Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween From the Heartwarming Authors

Trick or treat! 
Heartwarming authors are here 
To share something sweet
We've gathered some photos to share
Halloween costumes
That shouldn't give you a scare!

Leigh Riker's granddaughter Kim (on the right) with her friend Nicky dressed as bumblebees - sweet as honey! 

Anna J. Stewart looking adorable as Princess Leia and a witch (I hear we missed out on an amazing Batgirl costume!)

Dana Mentink thinks she looks "corny", but the rest of us think she's a cutie!
Pamela Tracy's son went as Darth Vader, but this little guy wasn't going to wear a helmet, he went with the glasses and fake nose (with pencils stuck up there) because ... why not!

Liz Flaherty's granddaughter Tierney is the sweetest candy kiss around!

Amy Vastine's son and daughter - sometimes the frog has to kiss the princess!

Do you have a favorite Halloween costume? What were you when you were little or who do you get to dress up? Your kids? Your pets? Tell us who puts the BOO in your Halloween! No tricks, just treats :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween by Marion Ekholm

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday with my family. I’ve poured through our photos and came up with several with a Halloween theme starting with our first cat – Beulah.
Now is this a proper cat for Halloween, or what?

Eventually she grew into a good size.


When we added to our family – a bird named CooCooPoo - Beulah was entranced. She adored the bird. Way too much. We had to hang the bird’s cage from the ceiling.
When Beulah leapt onto the cage and nearly brought it down, we gave the bird to another relative.

I enjoyed making costumes. Here’s my son in his Snoopy outfit. He helped make the head.
Fooling around with papier-mâché on a balloon to make costume heads is such great fun, so when I had a group of Cub scouts, they all made their own for Halloween.
I can't remember which one was my son, although I kind of recognize that clown in the center with red and black striped sleeves.
The young man on the right made the balloon head but refused to wear it. He had the first Mohawk haircut I ever saw and wore  jeans to high school graduation rather than a suit like the rest of his classmates. Luke, a wonderful kid, always marched to his own drummer. He died a few years ago in his early forties from cancer. Greatly missed.
And this clown is my granddaughter clowning around.
Do you have fun times on Halloween?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interview with Mary Kubica, author of THE GOOD GIRL . . . by Kate James

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. The well-received and critically-acclaimed THE GOOD GIRL is her first novel.

Welcome to our blog, Mary, and congratulations on the success of THE GOOD GIRL, your debut novel for Harlequin MIRA. I enjoyed it very much, and the reviews have been exceptional, with reviews such as:

“Psychologically rich and pulse pounding, THE GOOD GIRL had me hooked from the very first sentence and didn’t let go until the final word. I can’t wait to see what Mary Kubica comes up with next.”
~Heather Gudenkauf, bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Little Mercies

“A twisty, roller coaster ride of a debut. Fans of Gone Girl will embrace this equally evocative tale of a missing woman, shattered family and the lies we tell not just to each other, but especially to ourselves.”
~Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fear Nothing

“Kubica’s powerful debut . . . will encourage comparisons to Gone Girl. Unlike that dazzling duel . . . this Girl has heart – which makes it all the more devastating when the author breaks it.”
~Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Kubica’s debut thriller builds suspense steadily and will have readers guessing what’s really going on until the final pages.”
~Booklist Review

“…this excellent debut is compulsively readable and highly recommended for anyone who loves a mystery, a suspense tale, or a psychological puzzle.”
~Library Journal Review

It's a great pleasure to have you as a guest on our blog. How does it feel to have your first book in print, and for it to be getting such very positive response?

A: First of all, thank you so much for having me as your guest, Kate. It’s such an honor to be able to visit your blog.

THE GOOD GIRL has been on sale for a few months now and it still feels very surreal to me. It catches me off guard every time I walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf. This has been such an amazing experience, and the fact that reader response has been overwhelmingly positive makes it all that much better. I love hearing from readers, and seeing the impact my novel has had on them and on their lives. This is just a dream come true!

How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve been writing since I was a young girl, around 11 years old. Until recently, however, writing was a hobby for me, and not something I pursued professionally. After college I became a high school history teacher and taught in both the Chicago suburbs as well as the Omaha Public School system. It wasn’t until 2005, when my daughter was born and I decided to stay home with her, that I was able to focus my efforts on writing. When my daughter was napping or the house was otherwise quiet, I’d pull out the laptop and get to work. I wasn’t sure if I would ever finish the novel and highly doubted that anything would become of it, but somehow or other a few paragraphs or a few pages a day added up to THE GOOD GIRL.

Can you share with us your path to becoming published and how long it took?

A: It took quite awhile to see THE GOOD GIRL’s publication day. I finished the novel in 2010 and submitted to agents. Initially, it was met with rejection from every agent; it wasn’t until 2012 that one of the agents reached out to me and said my novel had stuck with her all those years and she wanted to represent it. Of course I was thrilled! She and I worked together for a few months to make some edits on the manuscript, and by the end of 2012 I had a contract with Harlequin MIRA. It was another 18 months until the novel was published. It’s a very long time of course, but in retrospect, it was well worth the wait. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.

Based on the reaction to THE GOOD GIRL, I expect readers are eagerly awaiting your next release. When can we expect it, and can you tell us a little about it?

A: My second novel PRETTY BABY will also be released from Harlequin MIRA. Like THE GOOD GIRL, it’s another suspense tale set in the Chicago area. PRETTY BABY is the story of a mother who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby, and decides to help them with their plight. As she does, she uncovers more about the girl’s past, and comes to discover what effect this chance encounter will have on both their lives. Look for PRETTY BABY in the summer of 2015! 

Is there a particular person who has been most influential in your career? If so, in what way?

A: My lovely agent, Rachael Dillon Fried. If it wasn’t for her I would not have a published book. She sought out THE GOOD GIRL when all other agents said no, and took on the novel with faith and determination. So many people have been involved in my career and I appreciate each and every one of them, but Rachael is truly my rock, the one I can count on for anything and everything. She helps me brainstorm ideas, eases my many concerns, explains over and over again the publishing process, and is always ready to go to battle for anything I need. Without her, none of this would have happened and I think my life would be quite different right now if it wasn’t for Rachael.

Many would say you are living every aspiring author's dream! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

A: At a recent book signing, I had the privilege of meeting an 11-year-old aspiring author named Maya. She reminded me much of myself at that age, when I first discovered my love of writing. For all aspiring authors it is important to read, all the time, anything and everything you find to be of interest. Pay attention to the world around you (you never know where inspiration will appear!), and write, write, write. Writing, for me at least, is a practiced skill. I wrote quite differently ten or twenty years ago than I do now, but struggling through manuscripts that didn’t work helped me discover what did. And lastly, never give up. I had quite a bit of rejection before I found an agent who loved my book as much as I did.

What do you enjoy reading in your spare time and who are your favorite authors?

A: I love to read a little bit of everything, from historical fiction, to mystery and suspense, to women’s fiction. Some of my favorite authors include S.J. Watson, Ann Hood, Anita Shreve, Heather Gudenkauf and many, many more. I’m currently reading THE WINTER GUEST by Pam Jenoff and absolutely loving it. Pam has created such a touching story of two sisters in World War II Poland. I can’t read as fast as I wish I could, however, so my to-be-read pile is stacking up quickly!

You also care for animals at a local shelter. Can you tell us a little about this and how people could help?

A: Yes, I would love to! As many people know, I’ve been working in a local shelter for many years now, and have a houseful of my own animals, most of who have followed me home from the shelter. My main role is photographing all new arrivals to help them find a new home, but I’ve filled many positions in my time there, from fostering kittens to leading a story time for children to cleaning cages and kennels. For anyone interested in getting involved, I would highly encourage contacting your local humane society or animal shelter. Most shelters are desperate for volunteers and/or foster families, and are in need of financial assistance or donated supplies such as pet food, blankets, old newspapers, etc. – check online at your local shelter for a wish list. Being a responsible pet owner is tremendously important as well. Before adopting a pet, be certain you understand the financial and time commitment pet ownership entails. And, perhaps most importantly, be sure to spay or neuter your animals to help cut down on animal overpopulation, and whenever at all possible, adopt your family pets rather than purchasing from pet stores.
Bonnie has found her forever home. 
Roger just found his forever home, too!

In closing, is there a special message you would like to deliver to your readers?

A: Getting feedback from readers has been the highlight of this entire experience. I am so fortunate to receive the kindest emails and Facebook messages about THE GOOD GIRL from those who have read the novel. I would like to send a huge thank you to all of these wonderful readers who have read the book, invited me to join their book clubs or have reached out to me online. Word of mouth is so important in this industry, and to those readers who graciously left reviews or encouraged family and friends to read: thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to be a guest on our blog, Mary! Please accept my best wishes for much success with your books.

Thank you so much for having me, Kate! Best of luck to you, too. I am eagerly awaiting A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS!

You can connect with Mary at her website, on Twitter, or Facebook   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Got fears? A writer's top three! by Dana Mentink

Since it's Halloween week and all, I've been thinking about the topic of fear. When I wear my suspense writer hat, I spend a lot of time considering what makes people break out in goosebumps. Turns out, there are some common fears that many of us share. According to a Gallup poll, the top three fears are: snakes, public speaking and heights. I don't personally have those fears (I'm scared of the dark, chickens, deep water and other nonsensical things) but as a writer, I've got a few that give me shivers. Here are my top three writing fears.

1. My book finally hits the shelves, my magnum opus! The jewel of my writing career and...gasp! Choke! My name is misspelled on the cover. A minor point, you say? Picture it....Love and Larceny by Dana MENSTINK! Arrgh!

2. And what could be worse than an, um, unfortunate typo. I put together my well crafted sentence about the rugged hero and his pickup only instead of "truck" I substitute another letter for the "tr." Makes my stomach clench just imagining it!

3. How about this scenario? I've been given the green light to submit a proposal to a big publishing house. I'm so thrilled that I stay up for 72 hours straight perfecting each and every word. Deadline approaching, I quickly attach the file and hit the send button and later this big New York editor replies. My pulse races until I realize she's inquiring why I sent her my daughter's second grade essay on whales instead of my sizzling romance. Now THAT'S scary!

So what are you afraid of? Would love to hear what makes your heart go pitty patty?.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's An Hour, Anyway?

by Patricia Bradley

In one week, my life will return to order. I will get back that hour I lost last March. Yes. November 2nd  we will fall back to normal Standard Time.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be happy with this transition. In fact, I think I am in the minority. Most people prefer Daylight Savings Time, DST for future reference, because it gets dark later. But my question is, what can you do at 6 o’clock in the evening in the dead of winter anyway?

I really need to get up by 5 each morning—early morning is my best writing time, but it’s so hard to get up when it’s still dark outside. As I pondered this post, I wondered who first came up with the idea of DST.

Well, it turns out Benjamin Franklin way back in 1784  published an essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” where he suggested that people get out of bed earlier in the morning to make use of the morning sunlight. In that way, they could cut costs on candles.

Jump forward 121 years to William Willett, a British builder, who proposed that clocks be set ahead 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April and then resetting them again to normal time on each of the four Sundays in September. However, farmers opposed the bill and Willett died without seeing his idea come to fruition.

But by 1916, Germany implemented DST on April 30 by having clocks turn forward an hour. This was to save fuel which in turn would help the war effort. See, I told you it was a bad idea.

In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created “War Time” during World War II. DST was year-round.  I guess I should be glad he didn’t set them ahead 2 hours like Britain did.

Then in 1966 Congress implemented the Uniform Time Act that stated DST would begin on the last Sunday in April and continue until the last Sunday in October. However, this bill also allowed states to choose whether to be exempt from DST. Hawaii and most of Arizona are DST free! Alas, I live in Mississippi.

The date has been changed again, from October to Sunday, November 2. so on that date this year, it will suddenly be 1 a.m. and I will get to sleep in an extra hour…at least until March 8, 2015 at 2 a.m.

How about you? How do you feel about DST?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Lee McKenzie

Today we’re celebrating the release of THE PARENT TRAP by Lee McKenzie.

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

This book started with the setting—the fictional town of Serenity Bay on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. It’s my first book set in Canada and I’m very excited about that. When I discovered that both the hero and heroine were single parents of fourteen-year-old daughters, I knew those girls would get up to something. Teenagers always do, don’t they? And then that old Haley Mills movie came to mind and I thought it would be fun to do a twist on that. So instead of two long-lost sisters reuniting a family, in my version of The Parent Trap, two BFFs unite their families.

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

“What if happily ever after was even better than in the movies?”

How long did it take you to write?

Five months.

What is your favorite scene?

I don’t have just one. I loved writing the high school dance scenes with both teenage girls and their “dates,” and the hero and heroine there as chaperones. I also have a peculiar fondness for epilogues because they close the circle so nicely.

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

Jennifer Lawrence (with short hair) and Ryan Gosling (clean-shaven), because they’re who I pictured while I was writing this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The hero, Jonathan Marshall. Seriously, the man is Ryan Gosling-gorgeous and he can cook. Who doesn’t love a guy who knows his way around the kitchen?

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned that if I write a book set in a fictional town that’s close to where I live, then I don’t have to do any research on the setting! I also learned a lot about fashion. In The Parent Trap;jsessionid=ED96929F057A442327042C50EA2B3BEF?iid=54429&cid= , the heroine and the hero’s daughter are both fashionista’s (and I’m definitely not) so I did a lot of internet research on various fashion designers. As a result, some beautiful clothing and accessories found their way into the story. 

My favorite part was using some gorgeous vintage-inspired dresses in the epilogue. They were designed by Debbie Murray, a young and extremely talented Vancouver designer whose label is called Happy Yellow Dress . Click on the link to check out the dresses and see if you can figure out what happens in the epilogue.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

I didn’t have any particular songs or styles of music in mind as I wrote this book, but I’d say the hero and heroine would likely listen to light rock. For the teenagers, I’m thinking something by Taylor Swift.

This is your 8th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?

It means I’m happy to be alive. A cancer diagnosis coincided with the release of my second book, but after major surgery and a full year of chemo, here I am. I am so fortunate to have added six more books to my list, even more fortunate to have editors willing to continue working with me, and I look forward to sharing many more stories with readers.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’ve been dabbling with a story about a jilted Montana cowboy-slash-helicopter-pilot who finds an interesting way to mend his broken heart. I’m afraid this cowboy’s story won’t be for Heartwarming, though. He simply refuses to behave.

I’ve also been working on an idea for a series set in a small town in Wisconsin—three books about three sisters and the men who love them. I’d also like to write their father’s story. He raised his girls on his own and I think he deserves a happy ending, too, but I wonder how readers would feel about a romance featuring a wounded war hero in his late forties. If anyone has thoughts on that...yay or nay...I’d love to hear them. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?  

Right now I’m reading The Lakeshore Chronicles series by Susan Wiggs, and anxiously awaiting the third book in Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer series on October 28. Next up on my TBR pile is A Long Time Gone by Karen White.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Introduction to Deals Only by Muriel Jensen

Good Morning, All!  I apologize for always adding my photo, but it's all I know how to do.  And straight text looks so daunting.  You're welcome to print this out, cut out my photo, and use it to play darts.

We live about five blocks up a hill from downtown Astoria.  It used to be a thriving little commercial avenue, but like most cities, serious stores have moved out of town and we're left with wonderful restaurants, interesting boutiques, but nowhere to buy groceries within walking distance.  Until I discovered Deals Only. I'd read somewhere that those thrifty grocery stores carried old, unreliable, and pirated products, and since it was right across the street from Safeway, I ignored it.  Until I had friends coming in the afternoon and nothing for dessert. Safeway had moved, so  I braved the purportedly illegal products, bought a chocolate chunk brownie mix, and thus began my love affair with the store.  They were absolutely delicious.

First of all - you'll probably all love this - they have a stationery section larger than our actual stationery store. (except for the office furniture)  I've bought a dozen fine-tip Bics for $1.  Yellow pads for 79 cents.  Purse calendars with pretty pictures for $1.  Post it note pads for 25 cents.

Gift bags are 99 cents, unless you need a big one for children's toys or wedding gifts, and then they're $1.99.  Have you priced a Hallmark gift bag lately?  (I hate to be disloyal - I love their channel - but 3.99 for a gift bag makes you think you could have added that much money to the gift.)

Seasonal socks are $1.  Without a job where I have to look elegant, I wear socks all the time.  I'm wearing a pair right now with witches and pumpkins on them - aaand, they play scary sounds.  Freaked out the cat this morning when I got dressed.  But $1!  The sign I mentioned a few days ago about Free Broom Rides came from Deals Only and was $2.99.

The food section has been a fun introduction to other cultures.  I now love Matzo crackers and chocolate macaroons, which show up after most Jewish holidays.  We eat refried beans, put jabanero sauce on our omelets, and eat different kinds of Mexican dulces.

Deals Only is probably the only place in the country where 12 oz of bacon is $3.49.  I asked how they could keep selling it at that price (Safeway sells it for $6.99.)  I've heard about the disease that's really hurting the pig population and I sympathize with the farmers, but can't pay that for bacon.  I was told Deals Only charges what it costs them to buy it, so it's a sort of loss-leader - only they do break even.

Cheyenne's Vita Bone dog treats are $2 a box, and sometimes I can buy a big package of Fancy Feast for the cats for $4.99.

Occasionally, there are surprises - like yarn, or jeans, or hats, or purses.  It's one of those thrill-of-the-hunt things.  Some days there are real treasures, and some days just milk and eggs.  But I love it when I find something fun.

When I was little, my mother and my Aunt Mamie went twice a year to a sale at Filene's Basement in Boston.  (a women's store, notorious for the wild nature of the shoppers)  They would come home with pink cheeks and sparkling eyes and usually a hat or a dress that would have cost a bundle at full price.

Since I'm nowhere near Boston, I'm upholding the tradition as best I can.

Where do you love to shop?