire-breathing feminists who wanted to change things that needed changing, and we weren't afraid to get our hands dirty doing the hard work to make it so. We may have been victimized, but we were strong women determined to make a difference, to conquer our pasts and define our futures.

Needless to say, I identify with Tana in many, many ways, particularly in that her most important relationship is the one she shares with her best friend. In fact, I had planned to live my life in much the same ways she did, by moving across the country and moving in with my buddy, going to law school and changing the world. Everything I thought I wanted to do with my life, I got to do with Tana. So I felt every single emotion right along with her, even when they crushed me. (And they did.)

I read this book once every few years, just because I love it so. It's one of those books that is a part of me. And believe it or not, it took writing this blog to figure out why. FULL CIRCLE works like any portal to an alternate universe should; it allows me to peak on on the other side and see what I might have been doing if my life had worked out according to my original plan. Where else can you get that kind of emotional fulfillment for $7.99? Full circle, indeed.

Speaking of emotional fulfillment, I would be remiss if I didn't include WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS in my list. I mentioned Mrs. Borger before, and she was the one who turned me onto Wilson Rawls in the fourth grade, when she recommended I read SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which took me deep into the Ozarks for an atypical adventure with a young kid and some escaped monkeys from the circus. When, a year later, my English teacher decided we were all going to read another Rawls classic, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, I was all about it. I couldn't wait to get started.

Ah, ignorance truly is bliss.

There are two things you need to know about me if you didn't. One, I love dogs. I love most animals, really, but I truly, really love those who go beyond pet to four-legged friends. Two, I'm a softy. I'm sentimental. I'm emotional. I cry at sad movies. Hell, I cry at sad anything. I cry at happy stuff. I cry all the time.

So it should come as NO surprise to anyone that when we got to the end of this book, I sobbed my fool heart right out. I had to do it covertly because it was fifth grade and, you know, kids are cruel. I just laid my head on my arms on my desk and tried not to weep loud enough for those around me to hear.

It was the first time, ever, that a book had made me cry. What a wonder that was! A book is filled with stories that some author just made up out of nothing. And it made me feel. It made me feel a lot. That is magic, my friends. Pure, unadulterated magic. If you can find that in a book, how can it not land on your list of favorites?

GO READ THIS BOOK. And read give it to your kids to read when you're done. Hell, give it to anyone to read when you're done. It will remind anyone what it's like to be a kid. It'll remind you what it's like to want something really bad, bad enough to make it happen no matter what it takes. And it'll remind you of the purest love you'll ever know, the love between a kid and his dogs, who would risk their lives to keep him safe.

Seriously. I'm crying already. Go get this beautiful, beautiful book.

I have a confession to make. I used to read VC Andrews books like I was popping Pringles out of a can. There's a little embarrassment with this because these books are not literary classics by any stretch. They are brain candy, pure and simple, written mostly for a young adult audience who gets off on lots of angst. These are larger than life stories that take you right to the line of social acceptance and demand you choose a side. I read FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC first, which, if you've read it, is an icky little sojourn into darkness of the worst kind... the kind that perverts innocence and damages kids. Because of this, I stopped reading this series with book 1.

I don't know that I would have read another of her books if it weren't for the bestie handing me the first book of a new series, the Casteel books, which started with HEAVEN, the story of a beautiful girl trapped in the ugliest of places. Heaven Leigh Casteel was raised in a one-room shack in the hills of West Virginia. The struggle was real, y'all. You name it, this girl went through it. This was angst to the nth degree, and I just absolutely fell in love with the whole sordid tale.

My life had been no picnic, but it had nothing on this poor girl. Walking in her shoes gave me much-needed perspective that it could be worse, and I could get through worse. Thanks to my love for this character, who went through hell and back just in book one alone, I embraced the idea of book series that allowed me to continue the story wherever it may lead. I wanted more. I needed more. Some stories just don't end at the last page of one book, and I would never want them to. Because of this, I write series books of my own now. More often than not, I think much larger than one story or one plot. I want to build worlds, the kind that march you right up to the line of what you think you can take, where I can watch what you choose.

(This will be especially true with my newest series, one that will release this fall. But we'll talk more about that later. #DevlinisComing)

In the meantime, you can read the five books in the CASTEEL SERIES and rest assured that I won't take my new series THAT far.

Or maybe I will. Who knows?

I can't close my blog of favorites without talking about the Master, Stephen King. My favorite book of his is actually the first book I read, which I did almost entirely upon accident.

When I was a teen, I used to hang out with another bestie at her house in the country, where we would make cookies from scratch and watch movie after movie that they had taped from cable TV thanks to their new-fangled VCR. (It was 1984, these were indulgences at the time.) They had dozens and dozens of tapes filled to capacity with any movie that tickled their fancy. My friend especially liked horror movies, so I got my first education on such things courtesy of these sleepovers.

I'll set the scene for you. I'd head over to her house on the outskirts of town while it was still daylight. We would listen to music or she'd play the piano for me, which was awesome, since I love art in all its forms. We'd bake cookies, we'd eat pizza. You know, girl stuff. Then, after her mother had gone to bed, we'd go out into the living room to start our movie marathon. She'd set the ambiance by turning off all the lights, and we'd huddle there together next to that console TV in the dark, just the two of us. Since she'd seen a lot of these movies, she'd generally go to sleep first, and I was riveted to the TV in that dark living room, listening to the wind blow through the cracks in the windows, which had been insulated with plastic.

In other words, they breathed.

Another thing you need to know about me: I'm a wuss. Actually, I'm a wuss with an overactive imagination, which is even worse. Needless to say, I didn't make it through a lot of those movies before I woke up my friend and we finally went to bed. One such movie was CHRISTINE, which was based off of a Stephen King novel.

Since I enjoyed what I did see of the movie, I decided to get the book to fill in the rest. I had to know what happened, but in a safe environment, i.e., a book. I was entranced from the very first chapter. I loved the conversational tone of it, like I was sitting right next to these characters as they shared their stories. I loved that it included pop culture references, like rock music and even a nod to the movie GREASE. I tore through that book in a couple of days flat, and from then on I was a SK-devotee. I felt wooed and courted by Mr. King, taken in hand and guided along the path wherever he wanted to go. Instantly I trusted him. I read everything I could get my hands on, even though I wasn't necessarily what you might call a traditional horror/science fiction fan.

My favorite story of his wasn't horror at all. RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, compiled with other short stories in DIFFERENT SEASONS, knocked my socks off. As you can probably already tell from my list, I like stories best when they circumvent my expectations, and that is what he did masterfully in that story. Even in short format it was one of the best things I ever read.

In fact, I haven't even watched the movie yet, because that's how sacred the story is to me. I want to preserve the vision I created with SK as the author/reader experience. That's a very intimate relationship to my mind, especially when the writer in question cultivates and tends to that relationship like the special gift that it is. SK does that better than most, which is why he HAS to be on any reader's list. In so many important ways, he taught me what it was to be a writer just because he took care of me as his reader, and that's a beautiful thing.

And in honor of all these amazing authors and their incredible stories, and #NationalReadaBookDay itself, I'm offering my entire GROUPIE SAGA on sale through Labor Day. You get four titles GROUPIE, ROCK STAR, MOGUL and VANNI for under $5, so you can catch up on one of my most popular series and my most popular characters.

Everything I learned from all my favorite books I applied in that groundbreaking saga, which helped put me on the map. It may not change your life, but hopefully it'll sprinkle a little fairy dust your way.

No matter what you read, or who you read, I hope you enjoy this amazing, wonderful day within the pages of a book, any book. And feel free to share any recommendations you have! (And don't forget to leave reviews!)