Bishop’s Gambit Named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews! #MFRWauthor #MFRWHooks #giveaway

I’m delighted to announce that Bishop’s Gambit (Redclaw Origins Book 2) has been named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews! You should have seen my face when I read the review! I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I had so much fun writing this story and can’t wait to bring you the next installment, Bishop’s Endgame, planned for the fall of 2021.

Redclaw Origins: The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

As I’d hoped, my shout caused the bathroom door to explode open as Knight burst out, his skin damp and a towel gathered around his waist.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for, but the results were astonishing just the same. Momentarily stunned by the gleaming expanse of wet skin, as well as some rather impressive musculature for a scientist, I blanked for a second on the reason I’d called out in the first place.

But just for a second.

I snatched up Stirling’s flowers as the gunman transferred his aim from the dog to Knight. His finger was closing on the trigger when I hurled the vase.

 

To celebrate this news, I’m going to select a winner at random from one commenter to receive an audiobook of my steamy novella, Snowfall, set in the Redclaw universe and read by the dreamy Josh MacCrae. Giveaway closes 9 pm EST Dec 12. If you’re not chosen but you’d like to read Snowfall for free, just sign up for my newsletter! Snowfall is also available for sale on Amazon and as an audiobook (links here on my book page).

Let’s make this fun! What’s your favorite Christmas movie or special (or tradition, if you’re not into watching specials), and why? I watched Last Holiday the other day, and it is definitely a favorite. But around here, it’s not Christmas until we’ve watched the Muppet Christmas Carol!

This post is part of a book hop, so be sure to check out the other posts at the link below!

 

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Celebrating Christmas in Pandemic Times

Celebrating the holidays has always been a little problematic for me.

I grew up in a family where Thanksgiving and Christmas were dominated by my grandmother and her wonderful cooking. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered how much my mother hated these gatherings, due in part, no doubt, to her ongoing internal battle with food–something she passed on to her children, I’m sad to say.

To me, however, the holidays meant food in such abundance and flavors that we never got at home: turkey with all the fixings, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, succotash, collards, and green bean casseroles. Yeast rolls and cornbread. Sausage balls and stuffing. And the desserts! Pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate pies, applesauce cake, pound cake, or sour cream cake–take your pick. Not “oh, we’ll have lemon pie one year and pumpkin the next.” No, ALL the desserts mentioned on the same table with the entire extended family there to enjoy it. Everyone came home for the holidays at my grandmother’s house. Everyone.

Because of the tremendous volume of food made, we got bundles of leftovers to take home with us, spreading the joy for two or three days after the holiday was over.

When my grandparents died, there was no one to pick up the mantel of cooking and baking. My mother thought if a little heat was good a lot was better, and given her own food sensitivities (which I’ve inherited, darn it), she stripped most recipes of all seasoning and flavor.

I tried to cook for the family when we got together for the holidays, but my own weak skill set was hampered by the lack of proper cookware–a fact I didn’t realize until I discovered what a difference the right pots and pans could make.

It didn’t help that early in my career, as a single woman with no children, my employers scheduled me to work every holiday under the assumption I didn’t need to celebrate myself.

Decorating seemed pointless–when you live alone, you never drive up to your home and see the welcoming lights of Christmas decorations gleaming through your windows. Not to mention all the work of putting them up, only to have to take them down in a few weeks. Then there was the fact my dog–the first one that was all mine and not a family pet–had this bizarre quirk where she would remove the string of lights from the tree… and pop every bulb. She never touched anything else, but I would come home to find the tree and ornaments in place, and the string of lights on the floor surrounded by bits of broken glass. Weird, right?

She was Practically Perfect in all other respects, however, so I just learned not to put up decorations.

Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to experience the magic and joy of the holidays, I would have to come up with my own traditions. This usually took the place of watching various holiday movies–mostly the old black-and-white classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in Connecticut. I’d watched these movies on the AMC channel at my grandmother’s house, and they were part of my Christmas memories, along with the animated television specials: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Oh! And it wasn’t Christmas unless I watched A Christmas Carol in some version, usually with the Muppets (which is the best, IMHO). I listened to Bing Crosby, and in a seasonally driven burst of domesticity, I baked.

After I got married, my husband and I developed our own traditions. He has an advent candle he likes to light each year, and we started putting up a tree again. Neither one of us are huge decorators, and while he probably thinks my taste in holiday movies is dreadful, he cheerfully suffers through my desire to watch them. We don’t go crazy with gifts either, but since we’re both big readers, Christmas usually means a nice cache of books to read though the winter.

This year, because of the pandemic and our family’s decision to split households for safety reasons, once again, I’ve been thrown back to those early days as a young professional when I worked straight through the holidays with only the official day off itself. I find myself struggling to find the Christmas spirit this year–I mean, who isn’t?

I realized the other day, this wasn’t a new phenomenon, however. It’s been quite a few years since I had the time or energy for Christmas. There always seems to be more work before and after a holiday to make up for taking the day off. Somehow there is never enough time to watch my favorite movies, and various determinations to count calories or avoid gluten has cut into my seasonal baking. (It’s not that eating gluten will kill me. It’s just that I only seem to be able to tolerate a small amount these days, and since when has anyone been able to stop with one Snickerdoodle?)

This year, in deference to pandemic-driven anxiety, I’ve been watching new-to-me Christmas movies on Netflix: The Princess Switch, A Christmas Prince, and the even earlier A Princess for Christmas. There’s a certain kind of appeal to the picture-perfect winter settings in mythical kingdoms where all needs are met because there is an insane amount of wealth in the background. The heroines are often hapless but brave, the heroes wealthy and in need of lightening up. It occurred to me while watching yet another scene where the True Meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with the limitless credit cards but the people you spend it with that a) money helps and b) … people weren’t going to get to be with their families this year. 

I have to tell you, instead of feeling comforted by these light movies, I felt sad. I understood why people feel they MUST family during the holidays, even when every recommendation is to stay home and not cross households. I got it because sitting on your couch watching fluffy holiday movies with the dogs feels very lonely when there are people you love that you wish were there. And yet, if we love our families, staying apart this year is exactly what we have to do.

It’s as if the Whos in Whoville woke on Christmas morning without decorations, and presents and roast beast—and without each other too. After living on my own for so long, I’d become accustomed to the level of comfort living with a family of your own choosing can bring.

Suddenly, for me, This Would Not Do.

So I got up early this morning and went through all my old recipes, and after rejecting the ones that required rolling out dough, specialized equipment, or included vague directions of “add flour sufficient to handle dough” (I mean, seriously, is that three cups? Four? Five? Who knows?), I went with my tried-and-true favorites: Nestle’s Tollhouse Cookies and Snickerdoodles. Any cookies I broke, squashed, or burned ended up in my personal stash. I packed a selection to take into work. And then I packaged the rest and drove out to where my husband is staying. I wound up on the doorstep holding a tin of cookies in lieu of a boombox a la John Cusack in Say Anything.

I didn’t go inside. We didn’t throw caution to the winds and break our self-imposed separation of households. We sat outside, wearing masks, speaking of nothing consequential and at the same time everything that was important. Because Christmas really isn’t about palaces in Aldovia or switching places with someone in order to see how the other half lives. Christmas can come without ribbons. It comes without tags. It comes without packages, boxes or bags.

It’s what we make of it.

Isn’t everything?

 

Bring on the Holiday Stories: New Releases for the 2020 Season!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a complete sucker for holiday stories and movies. This year I feel the pull even harder than usual. I want those small town Christmas stories, complete with snow, second-chances, and happily ever afters. I want the Scrooge-like billionaire to find the true meaning of Christmas–and true love along the way. I want lovers to meet across the ages–at Regency house parties, Victorian gatherings, and through magical time-traveling events. I want heroines to throw caution to the winds to take a chance on life–and love. I want to see mysterious seniors offer excellent advice and give nudges for lovers to move in the right direction–closer to each other. I crave mad dashes through airports (something I don’t ever want in real life), crowds parting to reveal one’s true love after you thought you’d missed them, and unexpected proposals to the applause of the unplanned audience.

I suspect I’d pay for a holiday-themed streaming channel. I know I feel the urge to start reading and watching holiday entertainment with the first crunch of dead leaves underfoot in October until the daffodils bloom in March. But I’m also a believer in celebrating the holiday at hand before galloping off to the next one. So now that Thanksgiving is over here in the US, I feel completely justified in doing my annual seasonal new release showcase. Here, in no particular order, are a list of happy-making stories for you to check out this season with something for everyone, from sweet to spicy and everything in between.

Holiday anthologies are my personal catnip and The Heart of the Season: An ATA Anthology is full of heartwarming stories across genres about finding love and joy at this time of year. 

THE HEART OF THE SEASON is a jolt of joy you cannot wait to unwrap for the holidays. Let your heart be merry and bright as you dive into this multi-genre collection of short stories centered on the themes of love and joy during the holidays.

Explore a foreign café, wild mountain ranges, big city lights, and homey firesides. Keep turning the pages to read the stories of love, redemption, sacrifice, and kindness reminding you that THE HEART OF THE SEASON lives within us all!

Can a private investigator recover a family’s stolen gifts?

Could kittens help create a love connection?

Will a widow rekindle her love for the holidays and find romance once more?

Should a single mother give her daughter a Christmas during the apocalypse?

★   ★   ★

“Apocalyptic Christmas” by Courtney Konstantin

“Melt Into Me” by Allison K. Garcia

“Paul Dupré: A Cajun Country Christmas” by Karen Lopez

“Christmas Delivery” by M. T. Decker

“The Christmas Guest” by Lindsay Detwiler

“Last Wishes in Cowboy Country” by R. K. Fultz

“The Pilfered Presents” by Tom Fowler

“Christmas, Cocoa, and Keychains” by N. Terry

“The Smallest of Gifts” by K. McCoy

“Miracle Dawn” by Myria Wild

“Kindness and Fresh Snow” by Katrina Rosemond

Christmas Cookies at the Cat Café: a Furrever Friends Sweet Romance

by Kris Bock 

Christmas isn’t the same since Diane’s kids grew up and her husband died – so when her high school sweetheart comes back to town, maybe it’s time for some cozy new holiday traditions.

Diane had a great marriage and a wonderful life. Now she’s a widow at 53, and her grown children are encouraging her to slow down and do less – but she wants more. She starts planning for a new career by arranging a photo shoot at the cat café her daughters run. Unfortunately, the cats won’t cooperate.

Rick loved Diane in high school, but he chose to travel the world while she settled down with another man. Now he’s back for a visit, but he’s not planning to stay – even if Diane still tugs at him. He’ll help her get what she wants from life, and then he’ll say goodbye.

Rick temps Diane to quit her job, sell her house, and travel. But she can’t leave the people she loves so dearly, the family that might still need her just a little bit. Diane tempts Rick to end his wandering ways, but he can’t simply step into the hole left by her husband’s death. As the weeks pass from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the holiday season brings out complicated emotions.

Can Diane and Rick find a way to make a new life together while holding onto the best parts of the past? They’ll need more than attraction and affection. They might even need a Christmas miracle.

The Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the workers and customers at a small-town cat café, and the adorable cats and kittens looking for their forever homes. Each book is a complete story with a happy ending for one couple (and maybe more than one rescued cat). These sweet romances will leave you with the warm feeling of cuddling a purring cat.

Excerpt

The cat did not want to wear a hat.

“Come on, Miles, it’s for your own good,” Diane muttered. “I’m not trying to insult your feline dignity. I’m trying to find you a forever home. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Once again, Diane got the cat settled on a table against the autumn backdrop. Miles seemed perfectly content to sit there and watch the proceedings. But as soon as Diane tried to put the sunflower hat on the cat’s head, he dropped and flailed as if touched by flaming thorns rather than soft felt. Miles wrestled with the hat as Diane rushed to wake up her cell phone. Maybe she could get something cute, with the cat chewing a sunflower petal.

Diane aimed the camera. The hat sailed to the floor.

Miles leapt off the table, streaked across the room, climbed one of the cat trees, and calmly perched on a platform staring out the window, pointedly ignoring her.

“That Cat in the Hat book is nonsense,” Diane said. “I used to get a diaper on a squirming baby in under a minute. You’d think I could get one cat to wear a lousy hat or at least pose nicely.”

Visit the Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series page on Amazon.

Price: $2.99 Free with KU.

Heat Level: sweet and clean

Kris Bock

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Amazon US page or Amazon UK page. (For other countries click here.)

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Author Bio: Kris Bock writes novels of romance, mystery, and suspense. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Watch as they fall in love with each other and with shelter cats. The series begins with Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café. Sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter and get Lions and Love at the Cat Café, a free sweet romance novella complete at 35 pages.

Kris also writes romantic suspense set in the Southwestern U.S. If you love Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels, try Kris Bock’s stories of treasure hunting, archaeology, and intrigue in the Southwest.

Don’t Mess with Christmas (Dr. Brogan Corkie Matchmaking Doctor Book 4)

Author: Linda O’Connor

Sweet PG-13

Medical Humorous Contemporary Romance

Dr. Brogan Corkie is happily semi-retired from medicine and now has time for other hobbies. Her passion for food is second only to her skill at matchmaking!

Parker Roy grew up in the middle of four brothers and has lived with enough testosterone to last her a lifetime. She’s finally moved out and made a life of her own. Between putting the finishing touches on the set for Mapleton’s Christmas play, plowing snow, and transforming her hydroponic greenhouse into a Christmas wonderland, it’s ramping up to be a hectic season.

Dr. Julian Murphy, the only allergist in town, has his eye on the woman behind the set design of the holiday play. He’s volunteering backstage in the hope of getting to know her. There’s a bit of a snag when she’s referred to his clinic for a rash – doctors aren’t allowed to date their patients – but Dr. Brogan Corkie doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem and steps in to give their romance a nudge. She’d better be right because, if not, it could seriously mess with Christmas.

The allergist or the rash– which itch does Parker want to scratch?

ASIN B08L1DHDMS

Buy Links:

E-book link:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08L1DHDMS

Paperback link:  https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Brogan-Corkie-Matchmaking-Doctor/dp/1988955165/

Bio

Award-winning author Linda O’Connor started writing romantic comedies when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at a local home décor store. Her books have enjoyed bestseller status. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic. She shares her medical knowledge in fast-paced, well-written, sexy romances – with an unexpected twist. Her favourite prescription to write? Laugh every day. Love every minute.

Website https://www.lindaoconnor.net

Twitter https://twitter.com/LindaOConnor98

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LindaOConnorAuthor

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/795688.Linda_O_Connor

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Linda-OConnor/e/B00S7CNLEA

Excerpt

“Pleased to meet you, Julian Murphy.” His hand was warm around hers, and when he moved his thumb in a subtle caress, a shiver went down her spine. “Julian Murphy,” she murmured. She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you a doctor?”

Julian nodded. “I am.”

“An allergist at Gateway General?”

“Guilty.”

Parker pulled her hand back and put her hands on her hips. “I tried to get a referral to see you. You refused.”

His lips twitched. “Yes, that’s true.”

“Why? Dr. Corkie said she’d never seen it in all the years she’s practiced medicine.”

Julian put his hands in his pockets. “Well, there’s a rule against doctors dating patients. It’s ill-advised and frowned upon by the College of Physicians of Ontario.”

Parker scoffed. “Well, good for you. What does that have to do with me?”

“Parker, would you like to have dinner with me?”

Title: First Class Christmas

Author: Katy Eeten

Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

Blurb:

When Mandy Brockman flies home from her friend’s destination wedding, her heart is on empty at the thought of spending Christmas alone. It doesn’t help that her ex is on the plane, seemingly unaffected by their breakup. But the kind-hearted man seated next to her seems to have it all together—and he’s handsome to boot. She knows her emotional healing won’t come in the form of another guy, but will the source of this man’s peace and joy help Mandy find the Christmas she’s looking for?

CJ Hawkins is captivated by the beautiful, feisty woman he meets on his flight. The only thing is, she’s fresh out of a relationship, and he has no interest in being anyone’s rebound. But the more he learns about Mandy, the more he’s drawn to her unique mixture of compassion and spunk.

Can he figure out how to make their relationship take off before this First Class Christmas is grounded forever?

Excerpt:

Once the bill was squared away, they stood to leave, retrieving their coats from the coat check on the way out. The thought of leaving CJ only to return to her lonely apartment brought the same sense of emptiness they’d been talking about earlier. She tried to shake it off. Out in the parking lot, he walked her to her car.

“I’d love to see you again, but I have plans tonight. Although…” his voice trailed off.

Mandy narrowed her eyes. What wasn’t he saying? “Although…?”

A small smile crept to his face. “You should totally come with.”

She was intrigued. “Where to?” They arrived at her car, and she turned to face him with her back against the driver’s side back door.

He waggled his eyebrows. “To fill that emptiness in your heart.”

She tilted her head, giving him a dubious look. “What makes you so sure?”

CJ placed one hand on the car behind her on her left, and then another on her right, pinning her in place between his arms. Their bodies were only inches away from each other. “Do you trust me?” She could hear the smile in his voice.

Taking a deep breath, Mandy kept her gaze on CJ’s. The truth was, she did. But that fact scared her a little. She pressed her lips together before responding. “Yes.”

He gave a flirty lift to his eyebrows. “Good.”

Author Bio:

Katy Eeten is married to a Pastor and is the mom of two boys, ages 12 and 9. She lives with her family in southeast Wisconsin, despite her dislike for cold weather. She works full time in corporate America, but her true passion is writing.

 

In addition to First Class Christmas, she has three other Christian Romances available on Amazon. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found taking walks or bike rides with her kids, baking goodies, playing the piano, or spending time with her family.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon = https://www.amazon.com/First-Class-Christmas-Holiday-Extravaganza-ebook/dp/B08KSJHMW4

B&N = https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/first-class-christmas-katy-eeten/1137850777?ean=9781522303251

Kobo = https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=First%20Class%20Christmas%20(Katy%20Eeten)&ac=1&acp=katy%20eeten&ac.title=First%20Class%20Christmas&ac.author=Katy%20Eeten

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KatyEeten/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KatyEeten

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/KatyEeten/

Website: https://katyeeten.wordpress.com/

 

SLEIGH BELLS RING by Jessica James

 

BLURB:

Best friends go their separate ways, only to end up on the same ranch at Christmas. A best friend, second chance, cowboy Christmas love story set on a ranch in Montana.

 

Returning to her family’s Montana ranch after a ten-year absence, Jordyn Dunaway pitches in to help her mother create the special holiday magic for which the exclusive ranch is renowned. But when she discovers that her best friend growing up—the man she has never forgotten—is employed as a ranch hand, the holiday season turns into something she never imagined.

Chad Devlin was falling into a deep abyss after being medically discharged from the military. When his old employer invited him back as a ranch hand, he found himself recovering both physically and mentally…that is until he was blindsided by the return of the ranch owner’s daughter.

The rocky relationship of the former best friends takes a back seat as the future of the family-owned ranch is threatened. If Jordyn and Chad don’t put their painful pasts behind them, they might lose the ranch they both call home. Can misunderstandings, mistrust, and lost years be forgotten when the magic of Christmas is in the air?

Find out with the help of beautiful mountain vistas, warm Western hospitality, and the magical meaning of a special sleigh bell that ties both Jordyn and Chad to the past—and the future.

 

SPECIAL NOTE: Author Jessica James has partnered with the family-owned business Magical Bells to offer a 20 percent discount off their beautiful sleigh bells. No need for a coupon, the total will be fixed on checkout with this link: https://magicalbells.com/discount/SleighBellsRing

 

EXCERPT:

 

Chad Devlin leaned one broad shoulder against the porch post of the bunkhouse as a limousine pulled through the elegant arched gateway. “Another guest just arrived for the Christmas gala,” he said to no one in particular.

“Another city slicker you mean.” The man standing beside him sent a slug of tobacco onto the dirt near the steps as the car drove slowly up the gravel driveway to the main house about a hundred yards away.

Chad lifted the hat off his brow and scowled at the brown smudge on the ground, but didn’t say anything. Judd had been warned by Mrs. Dunaway about spitting anywhere he pleased, any number of times. It wasn’t exactly the type of thing that wealthy folks wanted to see when they were getting away from it all on this high-priced luxury ranch in the middle-of-nowhere, Montana. And it wasn’t behavior that one would expect from a man who was in charge of dozens of ranch hands.

With his eyes glued on the woman getting out of the car, Chad took a step forward, causing the coffee in his mug to slurp over the top. “Is that Jordyn Dunaway?”

Judd let out a whistle as the long-legged blonde accepted the suitcase handed to her by the driver. “I’ve only seen pictures.” Judd leaned forward and squinted as if to lessen the distance between them. “You know her?”

Chad grew silent and merely shrugged, angry that he’d expressed any emotion and let down his guard. He hadn’t seen Jordyn Dunaway since she’d left for a job in New York City more than a decade ago. Was that really her? Had she really come back home after all this time?

The woman paused on the porch and swept the golden tumble of hair off her shoulders, an action that flaunted a regal confidence and stately poise. Chad mumbled under his breath as another splash of hot coffee breached the top of the trembling mug, burning his hand.

Trying to slow the pace of his heart, Chad looked away and took a deep breath. Would Jordyn remember their last night together? Would she even remember him after traveling around the world and being away from the ranch for so long?

His gaze went back to the main house, but the door had already closed behind her.

Squeezing his temples, Chad tried to stop the memories. He even closed his eyes in a futile attempt to block the images that were branded in his mind as the best—and the worst—moments of his life.

 

LINKS:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GPPRQQR

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1040135?ref=jessicajames

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/sleigh-bells-ring-a-magical-cowboy-christmas-romance/id1529351162?uo=4&mt=11&at=1010lv47

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sleigh-bells-ring-a-magical-cowboy-christmas-romance

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jessica_James_Sleigh_Bells_Ring?id=H5j5DwAAQBAJ

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleigh-bells-ring-jessica-james/1137551912?ean=2940162758273

All Retailers: https://books2read.com/u/bxnyPl

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55152871-sleigh-bells-ring

 

Jessica James Bio:

Jessica James is an award-winning author of patriotic suspense, historical fiction, and heartwarming Southern small town fiction. She is a four-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Fiction, and has won more than a dozen other literary awards. She writes inspirational novels with emotional plots, fascinating characters, unforeseen twists, and touches of heart-warming romance. Her books are available in hundreds of libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.

 

 

CONNECT WITH JESSICA:

Newsletter Signup: https://www.subscribepage.com/jessicajamesnews

 Website: https://www.jessicajamesbooks.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IYTXOG

BookBub : https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jessica-james

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjessicajames/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/586216.Jessica_James

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RomanticHistoricalFiction

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/southernromance/

 

 Harmony’s Embrace

Series: Deerbourne Inn

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Release Date: November 16th, 2020

ASIN: B08L73TB9C

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: 40k

Heat Rating: 3 Flames

Blurb

Divorced dad Birley Haynes is too busy raising his children and running his family’s music academy to start a relationship. Then Harmony Holdich, his high school sweetheart, returns home to Willow Springs, Vermont for Christmas and falls into his bed. She brings light and fun back into his life, but he can’t brush aside the threatening incidents around his workplace.

Harmony hadn’t expected a complication like Birley, especially so soon after the death of her unfaithful husband. With her life a mess, she plans to move across the country and start over. All she can offer him is a fling, but her heart yearns for more.

When the threats rise, how will Birley keep his children safe and convince Harmony to give love another chance?

 

Reuniting with the man who broke her heart has never felt so right.

 

Excerpt

Dear God. His heart slammed harder. He’d died and gone to Heaven.

Harmony stretched her arms above her head and danced in the middle of the living room. Her hips pulsated with the beat of the music. Twisty locks of her hair bounced around her shoulders. She winked, then glided her hands across her breasts and stomach, daring his gaze to follow.

Birley licked his lips. The organ pressing against his zipper throbbed. Sweat slicked his nape. He dropped his scarf beside her purse, jacket, and beanie on the coffee table.

“Dance with me?”

Her husky entreaty ricocheted through him like a ping-pong ball. How could he deny her? He gripped her waist. She slid her arms around him. They swayed, their bodies a scant inch apart. She nuzzled his neck, her breath fanning his skin. His hair prickled. The air crackled around them. He shuddered and held her tighter.

“I’ve missed this.”

His chest heaved. He struggled to fill his lungs with air. “Dancing?”

“Dancing with you.” Harmony stroked his clean-shaven jaw. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out with you and Susannah, but I wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.”

Oh, God. He kissed her and swept his tongue past her parting lips. Delicious. The taste of chocolate and wine clung to her breath. He nibbled and licked the smooth slope of her neck.

“Birley, yes.” She ducked her head and claimed his mouth with hers. Then she feathered kisses across his face. “I need your hands, your mouth, your scent all over me. Take me, Birley. Hard, soft, I don’t care.”

Fuck. Her breathy plea wrapped around his heart and shot blood to his groin. She eased back, drawing him with her. The wall halted her retreat, and he trapped her between it and his body. Their tongues dueled and teeth clanked. Heat sizzled through his veins and pulsed through every organ. Her body writhed against his. Was she trying to drive him mad? He snapped open the fasteners of her pants and slid his finger beneath the waistband of her insulated leggings. Silk brushed his skin, then he slipped into her warmth.

 

Add to Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55691564-harmony-s-embrace

Check it out on BookBubhttps://www.bookbub.com/books/harmony-s-embrace-deerbourne-inn-by-amber-daulton

 

Purchase Links

 

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Harmonys-Embrace-Deerbourne-Amber-Daulton-ebook/dp/B08L73TB9C/

Barnes and Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harmonys-embrace-amber-daulton/1137951572

Apple/iBooks – https://books.apple.com/us/book/harmonys-embrace/id1539081673

Kobo –  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/harmony-s-embrace

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=1M8HEAAAQBAJ

Universal link – https://books2read.com/u/bPX6kR

 

Now Taking Sign Ups for my Newsletter, Amber Daulton Romance

 

https://emailoctopus.com/lists/9d60a166-f2ea-11ea-a3d0-06b4694bee2a/forms/subscribe

About the Author

 

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.

 

Social Media Links

 

Website – https://amberdaulton.wordpress.com/

Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/amber.daulton.author

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AmberDaulton1

Street Team – https://www.facebook.com/groups/572204316296198/

Pinterest – https://pinterest.com/amberdaulton5/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6624921.Amber_Daulton

Amazon Author Page – https://amzn.to/14JoZff

Book Bub – https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amber-daulton

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/amberdaultonauthor1/

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/pub/amber-daulton/87/538/368

The Wild Rose Press – https://www.thewildrosepress.com/authors/amber-daulton

The Last Christmas by Seelie Kay

Release Date: December 11, 2020

Publisher: Extasy Books

Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, three flames

Why did you write “The Last Christmas?” 

My father is 94-years-old and as you might expect, has had a number of serious medical, age-related events. Each time, we were told to prepare for his death. Each time, he survived. The fact was, my Dad wasn’t ready to die. And his children and his grandchildren weren’t ready to let him go either. So I started thinking about terminal diagnoses and how they are really a best guess, not a guarantee. That, of course, led to thoughts how a terminal diagnosis often causes people to give up and prematurely mourn the death of the person who is ill. I wondered how that impacted the outcome. And because I was preparing to write a holiday book, I also started thinking about the power of family, and how, time after time, families are capable of creating miracles.

That led me to “The Last Christmas.” Christmas truly is a time for miracles, and thought it important that everyone be able to experience one through the tale of the Wright Family. 

Blurb:

When the doctors say there’s no hope, Santa begs to differ. After all, he claims, miracles are love combined with action to get the desired result. And at Christmas time, everyone deserves a miracle!

David Wright is dying from cancer. He is not expected to see another Christmas. At least that’s what the medical professionals say. Fortunately, Santa begs to differ. After all, modern medicine is nothing more than a best guess. Santa believes anything is possible until you give up. When Santa tells David’s wife, Joan, that heaven is full and she has to keep her husband alive, she is beside herself. She has no medical skills. How can she save anyone’s life? Set your skepticism aside as Santa embraces a family already mourning their father’s terminal diagnosis and teaches them that a Christmas miracle doesn’t always require heavenly intervention. Sometimes, all it takes is a family with enough love to create their own. As Santa says, a true miracle is when love combines with action to get the desired results. And only humans are capable of that. Will Santa’s words fall on deaf ears? Or will Team Wright find a way to save their father’s life?

Excerpt:

 It’s not about you, it’s about him, Joan,” a grumbly voice said. “You’re looking at this all wrong.”

Joan turned so fast she almost lost her balance. She glared at the old man who had spoken. He was around seventy, with ruddy cheeks and twinkling blue eyes. And thick white hair. Lots of white hair. Flowing over his shoulders, winding up in a very lush beard. On top of his head was perched a brightly colored red knit hat. She frowned. “Wait a minute. You’re Santa Claus. Without the red suit, but clearly, you’re him. I’d know you anywhere.”

The man bowed and with a smile, said, “At your service.” He gestured toward a park across the street. “Let’s take a walk.”

“Oh, no. I’m not going anywhere with you.” Joan shook her head. “I didn’t mean you actually were Santa Claus. Everyone knows he doesn’t exist. I just meant you looked like him. You’re just a man who looks like him. I don’t know you. Why would I…” She glared at him. “You’re not even wearing a red suit. And since when has Santa taken up armchair psychiatry?”  She ran a hand through her blonde hair. “I must be hallucinating.” Despite her objections, she followed him across the street.

Santa laughed. “My dear, I have been dispensing advice since I was old enough to talk and make people listen. God chose my role a long time ago and I have gotten very good at it.” He looked toward the heavens. “Sorry, old boy. Still working on that humility!” He chuckled. “Man never stops reminding me.” He smiled at Joan. “Do you sense any ill-intentions from me? Of course not. I’m Santa. All I want to do is talk.”

Joan reached out and touched his shoulder.

He laughed again. A laugh that came directly from his belly. “Yes, I’m real. Well, as real as a centuries-old spirit gets. I even eat all those cookies children leave me each year. And let me tell you, that’s a heavenly feat.” Again, he looked skyward. “Yes, sir, I am well aware that borders on gluttony. A sin. You know darn well it has nothing to do with gluttony and everything to do with the magic of Christmas, an affirmation that Santa is real. I do it for the children.” He smiled at Joan. “Sometimes, He gets a little overbearing with his angels.”

He smirked. “Even God has his faults. He is by no means perfect.” A strong wind swirled through the plaza, nearly catching his knitted cap. He clapped his hand on his head to hold it down. He whispered, “And he doesn’t take criticism too well, either.”

Joan stared at the man. Surely, she was losing it. Santa a spirit, an angel? He and God didn’t even travel in the same circles. She shook her head, trying to make the hallucination go away.

Santa sighed. “I know, I know. You’ve been taught that I’m not real. That I’m a myth. That’s a rumor started by Satan himself, the old devil. He can’t stand the fact that people embrace the goodness in the world. And that I spread good cheer. He would much rather unleash a plague and make people miserable. He hates Christmas. He hates that the birth of Christ is celebrated, and his birth, well, is not. He really can’t stand the fact that love binds people so tightly during the holidays.” Santa shook his fist toward the ground. “The fool pouts all through the holidays.” He then sat up straight and gazed at Joan. “Christmas is really about love, you know. All kinds of love. The type of love he’ll never have. Love of family, love of children, love of—”

“What the heck do you want?” Joan blurted. “People are starting to stare.”

Buy links: 

“The Last Christmas” is scheduled for release in December 11, 2020and will be available from all major booksellers, including–

Extasy BooksPreorder Link Available November 27, 2020

 About Seelie Kay: 

Seelie Kay is a nom de plume for a writer, editor, and author with more than 30 years of experience in law, journalism, marketing, and public relations. When she writes about love and lust in the legal world, something kinky is bound to happen!  In possession of a wicked pen and an overly inquisitive mind, Ms. Kay is the author of 18 works of fiction, including the Kinky Briefs series, the Feisty Lawyers series, The Garage Dweller, A Touchdown to Remember, The President’s Wife, The White House Wedding, and The President’s Daughter. 

When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.

Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS:  Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you! 

Author links: 

Website:  https://www.seeliekay.com

Blog:  https://www.seeliekay.blogspot.com

Twitter: @SeelieKay https://twitter.com/SeelieKay

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/seelie.kay.77

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/seeliekay51/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Seelie-Kay/e/B074RDRWNZ/

The Holiday Mermaid

A Sea of Love story in the Desire Me Again romance anthology by BVS

Fantasy Romance

9,000 words

#paranormalromance #romance #RomanceReaders #RomanceNovel #RomanceBooks #romancenovels #fantasy #lovestory #Magic #mermaids #Christmas #bvsbooks #PNR #AmReading #books #Book #Yule #ebooks #Kindle

 

Love comes in many shapes

 

Blurb

The hopeless romantic believes that a soulmate exists for each of us. That there is one person who makes us feel how good it is to love them. For some couples, things trigger them to push that love away. They find out too late they’ve lost true-love. Sometimes genuine love deserves a second-chance at the happy ending that eluded them the first time.

Desire Me Again is an eclectic assortment of short stories exploring a second-chance at love. The collection is as diverse as the authors who wrote them. Here’s a chance to read the work of talented writers you may not have read before. Within these pages, there are blends of tender, often moving and thought-provoking stories.

The Holiday Mermaid, a seasonal fantasy romance by Alice Renaud: Adam fell for surfer girl Rowena the second he saw her. But just as their summer fling was becoming serious, she left him without any explanation. Now, with Christmas just a few days away, she’s back… and Adam discovers that she’s a shape-shifting mermaid, from a Clan that hates humans. Can he love her as she is? Can she brave her family to be with Adam for good, not just for Christmas?

Buy Links

https://amzn.to/34NstC7

 

Bio

Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in the Sea of Love fantasy romance trilogy, inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green,” are out now. Alice has also contributed short stories to the BVS anthologies “Mystic Desire” and “Desire Me Again,” both available now. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested! 

 

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AliceRenaudAuthorRomance/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alicerauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18670218.Alice_Renaud

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/alice-renaud

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Renaud/e/B07L52P17B

Website: https://nomadauthors.com/alicerenaud/alicebooks.html

 

 Yuletide with the Rookie by Fran Thomas

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Baseball rookie Brett Hoak is spending the off-season teaching kids to ice skate. The knockout big sis of one of his pupils is a bonus.

Leeanne Corey was sure teaching was her best career path. Now, she’s having second thoughts.

When Brett shares a secret and needs Leeanne’s help, she can’t refuse. But losing her heart to a jock again isn’t in her plans.

MY BOOK was NOMINATED AS ROMANCE NOVEL OF 2019 BY READERS CHOICE.

SECRET DESIRES is now on sale at Audible.com and on iTunes. Now, you can listen to Margo’s story and cheer her on as you commute to work or sit back and adjust your headsets at home. It is also available on B&N.com and Amazon.com –eBook and paper.

                                                            SECRET DESIRES

ISBN: 978-0-9984099-1-7

                        Nothing in Margo Simmons’s life comes easy. She can’t claim the inheritance on a condo apartment her uncle has left to her until she is gainfully employed in a job for a year. She meets the man of her dreams but anguishes over a loving relationship because he is still emotionally tied to his deceased wife. With great difficulty, she becomes the guardian to a recently orphaned child she had been tutoring.   Margo evolves from an insecure, newbie elementary teacher into a woman determined to fulfill the secret desires locked in her heart. My story speaks to anyone who has suffered a loss and had to start over.

J.L. Regen’s book was inspired by a real life story of lovers who join hearts against many odds. She lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and has taught English as a Second Language to students around the globe. This is her first contemporary romance. She has also published three nonfiction books and is crafting a historical suspense set in World War II.

Contact: J. L. Regen

 Writerjr1044@gmail.com

Website: www.Joansbookshelf.com

JOIN MY MAILING LIST: FOR UPDATES ON FUTURE SUSPENSE TITLES, LEAVE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION ON MY WEBSITE.

Cover by Karen Phillips who resides in California and has a diversified list of clients.

  1. L. is available for interviews and book readings/signings in your area.

Dear Family: It May Be A While Before We Meet Again

The other night, my husband and I had another conversation about the surge in Covid-19 cases, and whether we were doing everything in our power to keep our family safe.

See, back when when first began hearing about this virus, I knew it was going to be bad. Call me paranoid, but one of the reasons I’ve always feared zombie movies is because I realized “zombies” were a metaphor for a pandemic–and that falls in the category of one of my worst nightmares. So in January, when the news began speaking of a serious new virus emerging in China, I sat up and took notice. I began buying an extra item of the things we used most each time we went grocery shopping. Hey, if you’ve ever tried to get bread and milk when the weather channel calls for a coating of ice around here, you know that was a prudent move.

This was the disinfectant aisle at the local store back in March–but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I told my husband he should start working from home, even though his workplace hadn’t issued the order yet. We made the decision to split our family into two households as well–with my husband and the high risk family members in one home and me (an essential worker) staying on the farm to take care of the animals. We understood the need to flatten the curve and to protect the high risk family members as much as possible. I was the one most likely to bring something home, given my interaction with the public and the inability to work from home, and let me tell you, the steps you need to take every day to protect yourself under those circumstances is exhausting–and I’m not one of the people on the front lines. My heart breaks for the medical professionals who are being ground to dust by this terrible, relentless pandemic. I know just how lucky I am.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m not by nature a social person. Sure, I enjoy the company of friends and family. I miss not going to conventions this year. But even when I’m having fun doing such things, I need frequent breaks from people and I don’t enjoy big crowds. I don’t need people the way some of my friends do–as long as I have access to the small group of people I do need. I can wait for a movie to be released on DVD, or am willing to pay extra to see it live-streamed instead. I prefer hiking to shopping, and as for the holidays? Well, growing up with a mother who was anti-holiday has prepared me for shrugging them off and not making a big deal about them. It’s okay. They’ll be there next year.

My husband and I still got together once a week: socially distanced and outside. We’d grill burgers or steaks and sit in our well-ventilated mosquito tent until after dark, reading, talking, or playing board games. In a way, it was a throwback to a simpler, quieter, pre-internet time–and I will look back on those evenings with fondness in the future, I know.

As the days got shorter and a brisk chill entered the air, we moved our gatherings inside. Masked at first, but as time went by, we just stopped wearing them. Our social circle was still quite small. A week passed between each visit, so there was plenty of time to develop symptoms and avoid contact if necessary, right?

We were still being safe, right?

But then the case numbers began surging again–worse than they were when we first began touting “flatten the curve.” Worse than the worst projections of an incompetent and corrupt administration. I began to wonder if we were really being all that safe or smart. The whole reason we decided to split the family was about reducing the risks. Our indoor meetings, even though they met the state guidelines for gatherings, started to feel wrong. As if I were saying, “I know you have a severe allergy, but I only put one or two peanuts in this recipe. It’s not like I used a whole jar of peanut butter.”

Then came the widespread discussions about gathering for Thanksgiving–and I found myself telling friends and neighbors planning to travel to visit family that it was a really bad idea. But were we really being any smarter, safer? I was no longer sure.

Then there was the recent conversation I had with friends–all of whom believe in the necessity of vaccinations–and the unlikelihood of seeing widespread vaccination when we can’t even get people to wear masks. We aren’t going to even begin to get back to some semblance of normal without widespread vaccination against Covid-19… and I just don’t see that happening in large enough numbers to make a difference.

When I read Chuck Wendig’s Twitter thread about the widespread sense of entitlement we as a nation have these days, it was both depressing and infuriating. He spoke of people who would tell you in one breath about a social life scarcely any different than the one they lived before the pandemic and in the next breath say how serious things were and how careful they were being. Um, no you’re not. Not really.

It didn’t help much to know that my husband and I realized we weren’t being careful enough and that–at least for the time being–we needed to go back to only meeting outside wearing masks and truly keeping our social distance again. Because though on a smaller scale, we’d been behaving much like the people Wendig took issue with.

I have to pause here and say there isn’t any virtue in remaining virus-free. It isn’t because of clean living or moral superiority. Perhaps that’s the fatal flaw in our attempt to shame people into wearing masks because I do think on some level, both sides of the argument try to make this about virtue. It isn’t. It’s about science and the spread of disease. It’s about taking precautions and understanding that even under the best of circumstances, precautions can fail. But that doesn’t mean you don’t take them.

I found a measure of comfort in this excellent post by Linda K Sienkiewicz on Setting Limits in a Pandemic. She had some wise things to say about walking the fine line among friends and family who disagree with the perimeters you set for yourself in this perilous time.

It made me more comfortable with the conclusion my family came to this past weekend, and reinforced our decision to be stricter with our interactions instead of lapsing along with so much of the rest of the world. So this is my declaration of intent to continue to self-isolate. Yes, there are members of my extended family that we would love to see–seniors that may not have that many more holidays who want to see us too–and I’m planning for the day when we can visit them again. But not now. Not any time soon. I’d rather be overly cautious out of love than too lenient for the same. If that sounds like I]m assigning virtue to the decision, I don’t mean to do so. We’re just trying to make decisions we can live with. Literally.

 

Stop The Information Overload Bus: I Want to Get Off

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

This morning, as I was checking my inbox over breakfast, I told my husband I finally understood why some people ghosted their own lives, walking away from everything. There are days when it all seems like Too Much. Those days come with increasingly frequency lately. I’m sure it has something to do with the greater degree of responsibility I have in my life now compared to even ten years ago, but there’s a reason I chose ten years as my marker and not fifteen or twenty. See, it was about ten years ago that I began publishing my original stories.

Prior to that, my online presence was relatively small. I had a list of friends I kept in touch with via email. I had a livejournal account where I interacted with another handful of friends. I posted fanfic to some of the big archives. I had a Blackberry, the primary use of which was to make phone calls.

But with becoming a published author, I had to have a social media presence, and there followed Facebook pages, Twitter, a website, Tumblr, and eventually, reluctantly (and then embraced with more enthusiasm as it became my happy place), Instagram. I created livejournal accounts for my pen names, switched to Dreamwidth when livejournal got taken over by the Russians, and then deleted my accounts on that platform because hardly anyone was there. I made pages on Bookbub, Amazon, and Goodreads. I maintain a ghostly presence on Tumblr because the platform just doesn’t appeal to me very much but I have friends who use it. I belong to groups on Discord I forget to visit. I snagged real estate on other sites I thought I might use/need at some point–does anyone remember Ello? Just this morning I got a reminder to respond to a friend request on MeWe, a site which I’ve never fully utilized, in part because the name reminds me of PeeWee Herman and that just makes me shudder. But as an alternative to the invasive and amoral Facebook, it’s starting to have more appeal.

And because I have different email accounts (personal, professional, fandom, and pen names, current and retired) on any given day, I have over 600 emails in my combined inboxes. In part, because I sign up for courses on craft and marketing with the assumption that I need the information (mostly I do) and in the hopes that this One Thing will make the difference and that This Time the latest book release will be a smashing success and I can finally step down from a job that no longer brings me joy or satisfaction and I can write FT. Only the backlog of coursework, much of which are daily videos averaging 40-50 minutes in length, weighs on me. As does the money I’ve wasted on courses I haven’t made the time to finish.

It’s also due to the email lists I’m on. Because, as every author is told, your email lists are gold. You must have one, you must provide entertaining information, value for the following. Don’t worry about boring your followers or overwhelming them with posts because they are just sitting at their computers waiting for your newsletter to brighten their day.

Um, I can tell you I’m not doing that. I belong to dozens of email lists that I never open. I signed up as part of something else, or to support someone, or even because they are a favorite author and I want to know the moment they drop a new release… and I have to tell you, if I can’t manage to open a newsletter from a favorite Big Name Author then I have less hope for someone opening one of mine.

On any given day, I have blog posts (like this one) to write, marketing/craft videos to watch, I need to make the rounds on social media (and yes, I do schedule things in advance, but like meal planning, that in and of itself can swallow an entire afternoon to get a month’s worth of posts), submit review requests, answer emails (why is it my friends and family always come in last on this list?), reply to comments, and yes, write. You’d think the writing would come first, wouldn’t you? But it hasn’t been. I’m in a writing slump. Some days I’m enthusiastic and I pound out a few words. More often I open the document and stare at the blinking cursor. Writing these past few years has been like pulling teeth with a pair of rusty pliers and no anesthesia. I know it can be done, but I don’t look forward to it and I doubt it’s my best work.

Scarcely a day goes by when I’m not invited to join this group or that platform or I’m advised to have a presence on x-y-z, particularly the newer sites like storyorigin which are designed to help you network with other authors. But it all feels like a catch-22, you know? Managing my time and presence on all these sites is a full-time job and I already have a FT job. I’m like the solo business owner who recognizes that the workload is too much for one person but it won’t quite support a second salary yet. Do you keep growing or pull back? Work yourself to death or hire PT help you can’t afford?

These days a big part of the problem is an inability to focus. I start a video but pause it to throw a load of laundry in the washer. I come back to the video, but decide I really should be writing. The words won’t flow so I decide to schedule blog posts instead. A few hours later I come back to the story but the words still aren’t there. Is it the story itself? Is it me as a writer? Is my brain simply turning to mush?

I honestly believe it’s because there is too much noise. Not literally, although there’s a lot of that too. I think collectively our brains are on overdrive with too much information to process every day. In the past, this feeling would have been my cue to get up from the keyboard and take the dogs for a run, or unplug from social media for a few days and immerse myself in my characters’ universe. But the problem is this time, I don’t want to do those things either. I can’t settle. I can’t focus.

I said to my husband this morning that we were in limbo, and that’s true. That’s what this feels like, this everlasting holding of one’s breath. Ten years ago, I was a much happier person. Uninformed, living in my own little bubble of privilege, but happier. I need to stay informed so I can take action on the things I can do something about–but there are a lot of things going on in the world right now that I have no control over–and perhaps I need to take a break from updates on those things. I strongly suspect one day we’ll learn that doomscrolling also provides some weird sort of feedback, a negative version of the dopamine hits you get when someone likes or comments on your posts.

So if you’re having trouble focusing on whatever is important to you right now: your NaNo project, your WIP, your book launch, a family issue, some work-related thing, something you’ve committed to but feel is getting away from you, take a little advice here. Unless it relates to whatever it is you need to get done, turn off the news. Stop checking out social media. Oh, you’re an author with a big launch coming up and you MUST make your presence known/felt? Schedule what you can in advance and go back to what’s really important. There are far bigger and scarier things threatening to end the world than lack of your social media presence.

Ruthlessly purge your email lists. If you’re not opening it, you’re just deadweight on someone’s list. Clean out your inbox. Those emails you’ve been saving to read at some future date? If they’re more than 6 months old and didn’t come from friends or family, purge it. Not using Discord, or Snapchat, or Twitter or Tumblr? Delete the apps from your phone. Trust me, you’ll feel so much relief from taking these steps.

Pick three sites to maintain a presence on. For me, it’s currently Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have some real issues with Facebook’s policies and information mining, and I suspect it’s worse than we know, but for authors, a Facebook presence is considered necessary. I crosspost to as many things as possible to save time. For the time being, I intend to stay off SM as much as possible, using something like Hootsuite to manage my posts. I know, I know, interacting on these sites is The Key to building your audience organically and growing your brand (yikes, I typed that as “your bland” initially–Freudian much?) but so is writing your next bloody story!! For me, the only way to deal with the “squirrel brain” I have right now is to dam up the information overflow pipe and let that crap stream on without me.

I hate scheduling stuff because my life is so rigidly scheduled all the time, but using a daily planner helps me find blocks of time I didn’t know I had, while at the same time keeps me from spinning my wheels too long in one space without traction. If I block off 30-40 minutes for a task–like watching a craft/marketing video or working on a book trailer, etc–and that time runs out, I can decide if I will use the next block of time to complete it or move on. Sometimes the answer is MOVE ON. Just like cleaning your house, writing a book, or climbing a mountain–depending on the size of the project– some things are meant to be tackled a piece at a time. A piece plus a piece plus a piece becomes a whole.

The world is a scary place. Always has been for many, but these days we all have more information about just how scary it is and how directly that frightening thing can impact us. We need to learn how to utilize that information without letting it freeze us into inactivity. Time to calm that limbic system down again. Take a deep breath and put your phone down.

 

Shadowboxing by Anne Barwell

I’m so excited to have Anne Barwell here with me today to discuss the re-release of her WWII romance, Shadowboxing. As you know, I’m a huge fan of stories written in that time period and I deeply appreciate the research that goes into making history come alive for the reader. I can also appreciate the desire to set your story in a time that may create additional obstacles to the characters that might not exist today–or at least, don’t exist to the same degree. Anne has done the kind of research that I find exciting, and I love hearing about the source materials she drew on to bring this series to life! Please welcome Anne Barwell!

Thank you for hosting me. I’m excited to be re-releasing the first in my WWII Echoes Rising series.

When I original wrote Shadowboxing, I wanted to read an historical which was an action drama with gay characters. I couldn’t find one—although that isn’t a problem now, so I wrote one.  I also wanted to write a story that had at its heart a romance between two men during a time where, if their relationship were discovered, they risked severe repercussions, even death. I also wanted to explore characters who needed to do some serious soul searching in order to break free of expectations of not only themselves but their society.

I’d always loved stories about WWII, and so the idea for the Echoes Rising series was born.  People meet during wars who wouldn’t usually, as is the case of Kristopher and Michel, the main characters in the series.  Kristopher is a German physicist, and Michel a French farmer.  The Allied team sent to retrieve the plans for the project Kristopher is working are not only a mix of nationalities but have very different backgrounds.  While Matt is American, he’s also spent time in Germany before the war.  Ken is American but he’s also hiding part of his heritage, and Liang is British Chinese.

This mix is very deliberate as I wanted different perspectives to the story.  War is not just about the battles fought, but the people affected by them. I don’t believe that wars are really won  as each country involved loses loved ones, and is damaged to the extent that the consequences are felt for generations to come.

I also knew in writing a historical I had a lot of research ahead of me. This wasn’t a one book project but a series of three books. I need to plot out all three books as, although each book is written so it stands alone, the series is really one story split into three. I figured it was better to write three smaller books than one enormous tome, as those can be rather off-putting for readers as well as writers.  Each part of the story splits nicely with location too so it works out well.  Shadowboxing is set in Berlin, Winter Duet is a road trip across wartime Germany, and Comes a Horseman takes place in France.

I used a range of resources for my research. I work in a library—shelving in the 940.5 section is not a great idea as I get distracted by shiny things.  The library, and its databases, has been a fantastic resource for writing this series. Half the fun was finding the resources as they weren’t just in the history section, as I also needed travel books—for locations—and information about clothing and weapons.  Early on in the writing process for the story I found a book called The Bomb by Gerard DeGroot which was about the ‘life story of the Bomb’ and subtitled A History of Hell on Earth. I bought my own copy of it.

The Forgotten Voices series is also another invaluable resource as it relays personal accounts by both servicemen and women and civilians about what it was like to live through that time. The internet also provided a lot of interesting information although some things were next to impossible to find.  The specifics of German telephones was one of these.  Everything out there is about the US system at the time!  Luckily one of my beta readers is German and she has proved an invaluable source of information. She also checked facts on websites written in German and provided/suggested the German used in the story.

However, there is a flip side to the research.  While I try to ensure I’m as accurate as possible—within the constraints of telling a good story—history can also work for a story rather than against it. After all, there’s no need to find a way to blow something up when it’s already documented that the Allied forces dropped bombs in the area at that time.

I’m aiming to republish Winter Duet in January, and the conclusion to the series, Comes a Horseman, in March.

Shadowboxing

Echoes Rising Book 1

Complete their mission or lose everything.

Berlin, 1943

An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.

Author’s note: This is the third edition of Shadowboxing. The first and second editions were released by another publishing house.  This story has been re-edited, and uses UK spelling to reflect its setting.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LCRT1ZZ

 

Excerpt:

This was his chance to put things right, to make sure the project did not go further. He hurriedly shoved the file back into the case and then froze. What exactly was he going to do? Only one complete copy existed as far as he knew, but he wasn’t certain if the Nazis were aware he was capable of replicating the information. He would have to destroy the file, then disappear.

That wasn’t going to be easy. The Nazis had spies everywhere, and he did not know anyone who would help him. He wouldn’t ask Clara, nor would he consider death as an option. He couldn’t do that to her, not after she’d spent so much of her energy taking care of him. Someone had to get the information about this device out to the rest of the world. He had helped to create it. He would make sure the project was only ever used for the benefit of all mankind, but where the hell was he supposed to find the people he needed to ensure that happened? How could he trust anyone now, let alone convince them to trust him?

Click

Kristopher turned. The office door was opening. In one fluid movement he gripped the briefcase firmly beneath one arm and bent to retrieve a piece of broken glass, holding the jagged edge in front of him in a feeble attempt to defend himself.

The newcomer took in the situation at a glance, one eyebrow raised in an unspoken question. His eyes flickered onto what had once been Kluge, then back to Kristopher, and finally came to rest on his precious cargo, the briefcase containing the culmination of a dream now better described as a never-ending nightmare.

Kristopher debated for all of a second the chances of his success if he tackled the man head-on, then decided against it. Apart from the extra height, Schmitz’s uniform probably disguised a well-developed physique. He also had the advantage of military training and the gun he held. Kristopher’s opponent possessed some degree of intelligence. That much was obvious by the inquiring look on his face and the way his eyes seemed to penetrate Kristopher’s, searching for an answer. For an instant, Kristopher was sure he glimpsed a depth to those eyes, and the man behind them. He edged back a step, taking comfort in the solidity of the desk digging into the small of his back, the sensation grounding him while he attempted to place the pieces of the puzzle together.

How much had Schmitz seen? His expression did not reveal anything.

If Kristopher surrendered now, everything would be over, and the Nazis would win. He wouldn’t give up, no matter what the odds. He gripped the glass fragment tightly, ignoring the sharp pain as the rough edges scratched against his palm, the red liquid seeping into his shirt cuff already stained with the blood he’d earlier unsuccessfully attempted to stanch. He took a step closer, trying to look menacing, fully aware that on a scale of one to ten he wasn’t achieving even a one.

They stood staring at each other, or rather Kristopher stood staring. Schmitz leaned back casually against the door without shifting his gaze. After a few moments with Kristopher’s ragged breathing the only audible sound in the room, the Obergefreiter pulled himself to attention and took a step forward. He lowered his gun and placed it in its holster before holding out his hand for Kristopher’s makeshift weapon.

“Herr Dr Lehrer,” he said softly, the tone of his voice low, an expression of disbelief fleeting over his features. “You’re one of the most brilliant minds in this institution, and yet this is the extent of your plan?”

Author Bio:

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

 

Website & Blog—Drops of Ink: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/annesbooksandbrews/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/anne-barwell

Queeromance Ink Author Page:                       

https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/anne-barwell/

Sign up for my newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/39edaba3e3ad/annebarwellauthor

 

 

 

Romancing the Runoff: How You Can Participate

I’m delighted to announce I’ll be participating in this fundraising auction for a great cause: Romancing the Runoff describes itself as Romance fans making HEAs for 2020. Romance authors raising funds to help support the Georgia Senate Runoffs by supporting Fair Fight, the New Georgia Project, and Black Voters Matter. Coordinated by @courtneymilan, @alyssacolelit, & @kitrocha (aka @mostlybree & @totallydonna). Inspired by Stacey Abrams.

 

 
Basically, this auction is designed to raise money for various voting organizations in Georgia in anticipation of the runoff elections that will be coming up in January 2021. You can donate to campaigns directly, as well as follow the Romancing the Runoff on Twitter and Instagram for sneak peeks into all the fabulous items and services up for auction. If you’re an author wishing to donate books and services, check out the link tree at the website above! The auction opens November 18, 2020 and promises to be AMAZING. Books and Zoom chats with your favorite authors. Critiques on your own writing from the best in the business. Annotated ARCs from the biggest names in romance. Swag and offerings too exciting for words. Have a character named after you in an upcoming book. I’ve seen an image of a fabulous red dress covered in little hearts that is to die for! Every time one of the pre-auction goals is reached, a special video is unlocked, so you definitely want to follow them on social media!
 
I’m offering Reader’s Choice signed print copies of either The Redclaw Security Series or the Redclaw Origins Series. That’s two books each autographed (with a little swag tossed in as well) by me! I hope you’ll join in the fun and help fund a worthy cause.
 
 
Because it’s high time we all got a little HEA, now isn’t it?
 

Give Yourself Permission to Self-Protect in Uncertain Times

TW for brief mention of election anxiety

 

 

 

Tomorrow is Election Day in the US. For many, it’s a referendum on Democracy as an institution. A matter of life and death when it comes down to civil rights, health care, climate change, and more. Others treat it more like a football game: my team against yours. Still others embrace their party’s ideology and leaders with a fervency that borders on cultism and speak of defending their side with violence if the election results don’t turn out the way they wish.

We are a nation divided, and that division not only stems from radically different ideologies, but also from outside forces fomenting anger and division on almost every topic you can name. I never held much with conspiracy theories in the past, but when we have Russian operatives seeding dissent on everything from vaccinating your kids to the Star Wars fandom, it’s hard to know what’s real and not real anymore.

We are constantly being gaslit. Not the least of which by our own government.

Side bar: I’ll never forget seeing a TV report in which a young Russian boy was receiving an award for his excellent knowledge of geography. Putin asked the child to name the borders of Russia and the kid began listing the various countries, only to have Putin interrupt him. With a shark-like smile, Putin said, “Russia has no borders.”

It was the most chilling thing I’d ever seen.

I know this much: we as a species are not wired to deal with the magnitude of constant, unrelenting stress we currently face between the pandemic, the growing spread of fascism, escalating, devastating climate change, fears for democracy and for our future. The very uncertainty of all of it–the fact alone there is no end date for the pandemic that we know of–makes it hard for many of us to maintain a level of awareness we need to keep ourselves safe. Even if we were taking things seriously, we have to go back to the car because we forgot to put on our mask or we forget to wash our hands. We’re like the person who knows they should eat broccoli for dinner but we’re tired and unhappy and we just say screw it and order pizza anyway. Except making a mistake now could have serious consequences for ourselves and everyone around us, much more so than a single night of dietary indulgence.

I also know something else: the people who keep saying don’t worry, everything will be fine on November 4th can say that because very little will change for them. They will still have access to health care. They won’t have to worry about being denied birth control coverage by their employer or fear being fired for their sexual orientation. They can go shopping or jog in their neighborhood without fear of being targeted, assaulted and killed because of the color of their skin. It’s easy for someone in a position of power to tell everyone else to calm down.

Most everyone I know is expressing an increased level of anxiety right now. I mean a seriously increased level of anxiety. And I’m here to say, give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get you through these next few weeks, as long as it doesn’t bring harm to yourself or anyone else. Write inexplicably fluffy fanfiction. Binge-watch all twelve seasons of the Great British Bake Off. Play video games all day and into the night. Someone sent me this on WhatsApp and I immediately embraced it. Yes. THIS. Invite possums to a tea party if it makes you happy.

I’m currently posting photos of action figures doing book reviews to my Instagram account because posing the figures with actual replicas of itty bitty book covers calms my mind in a way I can’t achieve doing anything else. It’s silly, but you know what? I don’t care.

DON’T belittle someone else’s efforts at self-calming and self-protection. I’m one of those people who believe the holidays should be celebrated one at a time in good order, but if this year someone breaks out the pumpkin spice lattes in August or wants to decorate their home for Christmas before Halloween, I say more power to them. You know what? I never took down my indoor Christmas lights this past year, and turning them on at night soothes my soul in a cheap, painless way.

I’m seriously considering paying for the Hallmark channel this year because I love holiday movies and I can’t get enough of them. I could start watching them now until March and I’d be okay with this. And if watching improbable movies with ridiculous plots because there is snow and fairy lights and no one dies and the GUARANTEE of a HEA is what gets me through the weeks to come, that’s okay. If I’m wallowing in books from the Golden Age of Mystery and not doomscrolling on my phone, that’s more than okay. That’s smart. That’s healthy.

I’ve done all I know how to do for my country at this point in time. I’ve donated to candidates, encouraged others to vote, have voted already myself. It’s out of my hands now. I need to take the advice I’d give others with regards to getting through the coming weeks. Practice self-protection and self-care. Which doesn’t mean tossing making healthy eating choices or getting enough sleep out the window, tempting as that is. Believe me, I’ve eaten Cap’n Crunch dry out of the box before and called it dinner. But making yourself sick with garbage food isn’t helping matters any.

This uncertainty is part of the reason I’ve been stalled in my writing for months now. I normally hit a little lull when I finish a story, and the business of launching a book sidetracks me with all the marketing and promotion of the new release. This time I’ve been much slower to start working on the next story because I’ve been long on anxiety and short on hope. There frequently seems little point in telling my silly stories when it feels as though the world is coming to an end.

But it occurred to me this morning that my intrepid heroine would take a dim view of this inaction on my part. Part of dealing with the world at large is creating a universe of my own in which I control the outcomes. In this next installment of Redclaw Origins, Rhett faces the equivalent of a Doomsday Scenario. By giving her the strength and wits to deal, I find a little pocket of peace for myself. Sometimes when dealing with some daily trauma, I ask: What Would Rhett Do?

Let’s find out.

Last night I put on my “bracelets of power” and sat down to the keyboard for the first time since I typed “the end” on Bishop’s Gambit. Perhaps I am just re-arranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic. But the world isn’t going to save itself, and Rhett could use a little help.

The 2021 Author Planner You Must Have

If you really want to show the writer in your life you believe in them and take their work seriously, show them how to take their work seriously too. Last year I was fortunate enough to win one of Audrey Hughey’s The Ultimate Authorship Planner, and I couldn’t wait to get started with it, having decided to start off fresh in 2020 with it. It’s more than just another notebook or calendar. SO MUCH MORE. You can track your daily and weekly goals, your expenditures (to make doing your taxes so much easier!), plan your marketing and social media campaigns, newsletters, you name it! What I love about it is it’s large enough for me to work in without cramming tiny notes everywhere, and the coil-bound cover allows it to lay flat while you’re working on it. It’s a bit like having an organizer, an accountability partner, a cheerleader, and a coach all rolled up into one.
 
The 2021 Author’s Planner is designed to be your all-in-one day planner and writing-career coach, helping you organize your writing life and get on a clear path to reach your goals.
 
“I absolutely LOVE this planner. In my opinion, it’s a must for any author who wants to stay on top of their book production and author career with minimal stress and anxiety! (And who doesn’t want that?!)” — J.R. Frontera
 
Finally, you’ll have ONE planner where you can:
– Track your daily and weekly word counts.
– Map out your writing and publishing plans for an entire year.
– Manage and track your monthly expenses so you’re ready for tax season.
– Develop your editing checklist and evaluate potential editors for your manuscripts.
– Plan your social media marketing, book promotions, and advertising.
– Sketch out ideas for your author newsletter and track your open and click-through rates.
– Have the space and flexibility to plan your days and weeks according to your own unique lifestyle and schedule.
 
Are you ready to get organized in your writing life and empowered to reach your goals? Apply method to the madness of writing and publishing with The 2021 Author’s Planner.
* This planner is dated for 2021.
 
“If lack of organization is holding your writing career back, this Author’s Planner will be your salvation. Everything you do, from your writing schedules to tracking submissions you’ve sent out, to keeping tabs on your earnings, you can track in this amazing book. Wow!” — Jimmie Bise Jr.
 
“This isn’t just a planner; it’s a reflection and goal-setting tool, a finance tracker, a social media planner, and a manuscript organizer. Combined with additional online resources, this planner has everything you need to get organized in all aspects of your author career, from the day-to-day actions to the big vision for your authorship journeys.” — Jen Stephan Kapral
 
“As a busy author and mom, I am disorganized to a fault. Thankfully, the charts and calendars in The Author’s Planner organizes my social media, promotions, budget, and, most importantly, writing. There is no better planner available for the self-published author.” — Jen Pretty
 
Seriously, take it from me, McKenna Dean–the most disorganized person on the planet! If there is ONE tool to buy as part of your author journey for 2021, this planner is it!

Praise for the Redclaw Origins Series!

I’m a pretty happy camper this morning!

Earlier this week, I got a delightful 5 star review for Bishop’s Gambit from N.N. Light’s Book Heaven!

Last night, Bishop Takes Knight won a Bronze Medal for Best Blended Fiction in the 2020 Royal Palm Literary Awards!

The award was announced at FWA’s recent remote four-day annual conference. This annual competition, which received 549 submissions, was RPLA’s nineteenth.

“This is the most competitive RPLA we’ve ever had,” said Chris Coward, RPLA chairperson. “The RPLA administrative team, judges, and entrants did an amazing job.”

In all, the competition covered 28 adult genres and 5 Youth genres, with published and unpublished entries considered separately.

“A win at any level can help any writer market their manuscript or published book, and the detailed feedback from the judges is invaluable for all entrants,” Ms. Coward said.

The Florida Writers Association, 1,800 members strong and growing, is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization that supports the state’s established and emerging writers. Membership is open to the public.

The Royal Palm Literary Awards competition is a service of the Florida Writers Association established to recognize excellence in its members’ published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants.

All in all a very good week! I guess I need to get cracking on that next installment of the Redclaw Origins series, eh? Maybe after I take the dogs for a walk on this lovely October morning. Especially this little dinosaur shifter. 🙂