Monday, September 22, 2014

Questions Asked of an Author

By Patricia Bradley
photos by Cheryl Meints

The other day I spoke to the Friends of the Iuka, Mississippi, Library about writing and my books. What do you suppose the first question was when I opened the floor up for discussion? It was the same first question I get at every book signing or speaking.

Yep, you guessed it. "Where do you get your ideas?"

I used to dread that question because I really don't know where my ideas come from other than God. Not that I don't want to give God the credit.

But you see, I not only write Heartwarming romances, I also write suspense books where people get killed. I'm not sure it's a good idea to connect my inspirations on how to murder someone to God.

My response that day was: Out of thin air.

And it's true that my ideas come from seemingly nowhere. I will hear a news story or watch a movie and a character will pop into my head. Matthew's Choice is an example. I saw a news clip where someone had reached the pinnacle of his career, and remarked to the reporter that it wasn't quite what he'd thought it would be. 
That started the what if process, and after a lot of what ifs, the story was born. 

Another thing that I get a lot isn't really a question. "You ought to write a book about my life story. It would be a best seller." 

Now why would  those words strike fear in the heart of a writer? For one thing, reality doesn't make good fiction--it's too hard to make it believable. And fiction has to be believable. Life doesn't. People are really disappointed when you don't want to use their story.

Another offer that ranks right up there with the life story is, "I have this really great idea for a book, but I don't have time to write it. Would you like to hear about if for your next book? It's really hard to explain that writing just doesn't work that way.

Another question I get is, how long does it take you to write a book? Again, this changes almost from book to book. Some take longer than others. My first book took five years to write. After I received a contract, I realized I didn't have five years to write the next book. I had to learn how to write faster. In.A.Hurry.

Now, I don't want you to think authors don't like for you to ask questions. They do, but some questions are really difficult to answer, and the answer might be different on any given day--that's why some of these answers are a little tongue-in-cheek.

In fact, if you're a reader, go ahead, ask me any question you'd like. If I can't answer it, I'm sure some of the other Heartwarming authors on the blog can. And if you're an author, what's a question a reader posed that gave you pause?

Oh, and here's a couple of more photos of me at books signings. In the one to the right, I was signing a copy of Matthew's Choice, and someone offered to tell me their life's story for my next book.

And they didn't come just to hear the time I finished, all the cake was gone.

Don't forget to leave a question!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Amy Vastine

Today we’re celebrating Amy Vastine’s release of The Better Man, the first book in her Chicago Sisters series.

So, Amy, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I am a school social worker by day and one of the big issues we see is school anxiety. Kids are refusing to come to school because it makes them so anxious. In the book, six-year old Simon suffers from an anxiety disorder called selective mutism which makes school a very difficult place. I guess the idea from the book started there, with a boy who didn’t talk. Next, I needed a reason for him to begin to talk and a daddy-lookalike hero popped in my head! The rest is history.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
Fatherhood: The toughest job you’ll ever love.

What is your favorite scene?

I have a lot of favorites in this book. There are so many different emotions played out. I love the sisters the most, though. Kendall, Emma, and Lucy are fiercely protective of one another but also love to give each other a hard time. My favorite scene is when Lucy, the health nut tries to take away her youngest sister’s cheese puffs. Never take away a hungry girl’s cheese puffs.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Oh, this is like asking me to choose a favorite child. I love Simon, Kendall’s son and I love Max, because I think the author should always love their hero! Max grows up the most in this story. His journey is a tough one. He knows who he wants to be but isn’t sure how to get there and begins to doubt if he can as well. Kendall and Simon show him he’s capable of more than he knew. It allows him to be there for them as well as find a way to be the father he wants to be to his own son. Plus he gorgeous, dresses well, and has a little scruff. *sigh*

lf you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?
Easy! I’ve always pictured Max as Ryan Gosling from the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. And Kendall is Liv Tyler. I love them both!!

This is your second book. Exactly what does that mean to you?
Well, I guess this means I’m legit! One book was AMAZING but two means it was more than luck. I can’t wait to say I have written 10, 20, 50 books!
What do you plan to work on next?

Next up is Emma’s story. You meet both Emma and her love interest in The Better Man. Charlie is maybe my favorite character of all time. I want to be friends with him and just hang out. Their book is call The Best Laid Plans. The title has changed from my original title, which was The Better Plan. We decided against having all the titles being too similar. Then after that is Lucy’s story, which I think will be full of fun drama! The best part is I don’t have to say goodbye to Max, Kendall, and Simon - they follow me through all three book! Love that part for sure. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Blog Tour by Amy Vastine

Thank you to  Prism Book Tours for hosting the book blog tour for The Better Man! I am so grateful to all the blogs who are participating. There are reviews, excerpts, and guest posts throughout the tour. Hopefully you'll be able to take a peek!

The Better Man, which is the beginning of the new Chicago Sisters Series, is set in the busy city of Chicago, but is full of family, friendship, and love. It's also from the clean romance Heartwarming line of books from Harlequin. Scroll on down to read a little about this book and series and to read an exclusive excerpt! We hope you enjoy the tour!

September Tour Schedule

15 - Launch


Book Freebies, Contests, Sweepstakes, and Giveaways


The Written Adventure

Katie's Clean Book Collection


Christy's Cozy Corners

The Wonderings of One Person

SBM Book Obsession


My Love for Reading Keeps Growing

Kelly P's Blog

J.R.Richardson Fics


Pretty Girls Read Books

Getting Your Read On


deal sharing aunt

My Devotional Thoughts

Southern Chelle


Undercover Book Reviews



Bookworm Lisa

Reader Girls

My Life, Loves and Passion


I Am A Reader

i blog 4 books


Lola's Reviews

Wishful Endings

28 - Grand Finale

The Better Man (Chicago Sisters)The Better Man

by Amy Vastine

Adult Romance

Harlequin Heartwarming

January 1st 2014

Kendall Montgomery's six-year-old son has barely spoken in the past year, locked in his world of silent grief. Then one day, he spots his dead father across a crowded street.

Max Jordan moved to Chicago to be closer to his own son and prove he can be a better father than his deadbeat dad. His striking resemblance to Kendall's husband and his track record with fatherhood make her determined to keep her distance until Max helps her little boy come out of his shell. But can she trust him with their future? How can she be sure he won't take off just when they need him most?

Amazon - Harlequin

An Intro to The Better Man and an Exclusive Excerpt

The Better Man is the first book in the Chicago Sisters Series, which introduces us to the three Everhart sisters, Lucy, Kendall, and Emma. All three sisters live in the Lincoln Park area, and even though the story has a big city backdrop, the focus is still on family and community. These sisters always have one another's backs, even though they couldn't be any different. Funny how siblings can be raised in the same family but develop such separate identities! Lucy is the strong-willed, fanatical health-nut who takes up any cause she deems worthy. Middle-child Kendall is the shy artist, whose loyalty knows no bounds. Emma is the confident baby of the family who believes she has her entire life mapped out. The Better Man features Kendall and her son, Simon. Book Two, The Best Laid Plans, is Emma's story and scheduled to come out in March 2015. Lucy's story is told in the third book, with the working title, The Better Fight, and should be out at the end of 2015.

Here's a little excerpt of the three sisters in action:

"And I am now, officially, the meanest mommy. Ever."

Lucy put a hand on her sister's head. "Oh boy. Just remember every mom has felt like that at one point in time. I know I crowned Mom the meanest when I was little. She was a repeat winner of the title for years."

Kendall let out a breathy laugh. "I remember you being much meaner to her than she ever was to you."

"Of course I was. I'm meaner than everyone," Lucy said, unashamed.

"I still love you, though." Kendall got up and grabbed a large bowl off the top of the refrigerator. From the pantry, she pulled out three bags of Halloween candy and tossed them on the kitchen table.

"You really shouldn't give out candy. I could have brought over a whole bushel of organic apples."

"We are not going to be that house." The two sisters opened and emptied the bags into the bowl. Lucy offered to help with dinner. Kendall had bought the ingredients for chili and no one chopped vegetables better than Lucy. Kendall set her up on the cutting board with an onion and some peppers.

"It's better that you rip the Max Band-Aid off now rather than later," Lucy said while they cooked. "Simon will get over it. So will you. It's always better to be the one who walked away instead of the one left behind."

"Which one were you again?" Kendall asked, recognizing that Lucy's guard was down.

"Ha-ha. Iíve been both. At the same time," she added. "Now, stop making this about me."

"You love when things are about you," Emma said, joining the conversation. Dressed in her nursing scrubs and a purple witch's hat on her head, she sat down at the table next to Lucy with a bag of cheese puffs.

Kendall held a hand over her heart. "Maybe knock next time and give a girl some warning. Isn't it against your nurse's training to give people heart attacks?"

"And isn't it against your nurse's training to put processed poison into your body?" Lucy added. She snatched the cheese puffs out of her sister's hands and walked them over to the garbage.

"Hey!" Emma sprung to her feet. "I was eating those! I haven't eaten all day."

"Another reason you shouldn't eat them. Your body needs fuel, not intestine-destroying acids."

"Uh-oh, who's eating junk food in front of Lucy?" Kendall's mom popped her head into the kitchen. "Girls, don't fight over food." She took the bag away from Lucy and handed it back to Emma, who scrunched up her face and pursed her lips at her sister.

"It's your body," Lucy relented. "Sorry for trying to protect it."

Their dad followed behind their mom and gave Lucy a hug. "You're a good big sister, but never throw away someone's cheese puffs."

"I'm coming over tomorrow and helping Mom throw away all your junk food. We're putting you on a diet."

"What?" He looked at his wife for confirmation.

Maureen's shoulders slumped and she glared at Lucy. "I wasn't going to tell him what we were doing. If you don't tell him, he doesn't miss it. When you tell him, he gets all worked up."

Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter

Tour-Wide Giveaway

- Gift Card Grand Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card and a signed paperback (US) or ebook (INT) of The Better Man

- US Grand Prize: Signed paperback of The Better Man plus swag (shown above)

- 5 copies of The Better Man (paperback for US and ebooks for INT)

- Ends October 5th

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're a blogger interested in supporting Heartwarming books - Kate James is looking for you! Her Heartwarming debut, A Child's Christmas, is coming out this NovemberBloggers can sign up HERE!

Single mother Paige Summerville wants to give her seven-year-old son the Christmas of his dreams. Jason needs surgery to beat the illness that’s plagued his young life, leaving Paige desperate to make ends meet. So she turns to a charity that grants the wishes of sick children . . .

Then a stranger arrives bearing gifts for Jason—and for her. He’s Daniel Kinsley, a lawyer who’s grown cynical about family. But his kindness in making Jason’s wishes come true offers him more than he ever imagined. Is there room in Paige’s heart for a man who could fulfill all their dreams? And not just at Christmas!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fifty Shades of Pink by Lee McKenzie

This is my first post on the Harlequin Heartwarming blog, and I’m really excited to be here! Also honored to be in the company of so many wonderful authors, humbled by all of the devoted readers, and I look forward to getting to know all of you.

In addition to Heartwarming, I also write for Harlequin’s American Romance line. I’ve been a writer and an avid reader for as long as I can remember, and I gravitated to romance at an early age. Ten years old, to be precise, when I read Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Many might not consider either to be a romance novel but after all these years, I still do.

About fifteen years ago I started to seriously write romance with the goal of someday being published. I read widely...everything from sweet to spicy to fan-your-face sexy, from traditional boy-meets-girl to woman-in-jeopardy to hunka-hunka vampire love. I was trying to accomplish two things: the first was to figure out what was trendy and what was not, and the second was to learn to tailor my work to the market.

I decided sexy romantic suspense was the way to go, but after completing several manuscripts and being a finalist in (and sometimes winning!) numerous writing contests, all I really had to show for my efforts was a file folder brimming with rejection. Eventually I realized what the problem was. While I loved to write, I wasn’t writing what I love. So I made a decision. I would write something different—something I truly enjoyed writing—that wasn’t targeting any particular sub-genre. If that didn’t sell, I would change directions and write for young adult and middle grade markets instead.

After I finished that last book and submitted it to Harlequin, I attended a week-long children’s writing workshop in the Rockies.

I returned home, filled with enthusiasm for the new direction I was taking, and a week later—yes, you guessed it—I got the call!

That first book was The Man for Maggie (Harlequin American Romance, June 2007) and I’m thrilled that last year it was reissued as Maggie’s Way (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2013).

Why did that book sell when the others I’d written didn’t? Because instead of writing what I thought fit the current market trend, I wrote a story I loved. Instead of police procedure and awkward love scenes, I focused on creating the kinds of characters I'd fallen in love with in many of the stories I’d read over the years, characters I could relate to, characters for whom family, friends and community truly mattered.

Several years ago I overheard someone ask my husband what kind of books I write. When he told him I write romance novels, the man said, “Oh, like Fifty Shades of Grey.” My husband looked surprised and replied, “No, she writes fifty shades of pink.” And that’s been my tagline ever since.

Thank you so much for joining me today. My next Heartwarming, The Parent Trap, will be released on October 1st.

To celebrate, I’m offering a signed copies of that book and Maggie’s Way to one reader who leaves a comment. The name of the randomly selected winner will be posted at the comments of this post tomorrow. Feel free to share.

Happy reading! xoxo

Until next time,
Writing fifty shades of pink

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Who Do You Think You Are? by Syndi Powell

This summer has been a time of examination and reflection for me. It hasn't been pretty or easy, but it's been necessary for me in order for me to move forward with my life. Am I still the independent person that I thought I was? Do I have the self confidence to follow my path or be daring to become a trailblazer and create a new one? Who do I think I really am?

Here are some things I've learned the not so easy way about myself:

1. I crave routine. As much as I'd like to think of myself as spontaneous, I respond more positively to having a routine and sticking to it. 

2. A change in my plans makes me cranky at first. But if I zig when I planned to zag, some times I end up with a better result.

3. Writing is not as easy as I once thought. In fact, lately it's been a chore. I used to enjoy the creation of a story, but I find myself struggling to find the words. The blank computer screen mocks me as does my daily word goal. 

4. I enjoy my independence. I gave some of that up when I got married, but now that I'm single again I like being the maker of my own destiny. 

5. Family is still important. Relationships come and go, but my family will always be there. I recently enjoyed lunch out with my sisters. We had a great time catching up and laughing about the smallest things like sisters do. 

6. I am still Syndi. I still act goofy at times. I'm still smart and funny. I'm strong and independent and able to overcome my obstacles.

If I were a character in a novel, I'd be in the middle of my story. The inciting event (my divorce) behind me and my goal (self discovery) ahead of me. My ending hasn't been written yet, but I'm eager to see where my story will take me.

What has this summer been for you? Who do you think you are???

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Dog's Life by Kate James (and contributed to by Harley and Logan)

My husband and I met because of our love of dogs and . . . well . . . because of the dogs we loved. Our blended family consisted of our Alaskan Malamute, Casper, German Shepherd, Kylie, and yellow Labrador Retriever, Buster.

It was heart wrenching when we had to say goodbye to them one by one over the past few years. We didn't think we were ready to add to our family again, but two young black Labs proved us wrong.

They came into our lives unplanned. They were fourteen and sixteen months respectively when we first met them, intelligent and with great temperaments. They'd been held back by the breeder for show and breeding, but she'd decided to sell them. Looking into their adoring chocolate-brown eyes, we knew instantly that their forever home would be with us.

It was my editor, Paula Eykelhof, who first commented on how wonderful it was that we had brought these rescue dogs into our lives. I protested that they weren't rescue dogs. After all, they had been cared for and never abused. But, as with most things, Paula was right. Having lived their entire lives in kennels, their behaviors told their own story as we gradually introduced them to the big wide world.

I have never crated a dog before, but Harley and Logan needed the comfort and security. Over a year later, they still love to spend time in their kennels, but they prefer to curl up, or stretch out, together in one kennel.

They have their own cushy beds in our bedroom, but still tend to share one. And, yes, they like to sleep on their backs . . . or on top of each other.

And during the day, they seek out the warmth of the sunshine and snuggle.

Logan can't bear to be without us and would love to be able to curl up in our laps.

Harley sees a butterfly (or anything resembling one) and a little switch trips in his head and all else ceases to exist in his world.

Logan's need to be close has results in a damaged laptop screen. (I'll spare you the details!)

Yes, that's a tooth mark on the left middle.
Harley's predilection for chasing butterflies has caused more than a few trampled perennials.



Here is a video clip of Harley at our cottage. You'll hear my husband's voice after Harley catches a Frisbee but abandons the game to pursue a butterfly: Clearly, Harley does not yet consistently heed his master's voice . . . it's that little switch thing! ;-)

Harley and Logan have come so far in the year they have been with us, and continue to delight us each and every day. A computer screen is easily replaced and perennials grow back, but the unconditional love and affection they bring into our lives is limitless and unparalleled.

Do you have an animal story you would like to share? Please leave a comment here or tweet me a picture @KateJamesBooks. One reader leaving a comment or tweeting a picture will be randomly selected to receive a copy of my November Heartwarming release, A Child's Christmas. Check the bottom of the comments section tomorrow for the name of the winner.

Happy reading!


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Eye Candy...uh, I mean Hero Inspiration by Jennifer Snow & Karen Rock

Hi Everyone!

Karen Rock and I shared a book birthday last week as FALLING FOR LEIGH and SOMEONE LIKE YOU released Sept 1, and well, if you happened to catch Karen and I fighting with our Animal Fighter Pens at the Harlequin book signing at RWA this year, then you know we can get pretty competitive lol;)

So, we thought we would put our heroes to the test this week in a hero mash up! Good luck choosing between these two adorable men...even though Karen did cheat. I mean, Channing Tatum-not fair:)

Bring on the eye candy...Inspiration, I meant inspiration...

Hero # 1-

Name: Niall Walsh

Age: 28

Occupation: Afghanistan Veteran and Start-Up Company/Technology Entrepreneur

Height: 6 foot 2

Build: Muscular. 185 lbs.

Hair: Dark Brown

Eyes: Hazel-Green

Special Talents/Information: 
Does a great impression of "Beast" when reading "Beauty and the Beast" to kids.
Is a 3x black belt in Tae Kwan Do . 
Wears a prosthetic as he lost his left calf in Afghanistan.
Can write software code to design apps. 
Was a Signal Combat officer with the Army in Afghanistan. 
Has a dark secret he must keep from Kayleigh because it's classified.

And as if he wasn't dreamy enough, check out a quote from Niall in SOMEONE LIKE YOU: 

"I see you when I close my eyes," he murmured, touching his forehead to hers. "I can't stop thinking about you, wondering where you are and what you're doing. Things in my past made me closed off. You were right about that. But I'm not anymore. My heart is open, and it belongs to you."


Hero # 2

Name: Logan Walters

Height: 6'2

Weight: 190

Hair Color: Dark Brown

Eye Color: Brown

Special Talents/Information:
A New York Times Bestselling Mystery Author
Is a wonderful father for his daughter, who he is fighting for custody of.
Can sometimes come across a grouchy, but it's only the writer's block.
Would do anything to be with Leigh, but she has a secret standing in the way of a possible future together.

Hot, right? :)

And here is one of my favorite quotes from Logan:
"When I got here, I couldn't wait to finish this book and get on with my life...then you and that ladder changed everything. Now this court case just got even more important to win so I can keep Amelia (his daughter) and make a home with her here."

So, we would love to hear your thoughts on our heroes. And make sure to check out Karen's Sunday post later this month for our Heroines going head to head. 

One lucky commenter will win a copy of SOMEONE LIKE YOU and FALLING FOR LEIGH-either print or e-copy-winner's choice! 

***Disclaimer-the real Harry Connick JR. and Channing Tatum are not included in the giveaway. Trust us, if we had these guys, we would not be giving them away lol:) 

J & K