Thursday, October 19, 2017

Obsessions

With: Lexi Lawton

Obsessions. We all have them. Some are good and motivate us to do amazing things—like a reading obsession that inspires us to write our own books. Others are not so good—like my personal chocolate and Pepsi obsession. My waistline and scale really hate me for this one. Ha! But I am an unashamed food lover, and I always include food in my books, usually in the form of a date. Really, what a better way to connect than over a delicious meal?

In my newest book, CHASING XANDER, Xander has a secret obsession with a very specific meal: pepperoni pizza dipped in bleu cheese dressing and chocolate milk. Sounds kinda gross, huh? It’s not. I’ve had it, and it’s actually quite good. You should try it sometime.

Here are my top 5 food obsessions:

1.    Alfredo – Chicken, steak, shrimp…doesn’t matter what kind of meat. My absolute favorite is the steak gorgonzola alfredo from The Olive Garden.
2.    Steak – I like mine cooked medium with a loaded baked potato. If you haven’t tried a thick cut steak from Texas Roadhouse, you really need to!
3.    Calzones – Overstuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and sausage…Yum!
4.    Cheesecake – My top choice is always plain cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries, but I will never pass up a slice with chocolate or caramel, either.
5.    Veggies – I love fresh cauliflower, carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans, yellow squash… They’re even better when they’re fried up with butter and seasonings. Of course, they’re much unhealthier that way, too.

What are some of your food obsessions? Share in the comments!

Excerpt:
Kylie took the plastic bag from Xander’s hand. “So, what did you bring?”
“Pizza and video games.” He set the pizza box on the desk. “Celeste said you like cheese and pepperoni, so that’s what I brought.”
“She’s full of helpful information, isn’t she?”
Xander sighed. Maybe he should have called or texted first, but he’d really wanted to surprise her. “You seem mad I just showed up. I’m sorry. I’ll go.”
“No. Stay.” She reached for him, her delicate hand clutching his biceps, sending his heart racing. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long day. That’s all. This is very sweet. Thank you.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded. “What else did you bring?” She glanced at the other bag still in his hand.
“Chocolate milk, blue cheese dressing, paper plates, and napkins. And in that bag”—he pointed to the one she’d taken and set on the bed—“is a gaming console.”
“Right. Video games. Wait…chocolate milk and blue cheese? With pizza?” She scrunched up her face.
He laughed. “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” He opened the package of plates, put a slice of pizza on one, and squirted some dressing on the side. Then he poured a glass of chocolate milk. Dipping the pizza into the blue cheese, he held it out to her.
“Ew, no.”
“C’mon, one bite. You’ll love it, trust me.”
She hesitated but then leaned closer, opening her mouth to take a bite. He narrowed his eyes as he watched her lips close around the slice and then pull back. Her eyes fluttered for a moment as she chewed, and her tongue darted out to lick the corner of her mouth. Christ, that was sexy. He swallowed hard and shifted to accommodate his growing erection.
Setting the pizza back on the plate, he reached for the cup of chocolate milk and handed it to her. She took a drink, meeting and holding his gaze over the rim of the cup. He’d never seen such green eyes. They were like polished emeralds. “Well?” he asked.

CHASING XANDER

Kylie Quinn is positive nothing could be more embarrassing on her first day of college than having her unmentionables go sprawling across campus. She was wrong. Very wrong. Having a super-sexy co-ed twirl them around his finger like he's privy to all of Victoria's Secrets is so much worse.

Xander Collins has met his match with Kylie—she’s gorgeous, smart, sarcastic as
hell, and doesn’t give a damn that he’s loaded. She’s also a virgin. And he doesn’t do virgins. Been there, done that, and he’s still paying for it. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends, despite the fact her flirty moves leave him with balls a shade of blue he never knew existed. 

Kylie is special, and she deserves more than his typical “one and done” routine. But as his life implodes and his not-so-brilliant plan to take things slow blows up in his face, he's at risk of losing everything—including Kylie. Now he must decide if everything he's been fighting so hard for is worth it without her by his side. 




About The Author
Born and raised in Central New York, Lexi Lawton is an only child who found companionship in books. When she was old enough to put pen to paper, she began writing her own stories of love, suspense, and heartbreak. She hasn't stopped since. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Lexi has her butt in the chair and her fingers on the keyboard, writing several new stories.Today, Lexi lives in Michigan with her husband, three kids, three pit bulls, and two cats. When she's not writing, she enjoys going to the gym, spending time with her family and friends, and obsessively listening to anything by Luke Bryan. To sign-up for her newsletter, sign-up here: http://eepurl.com/b96e5X


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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Inclusivity in Romance


            Let’s be honest, the heroine whose only flaw happens to be her klutziness is more than tired—it’s boring. Yet countless titles that I’ve picked up feature the same blonde girl with honeyed skin who’s waiting for Mr. Right to sweep her off her feet. But honestly, I think that’s a poor representation of the readership, and readers are ready and willing for more.
            One of the things that romance does the best is diving deep into the complexities of relationships and the individual problems that each person brings to the table. So, when I found out about the Cupid’s Café series with After Glows Publishing, I wanted on board. After all, in this series, both the hero and heroine are struggling with real life issues that aren’t often covered in romance, like bipolar disorder or alcoholism.
         
   So when I took on my Cupid’s Café story, I was overcome with ideas, because there were so many things I wanted to see represented in romance. What I landed on was a heroine who still suffers from PTSD from an assault back in college, and a hero who’s a recovering alcoholic. Both characters had so much pain and so much depth. Their struggle was a raw and visceral one, and it made me realize how important it is to represent people facing adversity. Because everyone deserves a happy ending, especially those who get to the bleak points where they feel like they don’t deserve one and won’t ever find someone to love them.
            The other books in the Cupid’s Café series highlight depression, bipolar disorder, bulimia, and when you experience the sort of struggles these characters go through in trying to find personal happiness, it’s absolutely enlightening. Why do we need inclusivity in romance? Because that’s how we can reach a hand out to those going through their own struggles and also teach empathy for them. So don’t miss out on the romance revolution with the Cupid’s Café series!

Captured Memories (Cupid’s Café #3)


An invitation to Cupid’s Café will change your life.

After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time.

Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.

When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.

Excerpt:

The date started as bland and was speeding right along to abysmal.
            Liv sucked on her straw, taking in an extra hefty helping of her black-and-white milkshake, as if the creamy goodness could block out the absolute drivel coming out of this guy’s mouth. He hadn’t seemed like this much of a twat online, but hey, dating profiles lie. The overhead lights of the Denny’s blared down on her, and the rattle and chill of air conditioning blasting through this place made her skin prickle.
            “So you take photographs, right?” Kyle asked, his smarmy grin the sort kind she itched to punch off his face, and the Drakkar Noir he’d slathered on making her stomach churn. “What’s your real job?”
            Liv swigged so much milkshake it went straight to her head, but even brain freeze melted in the fury his question inspired. So far he checked off every item on her ‘Shit that Makes Liv Morozov Rage’ list. Acting like her career wasn’t a legitimate profession tended to top that, along with the territorial way he leaned forward, his hand inching across the laminate table as the minutes wore on.
            “Professional Emasculator. I’ve been told that’s why I’ve got such a problem keeping a man,” she drawled, batting her eyelashes innocently while the venom poured from her mouth. This had been a bad idea from the start, spurred on by the promise she made to Tessa to give the dating pool a fair try again. Common sense-wise, making connections she might be able to use for her quite-real job as a photographer didn’t hurt, and she figured she could slice through any assholes who came her way.
            Looked like right off the bat they lined up for the slaughter.

Author Information:
Strong women. Strong words.

Katherine McIntyre is a feisty Irish chick with a big attitude despite her short stature. She writes stories featuring snarky women, ragtag crews, and men with bad attitudes—high chance for a passionate speech thrown into the mix. As an eternal geek and tomboy who’s always stepped to her own beat, she’s made it her mission to write stories that represent the broad spectrum of people out there, from different cultures and races to all varieties of men and women. Easily distracted by cats and sugar.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Favorite Fall Treats


Fall is filled with so many great things from hay rides to pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! The authors of the Falling for You Anthology are here today to share their favorite fall treats – so pull up a chair and cup of pumpkin spice something and get ready to celebrate fall!

Jo McNally, author of Meet Me in the Middle: I love comfort foods like lasagna and beef stew. My Mom was adamant that her lasagna wasn't a "summer food," so she wouldn't make it until fall. There's mention of someone's famous lasagna in my novella, "Meet Me in the Middle," but it was only famous because the fire department had to be called!

Kristina Knight, author of Outsider in a Small Town: My favorite fall treat isn’t a food! It’s our annual trip to Ramseyer Farms. They hold a fall festival every weekend starting in the middle of September – there are hay rides, pumpkin spice everything, hay mazes, and all kinds of family activities. We are always worn out by mid-afternoon, but it’s so much fun!

Tara Taylor Quinn, author of It Was You: My favorite fall treat is the mini-sized candies! I have a minimal appetite and most particularly for anything rich, can’t eat a lot before I start to feel sick. And…I LOVE milk chocolate and certain candy bars. Butterfinger and Baby Ruth are my favorite. And I’m an M&M lover, too. They have miniature sizes all year, but in the fall, they’re packaged with more varieties and choices, and they’re on sale! Yay!!

Claire McEwen, author of Her Hometown Cowboy: For many people, fall means the start of all things pumpkin spice. But not for me. I love apples! Fall is gravensteins and rubenstars and jonagolds and many other crisp and tart apple varieties that I find at my local store and farmers' market. I also love hot apple cider, and apple pie!

Janet Lee Nye, author of Finding Harmony: Driving up to the North Carolina Mountains to pick apples, drink apple cider and be amazed at the gorgeous autumn color.

Kris Fletcher, author of If I Fall: My favorite fall treat is Apple Walnut Oatmeal.

Heatherly Bell, author of The Right Man: Once a year I make my Puerto Rican Rum cake. I look forward to it every fall!

Dana Nussio, author of Home to You: I don’t even have to think about that one. My favorite fall treat, hands-down, is Pumpkin Cookies from my family’s recipe. I say cookies, plural, because you can’t eat just one…or two…or three. Especially when they’re warm. When you turn you back to take a tray out of the oven, the cookies on the cooling sheet mysteriously disappear.

Lisa Dyson, author of Can’t Help Falling in Love: My favorite fall treat is heartier food. Chili, soups, pumpkin bread. Now the weather needs to cooperate and cool down!
Angel Smits, author of Perfect Fit: My favorite fall treat is hard! There so much good food this time of year...oh, who am I kidding, there's always good food!  I guess when I think of fall food the first thing that comes to mind is caramel apples.  My mom made them every year when the apples ripened and were so sweet and delicious. Yum. 


Falling for You Anthology

This autumn, warm your heart with ten fall-themed novellas from some of your favorite USA Today bestselling, national bestselling, and award winning Harlequin Superromance authors.

Foreword by Brenda Novak.

It Was You by Tara Taylor Quinn: He has no problem respecting the fact that she is off limits…until the one night he does.

The Right Man by Heatherly Bell: When one long planned dream day veers wildly off-course, she must decide between the perfect wedding or the right man.

Her Hometown Cowboy by Claire McEwen: Falling for him wasn’t part of her plan.

Meet Me in the Middle by Jo McNally: She’s used to playing it safe, but when her old crush comes cruising back into town, she might have to risk it all.

Outsider in a Small Town by Kristina Knight: She may hold the keys to his heart…and his future.

If I Fall by Kris Fletcher: What goes up must fall…in love.

Finding Harmony by Janet Lee Nye: Jericho was the last place she wanted to be, but it was becoming the best place for her.

Perfect Fit by Angel Smits: She never forgot her first love…and though he never measured up, neither did he.

Home to You by Dana Nussio: Can a woman who ran from home and a man who never had it ever hope to discover that home really is a place for hearts?

Can’t Help Falling in Love by Lisa Dyson: She’s career-oriented. and he’s the one who just broke her boss’s heart.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Finding the Humor and Love in Life’s Tragedies

With: Sara Jade Allen

Growing up, my sister taught me that the upside of tragedy is that it can be turned into art. And even better: into comedy. This is what draws me to write contemporary romance with humor. My sister, Theresa Alan, is an author, too. When she was in high school and I was in middle school and we were dealing with a difficult family situation, she funneled her feelings about it into her first published essay (in Sassy magazine! Remember that one? Anyone?). I followed her lead and took the same situation and wrote a funny poem and drew a silly picture about it. It made me laugh, and I think, especially as a tween, that was empowering.  I couldn’t control the situation, but I could control what I did with my feelings.

When I got into high school, I developed an interest in politics and activism, and I found myself not knowing what to do with the deep anger I felt about the injustices in the world. So I wrote standup comedy about it. It’s cathartic to find a way to laugh at anger and pain because getting to the other side of it—somehow divining a punchline in all the turmoil—means you are forced to accept and honor the reality and emotion. It’s not about being glib about terrible things; it’s about finding your way through life’s difficulties with your heart intact.

When I was 28 years old I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, and as you can imagine, my world was flipped upside down. I had just completed an 8-month yoga teacher-training program and was the healthiest and strongest in body and mind that I have ever been. Cancer? Possibly losing my leg or never being able to fully bend or straighten it again? Terrifying, and also completely absurd. Since my disease was rare, the options offered me by multiple world-renowned doctors were widely varied and ambiguous. I ended up seeing four of the top orthopedic specialists in the US and one in Germany, so with all that travelling around, finding my treatment took time. During that time, I channeled the confusion, the pain, the absurdity into art, writing a one-woman show about it. After my surgery, during my year on crutches, I started writing Ellie’s story.

As you can see, I greatly value humor as a tool for life. But why the romance aspect? Simple: because of love.

Love is the greatest connecting force in our lives. And while I love the connection that comes with laughter, our loved ones are there in the quiet moments of our darkest hours, in the rawness, before we can find our way through. We juggle our own humanity—fears, hopes, insecurities—to be brave enough to be vulnerable with others, to love and be loved. During my cancer diagnosis and recovery I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an unbelievable support system and so much love, and I wanted that for Ellie in A Messy, Beautiful Life. She has a lot thrown at her, but the people in her life are her force field. Love is the highest art.  It’s the upside to all of life.

Excerpt:
I grabbed Craig’s arm to hold him back. “Hey, let’s, um, go meet our parents first, then get snacks. See if they want any.”

He looked to where my gaze had been. Crap. I was caught. “What, you know them?” He looked back and forth between us. “Bet you have a thing for that guy, huh?” I rolled my eyes. He raised his eyebrows. They begged to be pulled out, hair by hair. “Now, Ellie, it’d be rude to ignore a friend.”

“He’s not a friend.”

“A crush.”

“No, I just…we…”

“Acquaintance? It’s cool. I’ll pretend for your sake that one of them is nothing more than an acquaintance. It’s the girl you’re into, then, isn’t it?”

“You’re impossible. I met that guy for a second at the show last night. Can we go now?”

“Of course not. It’d also be rude to ignore an acquaintance.”

My Ice Princess glare did nothing because he pulled me into line, too close to Jason and his most-surely-a-model girlfriend.

They turned around at the same time. I can hardly explain the double take Jason gave me. It was like an emotional sundae—two scoops of fear with a sprinkle of huh? and a dollop of awkward with excitement on top.

“Wow, Ellie, hi. Crazy running into you. You guys took off so quickly last night I didn’t get a chance to thank you for doing the show.”

“Yeah, well, you know freshmen and their pesky curfews.”

He nodded. I nodded back. That torso. Smooth and tan and apparently filled with a billion bio-magnets, because the entire organ that was my skin gravitated toward it.

Craig piped up, overenthusiastically, “Hey. I’m Craig, and you two are?”

“Sorry, sorry, hey, I’m Jason and this is Marissa.”

“I heard you guys had some fun skits last night. That’s so great,” Marissa said.

I winced at our improv set being called skits. “Thanks, yeah, Scared Scriptless is a talented team. Very meshy and swirly,” I said. Realizing how weird that must have sounded, I quickly added, “And funny.”

Jason wore only his board shorts and flip-flops. I’d hoped my feelings last night were a result of the high from the show making everything shinier. But now, in the light of day, he looked even more irresistible than I remembered. Cheers and curses to the world of fashion for making low-riding board shorts a staple in guy’s swimwear.

A Messy, Beautiful Life

Life is funny sometimes. 


And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer. 



I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom. 



And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die. 



So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.




About Sara Jade Alan:
Sara Jade Alan wrote her first comedy sketch during second-grade recess, then cast it, directed it, and made costumes out of garbage bags. Since then she’s performed in more than a thousand improvised and scripted shows. Currently she’s one half the comedy duo The Novelistas, who perform about the highs and lows of writing and publishing. When she’s not writing or performing, she gives My Life Online presentations in schools to teach kids how to create a positive online footprint, and she’s an educator with Girls Leadership. Raised in a suburb of Chicago, Sara now lives in Colorado with her husband and daughter. A Messy, Beautiful Life, Sara’s debut YA novel with Entangled Teen, is inspired by her personal life story.

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