Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

To all of you, dear friends, Merry Christmas! 🎄🎅💖

May this season bring you much joy and wonderful memories of time spent with those you love.

For all who celebrate other holidays during this month, I send you the same wishes of peace and happiness.

And I hope the New Year ahead will bring only good things to you all!!  xox

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Yours at Midnight" is here!

I'm so thrilled for my friend Robin Bielman, who has out her newest novella from Entangled Publishing, Yours at Midnight!!! Isn't the cover gorgeous and sexy?!

Check out the blurb:
Lyric Whetsone only had eyes for Quinn Sobel's brother Oliver, until a car crash took Oliver's life on New Year's Eve. Then, a moment of shared grief between Quinn and Lyric became something more impassioned, something that frightened Quinn so much he ran from Lyric's bed and her life, disappearing for four long years.

Now Quinn's back for another New Year's Eve, struggling for closure, desperate to leave his grief in the past and make amends with the girl of his dreams. But Lyric has a secret--one that could drive Quinn from her life forever. Will Quinn run away from the love and acceptance he's always wanted...or will he claim his New Year's kiss and make her his at midnight?
Can't wait to read this -- and you can get your copy now on Amazon and B&N!! Congrats, Robin!!!! (ETA: Giveaway alert!! Robin says that anyone who leaves a comment here is automatically entered in a drawing to win a copy of the book! Woot! Thank you!! We'll choose the lucky winner next Friday. :)
And, since I really don't think the world is ending today, but the weather around here has definitely been frightful, I snorted with laughter when I saw this "New 7-Day Mayan Weather Forecast" on Twitter last night:
Too funny!!! I'm blogging today at Magical Musings and humming R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It"... Hope you all have a wonderful (and uneventful) Friday!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jane's 237th Birthday & a 99-Cent Ebook Deal!

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!!! (Hey, you look fabulous to my eye, even at age 237... ;)

Hope you're all having a happy start to the holiday season! Here, it's been the usual hecticness, but I love that there is NO SNOW in our area yet. (My sincere apologies to snow lovers everywhere but, really, it's like a huge Christmas present for me NOT to have to scrape and shovel that fluffy white stuff while trying to get everything done.) I remember going to an Austen birthday luncheon a few years back and having to deal with blizzard-like conditions on the drive home, so mere rain in December is always welcome!

I sent out my newsletter this past week and, for those of you who didn't know about this, I'll mention it again here: As a special for the holidays, Double Dipping is on sale right now at both Amazon and B&N for just 99 cents! If you don't have copy yet, I hope you'll consider picking one up for yourself or giving it as a gift to an ebook-reading relative/friend.

Wishing you all a wonderful rest of the month, full of celebrations with those you love!! xox

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Summer in Europe Goes Polish!

This is so exciting for me, I actually don't know how to contain it...

Ever since I started writing fiction, it seemed a huge enough dream to get to see my novels published here in the U.S. and Canada. I figured, if I were really lucky, readers in other English-speaking countries or non-native speakers with a strong grasp of the language (i.e., not like my laughable attempts at speaking French...) might just snag a print or digital copy of one of my books and -- in that way -- my stories could travel the globe. Kinda.

But still there lingered this little fantasy I couldn't deny...the one where I imagined how it would be SO INCREDIBLY COOL if a book I'd written were translated into a language other than English, too. That a subrights agent somewhere out there might feel a story I'd written was universal enough to appeal to citizens who were part of another culture, and would think it worth the time and effort to actually translate it.

Well, that happened this week for A SUMMER IN EUROPE... The foreign translation rights were sold for the first time, and the book will be coming out in July/August 2013 in Polish!!! (My editor said the cover wouldn't be available for a while yet, but I'll definitely post a photo as soon as I get one. :)

We have some family friends who are originally from Poland. We went to one of their weddings in September (it was beautiful!), and we got to try a piece of traditional wedding bread dipped in salt. I learned the word for "thank you" (Dziękuję - pronounced something like "jen-koo-yeh"). And, one of my dancing partners from college was Polish-American. Years ago, he brought me some handpainted wooden Easter eggs made in a small village near Warsaw, which I still put out for decoration each spring... But the only other connection I have specifically to Polish culture would be -- of course -- the foods, LOL.

We have a Polish deli nearby and have picked up various delicious sliced meats and sausages and the occasional pastry. But what we really love are the cheese and potato pierogies (Polish dumplings). We buy them frozen most of the time, and just bake them until they're lightly browned. Yum. And I can tell you right now, we'll be having them in celebration this weekend!!

Do you have any favorite foods, songs, traditions or decorations that are Polish? Anything I should be sure check out?? If so, please share!

Also, just a quick FYI for anyone interested: I'm hosting a Fresh Fiction Holiday Contest this month, featuring Godiva Chocolate + HOLIDAY MAN, that runs until December 12th. The giveaway details and prizes are all here!! Wishing you a Happy St. Nick's Day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing

My lovely author friend Joan Reeves (NOBODY'S CINDERELLA) tagged me to take part in this blogging meme, and I thought it was such a fun idea! So...here goes:
What is your working title of your book? Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match

Where did the idea come from for the book? I was thinking about the whole Internet dating world and, having happily met my husband before that phenomena really existed, I've always been pretty curious about it. For fun (and with my hubby's full knowledge, LOL), I checked out a few sites like Match.com and read through a number of profiles. I thought it would be really interesting to have two characters with ulterior motives (not evil ones, mind you, just not exactly "looking for love" as their primary objective) find each other online. And the humor really came into play for me when I imagined twisting some elements from Pride and Prejudice into the story. "Lady Catherine's Love Match Website" is probably one of my favorite online creations!

What genre does your book fall under? Short Contemporary Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Ohhh, I love this question! You know, considering my current addiction to "The Vampire Diaries," I've been looking for any reason to cast Ian Somerhalder in something (ha!), so I think he'd make a fabulous Dr. Will Darcy. As for my heroine, Beth Ann Bennet, I think she could be very well played by Willa Holland, who stars as the younger sister of the main character on the new TV show "Arrow."

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A single mother and an ER doctor meet on an Internet dating site—each for reasons that have little to do with finding their perfect match—in this modern, Austen-inspired story, which is a tribute to the power of both "pride" and "prejudice" in bringing two people romantically together, despite their mutual insistence that they should stay apart...

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? This will be published through White Soup Press (a collective imprint of Austen Authors), and it'll be out in mid-January 2013!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The first draft took about 3 months, but I always, always need time to revise, and that often takes twice as long as the original writing.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Well, it's a light romance, so it's definitely in a similar vein to On Any Given Sundae, Double Dipping and Holiday Man. Or, for those readers familiar with the Harlequin American Romance line, it's a bit like one of those stories, too, but with an Austenesque twist ;).

Who or what inspired you to write this book? The always awe-inspiring genius of Jane Austen and a great desire to honor the 200th release of her masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Whether or not a reader knows the ins and outs of Pride and Prejudice, anyone should be able to follow this story. It's only slightly based on the Austen novel and diverges greatly from it in many ways, beyond just being a modern tale. However, for those who are fans, I hope they'll find some of the character names and situations to be particularly amusing!

And now I get to tag a few awesome author friends, too, who'll be posting about their latest projects on their blogs next Wednesday the 28th. Can't wait to hear what they're working on!!
Malena Lott -- Author of SOMETHING NEW
Edie Ramer -- Author of MIRACLE LANE

This time of year always reminds me of how many people in my life I'm grateful for and how fortunate I am to get to connect with those I care about -- in person or online. Please know, I count all of you among those wonderful friends. Thank you for being so kind and supportive all year long! I wish everyone who's celebrating this week a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!

p.s. Today, as part of Bookworm2Bookworm's Blogoversary Celebration, Holiday Man is the featured book! And I'm giving away a copy there, so please stop by!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Just had to share that HOLIDAY MAN is officially out! Whoo-hoo!!! I'm having a celebration here in northern Illinois :). Alas, there will be no champagne or shirtless men with abs of steel at my little party...but I've got some chocolate truffles and sparkling grape juice in the house, and I'm more than happy to share them with my friends!!

This is quick story summary of my newest contemporary romance:

A Year of Holidays...

Shannon Quinn is the small-town girl who runs "Holiday Quinn" -- a holiday-themed inn and resort based in scenic Door County, Wisconsin.

One winter evening, wealthy Minneapolis businessman, Bram Hartwick, blows into town along with the fast-falling snow. The sparks Bram and Shannon create succeed in heating up the chilly Midwestern night, not to mention plenty of holiday weekends in the year that follows...

But is their relationship only for special occasions, or might it be the elusive everyday love that neither one thought could be found?

It's available now at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords for only $2.99 -- with Sony, Apple, Kobo and more to come soon! Excerpts from the book are on each of the retails sites, so I hope you'll check it out ;).

Also: A wedding announcement!! At Austen Authors, we're celebrating the double wedding of Miss Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy as well as Miss Jane Bennet & Mr. Bingley and, of course, you are all invited to join in the festivities. So, Ladies, slip into your favorite Regency gown (or fancy jacket and boots, Gents) and jump into the fun with us!

And, a question -- what's your favorite kind of wedding cake? The classic white? Lemon? Marble? Something with a strawberry filling? (That's what my husband and I had for ours, and it was delicious.) Untraditional but interesting?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Winners & Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts!

Just a quick note to say CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of Eliza Daly's blog contest: Sandra, who won the Godiva chocolates, and Pamala Knight, who won a copy of Eliza's debut novel, UNDER HER SPELL!! Way to go, ladies!

I hope everyone's having a wonderful start to November. Me? I decided to kick off the month by trying this recipe from Tasty Kitchen for *baked* Apple Cider Doughnuts... ["Not fried" means you can eat more of them, right?! Yeah, that's what I thought, too!] All I'll say is YUM!!! And, well, if a picture's worth a thousand words, here are 3,000 ;).

Next up...I'm gonna try to make pumpkin spiced doughnuts (a girl's gotta have her goals, you know ;). What are you all doing this week??!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Under Her Spell -- A Visit with Eliza Daly

Today it's a pleasure to welcome one of my friends and '007 Golden Heart sisters, Eliza Daly, to Brant Flakes in celebration of her debut novel, UNDER HER SPELL! She’s going to tell us a little about her book, share a story excerpt and offer a fun giveaway: one commenter will win Godiva chocolates and another will get an e-copy of her debut story!! (Winners' names to be randomly selected by Eliza on Saturday, November 3rd and I'll post them here by Sunday the 4th.) But first...here’s a little bit about the author and her book:

Eliza Daly’s first attempt at creative writing was in fourth grade. She and her friends were huge Charlie’s Angels fans and she would sit in her bedroom at night writing scripts for them to act out at recess the following day. She was Kelly Garrett. Fast forward to the present, she’s still writing stories about beautiful women who always get their men. The journey from fourth grade script writer to published author wasn’t an easy one, but it was always an adventure and the final destination was well worth it.

When Eliza isn’t traveling for her job as an event planner, or tracing her ancestry roots through Ireland, she’s at home in Milwaukee working on her next novel, bouncing ideas off her husband Mark, and her cats Quigley and Frankie. You can find Eliza on the web at Website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.  UNDER HER SPELL is available at Amazon or Barnes & Noble (coming soon) or iTunes .

About the book:
When a series of failed relationships and business ventures have Monica Jackson doubting her self-worth, she turns to spell casting to attract positive energy and the opportunities needed to achieve her goals.  But can Monica’s belief in spells restore her belief in herself? 

Monica creates a spell to find her soul mate, and one to ensure the success of her new romantic event planning company, Enhance Your Romance.  Monica is confident she has found her niche until divorce lawyer Reed Walker opens a practice next door to her office.  The anti-marriage slogan plastered on his office window, and his down-on-love clients, quickly prove detrimental to Monica’s business.  When his arrival appears to trigger a string of bad luck, Monica fears one of her spells sent negative energy into the universe and it has returned to her threefold.  Although Reed is beyond sexy, and she admires his self-confidence, she’ll do whatever it takes to get the universe back on her side, and Reed out of her life. No way is she losing another business.

Reed finds himself attracted to Monica’s beauty and her optimism. His job and his parents’ divorce have made him a pessimist, especially when it comes to love. However, he soon finds that Monica’s pro-love attitude is rubbing off on him, causing him to lose his edge.  If Reed doesn’t distance himself from Monica, he’ll likely destroy his reputation as a pit bull divorce lawyer.
Can Monica and Reed look past what they might be losing to realize the love they have found?

Happy Halloween! Thank you so much to my friend Marilyn Brant for having me here today and helping me celebrate the release of my first book. Halloween is the perfect time to talk about my new contemporary romance, Under Her Spell, which contains elements of spell casting. I can trace my curiosity in spell casting all the way back to the first movie I ever saw in the theater, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The thought of my bed whisking me away to exotic places sounded really cool. Maybe that’s where I also got my love for travel.

Practical Magic, with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, has become one of my must-watch movies at Halloween. Their ancestor casts a spell cursing any man who falls in love with an Owens woman to an untimely death. Sandra Bullock’s dad dies when she’s young, and she’s convinced in the curse’s power. Not wanting her love to one day be some man’s death sentence, she creates a love spell listing qualities she believes could never exist in a man, so she’d never fall in love. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how well that spell worked for her.

However, a soul mate spell seems to work for the heroine Monica in my book Under Her Spell.  She casts a spell, which includes a letter to her soul mate describing qualities she does hope to find in a man. When divorce lawyer Reed Walker opens a practice next door to her office, he appears to possess all the qualities in her letter. Yet, the anti-marriage slogan plastered on his office window, and his down-on-love clients, quickly prove bad for Monica’s business. Monica fears the Dirtbag Spell she created sent negative energy into the universe and it has returned to her threefold.

I was reading my final galley for Under Her Spell a few days after watching Practical Magic and I found the book’s opening scene with the Dirtbag Spell playing through my head like a movie. My book hadn’t even been published and already I was casting roles for the movie. (It’s part of my creative visualization process.) In the scene, Monica’s cousin Hope wants to cast a spell on her cheating hubby. Monica is reluctant to send negative energy into the universe, yet initially she doesn’t believe Hope will cast the spell anyway. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Monica set down the bowl of salt and grabbed a pencil and pad of paper off her desk and handed them to Hope. “Write this down. It’s called,” she tapped a hot pink nail against her lip, “the dirtbag spell.”

“Like it already.” Hope jotted down the title as she perched on the edge of the bed’s purple floral comforter.

“Take one of Kyle’s socks, fill it with dirt, and add a photo of him. It’s critical you aren’t in the photo.” Monica paced, tightening the sash on her lavender silk robe. “Include something of his like…”

“His new Rolex?”

Personally, Monica would list the watch on eBay and pray for a bidding war. But Hope, no matter how ticked off, was too timid to sell Kyle’s precious watch, and too frugal to risk damaging it by mixing it with dirt.

“That’s fine. Sew up the sock and bury it in your front yard. It’ll warn all women he’s a dirtbag.”

Hope poised the pencil against her lower lip, reviewing the spell. “Don’t I have to say something when I bury it, like a chant?”

What happened to being spell ignorant?

“Bury it in the moonlight while saying…” Monica scrambled for a few rhyming lines, “moonlight, glowing bright, warn all women in your sight, the man who lives in this house, is a dirtbag and a total louse.”

“Perfect.” Hope sprang from the bed, looking inspired. “Kyle’s at work. I’m going over to the house right now to bury that sock.” She turned and marched out, a woman on a mission.

Monica nibbled nervously on her fingernail. Hope wouldn’t seriously go through with casting the spell, would she? A big part of spell casting was psychological, focusing all your energy on making something happen. Monica had never seen Hope look so determined, or vindictive. Hopefully, if she did cast the spell, the negative energy didn’t return threefold.

What was the worst that could happen?

Monica’s question is quickly answered with Reed’s arrival in the next scene.

Not that I’d have a lot of creative input if my book became a movie, but I picture Zoey Deschanel or Amanda Seyfried playing the quirky Monica. Rachel Bilson or Katie Holmes would look the part of Hope. Jake Gyllenhall would be a good fit for Reed, the down-on-love divorce lawyer. He’d fill out an Armani suit quite well. I’d considered Matthew Bomer, but he’d need to bulk up a bit and not sure if he has enough box office appeal yet in his career. The book is set in Milwaukee, which probably wouldn’t fly in a Hollywood movie, even though Bridesmaids was set there. I could picture it being set in San Francisco with all the book’s new age ideas. And I love San Francisco. They’d probably want it to take place at Halloween instead of in the summer, for promotional purposes. I’d need to add a few Halloween scenes, or likely they’d just have their screenwriter add the scenes. Hopefully the movie would still resemble my book in the end.

I once saw James Patterson speak and he mentioned being on the set for the filming of Kiss the Girls. He was surprised when a character appeared, who wasn’t in his book. So if James Patterson doesn’t have much creative input, I’m sure I wouldn’t. But will I really care? My book will be a movie and I’ll be on David Letterman promoting it. There’s that creative visualization at work again. Have you ever seen a movie that was a lot different than the book? If you can't think of one, then what's your favorite Halloween movie?

Thanks for stopping by today. Please check out the upcoming stops on my blog tour, October 22-November 26. I’ll be giving away a variety of gifts, such as e-books, writing journals, and Amazon or B&N gift certificates. If you comment on 5 or more of my 20 blog stops, and are a Facebook fan, you’ll be entered in a drawing to win one of two $25 Amazon or B&N gift certificates at the end of my blog tour. Winners will be announced on my website’s news page the end of November.
Thanks again for joining us, Eliza!! It was a treat to have you as a guest :). And to everyone visiting, don't forget to leave a comment in answer to Eliza's question about movies so you can be entered in the giveaway here. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Food (& More Food) and Fall Fun

There is inevitably at least one week every fall where I spend most of it rhapsodizing about my favorite foods of the season... This was that week. *grin*

On Tuesday, I was at Austen Authors -- check out my post Celebrating the (Almond) Joys of Autumn -- and today I'm at Magical Musings -- writing about The Festivities of Fall. BTW, there's a book giveaway there this weekend as well!

Right now, I'm also the featured guest of Sally Smith O'Rourke (Austenticity), and my autumn-themed book, Double Dipping, is excerpted on her website. (The direct link to the first 3 chapters is HERE.) So, this has been a fun week of getting to talk about that story and all of the foods that signal "fall" to me...

In keeping with this (over)focus on high-caloric delights, I wanted to share a recipe link with you all because...well, I didn't want to be the only one drooling! It's for "Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise." Oh. My. Goodness. It takes about fifty gazillion steps to make it, so chances of me actually going through all of them to make the recipe are slim...but I'm hoping someone who knows what they're doing in the kitchen will show me an easy version sometime. I'm open to any and all suggestions!

I hope you're all having a wonderful fall Friday. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Great New Reads!

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting local author Nancy Grossman and chatting with her about her debut young-adult novel, A World Away, during a lovely book-club event. What a fun night! Nancy's novel revolves around the "rumspringa" of an Amish teen, who leaves home for a summer of self-discovery in Chicago.

Take a peek at the story's concept:
A summer of firsts: Sixteen-year-old Eliza Miller has never made a phone call, never tried on a pair of jeans, never sat in a darkened theater waiting for a movie to start. She’s never even talked to someone her age who isn’t Amish, like her.
A summer of good-byes:
When she leaves her close-knit family to spend the summer as a nanny in suburban Chicago, a part of her can’t wait to leave behind everything she knows. She can’t imagine the secrets she will uncover, the friends she will make, the surprises and temptations of a way of life so different from her own.

A summer of impossible choice: Every minute Eliza spends with her new friend Josh feels as good as listening to music for the first time, and she wonders whether there might be a place for her in his world. But as summer wanes, she misses the people she has left behind, and the plain life she once took for granted. Eliza will have to decide for herself where she belongs. Whichever choice she makes, she knows she will lose someone she loves.
I fell in love with Eliza and was fascinated to get an inside glimpse into the world of an Amish teenager. A wonderful story to read -- I highly recommend it! Below are a few photos from the event:
But one of the reasons I enjoy being an author is because people I know and love are publishing books all the time, so every week brings new literary gifts! Several friends have had big fall releases -- including my pal Susan McBride, whose Avon Impulse novella is a special release during Breast Cancer Awareness month. It's called In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40.
About the story, Susan writes: "It's my personal tale of being single at 40 (remember the study that said women over 40 have a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married?), meeting the love of my life (and becoming an "accidental" cougar), being diagnosed with breast cancer at 42 before I walked down the aisle, and finding out I was pregnant at 47. Yep, a sense of humor has come in mighty handy!"
Lexi Ryan -- one of my awesome '007 Golden Heart sisters -- also has a new novella out, Just the Way You Are, and this one is book #2 in her Decadence Creek series!
Here's the hot premise:
One year of marriage. No sex. No complications. No messy emotions.
Stacey Parker has laid out the rules for her temporary marriage to Harrison Duval, and Harrison plans to break every one. Ten years ago, Stacey disappeared from his life, and he’s not about to let it happen again.
Stacey has wanted Harrison for years, but giving in to the heat between them could mean exposing her secrets, secrets about family scars and choices young women shouldn't have to make alone. Secrets that could tear his world apart.

And my long-time Chicago-North RWA friend, Sara Daniel, has her newest contemporary romance, Construction Beauty Queen, out now from Entangled Publishing.

The romantic details:
Chicago socialite Veronica Jamison is determined to shake off her sheltered lifestyle and overbearing parents. She heads to her grandfather’s small town of Kortville, ready to roll up her sleeves and work for the family construction business. She’ll prove her worth, even if it means answering to the company’s ruggedly handsome co-owner, Matt.

Matt Shaw just wants to run his business, spend time with the niece he’s raising on his own, and give back to the townspeople who have stood by him. Managing a spoiled-rotten princess he knows he’ll never be good enough for? Not part of his plan. But as he gets to know Veronica, he learns there’s more to her than her beautiful looks and designer clothes. She’s got a heart as rich as her background.

With the quirky townspeople rallying against Veronica inheriting her grandfather’s business, it’s up to Matt to try to drive her out of town. But how can he, when instead she’s driving her way into his heart?

What novels have been on your nightstand or your ebook reader lately??

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Season, New Book, New Scarf!

While I am about the last person who will actually be ready for the holidays when they get here, I'm definitely looking forward to their arrival this year because I have a new contemporary romance coming out!!

HOLIDAY MAN will be available in all digital formats before the end of November, and it's a story that was inspired by one of my favorite seasonal films, Bing Crosby's and Fred Astaire's classic musical "Holiday Inn."

Here's the scoop on the novel:
Shannon Quinn is the small-town girl who runs "Holiday Quinn" -- a holiday-themed inn/resort based in scenic Door County, Wisconsin. One winter evening, wealthy Minneapolis businessman, Bram Hartwick, blows into town along with the fast-falling snow. The sparks Bram and Shannon create succeed in heating up the chilly Midwestern night, not to mention plenty of holiday weekends in the year that follows... But is their relationship only for special occasions, or might it be the elusive everyday love that neither one thought could be found?

Rebecca Young -- the daughter of my Austen Author friend, Abigail Reynolds -- was the very talented designer who created the cover, and I love it! She's just getting started, but she's already got several designs in her portfolio. You can check out some of her other work on her website.

Speaking of very talented people, I was surprised and thrilled to receive an absolutely lovely gift this week from a reader who has become a friend. Catherine DePasquale has awed me time and again with photos I've seen of her amazing knitting and crocheting projects, but this time I was the lucky recipient of one. I still can't get over how cool it is, and I had to share it with all of you. Using some of the colors from the cover of A SUMMER IN EUROPE, and choosing the pattern and the type of yarn based on a scene from the story, Catherine knit me a beautiful and oh-so-soft scarf!! She describes the process and shows photos on her Ravelry page. It was just so thoughtful...and I felt like I was my character Gwen getting a special birthday present (even though, in my case, it's not my birthday ;).

Thank you so much, Catherine!! This is me wearing it in the picture above, and I'm standing underneath one of the Venetian masks that my husband and I brought home from our first trip to Italy together. I can't tell you how much I've been daydreaming about going back! Ahhh, hopefully someday... It doesn't need to be a summer in Europe, btw. I'd be delighted with a fall, winter or spring there...

On a completely different note, you know that old children's joke: "Why was 6 scared of 7?" Answer: "Because 7 8 (ate) 9." Well, I can't get that out of my head today because the date is 10-11-12. I keep expecting there to be some kind of riddle associated with it, LOL. And with that weird numerical observation still hanging in the cyber air between us, I will say goodbye for now (and not a moment too soon, you're all thinking ;). Wishing everyone who reads this a wonderful rest of the week and weekend ahead!

p.s. YAY!! "The Vampire Diaries" Season 4 premiere is finally on tonight -- squeee!!! More Damon!! Any new shows this month that you've been hooked on? Who else watched "Arrow"?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Austenesque Chat & Ziplining Around the Web

I don't know how this happens, but it does...almost every time. My darling son comes down with a slight cold and, fortunately, rids himself of it in three days or less. Invariably, I catch it, but for me it mutates into a monster malady that lasts well over a week! Why??! What is the physiology behind that?!! If science doesn't have an answer, maybe I need to look to science fiction... It's just weird, not to mention so darned irritating!

Anyway, as you've probably guessed, I am still sniffling and coughing from a cold I managed to catch about 8 days ago, which has kept me offline more than I'd like, but at least I've had a chance to read several wonderful novels. (Ahh, there is always a silver lining somewhere, isn't there? I keep trying to tell myself that as I work my way through a half-dozen Kleenex boxes and several packages of throat lozenges. :)

However, I'm excited to be journeying through the web next week, and I wanted to let everyone know where I was going to be so you could join me, if you'd like!

First stop, Sunday, September 23rd on Austenesque Reviews, I'll be taking part in a multi-author "Sociable Sunday Chat," which is part of the 2012 Austenesque Extravaganza. It'll be a live online conversation that will begin at 4pm Eastern/3pm Central Time. Just go to the Austenesque website and click on the "Chat" link on the far-right side of the header. Anyone can ask questions, make comments and share ideas. Meredith, Jakki and Angie have done an amazing job setting up the month-long festivities -- and there will be book giveaways/prizes to look forward to that day, too!

Monday, September 24th, it's my day to talk about "Transitions" on the Girlfriends Book Club. I have A LOT to say about that, so I hope you'll stop by.

Tuesday, September 25th, I'll be blogging at Austen Authors about Matthew Macfadyen...but (surprise!) not in regards to his role as the 2005 Mr. Darcy. (Although, he does look dashing in a cravat!) I've been finding myself fascinated by a British TV show that some of you may know, "MI-5." It's been great fun watching him in it in the years just prior to his famous Austen film.

And, finally, Friday, September 28th, it's my next post on Magical Musings, and I'll be writing about books that heavily feature "Communities" -- like Robyn Carr's "Virgin River" series and Emily March's "Eternity Springs" series.

Wishing you all a fabulous week ahead and a very happy start to autumn!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Evening of Books and Wine

LFBS owner, Sue Boucher, and I with our glasses of Viognier!
Friday night, I had the honor of returning to the city where I used to teach elementary school -- Lake Forest, IL -- to give a talk at Lake Forest Book Store about my novels and about the writing life.

Such a fun evening and what a wonderful group of people!! Not only did we have a lively chat outdoors, but Courtyard Wines (in the building next door to the book store) generously provided red wine, white wine and tasty sandwiches for all. (I was told that the delicious white wine I tried was a "Viognier". :-)

Below are a few other snapshots from the event:
What did you all do over the long holiday weekend? Any good books, movies or wine (!!) you'd recommend?
p.s. A friend shared an unusual recipe with me for -- get this! -- "Whiskey Marshmallow and Caramel Bacon Bark." I have no idea how it'll taste, but I'm so very tempted to try to make it...

Friday, August 31, 2012

My September Reads...& a Wine Tasting!

Quite possibly, the most thrilling part of finally finishing my draft of The Book I've Been Working On For Two Years is that I get to take a few weeks off (before I need to begin the inevitable revisions) and just READ FOR FUN!!

This is all the more enjoyable because several friends had summer releases (yay!!!) and I've been so anxious to delve into them. When you read the story descriptions below, you'll know why these three novels are at the top of my TBR pile:

Shelley Noble's  BEACH COLORS :
While renowned designer Margaux Sullivan was presenting her highly praised collection during New York City's Fashion Week, her husband was cleaning out their bank account. A week after he disappeared, the bank foreclosed on Margaux's apartment and business.

Suddenly broke, betrayed, and humiliated, Margaux has nowhere else to turn to but home: the small coastal town of Crescent Cove, Connecticut, where she once knew love, joy, and family before she put them behind her on the climb to fame. When she's stopped for speeding by local interim police chief Nick Prescott, Margaux barely remembers the "townie" boy who worshipped her from afar every summer. But Nick is all grown up now, a college professor who gave up his career to care for his orphaned nephew, Connor. Though still vulnerable, Margaux is soon rediscovering the beauty of the shore through young Connor's eyes . . . and, thanks to Nick, finding a forgotten place in her heart that wants to love again.

But as she continues to work on a bold new line that will get her back into the game, Margaux realizes that soon she will have to make the most important, most difficult decision of her life. . . .

A miracle is going to happen...

Becky Diedrich is the cheesemaker's daughter.
The minister's wife.
The good sister.

What she's not is her own woman.
What she can't be is a mother.

And then she catches her husband with another woman.
And she moves in with her sister.
And she starts to see sparkles.

And this is just the beginning...

Maria Geraci's  A GIRL LIKE YOU :
Every ugly duckling is a swan in waiting...

Emma Frazier is smart, hardworking, and loves her job as a journalist for a Florida lifestyle magazine. Emma knows she’s no great beauty, but she’s pretty certain she has a shot with her handsome new boss, Ben Gallagher—until Emma overhears a mutual acquaintance refer to her as the “ugly friend.” In an effort to reclaim her battered self-esteem, Emma decides to impress Ben at work by promising an exclusive interview with NASCAR legend, Trip Monroe.

Emma and Trip went to high school together and although it’s been fourteen years since they’ve spoken, Emma is certain she can score an interview with the elusive super star. But connecting with Trip turns out to be harder than Emma imagined. Her quest for the interview leads her back to her tiny hometown of Catfish Cove, where old secrets and a new romantic interest shake up Emma’s views on life and teach her that maybe the key to finding true love is as simple as accepting yourself for the person you were always meant to be.

Woot!! So excited to get started!

In other fun news, I'm participating in an event tonight that I've been looking forward to for over a month. I'm the guest author at a local bookstore for a novel chat PLUS a wine tasting! Check out Lake Forest Book Store's Summer Fridays for more general information. But, if you happen to be in the area, I'll be in Lake Forest at 7pm tonight, talking about A SUMMER IN EUROPE over glasses of wine ;).

Wishing you all a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day Weekend! Any special plans??

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On the Banks of the Mississippi with Mark Twain

My husband is a long-time Mark Twain fan, and our son had The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as one of his summer reading books... So, in an effort to share his love of Twain with our son and bring a fun family adventure to the end of our summer, my husband suggested we all go on a little road trip to Hannibal, Missouri last week.

We drove from the Chicago suburbs in a meandering southwesterly direction and visited Mark Twain's Boyhood Home & Museum, the Mark Twain Cave, the mighty Mississippi River and a number of sites in and around lovely Hannibal, where the young Samuel Clemens grew up. He didn't have an easy life, but his novels and witticisms are timeless, and I've appreciated them often through the years.

My favorite of his books is not a surprising choice for anyone who knows me, as it's the one based on his travels in Europe and the Holy Land: The Innocents Abroad. I read it decades ago (must read it again!), but I loved it and related to the author's observations of people in the way that my husband related to Twain's characterizations and stories of the American West, particularly Roughing It.

I'll leave you with some of his most famous quotations...and a question: Do you have a favorite Mark Twain story? A saying of his that you like best? If so, please share!

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.

One of the striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let the Games Begin!

It was such a thrill to watch the Opening Ceremonies for the London 2012 Summer Olympics last night.

Yes, yes, there were long stretches where there was just lots of talking and walking (my son informed me he was "bored" more than once during the Parade of Nations), but I loved that ten-minute sequence at the very beginning that showed famous spots around the United Kingdom...and who wouldn't get a kick out of that fun scene with Queen Elizabeth II (aka Bond Girl) and Daniel Craig (aka 007) where they jumped out of the helicopter?! I couldn't stop smiling.

When we went to the England at the end of March, one of our major sightseeing visits was the British Museum. My husband and I had been there before, but we wanted our son to see cool historical things like the Rosetta Stone, too, so he wouldn't think London was only known for the Tube and the Cadbury bars...

As a bonus, we had a chance to get a close-up view of the newly minted Olympic gold medals for the London Games, which were on display in the museum, and I thought this week would be the perfect time to share them. Gorgeous, yes? I'm already anticipating the fun of watching the men's and women's gymastics competitions, some of the swimming and diving events and a taster platter of other sports, like archery, volleyball and fencing. What about you?? Do you watch? Which events are your favorites?

And, in an extra bit of exciting news, I was delighted to learn a couple of weeks ago that my ebook romance, Double Dipping, was named a 2012 contemporary novel finalist in the International Digital Awards! There may not have been any gold medals bestowed on the finalists or winners, but it was a tremendous honor all the same.

Wishing you all a fabulous week!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lucky 13

Happy Friday the 13th!

As some of you already know (see Magical Musings post on the subject), I've always considered this to be a lucky day...and I hope that proves true for you, too!

This awesome book photo on the left comes courtesy of the wonderful Jill Thomas, who sent me a snapshot of her vacation reading stack. So honored to be in this literary company!!

This week has been a busy one...half the summer has flitted by and I'm only just beginning to believe it's actually BBQ season. Summertime events -- both online and off -- have been happening so fast that I haven't had the chance to highlight them, but I did want to tell you all about a few:

Last night, I met the lovely Elizabeth Hoyt, Jade Lee and Allie Pleiter at the Fremont Public Library, where we took part in a romance panel and got to meet some really nice patrons. We're doing it again tomorrow -- Saturday, July 14th from 2pm - 3:30pm -- at the Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee, IL. So, if you're in the area (or up for a road trip!), please join us. There will be dessert and a drawing for a bag of free books!

On the subject of book giveaways...I'm a guest this week at Darcyholic Diversions and am giving away two copies of my digital romantic comedy, On Any Given Sundae. The contest runs until the beginning of August, so it's not too late to comment and be entered!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Journey Begins in Real Time...

I was reminded by an online friend (Hi, Catherine! *waving*) yesterday that the story that takes place within A Summer in Europe begins on June 26th, which is the main character's 30th birthday. I'd nearly forgotten this detail -- amidst all of the craziness and general chaos of my day-to-day life -- but then I checked the pages and not only remembered that the dates aligned, but so do the days of the week, since I used the 2012 calendar when I drafted the novel.

It's a funny thing, getting to begin a journey with my characters now, in real time, that I've already written for them in anticipation of this summer... ;)

Anyway, I have a few fun photos to share of events from this month. A panel shot from Printers Row (with Karen Doornebos, Elisabeth Lenckos, Abigail Reynolds, me, Regena Bryant and C. Allyn Pierson), and a picture of Karen and me with William Deresiewicz, author of A JANE AUSTEN EDUCATION during his signing.

I've also got a few snapshots of my travel program at the Waukegan Public Library, which was tons of fun!! Such a great group of patrons, friends and librarians there that night. To the right, I'm with the lovely programs librarian, Sara. Have a fabulous week, everyone! Here are some other pictures from the meal, talk and signing:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Travel Program Tonight!!

I had a wonderful time at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago this weekend (there are a few pictures up on Facebook already :), and I'm really excited about tonight's program, too, at the Waukegan Public Library! I'm giving a talk on Traveling in Europe -- complete with an Italian meal that the programs librarian and I are putting together (so much food!), a slideshow of fabulous sites across the pond and how visiting them influenced the writing of A Summer in Europe and a booksigning, too. So, if you're anywhere near the area and want to join in the fun tonight, please check out the details HERE! It's free and open to the public. I'll be in the Bradbury Room (yes, the incredible Ray Bradbury was once a resident...) from 5:30 - 7:30pm.

Also, a little FYI, According to Jane is the featured book this week on fellow Austen Author Sally Smith O'Rourke's blog Austenticity! Posted there is the longest free excerpt that's ever been online for the book (the prologue + the first 3 chapters) so, if you haven't read the story, you can take a peek at the beginning HERE!

Hope you're all having a fabulous start to the week ;-).

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Summer in Europe...the Vlog!

Ohhhh, my God, it's JUNE! That's when school's out! It ends only a few days from now, and I'm NOT READY for that!! (Can you hear me panicking in Chicago?)

However, aside from my complete lack of preparedness for summer vacation, the week is going very well. I had the honor of being the blog guest of the lovely Jakki Leatherberry this week, who wrote a wonderful review of A Summer in Europe, did an interview with me (there's a book giveaway attached to that, btw!) and, as of today, has up a special vlog that she filmed about the book. I loved it so much, I just had to share it!!

I also had an interesting experience in the past week that, I'll admit, surprised me a little. I came down with another cold (that's not the surprising thing -- I need to get more sleep/take more Vitamin C/etc.), but I was up really late because I couldn't breathe and I thought it would be helpful if I at least did some work on my current manuscript. Well, Internet "book research" being what it is, I didn't exactly stay on task for as long as I should have. I veered...and somehow found myself at the CW Network site watching the pilot episode of "The Vampire Diaries."

This part is surprising because I really am not so big into the whole neck-biting, blood-sucking vampire thing, and I'd all but vowed not to watch it and yet, yet...the character that Ian Somerhalder (formerly Boone on "LOST") plays on the show, the remarkably strong cast as an ensemble, the conflict-laden brotherly relationship, the love triangle, the excellent writing and the unexpected humor (most of which originates with Somerhalder's bad-
boy vampire character, Damon Salvatore) totally won me over. Even more surprising, I ended up renting the Season One DVDs and have been devouring them like a vamp who was turned in 1864 and...oh, never mind.

Have any of you ever had that happen? You were so sure a show/film/book wasn't "right for you," but then you gave it a chance and it completely captivated you? Makes me wonder -- what TV series should I try next? (It does not need to have supernatural creatures in it to interest me, btw. ;) I'd love to hear about your faves, and I'm open to suggestions!!

Wishing you a great weekend and a very happy June, everyone!