Running Amuck

This may be the most scattered post I’ve ever written. But my brain is a bit scattered right now. I’ve gotten up at 5 stupid o’clock on a Saturday to drive two hours to watch my son in Cross Country Track. Which really isn’t much of a spectator sport. You watch them start, then you wait and wait and wait, until they finish. I’ve also been to almost Missouri three times for track meets. Track ended last Tuesday and basketball started on Thursday. He plays basketball too.

St. LouisI did actually make it to Missouri to the ACFW Conference. Since I have two cousins who live there, the only way I could spend time with them was to only attend the conference one day. I felt like I missed a lot of the conference and seeing friends, but I had fun with my cousins. I told my roommate that my cousin and I were going to run amuck. My cousin said, as long as we’re in by 8:00. We went to the top of the Arch and ate Italian, but we were in by 8:00. The picture was taken from the top of the Arch.

I struggled with a book all summer and finally when school started, the piece of the puzzle clicked into place and the words flew from my fingertips. I’m finishing my final read through today and turning it in by my deadline tomorrow. Two down, four to go for my current contract.

I lost eighteen pounds, but lately I’ve been to a lot of appreciation dinners and political meet and greets, so I’m stuck on my diet. And I haven’t gotten back in gear with my daily treadmill for at least 15 minutes since I got back from the conference. But I’m going to. Once I get this book turned in, oh the things I’ll do.

That’s been my mantra lately—once I get this book turned in, I’ll. . . The main thing I’m looking forward to is reading.

I met Jennifer Slattery at an ACFW Conference a few years back, so when I heard she got a contract, I wasJennifer Slattery thrilled and couldn’t wait to read her book—Beyond I Do. I love the title, since so many brides don’t think past the extravagant wedding and I love the sweet cover.

Since then, Jennifer’s publisher asked for my endorsement on her second book—When Dawn Breaks. It came during crunch time—I was about to leave for ACFW and I had a deadline. I had one free night at the conference, so I decided I’d start the book. If I liked it, I’d make time to read it. If I didn’t, I’d tell Jennifer’s publisher I had a deadline.

I loved it and finished it after I got home, when my brain was still too travel rattled to do anything but read. I ordered Beyond I Do this week. It will get here Thursday. Perfect timing. Next time I see Jennifer, I’m going to have someone get a new not orange picture of us.

Jennifer Slattery coverWill seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

November is National Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a challenge to writers to write a book in a month. By the time I heard of it, I was already published and it’s never fallen right in my contracts for me to participate. But this time, it does. I’m planning to write my next contracted book in November. It’s not due until March. In December and January, I’m going to write a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time.

In February, I want to read Denise Hunter’s new book. It releases in December and I may not be able to wait. In fact, I’ll probably make time to read The Wishing Season as soon as I get it.

Living side-by-side, a fledgling chef and a big-hearted contractor find a delicious attraction.The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter
Trouble is, their chemistry could spoil their dreams.

Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.

Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.

But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.

Sigh. Can’t wait.

Discovering New Authors

For the next two weeks, the Inkspers will be sharing what we’re reading. I have my favorite go to authors. When I’m between deadlines, I like the longer length novels. And if you’ve hung around here for long, you know my favorite is Denise Hunter. When I have deadlines, I go for the shorter reads and love Lenora Worth. But Denise and Lenora can’t write fast enough to keep me in books.

I’ve been on a search for new authors for the last year or so. I’ve tried a few and liked the first book, but was disappointed with the second. Or the books are a bit more women’s fiction than romance. I like women’s fiction if it has a happy ending, but I love the straight romance where the point of view is strictly hero and heroine and the story centers on the couple.

Luckily, I’ve found two authors who don’t disappoint – Becky Wade and Melissa Tagg. And luckily, Denise had a new release this spring. So here’s what I’ve read lately:

I’d read the first book in the series last year and was looking forward to Jade’s story. I always fall in love with Denise’s heroes and Daniel didn’t disappoint. So sweet, so supportive, such a good kisser. I love stories where the hero has silently loved the heroine for years. And I officially crowned Denise Queen of the Kissing Scene after reading:

Dancing with Fireflies

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.
Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

I loved Meant to Be Mine. Loved the characters, the conflict, and the banter. A lot of the times cute banter between the hero and heroine is too cute and gets on my nerves. But the banter between Ty and Celia was funny, sparkling, and electric. The chemistry between these two sizzled. And I loved the hero’s character arc. It was fascinating to watch him turn into the man Celia deserved. Definitely a keeper. And I’m looking forward to the next Becky Wade title. Meant to Be Mine

Meant to Be Mine

Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school–irresistible. When their paths cross again after college–still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel.

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia’s ready to be Ty’s wife, but Ty’s not ready to be her husband. He’s a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he’s long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he’s known since childhood.

Five and a half years pass. Celia’s buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty’s achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn’t forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia’s trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

After I read Becky’s 2nd title, Undeniable Yours last year, I found her debut My Stubborn Heart and loved it to. The achingly hurting hero tugged at my heartstrings. And the patient heroine drawing him out, then watching him go back insideMy Stubborn Heart himself, but determined to stick with him. So sweet, so tender. My favorite line: His gaze sought out Kate first, locking on her for a split second that caused her nerves to sizzle. Wow, I wish I’d written that. And once again, there was great banter. I officially crown Becky Wade the Queen of Banter.

My Stubborn Heart

Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When Kate’s grandmother asks Kate to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Yet, she discovers a different kind of project upon meeting the man hired to renovate the house. Matt Jarreau is attractive and clearly wounded — hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Kate can’t help but set her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light… whether he likes it or not.

I fell in love with Blake in the first book of Melissa Tagg’s series, Made to Last, even though he wasn’t the hero. I’ve long been waiting for his story and thoroughly enjoyed Here to Stay. I loved Autumn and she was a worthy heroine for him. My favorite part – the bathtub – funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. The book perfectly explained Blake’s nomad lifestyle and what sent him there. I guess I’m a sucker for wounded heroes. I haven’t crowned Melissa yet, but I’m looking forward to her next book. By the third title, I’ll probably have her crown figured out.

Here to Stay

After playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he’ll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he’s stunned at not only a warm welcome from Here to Stayhis hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events. . .

If there’s one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it’s Whisper Shore. For years, she’s been stuck running her family’s inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.

The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn’s the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade–she’ll help with the Festival and he’ll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who’s done running away joins forces with the girl who can’t wait to leave.

Have you read any of these titles? Have you discovered a new author lately? Any contemporary romance authors you love? I’d love to find some more new authors to love.

Never Enough Time to Read

I got Brenda’s book in the mail last Wednesday and took it to the dentist with me. While my son got his teeth cleaned, I got the first two chapters read. Even though I’ve read the book 30 pages at a time while critiquing for Brenda, I want to read the edited version in book form all at one time. Alas, I haven’t had time.

The day I got it, we had church that night. On Thursday, I worked on my final revisions before turning my book into my editor next month. That night, my son had basketball practice and since he asks me if I saw him do this or that, I can’t read at practice. Friday, I worked again and that night we ran errands. Saturday, we had basketball games – three of them.

Sunday, our son got up with a fever. He has horrible seasonal allergies and is very prone to sinus infections. Yes, he’s twelve now. But he’s the kind of child who has to be entertained when he’s sick or he’s up jumping at the ceiling in the living room to see if he can palm it yet instead of resting. So yesterday and today, we watched movies, played board games, and Uno.

Tomorrow, we have a doctor appointment. So no work or reading for tomorrow either. I’ve decided to save Brenda’s book until May 16th. The deadline for my book will have passed and my son will be back in school. Then I’ll have time to give Chain of Mercy the time it warrants. I wish it had come sooner.

A month ago, I had lots of reading time. I always take at least two weeks off from writing after I finish my first draft and before I start revising. Of course, I read Denise Hunter’s new release. I’d read the first book in the series, Barefoot Summer, last year. I’d guessed the next book would be about Jade and eagerly been anticipating it.

Denise didn’t let me down. A sweet, tender love story with great kissing scenes. I crown Denise the contemporary romance queen of kissing scenes.

Dancing with Fireflies by Denise HunterJade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

I also discovered a new author I really enjoy – Melissa Tagg. I loved Made to Last. Loved the heroine, all the men complicating her life, and the webs she kept spinning herself into.

Miranda Woodruff, star of the homebuilding show From the Ground Up, will do anything to keepMade to Last by Melissa Tagg the job she loves. Due to a painful broken engagement and a faith she’s mostly forgotten, she’s let her entire identity become wrapped up in the Miranda everyone sees onscreen.

So when she receives news that the network might cancel her program, she must do the very thing she fears most: let the spotlight shine on her closely guarded personal life.

The only problem? She’s been living a lie–letting viewers believe she’s married–and now she’s called upon to play wife to a sweet, if a bit goofy, pretend husband to boost ratings.

Desperate to help his family and prove he’s not a total failure, reporter Matthew Knox is looking for a breakout story. When he’s offered the opportunity to do an online serial feature on Miranda Woodruff, he jumps at the chance, even if celebrity reporting isn’t really his thing. But as soon as he meets Miranda, he knows she’s keeping secrets.

I loved the character of Blaze, so of course I had to get the next book in the series, Here to Stay. I haven’t read it yet. But it’s next on my list after Chain of Mercy.

Here to Stay by Melissa TaggAfter playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he’ll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he’s stunned at not only a warm welcome from his hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events…

If there’s one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it’s Whisper Shore. For years, she’s been stuck running her family’s inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.

The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn’s the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade–she’ll help with the Festival and he’ll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who’s done running away joins forces with the girl who can’t wait to leave.

Sadly, at the moment, I’m not reading anything. But I have big plans starting May 16.

We’re celebrating Brenda’s release over the next two weeks. Every time you leave a comment, your name will be entered in a special giveaway for an autographed copy of Chain of Mercy, a box of Fannie May chocolates, and Phillips Craig & Dean’s “Breathe In” CD.

Chain giveaway

They forgave him for the accident that killed their son, but he will never forgive himself.

Manhattan businessman Richard Brooks was at the top of the world, drunk with

Success … Wealth … Women …

And he proudly lived that prodigal lifestyle.

Until one disastrous evening, when that world came crashing down.

Richard flees to Minneapolis where he repairs ancient boilers instead of solving corporate problems, and he’s determined to live the solitary life he now deserves …

Chained to his guilt. Blending in with the gray. No luxuries in sight. But Executive Sheila Peterson has other plans for the handsome custodian. She’s had it with serious relationships, and Richard appears to be the perfect match for the no-strings-attached romance she desires. Instead, she finds a man who is complex, brilliant, and shrouding a tormented past.

In her quest to uncover the secrets holding Richard captive, will her own secrets remain buried?

RUN, don’t walk to your favorite bookstore or online retailer to get this book or buy it here.

Question of the day: Who is your favorite kissing scene author in the Christian market?

Disclaimer: Giveaway open to continental U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends on Friday, May 9 at midnight, central time zone. Winner chosen by Random. org.

Falling for the Cover

I’ve said here before, I don’t usually buy a book because of the cover. I buy because I’m familiar with the author. That said, the cover sure doesn’t hurt. And a few covers have made me pick up the book. And twice, the cover made my buy.

Covers, I usually pick up: Karen Witemeyer. She seems to have a magic potion for great covers. If I read historicals, I’d read her, based on covers alone. My favorite of her covers: A Tailor Made Bride.

Covers that made me buy: Mary Connealy’s Over the Edge. Mary seems to have the market cornered on hunks gracing her covers. It was the guy that made me buy Mary’s book and his eyes weren’t even green. And yes, it was historical. And yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

So here’s my list of covers I’m looking forward to. And yes, part of the attraction is I already know and trust these authors to giveDancing with Fireflies by Denise Hunter me a great contemporary romance with a toe-curling happily-ever-after.

Topping my list is Denise Hunter’s Dancing with Fireflies. I read the first book in this series, this summer and I knew the elusive Jade had a story. I can’t wait to read it. And since I’m Facebook friends with Denise, I usually see her covers unveiled and I always love them. I love the fireflies and the peacefulness of this embracing couple.

Becky Wade cover

 

My interest in Becky Wade’s Undeniably Yours is totally based on the cover. I haven’t read any of Becky’s books. And Brenda actually got me hooked on this cover in a previous Inkspirational post. I love the color. I love the pink shoes. It’s my firm belief that every female should have a pair of heels in every color she can possibly find. So of course, those shoes grab me. Other than that, I love the embrace that promises fun romance and I love her kicking up her heel. And it’s set in Texas which I love. I haven’t bought this book yet, but I will.

 

Beth Wiseman caught my attention because she usually writes Amish, but while browsing IThe House that Love Built by Beth Wiseman found a not Amish book with her name on it. Huh? I bought Need You Now and thoroughly enjoyed it. So when I saw another not Amish title by Beth, it got my attention. The House that Love Built intrigued me again with the colors. I love the aqua summery dress. The guy looks good. And the house in the background–I’m a sucker for big old houses that have stood the test of time.

But the cover I’ve waited for–for fourteen years? Wait for it. Back in 1999 when I started writing, I dreamed of seeing my book on store shelves. In 2001, I got a book published Print on Demand. I didn’t even know what that meant. I soon learned it meant there were no books in stores–anywhere. Only online.

In 2010, my dream of traditional publishing came true. But again, Heartsong Presents were sold in very few stores–mostly through the book club or online. In 2012, Heartsong was acquired by Harlequin and Walmart agreed to carry the line for six months and see how it went. I got to see one of my titles on Walmart shelves and it was a dream come true. But I guess Walmart wasn’t happy with the sales and no longer carries the line.

Arkansas Weddings by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

All this time, I knew–someday, my titles acquired when Barbour owned the line would be compiled into a three in one collection and sold WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD. And finally, my waiting has paid off. Arkansas Weddings releases September 1st. This collection includes my first three traditionally published titles: White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls. You can find it–I have to say it again–WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD.

And I love the cover. All three stories are set in Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas. These real towns are seven miles apart, tiny, and about twenty-five minutes from where I live. Couples go to Romance to get married and mail their Valentine cards, and wedding invitations with a romantic hand-stamped postmark.

There is a natural waterfall there which I incorporated into all three books. Each couple has a pivotal moment in their relationship at the Romance Waterfalls. I was thrilled to see the waterfall on the cover. The online copies have my name wrong. But the real thing includes Taylor in the middle.

And remember, you can find Arkansas Weddings WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD. Sorry for the shouting–but I’ve really wanted to say that for a looooooonnnnnnnnnngggggggg time.

 

 

 

Can’t Wait For. . .

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter. And I have to wait until June 4th. This is the beginning of a new series for Denise, so I’ll have more books to wait for in the future. Here’s the blurb:

Madison’s heart has been closed for years. But one summer can change everything.

In the years since her twin brother’s tragic drowning, Madison has struggled with her ability to trust God—or anyone else, for that matter. It was her brother’s dream to win the annual River Sail Regatta in their small harbor town of Chapel Springs, Indiana. And Madison’s determined to honor his legacy by making his dream her own. Maybe then she can finally find closure.

But learning to sail means learning to swim. And her instructor is Beckett O’Reilly, a man who already has two strikes against him in Madison’s eyes. Being on the water terrifies Madison. But Beckett’s calming presence and unwavering confidence eases her fear. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying.

As her feelings for him grow, a fledging faith begins to take root in her soul, as well. With Beckett, Madison feels alive for the first time in years –carefree and confident she can win the regatta, maybe even find love.

But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their love and the depth of Madison’s faith. Will their love survive summer’s challenge? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

That synopsis kind of reminds me of Lorna’s sailing book, just change a century or two. Anyway, until Barefoot Summer releases, I’ve been working my way through Denise’s backlist.

Book 1 New Heights series – Mending Places – Wow! This book just made me go Wow! I figured out the big surprise, but thought surely not because Denise wouldn’t be able to write herself out of that corner. But she did. Wow!

Book 2 New Heights series – Saving Grace – Wow! I didn’t figure this one out. Never saw the big Wow coming. And then kicked myself for not seeing it. Wow!

Book 3 New Heights series – Finding Faith – Wow! Didn’t see this one coming either. What a great series. Each book delves into what we deem unforgivable sins, but this series shows they turn out to be forgivable, if you give them to God.

Seaside Letters and Sweetwater Gap are part of the Nantucket series. I’d read all of the books in the series, but these. And I love this series – not only because they’re all great books, but there’s no particular order to read them in. Each book is set in Nantucket and it doesn’t matter where you start. Each book gave me another Wow! Again, I never saw the big Wow coming. And once it did, I wondered how we’d get to happily ever after. But we did, seamlessly.

So I’ve only figured out one of Denise’s books before she actually revealed the big Wow. That’s what makes a great author in my book. And something else, some of Denise’s characters do horrible things. I want to know how she can make her characters do horrible things and I still root for them. So, I’ll gobble up everything with her name on it, enjoy, ponder, cry, and decipher. But now I’m done with her backlist. And I have to wait all the waaaayyyyyyy until June.

Remember one person who leaves a comment in the next two weeks will receive a signed copy of Lorna’s latest release, When Love Calls and a $10 Starbucks gift card. Also, her publisher, Revell, is offering a set of her books to one person who “likes” her author Facebook page. But here’s the catch. She needs 800 “likes” before a winner can be chosen. You can join the Likefest by clicking here.

Swooning over. . .

Dylan Taylor. Just his name almost makes me swoon. It’s not his picture on the cover, though that’s pretty yummy too, but the way Denise Hunter wrote him that makes me palpitate.

I started reading The Trouble with Cowboys not liking Dylan. I’d gotten a glimpse of him in Book 2 in Denise’s A Big Sky Romance series. I thought Dylan was a ladies’ man, a player, a playboy running from commitment. And Annie, the heroine did too. But we were both wrong. Dylan’s not like that at all.

In scene one, he chipped away at my resolve by worrying about his horse. In his second scene, he showed he loves kids. And before I knew it, I was in love. This handsome cowboy was deeply wounded using his carefree facade to hide behind. Months after reading the book, I can still hear his slow drawl, see his swagger, feel the beckoning of his dimple.

Here’s the blurb: Only one pair of boots—and the cowboy wearing them—can get Annie out of the mess she’s in.

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now.

The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

Usually when I read a series, I can pick a favorite book and sometimes there’s even one book I’m disappointed in. Not so with this series. Since The Trouble with Cowboys is Book 3 in the series, readers should begin with Book 1 – A Cowboy’s Touch, then Book 2 – The Accidental Bride . Just see if you can keep from falling in love with Wade, Travis, and Dylan. Come on, I dare you.

Why Wait Until Christmas for Books?

I have a new favorite commercial. The one for Swiffer, where the busy mom finishes cleaning her house quicker because of Swiffer. She nabs a book off a shelf and says, “I’m gonna read one of these! I’m gonna read one of these!”

I’ve often felt that way. Especially when I’m on deadline. But this year, I’ve cheated. I read a couple of books even while I’m on deadline. And why wait for Christmas. I bought one title I’d been waiting to release, a new to me author I discovered in the bookstore, and a third came in the mail because I’d agreed to be an influencer.

First the one I’d been waiting for—Denise Hunter’s The Trouble with Cowboys didn’t disappoint. I got twists and turns, a heart-stoppingly cute hero, and that sweet ending that made me go ahhh! And once again, I wished I could write like Denise Hunter when I grow up.

Only one pair of boots—and the cowboy wearing them—can get Annie out of the mess she’s in.

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now.

The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn’t know what to trust—her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs.

The new to me author I discovered—Beth Wiseman. Beth usually writes Amish, but this one is women’s fiction. It kept me turning the pages and made me cry. My husband came home to me in tears. The conversations went something like this:

Him: “What’s wrong?”

Me: “This book.”

Him: “You’re gonna have to quit reading.”

When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas. Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.

Married life hasn’t always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried Brad and Darlene through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises.

While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of the students starts paying more attention to Darlene than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time.

If Darlene ever needed God . . . it’s now.

And the one I’m an influencer for—Jennifer Rogers Spinola’s latest release. I haven’t gotten to read it yet, since I’m down to crunch time on my deadline and my husband ran for Justice of the Peace and ended up in a runoff. But that’s a whole other story. I’ve been waiting for the final tale of Jennifer’s endearing heorine in this trilogy and it’s at the top of my to be read pile.

Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans. In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.

I couldn’t see out from behind my to be read pile to put any books on my
Christmas wish list this year. Oh wait, I do have one: JoAnne Simmmons’ I Believe: The Meaning Behind Christmas and the Baby Who Started it All. JoAnne was the editor at Heartsong Presents and it’s because of her that I have 6 books out. When I heard she was doing a book, I was so excited and I love the subject matter of this devotional.

Christmas is a time for hope, for celebrations, and for worshipping the Baby who would become the Savior. I Believe: The Meaning of Christmas and the Baby Who Started it All is a simple devotional of faith-building topics that surround the Christmas season. Great for personal use, family devotions, or as thoughtful holiday gifts.

Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Are they on your Christmas wish list?

Southern Fried Good Reads

Shannon was having difficulty posting, so she e-mailed me her post. Pour yourself a big ol’ glass of sweet tea and take a look at Shannon’s Southern Fried Good Reads. –Lorna

 

I’ve discovered two authors in the last few years that I really enjoy. Great news, they both have new releases this fall.

 

I’ve read almost all of Denise Hunter’s books and loved all of them. Can’t wait to read this one.

 

 

The Trouble with Cowboy’s – Denise Hunter – Oct 1, 2012

Annie refuses to fall for a sweet-talking cowboy. But when her boss throws her a curveball, there’s only one person who can help.

Annie Stevens is the premier horse trainer in Moose Creek, Montana, and writes a horse advice column to help put her little sister through college and to support her young nephew. Money’s tight, so when the vexing Dylan Dawson needs assistance with a blinded horse, it’s not easy to turn down the extra cash. But turn it down she must, for her own sanity.

Then Annie’s editor tells her she must change her column to a lovelorn column. Annie-who’s never been in love-knows she needs help fast. And no one is more qualified for the job, unfortunately, than the smooth-talking, lady-charming Dylan Dawson.

Tension builds as they work together on both projects. As Annie’s life begins falling apart around her, she realizes she needs to let God have control, and she fights to put aside her prejudice toward cowboys-no easy task with Dylan’s unwavering attention. The last thing she needs is to fall for a man who would only break her heart. And she knows he will because that is the trouble with cowboys.

 

The other book I’m looking forward to this fall is by Jennifer Rogers Spinola. I’ve read Southern Fried Sushi and Like Sweet Potato Pie. These books take Shiloh Jacob through a journey. She starts out as a spoiled, all about me non-believer and ends up transformed. Her transformation is heart-warming, comical, and adventurous. Sounds like the final book in the series has an element of suspense.

 

 

 

Til Grits Do Us Part

by Jennifer Rogers Spinola – Nov. 1, 2012

Shiloh Jacobs is planning her wedding without family, without money, and without a clue—and trying to make a go of small-town Southern life. Until she stumbles on an unsolved case about a missing woman that makes her run in the opposite direction—right into the would-be killer’s web of plans.

 

In the midst of sorting through her tragic past and strained relationships, Shiloh finds herself on the run from a madman—and hoping she can make it to her wedding alive.

Have you read any books by either author? If not, I challenge you to give them a try.

Great Lines

I’m celebrating Drop Everything and Read day by sharing some favorite lines from recent reads:

From Buffalo Gal by Mary Connealy:

She was not stupid. That left rude. She decided that was better. A person could learn some manners, but stupid was forever.
She was filthy, and she smelled like a cow herd in July. She was soaked in blood, and she wanted Wyatt to stay away from her. But she kissed like a dream and knew his boys apart, and she didn’t mind bull slobber.
Wyatt fell in love.
Both lines made me laugh out loud. Right there in the school pick up line with other parents probably thinking I was a kook. I’d planned to read one of Mary’s books for a while. But I like contemporary, so I picked up Black Hills Blessing, a Romancing America 3 in 1 collection of Mary’s Heartsong Presents contemporary titles. All three stories were fun with toe curling romance.
From Driftwood Lane by Denise Hunter:
Wyatt shrugged, palming the ball in both hands. “Way I figure, I have a beautiful wife inside, and you’re playing footsie with your engaged, possibly mentally ill adversary.” He chucked the ball at Jake, grinning. “You do the math.”
Jake is the hero. Wyatt is his best friend. Throughout the book, they play basketball and discuss Jake’s love life. It’s so true to guy actions and speak, it made me giggle quite often. I’ve never really put a lot into guy friendships in my books. But Jake and Wyatt’s basketball games and dialogue really added to the story. I’ll be delving into guy friends in my future books.
All she really needed was God as her foundation. The rest was just a bonus.
This line touched me in a profound way. It made me love and appreciate my husband more. It reminded me that the only thing I really need is God. But He blessed me with a godly, faithful husband. That’s some bonus, yet shamefully I take my blessings for granted sometimes.
From Not A Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols:
“I’ve done some terrible things.”
“Don’t make no difference. You can’t out-sin the cross.”
Wow! I knew that. But I’d never thought about it like that. No one can outsin the cross.
I’m looking forward to some great lines from Gina Holmes’ Dry as Rain, my pick for Drop Everything and Read this week. I loved her debut, Crossing Oceans and have been wanting to read her followup.
Have you read any great lines that made you laugh, made you rethink things, or stuck with you long after you finished the book?

Interview with Denise Hunter

Shannon here: This fall–in between deadlines–I set out to find an agent and my writing twin. When a writer sends proposals to agents or editors, we’re supposed to compare our books to published novels. I needed a published author who writes similar to me to compare myself to. 

I’d heard of Denise Hunter, seen her at the American Christian Writers Conference, and knew she was a best-selling contemporary romance author. I bought The Convenient Groom and immediately wished I’d come up with such a great premise.

At ACFW this year, I introduced myself to Denise, told her why I bought her book and how much I loved it. She asked if I’d found my writing twin. Not by a longshot. Denise is a much better writer than me.

Since then I’ve read A Cowboy’s Touch, Driftwood Lane, The Accidental Bride, and Smitten. I read the last two in one weekend. Both of them.

I’ve discovered so many authors with a book I love, but then I’m often disappointed by at least one of their books or I don’t like the others as well as the first book I read by them. Not so with Denise Hunter. I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Next on my list–Seaside Letters. So without further ado, here’s Denise:

  • What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc? How did you solve it?

My biggest writing challenge is finding my way through the middle of my stories. It really is like driving at night, and you can only see as far as your headlights will shine. I get through it with lots of prayer and lots of forcing myself to sit and work when I’d rather be doing anything else (laundry, dusting, toilets, ANYTHING).

Shannon: Okay, maybe we are twins. The middle befuddles me too. But not enough to make me want to clean or do laundry.

  • If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?

I enjoy design—actually started college as a commercial art major—so that’s what I’d do. Maybe even designing book covers to combine my interests.

  • Where is the coziest spot in your home?

My spot on the sofa/recliner. That’s actually where I work. 🙂

  • What is your favorite time of the day?

The evening, after dinner, when all the day’s work is done and the family is just hanging out.

  • In what ways do you think your writing journey has benefited your family? How does your writing affect your family?

Great question! Besides the obvious financial benefits, my career has made me a happier more well-rounded individual. It has forced me out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. One of the best things about writing, though, is that it has allowed me to stay home with our kids.

  • If you could pick a theme song to play every time you entered a room, what would it be?

LOL! “Move” by Mercy Me. Sometimes I need extra motivation.

Shannon: Mercy Me is my favorite group.

  • What is your most laughable dating story?

When I started dating Kevin (my husband) I turned into an instant klutz. I spilled, I dropped, I tripped. Only around him, mind you. I still do that.

  • Which amusement park ride is your favorite and why?

Definitely roller coasters. But due to an old neck injury, I can’t ride them anymore. So I just live vicariously through my boys, who love them as much as I do.

Shannon: I grew up 5 miles from Six Flags over Georgia and never met a roller coaster I didn’t love.

  •  What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?

The internet. Research is SO much easier than it used to be. And communication! It has its negatives too, I know, but it’s so easy to keep in touch with family and friends now.

  • Would you rather live a week in the past or a week in the future??

Interesting question! A week in the future. I prefer the unknown.

  • How do you balance writing, exercise, home, etc.?

Not very well! The home and writing I’ve got down pretty well. The exercise, not so much. A couple months ago we even moved the treadmill into the living room so it would stand over our shoulders making us feel guilty. I’ve used it once since then. I do much better when it’s warm out though. I like to walk outside.

  • Would you rather meet your great grandchildren or great grandparents?

Great grandchildren, just to be certain I’ll get to, and because I DID meet my great grandparents.

  • Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My pal Colleen Coble. She’s everybody’s biggest cheerleader!

  • What actor/actress would you want to play Shay Brandenberger from The Accidental Bride?

Mandy Moore.

  • What is the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?

“Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers—although it wasn’t my first time reading it. The message of love and redemption is amazing.

  • What or who makes you giggle and why?

Bffs Colleen Coble, Diann Hunt, and Kristin Billerbeck. Because we know one another so well. Also my church small group, for the same reason.

  • What is your favorite season and why?

Spring and fall. Because we only get about two seconds of each in Indiana!

Shannon: My favorite seasons too. I hate being hot or cold, so I love the in between.

  • The biggest challenge in writing this book?

The middle—always!

Shannon: Ditto!

  • What do the Post-Its around your computer/screen/ bulletin board say?

They’re my lists of what I need to buy, who I need to call, and what I need to get done.

  •  What is your favorite research or reference book or tool??

“Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.

  •  What is the most unusual costume you ever wore at a Halloween party?

I was Gilligan one year. It seriously disturbed my husband.

  • If you could have free unlimited service for one year from a cook, chauffer, personal secretary, housekeeper, or masseuse, which would you choose and why??

Oooh, I want one of each! Probably the cook. I love to bake—cooking, not so much.

  •  Which character in your books is the most like you? How?

Definitely Reese in “Smitten”. I wrote that one with my 3 friends Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Diann Hunt. In order to keep our characters consistent throughout, we gave each of our protagonists a healthy dose of ourselves. 

Shannon: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Denise. I so thoroughly enjoyed it.

My take on Denise’s books: I hated for each book to end, but each gave me that satisfying ahh moment. I love the characters, fell in love with each hero, and marveled at each great, complicated story premise.

The Convenient Groom: She wrote the book–literally–on finding the right mate. But does she really understand what love’s about? Five hours before her Nantucket beach wedding–and on the eve of her big book launch–celebrity marriage counselor Kate Lawrence has everything in place.

Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career, either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar.

Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her. Kate’s desperate enough to agree–although she’s sure this Mr. Wright is completely wrong for her. But can they pull it off? And why would Lucas marry her in the first place?

Could it be that “Dr. Kate” doesn’t know the first thing about love? An inspiring tale of enduring love set in romantic Nantucket.

Made me cry just reading how much the hero loved the heroine as he tried to win her heart. Such a great, complicated premise, I really wished I’d come up with it.

A Cowboy’s Touch: Abigail is just in Moose Creek, Montana for the summer to temporarily care for her great aunt. But a tender-hearted cowboy beckons her to stay.

Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.

What she didn’t count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter’s nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.

Wade Ryan can’t help being attracted to Abigail. But he’s given up everything to protect his daughter, and he’s not about to risk it all on a pretty face.

Under Abigail’s care, Wade’s home and daughter thrive. And with Wade’s touch, Abigail’s heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

I love the characters and ached for them. I truly couldn’t see how this story could end happily-ever-after. So many complications.

The Accidental Bride: Shay Brandenberger is raising her daughter in Moose Creek, Montana, on her childhood ranch, nestled against the Yellowstone River. Despite the hard work, she can’t seem to keep her head above water—and now the bank is threatening to foreclose. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.

Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders’ Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by none other than Travis McCoy, her high-school sweetheart—the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.

Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.

Shay isn’t sure if the recent events are God’s will or just a preacher’s blunder. Will trusting her heart to the man who once shattered it be the worst mistake of her life? Or could their marriage be the best accident that ever happened?

I loved the hero, Travis. So tough, yet gentle. I loved Shay’s temper, yet Travis knew just how to settle her down.

Driftwood Lane: Meridith believes she is capable of weathering any storm. But she’s never experienced a love powerful enough to uproot her…until now.

Meridith Ward has crafted a carefully ordered life to make up for the chaos that plagued her childhood years. But one phone call upsets all that. Within the span of several minutes, Meredith learns that the father who abandoned her is dead and she’s been named the sole guardian of his other three children. She nervously heads to Nantucket to care for the siblings she’s never met with plans to stay until their uncle returns from his trip before relinquishing guardianship to him.

She arrives to find the children living in Summer House, a Bed & Breakfast that’s falling apart around them. Meridith wants to move on as soon as possible, but the inn will never sell in its dilapidated condition. Then an itinerant handyman, Jake, shows up with an offer she can’t refuse.

Much like the powerful ocean just a short walk from her deck, Jake appeals to Meridith. But she senses he is also capable of pulling her under in a heartbeat. What if the thing she fears the most is exactly what she needs? Can she trust God with the details and relish the adventure?

Besides the romance and the complicated premise, I loved the one upmanship basketball scenes between the hero and his best friend. And I was reminded that all I really need is a solid foundation through Christ. Everything else is just a bonus.

SmittenWelcome to Smitten, Vermont. With the help of four friends, it’s about to become the most romantic town in America.

The proposed closing of the lumber mill comes as unwelcome news for the citizens of Smitten. How will the town survive without its main employer? A close-knit group of women think they’ve got just the plan to save Smitten. They’ll capitalize on its name and turn it into a tourist destination for lovers—complete with sweet shops, a high-end spa, romantic music on the square, and cabins outfitted with fireplaces and hot tubs.

But is this manly town ready for an influx of romantically-minded guests?

Country music sensation Sawyer Smitten, the town’s hometown hero, wants to help by holding his own wedding there on Valentine’s Day. And little Mia’s lavender wreaths hang all over town as a reminder that faith can work miracles. Along the way, four women spearheading the town’s transformation—energetic Natalie, sophisticated Julia, graceful Shelby, and athletic Reese—get in the spirit by reviving their own love lives.

Join best-selling inspirational romance authors (and real-life BFFs) Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for an inspiring stay at the (soon-to-be) most romantic town on the eastern seaboard.

One visit . . . and you’ll be smitten too.

I laughed a lot while reading this book and enjoyed each story equally. Quite a feat. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novella collection by different authors and been unable to pick my favorite story.

About Denise:  Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her books often contain a strong romantic element, and her husband Kevin says he provides all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! Learn more at www.denisehunterbooks.com.