Top 5 On My Bucket List

We all have one (or we should). A bucket list. That list of things we want to do/experience/accomplish before we kick the bucket.

I love the idea of a bucket list because it means that, right up to the end, you never stop trying new things or looking for new experiences. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who loved to travel, to experience other cultures, to try new things, and encouraged us to do so as well. I’ve continued that practice into my adult life. As you can imagine, my bucket list is a long one. 

I don’t number them or have them in any particular order though. And I should mention that travel is a huge part of my list. I’ve mentioned one below, but there’s also Australia/New Zealand, Austria, Holland, Iceland, Brazil, Egypt, Greece, the Galapagos, more time in Japan, Russia, and many many other places. Still, for fun, I tried to figure out my top 5.

TOP 5 BUCKET LIST

5. Photo Safari in Kenya

I’ve wanted to go to Africa and see those amazing animals and the beautiful (and varied) topography for ages. I’d love to experience some of the (safer) cultures and try the food and be out in the quiet of the plains or see the jungles. But especially those animals. I’ve seen them in zoos, but no way is that the same.

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4. Find the Best Dessert Ever

Okay, so this is a weird one. But I LOVE dessert. I find the best one at every restaurant I visit. I figure, with all the traveling, I have many more to try, right? So far, the one to beat is the Triple Pot de Crème at Back Bistro in Folsom, CA. I’m actually not a creme brulee person, but this isn’t exactly creme brulee. It’s the creme part of vanilla custard then covered by a layer of caramel, and then dark chocolate ganache and sea salt. It is incredible.

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3. Support Myself as an Author

I love my dream of being an author, I’ve crossed so many accomplishments and goals off my bucket list over the last 10 years. More than that, I am so, so lucky that I get to pursue it full time. For now. But I won’t be able to keep this up if I can’t make it contribute to my family. It doesn’t have to be huge. I’m not looking to be the next Nora Roberts or multi-million earning writer. But an income that contributes… it’s the only way I get to keep doing this. To me, this means continuing to work on my craft and keep publishing the best works I can, and pray that the luck side of this business comes my way.

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2. Live in Estes Park, CO

I’ve wanted this as long as I can remember. Convincing my husband to retire there might take some work. Leaving friends to move would also be hard. It would be awesome if the lottery could strike and, boom, vacation home where we can stay a lot!

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1. Meet My Great Grandkids

I want to live long enough to see my kids live through major life moments–prom, high school graduation, going to college, getting married, and having children. But I’m selfish. I want to see this for my grandkids too. And to meet my great grandkids. I got to know my great grandmother until I was 12. Hearing about and imagining her life, and knowing she touched mine, is one of my favorite life experiences. I’d love to have it again, on the other side.

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Those are my top 5 (for now). What about you? What’s one your bucket list?

Will He Get Shut Down?

What happens when a practiced flirt and bad boy thinks the town good girl is hitting on him?

Here’s an excerpt from Taming the Troublemaker!

“I see,” he said without thinking. Then shook his head, having trouble focusing. All he could think about was the fact that Beth Cooper—the most prim and proper schoolmarm in town, an angel as far as most of the people in town were concerned—was hitting on him.

He ran his gaze over petite features and creamy skin, perfect even under the dim parking lot lights. Her pale blonde hair was ruffled in a way that gave her a little-girl-lost vibe he had to admit he was sort of into.

Autry’s body stirred in a reaction that neither Stella nor any other woman in that bar had engendered. Except Beth was off-limits and he had a bet to win. “Beth… I’m flattered that you’re interested—”

Her eyebrows scrunched down over those amazing eyes. “Oh, my God. I’m not hitting on you.”

He ignored the protest. She was getting shut down after all, of course pride would make her protest. “It’s definitely the most creative approach I’ve seen. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I would have taken you up on whatever it is you’re offering.”

Hands plonked down on slim hips. “Autry Aaron Hill, you’d be the last person I’d be interested in.”

“Oh, really?” He cocked his head, his customary flirtatious grin slipping into place with practiced ease. “You’ve never wondered even a tiny bit?”
Because he sure as hell had.

Her pink lips parted in a gasp. “Of course not. Listen, if you’ll just give me my purse, then we can both get going.”

Autry crossed his arms, a spark of mischief prompting him to not let that go. She might have been in the “off-limits” box but he’d also caught glances. If most any other woman had looked at him with that mix of curiosity and need, he would’ve walked over and whispered something naughty in her ear before dragging her off for fun. But Beth was too innocent, too much of a good girl to try those kinds of moves with her.

“I tell you what, Elizabeth Ann Cooper…” He deliberately mimicked her use of full name. “I will give you your purse back on one condition.”

Narrowed eyes greeted his statement. “What condition?”

READ TO FIND OUT!

Stands alone with its own HEA,  but feel free to buy all 3 in the series and get started on Saving the Sheriff and Resisting the Rancher!

Crested Butte | Spring Break 2019

Keeping up our spring break skiing vacation tradition, this year we tried out a new spot. Crested Butte, Colorado (or, as my kids like to call it… crusty butt), might be my new favorite Colorado spot. Or 2nd behind Estes Park, at least.

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This spring break as an adventure, given that five feet of snow had dumped on Crested Butte over the 2 weeks leading up to us getting there. So there was snow everywhere. Even with our easy access to mountains in California for 10 years, I’ve never seen so much snow. 

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We rented a gorgeous house that offered ski in/ski out (though that ended up being more for the advanced skiers). It took some getting used to skiing in powder conditions, especially for the kids. With spring skiing, we’re usually on super groomed, icy runs. Not this year!

Oh! ANd I got to break in my new ski boots (which I lurv, but breaking them in was a process. Lol. Yes, I did wear them all around the house for weeks leading up to it, to help. Unfortunately, I still have a nice knot where that horse kicked me in the shin last July. That happens to be right at boot height. So, not comfortable, but I was able to ski fine, so yay.

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It snowed our first three days of skiing. 3-5 inches a day, but surprisingly not super cold with it. While there the cyclone bomb hit the northeastern plains of Colorado (more up Denver way). We lucked out and just got the little bit of extra snow. And we really lucked out when our last day was beautiful blue skies and perfect weather, which also cleared the roads up nicely to drive back home to Texas (which we did in one long, long, long 16-hour haul). 

In addition to great skiing on the mountain for all levels of skiers, we also LOVED the town of Crested Butte. Lots of adorable shops and fantastic restaurants. Make sure to go into Montanayas and get the Lavender Blitz cocktail. You’ll thank me for it. 

For you family skiers out there, we really recommend Crested Butte. You’ll love it!

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New Release: Taming the Troublemaker

TAMING THE TROUBLEMAKER

THE HILLS OF TEXAS #3
One daring kiss with the playboy tempts the good girl, but can she tame him?

Autry Hill may be a cowboy to his boots, but he’s also gained quite the reputation as a charmer and playboy. His parents aren’t sure he’s ready to take the reins of the family’s prosperous Texas ranch, so they set up a challenge: No women or scandal for the next six months and the ranch house he grew up in is his. Easy peasy, Autry thinks. He’s already tired of late nights and romancing, until elementary school teacher Beth Cooper happens to cross his path. Suddenly Autry is losing his heart, his mind, and what’s left of his reputation.

Good girl teacher Beth Cooper is far too practical to fall for Autry Hill, even if she had a crush on him way back when. The man’s been breaking hearts since middle school. But when he becomes her unexpected champion and then they work together to help one of Beth’s troubled students who’s about to lose everything, she sees a different side of Autry – serious, compassionate, determined and dedicated. And that Autry is nearly impossible to resist. Does she need to?

READ NOW

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EXCERPT

“I tell you what, Elizabeth Ann Cooper…” He deliberately mimicked her use of full name. “I will give you your purse back on one condition.”

Narrowed eyes greeted his statement. “What condition?”

“A kiss.”

“What?” she squawked, arms flailing. “No way. It’s my purse.”

But even as she protested he could see the flush rising in her cheeks, despite such low lighting. She was definitely interested. One itty-bitty taste to satisfy his curiosity, then back to becoming the straitlaced, stand-up citizen he was determined to prove he could be.

“It’s my truck,” he shot back. “And you’ve insulted my manhood implying I’m not worthy of you.”

Her lips flattened and she shook her head. “Some things never change.”

Autry paused, though he didn’t allow his smile to slip. “What does that mean?”

“It means you had a one-track mind in high school, and years later, you obviously haven’t grown out of it.”

Damn. He’d forgotten Beth’s tendency to call him on his bullshit. Plus, he had that damn bet to consider. Regardless, he would never have made her do it. He might have a thing about teasing her, and he had to admit to kind of hoping she’d take the dare, but he’d never forced himself on a woman. Ever.

He dropped the smile entirely and turned to his truck to unlock it. “I’m just teasing you, Beth. Of course, you can have your purse.”

He grabbed a gray sack the size of a backpack, and just as heavy, from the passenger seat and handed it over to her.

“Thank you,” she said primly as she backed away from him.

Like he was a leper or his flirting might be contagious.

But then the dimples that had teased him as a youth came out to play, her eyes lighting with mischief. “I didn’t figure you for someone who gave up so easily. Guess I won this one.”

With a wiggle that had certain parts of him perking back up, she turned to her truck.

Autry stared at her back for all of two seconds, assimilating her words. Oh, hell no. This slip of a woman was not winning anything… whatever that meant.

He was around the truck to her driver’s side in a few quick strides. Beth squealed when he spun her around by the waist.

“I always win,” Autry said.

He took her lips not harshly, but firmly and chastely, the scent of something light and alluring swirling around him as she gasped.

He was tempted as sin to dip his tongue inside the warm recess of her mouth to tease hers, but he wouldn’t push it that far. With more effort than it should’ve taken, he forced himself to stop at the one peck, pulling back to gaze down into wide, bemused eyes. God, he wouldn’t mind continuing though, his body vibrating like a tuning fork.

With Beth Cooper of all people.

Then he went rigid with shock as Beth went up on tiptoe, wrapping her arms around his neck and putting the first kiss to shame as she showed him what kissing should always be like.

Get Lucky Giveaway

🍀💋Wanna get lucky?💋🍀

Romance readers, don’t miss out on this multi-author giveaway. I’ve gotten together with a group of fantastic authors from Tule Publishing to offer you the shot at winning copies of our recent and upcoming releases!

11 winners of 1 ebook each and 1 grand prize winner of all 11 ebooks will be chosen at random and announced Monday, 4/1 (no foolin’). Best of luck!

DETAILS & ENTRY FORM

Prizes Up for Grabs:

Laurie LeClair, DEAR CUPID (Jan 30)
http://www.laurieleclair.com/

Elsa Winckler, AN IMPOSSIBLE ATTRACTION (Feb 6)
http://elsawinckler.com/

Gerri Russell, SEVEN NIGHTS WITH A SCOT (Feb 21)
https://gerrirussell.net/

Tracy Solheim, SHOT IN THE DARK (Feb 25)
http://tracysolheim.com/

Jennie Jones, LONE STAR PROTECTOR (Feb 26)
http://www.jenniejonesromance.com/

Sarah White, ROOKIE IN LOVE (Feb 28)
http://sarahlwhite.com/

Nancy Holland, FELYN’S CURSE (Mar 5)
https://nancyhollandwriter.com/

Fiona McArthur, OUTBACK BRIDES OF WIRRALONG: LACEY (Mar 13)
http://www.fionamcarthurauthor.com/

Kadie Scott, TAMING THE TROUBLEMAKER (Mar 21)
http://www.kadie-scott.com

Ann B. Harrison, THE CONVENIENT COWBOY (Mar 26)
http://www.annbharrison.net/

Nicole Flockton, NEXT DOOR KNIGHT (Mar 28)
http://www.nicoleflockton.com/

DETAILS & ENTRY FORM

Book That Influenced My Life

What books have influenced my life? This is a difficult question for me. Partly because I read so much, it’ll be hard to narrow the list. Partly because I don’t know that I’ve had any profound moment of change.

I’ve lost myself in books, escaping into the worlds and falling in love with the characters until they feel like old friends. Books can do more, absolutely. THey can teach, inspire, reveal, expose, and so much more. Important roles. But mostly, if they are like me, any author would be happy to hear that a book simply touched a reader in some way.

With that in mind, rather that go into depth, I’ve listed the books with the most impact on me and why. (In the order that I thought of them.) What books would you put on your list and why? I’d love to know!

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – The first time I learned that quote-unquote serious literature could involve a love story.

War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy – The book I read to prove to a doubting teacher that I could.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – The book that convinced me I didn’t like anything by Hemingway. All his characters are assholes. And that’s when I learned that I need at least one redeeming character in a story. Even if they don’t win.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – The first book where I lost myself in the characters. I re-read it every so often.

Twilight by Stephenie Myer – The book that introduced me to the world of paranormal romance.

Love Comes Softly by Janette Oak – My first inspirational romance. 

A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel – The arguments posed are still ones I consider daily.

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn – These Star Wars books took my favorite world and made it mine.

Inferno by Dan Brown – Best book club discussion I’ve ever had.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – Another book where I lost myself in the character and her journey.

Summer Rainfall by Kerry Allyne – From the 70s. Still the category romance I reread the most. 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – Still the best epic saga, with a myriad of fantastic characters.

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare – The best flirting on paper.

Blue Violet by Abigail Owen – The first book I ever finished writing.

My Contest Experiences

So… I have to admit that my enjoyment (perhaps it could be termed an addiction) to writing contests started at a young age.

When I was 9 years old, I won a writing contest in my school district for an essay about Abraham Lincoln. What? Someone thinks I’m a good writer? Well, then, I must be. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.

Granted, I didn’t win another contest until after I wrote my first book. So there was a bit of a time gap. In 2013 I placed 3rd at the IPPYs and the eLit Awards (for best scifi/fantasy) for the first book I ever finished (and had self-published at the time)–Blue Violet. Since then, I’ve won several more contests or been chosen as a reviewer’s favorite for a given year. (See Abigail Owen awards and Kadie Scott awards.)

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You wouldn’t think it would feel like that big of a deal. But to me those wins were a validation. After all, this was the first book I’d finished. While I’d had it professionally edited (I still credit Wendy with showing me the ropes), I still wasn’t sure if it was any good. Not like I was going to trust my family to be brutally honest, right? But it won, and that gave me a sort of validation that I’d needed. Like I was legit somehow.

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t need that. That I had the confidence in myself to believe I was a good writer. Now, 6 years and 29 books later, you’d think I’d definitely have the confidence. And I do. I know I’m a good writer. I’ve grown and continued to study my craft, always striving for the next book to be even better than the last.

But I still love the validation that placing in a contest can bring. These days it can often be that little nudge I need when I’m knee deep in a manuscript and at the “this sucks and I suck” phase that inevitably happens.

I will say that I don’t particularly care for the contests that involve reader voting. To me, that is a popularity contest to see who has the biggest network (and not necessarily of readers who’ve actually read the book). But the ones judged by people who read the books, and where industry professionals judge the finals? When I place in those, that’s that boost my confidence loves.

Another question you might ask is, did I see any results from winning the contest? Shrug. Sometimes I’ll see a small pop to my sales after winners are announced. I know some authors have found agents or editors via contest wins. I have not. Some of the more helpful contests, the judges provide notes back to the authors, which I do find valuable.  Also, I get to put “award-winning author” in my author title, and that, for what ever arguable reasons, helps legitimize me in the eyes of readers first thinking of picking up one of my books.

To me, contests are also a bit of a litmus test. It helps me know that my writing is continuing to be consistently good. I write so much faster these days. Blue Violet took me three years from word one to publication. Book 2, Hyacinth, took 6 months. Now I write a new book every 2-4 months (rarely as many as 4, I don’t have time). But I still want to produce quality reads.

I don’t submit my books to as many contests as I’d like. That can get horribly expensive, and most aren’t cash prizes. Some will give awards or metals. But most it’s a digital seal to go on my website and the pride. But I love that rush. Even when I don’t win.

Like I said…it’s a bit of an addiction. Much like finishing a book has become one. To me, that’s a huge accomplishment. And release day. Same rush.

Damn, I love being a writer. 🙂

Why Romance?

It’s Valentine’s Day today. Ironically, despite being a romance writer, I can’t stand this holiday. I heartily dislike the idea that my loved ones must be forced to tell me they love me once a year (and vice versa). Please explain why this isn’t happening naturally throughout the year? It’s a retail driven holiday that puts pressure on singles and couples alike, and it sucks.

*Off soap box.* That said, since today is (supposed to be) about love, I think it’s a good day to share my thoughts on something. With a handful of decades reading romance and now 10 years of writing it behind me, the question I still get asked most often is why romance?

I tend to answer with a couple of different reasons. Here are my top 4:

It’s my chances to put a little happiness in a world that has way too much of the opposite.

I can hardly stand to turn on the news these days. It is a rare thing that the stories don’t display a world in chaos filled with hate and violence. By writing romance–stories inherently about HOPE–I am taking the creativity God gifted me with and putting a little happiness back into the world. Out of curiosity, what are you doing to make this a better place?

It makes me happy.

I write and read romance because it…wait for it…makes me happy. I love the interaction between the characters and their growth on the page. I love seeing how finding love makes them happy. And, again, I love the HOPE. For dragon shifters and cowboys and billionaires and nerds and outgoing peole and shy people and people who are hurting alike, the opportunity is out there. Immersing myself in things that turn out beautiful and lovely is a wonderful way to spend some hours. 

Why not? Why aren’t you reading it?

Love is at the center of all relationships (or it should be). It’s at the center of making babies (or it should be). It’s not a female-only past time (guys do feel something other than lust, I hope). And it’s not just escapism for women. Not when mysteries and action/thrillers are also out there. I don’t see most men running around beating up bad guys and solving crimes. Just saying. 

So if these books are about hope and reflecting something that everyone on this planet has the capability to experience. And the have a wish to experience it (traditional forms or not). Please explain to me why more people  don’t read romance? Maybe if more people did, this would be a happier, more hopeful world than it currently is.

Finally… The voices in my head won’t shut up, so I give their mouths something to do. 😉

Come on. You always suspected writers were crazy. I’m just saying…you’re right.  To sit in front of a computer for hours/weeks/months/days/years torturing myself and my characters isn’t exactly an easy task. But I love what I do, and the people I get to meet because I do this, and the happiness it brings. So I guess I’ll continue to put up with Valentine’s Day and sing the praises of love and romance the other 364 days of the year. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo

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Cover Reveal & Preorder | Taming the Troublemaker

The cover for Taming the Troublemaker is up with preorder links! Isn’t it gorgeous!??! This one is hands down the cutest book I’ve written yet, and it’s coming March 21st with Tule Publishing!!!

The Hills of Texas are back, this time with Autry Hill. The playboy of the family has something to prove, but getting tangled up with Beth Cooper might give him some trouble. This book stands alone with its own HEA.


TAMING THE TROUBLEMAKER

THE HILLS OF TEXAS #3
One daring kiss with the playboy tempts the good girl, but can she tame him?

Autry Hill may be a cowboy to his boots, but he’s also gained quite the reputation as a charmer and playboy. His parents aren’t sure he’s ready to take the reins of the family’s prosperous Texas ranch, so they set up a challenge: No women or scandal for the next six months and the ranch house he grew up in is his. Easy peasy, Autry thinks. He’s already tired of late nights and romancing, until elementary school teacher Beth Cooper happens to cross his path. Suddenly Autry is losing his heart, his mind, and what’s left of his reputation.

Good girl teacher Beth Cooper is far too practical to fall for Autry Hill, even if she had a crush on him way back when. The man’s been breaking hearts since middle school. But when he becomes her unexpected champion and then they work together to help one of Beth’s troubled students who’s about to lose everything, she sees a different side of Autry – serious, compassionate, determined and dedicated. And that Autry is nearly impossible to resist. Does she need to?

PREORDER

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Tule Publishing | Coming 3.21.2019!!!


$10 Amazon GC Giveaway! 

To celebrate, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon GC (along with eBook copies of Saving the Sheriff and Resisting the Rancher from my Hills of Texas series) to a lucky someone who goes to the post on my Facebook page and enters!

It won’t get you an entry in the giveaway, but any shares/loves are always hugely appreciated and don’t forget to preorder! Not only is sharing caring but so is commenting and telling me how much you love the cover.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

If I Couldn’t Be a Writer?

If I couldn’t be a writer, what would I do?

I think I’ve been asking myself this question since I was old enough to know that there was a choice. One might say that, due to the staggeringly low chances of making a living at this gig, I should have a backup plan.

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There are the practical choices. Ones I’ve already taken at various points of my life. I have a degree in technical writing and did a year long internship. I’ve used that degree in almost every job I’ve had (everyone needs manuals and no one likes to write them). I also have an MBA somewhere in there.

I spent a year as a corporate trainer. I spent five years in a start up web design company doing HTML, graphic arts, and project management. I spent ten years at a major tech company doing business and customer analysis (living in spreadsheets and numbers) and project management again. And now I own a company (Authors On A Dime) where I put all those together with my passion.

I feel like I have the practical covered. That leaves the impractical, which I think is more what this question is about. If I dreamed another dream, what would it look like?

Honestly, I love being a writer so much, it’s a bit of an obsession. But…

I would LOVE to be one of the film historians/introducers/researchers/hosts at TCM (Turner Classic Movies).

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I have watched classic movies all my life. I’m not like 1980s. I’m talking all the way back to the beginning of film. It started with musicals, but that just led me to all the other fantastic films out there. The stories, the acting, the golden age of Hollywood. Love it all! I would be in hog heaven being able to delve into classics, talk about them with other classics lovers, view them, analyze them. In fact, in high school, that was my top job pick. I just had no idea how to go about getting that job.

But…sigh…it’s too late now. Guess I’ll just have to stick with this dream!

What about you? What would you do if you weren’t doing what you do? 😉