Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Sasha Summers | My Top Five Favorite Country Music Artists
Author Guest / January 26, 2021

While I was writing SONG FOR A COWBOY (the whole Kings of Country series actually), I listened to a lot of country music. It helped get me in the mindset and set the ‘tone’ for each book. Of course, picking out certain songs turned into liking certain artists who then, sort of, ended up becoming character inspiration for the Kings family. How about we just dive right in, shall we? 1-Tim McGraw – “Don’t Take the Girl” and “Highway Don’t Care. I think he has a super sexy voice. Smooth and confident. He knows what he’s doing and he’s in his element. I sort of imagine Hank King, the patriarch of the family, as a mash-up between he and George Strait. Plus – the way he looks at his wife, Faith Hill, gives me the tingles. 2-Blake Shelton – “God Gave Me You” and “Mine Would Be You” Who doesn’t like Blake Shelton? He’s funny and handsome and down to earth and, of yeah, he can sing. I admit, I’m a fan of his ballads and I’ve listed to quite a few of them while writing Song for a Cowboy and the rest of the Kings of Country series. 3-Keith…

Traci Hall | Ten Famous Kisses
Author Guest / January 15, 2021

Ten Famous Kisses, from fictional to real–how would you put these in order? The Obamas on Kiss Cam–simply adorable when they kissed on-screen at a basketball game in Washington DC. Ghost–very sexy, despite the super-fake spectral mist between Demi and Patrick. Lady and the Tramp–iconic noodle-slurping kiss. So cute. Madonna and Britney Spears–this kiss between pop goddesses was shocking at the time! Princess Diana and Prince Charles–their wedding day was very romantic and sparked an interest in all things royal. Sleeping Beauty–the prince brings Aurora to life! Gotta love the guy for that. Romeo and Juliet–young love. So young. Too young? Titanic–doomed love. Rose should have made room for Jack on the door. V-J Day in Times Square World War II–a kiss of peace and hope and joy. Terrific shot by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt! Scarlett and Rhett from Gone with the Wind–a primal kiss. I really feel for Rhett. Scarlet needed a little more time to grow up 🙂 Possible number eleven? Grace and Sawyer in JUST ONE KISS–check out the kiss in the Ferris wheel! <3 In JUST ONE KISS, Grace Sheldon is a freelance photographer with a laid-back lifestyle put to the test in order to pay the…

Kat Martin | Setting the Stage
Author Guest / January 11, 2021

I love to read novels set in interesting places.  Currently, I’m reading a historical romance that takes place in Nazi-occupied Paris during WWII.  I’ve always loved Paris, which makes the book even more fun to read.  Being able to recognize the settings where the action takes place, as well as the names of restaurants and streets I have visited. As a writer, going to the place your book is set, or choosing a place you have actually been, is the best way to make your book seem real. In THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL, the novel takes place in Colorado, a state I love to visit.  After I’d concluded my second Maximum Security novel, THE DECEPTION, which was set in Texas, I was looking for someplace different for book number three.  Colorado, with its wide variety of landscapes and extreme climate conditions, seemed perfect. Having been to Denver a number of times, street names were familiar, parks and airports, locations of smaller towns, and rural mountain communities. Since this was a Maximum Security novel, a romantic thriller, I began by researching crime in the state.  I had digging and digging and finally stumbled onto an article about the U.S. Army chemical weapons…

Michelle Diener | Working on Worldbuilding
Author Guest / October 29, 2020

The best feeling in the world for me is when I am reading a book and fall so completely into the story that I feel like I’m there. That feeling of being transported is why I wanted to be an author from a young age. I loved that sensation and want to create it for others. I work hard to suck my readers in, and some of the best compliments I receive about my books is readers telling me they didn’t want to leave the world I’ve created, or that the book can’t be long enough for their liking. Or that they read through the night and ended up going to work in zombie mode. Winning! 🙂 I started out writing historical fiction, and while the times and places I wrote about really existed, as we don’t (yet) have the ability to travel back in time, it is still a foreign landscape. The world-building was just as intricate and challenging for my historicals as the worlds I create for my fantasy and science fiction romance novels. I think that’s why I was able to move from historicals into fantasy and science fiction so easily. The world-building skill-set was the same….

Leslie Budewitz | Five Reasons I Love Seattle’s Pike Place Market
Author Guest / October 20, 2020

I fell in love with Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market as a college freshman, not long after the city’s voters saved it from “urban removal.” I made it my mission to eat my way from one end to the other, and since the Market is constantly changing, that mission will keep me happy, and well-fed, for a long time! The Food. The Market is the heart and soul–and stomach–of the city. You can eat just about anything here. Start with a slice of pizza at DeLaurenti’s Italian grocery. Sample spice tea at Market Spice. Italian, French, Greek, Thai, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Persian, Vietnamese. Clam chowder, oysters, barbecue, dim sum, piroshky. Bagels, crumpets, crepes, and cheesecake. Stop at the original Starbucks. Sip wine, beer, ginger beer. Okay, I’m hungry now. History. Founded in 1907, the Market is considered the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the country. It was the first mixed-use commercial and residential project named to the National Historic Register. The Architecture. A historic commission oversees the Market’s physical operations, with a mandate to keep the look and feel accurate. Pike Place, the street running through the Market, is still cobbled. Buildings maintain their original designs, colors, and materials….

Betsy St. Amant | The Key to Everything
Author Guest / October 16, 2020

If you travel to north Louisiana and listen carefully, whispers on the cypress-laden air will tell you legendary tales of a young woman who repeatedly tried to make lemon bars. The trees shield their eyes from the tragic tale of utter failure, while the bayous draw their waters up tight in sympathy and shame. . . Well, okay, that might be exaggerated, but not by far. Confession: I don’t bake. If you say the word “lemon bar” around my mom, she turns ghostly pale from blocked memories of my attempts to make those pesky little yellow desserts all through high school. Never got it right. I’m convinced they’re my nemesis. Now, don’t get me wrong–I can make a mean batch of Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies. You know, the kind where you cut open the package and place the already perfectly circular bits of dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes? I’ve got that down! In fact, I make them a little on the “not quite done” side, and people rave. Everyone always wants me to bring those to parties, like I did something spectacular. (and when I remember the lemon bars, I’m convinced I did) My mother…

Stephanie Kane | Five Hopper Paintings and the Story They Tell
Author Guest / October 15, 2020

Mid-century American realist painter Edward Hopper is celebrated for Nighthawks, his 1947 work in which customers in an all-night diner are viewed through a plate glass window lit by a neon light, and his 1927 Automat, where a girl in a cloche and fur-trimmed coat gazes pensively into a coffee cup in a lonely cafeteria. Hopper returned to that enigmatic woman again and again. He painted her throughout his career. In AUTOMAT, Denver Art Museum Conservator of Paintings Lily Sparks pursues a killer who targets actresses who bring Hopper’s works to life. Lily’s perfect eye tells her the man in Hopper’s paintings also holds clues to the killer’s identity. And just as the famous artist kept painting the same iconic woman, the killer must keep killing her. Five top Hopper paintings convince Lily she’s on the right track. Hopper started out illustrating trade magazine covers. In 1906, on his first trip to Paris, he painted the watercolor Couple near Poplars. In the style of the day, a Gibson girl with upswept hair and a pinafore over her corseted waist stands with a beanstalk of a man with a pencil moustache and a beret. He’s trying to draw her closer, but…

Bryan Litfin | Do One Thing Well
Author Guest / October 14, 2020

Years ago, when my kids were younger, I took my family to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was billed as the “Greatest Show on Earth,” and it certainly lived up to its name. We had seats front and center, so the whole spectacle was laid out before our eyes. The children in the audience weren’t the only ones oohing and aahing at the grand performance. The adults were amazed, too. All the regular elements were part of the show. The ringmaster led the events with his booming voice. The clowns made us laugh with their silly antics. The dancers entertained us with their choreographed routines. But it was the skill of the acrobats that really made an impression on me. At one point, a group of them climbed poles whose tops swayed in the rafters far above the floor. The performers weren’t attached to safety lines, nor was a net stretched below them to break a fall. Apparently unbothered by this, the acrobats scampered up the pole to a tiny platform, where they did handstands on even hung by their feet. One slip and they would have been in big trouble. Yet they seemed perfectly at…

Mara Wells | My Favorite Rescue Dog Moments
Author Guest / September 29, 2020

Our poodle-mix, Houdini, loves his stuffed animal friends. He takes very good care of them, gently gnawing them and periodically arranging them decoratively on our bed or couch. When we adopted our chihuahua-mix, Sheba, she acted like she’d never seen a toy, and her instinct was to grab those stuffed animals and shred them. Her attack on his toys was very distressing for Houdini. He would circle, faster and faster, when she was destroying a toy, working himself into a frenzy. After the destruction, he would lie next to the pieces looking quite mournful. Then, suddenly, Sheba stopped destroying the stuffed animals. To this day, I don’t know what happened between them, but Sheba became blind to the stuffed animals. She acts like they don’t exist. I like to believe that as Houdini and Sheba developed their bond, she became aware that her actions distressed him and decided to stop. Now, Houdini keeps his collection of stuffed friends in good repair. If you come to visit, he’ll show them to you one at a time. Sometimes, guests think he wants to play tug-o-war. He does not. He merely likes to have others admire his collection. Excerpt from Tail for Two:…

Melissa Bourbon | Writing the Book Magic Mysteries
Author Guest / September 21, 2020

Have you ever planned something so perfectly, only to have it be a complete flop? On the other hand, have you had something randomly brilliant happen that came at the right time because you were in the right place? TheBook Magic Mysteries, for me, is that bit of random brilliance. The beginning of the Book Magic Mysteries started about three years ago with a neighborhood walk. I was with my good friend and fellow mystery writer, Wendy Lyn Watson. On this walk, she had been musing about a book idea featuring a bibliomancer. Being a book lover, I was immediately hooked by the idea. I insisted that she write this book, but adulting got in the way (in the form of other book contracts and Wendy’s day job as a professor). Fast forward to 2020. Wendy and I were talking from afar (I moved to North Carolina, and Wendy is still in North Texas) and the bibliomancy series came up during our conversation. One thing led to another, and pretty soon we were plotting an epic series that spans two coasts, features cousins Cora Lane and Pippin Lane Hawthorne, and centers around the Lane women’s gift (or curse) of bibliomancy….