Rachel Blaufeld | Toasting in the New Year

Happy New Year Fresh Fiction Readers!

I hope that you all rang in The New Year exactly how you wanted!

As for me, I was in my jammies long before midnight, tucked into my bed with my beagles snoring by my side and a good book on my kindle!

And maybe, just maybe, a glass of sparkling vino on my nightstand!

Today, I’m toasting to my new release, BREAK POINT.

BREAK POINT is a two-part romance. Part One is equal parts steamy and sad. College transfer student and tennis hopeful, Juliette Smith, falls for her dreamy, alpha coach, Drew King. He’s all man with the most spectacular forearms. Their affair is forbidden and steamy until it’s not…anything…anymore.

Part Two reintroduces us to Jules and Drew a few years later, both carrying baggage—Juliette’s slightly heavier than Drew’s. Given a second chance, the pair has to work through all the emotions and coming to terms with their past while taking care of Darla—Jules’ daughter.

At one point during the story, Drew is tasked with caring for a sick Darla. With a sore throat and a fever, Darla is a mess. Inside Drew’s bachelor pad, he doesn’t have much to offer her for comfort other than a can of Arnie Palmer Iced Tea and Lemonade. Of course, Darla is smitten with Drew at her first sip of “Arnee’s.”

I happen to agree with Darla—I love an Arnold Palmer. A true mocktail, it’s refreshing and sweet. Named for the golf legend, the drink has been around for a long time.

His website tells the following story, “Arnold had been drinking the combination for years. After a hot day on the course at Latrobe Country Club, he would ask his wife Winnie to make him an iced tea with lemonade.” Years later, he ordered his combo at a restaurant, and a woman nearby said she’d have what he was having. The rest is history.

Although it is widely believed to be equal parts iced tea and lemonade, Arnie himself told ESPN it’s three parts iced tea and one part lemonade.

Now just because an Arnie Palmer doesn’t typically have alcohol, doesn’t mean we can’t spike it up for a good adult time!

I personally happen to love frozen vodka lemonade mixed with iced tea. Poolside. :-)

Long island ice tea cocktails on wooden and white background.
Long island ice tea cocktails on wooden and white background.

Check out this recipe I found for Sweet Tea and Vodka Lemonade on epicurious:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large tea bags for iced tea
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 8 fresh mint sprigs
  • 4 cups lemonade made from frozen concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • Ice cubes
  • 8 lemon slices

PREPARATION

  1. Place tea bags in medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water. Let steep 4 minutes. Discard tea bags. Place mint sprigs in large pitcher; mash with muddler or handle of wooden spoon until slightly bruised. Pour in tea, lemonade, and vodka. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  2. Fill 8 highball glasses with ice. Divide sweet tea among glasses. Garnish with lemon slices.

BREAK POINT by Rachel Blaufeld

Break Point

The match is heated, but who holds the advantage?

A brand new STANDALONE from Rachel Blaufeld with a quick trip back to Hafton U., featuring a cameo from the guys in Vérité.

*$1 of every Preorder & Release Week Sale will go to Local Women’s Shelter.

Juliette Smith, star tennis player, is starting over at a new university. Traumatized by hazing at her last school, all she wants is to attend classes, win tennis matches, and be left the hell alone. She should have known her coach, Drew King, would be a problem from the moment he flexed his sexy-as-hell forearms. What happens when you mix a pissed-off woman with a bunch of snooty teammates and a hot coach? A heated match, complete with team politics and a forbidden game of singles with the coach.

It’s reckless and hot until one of them taps out.

Unable to admit she may be better off as a double, Jules is convinced she needs to play the game of life alone. Then life throws her a lob and she runs smack into her past. Coach King is back, and he wants to take control of the game. But she’s not certain she wants his advice when it comes to the life she’s built. The power struggle is on, but this time off the court.

New Adult | Romance Erotica Sensual | Romance Sports [On Sale: January 5, 2017, e-Book, ISBN: 2940157205089 / eISBN: 9780997070743]

About Rachel Blaufeld

Rachel Blaufeld

Rachel Blaufeld is a bestselling author of Romantic Suspense, New Adult, Coming-of-Age Romance, and Sports Romance. A recent poll of her readers described her as insightful, generous, articulate, and spunky. Originally a social worker, Rachel creates broken yet redeeming characters. She’s been known to turn up the angst like cranking up the heat in the dead of winter.

A devout coffee drinker and doughnut eater, Rachel spends way too many hours in local coffee shops, downing the aforementioned goodies while she plots her ideas. Her tales may all come with a side of angst and naughtiness, but end as lusciously as her treats.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found courtside, tweeting about hoops as her son plays, or walking around the house wearing earplugs while her other son, the drummer, bangs away.

To connect with Rachel, she’s most active in her private reading group, The Electric Readers, where she shares insider information and intimate conversation with her readers.

Love at Center Court | Crossroads Series

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Teri Anne Stanley | Research. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Sometimes a question comes up when I’m writing, and the answer is as close as Google (does anyone remember having to go to an actual LIBRARY to find out answers to things?). Sometimes you have to go a little farther.

A couple of years ago, when my agent and I were tossing setting ideas for a new series back and forth, I said, “Maybe they own a vineyard,” thinking that maybe Mr. Stanley and I could use his airline points for a trip to California. But then she said, “What about a bourbon distillery?”

Being the agreeable little writer that I am, I said, “Okay!”

After which I hung up the phone and went, “Um, I don’t drink liquor. My bourbon days are (thankfully) long past.” On the other hand, I do live in Kentucky, which is the absolute best (some might say only) place in the world to get good bourbon whiskey. So I gathered up the previously mentioned Mr. Stanley, and we drove an hour South to tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery It was a tough job, but my brave and heroic husband drank my share of the free samples.

I learned a lot of good stuff about bourbon—I can quote grain bills (I even know what a grain bill is! It’s the ratio of corn to wheat and/or rye and/or whatever the hell else is being fermented to produce the alcohol. Mostly corn). I know that, in order to be bourbon, it’s also got to be aged in NEW charred oak barrels. There are actual laws about it. To be Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, it’s got to be made in KY (duh), aged for at least two years, and have a grain bill of at least 51%. There some other details, like how much alcohol can go in the barrel and how much is in the final bottled product. But my next book is about the barrel part of the business. The cool thing is that the barrels are re-used to age other spirits—which led me down the path of Brandon and Lesa’s story.

Brandon is one of the brothers from one of the families that own Blue Mountain. He’s the business major, the marketing guru, the one in the dress shirt and khakis, and he knows that if he makes an exclusive deal to sell his used barrels to another distillery, he can exploit that for everyone’s benefit, and he’s going to sell them to his heroine’s family’s distillery. But what to distill?

Luckily, my glorious editor, Robin Haseltine, happened to go on a cruise that landed her and her husband at a tequila tasting right about the same time I was starting my research. Ah ha!

Bring on more research. And if my bourbon days are behind me, we REALLY don’t want me reliving the tequila days!

Unfortunately, I don’t live a hop and a skip from any tequila distilleries. Google did tell me, however, that like Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, tequila has rules. It’s got to be distilled from blue agave, and can only be made in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Aaaand if you look on a map, Jalisco happens to be right smack dab next to Puerto Vallarta, a really cool place with lots of resorts.

And my 25th wedding anniversary was coming up, so…

Hasta la vista, USA!
puertovallarta

I’m not sure the IRS will buy my story that this was a business trip, however…

A SHOT WITH YOU by Teri Anne Stanley

Bourbon Brothers

A Shot With You

One more will never be enough…

Bourbon is in Brandon Morgan’s blood. His family owns the best bourbon brand in the country—or it will be with his marketing genius. And after meeting the fiery daughter of a tequila distillery owner, he’s never been more sure.

His barrels, her tequila. It’s a match made in heaven. But only if he can keep his hands off the owner’s daughter…and his secrets to himself.

Lesa Ruiz will do anything to keep Little Possum afloat, but one look at Brandon’s gorgeous dimples and Lesa knows two things for sure: forever is not in the cards with this man and he’s way too sexy to resist for long.

Well, three things… Brandon is hiding something, and she’ll need to get a lot closer to figure it out and save her family’s legacy.

Shots, anyone?

Romance Contemporary [Entangled Lovestruck, On Sale: January 9, 2017, e-Book, ISBN: 9781633758391 / eISBN: 9781633758391]

About Teri Anne Stanley

Teri Anne Stanley

Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she learned to hold a crayon. Though her handwriting hasn’t improved, her spelling is a little better now. She spends her days as an evil genius’s sidekick in a research lab, and her nights weaving tales of heroic hunks and sassy, smart women. When she’s not at work, Teri, Mr. Stanley, and the Stanlettes enjoy spending time at their weekend estate, located in the thriving metropolis of Sugartit, between Beaverlick and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.

Bourbon Brothers | What Happens in Vegas

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Susan Wiggs | Make 2017 the Year of YOU

I never considered myself a “cruise” person. In my mind, a Caribbean cruise was for newly-weds and nearly-deads. I pictured crowded buffets, jam-packed pool decks, windowless cubicles masquerading as staterooms.

Costa Cruise Crash
photo: Daily Express UK

Turns out I was looking at the wrong cruise lines.

Butlers

The Mystery and Romance Cruise, dreamed up by the dreamers at Vacations By Design, is the one you want.

It’s an eleven-day indulgence you’ll never forget.

Okay, so some of you are objecting to the price. I don’t blame you. An eleven-day cruise is going to cost you. But let’s face it—eleven days on ANY vacation is going to cost you.

I’m good at math. Used to teach it, in fact. So let’s do the math. What does a nice hotel room—a suite—run you these days? Probably around $300 per night. And meals (we’ll assume meals for two, and we have to include drinks and tip)—breakfast, $30. Lunch, $50, afternoon tea, $40, cocktail hour, $40, dinner at a nice restaurant, $100. Entertainment—live shows, music, films, dancing, sports…The sky’s the limit, but let’s say you go to a performance every day, which is what you’ll do on the ship. Minimum $100 for two seats at a live show. We’re already up to $680 per day, and that’s without the complimentary butler you get to have on the cruise. So you can see that a do-it-yourself vay-cay is a lot more trouble and a lot more expensive than a cruise.

2017-01-08 13_33_59-

On this cruise, all-inclusive actually means ALL inclusive:

INCLUDED IN THE CRUISE FARE :: Spacious suites with private verandas :: Butler service in every suite :: Free WiFi throughout the ship :: Personalized service – nearly one crew member for every guest :: Multiple restaurants, diverse cuisine, open-seating dining :: Beverages in-suite and throughout the ship, including champagne, select wines and spirits :: 24-hour dining service :: Onboard entertainment and enrichment lecturers :: Complimentary transportation into town in most ports :: Onboard gratuities

Wait. What? “Enrichment Lecturers”??? Readers, meet your Enrichment Lecturers!

talent

Yep, that’s us. Susan and Elizabeth. Plus you can read to your heart’s content without being interrupted by ringing phones, work emergencies, needy family members, or whining pets. And on this particular cruise Elizabeth George and I will hang out with you.

I mean. What’s better than that?

You could pick Jerry’s brain about apparel design.

You could see for yourself that Elizabeth George’s husband looks like Steve McQueen.

All the while visiting San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Barthelmy, St. Kitts, Tortola, Punta Cana, Grand Turk…With variety, adventure, romance and relaxation all expertly woven together, coupled with an overnight in fabulous Saint Barts, this cruise is truly the ultimate getaway.

If you’re a writer, the cost of the cruise is a business deduction because you’ll be writing, networking with other writers, and doing research for future writing projects.

If you’re a teacher, bookseller, librarian, editor, or otherwise involved in publishing, it’s a professional development activity and I bet your CPA would find some deductions.

If you’re retired, then just come. You earned it.

See you onboard!

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT! Because I love Fresh Fiction and I really want you to join us, I’m giving a $100 on-board gift certificate to the first reader to sign up and mention Fresh Fiction! Call 800.828.4813, sign up and ask them if you’re first!

seas-ad

Excerpt from BREATH OF FIRE by Amanda Bouchet

BREATH OF FIRE by Amanda Bouchet

The Kingmaker Chronicles #2

Breath of Fire

SHE’S DESTINED TO DESTROY THE WORLD…

BUT NOT IF SHE CAN HELP IT

“Cat” Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat’s tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what’s a warrior queen to do when she knows it’s her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world—for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin risk sacrificing everything they’ve fought for. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom…or die trying.

Romance Paranormal | Fantasy [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: January 3, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492626053 / ]

The follow-up to 2016’s most popular debut

“I did it!” Jocasta shouts.

I grin at the target. Her knife isn’t in the middle, but it’s pretty damn close.

“My turn.” Kaia positions herself in the way I showed them both, the movement fluid and automatic by now. She completely ignores the way the reddened skin on her hand must chafe and lets her blade fly. It sticks dead center, and she jumps up and down, cheering.

I let out a long, low whistle, making her flush with pride.

It’s our final day out, and both of them are hitting the bull’s-eye more often than not. It’s time to move back a few more paces, or aim from the side.

“I still think we should have used your usual practice range instead of making this new one.” Kaia’s naturally bright eyes turn dreamy. “We would surely have seen Kato that way. And Flynn,” she adds as an afterthought.

Hmm. No wonder she’s not running around kissing the pages. She’s already in love.

“We’re trying to avoid them, remember? This is a secret.” Jocasta gets ready to throw again.

Kato already knows. He took me into the city, and I bought the girls each a set of knives the morning we started target practice. The knives are double-edged at the tip and medium weight with sleek metal handles wrapped in sinew for grip. They were hideously expensive because the sinew comes from Kobaloi, gnome-like creatures fond of playing tricks. The vendor said the sinew retains the creature’s magic, which is always useful. I bought myself a set, too. I just hope the knives don’t play tricks on us.

“I don’t see why it has to be a secret. They could have taught us, too. With swords.” Pink infuses Kaia’s cheeks, and I have a feeling she’s imagining Kato’s strong arms around her and his big body cupping hers from behind as he shows her the right way to move. She’s tall for her age, taller than either Jocasta or I am, and as dark-haired as Kato is fair. They’d fit well together.

Gah! What am I thinking? He’s way too old for her.

I frown. What is she thinking?

“Neither of them actually prefers the sword.” I motion for Kaia to stand farther away from the target. She’s so good that anything too close range will start to get boring. “And knives are a good start. They’re lighter, easier to conceal, and you can defend yourself without letting anyone get too close.” Or else they’re really close, but we’re working on throwing, not stabbing.

While Kaia moves back and gets ready again, I help Jocasta with her position. She tends to throw high and to the right. I reposition her shoulders and slowly extend my arm, holding hers by the wrist. “Let go here,” I say when our arms are straight. “When the tip points to where you want it to go.”

Kaia listens and makes a minor adjustment before she throws, keeping her wrist stiff to avoid wild rotations. She hits the red hibiscus flower we pinned to the target as a bull’s-eye and lets out a shriek. She bounces over and hugs me.

“You’re a natural.” I awkwardly pat her back.

“I wish Kato could have seen that.” She grins so wide I see her molars. “He would have been impressed.”

“Kato is more than twice your age,” Jocasta points out gently but firmly. “And he wouldn’t approve.”

Actually, considering the overprotective, grrr factor of the four male members of Beta Team—which meant I couldn’t go shopping without one of them as an escort—he was fairly casual about the whole thing. Then again, I did present it to him as a fun new hobby for the princesses rather than a vital self-defense technique.

“Why not?” Kaia asks. “Would Flynn approve?”

“No, he would not.” Jocasta sounds like she just bit down on half a lemon—and broke a tooth on a seed.

“But Cat has knives. And a sword. They fight together. They’re a team.”

Jocasta looks to me for help. I wish she wouldn’t. I don’t exactly have a delicate way with words.

I flip a knife in my hand, the sinew-wrapped hilt hitting my palm with rhythmic, dull thuds. I wish I could spin it vertically like my friend Vasili at the circus does, with the hilt twirling on my hand, but it always tilts right off. “The difference is that I came to them that way. A grown woman. Already a warrior. They know I can handle myself, and they’ve seen me take my fair share of hits and come out stronger for them.” I point back and forth between the two of them with the tip of my new blade. “You, on the other hand, came to them as little baby girls, and they’ve watched you grow up. They’ve seen you scrape your knees and play in the mud after the first rains. Helped you climb trees. With you, their only thought is to shelter and defend. It wouldn’t even occur to them to let you protect yourselves.”

Kaia’s youthful face scrunches up. “That’s obnoxiously unfair.”

“That’s men. Stubborn.” I throw my knife. The blade scrapes against Kaia’s in the heart of the flower.

“Does Griffin treat you that way?” Kaia asks.

I snort. “He can try.”

They both grin at my choice of words. “You’re officially family now. You’ve adopted our motto,” Jocasta says.

My insides take a sudden, violent dive. Griffin would like to make it a lot more official than that.

To distract myself from that alarming train of thought, I whip around, slip my foot behind Kaia, and shove hard on her upper body. With Kaia down, I snake my arm around Jocasta’s neck and haul her up against my body, cutting off most of her air. She squeaks and slaps at my forearm.

Laughing, I let go of her and step back, shaking my head. “At the very least, you should have stomped on my toes or elbowed me in the ribs.”

Jocasta glares at me, but her mouth moves like she might smile. Kaia gets up, grinning. She doesn’t bother brushing herself off. They’re both flushed and disheveled.

“We have time before dark. I finally got you two wearing tunics and pants, so let’s work on balance and grappling.” I shift into a fighting stance. “I’ll show you how to take someone down and hold them there. Then you’ll have to practice on each other while I’m gone.”

They look disturbingly eager, and I wonder what I’ve started, and whether I should have left well enough alone.

About Amanda Bouchet

Amanda Bouchet

Award-winning author Amanda Bouchet grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels, first at Bowdoin College and then at Bowling Green State University. She moved to Paris, France in 2001 and has been there ever since. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children, who will soon be correcting her French.

The Kingmaker Chronicles

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Top 5 Country Songs That Impacted The Heroines in Carolyn Brown’s THE BAREFOOT SUMMER

Good mornin’ to everyone. Here’s hoping that your holidays were amazing, that you got to spend time with your family and friends and that you now have time to sit down, prop up your feet, enjoy a good cup of coffee, hot chocolate or wine and enjoy reading for a few days.

Thank you, Sara, and all the folks at Fresh Fiction for letting me stop by today and talk about my newest release, THE BAREFOOT SUMMER. Three women all married to the same man. None of them know about the other two. Until they all three show up at his funeral.

They all three listen to country music and the songs that they like play a part in the book. There were five that really made an impact on the women’s decisions, though.

Number 1 was “Heartbeat” by Carrie Underwood. Kate is helping out a ranch belonging to the detective who is trying to prove that one of the women killed the cheating husband when she hears the song. The story the words tell is one of her heart. She’s trying to decide whether to go on with the path that was set out for her by her mother when she was just a little girl or to set her heels and travel down another road.

Number 2 was an old hymn, “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” that they sang in church one Sunday morning. It talked about laying down their burdens and all the women related to the snappy tune.

Let me introduce you to Gracie. She’s a sweet little dark haired girl, Conrad’s only child up until that time. Jamie, the second wife of the dead man, is her mother and she’s stolen the hearts of Kate, first wife, and Amanda, the third wife. The whole bunch of them, along with some neighbors, are fishing in the lake right behind the cabin where they’re all staying. The third song that has a bearing on the story is the one that Gracie makes up while she’s fishing. Maybe a little excerpt…

“Come on little fishies, eat the worm on my hook,” Gracie sang.

Before she could sing the line the fourth time, something took the cork under the surface. “Come help me, Mama,” she squealed.

“I can’t,” Jamie shouted. “I’ve got a bite, too.”

Kate laid her fishing pole to the side and hurried over to Gracie’s side. Putting her arms around the little girl’s shoulders, she gently held the rod steady and helped her turn the handle on the reel. Victor looked like he was about to dance a jig right there on the rough wood platform when they brought in another nice-size catfish. With those moves, maybe he could have mastered the tightrope.

“Would you look at this, Hattie? We’re going to have a feast,” he yelled.

“I’m not hard of hearing!” She tapped her ears. “But take a look at Jamie’s fish. It’s almost as big as Gracie’s! Your singing worked, child. You really might snag the biggest fish at the festival.”

“I’ll get these two cleaned up while y’all get out the picnic,” Victor said.

“Kate, do you really think my song helped?” Gracie eyed her seriously. “Or are they just tellin’ me that to get my hopes up about them tickets?”

Kate hugged the child to her. Would her daughter have looked like Gracie? Or would she have had blonde hair and blue eyes?

Number 4 song was the one that the high school band was playing in the parade at summer festival. I could hear it in my head as I was writing. The name of the song isn’t listed because I wanted each reader to hear their own high school fight song as they were reading. Maybe one more little excerpt…

The Bootleg High School band, all wearing street clothing and crazy fishing hats instead of their usual uniforms, marched behind the fire truck. Twice the band stopped and performed a fancy two-step routine that garnered catcalls and applause from the crowd.

Kate took a picture of the band with her phone and then took several up-close snapshots of Gracie. Maybe she’d scatter pictures of Gracie throughout her new home, wherever it turned out to be.

Maybe that was her sign. She could travel around to the festivals taking pictures like they did on cruise ships and selling them to the people. The possibilities were endless. Lovers, married folks, old people, little kids—she turned her camera up and shot another picture of Gracie and Lisa with their heads together as they watched the band. Then she took one of Paul and Jamie standing about a foot apart as they minded the children.

And the fifth song is a lot like Number 4, no name but it was an important piece of music in the storyline, one that the characters won’t ever forget. There’s an epilogue that takes place a year later, a time when Kate and the detective, Waylon, are riding the Ferris wheel. Again, the song isn’t named but I’m sure the reader can hear that familiar tinkling music as the Ferris wheel makes its rounds.

Thanks again to all the folks at Fresh Fiction for letting me stop by and visit. And thanks to all my family, friends and fans who are propping up their feet and reading THE BAREFOOT SUMMER!

THE BAREFOOT SUMMER by Carolyn Brown

The Barefoot Summer

Leaving one widow behind is unfortunate. Leaving three widows behind is just plain despicable. Oil heiress Kate Steele knew her not-so-dearly departed husband was a con man, but she’s shocked that Conrad racked up two more wives without divorcing her first. The only remnant of their miserable marriage she plans to keep is their lakeside cabin in Bootleg, Texas. Unfortunately, she’s not the only woman with that idea.

Fiery, strong-willed Jamie wishes Conrad were still alive—so she could kill the scoundrel herself. But for their daughter’s sake, she needs that property. As does Amanda—twenty-eight, pregnant, and still weeping over the loss of her true love. On a broiling July day, all three arrive in Bootleg…with a dogged detective right behind who’s convinced that at least one of them conspired to commit murder. One momentous summer filled with revelations, quirky neighbors, and barefoot evenings on the porch offers three women the chance to make the journey from enemies to friends, and claim a bright, new beginning.

Romance Contemporary [Montlake Romance, On Sale: January 3, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781503941281 / ]

About Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, as well as a RITA finalist. She has written several beloved and popular romance titles, ranging from historical to contemporary to cowboy-themed. She and her husband live in Davis, Oklahoma. They have three grown children, and enough grandchildren to keep them young.

Spikes and Spurs | Cowboys & Brides | Luckadeau Cousins | Honky Tonk | Cadillac, Texas | Burnt Boot, Texas | Lucky Penny Ranch

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Vella Munn | Feral Justice Romantic Suspense Series

As the happy servant to a couple of rescue dogs, I have a deep, warm place in my heart for the people and organizations that care for neglected animals. Nothing upset me more than hearing about an animal being abused. What I fantasize about doing to abusers would get me locked up, but it might be worth it.

Where I live has what’s called a Saving Train. Earlier this year they held an open house, and I took my granddaughters to it with me so the three of us could learn more about this service. (I also thought the girls might volunteer to work with the animals during summer break, which one of them did.) The director explained that the Saving Train’s purpose is to take hand-picked dogs and cats from overcrowded pounds (I hate that word) elsewhere and bring them to our area where they’re adopted. The rescuers travel long distances to retrieve animals needing second and sometimes first chances. It goes without saying that by the end of the open house, I wanted to bring at least one animal home with me, but I’m at my limit walking two dogs.

Months later, as I worked on my Feral Justice romantic suspense series, I continued to think about this shoe-strings operation and the wonderful work they do. My sons are grown, and we agree that we don’t need more stuff. Still, I wanted to give them something for Christmas that would make it clear how much I love them. About that time I received an email from the Saving Train gently asking for donations. It costs $75 per dog or cat to rescue it and bring it to the local facility. Needless to say, I made donations in my sons’ names.

Like I said, animal abuse infuriates me. There’s absolutely no excuse. I knew writing a romance series that revolves around that subject meant taking a chance. Fiction, especially romance, gives readers a chance to escape from the real world, but what, I kept asking myself, if I delivered on happy endings? What if the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve? I had to give it a try.

Two of the three books in the Feral Justice series have been published with the third in the pipeline. PUNISH introduces a trio of big, gray dogs whose mission in life is to deliver primitive justice. At first animal control officer Nate and teacher Rachelle don’t understand why the dogs do as they do, but as their love for each other grows, they realize the answer lies in where Rachelle’s step-father found the grays. They were on a Hopi reservation, and the Hopi believe in peace and harmony. The just-published FANGS moves things to the Oregon coast where Fish and Wildlife officer Jeff and Christmas tree farmer Mia deal with their growing feelings for each other as the grays go after poachers.

Now to see how readers respond to what I felt I had to write.

FANGS by Vella Munn

Feral Justice #2

Fangs

As death and danger stalk the southern Oregon coast, Mia Sandas and Jeff Julian must trust each other. Can they handle the truth?

When a poacher leaves a wounded elk cow to suffer on the southern Oregon coast, Mia Sandas has no choice but to end its misery. Before she’s forced to do the same to the cow’s orphaned calf, a massive gray dog appears and snaps its neck.

Unknown to Mia, this is only the beginning of a test of her courage and comprehension. As she turns to Fish and Wildlife Officer Jeff Julian, the gray and his four-legged companions stalk local animal abusers.

Jeff and Mia are drawn together as they seek understanding of what is taking place in the forested mountains. They know the canines are committed to primitive justice but why? Who are the targets and what will be the outcome?

Can Jeff and Mia stop more bloodshed—and do they want to?

Romance Paranormal [Totally Bound Publishing, On Sale: January 3, 2017, e-Book, ISBN: 9781786511102 / eISBN: 9781786511102]

Lynn Winchester | How Changing Genres Energized my Muse

Can we agree that sometimes change is needed to create momentum? Can we agree that sometimes creativity requires a jump start?

We’ve just begun 2017, but this time last year I was struggling… My muse and I were on the outs and I couldn’t write a scene without copious amounts of caffeine, self-deprecation, and lots of second guessing. I found myself putting off writing to do other things, month after month, and eventually, around June 2016, I gave up, putting my WIP aside to pursue a career as a publicist.

I quickly realized that helping other authors promote their books made me jealous, but it also made me angry that I wasn’t writing my own books. What happened to me? I went from being passionate about creating worlds and characters to bitter and dispassionate.

I hated myself. I hated that I was scared of writing. I hated that my muse had abandoned me.

I sat down, cried, and decided to be honest with myself; my muse and I were getting a divorce. Irreconcilable differences. She and I had different goals: she wanted to write something other than sexy romance, and I was determined to finish book three of a sexy series I started in 2014.

Here’s a bit of history: I began my publishing career as Jackson D’Lynne, writing paranormal time travel romance. The books were sexy, sometimes crude, and rife with violence and morbid topics. My The Three Goddesses series got some attention, but I still didn’t feel that I was doing what I should be doing. Writing what I should be writing.

I knew something needed to change.

In July, with some prodding from a great group of ladies in my Pioneer Hearts Authors Facebook group, I sat down to write my very first sweet historical western romance.

At first, I doubted that I could create something ‘clean’. Fortunately, my doubts were soon cast aside—the words flew from my fingers! I wrote 35,000 words in three weeks. Three weeks! Suddenly, my muse was banging at the door, begging to come back, and of course I let her in! She and I were finally creating something we could both enjoy, something that made both of us happy.

Sweet romance isn’t something I ever thought I could write. I enjoy reading sexy books, and my two other books were sexy, so why couldn’t I force my muse to continue writing sexy books?

Part of the reason is I was ashamed of what I was writing. My head was in charge, telling me I was writing books that more people wanted to read. That sexy books would make me more money. But my heart…where my faith lives…was telling me I was going against my grander plan.

What started out as an experiment, more or less, turned into a new beginning for me. I created a new pen name, Lynn Winchester, and signed a publishing contract with Dragonblade Publishing for the first three books in my new sweet historical western series, Dry Bayou Brides.

Now, three books later, my muse and I are closer than ever. We’re energized by our new fans, our new community, and our new hope—that this genre is the one we were supposed to be in all along.

Will I ever write as Jackson D’Lynne again? Yes, but it won’t be as a romance author, it will be as a suspense/thriller author. Why? Well, if you read my two self-published books, you’d know I’m rather skilled at writing chilling bad guys and villainous plots.

So, what are my plans now that I’ve made the conversion to sweet romance? I’m going to write my heart out! I’m going to finish my nine book Dry Bayou Brides series, and I’m going to start a new contemporary western series—all without the sexy bits that drove my muse away in the first place. I am dedicated to writing romance that my daughters and conservative mother-in-law can read.

But sex sells, right? At least that’s what I keep hearing. Well, if I never sell another book, I’m fine with that. At least I have my passion back.

About Lynn Winchester

Lynn Winchester

Lynn Winchester is one of the pseudonyms of a hardworking California-born caffeine addict, now living in the wilds of Northeast Pennsylvania. Lynn has been writing fiction since the 5th grade, and enjoys creating worlds, characters, and stories for her readers.

When Lynn isn’t writing sweet historical romances, she is writing spicy paranormal romance as Jackson D’Lynne, and YA Sci-Fi/Thrillers as DJ Sorber. When is isn’t writing at all, she is running a successful editing business, reading whatever she can get her hands on, raising her four children, making sure her husband is happy, and binge watching shows on Netflix.

Dry Bayou Brides

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THE WIDOW by Lynn Winchester

Dry Bayou Brides #3

The Widow

Second chances, love lessons, and horseshoes…

Leo Watkins is an ill-tempered widower with a busy smithy to run and no desire to adhere to silly niceties. He likes his life just the way it is and doesn’t care what other people think. But when his son convinces him it’s time to remarry, Leo needs a crash course in wooing a bride.

Missy Piers is a school teacher, a young widow, and the only woman in town fiery enough to put a grumpy old blacksmith in his place. So when Leo asks her to help him catch a wife, she’s reluctant to do so.
Until she starts to fall for the awkwardly charming farrier.

Leo doesn’t know what to do about the infuriating yet intoxicating widow. She’s bossy, uptight, and…beautiful. And she makes him feel things he thought long buried.

Falling for Leo isn’t in Missy’s plans, he’s stubborn and entirely too handsome. So why does his presence make her weak and why does his touch make her yearn for something more?

When these two opposing spirits are offered a second chance at what they’ve lost, will they find love or will their hearts forever be lonely?

Inspirational Historical | Western | Romance Western [Dragonblade, On Sale: January 3, 2017, e-Book, / ]

Giveaway:

What is YOUR passion? one winner will get SIGNED copies of THE SHEPHERD’S DAUGHTER & THE SEAMSTRESS

Dry Bayou Brides

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The Shepherd’s Daughter
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Excerpt from MY HIGHLAND REBEL by Amanda Forester

MY HIGHLAND REBEL by Amanda Forester

Highland Trouble

My Highland Rebel

Second in a passionate, fast-paced Scottish Highlander romance series from critically acclaimed author Amanda Forester

A conquering hero

Cormac Maclean would rather read than rampage, but his fearsome warlord father demands that he prove himself in war. Cormac chooses what he thinks is an easy target, only to encounter a fiery Highland lass leading a doomed rebellion and swearing revenge on him.

Meets an unconquerable heroine

Jyne Cambell is not about to give up her castle without a fight, even though her forces are far outnumbered. She’s proud, hot-blooded and hot-tempered, and Cormac falls for her hard.

It’s going to take all of Cormac’s ingenuity to get Jyne to surrender gracefully-both to his sword and to his heart…

Romance Historical [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: January 1, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492605461 / eISBN: 9781492605478]

Buy MY HIGHLAND REBEL: Amazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

Jyne walked up to him and put a hand on his sleeve. Cormac stared at her hand, clean and white compared with his dirty tunic, but did not speak. This close, she could see he was breathing hard. She moved her hand to his chest, placing it over his heart. His breath caught, and he looked down on her with dark eyes burning with intensity. The air crackled between them.

“I ken ye to be a good man.”

Cormac shook his head slightly.

“Ye have a good heart.”

Core’s face hardened, as if her words hurt him. “Nay, ye dinna ken who I am.”

“It doesna matter—”

“It always matters.”

This man was Jyne’s only potential ally. She was not sure who he was, but she knew he had helped her before, and she needed to convince him to help her again. “It does not matter to me now. Please, please will ye help us?”

A resigned sigh escaped his lips. “Aye.” She was about to thank him, but with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes, he continued before she could speak. “For a price.”

It was her turn to frown. She dropped her hand from his chest. Maybe she had been wrong about him. “A price? My brothers can pay ye—”

“Nay, yer brothers have naught that I want. Ye need to pay me.”

“I have nothing of value—”

“A kiss,” he blurted out the words, his eyes wide as if he was surprised he had said them. He schooled his features into nonchalance. “A kiss.”

“Ye wish to kiss me?” Her pulse quickened.

His coloring heightened. Was the man…blushing?

“Ye want for me to kiss ye?” she asked.

He nodded his head vigorously.

He was right. This man was no hero. And yet…he was the only man available who could possibly help her. Besides, if he did help her, his life might be cut short. Should she not offer him one last request? She rationalized the shocking request, for she was not immune to the powerful draw between them.

She stepped even closer and noted the veins in his neck thrumming with a rapid pulse, much the same as her heartbeat. She put a hand on his shoulder and stood on tiptoe. She breathed in his masculine scent, and her heart raced even faster. Slowly she leaned toward him. He remained frozen, which gave her confidence.

She pressed her lips on his cheek, thrilling with the feel of his harsh stubble, lingering a moment before withdrawing once more. All the while he remained motionless.

“Now will ye help us?” Her voice was breathless.

He nodded. “I will help ye as I am able,” he whispered.

“Thank ye.” She stepped back, unsure what to do now. It seemed like they had been talking forever, but in truth it had been only a few minutes. The sounds of the war cries once again assailed her ears. They could not dawdle here.

About Amanda Forester

Amanda Forester

Amanda Forester holds a PhD in clinical psychology and a Masters degree in theology. As a psychologist, she has worked as a clinical researcher and a university instructor (what they call you when they don’t want to give you tenure). None of which has anything to do with writing romance novels. After trying for many years to stop the internal storylines floating around her head, she finally gave up and wrote one down. Now when she is caught daydreaming and talking to herself she can just say, “I’m plotting a scene for my next novel,” which sounds so much better than, “I’m hallucinating and responding to internal stimuli.”

Amanda lives in the Pacific Northwest with her officer and a gentleman husband and their two remarkably active, naturally brilliant children. They share their home with two fiendishly destructive cats and one lazy dog.

Daring Marriages | Highland Trouble

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Kim Redford | Sneak Peek at BLAZING HOT COWBOY

At the Wildcat Bluff Fire-Rescue Station . . .

Kent Duval’s mind whirled as he tried to reconcile his teenage love with the young widow and mother standing before him. Lauren Sheridan had the same honey-blond hair, chocolate-brown eyes, and to-die-for body that had distracted him from his studies in high school. Now she was so much more. And every last bit of her was setting him ablaze in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time.

To cool down, he turned his thoughts to the Blue Norther that had dumped ice and snow all over Wildcat Bluff County last Christmas Eve, but his body was having none of it. Spring was coming on strong and Lauren was standing before him, so there was no getting around the earthly renewal of the birds and the bees. Cold weather was giving way to that perfect time of year when a young man’s fancy turned to—Lauren.

He resisted the urge to head down a path that was dangerous to his heart. He’d thought for years that what they’d had between them was well and truly done and gone, nothing but raging teenage hormones. Now he wasn’t so sure.

About the time he balled his hands into fists to keep from reaching for his old flame, he saw Ash, the fire station cat, saunter up, wearing a spring green bow around his neck. He sat down in front of Lauren, looked up with bright silver eyes in his handsome gray face, and yowled an imperative greeting. Kent just shook his head. Ash was a sucker for all the gals and they adored him in return.

“What a pretty kitty.” Lauren immediately crouched down, held out her fingers to be sniffed, and then petted Ash’s broad face with gentle strokes.

“That’s Ash.” Kent watched the cat turn his head and give Kent a slit-eyed look of pleasure while Lauren stroked down his back to the end of his long tail. Typical Ash. He always got more than his fair share of attention from the ladies. Kent wished he could trade places with the cat and feel Lauren’s soft hand stroke across his own body.

“You’re such a handsome boy, aren’t you?” Lauren crooned while Ash arched his back against her hand. “And where did you get that pretty bow?”

“That’s your aunt Hedy’s doing,” Kent said. “He gets a special bow to celebrate the seasons and holidays.”

“And he doesn’t rip them off?”

“Are you kidding? This is Hedy we’re talking about. And you know how animals will do just about anything she wants.”

“So true.” Lauren chuckled, throwing Kent a warm glance as she continued to stroke Ash’s back. “Kids, too.”

He laughed with her. “I’d say that goes for all of us.” He looked down at Ash. “Where’s Hedy?” He didn’t expect an answer from the cat, but not much got by Ash’s super senses.

Ash yowled in reply, gave Lauren’s hand a thank you swipe with his long pink tongue, and then bounded through the open doorway into the station.

“Maybe he knows something we don’t. Aunt Hedy is always up to something,” Lauren said as she stood up.

“I bet he knows lots of stuff we don’t, but he’s not saying.” Kent chuckled as he gestured after Ash. “Let’s go inside and see if we can run down Hedy.”

“Sounds good to me.” She glanced up at the building, then back at him. “This station is new, isn’t it?”

He looked at the fire station with its bright-red metal roof, five bay doors, and the regular door in front of them. “Yep. We still use the original station for the older rigs, but we really needed to update and add room for our new apparatus.”

“Impressive. I can’t wait to see inside.” She gave him a soft smile before she stepped through the open doorway.

Kent hesitated, glancing at the horizon. The sun was going down in the west, casting long streaks of crimson and orange across the clear blue sky. He felt a cool breeze spring up, rustling the leaves of the live oaks. He wanted to find Hedy before it got dark, but most likely she was running errands and he’d gotten het-up over nothing.

He followed Lauren and Ash inside the small lobby with pale gray walls, letting the door swing shut behind him. Ash sat in the middle of the simple gun-metal desk while Lauren stood with her hands clasped behind her back as she studied the arrangement of colorful firefighter photographs in simple black frames hanging on the wall.

“These are wonderful,” she said.

“Thanks. Hedy had them framed and put up.”

“You took them?” She cocked her head as if in consideration. “Of course you did. I’d forgotten how you used to snap us with your camera.”

“Got the bug and never lost it.”

“Great drama and heroics in your photos.”

“I do my best, but it’s just a hobby.”

Ash looked up and yowled, holding down a yellow sticky note with writing on it with his front paws.

“What’ve you got there?” As Kent picked up the note, he heard the phone ring in the watch office next door, so he hurried in there and picked up the receiver. “Wildcat Bluff Fire-Rescue. How may I help you?”

“Kent, it’s Hedy. I’m over here in Sure-Shot at a fire site.”

“What do you need?” Kent glanced up to see Lauren standing in the doorway with a concerned look on her face. He nodded to let her know he was taking care of the issue.

“Booster is plenty. The blaze is behind the old gas station,” Hedy said.

“I’m on my way.”

“Thanks.”

Kent hung up, feeling uneasy in the pit of his stomach. Fires always made him edgy. He glanced at Lauren. “Remember how to fight a fire?”

BLAZING HOT COWBOY by Kim Redford

Smokin Hot Cowboys

Blazing Hot Cowboy

Redford reels you in with this hot-as-hell firefighting cowboy whose rekindled love ignites flames of passion

Redford reels you in with this hot-as-hell firefighting cowboy

WESTERN CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

When Lauren returns home to care for her sick Aunt Hedy, the last thing she expects to run into is her half-naked high school sweetheart. She stays focused on caring for her aunt, but as her daughter Hannah grows closer to Kent, she can’t seem to avoid him…

Kent has been working as a volunteer firefighter ever since Lauren left years ago. Though he hasn’t quite forgotten about her, and when he sees her again all of his old feelings return. Can this sexy cowboy firefighter tame the flames of his heart?

Romance Western [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: January 1, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492621508 / eISBN: 9781492621515]

Merrie Destefano | The Swoony Boys of Suspense

I must like sitting on the edge of my seat more than lounging in a recliner, because suspense has always been my favorite genre. It doesn’t matter to me if it comes dressed up like science fiction or historic drama, what I crave are stories that keep me guessing, where the main characters always seem to be in peril. You might think that means the heroine is in danger, but I actually like it even more if the hero is the one whose life is on the line. Put an adorable boy in threat of losing his life or of losing the one he loves, and I’m all in. In fact, most of my favorite TV shows and movies have that exact premise. Here’s a list of some of them and why I love them.

  • Jason Behr playing Max Evans, Roswell
    It doesn’t get much better than an alien boy willing to risk exposing himself to save the girl he loves. From the first episode, Max shows he’s head over alien-heels for earthling Liz, sometimes forgetting this romance could endanger his best friend and sister, who are also aliens. The smoldering looks given by Behr to Shiri Appleby (Liz) seemed so real that I was completely surprised to learn that the real-life couple on this set was Jason Behr and Katherine Heigl.
  • Bob Morley playing Bellamy Blake, The 100
    Whoa, the chemistry between Bellamy and Clarke (Eliza Taylor) could set your TV on fire! Is that why I keep watching this show or is it the fact that I don’t know if this group of teens will survive from one episode to the next on the hostile environment of future-earth? I’ve given up trying to figure out why I’m so addicted to this show. Just make sure The 100 keeps getting renewed or my heart will be broken.
  • Alexander Ludwig playing Bjorn Lothbrok, The Vikings
    Watch out for blood spatter in this suspenseful and historic retelling of the Viking saga of Ragnar Lothbrok. His son, Bjorn, also a legendary hero, will one day become King of Sweden. Along the way, he grows from a boy devoted to his mother to a tragic, muscle-bound warrior that you’ll root for, even when he makes mistakes. Ludwig aptly personifies the tormented, godlike-man of Viking legends, caught between earth and Valhalla.
  • Connor Jessup playing Ben Mason, Falling Skies
    The world is ending, aliens are here, humans should just give up. That’s basically the premise for the TV show Falling Skies. But the stakes go through the roof when Ben has alien spikes grafted into his spine. From this point on, he’s seen as a dangerous outsider—something that makes us love his sensitive, shy character even more.
  • Tanner Buchanan playing Leo Kirkman, Designated Survivor
    The screen lights up every time Buchanan shows up, playing the son of the newly appointed president. Danger is everywhere in this alternate-history where the Capitol Building has been bombed by terrorists and there’s no way to know who might be targeted next. My only complaint with this dynamic thriller is that Buchanan doesn’t get enough screen time.

LOST GIRLS by Merrie Destefano

Lost Girls

BLACK SWAN meets FIGHT CLUB

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: She’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad: sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves. The rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

Thriller | Suspense | Young Adult [Entangled Teen, On Sale: January 3, 2017, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781633756052 / eISBN: 9781633756069]

About Merrie Destefano

Merrie Destefano

Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.

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