30 September 2013

My Sister's Gift to Me: A Lifetime Love of Reading

Me and my 3 sisters

I got a call from my older sister this evening. She's interviewing for a training job, and she asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her. This makes sense, as she's been teaching me all my life. 

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my sister (Carin), while she taught me how to read.

I was four years old, and I had a favorite book that I asked Carin to read to me over and over again. One afternoon, when she finished reading the book and I immediately asked her to read it again, Carin explained that if I learned to read to myself, I could have my favorite story any time.

She read the story to me one more time, pointing to each word as she read. At the end of each page, she had me repeat the story to her, again pointing to each word as I recited the familiar story. When simple words like “and” and “the” were repeated, she showed me that the word looked the same on the page every time it appeared.

I soon discovered that I could “read” my favorite book all by myself, but Carin didn’t stop there. She wanted me to be able to read all books, not just the one I had memorized. So she gathered a selection of her favorite books to continue my lessons. She opened the books, one-by-one, pointing out the words that I had memorized from my favorite book.

And when I was confident enough to pick out the words I already knew within the pages of any new book I tried, she took it one step further. Carin pointed out that, just as the words were the same, no matter which story I found them in, each letter and group of letters made the same sounds, no matter which word they belonged to. She worked with me to break down the familiar words until I could put them together again to read any book on our library shelf.

When I got frustrated with the process, Carin wouldn’t let me give up on myself. She simply pointed out the progress I’d already made and encouraged me to try again. When I complained that it would be easier and take less time if she just read the stories to me herself, she explained that, even though teaching me how to do it took more time than simply reading the book to me, if I learned how to read for myself, I would never have to wait for her or anyone else to have the time to read with me again.

Carin’s patient tutoring instilled in my heart a love of books that has shaped my entire life. And now (as you know), my first book is going to be published by Swoon Romance next year! 

27 September 2013

Vote for Your Favorite Cover! RUN FOR THE ROSES by Rachel Schieffelbein

I'm so thrilled to be a part of the cover reveal for Rachel Schieffelbein's new book, RUN FOR THE ROSES, coming soon from Swoon Romance!!

Run for the Roses
Release Date: 11/2013
by Swoon Romance

Summary from Goodreads:
Abigail Conrad has spent her whole life training for one goal: to win the roses at the Arabian Youth Nationals. She’s given up friends, a social life, and doesn’t have time to even think about guys -- much less date!

Now that she’s headed off to college in the fall, it’s her last chance to be a Youth National Champion, and she won’t let anything distract her from that dream.

Except maybe Chase, the older brother of Abigail's biggest rival. He’s charming, funny, and possibly Abigail's biggest problem. How can she focus on riding when her mind keeps wandering to Chase’s green eyes and confident smile?

With her dream on the line, Abigail had better learn to fight her growing attraction to Chase, or she might end up losing the roses and the guy.

Please help Swoon Romance decide which cover to use by voting below:

About the Author
Rachel grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota. She still lives there, with her husband and their four kids. She coaches high school speech and theater, rides Arabian horses, reads as much as she can, and writes stories.

Author Links:

Cover Reveal Organized by:

Cover Reveal & Excerpt: SEVEN DAY FIANCE by Rachel Harris

As you know, I'm a huge fan of Rachel Harris. She's an amazing author (and just an all-around awesome person), and I've read every one of her books so far! I'm so excited to be a part of the cover reveal excitement for her latest romance: Seven Day Fiance, and I can't wait to read this one too!!

Seven Day Fiancé (Love and Games #2)
Release Date: 10/14/13
Entangled Bliss

Summary from Goodreads:
Angelle Prejean is in a pickle. Her family is expecting her to come home with a fiancé—a fiancé who doesn’t exist. Well, he exists, but he definitely has no idea Angelle told her mama they were engaged. Tattooed, muscled, and hotter than sin, Cane can reduce Angelle to a hot mess with one look—and leave her heart a mess if she falls for him. But when she ends up winning Cane at a charity bachelor auction, she knows just how to solve her fiancé problem.

Cane Robicheaux is no one’s prince. He doesn’t do relationships and he doesn’t fall in love. When sweet, sultry-voiced Angelle propositions him, he hopes their little game can finally get her out of his head. He doesn’t expect her to break through all his barriers. But even as Angelle burrows deeper into his heart, he knows once their seven days are up, so is their ruse.

Pre-Order Buy Links:
  photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg  photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg 

Angelle stopped beside a folding table boasting boxes of fresh, crispy cracklins and selected a thick piece. Cane watched, mesmerized, as she puckered those gorgeous lips and blew on the sliver. With a flirtatious glint in her eyes, she held it up to his mouth, and he opened.

Holy crap.

He’d had cracklins before. Fried pork fat was a standard gas station treat, usually shrink-wrapped and stale as shit. But this, fresh from the pot and piping hot, was unbelievable. Cane widened his eyes, and it was possible he even moaned. It was thatgood. And as he swallowed, Angel rewarded him with a rich, throaty laugh.

Ca c’est bon?” she asked, grinning when he grabbed another handful.

He touched her nose and popped a piece in his mouth. “Good would be an understatement.”

Grinning, she took a fried morsel for herself and sent the balding, overweight gentleman tending the table a wink. “Now that’s what we like to hear.” Then she closed her eyes as she savored the treat.

The sounds of Angel moaning, and watching her face soften in the throes of a foodgasm, had to be the sexiest damn thing Cane had ever seen. His pants tightened, embarrassingly so considering he knew the audience was still watching, but what pushed him over the edge was when her eyes opened. The pleasure in them was his undoing.

Feeling the weight of the crowd’s disapproving stares and not giving a damn, figuring now was as good a time as any to give the people the show they clearly wanted, he grasped her hip and tugged her forward, pausing only to inhale her gasp of surprise before brushing her mouth with his.

It was like setting off a damn forest fire.

Angelle, his shocking little hellcat, pounced. Forgetting all about their audience, or maybe not giving a damn either, she wound her arms around his neck, lifted onto her toes, and kissed him back with everything she had. Cane had intended to steal a quick taste, take the edge off his craving for her, and prove their point with the town’s people. But hell if he was gonna be the one to back down now. Tightening his grasp on her slim hips, he brushed his thumbs across the smooth, exposed skin near her waistband. He deepened the kiss, thrilling over her telltale shiver. Whimpering, she yanked on the hair at his nape and sucked his bottom lip into her mouth. Hot damn.

Okay, now he had to start backing down. With all her male relatives watching, not to mention the knives and axes still lying around from the butchering earlier, if Cane valued his life, he needed to wrangle control of the situation. He’d heard patience was a virtue. That was a line of bull—he’d always sucked at waiting for anything he wanted. But for Angel, he was willing to try.

Loosening his grip on her belt loops, Cane slowed the intensity of the kiss. He smoothed the hem of her shirt down, grazed her lips one last time, and, placing his forehead against hers, inhaled through his nose. Sunflowers mixed with cayenne may be his new favorite scent. Angelle released a heavy breath, a flush blooming on her cheeks. She darted a glance at the crowd, then looking into his eyes, grinned lazily. “My goodness. If anyone doubted we were a couple before, I guess that showed them.”

 About the Author
I grew up in New Orleans, where I watched soap operas with my grandmother and stayed up late sneak reading my mama’s favorite romance novels. Now a Cajun cowgirl living in Houston, I still stay up way too late reading my favorite romances, only now, I can do so openly. I firmly believe life’s problems can be solved with a hot, powdered-sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain situations. 

When not typing furiously or flipping pages in an enthralling romance, I homeschool my two beautiful girls and watch reality television with my amazing husband.

I write YA, NA, and Adult Fun & Flirty Escapes. Taste The Heat is my adult romance debut, and I'm also the author of MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY and A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES, as well as a ton of other books to come. I love hearing from readers and dishing books!

Author Links:

Cover Reveal Organized:

26 September 2013

Back to School Romance Tour: THE FUNERAL SINGER by Linda Budzinski and HOW TO DATE A NERD by Cassie Mae

I'm so excited to be a part of the Swoon Romance Back to School blog hop!! This tour features two amazing books: 

The Funeral Singer by Linda Budzinski:

Find it on Goodreads / Amazon 

Being a funeral singer was a dead-end job until it led her to him ...

Seventeen-year-old Melanie Martin has witnessed her share of lame eulogies and uninspired epitaphs while singing part-time at her dad's funeral home. She's determined to be more than a funeral singer, more than just somebody's "beloved wife" or "loving mother." 

When Mel's impromptu rendition of "Amazing Grace" at a local rock star's graveside service goes viral on YouTube, she becomes an Internet sensation, gains thousands of fans and followers, and snags a hot rock star boyfriend--Zed Logan, bass player for The Grime. 

But instant fame isn’t easy—and neither is love. Especially when Mel realizes she’s falling for another guy—one who may just want her heart more than her voice…

My thoughts:

Painfully shy, but afraid she'll die unnoticed, Mel is only ever comfortable when she loses herself in her music, whether she's singing at a funeral or in the school choir. But when that singing gets her noticed by the rock icon she's been crushing on for years, she doesn't know how to handle the instant fame. But this is more than a book about stepping out of the shadows into fame and fortune. Melanie has to find a new way of defining herself and her relationships with friends and family. And I absolutely adored her best friends, Lana and Pete. (I'd love to read a sequel about one of them!)

Okay, so I admit, I signed up to read an advance copy of THE FUNERAL SINGER mainly because I really wanted to participate in the blog tour for HOW TO DATE A NERD, and the tour was running together for both titles. I was never the girl who had celebrity crushes and dreams of becoming a rock star (well, except for that one year when my sister, cousins and I decided we'd be the next big girl group and spent a whole day dreaming about it before we fought over who would be the lead singer or some such nonsense). I wasn't sure if I'd connect with Melanie's story. Of course, I didn't realize that THE FUNERAL SINGER is so much more than the cliched, overnight sensation Cinderella story. It's about friendships and finding yourself, second (and third) chances,  and becoming the amazing person you were destined to be, even when the path is totally terrifying.

Find Lina Budzinski on Twitter / Facebook / Blog / Swoon Romance Author Page

About the Author
Linda Acorn Budzinski decided in the second grade that she wanted to be a “Paperback Writer,” just like in the Beatles song. She majored in journalism in college and now works in marketing and communications. She spent 18 years at a trade association in the funeral service industry, where she discovered that funeral directors are some of the bravest and most compassionate people on earth. Linda lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Joe, and their chihuahua, Demitria. She has two step-daughters, Eris and Sarah. THE FUNERAL SINGER is her debut novel. She is represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.

How to Date a Nerd by Cassie Mae 

Find it on Goodreads / Amazon
Zoe has a great pair of legs, perky boobs, and wears exactly what she needs to show it all off. She works hard for the easy sleazy ‘you only wish you were me’ reputation, burying who she really is—an all-out nerd.

The only time Zoe gets to be herself is when she hides under her comforter to read X-Men comics, sending jealousy stabs at everyone who attends Comic-Con. Keeping up her popular rep is too important, and she’s so damn insecure to care about the consequences. But when Zoe’s sister takes her car for a ‘crash and burn into a tree’ joyride, her parents get her a replacement. A manual. Something she doesn’t know how to operate, but her next door neighbor Zak sure as heck does.

Zak’s a geek to the core, shunned by everyone in school for playing Dungeons and Dragons at lunch and wearing “Use the Force” t-shirts. And Zoe’s got it bad for the boy. Only Zak doesn’t want Popular Zoe. He wants Geek Zoe.

She has to shove her insecurities and the fear of dropping a few rungs on the social ladder aside to prove to Zak who she really is and who she wants to be… if she can figure it out herselfto get it -- and her -- in the process.

My thoughts:
Zoe and her next-door-neighbor Zak were bullied and teased in middle school. They bonded over comic books and video games and all things nerdy, and they were total best friends. But when Zoe had a chance to change her image and her reputation before starting high school, she jumped at it. And for the past few years, she's been "popular Zoe" - the girl who prefers mini skirts to mini figs and who would never be caught dead playing Dungeons and Dragons. The girl who hangs out at the mall with her friends and would never admit to knowing the names of all the X-men. The girl who has to pretend she's not still head-over-heels in love with her former best friend.

My heart ached for Zoe, I loved her like crazy, and I wanted to slap some sense into her all at once. And Zak!! *swoon* You know I love the good guys. My heart flutters for a nice boy who treats a girl with respect and who's more interested in her happiness than his own pleasure. Zak is a classic knight-in-shining-armor. Of course he's not perfect (perfect is beyond boring), but my heart skipped a beat every time he came rushing to Zoe's rescue.

I received the review copy for this book while I was on vacation (at the beach) with my family, and I spent an entire afternoon reading instead of playing in the ocean, because I just had to know what happened next! I can't wait for Cassie's next book!!

Find Cassie Mae on Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Blog / Swoon Romance Author Page
About the Author
Cassie Mae is a nerd to the core from Utah, who likes to write about other nerds who find love. Her angel children and perfect husband fan her and feed her grapes while she clacks away on the keyboard. Then she wakes up from that dream world and manages to get a few words on the computer while the house explodes around her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with the youth in her community as a volleyball and basketball coach, or searching the house desperately for chocolate.

Cassie Mae is an Amazon.com bestselling author of the teen contemporary romance novel REASONS I FELL FOR THE FUNNY FAT FRIEND, which she self-published. In addition to publishing with Swoon Romance, she is published by Random House Flirt.

22 September 2013

Crock Pot Gourmet: Potato and Sausage Casserole

One of our favorite dinners doesn't actually have a name. Years ago, when my husband was cooking dinner (fried potatoes, smoked sausage and broccoli), my second-youngest daughter asked him "What are you making for dinner?" He showed her what he was making, and after she agreed that it looked really good, she asked again: "What's for dinner?"


Phil was totally confused. He'd just showed her what he was cooking.

"No, what's it called?" our daughter demanded.

"I don't know."

... Which is why this Potato, Sausage and Broccoli casserole is called 
"I Don't Know." 

This Crock Pot version is healthier than the original, as the potatoes aren't fried as they are in the original version, but it's just as delicious.

You will need:
8 medium potatoes
1 large onion
4 smoked sausages (approximately 12 oz)
2-3 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 lb. frozen, chopped broccoli

Spray your 7-quart Crock Pot with cooking spray. Slice half of the potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices and spread on the bottom of the crock.

Chop up the onion and spread on top of the potatoes.

Add the garlic and sprinkle with half of the Italian seasoning and salt.

 Slice the remaining potatoes and spread on top of the onions. 
Sprinkle with remaining Italian seasoning and salt.

Slice the smoked sausages and layer on top of the potatoes.

 Top with chopped broccoli.

 Cook on low for 5-6 hours, until potatoes are tender.