Fun & Games

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!

EstesPark2017

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?

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

Author Spotlight: Jessica Lauryn

Y’all know how I love to spotlight my fellow authors, and Jessica is such a sweetheart. I know you’ll love her latest release!

A Sultry Performance

Chris Gordon, stage manager at Rabourn Theater, suspects his late wife’s hit-and-run was never an accident. He believes the man she was having an affair with, Oakley Sutherland, was responsible and he vows to get Evelyn justice, igniting a plot to ensnare Oakley, working through Oakley’s fiancée, Victoria.

A well-known exotic dancer by night, Victoria Morrow has been fighting to make a better life for herself, and she won’t be taken advantage of. But when the most handsome man at Rabourn Theater takes an interest in her, she finds herself spiraling down a path she never expected to. Can Victoria resist Chris’s charms? Or will both of them fall prey to the danger that lurks in the wings?

AMAZON | B&N


EXCERPT

“I’m fine.” Victoria hid her eyes.

Chris tucked a disheveled wave behind her ear. “You don’t look fine. You’re trembling, and you look as though you’ve been crying.”

Victoria did her best to hold it together, like she always did. But seeing the compassion in Chris’s eyes, compassion that ran deeper than anything she had ever been on the receiving end of, the emotions welled inside of her. As the tears spilled down her face Chris took her into his arms. His strength surrounded her. He brought her inside of it, brushing one strong hand up and down her back.

“Victoria,” he whispered, “why are you marrying that man?”

Victoria tried, but couldn’t think of a single reason why she was. For years, she’d been telling herself that she was humoring Oakley, biding her time with him until she could approach him from a position of power. But the more time passed, the more she questioned whether that day would ever come. The night Oakley had asked her to marry him, there hadn’t been any question in her mind that she was going to say yes. Such had been the way of their disgusting farce of a relationship. She presented a hard-edged front to the world, but when it came to the man who’d been manipulating her for half her life, it was as though she had no power at all, as though she might just as well be nothing more than a mouse.

Avoiding Chris’s eyes, because she couldn’t possibly hide the truth from him if they were looking at each other head-on, Victoria simply said, “I love him.”

Chris’s arms stiffened and Victoria froze in turn, barely breathing as he took her by the shoulders, saying, “Victoria, that man just embarrassed you in front of two hundred people. He berated you, he manhandled you and he exploits you every night of your life. How could you possibly love a man like that?”

Victoria gnawed her lip, completely at a loss for words. She had no defense for the man in question and by aligning herself with him she was sacrificing more of her identity every day. Not that the life she’d led had made her crazy about relationships in general, but she wasn’t even opening herself to the possibility of another man’s companionship, to his soothing words and soft touch. Was it so wrong to want these things, so impossible to have them? Bringing Chris into the middle of her relationship with Oakley was liable to prove dangerous for both of them. But Chris was strong. He had to be, to have survived the loss he had.

Cautioning herself not to allow her thoughts to get away from her, knowing that Oakley would probably kill a man he perceived to be a serious enough threat to him, Victoria lifted her chin. “I know what it looks like, but I couldn’t count the things Oakley has done for me over the years. He’s protected me, and I sleep soundly at night knowing that no one is going to hurt me. He makes me feel safe.”

She realized right away that she shouldn’t have put things in those terms because the twinkle in Chris’s eyes told her exactly what his reply was going to be. She ought to run. He was giving her a chance to do just that, but her legs refused to stand. Instead, they eased sideways, leading the way like the smokestack on a train as her body leaned helplessly into that of the man sitting beside her.

“Tell me, Victoria—” Chris looked into her eyes, “does Oakley Sutherland make you feel like this?”  


ABOUT JESSICA LAURYN

#1 BookStrand bestselling author Jessica Lauryn has been writing since before she could hold a pen. Her days of storytelling through the art of playing with dolls inspired her to write romantic suspense novels The Romance Reviews describe as having “Just the right amount of passion and romance!” Villains often reform in Jessica’s stories, and just may become heroes themselves! Jessica is an avid antique collector, as well as a proud member of Romance Writers of America and her local chapter, New Jersey Romance Writers.

Website | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter

The Easiest Holiday Meal Ever

I have a confession to make… While I LOVE great food, and I can cook or bake just fine if I have to, I actually don’t like to cook or bake. I don’t enjoy being tied to the kitchen, probably because cooking is often one of those activities that I can’t multi-task. Just not my favorite.

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That being said, when I have folks over, especially for a holiday meal, I still want to feed them fantastic food. Which is why, over the years, I have garnered a list of the easiest–yet still mighty tasty–holiday meal dishes. (For you food snobs out there…don’t knock these until you try them.) I can cook Christmas dinner with little to no time, stress, or dishes to wash afterward. And yet, I still get asked for my recipes.

Are you ready for my super secret holiday meal list? You can pick and choose from the following:

Appetizers

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Raspberry Chipotle Cream Cheese Dip

Sounds so complicated. But what you do is buy a block of cream cheese, a box of Tricuits (or other crackers), and a bottle of raspberry chipotle marindae from the aisle with all the marinades and sauces.

On a tray, put the cream cheese block in the center. Smother with the sauce. Place the crackers around it or nearby. Done. 

Pre-cut Cubes of Cheese

All grocery stores have these in the  deli area. I’m a fan of smoked gouda, cobly jack, or sharp cheddar. The trick with these is to also get a selection of crackers, some plain and some fancier.

Jason’s Deli Fruit Tray

Or, if you buy a fruit tray from a grocery store (or, gasp, take the time to make your own, which defeats the purpose of this list), make sure to make the sauce.

Mix brown sugar into sour cream until it is the desired sweetness. Thank me later!

Grocery Store Veggie Tray

I would say “enough said”, but honestly, I can’t stand the ranch dressing that comes with the store bought trays. Plus there’s never enough. So make sure to buy a bottle of your favorite ranch dressing with this.

Lil’ Smokies in BBQ Sauce

In a small crock pot, mix the Lil’ Smokies with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. It seams hokey, but people eat these up.

Queso (Spicyish Cheese Dip for you northerners)

This is so much easier than anyone not from a state with lots of Mexican or TexMex foods makes it. 

In a crockpot, mix a block of velveeta cheese (sometimes more than a block) and a can of Rotel (I prefer mild so it works for everyone). 

Serve with tortilla chips. I like the scoops. 


Main Course

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I’ll admit, I don’t have a ton of main courses for you.  Lol. 

Honey Baked Ham

As easy as reading the directions to pop it in the oven. OR you can serve it cold as well. I like it both ways. Also makes for fantastic leftovers, or chop up the left overs and add them to the cheesy hashbrown dish listed below for a whole new meal days later.


Side Dishes

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Country Crock Mashed Potatoes

Buy in the deli part of the grocery store usually. I prefer the homestyle. Heats in 5-10 minutes. One thing feeds 5-7 people. I serve in a nice dish and get asked for my mashed potato recipe all the time.

Cheesy Hashbrown Potato Bake

Mix 1 back of hashbrown style potatoes (from the frozen section) with 8oz sour cream, a can of cream of chicken soup, and a bag of shredded mild cheddar cheese. Stir in a full stick of chopped up butter. Put it in a baking dish (9×13) and bake at 350 degrees until it’s bubbling and a little brown on top (usually about an hour). BTW…you can cook these hotter and faster if you need to. It’s hard to mess them up.

Green Bean Casserole (with a trick)

Get the French’s Crispy Fried Onions and follow the recipe on the back. To make it go faster, buy a few bags (2 usually does it) of the “steamers” green beans that you just steam in the microwave. Also cuts down on baking time because they’re already hot. 

Cranberry Sauce

I love the canned stuff. And nothing is easier. Open can, plop on tray, cut into slices. Voilà.

Honey Baked Ham Sweet Potatoes

One of the best sweet potato recipes out there. Buy the dish, bake per instructions (it does take a while, so time it well). Done. 

King’s Hawaiian Rolls

I love them for every dinner. Lol. And don’t bother toasting them in the oven. They’re great served as is.


Desserts

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Restaurants Are Your Friends

I actually have a TON of dessert recipes that I love, but this list is about ease. So when I want dessert done easy, I turn to restaurants. Not just any. I scout and scour and sample the desserts at all local restaurants, ask about if I can order my favorite ones for parties, until I cultivate a list of go to desserts guaranteed to please. 

Here in Austin, it’s Dahlia’s pies–especially their buttermilk pie and chocolate chess pie. OMG. So tasty.

So Are Your Family & Friends

You know how for holiday meals, the people you are feeding usually ask how they can help? Well…have them bring the desserts. Doesn’t get easier than that. 😉

Oh… you want some ideas you can make yourself? Okay. Here are two super easy crowd favs.

Better Than Sex Cake

Super easy cake that happens to be one of my all time favs (and not just because of the name). I wrote the recipe out on Paranormal Romantics this month. Here you go:

http://paranormalromantics.blogspot.com/2018/11/a-dessert-for-romance-readers-writers.html

Cherry Dump Cake

In a 9×13 bake dish dump a large can of crushed pineapple in and spread evenly. Then dump in a large can of cherry pie filling and spread evenly. Cover with a box of yellow cake mix (dry / unprepared). Top one half with chopped nuts (I like walnuts for this). Drizzle the whole thing with a stick of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes (until bubbly and lightly browned on the top). Done.

I hope I’ve given you some stress free holiday meal ideas. I’m always looking for ways to serve great food for the least amount of effort possible, so if you have any ideas to add, please share in the comments!!!

Winter Wonderland | $0.99 Holiday Romance Steals!

Want fantastic books for only $0.99 each
to add to your holiday reading list?

Check out this Winter Wonderland of Entangled titles!

(Click any cover image to go to Amazon.)

      


      


      

Already got my copies and settling in for lovely reads all season long!

Stranded on a Desert Island – #MFRWAuthor Blog Challenge

You know the game… if you were stranded on a desert island, assuming things like food, water, shelter, and clothing (and for me air conditioning) were taken care of at the most basic level for survival, what item would you choose to bring with you. In other words, what item can you NOT live without.

This is probably going to shock you, but it would be my… COMPUTER!

Are you shocked? No? The various reason why might surprised you a bit, though. Even without internet, and assuming I’ll have a way to charge said computer (my island, my rules – HA!), there are so many facets of my computer that would help me on a desert island. I’ll start with the obvious…

Writing My Books

Having my computer means I could spend all that time with some manner of distraction writing my books. Not just because I need to write my books (which I do), but to also give me a purpose. I don’t sit idly well.

Kindle App w/ Books

I have a lot of books on that app which (I think) can be accessed without internet as long as they were downloaded first (which most are). Entertainment and friends come out of books for me. It’s the next best thing to real people. (Sometimes a good book is better than real people.)

Some Movies and Music

Seeing other faces and hearing voices (not in my head) would help with the whole sanity thing I think.

Journal My Experience

On the off chance I don’t survive, this would be a good way to let my family know what happened (assuming someone discovers the island). Plus, I’d sneak clues in there about my buried treasure.

Calendar

The calendar would help me keep track of the days and time.

Reflective Surface

To possible signal passing ships or planes with.

Pictures of My Family

This is the biggie. If they’re physically not with me, I’d want my computer with pictures of them. I couldn’t live without some access to my family. They would be my reason to keep going and survive.

 

What about you? What item could you not live without?

 


I am participating in MFRW’s 52-week blog challenge, and it’s a blog hop! If you want to see how other authors approach this topic, stroll on over to the other authors participating and find out how they deal with character profiles. Each author does it differently.

Saving the Sheriff Blog Tour & Giveaway

Saving the Sheriff Tour Banner

To celebrate my new release, I’m touring book blogs. Pop in, say hi, and enter my big giveaway (including a Kindle Fire Tablet and a $50 Amazon gift card!).

Don’t forget to grab your copy of Saving the Sheriff!!!

*Hosted by Authors Pal!

Date Blog Name Blog URL Type of Post
1/22/2018
Book Junkie Reviews abookjunkiereviews.wordpress.com Promo
Evermore Books evermorebooks.weebly.com/blog Promo
Book-Lover blog facebook.com/bookloverblog2014 Promo
Sea’s Nod searosetouk.blogspot.com Promo
1/23/2018
Cat’s Guilty Pleasure facebook.com/catherinewrightbooks Promo
underneath the covers underneaththecoversblog.com Promo
the bookworm lodge www.thebookwormlodge.com Promo
Jen’s Reading Obsession jensreadingobsession.blogspot.com Promo and Review
1/24/2018
Joyfully Reviewed www.joyfullyreviewed.com Promo
MJ’s Book Blog and Reviews facebook.com/MJsBookBlogandReviews Promo
Read Your Writes Book Reviews readyourwrites.blogspot.com Promo
Becky on Books beckymmoe.com Promo
1/25/2018
What Is That Book About www.whatisthatbookabout.com Promo
Shirley’s Bookshelf facebook.com/ShirleysBookshelf Promo
book review virginia lee facebook.com/bookreviewvirginialee Promo
Romance Novel Giveaways romancenovelgiveaways.blogspot.com Promo
1/26/2018
Nicole’s Book Musings nicolesbookmusings.blogspot.com Promo
Buried Under Romance www.buriedunderromance.com Promo
Teatime and Books www.teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com Promo
Escape Reality Book Blog facebook.com/escaperealitybookblog Promo and Review
California Girl in MA CaliforniaGirlinMA.blogspot.com Promo and Review

 

Teaser Tuesday: Saving the Sheriff

SavingTheSheriff-Teaser4

She walked to the door, and he followed, silent and brooding.

He opened the door and she followed him outside, where he turned abruptly to face her. “I’m so—”

She stopped him by going up on her tiptoes and placing her lips softly over his. Shock at her own behavior zipped through her, even as her lips tingled from the touch. She’d meant for the gesture to be comforting. Perhaps part of her realized that after she talked to him about Marcus tomorrow, she might not get another chance. Besides, it was a good way to shut him up. She didn’t want his apologies.

She savored the sensation of his warm lips under hers. Let her own linger against his for a long moment before she pulled back. “Don’t apologize. Please. I really do understand.”

Then, before he could say or do anything else, she went inside without a backward glance, locking the door behind her.

PREORDER NOW!

#CowboyRomance #TulePublishing

My Top 5 Hallmark Christmas Romances

Originally posted on Entangled Blog Nov 2017!

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I totally admit it. I’m a Hallmark Christmas romance movie junkie. I’m a romantic comedy author, so I just can’t help it. They kick off the movies at the beginning of November and I love it. What says the spirit of Christmas—love, family, thoughtfulness, magic—better than two people falling in love.

I started last year, so this is a fairly new thing for me. I record every single one and watch them all for two straight months and drive my family crazy with them. It’s become a major part of my holiday season.

The best romances all have a few things in common. Great chemistry between the hero and heroine. A great story connecting two lovers. A Happily Ever After, of course. But my favorites have something more. Here are my top 5…

#5 – Miss Christmas

The tree finder for Chicago’s renowned Radcliffe tree lighting is desperate to find the perfect tree. A letter brings her to a small down where she learns the owner isn’t willing to part with his tree.

This is a new one in 2017 and I loved it. Granted it’s the typical Christmas Grinch vs. Christmas Queen. However, the story behind the Grinch was so sweet with the tree and family history. I loved the final solution and how the heroine is reminded of her original dreams.

#4 – On the 12th Day of Christmas

Maggie is thrilled when Mitch, her long time crush, moves back to town. When she learns Mitch’s love for Christmas has drastically changed, she tries to bring his holiday spirits back by showing him the magic of Christmas.

What I love about this is how the heroine’s motivation comes from truly wanting to help a man who’d helped her once. The gifts she comes up with are thoughtful and the development of their relationship is so sweet.

#3 – A December Bride

A holiday wedding brings no joy to the bride’s cousin, who was literally left by the groom right at the altar. But she might find her true love there when she gains a fake fiancé in the process.

I admit to being a fake relationship trope junkie. In fact, my new release, The Attraction Equation, is a fake relationship at Christmas story! This one does a fantastic job of developing the relationship.

#2 – One Starry Christmas

Sparks fly between a woman and her bus companion after her boyfriend leaves her alone during Christmastime.

This is a traveling buddy romance. I love how happy and positive the heroine is. And the cowboy aspect is adorable, he’s so gentlemanly. The final gesture on horseback is awesome. And I love the song they sing. Plus, they are so right for each other!

#1 – The Spirit of Christmas

Kate is a lawyer who needs to get a house appraised for sale. However, the house has a ghost inhabiting it, one who is all too real. She tries to help him figure out his past so that he can move on. But what happens when she falls in love?

I love the ghost story, the mystery of how he died. The development of their relationship, which starts out contentious and turns into a partnership, is also fun to watch. And wondering how they’ll work it out  kept me glued to the TV screen.

 

Of course, I’m still int he middle of like 20 new premieres to watch this season, so my list might change. I can’t wait!!! Do you have any favorites? Please share!

 


If you’re a Christmas love story junkie like I am, you’ll love my latest release, The Attraction Equation!

AttractionEquation_500FBI agent Max Carter lives his life by a strict set of rules—rules that don’t allow for distraction, deviation…or a relationship. But tell that to his matchmaking mama. To avoid yet another set-up, he announces he has a girlfriend. And now has to produce said girlfriend at Christmas dinner. Maybe Santa has a suitable actress in that red bag of his…

Gina Castillo is about to break her building’s iron-clad “no pets” policy to give her little brother the perfect Christmas gift—a dog. Too bad Max, the most inconveniently sexy tenant in the building, catches her red handed. Gina expects to be evicted, but instead finds herself blackmailed into playing the role of his girlfriend.

Two lies plus one dog should equal a hot mess of a holiday, but attraction and Christmas magic might just defy the rules…

 

 

Holiday Fun Times!

AttractionEquation-ChristmasHey y’all!

‘Tis the season to celebrate, reflect, and, if you’re like me, snuggle down with a lot of good books! I have a holiday book out and so I’ll be popping up on the internet near you with some really fun holiday themed events (with giveaways, of course!) and joining other awesome authors to celebrate the season.

I hope you’ll pop by!

Holiday Recipe Share – Dec 4

I’ll be at the Entangled Blog sharing my mother’s ah-mazing pecan pie recipe. It’s easy and a family & friends favorite. Your tastebuds will thank me. | GO GET IT

Tena Stetler FB Release Party – Dec 8

I am helping my wonderful friend Tena Stetler celebrate her latest release. There will be games and giveaways galore. | RSVP/ATTEND

Under the Mistletoe – Dec 12

I’ll be at the Entangled Blog answering some rapid fire questions about my favorite holiday things and my new holiday book, The Attraction Equation. | COME VISIT ME

Entangled FB Holiday Takeover Party – Dec 13

I will be joining all the Entangled authors with holiday-themed books out this year for a holiday party all day! We’ll be asking some fun Holiday This or That questions, sharing our books, and offering up giveaway goodies! | ATTEND THE PARTY

 

I will also have periodic flash giveaways in between and leading up to Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!