Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Meet Debut Harlequin Heartwarming Author Kathy Damp



June brings Harlequin Heartwarming readers a new author, Kathy Damp, with Waiting for Sparks. Would you like to meet her? Read on!

HW: How long have you been writing? 

Kathy Damp: I remember making up stories when our family traveled to go camping when I was a kid. I handwrote a couple of Harlequin romances in high school, but never finished them. I used to change the main characters’ names when I came back to write some more because I was too lazy to go back and see what I’d named them at the beginning. 

You can check out more about me in a couple of Harlequin Heartwarming blog posts: 


HW: Is this your first romance to be published?

Kathy Damp: It is! When I was writing Waiting for Sparks, I knew I wanted it to be a wholesome read as well as fun, and I'm happy at how it turned out. In reviews, people are saying that it's funny, has lots of plot twists and they love Sparks, the hero. I adore him and his crooked smile.

HW: Why Harlequin Heartwarming?

Kathy Damp: I've read other Harlequin Heartwarming novels and knew that sometimes there was a third person viewpoint. In Waiting for Sparks, if there isn't Naomi Chambers, the indomitable grandmother, the story has a big hole. I wanted the story to be a Harlequin Heartwarming and I was so excited that Harlequin wanted to buy it! Hmmm...excited is too tame a word for the yelling at our house that day...

HW: Is Waiting for Sparks your first book to be published?

Kathy Damp: No, my first books were an animal rescue series for ages eight to 12, The S.A.V.E. Squad. Quite a bit different to write than a romance, but just as fun since I had to research baby basset hounds, learn about feral cats and miniature horses, and what baby owls are like. That series is under my name as Kathleen Damp Wright.

HW: What do you do when you're not writing?

Kathy Damp: My husband and I like to ride bikes and kayak when we can find water in Utah (where we live) that's gentle for us but not dried up. I think adventure comes in all different ways and you don't have to leap out of a plane to find it. We also like heading out of town with our border collie and trailer to work different places, since both of our day jobs can be done anywhere as long as we have our wifi hotspot.

HW: What's the most exciting thing you've ever done?

Kathy Damp: That's easy. I walked on fire. The second most exciting thing was kayaking a river I had no business being on.

HW: Did you say you walked on fire?

Kathy Damp: I did! I went to an evening event in the middle of a private forest in the next county with another writer friend. It was a boundary-breaking retreat for one evening. 
Yes, we built a real fire.

They used jet fuel. It was HOT.
That's me. I was the third to go--before I lost my nerve.


HW: What would you like to say to all the Harlequin Heartwarming readers, now that you are a Heartwarming author?

Kathy Damp: Oh! Well, after PLEASE READ WAITING FOR SPARKS, you mean? I would like to tell them that it's a joy to write for them and put all the fun and romance--along with lots of secrets--into my story. I hope they enjoy it. I'd also like to thank them for getting the word out about Harlequin Heartwarming. I'm seeing more and more folks finding out about sweet romance that has depth and power. Many thanks to those who post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and review the novels in their blogs. 
   

You can find Kathy's book as an ebook on any online bookstore, through harlequin.com and ordered at bookstores.

Find her on social media:


Pinterest: @AuthorKathyDamp
Twitter: @Kathy_Damp
Facebook: AuthorKathleenWright
Instagram: @KathyDamp
Goodreads: as Kathy Damp and Kathleen Damp Wright

Monday, June 29, 2015

In The Beginning


Pamela Tracy here…

The first story I ever penned…. really was by pen.

It was junior high and I was in love with either Dan Decker or Scott Chadwick.  My friend Debra felt the exact same way.  If I took Dan (fictionally of course), she took Scott and vice versa.

I think I learned plotting with Debra.  We'd get on the phone (a teen line) and we'd make up stories.  I'd tell the story for about three minutes and then she'd tell the story for about three minutes.  I, unfortunately, do not remember any of those stories except one had to do with being on a yacht.  Something two landlocked Nebraska girls knew nothing about.

Most of the stories never got to the happily ever after because either her mother or mine would provide the black moment ending words thus not allowing us to get to the conclusion: "Get off the phone NOW."

Eventually I started writing alone, in a spiral notebook with a pen.  I call those my David Cassidy stories, because yes, neither Dan nor Scott could compete with David.  The only one who could was Bobby Sherman.

Eventually, I wrote my first fictional hero.  

By then, I had no teen line, had long forgotten Scott and Dan, had outgrown David Cassidy (who had been followed by Peter Frampton and then Dwight Yaokim), and was in college.

I'd also given up romances for Sci Fi and was a Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut kind of girl.

My first novel was Sci Fi and I never finished it.  It was half-written on a machine much like the one above.

Because I was, by heart, a romance reader and writer who sometimes played in different neighborhoods (I loved horror back then, too.)     

My June Romance, Small-Town Secrets, was typed on a computer (so much easier, no white out!)
It has a happily ever after (although I'd gladly change the ending just to hear my my mother shout "Get off the phone NOW" one more time).

The hero wasn't David Cassidy but patterned after Tim Daly (his Wings days) and Sandra Bullock (the bus movie girl).

First line in the book:  There were two thing Yolanda Sanchez didn't want to see in her somewhat restored Queen Anne Victorian, whose ground floor now housed the Twice Told Tales used bookstore.

Last line in the book :  Yolanda didn't care as long as Adam kissed her again.   

Can you think of two things you wouldn't want to see in your bookstore were you the owner?




Friday, June 26, 2015

The Confluence of the Playground Slide, the Oak Tree, and the New Mother





Ron and I had had our children about a month when we packed a picnic lunch to spend Sunday afternoon at the park/playground.   The merging of new parents and children tightly bonded to each other wasn't going too badly, but everyone was trying so hard, that a few hours at the park sounded restful.

(If you've been with this blog for a while, you know what happened to me on the slide, so skip over this to the next paragraph.)

I looked up at the long, high slide, then at my not-very-big children and decided I should try it first for safety sake.  (Ha!) So I climbed up, sat at the top, surveyed the situation, and whooshed down in my polyester pants, which doubled my speed.  (It couldn't have been the weight behind the missile.)  Half way down, I noticed a tree at the bottom, slightly to the left of center.  It occurred to me that if I put my feet down at the bottom, I'd probably tip headfirst into the trunk.  So my split-second decision was to fly off at the bottom, feet up, and sail past the tree.  Which would have worked if I hadn't landed on a root of said tree and broken my first and second lumbar vertebrae.

At the hospital, I explained to the doctor that we'd just adopted three children and I had to go home!  He explained in no uncertain terms that I could not, but there was a new treatment in place now that put people with such injuries on their feet in record time.  It involved a special back brace personally tailored to the patient.

My mother and father took over the household while Ron went to work.  (He was editor of a small newspaper in McMinnville.)  At 4'10", and after a tough childhood and a lot of her young life spent in a woolen mill, my mother was a cross between Stalin and General Patton when something had to be done.  My father looked like Perry Como and was just as sweet.

Mom's first heinous sin was to patch the knees of the boys' jeans using the fabric from their pockets, then sewing the pockets closed.  Mike and Pat are 52 and 51 today and my mother is long gone, but they have yet to forgive her.  I wasn't there, of course, but Ron reported a big scene.  My father found Kathy (then four years old) crying in her bedroom.  When he asked her what was wrong, she sobbed that she wanted her mother back.  Understanding that at that point, the poor child had a natural mother, a foster mother, and an adopted mother, he asked, to clarify, "Which one?"  She answered, "The one with the broken bones!"  (That's my favorite part of this story.)

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, I'd been there almost a week, and I knew my husband had a call in to the UN to send peacekeepers.  I had to get well and return in a hurry.

The doctor told me a specialist would arrive that night with the makings of my brace, which had to be constructed on me.  The man was making several other stops along the way, so wouldn't be arriving until late.

I was awakened shortly after midnight.  A nurse remained with me while the man took several flat, narrow metal pieces out of a briefcase, along with several strips of leather  and a baggie of  findings.
He climbed onto the bed and knelt astride my waist (honestly!), fitted the strips in place to form a sort of harness, then with a screwdriver (again, honestly!) secured them in place.  I can usually find equanimity in strange situations, but there's something  about having a man working over you in a hospital bed with building tools that's very unsettling.

Hoping to relieve the discomfort, I asked if he ever felt like Dr. Frankenstein, creating the monster.  His eyes met mine briefly, but he did not respond, simply continued to work.  In his defense, it had probably been a very long day for him, it was now after one a.m., and this patient for whom he'd driven all the way from Portland was making jokes about Victorian horror fiction.

Turned out, the brace was perfectly made, I was walked up and down the hospital corridors for the next few days, then went home.  My parents and the kids ran out to meet me as Ron helped me up the steps.  My mother was crying, and so was my daughter, who had wept for me while I was gone and now held me tightly, conking her head on my brace.

Bonding accomplished!   And all it took was a broken back, a UN peacekeeping mission, and Dr. Frankenstein.

Piece  o'  cake.

Please share anything about your family you think we'd like to know.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Five Days and Counting! (Tara Taylor Quinn)

My Seventieth Book!

In five days my very first Heartwarming novel is releasing!!  You can click on the book cover to the left to pre-order now!

I'm doing a lot of celebrating with this book.  It's not only my first Heartwarming novel, it' my 70th title published with Harlequin/MIRA.  I can hardly believe that many books have come out of me.  I feel as though there are still as many in here as there have always been.  Hundreds of them.

And yet...seventy books.  I look at the list I was recently sent and I can remember every book.  The jumbled feelings.  The lives and crises my people and I have been through together.  My books are my friends.  I've never been one to have a lot of friends.  I'm that nerdy book worm who spends a lot of time alone.  And somehow, overnight it seems, I have 70 friends sitting here with me.  And through them, a lot of 'friends' among the rest of you, too.  Friends who share these people with me.  They introduce us - these books.  Connect us.  I am very blessed.  And very thankful.

Once Upon a Friendship is about friends.  Seriously.  The book that follows in October, Once Upon A Marriage, is too.  There are three friends, two girls and a guy.  They've been besties for more than a decade.  They met in college and the two women have roomed together ever since.  Through law school.  The opening of a coffee shop.  And the purchase of an old historic apartment building so that the elderly residents who've lived there all their lives won't be put out on the street.  The guy, Liam, he's up there in the picture, well...he's...a bit of a conundrum.  And Gabrielle and Marie adore him.  Equally.  You might see where this could be going.  It kind of does and kind of doesn't.  And the old folks...the friends rescue one from another's bathroom.  Help when a married man of sixty years forgets his wife's birthday.  And find themselves with more than fifty rabid body guards when evil comes knocking - literally - at their door.

As part of the 70th book Heartwarming Release celebration, I'm going on tour, having a party, giving away VISA gift cards, t-shirts, books, and a basket filled with summer fun and a lot more free books.  The fun starts on July 5th and goes until the 16th.  I hope you'll join in!  You can follow the details here: 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My love hate relationship with boats....





Ahoy, all! Dana Mentink here. I just love the idea of boating, don't you? Sailing along over crystal clear waters, feeling the gentle rock and tug of the waves. Hmmm. That last bit is the problem. For a person who gets airsick, elevator sick, train sick and rocking chair sick, boats just move entirely too much. I have found a solution to this problem, a boat that doesn't sail! For my new release, Sailing in Style, I visited the Delta King parked (do you park a boat?) close by in Sacramento. This historic wooden paddlewheel vessel stays put, it is now a restaurant and inn. The owner was kind enough to give me a tour. What a lot of history packed into that one vessel. It was built in 1929 and plowed the Bay Area waterways as an elegant wining and dining craft, was pressed into military service during WW2 as a net tender, barracks and hospital ship. It sank in 1984 and was partially submerged for 14 months until the Coyne family bought and restored it. As I looked out the windows at the lovely Sacramento River, I thought to myself, "I've finally found the perfect boat for me, one that never leaves the dock!"


link to Sailing in Style: http://amzn.to/1K9ESAb

Do you have any fond sailing memories? I would love to hear some of your adventures! 


Monday, June 22, 2015

May the Fourth Be With You! --with Kathy Damp

Here in the United States, July Fourth approaches with varying degrees of heat.

It will be a long weekend of camping, cooking out, and friends and family. Some time also, I hope, spent in reflecting on the freedoms we have and the people who died to give them to us. Since Waiting for Sparks is set around July Fourth and tells how the town celebrates with its Jamboree, my small town doings are fresh in my mind.

When I was growing up in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, our village had a Memorial Day parade,  and as a younger kid, I rode my bike in the parade. Anyone else ever do that?

The day before, my sisters and friends would decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue crepe paper woven into the spokes, fluttering off the handlebars, off the seat, and anywhere else we could find room. Those with advanced technical skill used clothespins to attach playing cards or baseball cards on the spokes for that special sound effect.
  
Other years, I danced my way with the Florence LaPoint School of Dance or marched with my 4-H club in the green and white uniform and hat . (One year, I rode the float!) I found a photo the other day while repurposing my office. Hooray—just in time for this post.


We had marching bands in wool uniforms, a high-stepping drum majorette, melting mascara from the high school girls in the parade, old cars and waving dignitaries, and veterans marching in their respective military branch uniforms. Yes, many of them still fit into them! 

The parade began at one end of town (or behind the school that was grades Kindergarten through 12th grade) and travelled up through Hudson Street, past the bunting-hung white bandstand where later in the summer, band concerts would be held, and end up at the town cemetery on the outskirts. A short ceremony on our freedoms and how we got them and then taps. One student on the trumpet would play taps and another would be be hidden back in the trees to play the echo. Haunting, reflective. I'll never forget it.


So, regardless of the country you live in, I want to take a trip with you to YOUR favorite celebrations. Let’s bring the Harlequin Heartwarming flavor to the posts below. Ready, set, GO!

~Kathy Damp

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sit Down Saturday with Patricia Forsythe

Most of the time, when people ask me about being a writer, they have no idea I’ve been at it so long.  I wrote my first book on a typewriter, holding my youngest son on my lap.  He’s now in his thirties, and is a father himself.  I’ve written many more books since then, most of them for Harlequin Books, but I’ll never forget the challenge of writing and selling that first one.

Just about anyone who reads any kind of book can tell you that the publishing industry has changed greatly since those days.  The advent of the personal computer was remarkable.  My first one was an Apple IIe which would seem primitive now but was state of the art then.  I loved it because it freed me forever from White-Out and Korrec Type – it’s been so long since I used those products I’m not even sure I’m spelling them correctly. 
Printing books on paper was the publishing norm from the time of Gutenberg’s first printing press and will probably always be with us.  Electronic books are becoming increasingly popular.  They’re easy to purchase – a click of a button has them downloading to your electronic reader while your credit card is conveniently charged.  It’s a process I find seductively simple because it’s so much easier than going to a bookstore, although I still love bookstores.

The one thing that has never changed in all the centuries of publishing is a good story.  Since our caveman days, people have learned from stories, retold stories, made up stories.  The human craving for a great story is another thing that will always be with us.  Writers get their stories from everywhere – personal experience, a bit of gossip, or an overheard conversation.
In my first Harlequin Heartwarming, Her Lone Cowboy, a June release, I used stories and conversations I’d had with various military veterans I’ve known and I used those to create Caleb Ransom, a wounded veteran who has returned to the states determined to find a quiet corner of the world, raise cattle, maybe a few horses, and be left alone.  He succeeds pretty well for about a year – at least until Laney Reynolds moves in next door with her curious four-year-old son, Sam.  The little boy’s adventurous spirit and desire to make friends with Caleb and his animals keeps his mother at her wit’s end and pulls Caleb out of his shell and into their lives.

I loved writing this story and it’s my hope that readers will love reading it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE BEST TEA IN THE WORLD

by Shirley Hailstock

Since Father's Day and Independence Day are practically upon us, I thought about my father and one of the gifts he gave me.  I was also reminded of a previous trip to England by several of my friends (who were in Ireland) posting messages on Facebook.  One thing I enjoy and miss about England tea time.  The entire country seems to stop for an hour and enjoy a soothing cup of tea and a little conversation.


Photo Credit: Morguefile

I have a friend in D.C. that I’ve known since college.  She’s a neo-natal nurse.  We met when she was in nursing school.  I tutored her in chemistry and we became life-long friends.  She spent a lot of time in my apartment and used to say I made the best iced tea in the world.  Of course, I thought she was being facetious since I had very little money and tea bags were the only drink I could afford to buy.  Consequently, there was always tea in my refrigerator.  I didn’t find out until long after I'd married and had children that she actually meant it.

My son also says I make the best tea in the world.  He’s unaware of the comments from my nurse-friend.  But he should know.  He’s traveled from Canada to Australia, New Zealand to Ireland, England to Scandinavia, seen a lot of the world and drank a lot of tea (his refreshment of choice).  For several days one summer when he was about ten, he watched me make tea, asking questions about how much of this and how long to let it boil.  Then one of his friends’ parents I ran across in the local grocery store mentioned the tea.  Apparently, my son had gone to her house and made them the best tea in the world.  Once he called me from Germany when he was an exchange student to find out how to make the tea for his German family.


Photo Credit: Pixabay



Tea has been a part of human life since the Stone Age.  Yet people used to only drink it iced in the summer time.  Tea has now become an any time drink.  I think my father personally championed this change, since we had iced tea year-round as I grew up in Buffalo, New York.  My father was from South Carolina where tea is a staple.

He didn’t teach me to make it, however.  And I didn't experiment with different ingredients.  I just happened to try a different type of tea when I was low on tea bags and suddenly I had people turning their heads like on a television commercial and asking, “Who made this?”  I will give a little credit to my father for one ingredient although the knowledge came to me indirectly through one of my sisters.  She told me about the baking soda.



Photo Credit: Pixabay


Sun Tea was popular about ten years ago and I tried that, but quickly realized it was only a method of getting people to buy more tea bags and therefore making the tea companies more profits.  Quickly, I dropped that idea.  One reason was the inconvenience.  Sun Tea had to sit in the sun for hours to brew.  I’d have to get it ready and put it outside in the morning before leaving for work.  With all I had to do to get three people up dressed, breakfast prepared and eaten, beds made, and lunches ready (with kids who are not morning people), who had time to think about Sun Tea?  And when it was gone, you couldn’t make more on the spot.  Plus my kids didn’t think it was as good and the kind you boiled on the stove.  So following the path of least resistance, I went back to the tried and true.

Photo Credit: Morguefile
In my first book, Under the Sheets, I loaned my heroine the recipe for the tea.  She owned a restaurant and it was a favorite of her patrons.  It was also the defining moment for the hero when he discovers she’s the same woman he’d known and loved in the past.  I put the recipe in that book.  And here it is for you.  I hope you like it.

Photo Credit: Pixabay & Morguefile

Apple Spiced Iced Tea


2 regular tea bags (a cheap brand, store brand is fine)
1 apple spice herbal tea bag
Sugar (to taste or optional)
Baking soda (as much as you can pinch between two fingers)
Cold water
Ice


Photo Credit: Morguefile
Fill a small sauce pan half full of cold water.  Add the three tea bags and bring to a boil.  Boil for two minutes.  Remove from stove and add a pinch of soda (The box keeping your refrigerator fresh is fine to use.  The soda will make the tea bubble to the top of the pan, so be careful.  It will also give the mixture a rich, dark color.)  Fill a half-gallon size pitcher half full of cold water.  Pour tea into a pitcher and stir.  (Discard tea bags.)  Add sugar to taste.  Fill pitcher to top with more cold water.  Serve over ice.

Note:  Do not add lemon.  The strength of the lemon juice will negate the apple spice influence.

Substitutions:  You can substitute any herbal tea you desire and experiment with the flavor.  I’ve used Orange Spice and Cinnamon Apple Spice with good results.

Shirley Hailstock




How Does Your Garden Grow?

with Lee McKenzie and Helen DePrima

This month we're chatting about two of our favorite things: gardening and writing. We hope you'll join us!

HELEN:
Good morning, Lee. Warm weather has finally arrived in New England after about ten minutes of spring. I've been congratulating my perennials, especially my roses, for surviving one of the worst winters in recent times. Now the rush is on to get my vegetables up and running for a good harvest while trying to grow my next book for its September deadline. Tomatoes, beans, squash and apples from my heirloom tree will all demand attention just about the time I'll need to polish my manuscript.

Helen's Irises
How are the growing and writing progressing on the Pacific coast, Lee?

LEE:
Hi, Helen. I love roses, so I’m happy to hear yours survived the harsh winter! Your irises are looking lovely, too. We had one of the mildest winters on record, and harvested the last of the winter kale about a month ago. One of my favorite things about the west coast is having a winter garden.

My current writing project has well-established roots (I know my characters’ backstories well) and lots of tender new shoots. But I can’t say it’s come into bloom yet because the hero and heroine haven’t realized they’re falling in love. Or if they have, they’re still keeping it a secret. When I’m hung up on a plot point, Finnerty Garden at the University of Victoria one of my favorite places to wander and reflect.

The pond at the University of Victoria's Finnerty Garden
Helen, what variety of heirloom apples do you grow?

HELEN:
A local orchardist tells me I have a Red Gravenstein apple, a volunteer that showed up in our woods and is now thirty feet tall. It bears only every other year so beginning in August I start to make enough applesauce to last for two years. I placed this tree behind the barn in my book Into the Storm, scheduled for release in December, so my characters can enjoy the bounty as well. Beets and potatoes are now sprouting in the raised garden bed where my spinach wintered over—such a treat to pick fresh greens as soon as the snow melts. And of course it's rhubarb time; I really should make a rhubarb upside-down cake, pretty as a mosaic.

Helen's wildflower garden
I'm well into the second book in the Cameron's Pride series; I do a lot of "writing" while digging in the dirt.

LEE:
We have a very old heirloom apple tree in our backyard. By old, I mean at least sixty years, and it may be older if it dates back to the dairy farm and orchard that was replaced by this neighborhood in the 1940s. It’s one of the King varieties, possibly King of Tompkins County, and lives up to its name by producing extremely large apples.

I can attest to it being rhubarb time. I baked a deep-dish strawberry-rhubarb pie for our family brunch last Sunday. It was a large pie and there were no leftovers!

One of the heroine’s in my Riverton trilogy is an avid cook—apple strudel being one of her specialties—and I’m working on recipes to include in these books. I don’t know how readers feel about this, but I love to read books that have recipes in them.

Late-spring rhododendrons at Finnerty Garden
To round out our gardening theme this month, Helen has a special giveaway for one of our readers—luxurious gardener's hand soap and lotion –and Lee is offering one of her backlist titles (winner's choice). To be eligible to win, just post a comment below. We'd love to hear about your garden or anything else you love about springtime We’ll post the name of the lucky winner on Saturday!

Happy reading! Until next time,

Lee and Helen

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Binging on Media

by Patricia Rosemoor, half of Lynn Patrick

The publishing industry isn’t the only media that is going through a huge transition. The way we watch television is, as well.
    There are always dead spots in network programming. The winter holidays. The transitions before and after summer. It used to be you couldn’t watch anything new in the summer, but a half dozen years ago (maybe more), new series launched in the summer, especially on cable. Some series even have two seasons.
    But we’ve gone way beyond that now. Or at least some of us have. Now we binge watch.
    I can’t remember if I started with Downton Abbey or with Homeland. I was late to the party with both, but writer friends online kept talking about these two series, and I finally had to check them out for myself. I caught the first two seasons of Downton Abbey right before season three launched. It never occurred to me that I would watch any series, even a short season, in a weekend. And that’s exactly what I did. I couldn’t get enough of it. The characters drove the story and me with them. Same with Homeland.
    It never occurred to me that binge watching would become a regular habit. Until...
    Last year at this time, I got Netflix. I’d had Netflix before, renting DVDs. When Netflix went to streaming, I dropped it. I thought who would want to watch the old movies they were trying to sell. And then they started producing new series.
    Orange is the New Black sucked me in right as season two started. So I watched two seasons in about two weeks. And then there was Breaking Bad, a requirement for a workshop in California with Story guru Robert McKee. My writing group took the workshop together after watching Breaking Bad together. However it did take us half a year to watch 62 episodes. I’ve tried various other series, and if I like them, I watch the whole season(s), though not necessarily in a weekend or two.
    Note that network television is now experimenting. Aquarius is a new summer series that started a few weeks ago, but the day after the series started, all 13 episodes appeared on my Tivo. Not recorded, but a click will stream an episode from On Demand. The Tivo has changed, as well, because I created a OnePass for Orange is the New Black, and it, too, shows up on My Shows and I can stream them from there.
    I’ve also had Amazon Prime for a couple of years and have occasionally watched movies. Now Amazon is producing new content. Bosch, based on the Michael Connelly novel character, was a natural for me. I watched the 10 episode season in one weekend. Then I started thinking about how this binge watching phenomenon related to reading books.


  

Think about how many people you know who get hooked on a series. And if they come to that series late in the game like I did with Downton Abbey and Homeland, they may want to read all the books currently in that series.  As an author who has written series, I have been asked by readers how many books do I intend to write, because they want to get them all before starting to read. Which means they are binge reading.






The "home" books we are writing for Heartwarming aren't an official series, but they are all set in the same fictional town of Sparrow Lake, Wisconsin, and both main and secondary characters interact throughout the books. So, an opportunity for a little binge?



I admit I binge read the Karen Marie Moning Fever series until I was finished.
 
 Has it happened to you? Fess up. Do you binge read or binge watch television? What are your favorites?



Monday, June 15, 2015

The Bad in Arizona by Marion Ekholm


I was relaxing in my chair in my living room when I noticed a slight discoloration in my beige rug. When I got up to check it out, I found a scorpion about an inch and a half long, just a little darker than the rug. I got my pinchers and picked it up, deposited it in a plastic container and quickly put on a cover. Mr. Scorpion did not appreciate it and zoomed wildly around the airtight container. Days later, I still wasn’t sure if it was dead even though it no longer moved. Do scorpions have lungs and require oxygen? Ten days later I opened the cover to take his picture. No food, no water, no air, and he was still alive. Scary.
 

I’ve had some experience with scorpions in the past, so even though I loathe them, I know what to do. I’ve been bitten twice, both times in the foot. The first time I was taking the trash out at night, in the dark in my bare feet when I was new to Arizona. Talk about stupid. I didn’t see the culprit, but felt the sting – and felt it for several hours after that. I called poison control and found it wasn’t necessary to go to an emergency room unless my condition worsened. The pain is very distinctive, pulsating in and out. Aspirin or Tylenol can be taken for relief, and it was also suggested that I get a Tetanus shot, which I did.

The second time I was stung, I was barefoot again, but this time in my bedroom. This scorpion we caught and killed. Twenty plus years at that house and I only came across two scorpions. My new apartment has had two sightings in five years. The first time my son was visiting, sleeping on a mat on the living room floor when something crawled on him. When he turned on the light, he found the scorpion. These creep him out, but it didn’t bother him at all when he went searching for tarantulas in the desert.

He and a friend thought they’d find desert tarantulas and sell them. He found one hairy dark fellow under a rock, brought it to his sister’s apartment and deposited it in a small barred cage meant for mice. But when he went to show his sister, no tarantula sat in the cage. He was in mortal danger. Not from a tarantula’s sting, which isn’t as lethal as a scorpion’s, but his sister was furious. She taught Wing Chun and had broken a wooden dummy with her blows. He managed to make a quick exit. Two weeks later she found the tarantula under some clothes.

Although scorpions and tarantulas exist here, they aren’t too much of a problem. Just remember to wear shoes!  And check those shoes before slipping your feet into them!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Winner Takes All by Cheryl Harper

Happy Saturday! If you'd like to spend part of it with a book, here are 10 THINGS ABOUT WINNER TAKES ALL (too loud for Saturday morning? Sorry for the shouting.)

10. It's the first in a new series: Lucky Numbers. Three women who've been best friends since the trials of high school hit the lottery.

9. And, in the way of old friends who know you best, Jen and Rebecca refuse to let Stephanie wimp out. She's dreaming big. They're going to hold her to it.

8. Our hero Daniel is Rebecca's older brother. I've never written the best-friend's-older-brother story. This one was fun.

7. He's also working hard half a world away while they're plotting with a map and his set of darts. Rural medical clinics in the Andes are the perfect escape from his mistakes.

6. There is a very close encounter with a lizard.

5. No bulls were harmed in this story. In fact, the bull turned the tables. No people were harmed, either.

4. Coca Cola really is universal. Someday, we will find it on Mars. Just waiting for us to get there.

3. Good, kind people who work hard are global (because I'm not sure about life on Mars. Just Coke.). In Spanish and so many other languages, teachers do their best to pass on the education that is the key to kids all over the world following their own dreams. Stephanie is a teacher. She understands this.

2. Sometimes the only way to find your happiness is to take a risk that scares you. Stephanie is scared. She's climbing literal mountains here and staring hard at a big fall, but Daniel knows she can do anything.

1. Being a hero isn't about never making a mistake. In Daniel's case, his own arrogance has lost him his job and keeps him working too hard and too alone in the Andes. Stephanie is going to teach him how much more they can accomplish together.

Want to make my day and pick up Winner Takes All? Here are some handy links:
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1csf7we

If you aren't quite convinced...
Check out my Pinterest board for this series. See if you can guess what happens in the next book, Heart's Refuge, coming in October. (You don't have to guess. It's DOGS. So many DOGS!) I'll be posting a little sneak peek in my next newsletter so...sign up here!
And here's an excerpt:

If he’d wanted peace and quiet for his drive to Alto, he was totally going to get it. She couldn’t have made inane conversation about sports teams and weather if her life depended on it. She was too busy swallowing back pleas to slow down and be careful. Be more careful. Please be more careful.

Then the truck lurched, heading for the wall instead of the drop, and Daniel cursed. Before she could gather her breath to scream, before the movie of her life began flashing in front of her eyes, he had the truck stopped. “Flat tire.” Instead of shouting it like it might be the thing that spelled the end, his voice was flat with annoyance.

Like a flat tire while clinging to the side of a mountain was the same as a hangnail.

Here it might be.

Stephanie glanced wildly over both shoulders as if something might have changed in the two seconds she’d had her eyes squeezed shut. “Here?”

Daniel rested his chin against his chest for a second and then handed her his bottle. “They hardly ever happen on nice, level spots, especially around here.” He slid out of the truck, and she put both bottles in the cup holders before she inched her way out between the truck and the dusty mountain.

“But you know how to fix it?” Her fingers ached and she realized she’d tangled them together in a tight ball. At this second in this place, she was as equipped to change that tire as she was to fly back to Lima. Eventually she might figure it out, but not before they were flattened into more Peruvian dust.

Daniel wrapped both hands around hers, the ones she didn’t know she was wringing like a true damsel in distress, until some of his calm and warmth seeped through her skin. He’d always been able to do that, break through her worry and give her some peace.

“Relax. This is business as usual. I can change it. Haven’t I always kept you safe? You and the other Holy Horrors have trained me well. Big brother to the rescue again.” 


Friday, June 12, 2015

We Talk to Ourselves...a Lot! (Father's Day edition) by Loree Lough and Cerella Sechrist

As you can imagine, we’re both so excited about our latest Heartwarming novels, Harper’s Wish and Sweet Mountain Rancher, which will be available this September.

Like most romance authors, we developed a bit of a crush on our heroes, and thought you’d like to hear why. So we got them together—not an easy feat, considering their dedication to work and family—but we’re nothing if not determined!

First, we flew Cerella’s hero, CONNOR CALLAHAN, to Colorado for a much-needed respite from ‘chef-ing’ and running his restaurant, then we sent NATE MARSHALL, Loree’s hero, to Findlay Roads, Maryland—180 degrees of difference from life on the Double M. When we merged the discussions, we discovered that although Connor was Ireland-born and Nate spent most of his life on his family’s ranch, they have a whole lot in common…including natural ‘good dad’ traits. What better way to honor dads everywhere, than with a Father’s Day-themed blog post!

See for yourselves why we’re smitten with these handsome heroes:



Nate: So Connor, what was it like, moving from Ireland to Maryland?

Connor: I was just a kid when we moved. It was after my mam had passed on, and my dad was looking for a fresh start. It was tough, adjusting to a new home and school – a whole new country. But it really deepened the bond between me and my sister, Rory. We looked out for each other a lot in those first few years. But my dad was great about encouraging us to remember where we came from while still embracing our new roots.

You know, when I heard you were a Major League pitcher, I wondered how you made the transition from life on a family ranch and life in the big city….

Nate: Noises at the Double M consisted of cattle, mooing in the distance, or horses, nickering in the corral. It took a while to get used to the car horns and sirens, but I figured out that first night…New York isn’t the only city that never sleeps! I coped by reminding myself that I was living almost every boy’s childhood dream…playing professional baseball. (snickers) And by wearing earplugs at night! 


But what about you? You inherited the Rusty Anchor—love your Shepherd’s Pie, by the way—but if your dad hadn’t left you the restaurant, what would you have done for a living? 

Connor: It’s hard to imagine being anything other than a chef. I grew up around my dad’s restaurant. I was working there in my teens and then I went on to culinary school and opened my own establishment after graduating. I think, even if I wasn’t a chef, I’d still be working in a restaurant. It gets in your blood, and it would be difficult for me to leave it behind.


It seems we have something else in common. (frowns slightly) My wife left me when she realized how demanding my work was. And you lost your fiancĂ© in that car accident… 

Nate: (nods slowly) Yeah, and that night changed me, big-time. 

Connor: But not permanently? 

Nate: (grins)  I thought the ‘never say yes’ mindset had stuck…until I met Eden…. 

Connor: I know what you mean. Harper changed me, too. It’s funny because at first, I was convinced she was a harpy. Back when she was still a restaurant critic, she gave me a rotten review on my first restaurant. But after she showed up at the Anchor, looking for work…well, let’s just say that she shook me up and got me to take a fresh look at things. 

Nate: Still, I bet it wasn’t easy, working with her after the things she wrote about you. 

Connor: You can say that again! (laughs softly) But she changed everything for me, including my relationship with Molly, my little girl. It’s always been tough, being a single father. I’m not sure how my dad did it, raising both me and my sister. Molly got into her fair share of mischief until Harper came along. It took some time, but now she wants to be just like Harper. 

Nate: Yeah, kids have a way of bringing the best—or the worst out in people. In my case, it took a dozen kids, each with his own unique problems. Don’t mind admitting it was scary at first, getting close to those boys—and letting them get close to my family. But they proved you can’t judge a book by its cover and that with a little fatherly advice and attention, we can reach even the toughest kids. Well, most of ‘em, anyway. 

Connor: Ah, you’re referring to Thomas.

Nate: (takes a deep breath) So what was your secret, man? I mean, how did you learn to trust Harper with Molly and your future?

Connor: In the end, Harper did something to prove to me just how committed she was to both me and Molly, as well as our future together. It still took some faith to recognize she wouldn’t abandon us like Molly’s mother did and to believe we could make things work, but I decided that Harper was worth that risk.

And you? What made you decide that ‘never say yes’ wasn’t working anymore?

Nate: Confession time. (chuckles)  I never actually followed that stupid rule. Gave it a good old-fashioned try…with unimportant stuff. But when someone I cared about needed help, I couldn’t help myself. I had to say yes. (slight pause) There was just the one time, really, when I wish I’d said no. When I gave my fiancĂ© the keys to my sports car…. 

But enough about that! What are you doing on Father’s Day? 

Connor: Harper and Molly are being kind of secretive about it, but we’re having a special brunch menu at the restaurant to honor dads. It includes a full Irish breakfast, but Harper insists I take the day off and stay out of the kitchen. I think that’s going to be impossible, but I’ve learned by now that when she’s determined to have her way, I should just step back. (chuckles)

And you? 

Nate: The women in my family will use just about any holiday as an excuse to throw a party, so rain or shine, we’ll have a noisy hoedown in the Marshall party barn. Somehow, Eden convinced the powers-that-be that her boys would be better off living out here, on the Double M, full time. But shoo-eee, talk about red tape! They inspected everything, from our marriage license to the rooms I added to the ranch house to make room for them, to the boys’ toenails! But Lady Luck smiled on us, ‘cause we passed muster. 



How ‘bout you and Harper? Lots of changes in your living situation, too, I’ll bet! 

Connor: It’s definitely different to have moved out of the apartment above the restaurant and living in a real house for a change! 

Fatherhood has changed me, too. Being a single dad to Molly for so long allowed me some really precious one-on-one bonding with my little girl in her early childhood. Don’t get me wrong, though, I wouldn’t change having Harper in our lives for anything. But I’m glad I had the opportunity to grow so close to Moll while she was still young. It’s been tough because I lost my own mam when I was just a kid, but my dad set a good example, being a single dad himself. 

You’re not the boys’ father by birth, but I’m sure you know what I mean. 

Nate: Yeah, at least, I think I do… Never would have guessed it, based on the way I’d lived my life before Eden and those kids came into it, but you’re right. Fatherhood changes a man. I never gave a whole lot of thought to it, because my dad, grandfathers, uncles made it all seems so easy and natural. But seeing how much kids—especially teenage boys—rely on a man’s viewpoint and example, well, suffice it to say I’ve taken a closer look at it. 

For starters, saying ‘it isn’t just about me anymore’ has to be more than lip service. (shakes his head) There’s so much to teach them—and they’re downright eager to learn—everything respecting one another, to making sure Eden knows they’re grateful for the sacrifices she’s made for them.

I’ve learned a lot from them, too, like why it’s important to mean it when you admit when you’ve made a mistake, because even when it doesn’t look like it…they’re watching and listening, and they really do learn by example. (chuckling) But listen to me, preachin’ to the choir… 

Connor: Oh, and hey - (shakes Nate's hand) congratulations on tying the knot, mate! 

Nate: I guess we both deserve some congratulations on that score! We oughta get our gals together. I’m guessing they’d get along great. 

Connor: No question in my mind. (sits back, nodding) So what’s on the menu for the big Marshall clan Father’s Day bash? 

Nate: Oh, the usual…steak, burgers and dogs, Mom’s famous potato salad and my aunts’ cakes and pies. (winks) And a big ol’ kettle of my Five Alarm Chili. 

Connor: Five Alarm Chili? Now that sounds like a dish I might like to serve up at my restaurant. You’ll have to share your recipe. 

Nate: Happy to! I guess we’d better turn things back over to Loree and Cerella about now! 

*** 

We hope you’ve enjoyed a chance to get to know these two father figures! Don’t forget to try Nate’s chili (recipe below) and check out the release of both Sweet Mountain Rancher and Harper’s Wish, coming this September! And be sure to tune in next month on Friday, July 10, for the next edition of We Talk to Ourselves…a lot - Loree and Cerella have a great giveaway planned! You won't want to miss it!




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 www.loreelough.com!



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 www.cerellasechrist.com where she pens “Literary Fare: Fiction & Food”, a blog for readers.