Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Feature: Need Last Minute Gifts? Check out LiteraryBookGifts.com #Holiday Books


My guest today is Melissa Chan of LiteraryBookGifts.com (See her ad in the left sidebar.)

Do you love to write? Perhaps you are an author. Maybe you publish to a worldwide audience or simply write for fun and don't show your work to anyone. While your writing is uniquely your own style and creative expression, the books you read are not.

I find this to be an interesting dichotomy. We all read the same books, but write different things. As a global community of writers and readers, we consume the literature and contribute back to it with our own work. Just as some books will impact certain readers in meaningful ways, so does some writing. Some novels rise to global fame while others remain in relative obscurity, yet are still loved by a small but devoted fan base. The ebb and flow of this ecosystem of literature is one that has been around for hundreds and thousands of years.

I started the online store Literary Book Gifts in hopes of bridging the gap between reader to reader. Clothing and accessories can be trivial things, items people buy out of necessity during their time of need. Or they can be articles of self expression. As continuous consumers of art, be it through reading books, watching movies, or observing visual art in museums, it is not often that we are able to express our own feelings towards this art. I believe that personal self expression is an important element of the human experience. Self expression is part of reflection, and self reflection is an aspect of personal growth.

Wearing a shirt with your favorite book or author on it is a way to connect with the literary community at large. Perhaps wearing your Edgar Allan Poe shirt to the local cafe will interest a stranger enough to strike up a conversation with you on the topic. Glance over to see another's The Hound of the Baskervilles shirt and pick up a copy yourself later that week at the library.
Reading books and discussing them with others is an amazing opportunity we have to uncover hidden secrets of our best loved stories as well as to pass on our favorite titles to own another. If you see someone walking down the street with a Pride and Prejudice tote bag consider letting them know you've also read Jane Austen's books, or would like to read them. Who knows, maybe you will find other things you have in common as well.


Melissa Chan loves chatting about books and designing shirts and totes at Literary Book Gifts. The code katieosullivan20 can be used for 20% off of any order. This code does not expire.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Got Backstory? Peggy Jaeger on writing and her new #HolidayBooks release CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS

As a special Writing Wednesday treat, I've got my sister Wild Rose author extraordinaire
PEGGY JAEGER
here today to talk about the importance of a character's backstory, and how she came up with one for her latest heroine. Oh, and if you haven't heard, she's got a FABULOUS new holiday release out this week titled Christmas and Cannolis (which I've already read, loved and reviewed HERE) Take it away, Peggy!


As a writer, backstory is extremely important to me when I’m fleshing out my characters and giving them reasons for the way they talk, act, dress, interact with others, etc.

When the concept for CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS came to me one afternoon, serendipitously as I was making cannolis (!)  to take to a dinner party, I wanted to make sure I gave my heroine, Regina, a solid reason to explain why she is the way she is: a workaholic, relationship-avoiding, good daughter. To do this, I rummaged around in my memory banks and came up with the idea for her backstory and found an incident that occurred while I was in high school to a fringe friend.  I modified it a tad and viola, I had Regina’s character arc.

Regina San Valentino is the only girl in a family of 4 older brothers, all of whom are protective, overbearing, loud and loving – just like her father, Sonny. Regina was the favored child as the only girl, and doted upon by her family. So much so that she was a victim of smother-love. She never dated, wasn’t allowed to go over to friends’ houses for sleepovers, and was generally always with a parent, a brother or her cousins. Family was everything. Regina wanted to be a normal teenager, date, hang out and have fun, but she towed the family line like a good little Italian/American girl. Until one day, she tore that line and broke free. Regina’s one act of teenage rebellion changed the course of her life forever and led her to the moment CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS begins.

I don’t want to spoil the story by giving away the details of what that was, but suffice it to say, that one incident set Regina on the course that has brought her to the owner of her own bakery, childless, and single at the age of 32.

My own backstory as the step-daughter to a family exactly like Regina’s has enabled me to walk the walk and talk the talk of a member of such a loud, loving, loyal family.

Katie – a special thanks for hosting me today and letting me rant about backstory. I love knowing the reasons that make people – and characters – tic. I truly could talk for days about this – basically because I’m so nosy!!! Hee Hee
About the Book:
With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.

Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.

Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?
Grab your copy on AMAZON today!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday Book Review: Christmas and Cannolis, by Peggy Jaeger #HolidayBooks

Christmas & Cannolis, by Peggy Jaeger
Published 2018 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
With Christmas season in full swing, baker Regina San Valentino is up to her elbows in cake batter and cookie dough. Between running her own business, filling her bursting holiday order book, and managing her crazy Italian family, she's got no time to relax, no room for more custom cake orders, and no desire to find love. A failed marriage and a personal tragedy have convinced her she's better off alone. Then a handsome stranger enters her bakery begging for help. Regina can't find it in her heart to refuse him.

Connor Gilhooly is in a bind. He needs a specialty cake for an upcoming fundraiser and puts himself—and his company's reputation—in Regina's capable hands. What he doesn't plan on is falling for a woman with heartbreak in her eyes or dealing with a wise-guy father and a disapproving family.

Can Regina lay her past to rest and trust the man who's awoken her heart?


My Take:

Peggy Jaeger's writing style is warm and inviting, like a crackling fire on a chilly winter's day. She writes with heart and humor in a way that keeps the pages turning and makes you wish the book was twice as long.

Christmas and Cannolis revisits my favorite Italian-American family, the San Valentino clan, who Jaeger introduced us to in 2016 with her Valentine novella, 3 Wishes, and thrilled us with the followup Christmas tale, A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights. Now we've got cousin Regina's story - and I'm still in love with this boisterous, meddling, overbearing, wonderful family.


Regina San Valentino owns her own successful bakery, and her entire life is her work and her large extended family. As the busy holiday season approaches, a stranger comes into her shop with a request she can't refuse. It doesn't help matters that he's gorgeous and stirs her body and emotions in a way no one else ever has, not even her ex-husband. But the favor he needs is huge on so many levels - to create an elaborate "centerpiece" cake for a fundraiser for the one charity Reggie wishes she'd never heard of. Pearl's Place caters to children with cancer and their families, and even after six years, just thinking about her daughter's last days under their care brings tears to Reggie's eyes.


Okay, a sad premise for the start of a holiday romance, but this is all about love and family and second chances. Reggie's overprotective Italian family may be constantly all up in each others' business and lives, but they also love unconditionally and completely. Told in first person all from Reggie's point of view as the youngest and only daughter of a large (maybe-they're-mobsters?) clan, we get an insider's look at the machinations of an old-fashioned Italian family from the meals they eat together to the evil eye they cast on the relative coughing up a lung at Sunday mass. All told with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and mixed with Italian sayings and phrases. Think of it like reading an episode of the Sopranos, without any of the actual violence or killing.
 

Totally fun, totally irreverent, and full of surprises and even a few tears, this is a book I can see myself reading every year as the holidays approach. Five sparkling stars for this one.

Need a great holiday read to get you into the Christmas spirit? Grab this new story from Peggy Jaeger - you won't be disappointed.

Get your copy on AMAZON and don't forget to leave your own review for the author. I know she reads and appreciates each and every one!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday Feature: #Excerpt from Mary Morgan's Magical Highland Solstice #HolidayBooks


A MAGICAL HIGHLAND SOLSTICE by Mary Morgan
Published December 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:

Laird Cormac Murray has witnessed how love destroyed his own father after the death of his mother, and he vows to never take a wife. Yet, when he comes upon a bewildered lass traveling alone, he finds his heart will no longer listen to his mind. In the end, Cormac risks everything to claim the love of a woman not of his time.  
Eve Brannigan loves helping others and baking. After winning a contest, she is stunned to learn that the Clan Murray has requested her assistance to cater to their guests during the holiday season. When a lost path in Scotland leads her to a handsome but gruff Highlander, Eve fights the temptation to allow love to enter her heart for the first time.  
Can the Fae and the magic of the Yule season bring together two souls who have forsaken love? Or will tragedies from the past separate the lovers forever?

Excerpt: 
 
Giving her no time to protest, he grabbed her around the waist and hauled her up onto Fingal. When he mounted his horse and settled behind her, Cormac felt her body stiffen as he placed an arm around her waist. He leaned next to her ear. Her mass of curls brushed his face, and he inhaled her scent—one of different spices. Lust instantly surged forth, powerful and intense. “Relax,” he urged in a hoarse voice. Though he found it difficult to do so himself.

He felt her tremble, but she nodded. Giving a tug on the reins, they moved up the path.

With each steady trot, her body swayed and Cormac tried to focus on the road. The castle.
Fighting in the lists. Bathing in the icy waters of the loch. Anything, but the soft curves of the lass’s body pressing against his own. What was wrong with him? He prided himself on being a man always in control of his emotions—especially his lustful ones. Yet, now he found himself confused, tongue-tied, and his gut twisted into knots.

So deep in his thoughts, he did not notice Fingal veering off the main road until the lass let out a giggle. She had the most musical sound, and he found himself smiling. Guiding his horse back to the path, he could hear his men doing their best to contain themselves. A glance back confirmed William was coughing loudly and Gordon trying his best not to fall off his horse.

“I swear Fingal, I am tempted to trade ye in for another horse. Ye must be going blind, or worse, old.”

His horse let out a large snort.

Eve clicked her tongue in disapproval. “For shame, Mr. Murray. How cruel. I think he’s a kind animal. Perhaps it’s the man holding the reins who can’t see clearly the path in front of him?”

The lass was quick with the wit, he mused. “I dinnae ken your word, but ye may call me Cormac.” He leaned near her again. “And I can assure ye, I am nae blind, nor old.”

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


Grab your copy on AMAZON

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Ryan Jo Summers and Writing for Anthologies #HolidayBooks

After I had a few published books under my belt and started looking around the author landscape, I noticed that lots of authors I knew were taking part in "anthologies" - usually a collection of novellas grouped around a common theme. I even said out loud one morning, "I wish someone would invite me to join an anthology." Be careful what you ask for. The NEXT MORNING I woke up to find an email in my inbox from an author I knew from another publishing house, asking me to join their group. That was last summer's Hunks to the Rescue, with 18 authors, most of whom I was meeting for the first time and it was a learning experience...

Today for Writing Wednesday, I have a special guest post from a fellow romance author with The Wild Rose Press, Ryan Jo Summers. She's been part of several anthologies over the last few years, and I asked her to share her insights.

Anthologies: 
the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
of Writing for an Anthology


Anthologies are fun to both read and write for. They offer a lot of variety for the reader in one volume, and introduces them to new authors. They also offer the writer much more than sometimes meets the eye. So far I’ve written stories for four different anthologies with three different publishing houses. Each experience has been different.

The first anthology was a Christmas-themed collection with a publishing house I’d already released about four regular-length, stand-alone novels through. The anthology was a fantastic experience from start to finish. The story was fun to write, and the editing and releasing experiences left a positive feeling for me.

There were a total of seven authors, including me, and we really got to know one another. One of the ways we promoted the book was via a series of newsletters and it was fantastic for sharing little bits of personal information about ourselves within our circle and with our readers beyond the author hats we always wear.

The second anthology was food-themed and came from another house I’d released two novellas through. There were nine of us authors this time, and the house handled the title and cover art, which was something we authors in the Christmas collection had collaborated on. With the second book, all the decisions came in emails with a “here it is” announcement. It was still a good experience, though we contributors never achieved the level of friendship that the writers from the Christmas anthology did.

Anthologies #3 and #4 came from yet another house, one that I’d never released other books with beforehand. I discovered them from an on-line call for submissions. They are larger volumes, with twelve and thirteen authors contributing to each, respectively. The first one released January 2018 and the second one in September 2018 so the turnaround time for edits was fast.

These experiences taught me some important lessons.

First, the pros to writing for anthologies include many have a built-in theme, like Christmas, or food, or whatever. That’s a big jump on getting the mental wheels turning. In that vein, writing for anthologies offers the opportunity to write different topics, time periods, or genres than normal. I follow a Facebook page that routinely has calls for submissions and links to houses or contests looking for anthology submissions.

Have you ever wanted to write something involving Scotsmen? Cowboys? The mafia? Motorcycle clubs? Chick lit? Small towns? Churches? Dogs? Erotica? The list goes on. Here is a chance to try your hand. All of these are actual topics that have come across the FB calls at one point or another.
Now, on the negative side of that coin, some houses plan their anthologies sort of like a soap opera series. Not only is the theme shared, so is the setting, time period, cast of characters, etc.…just like a mini-series. You might not be able to have the names of places or characters you want if they don’t fit with the pre-planned story line.

Second. The largest plus factor by far is exposure. As a contributing author, you get to tap into the fan bases of each of the other contributing authors to that particular anthology. While the fans of Author X is reading something new by their fave author, they also discover you. Hopefully they will love your little story and look for other stuff of yours. You also get extra exposure over the social media platforms each time the other authors post and promote. Simple math: you can only promote over so many channels. If you are with an anthology of eight authors, you get seven more times the exposure over multiple and new channels.

Third. Another big plus is cost sharing. New release launches aren’t cheap. Nor are they easy. There is endless promo, blog tours, ads, reviews, the list is endless. When it’s a solo book, it’s the author who foots the bill and does the work. In an anthology, all promotional charges are shared equally among the authors.  For the last anthology we did a $115 blog tour with a company and each paid around $8. That’s pretty manageable!

And sometimes you can get lucky. If there is an author in the group who does a bang-up job on graphics, organization, or some other special skill, they usually provide that service for the entire group for gratis or very low cost. In the last anthology I was the ‘official organizer’ because I am an organized individual. Sometimes it felt like I was herding kittens, but it helped everyone and kept us all running on schedule. Also, since I was the coordinator, I searched out sources for promo, took the info to the group where it was decided upon, I paid the bills upfront, and collected from everyone else later. It made for seamless transactions.

Fourth. Perhaps the biggest plus, at least for me, has been the lasting friendships with the authors I’ve worked with while collaborating the books. I’ve discovered new authors I went on to read their full-length books. And writing for anthologies is a “Foot in the Door” with new publishing houses who might welcome your longer works once they see what kind of author you are. Additionally, most anthology stories are only 10,000-12,000 words long each, so they can be written alongside your longer projects. Doing edits is usually quicker too, due to the shorter lengths.

Now, naturally, there has to be a few downsides to writing for anthologies. Number one is the reversal of cost sharing—royalty splits. Most authors do not make much on anthology royalty, even if they sell more copies than of their own books. Each sale is split equally between all included authors. So if there are ten authors in the collection, that 7 or 8 or 9% royalty is shared between all ten authors. It’s completely feasible to sell ten copies, and make 25 cents in royalties. The general rule is the more stories, the bigger the book, the more it will cost, which means more royalty, split among more people.

Another big downfall is the chance most decisions could be made either by the publishing house or by group vote. This includes book title, cover image, placement of each story, and inside images. Being part of an anthology can either release you from having to make those choices or limit your decision-making options. If you are totally into controlling each step of your release, anthologies are not a good options. If you can share the choices or hand it over completely to a house, they are super.

I am part of a collection with interior images I consider racy. In hindsight, a pseudonym might have been wise. Regardless, I am now careful which readers I recommend that book to, just because I am uncomfortable with its interior.

All things being equal, I am a fan of writing for anthologies. For me, the pros outweigh the cons, and I am actively on the lookout for more outlets seeking submissions. For me, they are a great place to use those scraps of story ideas that never seem to be enough for a full-length book, but are perfect for a 10-15K story. It’s only a matter of matching the bones of a story idea to an anthology call and fleshing it out. Then the fun begins!

Eight Christmas stories by eight different authors, offering heartwarming tales of second chance love for the holidays. Grab your copy for $2.99 on AMAZON and read my review HERE

About Ryan Jo Summers:
I was born in Michigan and grew up surrounded by books, pretty much all piled and stacked in my room. I had bookshelves to hold them since I could remember. Christmas and birthdays were easy, just buy me books.

My tastes in subject matter and genres grew as I matured.


It seemed only natural to write as well as read. The first book I wrote was at age ten and was about a twelve page story that I also illustrated and stapled together into book format. I was so proud! If only I still had that about somewhere.

Since then, I never stopped writing. Some articles made it into magazines, some stories made honorable mention in contests, my journal has grown thicker. Writing poetry also serves as therapy to life's hurts, a trait apparently inherited from my dad's aunt. Writers, poets and songwriters run through my lineage. I guess you could say I come from a line of wordsmiths.

In 2012, selling "Whispers in her Heart" for publication has been not only a dream come true of becoming a novelist, but also a pinnacle of thirty odd years of writing. With each new story, novel or novella that comes out, I grow as a writer and take another step on this incredible journey called life.


Find Ryan online:
WEBSITE: http://www.ryanjosummers.com/
BLOG: https://www:summersrye.wordpress.com

Monday, December 3, 2018

Monday Book Review: A Recipe for Murder by Jo A. Hiestand, #HolidayBooks

A Recipe for Murder (A Peak District Mystery, Book 2) by Jo A. Hiestand
Published 2017 by Cousins House (third printing, revised edition)

About the Book:
December bullies its way into the village in a swirl of snow and biting wind, threatening to cancel the annual St. Nicholas festival. But winter’s slap pales when a body is discovered in the candlelit church. Someone is not living up to the seasonal wish of ‘peace on earth, good will towards man.’
But the village harbors more than Christmas gifts, DS Brenna Taylor discovers as she and her colleagues from the Derbyshire Constabulary begin working the case. There is the feud between two rival authors; a wife’s open disdain of her husband and his secret comfort in the arms of another woman; the pent-up emotions of a vicar’s wife forced to conform to idealistic conceptions; the tacit threat of a troubled teenager and his delinquent girlfriend.
Brenna also discovers emotions she didn’t know she had when DS Mark Salt, her harassing macho cohort, makes overtures of genuine friendship. Now Brenna must not only examine her love for her boss, DCI Geoffrey Graham, but also consider the likelihood of its ever being returned.
As if sorting through the affairs of the heart and the tangle of motive and suspects in the case weren’t hard enough, a series of arsons threatens the very village itself. And Brenna wonders if they are looking for two felons or just one very disturbed individual.
My Take:

 I grew up reading English mysteries in paperback, that my mom would devour by the truckload. Agatha Christie was her favorite, and I soon traded in my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy stories for Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. 

The appeal of mysteries is the puzzle - the idea that all the pieces are there if you look at them the right way. As the main characters unfold the clues on the pages, the reader tries to solve the crime before the detectives (or little old lady, in the case of Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote, another of my mom's favorites.)

In later years mom also discovered P.D.James and Martha Grimes, for the straight police procedural. None of the coyness of the cozy mystery, these authors walk the reader alongside actual detectives as they work to solve crimes the "real" way. The best books in the genre also strive to make the police themselves into "real" people, with emotions and problems outside the job that might color their abilities to see things clearly.For a modern twist on this I love the series by Toby Neal set on the Hawaiian islands, following a young female police detective battling crime as well as racism for her island roots and a macho society that doesn't think a woman should be a police detective in the first place. But I digress.

This mystery and this series by Jo Hiestand is more old-fashioned, set in the English countryside and reminiscent of P.D.James in style and tone. Definitely a slower read which needs a roaring fire and a cup of tea to go along with it. The story is told in first person by Detective Sergeant (DS) Brennan Taylor, the first police person responding to the murder scene on the very first page of the book. The story unfolds through her eyes, meeting all of the potential suspects as well as gathering the potential clues. She also struggles with her own emotions, emotionally drawn to her boss but keeping her feelings hidden away, adding depth and humanity to her character. Her own emotional struggles color how she interacts with the suspects, all hiding various emotional secrets of their own, which the reader knows she understands all too well. Her own secrets help grant her insight into the reasons others may keep secrets.

So... in writing a review of a mystery, I'm not about to tell you much about the story itself - that would spoil the fun of it all. The author put enough of the teases and clues into the back-of-book blurb to let you know the gist of what to expect. The twists and turns and red herrings - those are what make a mystery fun to read. To outline them in a review defeats the purpose. Suffice to say, it's a well-plotted mystery that will keep the reader guessing, and rooting for the lead detective to figure things out before someone beats her to it. While stories like this are no longer my favorite genre, I'll give this one 4 stars for a well-done mystery, and a book my mom would've loved.


Grab a copy on AMAZON


Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Feature: Excerpt from A Recipe for Murder, by Jo Hiestand #HolidayBooks

 About the Book:

December bullies its way into the village in a swirl of snow and biting wind, threatening to cancel the annual St. Nicholas festival.  But winter’s slap pales when a body is discovered in the candlelit church.  Someone is not living up to the seasonal wish of ‘peace on earth, good will towards man.’ 
But the village harbors more than Christmas gifts, DS Brenna Taylor discovers as she and her colleagues from the Derbyshire Constabulary CID Team begin working the case.  There is the feud between two rival authors; a wife’s open disdain of her husband and his secret comfort in the arms of another woman; the pent-up emotions of a vicar’s wife forced to conform to idealistic conceptions; the tacit threat of a troubled teenager and his delinquent girlfriend. 
Brenna also discovers emotions she didn’t know she had when DS Mark Salt, her harassing macho cohort, makes overtures of genuine friendship.  Now Brenna must not only examine her love for her boss, DCI Geoffrey Graham, but also consider the likelihood of its ever being returned. 
As if sorting through the affairs of the heart and the tangle of motive and suspects in the case weren’t hard enough, a series of arsons threatens the very village itself.  And Brenna wonders if they are looking for two felons or just one very disturbed individual.

Excerpt from A Recipe For Murder:

“St. Nicholas isn’t included in the book. Father Christmas is but purely as a character in most mummers plays.  There are themes on him, certainly, but it’s always the same character, no matter his name or dress. Each country has its own gift giver and dark companion. He’s Schmutzli in Switzerland. He’s dressed in brown, has brown hair and a brown beard and his face is darkened with lard and soot, He carries a switch and a sack. Naughty children are beaten with the switch and then toted off in the sack, where he eats them in the woods.”

Graham shook his head, clearly astonished. “Amazing. Any others?”

“Many. Knecht Ruprecht is St Nicholas’ most common attendant in Germany.”

“You’re kidding.” 

“No, sir. His name means Farmhand Rupert, or Servant Rupert.  He’s clothed in varying costumes, from a long brown hooded robe, fur, or straw. He carries a pack of presents or a sack of ashes.  He gives the gifts to the good children and beats the bad children with the sack of ashes.”

“I thought St. Nicholas gave out the presents.”

“I wouldn’t know, sir.  Knecht Ruprecht also carries switches, which he either uses on the disobedient children or leaves for their parents to use.  Occasionally he has his own companions, fairies or dark-faced-men made up as old women.  What that signifies, I don’t know. Pelznickel lurks in Germany’s Northwest area. His name means “Nicholas in Furs,” and he’s a variant of Ruprecht.  He usually dresses in dark or shaggy clothing, or furs or animal skins.  There are versions of this, though.”

“I hesitate to ask, Taylor, but go on.”

“He wears a long, pale robe and a tall, peaked witch hat.  He carries away bad children, variously to his home in the Black Forest or to be tossed into the river.”

“I’m astonished the kids back then could sleep at night.”

“I think only the naughty lads and lasses had anything to fear, Mr. Graham. There’s one more I find fascinating, if you’d like to hear it.”

“I’ve gone this far…”

“Yes, sir. It’s Krampus.”

“These names are something else. Okay, what’s he like?”

“He’s a devil-like figure residing mainly in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and southern Germany. He has goat-like horns, a long red tongue, and he holds chains or switches.”

“Presumably to use on those naughty children.”

“Yes, sir. He stuffs them into his basket.”

“To be taken away to some terrifying doom, no doubt. I’m afraid to ask if there are others.”

“Yes, sir. Holland, France, Spain, Italy for certain. I think each country or region has its own character to infer punishment if the child stepped out of line.”

“Maybe the police should use him, Taylor. It might scare certain folks into going straight.”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * 


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Reviewing Anthologies #Holiday Books

As you may know, this holiday season I've decided to feature ALL HOLIDAYS, ALL THE TIME, for the entirety of November and December. I put out a call on a few author loops and was almost instantly inundated with requests to not only offer guest posts, but offer ARCs for review.

Some of those requests were for holiday anthologies.

I couldn't say yes to every review request, but I still bit off more than I could chew. And a few anthologies. Now, the main dilemma in reviewing an anthology is whether you need to 1. read all the stories, and 2. review each and every story.

I'm a firm believer in the reading part. I'm not going to talk about a book, good or bad, if I haven't actually read it. But reviewing each story? That part I'm hazy on, because a lot of times not all the stories are the author's best work. Or my taste in stories. I was in an anthology like that last year, in fat, where I didn't like all of the other stories, despite the "USAT bestseller" title those authors had already earned elsewhere.

I'm going to walk through an anthology review here with you - if you want to skip ahead and add comments and your thoughts without reading how I'm approaching this review, go for it. If you want to see my approach and give me specific pointers (or take notes for your own reviews), I'd totally appreciate those comments too!

Okay, I was approached by one of the authors in a Western anthology titled A Christmas Cowboy to Keep. Full disclosure, I'd never read any cowboy romance until I joined The Wild Rose Press, which has a Yellow Roses division devoted to Western romance. I had no idea what I'd been missing! Granted, not all of them are gold, but there are plenty of fun reads in this genre.

RULE #1: First things first. My thought is that if you're approached by a specific author in an anthology, you need to at least include their story in your review. Even if it isn't your favorite in the collection. And even if it turns out you know a handful of the other authors in addition to the one who asked.

RULE #2: If you're not going to include a review of each - especially if you're not going to - you need to list the book blurb that has all the individual story titles and authors on your blog. On review sites like Amazon or Goodreads? Not necessary, because they already have it listed elsewhere on the page.

About the Book:
The weather is cold, the atmosphere is festive, and the cowboys are hot. How do you keep a cowboy at Christmas?

Don’t miss this holiday collection of modern-day cowboys and the women they love, featuring the same USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors from “A Cowboy to Keep,” which garnered 55 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

CHRISTMAS, LIBERTY, AND THE THREE MINUTE MAN by Carra Copelin
Daniel Dylan Layman is determined to show headstrong city girl Liberty Ann Hart that a country life in Mistletoe, Texas, is the perfect Christmas gift.

A CHRISTMAS CAROLE by Andrea Downing
Carrie Matheson and her son are trying to settle into a new life in Wyoming. Tate Schrugge is trying to ditch his Scrooge and play Santa to the young boy. But will there be a Dickens of a romance by Christmas?

THE PEPPERMINT TREE by Kristy McCaffrey
Lawyer Skye Mallory returns home for the holidays due to an unexpected inheritance, and cowboy Joe Carrigan stands in her way.

THE DEVIL’S CHRISTMAS KISS by Devon McKay
When Kristen Kelly receives a Christmas kiss from Cole Lawson, she doesn’t believe it means anything. But Cole sets out to make things right with the woman of his heart.

SLAY BELLS by Hildie McQueen
At a small-town Christmas festival sparks fly between Carmen Dias and Detective Jared Bowden, but a dead body and a pesky ex-girlfriend don’t exactly spell romance.

THE BEST CHRISTMAS by Hebby Roman
All Sofia Rossi wants is to re-connect with her estranged son. But can Gar McCulloch, a handsome cowboy who runs a juvenile rehab ranch, be the answer to her problems?

COUNTING DOWN TO CHRISTMAS by Patti Sherry-Crews
Wedding planner Melody Evans views happily-ever-after endings with a skeptical eye. Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV thinks Christmas is for kids. Can the holiday spirit bring them together?
I know 4 of the 7 authors listed above, 3 of them write for The Wild Rose Press, and one I met at a previous publishing house. "Knowing" them is relative, in that I've never actually met or had drinks with any of them but we're Facebook friends and interact on author loops. And I've read their books before, and/or featured them on this blog. When I saw that I crossed my fingers that I'd at least like their stories. Which I did (thank goodness). Actually, I enjoyed all of these stories, all so very different from one another in voice and tone with just the Western setting and cowboy hero in common. Which brings me to the next rule on the list:

RULE #3: You should start an anthology review with an overview of the whole book. What are the themes that tie the stories together? Why is it an anthology to begin with? Is there a cause that drew them together (like the "c*ck" scandal and subsequent anthology earlier this year) or are they all writers in the same genre banding together for a holiday, a season or to tell stories around an event? Just like the book blurb included a few generic paragraphs at the start, so should your review.

RULE #4: You can't just review the one story from the one author who asked you. That's not really what they were asking for, so it seems lazy to only give them that. If you agree to writing a review, you should not only read it all (as previously stated) but at least talk about it all. I've said before, a review doesn't have to be a book report. And it doesn't have to take you hours to craft. It needs to convey YOUR thoughts, whether you enjoyed it, whether it stirred your emotions, and whether you'd recommend it to others. That's the point of a review.

After reading this cowboy anthology, here are the thoughts that I'm going to share on Amazon and Goodreads. I'm not saying this is "the way" to write a review, and every review I write is different, but I always try to speak from the heart and let other readers know what I liked and/or didn't like...

My Take:
In this new holiday anthology, seven talented authors bring us seven new Western romances featuring hot cowboys for the holidays. With settings ranging from Colorado to Wyoming to Texas, and stories ranging from sweet to suspenseful to seductive... each offers the reader lots of Christmas cheer with a satisfying happily ever after. As a general rule, anthologies are usually a mixed bag, but I can honestly say I totally enjoyed each of these well-written stories, stirring up lots of warm fuzzy holiday feelings.

Each story obviously features a cowboy as the hero, but each also has strong women who are not looking for love but searching for something. For second chances in life, either moving home after years away (The Devil's Christmas Kiss, The Peppermint Tree), or moving West to start over (A Christmas Carole) or just moving to a new town for a fresh start (Counting Down to Christmas). The most unusual stories in the bunch are about an estranged mother arriving at a Texas rehab ranch to reconnect with her son (The Best Christmas) and an Atlanta reporter sent to Montana for December to cover the Christmas festivities (Slay Bells) (Which also wins for best tongue in cheek title, as the cowboy doubles as a sheriff and the reporter finds a dead body on the ranch just days before the festival is set to begin.) The worst title in the group is Christmas, Liberty, and the Three Minute Man, not only because it's a mouth-full, but the "3-minute man" in a romance collection does not have positive connotations. In actuality, the cowboy in question writes country songs (which are usually 3 minutes of radio time...) and the story itself is a good one, if not the strongest of the bunch.

Even though I enjoyed all seven stories, a few made me smile more than the others. In The Devil's Christmas Kiss, we have a classic second-chance romance with a few twists. Our main character, Kristen Kelly is a veterinarian who moves back to the town she grew up in to try to set down roots. Having moved around a lot as a child, she longs for the stability she often envied in other families. The boy who tormented her through her school years - and whom she totally crushed on - still lives in town, and they get a second chance with each other. The frank POV of the city girl in Slay Bells had me chuckling throughout... but I can honestly say each of these seven tales was enjoyable, well-written and fun, and all of the various characters kept me turning pages rooting for their happy endings.

Grab a copy of this holiday anthology on AMAZON -- you won't be disappointed!

RULE #5: Go on a write the review already. You read the book. You enjoyed it. Let the author(s) know you liked it, and help other readers discover a new book or a new author. Every review helps, whether it's 3, 4 or 5 stars, and whether it's two sentences or two paragraphs. Think of it as good karma. What goes around, comes around.

Happy Writing - and Reading - to ALL!








Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Book Review: Sizzle in the Snow - a Holiday anthology #HolidayBooks

Sizzle in the Snow, a holiday anthology by various authors
Published 2015 by Soul Mate Press

About the Book:
SANTA BABY by Beth Carter

Unlucky-in-love Brooke Woods finds herself with a Christmas delivery and it isn't from Santa. When her boyfriend leaves her for their neighbor, she heads to the nearest bar, meeting hunky, nice guy Anderson Bradley. The two only exchange first names, and their hot fling leaves them both wanting more but their anonymity makes that impossible.

Brooke never thought she'd end up in a hospital pregnant at Christmastime. Will a Santa Baby bring the new mother and father together or tear them apart?

SECOND CHANCES: A CHRISTMAS STORY by Amy Deason

When Grace Sellers needs to start over, she moves back to her old hometown with her two young children in tow. But the last person she expects to see is her high school crush, Michael Dennison.

Is this unexpected encounter a mere coincidence or a second chance at true love?


'TWAS THE CRAZY NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Crystal Firsdon

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when plans led to danger
For Clara and Drew, who until now were strangers.
As they run for safety, desire comes fast . . .
Will they have each other, or is this night their last?"

KISSING SANTA by C.D. Hersh

Making love with Santa is "Number Nine" on Anna Noel's holiday bucket list. Professional Santa, Sam S. Klaus, is willing to fulfill her wish.

Is kissing the Santa of her dreams worth the risk of ending up on the naughty list?


THE SNOW BIRD by Kim Hotzon

Lauren, a young single mother, is struggling to keep her children fed and a roof over their heads as the holidays approach.

Christmas is looking bleak until a sexy and wealthy property developer unexpectedly shows up in town, offering to repair her roof . . . and a whole lot more.


TAMED BY CHRISTMAS by Ryan Jo Summers

Years ago Paige and Shane experienced a tragic event in their romance. Unable to move past it, they broke up. Yet the passion remains, and she returns at Christmas time in an attempt to rekindle the love she and Shane once shared. It's a rocky road, and it seems they might not succeed until a freak accident shows them what they really have to lose.

Can Shane tame Paige's heart by Christmas? Or should they just let those still burning flames slowly die?

OPERATION SANTA by Tina Susedik

When Marci Hofer becomes fed up with the lack of attention from her husband, David, she decides to leave him. Devastated, he begins a campaign to bring her home. Calling it Operation Santa, he learns what he thought would be as simple as sending her gifts can backfire in the most embarrassing ways.

Will he survive the battle to get her back?

CHRISTMAS EVE SURPRISE by Cheryl Yeko

Steve knows he screwed up, but he's determined to reclaim the woman he loves and the babies she carries.

But when he sweeps back into her life on Christmas Eve, Amy's not sure she's ready to forgive him for abandoning her six months earlier.


My Take: 

As with most anthologies out there, not every story is as strong as the rest but as a collection they make for fun reading. Sizzle in the Snow is not an exception to the rule - some of the tales are good, some are simply okay, and some are downright wonderful. These are all tales of second chance romance, reconnecting with the one who got away. Or the one who's slipping away.

My absolute hands-down favorite tale was by Tina Susedik, Operation Santa. It's the story of a married couple who've maybe gotten a bit too complacent with each other, to the point where the wife is sure that her husband no longer loves her. When she walks out, he's determined to win her back - and goes to extremes... with hilarious results. Honestly, I couldn't help but picture my husband of 26 years trying to prove his love and having similar crazy things happen to him.

Other strong stories include Twas the Crazy Night Before Christmas by Crystal Firston and Amy Deason's Second Chances. I also really enjoyed the emotion in Ryan Jo Summers' Tamed by Christmas - except I really hated that one's title, since I found the "reason" behind it a little hokey, but the writing was strong and the story brought tears to my eyes.

All in all, this is a good mix of stories and authors and a fun group of short holiday tales, each perfect for a quick read before bed or with your coffee in the morning... or while you're waiting for that next batch of gingerbread men to come out of the oven.

Grab your copy on AMAZON

 


 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday Feature: What to Give a Mermaid for the Holiday? #HolidayBooks

Today may be "Black Friday" for retailers, but I'm spending the day at home baking with my college student before he heads back to campus tomorrow. Sounds like more fun than battling the crowds at the mall, doesn't it?

If you're looking for online gift ideas, might I suggest books? Perhaps a series of mermaid books for that hard-to-buy-for kid in your life? If they like adventure and light paranormal tales like the Percy Jackson series, they'll love my Son of a Mermaid books.

And if you're wondering what to get for the actual mermaid in your life, here's an excerpt from the second book in the series, DEFIANCE, where Shea tries to give Kae a present...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Excerpt from DEFIANCE:
 
“I got something for you.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out a small box, carefully wrapped in shiny blue paper with raffia string. “I saw it in Hyannis the other day when I was walking on Main Street with John and Hailey. I thought of you.”
 
Kae stared at the package in Shea’s hand, but didn’t reach for the gift. “Oh, it’s pretty. And so shiny blue! Like the ocean’s surface on a sunny day. But Shea, I don’t think paper will last very long underwater.”
 
Shea’s face cracked into a wide grin. “That’s just the wrapping, silly.” He placed the box in her hand. “You need to look inside for the gift.”
 
“I’ve never heard of wrapping paper,” Kae turned the box slowly around in her hands, the shine of the paper reflecting the light. “It’s so pretty.”
 
“You’re supposed to rip it off,” Shea explained, shaking his head. Sometimes he forgot that they came from such different worlds. He showed her how to slide the bow off, and then tore the edge of the paper to get her started.
 
It was a small package, and the paper came off fairly quickly once she started to rip it. She stared at the white box. “Oh, it’s lovely. But Shea, cardboard is not much better than paper…”
 
He interrupted. “The box isn’t the present.”
 
She looked up at him, cocking her head to the side. “Then why did you give it to me? Why give me shiny paper to rip and a box that isn’t a present? I don’t understand.”
 
He shifted his weight uncomfortably, feeling slightly foolish. “I don’t know. It’s how we give gifts.” He smiled again. “Just open the box already.”
 
Inside was a cuff bracelet of hammered silver, made of five thin distinct strands that rippled across like waves, looking like the undulating surface of the ocean. Kae stared, not saying anything.
 
“I saw it and thought of you, leaving on your journey,” Shea stammered, unsure how to gauge her reaction. “You know, the five lines of silver flowing like water, like the five oceans…” His voice trailed off. “You don’t like it?”
 
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, her eyes looking watery.
 
“It’s just a bracelet.” He reached over to take it out of the box. “Let’s see if it fits okay.” He slipped the cuff over her wrist and gently squeezed so that it closed snugly against her skin. He trailed his fingers up to her elbow and leaned his forehead against hers. “It’s so you don’t forget me while we’re apart.”
 
“Oh, Shea…” Her voice was still a mere whisper. “I won’t forget you.”
~ *~ * ~ * ~


Find the whole series on AMAZON :


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Meet Time Travel author D.K.Deters #HolidayBooks

Continuing my focus on #HolidayBooks, today I'm chatting with D.K. Deters, who has a wonderful Christmas time travel out this season. I already posted my review earlier this month, but now I'm talking with the author and getting the inside scoop on her writing life.

Welcome, D.K. Deters!

Hi D.K.! Tell us a little about yourself, and what kind of books you like to read and write.

Hi Katie. Thanks for having me on your blog!

After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business, I worked in the telecommunications industry. My commute was an hour and a half one way, so I teamed up with some carpool buddies. With time on my hands, I’d jot down my stories on loose leaf. I figured I’d stick out the commute for five years, but five turned into thirty. My husband and I raised three children.

I’m open to most genres, but I love reading historical and time travel romance.
 
What's your favorite part of being an author?

I’m glad you asked. It’s always a great day when a reader passes along positive feedback.


I hear you on that one! What's your approach to writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?

I used to be a pantster, but after cutting about ten thousand words from one of my manuscripts, I decided plotting would have saved me a lot of valuable time and unnecessary grief. Since then, I always plot.


Wow, good for you. I wish I could say I plotted all the time... but... oh well!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

It’s tough to pick one, but I’d choose superhuman strength, so I could help save the world. 

Tell us about your new/latest release!


Christmas Once Again is a sweet time travel romance.

Antique consultant Madison Knight is broke and facing eviction. On December 24th, rancher Zach Murdock offers double the money for the return of his grandmother’s missing painting. Gran believes the painting has special powers.

Is old granny crazy or is the painting the real deal? For that little matchmaker in all of us, these characters will touch your heart and brighten your holidays.


Why time travel? (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE me some time travel!)... and will you write more in this genre?

The holidays inspire me, and I enjoy rekindling sentimental memories. I wanted to write a fun story about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Time travel was the perfect genre to make that happen.

After the final revisions, I said never again, but I’ve been backpedaling. If a solid storyline came to me, I’d go for it.



(Fingers crossed for more!) Okay, you’re casting the movie version of your novel – who would you choose for the main characters? We’re talking dream cast.

Hands down, Chris Pine and Gal Gadot.


Wow, yes, I can totally see them in these roles! Nice choices! Where can readers find your eBook and where can they find you online?
 
My book is available in all the following spots:
The Wild Rose Press
Amazon
Barnes and Noble-Nook
SCRIBD
Overdrive for Libraries
Google Books
Hoopla
iTunes
Kobo

Website: www.dkdeters.com
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/dkdeters
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dkdeterscom
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/d-k-deters
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18486948.D_K_Deters
Email: dkdetersauthor@hotmail.com


Katie, it was a pleasure visiting with you. Thanks for inviting me to talk about my characters. Happy Holidays to everyone!

 




Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Book Review: A Magical Highland Solstice, by Mary Morgan #HolidayBooks

A Magical Highland Solstice, by Mary Morgan
Published December 2016 by The Wild Rose Press

About the Book:
Laird Cormac Murray has witnessed how love destroyed his own father after the death of his mother, and he vows to never take a wife. Yet, when he comes upon a bewildered lass traveling alone, he finds his heart will no longer listen to his mind. In the end, Cormac risks everything to claim the love of a woman not of his time.

Eve Brannigan loves helping others and baking. After winning a contest, she is stunned to learn that the Clan Murray has requested her assistance to cater to their guests during the holiday season. When a lost path in Scotland leads her to a handsome but gruff Highlander, Eve fights the temptation to allow love to enter her heart for the first time.

Can the Fae and the magic of the Yule season bring together two souls who have forsaken love? Or will tragedies from the past separate the lovers forever?
My Take:

What a wonderful, magical time travel tale of finding true love and soul mates! I loved every minute of this fast, engaging read!

Both the hero and heroine are selfless characters, dedicating their lives to helping others... which is why the fae decide to bring the two disparate souls together and give them a chance at a happily ever after.

Cormac Murray is a Scottish highlander lord from the 1200s, whose clan has endured a rough year of war and is looking forward to enjoying a festive Solstice. Unfortunately, a child's prank has the castle's kitchen in disarray, leaving the clan in dire need of a new cook and baker for the upcoming feast.

We meet Eve as she competes in --and wins-- a baking competition. She plans to use the prize money to fix her car and get her neighbor's furnace repaired, but at the last minute gives the money to another friend who's husband lost his job. When she returns to her apartment building, she finds new landlords have miraculously completed all the repairs - and then she's invited to Scotland to bake for a Solstice celebration in the Murray castle, which is now a high end resort.

On her way to the resort, Eve takes a tumble through time and ends up on Cormac's doorstep, so to speak. He needs help in his kitchen... but he also is the first to realize that Eve is a visitor from the future, like others he has met before. It's love at first sight, but Cormac tries his hardest to deny the attraction or the emotions she stirs in him because he doesn't feel worthy of love. Which makes him all the more worthy, of course!

If you love hot highlanders and holiday tales of romance, you have to read this story. Readers of Diane Gabaldon's Outlander series will love Mary Morgan's hot time traveling highlanders. Start with this one for the holidays!

Grab your copy on AMAZON





Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday Feature: Meet Debby Grahl and her cozy mystery, Decorated to Death #HolidayBooks

Continuing my #HolidayBooks spotlight (all this month and all next month, right through New Years!)... Today I'm chatting with author Debby Grahl, who has a new Christmas cozy mystery out this season.

She already has several books to her name as well as stories in a few anthologies, and a new dark magick romance coming mid-December from The Wild Rose Press. She also lives in one of my favorite spots - Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where my husband and I spent our honeymoon so many years ago. And where she probably has seen a thing or two about decorating to death, lol.

Welcome Debby!

Debby: Thank you, Katie, for having me today.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what kind of books you like to read and write.
 
Debby: Here's the official bio: Debby Grahl lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with her husband, David. Besides writing, she enjoys biking, walking on the beach and a glass of wine at sunset. Her favorite places to visit are New Orleans, New York City, Captiva Island in Florida, the Cotswolds of England, and her home state of Michigan. She’s a history buff who also enjoys reading murder mysteries, time travel, and, of course, romance. Visually impaired since childhood by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) she uses screen-reading software to research and write her books.

Her first published book, The Silver Crescent, won the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewers’ Choice award. Her second book, Rue Toulouse, a contemporary romance set in New Orleans, was a finalist in the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award and was selected as a May, 2016, ‘local read’ by Hilton Head Monthly.

Decorated to Death is a holiday mystery cozy. She also has stories in three anthologies, The Haunted West, Never Fear/Christmas Terrors; and Ebb and Flow from the local Island Writers’ Network.



Nice bio, Debby. Now tell us in your own words.
Debby: I write both paranormal and contemporary romance. In reading, I enjoy mystery cozies, especially those classics by Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L. Sayers. In romance, I like historical and contemporary along with paranormal with ghosts, witches, and time travel.

 
What's your favorite part of being an author?
Debby: I’d have to say the happiness I feel when someone tells me how much they liked reading my books. It still amazes me that my stories bring people such enjoyment.

 
I love that answer, and totally agree. Readers make it worth the effort. What's your approach to writing? Do you plot or go with the flow? 
Debby: I outline my plot, location and characters, but mostly I write by the seat of my pants.

 
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? 
Debby: I’d love to be able to time travel. How fun would it be to meet historical people and experience life in a different century. Although, I’d make sure wherever I went I had the funds to support me in a comfortable environment. I like indoor plumbing and either gas or electric lights.


Tell us about your new/latest release! 
Debby: Decorated To Death is a mystery cozy set in a small town. The residents of Newcomsville are getting ready for their annual Christmas tour of historic homes, but in the middle of their preparations dead bodies send the town into turmoil.


Okay, you’re casting the movie version of your novel – who would you choose for the main characters? We’re talking dream cast.
Debby: I’d love to cast Jake Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst!

 
Nice cast! I'd see that movie. Okay, Tell us where readers can find your book and where can they find you online?
Debby: Readers can find me online at these spots:

Website: www.debbygrahl.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbygrahlauthor?ref=br_rs
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Debby-Grahl/e/B00B34HM26
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebbyGrahl






Thanks for being my guest today, Debby! Happy Holidays!
 







Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Writing Wednesday: The inspiration behind SANTA'S DOG #HolidayBooks

Like dogs? Read books? 
Want to help shelter dogs with every purchase?
Here’s a great Christmas gift that does just that!

About SANTA’S DOG:
Sometimes the best gifts choose YOU! Follow the adventures of Santa’s best dog, Lance, when he falls out of the sleigh one Christmas Eve. He’s taken in by the animal shelter and then brought home by a military family who needs some help as Dad is called to serve his country. When Christmas Eve comes ‘round the next year, Lance must decide whether to return to the North Pole with his friend Santa or stay with his new family. If you love dogs, if you have family in the military, or if you believe in Santa, you will be touched by SANTA'S DOG.
And best of all, SANTA’S DOG is based on a true story! 

Author JoAnn Sky explains: 

Early in our marriage when my husband was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I didn’t like being at home myself and adopted Sampson, an older mixed-breed dog (part husky, part angel), from a kill-shelter in Las Vegas. Sampson became my best friend and kept me safe.

One day after my husband had returned home from deployment, I brought Sampson to the veterinarian to get his ears checked because he didn't seem to be able to hear me (why else wouldn't a dog come immediately when called, right?) The vet assured me that Sampson was fine and explained that his behavior was typical of northern-breed dogs: they do things on their own time. I went home and told my husband what the vet said, and he declared, "Northern dog? Maybe he's Santa's dog and got lost from the North Pole!" It took me over a decade, but I finally wrote that story…and SANTA’S DOG is the result!

How to Order:

SANTA’S DOG is available on Amazon. But if you order directly from the Dogs & Books website,  https://www.dogsandbooks.com/shop, you’ll get a little freebie with each book purchased—there are specials every month (and free media mail shipping--US/APO addresses only)!


About the Publisher: Dogs & Books is a specialty publisher based in Reno, Nevada. A portion of their sales go to animal rescue causes. Current partners include: Nevada Humane Society (Reno), Sir’s Rescue Rangers (Las Vegas), and Blue Star Families (organization that supports military families).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Book Review: Christmas Once Again, by D.K.Deters #HolidayBooks



Christmas Once Again, by D.K.Deters
Published by The Wild Rose Press, November 2018

About the Book:
She's dead broke. And eviction looms. On Christmas Eve antique consultant Madison Knight takes a phone call from local rancher Zach Murdock. Through a mix-up at an estate sale, Madison's company purchased his grandmother's beloved painting. He offers double the money for its return.

Madison risks her job to track down the artwork, but success falls short when she's stuck in a blizzard. Stranded, she seeks help from a frontier family. Are they living off the grid, or did she somehow travel through time?

Zach's the only person who knows her plan. He also knows a secret about his gran's painting. It's up to him to rescue Madison, but maybe he's not cut out to be a hero.

My Take:

This sweet time travel romance has everything you need for a great holiday read by the fireplace. A quick read of a novella, I zipped through it in record time, totally caught up with the adventures of the plucky but down-on-her-luck heroine who gets caught up with recovering an antique painting with a mysterious past.

A well written novella with great sense of place and timing, I'd have loved for it to be a longer, drawn out story but as it is, it's a perfect cocoa by the firelight read, a great escape for a few quiet hours of down-time (if you can find that during this hectic time of year!)

D.K.Deters is a new to me author, but someone I'm putting on my watch list because I'd love to read something longer... hopefully soon!

Grab your copy on AMAZON



Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Feature: Grab a Cowboy for Christmas! New holiday anthology! #HolidayBooks


The weather is cold, the atmosphere is festive, and the cowboys are hot. How do you keep a cowboy at Christmas?

Don’t miss this holiday collection of modern-day cowboys and the women they love, featuring the same USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors from “A Cowboy to Keep,” which garnered 55 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

CHRISTMAS, LIBERTY, AND THE THREE MINUTE MAN by Carra Copelin
Nashville event planner, Liberty Ann Hart, has come to Mistletoe, Texas, to set up and promote a Christmas fundraiser for country music star Lilah Canfield. She tries not to fall for the local carpenter building the outdoor stage, but his cowboy charisma is hard to ignore.  
Daniel Dylan Layman is happy to live his life in obscurity in Mistletoe, until a sassy, headstrong woman removes her shoe and beats an ATM machine for eating her debit card. From that moment, he’s determined to show her a Texas country life away from the glitz and glamour of Nashville.

A CHRISTMAS CAROLE by Andrea Downing
When single mom Carrie Matheson inherits a Wyoming ranch and moves out of NYC, her six-year-old son is not happy. Trying to help Tim settle into life out west isn’t easy, especially when his pleas to Santa receive replies from a mysterious correspondent. Is it the crotchety ranch foreman upon whom she relies so much? Somehow, she doesn’t think so…. 
Tate Schrugge is amused by his new neighbor when she jogs over with some mis-delivered mail. But Tate has just finished with a long-term relationship, and the lithe blonde in front of him has just called him Scrooge. 
If these two can get together, it might be the Dickens of a romance.

THE PEPPERMINT TREE by Kristy McCaffrey
Skye Mallory has always aspired to leave her family’s ranch, and she takes pride in having achieved her dream of becoming a lawyer. But when an unexpected inheritance draws her home for the Christmas holidays, she’s surprised by a longing to set down roots in the wide-open meadows and woodlands of southwestern Colorado. Only one thing stands in her way—a cowboy who broke her heart nine years ago. 
In high school, Joe Carrigan admired Skye for her spirit and intellect, but he knew she was destined for a life beyond ranching. Turning down her romantic overture was the best course of action for them both. But now, he’s returned to their hometown, and it’s inevitable he’ll come face-to-face with his one regret in life—Skye Mallory. This time, however, he won’t be so chivalrous.

THE DEVIL’S CHRISTMAS KISS by Devon McKay
Kristen Kelly is returning home with a new attitude. No longer the shy, awkward girl of her past, she’s determined to show the small town what she’s made of. Especially Cole Lawson. When she’s challenged by Cole at a holiday kissing booth, she finds the wicked cowboy hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still the most frustrating, infuriating, and tempting man she has ever come across. 
The minute he sees Kristen again, Cole Lawson can’t believe his eyes. She’s the one girl he’s never forgotten but convincing her they belong together will take more than a Christmas kiss. Kristen doesn’t trust him but, this time, he’s determined to not let her go.

SLAY BELLS by Hildie McQueen
Big-city girl Carmen Dias is prepared for the worst when she accepts a writing assignment in rural Montana, but she’s pleasantly surprised by the jubilant atmosphere and warm welcome of the townspeople. Unfortunately, as she begins working on an article about their small-town Christmas festival, she discovers a dead body, putting her face-to-face with a local—and hunky—detective. 
Weary from his all-work and no-play schedule, Detective Jared Bowden braces for a busy time helping at his family’s Christmas festival. When a beautiful writer arrives in town, his holiday season immediately takes a turn for the better. But a murder investigation, possible charges against him, and a pesky ex-girlfriend don’t exactly spell romance. 
Can Carmen and Jared find love amidst the mayhem and sleigh bells?

THE BEST CHRISTMAS by Hebby Roman
Sofia Rossi travels to Texas to re-connect with her estranged teenage son, Aaron, who’s at a ranch rehab-center. An immigrant from Argentina, she has managed to thrive in the tough New York world of modeling. And she’s a survivor of an ill-advised liaison with a wealthy, married member of New York society. When her ex-lover manipulates their son into living with him, Aaron gets into trouble. Sofia is determined to reclaim her son at any cost.  
Gar McCulloch, after losing his wife to her high school sweetheart and his daughter to a drug overdose, believes his life is over. He dedicates himself to turning a dude ranch into a juvenile drug rehab-center. Selfless and with twenty years of juvenile counseling experience, Gar is a wizard at reforming other people’s kids, but he can’t forgive himself for his one failure… his own daughter. 
Sofia and Gar cooperate to save Sofia’s son, but neither believe they’re entitled to romance or happiness. Their mutual attraction and admiration come as a surprise and an unexpected joy, making this their best Christmas… ever.

COUNTING DOWN TO CHRISTMAS by Patti Sherry-Crews
Melody Evans grew up as the only child of a single mother, never putting down roots. Instead, they carried family traditions from home to home, none more precious than those surrounding Christmas. Romance? Melody has put a wall around her wounded heart and turned a cynical eye to the concept of happily ever after, despite making a living as a wedding planner. 
Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV has roots long and deep at his family’s ranch in South Dakota. What he lacks, according to his meddlesome sister, is someone to settle down with. But he holds on to the unwavering belief that there is only one woman out there for him. Christmas? It’s a holiday for children, not a bachelor living alone. 
Once Melody and Leland get over their initial animosity, they come together like two pieces of a puzzle, sparking emotions and nostalgic memories that bring magic to the holiday season. But when tragedy strikes, will their budding romance become a case of the right person at the wrong time, or will they forge a new path together?


Grab your copy NOW on AMAZON

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Writing Wednesday: Writing New Christmas Classics for Kids, with Colleen Driscoll #HolidayBooks

Meet Colleen Driscoll, author of an award winning series of Christmas books for kids.all starring a bright-eyed and enthusiastic elf named Piper.

According to her author bio, Colleen grew up on a small farm in New Germany, Pennsylvania. After starting a family, she relocated to beautiful, scenic West Virginia. On Christmas Day in 2010, she woke with a stomach virus, and as she lay in bed missing her family’s Christmas excitement, she began writing Piper the Elf adventures. That first book, Piper the Elf Trains Santa, was published in 2012 by Headline Books... and she’s been writing stories (and winning awards) ever since. All four of her Piper books have been awarded Mom's Choice Awards, and the fourth book also earned the 2017 Preferred Choice Award from Creative Child Magazine.

I've been blogging a lot about "inspiration" as of late, and so I asked Collen what truly inspired her to write this series of children's books. Here's her response, where she relates the details....:

It’s a funny story. I had never dreamt of writing before I began this series of books, I had another career and was raising my four young children (ages 8-16). On Christmas morning in 2010, I woke up with a stomach virus. After the kids opened some Christmas gifts I was ready to collapse so I returned to bed. All day I heard everyone downstairs playing and laughing while I lay miserable in bed.

To make matters worse, the following day I was too weak to travel to my parents’ annual Christmas party in Pennsylvania, which is very special to me. I have 8 siblings so including the in laws, nieces, and nephews, there are usually around 40 people in my immediate family. I was so disappointed that my Christmas with my husband, kids and family was ruined.

The next day I was finally feeling better and able to get out of bed. Feeling sorry for myself,  I wondered what the elves did the rest of the year since Christmas was over. I thought if I were an elf,  I would knock on Santa’s door and ask him to play outside with me. Thus the genesis of Piper the Elf stories began.

Piper the Elf Trains Santa is about the elves playing outside with Santa, sledding, building snowmen, having snowball fights, etc. Having Santa popping his suit buttons was a great segue for Piper being Santa’s personal trainer and showing him that everyone can exercise and still have fun. All the Piper books have a fun adventure at the North Pole. The other three books are about starting a musical band, rebuilding Santa’s sleigh, and encouraging a young reindeer to fly. After I started writing, I realized I loved creating stories. I’ve been hooked ever since.

My first adult novel Finding Euphoria is coming out soon with The Wild Rose Press and I especially like weaving in unexpected subplots in my writing.

Thanks for sharing, Colleen! Check out the cute covers and brief excerpts below (with buy links, too) Perfect as read-to-me bedtime stories for the holidays, or for early readers, K-2. Cute stories and empowering, positive messages.
Published by Headline Books, 2012

About the Book:
Uh, oh! When Santa’s suit doesn’t fit, Mrs. Claus assigns Piper to be his personal trainer.

Excerpt: 
Piper the Elf lived with her mother and father, and of course, Santa Clause. Piper loved to go outside in the snow and play with the other elves. Some days they would go sledding. Other days they would build snowmen, and sometimes the elves would throw snowballs at each other. One day while Piper was helping her father make toys in Santa’s workshop, Mrs. Claus came up to the little elf.

“Piper,” she said, “I really need your help.”

Piper replied, “What do you need, Mrs. Claus?”

“Santa does not fit into his suit anymore and Christmas is in one month,” she said.   “He is eating too many cookies.  The buttons are popping off of his clothes.  Would you exercise with Santa?” Mrs. Claus asked, “I want you to be his personal trainer.”

“Sure,” said Piper.  She didn’t know what a personal trainer did, but she wanted to help Santa...

Grab the Hardcopy on AMAZON or direct from the publisher in hardcopy or audio

** ~ ** ~ ** ~ **
Published by Headline Books, 2014

About the Book:  
Can Piper form a band in time for Santa’s Christmas party?
Excerpt:  
One morning Piper the Elf and her mother were helping Mrs. Claus bake cookies. 
 
Santa and Piper’s father came into the kitchen to have some cookies and milk.
 
“Piper,” Santa told her, “I would like to have music at this year’s Christmas celebration. Can you start a band with your friends and play some songs?” Santa asked. “You could practice in one of the rooms at the Toy Shop.”
 
Santa always had a big party two days before Christmas to thank the elves for their hard work making toys.
 
Piper was so excited.
 
 “Yes, Santa, I can put together a band to play for your Christmas celebration,” she said. “It will be a lot of fun.”
 
“Thank you, Piper,” Santa replied.     
 
The next day, Piper asked her friends if they wanted to join the band. Piper said she would beat the drums. Jack wanted to strum his guitar. Lin said she would like to try playing the tambourine. Miles wanted to blow on his trumpet. Holly said she would shake the maracas.
 
Skinner said he was too busy painting toys in the Toy Shop to play in the band. After Skinner left, Piper and the elves decided to call their group, Santa’s Rockin’ Band.
 
When the little elves met for the first time to play their instruments together, the sounds were not in tune...

Grab the Hardcopy on AMAZON or direct from the publisher in hardcopy or audio 

** ~ ** ~ ** ~ **

Published by Headline Books, 2015

About the Book:
What surprise does Piper have in store when she helps Santa repair his sleigh?
Excerpt:
 

Piper the Elf was excited about Christmas. Each day Piper and the elves had fun making toys for Santa. One blustery afternoon, Santa looked troubled as he walked into the Toy Shop.

“I inspected my sleigh today and saw many holes rusted through the sides and bottom,” he said. “I’m afraid the toys will fall out as I fly through the sky on Christmas Eve. Can anyone help me in the evenings to patch the holes and repair my sleigh?” 


The elves looked at each other and lowered their heads. No one volunteered to help.     Piper’s father said, “Santa, we work hard all day making toys. We are too tired to help you in the evening.”  


Santa was disappointed, but he didn’t want to overwork the elves. They needed to work during the day to finish the toys in time for Christmas.


Piper bit her lip and thought. She had chores in the evening, but she didn’t want to upset Santa. She raised her hand. “I will help you,” she said. The elves stared with open mouths...



Grab the Hardcopy on AMAZON or direct from the publisher in hardcopy or audio 

 ** ~ ** ~ ** ~ **

Published by Headline Books, 2017

About the Book:
When the newest reindeer comes to town, Piper is determined to help him fly.
Excerpt: 

Piper the Elf woke early one cold morning to help Santa feed the reindeer grazing in the corral by the barn. “Look, Santa,” she said, pointing to a small reindeer with stubby antlers. “We have a new reindeer.”

Santa walked over and smoothed the reindeer’s fur. “I wonder where this little fellow came from.”

Piper fed the animal a handful of moss and carrots from the bucket while Santa studied him. “I’ve never seen such gentle eyes,” Santa said. “They sparkle.”

The reindeer nuzzled his nose against Piper’s neck. “Where did he come from?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. There are many herds of reindeer around the North Pole,” Santa said.

Piper mounted the reindeer. He stomped his front hoof and arched his back until Piper fell in the snow. “Ouch!” she said, rubbing her backside.

Santa patted her shoulder. “I don’t think he wants to give rides yet.”

The reindeer stomped again. Piper held out a handful of carrots on her palm. “Can we keep him?” she asked.

“If he can fly,” Santa said.

Piper gave a toothy grin. “I’ll teach him. I’ll name him Stomper.”

Grab the Hardcopy on AMAZON or direct from the publisher in hardcopy or audio 

 ** ~ ** ~ ** ~ **