Yes, I just had a baby, and yes, I've just released a novel. Does that make me Super Woman? Okay, not gonna lie, it kind of does. ;)
In all seriousness, I know there are several of my author friends who have been astounded by the fact that despite having just had a baby, I got right back into my writing game and have a new release for Christmas. Many have said they couldn't possibly have done it. But could they? I suppose it's all a matter of personality and how easy-going your baby is.
I've been very blessed with Sam. He's easy to please and allows me to set him down for good chunks of time which means I can still find time to focus on my writing, and do things like maintain housework. And one of the things that I really wanted to do this year was have at least four new releases. Since I'd released the illustrated version of "Talori and the Shark" (which isn't quite new since it was in Fantastic Creatures), "Leticia's Song" in Hall of Heroes, Katie's Chance for Romance in the Fall Into Romance set, and Toil and Trouble, I needed just one more to make the goal. So it was important to me, if for no other reason than to prove I could do it, to put out one more book.
The funny thing about Of Snow and Mistletoe is I started it with every intention of it being a fantasy.
I know, you beta readers are going, "Wait, really?"
Yes, really. When I first got the idea in the form of that lovely title, I imagined a winter fairy story. Action, adventure, magic, and a little touch of romance because, well, mistletoe. I started writing and I realized it wasn't working. So I scrapped what I had and started a free-write session.
(If you're a writer, free-writes are lifesavers. Seriously, free-write as often as you can!)
Lumi and Crispin were still there, but in a totally new way. Rather than saving the fairy world, they were going to the mortal world to be matchmakers. And they weren't even going to get a regular matchmaking assignment. No, they were going to go to Christmas Pine, Michigan and help a married couple rekindle their romance. The more I wrote, the faster the story came and the more I loved my characters. Side characters came in who will have stories told in coming years. For now, enjoy Merry and Alex's story and learn with them to always put your loved ones first.
Merry pulled the large prelit tree out of its box with a smile. She knew Alex hated getting it set up, but it was better than the days of walking around and around the tree with strings of lights. Really, it didn’t take too horribly long to get the tree into its stand. Fluffing the tree took longer and Alex always grumbled that a real tree didn’t need to be fluffed. While Merry knew he was right, she also knew neither of them had the time or patience to take care of a real tree. She didn’t think she could stand the amount of sweeping it would take to clean up as dried needles fell. So a fake tree worked just fine for her. Hanging pine-scented ornaments on the tree did a fairly good job of creating the illusion of a real tree. She tucked them in where they wouldn’t be as easily visible. Once the tree was fluffed and ready, she looked over at Alex who was hanging wreaths in the windows. “Want to help put the ornaments on?” she asked.
“Be right there.”
She opened the box of ornaments. Their first Christmas ornament stood out to her immediately. Merry smiled as she put it on the tree. Had it really been four years? In some ways, nothing had changed. A frown creased her brows as she realized some things had. They no longer seemed as close as they had once been. The frown disappeared as Alex’s arms wrapped around her. “Aren’t you supposed to be putting ornaments on the tree?” she asked.
“I am,” he replied, nuzzling her neck. “There’s a bare spot right there, see?” He hung an ornament on the branch.
Merry giggled as warmth spread through her. “Ah, yes, wouldn’t want a bare spot. Good thing you saw that,” she added, turning toward her husband.
“We might have missed it all together,” Alex said, leaving a lingering kiss on Merry’s mouth.
She couldn’t think when he kissed her like that. Their home phone rang. “Ugh, mood killer.”
“We don’t have to answer,” Alex whispered, his lips teasing her ear.
The caller ID read aloud, “Debra East-el”
Alex snorted. “I wish we could program pronunciation. Then Eastle would sound like ‘easel’ like it should.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” The phone rang again and Merry grimaced. “I better see what Grandma wants. You know if I don’t answer she’ll assume we’ve been kidnapped or murdered. At the very least maimed.”
He kissed her forehead. “Go ahead. I’ll keep decorating.”
She smiled and then went to grab the phone just before it went to the answering machine. “Hello?”
“Good heavens, Merry, why haven’t you been answering your cell phone? I’ve been calling it for the last half-hour with no response. I was so terribly worried something had happened to you. Good thing I remembered I had your home number or I might have called the police and reported you missing!”
Mentally counting to ten, Merry replied, “After only thirty minutes, Grandma? Really, I’m fine. Alex and I are enjoying a tech-free, home date tonight.”
“Oh dear, did I interrupt your date?”
Yes, and I don’t appreciate it. “It’s all right. What did you need?”
On Monday, October 30th I waited my turn at the doctor's office, hoping to hear that Baby could come at any time. Instead, I was told my body was nowhere near ready to start labor and my baby was breach. A c-section was scheduled for Thursday, unless Baby managed to turn around before then. I went home nervous and admittedly telling my baby the entire thirty-minute drive, "You've got three days to turn around." Once home, I started contacting family to let them know what was happening. My dad asked what they could do to help, Mom reassured me that everything would work out fine, and my mother-in-law asked if she should try to rearrange things to come earlier than the planned visit my in-laws had already set up. I emailed my husband so he could arrange a substitute teacher for his classes.
Wednesday I had my pre-op appointment and i sat nervously waiting. I knew Baby hadn't moved from his position. Not even a little bit. My doctor was running a little behind and my wait was longer than normal. As I sat waiting, Baby started to move. A lot! I got a little hopeful. Maybe we could skip the whole c-section thing after all! Went back with doctor to the ultrasound room. Baby was now sideways, with his back down. "Why don't you come into my office and we'll talk about what this means for you, Mom, because this will change things," My doctor said. Somehow I knew this wasn't changing in my favor, so I grabbed my bag and followed him to his office. He explained that with how Baby was now positioned, he would need to do the more difficult c-section incision. "I've done it before and you can heal fine from it, but it will have more scarring and take more time to heal." Fabulous. I didn't care too much about the scarring part, no one really sees that area of me anyway, but the idea of a longer recovery time made me nervous. I had three other children at home who would need me. "The good news is, since your baby has turned this far, there is a better chance he'll figure out how to move the rest of the way and then we can just wait for the baby to pick a birthday."
Again, I drove home telling Baby to turn around, and again I called family to update them on what Doctor had said. I talked with the babysitter about having to be at the hospital at 5:45 the next morning and offered to let her stay overnight at my house so she wouldn't have to get up at 5 to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the hospital. She accepted the offer and promised my two at home that they would have an awesome sleepover together.
Very early on November 2nd, my husband woke me up and we drove to the hospital. I could tell Baby had shifted around again, I just wasn't quite sure which direction he was. He had moved a few times during the last several hours and there was part of me that wanted to tell my OB, "If he is head-down, just induce me. I don't think I can handle another week or two of this!" We arrived at the hospital, the nurses got me situated, and my doctor arrived. "Has Baby turned?" he asked.
"Yes, but I have no clue where he or she is now." I replied.
Using the ultrasound, they discovered Baby was still sideways, but had moved in such a way that the vertical abdominal cut would not be necessary. "Let's get you into the OR and have this baby before he decides to turn around yet again!" Doctor said.
And so the anesthesiologist came in and explained what he would do and the OR nurse helped him wheel me into the OR. My husband waited in the hall while they got everything they needed to set up. That was probably the most nerve-wracking time in the whole experience. I trusted my doctor, the anesthesiologist had put my mind to ease, and I knew I was being taken care of. But not having my wonderful Prince Charming there just made me nervous, especially when they strapped my arms down. Shortly after that, they brought Jonathan to me and the anesthesiologist said, "Now son, you're going to sit right there and hold your wife's hand."
Within moments my doctor and the med student came into the room and the anesthesiologist said, "Now, you're going to feel some movement, and you're going to feel some pressure. But if you feel any discomfort or pain, who are you going to yell at?"
"Good girl," he said, patting my shoulder. The entire time they worked, he and Jonathan talked to me, keeping me calm and helping me feel more in control than I really was.
Soon Doctor was pulling Baby out and asked, "Want to know what you're having now?"
"You have a boy."
I couldn't hear much after that because our baby boy was born with a healthy set of lungs and he was letting the world know it was cold and too bright and he did not appreciate any of them just then. My pediatrician showed him to me and I knew right then little Samuel Christian had joined our family. I smiled. "Hi, Sam," I said and kissed his little forehead before the pediatrician took him to get cleaned up and the anesthesiologist sedated me so Doctor could take care of my needs. While the birth wasn't what I had planned, I was grateful for a healthy, happy baby boy and for excellent medical care. I learned after I had woken up that our little boy was born at 8:10am at 19 1/2 inches long and a whopping (for Elliott babies anyway) 8 lbs. 7 oz.
So, why the name? My dad is Samuel and hadn't known we were considering his name for a baby. (Yes, Daddy, sometimes I can be sneaky.) When he asked, I couldn't word my answer very well. But now I'll explain. Samuel Christian has always been a name on my list. Ever since I was twelve or thirteen and first decided that someday I was going to be a mommy and would have to have names for all those babies I planned to have. I've always been Daddy's girl. Always. So the idea of having a boy named Samuel after my hero daddy really appealed to me. Christian was a name that hadn't been used in a long time and I loved the way the name sounded. I was even okay with flipping the name around to be Christian Samuel if my spouse preferred.
When Jonathan and I got married and started talking about family, I told him it was important to me that we use family names. I didn't care too much which side of the family they came from, but I wanted our children to have family names. "Give them a legacy to live up to." So Jonathan and I went through our family history and started picking names, I gave him my list from when I was twelve. A couple names that weren't extremely important to me got nixed. But we both liked Samuel Christian. "We could turn it around if you wanted," I told him.
"No, I think Samuel Christian sounds just right with Elliott."
This conversation was had back when we were expecting our daughter. With our oldest, we'd discussed mostly names that I had liked and my sweet Prince Charming hadn't had much input for me. When my husband's grandfather became ill, I said, "If we do have a boy, wouldn't it be wonderful to name him for your grandfather and mine?" And after that, I think part of both of us knew we would be having a boy. The other names fell to the side and we saved the big "name discussion" for later. I still have the list with the names we have picked out. Three have now been crossed off the list because we've used them.
Little Sam, since we don't want to confuse his PaPa too much, is perfect in every way. And it wasn't until my mother told me a funny story of a conversation she and her coworker had that I realized we had Sam Elliott in the family now. Which only makes my little one's name the more perfect since his namesake loves a good western. And I have to admit, I agree with her coworker. "Oh, I hope he has a deep voice when he grows up!"
So, if you know anything about me at all, you know I love, love, love fairy tales. I especially love it when authors get creative with them and twist them around. This is what you should expect from the upcoming release Cinderskella from mother-daughter duo, Amie and Bethanie Borst. Curious? Oh, me too! But first, let's meet these ladies and then we'll take a peek at the cover and learn more about this middle grade fairy tale retelling.
Amie Borst loves glitter, unicorns, and chocolate. But not at the same time. That would be weird. She’s a PAL member of the SCBWI as well as a founding and contributing member of The Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors, a group blog dedicated to middle-grade books. Amie lives in Virginia with her three beautiful daughters, her handsome husband, and two cute dogs named Lily and Maggie. She wishes she could travel the world in a hot pink elevator but for now, her minivan will have to do.
Bethanie Borst is 17 and the author of three books. When she was only 10 years old, she wrote her first book, Cinderskella. She enjoys reading, writing, and STEM. Bethanie is fluent in both sarcasm and humor and is prepared for the zombie apocalypse and/or spontaneous combustion of the world. Because, let’s face it, both of those things are totally realistic.
First of all, huge hats off to you, Bethanie! That's an awesome achievement to have written a book so young.
So, let's talk about that book. Cinderskella is a rerelease with a brand new, shiny cover (which looks amazing, by the way) and new illustrations. It will be available in February 2018. That's a ways to go yet, but look at that cover! Doesn't it just beg you to pick it up? Let's find out what Cinderskella is about:
It’s not just monsters that go bump in the night. Sometimes it’s skeleton-girls, too.
Cindy might appear to be your average twelve year old, but since her mother’s death she has a secret. Every night she faces a horrible, terrible curse; one that turns her into a skeleton. Yup, a boney, white skeleton.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Cindy’s own father is scared of her. Plus she has an evil stepmother who makes her do crazy chores, some of them with a toothbrush. And then there’s the wild dog with intentions of making Cindy into his midnight snack. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Spring Fling dance is fast approaching and Ethan, the cutest boy in sixth grade, doesn’t seem to know she exists. Cindy doesn’t think letting Ethan know she’s a cursed skeleton-girl is the best way to introduce herself. Determined to break the curse, Cindy travels to the Underworld where things aren’t quite what they seem, including Mr. Death, the strange and creepy Undertaker.
With a jar of pickled pig’s feet, a wacky fortuneteller, and an cranky skeleton mouse, Cindy is afraid this curse has really gotten under her skin.
This just sounds like a fun read for young and old. If you want to stay in the loop with Cinderskella and her authors, make sure you follow Amie and Bethanie. I know I'll be anxiously waiting to pick this book up!
Amie's website: www.amieborst.com,
Bethanie's website: www.amieandbethanieborst.com
I just love release days! And today, Toil and Trouble is available!
College student Allie Jones has everything going for her. She's got a good job, is working toward her degree, and has a great car. Her life is ordinary and predictable, until one day a stranger enters her gift shop and attempts to kidnap her. Saved by a young man named Dez who claims to be a fairy guardian, Allie finds herself traveling to the Fey Realm where she learns fairies, mermaids, and elves are real and she was never as ordinary as she thought.
Together they work to discover who was behind her attempted kidnapping and what they were really after. The plot they uncover threatens not only the Fey Realm, but the mortal sphere as well. With an elderly witch, a snarky cat, and a glowing bird as their companions, Dez and Allie prepare to take on the greatest challenge either has ever faced.
Just for fun, I thought I'd show you some of the different ideas I had for the cover design. I wanted something fall and also a little ominous. Toil and Trouble has a happy ending, but it's also got some spookiness to it and some definite tension. While the original image here (left) is definitely fall, it was a little too light and cheery. So a few tweaks to saturation and hue gave it the look I wanted.
Then it was time to find a cover model. A wonderful friend of mine has a daughter who, while younger than my main character, looks exactly as I envisioned Allie. After talking with her and with her mom, we planned a photo shoot and had a great time together. Then it was time to decide which of the many great pictures we had was the right one for the cover. And I had a few ideas:
My husband and I looked at the concepts we'd created and tried to pick the best one. The left and right ones were our favorites. While the middle picture looks great as a picture, we were having a hard time getting the color and lighting to match the background we wanted to use. After sending the two we liked to my cover model to see what she preferred, we chose the left concept. And then it was time to really begin polishing. Fonts were changed out and the photos softened and blended. I'm pretty happy with how the final cover turned out. I think it perfectly sets the mood for the story. What do you think?
Toil and Trouble is available for a temporarily low price of 99 cents through the end of the month. After Halloween, the price will be raised. So, get it while it's on sale and enjoy this trip into the Fey Realm!
I can't believe it's finally release day! Fall Into Romance isn't just a preorder anymore, it's live! I know I speak for all the authors in the set when I say we are so excited to share these wonderful fall tails...tales with you.
Surround yourself in the romance of the autumn season with 10 heartwarming, sweet novellas from USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors.
Each story takes you inside the heart of a small town—its people—and features adorable animal friends in need of a forever home.
Take a trip to Romance, Oregon, where falling in love has never been easier and happily-ever-after is guaranteed!
Finding Forever in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker
Brent's hands are so full he doesn't realize his heart is empty. But how can he convince Nicole to trust him and give them all a chance at the forever family they deserve?
Lost in Romance by Stacy Claflin
Work is Alisyn’s life. Everything is perfect until the day her boss’s son comes to town and takes her breath away. Will she risk it all for love?
At Second Glance by Raine English
Can an ornery French bulldog help a mismatched couple find love?
Blown Into Romance by Shanna Hatfield
Free spirit Brooke Roberts blows into Romance like an autumn storm, unprepared to fall for the handsome rancher who gives her a reason to stay.
Wired for Romance by Franky A. Brown
Electrician Josh Chadwick can rewire his new client’s house, but he can’t do a thing about the electricity sparking between them.
Restoring Romance by Tamie Dearen
She’s a big city chef who likes cats. He’s a small town mayor who restores antiques. But even with feline allergies at play, true love is nothing to sneeze at.
Finding Dori by J.J. DiBenedetto
She’s a loud, pushy New Yorker who drives him crazy. He almost ran her over with his truck. Of course they’re perfect for each other…
Katie’s Chance for Romance by Jessica L. Elliott
Five years ago she pushed him out of her life, but she couldn't force him from her heart.
Chasing Romance by Liwen Y. Ho
When pop sensation Chase Lockhart wants more than a room at Izzy Sutton’s Bed and Breakfast, she must decide whether it’s worth opening up her heart to him, especially when he’s eleven years her junior.
Lessons in Romance by Kit Morgan
A rooster, a tortoise and love, oh my! Now if the humans could just figure out the love part, they might all live happily ever after.
Franky A. Brown
Franky A. Brown has always called the South home and loves to write about it. She holds an English degree from the University of South Carolina and can’t seem to stop reading. She is the author of women’s fiction and chick lit about life, love, and Southern women.
Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling author and a lifelong storyteller. When she was a child, she would get into trouble for trying to convince others that her stories were real. She scarred her younger cousin for life with her Cavity Monster tale. Another time, she convinced her friends that her grandfather had made her a robotic unicorn.
Now she saves her creative imagination for novels. Whether Stacy's writing urban fantasy, suspense, or contemporary romance, she always has thrills, twists, and turns. You can count on surprises and an enjoyable escape.
Tamie lives with her very romantic husband of thirty-three years. They have two grown daughters (the inspiration for the daughters in The Best Girls Series) and one grandson, and a twelve-year-old boy, recently adopted from Ukraine. Tamie loves to play, sing, and write music. She started writing books in 2013 and published her first book in October of that year. Since then, she’s published six novels and a novella. She also wrote a free serial romance on her weekly blog, A Rose in Bloom. And in her spare time, she’s a dentist. (But she’s painless.)
Tamie met her husband as a freshman in college when she acted out of character on a whim. One night in the library lobby, she spied a cute guy with his first name written on the back of his shirt. She called out his name. When he approached to talk to her, she pretended that she’d met him before, asking about his classes and how he liked college. To her surprise and delight, he also pretended that he knew her, but of course he didn’t know her name. They continued this false relationship for two months. Each time they saw each other, an event which occurred three times per week at the cafeteria, he would pretend he knew her. Meanwhile, all of Tamie’s friends were careful not to reveal her name to him. When he finally admitted his ignorance of her name, he was astonished to learn the truth. And the rest is history.
J.J. DiBenedetto is author of the Dream Series and the Jane Barnaby Adventures and lives in Arlington, Virginia with the love of his life and a white cat who rules the roost. His passions are photography, travel, the opera, the New York Giants, and of course writing.
Mr. DiBenedetto is devoted to writing books with a sense of mysticism to entertain and perhaps invite his readers to suspend belief in a way they might never have.
Since he was very young, he has always been intrigued with the supernatural and things that can't be explained rationally. By always asking way too many questions, it piqued his interest to the point of setting his writing off and running when he grew up! All the curiosity building up all those years was finally put into words to captivate readers. And it hasn't ended. His main goal is to share all the stories he has inside, putting pen to paper. And that's how the Dream Series was born.
Jessica L. Elliott
For as long as she can remember, Jessica L. Elliott has been telling stories. As soon as she could grasp a pencil she began writing those stories down. Reading fueled her imagination, as did spending time with her five younger brothers and sisters. Everything was an adventure, something to be treasured and stories were her first love. Jessica began seriously writing in high school and continued into college while attending Emporia State University where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. She wrote and released her first novel, Charming Academy, in August of 2011. Jessica currently lives in southwest Kansas with her husband and children.
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Raine English writes sweet small-town contemporary romance, paranormal, and romantic suspense. She's a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and a Daphne du Maurier Award winner. Raine lives in New England with her family and two French bulldogs, Bailey and Dolly.
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Liwen Y. Ho
Liwen Y. Ho works as a chauffeur and referee by day (AKA being a stay at home mom) and a writer by night. She penned her first children's picture book, "A Rainbow of Nine Colors" in high school (now available at Meegenius.com) and has been writing for grown-ups since 2014.
She also enjoys writing about real-life matters, such as marriage, parenting and faith because truth can be as strange and entertaining as fiction. Her work has appeared in various online publications, including LiteraryMama.com and MomLifeToday.com, and she is a contributor at StartMarriageRight.com.
In her pre-author life, she received a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Western Seminary, and she loves makeovers of all kinds, especially those of the heart and mind. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her techie husband and their two children, and blogs about her adventures as a recovering perfectionist at www.2square2behip.com.
A consistent Top 100 lists bestseller, Kit Morgan, aka Geralyn Beauchamp, has been writing for fun all of her life. When writing as Geralyn Beauchamp, her books are epic, adventurous, romantic fantasy at its best. When writing as Kit Morgan they are whimsical, fun, inspirational sweet and clean stories that depict a strong sense of family and community. 'His Prairie Princess' is the first of the Prairie Brides books and the first in the series of a long line of stories about Clear Creek, Oregon. One of the wackiest little towns in the old west! Get to know the townsfolk in Clear Creek and come sit a spell!
Melanie D. Snitker
Melanie D. Snitker is the author of the inspirational romance Love’s Compass series. She has enjoyed writing for as long as she can remember. She started out writing episodes of cartoon shows that she wanted to see as a child and her love of writing grew from there. She and her husband live in Texas with their two children who keep their lives full of adventure, and two dogs who add a dash of mischief to the family dynamics. In her spare time, Melanie enjoys photography, reading, crochet, baking, target shooting, camping, and hanging out with family and friends.
Readers, I can hardly believe there is only one day left until we launch Fall Into Romance!!! I'm so excited for you to read about Mike and Katie and their furry companions as well as the awesome characters and animals created by my author friends. Today though, I'm finally sharing a recipe several of my friends (and a few readers) have begged me for:
S'More Cherry Cake
Back when I was still in the writing phases of Katie's Chance for Romance, I came to the sudden realization that Mike needed a killer recipe to bribe Uncle Earl into helping him with some home improvement projects. Since my favorite place to experiment is in my kitchen, I decided it was time for me to get to work. What would a single guy with an incurable sweet tooth want to make that was easy, delicious, and cheap?
My first thought was some kind of cake. Obviously if allergies weren't an issue, he could just grab a box of mix at the store, and then go from there. But in my house, allergies are an issue, so doing a boxed mix wasn't an option for me. When we first discovered our daughter's allergies, I found this amazing recipe for cake that didn't use dairy from Sweet Little Bluebird. It, and its variations, became a staple in our house where finally my two children with allergies could enjoy a cake without rashes and discomfort afterward.
Now a cake is nice, but if it's going to impress Uncle Earl, it needs to be amazing! That's when the idea of combining two of my favorite treats, s'mores and cherries, came to mind. It took a few tries to get it just right. My husband and children had no problem being guinea pigs for me and when I took the recipe to our family reunion, it was a hit there too! So this is a tried and true, amazing cake recipe. If you want to substitute the cake portion with a boxed mix, go for it! Just follow the instructions on the box and then continue on with the instructions in my recipe. This is a great summer or fall treat with all the fun of camping without the mosquitoes.
S'More Cherry Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F
Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
Mix ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Pour into a greased 13x9 inch cake pan and press mixture flat to create a crust.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 T cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar
5 T canola oil
1 cup water
Sift together dry ingredients. Add liquid ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are combined in a batter. Pour over the graham cracker crust. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Leave oven preheated.
1 can cherry pie filling
Appr. 40 large marshmallows
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Graham cracker crumbs
Once cake has been baked, spread cherry pie filling over the top. Top with marshmallows placed close together (I always have 8 rows of 5 marshmallows in my pan). Place in oven and bake 10-12 minutes until marshmallows expand and are slightly browned on top. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl (or on your stovetop in a small saucepan). If using a microwave, heat chocolate chips 20-30 seconds at a time and stir between each cooktime until chocolate is smooth.
Once you have removed the cake from the oven, drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the marshmallows. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs.
Delicious warm or when chilled.
Oh my goodness, readers, we are only one week away from Fall Into Romance launching! It's so exciting and I'm thrilled today to have author Stacy Claflin visiting my blog today with her favorite scene from Lost in Romance. USA Today bestselling author Stacy Claflin entertains readers in a variety of genres, from paranormal to suspense to sweet contemporary romance. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, and as a child would often get into trouble trying to convince friends her wild tales were true. Now she puts her creativity to better use by writing page-turning books that leave readers begging for more.
The scene she shared is definitely an example of leaving you wanting more. While she didn't give any specific reasons for this scene to be her favorite, I think you'll see why it's so much fun. But first, a little about Lost in Romance:
Work is her life. He’s the boss’s son. Will she risk it all for love?
Alisyn has thrown herself into her job to avoid facing her past. It has been perfect so far. And as a bonus, working as a nanny lets her be part of a family that she adores. Her job is perfect until the day her boss’s grown son comes to town and takes her breath away.
The last place Shane Rockford wants to be is at his dad’s house with his new family. He just wants to survive the trip without losing his mind or his temper. After meeting his dad’s nanny, Shane finds a compelling reason to be in Romance, Oregon—Alisyn Bennett.
Dr. Rockford is furious that Alisyn and Shane are going on a date, and he will stop at nothing to keep them apart. Will Alisyn risk her job–her everything–to be with Shane, or will Shane’s father once again ruin his life?
Shane and Alisyn made their way to the polished wooden skate floor. The way it shone made it look dangerously smooth.
“I’m right here,” Shane reminded her.
Alisyn lost her balance and wobbled forward.
Shane put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed her hand. “Still here.”
“All this, and we haven’t even made it to the rink,” she muttered.
“Don’t be embarrassed. If I hadn’t been in hockey all those years, I’d probably be worse. Think of that—you’d have to hold me up!”
She groaned, thinking of what a mess that would be.
“Come on. Glide the skates onto the floor. You won’t fall. I promise.”
Alisyn held her breath and pushed her left foot forward. It was all she could do not to close her eyes. She remained upright, mostly because of Shane. Then she slid the other foot onto the rink. She gasped in surprise at how quickly the wheels took her.
“See? You’re doing great.”
Miles and Piper flew by them, laughing and poking each other.
Alisyn shook her head. How could a four- and a six-year-old make it look so easy?
“Don’t focus on them.” Shane’s voice was smooth like honey, calming her. “You’re doing great. I’m not the one keeping you up.”
She turned to him and realized he’d let go of her shoulder. Her right skate flew out from under her. The ground moved closer to her at a speed she couldn’t comprehend.
“Whoa!” Shane grabbed onto her arm, but she continued falling. In fact, he was heading for the floor, also. In one big tangled mess, they both landed with a hard thud. Pain ran through her hip, which took most of the impact. She opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was a bunch of cheesy, multi-colored plastic jack-o’-lantern decorations hanging from the ceiling.
She turned to him. “I thought you promised I wouldn’t fall.”
“You caught me off guard!” He threw his head back and laughed.
His laughter was contagious, and she joined him, too amused to be embarrassed.
“Let’s try that again.” He rose and pulled her up. “This time, don’t freak out. Okay?”
“Freak out?” She shoved him. “That was not me freaking out.”
He rubbed his elbow. “Tell that to my bruise.”
She snickered. “I’m sure it isn’t half as bad as the one I’m going to have.”
“Hopefully, those will be the only ones we get tonight.”
Alisyn grimaced. “I wouldn’t hold your breath. If you want to get out of here unscathed, you might want to run.”
He shook his head. “Not a chance. I’m not giving up on you.”
Alisyn’s breath caught. The intensity in his eyes made it seem like his words meant much more than just skating.
This scene just makes me giggle since one of my first dates involved skating (though mine was ice skating) and I was about as proficient as Alisyn. Be sure to preorder if you haven't already and consider joining us for our Facebook launch party (just click the image to go there). We would love to see you (and your furry friends) there!
Have a great weekend, readers!
Happy Friday, readers! And it's the first day of autumn to boot, which brings us just that much closer to the release of Fall Into Romance. Are you excited? I know I am! Today I have Raine English with me to share her favorite scene from her novella, At Second Glance.
USA Today bestselling author Raine English always wanted to be a writer. She began her career as a journalist, but writing romance novels was her passion. Her books have won many awards, including finalling in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart and winning the Daphne du Maurier Award. When not behind her computer, you can usually find her reading. She lives in New England with her family and two French bulldogs, Bailey and Dolly.
When asked why she picked this particular scene, Raine said, "There’s a lot going on in this scene, and it sets up a couple of major plot points. I love the way Claire and Julian interact with each other over his wanting to adopt Tank. And then there’s the part where Claire sees Gracie with another man and questions whether her sister’s marriage is in trouble."
So what is At Second Glance about? It can be summed up in one sentence:
Can an ornery French bulldog help a mismatched couple find love?
Claire was so glad it wasn’t raining. Whenever you went to an outdoor event in Romance, you ran the risk of getting wet. Luckily, that wouldn’t be the case today at the town festival. It was partly cloudy and cool, but there was no rain in sight.
The event was a big deal, and people were already lined up outside the entry gate, even though it wasn’t due to open for another thirty minutes. The smells coming from the nearby food booths were making her mouth water, and she knew she’d wind up eating more than she should today. Add that to the fact that she overindulged last night when she went out to dinner with Gracie, and there was no doubt that she’d need to go on a diet by the time she headed home. But she considered this time in Oregon a vacation, and she intended to enjoy it.
Claire was happy that Gracie had agreed to come today. She didn’t know how long her sister would stay, but at least she was here and out of the house, even if only for a while. She’d left her at the craft booths, where Gracie had been looking at some handmade jewelry.
The animal adoption station was under a large white tent. Brent had pulled up all the sides in order for there to be a full view of the animals’ kennels. She’d been able to convince him to bring Tank, as long as she promised to keep watch over him. Although he wasn’t near ready to be adopted out, she hated to leave him behind. This would give him the opportunity to be around a large number of people and for her to see how he reacted.
She’d put his kennel at the back of the tent, not wanting to draw attention to him. Tank seemed perfectly content chewing his bone, and as long as Claire sat next to his cage, there was no growling. Brent had a large number of volunteers, all determined to find homes for as many of the animals today as possible, so she was more than willing to take a backseat and let them deal with the public. She’d stay with Tank and make sure all the animals had enough water and that their cages were clean.
Once the gate opened, she settled back in her chair with a hot cup of coffee and watched the parade of people flow by. It didn’t take long for a number of the smaller dogs to get adopted. Even a large hound went to a young couple within the first hour. At this rate, there might not be any dogs left for her to take back to Doggie Town. She glanced over at Tank, who was asleep on his back with all four legs up in the air. His future, though, was yet to be determined. He might not be the easiest dog to find a home for, especially, after she was gone. It was very apparent he needed tons of attention, which wasn’t unusual for the breed. But it took a special kind of person to commit the time required to keep a dog like Tank from developing a whole host of behavioral issues.
Claire was just about to go get a refill on her coffee when a familiar face entered the tent. Her breath hitched in her throat when Julian Barnett’s clear blue eyes locked with hers. He made his way through the crowd that packed the tent to stand in front of her.
“Looks like the Finding Forever booth is the hit of the festival,” he said, flashing her a brilliant smile.
“Rightfully so. These animals deserve to be in good homes, not in kennels.”
His gaze shifted over to Tank, who had flipped over onto his belly and was eyeing Julian with uncertainty. His curled lip was back as was his grumble. “Who’s this guy?” he asked, placing his hand on the top of Tank’s cage. Big mistake, as the dog leapt up and let loose a full-out snarl.
He quickly pulled back his hand. “Are all the dogs this friendly?”
“Tank has some emotional issues.”
“I can see that,” he said with quiet emphasis.
“He was given up by his family just the other day, so it’s going to take him some time to get over losing his home,” Claire replied, sticking her hand in the kennel so that Tank could lick it.
“He likes you well enough.”
“It’s a case of understanding the breed. Frenchies need lots of love and attention. They’re not the kind of dog you can leave home alone all day. If you do, you’ll find that they can become very destructive.”
“I want to adopt him.”
Claire’s brows shot up “What? As you can see, he’s not ready for adoption, and I haven’t even given him a temperament test yet.”
“I don’t care about that. I’ve already seen what his temperament is.”
“T-today’s not a true indication of what his true temperament is,” she stuttered, completely at a loss as to why Julian would want Tank. “Look!” She pointed to the other kennels. “There are plenty of dogs you can adopt. Just not this one.”
“But that’s the one I want.”
“Why?” she asked, not trying in the least to keep her annoyance from showing.
“It’s obvious he needs to be with someone who can give him lots of affection. You said that yourself. I can do that. I can even take him to work with me. I’ll bet with your help, before long Tank and I will be great buddies.”
Claire’s jaw dropped open. “What do you mean, with my help?”
“I want to hire you to help me work with Tank.”
Claire’s face grew hot, and her temper was rising. She made a concerted effort to keep her voice low. “This isn’t about what you want. It’s about what’s best for the dog.”
“And you don’t think I can provide a good home?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what did you say?”
“Look, Tank’s not ready to go anywhere yet. He needs lots of work.”
“Exactly why I want to hire you. Why should Tank have to spend more time in a cage when he can have the run of my house? I’ll bet that’ll make him feel better in no time. Besides, there’s no one there but me. And if he bites me, I take full responsibility.”
“I don’t want him biting anyone. Not even you.”
“I’m glad to hear that your feelings for me are improving.”
For the first time in ages, Claire was at a loss for words. Julian Barnett was the most incorrigible man she’d ever met.
Unfortunately, this was the moment that Brent decided to come over to say hello. “Hey, Julian! How are you? Looking to adopt today?”
Julian’s glance shot from Brent over to Claire and then back to Brent. “As a matter of fact, I am.”
“Fantastic. I’ve got a great lab mix over here.”
But as Brent started to walk across the tent, Julian stopped him by saying, “I’ve been talking to Claire about adopting Tank.”
Brent ran a hand through his hair. “And what did she say?”
“That Tank needs a temperament test first, but I really don’t care about that. I want to hire Claire to help with the dog’s adjustment to me and my home.”
To Claire’s horror, Brent grinned. “That’s great. I was worried about being able to place Tank, but this seems like the perfect solution.” Brent turned to her. “Thanks so much for agreeing to do that.”
Claire opened her mouth to protest, but snapped it shut as she thought better of it. This wasn’t the time or place to get into an argument. Best to wait until later to voice her objections. But then things went from bad to worse when Brent and Julian went over to the table and began doing up the adoption papers. A few minutes later, they were back.
“Since you’re not going to be in Romance that long, why don’t you do the temperament test tomorrow, Claire? And if all goes well, you can bring Tank over to Julian’s and begin training. How does that sound?” Brent asked.
“Fine,” she replied through gritted teeth.
“How’s one o’clock?” Julian asked, looking like the cat who’d just swallowed the canary.
“That’s fine too,” Claire replied, shooting him a tight-lipped smile.
“Good! You know how to get to the Barnett Winery?”
“Of course,” she said sourly.
“My parents’ house is right next door. Mine is next to that. It’s the tan one-level home. You can’t miss it. Well, guess I better get back to my booth.” Before he left, he leaned toward Tank’s kennel. The dog let out a low growl. “See you tomorrow. Before long, we’re going to be great buddies.” Julian whistled a happy tune as he walked away.
Claire wished she felt as confident that Tank would bond with him, but right now, she had no way of knowing if that would happen. All she could do was hope and make sure that she did all that she could to integrate the dog into Julian’s home.
The crowd in the booth had thinned a little, so she went to Nicole and said, “I’m going to take a quick break and go grab something to eat. Will you keep an eye on Tank?” What Claire really needed was to walk off some of this stress.
“Sure.” She set down the clipboard she’d been holding and stuck her hand into her pant pocket, pulling out a five-dollar bill. “Would you mind stopping at the doughnut booth on your way back and getting me an apple caramel one?”
“Of course, and I don’t need your money. It’s on me. My thanks for watching the grumbler while I’m gone.”
“Claire, you don’t have to do that. Here, take it.” She held out her hand, but Claire pushed it away.
“I’ll see you in a bit.” She wound through a crowd of people watching a pumpkin-pie baking contest and wondered if Gracie was in among them. It would be nice to have lunch with her. Having company might help to take her mind off Tank’s adoption to Julian Barnett.
She found an empty spot next to the photo booth and took her cell phone out of her pocket, but as she began dialing her sister, she caught a glimpse of hot pink—the same color as the shirt Gracie had on—and turned her attention to a couple about twelve feet away. She quickly hung up her phone. It was Gracie, and she was with a very attractive man. Claire recognized Tim Hayden as one of the guys her sister used to date back in high school. He didn’t look much different from the prom picture she’d seen of him last night that Gracie had on the bedroom floor.
A huge, painful knot twisted inside her. They were standing awfully close together, and Gracie’s face held an expression that Claire hadn’t seen since they were young. It was full of life, and she looked exactly like that beautiful teenager everyone in Romance had adored.
She quickly looked away as a heaviness settled in her chest. Was Gracie’s marriage in trouble? Was that what had been bothering her? She prayed that wasn’t the case, but from what she’d just seen, it appeared likely that it might very well be.
Could this day get any worse, she thought as she headed over to the doughnut booth. What should have been a perfect Saturday, had turned out to be anything but… “I’ll have two apple caramel doughnuts,” she said to the heavy-set man working the booth. What the heck. Her diet had been shot the moment she set foot in Romance.
Poor Claire sounds like she's got her work cut out for her! Have you ever found yourself cornered into doing something you really didn't want to?
Oh my goodness, readers, do you ever have one of those days where you have a million things to do and you get literally zero accomplished? That was my day yesterday, so here we are on Saturday having our Fall Into Romance interview because yesterday was just not happening. But I'm so excited to have author Tamie Dearen with us today to share her favorite scene from Restoring Romance. I've had the privilege of reading this one and it is such a fun story!
First, let's learn a little about Tamie. Tamie Dearen lives in Texas with her very romantic husband—the inspiration for her romance heroes. They have two beautiful daughters, both of whom are happily married, and they’ve been blessed with two awesome grandsons. A dentist in private practice for thirty years, Tamie plays a variety of musical instruments and spends every available spare minute writing books.
Sounds fun and busy! As I said earlier, I really loved reading Restoring Romance and one of my favorite scenes is the one Tamie is sharing with us today. Of it, she said, "Adam spies a new girl in town—one who’s very attractive—at the pet adoption tent, with a cat in her arms. Adam, who is terribly allergic to cats, rushes over to intervene, taking with him a humongous mutt dog to offer as a substitute."
Curious to know more about Restoring Romance?
She’s a big city chef who likes cats. He’s a small town mayor who restores antiques. But even with feline allergies at play, true love is nothing to sneeze at.
When Ash Hendrix moves into her aunt’s historic home in Romance, Oregon, she’s ready to bring New York City style to the sleepy little town. But her dream of remodeling the old home into a stylish restaurant is cut short when the mayor interferes. Her opposite in every way, the infuriating Adam is the last man she could ever be attracted to. So why can’t she stop thinking about him?
Mayor Adam Walker can’t believe the cute blond he met at the festival is the woman who’s trying to destroy his family’s legacy. Initially intent on shutting down her plans, he’s shocked to find himself wanting to fulfill them, instead. But she doesn’t trust him. And why would she, with her traumatic past and his earlier antagonism?
Can these two opposites find happily-ever-after? Not without a little help from their friends and family… and a can of pink paint.
“You’re not planning to adopt that cat, are you?” Adam asked.
“As a matter of fact, I am. Why shouldn’t I?” She lifted her chin, somehow managing to look down her nose at him while he towered over her. It was so adorable, he couldn’t help smiling.
“You might want to consider other options… better options… A dog, perhaps?” Adam swept his arm back in a grand gesture toward Kujo. “Perhaps this cute guy—he could be a companion and provide protection from… from criminals.”
Her plump kissable lips made a surprised O. “Is there a lot of crime, here?”
“Mmm… not usually, but you never know. Just to be on the safe side, you should consider getting a watch dog.”
Kujo let out a deep woof that rattled Adam’s ribcage, and the cat shrieked, struggling in the girl’s arms. She edged away a few steps.
“I think I need protection from that monster, not by him. Anyway, I’m happy with my choice.”
“Why would you want a cat when you could have a dog? Dogs are so much better.”
“I like cats.” Her eyes narrowed to angry blue slits.
Adam knew he wasn’t making a good first impression, but he figured he could make up for it later. After he prevented this disastrous adoption. Desperate times—desperate measures.
“But a dog loves you, while a cat merely tolerates your existence as a slave.”
“Dogs slobber on your clothes and chew up your shoes.”
“Cats scratch your furniture and spit up hairballs.”
“Dogs lick their private parts and then lick your mouth.”
Hmmm… she had a point. What else could he say to convince her? “I didn’t want to tell you, but this is the last chance for Kujo. He has to find a home today, or they’ll put him down tomorrow.”
He regretted his hasty words the instant tears puddled in her round eyes. Her lip trembled as she stuttered, “I… I still can’t…”
“Adam Walker! Why are you lying to Ash about Kujo?” Erin Walker appeared out of nowhere, waving a finger in his face, and he stepped back in the wake of her fury. Kujo added another deafening bark and the cat howled. Her finger moved down to poke against his chest. “You know good and well Brent would never put an animal down. That’s the whole point of the Finding Forever Animal Rescue.”
“I was only teasing.” He lifted his palms in supplication.
“Ash, I apologize for my brother-in-law’s behavior. There’s no excuse for him.” Erin scowled, her hands on her hips, and Ash matched her angry expression.
“It was just a joke, Erin. Give me a break. I’ll make it up to you.”
Erin crossed her arms as an evil smile slid onto her face.
Oh no! What have I done?
Erin whispered something in Ash’s ear, something that made her press her lips together, as if she were trying not to laugh.
“I suppose, we might be persuaded to forgive you…” Erin opened her eyes wide and blinked rapidly, adopting an innocent tone. “Yes, I think we could forgive you if you adopted Kujo. After all, he’s been looking for a home for a long time.”
“Wait a minute, Erin…”
“Why wouldn’t you adopt Kujo?” Ash stepped closer, glaring up at him, the cat still in her arms. “Weren’t you telling me what a good idea it would be to adopt him. Why not do it yourself?”
Adam let out a violent sneeze.
“Bless you.” Erin and Ash said in unison.
“I don’t need a dog.” He rubbed his itchy eyes on his sleeve. “And besides, who could afford to feed this guy. He weighs more than me.”
Erin made a tsking noise. “You should have thought of that before you got Kujo’s hopes up.”
His sister-in-law was a python, and Adam was her helpless prey. The coils squeezed around his neck. He couldn’t speak.
Erin strode away, calling over her shoulder, “I’ll go get the adoption papers.”
I hope you enjoyed this scene as much as I did. I was torn between feeling sorry for Adam and laughing because he got just what he deserved. Have you ever played a joke that backfired on you?
Just under three weeks until release day! We're excited to share this fun set with you!
It's been a long time since I used my blog for a rant, but I've been letting this one boil under my skin for too long and it's time to let it out. This is not directed at a single person, though there are parts that probably sound like they are, but rather a group of people who seem to think it's okay to get snarky when a parent complains about having a rough day.
Let me give you a quick word of advice: keep your snark monster to yourself.
Look, I get it. Those of you who are older and "wiser" parents might think you've got lots of great advice for the struggling parent. And sometimes you do give great advice. But there is a time and a place to give advice and there's a time to just keep quiet. Or at least pretend to be sympathetic. Those of you who don't have children might see that complaint and think to yourselves, "What did you think would happen when you had that baby?" Or you might just not realize that sometimes parenting is rough. However, whether you are an older parent, childless, or also a younger parent, it is never okay to get snarky with a struggling parent. Ever. And really, let's extend this to it's just not okay to get snarky with someone who is struggling, no matter how small the struggle may seem to you.
It might be tempting when you see that parent who always seems to complain about her children being out of control to say something about discipline. But unless she asked for your advice, do not give it. The reality is: she probably does discipline her children. But guess what? Children sometimes misbehave no matter what type of discipline program you use. That young parent might still be trying to find what works for her children. And with the sheer number of mommy blogs claiming to have the perfect solution to any parenting problem, finding what works can be surprisingly difficult. Or, she might have a system that normally works great for her children and they're just having a bad day. Don't make her day worse by giving her some snarky comment. She doesn't need to hear, "Oh, it only gets worse" or "Someday you'll miss this" or "Enjoy this while you can" or any other mix of those messages. Oh, and for those who are childless, this is absolutely not the time to say, "This is why I don't have children." What she needs to hear is, "I'm sorry you're having a rough day" or "This too shall pass" or "Hang in there, mama, you're doing fine."
Yesterday, I was that struggling mom. My kiddos were bouncing-off-the-walls crazy. I normally don't like to complain on Facebook, in part because I get really sick of the snark monsters showing up on my posts. But yesterday, they were so awful, I wanted to be able to vent. Even just a little bit and release some of that steam. And I was trying to lighten my own mood and situation by reminding myself that as bad as my children were being in that moment, they aren't always like that. So I let my Facebook friends know that my children were driving me crazy and were about to discover that early bedtime is a thing. The first two comments were what I needed. Another mom was struggling with her rowdy kiddos too and agreed that early bedtime sounded like a great plan. The next let me know that I was doing fine and my kiddos loved me. Trust me, I needed that reminder. Because right then I was questioning that.
Then the next comment implied that early bedtime would only work for as long as my children couldn't tell time and to enjoy being able to do that while I can.
Let me tell you what, I got mad. My day was already in shambles and I was not in a good mood. Having someone imply that I would stoop to tricking my children into thinking it actually was bedtime incensed me further. For one, I'm too dang lazy to change every clock in my house because seriously, do you realize how many clocks I have in my house between appliances, actual clocks, and media devices? For two, my oldest already can tell time, both on a digital display and a regular, twelve-hour clock. So, attempting to tell him, "Oh it's bedtime" isn't going to work. And for three, deceiving my children about the time in an effort to get them to bed early completely misses the point of, "You're in trouble and as punishment, you are now going to bed."
So, I'll be honest, I let my own snark monster out a bit and replied that deception wasn't the aim and my children were going to know they were going to bed early because they were in trouble.
And the commenter didn't get the hint to drop it. No, they had to come back and respond that putting children to bed early more often punishes the parents than the children.
Seriously? At that point, I knew this blog post would be written, but I waited overnight so I could allow at least some of my anger to melt off. Parenting can be punishing at times. I can agree to that. But you have no right whatsoever to question how I discipline my children. None. I don't really care what worked for you or your children because you are not me and your children are not my children. Let me tell you, there was weeping and wailing at my house when the kiddos realized I was serious about them going to bed early. And it was not me weeping and wailing. They were losing out on playtime and they knew it. They were missing out on dessert and they knew it. They were missing out on seeing Daddy get home from the football game. And they knew it. For my children, going to bed early as a punishment works. Do they end up waking earlier because of it? Sometimes yes, this time no. Would that work for every child? No, obviously it wouldn't. Some children would consider going to bed early a treat. And some children just wouldn't care. But for my children, this solution worked. Do I think it will work forever? No, I don't. But I'm not a one-trick parenting pony. I have many tools in my parenting arsenal and this is just one of them. One that I use only when I'm about to completely and totally lose my mind.
There is enough judgement in our world without adding to it. In fact, there is way too much judgement going around in our world. Social media is like a judgement breeding ground. Rather than adding fuel to that raging wildfire by getting snarky, can't you just keep it to yourself? I can't stop you from thinking it, and I honestly wouldn't try to. Your thoughts and opinions are your own and that's fine. However, just because it comes into your head doesn't mean it should come out of your mouth or through your fingers online.
So please, keep your snark monster to yourself. I don't need him running amok on my Facebook. If you need to, go watch Bambi and listen to Thumper. "If you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."
Jessica L. Elliott
Author, artist, mom and super-genius