Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Little Something: Winter Drinks

PHS Columnist and Harlequin Historical author Nicole Locke shares her favourite winter drinks.

I love this time of year, the bundle-up clothes, the brisk smells of pine needles during a park walk and split pea soup simmering on the hob when we return home. But one winter custom I celebrate the most is the hot drinks I clutch in my hand.

I don’t know what I like better, the wafts of steam from hot chocolate, the way wassail keeps the mug scalding hot so my perpetually cold hands finally feel warm, or that first sip of Hot Buttered Rum.
As the years have gone by, I’ve had lots of hot drinks, but I’ve also found my favourites. So I thought I’d share a few. 

Hot Chocolate

It’s the quintessential cold weather drink, and there’s so many recipes I’ve tried. In a pinch, I will drink the dried powdered stuff (with peppermint schnapps). But my absolute favourite is taken from Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything.  

Chocolate Chaud (adopted from Pierre Herme’). 

2 2/14 cups whole milk
¼ cup bottled still water
¼ cup (generous) superfine granulated sugar
1 (100 gram) bar (3.5 ounces) dark bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%) finely sliced
¼ cup cocoa powder, loosely packed (1 oz or 28 gram).
In a saucepan, stir together the milk, water, and sugar and bring to a boil. Then add the chopped chocolate and cocoa. Turn it to a simmer while stirring until it has thickened.

Mr. Steingarten recommends an immersion mixer, etc and more, but I’ve only gone so far as to thicken it. It’s wicked rich, and so good.

 Wassail

This one is for the kids, but I probably drink it more than them…mostly because I’ve been drinking it since I was one! It’s my mother’s recipe.
1 tbl whole cloves
4 sticks cinnamon
½ cup sugar
Boil in 1 cup water
Add 1 gallon apple cider (I use unfiltered apple juice). 1 cup fresh orange juice, ½ cup lemon juice, pinch of salt.

I’ve tinkered with the recipe and it never turns out bad. I sometimes just add extra orange juice and skip the lemon juice, and all too often I add black tea, which gives it depth (and caffeine!).

--  Nicole :-)

Nicole's fourth book in the Lovers and Legends series, In Debt to the Enemy Lord, is out now!

“You have a debt to pay. You owe me your life.”

Anwen, bastard of Brynmor, has fought hard to find her place in the world. But she’s forced to re-evaluate everything when she’s saved from death by her enemy Teague, Lord of Gwalchdu. Instead of releasing her, he holds her captive…

Teague trusts no-one. And with ominous messages threatening his life he must keep Anwen under his watch, no matter how much her presence drives him wild. And when passionate arguments turn to passionate encounters, Teague must believe that the strength of their bond will conquer all!


To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Little Something for the Weekend - Weekend Wind-Down

Today Pink Heart Columnist Kate Walker takes a look at the countdown to Christmas - and starts making resolutions early!



It’s Saturday –  and there are – what  - 3 more Saturdays until Christmas. Three weeks from today will be Christmas Eve! 

  That’s when everything is supposed to be done all the presents bought and wrapped, food organised, bought and prepared, guest lists planned, visits arranged. .  . The fourth Saturday before Christmas. I’m supposed to write about the ‘weekend wind-down’. Wind-down? Now tell me, which of us women – because the majority of us in category romance are women – will have a chance to ‘wind-down’ this weekend? Or next one for that matter.

Look at the To Do lists, the shopping still to do.
(OK –I admit it – I’ve got all my presents. But compared to my sister who buys almost all of hers in the sales in July , that’s nothing . . )
There’s the wrapping – every year I vow I will not be still wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve. And every year . . . No, this year’s going to be different!  I have the gifts, the wrapping paper, the labels . . .
Actually, I do have some gifts bought and sent on the way but then with family in Australia and friends in America, I do need to be  organised and send them on their way as early as possible. I have one special trick that always works with my lovely sister who lives in Australia. Luckily, like me, she’s a bookaholic and so  I  get a list from her of ‘Books I Want to Read’  and then I head for the Book Depository.   They have a wonderful scheme where they  will deliver the books you’ve bought anywhere in the world  for free!  My sister and I have agreed we’re not fussed about fancy paper and wrapping and ribbons. It’s the book inside we’re most interested in. And the truth is that I can actually send my sister an extra book for the price of the postage I would have had to pay otherwise.

There are the cards, the decorations. You know that thing about wrapping on Christmas Eve? Well I also always vow that I’ll have the tree and the decorations up and making the house look festive well before the day before Christmas Eve. But somehow . . .

There are the friends to visit and the visitors coming to stay. We’re away this weekend -  have family to visit the  week before Christmas, friends after Christmas, we hope to visit more family around New Year   – it’s wonderful, but is it winding down?

Then there’s the food to prepare, the tablecloths to wash and iron, the crackers, the cats’ stockings . . . What? Of course the cats have stockings? Do you think I would dare not to give them special treats at Christmas too? After all  Charlie the Maine Coon  is more of an internet personality than I am and black and white  Ruby looks set to be going the same way, she may be a lot smaller than Charlie but she still has big ambitions in the treats department.


And not just from me.  A couple of years back, the first Christmas
parcel to arrive at this house  was addressed  to the cats we had then. It came from their favourite LATP (Lady Across the Pond) Anne McAllister.  And it contained  a Cat Advent Calendar.  A Cat Advent Calendar with pockets  - to be filled with a little treat for each day leading up to Christmas.  And guess who has to fill those pockets with treats?

But, busy or not, I had to write a post for the PHS. I was thinking about writing a Writer's Wish List -  but  the I realised just what I really wished for .

And that was when I thought of the ‘official’ title of the weekend posts – a weekend ‘wind-down’ and I realised that that was what I really wanted for Christmas  . . .a weekend  - or more – to ‘wind-down’.  Too often the holiday season becomes a time when we’re rushing around planning, organising, buying, wrapping  talking, cooking . . .  and before we have time to realise it, it’s New Year and time for resolutions and renewing and  . . .well, back to work!   I already have a course planned for February (Writers’ Holiday) another for April (Relax and Write) , visitors from  America in March . . .another book contracted to write and deliver . . .

What happened to that ‘holiday’ time?  So my DH and I have started this run up to Christmas with our ‘Christmas Resolution’  - and it has nothing to do with eating less or exercising more or turning our lives around. No, it’s a resolution to do more of what we really enjoy and for us, that means actually sitting down and reading the books we have now, the books we might get for Christmas (I don’t think there’s any ‘might about that’!) and anything we  find on our travels this weekend and later.  We’ve even put  some reading evenings (and reading afternoons) in the diaries to make sure we do it!    I have a TBR pile that’s  growing more mountainous by the minute. Well, it isn’t a TBR pile it’s a TBR shelf – and bookshelf – and if I don’t make a start on that , when I add any Christmas books to the pile, I don’t think I’ll get through then till this time next year-  if then.

So that’s what I’m determined to do this Christmas – to make it a real holiday and to find time to relax and enjoy  some peace and quiet  - and some reading.  My special present to myself and to the Babe Magnet is time to read.  And the cats will enjoy that too as they can spend a long, cosy time curled up on  a lap each, knowing  we’re not likely to move for a while . Anyone want to join us? We’re starting this weekend . . .

Well,  that is after I come back from our trip tomorrow and Sunday  and when I’ve written and posted all the cards , and wrapped the remaining presents  (I’m still determined not to be doing that on Christmas Eve!). 

Well - Christmas is a time for fantasy and for wishes coming true so I thought I'd aim for what I’d  really enjoy!


Whatever you're dreaming of for Christmas I hope you have a truly wonderful time with lots of love and joy and maybe something really special under the tree just waiting for you. And I’ll look  forward to joining you all again in 2017  - it’s only (eeek!) 28 days away now!



My latest title Indebted to Moreno  was published in October, but it’s still around.  I’m also delighted to say that a  couple of backlist titles  that have been missing  - The Sicilian’s Wife and A Sicilian Husband –  have  been  issued as separate ebooks   in November  (though they've been in the collection Claimed By The Sicilian if you wanted a 3 in 1) .  And if you’re in Australia then there’s a special 3 in 1 Collection of my books  Surrender to The Sheikh out now - with a fabulous cover! 



And all  the most up to date news can be found on my web site  on my blog    or my Facebook page

Friday, December 02, 2016

Friday Fun: Cozy Christmas Reads!

Pink Heart Society columnist Jill Kemerer shares cozy Christmas reads through the years...

It's December! We can officially enjoy all things Christmas, and at the top of my list are cozy Christmas reads.

I've always adored books, and I remember as a small child checking out picture books from the library. I wish I could recall some of the ones I used to read. In recent years I've found gems such as Jan Brett's Gingerbread Christmas. The illustrations are gorgeous and the writing engaging.

When I got a bit older, I fell in love with The Bobbsey Twins at Snow Lodge by Laura Lee Hope. Those long ago Christmas traditions seemed so charming to me. A few highlights? The family made their own Christmas ornaments and flew across the frozen lake on an ice boat. Sounded fun to me!

A few years later I read Sweet Valley High Super Edition: Special Christmas by Francine Pascal. I remember nothing of this book except for the fact those rascally twins were swimming on Christmas Eve. MIND. BLOWN. People actually lived in places they could swim outdoors on Christmas eve? I'd lived in Michigan (aka: frozen tundra) my entire life. Suddenly, Elizabeth and Jessica seemed way cooler than I'd originally thought.

As a junior in high school, I discovered A Miracle on 24th Street by Valentine Davies in the school's library. What a welcome break that book was from studying for finals! I still watch the movie (either version) every year.

My love of Christmas novels continues. Every December the snowy cover of a category romance novel will catch my eye at the grocery store. Into the cart it goes, a lovely escape from the busy season. I also adore Hallmark Channel's original Christmas movies. They're delightful!

If you're looking for a FREE cozy Christmas read, you can check out my contemporary Christmas novella, A Cradle for Christmas, which is featured on Harlequin.com's Online Reads for Love Inspired. Every Monday a new chapter releases until the final segment December 26, 2016. Here are the links to the chapters released so far.

A CRADLE FOR CHRISTMAS

With just days to go until Christmas, Heather Springfield is nine months pregnant and all alone. So she escapes to her family’s old cabin in Michigan. The happiest summers of her life were spent there…all until that last one that ruined everything. But she’ll have to do her best to focus on her baby and avoid Mason Aldridge, the boy next door and the one who got away
Mason’s never forgotten the sweet girl who once held his heart. So when Heather arrives one snowy night, her very pregnant belly triggers a fresh round of regrets. If things had been different, he might have been the man fortunate enough to call her and the baby his. But in the spirit of the season, forgiveness is in the air, and two old friends may just find their way to the best Christmas gift of all—a brand-new family.

Chapter One


Chapter Two


Chapter Three


Chapter Four


Chapters 5-8 release each Monday until December 26, 2016!

***

My December 2016 Love Inspired is in stores now!!

Yuletide Redemption


A Mother's Christmas Wish 

After an accident leaves Celeste Monroe to raise her baby nephew, all she wants is to provide one-year-old Parker with a happy life. She hopes taking a job caring for injured Sam Sheffield will help fulfill that goal. But Sam's determination to avoid the world throws a wrench in her plans. Despite his best efforts, Sam can't take his eyes off the pretty caretaker. Her strength and her loving nature has him falling for her—and her baby. But he refuses to burden them with a man who's not whole. Can Celeste convince Sam he's daddy—and husband—material in time for them to celebrate Christmas together?

Click HERE for purchase links, Pinterest board, reviews and more!

What were your favorite Christmas books?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Time Out Thursday - Looking Back at 2016


Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about the year she's had...

The end of 2016 is only weeks away. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this year. I guess it’s that time—time to look back, enjoy memories and evaluate. Soon, we’ll ring in a New Year—2017—and trying not to write 2016 as the date. LOL

I’ll make a list of Resolutions (do you make them, too?) and decide which ones I’ll tackle. I’ve found over the years a resolution that makes the list every year but I don’t make time for has to be examined closely. If it doesn’t end up being that important to me, it gets tossed off the list forever. If it is, I resolve even more to accomplish it. Having a book published made my list five consecutive years before I made the time to sit down and write my first. Learning to surf, on the other hand, has been crossed off the list forever. It’s just not that important to me and it’s time to let the ‘this might be fun’ idea go. 

But before I do that, it’s time to check the rearview…

There were trips: 


A quick visit to Austin to celebrate my oldest son’s birthday in March. 

The next trip was June when my daughter accompanied me on a work trip to New York (one of my favorite places in the world!) to spend a day with the Book Obsessed Chicks at their annual Beach Bash.


Followed by another trip to New York, this time with middle son for a weekend in the fall. He attended a Gaming event while I met with bloggers (pictured here with Jennifer Butler).


We added to the family:

At the beginning of summer, we took on a rescue puppy. He’s nine-months-old now (pictured on the right) and comes in at around sixty-pounds. Best of all, he’s settling into his personality and (more importantly) we survived the puppy stage!


On the career front, this has been one of my best years yet. I wrote seven books and played around with two additional story ideas, which I’m cultivating now. I had four releases. the Mason Ridge series ended and the Cattlemen Crime Club series kicked off in summer. The third book in that series hits stores Christmas week. ONE TOUGH TEXAN is almost here!

I had the honor of spending very special time with readers at The Annual Buns & Roses Romance Tea for Literacy in October. We set a record, raising more than $20,000 for literacy in a single weekend!


Not everything was as joyous. We lost two cherished friends in almost back-to-back car crashes early on. Both are still deeply missed and they are never far from our thoughts. 

My oldest spent the summer in Europe, trying to secure a postdoc position (fingers crossed one of those leads pans out for him) and he’s been so busy that I’ve hardly seen him this year. I hope we have more time together in 2017. And if he ends up working overseas after May’s graduation, well, my Passport is up-to-date. :)

With another year almost in the books, it’s almost time to put the past behind and make plans for a new year. I hope the rest of 2016 is filled with good food, even better wine and the best of times!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me about significant events in your life this year. 


Barb's latest novel, One Tough Texan, is available to preorder now, and is out on the 20th December:

Small-town Texas with high-stakes risks 

Alice Green lives with ghosts. A rogue cop whose mistake led to the loss of a young girl's parents, Alice is haunted by the decisions that halted her sterling career. And now the same girl who lost her parents has been abducted. And Alice will stop at nothing to find her. 

Joshua O'Brien doesn't want to tell his brothers—fellow inheritors of his deceased parents' ranch—that he has bigger plans. Applying to work for the FBI brings the possibility of an exciting and illustrious career. But when he meets Alice, whose beauty is only surpassesd by her brain, it doesn't take long for things to heat up. And while helping her crack a case might save a life…it could also cost him his own.


You can find out more about Barb Han's writing on her website and Goodreads. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Thursday - The Bird

Pink Heart Society columnist Jenna Kernan is talking about the Thanksgiving Tale of The Bird...

I do not remember the circumstances that caused my mother to transport a cooked turkey from our hometown two hours away to the oven of her new daughter-in-law. But that was the arrangement that had been made by my mother and older brother's wife.

At the time, I was the athlete of the family, jumping hurdles, tumbling down floor exercise mats and swinging from the uneven parallel bars. I was sixteen, fleet of foot and generally coordinated. I was also the older of the two daughters who would be traveling to this particular Thanksgiving feast.. My younger sister, thirteen, was all about that awkward age. 

So why my mother decided to have my younger sister carry the turkey to the car I will never know.

My younger sister got as far as the porch before dropping the turkey on the peeling painted wood. We all stood in silence staring at the steaming bird and then to my mother for her reaction.  

I held my breath.  

My mother looked at me, knowing it was my fault for not carrying the bird, and then my sister, knowing it was her fault for dropping our dinner and then at the bird, knowing it was her own fault for not carrying it herself.  

Finally she stooped, returned the roasted carcass into the pan and stood holding the compromised offering.  She regarded us both with her sternest expression.


"This never happened," she said.

We did not speak of it on the drive. We did not speak of it as the turkey was placed in my sister-in-law's oven to brown up. We did not speak of it as a bird was carved. We ate the darn thing because you know...that never happened.  
I hope all your Thanksgiving Day tragedies are small and have all the ingredients for good  family stories.


~*~*~*


Have you got a favourite Thanksgiving story?  Join the discussion in the comments!

The next book in Jenna's Apache Protector series, Turquoise Guardian is out soon:

Her Warrior Protector

Carter Bear Den is a proud Apache of the Turquoise Canyon Reservation. The former US Marine is a member of the Turquoise Guardians working to protect his people and their land. When he discovers a grisly mass shooting at the Lilac Copper Mine, Carter's one thought is to find Amber Kitcheyan.

After breaking her engagement to Carter and relinquishing her membership with the reservation, Amber found work at the mine. Now she is the sole survivor of the shooting at best a witness, at worst a suspect. But Carter swears to protect the only woman he has ever loved, even if it means losing everything else.

Bestselling author, Jenna Kernan writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue. A Publisher's Weekly Best Seller, winner of the Book Buyers' Best award and two-time RITA nominee, Jenna has just moved to Florida from New York. Her popular APACHE PROTECTOR series from Harlequin Intrigue continues in January 2017 with TURQUOISE GUARDIAN #1.  Look for EAGLE WARRIOR #2 in February followed by FIREWOLF #3 and THE WARRIOR’S WAY #4

Jenna offers a FREE pre-release advanced read including CHAPTER ONE for the first three in her new series to new subscribers to her newsletter.  JOIN HERE.  

Follow Jenna 
@jennakernan, on facebook/AuthorJennaKernan

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Writers' Wednesday - Writing Romance is Slowly Killing Me...



Today on The Pink Heart Society, author Taryn Leigh Taylor ruminates on the dangers of writing romance novels...

So have you heard? Sitting is the new smoking. 70% of Americans suffer from digital eye strain. Heavy technology use can lead to depression and fatigue. Basically, every part of being a writer is slowly killing me and my quality of life. 

Luckily, there are counter-measures that can help. Here are three tips that I'm trying to implement into my writing hours to make sure my characters aren't the only ones who end up with an HEA:

1- Stand up!

It's now recommended that people you stand at least once an hour during your work day. Can't bear the thought of stopping for a few minutes during a writing streak? Maybe a standing desk is the right fit for you. This article gives a good introduction to some of the issues you should consider. And if you're ready to go one step farther (pun intended!), you can start researching treadmill desks!

2 - Take a break!

Carpal tunnel syndrome. Eye strain. Muscle cramps. They are all grave dangers for writers (readers, too!) because when the story gets good, when you're on a roll, who's got time for a break? Turns out, if you want to stay healthy and pain-free, you have to make time. The easiest way to remember to take care of yourself even while you're putting your characters through the emotional wringer? Set a timer. Here's a list of apps that can help remind you to take a break.

3 - Live your life!
  
It's pretty tough to write a fabulous novel about incredible characters living awesome lives if you're huddled in your office in ratty sweatpants with unwashed hair subsisting on greasy takeout and shut off from human contact. (Mad respect...we've all been there.) That's just not a sustainable way to create great stories...or to live a great life. Remember to recharge sometimes--dinner with family and friends, a nature walk, a concert, heck, even just taking your laptop to a coffee joint for a change of scenery might do the trick. Creativity loves a healthy happy mind, so be sure to take care of yourself so you can give your best to your writing.
 

There you have it: three things I'm trying to get better at to improve my life and my manuscript. But before I go, are you interested in knowing more about the basics of natural human movement? Let this male model with a British accent tell you about it. 

(Hey, I'm a romance writer, after all, and while it might be killing me, there's no way I'd rather go!)



So what do you do to keep fit mentally and physically while you write? I'm always looking for suggestions! Hit me up in the comments below.


Taryn's latest release, Playing to Win, is available in e-format from Harlequin Blaze.

Playing to win means playing dirty...


Holly Evans is intelligent, educated and crazy about sports--so how did she end up prancing about in a miniskirt and teasing her hair like some broadcasting bimbo? Of course, since she's already iced her journalistic integrity, Holly might as well indulge in a little fangirl lust for the ripped captain of Portland's hockey team.

Luke Maguire sees right through Holly's bunny disguise, and he's ready to pull her into the locker room and strip it all off. Then Holly discovers someone on the team is profiting from a little over/under betting. Suddenly her lusting for Luke is going head-to-head with her reporting instincts. And if she's caught offside, there's no telling what the penalty will be...



Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges and space, both personal and of the final-frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction, her shoe hoard and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs. For more on Taryn, check out her website, or catch her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Fun: How Buttercup Stole The Show

Pink Heart Society columnist Kristina Knight talks about why Buttercup and "The Princess Bride" hold a special place in her heart. 

"Do you promise not to hurt him?" That's Princess Buttercup from "The Princess Bride". One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite books (yes, I saw the movie first, yes, I think the book is better…) I've had a deep and abiding obsession love for The Princess Bride - be it book or movie format - since I was a teenager, and I still get swept right into the story any time I crack open the book or turn on my 25th Anniversary DVD.

I love Westley and I adore Inigo and I just want to fall into Fezzik's arms once...just once...and I hate Count Rugen and the Prince...and I giggle at Miracle Max and the senile King. But Buttercup is more.

Princess Buttercup is one of my all-time favorite romance heroines, even though she's so not a 'today' heroine because she allowed too much to happen to her. When Westley was 'killed' she holed up in her room to cry and die. When Prince Humperdinck proposed she went along with him. She rode her horse and quietly lived in the castle - not asking for anything, not demanding anything. She didn't fight off Vizzini or the Giant or Inigo. She didn't even scream. Okay, if a 7-foot-giant was coming toward me I might not scream, either. She did jump into eel-infested waters...but then she gave up.

And yet.

"Do you promise not to hurt him?" she asks, when she and Westley are cornered in the Fire Swamp. "If I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?"

When every other woman in her time would have stayed silent and allowed Westley and Humperdinck to fight for her...she spoke up. They were outnumbered. Westley would surely have been killed by one of Humperdinck's men. So she did what she could - she tried to get a promise from Humperdinck for her man, giving up her freedom in the process. It's a simple line, but a very powerful one, I think, from a heroine who truly had no power. Women in her time didn't vote. The had no jobs, at least the princesses didn't. And they certainly didn't have a choice in marriage and relationships. Still, she tried to do something. She tried to ensure Westley's freedom because the world without Westley in it was too dark. Even if they couldn't be together, she wanted to know that he lived. Somewhere.

Then there are the other things she does once she's found Westley alive and returned to the castle - she believes she has rescued him, and gets a promise from Humperdinck to send ships to find Westley (Humperdinck, of course, lies) and even threatens her own death. All for the love of a pirate ...

Of course she doesn't have to kill herself because Westley cheats death with the help of Miracle Max, Inigo and the Giant. He saves Buttercup, just as she has tried to save him.

I just have to sigh a little at that. Who is your favorite romance heroine?

Kristina Knight's release, Protecting the Quarterback, is available now from Harlequin Superromance: 


This is more than just a game … to her

Sports broadcaster Brooks Smith has always been more involved with the game than the players. But after she shares the spotlight at an awards ceremony with tabloid sensation Jonas Nash, one night of letting her guard down around the infamous quarterback spirals into many heated days and nights together when she gets assigned to the story of the year…

The hottest player in professional football is hiding a secret that could end his career for good. Now Brooks is caught on the sidelines between the job she loves and the man she is falling in love with.

Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks  Harlequin

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram