Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's Springtime, Right?

posted by Lee McKenzie

Hello, Heartwarmers. I've been looking forward to this blog post because I planned to share photos of my garden springing to life. This is something westcoasters love to do because our gardens are usually in full bloom as the rest of the continent emerges from winter. This year, Mother Nature decided to humble us.  Springtime is taking her sweet time getting here. And as my hydrangeas green up and my ferns contemplate unfurling, they are not yet photogenic.

Luckily, while my garden grows, other things love to pose for my camera, namely, my latest thrift store finds.

First up, this very nice mid-century modern stainless steel tray I scored for $1.


It had a few scratches and was, frankly, kind of grubby, but it cleaned up nicely. Even better, it was the perfect addition to the mid-century modern bar cart I found at another thrift store last year.


I must confess that I don't actually like cocktails, but I    like the idea of cocktails and I have always wanted a bar cart. They just seem so elegant. So here you see my new $1 tray atop my cart, along with the crystal ice bucket with the hammered silver handle that was another vintage find.

Last year I found this bar cart (it's also brilliant as a tea cart) at a thrift store. The price tag: $50. I loved it, felt the price was fair, and it now graces my home. After I brought it home and did some research, I discovered it's solid walnut and was made in Yugoslavia, and I have seen the same cart for sale online for hundreds of dollars. (Patting self on back for being able to spot a bargain.)


As much as I would love to be the kind of person who hosts cocktail parties (even though I don't drink them!), I love being a grandmother even more. And my new favorite thing is to keep an eye out for great deals for the new love of my life. Here are some recent finds:


A fun little denim dress with red plaid pockets and ruffles, an adorable mint green Gymboree dress, and a pair of like-new Oshkosh overall shorts...all three pieces for $7. And here's the little fashionista who'll be wearing them.


If you ask this grandma, babies do not come any cuter. And whether the love-of-grandma's-life ultimately prefers denim or diva, grandma hopes she'll love thrifting. And books. And, of course,  gardening.

Happy reading, Heartwarmers.



Until next time,

Lee, writing fifty shades of pink

To Catch a Wife
His Best Friend's Wife
www.leemckenzie.com




Monday, April 24, 2017

Dear Fund Beneficiary

by Patricia Bradley

Wednesday

Just want to let everyone know when you read this on Monday, I'll be somewhere on my own little island in the South Pacific. If I don't answer the comments right away it's because I'm too busy swimming, diving, or just sunning on the beach, or even relaxing in the hammock.

And how did I get so blessed that I am able to retire to this island? There’s this wonderful woman in Nigeria who wants to give me money! I get the first payment today. If you don’t believe me, read the letter she sent me--

Dear Fund Beneficiary
We have concluded to effect your payment of $2.5Million USD, through western union, but the maximum amount you will be receiving each day starting from today is $5,000 twice daily until the funds is completely transferred to you.
Kindly Contact Western union Agent:
MR:  
TEL:
E-mail()
Also reconfirm your information to them below
YOUR NAME----------------------
YOUR ADDRESS-----------
YOUR PHONE-------------
OCCUPATION-----------------
I have sent $5,000 twice in your name today, but Mr (Blank)  said that you should contact first with your information. So contact Mr (Blank)  or you call him as soon as you receive this email and tell him to give you the Mtcn, sender name and question/answer to pick the $5,000.This is from government office payment.
Pls do let me know as soon as you received all your funds $2.5Million,
Thank you.
Mrs. Christiana Michael.

Whoo-Whoo!! Life of leisure, here I come.

Friday
Wait...
It gets better!
Just this morning, I received another email, this one giving me another $2,000,000! Read it and weep...

Attention: Dear Beneficiary,

Your Name/E-Mail is selected as one of the scam victims to receive
 compensation sum of US$2,000,000.00 (Two Million United State Dollars) which was allocated to you from office of International Monetary Fund (IMF) I was directed to inform you that the total sum of US$2,000,000.00 (Two Million United State Dollars) has been credited through  ATM CARD in your name as one of the scam victims/poverty alleviation beneficiaries, we are however sorry for the delay in contacting you, the reason is that we are following it according to the sequential order given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Your fund/ATM CARD is now in the United States of America.  You are required to contact...

This is the part I like best:

We sincerely apologize for all what you have gone through in the hands of those  unscrupulous elements and wish to advise you to please avoid further communication any one from any part of African Countries as it may turn to be another SCAM. Important notice, send your information through this email: for immediately release of your ATM Card. Waiting for your delivery details. Yours Sincerely Mrs Kimberly Benson Head Operational Manager ATM Card Department

So glad I didn't take off for the Hawaii just yet…I may even buy another island.

Monday morning
I guess you can see I'm not on a beach in the South Pacific. And I'm sure you knew when you read the first part of the post that I wouldn't be. But when the above letter came into my inbox, I couldn't resist having a little fun with it. But it did make me stop and think.

Not about what idiot thought I'd fall for such a silly email, although when these letters first started coming out, there were those who believed they had been chosen to receive millions of dollars, but I digress. If somehow I did fall into $2.5 million dollars, would I then do nothing the rest of my life? Would I just retire from working and go live on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific?

I'm going to reserve my answer to that question for the comments. You see, I want you to tell me what you would you do with the balance of $2.5 million dollars after paying all your bills and setting up trusts for your kids, etc.





Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sit-Down Saturday with Melinda Curtis

This Saturday, we're sitting down with Melinda Curtis, who has another Harmony Valley release: Love, Special Delivery.

Melinda, for those who don't know, what's the Harmony Valley series all about?
Just a few short years ago, Harmony Valley was on the brink of extinction with only those over the age of 60 in residence. Now, the influx of a younger generation is making life in Harmony Valley more fun for its gray-haired residents than afternoon television.

Tell us about this release. Where did you get the idea for the story?
Love, Special Delivery is about the re-opening of the post office and fire department. There's an old saying among writers that if you're writing about a fireman, he better suspect the heroine of arson. LOL. Fire seems to follow Postmaster Mandy around town, and she's not pleased that Fire Captain Ben has suspicions about her. Ultimately, this isn't a suspense story, but a tale of what we give up for family. Mandy has sacrificed her dreams of working for NASA to take care of her younger sister and Ben has sacrificed a chance to be a fire investigator to watch over his father, a career firefighter whose lungs and heart aren't what they should be.

What were some of your favorite scenes to write?
I love delving into the emotion of falling in love, but...Fans of the series know I love quirky old people (mostly because I'm related to quirky old people). But the two supporting girls in this story - Olivia (Mandy's 17 year old sister) and Hannah (the daughter of Ben's best friend) - bring the quirk of girl dreams, the kind you used to have before bills and mortgages came along. Olivia is boy-crazy and Hannah is obsessed with animals and reptiles, often bringing home little beasties she's convinced need saving.

Can you share an excerpt?
Here's one where Ben discovers Mandy lives next door to him. The first time they met, he couldn't understand how her smile could be so carefree (he also threatened to shut down the post office for fire code violations). Little does he know, the bigger Mandy's smile, the more stress she's under.

 “For the love of gardenias!” A figure moved beneath the shadows created by a large tree.
 Ben hopped off the picnic table. “Need any help?”
 The woman and the bushes stilled. “Um. No. I’m looking for…I’m trying to…” The woman huffed as if the weight of the world was too much for her patience. “I like to look at the moon, and this humongous tree is in my way.”
 Her hesitation and intensity gave her away. “Mandy?”
 The very air seemed to go still. No crickets chirped. No owl hooted. Even the offending tree had gone still.
 He peered into the shadows, trying to discern if she was still there, imagining her holding on to that calm smile of hers. “Mandy from the post office?”
 “It’s Ben, isn’t it?” She spoke as if this was the worst news of the evening. “How did I not know the fire marshal was my neighbor?”
 He chalked up the defeat in her voice to the stress of his fire inspection. His opinion of the post office didn’t reflect on her. She…He had to admit, she and her unflappable smile were more interesting than most things in Harmony Valley. “We’ve both been busy working.” And he went down Harrison to the firehouse, while she probably drove in the opposite direction to the post office.
 “If our house looks vacant, it’s because I park in the garage and walk to work.” Gone was the postmaster with her defensive stubbornness. In her place was a neighbor shooting the breeze, one who fed displaced raccoons.
 “Speaking of looking…” His lips turned upward for the first time that night. “I can see the moon clearly over here.”
 “Rub it in,” she said, less pained than when she’d discovered he was on the other side of the hedge.
 He was near enough now to see the outline of her face, although not a clear expression. Not her smile.
 He wanted to see her smile.
 Which was beyond ridiculous. A stranger’s smile shouldn’t matter.

Any behind-the-scenes details you can share?
The raccoon in the book is based on one we discovered in our son's backyard when we were trying to prep his house for sale. We couldn't go out at night in the yard because she growled louder than a Rottweiler. Do you ever play "what-if"/worst case scenarios in your mind? I do. Might as well put it in a book.

Faulty wiring in the old post office causes several fires. Faulty wiring is my biggest fear whenever we do a home remodel. I was not happy to do research on how electrical fires occur. This is a fear I share with Mr. Curtis, who has told me on numerous occasions - even when I want to replace a simple plug - "I don't do electricity."

When things get rough for Mandy, she smiles and likes to spend time alone talking to the moon. I have an odd sanity-saving ritual of my own, but when I came up with the idea of the moon, I thought that was more romantic. Really, who wouldn't want to gaze at the moon with a handsome guy? (note: see the question about this below for your chance to win an autographed book)

What's next for you?
The next installment of Harmony Valley comes out in October. It's Nate's story and called Support Your Local Sheriff. Yes, the pink wedding dress Mae left him in One Perfect Year will be featured!

Next week, I'm launching a new version of my bridesmaid series. Each sweet romantic comedy novella in The Summer Bridesmaid Series begins with an unexpected kiss. In A Kiss is Just a Kiss, minutes before the wedding, Kitty Summer is convinced her sister's fiance doesn't love Maggie. But the only way for this bridesmaid to stop the wedding is by kissing the groom on the altar. This book is part of the RT Conference promo in May.

Just a few weeks ago, I released my first writing craft book. I'm a writing craft geek and 1 class shy of a psychology minor. Frankly, my dear...Creating Unforgettable Characters is an easy to use inspirational guide to creating characters with over 100 examples from movies and TV.

Thanks for stopping by on a Saturday!
Thanks to all the readers and Heartwarming authors who stop by. Here's a question for you: Do you have any rituals that help keep you in balance? One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy from my Harmony Valley backlist, excluding Love, Special Delivery. Winner chosen Tuesday, April 25.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today Bestseller. She writes sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming, sweet romantic comedy novellas, and traditional sexy contemporary romances. If you sign up for her mailing list here you'll receive a free sweet romantic comedy novella and/or the workbook that goes with Melinda's writing craft book.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mail Bag

by Shirley Hailstock

I've never been in the military (college ROTC, no actual duty), but from stories my uncles told me and countless military movies I've watch, the mail was always a highlight of their time away from friends and family. The advent of e-mail has some of us dreading the day and the myriad of messages requiring our attention or the spam that seems out of control.




However, there is the mail we love - fan mail.




While authors are nervous that the fans will hate our books, it's so heartwarming to open an e-mail and find a glowing review or a story about how the book affected the reader.




"They got it," we cry and I mean cry; tears, sniffles and all.

So, to share with you some of the mail I've received (only the good or heartwarming letters), I got a letter from a woman who said she'd wanted to be more adventurous, but was afraid to buck her friends by doing something they might disapprove of, yet after reading one of my books, she was going to restart her life and live for herself. Four years later, I got another letter from her saying she'd gone parasailing, skied a black diamond mountain, had toured Iceland and was on her way to Dubai. I wasn't crying, but my hand was on my heart.

A heartwarming letter I got came from a nineteen year old woman who was in the hospital and had lost her baby three days after its birth. Her sister brought her one of my books. The book had a child who was in danger of dying. (My character comes out fine.) The reader said that book got her through the grief she felt. I was in tears by the end of the two-page handwritten letter. I can't imagine losing a child and then reading about another one in jeopardy. I feel blessed that I had a hand in helping her.



Prison mail, yes we get mail from prisoners. Apparently, romances are big in prison libraries. Many of these letters praise our stories, then ask for help, not with a lawyer or a method of getting them out of jail, but with a source to get their own books published.

Casting calls are a favorite read for authors. Readers love to send us mail about a book they love. They want it made into a movie. Many go so far as to cast the characters with Hollywood stars. Thank you. We love it and they are fun, but the reality of seeing our books on the small screen or the silver screen is almost a mathematically negative number.


Many authors write series books. These are the ones where there's a family or friends and each one gets a book. Readers love it because they invest in the series and love all the character. (Thank you, guys.) The mail that comes about these give the author's storylines for where the next book can go. Often the author can't use these. One, because they already have the books mapped out and two because even though an idea cannot be copyrighted, the author doesn't want any legal problems related to someone else's suggestion.



There are more letters than I have time to tell you about. You write them, so you know what's in your own, but maybe not what's in other people's mail.

As authors, we don't know the impact of our stories. We want to entertain our readers, give them wonderful adventures through words, but the themes that you identify, that touch your heart or alter your world are unknown to us.

When we open that fan mail account and see the surprise inside, it warms our hearts. So keep the mailboxes full. This is the kind of mail we're glad to open and spend time savoring.


A series of ripples...

Helen DePrima

We’ve all heard: “Write the book you want to read.” To that I’ll add – create the characters you want to know, individuals you quickly come to care about, to cheer their triumphs or weep with their woes. Even better, by design or accident, characters who allow you to follow their lives beyond The End – a series.

I’ve always been a great fan of novels which continue in a series; my favorite is Elisabeth Ogilvie’s Bennet’s Island books, nine in all -- a multi-generational saga of a lobstering community off the Maine coast. Ms. Ogilvie wrote High Tide at Noon while still in her twenties and the final episode, The Day Before Winter, at age 80.

When I wrote Into the Storm, the first novel in the Cameron’s Pride series, Jake Cameron’s sons and daughter acted as supporting characters in his and Shelby Doucette’s drama. At The End, I regretted telling them all goodbye, but not until my agent presented with me with a three-book contract was I able to give each member of the family star billing. It’s been a thrill to receive letters from readers asking, “When are you going to write about Tom or Luke? Or Lucy?” Even more gratifying, I get questions about my characters’ personal lives, as if they have indeed come to life and continue to work cattle and horses on Cameron’s Pride in the shadow of the Colorado Rockies.


The third book in the series, Luke’s Ride, was the hardest but most rewarding to write – how to tell a story of great challenge while still promising hope and redemption. I hope I’ve delivered – my readers will have to decide.

Liz Flaherty

I didn't--ever--set out to write a series. For a bunch of excuses reasons. My attention span is too short. I'm too disorganized. I might get bored. I might not be able to finish what I started. I might run out of stories or people or houses for them to live in--I do write rural/small town after all.

But then I wrote Every Time We Say Goodbye. About this pretty little lake in central Indiana where the businesses are named with Cole Porter song titles and a wreck that happened on prom night all those years ago. I loved the book, and there must have been some subliminal reason that there were 11 people involved in that accident...

It Was Written in the Stars (working title) will be a December Heartwarming release. It's the second book about Lake Miniagua and the people whose hearts have been broken and healed there. I'm working on the third one.

Poet Seamus Heaney saw life as "a series of ripples widening out from an original center." That was how my experience with writing a series came about. Although most of those excuses in the first paragraph have come to pass, I am having such fun with those ripples.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reflections on a Wedding Day

I was so happy to hear that my turn was today because it's my wedding anniversary! Nine years ago, my husband and I said our vows in a gorgeous, dramatic sanctuary in front of 400 family members and friends. But let's back up a little...


At Harlequin Heartwarming, we are big fans of unlikely romances, so I'll tell you that my husband and I are nine years apart. We first met when I was working for my college's PR department at a camp where JT was a counselor, but we didn't reconnect until after I had graduated. Let me tell you that there's a big difference between 19 and 28 years old vs. 21 and 30 years old. When I remembered he was going to be attending some good friends' barbecue, my heart knew, and I was downright excited.


Fast forward a little over a year, I found myself walking down a petal-strewn aisle toward the soccer playing engineer with a keen eye for design, the only brain I've ever known that can see the big picture and the details with equal precision, the sense of humor made for mine, and the blue eyes I knew my babies would someday have. 



Our ninth year had many highlights, and we have connected and communicated and supported each other better than we ever have. For that, I'm incredibly grateful. I couldn't ask for a better Huckleberry who supports my dreams and inspires me to be a better person. 

Here's to year ten!
---

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her stories are fueled by faith, steaming mugs of tea, and her belief that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking with her two little sous chefs and testing new recipes on her husband—especially if she doesn’t have to do the dishes. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorLaurieTomlinson or her website, www.laurietomlinson.com.

Her debut novel, With No Reservations, releases in May.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Welcome to my Spring Garden (and giveaway) . . . by Kate James


If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you probably know that winter just hasn't wanted to give up its hold on southern Ontario. When discussion spring with my husband, I used to insist that winter (weather wise) was over at the end of February. Well, this year taught me a lesson to NEVER say THAT again! Our last major snowfall was this month. But now . . . spring is finally here! I love the warmer temperatures, the sound of birds chirping early in the morning, critters making their presence known (even if it is that deer that keeps eating the tops of all my tulips) and everything starting to green up. 

Since I've worked hard the last few days to clean up the garden, I thought I would take you for a walk around our property to show them to you. It's nice and warm now, so you won't need a coat.

Let's start at the back of the house. Here is the little stone dog who sits in the garden just outside our back door, where we take Harley and Logan out for their walks or to play. This is the first garden we come to as we walk by our back patio. The perennials aren't visible yet. I tend to plant quite a few annuals here to give a blast of color all summer long!

This time of the year, I always have to remind Logan NOT to go running through this garden in his enthusiasm to reach the backyard first.

This is the part of our backyard where Harley and Logan like to chase their "Chuck It" balls. I'll have to get a video of Harley as he races out the back door, dancing in little circles in his excitement to play. (It's very cute!)

This is the garden near the back patio. It has stone stairs in the middle, leading down to the lower level of the backyard. 

This is the side of the same garden. This section doesn't get a lot of sun because of the mature trees nearby, so most of the plants here are shade-loving perennials.

This is the same garden from the lower level of the backyard. You can see the stone steps leading to the patio. The bottom portion of this garden gets sun for most of the day, so it's a terrific spot for all sorts of plants that prefer full sunshine. There are a number of rose bushes in this garden and low-growing perennials. It also contains lots of spring bulbs, lilies and irises, all sprouting now.
Here is a clump of daffodils . . .
. . . and the very first daffodil to bloom!

Although this picture doesn't do it justice, this is the view of the valley behind our house. It's nice to finally see all the trees start to get their leaves.
We've walked by the back of the house to the other corner. This garden contains mostly lilies and hostas.

The next pictures are of a couple of the front gardens. They're not much to look at just now, but with all the bulbs and other perennials coming up, they will be full of color soon.


Now we're at the other side of the house and back to where we started: Harley and Logan's favorite play area.

And speaking of Harley and Logan, what would one of my posts be without a picture of the boys! Here they are just after they got home from the "spa," last Wednesday. They were clean and fluffy and smelled very nice. The spa lady always puts cute bandanas on them. Aren't they handsome?
Since you were kind enough to take the time to walk around the property with me, the least I can do is offer a giveaway. I'm giving away a signed copy of When Love Matters Most, some bookmarks/bookplates, and a very pretty bejeweled, heart-shaped notebook and matching pen.

You can enter by leaving a comment below about what you like most about spring, or by tweeting. The contest runs until end of day Friday, and you can enter each day. I will announce the winner at the bottom of this post Saturday morning. The prize pack is available for US and Canadian residents. I will substitute two eBooks, should the winner be from outside the US/Canada.

And the Winner is . . .


Congratulations to Penney W. for winning the prize pack!! Penney, please e-mail me your address to readers @ kate - james  .  com (without the spaces).

Huge thanks to everyone who visits our blog, participates in our giveaways and reads our books.

Happy reading!
Kate



Sanctuary Cove - available now





Her safe haven

New York based communications executive Emma Meadows never imagined that sticking to her principles against an act of corruption would cost her her job and her relationship. Heartbroken, she retreats to her lakefront cabin in the Adirondack Mountains.



Aiding an injured animal at the side of a rain-drenched road, she meets local veterinarian Joshua Whitmore. Gradually, Josh’s charm and persistence overcome her defenses. But when Emma’s past abruptly intrudes—putting reputations and even lives at stake—it threatens everything she and Josh have begun to build together.



Home to Stay (book four in the San Diego K-9 Unit Series) - available for preorder



She's bringing his son home


A missing little boy triggers San Diego K-9 officer Shannon Clemens and her canine search-and-rescue partner into instant action. For the rookie cop haunted by a childhood tragedy, bringing Sawyer Evans's son safely home is more than a job. It's a mission she can't fail. But forging a friendship with the father is a tactical error that could compromise her first solo assignment. Yet the deepening bond between them is almost impossible to resist…

Amazon











Saturday, April 15, 2017

What Do Writers Do When They're Not Writing?

I'm helping with the Book a Thon at my son's school
I want to order this and instead of the name Stephen
I want to write Stupid Smelly School Bus
If you don't know where I got that, please Google Junie B. Jones
Read the first book and relive the joy of finding the first book
that made you want want to devour a million more books.
My idea is to have the younger students get their photo taken by the cut out.


Because the older kids won't want Junie B. Jones
This is a page from Diary of a Whimpy Kid
I want a giant white background
Where I've drawn what looks like a diary page
And taken this actual writing from Jeff Kinney's book
And then I put chairs and let the kids sit in them as if they are part of the book.
By the way, the book is so much better than the movie
that I've seen 20 times because my son loves it.
What I really want is a book costume I can wear
Not with a title, but one I can go from room to room wearing
while the Book a Thon is being promoted
Visuals are so important
Some of you might be wondering why I didn't post until now
late Saturday
Well, I'm with my son at a Youth Leadership Training for Christ Conference
Here he is in chorus
He's the first little guy to the left

Right now I'm working on the third book in the Sarasota Falls series
The first one came out this month.
The second one is going through edits.
The third one is written through chapter four
Besides writing books, I wrote two puppet plays and two drama programs
which were performed today at Leadership Training for Christ

Besides Read a Thons, writing puppet plays, listening to my son sing,
and everything else, I like to promote.  The above is this month's promotion put together
by the awesome Catherine Lanigan.