September 20, 2019

a recipe inspired by 'the marrying type' and royalty

Blogger's Note: This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of my newsletter, The Latest. Click here to sign-up for a free subscription and to score a free ebook of my novel First & Goal.


Like so many others, I was a little obsessed with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a year ago. I hosted a watch party for my friends complete with a make-your-own fascinator station, English breakfast bakes, and my take on their rumored (and later confirmed) lemon elderflower cake. While my first attempt turned out okay, as wedding season kicked up this year, I wanted to give it another try. I've become much better at buttercream frosting in the past year, and I really felt like *this* time I could make it perfect.

And, dear Readers, I did. Oh my goodness this cake turned out perfectly.

As an added bonus, I even found some silk flowers that matched the cover of The Marrying Type to really sweeten the whole deal. I bet Elliot Lynch of would get a lot of requests for this cake if the story took place this year.


Lemon Elderflower Cake

Ingredients

Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
juice from two lemons
lemon curd

Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tbs heavy whipping cream
4 tbs elderflower cordial

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 6-inch cake rounds with parchment paper.

2. Sift and mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream butter, lemon zest, sugar, eggs (one at a time), vanilla, milk, and lemon juice. Once well mixed, add in dry mixture, one cup at a time.

3. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked through.

4. Place layers in freezer for at least one hour before assembling.

5. To make frosting: Using an electric mixer, combine room-temperature butter, powdered sugar, whipping cream, and elderflower cordial in a bowl. Mix for at least 10 minutes. (Yes, 10 minutes!)

6. To assemble: Slice cakes in half to make four layers. Cover the bottom three layers with frosting, creating a small well. Scoop lemon curd into the center of each well (the frosting around the edges will keep it in place). Stack layers and cover all sides with the remaining frosting. Don't make it too smooth to capture the rustic style that is a signature of the royal wedding cake's baker, Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes in London. Top with silk or edible flowers.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

September 13, 2019

a little about 'go for love'


Sometimes I tiptoe around a story for a long time before it's clear. And often, once the idea comes to full fruition, I wonder how it took me so long to have the "aha" moment. Actually, it's less of "aha" and more of an "are you freaking kidding me? It's so obvious" moment, but a moment all the same.

It's frustrating, but it's my process. And after almost a decade of this whole book writing deal, I'm finally coming around to embracing my processes instead of fighting them. Or, rather, I'm coming around to embracing the idea of coming around to embracing.

Yes, friends, this is what it's like inside my head. Spooky, isn't it?

I definitely tiptoed around the idea of writing "Go for Love" the novella that is now available (for a limited time only) in the Love in Charge collection. While I technically brainstormed and outlined the story in March and April of this year, its roots go all the way back to my sophomore year of college.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. For those of you who haven't picked up Love in Charge or "Go for Love" yet, here's the gist:

Days away from the launch of Global Office -- a startup that basically gives working professionals a chance to study abroad -- Sarah Burton needs help. The ancient wiring in her building keeps throwing the whole website and server offline, and she needs it in perfect shape before the website goes live. That's where Beck Spencer comes into play. A wiz at this sort of thing, he's the best man for the job. If only Beck and Sarah didn't have major history together.

Mayhem ensues. Two hearts get a second chance at love and adventure. We all live happily ever after.

So where do my college days come into play with that story?

I like to say I live my life without regrets. But like my whole attitude about embracing my writing process, that's more aspirational than factual. I do have regrets. I regret drama I stirred up back in elementary school. I regret not properly heating up a plate of chicken that gave me food poisoning over Christmas. And I regret that I was in such a rush to graduate from college, I didn't give myself time to pursue certain experiences. Particularly study abroad.

I started college in 2004 with a plan on how I'd graduate in four years. Still a high school senior, I went into the first meeting with my academic advisor with a plan, a contingency plan, and an "oh crap, nothing is going as planned" plan. He looked at my carefully sketched out notes and listened to my recitation. Then he said, "My goal is to help you relax and go with the flow by the end of your freshman year."

That bothered me enough I still remember it 15 years later. But, he wasn't completely wrong. By the end of my freshman year, I decided I'd picked the wrong major. I decided to be a journalist and transferred to a different college with an accredited program.

I transferred halfway through my sophomore year, and in that first semester at my new university, I did my former advisor proud. I went with the flow. I tried new things. I gained a bunch of weight eating plates of pasta and chicken tenders. But I also toyed with the idea of not sticking to a plan. And one of those notions was exploring the possibility of studying abroad. I was serious enough about it that I went to a couple of open houses and met with an advisor to find out how I could spend a semester in England.

(Okay, so I wasn't entirely letting myself loose. Once a planner, always a planner.)

For a few weeks, I had it all planned out. Somehow, I'd get my life together and spend the fall semester of my senior year abroad in England. Preferably London. I wasn't sure what classes I'd take, but it would all work out. I even decided I'd write a book based on the experience. At the time, I had a loosely outlined series that would follow a college freshman as she pursued a very Bridget Jones life (but in America and during college). Book 1 would be called "Freshman Fifteen." Book 2 would be "S'more Galore." Book 3 would be "Transferitis." And Book 4 would be "Abroad." (And, I think Book 5 was going to be "Bonus Year," but I really can't remember.) My world was full of possibilities, and I would be very happy.

Then I met with my academic advisor. As a transfer student, he made sure I knew what was at stake--namely staying on track to graduate in four years. Basically, as I was already coming into the program more than a year behind my classmates, there was no way I could get into all the required journalism classes and study abroad without adding a fifth year. That eager college-bound high school senior still inside of me shriveled. And by the end of my sophomore year, I'd abandoned the idea of studying abroad in favor of getting internships and experience at newspapers.

I've often wondered "what if." It doesn't do much good to ask that, but I can't resist.

Fast forward to last November. While in Australia, I came up with a trilogy that would combine some of my travel experiences with a couple of story ideas I'd been trying to work out. They'd be focused around a trio of women who participated in a program that allowed them to work overseas for three to six months like a study abroad program for adults. When that all came together, like I said, it was very "DUH, LAURA."

And what made it even more "Seriously, duh, Laura," was a couple months later when I was asked to participate in the Love in Charge collection. I was given the prompt of writing a story about a high-powered woman finding love with blue collar man. And in that instance, it clicked again. "Prequel to the trilogy. About the woman who created it."

From there, it was just a matter of working out the details. I knew it would need to be set with a ticking clock and a problem. That all fell together fast. Then, during a brainstorming session with friends, I added the second-chance romance component, because I knew I wanted them to have a strong connection but in a super short time-frame.

So there you have it. That's how "Go for Love" came to be. I hope you'll enjoy reading this story, the others in Love in Charge, and (hopefully in 2020) the rest of the GFL trilogy!


ABOUT THE COLLECTION

When this woman steps into a room, heads turn and people listen. Whether she's commanding a new business venture, coaching a collegiate football team, or diagnosing and healing people, she's focused, influential, and passionate, and she's not about to apologize for it.

But there is loneliness and fear she can't ignore, and questions soon follow. Is a second chance meant to be, when the first was a disaster? Is her distrust of all men warranted when only one has truly ever hurt her? Can she set aside an age difference to find love?

Most of all...when a man who is everything she's never realized she wanted is right in front of her, will she be ready for the biggest undertaking of her life?

Lose yourself in these three novellas of powerful women learning that sometimes love is the one in charge.

All earnings from this anthology will be donated to the GLSEN Omaha chapter. GLSEN Omaha's mission is to "ensure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression."

Available on Amazon in Paperback & Ebook



***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

September 6, 2019

permission to suck

Words by Jennifer Probst. Cross-stitch by moi.

I wouldn't call myself a perfectionist. I've embraced the Type A-Minus label and accepted the fact that while my closet may be be organized by sleeve length and color, my kitchen sink will almost always have dirty dishes in it.

I'm not even sure I'd say I expect perfection from my writing. I want to do my best to tell a compelling story in an enjoyable way that connects with readers. I accept that I'll always need help from beta readers and editors to create the best product possible.

(Ooh, I just cringed at that word. Product. It sounds so mechanical. So cold. But it's accurate. Though writing is an art and a craft, it is ultimately packaged, marketed and sold like, well, a product. This notion may keep me awake tonight.)

And I was sounding so chill until I tumbled down the product rabbit hole, wasn't I? I mean, you could almost see me on the beach playing bongos with Matthew McConaughey. I sounded like someone who has relinquished control to the universe and accepted that whatever will be will be.

Only, as I prematurely revealed with my product rant, I'm not terribly que sera sera. Not in life. Not in writing. It's fair to say I aspire to be alright, alright, alright. But I'm still working on getting through a full week without feeling completely anxious about something.

If possible, I've actually become more of a worrier with my writing since I finished the first draft of my first novel back in February 2011. Back then I was proud to have written the damn thing and had no reason to doubt that the hardest part of the process was behind me.

Oh, if I only knew then.

Truth is, most times when I sit down to write, a feel a sense of dread. Don't get me wrong, like Dorothy Parker, I love having written. It's just the process of getting from thinking about writing to done writing that stresses me out.

There's an endless stream of "what ifs" running through my head.
What if the words won't come? 
What if the words come, but they're not the right ones to capture the story in my head?
What if the words come, and they're definitely the right ones, but they still suck?  
What if this whole story sucks?  
What if I suck?
 Wow. I mean, I must be a lot of fun at parties. (Actually, I can be a lot of fun at parties. Just give me a good playlist, a lovely beverage and an audience that's down for anything, and I'll be the life of the party.)

It has taken a lot of years of going over these thoughts in my head -- and even a time or two with a counselor -- to realize just how debilitating my self doubt can be. My kingdom to have even half the confidence I had in my writing when I was fresh out of college.

But I am trying to get better at that. There's a mantra I'm trying to embrace courtesy of Jennifer Probst and her book Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success. I absolutely recommend you read it for yourself, but I want to share one of her secrets that completely rocked my world and the way I think about my relationship with words.

Come in. Lean closer. It's a good one.

Here's the deal: We all suck sometimes. And you know what? That's okay.

Writing is a craft. Like any craft or art, it takes time to evolve and develop. It takes experimentation that work and even more that don't. In that process, sometimes you have to suck for a chance to move forward. You have to be willing to suck. And that's a hard concept to accept.

That's the key to Jennifer Probst's advice. You have to give yourself permission to suck. She actually has that written on a Post-It note that hangs over her desk. I loved that idea so much that in one of my cross-stitch frenzies, I made myself a little something with that same phrase.

Nearly two years later, I'm still learning how to give myself permission to suck. As I said, I'm no perfectionist, but I do hate failure. For so long, that fear of failure has kept me from even trying. So that's my challenge to myself and to any of you reading this. Don't let a fear of failure keep you from even trying to succeed. More, take a page from Jennifer Probst and lean into that potential failure. Because you can't get better if you don't accept you might suck along the way.

I had the opportunity to meet Jennifer Probst at the Romance Writers of American 2019 Conference in New York City. I told her how much I appreciated her sharing her mantra and wisdom with all of us. And because I'm a sap, I definitely teared up while I did.

And, because I'm me, I almost didn't do it. After weighing the pros and cons of deciding just how big of a nerd I wanted to be, I went all in. I'm so glad I did. The few minutes we spent together, and the way she grabbed my hand in excitement, are among my favorite memories from the conference and even the whole year.

In a way, it was practice for giving myself permission to suck. It was scary and awkward at first. And I had to accept that I might come off weird. But if I hadn't gotten past that and put myself out there, I wouldn't have made such a great memory. And you know what? It paid off.

Hanging out with Jennifer Probst at the Montlake signing at RWA 2019.
She may not know this, but it's quite possible we're destined to be BFFs.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

September 1, 2019

'love in charge' is now available!

It's Release Day for the Love in Charge Anthology! I am so excited to share "Go for Love" with all of you and thrilled you'll get to read two amazing stories from Jules Dixon and Michelle Morgan. All three heroines in these stories are pretty freaking awesome, and the heroes aren't so bad either.

I hope you'll enjoy reading this book and knowing that the proceeds will go to support a wonderful cause.


ABOUT THE COLLECTION

When this woman steps into a room, heads turn and people listen. Whether she's commanding a new business venture, coaching a collegiate football team, or diagnosing and healing people, she's focused, influential, and passionate, and she's not about to apologize for it.

But there is loneliness and fear she can't ignore, and questions soon follow. Is a second chance meant to be, when the first was a disaster? Is her distrust of all men warranted when only one has truly ever hurt her? Can she set aside an age difference to find love?

Most of all...when a man who is everything she's never realized she wanted is right in front of her, will she be ready for the biggest undertaking of her life?

Lose yourself in these three novellas of powerful women learning that sometimes love is the one in charge.

All earnings from this anthology will be donated to the GLSEN Omaha chapter. GLSEN Omaha's mission is to "ensure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression."

Available on Amazon in Paperback & Ebook


ABOUT THE STORIES

Go for Love by Laura Chapman 

When a glitch threatens Sarah Burton’s start-up launch, only one person can help. Beck Spencer swore he’d never give her another chance to break his heart, but he can’t say no to this offer. Despite keeping it professional, the spark between them might reignite hotter than ever.

Her Playbook by Jules Dixon 

Head football coach Hazel Stone’s childhood showed her she’d never trust another man. Payne Maxwell’s scarred face isn’t his deepest wound. Their attraction is a touchdown, but when Hazel finds a discrepancy in the department’s finances with Payne’s name attached, not to mention that he’s the ex-head coach’s son, foul flags fly in her head. When it comes to love, what play will be the right one?

No Turning Back by Michelle Morgan 

36-year-old chiropractor Cara Mann was doing just fine running her own practice and raising her young daughter—alone. When she hires Jack Dennis—the nerdy kid she used to babysit—for computer help in her office, he’s nothing like she remembers. But he certainly hasn’t forgotten her. Even if Cara can accept the help and support Jack is eager to offer, can she learn to love a much younger man?


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Laura Chapman

Laura Chapman is the award-winning and best-selling author of sweet and steamy romances. A former journalist, she works at a museum by day and pens love stories at night. She also enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, sampling local libations, bingeing true crime podcasts and documentaries, and hanging out with her cats, Jane and Bingley.

Find her on: 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks 
Instagram: www.instagram.com/laurachapmanbooks 
Twitter: www.twitter.com/lchapmanbooks

Jules Dixon

Fuzzy sock collector, martini connoisseur, baseball fanatic, and dandelion lover, author Jules Dixon is addicted to everything related to the amazing emotion of love, probably instigated by her own happily ever after of almost 30 years with her beer-brewing hubby. Their own love story created a spirited and artistic daughter and a computer genius but an ultrasarcastic son.

Jules is a 2018 RITA Finalist for her novella, In His Arms: Monroe Falls Romance.

Jules explores the rich psychology of sexuality, choices, and conflicts of high school, college, and young adult characters with sizzle and humor in her novels and novellas. She’s a busy writer, and she loves it!

Find her on: 
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JulesDixonAuthor 
Twitter: http://twitter.com/JulesofTripleR 
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/JulesDixonAuthor 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/julesdixonauthor/

Michelle Morgan

Michelle Morgan lives in Dallas, Texas with fellow writer, IT genius, and her real-life hero, Jeremy Morgan, and their two sons. She is a 2018 RITA Finalist Editor for the romance novella, “In His Arms,” by Jules Dixon.

Nothing ignites Michelle’s passion for editing like working on her own fiction. Since publishing After Henry: A love story in 2014, Michelle released her first true romance novel, Work in Progress (Love in Progress Book 1) in Summer 2019. No Turning Back is a companion novella. A follow-up novella, No Stopping Now, will release in Spring 2020, followed by Life in Progress (Love in Progress Book 2) in 2020 or 2021.

Michelle is a member of Romance Writers of America and The Editorial Freelancers Association. To learn more about her editorial services and upcoming books, visit fictionedit.com. Or you can email Michelle at michellemorganromance@ gmail.com.

Find her on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmorganwrites/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mmorganwrites/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8117461.Michelle_Josette_Morgan_


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

August 30, 2019

let's hear it for sports romance

Blogger's Note: This originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of my newsletter, The Latest. Click here to sign-up for a free subscription and to score a free ebook of my novel First & Goal.

Football season is here. I mean, technically it kicks off here in Nebraska tomorrow. But after weeks of updates coming in from training camps, and my fantasy football league commissioner sending nearly daily updates, it might as well be football season.

This, of course, has my mind and heart thinking of all things fall. I'm talking boots, scarves, spiced beverages and treats, and more.

Before I get ahead of myself and put out pumpkin decorations, let's just stick to the start of football season. As a reader (and writer), I love a good sports romance.

Let's take a look at some sporty reads.

Impulsive by Catherine Hart

This was the first sports romance novel I read back when I was in middle school and falling for the genre. A reporter is assigned to cover a new pro-football team and begins a fake relationship with the quarterback as a mutually beneficial cover. But as the fake romance becomes real, the couple comes to realize that a series of mishaps surrounding the team might not be so accidental after all.


Intercepted by Alexa Martin

This one is all about exes and ohs . . . (get it?) After breaking up with her football-star boyfriend, Marlee has sworn off athletes forever. That is until a certain quarterback from her past re-enters the game. A behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to build a career (and relationship) within the bright lights of football, I was totally shipping Marlee and her new guy.


Risky Play by Rachel Van Dyken

A new series from Rachel Van Dyken . . . I actually haven't read this book yet, but I can't wait. This one is centered around REAL football (or, what we Americans call soccer). The premise for this book sounds SO good. And I had a great time discussing it (and our general love of sports romance) with the author herself at RWA 2019. (She's just as excited for gridiron season to begin.)


Queen of the League Trilogy by Laura Chapman


Okay, this is totally shameless and self-promotional. But I swear, I love my Queen of the League trilogy. A romantic comedy series following three fantasy football seasons in the life of Harper Duquaine, this is a sports romance series that even people who aren't into the game can appreciate. Through it all, will Harper secure her fantasy football legacy, career, and love for a happily ever after?

Where are my fellow sports romance lovers? What are your favorite sports romance reads and authors?


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

August 23, 2019

excerpt of 'go for love'

Enjoy this (unedited) extended preview of "Go for Love," my new novella appearing in Love in Charge: Powerful Women, Powerful Love, a limited time collection to benefit the GLSEN Omaha Chapter. Now available for pre-order on Amazon. Yours to read 9/1/19.



Beck was still placing his order when Sarah sprinted into the pizza parlor. Pausing just a moment to take a breath, she pulled back her shoulders and stalked toward the counter. As he reached for his wallet, she plopped her credit card down on the counter.

“I’ll take a slice of the black truffle and gorgonzola and a bottle of Shiner. I’ve got his order too.”

Jaw slack, Beck gaped. The college student behind the counter darted a nervous glance his way, but took her credit card and rang up the order. She scribbled her name and a healthy tip on the receipt.

Turning at last to face him, she one again registered the disbelief and confusion on his face. She couldn’t blame him. She had, after all, just crashed his dinner. It was presumptuous. Rude, even. But at this moment, it was absolutely necessary. Hopefully Emily Post—and her mother—would forgive the rudeness.

“We need to talk,” she said.

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Yeah, okay.”

Recovered, Beck strode toward a corner table near the back of the restaurant leaving her to follow. Sitting down, he gestured for her to take the seat opposite him.

“You want to talk? Talk.”

As far as attempts to level the playing field and restore a balance of power went, it was halfway effective. And, if she was completely honest with herself, she respected that.

Biting back a grin, she took the offered seat and rested her forearms on the table.

“Since we already covered the niceties earlier, do you mind if we skip them now and get right into it?”

One of his eyebrows quivered. “By all means.”

“Great.” She leaned forward. “Here’s the deal. I know you need money to start your own business.”

His eyes narrowed into slits. “Did Maisie tell you that?”

She didn’t figure he needed an answer. It was obvious to anyone who her inside source was on this tidbit of information. “I’m prepared to offer you the exact amount you need. Plus—” she held up a hand before he could interrupt, “an additional bonus for every day you finish before the launch.”

“How much of a bonus?”

She threw out a number. This time his eyes widened. He leaned back in his chair, studying her closely as if to suss out whether or not she was bluffing.

“Look,” she said, not wanting to let this deal get away from her. “I know neither of us particularly wants to hop into bed together again—so to speak.”

She cringed inwardly at her choice of terms. She’d always hated how sexual business lingo could be. There wasn’t time to dwell right now.

“But we both need something. I need a reliable server before my launch. You need cash. Don’t you think we can put the past behind us for a few days?”

Beck nodded slowly. She could practically see him making a list of pros and cons in his head. She’d done the same herself only five minutes earlier. Hopefully, like her, he’d come to the conclusion that the pros far outweighed the cons in this instance. “It’ll take a lot of hours and muscle,” he said at last. “I’m not sure it’s even possible on such a tight timeframe.”

“So you’re worried you’re not up for it?” She clucked her tongue. “You never used to be afraid of getting your hands dirty or a challenge.”

His eyes narrowed. “I’m not afraid.”

“Sounds like it.”

Letting out a rude grunt, he ran his hand over his cropped hair. Not for the first time that day, she longed to reach out and straighten the freshly tousled locks. Or, better still, to make them even messier.

“I already have work scheduled during business hours. It will take a lot of overtime.”

“Like I said, I’ll make it worth your while.”

“And I suppose you’ll be watching over my shoulder the whole time.”

Annoyance flared in her fast and strong. “I’m not a micromanager.”

He held up his hands, wordlessly calling for a truce.

“But you’ll be around?”

“I’m a week away from launch, and I have a lot riding on this. Of course I’ll be around.”

He gave a short nod. “You won’t interfere?”

“Not unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

He smirked. “Fair enough.”

They fell quiet again, each silently studying each other like they were embroiled in an epic staring contest or a game of chicken.

At last, Beck sighed. “Okay. I’m in. On one condition.”

She ignored the thrill that bubbled in her chest. Surely it was just relief that this last obstacle standing in the way of GO’s success would soon be behind her.

“What do you want?”

“We start fresh today. As far as either of us is concerned, we’ve just met.”

She understood what he meant. Hard as it would be to pretend that they hadn’t once enjoyed a relationship that had burned hot and fast, he was right. They couldn’t revisit it and keep this partnership professional.

Sarah offered her hand. “We have a deal.”

Beck accepted it and shook. She tried to ignore the jolt of pleasure his firm hand against hers sent down her back. “When do we start?” he asked.

“How’s tomorrow?” Just like he’d wanted. See, she could compromise.

His lips curved up and he released her hand. “Whatever you say boss.”




About the Collection
When this woman steps into a room, heads turn and people listen. Whether she's commanding a new business venture, coaching a collegiate football team, or diagnosing and healing people, she's focused, influential, and passionate, and she's not about to apologize for it.

But there is loneliness and fear she can't ignore, and questions soon follow. Is a second chance meant to be, when the first was a disaster? Is her distrust of all men warranted when only one has truly ever hurt her? Can she set aside an age difference to find love?

Most of all...when a man who is everything she's never realized she wanted is right in front of her, will she be ready for the biggest undertaking of her life?

Lose yourself in these three novellas of powerful women learning that sometimes love is the one in charge.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

August 16, 2019

this one's for 21-year-old me

Me at 21 in Southern Illinois.
Nothing by confidence, optimism and determination.

Three days after I graduated from college, I packed up my Mazda Protege and drove 500 miles from my home to Southern Illinois. I'd been offered an internship at a newspaper there for the summer. Even though I'd never been for a visit and had only spoken to the editor twice by phone, I'd accepted. Hot off an internship at my local newspaper, and with a freshly minted journalism degree sitting on the desk at home, I saw this as the first step in the career I'd mapped out for myself.

On a rare quiet evening, I'd typed up a timeline for myself in a Google document. It looked something like this:

  • Summer 2008 - Intern at newspaper, get breaking news and in-depth clips for portfolio
  • Fall 2008 - Land a reporting job at a larger newspaper, get political clips for portfolio; write first contemporary romance novel
  • Fall 2010 - Move to a larger newspaper, get human interest clips for portfolio; get an agent for fiction and publish within the year
  • Fall 2012 - Start grad school; freelance for magazines; begin pattern of publishing two new romance novels every year
  • Summer 2014 - Take off summer to backpack Europe
  • Fall 2014 - Begin part-time faculty appointment; continue to freelance for magazines; continue publishing schedule (perhaps try a historical romance too?)
  • Summer 2016 - Turn 30; teach writing workshops; get movie deal; ease up on journalism to focus full-time on fiction; repeat forever

Just a simple plan for a young woman who thought she had it all figured out. I'd work my butt off for about eight years, and by the time I was 30, I'd have everything I ever wanted with virtually no adversity or difficulty.

As a result of a computer failure, this is the only photograph I have of me
from my college graduation. But even in this you can see I was always more
interested in what was next rather than what happening in the moment.

My first instinct just now was to type "what an idiot." But I'm going to be kinder to my past, idealistic self. While I was incredibly naive, as I drove to Southern Illinois with a Foo Fighters CD blasting through the speakers, I had boundless confidence, optimism and determination. In truth, I miss waking up every day believing that even if today was tough, it was all leading me toward the professional happily ever after I'd written for myself. I miss having that much faith in myself and others.

I pulled into the first motel with a price that I could afford and carried my suitcase upstairs. I was still looking for a short-term apartment, so I figured my TV, movie and books could wait till the weekend when I'd surely have living arrangements all worked out. I settled into bed with a freshly delivered pizza and watched as Ryan Seacrest declared David Cook the winner of that season of American Idol. My future started the next day, and I was ready.

Of course when I pulled up to the newspaper, I realized I had no idea where I was supposed to park or even which door I should walk through. I used the front entrance for the first and last time that day. The woman at the front desk showed me to the news cubicles and told me to grab a chair while I waited for the editor to arrive.

That was the high point, professionally speaking.

To make it clear: I don't blame the newspaper or any of its employees for how that summer went. With the power of reflection, I see that I went into the whole experience with unrealistic expectations. Also, I forgot about the fact that I'm actually pretty shy when I'm in new settings, and I'd never been so far from home for such a prolonged period of time. It was much more difficult for me emotionally than I'd imagined. And while I came away with solid clips, more knowledge and even a job offer (which I turned down for reasons I won't get into here), that summer gave me more of an education outside of the job than in it.

Southern Illinois is beautiful. On the weekends I would often drive
somewhere picturesque like this. As a broke intern, I couldn't afford to do
much more than drive places, but the views are still ingrained in my memory.

When short-term housing didn't pan out, I booked a room at an even more affordable (translation: cheap) motel that I could pay by the week. While I had a TV in the room, I didn't have much more than a few channels on the TV and no reliable Wi-Fi connection. And in that first month, I didn't have any friends. Most of the people around my age worked on the copy desk, which meant they had vastly different working hours than me. And while everyone was kind, for the first time in my life I felt completely alone and lonely.

Though I dabbled a little at a story I'd outlined, I found myself reading most of the time. I'd stay up late in the motel, curled up with a book while I tried to ignore the sounds of the people in the rooms around me. I'd grab a Diet Dr. Pepper and cheese and crackers (you eat interestingly when you live in a motel room that doesn't have a fridge or microwave) and dive into another story while I sat with my back against a tree at a park.

Those first weeks, I worked my way through the small pile of books I'd packed along. I finished all of my Catherine Coulters and Julie Garwoods. Then I picked up a couple of books by new-to-me authors that I'd received in a grab back at a writing conference. One of them was Rachel Gibson. Reading her books led me to do some Google searches (when the Internet worked) and somehow I stumbled upon a copy of Julia Quinn's The Duke and I on Google Books. I'd guess it's because they're both published with Avon, but however it happened, I started to read the story.

Within a few pages, I was completely hooked on Simon, Daphne and the rest of the Bridgerton crew. I stayed up all night to finish, because I desperately needed to know that everything would work out.

The next day, I drove to the bookstore after work and bought the only Julia Quinn books I could find (the recently released The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume) and put in a request that they order the Bridgerton books so I could finish what I'd started. 

Even now, I can't entirely explain what it was about these books that gripped me. I suppose that's how it works with most books we love, right? We just love the stories and the characters, and we think about them all the time.

But as I'm in a reflective mood, I know that one of the reasons I still love these books is because they became my friends at a time when I needed them. They made me laugh. They were with me when I wanted to cry. They became my friends.

Almost exactly one month after I started my internship, I made a few friends in Southern Illinois. We went out for drinks and dinner. We attended concerts and parties. I learned to play darts and Elton John's "Levon" and Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman" became two of my favorite songs to play on a jukebox. I didn't have as much time for reading as I did before. That was a good thing. I lived a lot in those two months. It changed the experience I had there for the better. And as a writer, it's important to live, feel and experience as a point of reference. Okay, it's good for being a human in general, but it's still important for the writing!

Even though I was busier, I still made time to continue on with my Julia Quinn books as they began to come into stock at the story. I took days to read them instead of hours. She became a favorite author then. She's been a favorite ever since.

So I was ridiculously excited when I saw her name on the agenda for this year's Romance Writers of America Conference in New York City. I had already signed up to attend, but I cleared my schedule of everything else on Friday afternoon, because I desperately wanted to attend her AMA session.

That shyness from more than a decade ago came back. I'd only been sitting at the AMA a few minutes when I realized I'd never be able to form a question clearly enough in my head to ask it out loud. It was only a few minutes after that I realized I was too shy to wait in line after the program to go up to Julia Quinn and tell her exactly what she and her books meant to me. I knew I'd have zero chill. Even more than I wanted to meet her, I didn't want to completely nerd out and look like an idiot.

It was approximately ten minutes after I left the AMA that I regretted not saying anything. I'd had a chance to talk to one of my all-time favorite authors--one of the people who inspired me to stick with my dream of writing a book--and I'd been too scared of looking like a dork.

I must have had a few karma chips to cash in, because the next day as I was leaving my final event of the day (one I hadn't even officially planned to attend) I saw Julia Quinn standing between me and the exit.

This was it. My second chance. And I might not get a third.

Even though I was every bit as nervous as I had been the day before, with a friend by my side, I casually made my way toward Julia Quinn. Not wanting to be rude, I stood off to the side a little to avoid interrupting her conversation. In that minute or two, I must have talked myself into staying and being brave half a dozen times.

When she noticed me, I did my best to speak at a reasonable pace. And even though I felt like a character spilling her guts in a very grand gesture way (I'm still as dramatic as I was a decade ago), I told her how much I loved her books, how much they meant to me, and how excited I was for the Bridgertons to be made into a Shondaland Netflix series.

(In case you haven't heard that news, yep. It's totally happening.)

And you know what? It was wonderful. Julia Quinn was grateful and gracious. She talked to me a little about the series and her excitement about that. The more seconds that passed by, the more normal it felt. From it, I learned a few more valuable life lessons.

  1.  Don't be afraid of putting yourself out there or doing something just because it scares you.
  2. It's okay to nerd out. People appreciate knowing that their hard work has meant something to someone else.
  3. Make time for people. Be kind. Be gracious. You never know just how much an interaction will mean to that person.
  4. Go ahead and meet your heroes. I know there's a saying to the contrary, but the potential reward is worth the risk. Plus the hopeful, idealistic young person still inside of you will be forever grateful and proud.


Meet your heroes. Here's me meeting one of mine, Julia Quinn,
at the Librarian/Bookseller/Blogger Networking Mixer at the
Romance Writers of America 2019 Conference in New York City.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

July 12, 2019

summer reading list 2019 - part one


I don't know if we're technically halfway through summer yet, but I sure hope so. Like much of the U.S., it's been ridiculously hot here in Nebraska. (I know, I know. This past winter was awful. But I'd take my boots and scarves any day over this humidity.)

This hot weather has kept me inside (I'm delicate, aka a wuss), which has given me ample time for reading. Of course, it hardly feels like I've made a dent on my TBR list (to-be-read list). I constantly feel like I'm playing catch-up!

Still, here's a look at the books I've read since Memorial Day.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Back in April, I joined a virtual book club to read and discuss this book. After a few chapters and a few online meet-ups, life got in the way and the discussion trickled out. I kept with the book and just finished it. By no means an easy read, White Fragility delves deeply into what is probably the most important conversation we should be having, but is also one of the most difficult. The book addresses why that might be difficult and really opened my eyes to historical and contemporary factors involved with racism and prejudice. I highly recommend.

Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker by E L James

It has been seven years since I read the Fifty Shades series, and I figured it was time to revisit the books. A few of my friends and I had a Fifty Shades movie marathon (complete with games and treats) in June, and the timing seemed right. I still enjoyed the books seven years later. And this time, I read them paired with . . .

Grey and Darker by E L James

Told from Christian Grey's perspective, we revisit the Fifty Shades franchise. They cover the same time period as the original trilogy, but explore more of what's going on with Christian. I actually really appreciated figuring him out more. We see a lot of his past through a series of dreams and flashbacks. We also go into some of his therapy sessions. It all gave some perspective that showed he was more than a megalomaniac billionaire. And, yes, if Freed comes out, you bet I'm reading it.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

On a rainy weekend evening, I re-watched the BBC/PBS adaptation starring Matthew Rhys. (I miss him, and The Americans, which was my January/February binge.) Having watched the series a couple of times, I figured I should finally read the book. It wasn't quite as dramatic or angsty as  the TV adaptation, but I still found it enjoyable. Also, it fit the tone of Austen's books pretty well. My favorite part was getting a better understanding of Darcy's love for Lizzie, and the struggle that nearly kept them apart. I've been reading fan fiction since I was 12, and this met my Austen fan girl expectations.

Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

As a fan of the "My Favorite Murder" podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark (shout-out to my fellow Murderinos), I was eager to dig into their joint-memoir/self-help book. While it leaned more self-help than I'd imagined, I found myself emotional and inspired at several points of the book. While longtime listeners of the podcast will be familiar with some of the anecdotes shared, Karen and Georgia delve deeper and share some deeply personal stories from their past. A quick read that gave me feels and made me proud of these hilarious women.

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

This book maybe wins the prize for best cover of 2019. I adore it and the other elegantly illustrated covers in the trio. The first book in the series, we get the set-up. Three women wronged by the same man, who don't find out he was two-timing them all until he dies in a freak yachting accident. (As you do.) This second-chance romance of sorts was more emotional than I expected, with a more serious tone than some of Lauren Layne's other works. However, I liked that women's fiction feel and found myself anxiously flipping the pages to find out what happened next during the last half of the book. I laughed. I teared up. I pre-ordered the next book in the series.

Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

I've had this romantic comedy sitting on my Kindle for longer than I care to admit. After seeing it pictured on Instagram over the Fourth of July weekend, I picked it up on a slow afternoon later that week. And I couldn't put it down. For fans of laugh-out-loud romantic comedies, and for those of us who still believe in the possibility of fairy tales and happily every afters, this story was perfectly, ridiculously adorable.

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

After falling down the Fifty Shades rabbit hole this summer, I thought a bit about the original source material (the Twilight trilogy). When a friend asked if I'd ever read the first part of Twilight from Edward's point of view, I realized I'd only read an excerpt. And I inhaled it. I don't know, as effective as a single first-person point of view book can be in storytelling, there's something satisfying about revisiting the story from a different perspective. Fact: If Stephenie Meyer ever finished the rest of this story and went on to tell the final three books in the series from Edward's POV, I'd totally read them. I'm also thinking a Twilight series re-read is in my near future.

Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern

My latest read, I heard about Howard Stern's new book in an interview he did on the podcast Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. As a child of the '90s and '00s, I'm of course familiar with Howard Stern, particularly his days as a shock jock. But what I knew less about was the change in his interview style and personal life in the past couple decades. Part memoir, but mostly a collection of his favorite interviews from the past 20 years, I was intrigued by Stern's personal and professional development stemming from intense psychotherapy. Plus, as someone who enjoys honest celebrity interviews, this book delivered.


Still on my TBR list this summer:

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting
Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
The Mister by E L James
The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
After by Anna Todd

These are also on my list, but I may keep them for fall reading, because, yikes my list is long and giving me anxiety!:

Back to Your Love by Kianna Alexander
Couldn't Ask for More by Kianna Alexander
Death by Dissertation by Kelly Brakenhoff
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Hope Rides Again by Andrew Shaffer
Acting on Impulse by Mia Sosa
The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson
Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

What have you been reading this summer? Any new favorites? What's left on your summer reading list?


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

June 27, 2019

falling

This month I fell in love. With Words. Again.

In some ways it took forever. In others it seemed to happen all at once. It also wasn't the first time I fell for Words. Still, it might be the hardest I've fallen, both in terms of the journey and how deeply it happened.

As some readers may have guessed, and others know from more private interactions, Words and I have had a rough couple of years. Most relationships go through highs and lows, and it was no different for us. It started as a reading slump. That moved into writer's block. What transformed into self doubt and fear radically changed into something so terrifying in myself that I wasn't sure I'd ever come back.

True story: About a month ago, I thought it was highly possible that Words and I might be headed for a divorce.

Then it happened. Not like diving head first into a pool, but more likely dipping a toe in the water and wading into a lake.

After being in a multi-year reading slump, I started this year determined to read at least 50 books. It didn't matter if they were new-to-me reads or re-reads, I just wanted to read at least one book every week. I started out slowly. I even stopped for a while in February after losing a close family member. In those first weeks of grief and depression, nothing I read or wrote had any life to it. But then I pushed myself to fulfill a few reading obligations, and slowly but surely I found myself enjoying stories. I still wasn't sure if I'd ever have my own Words to write again, but at least I was losing myself in books.

It seemed like it had been forever since I was lost in a book--either my own or someone else's.

That must be how I found myself reaching for a series I'd read and loved seven years ago. I picked up the first book, and I was quickly transported. Not just into the story, but into who and where I was mentally and emotionally seven years ago.

Seven years ago I was in a job I didn't like, but I'd found a way to make most days a little fun. That usually included organizing an office Olympics pool or bringing in treats from my latest baking experiments. (I was just learning to be daring in the kitchen at that time.) I read two or three books a week. I wrote every day--often for this blog. I'd finished writing my first two books, and I was just looking into querying. I was very much in transition, but there was one thing that was absolutely true: I loved Words with every fiber of my being.

Reminded of our better days, I continued to read the series. I also decided somewhat impulsively to take off a week from my current day job with a goal of seeing if I couldn't make something happen with Words.

On the Sunday of that week, I opened up one of my unfinished projects and made a list of all the scenes I needed to write. I set a timer and I wrote. After a few writing sprints, I ended the day with about 1,000 words. That's nothing compared to the words I used to produce back in my prime, but still, it was a healthy start. I started again the next day and came up with an even better showing. By then, I could see the end in sight for that novella. I woke up Wednesday, and for the first time in a few years, I felt excited to open up a blank page and fill it with Words. So I did. I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. It wasn't always fun. It was never easy. But the Words came. And every time I finished a scene or a chapter, I overflowed with pride and excitement in what I was doing.

By the end of Tuesday, I'd set a new personal best for most words written in a day. I'd also finished that particularly story. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne I'd bought myself as a prize.

On Wednesday, I opened up another story from the to-finish pile, and I realized I had even less to do on that than I'd originally thought. So I plugged away and by mid-afternoon on Thursday, I'd once again finished.

I've written somewhat intermittently since then, pausing to do some edits and to brainstorm and develop a few other stories. But the Words are always on my mind. Not as a looming reminder of something that was once great, but now eludes me. Now, they're on my mind as something that gives me excitement in waking and dreaming every day. The value comes from what I'm reading or writing, not in worrying what others might think about what I'm reading or writing. It's about doing the best I can while I can.

In a lot of ways I feel like I'm on a honeymoon again with words. It isn't always perfect. Sometimes it rains on the day we're supposed to go on an excursion. But they're a good part of my life again. And this time, I'm trying not to take them or this good time we're having together for granted.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 7, 2019

a recipe from 'playing house'



When I briefly moved to Texas, I noticed a bunch of restaurants selling kolaches. Curious, my mom stopped by one of the stores and came with a few for us to try. We were a little surprised to discover that these were sausages wrapped in a yeasty dough, kind of like pigs in a blanket, rather than what we were used to having at home.

As a Nebraska girl (and one with family roots in the Wilbur-Claytonia area) I was familiar with the Czech dish. Pictured to the right, they use that same yeasty dough, though instead of being filled with savory sausages, they are topped with preserves like a danish (only not quite so sweet). The prune are my favorite.

While writing "Playing House," I included a scene where the heroine, Bailey, stops by her sister's with a bag of breakfast and coffee. Since they're Texas girls, I decided to have them dine on this savory dish while they gossiped about the state of their relationships.

I shared the excerpt of that scene on Tuesday (click here to read it) but you can try the recipe out for yourself.

Make Your Own Kolaches

Ingredients

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
Sausage links, preserves

Directions

1. Dissolve yeast into warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Scald milk on stovetop. Add butter and sugar. Allow to cool.

3. Add in salt and egg. Combine with yeast mixture. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time, kneading. Dough will be somewhat sticky, but it will come clean from fingers. Leave dough to rise until doubled in size (about one hour).

4. Cut dough into strips and wrap around sausage to make Texasstyle kolaches. Or roll into small balls and flatten, making a deep impression in center to fill with preserve of choice. Rise for 1 hour.

5. Bake on lined pan for 15-20 minutes at 375 F.


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

February 4, 2019

#teasertuesday: an excerpt from 'playing house'


The past two days had been nothing short of spectacular. Even though Bailey knew this was temporary, she’d probably replay some of those moments forever. 

See? Thinking like that proved she needed a hard reality check from her sister. Otherwise, she was setting herself up for disappointment. 

Armed with two cups of coffee and sausage kolaches, she was about to ring the bell when the front door swung open. Her hand froze over the buzzer and she came face-to-face with a man she’d never seen in her life.

“Uh . . .” 

She stepped back and double-checked the numbers over the door in case she’d lost her mind and landed on a stranger’s front porch. Nope. She was in the right place. Who the heck was this guy? What was he doing on her sister’s porch with his fly undone and shirt half-buttoned? And why wasn’t he Felix? Not that Bailey wanted to see Felix’s washboard abs. Or lack of them—she hadn’t really considered what he was working with under those work shirts. But he was the one who should be doing the walk of shame from her sister’s house at this hour. Not some stranger.

Her heart sank. Had something happened between Paige and Felix? Wilder said Felix was making a trip back to Houston for the weekend to visit his parents. The last she’d heard they were going strong. If everything was fine, then . . .

Paige suddenly appeared behind Mr. Six-Pack. Wrapped in a robe, her messy hair was a tell-tale sign she’d just pulled herself out of bed. She offered a welcoming grin even as Bailey’s eyes turned to slits.

“What a nice surprise.” Her eyes traveled to Bailey’s hands, and her grin grew even brighter. “You brought breakfast.”

“Enough for two. Sorry.” Bailey directed a quick glare at her sister’s guest, who was still standing around half dressed. “I didn’t realize there would be a third.”

Check back on Thursday to get my recipe for Texas-Style Kolaches!


She’s a work in progress, and he’s a fixer upper.
Sparks fly when Bailey meets Wilder on the set of a home-improvement TV show.

Click here for more information about Playing House.


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 31, 2019

shelfie: my january bookshelf

This year I set a goal for myself to read 50 books. I pledged it via the Goodreads Challenge, and I also created some printable inserts for my planner to keep track. Now, I'm sharing a rundown with you readers to keep myself honest (or something like that).

Quick note: There will be a few omissions this month and next. I am reading about half a dozen novels and novellas as a RITA judge for Romance Writers of America. As such, I'm not allowed to publicly share what books I have read as a judge. I'll include the page and book numbers in my totals while keeping the titles and authors a secret. Fortunately, with the temperatures dipping and the snow accumulation rising, I've had ample time to read otherwise this month.


Here's what I read in January:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

For Better or Worse, To Love and to Cherish and From This Day Forward by Lauren Layne

My Two Husbands by Amanda Askel


I'm also in the process of reading No Safe Place by Sherri Shackelford. I'll have to give you an update on that one in my next monthly reading recap.

How about you? What did you read in January?


***Let's take this relationship to the next level. Join my Facebook Reader Group for in-depth discussion on everything from books to our favorite binge-watches. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for day-to-day shenanigans. Subscribe to my monthly newsletter AND score a free copy of one of my books as my thanks to you. You can also find me on Amazon and BookBub.***

January 22, 2019

teaser tuesday: counting on you

Blogger's Note: For this Teaser Tuesday, check out a scene from my latest release, "Counting on You." In this scene, Haleigh has agreed to let Ian set her up with a dating profile on his new app, XO On Demand. We will have a read along of this book in my Reader Group on Facebook beginning February 1. 


She must be crazy. While she’d cut someone out of her life for calling her that, it was the only logical explanation Haleigh could come up with as she downloaded a beta copy of XO On Demand onto her phone.

Only the day before she’d been set up on her first blind date ever. Now, here she was, giving online dating a shot.

What a difference a day made.

She’d been completely serious about never considering online dating. She knew people who had tried it—and successfully. Not that she judged, but it seemed like such a direct and confrontational way to meet someone. By putting your profile out there, you were proclaiming to the world that you were on the prowl.

In another five minutes, she’d be one of those people. After she finished the setup and the survey Ian assured her would be fun, she’d have her first string of potential dates. Brought to her through the magic of technology.

All because she couldn’t stand the idea of her classmates judging her.

If she was one of her own students, she’d tell them it didn’t matter. That after high school no one cared what people thought. And she’d be lying.

The download completed, and the app opened on her screen. She followed Ian’s directions to create her account. His play-by-play wasn’t entirely necessary. The directions were pretty self-explanatory, but he seemed eager to help. It eased her nerves. Some.

“This is where it gets interesting.” Ian clicked a button, taking her to the next page. “Instead of having you answer fifty questions about who you are and what you want, we’ve created a quiz of sorts. Would you rather go camping or stay in a five-star hotel? Which breakfast looks most appetizing? What—”

“I’ve got it.” She flashed him a grin to soften her tone, but she needed to concentrate.
There were so many questions. None of them were too complicated or earth-shattering, but she had to choose correctly. Her future lineup of men depended on it.

Question One: Which of these dishes would you order right now?

She selected a basket of chicken strips with fries.

“That’s what I’d pick, too,” Ian said. “What do you use for dipping?”

“Honey mustard.”

“Barbecue.” He shook his head. “I knew there had to be something wrong with you.”

At least his teasing made this a little less nerve-racking. “You guys aren’t going to use these answers and sell my information to restaurants now, are you?”

“Of course not.” But he tapped his chin thoughtfully. “It isn’t a bad idea, though.”

Question Two: Where would you rather spend a Saturday afternoon?

She didn’t even have to consider this one. She picked “Binge-watching TV in my bed.”

“What’s your go-to show?”

“You heard that one last night,” she reminded him. “Doctor Who. But I’ve been known to do a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars marathon from time to time”

“Which episode is your favorite?”

“Five.” That’s what everyone always said. There was probably something about the bad knocking down the good at the end of the Empire Strikes Back that made a person seem deep. After Greg had explained that to her years ago, she’d made it her customary response.

Only when she was being totally honest, she’d admit she liked Return of the Jedi best. She loved those Ewoks.

“Okay, you’re forgiven for the honey mustard.” Ian drank from the pint that had been delivered a few moments before. “But I’ll admit, I’ve never seen Doctor Who.”

She tore herself away from the phone. “Seriously?”

He lifted a shoulder. “It’s not because I’m opposed to it. I just haven’t watched.”

She muttered about how sad it was that some people never truly lived as she returned her attention to the quiz. It took her longer than five minutes—particularly with Ian chiming in on almost every question—but eventually, she reached the end.

Are you ready to get matched?

Was she?

If she was answering, “Do you want a date to your reunion so Nina and your former classmates can shut up and Greg can suck it?” the answer would be yes. Absolutely. With bells on. As for whether or not she actually wanted to date anyone . . . that was more complicated.

Was she taking the whole thing too far? It was one thing when it was an abstract idea, but this would involve real people. And not just a random guy a co-worker set her up with. She’d be auditioning men who were online looking for love. Or a hookup. They weren’t looking for drama and baggage.

Then she remembered one of the comments freshly added to the reunion event page today. “What’s the high-low on Haleigh showing up at all?”

She clicked “find me a date.”



"Counting on You," the first book in my Amarillo Sour series
is on sale January 21-27, 2019. 


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