Thursday, April 28, 2016

Welcome to My Crazy Life and Giveaways (Tara Taylor Quinn)

 I'm skating in here (I wish, in real life my foot's in a boot because I was in too much of a hurry to get some ceiling trim paint done in my bathroom after writing twenty pages and balanced a step stool in the bathtub and then slipped off from it.) cyberly speaking, as I begin the next segment of the Six Months of Heartstopping ttq tour.
Click Here For Tour Details!

This next tour, starting Sunday, is for the 9th book in my bestselling and critically acclaimed Superromance series, Where Secrets Are Safe. But also on the tour, later this summer is the launch of my new Heartwarming series, Family Secrets. I cannot wait to bring that to you all. The first three books in the series are written. They're all powerful stories in their own way, and all have a piece of my heart. And the second book, Her Soldier's Baby, is maybe one of the best books I've written. My editor and I were both taken through the wringer on that one!

In the meantime, I've got some giveaway chances for you here today, including a chance to win up to 10 free books - any books - of your choice from Harlequin.com, through the Harlequin My Rewards program. These aren't for my books - unless you choose them - they are for ANY book Harlequin and it's subsidiaries offer through My Rewards, including Heartwarming and the NYT bestsellers. Scroll down past the Kindle Fire giveaway to enter. It costs nothing. If you aren't already a My Rewards member, it costs nothing to join, and every single month they offer games and other chances for gaining points toward free books without spending a dime. For my giveaway, you do nothing but enter. My Rewards is giving away enough points to 'buy' up to ten free books!

TTQ PRE-ORDER/PURCHASE KINDLE FIRE GIVEAWAY



Kindle Fire with Six Pre-loaded TTQ Books (books 1-6 from Where Secrets are Safe series)
US only
Ends August 31st

To Enter: Submit your receipt online for your pre-order or purchase of any of Tara Taylor Quinn’s five releases being promoted on her Heart Stopping Tour (Love By AssociationHis First ChoiceThe Promise He Made HerStrangers in Paradise: Sheltered In His Arms, and For Love Or Money). Enter as many times as you purchase. One book purchase equals one entry (one receipt per entry and must be uploaded at time of entry).

TTQ HARLEQUIN MY REWARDS POINTS GIVEAWAY

1st Place: 25,000 Harlequin My Rewards Points – equivalent of 5 free books, reader’s choice of any book published by Harlequin/MIRA/Carina Press.
2nd Place: 15,000 Harlequin My Rewards Points – equivalent of 3 free books, reader’s choice
3rd Place: 10,000 Harlequin My Rewards Points – equivalent of 2 free books, readers choice
Open internationally
Ends August 31st

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Making Stuff Up

by Lee McKenzie

It’s what writers do, of course. We create heroes and heroines and give them strengths and flaws and backstories. We generate secondary characters who fill their lives with love and laughter and conflict. We also create the settings these people live in, and one of my favorite parts of writing is imagining a whole new community for them.

My third Harlequin Heartwarming will be released next week, and it’s the third one to be set in a fictional small town. Sometimes I’ve made them up, and sometimes they’re based on a similar small town that really does exist.

Maggie’s Way, my first book for the line, is set in Collingwood Station, Connecticut. Now I have to be honest with you. I have never been to Connecticut, but in my mind I pictured a quaint little town similar to Stars Hollow in the TV series, The Gilmore Girls.

My second Heartwarming, The Parent Trap, is set on the Sunshine Coast on Canada’s beautiful west coast in a town called Serenity Bay. This community isn’t based on anything, either real or fictional. Instead it’s a compilation of things I love about numerous small towns all shamelessly borrowed and rolled into one.

To Catch a Wife, the first book in The Finnegan Sisters trilogy, will be out next week on May 1st. This story unfolds in the town of Riverton, Wisconsin, which is loosely modelled on the City of Wabasha, Minnesota. As much as I loved Wabasha, I didn’t want to use it as the setting for this series there because I really don’t know much about the town or the people who live there. It would be far too easy to get things wrong. So I did what writers get to do. I made stuff up.

First of all, I took the town and moved it to Wisconsin on the other side of the Mississippi River. I gave it a new name—Riverton—and freely set about filling it with the things I love most about all small towns. Here are just a few of the things I love about Wabasha, MN, and Riverton, WI.

Several years ago I had the good fortune to spend a day in Wabasha, browsing the shops along Main Street and visiting the National Eagle Center.

I love these classic two-storey brick buildings that line so many Main Streets in so many small towns.

Harriet graciously posed for a photograph with me at the National Eagle Center.

The gazebo on the cover of To Catch a Wife was inspired by this one.

This photo captures the heroine’s best friend’s barber shop and the cafe where they like to hang out and have lunch.

In the story, the heroine’s apartment situated on the second floor above the newspaper office was inspired by this one over a bookstore.

This house is new but the style and especially the wrap-around veranda were exactly what I was going for when I created the farmhouse at Finnegan Farm, home to four generations of the heroine's family.
But my fictional town of Riverton, WI, is more than a collection of buildings. Along with the shops and businesses that have been fixtures for decades, I populated it with a cast of characters, some of whom are a little quirky. Most of all, though, I hope I have given this new town a heart.

To celebrate the impending release of To Catch a Wife, I'm offering two giveaways this month. One winner will receive a signed copy of Maggie's Way and another will received a signed copy of The Parent Trap. Both books will be accompanied other yet-to-be-determined goodies. Let's call it a surprise pack! On Friday, April 29 I will make a random drawing from the readers who post a comment on this post. The winners' names will be announced here and in the next issue of my newsletter, Life in the Slow Lane.

Happy reading, Heartwarmers!

Until next time,

Lee
www.LeeMcKenzie.com
To Catch a Wife, Book One of The Finnegan Sisters trilogy
On sale May 1

Monday, April 25, 2016

North vs South

By Patricia Bradley

I wasn't going to do another weather related post. Really, I wasn't. But, I just couldn't help it. :-)

This time last year, I was in Minnesota...well, actually, it was two weeks later than now which makes my point even better. This is what it looked like on the North Shore as I looked out my window.

This is what it looks like in North Mississippi at the same time of year.


I've even had to mow my lawn three times already. If I could, though, I would travel to the North Shore in about a month and experience Spring all over again! It is beautiful up there, no matter what time of year.

Oh, one thing, if someone could please help me I would greatly appreciate it. Can you identify the crop in the photo below? When I drive from North Mississippi to Chattanooga, I see these yellow fields everywhere. And I can't very well stop and ask.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sit Down Saturday with Leigh Riker




So, Leigh, where did you get the idea for Lost and Found Family?

That’s a good question. Where do ideas come from? In this book the two main characters “spoke” to me first. And with each novel, I try to give myself a challenge: How do Emma and Christian Mallory survive such a tragedy and learn to love each other again? To heal their marriage? In that way it’s a reunion story—my favorite kind.

How long did it take you to write?

About four months. The story had several false starts until it finally jelled around a carousel and a smaller, carved version of an actual horse in the book. Then my editor (brilliantly) suggested we link that horse to the hero rather than to another character so he now owns The General. That really tightened things up.

What’s your favorite scene?

The one in which Emma, who’s a professional household organizer, meets with a client. The woman (actually Christian’s ex-wife) has twin girls the same age as the son Emma lost. Through them she is finally able to glimpse a way through her own grief to find a new “normal” for Emma.

Who was your favorite character, and why?

Christian, I think.  After his divorce Emma was his second chance and they had the son he’d yearned for. Christian is such a good guy who only wants his family to be whole once more—yet he has a hard time forgiving Emma. And I do love writing heroes!

This is your seventeenth novel (plus a few novellas). What does that mean to you?

That I’m still in the business of writing (grin), pursuing that other love of my life (can’t overlook my husband here) and enjoying every minute of it—well, except for line edits, which I just finished for another book. I have so many projects in my head…

Speaking of that, what do you plan to work on next?

I’ve completed The Reluctant Rancher mentioned above (more horses and some cowboys this time!), which will come out from Heartwarming next fall. That book is the start of my new mini-series, Kansas Cowboys! So I’m now writing the second book. Its working title: Cowboy of Her Dreams.
What are you reading for pleasure right now?

I just read C.J. Box’s first book in his Joe Pickett series, Open Season, about a Wyoming game warden. And, although it’s not romance, I’m hooked! So now I’m in the middle of Savage Run, the second book in that series. I ordered both in one week. Amazon loves me! At the same time, I’m reading this month’s other Heartwarming titles; and just look at those gorgeous covers!

Here’s a brief, edited excerpt from my own Lost and Found Family. [After a quarrel, in this scene Emma has paid a visit to her husband’s office]:

“I’m sorry about the other night,” she said.

“Me too.” In the next instant Christian slipped his arms around her and drew her close against him. “Let’s both cancel anything else for today…We can take a drive, talk, eat somewhere—you love that restaurant near the Georgia border—”

“I don’t know if they serve lunch.”

“Somewhere else, then…” He waited a moment before going on. “There won’t be many more days like today before winter sets in. We could…” His next words were low. “Maybe even get a room at the inn.”

“How romantic,” she said, her pulse picking up.

His teasing suggestion made her remember a night, more than six years ago, when he’d taken her to dinner there then dropped down on one knee on the stone patio and asked her to marry him.

How could he still love her?

“It’s been way too long, Emma.” With the words Christian cradled her face in both hands, then slowly brought his mouth to hers. That one light kiss reminded her of all they’d had once; all they’d lost.

For a long moment she let him kiss her anyway, gave in to the feel of his lips on hers, his strong arms around her just like the night they’d become engaged. At the end she went boneless in his embrace and kissed him back. The temptation to sink into him, as she had so often in their years together, to share his love again, was almost enough. Then, as if by instinct, the old need to protect her emotions made Emma straighten.

Slowly, she drew her mouth from his. Inch by inch she backed away until the coldness had settled between them once more like a chill wind blowing down the mountain, making her shiver without his arms around her.


There could be no going back, no forgiveness. Because of her.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tips For Developing Better Habits by Roz Denny Fox


Since my last blog was advice on keeping our brains healthy and we all found some areas that we needed to improve, I thought this time I’d see if there are ways we can help ourselves form better exercise, food, or sleep habits. Many people make resolutions in January and by March they go by the wayside.

So I found 9 tips for developing better habits.                                             

1.    Get Motivated

Ask why you want to adopt a certain habit. Will your life improve if you develop it? And what will happen if you say “forget it”? Sorting through these questions will help streamline your goal and maintain motivation when you flag. If you work better visually, write down the answers and post them where you read them daily.

2.    Start Small

Lasting habits take time to develop. Don’t get discouraged. Start by setting small goals. Focus on manageable changes at the beginning of any transformation. If you do that your habits will more likely become automatic.

3.    Set Reminders

When you want to adopt a new habit it’s easy to fall off track. Consistency is the key to success. That’s why posting your goals where you readily see them is important.

4.    Replace a bad habit

It’s easier to exchange a bad habit with a good habit than it is to just kick a bad habit out of your life. For instance, if you want to quit eating sugary snacks, make good snacks more available. If granola or carrot sticks are at hand, you won’t get up from your computer and go find candy or cookies.

5.    Get Others on Board

If you need to dump a bad habit and set a better one, the more people you tell what you are trying to achieve, the more accountable you’ll be. A side benefit may be that friends or co-workers will decide to join you in setting a new, better goal for themselves.

6.    Have realistic expectations

We all know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but whenever we set new goals it’s easy to want instant gratification, or instant change. The truth is achieving results only comes when you create consistency.

7.    Mark your calendar and do the good or new habit for 30 days.

Studies show it takes 30 days to form a habit, so if you stay committed to the good habit that long it’s more likely to become automatic. If you find yourself backsliding, set another 30 days.

8.    Only take on one new habit or habit change at a time.

Although you may take stock of your life and think you need a whole-life overhaul, attempting to make too many changes at once may quickly sabotage all of your efforts. Center your mind and effort on one good habit at a time. Only after it feels routine, then go to a new change.

9.    Reward yourself for a job well-done

Small rewards help keep you motivated, especially on days when it’s hard to stay on track. It helps if you make a list of rewards ahead of time so you have something to look forward to. But be sure the reward isn’t something that dips back into the habit you’re trying to change. i.e. if you are trying to quit eating sugary snacks, your reward can’t be a candy treat. Make it a rose you buy and put in a budvase where you can enjoy it. Or meet a friend for a healthy break.

There are always roadblocks, but instead of giving up remind yourself why you wanted to make the change, Maybe keeping inspirational quotes at hand will reignite your fire. Say you’ve missed days due to illness or travel, don’t let that derail you. Take up the good habit again as soon as you’re able. And lastly, silence negative thoughts. An inner critic, and I know we all have one, can be the biggest detractor. Accentuate the positive. Read inspiring books, listen to upbeat music, and most of all seek out encouraging people--friends like we’ve made in this Heartwarming group with our helpful blogs. You all have inspired me to be a better me. I hope my blogs help you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Living the dream

by Helen DePrima


I’ve heard people make a big deal of decade birthdays, especially the thirtieth, the fortieth, the fiftieth. After fifty, it doesn’t seem to matter as much. With luck, you’re pretty well set on your course, happy with your life or at least content with your lot.

Mostly I can’t even recall what I did to mark most birthdays, but I did experience an epiphany of sorts at fifty. Still plenty of time to realize dreams, but time suddenly became finite, no longer limitless.

Growing up five hundred miles from salt water, I had somehow become fascinated with sailing. As a kid I read voraciously about historic voyages, about every manner of vessel under sail, from single-handed dinghies to majestic windjammers racing around Cape Horn. As an adult, my love of the sea only grew stronger living just an hour from the New Hampshire coast. I dreamed of tilting decks and the taste of spray from waves coming over the bow; the exquisite curve of white sails against a blue sky brought tears to me eyes.

Helen at the helm of the Brilliant.
So at fifty I learned to sail, both in my own little Nova Scotia-built lapstrake dinghy and crewing on other people’s larger boats. There were times when I was miserably seasick, when I was cold and wet, when I was afraid in a sudden gale off the Maine coast and crossing Long Island Sound in fog so thick that phantom images of trees and cliffs loomed where I knew none existed.

And still sailing was as wonderful as I’d always imagined. Steering the schooner Brilliant under sail beneath the I-95 bridge over the Connecticut River was the high point of my love affair with the sea, and the best sound in the world is the quiet of running with no power but fair wind singing in the rigging. 


I no longer sail; a mild vertigo makes me an unsafe sailor, but for ten years I lived my dream.

by Liz Flaherty

I love Helen's dream, don't you? Mine is more prosaic than hers. At my most exciting, I'm just...well, not. 

But I remember the first writers' conference I ever went to. It was in Indianapolis in the 1980s. I took my manuscript (the only one I'd ever completed) with me and went down and spent the night by myself in the conference motel. The next day I wore white pants and my favorite mint green jacket and sat at a round table with five other women. We listened to speakers all day long, had mystery meat for lunch, and left the hotel on sensory overload.

I thought the women at the table with me would be BFFs forever, but I never saw them again. I thought I'd never forget any of the speakers' names, but I did. I thought that first manuscript would be my ticket into Harlequin-stardom. Ahem. It wasn't. But I knew, listening to those women who worked in their pajamas and bare feet and got paid to write, what my dream was.

In the 90s, my friend Jenni Licata sent out letters to all RWA members in the area and created a new chapter, Northeast Indiana Romance Authors. I finished another manuscript. And another. And then I stopped counting.

It happened bit by bit. I sold my first book in 1998 and there have been 11 since then. I still don't work in pajamas, but I am barefoot and have the office-workroom I always wanted. Some of my best friends in the world are other writers. I get paid. And now I live the dream.

And all this time after that first conference, when I talk to high-school English students and hand them coilbound notebooks and cheap pens and tell them those and a strong dose of grammar, spelling, story, and heart is what they need to get started, that's when I know I always have.


 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Heartwarming and Bollywood

by Patricia Rosemoor, half of Lynn Patrick

I know you’re going to think this is a stretch, but Heartwarming books and Bollywood movies have a lot in common. It hit me a couple of weeks ago when I was watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...

...starring my favorite Bollywood hero, Shah Rukh Khan, the wealthiest actor in the industry (wealthier than Tom Cruise). Bollywood makes more movies than the US and China combined.

Shah Rukh (formerly known as Shahrukh, in the industry known as SRK or King Kahn and owns Red Chile Entertainment) makes a particular kind of movie, so I always look for them – a combination of romantic comedy and sometimes serious drama, always with a huge emotional kick. Not that I’ve seen everything that he’s made.



The love story is always fraught with conflict. The hero choosing an ordinary woman whom his father doesn’t approve of and his being disinherited. Mistaken identities or hidden identities. A division of culture and class – while the caste system has supposedly been eradicated legally, it is sometimes an impediment in a Bollywood romance. The romance is even more wholesome than a Heartwarming inthat the couple never kisses.

But the really interesting thing is how a Bollywood movie reflects Indian beliefs that seem pretty Heartwarming to me. Families of multiple generations may live together.

Elders are respected. Self-sacrifice and making others happy above one’s self is paramount. This is the true heart of the Bollywood movie.

Oh, that and the wonderful musical numbers with colorful costumes and dozens of dancers.


So if you have three and a half hours – yes, Bollywood movies can be that long – sit back and enjoy a story that is simultaneously different and yet very familiar at heart.

(Note all photos are from Dharma Production on the Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham Facebook page.)

***


Home for Keeps 

Lynn Patrick's newest novel set in Sparrow Lake is set for a May 1 release