Saturday, February 15, 2014

Setting the Scene with Leigh Duncan plus giveaway





Harlequin American Romance author Leigh Duncan sets the scene for her latest, a small town you are sure to want to keep revisiting plus a chance to win an autographed copy of Leigh's latest.

Cocoa, Florida has changed a lot in the years since my childhood.  For one thing, the town has a new name, Cocoa Village.  Gone are the five-and-dimes that bookmarked the ends of Main Street.  Trees shade the bare concrete sidewalks that once baked under the summer sun.  The drugstore where Daddy took my sister and I shopping for Mom’s Christmas present has been replaced by a peddler’s mall.  The movie theater with its plush velvet seats and a balcony where all the cool kids hung out has been turned into a playhouse where local theater groups perform.   Mom-and-Pop specialty stores—a bath shop, an upscale consignment store, designer clothiers—unfurl colorful awnings along narrow, one-way streets.  Coffee shops, instead of the soda counter I worked behind as a teen, provide respite from the heat or the rain.




Despite all these changes, Cocoa Village has preserved the essence of Small Town, America.  And it’s that spirit I wanted to convey in SECOND CHANCE FAMILY, my fifth book for Harlequin American Romance.  



“Make your setting a character,” says Donald Maass.  Easy to say.  Harder to do.  Brian Klems advises that “setting comes alive partly in its details and partly in the way that the story’s characters experience it.”  In other words, talking about the tree-lined streets, the awnings, the fishing dock on the east end of town is one thing.  But inviting readers to experience single mom Courtney Smith’s reaction to her recently opened coffee shop, the one she’s pinned all her hopes and dreams on after a disastrous marriage to one of baseball’s bad boys fell apart, that’s what brings the setting to life.  As I hope I’ve done in this passage:
In the dining area, she swept an appraising glance over the cafe.  Turning the vacant storefront into a welcoming oasis had been a huge risk, but the results were everything she’d hoped for.  White trim above pink-and-green striped wallpaper gave the room a cheery, Florida look that balanced nicely against the dark green wainscoting.  Glass drop lights illuminated each of the small tables she’d dressed with starched linens and fresh flowers.  Hardwood floors added to the ambiance.  Best of all was the nook she’d created in one corner.  There, she encouraged patrons to take one of the current best-sellers from her small collection and curl up on the comfy sofa, a novel in one hand, a steaming cup of coffee in the other. 
Now, if she could only drum up enough business to stay afloat, she’d be okay.  She worried a thumb nail.
Or this one in which the hero, Coach Travis Oak, prepares for Little League try-outs at McLarty Park:
Saturday morning, Travis rounded third and headed for home.  He exhaled slowly as chalk spilled, thick and straight, from the cart he pushed along the base path of Field Number One.  He gave an approving nod to the dad who anchored second base into place...Returning players, on the look-out for broken bottles or other dangerous objects, walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the freshly mowed outfield as coaches and parents wrapped up preparations for tryouts. 
Finished with the line marker, Travis slapped his hands together.  The move created a cloud of white dust that mingled with the odor of hot dogs and popcorn from the snack bar.  Though he’d never admit it, the smell was one of the things he loved best about baseball.   

Some of my fondest childhood memories include sun-warmed wooden bleachers, popcorn and hot dogs from the snack bar, the sharp crack of a bat, cheering when “our” team won the game.  I’ve done my best to convey the essence of those feelings, as well as a love for my own small town, Cocoa Village, in SECOND CHANCE FAMILY. 



Blurb for SECOND CHANCE FAMILY:
Coaching Little League in a small Florida town is a world away from Travis Oak’s dream of being a professional pitcher.  But now the phys ed teacher faces his greatest challenge:  keeping a ten-year-old boy from being expelled.  He’s got the perfect solution...until he runs up against a petite, irresistible blonde.
After her major league husband’s betrayal, Courtney Smith wants nothing to do with bad boys...or baseball.  But her son thinks Travis is some kind of hero, and she has to admit—it’s hard to resist Cocoa Village’s most gorgeous coach.  But will her secret keep Travis from having a family to call his own?

Leigh Duncan Bio:
Leigh Duncan is an award winning author of contemporary romance. Her fifth Harlequin American Romance, Second Chance Family, hit store shelves this month.  Her previous books include Amazon Kindle’s #1 selling  Rancher’s Son.  Look for three more stories in the Glades County Cowboy series beginning with The Bull Rider’s Family in May 2014.  Leigh lives in Central Florida where she serves as the PAN Liaison for the FL STAR chapter.

GIVEAWAY:
I’ll gladly give away an autographed copy of SECOND CHANCE FAMILY to one luck commentator. The winner will be chosen next Saturday.

38 comments:

  1. Second Chance Family captures the essence of small town American with a heartwarming story. I loved this story. Leigh Duncan is one of the few authors that I know ahead of time, if I begin her book, I will not put it down till I've finished.

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    1. Debbie, I'm honored to be on your list of fav authors!
      Leigh

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  2. Leigh has a wonder voice, perfect for telling a small town America story. She's an author I readily recommend.

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  3. Cynthia, you say the sweetest things! Readers, don't miss out on Cyndi's new release, TEXAS FANDANGO.

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  4. I absolutely loved Second Chance Family. It is a wonderful story and Leigh brought Cocoa Village to life.

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    1. Thanks so much, Brenda! I hope my love for Cocoa Village and, oooooh, baseball shows throughout the book! :)

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  5. From MarcieR

    Love the pic of the street and shops above. Looks very welcoming and a place I wouldn't mind going to - real or fictional!



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    1. Hey MarcieR! Yes, Cocoa Village is a real place. So are the baseball fields at McLarty Park. I did take some liberties--Orange Blossom Elementary doesn't really exist, and Café on Brevard is more a mash-up of several downtown coffee shops than a real place. But I hope you get to visit my hometown one day!

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  6. You succeeded, as you often do, in making your setting a character in your story. You have a special affinity for setting and use it to make the best story possible. Thanks for Second Chance Family. It touched my heart.

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    1. Awww, what a nice thing to say, Marian the Librarian (love that name!). Several reviewers have called SECOND CHANCE FAMILY a "heartwarming" story. I'm so glad it touched your heart!

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  7. Beautiful post, Leigh. Seems we are more aware of those changes to life and our community the older we get, yet it's the heart and character that endures to make a place a home.

    And yes, making setting a character can be hard but I think you've given us a great example of how to make it work! Loved the scene of him chalking the field. I was there!!

    Blessings to you and your new book!!

    Rachel

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    1. I consider that high praise, coming from the ACFW Mentor of the Year. Thanks, Rachel. And Blessings, too, on your newest release, PRINCESS EVER AFTER.

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  8. I love when a book can capture the essence of a special place -- a real place -- and you have done that so well in SECOND CHANCE FAMILY, Leigh. As a mom who has spent a bazillion hours watching my son from the other side of a chain link fence...you NAILED it. Every sense, every emotion, and of course, the genuine love for that small town flavor.

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    1. Roxanne, we're both baseball moms! My son went to college on a baseball scholarship so, yeah, we've spent our time on the bleachers, haven't we? Thanks for stopping by today. Oh, and by the way, Readers--if you're looking for a sure bet, look for NYT/USA Today Best Selling Author, Roxanne St. Claire's latest series, THE BILLIONAIRS OF BAREFOOT BAY.

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  9. I love seeing the pictures you used to create your scenes in this book. It's just the way I pictured while reading. :) And I adored Second Chance Family. Excellent book!

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    1. And I love hearing you think I did a good job with it! Thanks for taking a break from the wonderfully steamy "wild, wicked Westerns" you write to read my book, Elle!

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  10. You evoke small town and family so well, Leigh. Best of luck with this, your latest story!

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  11. As always, I look forward to your latest, Leigh! (Besides, everyone deserves a second chance!)

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    1. Laney4, I can't agree more--everyone deserves a second chance!

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  12. Though I didn't know Cocoa Village in its early days, I certainly love it now and you've captured the ambiance of this small piece of Florida perfectly! The book was a joy to read and I can't wait for your next one.

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    1. Karen, you won't have to wait long! THE BULL RIDER'S FAMILY, the first book in the Glades County Cowboys series, will be available from Harlequin American in May. Which, coincidentally, is the release date for your DEBUT book HERS BY REQUEST! Congratulations, Karen!

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  13. I love Cocoa VIllage and am tickled you decided to use it for a location. This one will definitely be a best seller. Loved to hear about your growing up days there (worked at a soda counter- fun!).

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    1. Simpblog, do you remember the name of the drugstore with the soda counter downtown? Was it Campbell's? I've been trying to remember...I love, love, love wandering the streets and shops of Cocoa Village.

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    2. Simpblog, you won an autographed copy of SECOND CHANCE FAMILY. Email your mailing addy to me at:
      leigh@leighduncan.com and I'll put your prize in the mail right away. Congratulations!
      Leigh

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  14. Leigh has a great sense of place and family. Can't wait to read this new book and with Cocoa Village as its setting!

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  15. There's something to be said about Cocoa Village (I love it!), and Leigh, you do an absolutely wonderful job of bringing small town to life in your books! Another fabulous book! :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Kara! Next time you're in the area, give me a call and we'll go out to lunch together. I know a great little coffee shop...
      And for those of us who enjoy Paranormal Romance (me! me!), look for Kara's book, THE GALA LOVER.

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  16. Judy, happy reading! SECOND CHANCE FAMILY hit #2 in sales of Harlequin American Romance on Amazon. I hope you enjoy it!

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  17. No matter how high tech or advanced our society becomes, I think there is an inherent longing inside each of us for that ability to step back into small town America where life was slower...friendlier...easier. No one brings those moments and memories to life better than Leigh Duncan. She not only paints a setting you can "see" so easily in your mind. She also tugs at the heart with the emotions attached to that life and that setting. So if you can't spend some time drinking coffee in a small town café or walk along a tree-lined street, be sure to immerse yourself in Leigh's books. They are heart warming, small town America like we all wish sometimes it still was. Don't include me in the drawing. I was fortunate enough to already buy this wonderful book.

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    1. One teary-eyed Leigh here. I have no words, but "thanks." <>

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  18. As I read your post I walked down the street of this charming town. I imagined the smells, felt the shade from the trees cover my face and experienced many nuances. I asked myself where is this town? I desired to go there in person and visit Courney's coffee shop.

    The story promises to warm the heart, pull a tear from your eye and engage hope in the soul. Sometimes we don't understand why people come in our lives only to leave. Especially someone we think loves us and promises to stay with us for a lifetime. However, holding hope for a possible second chance at love is truly a deserving thing. And what better way to be lead there than by one's own son?

    Good luck with the book Leigh. May it be a top seller!

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  19. I love the sensory image of popcorn and hot dogs. That brought back memories of all my son's baseball games.

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  20. And what could be more American than baseball, popcorn and hot dogs, right? Speaking of which, I just found out SECOND CHANCE FAMILY has made it onto the list of top 100 best-selling Sports Romances on Amazon! I'm soooo thrilled!!!

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  21. Leigh, you have the unique ability to get "right to the heart of things" whether it's a character's struggle, or as you did so well in this case, the setting. I've lived in this area my entire life so I loved how well you captured it. Kudos, my dear!

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  22. Leigh,

    I agree with Laurie Cooper. Did not want to miss your lecture on writing. Thanks, Lina.

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  23. And the winner of an autographed copy of SECOND CHANCE FAMILY is "simpblog." Simpblog, if you'll email your mailing address to me at leigh@leighduncan.com, I'll put your prize in the mail right away.
    Leigh

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