Guess what I did last year! – By Kathy Lyons / Jade Lee

OMG, it’s 2017! Where did the year go? Hmm, let me think. Politics (ugh). Family drama (mostly resolved now, thank God.) I lost weight, then gained it right back. (sigh). FRIENDS! I went to great events like Reader’s and ‘Ritas and had a rip, roaring good time! I travelled to Guatemala to help some schools there. And I did something else that really marked this year. What could it be?

  1. I got married! Yup, forget the hubby of 32 years. I ditched him for a hot young model who will star on my book covers despite being covered in horrible back hair.
  2. I decided I was going to learn how to cook. My lofty goals were to become a gourmet chef, but by mid-year, I changed that to “not set the kitchen on fire.” All in all…I failed. I hate cooking. But I do have a brand new kitchen (and house) after I burned down the last one.
  3. I signed a contract that will make my funky fantasy novel, Seducing the Skeptic by Kathy Lyons into a MOVIE! Yup! Hollywood came knocking and we’ll be seeing a Kathy Lyons book on the big screen in 2018. Whee!
  4. I hunkered down and wrote a trilogy of Grizzly Bear Shifter books which are fantastic! I know I’m not supposed to toot my own horn, but damn, those books are GOOD! The series is called Grizzlies Gone Wild because each of the three heroes is on the verge of going feral. It takes the love of three very unique women to knock some sense in them.

Answer: D – Of course I love my bear shifter books! So much so, that I made some really fun videos of my friends reading the back cover copy. They’re hysterical. And, by the way, wait until the end of each video because there’s always a punch line! (I’ll put them up at the end of this blog)

As for the other option, no gross back hair allowed! My husband of 32 years is my favorite hero and he still rocks my world. I have indeed toyed with the idea of learning how to cook for real. Not just microwave something I bought pre-made at the store. But then I lie down and take a nap until the urge goes away. As for the third option, how I wish Hollywood had come knocking. Someday maybe, but not yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

And now about the contest – tell me which grizzly video you liked the best and one lucky winner will get an e-copy of all three grizzly books. So here they are, my Grizzlies Gone Wild videos! They’re short and fun!

The Bear Who Loved Me by Kathy Lyons

With Damon Suede!

License to Shift by Kathy Lyons

With Julie Kenner!

For the Bear’s Eyes Only by Kathy Lyons

With Julie Ann Walker!

Barbara Crane | A Sense of Place

Until I wrote a historical novel set where I lived nearly all my life, I didn’t really know the place. My latest novel, WHEN WATER WAS EVERYWHERE, explores the lives of a Los Angeles landowner, an immigrant, a young Indian woman, and a Spanish priest during the 1840s when Alta California was a Mexican territory.

I had suspected that the landscape was vastly different a century and a half ago. In fact, the seed for the novel came from driving on Los Angeles’ freeways. I’d look down and see a vast plain of houses, stores, and shopping malls. I wondered what lay beneath the concrete. Like most people, I assumed Los Angeles was a desert.

Research revealed a place vastly different from the city I called home. It was never a desert. In fact, the landscape was once far more green. Less than 200 years ago, rain flowed down the mountains that rim Los Angeles, swelling its rivers and streams in the rainy season. This rainfall leached into the earth and
created large stores of groundwater.

Coastal wetlands and inland marshes—important as bird habitats and natural water filters—covered large areas and remained wet all year.

As I immersed myself in LA’s watery history, I centered much of my novel’s narrative along the Los Angeles River. A concrete flood control channel now, it was once a winding river lined with willow and cottonwood trees. The Tongva/Gabrielino Indians plied their reed boats down the river, fishing for steelhead trout.

When I understood that water was a central feature of the early Southern California landscape, water became a main character in my novel. I wrote scenes where my characters interacted with each other along rivers and near wetlands. The area’s historical landscape, a surprise to me, gave me the images I needed to create a sense of place.

Readers – what stories have you read that give you a strong sense of place?

Writers – what have you discovered about the area you live in that you have highlighted in your writing?

Include your answer with a comment to enter my giveaway. Good luck to you!

GIVEAWAY

Win a copy of WHEN WATER WAS EVERYWHERE, it’s simple, leave a comment below and you’ll be automatically entered!

WHEN WATER WAS EVERYWHERE by Barbara Crane

When Water Was Everywhere

Once upon a time in Los Angeles, water was everywhere—in rivers that rendered the vast plain marsh and woodland; in underground streams that provided an abundance of water for people, cattle, orchards and vineyards.

The American Henry Scott encounters this fertile landscape in When Water Was Everywhere. Arriving in the Mexican pueblo of Los Angeles in 1842, he meets Don Rodrigo Tilman (based on the historical John Temple). Scott becomes the foreman of Tilman’s newly-purchased cattle ranch along the Los Angeles River, the present day Rancho Los Cerritos.

As Scott learns about ranchos and cattle, vaqueros and Indians, Mexican California and Tongva Indian village life come alive under Barbara Crane’s deft grasp of narrative and history. Tilman, Scott, Big Headed Girl (a young Tongva Indian woman) and Padre José’s (a Franciscan friar) unfolding stories assure the novel’s themes of loss, hope and redemption resonate from every page.

Fiction [Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780997260908 / eISBN: 9780997260922]

About Barbara Crane

Barbara Crane

Barbara Crane’s most recent novel, WHEN WATER WAS EVERYWHERE, won a Beverly Hills Book Award. When she’s not writing, Barbara is busy hanging out with friends, hiking, cooking or working in her garden. She lives in Long Beach near Rancho Los Cerritos and other sites in her novel, but still considers herself an Angeleno.

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Chris Cannon, Why I Write About Dragons

Hello, my name is Chris Cannon. I’m a speech therapist by day, and an author who writes shape-shifting dragons by night. The Going Down In Flames series is about Bryn McKenna, a sixteen-year-old girl who finds out she’s a shape-shifting dragon when flames shoot out of her mouth for the first time. (Surprise!)

Bryn is forced to attend a school for shape-shifting dragons where they expect her to sit quietly and do as she’s told. Unfortunately for them, she’s not that kind of girl. Adventure, romance, and snarky banter ensues. FANNING THE FLAMES is the fourth book in the young adult, paranormal romance series and it comes out March 6th.

When people find out I write about shape-shifting dragons, they ask some interesting questions.

-So you write fiction?

“No. It’s autobiographical.” *author shifts into a dragon and blasts flames into the air before launching herself into the sky.

-Is it like Fifty Shades of Gray?

“No. It’s a young adult paranormal romance. A sweet romance with lots of teenage angst and drama and swoony guys.”

-Is it one of those kissing books?

“It’s a kick-ass chick who doesn’t take crap from anyone kind of book. And yes, there is some kissing, but there is also a lot of fire-breathing action and adventure.”

-Why write about dragons?

“Because dragons are the strongest, most amazing shifters around. They control magic, they can fly, and they can blast anyone who annoys them into a cinder.”

-Why do you write and or read young adult when you’re well past that age?

*Author gives questioner the evil eye. “Young adult refers to the age of the main character, not the age of the reader. I’ve never been a ten-year-old boy but I loved Harry Potter. I’ve never been a Shadowhunter but I enjoyed The Mortal Instruments series, etc.”

Have a question you’d like to ask? Leave it below in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer without giving the evil eye. One commenter will win the e-book of their choice from the Going Down In Flames series.

Going Down in Flames

GOING DOWN IN FLAMES
Going Down in Flames
#1.0
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BRIDGES BURNED
Bridges Burned
#2.0
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TRIAL BY FIRE
Trial By Fire
#3.0
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FANNING THE FLAMES
Fanning the Flames
#4.0
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FANNING THE FLAMES by Chris Cannon

Going Down in Flames #4

Fanning the Flames

Bryn McKenna has it all, including her smoking-hot knight turned live-in boyfriend, Valmont. Even though she’s a hybrid dragon, she’s finally fitting into the new shape-shifting dragon world that’s become her own. But her grandparents want to ruin everything by making Bryn’s nightmare of an arranged marriage to Jaxon Westgate a reality. It doesn’t help that Jaxon’s father is on a witch hunt for Rebel sympathizers and Bryn finds herself in his line of fire.

If she doesn’t say, “ I do,” she’ll lose everything. Good-bye flying. Good-bye best friends. Good-bye magic. But if she bends to her grandparents’ will and agrees to marry Jaxon, she’ll lose the love of her life—her knight.

Young Adult Paranormal [Entangled Teen, On Sale: March 6, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781682814451 / eISBN: 9781633758773]

About Chris Cannon

Chris Cannon

Award winning author Chris Cannon lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and her three dogs, Pete the shih tzu who sleeps on her desk while she writes, Molly the ever-shedding yellow lab, and Tyson the sandwich-stealing German Shepherd Beagle.

She believes coffee is the Elixir of Life. Most evenings after work, you can find her sucking down caffeine and writing fire-breathing paranormal adventures or romantic comedies.

Going Down in Flames

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Sheryl Nantus | Viva Las Vegas!

I remember the first time I visited Las Vegas – striding down the ramp and out into the terminal, eager to pick up my bags and head out for my hotel. It was like any other airport I’d visited, noisy and filled with commuters racing to catch their flights or grab their luggage and head out into the city.

But this wasn’t any other airport. Right beside the luggage carousel sat rows of slot machines, waiting to take my money as I watched for my bags to arrive. I couldn’t stop looking over at the noisy, eye-catching displays tempting me with the chance of beginning my winning streak before getting to my hotel. An attendant walked up and down the aisles, exchanging money for eager players. And they won. I saw more than one machine explode into loud bells and whistles, flashing lights as it paid out. It made the usually boring wait for my luggage that much more interesting as I fought to keep from losing all of my gambling money before even leaving McCarran Airport.

I went on from there to the hotel and my week-long stay where night only meant it got a bit cooler outside – the casinos never closed and neither did the cafes and stores, eager to take their share of my winnings, meager as they were. No matter what time it was I could find myself surrounded by people, living life to the fullest as they lost and won at cards or at the slots before partaking in the wild nightlife Las Vegas is known for. Good food, good people, good parties – it was easy to lose track of time and discover I’d been out all night and well into the morning without feeling any time had passed. When I did step outside either into the cool night air or the blistering dry heat I’d be surrounded by all types of people, from the new tourist standing still and staring at the replica Eiffel Tower or enjoying the musical fountains at the Bellagio to the experienced busker performing for the eager crowds.

That, in a nutshell, is Las Vegas. A surreal adult playground where the unusual sits next to the usual and no one blinks an eye. It made the city a perfect place for the Delta Force Brotherhood to set down roots, buying up a nightclub and using it as a front for their operations to help those who can’t get justice through the regular options. Their late-night comings and goings, their odd behavior and their presence wouldn’t seem out of place.

When I was developing the series I went over the many places I could have the Devil’s Nightclub located, the home base for this secret group of warriors. The nightclub not only is the safest place in Las Vegas to visit and enjoy but also an excellent meeting spot for those looking to contact the Brotherhood. People come and go, enjoying the live bands and rocking out on the dance floor but few of them ever find out about the bottom level where the Brotherhood trains and prepares for their missions or the upper floors holding private suites along with Dylan McCourt’s office where he looks out over the crowd every night, keeping an eye out for anyone who might need the Brotherhood’s help.

Over the years I’ve visited Las Vegas a few times and every time the skyline’s changed. There’s very little that stays the same – new hotels fly up almost yearly, older casinos renovate and recreate themselves while the tourists flow in and out. It’s a fantastic place for conventions where the motto of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is taken to heart, as anyone who’s attended can attest to.

But it’s also a place to recreate yourself if you want to – and when I was looking for a home for Dylan McCourt and his men Las Vegas came easily to mind. A city that never sleeps, is constantly in a state of change and where people come and go from all over the country, from all over the world?

That’s Las Vegas. Sin City. Home to the Devil’s Playground and to a secret group of men who will go the distance for you – if you can find them.

HARD PLAY by Sheryl Nantus

Delta Force Brotherhood

Hard Play

Ex-special forces ranger Dylan McCourt is a stone cold killer who cares only about his military brothers and doing what’s right. He’s used to giving orders and has zero patience for bullshit. Most people tremble when they look him in the eye, but not his infuriatingly sexy new rescue mission, Jessie Lyon. She just juts her chin and says she’s not leaving without clearing her father’s name, to hell with his rules. And was that a one finger salute he sees in her eyes or his imagination? Either way, he knows this is one job his training might not have prepared him for.

For fans of Maya Banks’ KGI series, prepare to meet the men of the Delta Force Brotherhood, a sexy new contemporary series where kicking ass and living hard is just how they roll.

Romance Suspense [Entangled Select, On Sale: February 13, 2017, e-Book, ISBN: 9781633758414 / eISBN: 9781633758414]

About Sheryl Nantus

Sheryl Nantus

Sheryl Nantus was born in Montreal, Canada and grew up in Toronto, Canada. She met Martin Nantus through the online fanfiction community in 1993 and moved to the United States in 2000 in order to marry. A firm believer in the healing properties of peppermint and chai tea she continues to write short stories and novels while searching for the perfect cuppa.

She loves to play board games and write haiku, although not usually at the same time.

She has published multiple books with Entangled Publishing, St. Martin’s Press/ Swerve, Samhain Publishing and Carina Press.

Delta Force Brotherhood

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Julie Cross | Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: Examining Sex in YA Literature

The room where it happens…keep it lit or fade to black?

In her renowned 1975 novel, FOREVER, Judy Blume took teens Katherine and Michael from first meeting to first kiss, first base to second, second to third. Then with the lights still shining bright and no doubt the rapt attention of each young reader, Katherine and Michael had their first sexual experience together–no fading to black, no glossing over the technicalities with flowery ambiguous language. There was no hidden agenda with this novel, no political statement to be made. It was simply there to show us (or remind us) of what it’s like to be a young person in love, dating, having sexual experiences for the first time.

I grew up reading Judy Blume, learning about buying a bra and first periods from Margaret, then later learning about sex from Katherine and Michael. In high school, I had my own “Michael” and a first-serious-relationship experience that was frighteningly similar to this fictional couples’ story. So it’s no surprise that when I began writing YA, I took a small note from Ms. Blume.

As much as we’d like to say that our characters make these decisions when it comes to sex and YA novels, the truth is: Authors have choices. Authors make choices. Like Judy Blume, we join our characters together, allow them a memorable first kiss and then…well, this is where the road can split into many directions. And I? I chose the road less clothed. This isn’t a decision made to increase commercial appeal or add a scandalous note to a story, it’s because what happens in that room is important to the story. Any words the two characters speak to each other in that moment are important, who undresses who, any doubts that linger and whether or not they are settled throughout the scene, depending on the type of story, can be crucial information to a reader. As with Katherine and Michael’s first time in FOREVER, often YA sex scenes prove an important point: it is possible for a moment to be both romantic and a complete failure.

In my YA novel, WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU, Annie Lucas and Jason Brody begin their relationship with a steaming hot first kiss, and continue their sexual exploration over the course of a few months time. With this couple, I had a difficult choice to make–Brody is 19 and sexually experienced, Annie is 17 and has some experience but is a virgin (though she lies to Brody about this). Annie’s guarded heart and Brody’s fear of going too fast with this younger girl whose father he is very close with and respects a great deal sets the somewhat slow pace of their physical relationship. As a result, the couple’s physical and emotional relationship becomes intertwined, the growth of one equally representing the growth of the other and banishing all arguments relating to the “sex doesn’t equal love” debate.

In fact, with many YA novels, the presence of sex on the page often represents a deeper, close relationship between the main couple. Even when that relationship doesn’t last, as with Katherine and Michael in FOREVER, the experience is valuable, if not crucial to growing up. In my forthcoming novel, OFF THE ICE (2/28/17), Tate Tanley has recently broken up with his first love, the girl to whom he fumbled through first sexual experiences with and though someone new has caught his eye, both bitterness and nostalgia over the nice moments with his ex linger. And as things move forward with Claire, his new love interest, Tate realizes the value of his past relationship and how it taught him what intimacy meant and varying levels of it. Tate refers to his relationship with his ex, Haley, as “easy and comfortable.” When he compares his budding relationship with Claire, a girl he’s crushed on from a distance for years, he says, “What is this thing that Claire and I are doing? It’s painful and messy but also exhilarating, like seeing colors for the first time.” Like Annie and Brody, their physical relationship is closely connected to their emotional growth, both individually and as a couple, and seeing their intimate moments close up, all lights on, is essential to a reader “buying into” their relationship.

Not every book I write has or will have a crucial need for sex on-the-page, but most do though in different degrees of description. It’s difficult to evaluate a YA novel that chooses to fade to black in those moments and decide if keeping the lights on would add to the story, but on the flip side, I can name many novels–outside of FOREVER–that I couldn’t imagine removing the descriptive sex. I’m including a list of some of my favorites, books I often recommend to teens and even parents.

YA Novels That “Keep the room lit” and do it Well

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

I know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny Downham (this one has an HEA!)

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (another HEA!)

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

Everyday by David Levithan (I especially love this one for the unclear gender of the main character who inhabits the bodies of a different person everyday and who has been in love with both a boy and a girl)

Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

I would love to hear any of your favorites so please share via twitter (@juliecross1980) or email me and I will share on twitter: juliecrossauthor(at)gmail(dot)com

P.S. In case you were wondering or even worried about this…all my books have an HEA :)

OFF THE ICE by Julie Cross

Juniper Falls

Off the Ice

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business―a hockey bar beside the ice rink―afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

Young Adult [Entangled Teen, On Sale: February 28, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781633756557 / eISBN: 9781633756564]

About Julie Cross

Julie Cross

Julie Cross is a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).

She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, Chasing Truth and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children.

The Eleanor Ames | Juniper Falls

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Five Reasons to Give the Villain Another Chance

  1. It’s Unexpected

What? The “bad girl” in book two is the heroine of book three? Are you serious? That late-to-work, doesn’t-give-a-hoot smart mouth? Her? The one we wished would take a permanent hike, and—she’s baaaack?

  1. It’s a Stretch

Though we applaud ourselves for being nonjudgmental (admittedly easier in fiction) and open-minded regarding stories, we probably do “label” characters. We expect to see a bad guy—maybe we want that, a character we love to hate. So if that label was neatly tied to a character in book two and suddenly we’re asked to root for her in the next story . . . yes, that’s a big stretch.

  1. It Makes Us Dig Deeper

There’s nothing more yawn-worthy than a “cardboard” villain; writers are taught this from day one. Readers expect much better. But moving a bad girl (or guy) into believable heroine status requires investment. Proof. We must ferret out what shaped this character, truly understand what made her “go dark,” before we can agree to wave her banner.

  1. It Makes Us a Secret Sidekick

If the author’s done her job, there comes a point in such a story when readers know the villain-turned-hero better than anyone. We understand what makes her tick, and we’re frustrated (even angry) when other characters misjudge, misread, or disrespect her. We’re fully invested; we’ve got her back until the final chapter.

And finally:

  1. It Seems Only Fair

After all, we’ve made mistakes too. Along with our family, friends, our neighbors . . . leaders. Maybe not to the scale of mustache-twirling villainy, but most of us would welcome a do-over, another chance, right? If, as readers (and authors), we can stretch, dig deep, and become a supportive, encouraging sidekick to an unexpected hero, it may even have compassionate implications beyond that last chapter. Perhaps in the real world. And that’s not only fair, it’s downright hopeful.

About Candace Calvert

Candace Calvert

Former ER nurse, wife, Mom and grandmother, Candace Calvert believes that love, laughter, and faith are the best medicines of all. Her new Mercy Hospital Series for Tyndale House offers readers charismatic characters, pulse-pounding medical drama, romance, humor, suspense–and a prescription for hope. Think, “Grey’s Anatomy finds its soul.” She is . . .

A Northern California native who began her nursing career in rural Oregon, and later moved to Hill Country Texas–where she learned to check her shoes for scorpions and plucked an armadillo from her swimming pool. Thinks cruising is the best way to travel: honeymooned in Venice, swam with stingrays, rode a camel at the pyramids, and sang (badly) with a Newfoundland country band. She loves cooking, dancing the Two Step, bird watching, and gets goose bumps when her handsome husband hits the low notes at karaoke. She’s wild about Beth Moore Bible studies, and recently graduated from The Community of Hope training for lay chaplains. Candace published a series of madcap cruise mysteries in the mainstream market, and now writes inspirational fiction.

Crisis Team

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MAYBE IT’S YOU by Candace Calvert

Crisis Team

Maybe it's You

ER nurse Sloane Ferrell escaped her risky past—new name, zip code, job, and a fresh start. She’s finally safe, if she avoids a paper trail and doesn’t let people get too close. Like the hospital’s too-smooth marketing man with his relentless campaign to plaster one “lucky” employee’s face on freeway billboards.

Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive Sloane Ferrell.

Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past.

Can hope spring from crisis?

Inspirational Mystery | Inspirational Romance [Tyndale House Publishers, On Sale: February 1, 2017, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781414390369 / eISBN: 9781496418791]

Fran Stewart | Am I in There Somewhere?

Like most authors, I get frequent questions about how much of myself is in my books, and I always have to think about how to answer.

On the one hand, I include quite a bit based on personal experience. For instance, I truly believe our animal companions can understand a lot about what we think, which is why, in A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL, I wrote several scenes from the point of view of Silla, the Scottish Terrier that eventually becomes Peggy’s dog. I don’t think this is a spoiler, because it’s probably pretty obvious from the first time the dog shows up that Silla will become an integral part of the ScotShop. Here’s an example of one of those scenes:

Silla pranced beside her person. She did not like the other one, but she enjoyed the walk along the winding streets. She tried not to listen to the two people. When they moved between two houses, left the buildings behind, and entered the forest path, she fairly quivered with excitement. This was a new place, one she had never seen before.

“Okay, you win,” her person said, and Silla heard the sadness in his voice. “But after that, I want you to leave us alone.”

Us. That was right. Silla and her person. Us.

Silla wanted that other person to go away.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” that person said. “I never want to see you again. Not after what you did to her.

Silla looked around. To who? She didn’t see another her anywhere. Only an empty path.

Her person looked at that shiny thing on his hand and then he reached into the place where he kept Silla’s treats. Silla’s ears perked up, but all her person took out was that other thing he kept with the treats. Silla had tried to chew on it once when he left the little bag on his bed, but he had taken it away from her.

“Here they are,” her person said. “And I never want to have to deal with you again.”

The other person said something, but Silla had lost interest as soon as her person closed the treat holder. She saw a squirrel cross the path up ahead, so she ignored all the rest of the words.

As you can see, I wrote this scene using fairly simple vocabulary and sentence structure, since an animal communicator I’ve spoken with a number of times over the years informs me that animals don’t think in subordinate clauses.

The Vermont setting of WEE HOMICIDE is based on the fact that I lived in that lovely state for 26 years, and even though the town of Hamelin is pure fiction, it has enough similarities to several Vermont towns, that the inhabitants might recognize a few features.

But then there are all the questions I never thought to ask, the places I never thought to explore, the people I never got to know well enough. How can I include those parts of myself in my books when those parts are still incomplete?

Well, here’s one way. It’s called imagination. What would I like to know, where would I like to go, and who would I like to meet? I can have it all; all I need to do is make it up!

My grandfather, who was a Mississippi farmer all his life, used to have beehives. He kept them for years and harvested gallons of honey from them. According to my sister, Grandpa got badly stung one day, and almost died from a severe allergic reaction.

The trouble with third-hand stories like this is that one can’t get details. My grandfather died years ago. I never thought to ask him about his role as a beekeeper, because I didn’t know to ask. Was he really stung by the bees, or did he perhaps stumble on a yellow-jacket nest?

What other stories have I lost along the way, simply because I didn’t know what to ask about? What are the stories you haven’t heard – or haven’t told anyone?

I’m (obviously) toying with the idea of putting something about beekeeping in a future book, but my imagination hasn’t quite shaped those scenes yet. But that’s okay. I have notes about it in my “Maybe” file, a scroungy collection of scraps of paper that I look through periodically, most often when I’m stuck in the middle of a first draft with no idea where to go. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) to learn how often one of those scrawled notes provides the impetus for the precise scene I need. That scene with Silla, for instance, came from a nearly illegible note I’d scribbled in the middle of the night that said, “chewed up treat bag.”

I’m not sure where the idea for that note came from, a dream perhaps, but since it led to a scene I rather enjoyed writing, it was worth groping for a pencil at two or three a.m. Now if I could just decipher that other note that says eigwimz. Or maybe it’s siyming. Or aiynnyj? Sigh. Someday I’ll figure it out. Maybe. In the meantime, there are plenty of other, more legible notes available whenever I need to put some of myself into a story.

A WEE HOMICIDE IN THE HOTEL by Fran Stewart

ScotShop Mystery

A Wee Homicide in the Hotel

The national bestselling author of A Wee Dose of Death returns to Hamelin, Vermont, where Peggy Winn, owner of a Scottish-themed shop, is spectator to caber tossing, sword dancing, and just a spot of murder…

Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customers’ family names to their clan plaid.

Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer.

Mystery Cozy [Berkley Prime Crime, On Sale: February 7, 2017, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780425270332 / eISBN: 9781101639573]

About Fran Stewart

Fran Stewart

Always looking for inspiration and frequently finding it, Fran lives her life with enthusiasm and expectancy. Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series (seven so far) and the three ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, she lives and writes quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.

ScotShop | Biscuit McKee Mysteries

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Jamie Beck’s Heroine Shares Her Top 5 Favorite Romance Novels

Thank you so much for hosting me to talk about my recent release, UNEXPECTEDLY HERS. Fans of the Sterling Canyon series have already met Emma Duffy–the shy, conservative innkeeper and supportive friend. What they didn’t know is that she’s also secretly written an erotica romance (Steep and Deep) under a pen name.

What motivated this? Let’s face it—Emma is sexually repressed. As a teen, she watched casual sex destroy her family, which thrust her into being a caretaker for her uptight, conservative yet devastated mother. That dynamic eventually turned into a co-dependent pattern of Emma doing (and not doing) things to keep her mother happy. Add to that the fact that Emma lacks any privacy because she also still lives at and manages the inn with her mother, and you’ve got loads of repression.

But years of pent up tension needed an outlet, which led to an atypical one-night-stand with a champion snowboarder when she was out of town three years ago. That tryst spurred the idea for her secret novel. Given how her mother and others in her community might feel about it—and her own conflicted feelings about her sexuality—she’s kept it a secret from everyone. It would all be fine, except now that snowboarder is in town, training for a comeback and staying at her inn. If you want to know more, you’ll have to pick up the story.

In the meantime, Emma would like to share some of her favorite super-sexy romance novels with you.

For those who love historicals, Elizabeth Hoyt’s DUKE OF SIN is equally witty and dirty. Val is a psychopath, yet you’ll love him and his damaged soul. It’s absolutely riveting to be in his crazy point-of-view. Bridget is his clever housekeeper who goes toe-to-toe with him. This story will shock you, make you laugh (the scene with his sister’s gown at his ball is a laugh-out-loud one), and give you lots of naughty tingles. What more could you ask?

If paranormal is your thing, Kresley Cole’s LOTHAIRE remains a favorite. The IAD series and world is extremely complex, so it can’t be quickly distilled. It is enough to say that Lothaire, Enemy of Old, is wonderfully sarcastic and arrogant, and Ellie, a mortal Appalachian hillbilly is his perfect foil. This story presents an interesting love triangle, too, with Ellie being possessed by the soul reaper Lothaire thinks is his blooded mate. Very hot sex scenes and lots of great banter make this one a winner.

Then there is Cara McKenna’s UNBOUND. Merry, a people-pleaser, takes a hiking trip in Scotland where she stumbles upon a recluse, Rob, who’s living in an off-grid hut. Rob’s a recovering alcoholic who blew up his life and is doing penance, of a sort, in this cabin. The premise sounds almost preposterous, but the author’s deft hand leads to an incredibly compelling and ultimately believable love story with some serious kink and a lot of emotional healing.

And if you like something unexpected and light-hearted, try a brilliant nerd hero, Leo Foxx, in Shelly Alexander’s FOREPLAY. Leo and his genius pals created a cologne that ignites women’s interest, so they started a matchmaking business to help other geeks find love. Things start to go wrong, which is when the heroine, PR specialist, Chloe gets involved. Great banter, a fun premise, and hot sex make for a highly entertaining and quick read.

And lastly, another paranormal, this one involving a hero who is the ghost of a death row serial killer (or is he?). In Karen Robards’s THE LAST VICTIM, we meet Dr. Charlotte Stone, a serial killer survivor turned psychologist who not only helps cops find serial killers, but also talks to dead people. Michael was an inmate she was studying, but he gets killed before her eyes and then haunts her, proclaiming his innocence, and also protecting her. This is book one in a three-book series that involves a love triangle with a nice FBI agent (Tony). Tony is the good guy Charlotte should want, but Michael is a hot, hot, hot alpha (think Sawyer from LOST). It takes a while for her to get with the ghost, but when they do it is SO good.

Have fun with these recommendations!

UNEXPECTEDLY HERS by Jamie Beck

Sterling Canyon #3

Unexpectedly Hers

By day, bashful wallflower Emma Duffy works at her family’s bed-and-breakfast. By night, she secretly pens erotic romance hot enough to melt the snow in their cozy Rockies town.

But Emma’s real life is about to heat up when her mother books the entire inn to a professional snowboarder, hoping the publicity will put them on the map. In a karmic twist of fate, that guest is Wyatt Lawson, the man with whom Emma had shared the secret one-night stand that became the inspiration for her novel and its dreamy hero. Worse, a film crew is documenting his comeback just as her debut is about to hit the shelves. Emma’s only saving grace is that Wyatt doesn’t remember her—and hopefully he never will.

When Wyatt arrives in Sterling Canyon for several weeks of intense training, the last tumble he expects to take is falling for a girl, especially one as shy as Emma. Unlike groupies with their hidden agendas, she isn’t using him—or so he believes…until the film crew uncovers Emma’s pen name and steamy novel.

Wyatt’s comeback run can withstand a fall or two, but can his heart recover from this crash and burn?

Romance Contemporary [Montlake Romance, On Sale: February 21, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781503942240 / ]

About Jamie Beck

Jamie Beck

Jamie Beck is a former attorney with a passion for inventing stories about love and redemption. In addition to writing novels, she also pens articles on behalf of a local nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth and strengthening families. Fortunately, when she isn’t tapping away at the keyboard, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

Sterling Canyon | St. James Family

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Laura Spinella Author/Reader Match

Writes:

Across genre! However, be assured there’s a love story in all Laura Spinella novels—hotter love stories in my L. J. Wilson Clairmont Series Novels. But today I’d love to chat about Unstrung, my newest book baby—women’s fiction with a serious crush on romance.

About:

I’m the something for everybody author—unless you’re totally opposed to finding a love story in your novel. In that case, we might make good shopping buddies, or share a coffee, but I’m probably not your cup of tea.

So what do I mean by “writing across genre?” Well, my books can be ethereal, like in Ghost Gifts, where readers can indulge in mystery, a psychic gift, and slow burning romance. On the other hand, Unstrung travels a different path—grittier, more emotional, a story that examines the “why” behind our choices, as seen through one precarious violinist’s calamitous life. In either case, my writing probably appeals to readers who crave copious amounts of plot and character.

What I’m looking for in my ideal reader match:

  • Pace. If you enjoy a story that moves, we might be a match. I appreciate delicate, deft descriptions, but my books focus more on storytelling. If nearly every chapter ends with a mini-cliffhanger and you’re turning pages well past your bedtime, I’ve succeeded.
  • Men. Okay, let’s talk about the men. I love to write from a male POV, and think I’ve created some swoon-worthy men along the way. But I also refuse to give up substance! Readers’ pulses may pound; more importantly, I like to think my guys have one. Aside from beguiling, my male characters are complex, intriguing, funny, smart and unpredictable. (Naturally, female characters must match them toe-to-toe.)
  • Threads. If you enjoy a layered plot with lots of interconnecting threads, you’ve opened the right book. I don’t like to read one-note books and I don’t write them.
  • Can I keep you guessing? Ghost Gifts might be defined as a mystery, but UNSTRUNG has plenty of twists that will keep readers off balance and asking: What’s next? I aim for the unexpected.
  • The chameleon effect. As noted above, I’m a genre jumper. But I think that’s a good thing. If you like my writing style, imagine how many different stories I can tell you.
  • Travel companion. Laura Spinella novels are great on the go—airport and airplanes, the beach, doctor’s offices, a weekend at your mother-in-law’s—distraction is part of the formula.
  • Entertainment package. Years ago, an interviewer asked what was the one thing I wanted for my readers. I was surprised how quickly I came up with the answer: I want them to be entertained. I think a good book has to bring all the tools to the table—plot, character, A-game writing, and heart to satisfy the reader. I always look forward to the challenge.

What to expect if we’re compatible:

If we’re in sync, I should leave you wanting more! Laura Spinella novels will keep you busy for some time, certainly get you through the rest of winter.

UNSTRUNG is a stand alone novel—a Publishers Weekly most anticipated book for spring—but Ghost Gifts readers can look forward to Foretold, book two in the trilogy, out this October.

Sign up for my newsletter! I do monthly giveaways that include not only Laura Spinella goodies, but signed books from many beloved authors.

Here’s some bonus fun! Watch the official trailer for UNSTRUNG, and get a sneak peak at its volatile and page-turning story.

Thanks for letting me visit; this was fun! I hope Fresh Fiction readers will check out UNSTRUNG!

UNSTRUNG by Laura Spinella

Unstrung

Even as a violin prodigy, Olivia Klein courted trouble. But when her marriage to high-stakes investor Rob Van Doren takes another wrong turn, Olivia acts out once too often. A night of bad behavior results in community service hours. Time is to be served with Theo McAdams, an inner-city teacher whose passion for music eclipses Olivia’s. As she inches toward a better place, life surprises Olivia in the form of her first husband—baseball legend Sam Nash.

Years ago, Olivia fell in love with Sam. Their impulsive marriage imploded with a fateful car crash and harsh parting words. Olivia never expected to see him again. But now Sam is back, and he wants her forgiveness. He also wants to recapture their volatile love affair. Olivia is torn between rekindling romance and saving her marriage. To her surprise, it’s the presence of the young music teacher—and the lessons from a reckless past—that may bring harmony to Olivia’s off-key life.

Romance Contemporary [Montlake Romance, On Sale: February 21, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781503937352 / ]

About Laura Spinella

Laura Spinella

Laura Spinella is an East Coast author, originally from Long Island, New York. She pursued her undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Georgia. The southern locale provided the inspiration for her first novel, Beautiful Disaster, which garnered multiple awards, including a Romance Writers of America RITA nomination. She’s also lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in North Carolina before relocating to Massachusetts. She and her family currently live in the Boston area, where she is always writing her next book. Ghost Gifts is Laura’s third work of romantic fiction. She also writes sensual romance under the pen name L. J. Wilson.

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Something Sweet with Sandra Bretting

Missy Dubois is the definition of southern charm in the small town of Bleu Bayou, Louisiana. She’s got sass and spunk, with a style everyone wants—and Sandra Bretting has brought her to life in a most entertaining way with her Missy Dubois Mystery series.

I was elated when Ms. Bretting agreed to sit down in our Cozy Corner and chat for a spell.

Kym: Welcome to the Cozy Corner, Sandra!

Sandra: So glad to be here, Kym. I love your blog!

Kym: Your first Missy Dubois Mystery, MURDER AT MORNINGSIDE, was released last summer by Lyrical Press. What captured your attention about Missy?

Sandra: She reminded me of someone I met a long time ago who hailed from Louisiana. Missy is fearless: she follows her heart instead of her head. She’s not always prudent, but she’s always interesting.

Kym: Missy is quite the hatmaker, how did you develop the knowledge about her trade?

Sandra: Books, books and more books. I’ve always loved hats, but now I know how to piece one together. I also visited a hat shop in New Orleans that makes custom hats to order. (I’d use the word “bespoke,” but that word is wwwaaayyy too popular right now.)

Kym: LOL, have you been known to don a few fancy hats? (If so, do you have a pic to share?)

Sandra: I have. One of my favorites is a hat I brought with me on a family trip to Paris. Since we visited in July, I went with a paper straw hat with a pinstriped hatband. Kinda jaunty, don’t you think?

Kym: That’s awesome, I love it! In your second Missy Dubois Mystery, SOMETHING FOUL AT SWEETWATER, our resident hatmaker has outgrown the current location for her store, Crowning Glory. She finds a steal of a deal in the Sweetwater Mansion that’s up for sale. Did you model this mansion after a famous mansion?

Sandra: It’s more an amalgamation of the pretty mansions I’ve seen on the Great River Road. All have grand columns and wraparound porches, and some even have widows’ walks, which I find fascinating.

SOMETHING FOUL AT SWEETWATER by Sandra Bretting

Missy DuBois #2

Something Foul at Sweetwater

Louisiana hat maker Missy DuBois is making a name for herself veiling Southern brides-to-be with her sophisticated designs. She’s also gaining a reputation for unveiling murderers . . .

Missy is shocked when she sees the asking price for the Sweetwater mansion . . . in a good way. With business thriving at Crowning Glory, it would be nice to set up shop surrounded by alabaster columns and gleaming mahogany. The Southern connections only deepen when it turns out the real estate agent is Mellette Babineaux, a college classmate and sorority sister. But when Missy drags her best friend Bo along to the mansion for a second look, they barely make it past the live oaks before they discover Mellette’s dead body in a shed.

Now, for the sake of her college friend, Missy finds herself investigating everyone from a superstitious Cajun caretaker to a Rolls Royce-driving billionaire—and finding that lots of closet space can mean lots of skeletons, too . . .

Mystery Cozy [Kensington, On Sale: December 20, 2016, e-Book, ISBN: 9781601837158 / eISBN: 9781601837158]

Kym: Tell us about Bo. Who would you put in the role as Missy’s best friend?

Sandra: Bo is tall, dark and handsome, but he doesn’t necessarily think so. I’d probably pick someone like Ryan Gosling (I love his crooked smile) and make him dye his hair for the part.

Kym: He would fit perfectly in the role. How did you get comfortable writing with a Cajun accent? It’s one thing to understand it, it’s quite another to put it on a page and have readers unfamiliar with the rhythm and fluidity of the accent be able to actually hear it as they read?

Sandra: I’ve met several people with Cajun accents (I live in Houston, so we’re next-door neighbors with Louisiana Cajun country), and sometimes even they can’t understand each other. It’s a very guttural dialect; almost as if the speaker is swallowing her words. I also watched videos of people on YouTube, which is a great source for anything audiovisual.

Kym: Youtube has become a vast resource center! You grew up on the West coast, went to school in the mid-west, (go Mizzou!) and ended up working in Texas. How has living in the different regions of the United States, developed your writing?

Sandra: I think it’s given me a better ear for how people actually speak. I grew up in Southern California, where every sentence tends to end on the upswing. It’s that sunny California vibe that’s a cliché for a reason. Here in Texas, my friends speak more slowly; they’re not in a rush to get on with it. I think it’s helped me develop characters that are more realistic.

Kym: You’re a reporter by day, and a novelist by night. Is it difficult to switch hats?

Sandra: Not really, because I’m lucky enough to write feature articles for the Houston Chronicle. As with books, there’s a clear beginning, middle and end, and usually an inciting incident that kicks everything off. Working for the paper has exposed me to some very interesting people, while writing books has made my newspaper reporting more lively.

Kym: You’ve written two intriguing stand-alone mysteries, UNHOLY LIES and BLESS THE DYING, two titles that I absolutely love! Can you tell us a bit about them?

Sandra: UNHOLY LIES was my firstborn, so it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. It’s about a small-town reporter (like they say, “Write about what you know”), who investigates the death of a local church organist. Turns out the woman had been having an affair with her pastor, so I got to explore a lot of juicy things about leadership and conscience. BLESS THE DYING takes place in a hospital, and its involves a cop who’s poisoned in a very matter-of-fact way.

Kym: In January, you expanded your family to include, Chance, an adorable rescue from the pound who’s become your series mascot. How has his training gone? Has he brought new challenges to your writing schedule?

Sandra: Ah, Chance. Gotta love him. Here’s a picture of the little guy, since I can’t resist that puppy face. His training has gone…well, let’s just say it’s been interesting. We might have to repeat our puppy class at Petsmart. If anything, he’s helped me as a writer, though, because now I don’t look insane when I take walks and talk to myself about plotlines.

Kym: What can we expect next from you and Missy?

Sandra: The next book in the Missy DuBois Mystery series debuts in May. It’s called SOMEONE’S MAD AT THE HATTER, and this time the danger turns personal for Missy. Thankfully, my publisher wants at least three more books, so I get to hang out with Missy and her friends for a while.

Kym: Where can our readers find you on social media?

Sandra: My website is www.sandrabretting.com and my Facebook page is SandraBrettingBooks/ I love to hear from readers, and I welcome any and all questions.

Kym: Thank you for joining us at The Cozy Corner Sandra!

Sandra: It’s been my pleasure, Kym. Thanks for the interesting questions!

Kym Roberts

Kym Roberts is a retired detective sergeant who looks for passion, mystery and suspense in every book she reads and writes. She can be found on the web kymroberts.com, on Facebook at Kym Roberts (author) and on Twitter @kymroberts911. Look for her cozy mystery release, Fatal Fiction, A Book Barn Mystery available for a limited time for just 99¢. A Reference to Murder and Perilous Poetry available for on Pre-order now!