Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween From the Heartwarming Authors

Trick or treat! 
Heartwarming authors are here 
To share something sweet
We've gathered some photos to share
Halloween costumes
That shouldn't give you a scare!

Leigh Riker's granddaughter Kim (on the right) with her friend Nicky dressed as bumblebees - sweet as honey! 

Anna J. Stewart looking adorable as Princess Leia and a witch (I hear we missed out on an amazing Batgirl costume!)

Dana Mentink thinks she looks "corny", but the rest of us think she's a cutie!
Pamela Tracy's son went as Darth Vader, but this little guy wasn't going to wear a helmet, he went with the glasses and fake nose (with pencils stuck up there) because ... why not!

Liz Flaherty's granddaughter Tierney is the sweetest candy kiss around!

Amy Vastine's son and daughter - sometimes the frog has to kiss the princess!

Do you have a favorite Halloween costume? What were you when you were little or who do you get to dress up? Your kids? Your pets? Tell us who puts the BOO in your Halloween! No tricks, just treats :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween by Marion Ekholm

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday with my family. I’ve poured through our photos and came up with several with a Halloween theme starting with our first cat – Beulah.
Now is this a proper cat for Halloween, or what?

Eventually she grew into a good size.


When we added to our family – a bird named CooCooPoo - Beulah was entranced. She adored the bird. Way too much. We had to hang the bird’s cage from the ceiling.
When Beulah leapt onto the cage and nearly brought it down, we gave the bird to another relative.

I enjoyed making costumes. Here’s my son in his Snoopy outfit. He helped make the head.
Fooling around with papier-mâché on a balloon to make costume heads is such great fun, so when I had a group of Cub scouts, they all made their own for Halloween.
I can't remember which one was my son, although I kind of recognize that clown in the center with red and black striped sleeves.
The young man on the right made the balloon head but refused to wear it. He had the first Mohawk haircut I ever saw and wore  jeans to high school graduation rather than a suit like the rest of his classmates. Luke, a wonderful kid, always marched to his own drummer. He died a few years ago in his early forties from cancer. Greatly missed.
And this clown is my granddaughter clowning around.
Do you have fun times on Halloween?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interview with Mary Kubica, author of THE GOOD GIRL . . . by Kate James

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and two children, and enjoys photography, gardening and caring for the animals at a local shelter. The well-received and critically-acclaimed THE GOOD GIRL is her first novel.

Welcome to our blog, Mary, and congratulations on the success of THE GOOD GIRL, your debut novel for Harlequin MIRA. I enjoyed it very much, and the reviews have been exceptional, with reviews such as:

“Psychologically rich and pulse pounding, THE GOOD GIRL had me hooked from the very first sentence and didn’t let go until the final word. I can’t wait to see what Mary Kubica comes up with next.”
~Heather Gudenkauf, bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Little Mercies

“A twisty, roller coaster ride of a debut. Fans of Gone Girl will embrace this equally evocative tale of a missing woman, shattered family and the lies we tell not just to each other, but especially to ourselves.”
~Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fear Nothing

“Kubica’s powerful debut . . . will encourage comparisons to Gone Girl. Unlike that dazzling duel . . . this Girl has heart – which makes it all the more devastating when the author breaks it.”
~Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Kubica’s debut thriller builds suspense steadily and will have readers guessing what’s really going on until the final pages.”
~Booklist Review

“…this excellent debut is compulsively readable and highly recommended for anyone who loves a mystery, a suspense tale, or a psychological puzzle.”
~Library Journal Review

It's a great pleasure to have you as a guest on our blog. How does it feel to have your first book in print, and for it to be getting such very positive response?

A: First of all, thank you so much for having me as your guest, Kate. It’s such an honor to be able to visit your blog.

THE GOOD GIRL has been on sale for a few months now and it still feels very surreal to me. It catches me off guard every time I walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf. This has been such an amazing experience, and the fact that reader response has been overwhelmingly positive makes it all that much better. I love hearing from readers, and seeing the impact my novel has had on them and on their lives. This is just a dream come true!

How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve been writing since I was a young girl, around 11 years old. Until recently, however, writing was a hobby for me, and not something I pursued professionally. After college I became a high school history teacher and taught in both the Chicago suburbs as well as the Omaha Public School system. It wasn’t until 2005, when my daughter was born and I decided to stay home with her, that I was able to focus my efforts on writing. When my daughter was napping or the house was otherwise quiet, I’d pull out the laptop and get to work. I wasn’t sure if I would ever finish the novel and highly doubted that anything would become of it, but somehow or other a few paragraphs or a few pages a day added up to THE GOOD GIRL.

Can you share with us your path to becoming published and how long it took?

A: It took quite awhile to see THE GOOD GIRL’s publication day. I finished the novel in 2010 and submitted to agents. Initially, it was met with rejection from every agent; it wasn’t until 2012 that one of the agents reached out to me and said my novel had stuck with her all those years and she wanted to represent it. Of course I was thrilled! She and I worked together for a few months to make some edits on the manuscript, and by the end of 2012 I had a contract with Harlequin MIRA. It was another 18 months until the novel was published. It’s a very long time of course, but in retrospect, it was well worth the wait. I wouldn’t change a thing if I could.

Based on the reaction to THE GOOD GIRL, I expect readers are eagerly awaiting your next release. When can we expect it, and can you tell us a little about it?

A: My second novel PRETTY BABY will also be released from Harlequin MIRA. Like THE GOOD GIRL, it’s another suspense tale set in the Chicago area. PRETTY BABY is the story of a mother who encounters a young homeless girl with a baby, and decides to help them with their plight. As she does, she uncovers more about the girl’s past, and comes to discover what effect this chance encounter will have on both their lives. Look for PRETTY BABY in the summer of 2015! 

Is there a particular person who has been most influential in your career? If so, in what way?

A: My lovely agent, Rachael Dillon Fried. If it wasn’t for her I would not have a published book. She sought out THE GOOD GIRL when all other agents said no, and took on the novel with faith and determination. So many people have been involved in my career and I appreciate each and every one of them, but Rachael is truly my rock, the one I can count on for anything and everything. She helps me brainstorm ideas, eases my many concerns, explains over and over again the publishing process, and is always ready to go to battle for anything I need. Without her, none of this would have happened and I think my life would be quite different right now if it wasn’t for Rachael.

Many would say you are living every aspiring author's dream! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

A: At a recent book signing, I had the privilege of meeting an 11-year-old aspiring author named Maya. She reminded me much of myself at that age, when I first discovered my love of writing. For all aspiring authors it is important to read, all the time, anything and everything you find to be of interest. Pay attention to the world around you (you never know where inspiration will appear!), and write, write, write. Writing, for me at least, is a practiced skill. I wrote quite differently ten or twenty years ago than I do now, but struggling through manuscripts that didn’t work helped me discover what did. And lastly, never give up. I had quite a bit of rejection before I found an agent who loved my book as much as I did.

What do you enjoy reading in your spare time and who are your favorite authors?

A: I love to read a little bit of everything, from historical fiction, to mystery and suspense, to women’s fiction. Some of my favorite authors include S.J. Watson, Ann Hood, Anita Shreve, Heather Gudenkauf and many, many more. I’m currently reading THE WINTER GUEST by Pam Jenoff and absolutely loving it. Pam has created such a touching story of two sisters in World War II Poland. I can’t read as fast as I wish I could, however, so my to-be-read pile is stacking up quickly!

You also care for animals at a local shelter. Can you tell us a little about this and how people could help?

A: Yes, I would love to! As many people know, I’ve been working in a local shelter for many years now, and have a houseful of my own animals, most of who have followed me home from the shelter. My main role is photographing all new arrivals to help them find a new home, but I’ve filled many positions in my time there, from fostering kittens to leading a story time for children to cleaning cages and kennels. For anyone interested in getting involved, I would highly encourage contacting your local humane society or animal shelter. Most shelters are desperate for volunteers and/or foster families, and are in need of financial assistance or donated supplies such as pet food, blankets, old newspapers, etc. – check online at your local shelter for a wish list. Being a responsible pet owner is tremendously important as well. Before adopting a pet, be certain you understand the financial and time commitment pet ownership entails. And, perhaps most importantly, be sure to spay or neuter your animals to help cut down on animal overpopulation, and whenever at all possible, adopt your family pets rather than purchasing from pet stores.
Bonnie has found her forever home. 
Roger just found his forever home, too!

In closing, is there a special message you would like to deliver to your readers?

A: Getting feedback from readers has been the highlight of this entire experience. I am so fortunate to receive the kindest emails and Facebook messages about THE GOOD GIRL from those who have read the novel. I would like to send a huge thank you to all of these wonderful readers who have read the book, invited me to join their book clubs or have reached out to me online. Word of mouth is so important in this industry, and to those readers who graciously left reviews or encouraged family and friends to read: thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to be a guest on our blog, Mary! Please accept my best wishes for much success with your books.

Thank you so much for having me, Kate! Best of luck to you, too. I am eagerly awaiting A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS!

You can connect with Mary at her website, on Twitter, or Facebook   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Got fears? A writer's top three! by Dana Mentink

Since it's Halloween week and all, I've been thinking about the topic of fear. When I wear my suspense writer hat, I spend a lot of time considering what makes people break out in goosebumps. Turns out, there are some common fears that many of us share. According to a Gallup poll, the top three fears are: snakes, public speaking and heights. I don't personally have those fears (I'm scared of the dark, chickens, deep water and other nonsensical things) but as a writer, I've got a few that give me shivers. Here are my top three writing fears.

1. My book finally hits the shelves, my magnum opus! The jewel of my writing career and...gasp! Choke! My name is misspelled on the cover. A minor point, you say? Picture it....Love and Larceny by Dana MENSTINK! Arrgh!

2. And what could be worse than an, um, unfortunate typo. I put together my well crafted sentence about the rugged hero and his pickup only instead of "truck" I substitute another letter for the "tr." Makes my stomach clench just imagining it!

3. How about this scenario? I've been given the green light to submit a proposal to a big publishing house. I'm so thrilled that I stay up for 72 hours straight perfecting each and every word. Deadline approaching, I quickly attach the file and hit the send button and later this big New York editor replies. My pulse races until I realize she's inquiring why I sent her my daughter's second grade essay on whales instead of my sizzling romance. Now THAT'S scary!

So what are you afraid of? Would love to hear what makes your heart go pitty patty?.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's An Hour, Anyway?

by Patricia Bradley

In one week, my life will return to order. I will get back that hour I lost last March. Yes. November 2nd  we will fall back to normal Standard Time.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be happy with this transition. In fact, I think I am in the minority. Most people prefer Daylight Savings Time, DST for future reference, because it gets dark later. But my question is, what can you do at 6 o’clock in the evening in the dead of winter anyway?

I really need to get up by 5 each morning—early morning is my best writing time, but it’s so hard to get up when it’s still dark outside. As I pondered this post, I wondered who first came up with the idea of DST.

Well, it turns out Benjamin Franklin way back in 1784  published an essay “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” where he suggested that people get out of bed earlier in the morning to make use of the morning sunlight. In that way, they could cut costs on candles.

Jump forward 121 years to William Willett, a British builder, who proposed that clocks be set ahead 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April and then resetting them again to normal time on each of the four Sundays in September. However, farmers opposed the bill and Willett died without seeing his idea come to fruition.

But by 1916, Germany implemented DST on April 30 by having clocks turn forward an hour. This was to save fuel which in turn would help the war effort. See, I told you it was a bad idea.

In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created “War Time” during World War II. DST was year-round.  I guess I should be glad he didn’t set them ahead 2 hours like Britain did.

Then in 1966 Congress implemented the Uniform Time Act that stated DST would begin on the last Sunday in April and continue until the last Sunday in October. However, this bill also allowed states to choose whether to be exempt from DST. Hawaii and most of Arizona are DST free! Alas, I live in Mississippi.

The date has been changed again, from October to Sunday, November 2. so on that date this year, it will suddenly be 1 a.m. and I will get to sleep in an extra hour…at least until March 8, 2015 at 2 a.m.

How about you? How do you feel about DST?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sit-Down Saturday with Lee McKenzie

Today we’re celebrating the release of THE PARENT TRAP by Lee McKenzie.

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

This book started with the setting—the fictional town of Serenity Bay on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. It’s my first book set in Canada and I’m very excited about that. When I discovered that both the hero and heroine were single parents of fourteen-year-old daughters, I knew those girls would get up to something. Teenagers always do, don’t they? And then that old Haley Mills movie came to mind and I thought it would be fun to do a twist on that. So instead of two long-lost sisters reuniting a family, in my version of The Parent Trap, two BFFs unite their families.

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

“What if happily ever after was even better than in the movies?”

How long did it take you to write?

Five months.

What is your favorite scene?

I don’t have just one. I loved writing the high school dance scenes with both teenage girls and their “dates,” and the hero and heroine there as chaperones. I also have a peculiar fondness for epilogues because they close the circle so nicely.

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

Jennifer Lawrence (with short hair) and Ryan Gosling (clean-shaven), because they’re who I pictured while I was writing this book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The hero, Jonathan Marshall. Seriously, the man is Ryan Gosling-gorgeous and he can cook. Who doesn’t love a guy who knows his way around the kitchen?

Tell us one thing you learned during research.

I learned that if I write a book set in a fictional town that’s close to where I live, then I don’t have to do any research on the setting! I also learned a lot about fashion. In The Parent Trap;jsessionid=ED96929F057A442327042C50EA2B3BEF?iid=54429&cid= , the heroine and the hero’s daughter are both fashionista’s (and I’m definitely not) so I did a lot of internet research on various fashion designers. As a result, some beautiful clothing and accessories found their way into the story. 

My favorite part was using some gorgeous vintage-inspired dresses in the epilogue. They were designed by Debbie Murray, a young and extremely talented Vancouver designer whose label is called Happy Yellow Dress . Click on the link to check out the dresses and see if you can figure out what happens in the epilogue.

What music would match the mood of this novel?

I didn’t have any particular songs or styles of music in mind as I wrote this book, but I’d say the hero and heroine would likely listen to light rock. For the teenagers, I’m thinking something by Taylor Swift.

This is your 8th book.  Exactly what does that mean to you?

It means I’m happy to be alive. A cancer diagnosis coincided with the release of my second book, but after major surgery and a full year of chemo, here I am. I am so fortunate to have added six more books to my list, even more fortunate to have editors willing to continue working with me, and I look forward to sharing many more stories with readers.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’ve been dabbling with a story about a jilted Montana cowboy-slash-helicopter-pilot who finds an interesting way to mend his broken heart. I’m afraid this cowboy’s story won’t be for Heartwarming, though. He simply refuses to behave.

I’ve also been working on an idea for a series set in a small town in Wisconsin—three books about three sisters and the men who love them. I’d also like to write their father’s story. He raised his girls on his own and I think he deserves a happy ending, too, but I wonder how readers would feel about a romance featuring a wounded war hero in his late forties. If anyone has thoughts on that...yay or nay...I’d love to hear them. 

What are you reading for pleasure right now?  

Right now I’m reading The Lakeshore Chronicles series by Susan Wiggs, and anxiously awaiting the third book in Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer series on October 28. Next up on my TBR pile is A Long Time Gone by Karen White.

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Introduction to Deals Only by Muriel Jensen

Good Morning, All!  I apologize for always adding my photo, but it's all I know how to do.  And straight text looks so daunting.  You're welcome to print this out, cut out my photo, and use it to play darts.

We live about five blocks up a hill from downtown Astoria.  It used to be a thriving little commercial avenue, but like most cities, serious stores have moved out of town and we're left with wonderful restaurants, interesting boutiques, but nowhere to buy groceries within walking distance.  Until I discovered Deals Only. I'd read somewhere that those thrifty grocery stores carried old, unreliable, and pirated products, and since it was right across the street from Safeway, I ignored it.  Until I had friends coming in the afternoon and nothing for dessert. Safeway had moved, so  I braved the purportedly illegal products, bought a chocolate chunk brownie mix, and thus began my love affair with the store.  They were absolutely delicious.

First of all - you'll probably all love this - they have a stationery section larger than our actual stationery store. (except for the office furniture)  I've bought a dozen fine-tip Bics for $1.  Yellow pads for 79 cents.  Purse calendars with pretty pictures for $1.  Post it note pads for 25 cents.

Gift bags are 99 cents, unless you need a big one for children's toys or wedding gifts, and then they're $1.99.  Have you priced a Hallmark gift bag lately?  (I hate to be disloyal - I love their channel - but 3.99 for a gift bag makes you think you could have added that much money to the gift.)

Seasonal socks are $1.  Without a job where I have to look elegant, I wear socks all the time.  I'm wearing a pair right now with witches and pumpkins on them - aaand, they play scary sounds.  Freaked out the cat this morning when I got dressed.  But $1!  The sign I mentioned a few days ago about Free Broom Rides came from Deals Only and was $2.99.

The food section has been a fun introduction to other cultures.  I now love Matzo crackers and chocolate macaroons, which show up after most Jewish holidays.  We eat refried beans, put jabanero sauce on our omelets, and eat different kinds of Mexican dulces.

Deals Only is probably the only place in the country where 12 oz of bacon is $3.49.  I asked how they could keep selling it at that price (Safeway sells it for $6.99.)  I've heard about the disease that's really hurting the pig population and I sympathize with the farmers, but can't pay that for bacon.  I was told Deals Only charges what it costs them to buy it, so it's a sort of loss-leader - only they do break even.

Cheyenne's Vita Bone dog treats are $2 a box, and sometimes I can buy a big package of Fancy Feast for the cats for $4.99.

Occasionally, there are surprises - like yarn, or jeans, or hats, or purses.  It's one of those thrill-of-the-hunt things.  Some days there are real treasures, and some days just milk and eggs.  But I love it when I find something fun.

When I was little, my mother and my Aunt Mamie went twice a year to a sale at Filene's Basement in Boston.  (a women's store, notorious for the wild nature of the shoppers)  They would come home with pink cheeks and sparkling eyes and usually a hat or a dress that would have cost a bundle at full price.

Since I'm nowhere near Boston, I'm upholding the tradition as best I can.

Where do you love to shop?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'll Trade You (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I'm a big believer in listening to what my heart tells me.  And then basing all of my other decisions on the messages I receive.    I have trust issues.  Big ones.  But I trust my heart.  If my heart tells me I need something, then I know I need it and I put my focus toward making it happen.  Even if the end result seems impossible, I put my energies and focus on that end result anyway.  Maybe something that I do to reach that end is actually what needed to happen.  Maybe I'm affecting someone else without knowing it, having a positive impact that I'm not meant to know about.  I don't ask too many questions.  I simply focus and move forward.

To that end, I have been driven to market a book that was out in June, The Friendship Pact.  I have five books out this year.  Two of them were out in June.  And all of my marketing focus has been on one book.  As irony would have it, it's the book that's doing the worst.  The only book that didn't hit a bestseller list.  It's received the most reviews.  Five star, glowing reviews.  But the least number of sales.  So maybe that book just had to reach one person.  Someone the marketing reached.  Someone I don't know about.  I don't have the answers.  I also don't feel any relief.  I still feel driven.  In spite of how well the other books are doing, (and believe me, I care about them, deeply)  I have to get knowledge of The Friendship Pact out into the world.

So let me mention, I hate marketing.  I am not good at it.  I'm more apt to tell you you might not like something just so that I don't disappoint you in case you don't like it.  I am a private person.  One who sits alone at her computer all day and looks forward to doing so.  I'm just not good at putting myself out 'there' everyday.  I'm not good at the hype.  I don't have training in the field of marketing.  And I have five more books to write.

However, I am being internally compelled to market this book.  So I do some researching.  I talk to some people.  I take advice and make lists.  And then, because I'm out of my element, I just start googling and throwing things out 'there.'  A little bit each day.  I see no results.  But I keep throwing.  The drive lessens not at all.  And that brings me to here...

I had a book trailer video done for The Friendship Pact.  I lobbed it out into cyberspace back in June.  I couldn't tell you where.  I just kept looking for places, dropping it out there and moving on.  Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, I get an email telling me that the book trailer video is now one of twelve trailers chosen for a book trailer contest!  So here's my trade.  If you'll go out and vote for The Friendship Pact (click the word vote and then I believe it's #7 on the list) come back here and tell me you did so, I'll trade those votes for one free copy of The Friendship Pact.  (The link is set to open in a new window so this page should stay open for you.)  I'll choose the winner of the free book from those who tell me here that they voted.  If commenting is too much work for you, or you don't want a chance to win a free copy of The Friendship Pact, please, please, please vote anyway!

And, I thank you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hip, hip, hoo-ray! Be your own cheerleader by Cynthia Thomason

Some of you already know about my latest misfortune, but for those who don’t, on Sept. 20, while visiting my daughter on her South Carolina farm, I fell through a rotted step and broke both my ankles. Now, mind you, this was after spending two months in the North Carolina mountains, climbing 15 wooden steps every time I went outdoors, and never even getting a splinter. But once at sea level again, I made a complete klutz of myself.

The accident was terrifying for the most part. I couldn’t walk. I was fifty minutes from the nearest hospital in Aiken, South Carolina. I had no way to continue my journey to my home in south Florida. The hospital misdiagnosed my injuries. They were actually worse than first thought and while my daughter kindly offered to drive me back to Fort Lauderdale, we had to stop at an emergency room on I-95 to receive the care I really needed. Once home, I had surgery, one leg healed rather quickly making me more mobile, but my other leg had so many pins and rods that the xray looked like the surgeon was building a tree house in my ankle. But, happy to report, the surgery was a success and I’m getting better every day.

I contemplated weeping my days away on the sofa with a box of tissues and a straw long enough to reach to the kitchen. I deserved to feel depressed and picked on by Fate, didn’t I? But I then realized that only one person could make me feel better about my situation – me! So I allowed my helpful friends to take me shopping, and I decorated my little condo to reflect the glories of Fall, my favorite season. I bought a $20.00 artificial tree from Wal-Mart and covered it in candy corn lights and fall leaves. I filled the house with scented spice candles and watched old sitcoms, avoiding tv dramas. And I read some wonderful romantic comedies by some of my favorite authors.

I expect to be walking without any aids in two or three weeks but in the meantime I’ll keep learning about what makes me happy, and what I can do to end each day with a smile. I’m wondering what you do to cheer yourself. If a good book is part of your depression solution, I ‘d love to know the title.
Thanks, and try reading THIS HERO FOR HIRE. It has some cheer-you-up scenes.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven by Liz Flaherty

        Do you remember that commercial for…something…that said, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven”? It was on TV, oh, a long time ago. I think maybe I remember it in black and white.
          Personally, I never subscribed to that. I thought nothin’ said lovin’ like going out to dinner when I was tired. Or nothin’ satisfied like my beloved cooking while I read. Or maybe nothin’ got the point across like ordering pizza.
          That was before I had grandchildren. And now, to me, nothin’ says lovin’ like filling the cookie jar with things that will put smiles and crumbs on their faces. There’s another part to that little homily, too, a shameless plug part. All of us here are authors for Harlequin’s delicious Heartwarming line and we all know nothin’ says lovin’ like a new Heartwarming book. Go ahead. Take your choice. We’ll wait.
          I’ve become a recipe saver. Not only do I have a ton of cookbooks—a few of which were my grandmother’s—but I print many off the internet and stuff them willy nilly into a binder which I will someday organize. Ahem. Maybe. Here is my favorite new one, fresh from Lauren’s Latest. The only change I make to it is that I bake these for an extra 30 seconds. I hope you like them. Enjoy.

Soft Glazed Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
The perfect sugar cookie for Fall! Sweet, spicy and soft!
yield: 3-4 DOZEN

prep time: 20 MINUTES

cook time: 8 MINUTES

total time: 28 MINUTES
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree {canned pumpkin}
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
for the glaze-
3 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, stir butter, oil, pumpkin, sugars, vanilla and eggs together until incorporated and smooth. Slowly mix in all dry ingredients until completely incorporated. Scoop onto prepared baking sheet using 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop and flatten to 1/2 inch thick using the bottom of a glass. If the dough is sticking to the glass, press the bottom of the glass in granulated sugar before flattening. Bake 8-9 minutes.
While cookies bake, stir all ingredients together for glaze until smooth.
Once cookies are finished baking, cool 3 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to cooling rack. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons glaze over each warm cookie. Let glaze harden 2-3 hours before serving. OR eat them warm with lots of runny glaze :)

This delicious recipe brought to you by LAUREN'S LATEST

Monday, October 20, 2014

It Worked For Cinderella by Linda Hope Lee

     I love to hear how people meet their mates. Was the meeting by coincidence? Or by design?
     Some of the stories I have heard include meeting through a common interest. Introduction by a friend or a relative or an online matchmaking service is often a means.
     Attending the same school also brings people together.
     That was how Maryann met Eldon.
     Maryann went to college in the 'forties. As a new freshman, she attended a dance, in those days known as a "mixer."
     "I wasn't going to go," she said, "but my roommate talked me into it. The dance hadn't been underway very long when the bandleader stepped to the mic and told all the men to line up on one side of the room and all the women on the other. I couldn't imagine what that was for, but then he told us women to take off one of our shoes and toss it across the room to the men. Each man was to capture a shoe and find its owner for the next dance.
     "I was wearing a new pair of high heels, red with ribbon bows. I didn't really want to part with one of them but to be a good sport, I pulled off one and gave it a good toss.
     "The place got pretty crazy with the men scrambling first for a shoe and then to find its owner. People were pairing up and dancing, and I was still standing there waiting. I began to worry. Maybe my shoe landed in a corner and no one found it.
     "Then I spotted a man holding my shoe aloft and searching the crowd. "Over here!" I called and waved.
     "'I found you at last,' he said when he reached my side. 'Now we'll see if this glass slipper fits.'
     "I stuck out my foot for him to put on the shoe. 'Okay, Cinderella,' he said with a twinkle in his eye, 'let's dance.'
     "And we did, for the rest of the evening and for years after that. We've had a wonderful life together. I'm so glad I went to that dance!"
     Do you have a first meeting story to share?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Sit-Down with Cynthia Thomason

Today we’re celebrating the release of THIS HERO FOR HIRE

So, Cynthia Thomason, where did you get the idea for this novel? I am a huge political junkie, and I’ve wanted to do a story about a “wild child” heroine who could make life difficult for her politician father. Add in a cowboy/cop assigned to protect her and keep her out of trouble and bingo! The makings of a romance. Plus, my son is into organic farming now, and I figured that would make an interesting subplot. We all want to stay healthy, right? 

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say? 
How did I, small town cop, Boone Braddock, get roped into this ticklish assignment?”  For myself, I’d say, “What could be better than a cop/cowboy for a hero?”   

How long did it take you to write?
Close to six months. I had quite a bit of research to do for this story so much of my time was taken up with that.  

What is your favorite scene? 
The opening “meet.” The heroine is saving a truckload of chickens from drowning. She is covered in chicken poop and feathers while opening cage doors. The hero has come to arrest her. He finds out an hour later that this lawbreaker is the woman he is supposed to protect.  

Who was your favorite character and why? 
I suppose Boone is my favorite. He always tries to do the right thing. But he’s only human and suffers bouts of jealousy over his brother who has a family and kids, things Boone wants. He has to fight his attraction to troublemaker Susannah, and his desire conflicts with his ethics.  

If you could pick fictional characters to play the hero and heroine, who would they be? 
I’d pick John Cusack to play Boone. I’ve always liked John’s little-boy innocence, almost as if he were saying, “How did I get into this mess?”

I’d pick a blond Emma Stone to play Susannah. There is always some mischief in Emma’s roles.  

Tell us one thing you learned during research. 
Wow, I learned so much about organic farming, pesticides and fertilizers. I can’t say that I’ve become a total convert to organic produce, but I’ve certainly begun to think about changing my ways.

What music would match the mood of this novel? 
Country, of course. “Rock me, Mamma, like a wagon wheel...” Susannah does rock Boone’s world.

This is your 29th book book.  Exactly what does that mean to you? It means I hope each book is a little better than the last. And I hope I keep touching readers with my stories.

What do you plan to work on next? 
I have a book coming out in early 2015. It’s a mother/son plot with an American hero, an injured pilot, thrown in. It’s funny and heartwarming and I hope readers like it. I don’t have a title yet.

What are you reading for pleasure right now? 
Adriana Trigiani’s Brava Valentine. I’ve never been to Italy, but this book transports me there in a most delightful way – an Italian wedding!  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Iced Tea -- Nector for the Time

I have a friend in D.C. that I've known since I graduated from college.  She’s a neo-natal
Credit: Free Images
nurse at the Howard University Hospital.  We met when she was in nursing school.  I’d majored in chemistry and she was having trouble with the subject when I was asked to tutor her.  Our tutoring sessions made us life-long friends.  She spent a lot of time in my apartment and used to say I made the best iced tea in the world.  Of course, I thought she was being facetious since I had very little money and tea bags were the only drink I could afford to buy.  Consequently, there was always tea in my refrigerator.  I didn’t find out until long after I married, had children, and divorced that she actually meant it.

My son also says I make the best tea in the world.  He’s unaware of the comments from my nurse-friend.  But he should know.  He’s seen a lot of the world and drank a lot of tea (his refreshment of choice).  For several days when he was about ten, he watched me make tea, asking questions about how much of this to use and how long to let it boil.  Then one of his friend's parents I ran across in the local grocery store mentioned the tea.  Apparently, my son had gone to her house and made tea for them.  She wanted the recipe.

Tea Plantation
Credit: Free Images
Tea has been a part of human life since the Stone Age.  Yet people in the United States used to only drink it iced in the summer time.  Tea has now become an anytime drink. (In the South, it was always an anytime drink.)  I think my father personally championed this change, since we had iced tea year-round and I grew up in Buffalo, New York.  My father was from South Carolina where tea is a staple.  He didn’t teach me to make it however.  I concocted my own experiments until I came up with something that had people turning their heads like on a television commercial and asking, “Who made this?  It’s really good.”  I will give a little credit to my father for one ingredient although the knowledge came to me indirectly through one of my younger sisters (I have five sisters and a brother.  I’m number two.).  She told me about the baking soda.

Mind you, I didn't start out to develop a tea recipe.  It happened when the coffers were low and I didn’t want to go out in the cold or rain or dark or whatever the reason was at the time to buy the missing ingredients.  So, like any girl scout has been trained (or people who loved watching McGyver build a shopping mall from sand and chewing gum), I went to Plan “B” and used what I had.  And what I had were two regular tea bags and one bag of apple spice tea.  I used to use three regular tea bags and sugar.

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

In my first romance novel, Under the Sheets, I loaned my heroine the tea recipe.  She owned a restaurant and it was a favorite drink of her patrons.  It was also the defining moment for the hero when he discovers the heroine's secret.  I put the recipe in that book.  And here it is for you.  So, as you sit down to read the next Heartwarming novel, grab a glass of Apple Spice tea and relax.  I hope you like it.

My first Heartwarming novel is Summer at Kendall Farm.  It will be released in January 2015.  I just got the cover and it's wonderful.  The book is available for pre-order.

Apple Spiced Iced Tea

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

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

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

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

Shirley Hailstock

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sweetest Day by Amy Vastine

In case you haven't been paying attention, Saturday is Sweetest Day.

Although many consider this a "Hallmark holiday", think it's a fitting celebration for Heartwarming as we are often referred to as "sweet" romance. I am a big fan of anything sweet (in case it wasn't obvious by my apple cake recipe post). But desserts aren't my only object of sweet affection.

Here's my top five list of the sweetest things in no particular order:

1. Long-lasting love
I think there are few things sweeter than a couple who has been together for more years than they can count, yet still show affection. I watched an older gentleman open the car door for his wife, take her hand and walk with her into a restaurant. They shared a meal together, sharing stories and smiles. When they finished, he offered her his arm and she gave him a sweet peck on the cheek. I want to be like that when I grow up ;)

2. Dads and daughters
Dads and really any of their children make me melt. But my nephew and his wife recently welcomed their baby girl into the world and the pictures of Matt and his little Stella make me want to cry. The look of complete adoration on his face is priceless. There's just something about a big, tough guy being turned into mush when you put a baby in his arms!

3. Puppies and kittens
It doesn't matter what species, a baby anything makes me smile. Recently, a friend and I were discussing the difference between cats and dogs (she is a cat-lover and I am a dog-lover) and we both agreed that it doesn't matter what kind of person you are, you can't deny the absolute sweetness of a puppy or a kitten. This led to us exchanging texts with pictures of kittens and puppies to prove our point.

4. Small gestures
Sure every girl dreams about a guy who comes in and sweeps her off her feet with some big romantic gesture, but I love the little things. Sometimes it's just that text that says, "ILY" from my husband that makes my whole day. Or it's when he empties the dishwasher without me even asking (unbelievable, right?) I think it's sweet when my husband invites me to snuggle with him on the couch to watch our favorite TV show. The little things can add up to quite a lot!

5. Protective big brothers
This might just be me, but I have always wanted a big brother. I have two younger brothers and I end up mothering them more than anything. My daughter lucked out and got an older and a younger brother. She may disagree with calling it lucky, but that's another post. For all the teasing her older brother does, he does not tolerate other people teasing his sister. One boy in particular made my daughter feel very bad one day. The next day at school, her six-foot, two years older brother let this boy know he had heard the things that were being said about his sister and he didn't think it was too cool (I swear there was no touching or threats against anyone's life made). Needless to say, my daughter came home the next day quite surprised that the boy who had called her horrible names a couple days earlier was more polite than he had ever been! What I wouldn't have done to have a brother like that growing up!

There you have it. Those are the five things I think are pretty sweet. What about you? What's your sweetest thing?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Season of Change by Lynn Patrick

It’s that time of year again, when those of us up north prepare to say goodbye to our gardens for nearly half the year. After living in the same apartment for three decades, this was both heaven and hell. The garden, which had suffered greatly from a winter that broke records of both cold and snow, was off limits to me. I had lost my delphinium, my largest lavender, a wonderful potted hydrangea, half my salvia, and many other plants were miniature in size. And I could do nothing to replace them.

 The construction crew used the garden to cut wood and tile and covered my remaining plants with dust that kicked up my asthma, forcing me to stay away. And so the summer passed without my being able to read or write outside or to revive my garden. For me, it’s especially sad, because I missed most of the summer. In deep renovation – moving from the second floor apartment of my city 2 flat to the first floor now duplexed with the lower level – I spent those glorious days running interference, not to mention running from box store to box store looking for the exact things I wanted to make the new digs special.

Even so, the garden retained a beauty I still appreciate. And now, with winter coming, and with me cleaning it up and preparing it for a season of change, I am making plans to renovate the garden next spring. More changes that will make the garden even more special.

Houses and gardens aren’t the only things that require renovating. Sometimes careers do, as well. I usually write as Patricia Rosemoor, but I am also half of Lynn Patrick. My writing partner Linda Sweeney and I wrote 23 books together before she stopped writing about fifteen years ago to focus on her academic career as a professor with an adult reading/writing specialty. 

Blossom on harness & lead

 Heartwarming started as an experiment, with some of our previously published books re-edited to meet the wholesome guidelines, including two Lynn Patrick titles – now called Shall We Dance? And The Marriage Assignment. And then we were honored to be asked to write new stories for the line appropriate for every woman, young or old. Lynn Patrick stories are set in the fictional town of Sparrow Lake, Wisconsin – Home to Sparrow Lake, A Forever Home, and, coming in April, 2015, The Long Road Home. 

To bring this season of change full circle, Heather, our heroine in A Forever Home, has taken my love of gardening (and my background as a U of I trained Master Gardener) one step farther. Being a landscaper is the change she has long dreamed of, and I was able to use my knowledge not only of landscaping and plants but of ways to control stormwater by creating a rain garden with native plants to help her create a wonderful plan for the mysterious Flanagan Manor situated on Lake Michigan.

We all have seasons of change in our lives, sometimes quite unexpected. If something unexpected has happened to better your life, we’d love to hear about it.

Visit Lynn Patrick at her Facebook author page.