Saturday, October 1, 2016

We're Giving Thanks Sweepstakes!






To celebrate the upcoming release of our A Heartwarming Thanksgiving anthology of 13 Thanksgiving-themed short stories and some of our favorite recipes, we are running a We're Giving Thanks sweepstakes!

Here's a short trailer for you to enjoy!

video

We are giving away a grand prize consisting of a $70 Amazon gift card and one previously-released, signed book from each of the anthology's 13 authors (approximate value of US $150). We are also offering three second-place prizes of $10 Amazon gift cards.


For a chance to win, all you have to do is preorder A Heartwarming Thanksgiving through any retailer and register your preorder here. (Alternate method of entry available. See Official Rules for details.)

But that's not all!

We also have a Facebook party scheduled for November 3rd, 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern Time. All thirteen authors will be participating, sharing stories, recipes and more. And, of course, there will be lots of giveaways! We would love to have you join us. You can register your attendance here.

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Count down to Thanksgiving with one of our 13 poignant Harlequin Heartwarming short stories. This is a time to get together with family and friends, and reconnect over pumpkin pie and hot apple cider…or read about the stories where heroes and heroines struggle to get their dream holiday!

Snow Day Baby by Amy Vastine
Wedding at Turkey Run by Liz Flaherty
Her Thanksgiving Soldier by Leigh Riker
Mr. Right All Along by Jennifer Snow
Falling for the Cowboy by Sophia Sasson
The Marriage Gift by Tara Taylor Quinn
Heart of a Hero by Pamela Tracy
Thankful for You by Karen Rock
Autumn at Jasper Lake by Carol Ross
The Firefighter’s Promise by Kate James
Wedding of His Dreams by Cari Lynn Webb
The Sweetheart Tree by Rula Sinara
Married by Thanksgiving by Melinda Curtis


Happy reading!




Friday, September 30, 2016

Aaagghh!!



Hi, All!

Am not really complaining.  I know you all have awful schedules, many of you with children, demanding careers, and other issues.  But I just want to grumble about the month of September.  Remember that collectively, you are the shrink I can't afford.

I sold the book I'm working on in January while Ron was in the hospital, so, while it's always thrilling to make a sale, my mind was on other things.  I gave myself a long lead time for it because I knew a lot of personal concerns were going to take precedence.  So, I thought I had set my deadline for the complete book at December 1.

Getting Ron well again took much of the first half of the year.  We had many doctor visits, a whole new regimen of medications, PT, some scary TIA moments, and finally, he was doing pretty well.  So I spent the summer on the front porch with my computer (rain or shine) finishing a project I'd had in mind for a long time.  It's completion was something I had to do for me, and since I'd given myself such a long lead time on the current book, I considered myself in good shape.

Ha!  I did achieve my goal and had a wonderful time doing it.  But when I went to clean my office to make room for a new mess with the new book, I ran across the contract, which had been buried under the last reshuffle.  My deadline was (AACK!  Duh, duh, duhhhh!) November 1st!  It was August 30th.

Okay.  I had all of September to write the book, and all of October to edit.  I felt I had control.  Then the doctor prescribed another round of PT for Ron because his walking is becoming more and more difficult and he wanted to see if Medicare would pay for a motorized scooter.  But they require a PT report.  So, that meant PT twice a week for four weeks - and it began the first week in September.  PT itself is no big deal.  It's an hour.  But getting him dressed, down the stairs, in a cab, up an elevator takes about an hour and a half and depletes all the romance I have in me.  We also go by the hospital's coffee shop, which makes a mocha he can't resist.  That's another half an hour, plus the reverse of down the elevator, in a cab, up the stairs, changed into comfortable clothes - with the dog and cats who  are happy to see us helping.

Then, the company who has serviced our oil furnace for forty years, declared it dead last April.  It's an old 'octopus' thing that's giant with seven or eight ducts covered in asbestos.  Removing the asbestos and the old furnace to replace it with gas would cost $15,000.  We didn't have $1,500.  I imagined us closing ourselves behind the pocket doors with our space heater.  But  one clever young man got the idea of just leaving everything there and putting the very small new gas furnace right beside it.  It's a little more complicated than that, but that's essentially what they did - for $3,000 - and their client advocate got us a loan from Craft 3 (Not sure what that is, but I love them!) that we pay back on our gas bill over a 10 year period! (Remember my blog on the miracles in my life?  Here's another!)

This has been going since last May and they arrived last week to make the installation.  They had to create some parts on site, so for the last four days it has sounded like a machine shop in here.  They're at work in the basement but all the vents are open to make the connections, and it sounds like they're standing beside me.  Pounding on metal, power drilling, male laughter.  (That's not hard to take, but still distracting.)   Hard to think, much less write.

Believe it, or not, baseball season has been a great help to me.  Many of my days have left me no time to write, but there's been a Seattle Mariner's baseball game almost every afternoon or evening  for months.  (They're the closest Oregonians have to a home team.)  And I have three uninterrupted hours to write because Ron's just on the other side of the pocket doors, glued to the television with a cup of chai tea (blech!) and a bowl of popcorn.  I'm in the dining room with his old target-shooting ear protectors and two cats and the dog.  They seem to know I need quiet, because they pick their spots and sleep.

I'm at about 260 pages with another 100 to go.   Good thing October is a long month.  Baseball will be in post season early in October, and I'm not sure the Mariners will make it.  Football is just weekends, so that's not a lot of help.  Anyway, I trudge on as we all do when the going gets rough.

This will probably be my last Heartwarming.  I'm good at making the most of whatever time I have to write, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.  The house is falling down around us and while that works for Halloween decor, it's not great for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  (Slight exaggeration there.  Fortunately, shabby chic is still in, so we're holding up.)

My point is, that by this time next year, I'll be visiting the blog as a reader rather than a writer.  Even though words are my business, I can't find any appropriate to the feelings I have for each and every one of you.  It has so expanded my world to share your lives and let you into mine.  You are the kindest and most caring group I've ever been a part of and in big and small ways, that sustains me every day.

This isn't goodbye today - but the day is coming and on the chance I'm still in deadline mode and blithering, I want you to know what I feel while I'm still lucid.

Happy Weekend, Everybody!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"What ifs" in my life by Marion Ekholm


As writer’s we’ve all dealt with “what ifs” in our manuscripts, including several blogs in Heartwarming.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about “what ifs” in my life. What if I had gone in this direction instead of that? Maybe you’ve had the same thoughts.

When I was very young, I had two loves – writing and drawing. After reading Gone With the Wind, I started my own Civil War story and illustrated it with colorful pictures. My mother always encouraged my art work, but she had a tolerant expression when I read my stories. I served time on the school newspaper and yearbook but couldn’t imagine becoming a writer, certainly not with my typing skills. No one in my family thought I could make a living in either profession, but what if I’d been encouraged in my writing? Instead my teachers directed me to follow art at school. I entered contests and even had an article written about my art projects in the local newspaper.

I was accepted at Pratt in Brooklyn and Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. What if I had chosen Pratt instead of RISD? How different would my life have been? At the time I lived an equal distance from both colleges. A friend was also considering RISD and her father volunteered to take us both to see the place. Although she never attended, our trip gave me the opportunity to actually see the college. But what if my friend had been attending Pratt and taken me to see that college?  Would Pratt be in and RISD out instead of the other way around?

My mother warned me not to plan on four years. My brother graduated from high school in two and his education was a priority. A man had to provide for his wife and family while a woman would be taken care of for the rest of her life once she married. (Let’s all have a big laugh.) That was the prevalent belief at the time so women didn’t need an advanced education. It definitely was my uncle’s opinion. I overheard him ask my father why he would allow me to go  college. My father’s response – that’s what she wants to do. What if I hadn’t had my parents’ support.

My father, mother, me and my brother. What was on his mind when this was taken?
 
What if my brother had decided to go to college? Fortunately, it didn’t interest him. He chose instead to enter the Air Force.

Once I did my full four years and graduated with a degree in Textiles, my roommate and I took off for New York City. Instead of looking for work designing fabric, I took the first job I was offered as a lace designer. Partly it was panic. I needed employment and figured I’d look for something else once I was established. What if I had waited and looked for something more in my field?

Six months into living in Manhattan and I knew no one outside of my friends from school. I began searching for groups to join and joined two. One was a bicycle club that went on 30 mile trips. The other was a church choir. My first night at choir practice, I was asked to participate in the play the group was putting on – “Of Thee I Sing.” The bicycle club was planning their first trip and I had to choose. I chose music.

I’ve never regretted my choices. Art, college or participating in a musical (very far off Broadway). Singing with the church group provided friendships that have lasted to this day. But I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to bicycle on those long trips. “What if…” 

Have you had "what ifs" in your life?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Meet Cedar Key

Earlier this month Hurricane Hermine roared through the “big bend” area on Florida’s Gulf coast. Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in my state in eleven years, and she took a major toll in one of my favorite places, Cedar Key. Many of you have not even heard of this coastal village eighty miles north of Tampa. Only seven hundred full-time residents live there. Historically Cedar Key is best known for the manufacturing of pencils and brooms. Now it’s a sleepy town that comes to life on weekends when tourists or students from the University of Florida invade its square mile of territory.

There are no chain restaurants (that’s right – no McDonalds!) no chain hotels. Every business is privately owned by “Mom and Pop.” Restaurants stick out over the Gulf waters, downtown looks like a scene from a hundred years ago when people strolled. And the tide flow is incredible. You have to see it to believe it.

My husband, who was an avid fisherman, and I happened upon this town some years ago. I had already begun writing romances for Harlequin, and I immediately saw the quiet village as a perfect setting for a series of books set in my fictional Heron Point. My editor liked the idea, and a few years ago three books hit the shelves. An Unlikely Match, An Unlikely Father, and An Unlikely Family
.
But now, Cedar Key is suffering. Hermine took aim and the clean-up is ongoing. Here are pictures of Cedar Key pre Hermine:


Here is what Cedar Key looks like after an unwelcome visit from a major storm




I hope weekends are still lively and fun in this village, but I kind of think they won’t be for a while. So I encourage you – if you are coming to Florida, don’t skip this lazy, lovely gem on the Gulf coast. The residents are working hard to welcome you, and sometimes the biggest boost to rebuilding is just knowing people care. You won’t be sorry you settled in for a day or two under the one thing Hermine couldn’t change – the warm Florida sun.

I plan to continue writing love stories set in quirky, small towns, including my latest series, The Daughters of Dancing Falls. Book one, A Boy to Remember, and book two, The Bridesmaid Wore Sneakers, are available now. Watch for book three, Rescued by Mr. Wrong, coming soon.
Thanks for reading!
Cynthia



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Putting Food By

posted by Lee McKenzie

As a self-proclaimed foodie, autumn harvest is one of my favorite times of the year. For weeks now, our kitchen has been overflowing with fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden and local farmers' markets—corn on the cob, spinach and kale, root vegetables, carrots and peppers. Mmmmm...

Salad photo from Unsplash.com
One of Lee's summer salads
For the past several weeks, the focus at my house has been on tomatoes and apples.

Photo from Unsplash.com.
Photo from of Unsplash.com
The first project was canning sixty pounds of organic field tomatoes. Eighteen quarts and twenty-four pints later, the pantry is well stocked. I'll be making plenty of soups, stews and sauces this winter!

Lee's canned tomatoes
This year the apple tree in our backyard produced a bumper crop. The variety is called King and they are big and red and crisp and delicious.

After picking hundreds of apples, the tree is still loaded!
In addition to pies and crisps, I decided to make applesauce. First, I quartered and cored the apples, dumped them into a big roasting pan, peels and all, with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, and baked them until they were soft.

Baked apples
As the apples came out of the oven, I passed them through my food mill to remove the skins and then heated the sauce in my stock pot. I ended up with six quarts of applesauce and decided to can it as well, filling several pint-sized jars and twenty-four of these baby food-sized jelly jars.

Grandma Lee's homemade applesauce
And when my beautiful granddaughter starts to eat solid food, she'll have homemade, organic applesauce, no sugar added, made with love in Grandma's kitchen. I hope she enjoys it!

Our wonderful Willa
I grew up in a rural community at a time when growing and preserving food was a way of life. Today I can afford to go to the supermarket to buy everything I need, but there's a real satisfaction to being somewhat self-sufficient. Are you a gardener? Would you like to be? Do you shop for picked-today-produce at your local farmers' market? Do you have tips for canning and preserving garden produce? Please share!

On the writing front, I have a cover reveal! His Best Friend's Wife, the second book in The Finnegan Sisters series, will be a January 2017 release.


Here's the back cover blurb:

A second chance for his first love 
Paul Woodward has always known Annie Finnegan was the one. But when she married his best friend, he moved away from their tiny hometown to try to forget the woman he could never have. When her husband passes away, Paul is heartbroken and wants to be there for the love of his life—but how can he, given the way he feels? As he returns to take over his ill father's medical practice, though, it's clear that Annie and her son are the family Paul longs for. As Annie heals and their connection grows, Paul will wait to find out if love really gives second chances…
For Australian readers, The Christmas Secret (originally published as a Harlequin American Romance) is available in a pre-holiday Mills & Boon Western Romance anthology along with Rebecca Winters' Santa in a Stetson. This was my "secret baby with a twist" story, and it will always have a special place in my heart.


And the cover blurb:
AJ Harris needs to leave town, before he confronts his past in the form of a tool belt-wearing beauty who is also the mother of his child. Fate has other plans when AJ inadvertently hires Samantha Elliott to renovate and sell his grandmother’s old house. Now he has to hide the truth: he adopted the child Sam abandoned three years ago. No one can prevent the bond between mother and child. When AJ learns the selfless reasons behind Sam’s actions, AJ’s secret becomes a burden he can’t keep. Will Sam forgive him for having their son all along? Or will one little boy’s love bring together a family…just in time for Christmas?
Happy harvest, everyone, and happy reading!

Until next time,

Lee

www.LeeMcKenzie.com
To Catch a Wife, Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2016
His Best Friend's Wife, Harlequin Heartwarming, January 2017
Cowboy, Come Home, Harlequin Heartwarming, release TBA

Monday, September 26, 2016

Patricia Johns: Waking Mr. Johns

The other evening, my husband went to bed before me. He was wiped after a long day at work, and I was still buzzed from my day of writing. So he went to bed, and I watched a murder mystery on TV. This particular show had a man who was dating a woman he wasn't entirely in love with because the woman he really loved had married someone else.

The show ended, I turned off the lights, checked the locks and puttered off toward bed. I crawled into bed next to my husband who was snoring deeply. But I got to thinking… Wouldn’t it terrible to be the Plan B? I knew I wasn’t… but what if things had turned out differently, and I was?



This is how a novelist’s mind works when she really should be sleeping and is staying awake in bed instead. She works herself into knots, replotting her own story. What if?? I decided that the only way to untie this unrealistic knot was to get some reassurance. So I snuggled up to my husband’s back. He didn’t wake up.

I kissed him. Nada.

I patted him. No luck.

I rolled over and put my back against his. Nothing. I reached back and smacked him harder.

Mr. Johns sputtered and moaned.

Me: Oh, are you awake?

Him: Uhh…. Yeah….

Me: So, I was just wondering, honey… Am I the love of your life? 

Him: (garbled) Yup.

Me: The one you’d measure everyone else against if I were to die an untimely death?

Him: Of course, baby. Soul mates.

Me: *smile*

Him: *snore*

Because men have a very hard time saying the right thing when they are half asleep, unless the right thing happens to be the true thing.

Being married to me must be interesting. Mr. Johns finds me intriguing, but that’s because he's in love with me. So when I wake him out of dead sleeps to ask him What If questions, he doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, the next morning, he doesn’t seem to remember.

That might be lucky.  ;)

***

If you'd like to see more from me, come by my blog at PatriciaJohnsRomance.com, or you can find me on Facebook. I write for three different Harlequin lines. My first Harlequin Heartwarming book, A BAXTER'S REDEMPTION comes out January 2017. In the meantime, you can check out my other Harlequin books right here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Channeling a Heroine ... by Cari Lynn Webb

In August we relocated our household: 2 teenagers, 2 cats and 1 dog from Alabama to South Carolina. We lived in Huntsville for six years and over that time managed to accumulate more stuff. My husband claims my daughters and I are pack-rats. I’ve denied this quite emphatically. However, once the movers packed up our house, I began to wonder about my husband’s allegation. (Not that I’ve admitted anything to him.)

As our furniture and belongings came off the truck and into the new house in South Carolina, I was convinced that the movers added someone else’s things to our load. The boxes seemed to have multiplied on the drive to our new place. I’ve spent the last few weeks with my head inside a box and packing paper scattered all around me. I’ve discovered all sorts of items: a video camcorder inside a box marked kitchen (it must have been hiding behind the cookbooks or I would’ve donated it, right?), yearbooks (I seriously thought those were still tucked inside my parent’s attic) and photographs from every decade since my parents were little kids (I’m now convinced my mom stashed a few boxes from her attic inside mine…very sneaky). It’s been a few weeks with multiple trips down memory lane.

I should mention that my husband is a minimalist. He is not a collector of chotchkes or mementos … scrap books are beyond his comprehension and why anyone (aka. Me) would tuck the baby bracelet from the hospital into my daughter’s baby book flabbergasts him. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a small box tucked inside a larger guest bedroom box that contained things from his past.

My daughter commandeered the framed photograph of his parents, who both passed on before my husband and I met. I sifted through other family photos, setting several aside. And then I found a stack of cards: birthday, Valentines, Christmas and the unspecific: thinking-of-you, miss-you kind. These cards pre-dated our May 2000 wedding and definitely weren’t from me. I read several, stuffed them back inside and shoved the box into the hallway.

That night over a bottle of wine, he asked what he could do to help with the unpacking, preferably something quiet so he would not bother us in the morning. My husband is an early riser while my girls and I enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. (He might be a minimalist on collecting things, but he makes up for it with his thoughtfulness and impressive cleaning skills.)

I suggested that he look through his box in the hallway and decide if he wanted anything inside.

He heard that bite in my tone before me. Heard that tinge of jealousy and latched on with renewed interest. First with: “I have a box.” Followed by: “What’s inside?”

At this point I picked up the wine bottle and muttered, “Old love letters.”

His laughter spilled around me as his gaze locked on. “From who?”

I sipped my wine, as if that would keep my mouth shut. Still I mumbled, “Not me.”

That’s when he leaned in. When his crisp blue eyes sparked. “You’re jealous?”

And that’s when I became trapped in one of my own stories. And I embraced all the heroines I’ve created and all the ones my favorite authors brought to life and I followed their lead: Denial. “Not really.”

My husband sat back, a small smile on his lips and channeled all those heroes who matched those heroines toe-to-toe, heart-to-heart. “Yes, you are.”

He’d caught me. Called me out. I’d surprised myself. Sixteen years of marriage and I got jealous.

The best part was my husband clinking his wine glass against mine and adding, “I still got it.” Before sauntering off to do the dishes with a renewed confidence.

I finished my wine, cataloging every internal reaction. I know now what it’s like to be one of my characters. Surely I can use this for more than a boost to my husband’s ego.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, the box is gone – cards and all – dismantled and recycled. He’s a really great man and thankfully all mine.


Wishing all of you a wonderful weekend and happy reading!
Cari


Cari Lynn Webb's next release is A Heartwarming Holiday (October 2016), a 99 cent collection of previously unpublished sweet holiday novellas which includes a 20% off coupon good for your next Harlequin Heartwarming purchase!





A Heartwarming Holiday
Amazon: http://amzn.to/29Tn8dv
iTunes: http://apple.co/29Tnrox
Kobo: http://bit.ly/29TplYt
Google Play: http://bit.ly/29S0hjp
BN: coming soon!