Tuesday, November 27, 2012

But wait...it's Tuesday!

I never do Tuesday posts, but I'm really excited about my latest interview over at USAToday's Happy Ever After blog and wanted to give you the heads up. Harlequin Superromance author Jeannie Watt writes awesome books and today's her release day for Crossing Nevada, a book that really stuck with me. I'd love it if you have a minute to check out the interview here :)!

Also, the lovely Jennifer Shirk will be here on December 10th for her release day! I can't wait!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, LOL. I'll see you all around :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving a day full of fun, food and sweet, tryptophan-induced dreams :).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with Harlequin Blaze Author Karen Foley

I'm so excited to have Blaze author Karen Foley here today! I met Karen this past summer at RWA Nationals in Anaheim. It was an embarrassing case of mistaken identity that resulted in a major fan moment. I'm telling all of you, without reservation, that if you want to read a hot, smart, kick-ass Blaze, you can't go wrong with Karen Foley. I mean, seriously, how many romance authors do you know who've jumped into the cockpit of a Black Hawk all in the name of research ; ? Karen is one of the sweetest, most interesting and funniest people I've met...and when it comes to putting a guy in his place, she's pretty kick-ass herself. Read on and you'll see what I mean :)

1. Welcome, Karen! After reading Flyboy a few years ago, I knew I'd found an awesome, auto-buy Blaze author. No surprise it was a Romantic Times Top Pick (October 2007). I was thrilled when I saw its re-release as a 2-in-1 with your latest, A Kiss in the Dark, another incredible read. Your stories aren't just sexy and suspensful. They're smart. I love the intelligent plot lines and characters, as well as how you always tackle both psychological and moral issues. You write extremely hot heroes (often with various military backgrounds) and heroines who, in spite of their high IQ's and successful careers, are a little oblivious to how sexy they are to men :) Take scientist Lacey Delaney and her invention that could save men in A Kiss in the Dark as an example, or aerospace engineer Sedona Stewart and how she outsmarts sexist men in Flyboy. Has working at the Department of Defense influenced the type of heroine you write and how she fits into a 'man's world'?

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me here today! And thanks, too, for the nice words about my book! I’ve worked for the Department of Defense for nearly 27 years, both here in the U.S. and overseas. I’ve attended top level meetings with military and government officials, where I’ve been the only woman in the room. Intimidating? Oh, yeah. When you’re working in a male-dominated environment, I think you really have to step up your game and know your stuff. Learning to speak up and stand up to some of the alpha males I’ve encountered during my career has been challenging, but it certainly made a difference—both to my career and to my own self-esteem! Thankfully, it’s been a long time since anyone has called me “dear” or “honey,” or asked me to get them a cup of coffee (yes, that really happened, and the guy who asked me to get his coffee had no idea that I was the one directing the meeting. I did get his coffee, and served it to him with a smile, and he nearly choked when he eventually realized his gaffe). So when I write my heroines, I try to create them the way I’d like to be.

2. Love it! A Kiss in the Dark involves a mining industry investigation. Your descriptions are so vivid and emotionally evoking that I actually wondered if the sweet Karen I'd met at Nationals had actually been in a mining accident! Have you ever been in one of those claustrophobic mining elevators, or been cave or mine shaft exploring...or are you just incredible at research?

Thanks, Rula! I absolutely love doing research and then applying what I’ve learned to my story and to my characters in a way that hopefully feels authentic. When I was writing A Kiss in the Dark, I read through many of the news articles and interviews related to the horrific mining disaster at Crandall Canyon Mine in 2007. The rescue and recovery efforts lasted for four weeks, before officials called off the search, and the mining company itself was cited for safety violations. That incident really impacted me, and I knew I wanted to write a story about a mining accident, but with a happy ending. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a mining accident first-hand, and I don’t think I’d be brave enough to actually enter a coal mine! I don’t even like driving through tunnels, lol!

3. I'm a bit claustrophobic myself. Miners and mine rescuers are truly daring and brave. They're the heroes who don't get the acknowledgment they deserve or the limelight, unless there has been a televised accident. Although it wasn't a mining accident, the rescue crew in A Kiss in the Dark reminded me of the heroes who saved Baby Jessica when she fell in a well pipe back in 1987. I think you give your heroes and heroines very unique and interesting careers (in the romance arena). Of all the careers your characters have excelled at, which was the one you loved/enjoyed researching or writing the most?

That’s a tough question! In my book, Coming Up for Air, both the hero and the heroine are military helicopter pilots and I really loved doing the research for that, including visiting Sikorsky, where they build the helicopters, and sitting in the cockpit of a Blackhawk helicopter. That was so cool, but I really enjoyed doing the research for my book Able-Bodied, where the heroine was a funky, new-age Reiki master and energy healer. I took a Reiki class, and learned about crystals and their many properties. As I was writing, I surrounded myself with crystals, and burned certain candles that were supposed to encourage creativity and inspiration. My husband thought I’d gone off the deep end, but I really enjoyed the whole process, and I think it enabled me to get into the heroine’s head a little more. And the hero was a lot like my husband—an unabashed skeptic!

4. An author's first book always holds a special honor. Let's fly back to your first sale. We'd love to hear about your Call story!

Oh, gosh…it’s true…you never forget your first! I had this idea for a story about a Navy pilot and a female engineer who are forced to work together to find out who is sabotaging a fleet of fighter jets. I attended the RWA conference that year and Brenda Chin—my amazing editor—was holding a contest to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Harlequin Blaze line. She was accepting proposals for “the best Blaze story idea.” So I wrote a 2-page synopsis and handed it to her, and she called me a week later to request the full manuscript. I hadn’t even written the book yet! So I sat down and wrote the book in ten weeks—at night and during the weekend-- and mailed it off. Two months later, she called and offered me a contract. It was the most unbelievable experience of my life, and it all happened really, really fast. I’m not sure I could ever do that again! But the Flyboy cover is incredibly sexy, and I have a poster of it in my sunroom (I wanted it in our bedroom, but my husband refused).

5. From Alps to Castles, you've traveled to incredible places, forged a successful career with the Department of Defense and now you've topped all that with a successful romance writing career. All this with your high school sweetheart by your side. Definitely romantic! Did your high school classmates foresee any of this, or did they vote Karen most likely to....?

I went to a very small high school, so everyone knew their classmates really well. I was a total geek, and I spent most of my classes furtively writing stories, while pretending to take notes. When I wasn’t writing, I had my nose buried in a book. When I was a freshman, I was home sick for three weeks, and I wrote my first romance in a five-subject spiral notebook. The hero was Tarzan—talk about animal magnetism! This story was seriously hot. I gave it to my best friend to read, and she loaned it to someone else, and the manuscript disappeared for a full two years. My husband had just moved into our town that year, and I immediately developed this huge crush on him. But he was a bad boy with a surly attitude, and my dad (who was a cop in town) told me to stay away from him, which only made him more appealing to me! Two years later, my missing story surfaced in my older sister’s English class, where several boys—including my future husband—were doing a public reading at the back of the classroom. My sister confiscated the notebook and brought it home, and I think she may have beaten me about the head and shoulders with it, telling me that she’d never been so embarrassed in her whole life! I was just thrilled to have it back. Now, of course, she’s one of my biggest supporters! As for my husband—he said that reading that story made him look at me in a completely different light!

6. LOL. You truly have a gift for writing. You also have years of experience as a writer now. Looking back, what do you wish you'd known when you were still striving to become published?

I wish I’d known a couple of things. The first was to finish the book. I was really good at writing the first three to five chapters of a book, and then moving on to another story. By the time I finally got The Call, I had fifteen or more partial manuscripts, but none that were completed. And I wish I’d discovered RWA earlier. My local chapter meetings opened huge doors for me, and really helped me to refine my writing. I’ll never forget when Suzanne Brockman, who was a local chapter member at the time, came in and gave a workshop on deep POV. That day was a real turning point for me in my writing, and there are times when I still go back and listen to the recording of that workshop. I’ve learned so much from other writers, and hopefully I’ve been able to help others on their road to publication.

7. Have you settled into any quirky writing rituals or do you have a favorite deadline crunch-time snack?

I seem to work best under pressure. Intense, painful, having-nightmares-about-it pressure.I give myself 3-4 months to write each book, but I’m a terrible procrastinator. The week or two before my deadline, I am pretty much writing around the clock, not sleeping, not eating, not cleaning, taking time off from my day job, etc., in order to finish the manuscript. I don’t know why I do this, but it’s been the same for every book I’ve written—60 percent of the book is written in the last week or two before the deadline. I don’t enjoy it, my family hates it, but that’s my process. I’m physically and emotionally drained by the time the book is finished, and I swear I’ll never do it again…until I do!

8. A Kiss in the Dark and Flyboy are definitely keepers (and re-readers). What can your readers look forward to next?

I just finished a book about a Navy pilot and a photographer, called Free Fall, which will be a July 2013 Harlequin Blaze release. After that, I have two books featuring some seriously sexy U.S. Marshals, which I’m really excited about. I love stories where the hero is pursuing the heroine, and she’s outsmarting him at every turn, until he finally catches her. I hope my readers enjoy them, too!

We definitely enjoy them! And I love the title Free Fall :) Thanks so much for being here today, Karen. I had so much fun interviewing you! Best always.

Blurb: A Kiss in the Dark 

Anything can happen in the dark…

Scientist Lacey Delaney has a hard rule: no dating men in the mining industry. And anyway, she'd rather focus on her work—designing a sophisticated piece of equipment for locating trapped miners. But when she finds herself stranded on the side of a Kentucky road and rescued by a drop-dead-gorgeous guy…well, who's to say her business trip can't have a little pleasure?

Then Lacey learns that Cole MacKinnon is a mining engineer. His job is hazardous—and so is getting involved with him beyond a few nights of wickedly hot fun. What Lacey doesn't know is that Cole is actually an undercover federal agent, a job that carries even more risk.

And the deeper they go, the more dangerous it will get….

Buy it here:

Find Karen here:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Interview with Harlequin Romance Author Donna Alward

This interview was originally posted at USAToday's Happy Ever After blog on October 30, 2012
I'll admit that I grew up associating cowboys and ranchers with the American Wild West, most likely because of popular Hollywood movies, but not anymore. Award-winning Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward has brought international fame to the rugged Canadian cowboy and rancher. Ever since her debut romance, Hired by the Cowboy, won the Bookseller's Best Award for Best Traditional Romance in 2008, Donna hasn't stopped garnering recognition and awards for her heartwarming and poignant stories. Her 2011 Harlequin Romance,How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart, finaled in the 2012 RITA, Bookseller's Best and National Reader's Choice Awards, plus it won the 2012 Colorado Award of Excellence and the 2011 Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award. Whew! See what I mean? With her latest release, Sleigh Ride with the Rancher, Donna has once again outdone herself.
Rula: Hi, Donna! I must say that Sleigh Ride with the Rancher is a beautifully written, visually stunning and deeply touching holiday story. I love that it's part of a Holiday Miracles trilogy written about three sisters who've grown apart and the trials that bring them together. Book one, Snowbound in the Earl's Castle, was written by Fiona Harper, book two is your Sleigh Ride with the Rancher and book three will be Mistletoe Kisses with the Billionaire by Shirley Jump. In what way does your friendship with Fiona and Shirley parallel your three sister heroines, and has working together made your relationship grow in any way into more of a sisterhood?
Donna: That's a great question! Though I don't think there's much rivalry between us. We were great friends before writing the trilogy and we still are, lol. Plus, we always celebrate each other's successes. It's a beautiful thing.
There are definitely some parallels between the sisters and the three of us, though. For instance, I love the fact that Fi is so often a voice of reason. An example: I'd confided in Fi about a grudge I'd been holding for too long and how I felt badly about it. She was so logical and made such complete sense about the situation that I was able to let the bitterness go (which is a very good thing). Her character, Faith, is a bit of a peacemaker, I think. Now she avoids the family to keep from being caught in the conflict. Shirley's character, Grace, is worldly and cosmopolitan, but she can't quite escape her "down home" roots, which makes going home for a small-town Christmas celebration both uncomfortable for her and absolutely perfect. If you've met Shirley, you know she's got a fantastic sense of style. She's also one of the most down-to-earth, friendliest people I know.
And as far as my character, Hope – well, she's a perfectionist. A bit type A and controlling. Hmmm … sounds familiar. She also has a heart of gold and can be hurt more easily than most people realize. I see myself that way, too.
Rula: Sleigh Ride with the Rancher deals with both physical and emotional scars, as well as the quest for perfection. Your hero and ranch owner, Blake Nelson, has a visible scar that reminds your heroine, photographer Hope McKinnon, of a painful loss she suffered. They have definite obstacles on the road to happy ever after, much like the special-needs kids Blake works with. When it comes to teaching children to cope in life, do you think it's more important to build an individual's confidence, build societal tolerance ... or both?
Donna: I think they go hand in hand, really. I try to teach my girls that they need to respect others, but they also need to respect themselves. I try to instill messages that they can succeed at anything and yet don't have to be perfect, either. There's such a pressure in school-age kids – especially when you start hitting junior high and high school – to BELONG. What we teach the girls is that if someone is a good person inside, it doesn't matter what they look like, the color of their skin, religion, disability. … Good people are good people. And when they struggle with peer groups, etc., I make sure they know that there is one place they ALWAYS belong, and that's in our family.
Rula: You're such a great mom. In your book, hero Blake runs an equine therapy ranch. During your research, what fact about equine therapy amazed you the most? Are you a rider or do you stick with love from your Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever? :)
Donna: I wasn't surprised about the emotional connection, because as an animal lover I know how amazing it is to connect with a pet and just feel … better. It made sense that kids would respond to horses in a beneficial way and also learn responsibility by caring for the animals, etc. What really surprised me was the clinical aspect of it, which is why I chose a cerebral palsy patient as a central character. The physical benefits of riding are huge. Core strength, muscle tone, balance … all crucial and helpful to my character Cate – as well as the emotional benefits she enjoys. Like feeling like a normal child, having fun, being accepted.
I haven't gone horseback riding in a long time, though I used to love it. But I'm definitely soaking up the love from our Duck Toller, Dreamer, and our kitty, Boo.
Rula: I have two words, Donna. Maple syrup. Blake is known to make some fine French toast, as lucky Hope can attest to. I've heard you mention how much you love Canadian maple syrup cookies (yum!), but what's the strangest thing you've ever eaten maple syrup with?
Donna: I don't pour it on my eggs, but if I'm having pancakes with a side of scrambled eggs, I confess I like it when some of the syrup runs down the plate and gives them a bit of extra sweetness. I don't know as I've eaten it on anything truly strange, but I have some fave ways to have it in addition to breakfast. I have a recipe for maple ribs, which is delish and if you do it in a roaster, the meat falls right off the bone. My stepdad got me into putting maple syrup on buttered biscuits (or scones), and one time I made cornbread and put maple syrup on it and it was GORGEOUS. There's also maple salmon …
Rula: Mmmm. That all sounds so good. I can't think of the holidays without thinking of sweet things ... and decorating a Christmas tree is one of them. Blake and Hope put up a tree together and it's a moment where they open their hearts to one another. What's your favorite holiday ornament (or ornament theme) and what's the story behind it?
Donna: One of the things we do every Christmas is get the girls a personalized ornament. They each have their own box of special ornaments now and I realized last year that when they leave the nest in a few years our Christmas tree is going to be very bare! But then when they put up their own tree, they will have a box full of Christmas memories waiting for them, which I think is awesome. I have NO idea what I'll get them this year, but I guarantee they'll be looking for it in their stockings.

Rula: That's such a great idea. Well, you know your readers will want more after Sleigh Ride with the Rancher. Your wonderful Cadence Creek Cowboys series started with The Last Real Cowboy and The Rebel Rancher. Tell us about your next Cadence Creek Cowboy book, coming out in March, because I'm dying to know what your cowboy will do when he finds A Little Cowgirl on his Doorstep.
Donna: I came up with the idea of Callum Shepard after I got hooked on watching Hell on Wheels. Anson Mount plays the lead character, Cullen Bohannon, and he's gruff, he's got shaggy hair, and he's pretty emotionally wounded. I just had the idea of someone looking like that opening the door to find a prim and proper woman standing on his porch claiming that he's a daddy. Avery is baby Nell's aunt, and she and Callum met once. He looks nothing like the man she met a year ago. She's in a bit of a tough position. She grew up not knowing her dad and feels very strongly about Callum knowing the truth, and yet all she really wants is to be able to raise Nell as her own. And Callum is a tough nut to crack. He's my favorite kind of hero: tough on the outside with a marshmallow center. : )
Rula: That's why I love your heroes! Sleigh Ride with the Rancher really put me in the mood for the holidays, and I can't wait for A Little Cowgirl on his Doorstep. Thanks so much for hanging out at Happy Ever After, Donna! Wishing you and everyone else an HEA.
BLURB: A week before Christmas, city girl Hope McKinnon finds herself snowbound with rugged rancher and all round do-gooder Blake Nelson. What is it about this handsome, generous man that has her blood boiling and her pulse racing?
Blake knows his ranch is the last place that Hope wants to be, but somehow her presence feels so right! Hope is the first woman guarded Blake has wanted to be around for a long time. Her visit may be temporary, but he has one more night to convince her to stay….

FIND DONNA HERE: www.donnaalward.com 
ALSO CHECK OUT: Donna's latest book from her First Responders series at Samhain Publishing...
Into The Fire (Book 3, First Responders) - Releasing November 13, 2012