Monday, March 31, 2014

The Dating Game with the Monday Heartwarming Authors and Their Heroes

Long before the Bachelor, there was The Dating Game! You, dear reader, are the woman seeking a date and will be asking the questions of the Monday Heartwarming Author's Heroes.  Judge their answers carefully, post your date, and be in the running for some autographed books!
Normally, you don't know who's behind the partition, but we thought it'd be easier to keep track on the blog if we gave you some hints. Here we go...

Bachelorette (you): Gentlemen, what's your idea of a perfect first date?

Bachelor #1 (Mark Taylor, 33, newspaper reporter and editor, courtesy of Cheryl Harper's A Minute on the Lips, Feb 2014): Any date that involves good food and good conversation is pretty perfect to me. Here in Tall Pines, that means ribs at the Smokehouse. It's quiet enough that I'll have your life story before they serve the best cheesecake you ever put in your mouth.

Bachelor #2 (Kyle Mitchell, 32, history professor, courtesy of Cynthia Reese's upcoming HW release):  A walking tour of Historic Downtown Savannah in the spring -- if old houses bore her, she's not the girl for me.

Bachelor #3 (Flynn Harris, 28, millionaire/winery owner, courtesy of Melinda Curtis' Summer Kisses, Feb 2014):  Tacos and margaritas at my favorite restaurant, followed by a walk to the Harmony River bridge where sunset kisses bode well for a romance.

Bachelor #4 (Jack Banning, 32, surgeon, courtesy of Anna Adams' The Christmas Gift, Nov 2014): Something neither of us expects. I just watched a parade that welcomed Santa to Christmas Town, Maine for the season, and we’re headed to The Tea Pot for a cup of the best hot cocoa ever brewed. We met at an accident when I stepped off a life flight chopper, but I think tonight gives us time to strengthen that trauma-induced bond.

Bachelorette (you): What car would best describe your personality?

Bachelor #1 (Mark): Shiny red pickup truck because I'm made for work but I look good doing it.

Bachelor #2 (Kyle): A 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom II -- at least I hope I put as much thought into my actions as Rolls Royce did when they built that car. I hope my attention to detail gives people as good an experience as a lucky owner of a Phantom II!

Bachelor #3 (Flynn): I've always been partial to my grandpa's bubble-fendered, black Caddy. Classic with character.

Bachelor #4 (Jack): I drive my Gramps’ rusty, gut-shaking truck that was probably vintage when he bought it. It needs some work, but don't we all?

Bachelorette (you): If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

Bachelor #1 (Mark): Let's see...superpowers. I definitely would not mind superspeed. You'd think staying on top of the news in a place like Tall Pines would be easy, but tracking down the sheriff takes some dedication. And I do love my job, the newspaper, and my new hometown, but sometimes I'd rather be fishing.

Bachelor #2 (Kyle): The power to grant wishes wisely ... I'd like to be able to ease people's worries and stresses.

Bachelor #3 (Flynn): I've always thought X-ray vision would come in handy. Superman honed his skills to see beneath clothing - although he always used that power for good (checking for weapons and such).

Bachelor # 4 (Jack): Healing. I hate to see anyone in pain, and I’m a good trauma surgeon, but there will always be wounds beyond my power to mend.

Bachelorette (you): What's your best piece of advice for dealing with women?

Bachelor #1 (Mark): I'll never forget my dad saying "Smart women are worth the trouble." If you met my mother, you'd understand, and it's taken a while but I'm starting to see that he's right. Unless she's mad, I can always count on the good conversation part of the perfect date with a smart woman. And if she's mad, well...I'll have to count on good food and some fast talking to change her mind. That's a challenge I look forward to.

Bachelor #2 (Kyle): Shut up and listen -- a direct quote from my dad when he explained the trick to staying happily married to a happily married woman (my mom).

Bachelor #3 (Flynn): Communication is everything - mute the TV, even if the Superbowl is on and the score is tied!

Bachelor #4 (Jack): Give her time. Assume her concerns are valid. Show her she can trust you and depend on you, and that you’re willing to wait, but she can believe you’ll be there to pick her up, defend her, laugh with her—love her.
So, Bachelorette. Who will you choose? Bachelor #1 (Mark)? Bachelor #2 (Kyle)? Bachelor #3 (Flynn)? Or Bachelor #4 (Jack)?

After you choose, don't forget to blow a kiss to the audience!  Remember, one lucky reader will win an autographed book from each Monday author.  It's a Date!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Marion Ekholm

Today we’re celebrating the release of “Just Like Em.”

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

Like the hero in my story, I was displaced. Although my job was eliminated, I continued to work for over two years while the different departments were transferred out of state. When Roger needs to keep his employees from leaving before his department is completely transferred, he asks Em to explain how losing her job affected her. She describes  my experiences, and he puts them into practice.  

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

 Isn’t Arizona spectacular!

How long did it take you to write?

Approximately two years. It started out at 50,000 words and ballooned into over 70,000. 

What is your favorite scene?

I like the scene where Roger massages Em’s feet. She spent the whole morning shopping with his daughter and her feet really hurt. When she starts manipulating them, he offers to do it. It’s the first time they actually get personal. It’s a tender time for them both – Em appreciates the attention and Roger begins to pull away from his wife’s memory. 

Who was your favorite character and why?

I really liked Em’s mother Doris. She’s such a strong, no nonsense  person.  She rules with an iron hand but has a warm heart and empathy to spare. 

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

Mira Sorvino and Ioan Gruffudd

Tell us one thing you learned during research. 

I spoke with a nurse who actually works at the hospital in Prescott where Em’s boy is taken. She answered all my questions about parents staying overnight with their child. 

What music would match the mood of this novel?

I wasn’t into music while writing this book, but it’s become very important in the books I’m working on now. 

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

I like the term first because it implies second, third and so on. It means I’m beginning to be noticed, and that’s a wonderful sensation.

What do you plan to work on next? 

I’m doing the rewrites for “An Act of Love,” another Heartwarming that comes out in August. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

For pleasure, I’m listening to several books about Beaumont, the Washington state Detective in J.A. Jance’s mysteries. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

We Are the Descendants of WONDER WOMAN

Good morning, all!

I loved Jennifer Snow's quote this week about how she handles the situation when self-doubt rears its ugly head.  "I punch it in the face," she said, "and continue writing."  She's obviously a distant relative of Diana, Princess of Themyscira and daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazon women. (Known in the DC Comics created by psychologist and comic book writer, William Moulton Marston, as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman.)  I am reading from the current Smithsonian magazine and an article written by Amanda Foreman who believes there is proof that Amazons existed.  Wow.

According to 5th Century BC historian, Herodotus, the Amazonian capital of Themyscira is a fortified city on the banks of the Thermodon River near the coast of the Black Sea in what is now northern Turkey. The women pillaged as far away as Persia, but must have had a nesting side because they founded several famous towns - Smyrna, Ephesus, Sinope and Paphos.  Procreation happened only once a year with a neighboring tribe.  Boy babies were sent back to their fathers, and girls were raised to be warriors.  It is said that Amazons cut or cauterized their right breasts in order to have better control of their bows.

A battle with the Greeks at Thermodon ended their idyllic existence.  Three shiploads of captured Amazons ran aground near Scythia, on the southern coast of the Black Sea.  The women were braced to fight, but ROMANCE conquered  and love happened between the Amazons and the Scythians.  They married and their descendants became nomads, crossing northeast into the steppes where they became known as the Sauromatians.  The women hunted on horseback with their husbands, and took the field in battle.

In the 1990s, a joint team of U.S. and Russian archaeologists discovered 2000-year-old burial mounds outside of a remote Russian outpost near the Kazakhstan border.  They found over 150 Sauromatian graves and among them were those of warrior women who had been buried with their weapons.  One young female lay with an iron dagger on her left side and a quiver containing 40 bronze-tipped arrows on her right.   Another female skeleton still had a bent arrowhead beneath her ribs.  On average, the females measured 5 feet, six inches - exceptionally tall for their time.

I like to think there was a race of warrior women in our past who could handle abusive parents, child predators, or abusers of any kind without having to adhere to rules or political correctness.  I like to think that if a woman must have a mastectomy, it will not only save her life, but make her better able to use her bow in battle.  When I feel cowardly, I like the thought that way, way back in our history, there were women who feared nothing - not even romance.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Macarons: A Paris Connection by Cerella Sechrist

“I do love macarons,” she admitted, “but if you’re going to eat them in Paris, it’s better to get them at Ladurée. They make the best ones.”

“So this is serious business, eating macarons.

She nodded, keeping her expression severe. “You can’t just eat any macaron when in Paris. You have to have the real thing, the best possible kind.”

“Then it’s settled. We’re going to have to go to Ladurée.”
(Excerpt from The Paris Connection)
One of the best parts of researching The Paris Connection was getting to drool over brightly colored photographs of delectable macarons. And as my heroine, Emma, notes in the above excerpt, when in France, the mecca for macarons is the French patisserie, Ladurée.
Since one of the categories on my blog, Literary Fare, is for the Historical Foodie, I couldn't resist learning a little more about the macaron's origins. 
Though decidedly a French confection, the macaron has unexpected Italian beginnings. The general consensus is that a chef of Catherine de Medici's household introduced these almond flour delights around the time she married the Duc du Orleans (who became the King of France in 1547, as Henry II.)
Macarons have always been a cookie of simple ingredients: almond meal, sugar, and egg whites. (Which means, for those of you paying attention, that they're gluten free!)
It was a relative of bakery owner, Louis-Ernest Ladurée, who came up with the idea to stack macarons with a creamy ganache filling in the center, giving birth to our modern variation of this popular confection.
Shortly after I finished the first draft of The Paris Connection, my sister gifted me with a box of macarons to celebrate. It contained a dozen little cookies in flavors ranging from simple deliciousness like Belgian Chocolate (Chocolat Belge) and Madagascar Black Vanilla (Vanille Noire de Madagascar) to the delectably divine like Black Currant (Cassis), Basil White Chocolate (Basilic Chocolat Blanc) and Caramel Fleur de Sel. With a slightly crunchy exterior and a sweet interior filling, macarons are a fantastic way to transport yourself to Paris in just a few bites. 
And I though it was pure kismet when I opened my email two days before The Paris Connection's release to find an email from Martha Stewart Living, celebrating how to make the French culinary classic, the macaron, easily in your own home.

I saved the links and recipes to share:

French Macarons 101
French Macarons Basic Recipe
French Macaron Recipes

If the description of some of these macarons have served to whet your appetite, stop by Facebook via the group, WritersKaboodle, tomorrow night (Friday, March 28) at 8 pm EST where I'll be chatting with fellow Heartwarming authors Karen Rock and Loree Lough to celebrate this month's releases. I'll be choosing one lucky winner to receive not only a personalized, signed copy of The Paris Connection but also a copy of the cookbook, Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, and Karen and Loree are giving away copies of their March releases as well!

And the next time you bite into a macaron, take a moment to savor your very own Paris connection. Bon appétit!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do you really want to hear the answer?

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn't. -Erica Jong

Don't I know it! Up until my late 20s (yes, I know not that long ago, but stay with me lol) my life consisted of more 'wrong' turns than 'right'. I spent a lot of money attending a private university for a degree that I didn't plan on using (working three jobs at the same time to pay for it nonetheless). My choice of relationships?...well, let's just say I'm on my third marriage at age 33, so maybe not so great. And my resume reads like the employment section on Kijiji. I have seriously held thirty-four different jobs since I was fifteen. Do I regret any of it? Not one thing because I believe each wrong turn was simply a detour to discover some amazing things about myself and others as I struggled to find the right path to happiness (which started with the birth of my beautiful son.)

However, looking back (which I rarely do, I'm a firm believer in living life in the moment and not dwelling on the past), I see one commonality in all of my 'mistakes'. I knew they were mistakes but did them anyway. And I remember every time asking my family and friends their 'advice'. And then I promptly ignored it lol.

So, why ask if I wasn't going to listen? I'm stubborn and headstrong and like to be in control and do things my way. Simple.

When I first started writing, the same principles applied. I wrote safe, sticking within the realm of predictability and comfort. No wonder those manuscripts are still sitting in a desk drawer waiting to be rewritten. Then I started listening to the advice that I'd solicited and not surprisingly, things changed. The manuscripts got stronger and I was pushed past my own comfort zone-in a good way.

Readers want a story they can't predict from beginning to end. They want us to create impossible situations for our characters and lose countless hours of sleep trying to figure out a way to end the book with a HEA. And they want characters that they can love...or hate.

As writers we often know the direction we should take with a book-the one that will surprise readers, keep them reading long past midnight, but it's sometimes terrifying to go that way. Our critique partners tell us what they think, beta readers give honest feedback, but still we hesitate to take a chance on what we know will be a great story.


As was the case in my personal life, I think the same holds true for writing-we are sometimes afraid of the unknown or taking the risk or admitting that the path we were on wasn't the right one.

But, I think if we can learn to trust our instincts on our stories, we will succeed with these new, exciting twists and plotlines, because readers are craving them!

The best advice I received recently (and actually listened to) was from the beautiful and talented Victoria Curran who told me 'Trust yourself.' So, I do. Sure, self doubt sometimes rears it's ugly head, but I punch it in the face and continue writing:)

So, what advice have you been given in your writing career that has helped you succeed?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The extinction of books?

Have you heard? The book industry is a dead duck. Print books are a thing of the past and bookstores are going the way of the saber tooth tiger. Boy, I get tired of hearing all these depressing proclamations! Personally, I see some very positive things about this crazy industry so for what it’s worth, here is my two cents on the GOOD things happening for all you bibliophiles. 

#1) There are more books available now than ever before. Ebooks, print books, iBooks, fan fiction. You name it and you can find it. There is also that old fashioned invention called, The Library. A whole world of prints books (and now ebooks!) available for absolutely nothing. Could there be anything better? Yes, libraries have had to cut back hours and personnel, but they continue to thrive in communities all across the world. Go libraries! 

#2) Young folks are reading. I have witnessed my own teen specimens doing this. Yes, I know they’re spending plenty of time texting, Facebooking and the like, but they are also reading online content. Unlike my generation, these pups have grown up getting their information via the screen versus the written page. That doesn’t mean they don’t value reading, they just do it differently. I pick up my paperback, my youngest reaches for her device.

#3) Online reviews are tools to point you to (or away from) books before you fork over the dough. As someone whose books are constantly reviewed (by fans and haters alike) I have felt the agony and ecstasy of the review, but as a reader, I am happy to peruse a few commentaries on a book before I purchase. I don’t always allow reviews to color my decision to buy, but it’s nice to be able to feel the waters before the money leaves my pocket. 

So what do you think? Are there things you’ve noticed about the book biz that please or displease you? Do you tend to reach for a book or your iPad to get your reading fix?

Monday, March 24, 2014

What's Your Comfort?

Writing Assistant
I’m racing against a couple of deadlines, and I’m suffering the writer’s afflictions of self-doubt and not-enough-time. I need comfort.

When I write, I often have a playlist of music that might include medieval polyphony, Louis Prima jazz, Ne-Yo smoothness, and lately, my soul has been aching with A Great Big World and Christina Agullera as they beg a beloved to say something before love is lost.

Saturday, the music stopped working, and I moved on to movies I’ve seen so many times I soak in familiar voices and words that slide to the background as I write. I turned to Hulu, which suddenly offered me the BBC’s 1980 Hamlet, starring Derek Jacobi. I saw this when I was too young to recognize Patrick Stewart as Claudius or David Robb (the delightful Doctor Clarkson from Downton Abbey) as Laertes. I first read Shakespeare as a child because I learned to read in the books on my father’s bookshelves, so Shakespeare’s rhythms and wordplay wake the memory of those yellowed pages beneath my fingers and the scent of salt and sea sliding through the metal web of a window screen.

I laughed when Hamlet first told Horatio he’d seen his father, and Horatio, who truly had seen the elder Hamlet’s ghost, asked him so earnestly, “Where?” I cried when the ghost demanded his son remember him. I worried as Hamlet shucked off the humanity that kept him from revenge-killing instantly, and I yelled at Gertrude and Laertes and Hamlet to stop drinking and fighting with all the poison.

Taking a Closer Look, Via the Keyboard
After I found Hamlet, I began to think of other things I’ve loved, a commercial that was popular when my son was born—new parents meeting their brand new baby, while a song called “Julie through the Glass” played. I wept with that song, and cuddled my own brand new boy, and didn’t even notice when it stopped playing. Six years later, my daughter was born. I was pretty sick, and we stayed in the hospital for over a week. The morning we left, I felt kind of ill, and I was worried about various things as I packed my bag. All of a sudden, on the television in my room, the familiar song began to play. I turned to see Julie’s mom peering through the glass, watching her daughter thrive and grow, and that was comfort I don’t have words to describe.

And, finally, I have a relatively new comfort. My writing assistant, George, who hangs out and occasionally attacks my cursor or my fingers, or both. We lost our 20-year-old cat last year, and I never thought I could love another pet friend like I loved Kitty. (I’d never been much of a cat person, but my family wanted Kitty.) Twenty years later, I was the one providing his geriatric care, and when he left us, I felt broken. Finally, after many months, my brother-in-law persuaded me that loving another catty was not a betrayal to Kitty. Somewhere, a kitten needed us as much as we needed kitten cuddles. George stole my heart the second he strolled out of his fosterer’s carrier. He isn’t always a cuddler, but when I’m working into the wee hours, as wakeful as Hamlet’s ghost, Georgie does my sleeping by proxy, close by, where his company brings me joy because Kitty taught me to be a perfectly content cat lady. :)

What comforts you? What Hamlet from your past brings you back to a moment you loved? Or what brings you happiness now like my sweet orange writing assistant?

What familiar joy makes your work day happier?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Carol Ross

Today we’re celebrating the release of Mountains Apart, and here's what Carol had to say about getting ideas for this novel.

"I wrote the first few chapters of Mountains Apart in a rented condo overlooking the mountains and forests of beautiful British Columbia, Canada. My husband and I were on vacation there and it was bitterly cold but breathtakingly beautiful. I liked the idea of someone who wasn’t used to the cold being suddenly plunged into it--kind of like those brave polar bear club people--but reluctantly and for longer…"

  In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
“Sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants.”

 How long did it take you to write?
That’s a good question, and the honest answer is…I’m not sure. As it is my first published novel, it was written in bits and pieces--with lots of starts and stops, deletes and revisions.

What is your favorite scene?

I think I would have to pick the scene where Bering is feeling smug because he believes he has bested Emily at the winter festival, only to realize that he’s underestimated her--again. He finally begins to grasp just how strong an adversary she is--and how much he admires her for it.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I love Emily’s transition throughout the story, but I would have to say Bering is my favorite character. He’s strong and confident, yet doesn’t take himself too seriously. He knows what he wants and as Emily says, “...he’s so passionate about what he believes in, and I like that.” I like that, too.

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

I can imagine the actor Gerard Butler playing Bering and actress Diane Kruger as Emily.

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned so many cool things during my research about Alaska, so it’s difficult to choose just one… It’s such a fascinating place, but I think I’ll go with birch syrup. I didn’t even know this existed. Birch syrup is harvested in Alaska much like maple syrup is here in the lower forty-eight, but not in as great a quantity and with its own unique delicious flavor. It’s just a mention in the story, but I had to include it because I was so intrigued by it.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

Something fun and upbeat--I like country music so I’ll go with some Billy Currington or Zac Brown Band.

This is your first book. Exactly what does that mean to you?
Everything--dreams can come true, good things come to those who wait, hard work really does pay off--pick a cliche--I’m sure I’ve thought of it at some point in this It’s also been an invaluable education. I feel so lucky to be working with the editors at Harlequin. I can’t overstate how much I’ve learned.

 What do you plan to work on next?

I am currently working on another proposal for the Heartwarming series.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?
For the last couple months I’ve been trying to read at least one book from every Heartwarming author so I can recommend them to everyone I know! But right now I am taking a short break to read Colleen Hoover’s new release, Maybe Someday.
Thanks for sharing!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Signing on the Dotted Line by Anna J Stewart

Twenty (mumble mumble) something years ago, I wrote my first story on a dare. At least it felt like a dare.  A group of friends and I started writing short romances featuring our favorite rock stars of the day (I'll share my heroes with you below) and ourselves as the heroines.  Having recently been introduced to the world of romance novels, how hard could this be? And how much fun!  Little did I know just how much this decision to neglect my education and immerse myself in my own stories (while reading 2-3 romances a day) would change my life. 

When I said I neglected my education I am not joking.  I was asked not to return for my sophomore year (Catholic school) because my teachers and the principal thought I had a substance abuse problem. "No," my mother told the principal during a parent teacher conference.  "She has a book problem."  I could not stop reading.  I could not stop writing.  The stories got longer, the plots more intricate (and convoluted), the characters expanded beyond myself and morphed into new creations I could make dance at the tip of my pen (before computers took over the universe).  Writing these stories became the focus of my world although I did manage to graduate with a pretty good GPA; I learned my lesson, although who thought I had to take sewing to be successful was very much mistaken. I meandered through college, a binder filled with lined paper with textbooks and homework a second thought. I'd sit in class and keep writing my stories, determined to be a writer.  Except...

photo from
To be a writer, one has to actually have knowledge about some things.  Click! Oh, okay.  THIS is what college is supposed to be about. Learning about what interests you. Got it.  So the writing was pushed to the back and became my reward and I embraced the opportunity education provides (and graduated with a 3.8, go me!). I know what you're thinking by now.  Oh, boy, this girl has a problem with back story.  Um, yeah. I do.  Because if I hadn't answered that challenge all those years ago, if I hadn't take a chance and ventured into something new...

I never would have signed my first contract with Harlequin a few short weeks ago.

Yes, it took a long time to get to where I needed to be. I had to join RWA, join my local chapter, find the perfect critique partners and mentor (ahem, Melinda Curtis). I had to learn the craft by taking classes and attending conferences, by reworking the same pages over and over until my voice emerged and I was battling tears. I had to fight mental barriers and decide if being a writer was what I really wanted, and if so, what did being published mean to me? What was my definition of success at a time when there are knock-down-drag out arguments over who is "published"?  This industry, this business, this being a writer is NOT for the faint hearted.  But it's exactly where I want to--and need to--be.  So to all those who started me on this path, to those who helped me along the way and to those who continue to have my back day after day and refused to let me quit...thank you. And thank you to the Harlequin Heartwarming authors for welcoming me with open arms and an enthusiasm I can only hope to pass on.

So let's get down to it...what favorite rock star or celebrity would have starred in YOUR mini-romance? I'll confess, after starting with a member of Duran Duran (stop laughing!), I moved on to Jon Bon Jovi (swoon) --who I readily admit, still makes regular appearances as my hero inspiration.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Perfect Season For a Book by Tara Randel

Spring is here in Florida. The temperatures are warming up to make for very comfortable days. Everything is blooming and the pollen count is off the charts, which means allergies are a concern right now. But, the azalea’s are gorgeous and the grass is starting to turn back to a healthy green shade. It’s a very pretty time of year. Just ask the tourists!

 Here's a picture of the azaleas blooming in my yard right now.

As an author, one of the things I must decide as I start plotting a book is what time of year will I use as setting for my story. Christmas is always a popular holiday to write about, especially if you love snow and the fun details of holiday decorations. But then I think, who can resist a book set during a summer vacation? The beach or maybe a cruise? And what about the mountains in autumn when the leaves are changing color? With so many traditions scheduled at different times of the year, picking that particular season to plan the story gives authors plenty to work with.

So how do we chose? First, it depends on what is going to match up with the story line. If you start out knowing the book will be a Christmas story, then you can jump right in. Maybe the season is determined by the character's jobs. Or the best, or worst (for more conflict) time of the year for our characters to visit the family or help a friend in need.  

The time of year can play such an important role in the story. Having our characters forced to spend time together during a snowstorm is always challenging. The lure of a star-filled night under a bright summer moon is always very romantic.  

When I wrote Orange Blossom Brides, I had been to a spring fashion show. Since the memory of that fashion show figured so heavily in my story, I set my story in early spring. In Magnolia Bride, my July 2014 release, I moved right along to June, with temperatures beginning to rise in anticipation of summer. 

So authors, chime in on how you pick the perfect season for your books. And readers, what time of the year do you like best as book settings?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mr. and Ms. Wrong, by Linda Hope Lee

     Back in the '80s, the Other Woman, and sometimes the Other Man, became a popular plot device to help keep the hero and heroine apart until the HEA. The other woman, especially, was a jealous type who wanted to get her claws into the hero and keep him away from the heroine. She had a certain hard look, a sharp tongue, and was not above using underhanded means to reach her goal. She was more a cliche than a three-dimensional character.
     The Other Woman and Man became so overused that eventually publishers did not welcome these characters. And, I agree. It was time to give them the boot.
     However, I do feel that properly developed, Mr. and Ms. Wrong, as I prefer to call them, can be good additions to a romance novel. They can help the hero and heroine learn about themselves, so that they can make not only the right choice in a partner but also in other aspects of their lives. Career choices, for example.
     One of the best ways to learn how to use these characters in a romance novel is to study how they are used in movies. One such film I watched recently is Hallmark's The Wish List. In this story, Sarah is a highly organized, by-the-book executive who knows exactly what she wants in a man. She finds him in pediatrician Erik. At the same time, she meets Fred, an off-the-wall barista, who possesses none of the qualities she wants in her future husband. 
     But life with too-perfect Erik soon makes her realize that isn't what she wants after all. She wants to express herself with more spontaneity and freedom than she can in their relationship. Of course, Fred has something to do with this; but, without Erik, would she have come to realize that what she thought she wanted wasn't what she wanted after all? I don't think so.
     Of course, when using this angle in a romance novel, you need to be careful to not have Mr. or Ms. Wrong overshadow Mr. or Ms. Right. The relationship between the true hero and heroine must be given center stage.
     What do you think? Do you like to read novels with a Mr. or Ms. Wrong? Or do you prefer to keep the focus entirely on the true hero and heroine?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sweet 16 Heroine Bracket by Melinda Curtis

We had so much fun with the February 17th hero bracket, I thought we'd let the heroines have a turn.  Who are your favorite heroines, and ultimately, your favorite heroine based on these choices?

One lucky reader who posts their winner will be chosen to receive a free copy of Summer Kisses!  And, of course, you can always make note that your favorite heroine was left off.

Melinda Curtis

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Cerella Sechrist

So, Cerella, where did you get the idea for The Paris Connection?

After offering me the contract for my first Heartwarming novel, Gentle Persuasion, the editors contacted me and said that they had found Cole to be an extremely charming character. They asked if I'd be willing to write a second book, telling his story. Since I, too, had developed a bit of a crush on Cole, I immediately agreed. Though I originally mapped out a plot to set the story in the United States, my editors suggested we change things up so that Cole is forced to head to Paris in the wake of the events that take place inGentle Persuasion. It ended up being the perfect setting to tell Cole and Emma's story.

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

"Sometimes, you have to go around the world to find your way home." 

Cheesy, but I like it. lol

How long did it take you to write?

About two months of writing time and a bit more time for some seriously intense France research. I've never been to Paris, but it's my sister's favorite city. I had several phone conversations with her, asking her to describe the airport and métro systems, in addition to borrowing all her French travel books and reading dozens of sites online.

What is your favorite scene?

The second to last one because it's so touching and sigh-worthy romantic, and of course, it includes the necessary setting for a novel in Paris. But you'll have to read the book since I'm not giving anything away here!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Julien, Emma's boss in Paris. I also got to continue writing about Lillian, another character in Gentle Persuasion. The two of them don't have many scenes, but their side story was so much fun to write. It was nice to get to let readers see what happened to Lillian after she and her daughter part ways in the previous story.

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

I imagined Eric Johnson as Cole and Abigail Spencer as Emma. For a complete gallery of story images, including my thoughts on which actors would play the parts, visit my Pinterest board on the subject at: 

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

That Parisians usually only eat a croissant and black coffee for breakfast. France has such a rich, impressive food culture, so I was a little surprised to learn how spare their morning meals tend to be.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

Definitely some French jazz, preferably from the 40s and 50s because it's so classically romantic.

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

I feel so blessed to have found a home with Heartwarming! The editors and entire Harlequin team, in addition to my fellow authors, have been amazing. And now that I have three books in print, I finally feel like my author journey is progressing to a new level.

What do you plan to work on next?

I have a series under consideration with Heartwarming right now. It would take place in a seaside town on Long Island and feature several Irish characters, a country music star, a chef, a food critic, and many more interesting people! 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

I recently finished reading Wish Me Tomorrow by Karen Rock. It was such an achingly sweet, heartwarming read, and I highly recommend it!