Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lift-Off......by Janice Carter

Or Launch, as in boats and books, is a fun, exciting culmination of a lot of hard work.  Holding that first copy of your novel in your cramped 'carpal tunnel-ed' hand after weeks (or months!) of completing the first draft, then revisions followed by a final, clean copy is definitely cause for celebration.
     The high of that moment is matched by the magic phone call offering a contract.  Personally, those two events have only been eclipsed by the births of my two daughters, an aside I'm including should either happen to read this post. After that call, for a few hours or even days, I float in a dreamworld of congratulatory messages, high fives, hugs and at least one bottle of 'good' Champagne.
    Then reality strikes.  Oh.  Now I have to actually write the book.  And that's another roller coaster ride, isn't it?  The highs of making characters come alive, giving them goals and emotionally challenging obstacles not to mention playing with their fantasies is a humbling and heady experience that can't be explained to non-writers.
    As for the lows?  I'm remembering sleepless nights as deadline looms;  the dreaded sagging middle of the book when I (and usually my characters) run out of steam; the revision notes, line and copy edits - hurdles to haul my frazzled brain up and over to cross the finish line.
     My story - mixed metaphors and all - is familiar and pertinent I'm sure to all writers.  We know after our very first sale what to expect but our passion for the craft compels us to repeat (we hope!) the process again and again.
    This past year I got to do that with the sale and now publication of my Heartwarming debut, For Love of a Dog.  Those highs and lows came as expected and now I can finally say, "it's almost here - it's coming your way" on September 1st.
    Check out that cute cover.  What's not to love?  And here's a peek at the back cover blurb.


       This achievement couldn't been made without the encouragement of family and friends and especially, my editors - Claire Caldwell and Victoria Curran - for guiding me though that process.

Cheers to all my fellow Heartwarming authors for your support!

Pre-order For Love of a Dog at:  Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Goodreads.com, Harlequin.com

Monday, August 21, 2017

Romance At All Ages by Sophia Sasson and Muriel Jensen

As we soak in the last weeks of summer heat, we find ourselves reminiscing about what summer meant when we were children and young adults. Endless carefree days, new friends, and intense romances. We got to talking about romances through the ages. Muriel is retired and an empty nester while Sophia is squarely in the middle aged category with young children. So we thought we'd share our thoughts on love from the different sides of our lives. 

I could star as the heroine of a classic reunion romance. I met my husband in the first year of college, we dated and broke up and then he found me a decade later on Google. A cup of coffee turned into rekindled friendship. I was coming off a divorce and in no mood to jump into a relationship. He was at the point in his life when he wanted to settle down. But Tom wasn’t going to let go easily and slowly healed my heart and managed to convince me to marry him at a secluded beach on St John in the U.S Virgin Islands.

Our first year of marriage was idyllic. We were both doing well in our careers, spent Saturday mornings as the quintessential urban couple; perusing bookstores and drinking coffee. We took vacations where I brought a laptop and spent more time than I ought to have answering those ever important emails because “out of office” has no meaning in the digital age.

We bought a house, painted it ourselves and realized that reality is nothing like the home renovation shows on TV. But we still remember that first night in our new home on an air mattress.

We had a lot of trouble having children and it was the first test of our marriage. One that could have ripped us apart. Tom was okay not having any children and I’ve always wanted a big family with at least 4 or 5. It was the first time that we established a basis for decision making in our marriage that still holds true today; when we want different things, the person who wants it more perseveres. It’s not about power for us, but about loving the other more than we love ourselves. So we kept trying and he’d rub my feet when I couldn’t sleep, and hold me when I cried as I faced miscarriage after miscarriage. Eventually we had beautiful, healthy, twin boys who are now six years old.

Children change and test marriages in ways that are both similar and different for each couple. For us it was the sleep deprivation from two babies who we desperately tried to sync on sleep and eat schedules. As the babies grew into toddlers and slept in between us, Tom longed for the years when he had me all to himself and when every second of our life wasn’t scheduled. Everyone told us to have regular date nights but I couldn’t bear to leave my babies for even a minute.

But then I realized that just like my kids, love also needs care and feeding. Date nights don’t work for us so we’ve taken annual kid free weekends and even a three week trip to Europe to fill our love bucket. While I fiercely miss my children, I also miss my husband. I won’t say this stage is easy or we have it all figured out. I don’t bring my laptop on vacations and can’t give two hoots about the never ending crises at work. Tom has learned to follow schedules. He’s never slept on the couch and we have been married for nine years, together for eleven.

Tom tells me he loves me every single day. Even in our angriest, most frustrated moments, we never forget how much we need each other.  He has a countdown to the day we will be empty nesters and I make the kids promise that they will live with their mama forever. Despite their solemn assurances, I know one day our children will leave and live their own lives, but what Tom and I have will persevere through the ages.

I met my husband, Ron, in the fall of 1966 in Los Angeles, California.  There was no dramatic season changes no leaves turning color, no wood smoke in the air.  But even in that subtropical climate, the sun began to set earlier, the light changed – and so did my life.

As a young couple, Ron and I took off on weekends to explore.  Though Ron was a journalist to make a living, he was a painter at heart, and, hand in hand, we visited art communities up and down the coast.  We were sitting on the sand in Long Beach listening to the radio when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  The world seemed as hopeful and romantic as we were.
Then three children - true little domestic terrorists - joined us as we moved from Los Angeles to Oregon, following Ron’s newspaper jobs.  

Dogs and cats invaded to round out our merry band.  During that period we lost a business, and I broke my back going down a slide with the children, There was little time or occasion for romance.  Then one desperate night Ron found several ounces of gin in a bottle in the back of a cabinet, but I bemoaned the lack of a mixer and the fact that I couldn’t possibly drink it straight.  Determined, he rummaged in the fridge and emerged victorious with a pitcher of lime Kool-Aid.  Pseudo gin and tonics!  They set the mood and we did the rest.

We’ve been empty-nesters for some time now, and that’s been wonderful for a long while.  There was always time for romance.   Then illness and disability elbowed their way into our lives.  But at a time when you’d expect romance to be completely extinguished, it came to new life in a way that’s sort of cerebral and yet more emotionally powerful than it’s ever been,
Now there’s time to think.  Age, experience, the very wonder of still having each other after all these hurdles and years, gives a heightened sense of appreciation for every loving glance and touch, for every accident or annoyance that we determinedly turn into laughter because we don’t want to darken a moment of our precious time.

We feel as though we’ve had it all, lost it all, and somehow got it all back without ever losing the grounding sanity of the love that brought us together in the very beginning.  Now basking in the glory of kids who’ve developed into the best people you’d ever want to know, grandchildren and great grandchildren who bristle with promise, we sit back and watch it all with smiles on our faces because, somehow, we did that.  And it’s made a kind of eternal spring of all these fall and winter days.

Love through The Ages
Muriel and Sophia are hopeless romantics, we have to be to pour our hearts out into the books we write. We’re both excited to share August Heartwarming releases with Anna J. Stewart and Beth Carpenter.

We’ve given you a glimpse into our romantic lives, we’d love to hear your thoughts about keeping the romance alive, whether you’re still looking for someone special or have been together all your life. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

What I Did for Love

by Shirley Hailstock

Everything I need to know, I learned from a romance novel.  Have you ever heard that before, or something like it? It's true. As August is National Romance Novel Month, I thought about some of the romances that I've read and what I learned from them.

Books have taken me places I never expected to visit. When I first started reading romance novels, I wanted to see all those places where the books were set. Setting played a huge role at that time.

My first romance was a book called Time and Again by Jack Finney.

It's a time travel and one of the places mentioned in is The Dakota Apartments in New York City. I was so in wonder of this place, that I had to see if it really existed. And of course, it did. This is the place made famous as the home of John Lennon and then infamous because he was killed outside it.  What I learned from this novel is that I loved time travel novels. It bridged the gap between the present and the past.

Right after college, I started reading Harlequin romances. (Who has time to read anything other than a textbook when you're a science major?) Again setting was prominent and I so wanted to go to Spain and Greece. Those settings were the baby books of their time.

I never made it to either country, although I had plans to go to the Greek Islands. Plans for that changed at the last moment taking me to Scotland instead of Greece.

It's interesting what I remember about some of the books I read. For instance, as we crossed the English Channel in route to France, I read my first Harlequin Desire.

And I also learned that like me going to find The Dakota, many of my readers went looking for places I put in my books. All of the ones they looked for were factitious. But you know yourselves as readers. You get caught up in an author's world or a family of characters and you have to find out everything about them.

I understand. After discovering Brenda Jackson's Madaris's series, I couldn't get enough of hr world. I wanted to meet all the brothers and cousins and I hanker for the next one as soon as I finish the last.

What are the books that you love, learn from and can't get enough of?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer loves and sweet memories...

      August -- purple loosestrife in the marshes,
      Goldenrod and Queen Ann’s Lace in country lanes.
      Still time left for picnics and sunburns,
      Summer loves and thunder in the night.
      But the sun sinks sooner every day,
      And the hush at twilight whispers,
     “September.” - Helen DePrima

Summer romance, the stuff of songs and movies and memories. Didn’t we all enjoy the heartthrobs and heartaches of a crush on the hunky lifeguard who grinned at the skinny fourteen-year-old worshiping at the foot of his throne or the high school football hero who mowed the lawn?

In my case, I fell hopelessly in love with Les, the handsome teen aged wrangler on a Colorado dude ranch. I functioned somewhere between staff and unpaid intern (I slept in the kitchen girls’ bunkhouse); my status earned me the privilege of tagging along with the older help and riding out alone without a guide. Because I learned to ride almost before I could walk, I even got called on to help Les gather the horses for lesser dudes’ morning ride. He didn’t return the next summer although I did, but I’ll never forget his good-humored tolerance of my adoration.

Saying goodbye to the boy I dated my senior year in high school was more poignant. I can’t call Mick my boyfriend -- he was beginning his studies for the priesthood at the end of the summer – but we loved each other the best way we could and treasured every moment before I left for college in Colorado and he to enter the seminary. I learned some years later he had renounced his vocation; by then I was married with two children. Can’t help but wonder, what if . . . But traveling with eyes on the rear-view mirror is a dangerous and futile practice.

by Helen DePrima

I didn't date much in high school, but the summer after I graduated, I made up for lost time. Although I wanted to fall in love with someone in the worst way, I don't think I did. However...

Carl was an air force sergeant, four years older than my 18. He was tall and lean and Southern and so funny. We saw each other nearly every day for part of the summer, then I went to work and I think he found someone more sophisticated to spend time with. I'd love to see him again and know how he's doing. I hope he's happy.

To tell the truth, my greatest summer loves were probably in books. I adored Spark Plug in Janet Lambert's Patty and Ginger series. I thought Sue Barton's Dr. Bill Barry was perfect. I read Little Women more times than I can count, but if I'd known about fan fiction then, I would have rewritten it so that Jo and Laurie ended up together under that umbrella in the next-to-the-last chapter. I loved Anne's Gilbert, Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, and every hero in every book Betty Cavanna wrote. I still wonder who Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm married, because Mr. Ladd, alas, was way too old.

Make no mistake--I wanted to be popular and be in love from the time the first hormones made their presence known, but it didn't happen. I'm grateful I had the books instead. I read them lying on a blanket outside in the sun, with a mixture of iodine and baby oil ensuring that if I ever did have a summer boyfriend, I was going to have a good tan. (I never said anything about being smart...)

The second summer after graduation, I did meet a summer love, although Uncle Sam hijacked him in July. He came back to stick around for all the seasons since. I'd never read the poem in Helen's part of the post, but I'm happy to have lived it.

We've had a good time with our summer's-end reminiscences. Tell us about your summer loves.

by Liz Flaherty

A big P. S. here. I just got the cover for my December book, The Happiness Pact. Isn't it cool? And available for pre-order along with the boxed set for December. I love sharing the month with Beth Carpenter, Catherine Lanigan, and Rula Sinara! Keep an eye out for prizes and things!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Real-life Strong Heroine by Laurie Tomlinson

In May, I sent my first book baby into the great, big world.

This week, I send my first real baby off to Kindergarten.

My buddy, my right-hand lady will begin all-day Spanish immersion Kindergarten. While I know my mid-day grocery store trips will be a little lonelier, I know she is entering a new world of possibility, a new mission field to spread her love and light. 

And you know that, at Harlequin Heartwarming, we are all about our strong heroines. I have nothing to worry about this fierce little one, because she's always taken things in stride and adjusted to what life has thrown her way with strength, bravery, and grace. Kindergarten is going to be so much fun for my little extrovert!

Best of all? Soon she will learn how to read. I think we all know what a magical thing that will be. 

Not to drown our sorrows, but to celebrate all the wonderful things our girl will learn and do, we're making these Peanut Butter Brownie Truffle Bars from the Crunchy Creamy Sweet blog

Source: CrunchyCreamySweet.com

What do you do to celebrate well? 


Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. Her novella That’s When I Knew was featured in the Love at First Laugh collection, and her debut novel, With No Reservations, is now available from Harlequin Heartwarming. You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Instagram.

Monday, August 14, 2017

What I Do When I Should Be Working by Cheryl Harper

When I have a lot to do (for months on end now)...
I lose the will to do it.
Then I turn on the television.

Do you need a new show to watch in one weekend? I made a serious miscalculation and restarted my Netflix account and spent last weekend on Prince Edward Island. Someday, I'll cross PEI off my travel bucket list. Until then, there's Anne with an E.

I remember glomming the Megan Follows version of Anne of Green Gables with my mother. She was a reader, too, and in the world of book adaptations, that version makes my list of top 5. So, when I saw this new version of Anne, I was skeptical. But the parts I loved of the original remain. Anne's flights of fancy, her slow conversion of both Matthew and Marilla, and above all, Gilbert Blythe...they remain. This version is darker, considers things I'd never thought of, and I can't wait to see the next season.

What about you? What shows or movies are your perfect escape? Here are some of my recent favorites:

(Yes, I took the time to hunt up a picture of Selasi)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sit-down Saturday with Beth Carpenter

Today we’re celebrating the August release of The Alaskan Catch: A Northern Lights Novel. 

So, Beth, this is your first Harlequin. Tell us briefly about "The Call!"
On a Friday last September, Editor Victoria Curran tweeted:
I knew she had two of my stories, but didn’t really believe it could be me she was talking about. Still, I hoped. We had company that weekend, which was a good thing because otherwise it would have been a long three days. On Monday, we took my mother-in-law to the airport in Phoenix and decided to visit the botanical gardens. Walking among the prickly pears, I got "The Call" from my agent. People probably wondered why looking at cactus made me so happy.

In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?
"You give me the courage to do things I never dreamed I could."

What is your favorite scene? 
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I like this scene because it sets up their whitewater adventure. At this point in the story, Dana has accomplished what she came to Alaska for, but both she and Sam are having a hard time saying goodbye. Sam is checking his raft, getting ready for a float trip after she’s gone, and he’s considering who to take along.

Maybe he should just go by himself. Sam had never done more than a two-day float alone, but he needed time to think, to get his bearings. He’d floated Brazzle Creek a dozen times, so there shouldn’t be anything unexpected he couldn’t handle. Yeah, a few days alone on the creek might be just what he needed.

Dana wandered outside and stood with her hands on her hips, looking over the blue inflatable. “So, this is your raft.”

“This is it.”

“How do you get it inside the plane?”

Sam laughed. “I let the air out of it. I pump it up again once I get there.”

“By hand? It’s what, about sixteen feet long? That must take a while.”

“It’s a big pump.” He tightened a clamp on his oar frame. “Did you find a flight?”

“I found a couple. With so little notice, I’ll have to fly at about two in the morning.”

“You’ll find the airport surprisingly busy then. Did you book it?”

“Not yet. I wanted to see if it mattered to you whether I went tonight or tomorrow.”

Frankly, he didn’t want her to go at all, but he couldn’t tell her that. “Either is fine.”

“Okay.” She turned toward the house.


She looked back over her shoulder. “Yes?”

“Want to come on the float trip with me?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them. She had zero experience with primitive camping. She would probably be miserable if she did come, and make him miserable, too. And yet, a part of him still hoped she’d say yes.

She blinked. “Your fly-in six-day trip down Brazzle Creek?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“You’re serious?”

“Sure, if you want to.” But he had to be honest with her about the conditions. “There will be mud. And mosquitoes. And no toilets or showers for a week. And the water’s cold. But if you want, you can come.”

Dana laughed. “Sam, it’s a good thing you don’t sell used cars for a living. Yes, I’d love to see your wild river.”

What music would match the mood of this novel?
I think this one, "Home to Alaska" fits the bill, because even though Dana has never been there before, Alaska seems to call her home. I'm not too sure about that coat, though.

What’s next?
The next Northern Lights Novel, A Gift for Santa, comes out in December. It features Dana’s brother, Chris.  His ex-fiancĂ©e, Marissa, is back on her family’s reindeer farm after ten years away. They’re in the middle of their Christmas party season, but her uncle is sick and can’t play his usual role as Santa Claus. As a favor to Marissa’s aunt, Chris agrees to fill in. Further complicating everything is a seven-year-old dog-loving dinosaur expert who sneaks into Chris’s life and makes him question past decisions.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?
I recently finished 50 Hours by Loree Lough. Such a deep and tender story. I’m just about to dig into the other August Heartwarming books, to see what Simon and Charlie are up to in Butterfly Harbor, find out Luke’s story after meeting him in the last State of the Union book, and to discover what happens after Cassie sets Grady’s house on fire. This is going to be fun.

Today is the first day of my Prism Book Tour. Over the next week, The Alaskan Catch will be making the rounds with excerpts, reviews, and special posts, along with a fun Taste of Alaska giveaway. Thanks to the twenty great book bloggers who signed up to host. See the launch interview and tour schedule HERE.

If you haven't yet entered the August Heartwarming Mystery Prize Giveaway, there's still time. But hurry, the giveaway runs until August 15th. 

To learn more about my books or say hello, drop by my website or facebook page, or sign up for my newsletterYou can find The Alaskan Catch at these retailers:

Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Kobo    Google Play    iBooks     Harlequin 

So glad you stopped by today. Happy reading!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Definition of Romance by Loree Lough & Cerella Sechrist

It’s no surprise, really, that someone (no one knows for certain who), somewhere (that’s a mystery, too), decided that August should be labeled as National Romance Awareness Month. We think the hot, steamy weather might have something to do with the designation, but what do two romance authors know about it!

The debate over an exact definition of romance may be found in literature and the writings of psychologists and philosophers who’ve studied relationship connections. As it concerns couples, romance has long been a key component of relationships. Fiction of all genres have dealt with unrequited love, second chance at love, first love, and naturally, lasting love, using situations that described it as comic, tragic, spiritual, or platonic.

According to Webster’s, romance can be a noun, an adjective, or a verb:

1) A novel, movie, or genre of popular fiction in which characters fall in love or begin a romance.

2) A novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.

3) The colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales.

4) A medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory.

Classified within two basic categories—popular, and divine (or spiritual)—romance means very different things to people. “Falling in love,” for example, falls under the heading of Popular Romance. Idealistic and sometimes predictable, it encompasses the material and commercial, and physical or demonstrative affections. Divine romance, on the other hand, fixates on the theory that each person has a predetermined position in choosing a mate—or getting rid of one.

In an attempt at closing the gap between differing opinions and attitudes, we invited a couple of our most ardent reader-friends to comment on one of the following questions:

QUESTION: In your opinion, who (from history, the entertainment industry, literature, family/friends, or your own personal experience) should win The Most Romantic Couple award?

A. Terrill Rosado... "Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. It's been been 30 years since I read Pride and Prejudice the first time and I honestly have no idea what prompted me to read it without it being a high school mandate. I'm almost positive that it's the book that spurred my favorite romance sub-genre, romantic comedy."

A: Anni Anderson… “My knee-jerk response is to cite the story of Ruth and Naomi from the Bible. Their familial love goes beyond the typical MIL/DIL relationship. It reminds me of the love I had for my Grama, a wise woman without a mean bone in her body. If you messed up, she’d share her wisdom without condemning you. Someday, I hope someone compares me to her! To find acceptance like that in a man-woman relationship is, I think, what every human being yearns for.”

A: Cathy Mayfield… “A couple I know were missionaries to Japan. No matter how far they need to go, they reach for the other’s hand. When not together, their eyes seek out one another. They always speak softly and laugh together. Their gentleness with each other makes them the most romantic couple I know.”

QUESTION: What is YOUR definition of the word romance? 

A: Robert Crutchfield… “Romance is the process of giving yourselves to each other, not in grand gestures but tiny pieces, not for brief spans of time, but for the long-term.”

A: Travis W. Inman… “Romance is the journey of discovering each other, and it's a lifelong pursuit.”

A: Janet Marie Dowell… “My definition of romance is being reliant on God, and once He puts you together with your perfect ‘other half,’ being content no matter what you do together. Romance is not just roses and candy, it's about always being there for the good and the bad. Sometimes it means being goofy with each other, just for fun. Last, but not least, it should be based on mutual respect and trust.”

How about this for the perfect easy-to-prepare romantic dinner menu for two:


<3 Maple-glazed chicken rollups
<3 Old-fashioned stuffing
<3 Carrots and snow peas
<3 Chocolate cake

Until next time, we wish you a happy what’s-left-of-summer!

P.S. If you comment below, we’ll add your name to our trusty winners hat, and you could win a free ebook download of HARPER's WISH or THE MAN SHE KNEW. Good luck!


About Loree:

With nearly 6,000,000 books in circulation, best-selling author Loree Lough's titles have earned numerous 4- and 5-star reviews and industry awards. She splits her time between her home in Baltimore and a cabin in the Alleghenies (where she loves to show off her “Identify the Critter Tracks” skills). The release of The Man She Knew (the first title in her “By Way of the Lighthouse” series for Harlequin Heartwarming) brings Loree’s number of books in print to 112! Loree loves to hear from her readers and answers every letter, personally. Visit her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and www.loreelough.com!

About Cerella:

 CERELLA SECHRIST lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. Inspired by her childhood love of stories, she was ten years old when she decided she wanted to become an author. These days, Cerella divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. She’s been known to post too many pug photos on both Instagram and Pinterest. You can see for yourself by finding her online at www.cerellasechrist.com. A Song for Rory, Book #2 in her "A Findlay Roads Story" series, is her fourth Harlequin Heartwarming novel.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lover of Seasons by Amie Denman

Is it because I'm from the Midwest where the seasons are pronounced and dramatic? Maybe. I've always been crazy about seasons and holidays, and I organize my life around them. Here are the things I love about living in a climate (Ohio) where it can get up to 100 in the summer and down to WAY below zero in the winter.

1. A massive and diverse wardrobe. I have everything from bathing suits to full sets of thermal underwear.

2. A logical reason for gaining and losing 5-10 pounds several times a year--it depends on the weather, right?

3. Color change. I looked at my hydrangeas yesterday and told my sons it MUST be practically fall based on their hue. I'm waiting for this one particular tree on my street that always changes first. It's a show-off, but I love it.

4. Varied activities: In the winter, I love to ice skate, play in the snow, and sometimes even shovel snow. In the spring, yard work and gardening is delicious. Summer is worth waiting for with paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking. And fall--everything is good in the fall, even raking leaves.

5. Catalogs. Is there anything better on earth than getting the Fall catalog from L.L. Bean this time of year? The boots and sweaters...swoon.

6. Holidays. Every season has good ones, and I love decorating, shopping, and planning for them all. There IS a cookie for every season.

7. Change itself. I'm one of those people who repaints rooms in the house on a whim, moves furniture, and trades in cars pretty often (ahem...this afternoon). I love change.

8. Saved the best for last here...BOOKS!! Are you starting to notice the new books coming out with Fall or Christmas themes? Yes! Light the fire, take off your fabulous boots, eat some seasonal delights, and indulge in a Thanksgiving story or a Christmas novel.

Here's a quick look at my October Harlequin Heartwarming that takes place in summer (my favorite). It's book 4 in my Starlight Point Stories series.

She won't stop until she finds the truth

Caroline Bennett is not looking for a summer romance. As a police officer at Starlight Point amusement park, she's got more important things to worry about, like solving a cold case involving a girl's mysterious death thirty years ago. Construction engineer Matt Dunbar is one of the few people who'll talk about the incident, but even he's not eager to dig up the past.

Matt's working on a new state-of-the-art roller coaster—a project that could make or break his career—yet he still finds time for Caroline. As the end of summer approaches, her investigation implicates Matt's company, and she has to choose: justice or the funny, charming man she's falling for.

I'm currently finishing edits on the 5th and final book in the series which will be called Back to the Lake Breeze Hotel. Even though Starlight Point is a summer amusement park, the owners decide to keep it open for fall weekends and a Christmas festival. It may be summer right now, but in my heart I'm ice skating, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying the scent of evergreens at Starlight Point.

I hope the summer season is treating you kindly, wherever you are, and you always have something great to look forward to in the next season.

What's your favorite thing about the change of seasons?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

May We Recommend...? Our Best Hacks for Summer 2017 by Amy Vastine & Carol Ross

Summers were made for this.
Vacations, potlucks, BBQ’s, get-togethers with family and friends. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing as long as we’re talking, laughing, eating, and just generally catching up on life. These moments are the hallmarks of a great summer. And one of the bonuses of all this socializing is the sharing of knowledge, the exchanging of ideas, the pontificating of opinions. So, in that vein, Amy and I will now be revealing our proposals for the achievement of world peace and solutions for global hunger respectively...

Just kidding. 

You can keep reading because what we’re actually talking about today are those little tricks, habits, or tasks that you can incorporate into your daily life to make that busy schedule more bearable. You know, shortcuts, or life hacks, which make you smile inside knowing you’ve saved a bit of time, effort, or sanity.
Here are a few of our recently-discovered faves:
Corn on the Cob – Who doesn’t love farm-fresh corn on the cob? But when you live in the Northwest where air-conditioning isn’t a standard appliance, especially in a 100-year-old house like mine, you don’t want to turn on your oven or even boil a pot on the stove. Here’s the answer: Microwaving corn right in the husk! It takes about four minutes, and when you remove it, the corn is perfectly cooked, and the husk practically falls right off. Yes, even that annoying stringy silk. Thank you to my friend Anna J. Stewart for informing me about this fantastic method. (Yes, I will confess to eating corn on the cob for six days in a row upon returning home from RWA Nationals.)

No de-husking required! 
Packing Cubes - I went on two big vacations this year, one you may recall from last month’s post to Arizona and to Florida for RWA. Both trips were about a weeklong which meant I had A LOT of clothes, shoes, and accessories to bring along with me. I went to Arizona and had a giant mess halfway through. I had to rummage through the case to find exactly what I needed. When I got home, I discovered packing cubes. Each soft-sided cube can hold a particular type of clothing - I had one for shirts, one for shorts, one for workout clothes, etc. No tossing clothes around to find the right shirt or the shoes I needed because everything had a place. At the end of the week, I think the pictures speak for themselves. One pic is of my suitcase, and the other is Carol’s. I think I know what Carol will be asking Santa for Christmas!

Amy says: "Oh, how wonderful is my packing cube life?!"

Carol says: "Where in the world is my underwear?"

Self-Tagging Option for Airline Bags – I’m guessing most of us have been printing out our boarding passes ahead of time for a while now. Love this option. But now some airlines are extending the convenience of do-ahead travel to those who need to check a bag. Alaska Airlines was the first airline I noticed to implement this efficient new time-saver and I first used it back in 2015. They have reusable plastic sleeves that you can order online (free) ahead of time or grab at the bag-check area after arriving at the airport. Just print out your tag right along with your boarding pass, slip it in the sleeve, drop it at the bag check area where an agent will do a quick scan, and you’re good to go. A quick google search revealed that about a third of airlines worldwide now offer the service. One travel site I visited predicted that all carriers would be offering this service as soon as the end of 2018. Now, if only they could figure out a way a faster way to get us through security?

Anything to make this a bit more bearable!

Whether it’s about travel, cooking, or simply staying cool, we’d love to hear about the best summer hacks you’ve discovered this year!

For more information about Amy Vastine or Carol Ross, including their complete book lists of sweet romance novels, please visit their websites!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Riding Around Town with Books by Virginia McCullough

Never a big fan of audiobooks, I used to listen to them only on long roads trips as a break from my collection of music and my “self-improvement” cassettes. I went through several six- or eight-cassette programs on time-management and goal-setting and listened to several popular business gurus coach me about ways to drive myself to even greater productivity! 

Then, four years ago, I waved goodbye to my 1992 Toyota, and the cassette player along with it. That left music on my CDs, and since I’m a news junkie anyway, I pretty much stuck to Wisconsin Public Radio for riding around town doing routine errands. But about three years ago, I checked out an audiobook from the library for a six-hour drive across the state and back on the same day. 

Okay, I was hooked, and not just for that trip. 

I remember the book well, The Bishop's Wife, a Mormon mystery, by Mette Ivie Harrison. I rarely choose books because of an author’s bio, although writers’ lives interest me immensely, but in this case, the author’s background is as intriguing as her distinctive name. Not only does Mette have a PhD from Princeton University in Germanic Languages and Literature, she’s done four full Ironman competitions, while also raising a bunch of kids. Impressive. Bio aside, the book grabbed me on page 1, and although I’m not a big mystery reader, I’m one of Mette’s fans. 

More to the point, I began to listen to news less and “read” books in the car more, even if just going a couple of miles and back to the grocery store or library or five or ten miles across town. It’s amazing the number of “extra” books I’ve read just riding around in my car. 

Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

Here is a sample of the best—they’re in my five-star lineup. I recommend every one of them:  
The Weekenders, Mary Kay Andrews. (Divorce papers, a missing husband, a troublesome teen, and the protagonist is flat broke—will anything go right?)

Fly Away, Kristin Hannah. (One of her best—lots of heart about the struggle to heal and forgive. It’s long, about a dozen CDs, but worth it!)

 American Dervish, Ayhad Aktar. (The struggles of a Pakistani immigrant family told through the eyes of the young son, Hayat. Compelling characters and graceful writing.)

Heartbroken, Lisa Unger. (Three generations of women on a collision course. They’re headed to an island in the Adirondacks, and why won’t those family secrets stay buried?)  

The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian. (Why did I agree to host this bachelor party? How did it go so wrong?) 

Heart of the Matter, Emily Giffin. (Do I want the marriage saved or not? An excellent look at modern family life.)

 I’ve read a variety of books in the last few years, including a couple of Amish romances, two Nancy Thayer’s Nantucket holiday novellas, and many more. I’m a convert, and because of my latest audio titles I look forward to running the most mundane errands. Maybe I’m not improving myself, but I’m sure having fun riding around town listening to a good story.

Any good audiobooks to share? I’m open to suggestions.


Virginia McCullough set her debut Heartwarming series in Two Moon Bay, a fictional town on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shore, not far from her current home in Green Bay. Book 1, Girl in the Spotlight, was released in June, and Book 2, Something to Treasure, is scheduled for release in January 2018. Virginia’s award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends. They come in all ages and struggle with everyday life issues in environments that almost always include water—oceans, lakes, or rivers. Virginia is busy writing her next Heartwarming story about hope, healing, and second chances

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