Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Books Are Written (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I can finally say I've written a Heartwarming novel!!  Two of them, actually, in six weeks time.  They are a mini series called The Historic Arapaho, set in a historic apartment building in downtown Denver.  The first book, Once Upon a Friendship, is out in July!!  The second, Once Upon A Marriage, is out in October.  My editor is working on Once Upon A Friendship and says she loves it!!!  I hope you all do, too.  This is a new venture for me.  I was a little shaky when I first dove into the pool.  But felt like I could swim the ocean by the time I typed 'The End' for the second time.  Today I saw the unofficial cover art for Once Upon A Friendship.  I LOVE IT!!  I wanted to share it with you all, but it has to be a secret until it's official.

So...I will share something else.

In two days time, I have another book debuting!!  Mother By Fate is part of my Where Secrets Are Safe series with Harlequin Superromance.

This story is a standalone.  Completely.  And yet, it's also connected to a bigger hole.  It's different.  It takes place, for the most part in three days.  It's intense.  Lives are in the balance.  And a counselor has to decide who to trust.  If she makes wrong choices a little boy might die.

Book Six in this series, The Good Father, is out in June.  Today I am working on Book Seven.

Where Secrets Are Safe is a series, and yet, the books are independent.  They center around a unique women's shelter - The Lemonade Stand - where secrets are safe.  You see some recurring characters.  Sometimes.  Mostly each story is a journey unto itself.  And a lot of them take place away from The Lemonade Stand.  These are stories with twists.  Stories that are intense.  Some are suspenseful.  Some are heart-wrenching.  In all of them strength and goodness and joy are more than just carrots dangling on the end of a string.  They are the light at the end of the tunnel.  And sometimes the means to get to that light.

You can click on the cover above to read an excerpt of the book.  Today, here, I will give away two digital copies (one to each of two winners) of winners choice of any one of the first four books in this series.  Name your choice for a chance to win! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oh, to have a vacation! by Cynthia Thomason

Hi All, there have been several posts lately about the coming of spring and the long winter. And why not? For you folks up north it has been a wicked season. Record snowfalls, record temperature plunges. My native Ohio is suffering through days of below zero temps. I can remember that my college didn't let the female students wear slacks unless it was below 20 degrees. Of course that's not a rule now, but I can imaging those frost-bitten young ladies would be doubling up the snowpants in this weather!

Here in South Florida, we have had record numbers of tourists and temporary residents - nearly double what some recent years have produced. Our streets are crowded with traffic, the restaurants have long wait lines, even the real estate brokers have smiles on their faces. So this made me wonder... I know what brings people to my neck of the woods - the sun-warmed beaches. But what brings them to your area? Do you have a spot that draws tourists in one or all of the seasons? I'd love to know if I've been there. Come on, someone from Wisconsin, tell us about the Dells! What is the favorite tourist destination within a few miles of your house?

It can't stay cold forever. Maybe your recommendation will bring us all scurrying to your house!
Stay warm and read or stay warm and write!

p/s Me and Sparky on vacation

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hobbies for women? Two epic fails!

Hello, everyone! Dana Mentink here. I've got hobbies on the brain. I always do, as I launch into creating new characters, because I think hobbies are a great way to tell what makes someone (fictional or not) tick. Me? I'm a nut, and an attention challenged nut at that, so I figured it might be more telling to reveal the hobbies I've failed at, rather than latched onto.

Hobby fail the first: knitting. My knitting instructor is probably still recovering from her migraine. While the class busily creating scarfs, hats, socks and sweaters, I produced what was kindly described as a "fruit cozy." That's a misshapen, stringy net thing with holes that might accommodate apple stems if you could wrestle the unfortunate fruit inside. I did not sign up for the second knitting session, and I'm pretty sure I saw the teacher do a silent fist pump.

Hobby fail the second: Scrapbooking. Oh wow did I get off to a blistering start! Colored paper, stickers, fancy bobbers and borders!!! I mean my first photo page was incredible! Day one of Emily Mentink's life, recorded for posterity. Then I realized the zealous scrapbookers seated all around me intended to put similar effort into pages for each and every day of their wee ones lives. Doing the math, I discovered I'd have to repeat this process 363 more days just to record the first year of Em's life. And I actually went ahead and had a second child! Scrapbooking extravaganza times two! I closed up shop and slunk away in disgrace.    

So what's a middle aged hobby failing woman with attention problems supposed to do? I found the perfect hobby for me...fiction writing! There is no yarn involved (unless you want to think of story telling as yarn spinning), and it does not require one to do the same thing day in and day out. My stories can go all wacky, willy nilly, zipping from one place to the next to keep up with my imagination and if I get bored of one? I'll work on two at once, like I'm doing now as I pen a lighthearted romance and a romantic suspense. Do you love it? I did, so much that my hobby became my business. Though my fruit will never be cozy, I think it's the perfect hobby for me!

What's your hobby? Did you ever have any "hobby fails" like I did? Would love to hear your thoughts!  

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts on Winter

by Patricia Bradley

Did you realize this time next month Spring will be three days old?
Photo from Bing
I can't wait!! But until then I've made a resolution (I know, it's not the first of the year) to not gripe and grumble about the weather. After all, I live in Mississippi and don't have it nearly bad as others. Our low has only been 8, not -25 like Flint, Michigan, and it didn't last long. 

But I have the mulligrubs. For the past week, it's been below freezing with lots of precipitation. The solid kind. So, I've been ranting and raving at the weather like it will do any good.

Back to my resolution. The only way not to gripe and grumble is to try and find something good about what's going on weather-wise. Like, the mosquito population should be much smaller this summer since hopefully, they all froze to death. Same for ticks. But probably the best thing to focus on is the beauty of the frozen tundra. 

And, then my daughter posted this on Facebook:
And I was back to this:
from Facebook
So, how about you. How do you feel about this winter?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sit-Down Saturday with Loree Lough

Today we’re celebrating the release of ONCE A MARINE, #1 in Heartwarming's "Those Marshall Boys" series.

So, Loree, where did you get the idea for this novel?

Well, I have friends and acquaintances who were the victims of assault. Two came through it like champs--thanks to hard work and determination. One is still grappling with the horrors, which is proof that no two people handle trauma and tragedy in the same way. These differences inspired me to dig deeper, to try and understand WHY. Interviews with psychiatric specialists and nearly 3 dozen women who survived various levels of violence led me to the expected conclusion: If this many were willing to talk about their attack, how many are quietly coping with the haunting nightmares?

ONCE A MARINE is my attempt to shed a little light on this bigger-than-we-realize issue, which affects every area--including relationships--of a victim's life. It takes patience, understanding, and love that knows no bounds to help a woman deal with what happened. And it takes a strong man to handle a broken woman.... 

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? 

If Former Marine Zach Marshall could save everyone in his scope of vision, he'd die trying.

How long did it take you to write?

From idea to research and interviews, to proposal and contract, then writing and editing, and finally, book-on-the-shelves, I'd estimate the process took approximately 6 months.

What is your favorite scene?

I loved the hoedown dance floor scene, when Summer watched a little girl balance on the toes of Zach's cowboy boots and realizes what a wonderful father he'd make...and hopes the doctor was wrong (that the damage done by her attacker may mean she can't have children). In my eyes, it was a dual realization moment: Summer loved Zach enough to want to spend the rest of her life with him. They haven't confessed their feelings for one another at this point, so naturally she wonders--if she finds the courage to tell him the truth--he could ever love her enough to accept not having children of his own.
Who was your favorite character and why?

Much as I'd like to say Zach, for his big heart and protective nature, I have to choose Summer. She could have accepted life as a hermit, avoiding the outside world--and men in particular....

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?

For Zach, I'd choose Taylor Kitsch, and Erin Moynahan as Summer. 

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

Mostly, that life always tests our mettle...and it takes intense strength of character to pass those tests.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

Since my on-the-road days, I've a huge Country music fan. And because ONCE A MARINE is set out west in Vail and Denver, Colorado, I think this Rodney Atkins song fits perfectly: 

This is your 102nd book on the shelves (of 104 contracted and to be released by year-end 2016).  Exactly what does that mean to you?

It means I owe a HUGE thank you to a whole bunch of people: God, for blessing me with a talent for words, an unending supply of story ideas, and the grit and determination to write-write-write no matter what; my family, for putting up with my crazy schedule (and crazy behavior, like talking out loud or acting out characters' gestures to make sure I can describe them properly); my agent, Steve Laube, for finding homes for the proposals I send his way; my editors for helping me sharpen and shine every word; reviewers, for write-ups that allow me to claim "5-star" and/or "102 award-winning books!" Last, but certainly not least, my readers, whose steadfast support moves enough books off the shelves to make Steve and my editors believe I can do it again. And hopefully, again!

What do you plan to work on next?

I'm jockeying back and forth between books #2 and 3 in the "Those Marshall Boys" series, both contemporaries, and books #2 and 3 in the "Secrets on Sterling Street" historical series. I'm also working on a project with actor/director Kevin James O'Neill called "Fifty Hours." (Kevin has lined up actors and producers who will breathe life into his original screenplay, but we can't share any more than that...for a while yet!)

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

Believe it or not, I'm reading "The Missing Manual," a book written to help people like me, who have no clue how to operate their new iPhone 5!

Loree Lough Bio: At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had nearly 5,000,000 4- and 5-star books in circulation. Books 103 & 104 (“Secrets on Sterling Street” historical series, and “Those Marshall Boys” contemporary series) will hit bookstore shelves throughout 2015 and 2016. She loves interacting with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and via email (and answers every letter, personally). c/o

Friday, February 20, 2015

Will the Real Reader Please Stand Up

Will the Real Reader Please Stand Up

Authors receive mail from readers all the time, and we love hearing from them. They are our validation and one of the reasons we as writers continue to tell our stories. This article isn't about mistakes in grammar, punctuation or even research and plot. Readers let us know that they liked or didn’t like something we wrote. We appreciate their feedback, even though it may hit a nerve. However, it isn’t a one way street. Authors learn some surprising things that readers discover in their books. It's not from one book or even ten. With every book something interesting develops.

  •  Readers really suspend belief when entering a world the author has created for the story about to be told. To the real reader, the characters they meet are real people. They have lives, hopes, dreams, and concerns. The reader sometimes argues or laughs with them. They will remember a scene and discuss it with fellow readers. Or replay it to a friend in an effort to convey the emotional experience evoked during their time in that fictional world. Thank you, readers. Authors love you. You’re the word-of-mouth we want working for us.
  • Real readers are touched by the author’s story. They want to laugh and cry and connect with the characters. Letters sent to the author usually has her in tears before she finishes reading. The reader’s emotions have been touched so deeply that she has to write the author, and let her know how much she has been helped in solving a problem or inspired her to make a positive change in her own life. In some cases, readers try to emulate the heroine’s characteristics, going for a job, enrolling in a class or standing up for themselves. 

  • Real readers want more of the story. They have bought into a family and want the stories of entire generational lines, including babies, brothers, sisters, cousins, adopted children and grandchildren. Once a reader buys into a family or a series, she wants to know more and more about them. Each new character introduced to the novel has a story and the reader wants to know that story, too. To the reader it’s a “just one more” world. This gives the writer a wealth of characters to write about, and a readership to expand and satisfy.

  • A real reader wants a book a month, if not more frequently. They want the author to write as fast as they can read. Unfortunately, this is impossible for most authors. There are some who can do it, but they cannot sustain that kind of creative ability for the long run. They will burn out. And readers can’t read that many books if all writers could put out that many. Authors understand that you want the next book in a series as soon as the current one ends. We work hard to fulfill your needs.

  •   Readers not only have imaginations, but they want that imagination turned into the visual. They want the book made into a movie. Authors receive letters from readers who cast the book with actors to play the roles. The reader is so much into the story that they want to see it on the big screen. Authors love this. We’d also like to see our stories come to life they way we wrote them. Sometimes, readers and writers are disappointed at the way Hollywood changes their story. However, seeing it vs not seeing it, which would you choose?

  •   Readers tell authors they should make a movie of one of their books. Oh, if only we could. The making of movies is a whole other industry and few authors have the means to take a chance on developing their book into a feature film. One of the greatest things an author could wish for is to have their story come alive as a movie starring all the best stars. However, to make a movie you need a small fortune, one that is disposable since there is no guarantee that there will be a return on that investment. But to make a movie, what the reader is really saying is sell your book to Hollywood and let them make a movie of it. Again, this is something an author would love to have done. There are contract issues at hand, but they would be the easiest to get around. The possibility of selling a book to Hollywood is like throwing a lighted match in the ocean and having it continue to burn for the next year. Yes, it happens. But of all the books written, the number that actually make it to the silver screen is less than one percent.

  •   Real readers are out on the streets, maybe virtual streets. Street Teams is a concept that’s come up in the last few years. Street teams are readers acting as human advertisers. They get a first read on an author’s book. They get the opportunity to give feedback to the author and they are the people creating the buzz, starting the positive word-of-mouth to get other readers to buy the book. We love these readers. We want more of them.

  • Real readers want to know the author. Many readers believe an author’s life is like that of the heroine she writes. Some of us wish it was. Authors draw on what they know and what they research, what emotions they have experienced and what highs and lows have touched their lives or the lives of someone close to them. This comes across in their writing and readers pick up on it. It’s usually the indefinable subtext that readers feel, where the words are not in your face. With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of e-mail, it’s easier than ever to converse with an author one on one or though her website.

             In the mail that readers send, these are the things they mention most often. Writers wish they could produce a book on demand. They would be delighted to be the Hollywood favorite and see their characters come to life with the same storyline they wrote. They’d love to meet all their readers and to get to know them as well as they want to know the author. Authors would like to write each reader as a character (the heroine, of course). While all these things aren't possible, the stories readers love will keep coming. And the real readers will continue to find them.
             For all authors, we thank you for being in our corner and cheering her us on. As always, keep reading.

Shirley Hailstock is the author of over thirty award-winning novels.  She is a past president of Romance Writers of America.  She resides in New Jersey with her family, where she is busy working on her next release.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

No Ordinary Trifle

posted by Lee McKenzie

This delectable dessert recipe is a little late for Valentine's Day, but for any occasion it's a feast for the eyes. Thanks to generous layers of strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream, it’s a crowd pleaser, too. I've made it many times but have never taken a picture of it, so you'll have to use your imagination. And I'm sure you won't have any trouble doing that after you read the list of ingredients!

1 pound fresh strawberries (or whole frozen, unsweetened)
1 or 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1 pound cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons orange liqueur (or orange juice)
3 cups whipping cream, whipped
sponge cake, thinly sliced (my local grocery store sells two round layers in a package, but you can also use lady fingers, any basic white cake or a pound cake)
6 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, grated

Slice the strawberries and set aside. If using frozen berries, they’re easiest to slice when still frozen. If using fresh strawberries, sprinkle the slices with one or two teaspoons of sugar and toss before you set aside. The sugar draws out the juices, which you need when you assemble the trifle.

Reserve a few berries (whole or sliced) for garnish.

Beat together cream cheese and the half cup of sugar. Stir in liqueur or orange juice. Fold in whipped cream.

Drain the strawberries and reserve the juice. You’ll need about one-quarter cup of juice. If necessary, add a little orange juice to make a quarter cup.

You’ll need a large trifle bowl or other clear glass bowl. Layer the ingredients in this order:

• Place half the cake slices in the bottom of the bowl and drizzle with half the reserved strawberry juice
• Cover cake with one-third of the cream cheese mixture.
• The next layer consists of half the strawberries. For the best visual effect, press some of the berries against the edge of the bowl.
• Sprinkle one-third of the grated chocolate over the berries.
• Repeat these layers.
• Spread the remaining one-third of the cream cheese mixture over the top.
• Garnish: arrange several whole or sliced strawberries on top of the final cream cheese layer and sprinkle on the rest of the grated chocolate.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Wishing all of you wonderful readers and writers a belated Happy Valentine's Day!

Until next time,
The Parent Trap (October 2014
"McKenzie takes a tired plot and turns it into a charming story."
4 Stars ~ RT Book Reviews