Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Hello Holidaze!

I should be used to it by now. I never get anything "real" done or accomplished between Thanksgiving and New Years - the HOLIDAYS take over.

Not to suggest that's a totally bad thing.

This will be my first Christmas season in 22 years that I have a full-time job with an actual boss and desk job and whatnot. Because as much as being mommy is a full-time-all-the-time job, and writing, editing, etc. are jobs where I'm responsible only to myself, now I have to plan my holidays around conference calls and meetings and deadlines. You know, like most people.

How? I spent over an hour on what had to be one of the most useless conference calls I've been required to attend, and my thoughts kept drifting to the half-decorated tree in my living room and the wrapped ornaments waiting in their containers... luckily I got up at 5 a.m. on Saturday and finished off the Christmas card list before I finished the whole pot of coffee. (there was still a cup left. half a cup.)

And I have cookies to bake for my son and his fellow Air Force cadets, to drop off for the annual cookie wrap party I don't have time to attend. Which reminds me I need to take the butter out of the freezer if it's ever going to thaw. Maybe by the time I get home from the holiday event my neighbor is dragging me to invited me to join her for tonight...

Take a deep breath. You. Me. Everyone.

The Holidays are not about doing it all or squeezing everything in to an already packed schedule. The Holidays are about reconnecting with friends and family, (the point of those holiday cards) and enjoying the little things about the season that only happen this time of the year. The carols on the radio. The smell of pine in the home. Unwrapping the decorations and ornaments that each hold special meanings to your family, and sharing those stories with each other for the umpteenth time as you unwrap each one.

My mother's favorite holiday was Christmas, and she always found new ways to show her love of the season with an excess of gifts, silly or needed, new decorations and ornaments (but never getting rid of the old ones, either) and parties to make sure everyone was included in the laughter and good cheer. Now that she's gone, the holidays haven't been as bright, but I'm starting to see the sparkle again. You won't see it unless you slow down and look. You won't hear the jingle unless you stop and listen. I think that's what I need to focus on, not that she's not here to enjoy it with me, but that the magic is still all around us if we take the time to find it.

If it means you don't find time to write, so be it. Take a break and return in January with a renewed sense of purpose. If it means you're inspired to write - go for it. As long as you make time to absorb the magic of the season around you.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday Book Reviews: The Holidays are Coming...

In the spirit of getting ready for the Christmas season, I devoured a few Christmas themed books this Thanksgiving weekend (as well as a few others) and offer two Christmas tale reviews here, but also a few general thoughts:

ONE. A good cover is really important for a Christmas story. Readers looking for a warm holiday story are even more swayed than usual by the promise on the cover, even if the blurb is less than stellar. (Or maybe that's just me.)

TWO. A good Christmas story should stand on its own and not leave a reader hanging. It's Christmas. I want my HEA more than ever during the stress leading up to holiday week.

THREE. A fun title can suck a reader right in, especially when the cover isn't Christmas-y enough. Yes, I usually dislike gimmicky book titles, but Christmas seems to be the exception to many rules.

Now, on to my reviews for the week (yes, I added an extra since I skipped last week. Enjoy.)

 Must Love Mistletoe, by Christie Ridgway
Published 2011

About the Book:
Bailey Sullivan can't stand Christmas, even though her family's business is a store specializing in the perfect holiday. But now her hometown's chief supplier of rooftop Rudolphs and treetop angels is in danger of going under--and it's up to Bailey to save the shop.

She has it all planned: She'll arrive on December 1 and be gone by Christmas. Plus there's always spiked eggnog to ease the pain. But "Humbug" Bailey's not the only one home for the holidays. Finn Jacobson, legendary local bad boy turned Secret Service agent and Bailey's long-lost high-school boyfriend, is once again the boy next door. Only this time he's all grown up, and the sparks are flying faster and hotter than ever!

Bailey believes in true love about as much as she believes in Santa Claus. But as the holiday draws closer, she's starting to think about one thing she'd like to find under the tree...
MY TAKE:

As I said in my intro, so many sins are forgiveable in a Christmas story. This book is a fast read and rather sweet, even though we get too many points of view, endless flashbacks and what seems like a bit of a rushed ending... and the blurb really doesn't let us know what all to expect. But I loved the title, which doesn't go with the blurb now that I read it. Right. I bought this because of the power of the title alone. Crazy, right? That's what Christmas does to people.

Bailey has trust issues stemming from her father's careless abandonment of their family. She watched her mother fall apart when her heart was broken and vowed to never love again. Finn, the bad boy next store was her first love but when things got serious she ran away from the relationship before he could break her heart, in the process hurting them both anyway. The story begins when she's forced to come home to care for her mother at the same time Finn is forced to return to care for his sick grandmother. Sparks - and misunderstandings - fly fast and furious, with both characters flashing back in time to their hot and heavy high school romance. 

The dual storyline not mentioned in the blurb is between Bailey's mom Tracy and her second husband Dan, whose separation provides the catalyst for Bailey's return to her hometown. We get chapters in each of their POVs as well, which show us the misunderstandings that arise from lack of honest communication in a marriage (mixed with a hefty dose of mid-life crisis.) Another good storyline, but it kind of felt stitched together to make the story long enough to be a standalone instead of a novella.

Will Bailey and Finn find a way through their walls? Will Tracy and Dan throw away a great marriage based on empty-nest syndrome and a few grey hairs? Will all the storylines wrap up neatly with a bow in the December 1st-through-Christmas timeline? Yes, it all wraps up but I won't tell you how. If you're looking for a holiday read that's mostly sweet and filled with family angst, and you don't mind multiple POVs and flashbacks, try this novel. The paperback has a cuter cover, but the Kindle cover is catchy enough. The title is great even if the blurb doesn't tell you the whole story.

Grab a copy on AMAZON.

Unexpected Gifts (Castle Mountain Lodge Book 1), by Elena Aitken
Published 2011

About the Book:
Christmas represents everything Andi Williams is supposed to have, and doesn't. Running away to a remote mountain lodge in the Canadian Rockies, sounds like the perfect way to escape, until a mix-up finds her sharing a villa with sexy, rough around the edges, Colin Hartford.

Colin's determination to enjoy the holiday he’s missed for the last five years, sweeps Andi into a season of joy that she’s not sure she’s ready for. Can Andi open herself up to everything the holidays have to offer... including love?
MY TAKE:

I actually love this cover, and really like the blurb, even though after reading the book I'd write a different blurb. And probably choose a different title as this one is not descriptive or catchy in the least. Colin is not a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy. He's sweet, sophisticated, successful, thoughtful... all around yummy. And "remote mountain lodge" is a poor description of the purposefully rustic over-the-top resort complex just a few hours drive from the city.

If you suspend disbelief for a few of the plot points - including the crucial one where a guy who can afford a 3-bedroom villa at this expensive resort is a nice enough to offer to share it with a perfect stranger - and just go with it, this is a fun, fast read that will leave you smiling through most of it. A sweet story with just a little steam, this was a nice holiday story with wonderful descriptions of the snowy Canadian mountains and little special touches a resort can conjure to make holidays away from home pretty magical. Having spent many Christmases working at my family's Vermont inn, I enjoyed all those little touches the author added.

This is the first in a multi-book series about this particular resort, and is currently free on Kindle (or was when I wrote this.) Grab your copy on AMAZON today for a holiday smile.




P.S. If you're an author with a holiday book you'd like me to feature or review, feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Announcing a New Newsletter!


You may - or may not - have noticed the new banner in the left column, and the sign-up widget right below it. Yep, I've finally given in and joined the newsletter bandwagon!

Not only is this a really great group of authors, but with a group like this there's going to be a great selection of bi-monthly news and information. "Something for everyone," you could say, straight into your inbox every other month beginning in December.

And if you sign up now to subscribe, your name will be entered into a raffle to win one of 3 great giftcards to be awarded at the end of December.

Each issue will bring news of book sales, new releases, and giveaways, as well as special promotions and events. Like I said, something for everyone. So don't wait - sign up today to be entered to win and to receive our first issue in December!



Wild Roses & Romance...
Stay in the know!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Monday Book Review: BORDER HEAT by Hebby Roman

Border Heat, by Hebby Roman
Published May 2016 by Estrella Publishing

About the Book:
Leticia Rodríguez is a business woman and an advocate for divorced mothers seeking children support. Despite all her accomplishments, she hasn’t recovered from her failed marriage and losing both her parents in a freak accident. The last thing she wants is a sexy Latino attorney pursuing her.
Eduardo Villarreal has two law degrees, one from the States and the other from México. He’s a self-made man and an expert in international law, but like Leticia, his personal life has suffered… the loss of his unborn child, a divorce, and the passing of his mother. And when he learns about the father who betrayed him, he hardens his heart to love… wanting only revenge.
Despite their pasts, Leticia and Eduardo begin an affair. But when she discovers his political ambitions are fueled by vengeance, she realizes he has no room in his heart for love… or her.

MY TAKE:

This is a quiet story of second chances, filled with slow-building sexual tension, drama built out of misunderstandings, small town sensibilities, and emotional yearning that transcend borders.

Leticia lives in a small Texas border town, having dropped out of college to run her parents furniture store after their sudden deaths. Despite the daily struggle to compete with the chain stores, she also finds time to volunteer to help single moms track down their deadbeat husbands. It's in pursuit of this goal that she meets Eduardo, a lawyer from the Mexican side of the border who agrees to help track down the men running away from their child support obligations.

Sparks fly when the pair first meet, but both have been burned before. Each was previously married and dumped by their spouse, and each fears repeating past mistakes or letting anyone get too close. The author gives us alternating points of view from both Leticia and Eduardo, so the reader is privy to the inner fears and secrets they keep from one another.  The author also flavors the story with Spanish words and phrases, mixing them liberally into the dialogue in a way that made the story's setting feel more authentic.

Ms. Roman does a masterful job of painting two broken people both yearning and fearing that second chance at love. I loved the growth of Leticia's character, as she shed her cocoon and spread her wings, realizing her own inner strength and desires, and standing up for what she believed in.

Grab your copy on AMAZON.