Monday, September 29, 2014

Have you ever seen a deck of Tarot cards?

With: Claire McEwen

Giveaway Alert!

Have you ever seen a deck of Tarot cards?  Until recently, I had only seen them once, years ago, when a friend did a reading for me.  But when I started writing my newest book, More Than a Rancher, and got to know my heroine, I quickly decided that there had to be a scene where she read the Tarot cards for the hero.

Why did I think this?  Well, first of all, the heroine, Jenna, had already proven herself to be rather quirky during her brief appearances in my first book, A Ranch to Keep.  She believes that everything happens for a reason, that the universe delivers signs that can guide us.  It just seemed to make sense that she’d be interested in Tarot cards.  And my hero, Sandro, was born and raised on a sheep ranch, in a family that wouldn’t consider pulling out a deck of Tarot cards, ever.  The idea of him getting his cards read was so absurd that I couldn’t resist - I had to find out what his reaction would be! 

Another reason I wanted this scene is because Jenna is a native San Franciscan, and anyone who has visited can tell you that - although the infamous Summer of Love that put San Francisco on the map in the 1960’s is long gone - you’ll still find shops selling relics from the hippie era.  And there are plenty of mystical items to be found among the tie-dyed clothing, and incense.  I wanted to incorporate that part of my beloved city into my book, especially because, as the city becomes more gentrified, the eccentric shops are rapidly disappearing.

And when I researched the Tarot, to see if it would work for the scene I had in mind, I fell in love with the images on the cards.  They are full of symbolism, and are somewhat bizarre, perfect for unsettling Sandro, who is going through a bit of a life crisis at the time his cards are read.  

Here is an excerpt from the book, as Sandro questions Jenna about the cards she’s dealt.

“Do you see the center card?”

“You mean the upside-down naked lady? Yup, I see her.”

Jenna laughed. “She isn’t completely naked. Her lower bits are covered! Anyway, that card is called the World and since it’s upside-down, we say it’s reversed. Cards take on sort of an inverse meaning when they’re upside-down. And placed in the center like this, it’s the overall theme of the reading. It symbolizes your present state.”

“ present state is an upside-down half-naked woman?”

“Elevate your mind, Sandro,” she teased. “It symbolizes frustration or a fear of change. It can mean that things are in the process of change.”

“So I’m in transition.”

“Well, yes. And possibly stuck there.”

Well, he had to give it to the cards—they were right about that.

“And over here on the left is the card that represents past influences that are still having an effect. You have the Tower here.”

Sandro stood up and walked around to stand behind Jenna so he could see the cards the same way she did. The Tower looked pretty formidable. There were people falling off it headfirst and flames shooting out the top. “That doesn’t look good,” he said, shoving down a twinge of anxiety. She was good at this. She was even sucking him in.

“Don’t worry.” Jenna glanced up at him, and he was actually glad to see that she was smiling. It didn’t matter if he knew this was all nonsense—that tower was creepy. “It looks worse than it is. It means you’ve been through some kind of enormous change, like getting a new job or moving, and you’ve done both of those, right?”

“Yup.” This was weird. How could these cards be hitting so close to home? Jenna was most likely reading into them what she already knew about him.

She pointed to the lowest card. Another upside-down naked woman—this one poured a jug of water into a pool. “This card also relates to your past, to the reasons behind the changes you made. It usually symbolizes self-doubt, stubbornness and an inability to express yourself.”

“This is a pretty grim reading, Red. Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?” A shiver went over his skin and he abruptly left her side and went back to the seat across the desk.

“Cheer up! You have to understand, these cards are just information about your past, about things that might be getting in your way. The next two cards deal with the future.”

Sandro looked at the last two cards. One had two more naked people—that looked promising. But the other had a man dressed in black, riding a horse with the word Death written underneath. 


Does he dare follow her lead?

Ballroom dancer Jenna Stevens is done with all things romance.  It’s so much more satisfying to focus on her career.  That is, until she meets Sandro Salazar – a handsome, brooding small-town chef and sometimes rancher.  Jenna is drawn to him immediately, but there’s no way Sandro could fit into her fast-paced, urban life.

Still, as she gets to know this reformed bad boy, she begins to wonder if maybe their two worlds can merge.  One thing’s for certain – Jenna will have to take the lead if she has any hope of Sandro seeing what’s possible for the two of them… together.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Harlequin | iTunes

About the Author:
Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her husband, son and a scruffy, mischievous terrier.  When not dreaming up new stories, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb.  She loves discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling and reading, of course!

I have a signed copy of More Than a Rancher to give away!  Please leave a comment and tell us if you’ve ever had a Tarot reading done, or had your palm read, or seen a psychic, or had any other similar experience.  What was it like?

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 30th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Art of Seduction

Congratulations to "Ada" the winner in Regina's giveaway! Thank you to all who participated.

I’m thrilled to be on Just Contemporary Romance today because – true confession – I am a contemporary romance addict. I have over 800 books on my iPad Mini, almost all of them contemporary romance. (There a few Sarah MacLean historicals because, damn, that girl can write!)

So when I decided to try my hand at writing a romance novel, contemporary was an obvious choice. But where to set it? Big city? Small town? Way out west?

They say write what you know, and what I know is I’m a complete and total theater geek. On stage, back stage, in the audience – I’ve done it all. There’s something so magical about the whole theater experience for me, whether I’m performing or watching. And what better place to fall in love than a fairy-tale world of make believe?

Then I did a little snooping and found there are very few – like almost no – romance novels set in the world of theater. Lots of movie stars and models, but no one treading the boards, as we say in the biz. And I remembered that old entrepreneurial saying: see a need, fill a need.

Thus, the seeds of Triple Threat were born. Holly’s a playwright fresh out of a disastrous marriage to an abusive husband. Nick’s a Hollywood action hero looking for more serious roles, and the subject of Holly’s semi-autobiographical play hits close to home for him, too. Getting these two damaged souls together for their HEA was challenging – but oh, so rewarding. Not to mention steamy as a sauna on a summer night.
Fortunately (I hope) for readers, my love of the arts doesn’t stop with theater. There’s so much more to explore – fine art, photography, dance. And Holly, the heroine in Triple Threat, has three siblings. They each get their own story as part of the Art of Seduction series.

What’s your favorite art form? Painting? Opera? Dance? Film? Something else? One lucky commenter will win a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card.

Book Blurb
The Theater of Temptation presents Sabotage…and Seduction!

The Playwright: It’s emerging playwright Holly Nelson’s big break. Broadway. Having survived her traumatic marriage and divorce, Holly is now aiming for success, not love. And any naughty dreams about Nick Damone—the gorgeously dishy star who was her crush back in high school—must remain a fantasy.

The Star: For Nick, Broadway is a chance to go from big-screen-eye-candy to serious actor, and to explore the lust blazing between him and Holly. But life-threatening accidents will force a chain of events that could bring down the curtain on the whole production…or give Nick and Holly a chance to finish the sexy something that started fifteen years ago!

Buy Links:

“You think too much.” Devin was back, replacing Holly’s empty glass with a tumbler of foamy, white liquid. “I’m afraid to ask what’s going on in there sometimes.”

“Don’t.” Holly sipped the frothy concoction, hoping the rich, sweet taste would obliterate the lingering flavor of the scotch, and the memory of Nick’s kiss.

“Whatever it is, I’m jealous.” Devin strong-armed a tray of glasses onto the bar and grabbed a clean towel to wipe them dry. “I could swear there’s steam rising off your skin.”

“It’s steamy, all right.”

“Then it must involve your Hottie McHothot movie star.”

“He is not my movie star.” Holly shook her head, regretting her decision, in a moment of girl bonding over a True Blood marathon, to tell Devin about her renewed obsession with Nick.

“But he could be.”

“What makes you say that?”

Devin smiled and waved her towel at the door. “He just walked in.”

“Not funny.” But normally cool, biker-tough Devin was beaming like an awestruck fangirl. Holly’s stomach dropped.

“No way,” she whispered.

“Way,” Devin mouthed back.

Holly spun on her stool, and there was Nick walking toward her, nine kinds of fine in a black leather jacket, heather-gray T-shirt and his customary jeans, faded and seemingly shrink-wrapped to his thighs. In a few strides, he crossed the narrow bar and was at her side.

“Okay if I sit here?”

Those five words took her back fifteen years. She eyed Nick, wondering if he realized he’d said the same thing to her on the dock that night.

“Feel free,” she answered, trying to sound indifferent. Not an easy feat when just the sound of his voice made her whole body hum like a tuning fork. At least this time she’d managed more than “Uh, yeah.”

And then he was next to her. Sitting. Leaning. His knee brushed hers, ratcheting the hum up to a dull roar.

Devin ditched the towel and leaned against the bar, giving Nick an eyeful of her ample cleavage. “What can I get you?”

“Traitor,” Holly muttered, shooting daggers at her. Devin smiled and shrugged as if to say, “You’re not interested. That makes him fair game. Right?”

Right, Holly told herself. Not interested. Fair game. No matter what her mutinous, pulsating body said.

My Links:
Author Bio:
Regina Kyle knew she was destined to be an author when she won a writing contest at age ten with a touching tale about a squirrel and a nut pie. By day, she writes dry legal briefs, representing the state in criminal appeals. At night, she writes steamy romance with heart and humor.

A lover of all things theatrical, Regina lives on the Connecticut coast with her husband, teenaged daughter and two melodramatic cats. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely singing, reading, cooking or watching bad reality television. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and treasurer of her local RWA chapter.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 26th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Anna James On Writing

With: Anna James

Congratulations to "Suzanne" Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE at the email listed at the bottom of the post to claim your prize!

There are two questions I am often asked: Why do you write and why write romance? The second question is much easier to answer than the first so I’ll start with the answer to that. I write romance because I am a romantic at heart and a sucker for a happy-ever-after ending. 

Now the first question, why do I write? Members of my family are still scratching their heads trying to figure out where this driving need came from. While I’ll admit I’ve always been creative (I love to sew and have even designed some of my own clothes), I wasn’t one of those children who loved to pen short stories. I didn’t like to read. I didn’t choose a career remotely related to writing (I got my degree in mechanical engineering!) Writing any story, especially a novel wasn’t something I ever considered. 

And then I got hooked on romance novels and the more I read, the more inspired I became to create stories of my own. I wrote sporadically over the years and finally published my first novel in 2010. Since then I have written four novels, five novellas and one short story. All contemporary romance. 

So why do I write? Because it makes me happy! I love to create stories about smart, strong, confident men and women who conquer life’s trials and find their happy-ever-afters. I guess that wasn’t so hard to answer after all!

Below is an excerpt from my newest release, KEEPING HER GUILTY SECRET – Book 1 Forever Yours Trilogy. Enjoy!
He came closer and the heady scent of his cologne invaded her senses, making her lightheaded. She sucked in a deep breath and tried to steady her pounding heart.

Yep, a whole lotta trouble, here.

A smart woman would walk away.

She was a smart woman.

She was.

She didn’t move. Instead, she reached out and stroked his cheek. His soft skin made her fingertips tingle.

His lips parted.

Blood roared through her ears, drowning out reason. Want—no, need—raced through her. 

Rising up on her tiptoes, she brushed her lips over his.

He pulled back and stared, probably as stunned by her action as she but before she had time to say anything, he crushed her against his strong, muscular body. His mouth moved over hers, devouring its softness.

Wave after wave of pleasure crashed over her. The rational part of her brain begged her to stop this madness. She’d only met the man moments ago. But, oh my, the taste of his mouth and the feel of his hands in her hair and his citrusy scent—

A sudden noise had her jerking away from him. Turning, she found Reed standing in the doorway.

Max uttered a soft curse.

Reed chuckled. “Well, it looks like you two have met so I’ll spare you the introduction.”

Amazon |


A secret she must keep… A man she can’t resist
Passion ignites between Nicole Bradford and Max Paradis the moment they lay eyes on each other, but despite the sizzling attraction and Max’s to-die-for-kisses, Nicole is reluctant to get involved. She’s been burned by love before. 

Carlo had been her ideal mate but the dream became a nightmare when his drug smuggling past was revealed.
Now all Nicole wants is to get on with her life and keep the secret she’s been hiding for the last six years.

Still, how can she resist the handsome and sexy Max when he’s everything she’s ever wanted in a man? And what will she do when Carlo returns and threatens to expose her ugly past?

Nicole will have to trust Max with the truth if she wants to win his love and get Carlo out of her life for good. If she doesn’t Carlo could destroy everything that matters most to her.

Anna will give away 1 ecopy of KEEPING HER GUILTY SECRET - Book 1 Forever Yours Trilogy to one lucky commenter or email entrant.

Author Bio:
Anna James writes heartwarming contemporary stories with strong, confident heroes and heroines who conquer life’s trials and live happily ever after.  She has been writing professionally since 2010, is a member of RWA, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers of America), CORW (Charter Oak Romance Writers) and RWA Contemporary Romance Writers. Publishing credits include two category length novels, five novellas and one short story.

Anna is married to a wonderful husband who spends countless hours picking up the slack around the house so she can pursue her dream of writing, and is the proud mother of five fabulous children.

Although she’s lived in several locations throughout her life she now calls Connecticut home. When not writing, she can be found spending time with family and friends. 

Contact Info:

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 23rd. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Thanks for having me! I’m going to talk about research, something all authors have to do, and perhaps something that readers may not expect an author to have to do much of when writing contemporary. I’ve broken down research for Priya in Heels into three major categories.

1.) Location: I grew up in Texas and I know some places in Austin like the back of my hand, but I know those places by sight, not by name. I’ve been to Houston often, but I don’t know it well enough to write about it without research. Surrounding towns (ie: Pasadena) and highways between Austin and Houston required some research. Most places (The Harmon’s Brewery and the hospital) are imaginary. When Priya goes to India, her travels and location details are from memory. It’s fun to go off imagination and make up whatever I want, but there was still a good amount of research that went into locations.

2.) Profession: Priya is a medical resident and most of her experiences stem from my own experiences, observations, and stories told to me by some of the medical residents coming through this year. However, Tyler is an astrophysicist at NASA, which required a lot more thought and research, especially when it came to his analytical approaches to situations and physics jokes. I will proudly admit that I came up with my own physics jokes…now if they’re funny to readers is an entirely different story.

3.) Culture: I grew up in Texas, which tends to have its own culture apart from the broad generalization of America. I’m also married to an American, so that adds to the built-in understanding of Americans. Being Indian, growing up around the Indian community, festivities, and expectations offered an innate basis for Priya. However, I had to do extensive research to make sure I portrayed things accurately, especially vocabulary and spelling. My brother helped to refine diction.


A new adult title from Entangled’s Embrace imprint…

Love doesn’t conquer all…does it?

Priyanka Patel is the epitome of an obedient daughter. She’s finishing up her medical residency at one of Houston’s busiest emergency departments, and has agreed—albeit reluctantly—to marry the man her family has chosen for her. The only thing that can derail the “perfect” life laid out before her is the sexy musician down the hall who wants into her life…and into her bed.

Tyler O’Connor has been infatuated with Priya since she treated his sprained ankle in the ER, and after saving her from a brutal attack, he can't get her out of his head. When Priya puts her family's wishes before their relationship, agreeing to an arranged marriage with another man, Tyler is devastated.

But love is fierce and unreasonable and clashes with the carefully sculpted life her parents want for her. Is going after her heart such a big deal, or will it truly unravel Priya’s world?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Big Fat Greek Weddings.

Congratulations to "Colleen", the winner in Barbara's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

One of my favorite movies of all time is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Did you love it? If you haven’t seen it you need to!

I loved the fun and the big, noisy family and the wonderful romance that unfolded. Mostly, I loved it because I had a big fat Greek wedding of my own and so much of it was gorgeously, beautifully, hysterically accurate. My parents were the quietly spoken Church of England ones who brought the bunt cake, and my husband's family were the ones serving the ‘vegetarian lamb’ and dancing till dawn.

I met my New Zealand Greek boyfriend, now husband, when I was eighteen, and mumble, mumble years later I’ve lived and worked in Greece, been married in a traditional ceremony, learned to speak the language and had four children christened in the Greek Orthodox church.

Here I am at my own big, fat Greek wedding.
It was undoubtedly this deep love of the culture that invited a Greek American family from upstate New York to take over my life and my writer’s mind for the past year and demand their stories be told.

The Bouquet List is the first in my “Weddings in Westchester” series about the Katsalos family who own a wedding hall business, and they encompass everything I love about the Greek culture, weddings and falling in love.

Here’s the blurb for book one: The Bouquet List which came out this week!

He's #5 on her Bouquet List. Tall, dark...and completely forbidden.

After a too-close call with death, Yasmin Katsalos is checking some things off her Bouquet List—things to do after you thought you were going to die. Fun fashion choices? Check. Purple hair and a cute diamond nose stud? Check, check. Now she's on to item #5: a flirty fling with a man who's tall, dark, rich...and totally out of her league.

And restaurateur Lane Griffiths definitely fits the bill.

Lane isn't just out of Yasmin's league. He's also her brother's best friend and therefore off-limits. Now that they're working together on renovations for her family's wedding hall, however, Yasmin has plenty of opportunities to bewitch, bother, and boldly seduce. He's reserved. She's relaxed. The only thing they share is a spark of attraction that's too strong to resist. But is Lane just another item on her bouquet list... or has Yasmin found something on her list that will last?

Buy Links:

The Bouquet List is available from all great e book stores here!

I have an e copy of any of my back list books: Contract for Marriage, Dishing up Desire or Last Chance Proposal to give to a commenter. Tell us something you love about the Greek culture, or a wedding in another culture you’ve been to.

Barbara DeLeo’s first book, co-written with her best friend, was a story about beauty queens in space. She was eleven, and the sole, handwritten copy was lost years ago, much to everyone’s relief. It’s some small miracle that she kept the faith and is now living her dream of writing sparkling contemporary romance with unforgettable characters. 
After completing degrees in psychology and English, then traveling the world, Barbara married her winemaker hero and had two sets of twins. 

She still loves telling stories about finding love in all the wrong places, with not a beauty queen or spaceship in sight 

Barbara is the author of Contract for Marriage, Dishing up Desire, Last Chance Proposal and The Bouquet List

Buy links:

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 17th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blame it all on my roots...

Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots. But don’t worry, they’re super fabulous boots, because that’s how I roll. I spent a lot of years writing stories in big cities, even though I’m a farm girl from a small town. But then my roots started calling and a story started forming about Sadie, a country singer who’d gone to Nashville to try to become famous but ended back up in her small town. And when she needs a job so she can get back on her feet, regain her confidence, and return to Nashville, the only one who’s hiring is the ex she left behind. Royce is running Second Chance Ranch now, where he rehabilitates troubled teens through ranch work. While neither of them think working together is a particularly good idea, Royce needs someone who’s good with animals and the teens, which Sadie is, and she’s desperate enough to take the job. They quickly discover the chemistry they used to have is still in full-effect. Working together is only bringing them closer, and issues they thought they resolved, suddenly seem anything but. Before long, they’ll have to decide if they’re going to give a second chance to the one that got away.

While there are a lot of fun things about growing up in a farm town (open spaces, animals, hot cowboys) the work can be pretty exhausting. That meant finding a way to play while we worked, so I thought I’d share a few memorable experiences.

My sister and I were tasked to put some of the crooked bales in straight lines so the hauler (a tractor that picks up the bales and loads them so that you can put them into a hay stack) could pick them up easier. Naturally, we decided this would be the perfect time to tan our legs. Word to the wise: shorts and scratchy hay don’t really mix, and we ended up with more scrapes than color. But we also laughed a lot and made up some dance moves that will never be seen in public.

Several of the guys I went to school with were also responsible for chores on their farm. While checking on cows in labor, which can sometimes be a long process, we’d play poker. Loser buys Mountain Dew. I got pretty good at poker, and got even more addicted to Mountain Dew. 

Western movies. Ever since I can remember, western movies were popular at my house. So once we got done chasing cows, we’d kick back and watch movies about chasing cows. Lol. I’ve seen most movies staring Sam Elliot, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Selleck. My personal favorites are Tombstone and Quigley Down Under. And while those movies have cowboys and guns, they’ve also got some great romances. Those cowboys might not want to admit it, but they like a little romance in their movies, as well as their lives. And who doesn’t want to be the woman who tames a cowboy? 

Second Chance Ranch

Sometimes love is right where you left it.

Sadie Hart has a plan: return to her small town of Hope Springs so she can regain her confidence—and bank account—before giving one more shot to her country music dream. The dream that means more to her than anything.  The dream she chose over her high school sweetheart, the brooding and sinfully handsome Royce Dixon.

Royce has moved on from his memories of the beautiful Sadie. Now he’s focused solely on running Second Chance Ranch, where he rehabilitates troubled teens through ranch work. But when he needs a new employee and Sadie’s the only one to volunteer, he has no choice but to offer his old flame a job.

Whether riding a horse with the wind in her hair or mucking out the stalls, Sadie can still get Royce’s heart beating like no one else. But Nashville is her dream, and Royce can’t settle for second best.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chasing Trouble

With: Joya Ryan

One thing I love about contemporary romance is it gives me a chance to get lost in reality…only awesomer (yep, awesomer is a word today!). I grew up in a small town and there was such potential for magical, romantic moments that never came. But that’s what contemporary romance is for! Re-writing those missed opportunities. 

Chasing Trouble takes place in a small town where you have sexy good ol’ boys and strong, sassy women. Having a bon fire and beer by the lake is a standard Saturday night. But it’s when that guy with the blue eyes and devilish grin catches your attention that you ditch the bon fire, get lost in the woods, and see what his kiss tastes like. Those are the moments I love getting lost in as a reader and a writer.

With contemporary romance, another fun correlation for me is tying music to the story. When I was thinking of my characters for Chasing Trouble, I’d listen to the same two songs over and over because I felt like it captured the world and people I had in my head and played them to a rhythm. I could see Colt McCade’s sexy swagger and hear the witty banter between him and Jenna. Scenes became alive and I wanted to jump into the world and take as many people with me as I could! Because the imagination, mixed with some romance, is a wonderful place to escape to every once in a while. 

Working with my best friend and critique partner of this book, we realized something very simple, yet very important: I want to live inside a country music song, and I want to write a book that is set to that soundtrack.


Bad boys are the best kind of trouble…

Kindergarten teacher Jenna Justice has lived her life by the book—right school, right career, right image. Too bad the townsfolk of Diamond, Kansas, have a hard time forgetting that she wasn’t born on the right side of the tracks. The only way J.J. can land her dream job is to keep her wild side buried and her reputation clean. But when she finds herself in another town, one without prying eyes, she allows herself one fantasy-filled night with her best friend’s bad boy brother.

Professional bull rider Colt McCade is grounded for the summer with an injury. After their sizzling night together, he finds himself wanting to pick up where he and the prim and not-so-proper Ms. Justice left off. Problem is, she isn’t interested in his idea of “healing,” which involves ice cubes and a whole lot of heavy breathing. But the closer he gets, the more he sees that his fast-and-loose reputation could cost her the job of her dreams. He wants to do the right thing, but walking away from her could cost him everything…