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Happy March, everyone! This month’s winners of a full set of March 2014 Blaze books are:
- Patsy L. Roberts
- Sue G.
Thanks to everyone who entered the draw! Look for Kathleen’s post in early April for your next chance to win!
I’m dreaming hard of spring. I don’t know how many of you are experiencing second winter right now, but we in Toronto are not amused. This is what it looked like out our window yesterday (photo borrowed from HQN Executive Editor Susan Swinwood’s Twitter timeline):
So to soothe my freezing, snowed-in soul, I’m thinking about summery eats. We are moving to a new home at the end of April. Part of its appeal is a huge balcony and the management’s blessing for us to use an electric barbecue. We’re planning to grill all the things. And to use fresh herbs from a well-stocked balcony garden: real muddled mint our mojitos and fresh chives in our salads!
Here are some of the summery recipes I’m dreaming of:
Campfire (or Balcony Grill) Cones via Kidsactivitiesblog.com
Raspberry Sorbet in Lemon Bowls via Tastebook.com
Grilled Rosemary-Salmon Spedini (kebabs) via Delish.com
Watermelon Salsa via Countryliving.com
Sangria (red via Epicurious.com or white via Fullforkahead.com!)
Grilled corn via Examiner.com
Cilantro Pesto Quesadillas with Mango Corn Salsa via Babble.com
Summer Vegetable Crepes via Delish.com
I hope those ingredients and those photos, along with the fun of planning out our new balcony garden, will sustain me through these last blizzard days. Please, summer, hurry up!
Do you have any summery recipes you’d like to share? Add them in the comments!
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What are you reading this week?
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I read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister recently and the sensuality of the food descriptions made me think of writing a chef heroine for Blaze. The Bauermeister book has some of the appeal of the nineties film, Like Water for Chocolate, where a character finds she can convey her emotions through the food she cooks. But with The School of Essential Ingredients, the chef only uses her powers for good, giving cooking classes to people who need to heal something in their lives.
It’s a beautiful book, gorgeously written. And it reminded me how much of the sensuality we love in Blaze comes through description. Sure, there is sexual tension that creates a lot of the heat in a Blaze. But there are layers to sensuality and one thing I learned early on as a Blaze writer is that we can create a steamy environment even before the characters arrive on the page together.
I love that part of writing—setting a scene with words, environment and ambiance. I like the anticipation created and the sense of creating a mood. In a film class that I used to teach, we talked about mise en scene—how every single thing in a scene conspires to create the scene. In other words, no detail is in a visual by accident. The director is deliberate in her choice of what appears on set. Everything the camera captures is there for a reason, to drive a scene or a moment forward. I guess this appeals to me in real life as much as a writer because I like my home to be my personal setting—all the tools and artwork and pillow there for comfort, beauty or necessity. Or ideally all three.
I wonder sometimes if this means I’m a background person. I’m often distracted by small details when people are speaking to me or as I observe life. There can be a big scene going around me—an argument between my kids or a clamor at the ticket counter in the airport—and I’ll be keyed in on the kid who is sidling away from the argument or ticket agent speaking in hushed whispers to a security guard. I love how small details add nuance to a picture. It’s easy to absorb the big action of a story. It’s another trick to find the subtext and all that isn’t spoken.
In Blaze, that subtext can be the conflict. Or it can be red-hot attraction that one or the other character tries to subvert. But it’s always fun to write and very fun to read.
What about you? Can you think of a book with scenes or descriptions that stayed with you so vividly you sort of felt like you were there with the character? For me, I felt like I went on that journey of Eat, Pray Love—especially the pizza-eating part <G>. Is there a story that took you to a scene where you could practically breathe in the same scents as the character? Share a favorite with me today on the boards and I’ll send you a copy of your choice of books from my Blaze backlist!
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Hope you guys are surviving this crazy winter. I wanted to thank those of you who have sent kind thoughts and wishes to my son. He’s doing so much better. Thank you for all of your support. We still aren’t out of the woods, but way better than we were a month ago.
I’m on the road right now, and thought I’d do a photo blog. I took a day trip with some friends of mine to Boulder and then Estes Park. We had lunch at the Stanley (you might know it from The Shining). I was a little disappointed I didn’t see any ghosts, or did I? Take a look at some of these photos. You might see a shadowy figure. And I’m sharing my sunset with you. The photo doesn’t really do it justice. Those Rocky Mountains are so majestic.
Where did you spend your most memorable sunset?
The back of The Stanley
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I’m living proof that you never forget your first love.
I’m not sure exactly how old I was, but I can still remember the first romance I ever read, Summer Wine by Ethel Paquin. It was a Harlequin Temptation—number 44 to be exact. My parents’ bookshelves were filled with literary fiction and old college textbooks, and the only reason Ethel’s book was there was that she was one of my mom’s writer friends. I knew it was not a book my mother would have approved of my reading, and I remember reading it crouched down, beside the bookshelf, ready to slip it back in between The Old Man and the Sea and On Being and Nothingness if I was discovered.
Until that point, I’d never known there were books that were just about romantic love and intense attraction. I knew my favorite stories were love stories, and I knew I sometimes liked to flip through the “boring parts” of books to get to the “good parts,” which were the romantic parts. But I didn’t know there was a whole genre that didn’t require that kind of flipping.
Shortly thereafter I discovered Jean Auel’s The Valley of Horses, the unexpectedly, intensely, insanely, erotic sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear, and my fate was sealed. I fell in love—and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
But just as reading romance wasn’t a habit encouraged by my parents, teachers, or friends, writing romance wasn’t a career I knew how to admit I wanted. And so I made myself not want it. Instead I focused on reading literary books and writing literary stories, and made my way through college feeling…vaguely dissatisfied, like someone who can’t forget that amazing, forbidden first time down by the lake with her brother’s best friend.
Things went on that way for some time. I became a journalist and gave up, mostly, writing stories. Then, one day, my daughter’s first grade teacher made me read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.
I fell in love—and I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Only this time I was grown up, and I didn’t care what my parents or teachers or friends or kids or husband thought (although they’ve all been incredibly, incredibly supportive, which I think goes to show that if you do what you love, the people you love will recognize that and love you all the more for it), so I went ahead and did it. Which feels like … when years later you’re reunited with your brother’s best friend due to a set of incredible circumstances that requires you to be locked up in a snow-bound cabin for at least 48 hours while you work through all the reasons you thought your love was forbidden.
Really, really good.
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A few months ago, a group of us booked a cruise with a shore excursion to the Lamanai ruins in Belize. “And you’re allowed to climb the High Temple!” we were told enthusiastically. No way, I thought. And then I thought some more. Had I decided I didn’t want to climb the Mayan pyramid because I was concerned about the steep descent and the high, narrow, slippery steps–or was I afraid that I couldn’t climb to the top? Surely not. We’ve got stairs in our house and I go up and down them all the time. But they aren’t Mayan stairs, which are twice as high. I tried going up the stairs two at a time without using the banister. Try it. Now imagine doing it seventy something times. Uh huh.
I decided I was going to climb that pyramid. I’ve been exercising, but clearly I needed to step it up, so to speak. The Curves workout wasn’t going to do it. But in January, they brought in Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame to create a more intense workout. Good old-fashioned squats, lunges, and jumping jacks. Jumping jacks? I hadn’t done those since eighth grade. And push ups. I’d never been able to do a real push up. Now planks were something new to me–you support yourself on your elbows and toes and hold your body in a straight line. After a month of this, just when I thought I might try an actual push up, the exercises changed. Now it wasn’t just a push up, it was a traveling push up. And there was something called a table sit. For this one, you sit on the floor, hands on the floor by your hips, fingers pointed forward. First you raise your torso until your body looks like a table and then the tricky part–you lower and swing your hips back by your hands without touching the ground. And repeat. Too bad my arms weren’t long enough. Except they must have grown because after a few days, I could actually do this. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until disaster struck. The curtsey squat got me. It’s just what it sounds like–deep curtseys. I wasn’t having any problems with them until something around my hip joint slipped or stretched more than it should. I tried to walk it out, but I could feel whatever got hurt telling all the other muscles and tendons about it and they were swelling with sympathy.
It was two and a half weeks until I was supposed to be climbing the Lamanai High Temple. So instead of toughing it out, I got smart, went home, and called the doctor, babbling about curtsey squats and Mayan pyramids. After she stopped laughing, I had a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and a warning to come in if my hip didn’t get better. But it did, and after a week, I cautiously resumed my workout, but without the curtsey squats. I even did my first real push up ever.
Once on the ship, I skipped the elevators and climbed up and down the stairs. My hip complained, but it was more of a “Why are we climbing stairs when we could be sipping fruity drinks in a lounge chair on the deck?” than “I ain’t doin’ this.”
Last Wednesday, we arrived in Belize. Getting to the Lamanai ruins requires an hour bus drive, an hour in a speed boat on the river, and a hike in the jungle while being serenaded by howler monkeys. And then I was standing at the base of the Lamanai High Temple. My college roomie and her husband were with us on the tour. We posed for pictures and then our husbands started climbing. “Are you going to climb it?” she asked. Was I? I stared up at all those steps and said, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
And I did.
The steps are about knee high and narrow. There is a rope in the middle, but it’s mostly for something to grab if you feel yourself slipping. Otherwise, it’s not much of a help. About mid-way up, I started crawling rather than trying to remain upright. The last step was taller than the others and it was a struggle to hoist myself up to the platform. Only guess what? There were more steps, and no rope, but I’d made it that far; I was going up the rest of the way.
Standing up on the top of the pyramid, the surprisingly small top, and knowing I’d accomplished my goal was a great feeling. My college roomie took that picture of me waving in triumph with my husband standing next to me.
I reveled in the great feeling of accomplishment for about two minutes before it was time to come back down. I didn’t want to. Those steps are steep! My mom, who’s climbed a pyramid or two, had told me to sit on the steps and climb down that way. I figured my shorts would be ruined after sliding over rocks, but as I positioned my hands next to my hips, I easily raised and lowered myself to the next step. Table sits! This was just like doing table sits! Who would have thought it? As I table sat my way down the pyramid, I kept waiting for my arms to give out. They never did. They weren’t even sore and my shorts live to climb another day. But not any time soon.
I’m not an athletic person, so setting a physical goal was different for me. How about you? Any similar goals? Other goals? Pyramids to be climbed?
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This winter reminds me of that scene in A Perfect Storm where George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg gaze in awe at a ray of sunshine falling across the bow of their battered boat…and then the sky turns black again: “It’s not going to let us out.” Oh, some of you lucky people live in the west and south and you are smugly awaiting spring, or are even enjoying some hot temperatures. How nice for you. Those of us still being held captive by this freezing season can at least console ourselves with some blazing hot reads to keep us warm. Yes, we still have that!
Have you ever been to the French Quarter in New Orleans? There’s something very sultry about that part of the city, and Kira Sinclair captures the ambience perfectly in CAPTIVATE ME, a fantastic addition to our Unrated! miniseries. This story has everything you want in a red-hot read, including an absolutely irresistible hero and a heroine you can really identify with and root for. Its starts when Alyssa Vaughn, a software developer, does a wildly wanton striptease—for a stranger watching her through her bedroom window during Mardi Gras. Beckett Kayne, a hot nightclub owner, won’t rest until he’s seduced the woman who has utterly captivated him. The scene at the Bacchanalia Ball is just scorching. You have to read this one!
Calling all lovers of hot cowboys! USA Today Bestselling author Kimberly Raye is back to finish off her The Texas Outlaws miniseries with TEXAS OUTLAWS: COLE. It seems bronc rider Cole Chisholm is every inch the bad boy—the kind of man mothers warn their daughters about. Nicole Barbie has a bad girl reputation, even if it’s all untrue! She just wants to concentrate on becoming the best chef in fifty states…but it turns out Cole can help her with that. Can two bad reputations come together to make something good? At least in one way…together they are setting the sheets on fire!
We’ve got double the cowboy fun this month. Debbi Rawlins’ ALONE WITH YOU reminds me of one of my favorite stir-fry dishes—very spicy and a little bit sweet. In this book from the Made in Montana miniseries, we’re taken out of Blackfoot Falls and on a road trip with a reluctant Will Tanner, rodeo champion extraordinaire. Lexy Worthington needs the rodeo star for a promotional calendar that will help her keep her job and prove herself to her wealthy family. On the way from Montana to Texas we watch the two opposites find out what they have in common…besides their amazing chemistry. This book will also bring a smile to your face if you’ve ever wanted to throw your smartphone out a window. An extremely satisfying read!
You’ve been asking for Luke Berringer’s story from Samantha Hunter’s The Berringers miniseries, and here it is! In Hunter’s previous HIS KIND OF TROUBLE (Jan 2013 ) we see Luke and Vanessa Grant meet in a very “explosive” way! Our hero is determined to track down the woman responsible for ruining his life…but when he catches her he’s in for one heck of a surprise! In this story about a case of mistaken identity we’re taken on a wild romp, with great twists and turns and a lot of sizzling sex. UNEXPECTED TEMPTATION is very tempting indeed!
I hope you can’t wait to read our fantastic March lineup of books. Tell me what else you’re looking forward to this coming spring and I’ll enter you in a draw to win one of three sets of the March Blazes. As for me…I shall weep when I see the first crocus of spring. In the meantime, I’m glad I’ve got more Blazes to read!
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This time of year, I tend to get reflective and spend some time appreciating my blessings. Not that I don’t’ appreciate them all year long but I make a point to REALLY appreciate them on every 28th day of February. First off, because it’s my birthday and its a nice gift to myself. And secondly, it helps stave off the freakout over another year passing by.
Most of my blessings are sort of standard, my husband and gorgeous children, my family and my health. Incredible friends, cute pets, etc…
But today I thought I’d share a few that are more career specific
I’ve been blessed to write for my favorite line, Blaze. That’s opened doors to meeting some incredible people, fabulous editors, amazing readers and more…
I’ve been blessed by the cover Gods, aka the incredible art department at Harlequin. The only thing better than loving a story when it’s finished is seeing that story wrapped in a whole lot of hotness as it’s brought to the readers.
I’ve been blessed with some incredible opportunities that opened doors and brought my books to more readers.
I’ve been blessed with amazing readers – some of the sweetest, most loyal and supportive people ever!
The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop here and just say that I’m very grateful for all of the wonderful career blessings and can’t wait to see what I’m giving thanks for next year!
Its obviously birthday week here at the Blaze Authors blog Yesterday was Jillian’s (Happy Happy!) I hope it was a fab one!! .
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Today I turn 52!
When I was young I would’ve thought being in my 50s would totally freak me out. As in, I can’t believe I’m so OLD!
But I’m so okay with being 52.
It’s a great time in my life. I’m still young enough get around and do things I want/need to do, and yet old enough to be wiser about how to handle things. And I’ve lost 80 pounds in the past 10 months and am exercising every day and feeling so much more energetic and healthy.
All in all, I feel really lucky.
So, instead of receiving gifts today, I want to GIVE gifts. Three of them.
The first is FAITH. Faith in whatever form it takes for you. Remember that old adage: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything?
Believe in something, even if it is yourself. Heck, especially yourself. Get in touch with your own unique gifts. All the things that make you, YOU. If you believe in a higher power, that’s great, too. But look inside yourself for that higher power to manifest itself. Your god can do good works through you.
The second is LOVE. I wish I could send love like a wrapped package through the ether and straight into your heart. Love yourself. List three things you like about yourself. Then add a couple more. Look in the mirror and repeat a daily affirmation. When you love yourself THEN you are able to love others. There’s a time for nurturing others and a time to nurture yourself. Be sure to take that time for yourself. Everyone you love will be better for it. Then go out into the world and spread that love to others.
And last but not least, I want to give the gift of HOPE. Sometimes even when you don’t feel you have love, hope is even more important. To believe that things will get better.
My son’s girlfriend told me two things this week that made my chest swell with hope. Around Christmas, her roommate’s car broke down and the roommate said she was giving up her dream of going to school here and was going to return to her small hometown. She just couldn’t see any way to continue. But my son’s girlfriend talked her out it. She asked everyone at their place of employment to donate their tips for a week so their co-worker could get her car fixed and continue to go to school AND THEY DID! The roommate is still here and going to school, all because this group of young people were generous beyond belief. The other story also happened at her job. A woman came through the drive thru and paid for the car behind her. THAT car paid for the car behind him, and so on until TEN cars had paid it forward. It was literally a domino effect of KINDNESS. I truly believe there are way more GOOD people in the world than bad. We just don’t always hear about the good things going on. But we have to HOPE. You can hope people are kinder and more generous than you might think. Hope that things will get better when you’re going through the bad times. Imagine the positive energy that goes out into the world when we have faith, and love and hope. It’s bound to come back to us when we most need it.
I HOPE that happens for you!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, if you’re feeling hopeless, hang on. Tell yourself one day at a time. Watch this and take the lyrics to heart.
Do you know of someone or something that gives you hope? Please share!
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he month of February bring us many wonderful things. New Blaze releases, snow, snow and more snow for many of us in the USA, and of course, Valentine’s Day. This year, I was invited to participate in former Blaze author, Hope Tarr’s Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Heroes Who Love Them
. Featuring one essay for each day of February, this anthology comprises nonfiction entries by bestselling romance and women’s fiction authors on how they met, wed, and love their real-life spouses and significant others. Contributors include Deanna Raybourn, Jacquie D’Alessandro, Julie Kenner, May McGoldrick and Lisa Renée Jones.
The truly wonderful thing about this collection? 100% of the proceeds go to Women In Need, Inc (WIN). As readers and writers of romance, we love happy-ever-after endings, something WIN works tirelessly towards, for the thousands of homeless women and children currently sleeping in NYC shelters each night. To learn more about how WIN works to break the cycle of homelessness for women and their children, please click here.
As a contributor and fan of the other essays in the collection, I can honestly say this is not a red-hot read. But it is a true testament to the power of happy-ever-after love, and it supports a very worthy cause. I hope you will check out Scribbling Women. And I will be back next month with more about my upcoming Blaze releases!
About the Book
In Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them, twenty-eight romance fiction writers from diverse subgenres reveal their real-life stories of how they met, wed and love—and are loved and supported by—their spouses and life partners. At times whimsical and laugh-out-loud funny (Jacquie D’Alessandro’s Donny & Me?, Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick’s Soul Mates for a Thousand Lifetimes), at others poignant and bittersweet (Elf Ahearn’s A Lost Friend, A Movie Star, A Man to Love Forever), all unfailingly inspiring (Lisa Renée Jones’s Unexpected Treasures; Deanna Raybourn’s Once in a Blue Moon), each essay celebrates that most powerful and sacred of human bonds: love.
Happily Ever After isn’t only the stuff of romance novels and fairy tales. It is every woman’s birthright.
Sara Jane Stone
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