Monday, January 30, 2017

Patricia Johns: In Defence of Clean Romance

Romance novels get a bad rap in the broader literary community. They’re accused of being “pure fantasy,” or giving women false expectations when it comes to real relationships. But I don’t think those accusations are completely fair, especially not in the "sweet" or clean categories like Heartwarming, and I’ll tell you why:


1. Romance novels don’t show easy relationships!
If the complaint is that romance novels show love being unrealistically easy, they couldn’t be more wrong. It takes an entire novel to get these two people together, and they have to overcome a lot of personal issues and external pressures in order to get there. Real life is actually a lot easier for some people: Boy meets girl, they date for 2.5 years, he finally proposes on her birthday over a nice dinner, and they plan their wedding for a year and a half in the future. Romance novels have the time span significantly shortened, but that doesn’t make it easy for the characters. If anything, the road to love is that much harder.

2. Real men really are as appealing as romance heroes…
Some worry that women will want a fictional character over a real, flesh and blood man. What’s most appealing in a romance novel, however, is the connection between the characters, and that connection has nothing to do with him being an earl, a cowboy or a cop. The romantic tension is what makes a reader’s heart go pitter pat, and that romantic tension happens in real life, too. I have to say, on the writing side, romance novels have given me a new appreciation for my husband’s manliness. Things that might irritate me without the right perspective, make me realize how male he really is. Men talk a certain way–or don’t talk, for that matter. They express their desires a certain way. They have a lot going on under the surface that they don’t put into words. Writing a romance hero helps me to see the hero in my own man!


3. Romance novel tropes hide something deeper
The marriage of convenience, the amnesiac trying to put his life back together, the single mom who wants to do it on her own, the abandoned baby… Yes, these tropes are used over and over again, but they are used for a good reason–they go deeper into issues that readers care about. The marriage of convenience explores what makes a marriage work. Does community support make a difference? Does enforced time together make something deeper blossom? The amnesiac is a great way to explore who we really are when you strip away everything we’ve built up around us. What makes us lovable–our carefully constructed life, or something more elemental? Single moms can’t only think about themselves, and parenthood complicates a romantic relationship. How do you navigate love with kids in the mix? These tropes are used repeatedly because they hit upon our deepest desires and insecurities, and they let us get right into it without a lot of preamble.

Are romance novels fluffy and fun? Maybe! And why not? There is nothing wrong with some enjoyable reading. We do that in other literary forms, too. Fantasy is an elemental part of the reading experience, being whisked away to another life and another experience. But pure fantasy? Those are strong words. Love and relationships are alive, well and challenging in our real lives, too. And nobody–least of all a romance author!–said that love was easy.

I write for three different Harlequin lines: Love Inspired, Western Romance, and Heartwarming. All of my books are sweet, so they don't go beyond a kiss. If you liked my first novel in Heartwarming, you might like my next Heartwarming book coming out in June 2017. You also may like my other books from the others lines!

January 2017

Former beauty queen Isabel Baxter returns to her hometown, scarred after a near-fatal accident. But in high school, she was the fantasy of every teenage boy in Haggerston, Montana, including James Hunter. Even though James was too far below her social circle to be noticed…

Now her father's attorney, James isn't ready to forgive Isabel for the part she played in his own family tragedy. Yet she seems eager to make amends and prove herself capable of being more than a pretty face. Has the girl he once worshipped—his boss's daughter—grown into a woman James can respect…and maybe love?

Find it on the Harlequin site, or on Amazon!

February 2017

 Brody Mason needs a nurse. As soon as he can walk again, he'll leave Hope, Montana, and go straight back to the army. But Kaitlyn Harpe? That's adding insult to injury. Not just because she's a daily reminder that Brody's fiancĂ©e, Kate's sister, married his best friend while he was fighting in Afghanistan. But because Kaitlyn had kept the truth from him.

The Kaitlyn he knew before he deployed would never have perpetuated a lie like that. But this new person—the confident, beautiful woman with hidden depths in her eyes—is nothing like the shy, serious girl he knew. This Kaitlyn troubles him. Because Brody is starting to wonder if he proposed to the wrong sister…

Find it on the Harlequin site, or on Amazon!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sit Down Saturday | Sophia Sasson | Mending the Doctor’s Heart

Today, we are celebrating the January release of Mending the Doctor’s Heart, Sophia’s third book with Harlequin Heartwarming.

Sophia, what inspired this book?
I love beautiful islands. So when I had the chance to go to Guam--a little dot in the great Pacific ocean---I was thrilled. But when I was there, I gained a new appreciation for just what it means to live on a remote island. While it may be romantic, there are real life challenges; like limited access to medical care, storms that make Hurricane Katrina look weak, and maintaining the local culture. It’s been a decade since my visit and the people and culture of Guam has nagged at my heart. Writing Anna and Nico’s story was one way to share the amazing island of Guam. I have another blog post that details my visit to Guam. 

And speaking of Guam, for a piece of Guam in your kitchen try Buñelos Aga --banana donuts. Get the recipe here.

What is your favorite scene in the book?
For this book, it’s hard to say. There are a couple of scenes that make me cry no matter how many times I’ve edited them. These are my true favorites but they are spoilers so I’ll give you a scene that gives you a flavor of the story.

ANNA ran toward the tractor. The giant tree that blocked the roadway lay there, dark and ominous. Branches and limbs tore at her bare arms as she scrambled over the trunk. The thin cloth of her scrub pants tore as she made her way over the top. She barely felt the sting of the scrapes on her knees. Still blinded from the glare of the headlights, all she could see were shapes of people milling about. She scooted her way down a branch; it was too high to jump down. A shadowy figure approached at a run.

She used her hands to propel her body downward a little faster, ignoring the protests of her damaged skin. Just as she got close enough to jump the rest of the way, a pair of powerful hands grabbed her around the waist and pulled her down, slamming her into a hard chest. The smell of Irish Spring soap and sweat filled her nose, a scent as familiar to her as her own perfume. He held on to her even after she had a firm footing on the concrete.

“Anna!” His heart thudded against her chest. She collapsed against him, relief flooding through her like someone had hit the release valve on a pressure cooker about to blow. He was alive. His strong arms held up her boneless body. Drawing her close, he rubbed his cheek against her head and her heart flooded with warmth.

“Oh God, Anna, it’s really you.” His voice was husky, and he pulled her even closer. The feel of his body against hers, so familiar and yet so distant, tugged her back into reality.

She pushed away, the words out of her mouth before she raised her face to look at him. “Nico!”

He stared down at her. His height had always been the talk of the island, a trait no doubt inherited from his white father.

Their eyes locked, her blue-gray ones pinned to his soft brown.

“You came back?” His voice was low, the words a little broken.
Something burned through her. Her legs weakened, threatening to buckle underneath her. She stepped back, out of his reach. “I had to come for my job.”

Any giveaways or promotions that readers can take advantage of?
Always. The promotions page of my website usually has something being given away. Right now it’s a free ebook of Then Comes Love and I have a goodreads giveaway (see below) going on until January 31. The best way to get notified of those is to Follow me on Goodreads and Follow me on Amazon.  I also try to promote any giveaways on Twitter and my Facebook page.
I also have exclusive giveaways for my VIP list. You can sign up for free.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mending the Doctor's Heart by Sophia Sasson

Mending the Doctor's Heart

by Sophia Sasson

Giveaway ends January 31, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
The book is available at: 
Barnes & Noble/Nook | Apple/iBooks | Harlequin | Google Play | Kobo

What's Next?
One of the secondary characters from both Mending the Doctor's Heart and The Senator's Daughter has been begging for his own story. It's time for Lieutenant Luke Williams to finally find love. But, what he can't do is fall for a soldier in his command.  Sergeant Alessa Parrino can't afford another scandal, not if she wants to keep the only life she's ever known. The Sergeant's Temptation will be coming out in August 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.

Thank you so much for sitting down with Sophia today! Feel free to ask her any questions about Guam, her books or comment on what you love/hate about islands.

About Sophia Sasson:

Sophia puts her childhood habit of daydreaming to good use by writing stories she hopes will give you hope, make you laugh, cry, and possibly snort tea from your nose. She was born in Bombay, India, and has lived in the Canary Islands, Spain; Toronto, Canada. Currently she calls the madness of Washington DC home. She’s the author of the Welcome to Bellhaven and State of the Union series. She loves to read, travel to exotic locations in the name of research, bake, explore water sports, watch foreign movies. Hearing from readers makes her day. Contact her through 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Growing Old Gracefully

Good Morning, All!

I have a life history of not doing anything gracefully, so trying to age with style is becoming a serious challenge.

When I was eight, the teacher and my parents agreed that I should leave Miss Yvonne Greene's School of Dance because whenever I raised one foot off the floor, I fell over sideways.  I also couldn't do a somersault.  Everyone else could, but not me.

At St. Anthony's School, I was part of the choir, but, after the tryout of a new hymn where I held the note a little longer than everyone else, I  was asked to simply mouth the words in the future.

In high school, all the girls wore fifty-yard petticoats under our skirts.  We starched and ironed them every few days to maintain their pouf.  I was running up the stairs to class at the same time the football team was running down to practice and one of the guys stepped on my skirt.  I kept running up, noticing a tickle at my ankles.  It was my petticoat, brought down by that errant step.  All the guys had stopped to watch.  I thought the coolest thing to do was simply step out of it and get to class, but once you're out of it, how do you carry fifty yards of starched netting?  It was around me and above me and under my feet.  I probably looked like something from another planet.  It was not a graceful moment.

Now we're trying to set up our house for downstairs living.  I'm having knee replacement surgery early in March.  We have a wonderful neighbo,r a retired CNA,  who will stay with Ron while I'm in the hospital, then look in on us after I get home.  So, I'm trying to set up everything beforehand so life will be simple for everyone.

Well.  Did you know that if you're having knee replacement surgery, you have to have an okay from the dentist that says there are no infections in your mouth?  I didn't, either.  Apparently, any infection can go straight to the joint after surgery.  I had to have x-rays, an examination, and my teeth cleaned.   Good grief.  The teeth cleaning was like being waterboarded.  There was an air tube and a water tube in my mouth, and a very nasty-looking hooky thing in the hygienist's hand.  I was stoic, but it was ugly.  When she was finally finished, I sat up so eagerly that I kicked over a tray with very noisy stuff on it that flew all over.  I apologized for not being more sedate - and graceful,  The staff laughed and gave me credit for having such a good kick at my age.

We've talked about putting in a half-bath downstairs for ages, and now seems like the time.  My friend Barb, the CNA, is barely five feet tall and I don't want her to have to get Ron up and down the stairs.  The plumber we hired to do the job got pneumonia the day after he came over to give me an estimate, and I haven't seen him since.  Meanwhile, the contents of my pantry, where we're putting the bathroom, is now all over the dining room table while I try to reorganize and rearrange.  The vacuum, carpet shampooer, broom, etc are in the kitchen, and all the shelving I had to take down are at the top of the basement stairs,   I keep tripping over things, and I have no idea where my 4-cup measuring bowl is.

If this post makes no sense you you, I understand.  It all sort of connected in my mind, but that's really not a fruitful place for order and good sense.  It's okay, though.  Maybe grace isn't as much in your style - or in your brain - as in your faith that one day, life will finally come together and you'll feel like you know what you're doing.  I'm still waiting, but I do have faith, so I must be aging gracefully.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Brand New Year

By Cari Lynn Webb and Beth Carpenter

With a fresh new calendar in front of us, January is the time of possibilities and new beginnings. It’s a special year for us, because we both have our first full-length Heartwarming books coming out in 2017. So, we thought we’d share some of our dreams and goals for this year.

My daughters accuse me of being a “mean” driver. I don’t consider myself to be mean, I just have certain expectations of other drivers: turn your bright lights off when a car is coming toward you, signal your intent (everyone has blinkers) and don’t tailgate (my car is big and takes a while to stop). While I don’t ever use my horn (unless it’s to get my oldest daughter to move faster in the morning), I might not always keep my thoughts inside my head while I’m driving. So my goal this year is to be a “nice” driver and keep my commentary inside my car upbeat and positive (no more “mean mom” driver for me).

And keeping with the positive and upbeat theme for the year I’m extending that attitude to my writing life as well. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves with our writers: AuthorSuzie writes 50 perfect pages a day, AuthorTina completes a 100-page outline for every book, AuthorSally has 10,000 followers and 20,000 likes, AuthorMary got a 12-book contract and the list goes on. Before we know it, the comparisons have overwhelmed our personal success and defeated us. This year my goal is to stay in my own writing lane, celebrate my writing successes as well as the successes of my fellow writers and remember we all have our own journey as writers and we need to enjoy the ride.

And enjoying the ride applies to every part of my life, especially as my oldest daughter informed me this weekend that she has less than 9 months until she gets her driver’s permit. Welcome to 2017 everyone ~ it’s going to be a fun ride, I promise.

Now over to Beth who I’m really excited to be blogging with this year ….

I’m thrilled to join Cari here today on the Heartwarming blog. It’s a dream come true to be part of the group of authors who’ve written so many of my favorite stories. I have two books coming out later this year, but in the meantime, I’m writing more stories. So, my first goal is to establish a regular time each day when I can write, uninterrupted. Which brings me to my second goal, training my family about writing time.

I also want to establish a quarterly newsletter. I love it when those emails pop into my box now and then to tell me the news about my favorite writers and their new books.

Of course, getting organized and establishing routines means it’s easy to get caught up in activity and forget to stop and enjoy the moment. That’s my last goal – to experience beauty in every day.

Frosted tree in Anchorage earlier this month
THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Cari Lynn Webb will be out in July.

THE ALASKAN CATCH by Beth Carpenter follows in August.

You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Hope your January is going well, and that 2017 is a special year for you, too.  What’s driving you this new year?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Joy of Blending

by Lee McKenzie

There are blenders, and there's Vitamix. Or so people had been telling me. My old Osterizer, which I purchased in 1976 (and yes, it still works!) can still chug its way through a smoothie or a salad dressing, but it doesn't have much power or capacity. This year I decided it was finally time for an upgrade. Enter the Vitamix 7500.

1976, meet 2017!
Oh, my. My apologies if this sounds like an infomercial, but it turns out that everything everyone ever told me about the Vitamix was a complete understatement. It makes smoothies (that are actually smooth!) from frozen ingredients in seconds. I can now make my own fresh almond milk is 45 seconds. Everything, from creamy hummus and roasted vegetable soups to chunky salsa and guacamole, is blended to perfection.

My new machine came with a cookbook, but there are tons of recipes and other information on the internet as well, such as this aptly named site—The Joy of Blending. I have already adapted the Orange Julius-inspired smoothie (this blogger doesn't like bananas, but I love them!) and it's my new morning favorite.

Lee's orange-banana smoothie and fresh almond milk
Here's how I make mine:

2 oranges, peeled and quartered
1 banana, peeled
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put everything into the container in the order listed and blend until smooth. Serves two. My Vitamix doesn't have pre-settings, so I start at low speed, dial it up to 5 and let it do its thing for 20 or 30 seconds.

I have also been making bright green smoothies (bring on the spinach!) and luscious red ones with frozen berries. I'm looking forward to making nut butters, and apparently this machine will even knead dough. A friend of mine says it'll probably make rock soup! She might not be wrong.

Another thing I'm excited to share with you this month is the release of my newest Heartwarming and the second book in The Finnegan Sisters trilogy, His Best Friend's Wife.

A second chance for his first love 
Paul Woodward has always known Annie Finnegan was the one. But when she married his best friend, he moved away from their tiny hometown to try to forget the woman he could never have. When her husband passes away, Paul is heartbroken and wants to be there for the love of his life—but how can he, given the way he feels? As he returns to take over his ill father's medical practice, though, it's clear that Annie and her son are the family Paul longs for. As Annie heals and their connection grows, Paul will wait to find out if love really gives second chances…
One thing Annie Finnegan and I have in common is our love of preparing family dinners. I hope readers enjoy meeting her as much as I enjoyed writing her story.

And since I'm all about smoothies these days, I would love it if you would share your tips and recipes for interesting fruit and vegetable combos.

Happy reading, everyone!

Until next time,

Writing fifty shades of pink

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I apologize

Please accept my apology. My blog, which should have appeared tomorrow, showed up today. I certainly didn't intend for that to happen. And it may show up again tomorrow. Eventually I'll get the hang of this. Thank you to all who responded.

"I Am Woman"

I have been contemplating this blog for quite some time. I don’t mean for it to be depressing. The point I’m going to make is actually life affirming.

Three years ago I became a widow. I had been married thirty-five years, so the loss was profound and difficult. Over those thirty-five years, I can’t tell you how many times I summoned my husband with nit picky jobs that I should have been able to handle myself.

“Bud, the lightbulb needs changed.”
“Bud, there’s a spider in the bathtub.”
“Bud, the dog needs to go out.”

Suddenly, there was no one to call. I was on my own and lonely. So what are just a few things I’ve learned to do myself? They may not seem momentous to many of you – maybe you have always been the kind of woman to “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan” but for me, this has been a learning curve.
1.      I can fix the disposal as long as I can find the hex wrench.
2.      I can change the filter in the refrigerator.
3.      I can hook up all those dang wires and cables to the TV and the cable outlet.
4.      I can drive two days and one thousand miles by with only my pup and my radio for company.
5.      I can have my car serviced without feeling I’ve been taken advantage of. For that matter, I can buy a new car and get a good deal.
6.      I can go in the tool department of any big box store, buy what I need and not feel like an idiot.
7.      I can use a footstool or even a ladder to reach high places.
8.      I can put up and take down the Christmas tree by myself.

I will never stop missing “Bud.” But I will survive. I have friends, and I have my writing to ground me and give purpose to my days. And each time I learn something new, I feel a sense of accomplishment. If any of you have lost your “go to” guy, I know… it’s hard, but you are better, you are stronger, you are much more clever than you ever thought you were.
What has made you feel a sense of pride in yourself today?


By the way, I feel a real sense of pride in my latest Harlequin Heartwarming, Book three of the Daughters of Dancing Falls, RESCUED BY MR. WRONG. This book releases in one week, February 1. I hope you'll give it a try. And maybe read them all!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Few Things I Learned in 2016

By Patricia Bradley

It's New Years Eve as I write this, and I am curled up on the couch, reflecting about the past year. It was a great year for me with exciting events and some not so exciting events. And as always, it was those not so exciting events that I learn the most from. 

  • If you put eggs on to boil and go back to your office to write, the eggs will eventually explode. Honest.
  • Don’t try to put a frightened cat into a pet cage by yourself…even if you’re trying to get it out of the house because you’re afraid its lungs are going to be damaged by the smoke from the burned beans you remembered when you were lying face down on a massage table.
  •  Never ask a woman when her baby is due, even if she looks 8 months pregnant. Ever
  •  If you drop an open-faced, peanut butter sandwich, it’ll always hit the floor peanut butter side down. That goes for a jelly sandwich, too. 
  • But not for an English muffin. Somehow it always lands right side up and the honey doesn't even drip onto the floor. 
  • When someone says they want to hear the truth, they’re usually not telling the truth.
  • Consider your answer carefully when a friend asks if you like her new hairstyle. (See previous bullet)
  •  When a friend asks you to critique her granddaughter’s story, RUN.

I’d like to say I didn’t actually do any of these things. That they are all figments of my imagination. I’d like to say that. I will say that each of the events happened only once, except the ones about dropping food. Hence the title, A Few Things I Learned in 2016. 

There is a positive side to my lapses of common sense. Thank goodness. The resulting stories make entertaining blog posts. And since I’m a writer, at some point, in some story, my hero or heroine will forget the eggs or do one of the other dumb things I’ve done, not just last year, but during my lifetime—today’s list is way short. 

And guess what? My foibles will strike a chord in readers, endearing my protagonist to them, even if they’ve never exploded an egg. Because they have done something similar. They can identify. And that’s what it’s all about for me. Creating characters readers can identify with and care about.

So, would you care to share something you learned in 2016? It doesn’t have to be something crazy like my list. Just something you’ve learned.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sit Down Saturday with Tara Taylor Quinn and Free Novella

Today we’re celebrating Tara Taylor Quinn's new release, The Cowboy's Twins. It's on sale for 20% off right now! Just click on the title and enter coupon code HEARTGIFTS.

So tell us, Tara, where did you get the idea for this novel?

 The Cowboy's Twins is the third and last book in the Family Secrets Cooking show trilogy! It follows
both of which can be purchased with above link and coupon code!

All three books take place around a reality cooking show, Family Secrets. Each book also features a hero or heroine whose life is deeply effected by a family secret. The Cowboy's Twins is the story of the show's host - a cowboy with a major secret. I don't really know where the specific idea came from, but I know the source of my cow information! I have family members who raise cattle. To attest to that, here's a not so great picture of me, taken just a few weeks ago, on a family farm.

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

Who could resist this cowboy?

What is your favorite scene?

“I get to name her.”

“Nuh-uh, I do.”

Listening just outside the bathroom door while his kids stood on identical stools at double sinks, supposedly brushing their teeth, Spencer smiled. Starting the day with only two hours of sleep would catch up with him.


For now, he had duties to tend to.

“No, Justin, that is not true. Daddy said that if she’s a girl, I get to name her. And she’s a girl.”

Spencer couldn’t help the smile growing wider on his face as he listened to the most articulate seven-year-old he’d ever known. Justin was a handful but didn’t faze him a bit. Tabitha was going to be the death of him.

“Well, I get to pet her first…”

When he heard the intensity rising in his son’s voice, Spencer entered the room to see two dark-haired little kids standing on stools, their brown gazes at war in the mirror. Neither of them had anything resembling toothbrushes in sight.

“You’re supposed to be brushing your teeth.”

“We did.” Justin’s immediate response was followed by a drop in his gaze. And then his chin met his chest. “No, we didn’t,” he corrected himself before Spencer could take the breath necessary to challenge the boy. “But…do we gotta?” Justin’s eyes widened as he gave Spencer an imploring look. “They’ll just get dirty again, and I’ll brush it all away tonight.”

Spencer pressed his lips together, hoping he looked stern.

The hardest part about being a single parent was having no one  with whom to share the laughter...

Who was your favorite character and why?

I'm never good at this question. I can't play favorites. I truly love them all - for different reasons and in different ways. Spencer's the quintessential hero. I relate to Natasha so much. And the twins...I love every minute I spent with them!

What are you writing now?

I just finished a new proposal this week - for an upcoming project. I'm in the middle of a book due next month - Book Thirteen in my Where Secrets Are Safe series for Superromance. And I'm also in the middle of revisions for Book Twelve in that same series, For Joy's Sake, which is out this August!

For now, this is my last official post as a Harlequin Heartwarming Author. I am so sorry to be leaving you all here, but hope you'll continue to share journeys with me! You can find me here:
If you click to visit my website now, join my mailing list (duplicate joins will be deleted) you will be directed to a FREE Novella!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Unknown Author

By Shirley Hailstock

I want to be an unknown author.  I went to Barnes and Noble last night, admittedly to buy a new book by one of my favorite authors.  And of course, I came home with more than the one book.  As any reader knows, books are like potato chips – you can’t buy just one.  So I was walking around the superstore, scoping out the books and looking at the guys to see who was just there to hang out.

There were a lot of tables and free standing book carousels and I found myself looking at the titles and authors.  I’m a sucker for a good title, so I look at those first.  These are the tables that publishers pay money to have the titled featured.

I consider myself fairly well read and well informed about books – all books not just romance or women’s fiction.  But what I noticed on these tables were books by people unknown to me.  Of course, I can’t know everyone, no matter now hard I try, yet on many of those tables, I didn’t recognize a single name.

I did recognize the publishers.  And I decided that is who I want to be.  I want to be one of those names that people come in the store find.  My book and my name prominently displayed.  I want to be the books they go home with, spend the night in bed with, and read from page one to The End.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Come along with us

by Liz Flaherty

I had the idea of blogging about the settings for our books, offering up a travelogue. it was an easy thought for me because most of mine have been here in Indiana, right close to where I live. Oh, except for the ones that were in Kentucky. And Tennessee. And Vermont, the homeland of my heart. The Internet makes it easy to research different places, but it doesn't make it easy to hear those places. Or smell the sea if you're inland. Or stand rapt at the foot of a mountain if you're on flat land. That's where being writers comes in.

I named a tearoom in Every Time We Say Goodbye Seven Pillars. The real ones are a set of caves on the Mississinewa River.

Both that book and my next one, tentatively titled It Was Written In the Stars, take place on a fictitious lake just over and down a piece from where I live. Here is Lake Manitou, the REAL Miniagua.
Photo by Chris McGuire
Back to McGuffey's was set in the fictitious town of Fionnegan, a pretty little place in the shadow of Wish Mountain. Neither of them exist anywhere except my heart, but I "found" them after visiting Jay Peak...

...and Danville...

I love the pictures, both Helen's and the ones I've borrowed for here, but more important than how pretty they are is how they make you feel. Helen mentions below that she can "summon up total sensory recall..." I know jealousy is ugly...but I am. Other than the sound of the ocean and 1960s music--yes, really--not much calls up my senses. I have to find them in pictures.

When I look at Manitou's picture, I remember the smell of summer on the lake. Jay Peak makes me remember driving to its top on a skinny little road. I found out I could hold my breath for a really long time. The picture of Danville brings back the sounds in the general store.

I tend to use big old Victorian houses in my books, and I'll look them up while I'm writing so I can hear the sound of footsteps on the hardwood floor of a high-ceilinged room.

I guess my travelogue became more of a sail through the senses, but I never seem to finish a post the way I start one. I'll be entering the editing process for It Was Written In the Stars soon--that tendency might come back to haunt me!

Have a great day. Where are we going, Helen?

by Helen DePrima

I love Liz’s idea for a travelogue of settings for our books. Although I do occasionally set brief segments in places I’ve never visited, I depend heavily on locations where I can summon up total sensory recall – scents, the songs of birds native to an area, the taste of local foods, even the feel of the air on my face.

To this point, I’ve set my books in the mountain West and in my home state of Kentucky from which I can draw an endless supply of sensations. I’ve helped move cattle; I’ve climbed through the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and experienced the white-knuckled crossing of Wolf Creek Pass I described in Luke’s Ride, the third novel in the Cameron’s Pride series. I’ve also spent many hours attending Professional Bull Riding events, listening and observing from public seating and behind the scenes to catch the sounds and smells, the cadence of voices to pirate for my dialogue. I set great store by authenticity; nothing turns me off faster in a book than a flagrant error in what might be probable or at least possible. My tastes in both reading and writing are set firmly in reality.

 One locale calling to me lately is coastal Maine.  Living only an hour from the New Hampshire-Maine border, I’ve spent considerable time both on the shore and crewing on a friend’s 40-foot ketch between New Hampshire and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. A tale set on a private island Down East has been clamoring for my attention lately. Maybe it’s time to exchange the smell of sagebrush for the scent of rockweed at low time, the touch of fog and the cries of seabirds for desert air and magpies’ chatter. A new venue, a fresh start.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book or Movie? by Syndi Powell

Book or Movie? by Syndi Powell

We can all name favorite books that were made into horrible movies. We can also list books that were made into better films. I'm the type of person who finds out that a certain book is being made into a movie and will go out and read it first. I like to enjoy the story in my mind before I see it on the screen. I have a friend who will read the book after she seems the movie because it helps her to keep better track of the story.

It seems like movies made from books leave out quite a bit of the plot and characterization. After all, if they were to film everything exactly it was written then the movie would last half the day rather than a couple of hours. But then part of me asks, would that be such a bad thing? Sometimes I wouldn't mind seeing it all play out on the screen.

I like the richness that reading brings to a story. You can get into more detail about the setting and the people who live in it. However, because a film tends to give things in shorthand, themes can be understood more clearly. If you read a book like "Gone with the Wind", you could get mired down in details about Tara and its place in the county. But if you watch the movie, we can see the bigger picture. We don't need to know all the history of the place to understand that the way of life it is used to is becoming obsolete.

One of my favorite adaptations from book to screen is the Canadian miniseries of "Anne of Green Gables". I actually watched the program before I read the book, and it inspired me to read the entire series. The director tried to stay faithful to the original work, and for the most part he succeeded. However, one of my least favorite adaptations is "Anne of Avonlea" which is amalgamated from several of the books and leaves out big sections of Anne Shirley's life. I felt cheated when I watched the program since I'd read the entire series by that time. I wanted the Anne Shirley Blythe of the books.

What do you prefer? Reading the book first or seeing the movie? Which books have made great movies or bad flicks? Also, what books would you love to see made into a movie?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Meet the Characters of Sanctuary Cove . . . by Kate James

March is (thankfully) just around the corner, and I'm thrilled to be sharing a release date with LeAnne Bristow, Tara Randel and Cerella Sechrist.

We’ve already told you a little about our books and first revealed the covers here, and Cerella posted 13-sentence excerpts from each of our books last Friday and kicked off a fantastic 13-book giveaway here.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Sanctuary Cove, and some of the two- and four-legged characters who inhabit it.

Here is a short outline of the story:

When New York-based communications executive Emma Meadows finds her personal and professional life in shambles, she retreats to a lakefront cabin in the Adirondack Mountains. Aiding an injured animal at the side of a rain-drenched road, she meets local veterinarian Joshua Whitmore. Gradually, Josh’s charm and persistence overcome her defenses. But when Emma’s past abruptly intrudes—putting reputations and even lives at stake—it threatens everything she and Josh have begun to build together.


Sanctuary Cove is a fictitious small town on the edge of a lake in the Adirondack Mountains region of the state of New York. Emma's cottage is situated on a large, secluded property, on a knoll overlooking a small, private lake. The location looks like this . . .

Meet Joshua Whitmore

Our here is Josh Whitmore. Josh is a veterinarian. He is 35 years old, six-feet, three-inches tall, with a lean, athletic build. He has dark brown, collar-length hair, and his eyes are brown with gold flecks. He is good natured and easy going. Family is important to Josh. He is principled, committed to his work, and loyal to his friends and family. A celebrity lookalike for Josh is Josh Holloway.

Meet Emma Meadows

Our heroine is Emma Meadows. She’s 32 and a former communications executive. She has unwavering standards of ethics and integrity, and loves animals. She is relatively tall at five feet eight inches, and she's slender. She has long blonde hair and blue eyes. A celebrity lookalike for Emma is Sienna Miller.

Meet Max

Max is Emma’s dog. He is a five-year-old Alaskan malamute, weighing approximately 100 pounds. He has silver-gray and white fur, and brown eyes. Max is gentle, loving and loyal.

Meet Theo

Theo is a dog-wolf mix, with gray fur and brown eyes. He's slightly larger than Max, and is healing from an injury. He develops a strong bond with Emma and Max, and is protective of them.

Meet Winston

Winston is Josh’s yellow Labrador retriever. He has yellow fur—naturally—and sweet brown eyes. He weighs roughly 70 pounds. He’s as lovable and loving as a dog can be.

Josh, Emma, Max, Theo and Winston would love it if you visited Sanctuary Cove and spent some time with them!


If you stopped by our blog last Friday the 13th for Cerella's post, you know that in the spirit of all things thirteen, a bunch of our fellow Heartwarming authors joined Cerella, Tara, LeAnne and me to offer up copies of their releases, for a THIRTEEN book giveaway!

You still have time to enter using the form below...and you can enter every day to increase your chances of winning!

Lucky 13 Heartwarming Book Giveaway

Good luck with the giveaway and happy reading!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sit-Down Saturday with Lee McKenzie + a Giveaway

Today we’re celebrating Lee McKenzie’s new release. His Best Friend’s Wife is the second book in The Finnegan Sisters series. To celebrate its release, she's giving away a signed copy of To Catch a Wife, the first book in this series.

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

First of all, I want to wish our wonderful Heartwarming readers a very Happy New Year! Thank you so much for joining me today.

Readers who’ve read my earlier books will know I love to write series centered around strong women—best friends, business partners, sisters. The Finnegan sisters were abandoned by their mother when they were very young, and they were raised by their father, who’s a paraplegic. Middle sister, Emily, found her happily-ever-after in the first book, To Catch a Wife. His Best Friend’s Wife is Annie’s story. She’s a widower with a young son named Isaac. The third book in the series, Cowboy, Come Home, is about the youngest sister, CJ.

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

Life is full of second chances.

And the back cover blurb really says it all.
A second chance for his first love

Paul Woodward has always known Annie Finnegan was the one. But when she married his best friend, he moved away from their tiny hometown to try to forget the woman he could never have. When her husband passes away, Paul is heartbroken and wants to be there for the love of his life—but how can he, given the way he feels? As he returns to take over his ill father's medical practice, though, it's clear that Annie and her son are the family Paul longs for. As Annie heals and their connection grows, Paul will wait to find out if love really gives second chances…
What is your favorite scene?

I would have to say it’s the first kiss that almost wasn’t.
He was easy to talk to and she loved that he made it easy for her to laugh, that he made it okay for her to laugh again. It was all so easy that she was startled when Paul checked his watch and stood to leave.

“Annie, this has been great but I need to get going. Otherwise I’ll be late for my first appointment.”

“I’m glad you came out this morning. It’s good to have you back in Riverton.” She meant it. She hadn’t realized how important it would be to have Eric’s friends around.

Paul stood, picked up his dishes and carried them to the dishwasher.

Annie rushed to her feet. “Don’t worry about those. I’ll take care of them.”

He gave her a quizzical smile. “I know how to load a dishwasher. I’ve been taking care of myself since I went away to college.”

“Right. Well, thank you.” He was a doctor. He took care of other people for a living, so without question he could look after himself. She just wasn’t used to being around men who did. Or if they did, she wasn’t accustomed to letting them.

“Walk me out?” he asked.

“Of course.” As they made their way down the hall to the door, she found herself wondering about Paul’s past. He seemed to be single, but there must have been girlfriends, serious relationships even. For all she knew, he was still involved with someone in Chicago. She could ask, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

Outside on the screened veranda, they stopped and Paul turned to face her. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Anytime, Paul. I mean it.”

He placed his hands on her shoulders, leaned in as though he was going to kiss her forehead the way he always did. As he moved, she inexplicably tipped her head back and looked at him. His lips made contact with hers. The kiss lasted a millisecond—brief but electrifying. They both pulled back, startled, gazes locked.

Paul was the first to find his voice. “Um, I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“I only meant to—”

“I shouldn’t have—”

“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” he said.

Neither had she. Or had she?
Who was your favorite character and why?

Do I have to choose? I love all the characters in this series, but there’s a special place in my heart for Annie, Emily and CJ’s father, Thomas Finnegan. In spite of life’s many challenges, he has always been there for his family. To his daughters, he’s the hero against whom all others are measured. I was hoping Thomas would find love again, and his happily-ever-after forms the subplot in His Best Friend’s Wife.

What are you writing now?

Right now I’m finishing the third book in the series, Cowboy, Come Home, and working on a proposal for a new series. I’m also plotting a secret project that I hope readers will enjoy.

To celebrate the release of His Best Friend's Wife, I'm offering a signed copy of To Catch a Wife and an adorable Magnolia Bakery tote bag.

To be eligible to win, leave a comment on this post, along with your email address, and tell me what love most about Heartwarming stories, what you hope for in 2017, or simply say hello! I'll post the winner's name tomorrow.

For now, happy reading everyone, and thank you so much for joining me today! Until next time,

Writing fifty shades of pink