Friday, July 21, 2017

Turning Up the Heat in Sweet Romance by Sophia Sasson

What I love about the heartwarming line is the sweet nature of the romance. It allows us authors to focus on the characters and their stories. But it does present a challenge for me; how do I give readers the little stomach flutters that come from experiencing the character’s physical relationship. My favorite source of inspiration---Bollywood.  

Bollywood movies have strong romantic elements and until the last decade, explicit physical contact was not culturally appropriate for the screen. The screen writers of the older Bollywood movies used subtle ways to show intimacy. It helps that all of the movies are musicals for that added dimension of surreal romance.


Okay for the fun of it, lets watch a video to see what I’m talking about. The clip is from the movie Dilwale and the song is called Gerua. I’ve recently been obsessed with it not just because it was shot in Iceland (a place on my travel list), but because it literally sweeps you away.

This is why I love Bollywood videos, there is barely a kiss, the hero and heroine are fully dressed, and yet I can feel the love and intimacy between the couple---a rub of  his chin in her hair, the exhale of her breath on his ear and you can feel the tingles in your arms. It’s this close emotional intimacy that  makes the  heartwarming series so special. The line is sweet but as the editors constantly remind me, that doesn’t mean it has to be nice. 

So I’ve explored various ways to ratchet up that emotional intimacy.  

And then the Sergeant’s Temptation gave me the perfect opportunity. Traditional flirtations were not going to work with my spit fire heroine, Sergeant Alessa Parrino. Alessa is no girly-girl. When she tries out for an elite Army unit, she kicks their best solider to the floor in a hand to hand combat exercise. So she’s not exactly the type to clutch her heart when a man gives her that smoldering look. Then my awesome editor, Claire Caldwell came up with the perfect idea to change a scene and here’s what came tapping out of my keyboard:


 “She’s made of titanium,” Dimples quipped, his characteristic smile lopsided as   he grabbed the side of his head that Alessa had slammed into the wall.
“Everyone has a weak spot, guys, and you need to find hers,” Luke said firmly.
“Oh, yeah? If you think it’s that easy, why don’t you do it?” Rodgers shot back. Alessa sensed that Rodgers had been a little hesitant on their second fight and she’d told him his fear was what made him an easy target. He’d been afraid of her based on their previous encounter, which made him tentative, and that hesitation would be the death of him in a real combat situation. She didn’t have the strength that the men did, so she got the better of them through lightning-fast moves.
“Yeah, Lieutenant, why don’t you show us grunts how it’s done,” Dimples jeered.
Alessa looked at Luke and smiled at the panic evident in his eyes. It would be fun to kick his rear end to the ground; put him in his place. She cracked her knuckles.
“What, you afraid to get whooped by a girl?” she taunted.
He narrowed his eyes then gestured to Alessa. Luke stepped onto the rubber mat and held the door while Alessa stepped across the threshold, unable to contain the smirk on her face. Luke closed the door behind him.
He stepped toward her. The guys wouldn’t be able to hear them with the door closed but he kept his voice low.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.

Of course not. Her stomach fluttered as she studied the stormy blues of his eyes. Fighting with someone meant close body contact. His proximity at the computer had been enough to supercharge her senses. Was she really ready for that again? He raised his brows, giving her a way out. All she had to say was no. She wasn’t required to do this training. After all, she was only the logistics person. Fighting him was a bad idea. A very bad idea.
“It’s on,” she said, chin raised.
His eyes darkened and he stepped back from her, his jaw set. There were no rules in this exercise. The idea was to take down your opponent by any means necessary using your bare hands. The rest of the team was watching intently behind the Plexiglas. Her gaze was laser focused on Luke.
Alessa’s martial arts training had drummed into her the importance of looking into the opponent’s eyes to anticipate his next move. It usually worked for her, but not this time. Looking into Luke’s eyes was like watching the swirls of a tornado. Get it together!
He wouldn’t make the first move. In a disciplined fight, offense was not always the best defense. If she moved first, it would give him time to react. He would get to decide whether to evade, block or retaliate. He’d be the one with the choices and she would give away her preferred fight mode. The movies often showed two adversaries circling each other ready to pounce, but neither of them did that. They stared at each other for what seemed like hours but was in fact mere seconds.
Luke wasn’t going to budge. Alessa had to make her move. She led with a kick, hoping to throw him off balance, but he was expecting it and blocked her deftly. She anticipated a counter punch, but it never came. She successfully twisted away from him and they were back in the face off.
He’d had the perfect opportunity to at least get a jab into her, and he hadn’t taken it. Why? While it was understood that they wouldn’t seriously injure each other in these exercises, everyone expected to walk away sore and bruised, including Alessa. The bruises would remind them of their weak spots so they could protect them better next time. Luke should have taken at least one punch.
Most people thought fighting was about power and speed. And it was. But it was also about messing with the opponent’s head. Faking left and going right was the simplistic version of that.
She inched closer to him. “You’ll regret pulling that punch,” she said, then jabbed at him with her fists.

I had a lot of fun writing this scene; how often do you get to write an equally matched hero and heroine fight each other and their attraction in such a physical way. Like the Gerua video, I also wanted a larger than life backdrop. So the book starts out in the U.S and then takes the elite unit to Pakistan and then across a dangerous border to Afghanistan. (PS—there is a making of Gerua video on youtube if you want to know how they got onto that iceberg).

I can’t leave without mentioning the #MysteryPrize giveaway that all of the August heartwarming authors are doing. Buy any of the four amazing August releases (or answer a question) to enter the giveaway.  

In addition, I have a goodreads and an amazon giveaway—all giveaway links are on my website. And yes please, enter all of them! In addition, if you buy a copy of the Sargeant’s Temptation before August 5th, please email me your receipt along with your postal address and I’ll send you this bag free.  


Before I end, onemore awesome Bollywood romantic video. This is from the movie Jodhaa Akbar, a period film about the sixteenth century Moghul emperor Akbar who marries a reluctant Hindu princess in order to firm his hold on Indian Territory but ends up falling in love with her. It’s a sweet video and you get to see an Indian palace (Agra Fort) that you can still tour today.

So tell me, what are some of your favorite sweet romance movies/books/TV shows?


Thursday, July 20, 2017

In the neighborhood...back then

Remembering summer...the way it was then.

So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

- from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with thanks.

by Helen DePrima

Last week I saw a boy, maybe twelve or thirteen, riding a bicycle -- one boy, alone. He was carrying a backpack, maybe on the way to soccer practice or to a friend’s house to play video games.

Growing up at the raggedy margin between farmland and suburbia, I remember packs of boys on bikes riding endlessly after school or from early morning till dusk in the summer. The older kids might mow lawns or deliver newspapers, but mostly they just rode for the joy of the breeze in their faces and the reedy clatter of playing cards clipped to their bike spokes to mimic motor sounds.

Girls didn’t ride bikes. They could, of course, but they weren’t welcome to join the boys’ roving packs. Girls jumped rope or played hopscotch, rough patterns chalked on level driveways or in the middle of quiet streets. We all played croquet, killer games with whoops of glee at sending an opponent’s wooden ball into the neighbor’s yard or under a rose bush.

Cherokee Park - Louisville, KY
We climbed trees and built tree houses, flimsy platforms perfect for reading on a summer afternoon. A trip to Louisville’s Cherokee Park meant wading in Beargrass Creek and catching crawdads as they darted from one submerged limestone ledge to another; nobody warned us about salmonella or other pollutants, and most of us survived. My cousins and I rode our horses through woods and farm lanes, jumped bareback over logs and creeks, fell off and cracked bones and felt ourselves the luckiest kids in Kentucky.

Now the neighborhoods I drive through are too quiet, the streets too empty. I can spy pools in some back yards, securely fenced to prevent tragedy, but I rarely see children running and giggling in games whose rules only they understand. Maybe the notion of playing without scores or points or structure has been programmed out of kids, a sad loss to growing up.
by Liz Flaherty

Growing up on a farm made my experience a little different from Helen's, I guess. We all rode bikes, because that was the only way to hang out with people. The nearest neighbors were a quarter mile away, the nearest kid neighbors anywhere between a half mile and a mile and a half. My bicycle was a hybrid built from pieces and parts of my brothers' and their friends' old ones. It was my link to the life I wanted to live when I was old enough. 

Twenty-some years later, five miles from the farm where I grew up, my kids rode bicycles everywhere. They and their friends lived outside. The boys earned running around money by baling hay and detasseling corn. My daughter babysat. Things hadn't really changed all that much from my own childhood.

But they have now.


Ball Park - Denver, IN
I agree with Helen that neighborhoods are too quiet. Something seems to have been lost with the passage of time. The ball parks and playgrounds near us are still teeming with kids, but there is a major difference between now and then. Now those kids must be watched every minute because violence and drugs are as prevalent here in the cornfields as they are anywhere else and we're all scared to let the young ones we love out of our sight. 

There is, at least in our minds, safety in the technology that has become their playground.

Writing about this makes me grateful for the line of stories we write for. I admit that the neighborhoods in my Heartwarming books lean toward being more Utopian than can be counted on by even the most Pollyanna-ish among us. In my stories, the kids are always safe, being outside after dark is an important part of summer, and board games are the last word in entertainment. It's not that I live in the past (with typewriters and non-defrosting refrigerators? not me!) or even write about it, but I admit there are more parts of it I wish we'd brought into this century with us. Summertime on bicycles goes to the top of that list. Right along with Mr. Rogers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU BY SYNDI POWELL



WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU BY SYNDI POWELL

We've all heard the phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." When the doctor says the word "cancer" though, you start to question the truth of that. Or at least I did.I figured there was no way that fighting and surviving that dreaded disease could bring anything but disaster and sorrow. I'm happy to say that I was wrong.


I learned a lot about myself and life because of cancer. I discovered that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. That washing your hair can be a gift.  That I took my body and all it can do for granted. That friends who volunteered to help and actually showed up were rare and precious. That faith isn't just something you believe, but something you have to do. That good doctors who fight for their patients should be given medals, but rarely do.


In my new series, the Hope Center Stories, I tell the stories of three women who learn lessons from their bouts with cancer as well. They might have planned their lives to go a certain way, but all those plans go by the wayside when cancer enters the picture. It affects not only them, but their families and friends around them. Friendships are tested. Priorities are questioned. And life in all its abundance is found.


I know that I had my life pictured one way, but the cancer diagnosis brought about a catharsis that refined me and gave birth to a new vision of who I am and what I want. Have you ever had a situation that changed who you were? Did something happen to you that might have meant to harm you, but brought you something good instead? Please share your story here.





Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Baby in the House by T.R. McClure

The third in the Harlequin Heartwarming Home to Bear Meadows series, Deal of a Lifetime, debuts September 1. You may have guessed from the heading a baby shows up somewhere in the story. However, the baby doesn't belong to the heroine. Nor does the baby belong to the hero. I'll stop there so I don't spoil the surprise. Nevertheless, as many of us already know, when a baby shows up...things change. πŸ‘ΆπŸ‘Ά

Remember the 1987 movie Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton? She's a successful working woman who suddenly finds herself guardian to a baby. As smart and competent as she is, she doesn't have the slightest idea how to handle this new development in her life. I can relate to that. I read every baby book I could find before the twins were born. 🍼

Also in 1987, Three Men and a Baby, starring...sigh...Tom Selleck. How cute were those three guys trying to figure out how to diaper a baby? Personally, I had to read the directions on the back of the diaper box the fist time I tried. πŸ₯

Some families seem surrounded by babies. A new baby comes along every couple years and are passed from person to person like hors d'oeuvres. No big deal. Others, like mine, have their babies and are done! Toddlers, teenagers, adults. We go through each stage about the same time. So after a while, you kind of forget how to handle a baby. πŸ˜•

Maybe this is a good time to tell you I just found out I'm going to be a grandmother. In September! Yes, I'm excited. But I'm also a little nervous. All the books I read on child care are thirty years old. Baby on the belly? Baby on the back? Blanket? No blanket? And they're so tiny. I'm sure holding my granddaughter for the first time will be a memorable experience. ❤


So wish me luck.

And stop over at Goodreads to sign up for one of my ten signed copies of Deal of a Lifetime. The giveaway runs July 11 to August 11.
Goodreads Giveaway

As always...enjoy the read!

T.R.

www.trmcclure.com        Facebook      Twitter

Monday, July 17, 2017

Inspiration for Our Books and Giveaways . . . by Kate James

We're more than halfway through the month of July, and Catherine Lanigan, Syndi Powell, Cari Lynn Webb and I have been having fun celebrating our releases with blog tours, promotions and giveaways!

Huge thanks to everyone who has purchased our books (or our box set) and a special heartfelt thanks to those readers who've taken the time to post reviews. The average of all the ratings on Amazon for our books, as I write this post, is 4.5 starts out of 5!

As a quick reminder (although I know many of you might not need reminding!), this is us and our July books:

You can find information about our books by clicking on the covers in the right column of this blog page.

Today, I would like to tell you about the inspiration for our books.

Syndi Powell's Afraid to Lose Her


Afraid to Lose Her is the first book of three in my Hope Center Stories series. These three books are about three women on different points of their journey with breast cancer. They were inspired by own fight with the horrid disease, and each woman has pieces of my own life inside her. Family members and friends may even recognize certain phrases, attitudes and events that actually happened to me peppered in these stories.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I searched for books on the subject. I am the type of person that is able to view life through the lens of story, so finding fiction that dealt with a woman's fight with cancer was important to me. Later, I realized that part of my fight against cancer is to tell stories based on my experience. In Afraid to Lose Her, Sherrita Lopez is a strong, independent woman who is about to discover that there is weakness even in strength, that the journey has to be fought together rather than alone. I wanted to show the fears that come when the doctor first says the word "cancer", but I also needed to acknowledge how my family and friends rallied around me to support me in this fight. I wouldn't be here without their love and prayers.

Purchase Links: Amazon © Harlequin © Barnes & Noble

© © ©

Cari Lynn Webb's The Charm Offensive 


We moved often when I was a child because of my father’s job and now with my husband, we’ve continued to relocate around the country. I’ve been fortunate to live in both small towns and big cities and I’ve discovered there’s something to love about each place we’ve lived. There are so many wonderful romance series set in small towns and I wanted to write a series about characters who live and work in a big, vibrant city.

San Francisco has always been one of my favorite cities. I loved to visit the city as a child and I still cherish the time I lived there after college-ever grateful for the lasting friendships I made there-friends who today I consider family. I fell in love in the city and seventeen years later, my husband and I still talk about our first date to the Orpheum Theatre followed by a toast at The Fairmont Hotel. When the idea for The Charm Offensive came up, the City by the Bay was the perfect setting.

Purchase Links: Amazon © Harlequin © Barnes & Noble © iTunes

© © ©

Catherine Lanigan's Family of His Own


Where did the inspiration for Family of His Own come from?

Since the inception of The Shores of Indian Lake series when I first introduced Isabelle and Scott, I’ve wanted to write Scott’s story. His unrequited love for Isabelle, the passionate, obsessed artist, was the kind of angst that always draws me to buy a novel.

Also, I identified a great deal with Isabelle. I know what it’s like to be “in my creative zone”. But Isabelle takes her need for distance and space to an unhealthy level. I’ve seen this kind of behavior so many times not just in myself but others. My curiosity couldn’t wait to explore it. I have to admit to being a biography addict. I love reading about real people, who left a mark on this world. It’s fascinating to me to see the convoluted routes so many of us must take to get to the end goal. For artists, writers, composers…all creative types, we do have this “alternate world” we live in. It’s more than escape for me, it’s a place I inhabit with my characters. Because Isabelle is so focused on her art and is just about to accomplish her lifetime goal, when Scott finally asks her to marry him, she feels like the Titanic when it hit an iceberg. She thinks she’s making the right decision, but what she doesn’t realize is that her life is terribly out of balance.

As fiercely as Isabelle grasps her career, Scott is the polar opposite and realizes that his happiness is not to be found in a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of journalism, but in the little arms of two “abandoned” children of a heroin-addict mother. I didn’t have to do much research to learn about the “Foster Care system” in our country. I have been witness to stories told to me by patients in my brother-in-law’s dental office where I work. I know one couple, now in their eighties, who have been foster parents to sixty-three children. A former writing student of mine and his new bride have just become foster parents. Another patient in the dental practice spent three years first being a foster parent and then adopting a disabled child. Their stories tore my heart to shreds.

When I was researching Protecting the Single Mom, the detectives told me stories of these children being left in mini-marts, grocery stores, left on playgrounds and at the beach by drug-addicted parents. We’ve all read stories of babies being found in dumpsters, but the situation is becoming common. It’s not “shocking” enough to warrant a story in a newspaper or on-line column. The noble and caring hearts of these people who take in these abandoned children deserve all my respect. They are the real heroes in our world today. I wanted Scott to be that kind of guy. And he was.

I also admit that of all my Shores of Indian Lake novels, I think I cried in nearly every line of this book. Seriously, I cried for Scott so many times, I was afraid I’d short out my laptop. But then, I’m a weeper. I admit it. So there. I’ve said it.

Purchase Links: Amazon © Harlequin © Barnes & Noble©  Kobo

© © ©


And finally . . .

My Home to Stay (book 4 in the San Diego K-9 Unit series)


I’m frequently asked about how I come up with my story ideas and how much of what I write is based on my own knowledge and experiences rather than research. Writing about what I know or have experienced leads to a more genuine, believable story, in my opinion. But to write convincing, diverse stories, there is always an element of research that is necessary.

I have always had a profound sense of gratitude for the men and women who dedicate their lives to law enforcement. Toss in my love of dogs, and writing about police officers and their K-9 partners was a natural for me. Through my research for the series, I gained an even greater appreciation for the bravery and dedication of canine officers, and the intelligence and resourcefulness of police dogs. I owe special thanks to York Regional Police (Ontario, Canada) and Constable Jim Hilton, in particular. Constable Hilton, a YRP K-9 unit officer and trainer, was generous with his time, resource materials and limitless knowledge as I conducted my research. I also thank him for introducing me to his explosives detection dog, Max!

Purchase Links: Amazon © Harlequin © Barnes & Noble © iTunes © Chapters/Indigo

© © ©

And don't forget about our giveaway! Here is a picture of the prize pack (butterfly not included!):

The prize pack contains: From Catherine Lanigan: a "Romancing the Tome" tote and two autographed books. From Kate James: an aqua cross-body bag, "Dreamer Extraordinaire" charm bookmark and two autographed books. From Syndi Powell: an autographed book and breast cancer ribbon notebook and pen. From Cari Lynn Webb: an autographed book and charm bracelet.

Entering is easy! You can comment on this post, tweet about our giveaway or visit our July Heartwarming box set on Amazon.

July Heartwarming Giveaway!
The more often you enter, the better your chances to win! The contest is open until end of day July 29th. We will announce the winner on this blog on July 30th.

There's one final thing I would like to mention. I had a fantastic time with my 28-stop Prism Book Tours blog tour for Home to Stay.


Although the last post went up on July 14th, you can still see all the posts and you have until tomorrow to enter the giveaways. You can find the full tour schedule, snippets from each of the posts and learn how to enter here


Prize Pack:
  • A gorgeous aqua cross-body bag;
  • "Dreamer Extraordinaire" charm bookmark;
  • signed copy of When Love Matters Most, the second book in the San Diego K-9 Unit series);
  • signed copy of When I Found You, the third book in the San Diego K-9 Unit series;
  • an assortment of bookmarks and bookplates; and
  • a $20 Amazon gift card.
(US/CAN - if winner lives elsewhere, will receive ebooks & gift card instead.)

Signed Books:
  • Six winners who comment on any of the blog posts associated with the tour, will receive a signed book (US/CAN) of their choice from the first three books in the San Diego K-9 Unit series, When the Right One Comes Along, When Love Matters Most, or When I Found You.

In closing, this is what readers and reviewers are saying about Home to Stay:

~ “Kate James has weaved a wonderful story, filled with heartache and fear…and love.”

~ “If you love reading gripping, romantic stories with amazing main characters, Home to Stay is a definite must-read.”

~ “There were twists I didn't see coming.”

~ “It was an emotional rollercoaster ride.”

~ “Through all the twists and turns this story will take you on, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.”

~ “Kate James has an impressive descriptive writing style. She makes her stories come to life in a beautiful, emotional way. I love her empathy and her great skill to explore what her characters are feeling through and through.”

~ “[Home to Stay] has plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and it's captivating and really well written.”

~ “The tale of loss, grief, moving forward, faith, hope and forgiveness is complete.”

~ “This book had a lot going on emotionally, so brace yourself for a rollercoaster ride of emotions! Love, respect, fear, suspense, worry, excitement, happiness, sorrow and surprise. And don’t forget there are dogs involved!!”

~ “A sweet and enjoyable read with a strong story line filled with moments of tension and others of heart.”

~ “Wow, I really got into this book. Love the mystery and suspense of it, love the characters and especially the dogs. I just love how Kate James knows how to tell a great story, brings the characters to life. This is a great series but each book can stand alone.”

~ “This romantic-suspense book moves very quickly, and you’ll want to keep reading to find out what happens! There are some great twists and turns that will keep you guessing. I loved the ending, and you will too! Add Home to Stay to your must-read pile of books!”

Huge thanks to everyone who reads our books. Happy reading!

Kate

Saturday, July 15, 2017

SIT DOWN SATURDAY WITH CATHERINE LANIGAN


We are here today with Catherine Lanigan whose July release, FAMILY OF HIS OWN, is the 8th book in the SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE SERIES.

What does the back cover say about FAMILY OF HIS OWN?

He’s ready to settle down…with or without her
Scott Abbott has always loved Isabelle Hawks. And he’s always been her rock. Patient, dependable, strong. But lately, she’s been acting like that rock is weighing her down. With her art career taking off, Isabelle has been spending less and less time in Indian Lake…and with him. Scott isn’t even sure what they are to each other anymore. They might be friends with a history, but it sure doesn’t feel like a future. Maybe it’s time for Scott to set her free and focus on his own dreams. A real home. A family. All the thing he had hoped to share with her…..

Where did you get the idea for the novel?

Since the inception of The Shores of Indian Lake series when I first introduced Isabelle and Scott, I’ve wanted to write Scott’s story.  His unrequited love for Isabelle, the passionate, obsessed artist, was the kind of angst that always draws me to buy a novel.

Also, I identified a great deal with Isabelle.  I know what it’s like to be “in my creative zone”. But Isabelle takes her need for distance and space to an unhealthy level. I’ve seen this kind of behavior so many times not just in myself but others. My curiosity couldn’t wait to explore it. I have to admit to being a biography addict. I love reading about real people, who left a mark on this world. It’s fascinating to me to see the convoluted routes so many of us must take to get to the end goal. For artists, writers, composers…all creative types, we do have this “alternate world” we live in. It’s more than escape for me, it’s a place I inhabit with my characters. Because Isabelle is so focused on her art and is just about to accomplish her lifetime goal, when Scott finally asks her to marry him, she feels like the Titanic when it hit an iceberg. She thinks she’s making the right decision, but what she doesn’t realize is that her life is terribly out of balance.

As fiercely as Isabelle grasps her career, Scott is the polar opposite and realizes that his happiness is not to be found in a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of journalism, but in the little arms of two “abandoned” children of a heroin-addict mother. I didn’t have to do much research to learn about the “Foster Care system” in our country. I have been witness to stories told to me by patients in my brother-in-law’s dental office where I work. I know one couple, now in their eighties, who have been foster parents to sixty-three children. A former writing student of mine and his new bride have just become foster parents. Another patient in the dental practice spent three years first being a foster parent and then adopting a disabled child. Their stories tore my heart to shreds.

When I was researching PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM, the detectives told me stories of these children being left in mini-marts, grocery stores, left on playgrounds and at the beach by drug-addicted parents. We’ve all read stories of babies being found in dumpsters, but the situation is becoming common. It’s not “shocking” enough to warrant a story in a newspaper or on-line column. The noble and caring hearts of these people who take in these abandoned children deserve all my respect. They are the real heroes in our world today. I wanted Scott to be that kind of guy. And he was.

Do you have a favorite scene?

I have several favorite scenes. Because I’ve posted the scene between Scott and the two children he comes to adopt, Bella and Michael, I thought I’d share a different scene here with you.
This is the scene in which Isabelle turns down Scott’s marriage proposal. I had so much empathy for Scott, who finally had the courage to ask Isabelle and at the same time, I felt her terror at the choice she thought she was being given. To give up a lifelong dream and know that all her life she would resent Scott, her best friend, for pulling the rug out from under her, it had to be frightening and heartbreaking on BOTH sides.


      Scott leaned toward her, gazing at her with a force of longing and desire she couldn’t remember seeing before. “Isabelle, I came here tonight...” He placed his hand on hers. “To ask you something.”
      A sense of foreboding settled over her. “Scott, I don’t think...”
      “Hear me out. We’ve always been best friends. You’re the first person I think about when I wake up. We spend so much time together. We know each other inside and out. I want us to move forward with our lives.” He squeezed her hand earnestly.
     “We are moving forward,” she said reflexively.
     “I mean together. I’ve thought a lot about where my life is going, and I realize now that writing articles for the local paper is not going to make a difference in this world. I saw that tonight, in that apartment. But I can change the future for these kids. I can take something horrible and make it happy. It’s my hope that you’d do that with me.”
      All Isabelle could do was stare at him. “You just got through saying we were best friends, but you don’t know me at all. You of all people know that I just won the chance of my lifetime. A shot at a gallery show! The one thing I’ve worked for since high school.” Her voice cracked. “It might be selfish, but it’s my chance, Scott. The one I dreamed about while I was raising my siblings.” Her palms were sweating and her heart rammed against her chest like a caged animal. She shot to her feet. “You are not asking me this right now.”
     “Oh, but I am,” he replied quietly.
     “I don’t believe this,” she said, raking her hand through her hair and turning from him.
     “You don’t want to be together?”
     “I don’t want children,” she said in a rush.
    “You never told me that before.”
    “Not in so many words.” How could he have missed this obvious fact about her? She’d often confided how heavily the responsibility for her brothers and sisters had fallen on her. How she valued her independence above all.
    “Why?”
     “I’ve told you, Scott. My whole childhood was cooking, cleaning, doing my siblings’ laundry while they played on the swing set or went to football practice or piano lessons. I was sweeping and changing diapers. I walked Violet in the middle of the night when she had bronchitis, so my mother could sleep and go to work.”
      Isabelle’s voice rose and tears streamed down her cheeks. She could feel resentment in every teardrop. She hated that she felt that way, but she did. “I rarely had time to draw. I desperately wanted to be in the art club in high school. You remember. But most of the time I had to drive one of the other kids to their lessons or the library or whatever when they were supposed to meet. There was never any time for me.” Her cheeks were blazing hot.
      “I knew you resented the responsibilities...”
      “Resented?” She snorted. “All I dreamed about was drawing and painting. No one ever asked me what I wanted. What kind of lessons I wanted.”
      Her tears were coming in torrents and as she dropped her face to her hands, Scott enfolded her in his arms. “I’m so sorry, Isabelle. I didn’t realize how deep this went. There’s so much emotion in your paintings... I should have understood.”
      She sniffed and pulled back. She placed her palms on his chest and felt his thundering heart.
      She was hurting him, but she didn’t know what course to take other than escape. “Don’t you see, Scott? This is my chance to be free. My art has always meant freedom to me. I can explore the entire universe if I make this sale. With the Lodges closed for the winter, I have time to paint what Malcolm wants. I can do this. It will be my grand adventure.”
     “Your new life,” he said huskily.
      “Yes.”
      He smoothed her hair back from her face and traced the edge of her cheek with his thumb. “You go for it, Isabelle. Be the best you can be.”
    “I intend to.”
     Then he kissed her with so much longing and passion, she felt weak.
     He pulled her closer, and she melted into him, catching the faint scent of the spicy cologne he always wore.
    “Isabelle,” he whispered, as he released her. “I have to go.”
     She lowered her head. “I understand. Bye, Scott,” she said, her voice quaking.

What’s next for you?


Next up is HIS BABY DILEMMA to be released in December.  This is Mica Barzonni’s story and for my series, this one is quite different.  I won’t spoil the surprises, and there are several, but I’m enjoying the story between Mica, the youngest of the four Barzonni brothers and Grace, the niece of Louise Railton the owner of The Louise House sweet shop. Grace is a fashion designer who lives in Paris. She has also been in love with Mica since she was sixteen. When she comes back to Indian Lake just before New Year’s, she has a very big surprise for Mica.

I’m also working on four more stories for SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE. I had such a good time with Isabelle Hawks’ large family during the writing of FAMILY OF HIS OWN, I simply had to go back and dig deeper into this wonderful family.

At the same time, there are always more secrets being revealed about Mrs. Beabots and her past in Paris and with her mysterious husband, Raymond.

As always, I love hearing your comments about Indian Lake and what stories you would like to see in the future. You can visit my new web site: www.catherinelanigan.com


Follow me on Twitter @cathlanigan or Pinterest, Facebook and my Prism Book Tours, past and present at www.Prismbooktours.blogspot.com

Have a happy July! 





Friday, July 14, 2017

You Scream, I Scream... by Loree Lough and Cerella Sechrist

July…hot, humid, and filled with fun mid-summer activities…like enjoying ice cream!

We tip our paper hats to President Ronald Reagan for designating July as National Ice Cream month. (National Ice Cream Day is July 15th, for those who might prefer to celebrate all at one time!)

And did you know that thousands of years ago, people of the Persian Empire put snow in a bowl, poured grape juice over it, and ate it as a treat? Believe it or not, they did this in hot and cold weather, by saving snow in underground chambers known as yakhchals. Quaker colonists brought their ice cream recipes to their new land, and before long, ice cream was sold in shops throughout the colonies. It’s no surprise to us that the idea took cold…we mean hold. For example:


  • Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson all made journal entries, singing the praises of ice cream.. (As a matter of fact, Cerella just recently visited James Buchanan's Lancaster, PA estate and saw an antique ice cream maker along with a recipe from Thomas Jefferson.)
     
  • First Lady Dolly Madison served the sweet treat at the Inaugural Ball in 1813.
     
  • In 1832, Augustus Jackson, African American confectioner, created multiple ice cream recipes and an innovative manufacturing technique.
     
  • Philadelphian Nancy Johnson received the first U.S. patent for a small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer all the way back in 1843.
     
  • And in 1920, Harry Burt put the first ice cream trucks on the streets. (Did it have bells, we wonder, or a recording that played nonstop?)

Vanilla remains America's flavor in supermarket and foodservice sales. However, ice cream flavors are only limited by the imagination. Manufacturers, “scoop shops,” and chefs are constantly coming up with new and exciting flavors such as Strawberry Rhubarb, Honey Roasted Peanut Butter, Cool Mint, and even smoky and spicy flavors! Due to ongoing technological advances, today's total frozen dairy annual production in the United States is more than 1.6 billion gallons. And would you believe that the average American consumes more than 23 pounds of ice cream per year?

What does any of this have to do with Heartwarming novels, you ask? Well, let us tell you! We interviewed a few of our characters to find out how they feel about ice cream. And here’s what they told us:



Q: If given just these two choices, which do you prefer, chocolate or vanilla?

Ian Sylvestry, bistro owner, Baltimore’s historic Fells Point: “Chocolate, every time!

The love of his life, Maleah Turner, agreed…sort of: “Chocolate starts out as vanilla, so I guess I have to say both!”

Little Alyssa, whose dad escaped a villainous bad guy through the witness protection program:: “Mostly, I love chocolate, and sometimes I love vanilla. I can’t pick a favorite!”

When interviewed, country music superstar, Sawyer Landry, answered, "Vanilla, especially when it has flecks of vanilla bean in it. I gotta admit, after a show, I sometimes crave something a little sweet, and vanilla ice cream fits the bill just fine."

Sawyer's longtime love, Rory, agrees. "Sawyer and I spent some of our best dates at the local ice cream shop in Findlay Roads. Sometimes, we'd share a sundae, but most times, we each would get a vanilla cone. I especially love vanilla ice cream when it comes in one of those sugar cones. Mmm..."

Rory's niece, Molly, has a bit of a sweet tooth but also a decidedly chocolate bent. Her stepmom's, Harper, influence is evident in her answer. Molly responded to our question by saying, "Chocolate. Harper and I sometimes get ice cream without Dad knowing."

Harper was unavailable for comment. ;)

Q: What’s your go-to flavor?

“Chocolate marshmallow, hands down,” says Ian.

“Chocolate malt. My biggest dessert-regret,” admits Maleah Turner, “is that most stores don’t carry it!”

Alyssa smiles and says, “Mint chocolate chip, in a great big bowl!”

"I love peppermint ice cream," Sawyer says, "but it's a little difficult to find it outside of the holiday season."

"Easy. Cookies and cream. I love those little bits of cookie mixed in," Rory votes.

"Oh, cookies! Chocolate chip cookie dough!" Molly chimes in.

Sawyer tousles her hair. "That might change next week! Last time we had ice cream, you said strawberry was your favorite."

Molly shrugs. "It's hard to pick just one flavor!"



Q: Which are your favorite toppings?

“Call me a purist,” Ian says. “I like my ice cream plain.”

“Not me,” Maleah puts in. “Give me chocolate sprinkles. Lots of them!”

“I’ll take hot fudge sauce every time,” Alyssa says. “Two ladles of it, please!”

"Maraschino cherries," Sawyer decides. "I love those things."

"Coconut shavings, and if there are none of those, more cookies crumbled on top," Rory replies.

"Gummy bars. Or gummy worms. And M&Ms. And sprinkles."


Rory puts an arm around her niece. "Okay, Molly, we get the idea."

Q: Do you prefer soft ice cream or hand-dipped?

Ian: “Hand-dipped, for sure.”

Maleah: “I’m with Ian…because hand-dipped lasts longer!”

Alyssa: “Waffle cone bowl, please?”

Sawyer shrugs. "I'll take either."

"Hand-dipped is the best," declares Rory.

Molly pipes up, "Can we go for ice cream now?"


***

We’re sure all of our characters would enjoy a bowl of homemade ice cream, using this tried-and-true recipe, and we think you will, too!






***


About Loree:

With nearly 6,000,000 books in circulation, best-selling author Loree Lough's titles have earned numerous 4- and 5-star reviews and industry awards. She splits her time between her home in Baltimore and a cabin in the Alleghenies (where she loves to show off her “Identify the Critter Tracks” skills). The release of The Man She Knew (the first title in her “By Way of the Lighthouse” series for Harlequin Heartwarming) brings Loree’s number of books in print to 112! Loree loves to hear from her readers and answers every letter, personally. Visit her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and www.loreelough.com!


About Cerella:

 CERELLA SECHRIST lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. Inspired by her childhood love of stories, she was ten years old when she decided she wanted to become an author. These days, Cerella divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. She’s been known to post too many pug photos on both Instagram and Pinterest. You can see for yourself by finding her online at www.cerellasechrist.com. A Song for Rory, Book #2 in her "A Findlay Roads Story" series, is her fourth Harlequin Heartwarming novel.