The Lost Queen by Angel Lawson Cover Reveal

The Lost Queen

By Angel Lawson

 

When Liam Caldwell’s plane makes an emergency landing at Nomad Airlines, Nadya is quick on the scene to help. Her family has managed the airport for generations and Liam is one of their most important pilots. Things shift for Liam and Nadya when he's pulled from the plane after an emergency landing, bleeding and injured. To her surprise, no one, including her father, seems too concerned about his health or what happened. Liam disappears before 911 shows up, piquing Nadya's interest, so much that she follows him home. This decision ignites a dormant connection between Nadya and Liam, one that spans from this world to another.

The Lost Queen is a four part series to be released weekly beginning in March.

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Happy New Year!

Wow, what an incredible year 2014 was. I published three books--three.

The Lucky Charm     Getting Lucky     Frequent Flyers

Compare this to 2013, when I published zero books and even the thought of publishing one made me practically break out into hives.

So it's been a great year. I felt so welcomed and encouraged by so many people. It'd be impossible to list them all, but if you downloaded or read one of my books this year, THANK YOU. You made 2014 one of the best years of my life.

And if you did read one of my books, would you give me the greatest gift a reader can give an author and please post a review? It doesn't matter where it is. It doesn't matter if it's not five stars. It doesn't matter if you hated it. I know some authors don't read reviews, but I read every single one. Very often I will agree the most with the three or four star reviews that give good critical and constructive feedback. That's what helps make me a better author. And if there's something that I want to be, it's a better author--for me, but mostly for you.

But enough of looking back on the past. What will 2015 bring us?

I'm getting married this year (in September). So that is pretty exciting.

Here we are at the last Steelers game of the year, while we were on the east coast visiting our families for Christmas.

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It was FREEZING and I had the worst cold in collective memory, so forgive my looking a bit like death.

But what you really want to know about is what's in the writing works, right?

Of course.

Obviously (and even more obviously if you've read Getting Lucky), there will be a third and final book in the Portland Pioneers series. It's tentatively titled Luck be a Lady and it's heroine is none other than the reporter everyone loves to hate--Tabitha King.

At least nobody can accuse me of going the easy route. Sigh.

I also have another novel planned that's very different than the Portland Pioneers series. It's not titled yet, and it's little more than a mental outline and a whole bunch of rambling, but I'm super excited about it. Genre is a cross between romance, magical realism, fantasy and paranormal. Should be pretty interesting.

Again, thank you for such a wonderful 2014 and cheers to 2015!

 

 

Getting Lucky Release + Giveaway!

GETTING LUCKY IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Getting Lucky

I'm so excited to finally release the second book in the Portland Pioneers series, GETTING LUCKY.

HE MIGHT HAVE STRUCK OUT…

Noah Fox’s life is changing. Ever since he was hit in the head by a pitch, nothing has been the same. Fighting daily headaches and the growing fear that his baseball career is over, Noah goes in search of the woman who once loved and left him.

BUT HE REFUSES TO STOP SWINGING.

What he finds in the tiny town of Sand Point is nothing he could have ever expected. A trained chef and a certified “foodie,” Maggie May King has been perfectly content to devote the last three years of her life to running her baby, the Sand Point Café. Noah’s never met anyone less awed by his good looks or his celebrity, and even though she’s the last person he should be befriending, he finds himself seduced by Maggie’s sweetness and her even sweeter orange rolls.


BEHIND THE STORY:

When I published The Lucky Charm, all I had of Getting Lucky was the setup of Noah Fox's injury and a wild, crazy idea that maybe the last person he should be interested turns out to be the ONLY person he's interested in.

What can I say? Apparently I love making things difficult for myself.

By the way, that will totally be written on my tombstone: "Beth: making things difficult for herself since 1984."

I also made the crazy, ambitious choice to try to write this book in four months. Yes, I know some people write like four books in four months. Unfortunately I own this whole other business and I don't think my clients would have been very happy if I disappeared into my writing cave. I don't think my fiance would be very happy either.

I've talked about some of the struggles I had writing The Lucky Charm, which in all its iterations took me about 2 and a half years to finish. So four months was pretty ambitious. My worst fear was getting to the end of the draft and realizing it all had to be different.

But guess what! You learn so much writing your first book. So many, many things to avoid. So many things you keep saying to yourself, "I wish I'd done this differently." Getting Lucky was my opportunity to make good on the learning experience, and this book practically wrote itself.

Noah was so fun to delve into--a little bit more melancholy at first than he was in The Lucky Charm--and Maggie May was a breath of fresh air. I didn't actually end up putting this in the book, but Maggie May's mom is definitely a huge Rod Stewart fan, and yes, that is where she got her name!


An Excerpt from GETTING LUCKY:

Noah Fox was practically holding a press conference in her Café. Apparently word had spread overnight that a famous baseball player had arrived in Sand Point and this was apparently the most exciting thing anyone had experienced in years, because the awed expressions on everyone’s faces was just plain sickening.

Unsurprisingly, he was eating up the attention, smiling and laughing like he was just like them, but he wasn’t, Maggie inwardly raged. She stomped right up to his stupid, hot self and poked him hard in the arm. She resolutely ignored how firm and muscley his biceps felt.

“I hear you’d like to talk to me,” she said when he turned to her.

“Oh, Maggie. Just the woman I wanted to see,” he said with so much transparent delight she wanted to smack it right off that ridiculously handsome face. No man should look that good, she thought rebelliously, it was unfair to the rest of the mortal world.

“My office,” she spit out, and walked off, weaving between the tables and slack-jawed customers, not even bothering to glance behind to see if he’d followed her.

He was in Tabitha’s thrall, and Maggie was apparently the only way he could find her; of course he’d follow.

They reached the office and she gestured him inside and shut the door behind her. It was only at that moment, looking up at him, thinking, god, he’s so tall, that she realized she’d made a slight miscalculation.

The office was so small, there was barely room for her desk and a single chair, with the built-in shelves towering over her desk, but Noah was definitely not a small guy. He filled the open space so completely, Maggie pressed her back to the door and still felt nearly overwhelmed by his over-sized presence.

Shit.

But she couldn’t back down now by opening the door and moving this meeting to another location. That would be tantamount to admitting he got to her and he really didn’t. She wasn’t as weak-willed and superficial as the rest of Sand Point—or her sister—was.

“You have time to talk to Tabitha last night?” Noah asked with nearly as much transparent eagerness as Hannah had displayed earlier.

Maggie shook her head sharply. She really didn’t want to go into why she’d been so distracted either. Even though this Noah Fox presented himself as everyone’s super genial friend, he was still a complete stranger.

“Oh,” Noah replied, ducking his head down low, a faint flush of embarrassment on his cheeks, and for the second time, she saw the depth of the darkness in his eyes. And didn’t it intrigue her more this time than it did before? Maggie cut off that thinking hard and sharp. She was not going to forget what Hannah had said before she’d been forced to interrupt her search for a repair.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” Maggie said more than a little testily. “Or what you’re saying.”

His disarming smile was practically a master class in innocent charm. When he folded those muscled arms against his firm chest, she had to remind herself yet again that he was a huge jerk.

“I don’t appreciate you going around talking about me that way,” Maggie repeated. “We’re not involved. You’re here to find Tabitha.”

His white teeth flashed against that tan skin again. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Maggie’s temper roiled. This was probably how he lived his whole stupid, privileged life—going around doing whatever the hell he wanted, and blasting women with that goddamn smile when his trail got too messy and he had to clean up a bit. “Buddy,” she bit off, “you do not want to fuck around with me today. It’s been a spectacularly awful twenty four hours, and I really can’t take your bullshit right now. So cut the crap and stop making people think I’m why you’re here.”

“What’s happened? I hope it wasn’t me that made things tough on you.” He had the nerve to look genuinely concerned.

Maggie grimaced. “Hardly. You’re not so high on my priority list that you showing up in my town ruins my life. If we want to start with this morning, my exhaust fan wouldn’t turn on and Cal, who could normally fix it in a heartbeat, won’t answer his phone because he’s probably mad at me. And now I’m going to have to spend money I don’t have on a repair.”

She hated the sympathy in his stupid face. “I could take a look at it for you,” he offered and it was such a nice thought she actually stopped herself from rolling her eyes again. She could be difficult sometimes, but she prided herself on not being an ungrateful bitch.

“That’s really not necessary. You wouldn’t know what to look for.”

Noah shoved his hands in his pockets and Maggie resolutely ignored the way the muscles and tendons of his arms flexed at the movement. “I’m actually pretty handy with stuff like that,” he said softly and so unassumingly she never would have guessed he was the same show-off who’d dealt out smiles and genial handshakes in the dining room only five minutes ago.

It was proof of just how close Maggie was to the end of her rope that she considered the idea. It wasn’t like he could do much harm, right? He’d really only be marking time until Cal decided to stop pouting.

“Sure, why not,” she finally said, leaving out her silent assumption that he couldn’t break it worse than it was already broken.

“And, for the record,” he said genially, “I never told Hannah anything. She made her own assumptions.”

Maggie suddenly remembered she was supposed to be furious with him. The ability to disarm women was probably another one of the many tricks he had up his sleeve. “Hannah isn’t prone to vast exaggeration,” Maggie insisted, “some exaggeration, yes, but not making up stories out of thin air.”

In the approximately fifteen minutes they’d spent in each other’s company, she’d never seen him look uncomfortable, but he did now. “I might have hinted a little,” he allowed. “But she was so. . .determined to flirt. And I don’t do that.”

“Anymore,” Maggie added helpfully.

He shot her a look like she was crazy, and it was a testament to how bizarre the last day had been that Maggie actually preferred that look to the panty-melting smile he usually employed.

“I mean,” she added, “that you don’t do that anymore.”

He was beginning to look downright disgruntled and Maggie was secretly—or maybe not so secretly—thrilled at this. He was cute mad. Maybe even cuter than when he was trying to be so hot all the time. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” he practically grunted.

“You said you don’t do that. But look at you.” She gestured absently in his general direction but she’d forgotten how cramped the office was, and her fingers brushed the soft fabric of his t-shirt and the firm stomach muscles beneath it. Snatching back her hand, she glanced up at him, ready to apologize for nearly groping him, but the sudden heat in his eyes caught her off-guard.

Maggie knew she should reach behind her, open the door and stop this conversation right now. She didn’t, though, and the only reason she could figure was it had been so long since a guy looked at her with that soft, almost reluctant attraction, even though she knew he was only looking because she faintly resembled her elder sister. She’d needed something all day to cleanse her palate of Cal’s ridiculous flirting, and Noah seemed made-to-order.

“Look at me?” he asked. “What about you? Are you so ugly that nobody could ever imagine you flirting?”

Maggie knew she wasn’t ugly. She also wasn’t her sister. “Hardly.”

“Hardly,” he chuckled, “Not quite how I’d put it, but I guess that works.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:1601370_1556863084534105_8490565538357074425_n

Beth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm. Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity. Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal.

Connect with Beth

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Recipes from Getting Lucky - Orange Marmalade Rolls

Last but not least, the Orange Marmalade Rolls from Getting Lucky. This recipe is a little more complicated than the others, and unfortunately does require following the directions rather more carefully than the Caprese Pasta Salad or the Potato Leek Soup. I also didn't come up with this one--I had a lot of influence from The Pioneer Woman's recipe. Go check it out and make sure you use it for reference! Here's just one of the snippets that feature Maggie's Orange Marmalade Rolls--it was really hard to pick just one!

colorful cups on the table top

First, we're going to make the cinnamon roll dough. Here is the Pioneer Woman's recipe for her dough.

I actually halved this recipe and still ended up with three very full pie pans full of orange marmalade rolls. If you are making these as gifts (which is a great idea), you could easily make the whole recipe. I've never tried freezing at any point in this recipe, but I'm sure you could. My freezer is way too full to even contemplate this idea :(

Start with a large pot. Definitely make sure it's big enough if you are making the full recipe.

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We start with milk. Pioneer Woman recommends whole milk.

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Add in vegetable oil and sugar and bring to just below a simmer. Don't be like me and accidentally let it boil for like five minutes. Though the good news is if you're a total dumbass like me and do do that, your rolls won't taste any worse for the wear. Mine were perfectly fine!

Let the temperature of the milk mixture come down until it's just warm--not hot. Then add your yeast.

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Make sure you use the right kind. So many of my baking experiments have been derailed by the wrong kind of yeast. Basically, what I'm saying again is don't be like me.

Add the entire packet of yeast to the milk mixture--or two packets, if you're making a whole recipe instead of a half.

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Let the yeast sit for a few minutes and get all happy.

Then add the flour.

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Mix together.

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Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place. Let it sit for an hour and let the dough rise.

Next you're going to add a bit more flour as well as salt, baking powder and baking soda.

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Mix everything together well.

Now it's time to roll the dough out.

Flour your surface well. If you're going to use your kitchen counter (like moi), please make sure it's clean AND dry.IMG_1144

The idea is to get a large rectangle out of your dough. Ignore my rather strange shape. I was somewhat constrained by space and also by my lack of dough-rolling ability. Also make sure you don't get your dough too thin (or thick).  You want a nice even layer.

Time to add the orange marmalade. Don't be like me and put the melted butter on first. It turns out that orange marmalade doesn't spread well over butter. But the good news is that I learned my lesson and can pass that onto you.

Spread the orange marmalade over the dough. With my half-recipe I used a whole jar. I also selected the lower sugar type, which worked out well. I don't like things too sweet and we're going to be adding more sugar anyway so I thought it wasn't necessary.

Next add your melted butter.

Finally, sprinkle brown sugar generously over the marmalade and the butter.

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Looks lovely, eh?

Next, a twist that I added to the Pioneer Woman's original recipe. I also sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg over the brown sugar for a little extra and it was delicious. I highly recommend adding this step in.

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Time to roll this baby up!

Starting on one side, carefully roll up the dough tightly. If it's too loose it won't cut into rolls well.

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You're going to end up with one long tube of dough and deliciousness.

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Your tube will probably look better than  my tube. But however your tube looks is okay! It'll still taste amazing.

Now we're going to cut the tube into one inch rounds and stick them in pie pans. You can use regular pie pans OR do what I like to do and buy disposable pie pans for super cheap. Then if you do give the rolls as gifts, you don't ever have to get them back. And even better, you don't have to clean them! I'm a huge fan of not cleaning sticky things.

You will want to add a little melted butter in the bottom of each pan.

Then, cut the tube into your one inch slices. I've found the best method is using a serrated knife.

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You want to make sure to pack the rolls tightly into the pans, too.

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Next, place a clean towel over the pans of rolls and let them rise for another 20 to 30 minutes. You'll get much better results if you can place them in a warm location (but not too warm--you don't want to bake them just yet!).

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After the rolls have risen one last time, bake them at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until they're a light golden brown.

The Pioneer Woman also creates a yummy glaze for the rolls, which she pours on right after they're done baking, but I felt they were sweet enough as it was and so I skipped it. But you can definitely add it if sugar is your jam.

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Beautiful!

And so unbelievably tasty. A nice change from the typical cinnamon roll, I think.

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Remember that Getting Lucky is coming out soon--December 1!

I'll be doing a bunch of guest blogs AND I'll be hosting an awesome giveaway to celebrate the release!

 

Recipes from Getting Lucky - Potato Leek Soup

Another week and another recipe from Getting Lucky! I know I promised I'd make Maggie's infamous orange marmalade buns this week, but when you see the recipe, you'll understand. The recipe is a bit more complicated and I couldn't find the time this week, so soup it is! But soup is amazing, guys, especially in the fall, and this is a great recipe.

But first, a snippet from Getting Lucky:

colorful cups on the table top

Here's how you make Potato Leek Soup:

Start with a pot and some butter. So many great recipes start exactly this same way. I'd say this is about three tablespoons.

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The absolute best part of this recipe is how adaptable it is. It's pretty much impossible to mess up.

Next, you're going to cut up your leeks.

Leeks. I know, right? Who uses leeks? They're kind of scary looking.

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Don't let the weirdness of leeks scare you off. They give great flavor. You just need to know how to deal with them.

First, you're going to want to cut off the dark green leaves, until just the white/light green stem remains.

Like so!

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You're also going to want to cut off the other end too. I just didn't snap a pic of that because I'm an utter failure as a food photographer.

Next you're going to cut your leek in half.

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Here's the thing about leeks. They're tricky. They also seem to grow with a lot of dirt in-between all those layers. Gross, right? So we need to chop up the leek and then wash the chopped up pieces thoroughly. Dirt is not the seasoning we'd like in our soup.

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I don't care if it doesn't look like there's any visible dirt. Wash the pieces anyway.

I usually put all my cut up leeks into a big bowl, then fill with water and swish the pieces around thoroughly.

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Then you're obviously going to want to drain all that dirty water out.

Just imagine I have a picture of draining the leeks + dirty water into a colander.

Make sure to shake out as much water out of the leeks as you can. You don't want extra dirty water in your soup.

Your butter has probably melted by now and is now sizzling away nicely. Drop the leeks into the pan and let them cook on medium heat for a few minutes, until they're nicely wilted but not brown.

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Basically, don't be like me and get distracted and forget your sauteing leeks.

Next, we're going to add the garlic.  A few cloves minced. You can always add more or less, depending on your preference for garlic. Also, if you find the leek mixture has gotten a bit dry you can definitely add more butter (or olive oil, if you're trying to be more health conscious).

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Obviously I was not trying to be more health conscious.

Let the leek and garlic mixture saute a few minutes longer but this time be very careful not to let the garlic over-brown. When garlic burns it gets really nasty and bitter. Not good for soup.

Now we're going to add the stock. You can use chicken or vegetable stock here. I used a combination of both because I had some extra sitting in the fridge. I don't think beef stock would work very well here, though.

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I'd suggest adding approximately two quarts of stock. I also added salt and pepper at this stage. About a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. We'll be seasoning the soup later on in the cooking process, but it's always a good idea to season as you go. Plus this is the liquid we're going to be cooking the potatoes in and we want it to be well-seasoned.

Next the potatoes!

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I swear by Yukon Gold potatoes. I love them. I love them just about any way you can prepare a potato. But you can use really any kind of potato you'd like--regular baking potatoes, red potatoes, etc. But really, Yukon Gold are the best. And most grocery stores are carrying them as a regularly stocked item these days. In my humble opinion, their flavor just can't be beat.

You're going to peel the potatoes, then chop them into smaller pieces.

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Once the broth, leek and garlic mixture has come to a boil, it's time to add the potatoes.

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You want to cook the potatoes at a simmer for 15-20 minutes. The time is going to depend on how large your potato chunks are. I always start checking at fifteen minutes. You want the potato to be fully cooked through but not too mushy. Mushy potatoes = BAD.

Now it's time for one of my favorite kitchen implements. The potato masher!

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Now the extent to which you "mash" your soup is up to you. I still like mine quite chunky but you if you want a really smooth texture that's fine too. You could theoretically even cut your potato pieces a little smaller and not do any mashing at all! That's the greatest thing about this soup--you can modify it so much to your personal preference and it always tastes great.

Well, it always tastes great unless you don't wash your leeks properly :(

It appears that I forgot to take a picture of the mashed soup. Whoops. I fail. Just pretend. Or make it yourself and then you can see exactly what it looks like!

Next, we're going to prepare the cheese. You can put so many kinds of cheese into this soup. I like a combination, and used cheddar, both medium and extra sharp white, and some monterey jack for a little kick. You could use mozzarella or fontina or swiss or any other type of cheese. I wouldn't recommend blue cheese or feta or goat cheese, probably, but if you try it and it works, let me know! Also, if you're against cheese (and really, what's wrong with you?), you could potentially even skip it.

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Don't bother with the cheese grater. Just cut it up into small chunks.

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Now we add it to the soup. Make sure you've turned the burner down to a very low simmer. You don't want your soup boiling away this whole time. Your potatoes will most definitely be mush by this point if you do that.

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I wanted my soup a little creamier, so I added a few splashes of half and half. It also helped to thicken it a little. You could use milk, heavy cream or theoretically nothing. Sour cream might even be an interesting addition. I also added some dried parsley, which you could skip or add fresh, if you have it. This is also the perfect opportunity to re-season the soup.

You definitely want to taste it after you add the cheese. Cheese can be really salty, depending on the kind you use and you don't want to over-salt the soup. So add your cheese, and then taste it, seasoning it until it tastes just right.

I apparently also failed to take a pic of the final product, but really, you're going to make this soup anyway. Right? Yes?

Good.

Recipes from Getting Lucky - Caprese Pasta Salad

When I'm not writing or watching the Red Sox play, cooking is one of my biggest go-to hobbies. I love scouring the web for interesting recipes, and even more, I love attempting those recipes. Some of my favorite food bloggers are great personalities like The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen. Make sure to check them out, they were so inspirational as I wrote Getting Lucky. Maggie May King, one of the main characters in Getting Lucky, is a professionally-trained chef and she owns her own little Cafe in Sand Point, California, the setting for the story. The Sand Point Cafe only serves breakfast and lunch, and the food they serve is to die for--at least I imagine it is. Maggie is obviously way more proficient than I am in the kitchen, though I think I do pretty well. I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the food Maggie makes (and Noah eats!) as we count down to the release of Getting Lucky.

Then I decided to get all ambitious and post recipes and snippets from the book and I even photographed my cooking efforts for your viewing pleasure. Note: I am by no means either a professional photographer or a professional chef. That much is going to be abundantly clear.

Here's a small snippet from the book that references Maggie's Caprese Pasta Salad--this week's recipe.

colorful cups on the table top

Sounds tasty, yeah? It really is, I've been making it all summer and I've had zero complaints from the man in my house.

Here's how you make it:

First, you've got to start the pasta onto boil.

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Here's me, filling a pot with water. PURE CRAZINESS.

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I'm using rotini because it's what I had on hand, but any small dried pasta shape would work well. Bowties, especially, would be adorable, and Maggie would approve of anything that's adorable.

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The pasta is now boiling! Make sure you follow the instructions on your package to get your pasta to the perfect al dente doneness. Crunchy pasta is a no go, guys. Also, soggy pasta isn't very good either.

While our pasta is boiling, let's chop up the tomatoes for the salad. Because duh, there have to be tomatoes. Caprese Salad consists of mainly three ingredients: tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. So tomatoes are kind of a given in this situation.

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I love these cute little grape/cherry tomatoes, especially when you combine the yellow and the red. The yellow ones are called Sunburst and my grocery store started carrying them about a year ago. I LOVE THEM. They're a little bit sweeter than a traditional cherry tomato, and they're fabulous in this recipe. Plus, the colors look so beautiful together!

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I typically slice my baby tomatoes in half. If you want to keep them whole, by all means. Whatever floats your boat. If you don't have/don't want cherry tomatoes and want to dice regular tomatoes, that works beautifully too. Basically, what I'm telling you is that this recipe is mighty hard to fuck up.

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See, beautiful!

Next up is our mozzarella. There's a few ways you could do this, but I like using boccaccini, which are little balls of fresh mozzarella, usually stored in water. They sell boccaccini in the specialty cheese section of my grocery store, but don't be frightened of how pricey some of the gourmet garlic kale cheddar is--boccaccini is not insanely expensive. This time, though, I didn't get boccaccini (ok, I do like saying it, sue me), I got these even cuter little mozzarella balls called "Pearls." You can see the packaging in the upper photo showing the other ingredients. These are even smaller and don't need to even be cut in half. You can just dump them right into the bowl. BUT please remember DO NOT put the water/liquid in. You want to drain them first. You could also cube up a block of mozzarella if you can't find boccaccini.

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Look how precious those are! Also, I'm a fan of less chopping. This is a good opportunity to salt and pepper your tomatoes/mozzarella. Both of those items need quite a bit of seasoning, so don't skimp. I'd approximate I used about a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. We'll add more later, but PLEASE REMEMBER--you can only add seasoning, you can't take it away. So it's best to be cautious and add in small amounts as you go.

Next, we're going to chop the basil. Obviously, it's better if you use fresh basil (fresh herbs are almost always better). But you can buy some decent freeze-dried and dried basil these days, and if you're in a pinch, it's not the end of the world. Some days my grocery store basil looks nasty. I'd grow my own, but that's a disaster waiting to happen.

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If you're using fresh basil, roll up the leaves and cut them into narrow strips. Also make sure that you don't chop up the stems. They're gross.

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Those go into the trash can, not your beautiful bowl of Caprese Salad.

Next, we're going to drain our pasta, after it's been cooked the perfect amount of time.

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Before we put all our ingredients together, it's time to make the dressing.

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Start with about half a cup of mayonnaise. Alternatively if you don't like mayo, feel free to use greek yogurt or sour cream or a combo of any of the above. Add in a few tablespoons of olive oil. This gives it a really nice smooth texture and also adds flavor, especially if you use good olive oil. Yes, in a former life I was Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

Next we add in the balsamic vinegar, which is the secret ingredient (ok, not so secret maybe) that makes this entire dish sing.

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I'd also add that using decent balsamic vinegar is important. No need to go out and spend a fortune on vinegar, but please don't buy the $2.99 bottle from the corner 7-11. I get mine at Costco and it's perfectly good. Plus it's enormous so it lasts forever.

Whisk the dressing together. Make sure to taste it to make sure your flavor is good. Don't hesitate to add more balsamic vinegar, you really want to be able to taste it. I think I probably added at least a tablespoon if not two.

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Lastly, we're going to mix everything together. Now is a perfect time to taste for salt and pepper and also if you need more balsamic vinegar. I had to add another teaspoon or so of salt and maybe 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

You can eat it just like this, or it's actually way better if you refrigerate it for a few hours or even better, overnight. That way the flavors meld together--BUT remember before you serve, check it again for seasonings.

Bon Appetit! And don't forget to check in next week for our next recipe, Orange Marmalade Rolls!

Frequent Flyers is NOW available!

  Frequent Flyers Cover

Frequent Flyers - NOW AVAILABLE!

Romance flies the friendly skies in this diverse collection of short stories from a talented group of best-selling and up-and-coming authors.

There’s something for everyone in this mile-high compilation – from a love story born in a blizzard to a steamy encounter spawned by a series of crazy events. For supernatural fiction fans, how about the tale of an airport that’s also a portal to another world… or a scheduled flight that takes a detour into an alternate reality?

From an unexpected trip that reignites a twenty year old flame, to a quirky liaison between a ticketing agent and an adorable doctor, Frequent Flyers takes you on a journey that will touch your heart and leave you flying high!

Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm by Beth Bolden – Commercial pilot Captain Grant Montgomery III lives for the rules; flight attendant Tess O’Brien loves to break them. The storm brewing between them might be even wilder than the record-breaking blizzard outside. "I loved Tess. She reminded me of so many people in my large Irish family, and I saw some aspects of myself in her too." - Goodreads Reviewer

Fly Me to the Moon

Fly Me To The Moon by Bev Elle - Ticketing agent Jessamy Taylor has been in a dating slump that was exacerbated when she moved her sickly mother in. Truth is, she's never gotten over the quirky Dr. Griffin Sanderson whose OCD drives her crazy, despite his excellent bedside manner.

"I love stories about people finding each other again, and this is just what you got with this story.

Beware, you WILL hum the Sinatra song throughout, and beyond, reading this story." - Goodreads Reviewer

Unscheduled Departure

Unscheduled Departure by T.M. Franklin – Rowan Elliott is devastated when her boyfriend, Finn, tells her he’s moving across the country to take over the family business, and thrilled when he changes his mind at the last minute and gets off the plane. But then things get . . . weird. And Ro’s left wondering if her boyfriend’s really who she thinks he is.

"The entire thing kept me turning pages. I NEEDED to know what was happening.

Sucked in right from the beginning, pace was perfect." - Goodreads Reviewer

A Midsummer Flight's Dream

A Midsummer Flight's Dream by Kira A. Gold - Twenty years ago, he promised to catch her if she fell. Contains young lust, old books, and wild strawberries.

"This story about past love and coming together again later was lovely." - Goodreads Reviewer

Forced Landing

Forced Landing by Angel Lawson - Nadya discovers her tiny hometown airport is the portal to a world she never knew existed, one with an ancient history buried deep within her bloodline.

"I loved the paranormal elements...easily could be continued into a series." - Goodreads Reviewer

The Friendly Skies

 

The Friendly Skies by Amanda Weaver - An unruly drunk, a misbehaving volcano and a re-routed flight lead to one steamy night for two strangers who meet on a plane.

"The relationship between Simon and Cassie was paced perfectly. I half expected it to feel rushed considering the majority of the story takes place in a matter of hours, but it never did. The pacing was perfect." - Goodreads Reviewer

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About the Authors

Beth BoldenBeth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm. Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity.

Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. Her first novel, The Lucky Charm, was published in May 2014 and its sequel, Getting Lucky will be available December 1, 2014.

Connect with Beth Bolden

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Mailing List

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Angel Lawson

Angel Lawson lives with her family in Atlanta and has a lifelong obsession with creating fiction from reality, either with paint or words. On a typical day you can find her writing, reading, plotting her escape from the zombie apocalypse and trying to get the glitter out from under her nails.

She is the author of five books, including the Wraith Series, Serial Summer, FanGirl, and Vigilant. She is the co-author of the New Adult Paranormal book, Odin's Murder with Kira Gold.

Connect with Angel Lawson

Twitter | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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T.M. FranklinT.M. Franklin started out her career writing nonfiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. Her first published novel, MORE, was born out of a challenge to write a novel in thirty days issued during National Novel Writing month. MORE was well received, selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, and won the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards.

In addition to MORE and its sequels, The Guardians and TWELVE, Franklin has penned the Amazon best-selling short stories, Window and A Piece of Cake. Her Amazon best-selling YA romance, How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, is Franklin’s first love story without traditionally recognized paranormal or fantasy elements. Although . . . T. M. is the first to argue that love is the best kind of magic.

Connect with T.M. Franklin

Website | E-mail | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Mailing List

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Kira Gold

Kira A. Gold is a textile artist living in Lexington, Kentucky. She has four accidental cats and an intentional collection of vintage marionettes. After midnight, she writes strange things in a blue bathrobe.
Her first book, ODIN’S MURDER, with Angel Lawson, is a New Adult paranormal twist on Norse mythology. Her solo debut, THE SCENT OF FLAMES, is a Young Adult take on Hamlet, set in Vermont. Look for her next play on Shakespeare, a seductive and speculative MacBeth, early next year.
Like her author page here: https://www.facebook.com/kiraagoldauthor for book info and odd thoughts or follow her inappropriate insanity on twitter: @kiraagold
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Bev ElleBev Elle is the author of sweet and spicy contemporary romance, women’s fiction and historical paranormal romance. A love of books--many already written, and those she harbors in her very active imagination. Writing is a passion she’s had for many years, but was unable to act upon. Bev Elle is the mother of three human children and two canines. She is also the lover of one husband. When Bev isn’t writing in her spare time after work, she is thinking of doing so.

Connect with Bev Elle

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Mailing List

 

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Amanda Weaver

Like many writers, Amanda Weaver spent her childhood telling stories. College steered her in a different direction and into a successful career as a designer. Several years ago, she picked up writing again as a hobby, to blow off some creative steam. One thing led to another, National Novel Writing Month happened, and here we are.

Amanda Weaver grew up in Florida and now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, daughter and two crazy cats.

Connect with Amanda Weaver

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Eye of the Storm Book Blitz!

THE FREQUENT FLYERS COLLECTION

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featuring Eye of the Storm by Beth Bolden

 Eye of the Storm

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Commercial pilot Captain Grant Montgomery III lives for the rules; flight attendant Tess O’Brien loves to break them.

Tess hates running into Captain Montgomery when she's working. On her best day, he's intimidating and kind of an ass. On her worst, he bore the brunt of the most embarrassing moment of her life. So when she's forced to drive from Columbus to Cleveland with him in the middle of the worst snowstorm Ohio's seen in years, Tess can't imagine anything more terrible.

The storm brewing between them might be even wilder than the record-breaking blizzard outside.

But as they drive further into the storm and further into danger, Tess discovers that so many of the assumptions she'd made about Grant are flawed, exaggerated and even just plain wrong. She was hoping the trip would finally confirm once and for all that he's a jerk, but instead, she finds herself increasingly fascinated--and attracted--to him.

 

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Ironically, I wrote this story when I was in Mexico on vacation in July.

For a story that takes place mostly in the freezing cold of an Ohio blizzard, it definitely seems odd that I wrote it in the sweltering heat of Cancun. But whether we're talking about love and hate, or hot and cold, extreme situations tend to bring out either the best in people or the worst.

Typically, they bring out the worst in me. I'm a bit of a control freak, so I'm not good with having my walls broken down without my permission. I gave Tess my horrible habit of laughing and cracking stupid jokes during stressful situations. When I was much younger, maybe 13 or 14, my family and I were driving to my grandmother's house in Colorado. It was the height of summer, we were in the middle of nowhere in Utah, and our SUV broke down. To make matters worse, it was a Sunday and it was a fairly small town. Nothing was open. My dad was angry and probably frightened and instead of keeping quiet and letting him work out the problem, I started laughing hysterically.

It was definitely not the best reaction I could have had. I don't think my mother has ever moved that fast before or since as she dragged me away from the broken down car.

That memory was the first thing I thought of when I had these two characters, so fundamentally different, who didn't understand anything about each other. By putting them in a stressful, potentially dangerous, situation, they were both forced to be honest to each other and about themselves.

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“Looks like they moved up the storm warnings another hour,” Tess said. “At least two feet of snow this afternoon, with another two tonight.”

Grant grimaced. She could see it clearly, even though his face was only in profile. “It’s going to be a rough drive,” he said, and she was suddenly so thankful she wasn’t alone. Growing up in Seattle had given her quite a bit of experience driving in the rain, but very little in the snow. If it had been up to Tess, she might not have ever made it to Cleveland.

And because the last half an hour had been so different, so odd, she didn’t even hesitate to say so. “I’m glad I’m not trying to do it alone,” she said. “I don’t really know how to drive in the snow.”

His mouth quirked again, and Tess wished, despite the obvious hazard to their safety, that he had glanced over at her again, because she was almost certain that had been even more of a smile, and she wished she’d seen it in its full, forward-facing glory. “The year I turned sixteen, Virginia had one of the worst snowstorms in a century. My father believed in not wasting a single learning opportunity, so he had me out on the freeway, when everyone else was terrified to drive down to the corner market.”

“Sounds intense.”

He shrugged restlessly, and flicked on the windshield wipers just as Tess realized the snow had begun to fall, flickering white specks against the gray sky. “Like I said, he was a great believer in learning opportunities.”

Tess was beginning to understand just how different their upbringings had been. Her father, gregarious but fiercely protective of his only child, would never have dreamed of dragging her out in the middle of a snowstorm, learning opportunity or not. She’d grown up cozy and a tiny bit coddled, always certain of her father’s love. From what she had heard of Grant’s father, an Air Force colonel, love sounded more like a reward doled out in miserly quantities. Maybe, Tess wondered, the difference explained Grant’s extreme self-possession and cold reaction to Tess trying to break his ice with teasing humor.

He’d probably never experienced teasing humor in his entire life, and Tess thought that was a real shame. A childhood should be full of laughter, laughter, and more laughter, as far as she was concerned.

Not just learning opportunities.

“My father makes every Irish cliché real,” she volunteered. “If he wasn’t so funny and nice, it would almost be embarrassing.”

Grant’s eyes swung towards her face, almost as if they were magnetized and he couldn’t help it. They were wide, and a little bit surprised, and Tess almost stopped, but she forged on because that was what they were doing, wasn’t it? Sharing their childhoods and backgrounds? It was perhaps a little stupid, but maybe if they could understand how different of a place they were coming from, they could meet somewhere in the middle.

It was even stupider, but Tess desperately wanted to meet him there, maybe with his lips on hers. She’d never been so intrigued and turned on by a man than she was by Grant Montgomery, and that was a tiny bit alarming, but then the last hour had been so different from the first ten. If this was what he was really, truly like, then perhaps there wasn’t a reason to freak out.

“He sounds like he’s nice,” Grant observed carefully.

“He is. And protective. He hates me being so far from home, and I do miss it sometimes, but most of the time I like being so independent.”

The snow was falling heavier now, and Tess scooted closer to the windshield and craned her neck up towards the sky, almost wishing that they could actually stop and she could taste the icy flakes on her tongue.

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Preorder on Amazon | Preorder on Kobo | Purchase on November 1

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10665670_552294348235366_1154693452788012498_n AbouttheAuthor_zps3edbfefb1601370_1556863084534105_8490565538357074425_n

Beth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm. Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity. Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. Her first novel, The Lucky Charm, was published in May 2014 and its sequel, Getting Lucky will be available December 1, 2014.

Connect with Beth Bolden

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Mailing List

Cover Reveal - GETTING LUCKY

Coming December 1, 2014

GETTING LUCKY BY BETH BOLDEN

the second book in the Portland Pioneers series

He might have struck out. . .

Noah Fox's life is changing. Ever since he was hit in the head by a pitch, nothing has been the same. Fighting daily headaches and the growing fear that his baseball career is over, Noah goes in search of the woman who once loved and left him.

But he refuses to stop swinging.

What he finds in the tiny town of Sand Point is nothing he could have ever expected. A trained chef and a certified “foodie,” Maggie May King has been perfectly content to devote the last three years of her life to running her baby, the Sand Point Café. Noah’s never met anyone less awed by his good looks or his celebrity, and even though she’s the last person he should be befriending, he finds himself seduced by Maggie’s sweetness and her even sweeter orange rolls.

section break

Beth BoldenBeth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm. Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity. Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. Her first novel, The Lucky Charm, was published in May 2014 and the sequel, Getting Lucky, will be available December 1, 2014.

Connect with Beth Bolden

Website| Facebook | Twitter| Goodreads | Mailing List

Behind the Story: EYE OF THE STORM

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Like I talked about in my introductory post on this blog, I started seriously writing fiction by writing fanfiction. I think this is actually something that a lot of current authors can probably claim but for some reason (*cough* 50 Shades of Gray and After *cough*), authors don't often widely publicize those beginnings. For me, I feel no shame about my origins as a fanfiction writer. Before I wrote fanfiction, I didn't believe that I could really write fiction. I'd just graduated from college, and after four years of writing literary analysis, I was convinced that I just wasn't a fiction writer.

I'm forever grateful for the wonderful community of fanfiction writers and readers who helped me become confident and skillful in my own writing ability. That community is exactly how the Frequent Flyers Collection began. My good friend Angel Lawson, who I have known almost from the very beginning of our respective fanfic careers, and I were talking one night about how great it was that so many fanfic writers that we knew had branched out and grown from writing fanfiction to writing original fiction. And we thought, wouldn't it be so great if we put together a collection of authors who had all done just that?

That's how Frequent Flyers began. I knew it was semi-crazy to attempt to write a 20,000 word short story while I was trying to write Getting Lucky this summer, but the collection was something I passionately wanted to be a part of.

Ironically for a story set during winter and in the middle of a blizzard, I wrote most of Eye of the Storm while I was on vacation in Mexico in the middle of the summer.

Eye of the Storm began for me when I decided I wanted to write an alpha male. Jack from The Lucky Charm was very decidedly not alpha, and Noah from Getting Lucky isn't much of one either. I do enjoy reading alpha males (can you say Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh? Or any of Lisa Kleypas' amazing historical romances?), and I wanted to see if I could put my own unique twist on the typical alpha male trope.

Of course, Captain Grant Montgomery III ended up less of an alpha male and more of a mystery, not only to Tess, but also to almost everyone else who knows him. Tess O'Brien, my flight attendant with her Irish background and snarky humor, is such a great foil for him. Tess pushes him out of his comfort zone and gives him a bunch of reasons to show her the real Grant Eye of the Storm copyMontgomery III.

I knew there was no way Grant and Tess would ever have enough opportunities to either break down his walls or change her opinion of him, so I stuck them together in an untenable situation--a desperate drive through Ohio to reach the Cleveland airport, all the while on the leading edge of a blizzard-like storm.

The 20,000 word count was probably my biggest challenging writing Eye of the Storm. Let's face it. My novels are long. I like them long. I like taking my time to develop character and plot. I like writing a lot of characters and plotlines. With Eye of the Storm, I was forced to keep the lens of the narrative focused so tightly on Grant and Tess--and in the end, I think that actually made the story so much better.

T.M. Franklin, who also contributed a story to this collection, did such a beautiful job on my individual cover (as well as the great FREQUENT FLYERS cover). I really think she captured the chaos of the storm that Grant and Tess are forced to drive through, all while trying to maneuver through their own burgeoning connection.

I hope you enjoy reading about Tess and Grant as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Eye of the Storm, part of the FREQUENT FLYERS COLLECTION, will be released November 1, 2014.

Cover Reveal for Frequent Flyers, a brand new short story collection!

I am so pleased and excited to announce FREQUENT FLYERS! I wrote a short story for this collection, Eye of the Storm, and it's been great to connect with so many other great authors--authors that I knew back when I was still writing fanfiction. But all of us have now gone on to publish original work and I think that's definitely something worth celebrating.

I've read all of the stories included in FREQUENT FLYERS and I am still blown away by how diverse they are, even though we all started in the exact same place: the airport.

Frequent Flyers Cover

Coming November 1, 2014!

Summary Romance flies the friendly skies in this diverse collection of short stories from a talented group of best-selling and up-and-coming authors. There’s something for everyone in this mile-high compilation – from a love story born in a blizzard to a steamy encounter spawned by a series of crazy events. For supernatural fiction fans, how about the tale of an airport that’s also a portal to another world… or a scheduled flight that takes a detour into an alternate reality? From an unexpected trip that reignites a twenty year old flame, to a quirky liaison between a ticketing agent and an adorable doctor, Frequent Flyers takes you on a journey that will touch your heart and leave you flying high!

Eye of the Storm by Beth Bolden - Commercial pilot Captain Grant Montgomery III lives for the rules; flight attendant Tess O'Brien loves to break them. The storm brewing between them might be even wilder than the record-breaking blizzard outside.

Forced Landing by Angel Lawson - Nadya discovers her tiny hometown airport is the portal to a world she never knew existed, one with an ancient history buried deep within her bloodline.

Unscheduled Departure by T.M. Franklin – Rowan Elliott is devastated when her boyfriend, Finn, tells her he’s moving across the country to take over the family business, and thrilled when he changes his mind at the last minute and gets off the plane. But then things get . . . weird. And Ro’s left wondering if her boyfriend’s really who she thinks he is.

A Midsummer Flight's Dream by Kira A. Gold - Twenty years ago, he promised to catch her if she fell. Contains young lust, old books, and wild strawberries.

Fly Me To The Moon by Bev Elle - Ticketing agent Jessamy Taylor has been in a dating slump that was exacerbated when she moved her sickly mother in. Truth is, she's never gotten over the quirky Dr. Griffin Sanderson whose OCD drives her crazy, despite his excellent bedside manner.

The Friendly Skies by Amanda Weaver - An unruly drunk, a misbehaving volcano and a re-routed flight lead to one steamy night for two strangers who meet on a plane.

Add Frequent Flyers to Your Goodreads Shelf!

Frequent Flyers
About the Authors

Beth BoldenBeth Bolden lives in Portland,Oregon with one cat and one fiance. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. After graduating from university with a degree in English, Beth unsurprisingly had no idea what to do with her life, and spent the next few years working for a medical equipment supplier, a technology company, and an accounting firm. Now Beth runs her own business as a Girl Friday for small business owners, assisting them with administration, bookkeeping and their general sanity. Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. Her first novel, The Lucky Charm, was published in May 2014 and its sequel, Getting Lucky will be available December 1, 2014.

Connect with Beth Bolden

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Mailing List

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Angel Lawson Angel Lawson lives with her family in Atlanta and has a lifelong obsession with creating fiction from reality, either with paint or words. On a typical day you can find her writing, reading, plotting her escape from the zombie apocalypse and trying to get the glitter out from under her nails.

She is the author of five books, including the Wraith Series, Serial Summer, FanGirl, and Vigilant. She is the co-author of the New Adult Paranormal book, Odin's Murder with Kira Gold.

Connect with Angel Lawson

Twitter | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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T.M. FranklinT.M. Franklin started out her career writing nonfiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. Her first published novel, MORE, was born out of a challenge to write a novel in thirty days issued during National Novel Writing month. MORE was well received, selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, and won the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. In addition to MORE and its sequels, The Guardians and TWELVE, Franklin has penned the Amazon best-selling short stories, Window and A Piece of Cake. Her Amazon best-selling YA romance, How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, is Franklin’s first love story without traditionally recognized paranormal or fantasy elements. Although . . . T. M. is the first to argue that love is the best kind of magic.

Connect with T.M. Franklin

Website | E-mail | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Mailing List

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Kira Gold

Kira A. Gold is a textile artist living in Lexington, Kentucky. She has four accidental cats and an intentional collection of vintage marionettes. After midnight, she writes strange things in a blue bathrobe.

Her first book, ODIN’S MURDER, with Angel Lawson, is a New Adult paranormal twist on Norse mythology. Her solo debut, THE SCENT OF FLAMES, is a Young Adult take on Hamlet, set in Vermont. Look for her next play on Shakespeare, a seductive and speculative MacBeth, early next year.

Like her author page here: https://www.facebook.com/kiraagoldauthor for book info and odd thoughts or follow her inappropriate insanity on twitter: @kiraagold

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Bev ElleBev Elle is the author of sweet and spicy contemporary romance, women’s fiction and historical paranormal romance. A love of books--many already written, and those she harbors in her very active imagination. Writing is a passion she’s had for many years, but was unable to act upon. Bev Elle is the mother of three human children and two canines. She is also the lover of one husband. When Bev isn’t writing in her spare time after work, she is thinking of doing so.

Connect with Bev Elle

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Mailing List

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Amanda Weaver

Like many writers, Amanda Weaver spent her childhood telling stories. College steered her in a different direction and into a successful career as a designer. Several years ago, she picked up writing again as a hobby, to blow off some creative steam. One thing led to another, National Novel Writing Month happened, and here we are.

Amanda Weaver grew up in Florida and now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, daughter and two crazy cats.

Connect with Amanda Weaver

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Giveaway

Join Us for the Frequent Flyers RELEASE PARTY on November 1st! And ENTER NOW to Win One of Six Amazon Gift Cards - or One of Six ARCs of Frequent Flyers!

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Announcing the 2nd book in the Portland Pioneers series!

Long time no talk, guys! I've been so busy this summer, finishing up the draft of the second book in my Portland Pioneers series. It's done, and in edits, and I can't wait for you to read it, but to tide you over, I've decided to release the title of the book. Noah's book is no longer called Noah's book, it's . . .

GETTING LUCKY

Funny story about the title. I absolutely had zero intention of putting "luck" anywhere in the title of the second book, or in any other book in the Portland Pioneers series. The Lucky Charm was a great title and it fit Jack and Izzy's story so well, but I didn't want to end up with a long list of cliched titles--and even more importantly I didn't want to end up stuck being forced into using a title or a phrase with luck in it for the third book. Because, let's face it, if I used "luck" twice, I was definitely painting myself into a corner.

Unfortunately, my wonderful other half offhandedly suggested this title to me as we took one of our evening walks. And double unfortunately, I knew right away that it was absolutely, devastatingly perfect, but like any crazy artistic person, I fought it. I worried myself sick over finding a title for the third book that was feasible before the third book was even written. I waited months to announce it, hoping that while I was writing Noah's book that more appropriate inspiration would strike.

It never did.

Getting Lucky was hopelessly inevitable from the beginning.

Also, I've revamped and expanded the blurb of Getting Lucky:

He might have struck out. . .

Noah Fox's life is changing. Ever since he was hit in the head by a pitch, nothing has been the same. Fighting daily headaches and the growing fear that his baseball career is over, Noah goes in search of the woman who once loved and left him.

But he refuses to stop swinging.

What he finds in the tiny town of Sand Point is nothing he could have ever expected. A trained chef and a certified “foodie,” Maggie May King has been perfectly content to devote the last three years of her life to running her baby, the Sand Point Café. Noah’s never met anyone less awed by his good looks or his celebrity, and even though she’s the last person he should be befriending, he finds himself seduced by Maggie’s sweetness and her even sweeter orange rolls.

The release date of Getting Lucky is December 1, 2014.

Kick Ass Rec: Audrey Exposed by Roxy Queen

Sometimes, you read a book and it just works for you on every level, and you literally can't put it down, because it's just kick ass. I had the amazing opportunity a few months ago to read an ARC of Audrey Exposed by Roxy Queen.

Guys, this is a seriously killer book. Generally, I think I'm a fairly decent reviewer, but sometimes a book just makes you go ga-ga and it's all emotion and feeling and well, coherent analytical thought just kind of exits the building.

Audrey Exposed is about a girl named Audrey who has a slight problem. Basically, she's still a virgin, despite all her attempts to lose it. Now, the most obvious reason would be some deep, dark horrible experience in her past, right? But Queen doesn't ever take the easy or the expected route. No, the main problem of Audrey's is that she's too used to maintaining con10374912_246033935582519_6700749796125772070_ntrol and the panic of losing it actually ends up causing quite a bit of pain.

And as we all know pain isn't you know. . .conducive . . .to pretty much anything with sex.

Unless you're Rihanna. And then, she's kind of an exception to a lot of rules, don't you think?

Anyway, so poor Audrey has struggled and struggled, and finally, she relents to see a doctor, who basically tells her there's nothing wrong with her and suggests her for a psychological study.

I loved a lot of things about Audrey, but really what took the cake for me was how real she felt. She was a bundle of nerves and indecision and worry, but she could also laugh at herself. She never took herself too seriously. And she was so damn brave. I'm not sure I could have done what she did, and refuse not to let something so potentially awkward and embarrassing rule her life. I was kind of in awe of kick ass she was.

Graham, the "partner" that Audrey is paired with in the study has a really interesting background and I really liked the way Queen legitimately explained that background. I won't give away too much, but trust me, it's both shocking and believable. Not a combo you run across much in romance these days. Graham is also a delightful combination of absolute insane sexiness and sensitivity. He's so sweet and careful around Audrey, but while at the same time, you know he wants more, and is dying to give her more. That is a really priceless combination, honestly.

What I think enjoyed the absolute most about Audrey Exposed was how Roxy Queen took each cliche of erotic romance and made them fresh and different. I know she's been hard at work at a sequel, and I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on it.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out this amazing, amazing book.

Check out Audrey Exposed on:

scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg               nook_logo

 

Celebration + a Giveaway!

I firmly believe bragging is a big no-no. So what I'm about to do isn't bragging; it's celebrating! The Lucky Charm has been on sale since 5/4, and in less than three weeks, I've sold 1,000 copies.

This may be small beans to some people, and huge to others, but I can tell you what it feels like to me: it feels like an impossible reality that so many people have embraced me as an author.

All I can really say is two simple words: thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Plus, a celebration isn't really a celebration without two things, booze and gifts. Unfortunately I can't really pop open any bubbly with you, but I can do something about the gifts.

I'm giving away 5 copies of The Lucky Charm, either for your Kindle or your Nook. No strings, no hoops, just enter using the rafflecopter below. I'll give you an extra entry if you follow me on twitter and pretend (if briefly) that you're even vaguely interested in my inane mutterings. But I will add that right now, twitter is the best way to get updates on the sequel to The Lucky Charm, featuring Noah Fox.

The sequel does currently have a title, but I won't be releasing it for a few months. Suffice it to say, the title rocks. And so far, I can pretty safely say that I think the book rocks too. Eventually I'll be putting together a mailing list, which will be an even better way to get updates, but for right now, twitter or facebook are probably your best bets.

Also, Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Jane from Dear Author do a great podcast, and in this latest episode, they talk about The Lucky Charm. I thought that Jane really "got" what I was trying to do with the book, plus the conversation she and Sarah have about reviewing in general is really interesting.

One last self-congratulatory post. . .Mandi Schreiner from Smexy Books did a great review a few weeks ago about The Lucky Charm but she also has put together a post for USA Today, featuring The Lucky Charm as a must-read for summer. Check it out!

For those of you that have asked about Kobo, I'm going to try to get The Lucky Charm loaded on there this weekend. I'll definitely post an update when it's live and available for purchase. Also, the paperback copies of The Lucky Charm are also available now!

Without further ado, here's the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Best Week Ever.

Wow, what a week it's been. The Lucky Charm was released on Sunday, and this week has been such an amazing whirlwind of support and love. So much love, actually, that I can't even really process it all.

I've been reading romance since I was about 14 years old, and about ten years ago, became more involved in the online romance publishing community. I've seen a lot of authors debut, both traditionally and self-published, and so I tempered my expectations. First books aren't usually very good. I knew mine had its own share of issues, and expected okay reviews--if I got reviews at all.

Plain and simple, the number of books being released these days is staggering. As a debut author, it is extremely difficult to stand out from the crowd enough to even garner a handful of reviews from readers and bloggers, so again I set my expectations low.

But the truth is, even if I hadn't set my expectations so low, I still would have been blown away by this week.

Jane from Dear Author, one of my favorite review blogs and I'd say, probably one of the more influential and popular romance review sites out there, loved The Lucky Charm. She pimped it all week on Goodreads and twitter, even going as far as to give away five copies. Today, her Recommended Read review for The Lucky Charm went up and it was about as amazing as I could have dreamed it would be.

Sometimes you write for years (in this case, three), and you just pray that all that blood, sweat and tears that you put into the work will show--that the points you wanted to make with the book will come across clearly. That people will "get" your book. And Jane's review demonstrated just how much she "got" The Lucky Charm. It was a great, great moment for me.

Jane also did the incredible thing of suggesting that other bloggers and reviewers she knew read The Lucky Charm. Mandi from Smexy Books read it and loved it too, posting a 4 star review on her blog. Jane also convinced Angela James, Editorial Director for Carina Press, to read the book and she enjoyed it too.

Angel Lawson, a longtime friend and supporter, back even from when I wrote fanfiction, posted a wonderful blog about the book. It was so great to go back to memory lane and remember what we'd gone through at Comic-Con. I will never forget the look on her face when, after being awake for about 48 hours in a row, standing up in the heat, they announced that David Boreanaz wasn't going to make it to the Bones panel after all.

I can't possibly list all the wonderful supporters and reviews I've had for The Lucky Charm. I wish I could. But each and every one, I held close to my heart and cried a little.

Writing a novel and publishing it has been a dream of mine for pretty much my entire life. I was almost afraid to actually do it because what if it failed? How would I handle that kind of crushing, self-annihilating defeat? Everyone around me had so much faith that I could do it, and it was their belief that pushed me forward and helped me achieve all this. A writer is only as good as their support system.

So if you read and enjoyed The Lucky Charm, THANK YOU. You made this week one of the best in my entire life.

And if you haven't, well, what are you waiting for?  :)

Buy the The Lucky Charm:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Or if you're not ready to buy just yet, add it to your to-be-read pile on Goodreads!

 

PS: The paperback copy of The Lucky Charm is almost ready for order! I received the proof this week and am working my way through it to make sure it's perfect for everyone that wants a paper copy. And Sam from AngstyG did a beautiful job on it!

Endings, Both Good and Bad

Sometimes, timing just sucks. Take this week for example. Monday was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, a great sitcom about not just a man meeting the woman he marries, but a great group of friends. How do I know this? Well, C and I were about halfway through season 6 on Netflix when the finale hit the airwaves.

You know how difficult it is to avoid spoilers in today's social media-overrun world. Yeah, you know where this is going. I know a lot of people liked what happened, and a lot of others didn't. I'd be in the latter category.

I will give a caveat that I did not actually watch the season finale, and I haven't watched any of season 7, 8, or 9 either. But I will say that some of the creative decisions weren't bad, necessarily, it was more a question of execution.

If you're going to pull those kind of plot and character punches, then you've got to have development to back them up. I don't think they had that, not after 9 seasons. I think a braver, tougher choice for the producers would have been to potentially revisit their original ending and revise it to fit a show that ran seven seasons longer than they really expected it would.

The HIMYM finale also got me thinking about other finales, good and bad. My favorite show for a long time (with periods of utter loathing thrown in--it's primary dependability was its inconsistency) was Gossip Girl, which ended last year after six seasons.

Listening to fans who loved Barney and Robin together this week made me all the more grateful that when GG did end, it ended in a way that I wanted. Sometimes we see the ending we want as inevitable, because so many other things in our lives are tailored to fit our desires. But television shows?What we want out of them only matters to us, not to the producers, or the directors, or the writers.

I was sad to see GG end, but this week reminded me of just how lucky I was--to get the ending I wanted (well, mostly. That Dan revelation is still ridiculous).

For those of you who loved Chuck and Blair and their sometimes insane, but always epic love story, this gorgeous fan video I found last night is for you.

[su_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFwcp2Y2KdQ#aid=P8ulB7fmPIA"]

And for those of you who are like, who gives a rat's ass about Chuck and Blair and Gossip Girl (don't lie, you are totally out there), another excerpt from The Lucky Charm, in honor of Major League Baseball's Opening Day.

Opening Day was pretty much the greatest day of the entire season, Jack thought as he took the dugout steps and gazed around at the bustling field, finally active for the first time after a long winter.  Someday, when hell froze over and pigs flew and the Pioneers actually made the playoffs, the beginning, when anything was still possible, wouldn’t be the highlight of his year anymore.

Maybe then he’d finally be able to look his twelve year old self in the eye. After the way last year ended, they hadn’t really been on speaking terms. It hadn’t mattered that he’d done everything he personally could to reverse the Pioneers’ losing streak, he still blamed himself.

After all, it was a little hard to blame Foxy when the guy was already a wreck.

“Best day of the year,” Noah said, stretching out his lanky form, echoed as Jack dropped to the outfield grass next to him. For Portland, it was a pretty nice day for April, cloudy with a few tantalizing hints of sun, with none of the cliché torrential downpours that the city was known for in the spring.

Jack leaned back and squinted as one of the clouds parted and sun dappled the flawlessly maintained swath of green grass. “Only one day that’s better.”

Foxy shook his head ruefully. “Man, you care too much. Just gotta take the cash and the chance to play and let the rest go."

And that was precisely the philosophy that had landed Noah Fox in Portland. He’d played for the Diamondbacks in Arizona for the length of his rookie contract, then had turned three good years into a lucrative free agent contract for the Pioneers, catching the team at a point when they’d needed to build some interest from the home crowd. Once, Jack had asked why he’d chosen Portland, and for Foxy, it had been totally cut and dry—they’d been the team to offer the best deal.

Maybe Foxy was right. Maybe he did care too much about winning. Some days, Jack thought he might even be willing to pay the team, if only the Pioneers could get out of their own damn way and figure out how to be the last guy standing.

“It’s abnormal how you don’t care about winning.”

Foxy just shrugged. “It’s not like I like losing. If anyone’s abnormal it’s you.” He glanced down the first baseline, and Jack didn’t even have to look in that direction to see what had caught Foxy’s eye.

Izzy, her long dark hair tousled from the breeze, wearing one of those ridiculously hot pencil skirts she tended to favor making her legs look miles long. Jack looked down at the turf and swore under his breath.

“I told you,” he nearly growled. “She turned me down flat.”

Sighing, Foxy switched from his right to his left side, curling his body across one leg. “Of course she did.  You only asked her once.”

He asked the question before he could stop himself. “How many times did Tabitha make you ask?”

There was a long silence.

“A lot,” Noah finally said. “I asked her a lot. Too many times to count. And even the way it ended, it was almost worth it.”

“Almost,” Jack retorted sardonically.

“You know, while they technically aren’t forbidden to date players, it’s really discouraged. I had to convince Tabitha I was worth breaking the unwritten rule.”

Jack shifted and let his head hit the turf, staring up at the sky. “So you think I should ask her out again.”

“Depends on how much you like her. If you’re going to moon after her all season like a pimply teenage boy, then for your sake and mine, you’d better.” Foxy hoisted himself to his feet and walked over to Finn, the right fielder, who’d just made his way onto the field for his own warmup.

Jack stared at the sky as the clouds shifted above him. He wanted to forget Izzy, wanted to pretend that since he’d asked and she’d said no, they owed each other nothing. Not even a stray thought when they passed each other in a random hallway in some random city. But he knew himself better than that.

The publication date for The Lucky Charm is April 30, 2014.

Cover 2.0

New, improved and even more awesome than before! Book-Cover-KINDLE

My awesomesauce cover artist and I spent some time this morning brainstorming on how to make a great cover even better, and I love what we came up with.

As an extra awesome bonus for the readers out there (you're out there, right? yes? I hope so!), I'm also including a large excerpt from the first chapter of The Lucky Charm. Enjoy!

---   ---  ---  ---   ---  ---

CHAPTER 1

When Isabel Dalton was five years old, she proudly boasted to her parents that when she grew up, she was going to be a famous movie star. Mobs of adoring fans, endless red carpets and a neverending supply of rhinestone sunglasses would be hers. She imagined swanning around a glittering blue swimming pool, shaded by palm trees and a legion of Ken doll lookalikes.

But much to her parents’ relief, it turned out that Izzy’s imagination was vastly more developed than her acting talent.

And not much has changed in that department, Izzy thought darkly as she attempted a tolerant smile that her date probably saw through in less than a second.

“So you’re actually in a band? Like a rock band?” From Graham’s puppy dog expression to his pressed chinos (“Light starch only,” he’d informed her when, desperate for a conversation topic, she’d told him she liked his pants), he was about as far from a rock star as she could possibly imagine.

“It’s not a real band, actually,” Graham, the first date Izzy had been on in eight months and thirteen days, admitted sheepishly. “It’s actually a game, but there’s this bar that makes it a whole event. Like karaoke, but with Rock Band, the game.”

He paused and she could practically see the enthusiasm bubbling out his pores.

“They have a real stage, and everything. Every single downloadable song, too. You should come with me sometime.”

It was hard to fault Graham for having passion. It was also hard to fathom having a passion for a video game. This was what men her age did with their free time? Working sixty hour weeks for the Pacific Northwest Sports Network didn’t leave her much free time, but if she had it, Izzy knew she wouldn’t be spending her Tuesdays playacting in front of a drunk bar crowd.

Izzy glanced down at the dry chicken on her plate and contemplated sawing off another chunk, because if she finished her meal, maybe this bad idea of a date would finally be over. It had been an epically bad idea to accept Graham’s dinner invitation, but even she sometimes got sick of being alone.

So she’d said yes when Graham, the IT sub-contractor who’d fixed her work laptop, had asked her out, even though she’d known it was smarter to say no.

“What about you?” he asked, clearly underwhelmed by her own underwhelmed response to his favorite hobby.

“I’m head assistant to one of the executive producers.”

Graham cleared his throat. Maybe his steak was as dry as her chicken was.

“No, I meant, what do you do for fun.”

Fun. Fun. Izzy tried to remember the last time she’d had fun simply to have it and couldn’t. Work wasn’t fun exactly, but it was sometimes rewarding and always challenging. She loved seeing the look of pride on her boss’ face when she succeeded at yet another tricky, impossible task, but it wasn’t what she’d call fun.

Fun had really ended for her the summer she’d been eleven. The hushed conversations, the worried looks she hadn’t understood. Her mother kneeling in front of her, bare head wrapped in a colorful, obnoxiously patterned turban, making her promise to be strong and brave.

At the funeral, she had decided that instead of a movie star, she’d be a doctor and never let another mother die.

That pipe dream had lasted until she was a freshman in college. Freshman Bio had killed it and killed it dead, and then she’d been lost again, aimless and goalless, until she’d come home during winter break and had caught her dad watching a Bo Jackson documentary on ESPN.

An hour later, tears still drying on her cheeks, she’d announced yet another career change. This time she’d be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but from the steady pride in her dad’s eyes, Izzy had known she’d found her new calling.

Exchanging her pre-med classes for journalism, Izzy decided she was going to tell the stories that nobody else knew:  the stories that made viewers cry and laugh and burn to be something greater than the sum of their parts. When her dad died in a car wreck on an icy stretch of I-5, leaving her essentially an orphan at the age of 21, Izzy had only become more convinced of her path. She’d thrown herself into the last semester of school, determined that even if they were gone, she’d make her parents proud.

She’d been hired at the Pacific Northwest Sports Network right out of college, and now, six years later, she knew she’d gotten lost in the job, let it swallow her practically alive. It was hard to explain to people, especially strangers, that work was all she had left. Her family was dead. Her acquaintances from college hadn’t survived six months after graduation.  And her dating life was practically nonexistent. So if she worked long hours, who cared? She didn’t even mind that the entire office whispered about how pathetic she was, only that they did it behind her back.

“You mean what I do when I’m not at work?” she asked, horribly aware of the pity on Graham’s face. He’d obviously heard the office gossip, clearly after he’d asked her out, or else they wouldn’t be here tonight. And here she was, proving them all too true.

Really, that was okay with her. Izzy gave herself a little mental shake. He was just a stupid boy, who liked playing video games. Who cared if he regretted asking her out? She regretted saying yes.

“My boss Charlie and I like to eat,” she finally admitted. “We’ve been to every diner in the greater Seattle area.”  Nevermind that this was more Charlie’s hobby than hers and that after the first month, he’d made it a job requirement so she’d stop turning down his dinner invitations.

If only Charlie wasn’t sixty five, balding, and forever expanding in the waistline, he’d have made the perfect boyfriend.  They had the same dry sense of humor, the same lack of patience for fools and idiots, and he had a way of supporting her that didn’t feel anything like pity.

And he made her feel a tiny bit less alone.

Her cell vibrated and Izzy only hesitated a moment before plucking it from her clutch. She held it up and gave Graham what she was sure was a horribly fake shrug of regret. “I’ve got to take this. Sorry.”

From his decidedly annoyed expression, Izzy guessed she was even worse actress than she’d believed.

“That’s fine. I’ll get the check and we can go,” Graham said, and the barely-concealed sneer in his voice took her by surprise.

“Sure,” she said uncertainly, feeling the phone continue to vibrate in her hand. “If that’s what you want.”

“What I wanted was to have dinner with an actual human being. Not some kind of robot.”

Along with the flourless chocolate cake and crème brulee, humiliation was apparently also on the dessert tray tonight.

“Hey, you asked me out,” Izzy retorted, resorting to her last defensive resort—the withering tone that tended to leave men in the fetal position. “If you’d asked around, you already knew what I was like.”

Graham jerkily shucked a few bills on the table, clearly deciding the evening was over before the check even showed up.  “Yeah, after I did. Stupidly, after you said yes. I thought you were just a pretty girl. Guess I was wrong.”

Izzy decided it was time for this farce to be over before Graham set feminism back another hundred years. “Guess you were.”

He shot her a look that was pure pity and then left, leaving a trail of interested gazes in his wake. Izzy glanced at her half-full glass of pinot gris and reached for it, taking a long, slow swallow, and then another. She didn’t have anything to prove—not to a room full of strangers, anyway—but her pride wouldn’t let her rush out after Graham. She wasn’t afraid to eat alone; she’d done it enough times.

It was only after her glass was empty and she was putting her coat on that she remembered the missed phone call.

The phone number wasn’t one she recognized.  Wrapping her coat around her and heading out into the cold drizzle of February in Seattle, Izzy accessed her voicemail.

“This is Carol Steele, a nurse at the University of Washington Emergency Trauma Center. We have a patient here, admitted for heart attack symptoms. His name is Charles Walker, and you are listed first on his emergency contact list.  Please call me back at (206) 555 – 9035 to discuss his hospitalization.”

Izzy’s stomach plummeted to the ground and her agonized half-gasp left her reaction to Graham in the dust.

Charlie. Her boss. Her boss and so much more. Her guiding light, her mentor, the man who’d taken a chance and hired her right out of college. Charlie, who had somehow found out about her dad and had taken her under his wing when she was still numb with grief and shock.

Not Charlie too.

---   ---  ---  ---   ---  ---

I know the subtitle on the cover is "romantic comedy" and I promise there is lots of humor, but the plain and simple fact is that Izzy's past is almost unbearably tragic, and it's shaped who she is and how she lives her life. At first I tried writing this opening chapter without giving all the details of her tragedies, but in the end, I think it's better for us to know right away what kind of baggage Izzy's dealing with.

Good news is that everything is progressing wonderfully on the back-end prep work for release, and publication date, barring any last minute emergencies, will be April 30.

Restraint - It's Totally HOT

If you've been reading any of my blog posts, it's not so much a surprise that my opinions can be idiosyncratic, strange and sometimes just downright odd. Considering the climate of the romance publishing industry right now, this is going to seem maybe even weirder. I really love restraint.  And no, I don't mean being restrained, though that's definitely hot right now. No, I mean, like, actual restraint. Like the love interests don't jump each others bones on the first page (with a caveat I will admit that sometimes this works, though not often for me, personally), but instead their journey is this crazy long slow burn. I love that. I love when a kiss on a hand is sometimes sexier than a kiss someplace else.

I was re-reading some of my favorite Eloisa James' historicals this weekend, and in A Duke of Her Own (the entire Desperate Duchesses series is pretty much amazing, but I've got special love for Villiers and his novel, the last of the series), Villiers greets Eleanor with pretty much the steamiest hand kiss in the history of hand kisses.

He took her hand. Then, without smiling at her, without saying a word, without doing anything other than meeting her eyes, he slowly peeled off her glove. It was utterly surprising--and scandalous. She heard her mother make a small huff of disapproval as he drew it off.

But Villiers didn't look away from her eyes, just lifted her bare fingers to his lips as if they were entirely alone. His gesture was the antithesis of Gideon's polite greeting. Villiers's kiss was slow and deliberate, giving everyone in the tent more than enough time to enjoy the spectacle.

For Eleanor, the world titled--and changed. She suddenly saw the man before her in focus: his thick lashes, his deep bottom lip, the hard line of his chin, the thick hair tied back and defiantly unpowdered. The maleness of his shoulders. The coiled strength of his body.

A sultry warmth spread from her cheeks and flooded down her body. Yet it wasn't the kiss that did it. It was something in those black eyes that made heat rise in her cheeks. . .and in her body.

No, he's not slobbering all over her hand. No, he's not licking or sucking or anything else. Not that there's anything wrong with those things.

Watching The Originals last night also got me thinking about restraint. Pretty much my favorite character on this show or Vampire Diaries is Elijah, played by the incomparable and insanely handsome Daniel Gillies. Yes, of course, Klaus is smoking hot too, and I love it when he growls and throws people around, but when it comes down to it, I just prefer the subtlety of Elijah to Klaus' theatrics.

Right now, the writers on The Originals have got this amazing slow burn pre-relationship/friendship between Elijah and Hayley, Klaus' baby mamma (don't even ask, I don't watch these shows for the plot).

They haven't actually kissed yet, but their almost kiss is probably sexier than any other kiss I've seen on TV this year.

[su_youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtVLJfRea_I"]

I love the message of honor and love.

Plus, the music is awesome. "Hard to Find" by the National.

And in this clip, Elijah desperately tries to save Hayley's baby by cooling her fever.

[su_youtube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEi5Kdu6jgs"]

What is it about water that makes everything automatically sexier? An age old question we may never answer.

In The Lucky Charm, Izzy is way too rational and fearful for her job to just jump into a relationship with Jack, even if he could probably charm her pants off, so theirs is a slow burn as well. Circumstances demanded it, but since it's also my natural preference, it's not much of a surprise that the characters don't immediately jump into bed in TLC.

So much about Izzy's journey is about finding the courage to be okay with wanting what she wants. In this excerpt, she hasn't found it yet, and Jack's there to show her all that she's missing out on.

Izzy whirled around, heart in her throat. Toby couldn’t have come back and heard the one uncharitable thing she’d ever said about him out loud. That would be too unfair.

But it wasn’t Toby. It was Jack, leaning against the doorjamb, grinning at her.

“Not nice,” she panted in relief. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“I seem to have a pretty strong effect on you,” he said, taking a few steps into the trailer and letting the much-abused screen door slam behind him.

“Don’t remind me,” Izzy said, slumping down to one chair. Her knees wobbled a little from the shock of almost telling her boss to his face that he treated her like shit and a little from the shock of the fact that Jack was here. She’d almost gotten used to seeing him first thing in the morning. There was a safeness in their morning routine; he’d never come to see her in the trailer before, or after a game, and the uncertainty of the situation set nerves fluttering in her stomach.

Then his gaze swung to her, like a magnet drawn to its opposite, the interest in his expression completely naked, and Izzy froze.

Don’t think about him naked, she had to remind herself. Somehow, along the line she’d begun to find him more attractive than Noah, and suddenly the trailer felt about half its normally claustrophobic size as he leaned against the corner of the desk and gazed at her.

He’d showered and changed after the media session, and she could smell his soap on the air—something tangy and fresh, like just-cut grass. His close-cropped light brown hair was still wet on the temples, and had just begun to curl in the Florida heat. He was so close to her chair that she wanted to reach up and smooth it down, so she could feel the damp strands against her skin.

She had to do something to break this spell, before he did anything they couldn’t take back; before he did anything to compromised her career even more than it was already compromised.

“What can I do for you?” she stuttered out, hating the way he effortlessly seemed to unsettle her.

“Do I need an excuse to see you?” he asked softly, the words hanging in the air. Izzy supposed it was inevitable that matters would come to this; he’d flirted with her from almost the first moment they’d met, but she’d hoped that maybe flirting was all it would ever turn out to be.

Beginnings

There's a saying that the hardest line to write is the first.  I won't disagree with that--it's sometimes half the battle just to get started, and the first line is all about crossing over from talking about writing to actually writing. But they're lying.  The hardest part isn't just the first line; it's the first chapter.

The first chapter is everything.  It establishes your setting, your tone, the characters and their baseline before the plot happens, and it has to all be wrapped up in a beautiful, enticing package that seduces the reader into wanting to read more.

I know a lot of writers lament the "middle" of a novel--where the plot stalls and sinks like a cake with no leavening--but it's the beginning that causes me the most struggle.

Ironically, it was only a few posts ago (my first post, incidentally) where I was lamenting that I had to rewrite the middle and end of The Lucky Charm.  And it did need to be rewritten, make no mistake about that, but then it turned out that the first chapter needed rewritten too.

What it boils down to is this:  in a novel, the characters go on a journey.  Sometimes literally; but usually, more like metaphorically.  I believe that for a novel to be satisfying, there's a journey each character needs to take on their own, and then if the novel is a romance, there's a journey the two characters go on together.

I understood the destination, and even most of the journey my characters would take to get there. The problem was actually where they began, more with the female protagonist rather than the male. Full disclosure: Jack Bennett pretty much dropped into my head fully formed, very, very passionate about what he was and wasn't, and loathe to change anything about himself.

But Izzy, she was a real issue. I didn't know how to frame her story and tell the reader about her devastating past while keeping the light, comedic tone I really wanted. This is where writing is really hard; as a writer, you try a lot of things and sometimes none of them work.

I tried re-working what I already had. I tried editing. I finally came to the conclusion the entire chapter would have be thrown out and I'd have to start over.

It was totally the right decision. I understand Izzy a lot better now and when I sent it to my mother to read, she said, "oh, I really like her now. I didn't before." My mother is the best beta reader in the world because she is horribly, horribly honest. Like too honest sometimes, but only in the best possible way. She pushes me to be a better writer. She also forces me to look at the logistics of things, and I know to listen to her when she says, "there is no way this would ever happen like that." When she's reading, she's excruciatingly sensitive to problems that jerk her out of the narrative, so if she tells me she doesn't like something, I listen.

The happy ending here is that the rewrite cured the problems with Izzy. She wasn't unlikeable anymore; she wasn't too tough or insensitive or callous. She was finally a character deserving of a happy ending with Jack.

So, without further ado, meet Izzy Dalton:

When Izzy Dalton was eight years old, she proudly boasted to her parents that when she grew up, she was going to be a famous movie star. Mobs of adoring fans, endless red carpets and a never-ending supply of rhinestone sunglasses would be hers. She’d imagined swanning around a glittering blue swimming pool, shaded by palm trees and a legion of Ken doll lookalikes.

And here's Jack Bennett:

“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t put your feet up there.”

Jack Bennett opened the eye closest to the flight attendant and didn’t bother to hide his grimace.

It was her—the same girl who’d already interrupted his nap three times. First, she’d asked if he wanted a refill on his ginger ale. He’d replied, observing that in his experience, drinking more of the beverages the airplanes supplied usually correlated with an above average need to use the airplane facilities and really, he needed more room than that little cramped closet with its black hole of a toilet. But thank you very much for asking.

Now, I'm sure you're dying to read more. And I do plan on putting up a new excerpt every Wednesday until the publication date.

And what is the publication date, you ask? Hopefully, all the moving parts are in place by April 30, but I will definitely keep an update here at the blog.