Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sit-Down Saturday with Eleanor Jones

Today we are celebrating the release of ‘A PLACE CALLED HOME’ by Eleanor Jones.

So, Eleanor, where did you get the idea for this novel?
         This is the second in my Creatures Great and Small series. It is in the same setting as the Country Vet and we meet some of the characters from that story. I wanted to have an animal theme again of course and as I also love painting I thought it would be nice to make Ellie an artist who paints contemporary wildlife pictures. 
In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
‘Wild and Free.’

 How long did it take you to write?
About three months without editing etc.
What is your favourite scene?
I love many of the scenes where Ellie paints animals in real life, especially the one as darkness falls, way up the fell where Andy is trying to help a fell pony mare to foal. I also like the scene where Andy takes Ellie to the Cravendale Animal Centre’s charity ball. It was so nice to see them all dressed up, he in a tux and she in a blue dress that perfectly matched her eyes. 
If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?
I’ve thought long and hard about this. A young Harrison Ford would be ok for Andy, but I’m struggling with Ellie. I guess she’s unique. It would have to be someone small and slight with  a cap of blonde curls and very blue eyes.

Tell us one thing you learned during research?
As animals and the countryside, where these stories are set, are such a huge part of my life, I didn’t really need to do much research.
What music would match the mood of this novel?
Something Country I guess, emotional and meaningful. 
This is your third book. Exactly what does this mean to you?
I’ve been writing teenage mysteries for years but having the chance to write romance is really special. It is so rewarding too, to have a series and be able to link up again with some of the characters I’ve already created. 
What do you plan to work on next?
I am already working on the next in the series and I have one more in the pipe line.
What are you reading for pleasure right now?
 I’m trying to catch up with books by other Heartwarming authors and thoroughly enjoying them. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

What made you become a writer--or a reader--of romance novels? by Liz Flaherty

          What made you become a writer of romance novels?
          Since I asked the question, I tried to pin down my own answer to it and wasn’t all that successful.
    I remember reading my mom's Emilie Loring and Elisabeth Ogilvie library books. Often. I remember reading Betty Neels and Sara Seale and then, over and over, Janet Dailey and Nora Roberts. When my kids were in bed, I sat in front of the TV and wrote stories in notebooks of yellow-lined paper, but I didn’t think of being published. Not really. Being published was for rich women who lived in cities and put on makeup every day, wasn’t it? Not mothers of three who worked fulltime jobs and whose mascara dried unused it its tube.
          At some point, I knew I wanted to become one (a writer of romance novels, in case you forgot what I was going on and on about) and added sitting on the bleachers, waiting in the car, and lunchtime to my nighttime writing exercises. Eventually, a few manuscripts and a gazillion queries and submissions later, I sold a book.
          At least once during the writing of each subsequent story, I’ve told my husband I’m quitting because it’s just too hard. Each time, he tells me he doesn’t want to hear it.
          Because you can’t quit being what you are. Because I didn’t become a writer of romance novels—I just was one and I still am. And I love being one.
          So, what about you?
          Obviously, if you’re a reader and not a writer, you don’t have to answer this question. However, we’re so glad to have you here that we have a question for you, too. What made you become a reader of romance novels? Let us know, and accept our gratitude that you did.

Retired from the post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and Duane live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…30-some years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening! Her favorite thing these days is writing for Harlequin Heartwarming.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Books Are Written (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I can finally say I've written a Heartwarming novel!!  Two of them, actually, in six weeks time.  They are a mini series called The Historic Arapaho, set in a historic apartment building in downtown Denver.  The first book, Once Upon a Friendship, is out in July!!  The second, Once Upon A Marriage, is out in October.  My editor is working on Once Upon A Friendship and says she loves it!!!  I hope you all do, too.  This is a new venture for me.  I was a little shaky when I first dove into the pool.  But felt like I could swim the ocean by the time I typed 'The End' for the second time.  Today I saw the unofficial cover art for Once Upon A Friendship.  I LOVE IT!!  I wanted to share it with you all, but it has to be a secret until it's official.

So...I will share something else.

In two days time, I have another book debuting!!  Mother By Fate is part of my Where Secrets Are Safe series with Harlequin Superromance.

This story is a standalone.  Completely.  And yet, it's also connected to a bigger hole.  It's different.  It takes place, for the most part in three days.  It's intense.  Lives are in the balance.  And a counselor has to decide who to trust.  If she makes wrong choices a little boy might die.

Book Six in this series, The Good Father, is out in June.  Today I am working on Book Seven.

Where Secrets Are Safe is a series, and yet, the books are independent.  They center around a unique women's shelter - The Lemonade Stand - where secrets are safe.  You see some recurring characters.  Sometimes.  Mostly each story is a journey unto itself.  And a lot of them take place away from The Lemonade Stand.  These are stories with twists.  Stories that are intense.  Some are suspenseful.  Some are heart-wrenching.  In all of them strength and goodness and joy are more than just carrots dangling on the end of a string.  They are the light at the end of the tunnel.  And sometimes the means to get to that light.

You can click on the cover above to read an excerpt of the book.  Today, here, I will give away two digital copies (one to each of two winners) of winners choice of any one of the first four books in this series.  Name your choice for a chance to win! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oh, to have a vacation! by Cynthia Thomason

Hi All, there have been several posts lately about the coming of spring and the long winter. And why not? For you folks up north it has been a wicked season. Record snowfalls, record temperature plunges. My native Ohio is suffering through days of below zero temps. I can remember that my college didn't let the female students wear slacks unless it was below 20 degrees. Of course that's not a rule now, but I can imaging those frost-bitten young ladies would be doubling up the snowpants in this weather!

Here in South Florida, we have had record numbers of tourists and temporary residents - nearly double what some recent years have produced. Our streets are crowded with traffic, the restaurants have long wait lines, even the real estate brokers have smiles on their faces. So this made me wonder... I know what brings people to my neck of the woods - the sun-warmed beaches. But what brings them to your area? Do you have a spot that draws tourists in one or all of the seasons? I'd love to know if I've been there. Come on, someone from Wisconsin, tell us about the Dells! What is the favorite tourist destination within a few miles of your house?

It can't stay cold forever. Maybe your recommendation will bring us all scurrying to your house!
Stay warm and read or stay warm and write!

p/s Me and Sparky on vacation

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hobbies for women? Two epic fails!

Hello, everyone! Dana Mentink here. I've got hobbies on the brain. I always do, as I launch into creating new characters, because I think hobbies are a great way to tell what makes someone (fictional or not) tick. Me? I'm a nut, and an attention challenged nut at that, so I figured it might be more telling to reveal the hobbies I've failed at, rather than latched onto.

Hobby fail the first: knitting. My knitting instructor is probably still recovering from her migraine. While the class busily creating scarfs, hats, socks and sweaters, I produced what was kindly described as a "fruit cozy." That's a misshapen, stringy net thing with holes that might accommodate apple stems if you could wrestle the unfortunate fruit inside. I did not sign up for the second knitting session, and I'm pretty sure I saw the teacher do a silent fist pump.

Hobby fail the second: Scrapbooking. Oh wow did I get off to a blistering start! Colored paper, stickers, fancy bobbers and borders!!! I mean my first photo page was incredible! Day one of Emily Mentink's life, recorded for posterity. Then I realized the zealous scrapbookers seated all around me intended to put similar effort into pages for each and every day of their wee ones lives. Doing the math, I discovered I'd have to repeat this process 363 more days just to record the first year of Em's life. And I actually went ahead and had a second child! Scrapbooking extravaganza times two! I closed up shop and slunk away in disgrace.    

So what's a middle aged hobby failing woman with attention problems supposed to do? I found the perfect hobby for me...fiction writing! There is no yarn involved (unless you want to think of story telling as yarn spinning), and it does not require one to do the same thing day in and day out. My stories can go all wacky, willy nilly, zipping from one place to the next to keep up with my imagination and if I get bored of one? I'll work on two at once, like I'm doing now as I pen a lighthearted romance and a romantic suspense. Do you love it? I did, so much that my hobby became my business. Though my fruit will never be cozy, I think it's the perfect hobby for me!

What's your hobby? Did you ever have any "hobby fails" like I did? Would love to hear your thoughts!  

If you want to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and free downloads, you can sign up here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts on Winter

by Patricia Bradley

Did you realize this time next month Spring will be three days old?
Photo from Bing
I can't wait!! But until then I've made a resolution (I know, it's not the first of the year) to not gripe and grumble about the weather. After all, I live in Mississippi and don't have it nearly bad as others. Our low has only been 8, not -25 like Flint, Michigan, and it didn't last long. 

But I have the mulligrubs. For the past week, it's been below freezing with lots of precipitation. The solid kind. So, I've been ranting and raving at the weather like it will do any good.

Back to my resolution. The only way not to gripe and grumble is to try and find something good about what's going on weather-wise. Like, the mosquito population should be much smaller this summer since hopefully, they all froze to death. Same for ticks. But probably the best thing to focus on is the beauty of the frozen tundra. 

And, then my daughter posted this on Facebook:
And I was back to this:
from Facebook
So, how about you. How do you feel about this winter?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sit-Down Saturday with Loree Lough

Today we’re celebrating the release of ONCE A MARINE, #1 in Heartwarming's "Those Marshall Boys" series.

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

Well, I have friends and acquaintances who were the victims of assault. Two came through it like champs--thanks to hard work and determination. One is still grappling with the horrors, which is proof that no two people handle trauma and tragedy in the same way. These differences inspired me to dig deeper, to try and understand WHY. Interviews with psychiatric specialists and nearly 3 dozen women who survived various levels of violence led me to the expected conclusion: If this many were willing to talk about their attack, how many are quietly coping with the haunting nightmares?

ONCE A MARINE is my attempt to shed a little light on this bigger-than-we-realize issue, which affects every area--including relationships--of a victim's life. It takes patience, understanding, and love that knows no bounds to help a woman deal with what happened. And it takes a strong man to handle a broken woman.... 

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

If Former Marine Zach Marshall could save everyone in his scope of vision, he'd die trying.

How long did it take you to write?

From idea to research and interviews, to proposal and contract, then writing and editing, and finally, book-on-the-shelves, I'd estimate the process took approximately 6 months.

What is your favorite scene?

I loved the hoedown dance floor scene, when Summer watched a little girl balance on the toes of Zach's cowboy boots and realizes what a wonderful father he'd make...and hopes the doctor was wrong (that the damage done by her attacker may mean she can't have children). In my eyes, it was a dual realization moment: Summer loved Zach enough to want to spend the rest of her life with him. They haven't confessed their feelings for one another at this point, so naturally she wonders--if she finds the courage to tell him the truth--he could ever love her enough to accept not having children of his own.
Who was your favorite character and why?

Much as I'd like to say Zach, for his big heart and protective nature, I have to choose Summer. She could have accepted life as a hermit, avoiding the outside world--and men in particular....

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

For Zach, I'd choose Taylor Kitsch, and Erin Moynahan as Summer. 

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

Mostly, that life always tests our mettle...and it takes intense strength of character to pass those tests.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

Since my on-the-road days, I've a huge Country music fan. And because ONCE A MARINE is set out west in Vail and Denver, Colorado, I think this Rodney Atkins song fits perfectly: 

This is your 102nd book on the shelves (of 104 contracted and to be released by year-end 2016).  Exactly what does that mean to you?

It means I owe a HUGE thank you to a whole bunch of people: God, for blessing me with a talent for words, an unending supply of story ideas, and the grit and determination to write-write-write no matter what; my family, for putting up with my crazy schedule (and crazy behavior, like talking out loud or acting out characters' gestures to make sure I can describe them properly); my agent, Steve Laube, for finding homes for the proposals I send his way; my editors for helping me sharpen and shine every word; reviewers, for write-ups that allow me to claim "5-star" and/or "102 award-winning books!" Last, but certainly not least, my readers, whose steadfast support moves enough books off the shelves to make Steve and my editors believe I can do it again. And hopefully, again!

What do you plan to work on next?

I'm jockeying back and forth between books #2 and 3 in the "Those Marshall Boys" series, both contemporaries, and books #2 and 3 in the "Secrets on Sterling Street" historical series. I'm also working on a project with actor/director Kevin James O'Neill called "Fifty Hours." (Kevin has lined up actors and producers who will breathe life into his original screenplay, but we can't share any more than that...for a while yet!)

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

Believe it or not, I'm reading "The Missing Manual," a book written to help people like me, who have no clue how to operate their new iPhone 5!

Loree Lough Bio: At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had nearly 5,000,000 4- and 5-star books in circulation. Books 103 & 104 (“Secrets on Sterling Street” historical series, and “Those Marshall Boys” contemporary series) will hit bookstore shelves throughout 2015 and 2016. She loves interacting with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and via email (and answers every letter, personally). c/o

Friday, February 20, 2015

Will the Real Reader Please Stand Up

Will the Real Reader Please Stand Up

Authors receive mail from readers all the time, and we love hearing from them. They are our validation and one of the reasons we as writers continue to tell our stories. This article isn't about mistakes in grammar, punctuation or even research and plot. Readers let us know that they liked or didn’t like something we wrote. We appreciate their feedback, even though it may hit a nerve. However, it isn’t a one way street. Authors learn some surprising things that readers discover in their books. It's not from one book or even ten. With every book something interesting develops.

  •  Readers really suspend belief when entering a world the author has created for the story about to be told. To the real reader, the characters they meet are real people. They have lives, hopes, dreams, and concerns. The reader sometimes argues or laughs with them. They will remember a scene and discuss it with fellow readers. Or replay it to a friend in an effort to convey the emotional experience evoked during their time in that fictional world. Thank you, readers. Authors love you. You’re the word-of-mouth we want working for us.
  • Real readers are touched by the author’s story. They want to laugh and cry and connect with the characters. Letters sent to the author usually has her in tears before she finishes reading. The reader’s emotions have been touched so deeply that she has to write the author, and let her know how much she has been helped in solving a problem or inspired her to make a positive change in her own life. In some cases, readers try to emulate the heroine’s characteristics, going for a job, enrolling in a class or standing up for themselves. 

  • Real readers want more of the story. They have bought into a family and want the stories of entire generational lines, including babies, brothers, sisters, cousins, adopted children and grandchildren. Once a reader buys into a family or a series, she wants to know more and more about them. Each new character introduced to the novel has a story and the reader wants to know that story, too. To the reader it’s a “just one more” world. This gives the writer a wealth of characters to write about, and a readership to expand and satisfy.

  • A real reader wants a book a month, if not more frequently. They want the author to write as fast as they can read. Unfortunately, this is impossible for most authors. There are some who can do it, but they cannot sustain that kind of creative ability for the long run. They will burn out. And readers can’t read that many books if all writers could put out that many. Authors understand that you want the next book in a series as soon as the current one ends. We work hard to fulfill your needs.

  •   Readers not only have imaginations, but they want that imagination turned into the visual. They want the book made into a movie. Authors receive letters from readers who cast the book with actors to play the roles. The reader is so much into the story that they want to see it on the big screen. Authors love this. We’d also like to see our stories come to life they way we wrote them. Sometimes, readers and writers are disappointed at the way Hollywood changes their story. However, seeing it vs not seeing it, which would you choose?

  •   Readers tell authors they should make a movie of one of their books. Oh, if only we could. The making of movies is a whole other industry and few authors have the means to take a chance on developing their book into a feature film. One of the greatest things an author could wish for is to have their story come alive as a movie starring all the best stars. However, to make a movie you need a small fortune, one that is disposable since there is no guarantee that there will be a return on that investment. But to make a movie, what the reader is really saying is sell your book to Hollywood and let them make a movie of it. Again, this is something an author would love to have done. There are contract issues at hand, but they would be the easiest to get around. The possibility of selling a book to Hollywood is like throwing a lighted match in the ocean and having it continue to burn for the next year. Yes, it happens. But of all the books written, the number that actually make it to the silver screen is less than one percent.

  •   Real readers are out on the streets, maybe virtual streets. Street Teams is a concept that’s come up in the last few years. Street teams are readers acting as human advertisers. They get a first read on an author’s book. They get the opportunity to give feedback to the author and they are the people creating the buzz, starting the positive word-of-mouth to get other readers to buy the book. We love these readers. We want more of them.

  • Real readers want to know the author. Many readers believe an author’s life is like that of the heroine she writes. Some of us wish it was. Authors draw on what they know and what they research, what emotions they have experienced and what highs and lows have touched their lives or the lives of someone close to them. This comes across in their writing and readers pick up on it. It’s usually the indefinable subtext that readers feel, where the words are not in your face. With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of e-mail, it’s easier than ever to converse with an author one on one or though her website.

             In the mail that readers send, these are the things they mention most often. Writers wish they could produce a book on demand. They would be delighted to be the Hollywood favorite and see their characters come to life with the same storyline they wrote. They’d love to meet all their readers and to get to know them as well as they want to know the author. Authors would like to write each reader as a character (the heroine, of course). While all these things aren't possible, the stories readers love will keep coming. And the real readers will continue to find them.
             For all authors, we thank you for being in our corner and cheering her us on. As always, keep reading.

Shirley Hailstock is the author of over thirty award-winning novels.  She is a past president of Romance Writers of America.  She resides in New Jersey with her family, where she is busy working on her next release.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

No Ordinary Trifle

posted by Lee McKenzie

This delectable dessert recipe is a little late for Valentine's Day, but for any occasion it's a feast for the eyes. Thanks to generous layers of strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream, it’s a crowd pleaser, too. I've made it many times but have never taken a picture of it, so you'll have to use your imagination. And I'm sure you won't have any trouble doing that after you read the list of ingredients!

1 pound fresh strawberries (or whole frozen, unsweetened)
1 or 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1 pound cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons orange liqueur (or orange juice)
3 cups whipping cream, whipped
sponge cake, thinly sliced (my local grocery store sells two round layers in a package, but you can also use lady fingers, any basic white cake or a pound cake)
6 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, grated

Slice the strawberries and set aside. If using frozen berries, they’re easiest to slice when still frozen. If using fresh strawberries, sprinkle the slices with one or two teaspoons of sugar and toss before you set aside. The sugar draws out the juices, which you need when you assemble the trifle.

Reserve a few berries (whole or sliced) for garnish.

Beat together cream cheese and the half cup of sugar. Stir in liqueur or orange juice. Fold in whipped cream.

Drain the strawberries and reserve the juice. You’ll need about one-quarter cup of juice. If necessary, add a little orange juice to make a quarter cup.

You’ll need a large trifle bowl or other clear glass bowl. Layer the ingredients in this order:

• Place half the cake slices in the bottom of the bowl and drizzle with half the reserved strawberry juice
• Cover cake with one-third of the cream cheese mixture.
• The next layer consists of half the strawberries. For the best visual effect, press some of the berries against the edge of the bowl.
• Sprinkle one-third of the grated chocolate over the berries.
• Repeat these layers.
• Spread the remaining one-third of the cream cheese mixture over the top.
• Garnish: arrange several whole or sliced strawberries on top of the final cream cheese layer and sprinkle on the rest of the grated chocolate.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Wishing all of you wonderful readers and writers a belated Happy Valentine's Day!

Until next time,
The Parent Trap (October 2014
"McKenzie takes a tired plot and turns it into a charming story."
4 Stars ~ RT Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


by Patricia Rosemoor, half of Lynn Patrick

One of the things that Linda (the other half of Lynn Patrick) and I have in common is that we both grew up horse crazy, so we loved the idea of incorporating horses into our April Sparrow Lake romance, THE LONG ROAD HOME. Throughout our years of writing together, we’ve done some fun things to research horses for various stories. We’ve been to the Kentucky Derby and Lexington area horse farms. And we toured the National Stud in Ireland. Of course we spent many a summer weekend day at Arlington Park Racecourse and got familiar with all the top horses, riders and trainers.
    My own romance with horses started when I was a kid, when my uncle took me on a ride through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The next time I rode was a dozen years later in Mexico. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I went on one of the most thrilling rides in my life, up a mountainside and across a river. I was hooked. When I got home, I started lessons in the far suburbs. I rode for nine years—both Western and English—and learned to jump. I even tried Saddle Seat, though I always felt uncomfortable with the long stirrups.
    In addition, I spent weekends and a couple of full weeks at a dude ranch in Michigan, where I got to ride twice every day. My favorite horse was Shoshone Squaw, pictured here.

I felt a special connection to her, the same way I did to my own cats and dog, and I would have loved to buy her. Unfortunately, I would have had to board her at a pricey suburban stable. And I lived in Chicago, so how much would I get to see/ride her? I did share board on another horse for a year and was the only rider two or three times a week, as close as I have ever come to owning my own horse.
   A few of my Patricia Rosemoor romantic suspense books are horse-centered. Before writing  TOUCH ME IN THE DARK, the third book in my The McKenna Legacy series, my late husband and I spent several days at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary in South Dakota, where we bunked down at night in a Dances with Wolves teepee and got to talk to Dayton Hyde, the man responsible for the sanctuary’s existence. Talk about a real life hero! To research ranching for the The Sons of Silver Springs series, we spent time on a New Mexican ranch and learned to move cows. In the snow. And learned about the sacrifices ranching families make to keep their way of life alive.
    Back to THE LONG ROAD HOME...
   We knew our heroine was Priscilla Ryan, owner of the Main Street Cheese Shoppe. A friend of Kristen Lange (heroine of HOME TO SPARROW LAKE), Priscilla has been a bridesmaid several times—she has the dresses to prove it—but never even came close to being a bride. So who would be her perfect hero?
    While the book is set in Wisconsin, we wanted to make our hero someone Priscilla cared for who left Sparrow Lake years ago, and has now come home, bringing horses and an idea for a new business—a dude ranch—with him. Having spent a dozen years riding the rodeo circuit, Sam Larson fit the bill in every way. With all the riding and horse research I have done, I fear I only had a minor brush with rodeo myself when I barrel raced horses at that Michigan dude ranch, but rodeo has always fascinated me. As do cowboys.
    Maybe that’s where it all started. Movies with cowboy heroes. The romance of the Old West. I loved watching them as a kid and still do now. Though it’s not a romance, Hidalgo is one of my favorites, because I love the bond of the hero with his horse. Hmm, maybe I need to watch it again...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Let's Make Valentine's Day Last All Year 'Round, by Linda Hope Lee

     First, congratulations to all the winners of our recent Heartwarming giveaway. I hope you enjoy your prizes and have many happy hours reading our books.
     Second, I hope all of you had a wonderful Valentine's Day, spent with that special someone.
     Which brings me to the subject of this blog.
     A couple weeks ago, I'm at lunch with several of my friends and we're discussing out Valentine's Day plans--dinners out, gifts, and cards and such--when Gloria says, "Valentine's Day is such a good reminder of how important it is to show our love and appreciation for the special people in our lives, don't you think?"
     We all nod, and I say, "That reminds me, I've been making a list of ways to do just that at other times of the year." At their knowing looks, I add, "Okay, I admit it's also research for my romance novels, but help me out here. Any ideas?" I pull out my notebook and pen.
     "I like to make cards,"Celia says, "for occasions that are special only to me and John. Like the time I sent him a card celebrating the day we met. And another time, one for the day he proposed. He never knows when to expect one and so they're always a surprise."
     "We take turns planning a mystery trip," Iris says. "The person whose turn it is gives the other a list of what to pack that might help to guess the destination. One of Alex's trips was to a seaside resort that has become one of our favorite getaways."
     I look at Gloria. "What about you and Monty?"
     Gloria smiles. "This might not sound like much, but I think it's important to say 'Thank you. I try to say it often and for even little things, such as his helping me clean up the kitchen when it's my turn or coming to my rescue when I'm carrying in a big bag of groceries. I want him to know how much I appreciate his thoughtfulness."
     "I love it," I say, adding that to my list.
     When we've finally exhausted all our ideas, Celia says, "Wow, I think we have enough to keep us busy 'til next Valentine's Day rolls around." We all nod in agreement.
     How about you? Do you have something I can add to my list?

Sunday, February 15, 2015


The winner of Prize Pack #1 is: 
Darlene Holley

Prize Pack #2 goes to:
Jo Richardson

The lucky winner of Prize Pack #3 is: 
Tatiana Lammers

Prize Pack #4 goes to: 
Jen Larson

And our grand prize winner is:
Cynthia Herron

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who entered and participated! We certainly hope to do more giveaways like this in the future.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Be Our Valentine

Last Day to Enter!

This is it - the last day to enter our Valentine's Day Giveaway. Twenty books, nineteen authors, endless fun and romance! We are so excited to share all these fabulous stories with you. So please be our Valentine. What's your favorite Heartwarming moment? Did it happen on Valentine's Day? Are you a hearts and roses kind of person or is there another way to win your love? Check back tomorrow when the winners will be announced!

The Heartwarming Authors

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Valentine's Date with Zach from Loree Lough's "Once a Marine"

We Talk to Ourselves...A Lot blog series by Loree Lough and Cerella Sechrist

Well, hello again! Are you having as much troubling believing it’s almost Valentine’s Day as we are? Guess it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun!

We’re glad you could join us in the big, cozy kitchen at the Double M Ranch—one of two main Colorado settings for Once a Marine (#1 in Loree's “Those Marshall Boys” series with Heartwarming)—where former Marine turned self-defense instructor Zach Marshall is whipping up a surprise Valentine’s dinner for Summer Lane. Pull up a stool and feast your eyes on the delicious recipes he’s cooking up for his sweetheart.

Loree: So Zach, why are you preparing the meal here, rather than in your apartment above Marshall Law Self Defense Studio?

Zach: <sets oven temperature> Couple of reasons. One, I have two pans, one for frying eggs, one for warmin’ up soup…on a two-burner stove. And two, my kitchen is barely big enough for me, let alone company.

Cerella: So you’re going to serve Valentine’s Day dinner to Summer here, at your parents’ house? Not very romantic with your mom and dad, cousins, aunts and uncles roaming around….

Zach: You’re right. Which is why I’m cooking the meal here, and serving it on the little back porch at my place above Marshall Law in Vail. <removes a photograph from his shirt pocket> I’m going to duplicate everything on this table. Summer has come a long way from the little hermit I met months ago, but she’s still a little uncomfortable in big crowds.

Cerella: Yeah, and I can’t name a person who doesn’t admire how hard she’s trying to overcome what happened to her that horrible night.

Loree: Very true. And it takes a strong man to love a broken woman.

Zach: <frowning slightly> Doesn’t take much strength, really. She’s easy to love.

Loree: Still, it can’t be easy for you, wondering if something you do or say will remind her of that night.

Cerella: Loree’s right. You’re an admirable man, Zach Marshall!

Zach: <looking uncomfortable> How ‘bout handing me that SPATULA? over there….

Loree: <exchanges knowing glance with Cerella> Well, if you two are going to eat the whole meal outside on the porch, I hope you have a space heater to warm things up! There’s snow on the ground in Vail!

Zach: <nodding> It’s more like a…like a mini-fireplace.

Loree: Oh, wow, Zach, how thoughtful and romantic! And if Summer doesn’t agree, I think she might need to have an eye exam!

Cerella: <laughing> So what will you serve?

Zach: Thought I’d make Lobster Colorado.

Cerella: Sounds delicious! And how perfect, since you were born and raised in Colorado! Summer is one lucky girl!

Lobster Colorado


4 (8 ounce) beef tenderloin filets
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
8 ounces lobster tail, cleaned and chopped


Set oven to Broil at 500 degrees
Coat tenderloins with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Wrap each filet with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
Place on a broiling pan and broil to desired doneness (8-10 minutes per side for medium rare).
While tenderloins are broiling, melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat with 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Stir in chopped lobster meat and cook until done (meat will be opaque and no longer translucent).
Spoon lobster meat over cooked tenderloins and return to broiler until the lobster begins to brown.
While the lobster is in the oven, heat remaining 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until it turns the color of hazelnuts.
Spoon browned butter over steaks and sprinkle with remaining Old Bay.

Loree: With a main dish like that, you won’t need anything but a side salad! But what’s for dessert?

Zach: <slides another recipe across the counter>

Loree: Ah-ha, my parfait cupcakes are one of my grandkids’ favorite sweet treats. I happen to know Summer loves chocolate, so she should enjoy these!

Parfait Cupcakes

1 box devil’s food cake mix
1 can fluffy white frosting
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
heart-shaped decorative sprinkles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for dark pans)
Place baking paper cup in each of 24 muffin cups
Make and bake cake as directed on box for cupcakes.
Cool 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks.

Tip: Canned frosting will taste lighter and look fluffier if you beat it first.

Spoon frosting into a zipper bag and cut off a lower corner. Swirl frosting onto cupcakes. 
In microwavable bowl, melt chocolate chips and shortening for 1 minute. When melted and well-mixed, drizzle chocolate onto cupcakes. Sprinkle with decorative sprinkles and cover loosely until ready to serve.
Cerella: You’d better be careful, Zach, or you’ll spoil that girl!

Loree: She’s right. You’d better watch it, pal, or she’ll expect a feast like this again next Valentine’s Day!

Zach: <winks and grins> Can’t think of anything I’d like better. <begins rummaging in fridge>

Well, looks like Zach has zoned out on us, friends, at least for the time being! We hope it’s warm and cozy wherever you are on this blustery February day! Be sure to check in with us again next month when, as a result of our talking to ourselves—and one another—we’ll have yet another cool surprise for you!

For now, be sure to comment, below (perhaps with a favorite Valentine’s Day recipe of your own!), and you could win a copy of Once a Marine!

And if you haven’t already commented on the big Heartwarming blog giveaway, click this link and you could win books, chocolates, roses…or all three!

Happy Valentine's Day!

About Loree:

With nearly 5,000,000 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 Once a Marine (#1 in the “Those Marshall Boys” series for Harlequin's new Heartwarming line) brings Loree’s number of books in print to 104! Loree loves to hear from her readers and answers every letter, personally. Visit her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and!

About Cerella:

Cerella Sechrist lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. She has won various competitions and a scholarship for her writing, which include devotionals, full-length plays, and novels. She 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. Her novels exhibit her love for both the written word and food in fiction. You can find her online at her website where she pens “Literary Fare: Fiction & Food”, a blog for readers.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Praise of Funny Men

I laugh every time I see this picture*.  My husband of forty-four years will pose anywhere I tell him to, even in the Badlands on a hot June afternoon.  One of my grown sons was with us on this road trip (we drive the 3000 miles from Rhode Island to Idaho every summer) and he just shook his head and groaned as I shooed him out of the way, but he was laughing, too.  The caption:  Deserted due to poor fashion choices.

I am often asked how we stayed married for so many years.  Now that I have stopped dyeing my hair and have let it go completely gray, I am often mistaken for someone with great wisdom.  It's kind of fun!  Anyway, my answer is always, "You have to have a sense of humor."

Years ago my husband gave similar advice to a young man debating about whether the woman he was dating was the right one:  "It's a long life if she doesn't think you're funny."

How true.  I've often told him, when he has done something totally irritating and stupid, "You're lucky I think you're funny.  Otherwise you'd be in real trouble."

There are other moments when I've stomped off, steam coming out of my ears, waving my hand in the air, to prevent him from trying to tease me out of it.

 In the past forty four years many an argument has been diffused by a hilarious observation, many stressful times relieved by a subtle, dry comment.  Life is pretty damn hard, so if there's a choice of whether to laugh or cry, I'll choose to laugh almost every time.

So the heroes in my books may be men with a lot on their minds.  They may be immersed in conflicts and work and all sorts of manly-man projects, but as heroes they can sometimes see the humor of a situation filter through the chaos and embarrassment and frustration.  I say sometimes because my own live-in hero has never, ever thought plumbing problems or broken lawnmowers were funny.  Not ever.  Though the rest of the family has been known to double over in silent laughter as a dented lawnmower goes sailing through the air.

 My heroes won't realize just how funny they are.  Their misguided attempts to understand and romance the women in their lives often result in disaster, but they keep trying.  Heroes gamely trying to deal with children and animals always tickle me.  Take a hero out of his comfort zone and see how he handles himself.  Will this fictional guy take himself too seriously or will he approach the challenge with humor and grace?

Men--the good ones-- make me laugh.  I can't help it!  What about you?

*For those of you who watch The Bachelor, you saw this week's episode with Kelsey and Ashley in the Badlands with Chris (the shy farmer from Iowa).  I have retitled this picture:  He didn't get a rose.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stop and Smell the Roses by Carol Ross & Amy Vastine

Who could resist stopping for a whiff of these?

This post was originally intended to explore the fascinating and rather mysterious role that pheromones play in physical attraction.  In overly-simplistic and decidedly unscientific terms, pheromones are chemical secretions from one creature that can affect the behavior of another creature of the same species.  Sounds simple, yet intriguing and maybe even a little sexy, too, right?

Definitely some pheromones at work here...
 A quick internet search reveals that there are perfumes and colognes claiming to be chock-full of these “mood creating” pheromones.  But don’t strain your credit card’s limits just yet, because research also reveals that while it widely accepted that pheromones play a role here, scientists have not yet identified the pheromone that acts as a sexual attractant in humans.  (They’ve isolated other pheromones, like fear.)  And they’ve pinpointed the role of this magnetizing pheromone in insects and some mammal species--like pigs and deer.  Thus, hormones from those species are being added to the perfumes with the assumption/hope they will work on people.  Um, a pig attractant?  No thanks... 

Carol dated this one back in the late 80's...
But we know those pheromones are there, right?  And the fact is there’s plenty that is potent--and yes, romantic, about the olfactory nerve.  Bottom line--we like things that smell nice--perfume, cologne, shampoo, lotion, potpourri, flowers, food...

And what science has proven is that the sense of smell can stir up some very powerful emotions.  That’s why as writers we often describe the way a scene--or our hero or heroine--smells.  Odors evoke memories, yank us into a mood, and even instantly transport us into the past...   

The way a cozy house filled with a yeasty, cinnamon scent can put you in the middle of Grandma’s kitchen where a fresh batch of pecan sticky buns awaits.

Mmmm....Love You, Grandma!
Or how a whiff of spicy fir boughs conjures up that best-Christmas-ever morning when you finally got that Barbie Malibu Mansion or the red and black, three-speed bicycle of your dreams.
The Sweet Scent of Christmas Memories.
Has anyone ever walked through the perfume counter in a department store and been catapulted back to the prom with their high school sweetheart?  Or had the aroma of a sweet rose remind them of the best Valentine’s Day they’ve ever had?  What scents conjure up your sweetest memories?  Is there a certain sweetness in the air that is guaranteed to take you away?