Monday, July 6, 2015

What did you do...

...this past weekend?

Low-Country Boil
How did you celebrate the 4th of July? These days, people like to say it’s not about a barbecue, but I look back at the early days of our country, and I think family celebration might have been in order. Our forefathers (and mothers) built a new home in a new land for their families. A country where we make our own laws and forge our own destiny. 

I’m thinking when they announced the Declaration of Independence, people celebrated this frightening, unbelievable, independent new venture with the people they loved best. 

We’re a little bit stranded around here. The husband had a knee replacement several weeks ago, and he’s much better, but he still has a bad day now and then. We had friends over and we made a low-country boil. I roasted some vegetables, and we had a strawberry-blueberry shortcake, with homemade whipped cream.

Afterward, the husband was apparently a little too sore from standing over the cauldron, adding potatoes and sausage and shrimp and corn and crab legs. After we ate dinner, we watched fireworks from all around the neighborhood, and he iced his knee. Our celebrations were not fancy, but we were together, and we remembered that it was the day our country was born. It was a good day.

Under Construction
Sunday, I painted my office. I can’t wait until it’s finished. It’s my own personal place of independence, where I can shut a door and work without interruption. I love the people who interrupt me most often, but when I’m in the middle of one world, it’s like waking from a deep sleep to find myself needed in reality, and then I have to burrow back in again. Pretty often, in my busy house. The office is a room over the husband’s new garage. (Doesn’t every man need two garages?)

I was painting in the heat and humidity of a July day in the south (a/c comes after the paint), when I thought of carrying everything I own on my back, wearing a woolen coat and trousers. I was in shorts and a T-shirt, with sweat pouring off me. I’m painting an office because I love to write, and it’ll be a nice place to work. But I’m doing what I want to do on a hot July day in 2015 because some guys in 1776 conceived of liberty. And come to think of it, I know the names of the men on both sides of my family who fought in that war, so their many times great-granddaughter could be free. Remembering them, I’m celebrating family and the birth of my country.

So—what did you do?

Tell me how you celebrated, and I'll choose a name from the comments. I’d love to trade someone a new book for a good story! 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sitdown Saturday with Leigh Riker

Today we’re celebrating Man of the Family

So, Leigh Riker, where did you get the idea for this novel?
            Well, that’s a long story, at least in terms of time. The book has been in my head for a while, but it was only when I revised the storyline and even the settings that it suited Harlequin Heartwarming, and I’m very happy with it now. At last. It’s always been in my heart.

Is it a standalone? Or part of a series?
            A standalone. Notice the redhead (hero Griffin’s sister) peeking between him and Sunny, the heroine, on the cover? She’s already married to Sunny’s brother or I’d give them a book of their own. Bronwyn’s so cute.

How long did it take you to write?
            About three months, give or take. Not counting more revisions.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption, what would it say?
            Love is in the air! Just look at those two people’s faces. (Or maybe, for today, the caption should say Happy Fourth of July!)

What is your favorite scene?
            I love the one in which Sunny has stayed at Griffin’s apartment for dinner (a first for them). He teases her about the hot chili he made and their mutual attraction becomes apparent. Really, he’s already over the moon for Sunny by then but won’t admit it.

Who was your favorite character and why?
            Griffin, because I admire his efforts as a single dad to protect his motherless children from further hurt. At the same time he has reinvented himself—and I admire him for doing what he had to do. After his wife disappeared, Griffin quit his busy career as a TV anchor, moved to Florida to be near his sister, and became the manager of an apartment complex so he could work near home and have more time for his vulnerable kids.

How did you choose the settings?
            The book was due in November, and I wasn’t looking forward to the cold weather where I live. So Florida seemed a good choice (rather than the original New England). I also met my husband in New York City so that’s my second home—and the perfect place for Sunny to suffer the professional and personal setbacks that finally force her to face her painful past.

Tell us one thing you learned during research?
            Sunny was molested as a young girl. I learned that some girls still today are reluctant, even ashamed, to admit what happened to them. I hope this story helps someone to deal with her own experience.

This is your sixteenth novel. Exactly what does that mean to you?
            Oh, wow. I love piling up the numbers. This is also my sixth Harlequin novel. And Man of the Family is—by sheer order of the line’s books that have been published—the 100th Heartwarming title. Love that medallion on the cover, even when I had nothing to do with it!

What are you working on now?
            My new book is called Painted Ponies. It involves a family tragedy and some hand-carved carousel horses that eventually help them all to heal emotionally.

What are you reading for pleasure?
            I just finished Gone Girl. An interesting read but I didn’t find any of the characters especially likeable. Right before that, I read Nora Roberts’ book, The Liar, which I really enjoyed. And The Fixer by Joseph Finder. I seem to be on a thriller kick lately!

I hope readers will enjoy my new romance, Man of the Family.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer Reading List

Offprint London
by assistant editor Dana Grimaldi

One month ago—June 3—I’d just come back from my first trip overseas…and I was hobbling around the apartment. Who would’ve thought that dragging a suitcase full of clothes and books and a carry-on also filled with books could give a person neck strain?

In my defense, London and Paris have so many amazing book stores, I couldn’t help myself! Even the art galleries conspired to build my To-Be-Read pile. The Tate Modern was holding Offprint London, a publishing fair that features books of photography.

I also went to Le Monte en l'Air, a bookstore that features zines, comics, literature, photography and lots more. That’s where I found The 1000 Journals Project. In Un Regard Moderne, another bookstore in Paris, books are stacked floor to ceiling. You have to be careful while browsing and making your way down the narrow aisles! (I’m happy to say I only caused one near avalanche.)
Le Monte en l'Air (left) and Un Regard Moderne (right)

At Comptoir de l'Image I found an issue of Vogue from 1953 (see, dachshunds have always been in fashion!) and I even bought a book at a videogame store, Retrogame Shop. (If anyone needs help navigating Super Mario 3, let me know!) 

Fortunately, I can read this month’s new Heartwarming books without having to lift a finger (well, except to click download). Starting this month, all four Heartwarming titles will be available as a digital box set
I can’t wait for readers to check out July’s new books. Once Upon a Friendship by Tara Taylor Quinn is the first book in a new miniseries set in Colorado, called The Historic Arapahoe. Man of the Family by Leigh Riker tells the story of a single dad who falls for an over-worked lawyer. Leigh’s book just happens to be the 100th Heartwarming title—a milestone we’re all excited about! Sailing in Style by Dana Mentink is the second book in the Love by Design miniseries. Dana tells the story of Cy Franco, who has to renovate a historic paddle boat while dealing with the woman who broke his heart. The Hardest Fight by Amy Vastine is another reunion romance, and it’s the final book in the Chicago Sisters trilogy.

Summer is a wonderful season for reading, and thanks to my trip and the amazing, talented, endlessly creative Heartwarming authors, I’ve got lots of great books to look forward to.

I’d love to hear about your summer reading list. Is there a particular book you’ve been saving for the warm weather?

Best wishes,

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Corrections Officers, the Unsung Heroes of Law Enforcement by Karen Rock

This may be one of the hardest blogs for me to write because it hits so close to home. Literally. Recently, two prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison about five miles from my house. Even more importantly, my husband, a corrections officer, works in Dannemora at the Clinton Correctional Facility. It’s been disturbing to watch some of the more sensationalized broadcasts about this escape and the factors that led to it. Our wonderfully supportive community, knowing how difficult this coverage is to see, printed up and distributed wristbands that say, "Dannemora Strong" to remind us to keep our chins up.

I’ve had to endure hearing newscasters claiming that officers (please don’t call these trained professionals guards, Anderson Cooper) are all sleeping on the job, dealing heroin to inmates, conducting other illegal activities on the catwalks behind cells, and are befriending criminals for their own, personal gain. It’s demoralizing to watch my husband work double shift after double shift, coming home to eat, sleep and get back up to work, while every armchair “expert” and even ex-prisoners wax on about the wanton disregard for rules or professionalism at Clinton-some even calling it a "country club" for prisoners when, in fact, it's where the very worst offenders are sent because it's widely known as the toughest jail.

Greg is a trained officer with over twenty years of experience, who, like the vast majority of other law enforcement officers at the jail, takes great pride in his work and place of employment. The actions of a few (or a couple) of employees should not be reflective of the dedication and hard work these brave men and women do every day. I, for one, would not choose to spend my work day shut in with murderers, rapists, thieves and the like and I’m thankful to corrections officers for doing this job and doing it well.

While law enforcement officers are often beloved heroes in romance novels, we rarely, if ever, have a corrections officer featured. Why, I wonder? They are the unsung heroes, rarely seen, who are all that stands between us and hundreds of really horrible people.... gangs members and other criminals we wouldn't want to meet on the street, let alone on a cell block of over two hundred inmates overseen by you and only one other officer. Instead of running these professionals down, we should take this opportunity to understand how truly dangerous this job is and thank them for putting their lives on the line every day.
My husband has taken at least three trips to the ER after fights he’s had to break up in the jail- one time for a broken hand- another for a slash from an inmate with HIV- which necessitated a year of nail-biting tests to ensure he hadn’t contracted the disease (he didn’t)- and another for a fractured eye socket when he was punched. He’s also witnessed, and intervened, when a good friend got stabbed eleven times, confronted armed inmates alone at night, taken away weapons, drugs and other contraband when frisking, endured riots in the yard that involved shots fired and tear gas, and been locked in with the inmates for four days straight during an ice storm. Yet Greg never complains. It’s his job and he’s proud of it.
I wish the nation would be, too. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Man of the Family by Leigh Riker

Guess what day it is? Why, it's Wednesday. Hump Day, of course. It's also July 1st--release day for my Harlequin Heartwarming title, Man of the Family!

Griffin Lattimore is a single dad with an anxious small son and rebellious teenage daughter. Believe me, there's plenty of drama in their Florida apartment right now. But hell do anything to protect his kids from further hurt. If only Griffin, a former TV news anchor, could find his long-missing wife...for reasons of his own.

Assistant DA Sunny Donovan is newly divorced and her career isnt in great shape either. Back home in Florida to regroup after losing a high-profile case in NY, she meets Griffin under less than ideal circumstances. And theyre not looking for love.

But Fate has its own plans for Sunny and Griffin. I hope you enjoy their journey from heartache to happiness.

Here's a brief excerpt with them at the barbeque seen on the cover

Before he could tell himself not to, Griffin stopped her.

Thanks, he said. Im glad Amanda apologized. You were right. She did take your watch.

Sunny half smiled. And you didnt let her get away with it after all.

He shouldnt care that she sounded proud of him. He shouldnt be staring at her mouth. So what am I missing? he asked, because nothing about his daughter was simple these days. Did she even sound sincere?

Shetried. Sunny hesitated. But you didnt welcome my interference before, and I doubt youve changed your mind. Im out of the advice-giving business.

Ouch. Forcing his gaze away from her, he noticed the growing darkness. The sun had slipped lower in the sky and the colors had bled into a deeper burgundy. Im impressed, Counselor. Didnt imagine youd give up that easily.

I have my moments.

This is a story about second chances and starting over. How has that worked out for you? Leave a comment and you'll have a chance to win a copy of Man of the Family.

Happy Reading--oh, and Happy Hump Day too!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Meet Debut Harlequin Heartwarming Author Kathy Damp

June brings Harlequin Heartwarming readers a new author, Kathy Damp, with Waiting for Sparks. Would you like to meet her? Read on!

HW: How long have you been writing? 

Kathy Damp: I remember making up stories when our family traveled to go camping when I was a kid. I handwrote a couple of Harlequin romances in high school, but never finished them. I used to change the main characters’ names when I came back to write some more because I was too lazy to go back and see what I’d named them at the beginning. 

You can check out more about me in a couple of Harlequin Heartwarming blog posts: 

HW: Is this your first romance to be published?

Kathy Damp: It is! When I was writing Waiting for Sparks, I knew I wanted it to be a wholesome read as well as fun, and I'm happy at how it turned out. In reviews, people are saying that it's funny, has lots of plot twists and they love Sparks, the hero. I adore him and his crooked smile.

HW: Why Harlequin Heartwarming?

Kathy Damp: I've read other Harlequin Heartwarming novels and knew that sometimes there was a third person viewpoint. In Waiting for Sparks, if there isn't Naomi Chambers, the indomitable grandmother, the story has a big hole. I wanted the story to be a Harlequin Heartwarming and I was so excited that Harlequin wanted to buy it! Hmmm...excited is too tame a word for the yelling at our house that day...

HW: Is Waiting for Sparks your first book to be published?

Kathy Damp: No, my first books were an animal rescue series for ages eight to 12, The S.A.V.E. Squad. Quite a bit different to write than a romance, but just as fun since I had to research baby basset hounds, learn about feral cats and miniature horses, and what baby owls are like. That series is under my name as Kathleen Damp Wright.

HW: What do you do when you're not writing?

Kathy Damp: My husband and I like to ride bikes and kayak when we can find water in Utah (where we live) that's gentle for us but not dried up. I think adventure comes in all different ways and you don't have to leap out of a plane to find it. We also like heading out of town with our border collie and trailer to work different places, since both of our day jobs can be done anywhere as long as we have our wifi hotspot.

HW: What's the most exciting thing you've ever done?

Kathy Damp: That's easy. I walked on fire. The second most exciting thing was kayaking a river I had no business being on.

HW: Did you say you walked on fire?

Kathy Damp: I did! I went to an evening event in the middle of a private forest in the next county with another writer friend. It was a boundary-breaking retreat for one evening. 
Yes, we built a real fire.

They used jet fuel. It was HOT.
That's me. I was the third to go--before I lost my nerve.

HW: What would you like to say to all the Harlequin Heartwarming readers, now that you are a Heartwarming author?

Kathy Damp: Oh! Well, after PLEASE READ WAITING FOR SPARKS, you mean? I would like to tell them that it's a joy to write for them and put all the fun and romance--along with lots of secrets--into my story. I hope they enjoy it. I'd also like to thank them for getting the word out about Harlequin Heartwarming. I'm seeing more and more folks finding out about sweet romance that has depth and power. Many thanks to those who post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and review the novels in their blogs. 

You can find Kathy's book as an ebook on any online bookstore, through and ordered at bookstores.

Find her on social media:

Pinterest: @AuthorKathyDamp
Twitter: @Kathy_Damp
Facebook: AuthorKathleenWright
Instagram: @KathyDamp
Goodreads: as Kathy Damp and Kathleen Damp Wright

Monday, June 29, 2015

In The Beginning

Pamela Tracy here…

The first story I ever penned…. really was by pen.

It was junior high and I was in love with either Dan Decker or Scott Chadwick.  My friend Debra felt the exact same way.  If I took Dan (fictionally of course), she took Scott and vice versa.

I think I learned plotting with Debra.  We'd get on the phone (a teen line) and we'd make up stories.  I'd tell the story for about three minutes and then she'd tell the story for about three minutes.  I, unfortunately, do not remember any of those stories except one had to do with being on a yacht.  Something two landlocked Nebraska girls knew nothing about.

Most of the stories never got to the happily ever after because either her mother or mine would provide the black moment ending words thus not allowing us to get to the conclusion: "Get off the phone NOW."

Eventually I started writing alone, in a spiral notebook with a pen.  I call those my David Cassidy stories, because yes, neither Dan nor Scott could compete with David.  The only one who could was Bobby Sherman.

Eventually, I wrote my first fictional hero.  

By then, I had no teen line, had long forgotten Scott and Dan, had outgrown David Cassidy (who had been followed by Peter Frampton and then Dwight Yaokim), and was in college.

I'd also given up romances for Sci Fi and was a Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut kind of girl.

My first novel was Sci Fi and I never finished it.  It was half-written on a machine much like the one above.

Because I was, by heart, a romance reader and writer who sometimes played in different neighborhoods (I loved horror back then, too.)     

My June Romance, Small-Town Secrets, was typed on a computer (so much easier, no white out!)
It has a happily ever after (although I'd gladly change the ending just to hear my my mother shout "Get off the phone NOW" one more time).

The hero wasn't David Cassidy but patterned after Tim Daly (his Wings days) and Sandra Bullock (the bus movie girl).

First line in the book:  There were two thing Yolanda Sanchez didn't want to see in her somewhat restored Queen Anne Victorian, whose ground floor now housed the Twice Told Tales used bookstore.

Last line in the book :  Yolanda didn't care as long as Adam kissed her again.   

Can you think of two things you wouldn't want to see in your bookstore were you the owner?