Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with LeAnne Bristow



Today we’re celebrating the release of LeAnne Bristow’s debut Heartwarming novel, “Her Texas Rebel.”

So, LeAnne, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I actually started writing this story when I was a kid in high school. I was fascinated with the idea of a bad boy that really wasn’t as bad as he pretended to be. Of course, the story got shelved for twenty something years while I grew up, got married and raised a family.


How long did it take you to write? That depends….do you count the version I wrote when I was 16? I started seriously pursuing the idea of getting the story published in 2012. Over the years Tony went from a youth pastor working with troubled teens to a carpenter, to a mechanic to a police officer. Originally the story was targeted for Love Inspired. An editor who was doing a pitch contest told me my voice and this story seemed like a better fit for Heartwarming. It took me two years and three rejections to follow that advice, but, here I am!



What is your favorite scene?
That’s a hard question! I have several, but one that really sticks in my mind is a scene where Tony and Sabrina dance together. Because she knows him so well, she knows that something is wrong and insists on examining and ultimately saves his life. It’s shortly after this scene that Tony discovers the truth about his son.

Your main character, Tony, has gold eyes and a dimple that is under his eye, rather than on his cheek. Why did you give your character such unusual characteristics?
Because Tony didn’t know that he had a son, I needed something that would immediately identify Levi as his son. Sharing the same hair and eye color wasn’t enough. The eye color was one clue, but I got the idea of the dimple because I have a cousin with the same dimple. I always thought it was unique and it made the perfect clue for Tony. Sabrina also has an unusual combination of hair and eye color, although it’s not played up a lot in the book. But I was always fascinated with the blond hair, brown eye combination. My youngest cousin has that combination and I used her as my model for Sabrina.



Tell us one thing you learned during research.
I did a lot of research about homes for children. I thought children’s homes were just for troubled youth who were sentenced there as a last resort. I discovered that kids of all ages are residents for a huge variety of reasons. A friend I grew up with now works at a children’s home and was incredible patient with me and answered a million questions.   

This is your first book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?
Oh my gosh! This book means everything. It is proof that dreams really can come true. If you’re patient and willing to work hard enough, anything is possible!



What do you plan to work on next? 
Currently, I’m suffering from the “Sophomore Book Syndrome,” meaning that the ideas I had for my next book didn’t pan out like I wanted to and need some revision. Okay, a lot of revisions, but I refuse to give up!

Thanks so much for stopping by! And don’t forget that you only have a few more days to enter our awesome Love Is Blooming giveaway!

One lucky person will receive a spectacular Love is Blooming Potter's Passion Prize Pack consisting of a solid-wood, hand-made planter box, brimming with treats for gardening enthusiasts, a garden tool set, tote and folding seat, thirteen “ever-blooming” blacked-eyed Susan garden stakes, three pairs of garden gloves, 25,000 Harlequin My Rewards points, and three previously-released, signed Heartwarming books! (Approximate retail value: $170.)



Next, is the Love is Blooming Gardener’s Dream Prize Pack is a gardener’s dream come true and arrives in a pretty planter. We’ve included three previously-released, signed Heartwarming books to read while you soak your cares away with the bath salts included in the prize pack after a hard day’s work. (Approximate retail value: $55.



About LeAnne: LeAnne Bristow may have been born and raised in central Texas, but she’s a desert rat at heart. After calling Southeast Arizona home for more than twenty-five years, her husband finally let her claim the title of an Arizonan. Her day job is teaching kindergarten, but her favorite pupil is her granddaughter and LeAnne is determined to teach her how to catch lizards and love the desert as much as she does.
She loves to hear from fellow book lovers. Find her on Facebook and follow her ramblings on Twitter.

Friday, March 24, 2017

EVOLVING WOMEN….STILL HEROINES BY CATHERINE LANIGAN







I hope these lovely, talented, history-making women of the silver screen and recordings have caught your eye. They each in their way are favorites of mine for their intelligence, their individuality, creativity and yes, their courage. In addition to all this, do you know what they have in common? 
All were abused.
All were hit, screamed at, belittled and for years each had to right their own ship, learn their own value and get out. I have included one of my all-time favorite people, Whitney Houston, because her ending was tragic, but there were so many times, she was strong. So many times she fought the fight, but her tragedy is there for us all to remember that money, fame, talent, beauty and all the “prizes” of the world cannot stop festering insecurities when they are fed by an oppressive mate bent on their own power, their own needs before the needs of all others, in their paths.
That theme has long, long been the placard I hoist---the soapbox upon which I stand. Granted, I have other causes celebre, but in this current contemporary morass where hate breeds more hate daily for no reasons at all, so much of what is strewn on the streets during riots---actually began in the home.

This I know.

During the mid 1990’s MIRA was in its infant stage, just toddling onto the bookstacks at Barnes and Noble. Back then, MIRA put me on the road to tout, promote and extol our brilliant new line of women’s fiction. We wanted to illuminate and glorify women’s strengths, their talents and their choices in this world headed to the new millennium.  In the process, my agent and I devised an essay contest in which we asked women who had been abused to write to us about their experience and not only how they got out of their situation but how they triumphed over poverty, lack of education, lost opportunities. How they saved their children and raised them to be good citizens of the world. The letters flooded in and it wasn’t because we offered a “Spa Weekend Getaway” or a “Night on the town”. It was because they had something to share. Something to say.

Over the years we compiled the best of the letters and HCI agreed to print them in
THE EVOLVING WOMAN: Intimate Confessions of Surviving Mr. Wrong.”
This was the kind of book you don’t want to become a New York Times Bestseller.  This was a niche book meant to be handed from mother to an abused daughter. Girlfriend to another abused girlfriend. A father to a daughter. You get the idea.

For one month solid, I went on the road visiting Women’s Shelters from New York to Amish Pennsylvania, Florida to Alabama, Denver to Portland to San Francisco. The stories were more harrowing than any movie you’ll ever see. You don’t want to know what these women went through. But they did. They lived. They triumphed. They are my heroes and they will always be.



In April, I will release with the heartfelt blessing from my editors, Victoria, Claire, Megan and Dianne, “PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM”.  My heroine, Cate Sullivan, is just such an abused wife. Though this story does not dwell on the abusive life she led,  she tells enough of it that is the same story that was told me all those years ago.

Cate is fiction. Her dilemma is not.


My Prism Book Tour starts in two days and yes, I’ll have giveaways and free books, but the real reason you should stop by is for my posts about my experiences and thoughts about those days back then when MIRA and HCI gave me full reign, and let me explore some very tough ground. Those days changed my life and I’ll never forget them.
In May, I will re-release my first book on this subject. “BECOMING.”  I just finished the edit on this story and for those who have any friend, family member, acquaintance that you believe might be in just such a situation, send her an e-copy. If you can’t afford the $2.99, write to me and I’ll gladly send it for free. My gift. My pleasure.


 Many of our Heartwarming stories deal with women who are starting over. Single mothers. Job loss. Insecurities. Death of a spouse. Divorce.  Harrowing health issues. And yes, abuse. As the authors we take on tough subjects, because life is tough for most all of us at one time or another.

We live in America where there is help for all manner of abuse. It takes courage to pick up a phone and it takes courage to help a friend.  Every state has a Domestic Abuse hotline. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is 202-745-1211. 

Again, if you know someone whom you even suspect is in trouble, copy them about this blog. Send them my book. Give them one of these phone numbers. But don’t stay silent. You can help. You can change her world.

To thank you for taking the time to read this blog, I'm giving away my new tote and two of my Shores of Indian Lake books. Make a comment here on this blog and I'll announce the winner on Saturday. I'll need your address to mail it to you, so make sure you make note of my email or leave an email for me to contact you. 


God bless you all. 

Catherine 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

National Puppy Day

My granddog, Remy, as a puppy

by Beth Carpenter

I’m a dog person. I love cats and horses and rabbits and finches as well, but dogs are special. That’s why I was excited to discover that today is National Puppy Day! It’s all about celebrating the joy and love puppies bring into our lives, and encouraging the adoption of rescue dogs and puppies. Today, I’d like to thank the people who work hard to bring pets and pet lovers together.
Roxy
This is Roxy, our resident clown and cuddlebug, as well as guardian of the castle. She belonged to a military family who wasn’t told until they’d moved into a new apartment that only small dogs were allowed. They could have dropped her off at a shelter, but instead they placed an ad, brought her out to meet us twice, and handed over her crate and toys so that the change in her life would be as seamless as possible. Roxy was eight months old then. She’s been with us more than seven years now, and still makes us laugh every single day.
Roxy digging for her squeaky toy

Remy and me
My granddog, Remy, was a rescue puppy. My daughter found her at a special adoption event. Someone else wanted Remy as well, but the foster family choose her, and they’ve lived happily every after. There’s a story behind Remy’s name. My daughter was working all over Arizona for a construction company right out of college. Several of the men she worked with had daughters around her age. They worried about her living alone in a trailer and told her she should get a gun. Instead, she got a dog and named her Remington. Remy is no weapon, but she is a devoted companion, thanks to the foster family who brought them together.

Then there are the people who go above and beyond. One day I took Roxy to the vet for shots and saw these puppies in their waiting room. Don’t they look exactly like Roxy must have as a baby? The receptionist told me one of their clients had found the puppies in a dumpster while on vacation in the Caribbean. She couldn’t stand to leave them behind, so she flew them to Alaska. Because of her and the veterinarian who helped, instead of dying in that dumpster, these puppies were ready to be adopted into a good home. 

So a special thank you today to all the foster families, volunteers, and other angels who work behind the scenes to find families for pets and pets for families. Do you have a story of a special animal and how they came into your life?


My first Harlequin, THE ALASKAN CATCH, comes out in August, and yes, there is a dog in the story. To celebrate, I’m giving away this Alaskan salmon-themed kitchen set to someone with a US mailing address, or a $10 Amazon card internationally. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Limes in the Ocean - a special holiday

Limes in the Ocean – a special holiday

I’ve been wondering lately – is it more difficult to keep love alive or to keep romance alive? I lost my husband almost four years ago, and today, when I’m writing this, is actually Tuesday, the 21st, his birthday. Keeping my love for him isn’t hard. I loved him for 35 years and I still do. Keeping romance alive is more challenging. But my family and I have a ritual we do every year on Buddy’s birthday, March 21st.

My husband loved the ocean, boating, fishing, snorkeling, almost anything that got him wet. He also loved drinks with limes in them. So every year on his birthday, my family and I go down to the Atlantic shore in Florida, order “well-limed” drinks and save the limes. Then we go out to the water’s edge and throw the limes in the water with a hoot and a holler for Bud to watch out for them. Silly? Maybe. Touching? Definitely, at least to me.

This year I’m adding a dog biscuit to the ritual in memory of Sparky who crossed the Rainbow Bridge three weeks ago. Perhaps only the fish will enjoy this citrusy, crusty treat, but  I know the limes and biscuit will find the right destination. And that destination is my heart. Am I sad today? Not nearly as sad as I once was. This bit of whimsy in honor of my husband makes me happy.

What do you do to commemorate certain dates that have significance in your life?

Cynthia

Be sure to check out this month’s fabulous Heartwarming books.

My Buddy with our beloved Midge. Now he has two pals in Heaven


Monday, March 20, 2017

Character Conversations: A Picnic with the March Heroines


 Welcome to another edition of Character Conversations, where the characters get to do the talking! Today, we’re sitting in with five lovely leading ladies:




Today, the girls are gathering together for a spring picnic. Let’s listen in…

***

EMMA: Rory, that potato salad looks delicious!

RORY: Thanks, Emma, but I have to admit – I cheated. My brother, Connor, made it. He’s a chef – owns his own restaurant, too.

MELANIE: Oh, right, I remember reading about him. He’s won some prestigious awards in the culinary industry, hasn’t he?

RORY (nods): A few. And well deserved, too. Here, try a bite.

(The girls all gather around for a nibble and offer up exclamations of approval.)

RORY: If there’s one thing we Irish know how to cook, it’s potatoes.

CASSIE: Ugh, I’m gonna gain ten pounds from this picnic! My trainer in L.A. is going to make me do extra crunches for this!

SABRINA: Oh, don’t worry so much, Cassie. You could stand to gain a few pounds. And nothing can do that better than my southwest steak wraps.

CASSIE: Am I the only one who brought something healthy to this feast? At least we can have my honey-lime fruit salad for dessert.

MELANIE: Fruit salad? Why have that when you can have… (she pops the lid of a plastic carrier) chocolate cupcakes!

EMMA: No offense to the rest of this spread but let’s just skip right to dessert, ladies.

RORY: No way. We haven’t even tried your asparagus salad!

SABRINA: I agree. The cupcakes will wait. Now, pass me some of that sun-brewed tea. I want to see how it measures up to my grandmother’s recipe.

(Rory passes Sabrina a plastic cup filled with tea. She takes a sip and gives a thumbs up of approval.)

SABRINA: Like Gran would say, I like my men like I like my tea – strong and sweet!

CASSIE (groans): I can’t believe you just went there.



EMMA: Hey, I think Sabrina has the right idea. What better way to spend our picnic than gabbing about guys?

RORY: I’m in. So, first question: what qualities are most important to you in a relationship?

MELANIE: Oh, that’s a good one.

RORY: I’ll go first. Loyalty ranks at the top for me, followed by compassion. (grows contemplative) I believe two people can weather whatever life throws at them if they’re in it together, and they have patience and understanding for their partner’s needs and emotions. For me, that’s the recipe to happily ever after. Emma, what about you?

EMMA: Oh, I agree with you, Rory, about loyalty! To friends and family. For me, he has to be good natured and easy going, too. (She drops her voice) I sure know what it’s like when they aren’t. (She brightens again) And family must be important to him. He has to be principled and as far as I’m concerned, he must love animals! (Emma looks Sabrina) Your turn, Sabrina! Being a Texas girl, you can probably give us the lowdown on cute cowboys. What’s most important to you in a relationship?

SABRINA: Honesty and openness. You can’t be afraid to tell the person you love how much you love them. (looks around the group) So, who’s next? And Cassie, don’t think we didn’t see you steal one of those cupcakes! I thought you were sticking to fruit?

CASSIE: (licks the chocolate frosting from her lips) Well, a little sugar never hurt a girl, right? Speaking of sugar, the qualities I think are most important in a relationship are… honesty and willingness to work together. Being open about your expectations in a relationship goes a long way in preventing problems. And working together is just fun. Why wouldn’t any woman want to work with her best friend? Okay, so are we saving the best for last? Melanie, what do you think?

MELANIE: Well, I’d say you ladies all have good answers! But for me, it’s a sense of humor. (Snatches a cupcake and smears some icing onto her upper lip) You’ve got to be able to make each other laugh. When my guy and I do the dishes; I want it to take us an hour because we’re cutting up and having fun. Life is too short. Now it’s my turn, and this one’s harder. What do you think is your best and worst quality in a relationship?

RORY: Oh, no way am I answering first this time.

MELANIE: (laughs) Come on, I could answer the first part of that question for you in no time flat! But that’s not the point. So I’ll take my turn to keep things rolling. My best quality is I’m an effective communicator. (Shrugs her shoulders) Maybe that’s why I became a lawyer. Of course, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not always the best listener when it comes to matters of the heart….but I’m working on that. (Smiles) Okay, I got things started. Now you go, Rory.

RORY: (sighs) If I must. My worst quality is definitely my Irish stubbornness. I get that from my dad…and my brother has it, too. I can be so bullheaded at times. But on the flip side of that, I’m also fiercely protective of those that I love. I think those two traits play hand-in-hand that way.

EMMA: Note to self: never get on Rory’s bad side.

(The girls all laugh.)


EMMA: Well then, I might as well go next. (Emma turns serious) Well, I wouldn’t have thought that this would be a bad quality, but I can be too trusting sometimes. You know, when that trust is misplaced. On the plus side, I like that I won’t compromise my ethics or integrity. No matter what happens, at the end of the day, I have to be able to look myself in a mirror and know that I did the right thing. Sorry, I know that all sounds very serious, so to lighten things up, I think one of my best qualities is my love of animals. So, over to you, Cassie. You live in the public eye all the time by being a famous pop singer. I’m sure you’ve seen the world’s view on the best and worst sides of yourself. What do you think are your best and worst qualities?

CASSIE: The worst? Worrying too much about what other people think of me, my music and my career. I have to be true to myself, then the music comes alive. The best? Hmm...being generous. I love to offer my time and energies to a good cause. But enough about me. Sabrina, you go.

SABRINA: Nah, I’m good just listening to the rest of you talk about yourselves.

RORY: No way you’re getting out of this, so you better speak up.

MELANIE: Yeah, remember, you don’t want to get on Rory’s bad side…

RORY: (laughing) I’ve earned a reputation, I see.

SABRINA: (joining in the laughter) Good point, Melanie! Okay, so my best and worst qualities… I’m always looking for the good in everything. That’s how I knew Tony was the one for me, even back in high school. I could see the good in him that everyone else overlooked. (face blushes) And the worst…hmm…I’m a little stubborn. Okay, a lot. That’s one trait I wish Levi hadn’t inherited!

EMMA: For the record, ladies, no matter your flaws, I think you’re all fantastic.

CASSIE: And I think our secret super power is putting together an amazing picnic lunch!

RORY: I do have a special trick for bribing my brother into cooking for me.

SABRINA: Probably because he’s afraid to double cross you!

(Rory balls up a napkin and throws it in Sabrina’s direction as the girls giggle.)

MELANIE: Well, there’s still plenty of food, and Cassie already took one cupcake. I say we hurry up with lunch before she sneaks another one.

RORY: Sounds good to me!

***

If you want to see how our heroes stack up to their heroines’ take on love and relationships, pick up a copy of each of these romances from Harlequin. Links are on each author’s website here:





and


And before you go - the five of us are offering some great giveaways and features this month!

Most notably, we have our purchase sweepstakes as a way to say thank you to our readers. One lucky person will receive a spectacular Love is Blooming Potter's Passion Prize Pack consisting of a solid-wood, hand-made planter box, brimming with treats for gardening enthusiasts, a garden tool set, tote and folding seat, thirteen “ever-blooming” blacked-eyed Susan garden stakes, three pairs of garden gloves, 25,000 Harlequin My Rewards points, and three previously-released, signed Heartwarming books! (Approximate retail value: $170.) You can enter here.


Purchase* any of our five March releases for one entry for each book and register your purchase here. You can also enter by purchasing the March Heartwarming box set. The sweepstakes runs until March 30th.

* Alternate method of entry available. Please see Official Rules on the entry form for details.
Secondly, we're offering the Love is Blooming Gardener’s Dream Prize Pack. This giveaway is a gardener’s dream come true and arrives in a pretty planter. We’ve included three previously-released, signed Heartwarming books to read while you soak your cares away with the bath salts included in the prize pack after a hard day’s work. (Approximate retail value: $55.) You can enter at the bottom of the Love is Blooming blog post here.



Thanks for joining us and happy spring!

Cerella, Kate, Tara, LeAnne, and Jill





Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with Tara Randel



Today we’re celebrating the release of The Wedding March

So, Tara, where did you get the idea for this novel?
When my editor and I sat down to discuss future books in The Business of Wedding series, we wanted to focus on wedding professionals. You can’t have a fun reception without music, right? So my brain started coming up with scenarios and I wondered, how would a new artist feel if she experienced writers block just as her career was taking off? And what if she met a man who could help her, if he hadn’t walked away from the music industry? From there, Cassie and Luke came to life.

The help only he can offer… 

Cypress Pointe, Florida, is a long way from LA, where pop singer Cassie Branford needs a hit to prove she's not a two-album wonder. But her case of writer's block could be over when the struggling songwriter meets Luke Hastings at a family wedding.

The legendary musician walked away from success at the height of his career. Yet Luke is already inspiring Cassie with his dedication to building a permanent community outreach center for troubled teens. Volunteering to help bring music into these kids' lives is also bringing her and Luke closer. Maybe they're not as different as he thinks…



In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
Another beautiful wedding in Cypress Pointe, Florida.

How long did it take you to write?
About four months. Last year was busy, since I was juggling my Heartwarming books, as well as writing for a mystery line.

What is your favorite scene?
When Cassie and Luke perform together for the first time. They have two weeks to pull a benefit concert together. Cassie hasn’t been on the stage since struggling with writer’s block. Luke only plays small venues since he quit the music business, so he and his band have a tough time getting in sync with Cassie. Throw in loose cords on stage and a keyboard pedal that keeps sticking, and it’s enough to give anyone stage fright. Until it’s time to stand before the crowd.

Minutes later, they climbed the steps leading to the platform. Denny stood center stage, thanking the crowd for coming out and supporting Kid’s Klub. Then Cassie was moving with the band, stepping onto the stage to wave to the fans. When she turned to take her place at the piano, their eyes met again, hers with a sparkle Luke wouldn’t soon forget. Gone were the nerves. In that one broad smile, the mild-mannered woman from seconds before melted away. This was the Cassie who’d been born to entertain.

He lifted the guitar strap over his head and settled it on his shoulder. Cassie winked at him, the gesture sending a wallop to his gut, just as Sonny counted a three beat with his drum sticks and they launched into the first number.

They played for an hour. Cassie entertained the fans not only with her music, but by engaging and laughing with them, as well. The urgency of her wish to overcome writer's block stuck Luke as she sang. If she didn’t come up with new songs, would her career truly be over? Glimpsing the joy on her face right now, he knew he wanted to help her move forward, even if it meant tearing off the bandage still covering his emotional wounds.

As he considered the future, he couldn’t keep his eyes from Cassie as she regaled the crowd, and him, with the magic of her music.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Cassie and Luke, for differing reasons. It  was interesting to write about a character with a creative block, because I experience this from time to time when writing. With Cassie, she has a tough time conquering the block, but digs down deep to figure out what is causing it. Thankfully, I go to the gym when I’m stuck with a scene and as soon as I rev up the treadmill, ideas usually pop out at me. 

With Luke, it was about looking at the past and wondering if he’d made the right decision walking away from a lucrative career. I’m sure there are many people that can relate to questioning the decisions they’ve made. Each character had their own unique set of problems to overcome.  

Tell us one thing you learned during research.
I have friends who are incredibly talented musicians. Through the years I’ve learned a lot about music and the business through them, but I spent a great deal of time with a special songwriter friend. Taylor walked me through writing a song (vastly different than a book, and much shorter!). We talked about theme and melodies and how she manages a block. Many of the scenes in the book came from conversations we shared together.

What music would match the mood of this novel?
My own music? Which sounds odd, but I came up with lyrics for different songs in the process of writing this book. I’ve always wanted to write lyrics so, maybe I can look forward to an additional career?

This is your 15th book, the 5th with Harlequin. Exactly what does that mean to you?
When I started this journey of writing, I never dreamed I’d come so far. It’s been a long haul, a wonderful learning experience, a great thrill and after my family, what I love most. Through the years I’ve met and made friends with other wonderful authors, friendships I treasure to this day.

What do you plan to work on next?
Right now I’m working on a new series idea to send in to my editor. It’s still in the beginning stages, but I’m excited about moving in a new direction.

I’m also exciting to share that The Wedding March is currently on tour with Prism Book Tours. Click here for the schedule and a chance to enter in the tour giveaway. http://prismbooktours.blogspot.com/

And don’t forget the Love Is Blooming giveaway, still going on, sponsored by the March Heartwarming authors. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1leP0qW_OCKAfJXKOVCqKFnSlGhXaMZVWlBLeBRYRG7Q/



Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her newest Heartwarming, The Wedding March, book 4 in The Business of Weddings series, available now. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books