Friday, July 31, 2015

EXCERPT: Harper's Wish by Cerella Sechrist


This September, the first title in my Findlay Roads series is releasing with Harlequin Heartwarming. I'm so excited about HARPER'S WISH, which introduces us to Findlay Roads, a fictional town in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland:

Twenty years ago, Findlay Roads was a small community with a strong Irish presence from the immigrants who had settled in the town in the eighteenth century. With its quaint coastal charm as part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it was eventually discovered by developers and tourists, and in the past five years, it’s been touted as the newest tourist destination for summer vacationers from nearby Baltimore and Washington D.C. With this new tourist boom, the locals have either learned to take advantage of the economic influx or have struggled as they’ve watched their town be recreated into an eclectic mix of old world charm and new century chic.

The first story, HARPER'S WISH, places disgraced restaurant critic, Harper Worth, at the mercy of Connor Callahan, the man whose career she nearly destroyed three years ago with one of her vitriolic reviews. This scene is where Connor first realizes just who Harper is...


***

“You’re Harper Worth.”

She flushed but still managed a smile. “Guilty as charged.”

“Get out.”

He’d obviously stunned her because she sat there, blinking for several long seconds.

“Excuse me?”

“I said…getout.”

Harper Worth. In his restaurant, his second restaurant, after all this time. And not as a critic but looking for work. He wasn’t sure whether to feel outraged or vindicated.

“My name is Connor…Callahan,” he stated, the words clipped.

Her expression didn’t budge, not a glimmer of recognition there.

He’d never seen a proper photo of her. Restaurant critics often concealed their identities so they wouldn’t be recognized when visiting establishments. And with Harper’s vitriolic reputation, he assumed she’d made every effort to keep her image from being exposed when dining out.

Now he finally had a face to put with the name—a much prettier face than he had imagined. He had built her up in his mind’s eye as the harpy he’d dubbed her, thinking she’d be thin, gaunt, with unnaturally long teeth and beady eyes.

She was nothing of the sort. But she was still the woman who’d nearly ruined his career, he reminded himself.

“You don’t even know who I am,” he said.

Her eyebrows dipped in confusion. “Sorry, should I? Have we met?”

He couldn’t help it. He cursed.

“Connor Callahan?” he repeated his name. “Éire?”

Satisfaction flooded through him as he watched the color slowly drain from her face.

“Éire?” she whispered.

“Ah, you remember what the restaurant was called, even if you can’t remember the name of the man whose reputation you ruined.”

“I—” But she stopped there, seemingly at a loss for words.

“Let me see if this rings any bells.” He cleared his throat before he began the recitation of her review from memory.

“Though barely competent, Éire’s executive chef tries too hard with the menu, putting on airs with mediocre aptitude.”

Her face whitened further, her expression becoming pinched as he continued.


“The filet mignon, though a fine cut of meat, is decimated by the lack of skill in preparing it. It will never measure up to the succulent cuts to be had at nearby restaurants in the district, and if ingredients as pure as this can be prepared with such average talent, then imagine the rest of the dishes.”

“Oh. That Connor Callahan.” She attempted nonchalance, but by the pink rising in her cheeks, he knew he had her right where he wanted.

“Can I tell you my favorite line? The one my investors quoted when they pulled out on me?”

She shifted in her seat. He injected a full Irish brogue into his voice and spread his arms to accommodate the full theater of the words.


“Éire is owned by Institute of Culinary Distinction–trained Irishman, Connor Callahan, who clearly believes his own blarney when he claims his restaurant is a dining experience to delight the senses. Perhaps he could use a taste of humble pie since I remain unimpressed and dub his establishment notworthit.”

The silence that followed these words was thick. He watched the fine cords in her neck flex as she swallowed. Her cheeks were stained crimson with what he hoped was embarrassment and shame, the very same emotions he’d felt when he’d read her defamatory review.

***

Want to read more? Visit my website for links to more excerpts via OverDrive and to pre-order your copy of HARPER'S WISH.

And don't forget there's only one week left to enter the ENDLESS SUMMER GIVEAWAY from me and Loree Lough! The prize includes $150 worth of goodies, including an Endless Summer gift basket, $20 Amazon gift card, and FOUR autographed Harlequin Heartwarming novels from Loree and me! You can enter at this link...and then check back here at the Heartwarming blog the following Friday (August 14) to find out who the winner is PLUS discover another huge giveaway! (It's another great one, I promise!)

***

About Cerella:

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Reading by Tara Randel




Summer is here! The kids are out of school. It’s vacation season! What better time to escape between the pages of a good book?

Whether you’re at the beach or poolside, slathered in SPF 50 and drinking a cool beverage, nothing beats relaxing with a book you can’t put down.

The question is, what kind of book?

 

My fall back is always romance. With new Heartwarming books available every month, I can easily get my fill. There are new authors to the line, as well as authors I have come to love. Give me a fun, laugh-out loud story, or romantic suspense, and I’m a happy girl.

But I also love to read blockbuster thrillers as well. For some reason, I always hold off and read these types of book in the summer. Talk about escaping! Saving the world is hard work! Someone has to sit back and read about it.

Interested in paranormal? If vampires and shape-shifters are up your alley, how much better with some romance thrown in.

A mystery is always fun. Between amateur sleuths and police procedurals, you can enjoy figuring out who-done-it, easily spending hours uncovering the culprit. If you like to get your mind working, there are plenty of good mysteries waiting for you.

How about thumbing through a cookbook? I like to cook and have compiled dozens of recipes I’ve never tried, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for new ideas. There’s something about being daring in the summer. Get that grill warmed up or try that new dish you’ve been afraid to tackle.

I’m working on a new book right now, so my pleasure reading time is very limited. But that doesn’t stop me from looking up my favorite authors to find out the next release date of their books. After all, no self respecting reader can keep up with their To Be Read pile. So many books, so little time.....

What are your favorite summertime books? Leave a comment. I’ll be giving away a copy of Magnolia Bride.

Enjoy your summer!      


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The greatest of these...

by Liz Flaherty

We've tried to define Harlequin Heartwarming more than once, I think. We use the words wholesome, sweet, clean, and they all work. But it's been more than that for me. Writing them and reading them and working with the other women who write (and read) them has just been the greatest gift, so even though my post today has nothing to do with writing--other than the fact that it was a writers' group assignment!--it does have to do with gifts. If I've used it before, I so apologize--please just pretend you've never seen it.

In 1990, I had a brand new daughter-in-law I hardly knew. She hardly knew us, either, yet there she was living with us while her husband was at basic and then AIT with the army. She was young and scared and pregnant, giving birth to their first daughter while Chris was at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. Their budget was so stretched as to be nonexistent, but one day when Tahne went to town, she came home with a bottle of gardenia cologne for me. It was her favorite scent, not mine, but she didn’t know me well enough to know what I liked—she just wanted to give me something. Twenty-five years later, I’m not sure what ever became of the cologne, but I still have the daughter-in-law.

       We passed a car down to our grandsons. It was a car that had problems
and created problems and should have been made into a nice meringue pie, but it was a pretty SUV, and the price made fixing its relentless foibles a viable option for the boys and their parents. Shea, the one who drives it the most, was thrilled beyond words to be driving the car. He worked at an orchard, and when he found out I loved Honeycrisp apples, he kept me in them until the orchard ran out of them.

       My daughter teaches special education. As the mother of three sons, girly isn’t part of her lifestyle, and she misses it sometimes. She decided she wanted to have Tiara Thursday for her girl students—Kari still wears her 40th-birthday tiara every chance she gets—but the cost of the sparkly headbands for all her girls was prohibitive. When I found some in the clearance aisle at the Dollar Store, I texted to find out how many she needed.

       That Thursday morning, I took the yellow sack of purchases up to the school, thinking to leave them at the office for Kari to pick up, but she asked me to bring them to the classroom. Where I got to hand tiaras to five squealing, excited little girls who were very happy to pose for pictures and give me hugs and huge smiles. Even the boys in the class put on the tiaras for pictures. I’m pretty sure the tiaras were the best $7.50 I ever spent, and the gift was to me.

       No matter how much or how often I write about it, I don’t know how to define love any more than I can define Harlequin Heartwarming—I don’t think anyone does—but I guess if I had to, I’d say it was made of Honeycrisp apples, little-girl tiaras, and gardenia cologne.

Monday, July 27, 2015

And Now the Rest of the Story...

by Patricia Bradley



Back in March, I had a post, Romance Is In The Air. It was about Tana and Jason, and they were married after she flew to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.



For the past 6 months, they've been honeymooning all over the place...like California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Tennessee, Mississippi...

And I thought sure I could tell everyone the rest of the story this month...

Alas, the stars didn't line up. But...what if I gave a few clues about the rest of the story. I may be able to save this blog post after all!

Clue #1.

Clue #2.
The guy kneeling isn't part of the crew.
Clue #3.

Be sure to watch The Discovery Chanel next week.

I promise, next month I'll tell all!

Thanks so much for being patient with me, and for that I believe I'll give away three copies of A Heartwarming Christmas to three different readers who leave a comment!



Just answer this question:
Would you chance a ride in a boat on the Bearing Sea?





Sunday, July 26, 2015

RWA 2015 and Bingo Winners Announced

What a weekend it has been! Many of the Harlequin Heartwarming authors attended the National RWA Conference in New York City this weekend. It was a blast and no one knows how to party like Harlequin! 

Our first event together was a dinner with the editors. There were a lot of us, but we managed to get everyone in one shot!

Friday was our signing day! Tara, Carol, Melinda, Amy, Kate, and Jennifer all signed for Heartwarming. I put Anna's Berkley signing pic in too because isn't she too cute?


Friday night was the best night yet and fun was had by all at the Harlequin Black and White Ball at the Waldorf Astoria's Starlight Room. It was simply amazing! Tempting desserts, gorgeous dresses, cool lit-up book centerpieces, fun-loving editors and authors cutting loose on the dance floor. A fun time was had by all. 

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we cannot thank Harlequin and the Heartwarming editors enough for such a wonderful experience!

We'd also like to thank everyone who participated in the Heartwarming RWA promotion. Without further ado, we'll announce the winners of our at-home contest. Drum roll, please ....

Darlene Holley
Laurie Iglesias
Diana Tidlund

Congratulations, ladies. we will be in touch soon to get your contact information!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sit Down Saturday with Amy Vastine

Today we are celebrating the release of The Hardest Fight by Amy Vastine.

The Hardest Fight is the third and final book in the Chicago Sisters Series. How did it feel to finally tell the last Everhart sister’s story?

It is definitely bittersweet to see this series come to an end. I am happy to get to tell Lucy’s story,  but sad to say goodbye to this family. What’s great about writing connected stories is that you get to touch on the lives of the characters from the other books and continue to delve into their happy ever after. I loved that part of it. 

What’s your favorite scene?

This is an easy one. My favorite scene is when the hero, Dylan Hunt, gets knocked out while trying to rescue Lucy from an attacker and he wakes up in the ambulance with my favorite paramedic Charlie (from The Best Laid Plans) at his side. Dylan does not know what is going on and when Lucy shows up at the hospital, his train of thought while he tries to figure it all out makes me giggle just thinking about it.

If you could pick a movie star to play the hero and heroine, who would it be?

From Book 1 in the series, Lucy has always been Charlize Theron to me (I love her!) She does such a fantastic job of playing really smart, tough women, and that is what Lucy is. 

I didn’t have a good idea of what Dylan looked like right away but as I got into writing this book, he morphed into Captain America himself, Chris Evans. He’s a clean-cut, all- American boy. 



What do you plan to work on next?

I am about to sign a contract to write two new books for Heartwarming that are the beginning of a series that centers on a country music record company in Tennessee called Grace Note Records. I am excited to get started on it and so happy to be given the opportunity to continue writing for this amazing line. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

Well, I’m at the RWA National Conference in New York right now and am taking home about two dozen books to read. (Misty knows what I’m talking about!) But currently, I am reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I can tell this one is going to break my heart. I was reading it on the plane to New York willing myself not to bawl like a baby in front of a plane full of strangers. It is a a tough one but beautifully written!


Speaking of RWA, come back tomorrow to see some fun pictures from the conference. The Heartwarming ladies have been having a blast! And feel free to enter our RWA giveaway by clicking on the Heartwarming Bingo tab up top!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Do You Have an Estate Plan? by Roz Denny Fox


I ask this very personal question because I think it’s so necessary and because I recently saw a report that said 65% of adult Americans don’t have even a simple will.

Getting a will was something Denny and I did first thing after each of our moves when he was in the military and then worked as a telephone engineer. Those companies moved us as often as the military did. We did this because a woman’s group I belonged to before I was married had a speaker on the importance of having a will. Most states have involved and often different laws governing estates and/or custodial laws for what happens to minor children. There are states where if parents don’t have a will designating who gets custody of their children should parents die together in an accident, the children are automatically made wards of the court. And a judge decides who will raise your orphaned children.

Some people I know think they’re too young to make a will, or that it’s too expensive. For many it seems a far-off need. In truth a will lets you control what happens to your property and family after you’re gone.
You no longer even need to make an appointment with an attorney. You can make a will, a living will, or a living trust by going online and doing it yourself.

What a simple will can do:

Name the person you would like to manage your affairs.

Transfer property not distributed in other ways.

Serve as a public record of your wishes.

Suggest a guardian for your children if applicable.

Include provisions designed to minimize the impact of taxes that may be due.

A simple will cannot transfer property such as a home, investment and bank accounts or automobiles and other assets owned jointly with another person.

Life insurance benefits are not included in a will, but in the beneficiary papers you sign at the time you arrange for life insurance.
A simple will does not transfer assets outside the probate process. (Important to know—see below)
You should find out if your state’s probate process is automatic at the time of your death. If it is, probate costs can be high, and can take time, and freeze your assets. To keep from having probate funds taken off the top of the money you leave, a trust or a living trust should be set up in conjunction with your will.
So the truth is—a will is an effective way to make sure those you leave behind are taken care of in ways you wish. It’s true that if you don’t have a valid will that your assets will be divided according to your state laws. It’s true that even if you have a small estate, your heirs still benefit from you having an up-to-date will. And it’s true that owning assets jointly with spouse or a partner is not a substitute for a thoughtful will.

I know it’s difficult for some people to imagine, think about, or talk about death. And yet those same people care about the people they love. In addition to making a will that distributes your assets, you should have a living will that spells out whether or not you want to be put on life support should the need arise. A living will spells out exactly who you want to make decisions about your medical care should you become too incapacitated to make those decisions for yourself. And as writers, we need to assign someone to handle our intellectual property in case we’re unable, or after our death. That person may or may not be the person you name to handle your financial affairs. These are all things that need attention while you have all of your decision-making facilities intact. As difficult as it can be to get your heirs to discuss these matters, they need to be taken care of.

So I’m writing this as a gentle reminder that it doesn’t pay to not plan. You have earned your property. You have a right and a privilege to distribute it in the manner you wish after you no longer need it.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Look for my next Heartwarming book: Molly’s Garden   August Release

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friendship (Tara Taylor Quinn)


Friendship is a funny thing.  It happens, in its most perfect form, without us being aware.  And then, suddenly, there it is, in our lives, blessing our lives, appearing out of nowhere to save us from…desolation.

Years ago I was in a position to serve an organization.  I gave my all to it.  Put in the many many hours of unpaid work.  I listened.  I stepped outside myself and made decisions based on the good of the many.  It was a life changing experience for me in many ways.  It gave me insights into government and being responsible for the needs of diverse and vocal people.  It crucified me.

And it gave me my closest friend.  We argued when I first met her.  She had an opinion.  Delivered it strongly.  She was almost twenty years my senior, a decorated journalist and a USA Today bestselling author.  I was published.  Hadn’t hit USA Today yet.  Had written less than half the number of books she had.  And I told her she was wrong.  Because I’d seen a situation and I had to speak my truth.

I didn’t know it at the time, but she listened to what I said.  Thank God I was right.  But the most important thing about the incident was that I spoke from the heart.  And she had the heart to hear my message.

Years passed.  Things happened.  And I was in an untenable position.  I felt completely and utterly alone.  And suddenly, there was this…friend.  At a time when I thought myself physically alone, as well as cast adrift from all that mattered to me, at a time when I was being persecuted, there she was.  Finding me huddled in private, thinking myself alone with my grief.  She found me.  Held on to me. 

Because that’s what friendship does.  A lot is happening in my life this month.  As I write this, my 70th book is released.  I’m on the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller list for the fifth week in a row.  Just hit the USA Today bestseller list again.  I’m up for a coveted RITA award and have many galas and fancy parties to attend in New York.  And what I am looking forward to the most…I’m going to be spending a few days with my friend.  I cannot wait to see her.  To look into her eyes.  To walk beside her.  Hear her voice.  Because this is what life is about.  This is what matters most.

And this is the message I hope you get from Once Upon A Friendship.  Cherish your friends.  Tend to them.  Let the little things go.  Work through the big ones.  Because they are the ones who will always be there to catch you when you fall.  To hold you up.  And help put you back together again.
As you read this I am in New York City with my closest friend.  We are spending every minute we can together, talking non-stop and still not saying everything there is to say.  I live for these moments!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

EXCERPT: Sweet Mountain Rancher by Loree Lough

Are you ready for the release of SWEET MOUNTAIN RANCHER this September? If you're already a fan of Those Marshall Boys, chances are that you're just chompin' at the bit for another taste of the Marshall clan. To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt from this upcoming Harlequin Heartwarming release:

***

Nate’s sister leaned around their cousin and his new wife. “Just look at him,” she said, “hoggin’ the biscuit basket, again.”

Zach and Summer sat back to give the siblings a direct line of sight to each other.

“Poor Henrietta. She’s never has figured out the difference between biscuits and rolls.”

Her wadded up her napkin flew past the newlyweds and landed in Nate’s his mashed potatoes.

“How many times do I have to tell you, it’s Hank, not Henrietta.”

“You may be Hank on the barrel racing circuit,” he said, calmly buttering his roll, “but you’ll always be Henrietta to me.”

“Nate,” his mother scolded, “don’t taunt your sister. You know as well as anyone that the name change is legal.”

“Hank,” his dad muttered. “Ridiculous. The name Henrietta was good enough for your grandmother. I’ll never understand why it isn’t good enough for you.”

“Dad,” she said on a tired sigh, “we’ve been over this ground a dozen times. It was a business decision, pure and simple.”

Hank had probably taken this particular guilt trip often enough to earn frequent flyer miles, and Nate felt bad about stirring things up again, especially over Sunday dinner at Aunt Ellen and Uncle John’s.
“You still planning to change it back once you’re married with kids?” he asked.

Zach laughed. “Don’t do it! I think Granny Hank is a great name for a grandma.”

Nate’s father harrumphed. “Your grandmother thought Henrietta was a great name for a grandma.”
If their father noticed Hank’s heavy sigh, it didn’t show. Nate heard it, though, and got an eyeful of her angry glare, too. After dessert, he’d take her aside and apologize…and hope for the best. She’d always had a fiery temper, and if things ran true to course, he’d need to prove exactly how sorry he with the promise of dinner at Shanahan’s, her favorite restaurant. That sister of yours sure does know how to get her way.

Did Eden stay in control of the boys in her care with shouts and fist-shaking? Not if those big sincere eyes and the warmth of her pretty smile was any indicator.

“You planning to go back to sucking your thumb, son?”

It took a second to figure out what his dad was talking about. Laughing quietly, Nate put down the butter knife and wiped his hand on a napkin.

“I know that googlie-eyed look,” Hank said, smirking. “I’d bet my Greely Stampede Barrel Champion buckle on it…he was off in Lala Land, dreaming about some woman.”

For an instant, no one moved. Not even his cousins’ kids said a word. Nate hadn’t shown any interest in a woman since Miranda, not even the pretty cowgirls Hank set him up with, so the wisecrack didn’t make a lick of sense.

“Okay, cuz,” Zach said, breaking the silence, “out with it. Who is she?”

His ears and cheeks felt hot, and Nate wondered why none of the other Marshall men had been cursed with the tendency to blush like a schoolgirl.

“There is no ‘she,’” he said.

His mom’s eyebrows disappeared behind dark, silver-streaked bangs. “Oh, she must be a real pip if he feels it necessary to hide her.”

Et tu, Mom?

He could take the spotlight off himself by reminding them of Hank v. Henrietta conversation, but throwing his sister under the bus didn’t seem right. Or fair. Nate sat up straighter and donned his best You’re all nuts! grin. “There’s no one to hide. Sheesh. Guy can’t even butter his thumb around here without everybody jumping to conclusions.”

While they laughed at his self-depreciating joke, Nate decided to further distract them with the latest ranch news.

“Carl found another dead horse yesterday. We got plenty of pictures. Near as we can tell, there’s a cougar on the loose.”

Maeve Marshall gasped softly. “But…there hasn’t been a cat sighting since….” She faced her husband. “How long has it been, Royce?”

“Five, six years? I’d have to check.” He looked grim. Concerned. “Are you sure, son?”

Nate explained the condition of the carcass, and repeated what his dad had taught him about the differences bear and cat kills.

“You’re frightening the children,” Maeve said.

The kids did look a mite wide-eyed. But he’d been far younger when he got his first up-close and personal look at what a determined predator was capable of.

“Wish I had time to take every one of these kids out there,” he said, pointing at shed, visible through the many-paned window across the room, “so they could see for themselves what a determined predator is capable of.” Nate looked at each child at the table. “You’re ranch-raised kids, same as the rest of us were, and spend a whole lot of time outside. Meaning you have to keep your wits about you while you’re having fun.”

“Aren’t you just a big ol’ ball of warm and fuzzy,” Hank said.

He ignored her and got to his feet. “I’d rather give them a couple of scary dreams than see them become the prey of stealthy predators.”

Tossing his napkin onto the seat of his chair, Nate faced the hostess. “Dinner was great as always, Aunt Ellen. Thanks.”

“You’re leaving? Before dessert?”

In truth, Nate didn’t know what to blame for the agitation and tension in his whirling in his mind. With any luck, a few gulps of fresh mountain air would cure what ailed him.

“Thought I saw some leaning fence posts,” he said with a nod toward the windows. “That sky looks pretty threatening. Might as well check ‘em out before that storm rolls in.”

At least out there, he could think about Eden without being interrogated.

Her pretty face came to mind, and just that quick, his mood improved.

***

To learn more about the Those Marshall Boys series and to pre-order SWEET MOUNTAIN RANCHER, visit Loree's website at www.loreelough.com

And if you haven't already entered, be sure and check out the ENDLESS SUMMER GIVEAWAY on this post, where you can win an Endless Summer gift basket, $20 Amazon gift card, and FOUR autographed Heartwarming novels from Loree and Cerella Sechrist!

***



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!




Monday, July 20, 2015

Can You Spot the Difference? ...by Kate James


Do the two pictures above look the same to you? Since I'm reasonably certain that your answer isbeing as polite as possibleno, this post is the story of how a lovable Irish Wolfhound mix morphed into an equally lovable black Labrador Retriever in my recent release, The Truth About Hope.

* * * * *

I'm very fortunate to have Paula Eykelhof as my editor. She is exceptional at what she does, I value all her revision requests and—as a bonus—she has a terrific sense of humor. We share a love of animals, and early in our working relationship we discovered that one of her cats and one of our black Labradors have the same name: Logan. We affectionately refer to them as FL (feline Logan) and CL (canine Logan). Occasionally, we exchange cute anecdotes about their mischief. This is backstory to the revision I had to make to my May release, The Truth About Hope.

In the original manuscript, my heroine, Hope Wilson, has a large, gangly, good-natured mutt that resembles an Irish Wolfhound. The scene when she finds him as a puppy, as originally written, follows.

*
Crouching down, Hope cautiously pushed aside a large branch to have a look…and started to laugh. Unmindful of the damp grass, she fell to her knees. Still laughing, she reached under the base of the bush and hauled out a squirming, wiggling, mud-covered puppy. “What are you doing here?” she inquired of the little dog.
The puppy mewed and continued to wriggle. Hope leaned in to nuzzle him and pulled back quickly. “Wow! What they say about sweet puppy breath doesn’t apply to you, does it? You stink! I bet that’s more than just mud covering you.”
In response, he slathered Hope’s face with his tongue, landing one grimy paw on her white shirt and another on her cheek. “Thanks, pal,” Hope exclaimed. She swiped her upper arm across her face, smearing the mud.
“I have our refreshments,” Priscilla announced as she emerged from the house carrying a tray laden with a pitcher, glasses and a plate of sliced lemons. She almost dropped the tray when she noticed Hope kneeling on the grass. Depositing it on the patio table with a clatter, she rushed over. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Let me take him.” She made a grab for the puppy, but Hope drew him back, streaking more dirt on her shirt and along her arms.
“Look at you! You’re covered in dirt,” Priscilla exclaimed. “Morris was supposed to have taken that little dog to the pound a week ago.”
Hope’s eyes rounded, and she tightened her hold on the puppy. “To the pound?”
“Well, we didn’t want to. Morris and I thought it would be nice to have a dog around, but your father…”
“He didn’t want a dog,” Hope concluded.
Priscilla nodded.
“Where did he come from?”
The puppy in question enthusiastically licked the side of Hope’s neck.
“We have no idea. He just appeared a couple of weeks ago.”
Sinking back on her heels, Hope placed the puppy on the ground, where he executed a summersault in pursuit of his tail, before clambering onto her lap again. Hope nudged him, and he rolled over on his back, where he remained with an expectant look on his face. When Hope obliged with a tummy rub, his gleeful squeals stole her heart. “So, he doesn’t belong to anyone?” she asked.
“Not that we could determine.” Priscilla squatted down too and cautiously patted the pup on the top of his upside-down head.
Hope’s expression turned thoughtful. “My father asked me last night if there was anything he could do to make me feel more comfortable here.” She continued to rub the little dog’s belly, while he nipped at her fingers with his needle-sharp teeth. “I’ve always wanted a dog, but I couldn’t have one in Canyon Creek because Mom was allergic.  What if I told my father I wanted to keep the pup?”
Priscilla smiled. “There’s always a chance. Why don’t we take the little guy into the mudroom and get him cleaned up first? Make him more presentable.”
It took several cycles of lathering and rinsing until the bath water finally ran clear. The pup was still mostly gray, but the brown had washed away with the sudsy water to reveal a bright white belly and white boots on three of his paws.
“How big do you think he’ll get when he’s full grown?” Hope asked as she toweled him off.
Priscilla pursed her lips. “I’m no expert on dogs, but I’d say he’s a real mixture. His coloring and the shape of his face make me think he’s got some Irish Wolfhound in him. Judging by how big he is now, I’d say he’ll be mid-size. Probably fifty to sixty pounds when he’s full grown.”
“That’s not so big. My father wouldn’t object to me keeping him, if I promise to take care of him and keep him out of his way, would he?”
Before Priscilla could answer, the outside door swung open and Morris strode in, the screen door slamming behind him. He took one look at the two women, the little dog between them, and started to back out.
“Not so fast, Morris!” Priscilla called.
He stopped in his tracks, but kept his hand on the door handle.
The puppy—having aptly demonstrated his displeasure with the entire bathing process—must have seen his opportunity to escape. He squirmed out of Hope’s grasp and charged straight for the doorway, crashing head-first into the screen. Fortunately he bounced off it, landing ingloriously on his backside.
* 


Imagine my surprise when I saw the cover and, rather than a Wolfhound, the dog featured prominently is most definitely a black Lab and looks exactly like our Logan, including the slightly curly fur along his back!


I had to edit all references to the dog, Einstein, to fit the cover image. For example, I revised the highlighted paragraph in the original manuscript to read as follows:


* 
Priscilla pursed her lips. “I’m no expert on dogs, but the shape of his face makes me think he’s got some Irish Wolfhound in him, but the rest of him looks like all Labrador. If he’s mostly Lab, he won’t grow too large. Probably about sixty pounds when he’s full-grown.”
* 

The net effect? I had to rewrite approximately a dozen scenes, Logan lorded it over our other Lab Harley, he wanted a share of the royalties in the form of extra kibble, and Harley now would like to know when he can expect to be a cover model, too. Considering there have been times when FL and CL have “used” our respective laptops, I have to wonder if there might have been a conspiracy involved! With this bit of backstory, I hope you enjoy getting to know Einstein, the mostly black Lab, in The Truth About Hope! (I do want to thank the art department team at Harlequin for how hard they work at creating the best possible covers.)

Still on the topic of dogs, my next three releases constitute my K-9 trilogy. The first two books, When the Right One Comes Along (October 1, 2015) and When Love Matters Most (January 1, 2016) are currently available for pre-order. Not surprisingly, there is a casts of furry, four-legged supporting characters in these books.

Do you feel furry, four-legged characters can enrich a story and help define the protagonists? What breed/type of dog would you like to see featured in a book and why? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Truth About Hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sit Down with ttq Part Two (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Before today's excerpt I want to tell you a little bit more about The Historic Arapahoe - the series, and the building.  My first Heartwarming novel, out this month, Once Upon A Friendship, has a sequel, out in October, Once Upon A Marriage. 

The series centers around the people living in a historic building in downtown Denver.  So, a little history to this idea:


I’ve always had an affinity with older people.  When I was little, my favorite person, other than my best friend, was my grandmother.  I’m told she had a stroke.  And that I was the one who spent countless hours with her, talking to her and encouraging her to speak again.  I’m told that I’m the reason she did speak again.  I remember none of that.  I remember her.  In great detail.  I remember the times I spent with her.  Spending the night with her.  I got to sleep in her bed with her and that was the best of all sleeps.  I remember the smell of her powder in her bathroom.

I remember conversations.  So many of them.  And the cookies she’d always have for me from the bakery in town.  I remember her cooking only what I liked to eat and telling me that when I was at her house I only had to eat what I liked.  Somehow I liked vegetables when I was there.

I remember a voice that was shaky at times.  I don’t remember questioning that.  It was just part of her.  Mostly I remember that she knew everything.  She was calm and wise and kind.  And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.  I remember when I was in third grade and had a crash on bicycle.  I flew over the handlebars and landed on my face.  I was concussed and had a broken jaw.  My grandmother came to visit.  We went out for my favorite food.  Hamburgers.  And I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to take one bite.  My face was scraped up and I was…as devastated as a third grader could be.

I remember my grandmother standing with me in front of the bathroom mirror.  Looking at my sorry face.  She smiled.  And told me I was her little soldier.  I wasn’t all that sure about a girl being a soldier, but I’ve never forgotten the way I felt in that moment.  My grandmother believed I had it in me to get through this trauma.  And so I did.

She was wise.  A wisdom born of years of living.  Of learning.  Of knowing.  She is the reason I have such an affinity for the elderly.  Because while their bodies might be failing, they are the strongest of us all.  The wisest of us all.  They KNOW.  Because they’ve lived.

In Once Upon A Friendship, three friends buy an old apartment building to prevent the elderly people who’ve been living their all their lives from being put out on the street.  They had no idea what a bounty their investment would be to them in terms of the gifts they’d get in return from the residents they’d saved.  But I knew.  And I had a great time showing them what I knew. 

Todays Excerpt: (The 'she' it starts with is 80 year old Grace, a 60 year resident of The Historic Arapahoe who has just knocked on Liam's door.)

She had a toilet that wouldn’t stop running. She’d picked up the part she needed, she just couldn’t get the bolt undone to replace it.

Because their current budget only allowed for them to call a handyman when things went really wrong rather than keep someone on staff full-time, he ran upstairs to take a look. They stood there together, staring at her john. He’d pulled off the lid, could see little bubbles in the bottom of the water-filled tank, could pretty much ascertain that they had to do with the running water sound, but he had no idea what was causing them.

The water was clean. So was the inside of the tank.

“You’ve never fixed a toilet before, have you?” Grace asked him.

He thought about prevaricating. But looked at her and shook his head. “Nope. Truth be told, this is the first time I’ve ever looked inside one.”

Just hadn’t been on his to-do list.

“See this long screw thing here? That controls this float that controls the water level. This whole thing is called a fill valve. It opens this rubber thing to let new water in when you flush. This is what needs to be replaced. You have to unscrew this from under the tank and I just can’t get enough strength out of these hands to get it done.”

There was a wrench on the floor. A pipe wrench he remembered from his shop class in high school.

“You’ve changed one of these before?”

“Yep. Used to be I’d just watch, but since my Bernie died so young…” She shrugged. “Anyway, we have to turn off the water.” She started to reach under the toilet, and Liam reached in front of her.

“Let me get that.”

“I can do that part,” she said as he turned the water valve. “I did it last night.”

She stood back as he straightened up.

“You flush the toilet to empty the tank. I did that, too, but when I couldn’t get the bolt undone, I had to refill it so I could use it in the night.”

He flushed. The tank didn’t empty completely. But almost.

“Here.” Grace handed him a towel. “You’ll need this under the tank. The rest of that will empty through the hole when you remove the bolt.”

On his knees, and then his back, Liam found the bolt. With very little effort he got it undone. And got sprinkles of water on his face, too. Clean water. Still, the shock of it stopped him for a moment. But with an eighty-year-old woman watching him, he quickly got moving. Following her instructions, which were impressive, he had the fill valve changed and the toilet flushing errorlessly in less than half an hour.

He’d have to tell Gabrielle. She’d get a kick out of it…

His thoughts stopped. Why not tell Marie? She’d appreciate it, too. Heck, Gabrielle probably knew how to change a fill valve.

Because she knew everything about taking care of herself.

"You're a good boy," Grace told him as he finished.



He’d been about to roll his sleeves back down but stopped, deciding to head straight upstairs to the shower.

“I just want you to know, whatever the papers have to say, I don’t believe them. Except maybe the part about you and our Gabrielle. Do you two really have something going? Because I have to tell you, if anyone deserves a fairy tale romance, it’s her.”

He handed Grace’s wrench back to her. Washed his hands. And turned to her.

“Gabi and Marie and I…we’ve been friends for a lot of years and I don’t want us to lose that. You understand?” He spoke gently, but waited for her silent nod before he continued.

“The things the papers are saying about us…they’re lies. And they’re hurting Gabi. I need you to tell the other residents that Gabi and I…as a couple…it’s not true. They listen to you. And maybe, at least here at home, we can end this craziness and have some peace.”

Her face fell, her lips completely losing their smile.

 
“You’re sure, Mr. Liam? I know she’s a bit too serious, but Gabrielle’s a beautiful girl. Inside and out. And loyal. You’ll never meet anyone more loyal than that one.”

Liam chose to avail himself of his Fifth Amendment rights—staying silent so as not to incriminate himself—all the while cringing on Gabrielle’s behalf. He could just hear the string of words that would come from her mouth if she were hearing this.

“You’re sure there’s no way you could fall in love with her?”

“I’m sure she doesn’t want me to.”

“You’ve talked to her about it, then?”

“Yes, ma’am. And she is as emphatic as I am about the whole thing.” He could look her in the eye with that one. “So can you spread the word for me?”

Seemed like a fair trade for fixing her toilet.

“Yes. Of course,” Grace said, but Liam had a feeling he’d just ruined her day.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sit Down with ttq (Tara Taylor Quinn)

When I think of sitting down, anyplace other than my office chair, I think of reading.  So this weekend, as I sit down with you, I figured I'd share a couple of excerpts from my very first Heartwarming novel, out this month, Once Upon A Friendship.
My 70th Novel!
It's also my 70th Novel!

Here's the intro:

An editor once said, a long time ago, that when you read ttq books, you live the life. My hope is that when you read my books, you get something to take with you in your life. Even if it’s just a smile. A renewed memory. The hope of happily-ever-after in the real world.
On the surface, Once Upon a Friendship was kind of ordinary when I started writing. Three friends who buy an old apartment building together to keep the senior citizens who live there from being kicked out onto the street. But in the first chapter a Ponzi scheme appeared. And one of the friends could be involved. His father is arrested. I wanted to stop it all from happening. After all, this was my sweet apartment-building book. But as I’ve come to accept over the years, the book wasn’t really mine. The story belongs to Liam and Gabi and Marie. And the things that happened to them are not mine to change.
They belong to you now.

 
And an excerpt:

 
“Dad…”

“Get out, Liam. I’ve had George remove you from my will. You are no longer my son.”

He was bluffing. It wasn’t the first time Walter had said such a thing. And he’d done worse. Walter had once likened Liam to a terminal disease. He’d called him a fool. Told him time and time and time again that he’d never make it in the world.

And then he’d buy him a new car. Give him a promotion…

“Anything personal you had in this room has been relocated to your apartment. You have twenty-four hours to get that cleared out. Anything left there at this time tomorrow will be disposed of when the locks are changed. You can keep the car.”

“Dad…”

“Get out.”

The man sitting calmly in Liam’s chair didn’t blink. His hands weren’t trembling. His mouth didn’t twitch.

Liam looked at him and saw a stranger.

“You are no longer welcome here, Liam,” Walter said as though he was ordering a glass of water with the coffee he’d just been served. “Either you go quietly or I will call security.”

Liam didn’t remember getting back to his car. He knew he’d done so on his own. Without escort. He climbed behind the wheel, starting the car with a calm he’d probably feel if he felt anything at all.

What did you do when you realized that what you’d counted on to never change didn’t even exist?

More tomorrow!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Riding the Mother Road - Route 66 California or Bust

Shirley Hailstock

             Since I was a very young child, I’ve had a fantasy of driving a fast car on Route 66, a thousand-mile stretch of road beginning in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles.  It predated the superhighways and would meander through towns, cities, and hamlets allowing a driver to see the country as they passed through it.
Photo Credit: Morguefile

             I used to watch an old television series with Martin Milner and George Maharis called Route 66.  They drove a red Corvette (it was actually blue) in the age when the price of color television was only beginning to reach affordability for the common man.  We had a black and white model.  Every week one blonde and one dark-haired man would set off in a convertible with only adventure awaiting them.  They’d stop and work to get enough money for repairs, gas, food, and the essentials of a life on the road.  They had no attachments, nothing to keep them tied to any one place.  The world was their highway and there were magical escapades at every stop.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

             What freedom.  What escape, I thought.  This was a wonderful way to live.  And I wanted to do it.  However, I was a girl with many years ahead of me before I was even old enough to drive, much less learn the constraints put on women and the added bonds that held black women back during that time.  Yet that sense of freedom to comb the road, stopping along the way for the pure sense of adventure or just to find out where the road leads, never left me.  Today I will drive down a road with the sole intention of finding out where it goes.  Dead-ends, grassy knolls, babbling brooks, farm country, the center of town, warehouse districts, or suburbs, all have something to say.  They feed that sense of freedom, of being uninhibited.  Many of these drives have fueled my own stories or provided me with fresh ideas for current or future projects.
             My sense of adventure has never been satisfied, although I have explored places since that black and white television program ended, and I learned to drive.  Oftentimes, I’ve foregone the fastest route, and taken the secondary, more scenic roads that wind through towns and slow down to twenty-five miles an hour.  I believe keeping adventure alive is a plus and it will never end for me.  There is so much to see, so many people to talk to and discover the uniqueness of their lives.
             While I’d love to drive that Corvette, it isn’t the need for speed that calls me, but that all important freedom that can be obtained with only a car and the open road. Most of Route 66 survives today, but not in its original, well-maintained form. The road is cracked, overgrown, and hard to find in places where only a Jeep, not a Corvette, can traverse. My dream of taking that adventure and finding out where the road leads remains alive and well and as Route 66 beckons, I know there are interesting lives down every roadway.

             This was the inspiration for writing my next book, Promises to Keep, which will be released on August 1st.  While I haven't yet driven all of Route 66, I have been on parts of it.  My characters go from end to end, meeting those interesting people I thought about along the way.  Promises to Keep was fun to write.  I got to fulfill (vicariously) that long ago dream and I thank Heartwarming for allowing me to cross that off my bucket list.
             I hope you enjoy the ride.