Susan Crowley is Kieran Kramer’s winner. Susan, check your inbox!
I must be a New Englander at heart even though I’ve spent my whole life (just about) in the South! I love the spare. I revel in bleak. Give me a muted winter landscape.
I’m moved by beauty that’s not obvious.
One of my favorite books is the young adult novel A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE, which I just re-read and cried copious tears over. I know. If that title were a flower, it would be a dried up thistle, not a lush rose. Who wants to read a book with the word PIGS and DIE in the title?
It’s about a Quaker boy in Vermont. It’s short, and it’s plain. It’s also full of everything that life is about: the hurt, the glory, the joy, the sorrow.
So cue “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Or “All About That Bass.” Here comes Kieran–the lover of bare-boned anything–who actually talks a lot, dances a lot, and writes a lot, especially fun, light romances.
It’s an odd dichotomy—being a writer of the quirky and colorful yet a fan of the plain–except that I have figured something out about people who appreciate the stark. We usually have a strong sense of humor.
I think it’s because we’re attuned to the ironic. Whatever the surface says, we see more layers: life in all its multifaceted dimensions. You can either laugh or cry about that. I often go off in poignant directions in my stories, but always, always, I come back to laughter. To joy.
I know where my fascination with irony came from: my late sister was profoundly mentally and physically challenged. She couldn’t sing, she couldn’t dance, she couldn’t write. She couldn’t understand a word I said. Yet she was capable of changing everyone around her for the better. A defenseless girl—a plain girl–had real influence.
That pretty much epitomizes the Christmas season for me. Vulnerability coupled with power in a run-down stable. Bare beauty cradling hope.
And so my love of winter landscapes—and laughter.
What says Christmas to you? One person (US/Canada only) who comments will win a copy of Kieran’s YOU’RE SO FINE (print or digital–winner’s choice) and a Love Changes Everything koozie. Winner chosen randomly and announced Sunday.
I wish you abundant smiles this holiday season.
Please join me in welcoming my friend, fellow geek, and all-around wonderful writer, Corrina Lawson. She’s got a rocking new release that you totally need to check out (click banner for Amazon):
Today, she’s going to be talking to us about Holiday Happily Evers, and giving away a cool prize! So, without further ado … Here’s Corrina (click picture for website)!
Last year was my worst Christmas ever: my son had been hospitalized due to a chronic condition and the phone rang at midnight on Christmas Eve with word that he’d been rushed to the emergency room with a seizure.
That twenty-minute ride to the hospital counts as one of the worst experiences of my life. The next few hours were nearly as nerve-wracking. Baffled by the cause of the seizure, my son was transferred from one emergency room to another that one at a hospital that specialized in pediatrics. It wasn’t until about 3 p.m. on Christmas Day that he seemed stable enough to leave and head home to my other kids while my husband took the post at the hospital.
Those who’ve been in the situation know that all the presents and parties in the world matter little if someone you love is sick.
So after that horrible experience, why did I write my own holiday story, Ghosts of Christmas Past, published just this week?
I could be glib and say it was whistling through the graveyard, daring to write a happy story when so much went wrong last year. But the real answer is the same reason why I write and read romance: because sometimes finding the beauty and love in lousy circumstances is the best way to survive.
My hero and heroine of Ghosts of Christmas Past, Detective Aloysius James and Lucy aka Noir, have everything stacked against them. They live in a destitute city, they’re trying to hold back chaos in a community that’s fractured and dangerous, and this is their first holiday together, when neither have celebrated Christmas for years. It’s a lot of stress on a relationship that’s only a few months old. Add in a murder that puts them on opposite sides and the holidays look bleak.
It’s a romance, so we know Al and Lucy eventually work past the issue. But I wanted their city to also be one of hope, too, if only amid the ruins.
The residents who have stayed in the Double C (Charlton City but nicknamed Cancer City) approach their environment with humor and innovation. A hidden (and illegal) restaurant has the best pies for miles around. An abandoned factory has been turned into an artist’s collective. And a murder in the city’s once-proud art museum oddly helps preserve priceless art.
It’s not just fiction. Charlton City was in part inspired by the reality of Detroit, which I visited two years ago. I drove through a blighted neighborhood on that trip, on the way to a Habitat For Humanity project. That neighborhood was full of houses that had been gutted or destroyed altogether. But, still, some stubborn residents kept their homes well and even had flower gardens in their front yard.
The holidays can be like that neighborhood. Sometimes they expose the ruin and damage done to our lives. But at other times, they show off resilient, beautiful things thriving in our lives.
And sometimes, there’s pie.
My son is recovered now. I’d say I’m hoping for the best Christmas ever but I already have that because he’s doing well.
If you’re interested in winning an ecopy of Ghosts of Christmas Past and finding out how Al and Noir find their HEA, just comment below and tell me about your favorite Christmas memory.
Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to welcome the lovely RITA Award-winning author Beth Andrews, who is here today to share her inspiration for her new Superromance, CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, and to talk about how
The Times They Are a-Changin’
So far, 2014 has been a doozy for my family. Little Sis (my younger daughter and youngest child) started her senior year of high school which means she and I have been busy visiting colleges and sending in applications. Big Sis (older daughter who is actually NOT bigger than her 5’8” baby sister) is in Columbus for her second year at Ohio State. And their big brother? Well, he’s been the busiest of all. In the span of eight months he got engaged, graduated from college, started a new job, moved into a townhouse, got married and moved again.
Did I mention the part where my son, my firstborn, my only boy, got married? My baby is a married man. It’s been a month and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that one. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I birthed him? (I swear, those 75 pounds I gained were all baby)
Changed, bathed and fed him?
Kept him warm for those cold, Northwestern Pennsylvania winters.
Taught him the importance of pitching in with the yard work.
Why, it was just a few days ago we were wearing matching outfits and traipsing around in the woods.
And, of course, he learned the art of pulling off any hairstyle with aplomb from me (not to brag, but I did rock a mullet for a year back in the eighties).
Then, in the blink of an eye (or twenty-three years – same thing) my husband and I were escorting him down the aisle.
Now, he’s married to the love of his life, giving me another beautiful daughter!
Yes, there are plenty of changes afoot at my house (isn’t that the way of life?) and while those changes may take some getting used to, they should also be celebrated.
Change and the relationship between mother and son are two big themes in CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, my December release for Harlequin Superromance (like how I tied that together?) Single-mother Penelope Denning moved to small-town Shady Grove, Pennsylvania hoping to raise her son in a warm, safe environment. But when local firefighter Leo Montesano wants to build a future with her, she feels torn between him and her son.
“As in out on a date,” he clarified. Must be he sensed that her brain had ceased working the moment he’d stepped into the room. Then again, he was probably used to having that effect on women. The power of a pretty face knew no bounds. “Dinner. A movie. Or we could go into Pittsburgh, see a show.”
Her throat dried. She couldn’t feel her fingers, had to lock her knees to remain upright. Date? Him? Absurd. They were too different. He was too good-looking. Too smooth. Too young. Too…everything.
And she was afraid she wasn’t nearly enough.
She leaned her hip heavily against the desk. “I don’t think—”
“Or we could start slow. Have lunch. Or even coffee.” His voice dropped to a husky, sexy tone that could strip a woman of her inhibitions. And her good sense. “It doesn’t matter to me. Just a few hours. I’d like to get to know you better.”
She shut her eyes. Counted to ten. But when she opened them, he was still there, broad and earnest and, it seemed, completely sincere. “Why?”
The word hung in the air, bald and loud and yes, desperate sounding. Too bad. She wouldn’t take it back even if she could. She was too curious to hear his answer.
“Because I find you interesting.” He stood and stepped forward, his body and her own pride trapping her between him and her desk. “Because I’m attracted to you.”
Her breath locked in her chest. A thrill raced through her before she could stop it. He was attracted to her? That…that was impossible. Implausible. Incredible.
He edged even closer and she pressed against the desk, the rounded edge digging into the back of her thighs. “How about it, Penelope?” he asked, drawing her name out as if savoring each syllable. He trailed the tip of his forefinger up her forearm, his light touch like a flame along her skin. “Go out with me?”
Dear Lord, but he smelled wonderful, a mix of citrus and spice that made her want to breathe him in. And when he smiled at her, his eyes dark with intent, she wanted to believe in fairy tales. Wanted to believe in foolish dreams.
But fairy tales were for children. And dreams were for people who didn’t know better. She wasn’t some naive girl waiting for a handsome prince to sweep in and make her life complete. She was a mature, sensible woman with a teenage son who needed her time and full attention.
A mature, sensible woman who was wise enough to know when she was in over her head. Leo flustered her, and she hated being flustered. She doubted that feeling would ever go away, even if they went on a hundred dates. She needed to be the one in control. She liked knowing what the right thing to do and say was, and with him, she wasn’t sure she’d ever have that ability again.
“No,” she said, her voice firm. “Absolutely not.”
I’m giving away three copies of CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER! Just leave a comment telling me the biggest change in your life recently or your idea of a dream date. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Sunday.
When Romance Writers of America RITA® Award winning author Beth Andrews was a young wife, she started a gas grill with the lid down. The small explosion left her with singed hair and a life-long respect for propane. While no handsome firefighters came to her rescue that day, she will never forget that particular incident. Mainly because her husband reminds her of it every summer.
Learn more about Beth and her books by visiting her website, www.BethAndrews.net or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BethAndrewsBooks.
Howdy and happy Friday! Please join me in welcoming a wonderful author-friend of mine, Jennifer Gracen, as she talks about:
Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends
My friends mean the world to me. And I’m very lucky to have many of them. From all phases of my life— elementary school, high school, college, past jobs, moms from my kids’ classes, and writing groups. From near and far— to my local friends I grew up with here on Long Island, to newer friends all over the country, and even other countries now, thanks to Twitter and Facebook. From other writers to stay-at-home moms to lawyers to teachers to doctors to librarians to musicians to business people— many professions, varied and interesting. I cannot overstate how much I value and cherish my friends.
In my books, friends of the main characters aren’t merely window dressing. They’re more than supporting players, their roles are important. Because I know how important a role friends play in our lives. No matter how good your relationship is with your family, it’s usually your closest friends you’ll go to for an opinion, for advice, to tell your secrets, to cry on their shoulder, and to share your joys with.
In the first book of my romantic women’s fiction Seasons of Love series, AUTUMN GETAWAY, Lydia is on shaky emotional ground when she attends her friend’s destination wedding. Recently divorced and a single mother of a special needs child, she’s drained and looking forward to just spending a weekend with her three closest friends from college, Melanie (the bride), Donna, and Kathryn. The bond between the four women hasn’t diminished after almost twenty years. When Lydia meets Sam, charming, sweet, and handsome, and it becomes obvious he’s interested in her, she leans on her friends. They give her advice, encourage her to give Sam a shot, try to assuage her fears since she hasn’t dated in forever, and provide more than a few laughs and snarky comments throughout the weekend. Their relationships (I hope!) enrich this story because of the warmth, fun, and affection they provide to the heroine.
Similarly, my upcoming Christmas novella, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, one of four novellas in the Christmas in New York series, is connected to the other three stories: the heroines of all the stories are lifelong friends, practically raised as family. Their mothers were sorority sisters in college, and raised their daughters to be as close as they were. My character, Cassandra, absolutely considers Bree, Jade, Kara, and Elena to be her sisters. When Cassandra runs into Sean for the first time—the one who broke her heart, her first love from years before—she is grateful to be standing next to Bree, her best friend. Bree was there when it all fell apart, so she knows the history and understands what a deep shock it is for Cass to run into Sean again. It’s Bree who pulls Cassandra to a table when she realizes she’s shaking, because she understands why. The next morning, Cass gets facetious texts from Kara, blasting her for not calling to dish about running into Sean. Jade and Elena provide additional support, as good friends would. They all make appearances in all four of the books; their strong bond of friendship is the golden thread that holds the series together.
Sometimes, friendships are the glue that can hold us together, both in real life and in fiction. I know my friends have been such a crucial part of my life, which is why I enjoy writing friendships in my books.
GIVEAWAY: a signed paperback copy of my debut novel, AUTUMN GETAWAY, is up for grabs.
I’m sure you all have friends that feel like family also. How long have you known your closest friend, and do they live near or far from you?
Bio: Jennifer Gracen hails from Long Island, New York, where she lives with her two sons. After spending her youth writing in private and singing in public, she now only sings in her car and is immersed in her passion for writing. She loves to write contemporary romance for readers who look for authentic characters and satisfying endings. When she isn’t with her kids, doing freelance proofreading, or chatting on Twitter and Facebook, Jennifer writes. She’s already hard at work on her next book. Jennifer is a member of the Romance Writers of America and is active in the Long Island Romance Writers, as well as being a member of CTRWA.