By Kathleen Scheibling, Senior Editor, Harlequin Blaze

Oh, lucky me! Why, you ask? Well, as I sit here writing this blog I’m worried that by the time I get outside for my Sunday bike ride the sun may be too hot. Hahahaha! Yes, I live in Canada, and yes, it’s still hot outside. Yay! It may have been a cool summer, but now it’s extendo-summer—and I love it! What else do I love? Reading all four Blazes for the month and letting you know what fabulous reads are in store for you. Let’s keep the heat, and that summer feeling, going!

Oct 815 AnneFirst up, our Uniformly Hot! title this month, WICKED NIGHTS by New York Times bestselling author Anne Marsh. If you like sexy SEALs and a gorgeous California setting, this book is for you. Cal Brennan is a former rescue swimmer for the Navy. Because of a traumatic experience on his last mission he’s been, well, a little wary of getting back in the water. Then comes a dare—and a bet—from his childhood nemesis Piper Clark. The two of them are competing for a diving contract from a local cruise company, and winning it is a make-or-break situation for their competing businesses. But Piper’s dare has even higher stakes…winner takes all in bed, too! Anne is writing great books in this wicked trilogy, which includes WICKED SEXY (July 2014) and the upcoming WICKED SECRETS. She’s one to watch!

We’re delighted to have Isabel Sharpe in the Blaze line-up this month. SOME LIKE IT HOTTER is a duet, withOct 816 Isabel the second book, HER PERFECT INDULGENCE, coming out in February 2015. These two stories are connected by twin sisters who own coffee shops on different coasts. To keep life interesting, they decide to swap businesses and residences for one month. That means laid-back California girl Eva Meyer has her hands full trying to convince uptight New Yorker Ames Cooke that there’s more to life than work—and boy, she shows him! Isabel has written a truly funny story—fans of romantic comedy, here you go! But also there’s emotion and serious heat here. If you’re in a New York state of mind, pick up this book! And watch for the next one. I really enjoyed this read and I’m sure you will, too.

Oct 817 ErinNew York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy returns with the second book in her naughty From Every Angle miniseries, CLOSE UP. This is a smokin’ hot reunion story! Sean and Kristine Maddock separated years ago…but never got divorced. Sean has spent a lot of time imagining their heated reunion—so it’s a shock to be served with divorce papers by his not-so-former wife! The new proposal? One wild, dirty weekend—just to clear out the cobwebs, so they say. Ha! Sean and Kristine rekindle the fire, but is it something that will last and truly bring them back together? Read to find out!

Oct 818 ReginaThe reviews are in for Regina Kyle, our newest Blaze author, and they’re fabulous! We’re thrilled to have found Regina, who was the winner of our 2013 Blaze Writing Challenge contest. She’s writing a four-book series for us called The Art of Seduction and I know you’re going to love this launch book, TRIPLE THREAT. Playwright Holly Nelson lusted after Nick Damone in high school, but Holly never imagined the now-famous Nick would want to star in her first Broadway production. Things definitely heat up between them, even as a series of accidents force a chain of events that could bring down the curtain on the whole production! Regina writes with the perfect blend of funny, smart and sexy. Pick up Regina’s book—you will love it!

I hope you get your hands on all four of our sizzling reads. Tell me what is your favorite cover this month and I’ll enter you in a draw to win one of three sets of October Blazes. Enjoy the heat!

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I first read Jane Eyre when I was about 12. The Bronte sisters and Jane Austen were a huge influence on me in my preteen and young teenage years. jane-eyre
But then, it seemed life got busy. I was in the choir and pep club in school, got a job, and a boyfriend. But after school, I found myself back at the library, reading what my mother read: Gothics. These wonderful novels shaped my writing today. Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart, Barbara Michaels. I didn’t have as much time to read as I did back in those golden days of my youth, but I’d always been a fast reader, and once I’d devoured all of their novels, love of Gothics led to reading modern Mysteries like Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, and Patricia Cornwell.
So, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my third child at the dangerously advanced age of 37 and my doctor ordered me on bed rest that I found I had a lot of time on my hands again. I’d always read, but, I mean, I had LOTS of time to fill. So, I tried a Historical Murder Mystery by Amanda Quick, RAVISHED.Ravished
And I was hooked.
I went back to the library and got everything else by her. And when I couldn’t find anymore, I went back to that paperback rack in the library and lucked upon the most wonderful romance–still, to this day—I’ve ever read, FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. Of course, I then had to get everything written by Laura Kinsale. How to describe the transcendent quality of THE PRINCE OF MIDNIGHT, or THE SHADOW AND THE STAR? You just have to read them.
Then I discovered Mary Balogh, who is as prolific as she is unsurpassed in the Regency Romance. There’s just something about her characters, a…sense of humanity, a depth of emotion, and a profound understanding of love that permeates every book she writes.
And what list of the best of the best of Romance authors would be complete without the superlative Loretta Chase? The wit, the brilliance, the distinctiveness of her voice and her characters will amaze you. I started with LORD OF SCOUNDRELS
For contemporary Romances my absolute favorite authors might surprise you. All 3 have written category for Harlequin: Gayle Wilson, Jo Leigh, and Evelyn Vaughn. Evelyn, Jo and Gayle will keep me up all night reading, on the edge of my seat. Someday, I want to be them when I grow up.
There are many more authors on my keeper shelf, (Mary Jo Putney, Courtney Milan, Lisa Kleypas, Lorraine Heath and many, many more) and frankly I’ve avoided making this kind of list public until now for fear of insulting someone by leaving them out. But I think even those authors I just mentioned would agree with me, if you want to inspire a budding new writer to be the best damn writer she can be, have them read Kinsale, or Balogh, or Wilson, or Chase, or Leigh, or Vaughn. They are in a class all their own.

So, who are your favorite authors?

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Okay, I confess: I have not read Outlander. Or any of Diana Gabaldon’s other books in the series. I might. Some day. In the distant future. Right now I’m too swamped with promotion for Triple Threat (in stores now and available in e-book October 1!), getting my proposal for book three in on time (done!) and finishing up book two (not done – yikes!).jamie outlander

But after seeing numerous Facebook posts from my author friends who had read the books, I felt compelled to check out the new Starz TV series based on them when it premiered in August. Admittedly, a lot of my motivation was due to the extremely lovely Scotsman Sam Heughan, who plays swoonworthy Jamie Frasier (or James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, if you prefer to call him by his full name). But once I started watching, I was completely and totally hooked, not just by his smouldering eyes, sexily mussed hair and washboard abs, but by fierce and feisty Claire and the chemistry between them, not to mention the cinematography and the lush settings of Scotland, where the series is filmed.

And it’s not just me who’s hooked. Even my husband’s watching. I guess there’s enough blood and gore for him (and I’m told there’s more to come for poor Jamie in particular). And my 16-year-old daughter is addicted, too. Yes, she joins in my appreciation for Mr. Heughan’s Jamie. But it’s more (or equally as much) that she wants to tune in each week to see what’s going to happen next. How will Claire escape Black Jack Randall’s clutches? Will she get back through the stones? Who will she choose: Jamie or her husband in 1940s post-war England, Frank Randall? (Seriously, woman., is there even a choice? Is anyone on Team Frank, except maybe Frank?)

We’ve enjoyed watching the weekly episodes as a family. In all honestly, there hasn’t been a show we’ve all enjoyed equally since Monk. And that went off the air in 2009.

And then came this week’s episode . . .

I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it. But it was the long-anticipated wedding episode, and suffice it to say it was steamy with a capital “S.” Not once. Not twice. But three times. It was like True Blood meets Highlander.

I know my daughter’s sixteen. I know she’s knows what sex is. But I could have done without watching it next to her on our living room sofa. (Interesting to note that when I watched it again later, by myself, the steamy scenes seemed a lot shorter. They were intermenably long when I watched with her.)

At this point, I can’t really tell her to stop watching the show. That would be like trying to put the horse back in the barn. She’s a young adult, and in less than two years she’ll be out of the house and on her own (except for the hefty college tuition her dad and I will be paying).

I guess it’s time to face the fact that my baby is a baby no longer. Thanks, Outlander, for giving me a big, fat reality slap to the face. But as long as you keep bringing me Jamie and his smouldering eyes and his sexy hair and those yummy arms, chest and abs, this sassanach will forgive you.

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STRIPPED DOWN is officially alive. That’s right, it’s out in the wild. So wild, in fact, I found it at Wal-Mart. On a Saturday. At 2:00 p.m. My friends, fighting those crowds is about as “wild” as my life gets these days. :)  But it’s out there, and I’m happier than a certain blue-jacket-wearing rabbit with open access to Farmer McGregor’s garden. That’s pretty happy, my friends.

 

And maybe (who am I kidding? No doubt!) it’s a stretch to put my first Blaze release in the same category as anything by Beatrix Potter, but here’s what I’ve learned: we’re both authors. That blurs a lot of lines I always considered hard lines between good and great.

What changed my mind? A conversation with a very good friend. This friend, who shall remain unnamed for privacy purposes, is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author many times over. She’s brilliant, charming, gracious and kind–all the things I decided I had to make priorities when I met her. She’s my hero in many ways, and my mentor in many more. I’ve always looked at her work and thought to myself, “I want to be that good. I want to write stories readers gobble up like hers.”

As the Fates would have it, my friend offered to read/critique my first cowboy Blaze, tentatively titled BLOWN AWAY. Her reponse? “My first thought on reading this was that I should just give up writing. I’ve always wanted to write like this, but I never will. As a reader, I knew there were words on the page, but I was too busy sensing and seeing everything you wrote about to consider the words. This is amazing, honey.”  She went on, but anything more will just make me sound like a jerk, and this? There’s a purpose to this.

After I was done weeping post-Skype call, and when the shakes finally settled down, something else dawned on me. I’ve always thought of writing in a ladder system, where you move one rung up or down based on a HUGE variety of factors. I know, I know. The idea was ridiculous. Keep in mind, though, that I don’t do math. At all. The extend of my intimate relationship with numbers runs to memorizing phone numbers. The. End. :D  So anyway, it hit me that she and I are both writers. We both have strengths. Conversely, we both have weaknesses. She works just as hard as I do to be brilliant. She’s been more successful in the brilliance department because she’s written many more books. BUT…I’m learning by continuing to write and continuing to read–read, read, read. I learn so much from seeing how a great story is put together by reading.

But here’s the other truth: I learn just as much from reader feedback. When a reader comes to me and says, “I loved your book, but I wish X had happened too,” I literally make notes. I learn from so many sources on how to improve.

This little revelation turned my ladder into a twisty slide that dumped all of us at the bottom of the sandbox in a giant, laughing heap. Because you know what? There is no ladder system. There’s learning, there’s (massive) effort, there’s appreciation, there’s writing what you love and there’s gratitude. That’s it. Mix those ingredients and the authors, and most of the readers, end up in the same puppy pile laughing and talking and enjoying each others’ company because we have those things in common.

So while STRIPPED DOWN is out in the wilds of McGregor’s garden chomping away on the carrots (I happen to LOVE raw carrots), my inner writer self is giddily at work on Eli and Reagan’s story, preparing to give you a better story every time as I live those five points: I learn; I exert (massive) effort; I appreciate every moment, reader, fellow writer and my editor (waves at Adrienne); I write what I love; I live with an attitude of gratitude. Beyond that? Well, the rest is just words.

I hope you get a chance to read STRIPPED DOWN and enjoy it. WOUND UP releases January 1 (December 16 for print books — thank you, Amazon, for the Christmas gift!). I really do have a serious book-boyfriend crush on the hero of this particular book, and I hope you will too.

Thank you so much for your amazing support and your awesome feedback. You guys rock!

Winners of the STRIPPED DOWN contest are: Marcy Shuler, Tammy Yenalavitch and Carol W. Congratulations! If you’ll send me your contact information through my website (www.kelliireland.com) and let me know if you want the digital book or the paperback, I’ll get those in the e/mail today!

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Greetings Blaze Babes!

I don’t know about you, but I feel as if I’m doing this monthly blog every two weeks. Time is going so fast. August was a blur of entertaining and home repair and enjoying a break from writing. Now it’s back to school for my two junior-year kids, one in college, one in high school, and looking forward to apples and stews and good sleeping nights.

One happy writing note, my October Blaze, Some Like it Hotter, the first of a two-book series in which sisters on opposite coasts switch lives, was a 4 ½ star-rated Top Pick in Romantic Times magazine! The heroine is a quirky individualist who falls for a strait-laced guy and gives him pretty much no choice in the matter of falling for her. A nice switch from the usual.

This month’s recipe was part of a recent dinner party for fourteen (!). We grilled sirloin steaks, sliced them up and offered different sauces to accompany. For sides we served cheesy garlic bread with fresh basil and parsley (I could bathe in that stuff) and a really unusual and delicious potato salad with sweet and russet potatoes and arugula. This month’s feature is our other side dish, a fabulous zingy coleslaw, which will become my new favorite recipe. I don’t know about you, but I think coleslaw is one of those “easy” recipes that never seems right. It’s either too mayonnaisey or too vinegary or too sweet or not sweet enough . . . Most of the time it’s good but kind of boring and gets left over and ignored. Not this one!

Haitian Coleslaw

Don’t know what makes it Haitian, but it sure was delicious. Give it a try.

See you next month!

Cheers,

Isabel

www.IsabelSharpe.com

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I love September!  Yes, I was a back to school geek who loved starting a new year.  Mostly because it meant back to school shopping (love me those notebooks and pens and post its and folders and… yeah).  But also because it meant more reading time!  How about you? Did you love back to school?  How about reading -what’re you reading this week?  pile of books and eyeglasses on the books

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In romance, we write about the fun stuff that happens before people go to sleep, and maybe right after they wake up. But we don’t usually write about how people sleep. I don’t know about you, but sleep is like some elusive thing that I never get enough of. Ever. My life is crazy – in a good way. There are nights/early mornings when my head hits the pillow and I actually say, “I love you pillow. I love you bed. I missed you guys.”

So the Hub works nights a lot, and I’m by myself. For awhile, I was allowing the Great Dane to sleep with me. Elvis (my little Shih tzu) sleeps in her kennel at the end of the bed, and then there’s grumpy Gizmo (part Maltese/Japanese Chin) who only weighs 20 lbs but I swear is the biggest bed hog you ever met. But then Harley the Great Dane grew and grew to 130 lbs. And though she tries to make herself tiny, she’s not. And when my hub was home on the weekends… we’ll it was crowded, uncomfortable and weird. So when I came back from traveling for 8 weeks in a row this summer, I decided to make a change. Elvis only in her kennel. No other dogs allowed. Amazingly, I was sleeping through the night more. Go figure. I have to live with the guilt of the other two staring at me as I walk upstairs, but they get a piece of egg each morning to make up for it. :)

But I’m always curious about how people sleep. I’m all over the place. The hub and I start out all cuddly, but during the night I end up sideways in the bed and he’s on the edge. We’ve been married a long time, so he’s used to it. And he gets all the covers. I’m a side and stomach sleeper. He’s a back and sometimes side sleeper. It works for us. :) And we got a Tempurpedic a few years ago and I have trouble sleeping on anything else. I also have one of those fat Tempurpedic pillows. And I sleep with a smaller pillow over my head. Weird, I know. But I swear it’s to block out sound and light. We have blackout curtains so if the bathroom door is closed, it’s a cave in my bedroom, night or day.

We need new floors in my office, but we have no problem spending a months pay on sheets. Ok. Maybe not a month, but super nice sheets are a luxury I will not go without. And now my Hub is kind of spoiled as well. And it has to be super cold for me. My husband calls me the heater. He’s very cold natured, so again it works for us. The big way we differ is he can go to sleep with lights/tv/a hurricane going on, I cannot. I’m a super light sleeper. Has to be dark, cold and quiet.

So how do you sleep? What kind of conditions are perfect for you? I’m trying to get more sleep. It isn’t easy with my schedule. But how many hours a night are just right for you? ANd I heard a good nights sleep can help you lose weight. So there’s that. :) So tell me how you sleep. I really want to know.

-Candy

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I grew up in a family that read mostly literary fiction, so when I started reading romance novels as a teenager, there wasn’t much support for my new hobby. When I went to college and studied English, I pretty much had my love of romance shamed out of me, and for many years, I didn’t read any at all. Then one of my kids’ teachers introduced me to Outlander. The summer I discovered Outlander, I started reading romance and haven’t stopped since. Outlander turned out to be my gateway not only back to reading romance but also to writing it—and this summer, it also led me to start reading science fiction and fantasy.

outlanderI began re-reading Outlander this summer because I desperately wanted to read the new eighth book in the series but couldn’t remember enough of the first seven to feel comfortable just diving in. So I borrowed my sister’s audio versions of the books and started from the very beginning.

Re-reading Outlander has been, for me, a lot like reading it in the first place. It has reminded me of why I love reading, of why I love good storytelling, and how much a great story can transport me and make me live for a few blissful hours in another world.

Because the experience of having all my shame and preconceptions about romance destroyed was so wonderful, and because returning to Outlander’s amazingly well-imagined world was so rewarding, I decided it was time to get over my resistance to reading sci-fi, YA, and fantasy, too. So I picked up some series that have come highly recommended. Here’s what I read:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (fantasy)name of the wind cover

My super-quick summary: A young boy grows up to be the most powerful wizard in the world. :-)

What I loved: How beautifully (yet simply) it’s written, and how the secondary characters all hint at expansive, untold stories of their own.

What surprised me: I thought all fantasy was complicated and hard to follow, until I read this book.

golden compass coverThe Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (YA fantasy)

My super-quick summary: A little girl and her familiar, from whom she is inseparable, travel to the far, frozen north to fight against a terrible evil.

What I loved: Lyra, the little girl, is charming and brave, believably childish and yet still a fully developed heroine.

What surprised me: I was surprised to learn that this book is considered anti-religious because while I was reading, I thought the connection between the children and their familiars was a metaphor for our unbreakable connection to God.

The Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (fantasy)game of thrones cover

My super-quick summary: In a strange land where a terrible winter is coming, men and women struggle for power, and to save their realm from the evil outside the walls.

What I loved: Everything is interconnected, like a mammoth set of dominoes poised to fall, and the world is so mysterious, threatening, and well-imagined.

What surprised me: It wasn’t hard to follow all the intrigues and twists and turns, and even the hundreds of names somehow successfully stuck in my head.

wool omnibus coverThe Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey (sci-fi)

My super-quick summary: A colony of people living deep underground in a silo learn the truth about what lies outside—and what lurks in their own hearts.

What I loved: The spare, evocative writing, and the idea of a whole world of people living in a silo underground, without understanding their place in the larger world.

What surprised me: There was almost nothing science-y or convoluted about this science fiction. It was just a fast-moving, emotional story.

Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan (sci-fi)altered carbon cover

My super-quick summary: A renegade detective solves a murder in a world where men can’t (easily) die because their souls are stored digitally for “resleeving” in new bodies

What I loved: Even though this book was dark and violent, I loved the premise so much, I didn’t care. Morgan did an amazing job of imagining all the consequences that would fall out of being able to “download” our selves.

What surprised me: I wasn’t drowning in technological details or stuck in trying to figure out how things worked.

Do you read genres besides romance? Have you tried a new one lately? What have you read outside of romance lately that youd recommend?

 

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By Kathleen Scheibling, Senior Editor, Harlequin Blaze

 

Where did the summer go? Luckily where I am in the world, not far. The temperatures for the first week of September in Toronto are forecasted to be in the 80s, so this makes me happy. Oh, winter, how I dread you. Despite the sun and humidity I still have that back-to-school feeling, which means I’m getting excited about a whole new season in Blaze. We’ve got fantastic books coming out this fall – and none of them are going to cool you down!
Sept 811 Tawny

Our first scorcher is New York Times bestselling author Tawny Weber’s A SEAL’S FANTASY. We know you love your military men, and Dominic Castillo is definitely a hero to love! He’s strong, he’s tall, he’s muscled, he’s smart—and even though he’s a sweetheart, he is one serious badass. Dominic’s mission is to protect Lara Banks, a woman who, because of her estranged brother, is not too fond of SEALs. Dominic has to convince Lara that she’s in jeopardy, but it’s their scorching attraction that may be the real danger. This is Tawny’s first Unrated!, meaning you are in for one very sexy story that is also charming, funny and a real page-turner. You won’t be able to put this one down!
Sept 812 Debbi

What sane woman ditches a successful career and moves to Montana to renovate a run-down boarding house? Beth Wilson asks herself that question in BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, the next installment in Debbi Rawlins’ Made in Montana miniseries. Beth has her hands full with her work and with taking care of her sister and niece, who is growing up way too fast. But her main distraction is widower Nathan Landers, a reclusive rancher who wants nothing but to be left alone. Beth finds that very difficult – she can see the man is hurting, but she also sees the desire in his eyes. These two can’t deny their attraction…and it’s becoming impossible to keep their sexy affair on the QT.

Sept 813 Jillian
Who entered New York City fireman Joe Tedesco in a modeling contest? The new “Sexiest Average Joe” is being taken on a Caribbean cruise – and what single guy would turn that down? Especially when there are delightful distractions like Carly Pendleton, a beautiful fashion blogger who just wants to make this photo shoot a big success. Joe and Carly have nothing in common…well, that’s not quite true. They seem to have major chemistry between the sheets! When they return to New York, they go their separate ways, but something keeps pushing them back together. Enjoy CABIN FEVER by Jillian Burns, part of our The Wrong Bed miniseries.
Sept 814 Kelli
New Author Alert! Welcome, Kelli Ireland! STRIPPED DOWN is the first of three books in a brand new series, Pleasure Before Business. Eric Reeves is the CEO of a real estate development firm that’s on the cusp of success. But first he has to earn a living – as Dalton Chase, the sought-after stripper of Beaux Hommes, one of Seattle’s most exclusive adult clubs. When “Dalton” is hired as the entertainer at a bachelorette party, he meets Cass Jameson, the owner of a company who is at odds with Eric’s new venture. Neither is aware of the other’s real identity as they fall into a seductive trap. You’ll love the heat that builds between Eric and Cass!

 

I hope you enjoy all four books this month! Tell me your favourite thing about fall and I’ll enter you in a draw to win one of three sets of our September Blazes. Follow me on Twitter at @KScheibling for our annual SYTYCW conference, where I’ll be chatting about Blaze on Monday, September 15th at 10 a.m. EST.

 

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Are they hot or are they hot?  Stay tuned for Kathleen’s fun update on the latest Blaze titles…

 

 

Sept 811 Tawny

 

 

Sept 812 Debbi

 

 

Sept 813 Jillian

 

 

Sept 814 Kelli

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Cover Art Copyright @by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. BLAZE, HARLEQUIN and the JOEY design are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited, used with permission.
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