Friday, August 28, 2015

It's All About Me

By Shirley Hailstock

Today is what we call Sit-Down Saturday.  It's my turn and I've noticed people talk about the inspiration for their books or some aspect of that occurred to them while writing the book.  You've heard enough about me and the inspiration for my August book, Promises to Keep for the last few months.  I won't tell you again, except to say I hope you get a copy and read it.

Since I am the subject of this blog and when I asked my readers about what they liked most about my newsletter, the answer was the personal column that gave them a little about me and what I do other than write.  Heartwarming is a new place for me to tell stories.  You, as a new audience, might not be on my newsletter list or have received the Up Close and Personal column where I tell you a little about myself, so I'll do it now.

As the dog days of summer stare us in the face, I'll tell you I'm from Buffalo, New York where we know snow.  I wasn't born there, but I grew up there and I like snow.  I like winter sports (participating, not watching) and I like to be warm.  You might not think those two things go together, but when I'm ice skating, I'm not cold.  When I get cold, I go somewhere warm.  Looking out from the warmth of a fire with something hot in my hands is a scene I've played more than a few times.

I taught Accounting as an Adjunct Professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey for ten years.  I loved it.  I hated exams: administering them, correcting them and going over them, but the act of teaching I loved.  Two of my students eventually got jobs at the same place where I worked full-time.  It was gratifying to know that I'd done a job well enough that they got hired without me knowing it.

Other than writing, I love to sew.  I don't do it as much as I used to.  There was a time (before writing) that I made everything I wore (outwear only).  That included coats and pants.  I have a weird body shape and jeans (the uniform du jour) did not fit me comfortably.  When fabric prices went up to the point that making it cost as much as buying it already made, I bought more than I made.  Around Halloween, I usually make the outfit.  When I went to the Romantic Times Convention in Houston, I made my costume for the ball and won an award.  I also made a historical gown (in a size 14 -- none of these size 3's) and it's been used a lot by my local romance chapter for various events.

I also love to play tennis.  We have the Tennis Channel at home and it's a go-to station for me.  My daughter is in a program for committed athletes (Arthur Ashe) and I play with the adults.  In the spring and summer we're on the courts five days a week.

This leads into other things I do -- exercise.  Don't groan.  I walk 10,000 to 20,000 steps a day, most times in conjunction with the tennis.  I do it to maintain my weight and to ward off any weight related conditions.

What and who do I read?  I read everything from cereal boxes to bestsellers.  I like suspense, romance, (mainly contemporaries, but I get an urge for a historical now and then), science fiction (as long as it has some science in it - I was a Chemistry major in college), and time-travel.  There are other books I've read, but not enough in one category to say I read it.  I read a lot of mainstream too.  As to favorite authors, there was way to many to list.

You know more about me now.  There is much more, but let's dole it out a little at a time, the same way we give you character information.  Instead of information dumps, you get it fed to you in small doses.  This is your dose for the time being.

Enjoy and keep reading.

The Two Mothers at Patrick's Wedding

This blog contains a lot of intensely personal stuff, so if you're not up for that this morning, or if you're tired of my sharing this sort of thing with you, by all means go on to whatever is next on your schedule, no hard feelings.  In my currently quiet existence, you've all become my society, and it's your own fault that your easy affection and your total acceptance of all who venture here has made it easy to spill my guts.

Patrick is our middle child, our second son.  At 51, he's gorgeous, sweet, stubborn, and charming, and has finally found the love of his life.  (The reason it's taken so long is the stuff of romance-novel-hero back story, but not mine to tell.  This comes from my perspective as his mom.) He and Jeane (say, Gina) were married last Saturday in their backyard, a woodsy setting in Oregon's Coast Range.  But what was even more beautiful than the setting was the love Ron and I found there.

We've adored Jeane for years, so love from her was no surprise, but what happened at the wedding is that sweet, full-circle thing we hope we'll all come to but can't be sure about.

But, before I get to that . . .

You all know we adopted our three children as a family because their parents had had a difficult situation neither could deal with at the time.  I don't know the details, just that they were good people caught in a bind.  Anyway, Ron and I built our lives with the children and told them over and over (as the books on adoption advise) that their parents gave them up because they loved them and wanted them to have a better life than they could provide.  When our daughter, Kathy, the youngest, was married and planning a family, she told us she wanted to look for her biological family because their health history could be important to her children's future.  Made good sense to me.  So we started a search with what we knew about them.  This was 1988, just before you could find anything and everything with the right Google search.

We were blocked in every direction until Kathy found a website called Seekers of the Lost.  It had a database of 2,000,000 names - really new online at that time.   Within days, she'd found their biological father, who was still in touch with his ex-sister-in-law, who put them in touch with their mother.

Everyone was excited, including Ron and me.  Eventually, we were introduced to their father when he came to Astoria to visit.  The kids went to Washington state to meet their mother, whom we eventually met when she came here to visit.  They were clearly lovely people, and who knows what any of us would do with our backs against the wall and no one to turn to.

Anyway, over the years, I know they've visited often. I've never asked questions and they haven't shared too much.

So, Patrick called about six weeks ago, telling me his natural mother was in the area and he thought he should invite her to the wedding, but wouldn't if it would in any way offend us.  I assured him it absolutely would not.

Honestly, I'm trying hard not to come off as the virtuous woman who is selfless and noble.  The truth is that motherhood was so much harder for me than I'd expected, and as I recall, I was often testy and my voice was several decibels higher than it should have been.  To dilute the guilt I feel about that, I'm determined to make future family gatherings as harmonic as possible.  I want the kids to know that both their families love them and are fine with each other.

I spotted their other mother before the wedding began and headed toward her.  She saw me and by the time we met in the middle, we both had our arms open.  She said how much she appreciated our willingness to share.  My only proprietary message was that I was happy to share - I wouldn't relinquish anything - but the  children she'd give birth to were remarkable and I was happy to share.  She hugged me again.

With the casual nature of the wedding, the bride and her father were the only ones who walked down the aisle - a path made with tall alder branches decorated with mason jars filled with wild flowers.  It was beautiful.  When the ceremony was over, Jeane went to embrace her mother and step-father, and Pat came to wrap his arms around us.  Then he turned to embrace his biological mother and she burst into tears.  I was so proud and pleased.

When champagne was poured, Gina's step-father made the dearest toast to his wife and Jeane's father, stepping out of the middle to congratulate them on the beautiful daughter they'd made and how she'd enriched all our lives.  Her family were just the kind of people you hope your kids will connect with to swell the ranks of your own.

Everyone was touchingly attentive to Ron, who would have had a terrible time in his walker negotiation the beautiful hillside.  It was uneven grounds with roots sticking up and brambles to catch your feet.  But Mike (our oldest), Pat, Gary (our son-in-law) and Sean, the bride's daughter's boyfriend (are you still with me?) literally carried him and his walker up and down and back and forth.  He first apologized for presenting such a problem, and when they assured him they considered it part of their fitness programs, he just relaxed and enjoyed it, thinking of them as his personal sedan chair.

We have been intoxicated by the whole experience ever since.

This life lesson was about how freeing it is to love without caution, without fear that if you open up, you'll lose something.  Nine times out of ten, you don't.  You just find more to embrace. The kids' natural mother could have resented us, been suspicious of us, or simply disliked us because we had what had once been rightfully hers.  But she didn't.  She embraced us.  Now we all have everything.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Heartwarming Thanksgiving (Tara Taylor Quinn)

We have a new project in the works and I'm really excited to tell you all about it.  We currently have thirteen Heartwarming authors who are going to be writing Heartwarming Thanksgiving shorts to fill your Thanksgiving Holiday with Heartwarming warmth.  It's our gift to you. 

For thirteen days in the month of November you'll get a brand new Heartwarming Thanksgiving short story completely free.  They'll be published on  You'll see a lot more about the project in the weeks to come.  There will be a dedicated landing page, and you'll also be able to access the stories from the front page of  These are original stories, plotted fully by each individual author.  No continuity.  No need to read them in any order.  You're getting thirteen individual Thanksgiving gifts from Harlequin Books and some of your favorite Heartwarming Authors.

PLEASE, other authors on the project, join in here!!  Tell us who's going to be there!

In the meantime...I'm busy writing the full length Superromance that's due on Tuesday.  And working on my Thanksgiving Heartwarming so I'm out of here for today!  But stay tuned.  There's more ttq Heartwarming coming up very soon.  In October.  If you're really eager, you can order now!

Hi from the High Country

Hope everyone is having a great summer. I am in Avery County North Carolina in the mountains. The weather is great. my dog and I are happy to be away from the Florida heat. But... the cell service is sketchy and I dont have wifi! I actually missed posting last month because I couldnt find a hot spot. Now Im using my old tablet and any mistakes are the fault of the tablet and not me! all this makes me wonder about our dependence om wifi, social media, etc. would you take a two month vacation to the place of your dreams if you had to give up wifi? its tough. Anyway stay cool and enjoy a good book, like a Harlequin Heartwarming

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Latest DIY + Contest + Giveaway!

by Lee McKenzie

Here’s what I love about do-it-yourself projects:
• having fun
• being creative
• saving money
• a one-of-a-kind finished product
For my latest DIY, I decided to search for a small dresser to use as a bedside table because I needed extra storage. Since I knew I’d be painting the dresser once I found it, I really only had two criteria:
• it had to be no wider than 34”
• and it had to be cheap!
The search is half the fun, and after a couple of months of on-and-off scouring online sites and local second-hand shops, I finally found this one.

The dresser had good bones and the insides of the drawers were pristine—important features!—but the rusty brown color was drab and the faux brass drawer pulls were uninspired.

Even before I found the right piece, I knew I wanted to paint it with Annie Sloan chalk paint, and I’d decided that Versailles, a lovely shade of soft green with undertones of grey, would coordinate perfectly with the soft turquoise walls in this space.

To find out more about Chalk Paint, visit Annie Sloan's website!
Chalk paint is super-versatile and can be used to paint virtually anything. Wood, glass, vinyl, even fabric! Best of all, it adheres to surfaces with little or no preparation. It dries quickly and the second coat can be applied within hours, and then when that’s dry it gets a light, even coat of soft wax. I used Annie Sloan’s clear wax because I didn’t want the wax to affect the color.

The drawer pulls definitely had to be replaced. I love all things shiny—I’m a bit like a crow that way!—and I knew I’d found what I was looking for when I spotted these rhinestone-studded beauties at Home Depot.

These were wider than the previous pulls so I had to fill one set of holes with wood filler and drill a second set to accommodate the new pulls. Totally worth it, if you ask me! What do you think?

The final tally:
• Dresser: $40
• 6 new drawer pulls: $60
• Paint and wax: $15 (approx)
I sold the six original drawer pulls for $15 to the shop owner where I bought the paint, so my grand total for the dresser is about $100. The total cost of the paint and wax was more than $15 but I only used a small amount to refinish this dresser and have lots left for several future projects. I’m just not sure yet what those projects will be!

Although I often daydream about the DIYs I’d like to do, the reality is that I only have time for occasional projects. What about you? Are you a DIYer? A scourer of thrift shops and second-hand stores? I hope you'll post a comment and share your story, or feel free to comment on my latest DIY, or just say “hi!”

I have a giveaway this month as well—a copy of The Daddy Project (one of my backlist books that has a heroine who's an interior decorator and loves DIY and bakes amazing cupcakes) and to go with the book, an adorable shopping bag from the world-famous Magnolia Bakery in New York City. Because even though not everyone is DIY fan, who doesn’t love cupcakes?
On Thursday, August 27th I’ll make a random draw from all the commenters and post the name of the winner here on the blog and it will also be in my September newsletter, Life in the Slow Lane. Click the link if you'd like to subscribe!

I'm also inviting readers to enter my Name This Furry Friend Contest. The heroine in my next Heartwarming has a pet hamster, and this sweet little girl needs a name.

Each of the stories in my new three-book series about the Finnegan family of Riverton, WI, is populated with furry friends. In To Catch a Wife (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2016), newspaper reporter Emily Finnegan’s pet hamster needs a name. While Emily’s working, this sweet little girl likes to snuggle in this red box on her desk and keep her company.The Name This Furry Friend Contest is now open! Lee will be accepting entries until midnight (PDT) on Sunday, September 13, 2015. The entries will be judged by me and my family, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. The winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card and receive an acknowledgement in To Catch a Wife. One entry per person.

Good luck! 

Until next time,


Lee McKenzie...writing fifty shades of pink

To Catch a Wife (Harlequin Heartwarming, May 2016

Monday, August 24, 2015

And the Secret is...

Have you ever sat on a story you were dying to tell? Well, that’s been me for the past five months! Back on my March  post, I wrote about Tana and Jason’s wedding and left readers with a cliffhanger...Oh, there's more to this story...unfortunately, I can't tell you what it is until October, but I will. Stay tuned.

Then, last month I thought I'd be able to reveal the story, but circumstances prevented it. And now that I'm able to reveal the secret, it seems a little anticlimactic, but more on that at the end. 

For readers who haven't read the previous post, I’ll do a short recap...

Jason and Tana were in love and planning a December wedding, but his job on a crabbing boat called him away before they could get married.

His captain felt bad and offered to have the wedding on the boat, in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Talk about a destination wedding!

Here are a few photos of the wedding, courtesy of Geri Moore helping with the curlers.

What wasn't in the post was...The guy with the camera was from the Discovery Channel! The wedding took place on the Cornelia Marie, one of the crabbing boats on The Deadliest Catch.

And the reason for all the secrecy was because the wedding was the season finale and they didn't want it advertised until the end of the season, which was last Tuesday. But you can catch it in reruns or find it on the web.

The anticlimactic part? The wedding was the very last five minutes of the show! But it was a sweet ceremony. 
So if you could have a Destination Wedding, where would it be? 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sit Down Saturday by Melinda Curtis

Today is my day to celebrate my August release with a little behind the scenes look into Time for Love.

The platform: This is book 5 in my Harmony Valley series, which is set in a small town in the northeastern corner of Sonoma County. Harmony Valley is in trouble, because a decade ago the mill exploded and jobs burnt up with it. Everyone who wasn't retired, moved to where the jobs were. Schools? Closed. Stores? Mostly closed. Houses? Mostly abandoned. You've driven by towns like
that, right?

So what does that leave a writer to work with? Set in their ways old people. As a writer of lighthearted romance and romantic comedy...Well, let's just say it's heaven for me as I bring a younger generation back to town.

The characters: Because I'm writing a series, I try to connect characters and storylines to previous books. Kathy first made an appearance in Summer Kisses (book 2), by dropping her son off with her brother, but without any explanation (at least in the first draft). In my mind, Kathy was a young, single mother (got pregnant in college) and was just tired. Any writer for the Heartwarming line knows that isn't going to cut it for a sub-character. I needed Kathy to disappear, but I didn't want her to die. So the poor girl went to rehab. At the time, I thought it was a perfect solution.

In the previous book, my hero Gage was a veterinarian who was really good at settling down mares about to foal. The idea of horse whisperers had begun to intrigue me and since Gage was now a permanent resident in Harmony Valley, I thought - hey, why not bring in a horse whisperer to help Gage. I know someone who I think has horse whispering skills. Easy peasy, right? Um, wrong. My hero, Dylan had no real backstory. So I watched a heartwarming documentary on one of the most famous horsewhisperers, Buck Brannaman. This guy had come from a dark place and has become a true hero of a man. I fell in love!

The Premise: But then it came down to creating conflict and opportunities for character growth.
Now, if you were paying attention, you might have read that I write on the lighter spectrum - certainly not dark and angsty women's fiction. A hero who'd been abused? A heroine who's just out of rehab? That's pretty serious stuff. But by now, I'd fallen in love with the young, made mistakes single mom trying to rebuild her life in her mid-20s and the 30ish horse whisperer who hadn't had a fairy tale childhood and used horses to help build the confidence of recovering alcoholics. Heartwarming's brilliant senior editor, Victoria Curran, once told me that I have the ability to take a deep, dark wound and tell it with a lighthearted touch. I hugged that thought and dove in. These people may have believed it wasn't their time for love, but they had to get back on that horse!

The Humor: Yes, don't despair! There's humor here. There's a lot of fun to be had making the hero and heroine "straight men" for larger than life supporting cast members. In a Harmony Valley story, that means my set-in-their-ways retired folk. For this story, I also threw in some horses with personality and the young boys of the hero and heroine. And lucky for me, from page one Kathy had a sense of humor about herself and life. Here's the book's opening:

  When Kathy Harris was a teenager, she’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, a professional basketball player and an airline pilot—anything to get out of her small hometown.
  So much for dreams.
  She shoveled another pile of manure into the wheelbarrow.

But I don't use humor like a stand-up comedienne. I use it as I do in life. To deal with uncomfortable situations. To help myself get over past hurts and mistakes. To be able to laugh at myself and grow as a person. We all come from a place with dark corners. That doesn't mean our life is dark and gloomy. And neither is the journey Kathy and Dylan take in Time for Love.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today bestseller. Her latest Heartwarming release is Time For Love. She dares you to read it and call it an "issue book", even though the back cover begins with the line "As a kid from a shattered family".