Saturday, May 31, 2014

Harlequin Heartwarming Saturday News!

There's so much happening around Heartwarming and our authors, that we have a special Saturday post!

Today (May 31) is the LAST day to bid on items at Brenda Novak's charity auction.  We have a list of offerings - autographed books, gift baskets, a kindle, and critiques for aspiring authors!
Brenda Novak's Auction

Today (May 31) is the LAST day to post your small town meme and be in the running for a free autographed May book from one of our May Heartwarming authors - Pamela Tracy, Cynthia Thomason, or Melinda Curtis.
We Love Small Towns

Today (May 31) is the LAST day to enter our Mega May Heartwarming giveaway on Goodreads (9 autographed books!).
Mega May Giveaway

Today (May 31), our own Karen Rock is at BEA and speaking!  Check out her interview with co-author Joanne Rock live at 9:50am eastern (we'll post a link in the sidebar when they have a permanent/non-live link). This link is for all romance interviews via Romance Writer's of America.
Romance Saturday at BEA14

The Harlequin editors have exciting news for aspiring sweet romance authors!  Read our blog this Monday, June 2, for the official announcement!

That's all for now!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

THE ECSTASY AND THE AGONY (No, Irving Stone has not become dyslexic. And my apologies to him.)

 Subtitled: turning in the book and waiting for the revision letter.

I emailed my manuscript of MOONBEAMS IN A JAR Wednesday night.  You all know that ecstasy.  After months of trying to pull together characters and plot as I see them brilliantly entwined in my head, I've sent off something I'm pleased with but is more like a lawn sculpture done with a chain saw than a Rodin.
I love it, it's just that it's morphed so much from conception to completion that I hardly recognize my original notes.  I guess that's good.  It means it took on a life of its own, and in exploring the depths of my characters, I found more joy and pain than I knew was there in the beginning.

You'd think I could just enjoy the thrill of a project completed on time despite the house painter arriving two months early, and my sister visiting Memorial Day weekend - and I do - but in the back of my mind is the nagging knowledge that the book isn't perfect and that the way to get it closer is going to involve agony for me and my characters, Jack and Sarah.

Jack had a crack-head mother, was separated from his two little sisters which he is now trying to find, did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  He's plagued by nightmares that place his awful mother with him in a Humvee in Afghanistan.

Sarah was a pediatric nurse who burned out while watching children suffer and die.  She lost it completely when one of them was her only niece and her sister blamed her because she couldn't save her.  She lives a sort of half-life, not using  her skills and training,  refusing a proposal from Jack's brother, Ben, because she doesn't want to have a family.

At this point, Jack and Sarah join Ron and me at the dinner table, wander at will through the house, and share the futon in my office with Cheyenne as they thumb through old magazines and wait to learn their fates. What will editorial want them to do - change their pasts?  Change their behaviors?  Alter their dreams?

I've left the office to do other things.  After a deadline, my house usually looks like one of the worst episodes of Hoarders, but this time, with my sister's visit, I was forced to clean, so that's done.  But Ron's been pleading for peanut butter cookies, I have a few trees to plant, clothes to take to Goodwill, and scores of little errands waiting for me to have time.

Meanwhile, Jack and Sarah inhabit my office and wait.  I love them, a lot of the last four months of my life are invested in them, and I so want them to be happy.  So I peer into my office now and then and remind them to be patient and hopeful.  I wonder if Jack would take out the garbage?

How do you deal with the time spent waiting for a revision letter?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Working Mother - Amy Vastine

It's a funny term - working mother - because let's be real, what mother isn't always working? Of course lately, I feel like I have three jobs. I work outside the home as a school social worker during the day. At night, I try to squeeze in some writing because by some miracle Harlequin wants me to write more than one book for them. And in between all that, I have three kids and a husband who like to be fed, clothed, and live in a house that's not a dump. So sometimes it feels like the only time I'm not working is when I'm sleeping, which I do very little of these days.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I enjoy working in a middle school (shocking, I know). I love the people I work with and the students I get to know. At the same time, I can't lie, I'm looking forward to summer vacation as much as the next guy. I also love writing. Writing someone else's love story is a wonderful escape from reality. It's a creative outlet that I can't see ever giving up.

Being Mom, though, is my favorite. I don't love the laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, or general housework - who does? (If you do, please feel free to contact me. You are welcome to come do all those things for me whenever you want!)  But I can't get enough of the time with my kids, talking about their day or snuggling on the couch watching a movie together. I can't wait for the summer when we can go boating or to the park. I cherish the moments big and small. The bedtime chats, the girls only trips to Starbucks, the football games, the "I love you more" contests.

In the rush of life, these are the moments that we can sometimes forget or sacrifice to make room for another job or responsibility. I would like to invest more time into the mother part of my "working mom" title. Life is about balance, but if the scales have to tip one way or the other, I'd rather they tip in the direction of my kids than anything else. Which way does your scale tip?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IT'S  RHODIE TIME, By Linda Hope Lee

Photo by LHLee
     The rhodies, as we Washingtonians affectionately call our state flower, the rhododendron, are out in their full glory during May and June. Many people have them in their yards. On a recent walk around the neighborhood, I photographed a dozen different plants, ranging in size from low-to-the-ground bushes to trees of twenty feet. 

Photo by LHLee

     Although the rhododendron plant is found elsewhere in the U.S., the one that is our state flower, known as the coastal rhododendron, is native to the western region. The blossoms range in color from pink to rose to purple.

watercolor by
     Although it wasn't official until 1959, the rhododendron was chosen as our state flower in 1892 when the women of Washington wanted a flower to enter in an exhibit at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Six flowers were considered. The final decision was between the clover and the rhododendron. Voting booths were set up throughout the state, and when the ballots were counted, the rhododendron emerged the winner.

     What's blooming in your area now?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Random Stuff I've Learned, Writing this Book

First thing--Happy Memorial Day. To all who've served, to all who still serve, to those who are forgotten and those whose memory aches inside us. To those who've come home and those who still have to deploy, thank you.

Today is my turn to blog, and I have no time. When I’m pushed for time on my own blog, I love to make a random post. Just stuff I think about.

Right now, I feel as if I'm swimming in quicksand toward a deadline for the first book in a series I’ve set in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, so I thought I’d mention some random things I’ve learned while writing it.

Love Adding the Real Title
First, my lovely editor, Victoria came up with a great title for it last week. It’s called Now She’s Back. I’m so excited. Just in case you're reading this, Victoria, thanks! I’m pretty bad at titles, and mine were not earth shattering. This one works on many levels in the book because the heroine ran away from trouble when she was younger, and now she’s back, she’s stirring up plenty!

Writin' Music
Next random thought--my playlist. Sometimes, I write with television on in the background, but this book has worked better with music. Here we go:
  • Several by Florence and the Machine: “Seven Devils,” “Spectrum,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Howl,” “Cosmic Love,” and “Bedroom Hymns." The drama, all the lovely drama!
  • “Adore You,” by Miley Cyrus. (I know—I’m not the target demographic.) This song is so full of longing. I find myself singing it as I walk through the neighborhood. (Feel bad for the guy who’s usually lounging on his patio while I’m strolling up the turn-in for our subdivision!)
  • I love Marvin Gaye! So: “Inner City Blues” and “Got to Give It Up Pt. 1” Something about the latter just makes me happy and hopeful. I totally get being the wallflower, anxious not to show off my fine moves, but willing, just in case there’s love to be found on the dance floor! Hmmm. I’ve never known—is there a Pt. 2?
  • Next, Ne-Yo. Oh my goodness, if you haven’t listened to Ne-Yo, you are missing the ultimate in smooth! “Beautiful Monster,” “Let Me Love You,” “Unconditional,” “Closer,” and possibly my favorite, “Mad.” (That’s a song about relationships, for sure.)
  • Ne-Yo introduced me to Tim McGraw in their song, “She Is.” Oh, no. I’ll be singing that for the rest of today! I need to look into this Tim McGraw fellow!
  • And finally, by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something.” Wow. Heartrending. Perfect for climbing into emotions.

Gratuitous, Random Pic of Kitten, Stalking Fitbit!
Which is my next random point. I always have a hard time with beginnings. This book, especially had a false start. What I submitted to Victoria didn’t work, but she got me on track with a few salient questions. I rewrote the synopsis, and that worked, but then I panicked in the first chapter. I could not get what I wanted. Instant emotion.

The book is set in a place I love that holds my family's history since the Revolutionary War. We are a tree with long (quirky) roots. My heart is happy each time I see those mountains in orange and red and burgundy, with the sun tilting to lay down Autumn shadows. I put my heroine in a house I love, and she had real issues to face, but I was writing all around the point. Then, after about a week, I slipped my own grandmother into the story. Suddenly, love flooded those pages and the words came. Grandma always saved me when I needed her help most.

Last bit of random—you can write a book at the speed of light, grasping for emotion, and holding a kleenex at the same time. I have a summer cold, and I can’t stop coughing. You know you’re in the book when you’re furious because you have to stop to cough.

I hope if you’re writers, you’re finding that kind of passion for your work, and if you’re readers, I hope you’ll find the love I have for all the people who are vitally alive in my small, fictional town of Bliss, Tennessee. I’m eager to finish on time, but I’m already missing the people I’ll have to let go of to write The End.

Give us one bit of random information about yourselves, something that just strikes you as you read this, and I'll choose a winner. The winner will have to wait a while, but I'd love to offer a copy of the holiday anthology that Melinda Curtis and Anna J. Stewart and I will have out in November.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Cynthia Thomason

Today we’re celebrating the release of A SOLDIER’S PROMISE by Cynthia Thomason

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

I used to be a high school English teacher and found it to be a very rewarding career. I’ve always enjoyed helping kids. And I wondered what a teacher who’d decided not to get involved with her students on a personal level would do if confronted with a sad teen who really seemed to need her. Add an Iraq war veteran single dad and a conflict is born.

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

“Love can bring sunshine 
to the cloudiest day.” 

How long did it take you to write?

Just under six months.

What is your favorite scene?

The scene in the alley outside of the small town pizza shop. The hero and heroine had been getting along pretty well in the restaurant, but outside, the heroine crossed the delicate line between bystander and interfering teacher. The argument between Mike and Brenna is pretty intense, but Brenna’s spontaneous way of switching the intensity from anger to passion is kind of cool.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I really like my hero, Mike Langston. He wants to do the right thing but he quickly learns that his military background doesn’t serve him well as the father of a teen daughter he barely knows. Despite his grief and guilt, he never stops trying to connect with Carrie and eventually his persistence pays off.

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

Gerard Butler would play Mike and Emma Stone would play Brenna. Emma usually plays a strong, self-sufficient character, one who won’t back down.

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned that keeping close tabs on family is quite difficult for soldiers in a combat zone. They want to be a part of the family so far away, but it’s not easy.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

Country music of course. This story takes place in Georgia. Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown.

This is your 27th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?

Gratitude that my publisher has such confidence in me and my ability to produce a decent book that will touch readers.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’m already working on another Blue Ridge Mountain story. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

Kristan Higgins The Perfect Match. It’s yummy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Me & My Shadow by Anna J Stewart

I have so many writer friends who seem to know how to keep everything in balance and make everything work.  Oh, I'm sure they're screaming on the inside, but  I can't be the only one who has those days (or weeks) where life, family, work, friends, fun, and writing refuse to coexist, peacefully or otherwise.  Don't get me wrong...this is NOT a complaint blog. I feel incredibly fortunate for what I have.  My mom is healthy (after a bout with cancer a few years ago), I have a rewarding job (that is currently making me pull my hair out), I have the most amazing family and friends.  I've finally sold some books (yay!) and well, when I stop to think, to breathe, to listen, I am definitely a lucky girl.

But there are times when I just need to turn off, and, like a computer that's been on for too long, reboot.

Much like Snickers, my cat, seems to do every day of her life.  I love this little creature--she's the dog I've never had, my "child" so to speak (as I don't have kids) and she's ALWAYS there.  We adopted her from my cousins when they moved to Arizona.  We quickly learned why Val would sing "Me & My Shadow" whenever they were home.  Snickers is a hover cat.  The suction cup Garfield to my windshield...and there are days I don't know what I'd do without her.

Ah, the life of a cat seems so incredibly tempting.  Had I magical powers a la Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter, I'd love to transfigure myself into one.  They live in an eternal state of rebooting (when they aren't demanding to be fed or, in Snickers's case, petted). Cats (and I say cats because other than a goldfish when I was six, I've only owned felines), have a way of reminding you not to take life so seriously.  That purring sound just sinks into me to comfort me and is much less calorie laden than a pot of mac and cheese.  I've taken to picking her up at times just to have her paws drape over my shoulder and feel her nudge my chin with the top of her head, as if to say "I know. Life as a human can be hard. But I love you" only to be subsequently headbutted to the point of concussion as she demands, "Now where's my dinner?"

This was supposed to be a blog about the books I go to when I need a creative recharge, when I need to remind myself of why I write, why it's important I write--and why I HAVE to write. But I think I shall save that for my next outing here at the Heartwarming blog and just express my gratitude that comes with owning a pet.  Whatever animal you have...if you have one...I hope he or she is as fulfilling (although perhaps not as irritating when it comes to hogging the bed) as Snickers. Darling, meowling snuggly Snickers who is sitting at my arm as I write this, an odd smile on her face, as if she can read every word I'm typing.

That's right, Snickers.  It's all about you.
As it should be.

Now let's hear about you and your fabulous animal friends (currently or from the past)--and if you don't have one, I'm thinking about renting Snickers out :)

Happy almost weekend everyone.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Karma, baby! By Rula Sinara

I can't believe we're already coming up on Memorial Day weekend! Somehow, even with school still in session, this holiday makes me feel like summer has begun. The pool at our park opening up probably has something to do with that (it's all my boys are talking about :). However, they still have 3 more weeks of homework to focus on. I may have to resort to bribery. Summer fever is much worse than spring fever LOL.

Now, as a mom, I'm not sure what's worse...dealing with micromanaging the school, homework and schedule demands of three kids when school is in session or dealing with an entire summer of...well, you know what I mean. I have three boys. Enough said.

My magic coping mechanism is humor. I especially love funny quotes because they have a way of changing our perspective and attitude so quickly. And laughter is always energizing. Of course, I'm only human and sometimes, as organized as I try to be, humor gets lost with my car keys ;).

Now, here are a few quotes to get you through life's zits with a smile and kick off your long weekend on a happy note...

This one I plan on hanging or stenciling somewhere in my kitchen (without the tiger pic of course):

Welcome to the Karma Cafe!
There is no menu.
You get what you deserve.

You think my boys will get the message? LOL :).

And a few more for parents forgetting to eat right and sleep well because they're too busy trying to keep up with kids:

"Cleaning the house while your kids are still home is like shoveling while it's still snowing."

"Never, under any circumstance, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night."
                                                                                      -Dave Barry

No chuckles yet? Come on! Laughter beats prescriptions. Okay, one more for fellow writers (and chicken lovers) struggling with GMC (goal, motivation and conflict for anyone not familiar). This one I plan to hang over the roosts where my chickens sleep in their newly built coop:

Not questioning motives? Isn't that a writer sin? LOL.

And with that, I leave you all to enjoy a wonderful, long weekend. I'm so thankful for the heroes who have given their lives to make ours better.

If you have a minute to spare, don't forget to check out The Brenda Novak auction for diabetes research...especially our awesome Harlequin Heartwarming page! Also, don't miss a chance to win TONS of Harlequin Heartwarming books on our Goodreads page Mega-May NINE BOOK giveaway!!!

So get out there. Be happy. Eat watermelon. Laugh. Do good. Because it's all about karma, baby!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Tribute to Jane Toombs by Marion Ekholm


A dear friend and mentor, Jane Toombs, died this March. I met her when I attended my first romance writers conference back in 1984. At the time I had submitted my romance novels to  publishers in New York City and received a notice (possibly from someone at the publishers) about an upcoming writers conference held in Tarrytown, New York, about thirty miles from my home in New Jersey. I’d never heard of the organization, but I attended it, met Jane and Ruby Frankel and a group of writers interested in writing romances. Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America came out of that original meeting.   

Over the years, Jane helped me in many areas of writing. She encouraged me to do the chapter’s newsletter, something very beneficial because I learned to deal with deadlines, edit and reduce the written word as well as adding words where needed. She patiently went through my first chapters and gave me advice on how they could be improved. I attended my first national RWA conference in Minneapolis with Jane and Ruby, and during the following years, often had them for roommates.

Editors required Jane to use pseudonyms because they believed her name Toombs would not draw romance readers. She wrote as Olivia Sumner, Diana Stuart, Lee David Willoughby, Rebecca Drury, Jane Anderson and Ellen Jamison. She was prolific in numerous genres besides contemporary and historical romance, including paranormal and horror. An early believer in the expanding market of e-books, Jane remained a pioneer in bringing her books to that medium. In 2007, she was featured in Romance Today: An A – to – Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance Writers.  

Jane, always a delight, will be greatly missed.

Monday, May 19, 2014

We Love Small Towns by Melinda Curtis, Cynthia Thomason, and Pamela Tracy

We love small towns! In fact, we set our stories in small towns: Scorpion Ridge (Pamela Tracy), Mount Union (Cynthia Thomason), and Harmony Valley (Melinda Curtis).

To celebrate small towns, we've developed a fun game so you can name your own fictional small town.

We'd love to hear what your small town would be named and maybe a bit about any impressions you get about your small town (i.e., it would be a place where...).

We'll be posting this meme on our individual author pages and on the Harlequin Heartwarming Author Facebook pages for the next two weeks. On May 31, we'll choose 3 lucky readers to win a copy of either:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Pamela Tracy

Today we’re celebrating the release of What Janie Saw

So, Pamela, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I’m a college English professor.  I read all kinds of essays and journals.  Years ago while sitting in the student union one night, when it was dark outside and empty inside, I suddenly thought, “What if....”  It took years for Janie to get her turn, but she’s been asking me to write the story for about eight years. 

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

Maybe you should run!

How long did it take you to write?
Six months.  I work full time and have a nine-year-old son.  My life is this wonderful adventure that has me teaching big kids, going to fun adventure with little kids (little league, cub scouts, Youth Leadership Training for Christ), and then sitting down and writing about romance at night.  I write a thousand words a day.  

What is your favorite scene?
The opening... definitely the opening.  Hmmm, I’m working on a Love Inspired novel right now, and I love the opening.  I need to look back and see if I always love the openings.

Who was your favorite character and why?
It would have to be Janie because I can identify with her.  She deals with students while she’s little more than a student herself.  She has dreams.  I remember when I was a young teacher.  My dream was to write.  

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?
I always do this.
This is Rafael Salazar: cop                                  This is Janie Vincent: art teacher

Tell us one thing you learned during research.
I learned about the value of the EpiPen for people who have nut allergies.

This is your 25th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?
LOL, that maybe I ‘do’ know how to write.

What do you plan to work on next?  I’m working on a Love Inspired contemporary.  I’ve called it the Weaver’s Needle, but the name will change.  It’s about a woman who manages a guest ranch and an ex-con who comes to work for her father.  He turns out to be a gifted rider, something she’s always wished to be.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?
I’m really into veterinarian books.  I blame Eleanor.  I read her Harlequin Heartwarming The Country Vet and turned about and bought Vet on the Loose.  Now, I’m reading the last Brenda Minton Love Inspired.

 Pamela Tracy's next Heartwarming Releases in November of 2014.  It's called Holiday Homecoming.  It continues the Scorpion Ridge series and features Meredith.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Coming Home by Cynthia Thomason

Since writing A Soldier's Promise, my May Heartwarming romance, I have become more conscious of news stories about returning veterans. Most of these stories are truly touching. Dads surprising their kids in the classroom, children waiting anxiously just off the tarmac for that special man (or woman) to appear.

In my book, Mike Langston's homecoming was not such a flowery, sentimental reunion. He was called home because his wife was dying, and he had just a few days to say goodbye. His wife had kept the secret of her illness to protect him from harm in combat, but Mike could only interpret her secrecy as a sign of mistrust. Add to that, he rediscovers the teenage daughter he had only know for a few days at a time. Now, Mike Langston is a single dad, with a child he barely knows who is at a crucial time in her young life.

The other day I met a man who served in Vietnam. Like many 19-year-olds, he was thrust into service while still practically a boy learning about life. After months in combat he was injured, seriously, and flown back home to Louisiana where he was from. After weeks of recovery, one day a young, pretty long-haired girl came to the hospital with a guitar. She sang for the soldiers and walked away with the injured veteran's heart. He married that girl and found a happy ending.

I would love to hear your stories about America's heroes. Have you witnessed the heartwarming homecoming of a veteran? Are there more happy endings out there? I'm sure there are. Please tell us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

birth of a wannabe cowgirl

I'm often asked why I write books set in the West.  It's a logical question, because I come from a long line of Nantucket whalers (on my father's side) and New Orleans French Quarter dancers, bayou doctors and ice peddlers (thank you, Mom).  In deference to my heritage I collect scrimshaw and cook a mean gumbo.

But that's not where my heart is.  Because one day, when I was ten, my father handed me a dusty, smelly, deteriorating hardcover book he declared was one of his favorites.  He'd read it at least fifty times.  My grandfather, whose book it was, agreed.  THE LIGHT OF THE WESTERN STARS, by Zane Grey, was a classic, they said.  And they were passing it on to me.

It would be my first romance.  When bored and restless society beauty, Madeline Hammond, steps off the train in El Cajon, New Mexico, she meets a rough, drunk cowboy who will proudly give his life to protect her.  While this tough, uneducated man knows a lot about honor and love, willful "Majesty" has money, pride and the desire to create the ranch of her dreams.  It is a "conflict of lifestyles" love story, the very kind of romance that inspires me to write about falling in love in Montana and Wyoming and Texas.  The kind of romance with those protective and stubborn Western heroes.

Zane Grey wrote almost ninety books and, though I have read them all, I have only enjoyed a handful of them.  There were very few written in a woman's point of view.  Scholars have speculated that his wife may have been something of a ghost writer.  After all, Zane was shooting and fishing and hunting all over the world.  He'd send descriptions and notes to Dolly (home with the children, of course!), but when did he, a gregarious womanizer, have time to write?

I still read THE LIGHT OF THE WESTERN STARS each year.  The prose is dated  and flowery, but when Gene Stewart puts Majesty on his horse and carries her out of the mountains to avoid danger, and her hair brushes his face, and she realizes uncomfortably that she has never been so close to a man's chest before...well, I confess, I swoon.

I hope I never outgrow it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Laura, Anne and Alexander were my childhood friends by Syndi Powell

My heart is aflutter! One of my favorite books of all time, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day", is being made into a movie that premieres this October!!! Who wants to go with me to see it?

There's something about books that we read as a child. Some stay with us much longer after we've closed the cover on it. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of those. The Anne Shirley series was another. I fell in love with the plucky heroines and followed them on their life journeys through the pages of a book. They were my friends and confidantes, and how I longed to lead lives like them.

In the movie, "You've Got Mail", Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) says, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does." She's right about that. Books we read as a child become a part of the fabric of our soul. They have an impact on us that we can't even begin to understand at the time or may ever be able to articulate later.

I admire those who write books for children because they have an awesome privilege as well as a responsibility. They are molding our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren. These writers are presenting our children with characters and worlds to educate, inspire and motivate. They are expanding their imaginations beyond their iPods and cell phones. Thank you to all of you who do.

As for Judith's Viorst's book about Alexander, it reminds me even now as an adult that this is only one bad day. Things will get better. Even if I have to move to Australia.

What books inspired you as a child? What favorite book do you still read?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Words I Need to Hear by Cheryl Harper

Made with the Word Swag app (
So, I have this friend, the kind who always says what I need to hear whether I want to hear it or not. I hope you have one of these too. For almost twenty years, she’s listened patiently, encouraged me, and sometimes cut through all the words right to the problem. Her knack is in delivering the truth in a manner that makes it hard to ignore and with enough humor and care that it’s impossible to storm off in a huff.

We braved the crowd on Cinco de Mayo to have a lovely bowl of cheese dip. I will brave many things for cheese dip. We were talking about my worries and upcoming conventions and conferences, and as usual with any new thing, I was certain my hair would be horrible, my clothes all wrong, and I’d be half a step away from social doom at all times. In my head, I’m very dramatic. Most new things bring back the old first-day-of-school worries about finding a place to sit during lunch and remembering my locker combination.

And she said, “But you aren’t in junior high any more, right?”

I think my answer was something like this: “Well, um, okay, yeah, but…”

But she’s so right. I have car keys and enough gumption to make a quick getaway if I have to. Plus, I’m way cooler now.

Sometimes I need someone to say “Things are different today. Don’t get stuck there.” I can try the new story or make the change I'm thinking about or do something I've never done before. Delivering this kind of advice is not my friendship specialty. Mine is either crying alongside you or maybe, on a good day, breaking up worries or tears with a smile. Also, there is always room at my lunch table but you're on your own with combination locks. Maturity is a gift, particularly in friends who share a bowl of cheese dip and the right words to help me get my gumption back on track.

If you’re at the RT Booklover’s Convention in New Orleans or the RWA national conference or literacy signing in San Antonio, stop and say hello (please, please, please). I’ll be the one pretending to be much cooler than I am.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

One Mom

Muriel's Mom

My mother was 5'10 1/2" and worked as a short order cook in the Orchard Bar and Grill in New Bedford, MA.  She was an insomniac.  She sewed all my clothes and often made an identical dress for my doll, crocheted my hats and made matching drawstring purses, and shined my shoes every night for the following school day.  In the summer, (we lived in the heart of a fairly big city) my friend and I played in an alley between our tenement buildings.  We lived on the second floor, and my mother would open the window and lower a basket with sandwiches, Hostess cupcakes, and a bottle of soda and glasses so we could picnic.  We had a corner drugstore that sold popsicles and fudgesicles and when it was really hot and humid, I sometimes had two or three a day.  No wonder I'm such a little piggie today.  I miss her with a physical pain on days like today.  Mothers should make good citizens and good friends out of their children, but they should also teach them that life is such a gift that it should be fun!  Mine certainly is.  And I thank my mom.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Melinda Curtis

Today we’re celebrating the release of Melinda Curtis's Change of Season
So, Melinda, where did you get the idea for this novel?
This is the 3rd in a series of books based loosely on observations I've made living in Northern California, where you can encounter .com millionaires (young and old) who've cashed out and don't quite know what to do with themselves.  When my 3 heroes return to Harmony Valley to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives, the residents convince them to help revitalize the town. Slade, the hero in this book, is the financial partner. He's not happy that they've chosen to invest in a money pit...Oops! I mean a winery. But he's a team player.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
If that were Mr. Curtis and I out there, he'd be saying, "It's so beautiful, but where's the shade?" Meanwhile, they're probably so in love, they don't need shade or water.

How long did it take you to write?
I wrote this book in two weeks. It was one of those rare gifts (compared to some books I've wrestled with for 4 months!).

What is your favorite scene?
I had fun writing the opening scene where Slade's ex-wife drops off his twin girls and he's shocked to find them looking like little Goth girls his mother might sprinkle holy water on.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Loved Slade. Didn't think I would when I began the series.

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine,
who would they be?
Mr. Curtis would say, "Kristin Bell!" But I think Christine was more like Naomi Watts (sorry, babe).  As for Slade, I think if you darken up Bradley Cooper's hair...think of him as the tortured hero in Silver Linings Playbook, and you've got something.

Tell us one thing you learned during research.
A character suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (as does a friend of mine). I learned a lot about the affliction, which can attack kids as well as seniors. Not fun.

What music would match the mood of this novel?
The soundtrack to the movie Hope Floats - slow and languid.

This is your 12th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?
This is my 12th book for Harlequin (16th overall). I'm grateful the ideas keep coming and the characters come alive.

What do you plan to work on next?
I'm starting books 4-7 in the series in May.  Looking forward to getting back to Harmony Valley.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?
I just finished Kristan Higgans' Waiting on You (best bar scene ever as heroine's matchmaking plans go bust) and am in the midst of Jayne Ann Krentz's Otherwise Engaged (seriously wanting a fan like the heroine has, but wondering how to get it through airport security).

Friday, May 9, 2014


I know it is spring because our Sunday newspaper had all kinds of ads for spring clothes and sandals etc. They also had an entire pull out section on patio furniture. Before I moved into the town home where I currently live I had what we call an Arizona room. A covered patio with a tile floor and screened in to discourage bugs from swarming in at night to reach the lights. In the winter the screens were covered by windows. All in all it made a great place to entertain or to work or read when the weather got nice. I furnished the room with a table and chairs with squishy cushions, and matching rocking chairs with an end table between. It was pretty and comfortable and not overly expensive. The cushions tied on and I could change them every few years for a new look.

I have to say when I checked out the current ad on patio furniture I was shocked to see sets costing 2, 3 and 4,000 dollars. And the cushions didn’t look to be removable. So I wonder how a body would keep them clean. I don’t know about other people’s patios, but mine, even with roof and screens had dust blow in. I suppose you could vacuum the very plush-looking cushions. But I found it interesting, because the flyer didn’t show the furniture in a screened room, but out of doors. I suppose they must make rain-proof covers a person would have to dash out and throw on at any sign of rain.
Where I live now I don’t have a covered patio. Already we’ve had a lot of windy days. I have removed my removable cushions and stored them in a large plastic container. Even that’s a pain to get them in and out. I can’t imagine my angst if I had invested a small fortune in outdoor furniture without removable cushions. And I notice too that a big thing this year are external/above ground fire pits. They too ran from 800 to 2,000 dollars.
My thought as I leafed through the patio furniture ad was that I’d want that stuff in my house where it wouldn’t get hit with the changing weather. And then, inside I couldn’t, of course, have a fire pit.
Am I just behind the times? Is this the new norm for outdoor living? I’m calculating how many books I’d have to write to afford to furnish my patio, and hire a maid to keep the darned cushions clean.

Thursday, May 8, 2014



     I have never wanted to label myself as a “people watcher”.   The idea always seemed like an invasion of privacy and actually, I didn’t like the idea that people were watching me, when in reality today, however, everybody is being watched, videoed and photographed without their knowledge.   Now, I will admit that I’m not only a people watcher, but my actions are like a stealth-spy mission. Worse, I don’t even know I’m doing it, until I sit down to plot out my next story line and lo! And behold!  There’s a character I’m writing and it turns out to be my next-door-neighbor.
     Since I have lived in fifteen houses/condos in my lifetime, so far, including a houseboat that my husband and I refer to as the “world’s smallest houseboat”, I have had a lot of next-door-neighbors and fascinating people walk in and out of my life to create a pretty large pool of source material.
     What I find fascinating is that when I start devising plot lines and I think about the real-life scenarios that embroiled me when I knew some of my “neighbors” and “friends”,  the real-life stories seem preposterous, contrived, and clich├ęd.  But then I think, well, those supposedly well-used plot lines for romances and mysteries are as old as the hills because we, as human beings, keep repeating history; repeating our mistakes and apparently, from generation to generation, we don’t “evolve” a whole lot.  We’re still trying to dupe the other guy, steal a boyfriend and keep our sons/daughters all to ourselves and not allow them to move on with their lives. We meddle, interfere, and try to control everything that we can’t control.
     Therein, lie the fodder for the plot. Throw in a couple manipulative, self-centered parents or grandparents, and voila! A story is born.
     In the past week, while trolling through my work day and some social interaction with women I graduated from high school with and haven’t seen for forty years, again, I was astounded at the number of jaw-dropping, teeth-clenching and heart-breaking stories I’d heard that literally sounded like they’d jumped off the pages of our Harlequin novels.  Sadly, I wish more of the real stories I’d heard were Heartwarming stories, but they weren’t. And that is when it hit me how desperately there is a need out there in the world for our stories with very happy endings and endearing moments of love shining through the muck of life to get the heroine and hero through to the next stage of their lives.

    My hat is off to all my fellow Heartwarming authors as we struggle with the next sentence and the next scene and work like Trojans to get the dialogue just right. Never despair. Never stop writing. There are so many ladies, and much to my surprise, as my reviews on Amazon for Love Shadows has revealed, many men, as well, who need the lift in spirits that apparently we  can give them. Good job one and all! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Very Happy to be Part of the Heartwarming Group! by Kate James


Nineteen months ago, I made the admittedly daunting decision to leave the full-time corporate world and focus on my writing. I was very fortunate to almost immediately meet Harlequin executive editor, Paula Eykelhof. Paula shared my work with senior editor Victoria Curran, who we know and love as the indomitable driving force behind Heartwarming. That led to an exciting end to 2013, as I signed my first contract with Harlequin. I owe Victoria and Paula sincere thanks for giving me this opportunity to work with them and the rest of the amazing Harlequin Heartwarming team.

I love the fact that the Heartwarming series is specifically created for readers who enjoy wholesome, tender stories, and I feel privileged to be able to join such a talented, committed group of authors. I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received from a number of you, and the many hours of reading pleasure your books are providing me.

My first Heartwarming book will be a Christmas release. I sent the edited version of the manuscript to Paula just yesterday. I am grateful to her for being such an amazing source of feedback and inspiration. It seems the calculated risk I took to focus on my writing is paying off!

In closing, I want to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my work. You have made it possible for me to do what I truly love.

I wish you much love and happiness!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Letting Go

  This was my car port last Saturday.  Nothing special, really.  Our whole neighborhood had a garage sale.
   See the train table.  That's my nine-year-old's.  He wanted to sell it.  See, he has to get on his knees to play on it now (building legos, no more trains) .  Used to be, he held onto the sides so it would hold him up.  We got it for him when he was just two and wooden trains named Thomas were constantly clutched in his hands.
   Most of the morning people came and went.  The red chair (very comfortable but too big for my office) went.  All the appliances (finally selling off the doubles I received for my wedding.  Really, I got four crockpots!  And yes, I've been married almost 12 years, so these were vintage appliances) went except for the quesadilla maker.
  But I ramble.
  I didn't want the train table to sell.
  The train room has turned into the lego room and is about to turn into the Xbox room, but Mommy-Me wants the train room back.
  I've looked in his bedroom and in the living room and now in the lego room and here's what I see:   Nothing left from his toddler years.
  He's growing up, and I just have one!
  But, I sat next to him and hawked the train table.
  After the garage sale ended, we carried the train table back in.  It didn't sell.  It's in the lego room, unused and lonely.
  Last evening I took my son and his friend to the skateboard park.  He put his feet on the skateboard and went down a steep dip, jumped, turned, skidded, and then looked at me.  I smiled and yelled WOW.
  Really, I don't need no stinkin' train table.
  I've got a Mike.

  What remnant from your children's early days did you have a hard time parting with?

Click Here  for a chance to win not only Pamela's book, but also Melinda Curtis's and Cynthia Thomason's.  And, in celebration of Mother's Day, this bouquet might also come your way!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Catastrophe du jour by Cynthia Reese

I almost don't want to write this.

Because I know it will invite the continuation of the jinx.

No, I am not superstitious. I know we create our own luck. But the burnt child fears the fire. 

While I was on deadline, the following has happened to me in the last month and a half. 

My fridge died.

My gas stove blew up.

My new gas stove did not work.

My fridge died again.

My car needed four new tires.

Our roof needed replacing.

Our back door needed replacing.

Our bathroom sink sprung a spectacular leak and mortally wounded our vanity.

Every time we fixed a leak on the new bathroom sink, three more took its place. 

The Kiddo needed medical tests which meant two trips to Atlanta. 

Our 14-year-old cat Furball got sick and had to be put down.

And just when I thought I had negotiated all of these crises, my laptop died. 

Aaack! That is the worst news for a writer.

Fortunately, right before my laptop died, I had just sent in the full manuscript of my next Heartwarming book I affectionately called THE FIXER UPPER. By incredible coincidence, it's about a woman who lives in a 126-year-old huge monstrosity of a Victorian house that is falling apart around her. 

The past month? Well, it felt like method writing to me! I don't know whether this book has invited my current fate, but I am hopeful that things will get better. And I am really glad that full is safely in the hands of my wonderful editor Kathryn Lye. 

Just in case Fate is listening, I know. I KNOW. It could have been a WHOLE lot worse.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Win a Bouquet for Mother's Day!

Mother's Day is 7 days away.  Are you ready?  Wouldn't it be great to win a gift or have the opportunity to treat yourself?
Enter a giveaway sponsored by three Heartwarming authors with small town releases in May: Cynthia Thomason, Pamela Tracy, and Melinda Curtis.

Grand Prize: teapot bouquet and autographed copies of What Janie Saw, A Soldier's Promise, and Season of Change!

Three other lucky readers will win autographed copies of either Summer Kisses, Blue Ridge Hideaway, or Katie's Rescue!

Bonus: Everyone who signs up for Melinda's Mailing List will receive a free sweet e-novella.

Contest ends Thursday, May 8 - plenty of time to send for Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sit Down Saturday with Eleanor Jones

      Hi. I’m Eleanor.
      I feel very privileged to be able to write romance for Heartwarming and I’m so thrilled to be answering questions today on my new book.

       I believe that everyone wants to be in love, no matter how cynical about it they may pretend to be. Everyone wants to have that certain someone who knows you better than yourself and is always there for you, no matter what.
       I do hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it 

Today we are celebrating the release of ‘The Country Vet’ by Eleanor Jones.

So, Eleanor, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I wanted to set my story in the countryside I love and even though we’re in 2014, here, amongst the farming community in the Cumbrian Lake District, there is still a lack of confidence in female vets, especially where large animals are involved.

I decided to tell the story of a gutsy young woman who is focused on trying to prove herself to be a competent vet with all animals and win the confidence and respect of the local community. Along the way of course she can’t help but fall in love and with horses in particular figuring so largely in my life of course the hero just had to be a horseman. Jake fits the bill perfectly.

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

 ‘Through animals comes understanding.’

How long did it take you to write?
About three months.

What is your favourite scene?
I love some of the scenes with Robbie, Jake’s six year old son. He questions the tragic loss of his grandmother and twin sister and comes to a kind of understanding in a poignant scene with Cass. Of course I also love the scene with Jake and Cass near the end.

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be?
I think Hugh Jackman, as he was in the film Australia, would make a perfect Jake. I see Cass as very much like Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. I know she’s not fictional but she is beautiful, gracious and slightly built, just like Cass.

Tell us one thing you learned during research?
I didn’t really need to do much research as the whole story is so much a part of my everyday life.

What music would match the mood of this novel?
Someone Like You by Adele springs to mind.

This is your third book. Exactly what does this mean to you?
I’ve been writing teenage mysteries for years but having the chance to write romance is a dream come true.

What do you plan to work on next?
I’m already half way through a follow up to The Country Vet and I hope to do at least a couple more in the series.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?
 I’m trying to catch up with books by other Heartwarming authors.