Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Lee McKenzie

Today we’re celebrating the release of THE PARENT TRAP by Lee McKenzie.

So, Lee, where did you get the idea for this novel?

This book started with the setting—the fictional town of Serenity Bay on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. It’s my first book set in Canada and I’m very excited about that. When I discovered that both the hero and heroine were single parents of fourteen-year-old daughters, I knew those girls would get up to something. Teenagers always do, don’t they? And then that old Haley Mills movie came to mind and I thought it would be fun to do a twist on that. So instead of two long-lost sisters reuniting a family, in my version of The Parent Trap, two BFFs unite their families.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? 

“What if happily ever after was even better than in the movies?”

How long did it take you to write?

Five months.

What is your favorite scene?

I don’t have just one. I loved writing the high school dance scenes with both teenage girls and their “dates,” and the hero and heroine there as chaperones. I also have a peculiar fondness for epilogues because they close the circle so nicely.

If you could pick celebrities to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?

Jennifer Lawrence (with short hair) and Ryan Gosling (clean-shaven), because they’re who I pictured while I was writing this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The hero, Jonathan Marshall. Seriously, the man is Ryan Gosling-gorgeous and he can cook. Who doesn’t love a guy who knows his way around the kitchen?

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned that if I write a book set in a fictional town that’s close to where I live, then I don’t have to do any research on the setting! I also learned a lot about fashion. In The Parent Trap;jsessionid=ED96929F057A442327042C50EA2B3BEF?iid=54429&cid= , the heroine and the hero’s daughter are both fashionista’s (and I’m definitely not) so I did a lot of internet research on various fashion designers. As a result, some beautiful clothing and accessories found their way into the story. 

My favorite part was using some gorgeous vintage-inspired dresses in the epilogue. They were designed by Debbie Murray, a young and extremely talented Vancouver designer whose label is called Happy Yellow Dress . Click on the link to check out the dresses and see if you can figure out what happens in the epilogue.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

I didn’t have any particular songs or styles of music in mind as I wrote this book, but I’d say the hero and heroine would likely listen to light rock. For the teenagers, I’m thinking something by Taylor Swift.

This is your 8th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?

It means I’m happy to be alive. A cancer diagnosis coincided with the release of my second book, but after major surgery and a full year of chemo, here I am. I am so fortunate to have added six more books to my list, even more fortunate to have editors willing to continue working with me, and I look forward to sharing many more stories with readers.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’ve been dabbling with a story about a jilted Montana cowboy-slash-helicopter-pilot who finds an interesting way to mend his broken heart. I’m afraid this cowboy’s story won’t be for Heartwarming, though. He simply refuses to behave.

I’ve also been working on an idea for a series set in a small town in Wisconsin—three books about three sisters and the men who love them. I’d also like to write their father’s story. He raised his girls on his own and I think he deserves a happy ending, too, but I wonder how readers would feel about a romance featuring a wounded war hero in his late forties. If anyone has thoughts on that...yay or nay...I’d love to hear them. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?  

Right now I’m reading The Lakeshore Chronicles series by Susan Wiggs, and anxiously awaiting the third book in Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer series on October 28. Next up on my TBR pile is A Long Time Gone by Karen White.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Introduction to Deals Only by Muriel Jensen

Good Morning, All!  I apologize for always adding my photo, but it's all I know how to do.  And straight text looks so daunting.  You're welcome to print this out, cut out my photo, and use it to play darts.

We live about five blocks up a hill from downtown Astoria.  It used to be a thriving little commercial avenue, but like most cities, serious stores have moved out of town and we're left with wonderful restaurants, interesting boutiques, but nowhere to buy groceries within walking distance.  Until I discovered Deals Only. I'd read somewhere that those thrifty grocery stores carried old, unreliable, and pirated products, and since it was right across the street from Safeway, I ignored it.  Until I had friends coming in the afternoon and nothing for dessert. Safeway had moved, so  I braved the purportedly illegal products, bought a chocolate chunk brownie mix, and thus began my love affair with the store.  They were absolutely delicious.

First of all - you'll probably all love this - they have a stationery section larger than our actual stationery store. (except for the office furniture)  I've bought a dozen fine-tip Bics for $1.  Yellow pads for 79 cents.  Purse calendars with pretty pictures for $1.  Post it note pads for 25 cents.

Gift bags are 99 cents, unless you need a big one for children's toys or wedding gifts, and then they're $1.99.  Have you priced a Hallmark gift bag lately?  (I hate to be disloyal - I love their channel - but 3.99 for a gift bag makes you think you could have added that much money to the gift.)

Seasonal socks are $1.  Without a job where I have to look elegant, I wear socks all the time.  I'm wearing a pair right now with witches and pumpkins on them - aaand, they play scary sounds.  Freaked out the cat this morning when I got dressed.  But $1!  The sign I mentioned a few days ago about Free Broom Rides came from Deals Only and was $2.99.

The food section has been a fun introduction to other cultures.  I now love Matzo crackers and chocolate macaroons, which show up after most Jewish holidays.  We eat refried beans, put jabanero sauce on our omelets, and eat different kinds of Mexican dulces.

Deals Only is probably the only place in the country where 12 oz of bacon is $3.49.  I asked how they could keep selling it at that price (Safeway sells it for $6.99.)  I've heard about the disease that's really hurting the pig population and I sympathize with the farmers, but can't pay that for bacon.  I was told Deals Only charges what it costs them to buy it, so it's a sort of loss-leader - only they do break even.

Cheyenne's Vita Bone dog treats are $2 a box, and sometimes I can buy a big package of Fancy Feast for the cats for $4.99.

Occasionally, there are surprises - like yarn, or jeans, or hats, or purses.  It's one of those thrill-of-the-hunt things.  Some days there are real treasures, and some days just milk and eggs.  But I love it when I find something fun.

When I was little, my mother and my Aunt Mamie went twice a year to a sale at Filene's Basement in Boston.  (a women's store, notorious for the wild nature of the shoppers)  They would come home with pink cheeks and sparkling eyes and usually a hat or a dress that would have cost a bundle at full price.

Since I'm nowhere near Boston, I'm upholding the tradition as best I can.

Where do you love to shop?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'll Trade You (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I'm a big believer in listening to what my heart tells me.  And then basing all of my other decisions on the messages I receive.    I have trust issues.  Big ones.  But I trust my heart.  If my heart tells me I need something, then I know I need it and I put my focus toward making it happen.  Even if the end result seems impossible, I put my energies and focus on that end result anyway.  Maybe something that I do to reach that end is actually what needed to happen.  Maybe I'm affecting someone else without knowing it, having a positive impact that I'm not meant to know about.  I don't ask too many questions.  I simply focus and move forward.

To that end, I have been driven to market a book that was out in June, The Friendship Pact.  I have five books out this year.  Two of them were out in June.  And all of my marketing focus has been on one book.  As irony would have it, it's the book that's doing the worst.  The only book that didn't hit a bestseller list.  It's received the most reviews.  Five star, glowing reviews.  But the least number of sales.  So maybe that book just had to reach one person.  Someone the marketing reached.  Someone I don't know about.  I don't have the answers.  I also don't feel any relief.  I still feel driven.  In spite of how well the other books are doing, (and believe me, I care about them, deeply)  I have to get knowledge of The Friendship Pact out into the world.

So let me mention, I hate marketing.  I am not good at it.  I'm more apt to tell you you might not like something just so that I don't disappoint you in case you don't like it.  I am a private person.  One who sits alone at her computer all day and looks forward to doing so.  I'm just not good at putting myself out 'there' everyday.  I'm not good at the hype.  I don't have training in the field of marketing.  And I have five more books to write.

However, I am being internally compelled to market this book.  So I do some researching.  I talk to some people.  I take advice and make lists.  And then, because I'm out of my element, I just start googling and throwing things out 'there.'  A little bit each day.  I see no results.  But I keep throwing.  The drive lessens not at all.  And that brings me to here...

I had a book trailer video done for The Friendship Pact.  I lobbed it out into cyberspace back in June.  I couldn't tell you where.  I just kept looking for places, dropping it out there and moving on.  Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, I get an email telling me that the book trailer video is now one of twelve trailers chosen for a book trailer contest!  So here's my trade.  If you'll go out and vote for The Friendship Pact (click the word vote and then I believe it's #7 on the list) come back here and tell me you did so, I'll trade those votes for one free copy of The Friendship Pact.  (The link is set to open in a new window so this page should stay open for you.)  I'll choose the winner of the free book from those who tell me here that they voted.  If commenting is too much work for you, or you don't want a chance to win a free copy of The Friendship Pact, please, please, please vote anyway!

And, I thank you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hip, hip, hoo-ray! Be your own cheerleader by Cynthia Thomason

Some of you already know about my latest misfortune, but for those who don’t, on Sept. 20, while visiting my daughter on her South Carolina farm, I fell through a rotted step and broke both my ankles. Now, mind you, this was after spending two months in the North Carolina mountains, climbing 15 wooden steps every time I went outdoors, and never even getting a splinter. But once at sea level again, I made a complete klutz of myself.

The accident was terrifying for the most part. I couldn’t walk. I was fifty minutes from the nearest hospital in Aiken, South Carolina. I had no way to continue my journey to my home in south Florida. The hospital misdiagnosed my injuries. They were actually worse than first thought and while my daughter kindly offered to drive me back to Fort Lauderdale, we had to stop at an emergency room on I-95 to receive the care I really needed. Once home, I had surgery, one leg healed rather quickly making me more mobile, but my other leg had so many pins and rods that the xray looked like the surgeon was building a tree house in my ankle. But, happy to report, the surgery was a success and I’m getting better every day.

I contemplated weeping my days away on the sofa with a box of tissues and a straw long enough to reach to the kitchen. I deserved to feel depressed and picked on by Fate, didn’t I? But I then realized that only one person could make me feel better about my situation – me! So I allowed my helpful friends to take me shopping, and I decorated my little condo to reflect the glories of Fall, my favorite season. I bought a $20.00 artificial tree from Wal-Mart and covered it in candy corn lights and fall leaves. I filled the house with scented spice candles and watched old sitcoms, avoiding tv dramas. And I read some wonderful romantic comedies by some of my favorite authors.

I expect to be walking without any aids in two or three weeks but in the meantime I’ll keep learning about what makes me happy, and what I can do to end each day with a smile. I’m wondering what you do to cheer yourself. If a good book is part of your depression solution, I ‘d love to know the title.
Thanks, and try reading THIS HERO FOR HIRE. It has some cheer-you-up scenes.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven by Liz Flaherty

        Do you remember that commercial for…something…that said, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven”? It was on TV, oh, a long time ago. I think maybe I remember it in black and white.
          Personally, I never subscribed to that. I thought nothin’ said lovin’ like going out to dinner when I was tired. Or nothin’ satisfied like my beloved cooking while I read. Or maybe nothin’ got the point across like ordering pizza.
          That was before I had grandchildren. And now, to me, nothin’ says lovin’ like filling the cookie jar with things that will put smiles and crumbs on their faces. There’s another part to that little homily, too, a shameless plug part. All of us here are authors for Harlequin’s delicious Heartwarming line and we all know nothin’ says lovin’ like a new Heartwarming book. Go ahead. Take your choice. We’ll wait.
          I’ve become a recipe saver. Not only do I have a ton of cookbooks—a few of which were my grandmother’s—but I print many off the internet and stuff them willy nilly into a binder which I will someday organize. Ahem. Maybe. Here is my favorite new one, fresh from Lauren’s Latest. The only change I make to it is that I bake these for an extra 30 seconds. I hope you like them. Enjoy.

Soft Glazed Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
The perfect sugar cookie for Fall! Sweet, spicy and soft!
yield: 3-4 DOZEN

prep time: 20 MINUTES

cook time: 8 MINUTES

total time: 28 MINUTES
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree {canned pumpkin}
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
for the glaze-
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, stir butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs together until incorporated and smooth. Slowly mix in all dry ingredients until completely incorporated. Scoop onto prepared baking sheet using 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop and flatten to 1/2 inch thick using the bottom of a glass. If the dough is sticking to the glass, press the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar before flattening. Bake 8-9 minutes.
While cookies bake, stir all ingredients together for glaze until smooth.
Once cookies are finished baking, cool 3 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons glaze over each warm cookie. Let glaze harden 2-3 hours before serving. OR eat them warm with lots of runny glaze :)

This delicious recipe brought to you by LAUREN'S LATEST

Monday, October 20, 2014

It Worked For Cinderella by Linda Hope Lee

     I love to hear how people meet their mates. Was the meeting by coincidence? Or by design?
     Some of the stories I have heard include meeting through a common interest. Introduction by a friend or a relative or an online matchmaking service is often a means.
     Attending the same school also brings people together.
     That was how Maryann met Eldon.
     Maryann went to college in the 'forties. As a new freshman, she attended a dance, in those days known as a "mixer."
     "I wasn't going to go," she said, "but my roommate talked me into it. The dance hadn't been underway very long when the bandleader stepped to the mic and told all the men to line up on one side of the room and all the women on the other. I couldn't imagine what that was for, but then he told us women to take off one of our shoes and toss it across the room to the men. Each man was to capture a shoe and find its owner for the next dance.
     "I was wearing a new pair of high heels, red with ribbon bows. I didn't really want to part with one of them but to be a good sport, I pulled off one and gave it a good toss.
     "The place got pretty crazy with the men scrambling first for a shoe and then to find its owner. People were pairing up and dancing, and I was still standing there waiting. I began to worry. Maybe my shoe landed in a corner and no one found it.
     "Then I spotted a man holding my shoe aloft and searching the crowd. "Over here!" I called and waved.
     "'I found you at last,' he said when he reached my side. 'Now we'll see if this glass slipper fits.'
     "I stuck out my foot for him to put on the shoe. 'Okay, Cinderella,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, 'let's dance.'
     "And we did, for the rest of the evening and for years after that. We've had a wonderful life together. I'm so glad I went to that dance!"
     Do you have a first meeting story to share?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Sit-Down with Cynthia Thomason

Today we’re celebrating the release of THIS HERO FOR HIRE

So, Cynthia Thomason, where did you get the idea for this novel? I am a huge political junkie, and I’ve wanted to do a story about a “wild child” heroine who could make life difficult for her politician father. Add in a cowboy/cop assigned to protect her and keep her out of trouble and bingo! The makings of a romance. Plus, my son is into organic farming now, and I figured that would make an interesting subplot. We all want to stay healthy, right? 

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? 
How did I, small town cop, Boone Braddock, get roped into this ticklish assignment?”  For myself, I’d say, “What could be better than a cop/cowboy for a hero?”   

How long did it take you to write?
Close to six months. I had quite a bit of research to do for this story so much of my time was taken up with that.  

What is your favorite scene? 
The opening “meet.” The heroine is saving a truckload of chickens from drowning. She is covered in chicken poop and feathers while opening cage doors. The hero has come to arrest her. He finds out an hour later that this lawbreaker is the woman he is supposed to protect.  

Who was your favorite character and why? 
I suppose Boone is my favorite. He always tries to do the right thing. But he’s only human and suffers bouts of jealousy over his brother who has a family and kids, things Boone wants. He has to fight his attraction to troublemaker Susannah, and his desire conflicts with his ethics.  

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be? 
I’d pick John Cusack to play Boone. I’ve always liked John’s little-boy innocence, almost as if he were saying, “How did I get into this mess?”

I’d pick a blond Emma Stone to play Susannah. There is always some mischief in Emma’s roles.  

Tell us one thing you learned during research. 
Wow, I learned so much about organic farming, pesticides and fertilizers. I can’t say that I’ve become a total convert to organic produce, but I’ve certainly begun to think about changing my ways.

What music would match the mood of this novel? 
Country, of course. “Rock me, Mamma, like a wagon wheel...” Susannah does rock Boone’s world.

This is your 29th book book.  Exactly what does that mean to you? It means I hope each book is a little better than the last. And I hope I keep touching readers with my stories.

What do you plan to work on next? 
I have a book coming out in early 2015. It’s a mother/son plot with an American hero, an injured pilot, thrown in. It’s funny and heartwarming and I hope readers like it. I don’t have a title yet.

What are you reading for pleasure right now? 
Adriana Trigiani’s Brava Valentine. I’ve never been to Italy, but this book transports me there in a most delightful way – an Italian wedding!