Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All Fun and Games

**I wrote this blog post six years ago, and the words are never truer! I hope you don't mind me
sharing an archived piece with you today. I hop back to the present at the end to update you on my life and thoughts today. But first... rewind to Joanne of 2012:

I found myself at a 6th grade basketball tournament last weekend.  It’s a place I’ve found myself a lot this time of year.  In our house, football season melts into basketball with only a two week hiatus, and hoop turns into baseball with even less down time.  With three boys playing sports, the cycle is familiar and sometimes exhausting.  Most of the time though, it’s fun.

Two of my sons from about the time I penned this piece.
As I cheered loud and long for my son—and for all his teammates who aren’t my sons—I thought about why we as a culture are so passionate about youth sports.  Sure, we all know the horror stories of the parents who yell all game and the coaches who take it all so seriously that practice turns into boot camp.  But that’s not the case in my town.  Youth sports are fun here, and every parent I know gets as hopped up about cheering on their kids’ successes as I do.  The losses… well, we might not cheer, but the lessons there are as valuable as the wins.  No doubt, we all tend to remember the times we failed more than the times we won. 

There are a million and one analogies between sports and life.  My husband wrote about a lot of them during his career as a sports editor, so they are often in the back of my mind as I put my time in at games.  But a new parallel occurred to me last weekend as I cheered on the boys and watched them grin when they made their shots.  Watching the kids play is fun because of the enthusiasm they bring to the game.  They’re not at the advanced level that puts so much social pressure on performance.  They’re at an age where they are allowed to simply enjoy the game.  And don’t we love that kind of innocent pleasure when the stakes aren’t so high and failure isn’t the end of the world?  At this level, you usually get your pizza party whether you win or lose.

I think that kind of fresh perspective and enthusiasm is what makes it exciting to be around new writers.  I get letters sometimes from writers new to the business who are looking for a little direction and those folks are usually pleased when I gab away about the writing life and the business.  I understand that they are getting something out of my conversation.  But I don’t think they necessarily realize what I’m getting out of theirs.  It’s that fervor and eagerness for writing that I remember with fondness.  Not that I mean to suggest I’m a cynical old crone at this point in the game.  Far from it!  I’ve got a Pollyanna streak a mile wide.  Still, my years in this business and my 30-odd manuscripts written (not all of them published) have definitely left me wiser and warier.  That’s a good thing.  And yet—I really miss those days where I’d stop at the end of a paragraph to admire what I’d written, kind of like those 6th graders smiling openly at a foul shot that swished cleanly through the net. 

There’s a joy associated with any new endeavor, a joy that quiets a bit as you become more of an expert and have been fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a profession.  The well-loved pursuit soon comes with deadlines and expectations of editors, agents and readers.  And the more successful you become, the higher the stakes of failure.  That success is a blessing, to be sure.  But there is always a bit of nostalgia involved in talking to a writer who still regularly takes time to savor the play of her words on paper or who is bursting with story ideas and can follow only her own direction about which idea to pursue next.  So don’t be surprised if you’re an aspiring writer and I quiz you about what you’re working on and how you manage your schedule and what you’ve got in mind for career goals.  I promise I’m not trying to steal ideas and I’m not just making small talk for the heck of it.  I’m just enjoying your journey along with you, and in doing so, I’m also remembering and enjoying my own.

**Present Day: I loved this piece because I just celebrated my youngest son's final season of high school basketball. I cried when it ended, probably more than I'll cry on his graduation day since sports have been such a defining element of my family and my life for the last twenty years. I will miss the tournaments, the young athletes and the fierceness of competing. But at the same time, I'm heartened to remember that this joy doesn't go away. Those memories will fill my books for many years to come.

And so funny to think that when I wrote this I had thirty some books. I just celebrated the release of my 80th novel for Harlequin. Have you read my February 2018 release, For the Sake of His Heir?

For today, I'll leave you with this thought / question- Have you ever acted as a mentor to someone in your business or personal life, or have you been on the receiving end of mentoring?  Did that experience bring similar emotional rewards to the ones I mention? Share with me this week and I'll give one random poster an advance copy of my April Harlequin Desire, Expecting a Scandal

Friday, February 23, 2018

Building a Continuity...On the Beach ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Courtesy: Kristina Knight
I've always had a love affair with the ocean. I think it comes from being land-locked most of my life. During the summer months, my parents would pack up the family van and we'd go from being land-locked Midwesterners to visiting my great-grandmother and the rest of the family in coastal North Carolina...and usually take several days to visit the Outer Banks.

I would imagine, as soon as we crossed the North Carolina state line that I could smell the ocean and hear the crashing of the waves. I could never wait to sink my toes into the sand and I didn't even mind (too much) the sunburn that always came because I never wanted to go back to the little house behind the sand dunes.

As an adult, I still have a love affair with the beach. I still love the smell of the sea, the sound of the surf...and every chance I get, I'm heading south, looking for long stretch of beach and the hot sun.

Last winter, while I was bemoaning the fact that I was stuck inside because of yet another snow storm, I was rescued by the beach once more. Only this time, I was swept away by a beach-side romance. A trio of them, actually. My good friend, Elley Arden asked me to be part of the Sullivan's Sons continuity. It's a set of three books, following three brothers as they navigate a family secret, tabloid press, and (of course) love. While the snow kept falling, I lost myself in pictures and maps of the real-world Anna Maria Island, where we set the books.

It's been a pleasure being part of this series, and I hope you readers enjoy the books as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Buy Home on Anna Maria Island: Gavin Sullivan, an out-of-shape third baseman for the Pittsburgh Privateers, pursues a beautiful up-and-coming curve model as a distraction from recent stress in his family life. Emerson Raye isn’t interested in a relationship, but she wouldn’t mind capitalizing on the publicity that goes along with dating a professional athlete. Right off the bat, Gavin and Emerson’s budding relationship prompts a media frenzy, but harsh criticism about their weight follows. It might not seem like the best environment for love, but facing the adversity and learning to laugh through the storm brings Gavin and Emerson together in a seemingly inevitable way … until secrets revealed threaten to tear them apart.

Buy Lost on Anna Maria Island: Florida Warriors star defensive end, Colby Sullivan, is the best in the business, but since his parents dropped the news that he has a biological twin sister, he’s been on his heels. He feels like he’s in the middle of a cover defense with no one backing him on the strong side. A flirtation with the girl next door is the perfect distraction, but all too soon she’s way past his defenses and heading for a touchdown that his heart just isn’t ready for.

Madalyn Hunter understands football, cover defenses, and option offenses, but dealing with sneaky paparazzi, her sister’s obsession with the perfect wedding, and Colby’s not-friend-like kisses has her ready to throw a Hail Mary. It’s fourth and goal with love on the line, but can Madalyn teach this star defender that the best way to protect his heart is to give it to her?

Buy Found on Anna Maria Island: Hockey star Lucas Sullivan’s world is rocked by the news of a long-
lost sister, and his play takes a hard check right in the middle of playoffs. Luckily, the new surf instructor on Anna Maria Island has a willing ear, a supportive shoulder, and a pretty spectacular everything else.

Skylar Avery arrives on Anna Maria with a secret. She’s not just the newest addition to the Surf Shack. Her adopted sister Scarlet is the missing daughter the Sullivans are searching for. She gets to know Luc as a means to know the rest of the family and decide if they’re good enough for Scarlet. Falling for the handsome hockey player wasn’t in the plan. Coming clean would mean ruining everything. Can real love make up for well-meaning lies?

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lara Temple: Why the smell of libraries can still make me cry

When I was in high school I used to run away from school. My parents never learned of this because somehow, without even negotiating, I must have reached an agreement with my teachers – I had good grades (I was a complete science nerd) and so long as the grades stayed up there in the stratosphere and when I did come to school I was dressed neatly and relatively clean, they said not a word about my disappearances.

I wish they had questioned me though. At least wondered where I went. It wasn’t a secret. Instead of turning right to school, I would turn left to the bus stop and take the bus into the largest library in the city. For two years I escaped our less than stellar family situation and entered the wonderful world of The Public Library.

I discovered two amazing entities during those two years: romance novels and Scientific American (I already mentioned I was a nerd right? But I think even non nerds might find that periodical amazing).

For three, four, five hours at a stretch I sat cramped and squashed into a corner with a pile of both genres gathered around me, and left my world for others far grander, exciting, and much safer worlds than my own. I read every Georgette Heyer and Harlequin I could find and interspersed them with the esoteric world of elementary particles and alternate dimensions. They all felt far more manageable than mine.

Every time I walked through that glass paned door and was hugged to the bosom smelling of decaying books and hushed carpets, my jangled nerves would unjangle and my jackrabbit-hopping brain would channel small burrowing creatures. I would head to my quiet corners, pad my nest with that day’s collection of books and periodicals, and sail away like Max in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I became wild, daring, brave, brilliant, and vulnerable. Inside those doors I could be anything. Sometimes even myself.

I probably would have survived those years even without my library. I had books at home and there was an amazing second hand bookstore not far from my house, but it would never have been as good, as safe, as deep and as meaningful without that island of sanity, beauty, and genius that welcomed me without a word, with hardly a sound, with no demand but that I share the silence and respect the book.

I take my children to libraries but I don’t think they will ever have quite that relationship with that institution and I feel a little sorry for them. I hope that they will be there if they need them. I certainly know they were there when I needed them.

But sometimes I just go alone and stand between the stacks and breathe and wish I could go back to how complicated and simple it was.

Wild Lords Series:

Author Contact Links:
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter: @laratemple1

Monday, February 19, 2018

I've got a new book coming out in a few weeks so thought I'd post some sample chapters for you to check out. It's Falling for Mr. No Way in Hell, book 3 in the Falling for Mr. Wrong series. Hope you enjoy! It's available for pre-order and releases March 13.

Chapter One

Lacy Caldwell secured her long, tawny hair into a loose side braid, pulled her goggles over her bright green eyes, then tugged on the iridescent teal mermaid tail that had, like it or not, become an appendage she’d gotten oddly attached to over the past year. Since last January, Lacy had been supplementing her income to pay for grad school by working as a mermaid at a cheesy roadside tiki bar in the small town of Verity Beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
At first she simply took the job because it was a job to be had. She’d never aspired to be a freak attraction to tourists looking for a good laugh while getting drunk over too many beers. But then she surprised herself by finding out she kinda loved both the job and the quirky group of people who she worked alongside at the Mermaid’s Purse, too.
This included 87-year old Edna Dingleheimer, who’d been pounding out customers’ favorite tunes on the electric keyboard four nights a week since the year John Kennedy was assassinated. Despite her one-of-a-kind appearance (bleached-blond beehive hairdo, Coke bottle-thick eyeglasses, knuckles knobbed with arthritis, dressed in a grass skirt over a pair of blue jeans), Edna’s presence always took second fiddle to the main attraction: two mermaids who each night dallied in a swimming pool on the other side of a large picture window that overlooked the dark, dank bar of the Mermaid’s Purse.
Sometimes Lacy could relate to how a stripper must feel, having leering eyes laser-focused on you for sometimes hours at a time. Even though she was, for all intents and purposes, far more dressed than a stripper. That said, the coconut shell bra wasn’t exactly a turtle neck, and she had large enough breasts that they couldn’t help but spill out a little bit from the tiny confines of those hard cups.
At first she’d felt self-conscious in her low-cut tail and coconut bikini top, but soon she realized it was sort of fun to get paid (and earn some pretty generous tips) to just flipper around a swimming pool for several hours a night. Since the pool was indoors, they weren’t exposed to the elements, which was a huge plus. The biggest downside was sheer boredom: you could only do so much in a mermaid tail—a few underwater flips here, a handful of turns there, a couple of tail slaps with whatever other mermaid was on duty that night, and maybe send some seductive bubble kisses to the people at the bar, and then you had to get creative. Thank goodness she had to surface for air every twenty seconds or so, just for the change of scenery.
Often Lacy stuck around after work to chat with her co-workers. She adored the owner, Vera Cosmopolous, a seventy-something Greek American woman who made it her life’s goal to fatten Lacy up, even though Lacy felt plenty fattened enough already, thanks.
“Here,” Vera said, sliding a plate with grilled pita and baba ganoush, an eggplant and tahini dip, toward Lacy, who had to admit she was starved after swimming around in the pool for four hours. “This will be good for you and will help you get over that stupid man.”
The stupid man she was referring to was her now ex-boyfriend, Billy Crapple. Yes, that was his name, deservedly so. Although Billy “What a Complete Pile of” Crapple was what she chose to call him nowadays. Lacy had devoted the past two years of her life to building a relationship with Billy, only to find out he’d been seeing not one, not two, but three different women at the same time. Three-timing Lacy. When she found that out—based on a phone call from one of the suspicious three-fers, accusing her of being the other woman, of all things—she kicked him to the curb, vowing to steer clear from men for the foreseeable future. From here on out, she was devoting herself to finishing up her degree and stockpiling money as a mermaid.
It was a good life. Or good enough, albeit a teensy bit lonely. Currently the biggest stressor in her world was that she had to attend the engagement party of her friend Carly, whose fiancé Jimmy was good friends with Billy. And the last thing Lacy wanted to do was show up dateless with him there.
“I tell you what you need, honey,” Vera said as she helped herself to the pita bread she’d proffered to Lacy. Her electric green nail polish practically glowed in the dim light of the bar as she pointed at her mermaid employee who’d become like a daughter to he. “You need to bring a man with you and show that crappy Billy Crapple you never looked back once he was in your rearview mirror.”
Lacy sighed. “Yeah sure. Great idea. But who might you suggest?” She looked around the empty bar. “I mean I could bring Stan with  me—” she nodded toward a man twice her age with a bushy moustache and a wife at home, “but that wouldn’t work on many levels.”
They both laughed at the idea. Stan just scowled at them.
“Can’t you think of any man who might go, even as a pity date?”
Lacy rolled her eyes. Just what she wanted to be: a pity date. Even though that’s precisely what she needed to find.
“I dunno,” she said. “I mean there’s this nice guy I’ve chatted with at the gym. He was next to me in yoga last week, and I’ve seen him at the other end of the room in boxing class every now and then.”
Vera shook her head. “Just as long as you didn’t see him in ballet class, I say go for it.”
“Like go for it as in, approach the guy whose name I don’t even know, and say, ‘uh, hey. I’m sort of a loser and can’t find a date and I really need one badly to taunt my cheater ex-boyfriend and, well, we did do yoga together so it’s almost as if we knew one another’?”
Vera waved her hand, dismissing the cynical suggestion. “It’s as good an approach as any. Unless you want to put an ad in the paper.”
“No one puts ads in the paper anymore.”
Vera shrugged. “Oh excuse me. Then you can put a notice in Craigslist and I’ll hope and pray you aren’t murdered in your sleep.” She clasped the cross dangling from her neck.
“Fine, I get your drift. I should just lose the shame and ask this guy. Even though I’m likely to see him every damned day at the gym, which will be perpetually humiliating if and when he turns me down.”
Vera frowned. “Humiliating is when you’re left at the altar with a bouquet of tea roses and no fiancé. I speak from experience.”
It always saddened Lacy that Vera never did marry after that episode. Instead she made the bar her life and family, and now here she should be retired and enjoying life, but with no one to share it with, she just keeps on working.
“You do know that guilt trip isn’t going to work on me, lady?” Lacy kissed Vera on the cheek.
Only it actually did work, every damned time she used that ploy. Each time Lacy thought about being alone and in her seventies, it just about prompted her to start looking for someone before she became old and lonely. Couple that with the need to prove to Billy that she’d long since moved on meant that she was indeed going to muster up the courage to ask her yoga buddy to be her date. Even if it killed her.

Chapter Two

Cameron Sanders ran his fingers through his thick, wavy, dark hair, then wiped the sweat from his brow with one of those lousy, rough gym towels that felt like sandpaper on your skin. He knew he’d been hanging at the gym too much when he started to give a care about the texture of sweat towels. This is what happens when you’re a down-on-your-luck artist making diddly squat painting caricatures of various tourists wandering around on the boardwalk.
It wasn’t as if he wanted to be a professional kitsch artist, but man, it was hard making a living selling his real paintings. It was such a mercurial business, art was. And now that the gallery he’d been featured in had shut down, he was back to practically selling shit out of the trunk of his car, which was so not how Leonardo da Vinci did it. Of course Leonardo didn’t even have a car.
Not that he was Leonardo. Or Michelangelo, for that matter. Or even whomever that person was who made the famous painting of the dogs playing poker. Perhaps he should have been doing commercial work like that and he’d not have so much free time to exercise at the gym for hours at a time.
“Hi,” he heard a voice say. “You mind if I join you?”
He looked to his right and saw no one on the machine next to him so he turned to the left and saw that pretty girl he kept seeing in yoga class—the one he dared set his mat next to last time in the hopes she’d notice him. She didn’t.
He nodded. “Go right ahead, be my guest.” He extended an arm in welcome, as if he controlled who did and did not get to use the StairMaster next to his.
He didn’t want to creep on her but he’d noticed her several times over the past month or so and it had occurred to him that if only he had a steady income and a career he could crow about, he’d have loved to ask her out on a date. But shy of a veritable overnight miracle, nothing in his life was going to change in the next, oh, forever, which meant he’d better tuck away such fantasies until he might some day be able to employ them.
He stuck his earbuds in and returned to watching last night’s episode of The Bachelor, which he only watched because, well, who wouldn’t want twenty gorgeous women fawning all over you while you drink to your heart’s content and go on awesome vacations? This was the closest he was gonna get to the fantasy.
A few minutes later he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked over to see the woman with the deep emerald-green eyes, so soothing and damp they reminded him of a cool pine forest in the summertime. Last time her hair was in a high ponytail but this time it was braided down her back. Either way it made him think how amazing it would be to have a firm grip on that hair of hers as he watched her mouth wrapping slowly around his cock. Which was jumping the gun a bit, since he hadn’t even mustered up the courage to introduce himself, let alone invite her on a date. Nor would he, not with his depleting bank account and failing artistic career.
He glanced over at the woman who was sort of waving and using some sign language to communicate with him. He removed an ear bud.
She smiled. “Oh, god, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I just noticed you were watching The Bachelor and I totally missed it last night and wanted to watch it now but I forgot my earbuds and is there any chance you’d share one of yours with me? These things are so boring otherwise with nothing to watch.”
 He shrugged. Couldn’t hurt to give her one—as long as she could keep pace with him on the StairMaster. And she looked plenty fit enough to do that. In fact with those arms of hers it looked like she could kick his ass if need be and right hook him into the next century. And that ass of hers was so perfectly shaped, just right to cup his hands around. And those legs. Well, shit, it didn’t say much about him that all he could do was look at the woman and think how many different ways he might like to fuck her. Although wasn’t that how every guy was? Nothing wrong with dreaming.
He handed her his left earbud and they started climbing again and for the next twenty minutes just climbed their stairs to nowhere together while indulging in someone else’s fantasy world without actually being in it. It was all very meta.
Cameron was about ready to bail on the stair-climbing but every once in a while he got a great sidelong glimpse of her ass and that motivated him to keep on keeping on, at least for a few more minutes. Finally she tapped him on his shoulder and offered up the earbud. It made him feel a little sad that the moment was drawing to a close.
“Hey,” she said as her fingers pressed the earbud into the palm of his hand. “Thanks so much for sharing. I really appreciate it.”
He slowed down his machine till it came to a halt, then wiped his face again. “Sure thing,” he said, taking a swig of water. “I was honored to share them with you.”
She grinned. “Honored? Sheesh. I never knew it could be such a good thing for me to mooch gym supplies from someone. I’ll have to get into the habit of that more often.”
They stood facing each other behind their machines, dabbing off sweat and catching their breath.
“That thing about kills me,” she said, placing her hand on her hip as she pointed a thumb at the StairMaster.
“Right? I feel like everyone else in here isn’t getting nearly the workout we are.”
She extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Lacy. Lacy Caldwell.”
He slid his palm to hers. “Cameron Sanders. You can also call me Cam.”
“It’s great to finally meet you,” she said. “I know we’ve been in a few of the same classes together. I think you were next to me at Vinyasa yoga the other day, right? And maybe boxing too?”
He nodded. “And don’t forget Body Pump.”
They laughed.
“Clearly we have shared interests,” she said, glancing at her watch.
She shook her head. “No, not at all. I just have a class in an hour and wanted to be sure I had time to shower.”
Well, crap. Now he’s going to be obsessed with thoughts of her in the shower for the rest of the day.
“What a shame,” he said. “I was going to see if you’d like to go grab some coffee.”
She arched her brow. “Huh. Yeah, sorry, I don’t have time for that now.” She pinched her lips with her fingers as an idea emerged. “Though please forgive me if you think this is weird, but I have another idea that might be fun. Bear with me.” She held up her finger. “So, I’m only suggesting this because we’re practically family now that we’ve shared earbuds and all.” She grinned. He loved her smile, those white teeth all nice and straight and perfect.
“You’ve got my attention,” Cameron said, wrinkling his brow. “And I’m really hoping you aren’t asking me to join you to, say, visit your husband in jail.”
She shook her head and held up her hand with a barren ring finger. “Oh, trust me. No husband. No way, no how.” She dusted off her hands to get rid of that thought.
“I have to admit that’s a bit of a relief.” More than a bit, now that he’d put himself out there by asking her out for coffee.
“In that case, I hope you don’t think this is really weird of me.” She scuffed the toe of her sneakers along the carpeted gym floor as she stared downward.
“The longer you wait the bigger chance I’m going to conjure up some really bizarre scenario in my head and then that will be weirder still.”
She shook out her hands as if she was trying to wake up a sleeping limb. “Okay, here goes.” She sucked in a breath. “So, you see, I have to go to this party and this ex-boyfriend who is a total jerk is going to be there and I really just need to take someone—anyone—as long as he’s male and has a pulse, though it doesn’t hurt if he’s good-looking, so that I don’t look like a dateless loser, and I was wondering if maybe you’d be that person perhaps?”
Cameron lifted an eyebrow. He was completely amused by her half-cocked invitation.  He shook his head as if clearing his brain.
“So let me get this straight. You need a prop. To make your ex-boyfriend jealous. And I’m as a good a one as any. It’s unclear as to whether I fall into the good-looking prop category or if I’m just the man with a pulse.” He lifted his brows in question.
She squinted her eyes. “That didn’t come out so well, did it?”
He laughed and waved his hand. “Not to worry. I’ve got a tough hide, so I didn’t take it personally.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“It wasn’t rude at all. Just sort of funny. In a peculiar way.”
“Peculiar as in you’re going to humor me and be my date to Carly and Jimmy’s engagement party so that Billy Crapple can see that I’ve moved on?”
He cocked his head. “Have you moved on?”
She ski-sloped her brow. “From Billy Crapple? Hell yeah. Believe me, there was no love lost there. I was happy to be rid of him. I just don’t want him to think I can’t land a man and I need him back or something.”
He took a swig from his water bottle. “Well that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard of. Clearly,” his gaze slowly scanned her from head to toe, “You could land any man you set your sights on.”
She pointed at her red, sweaty face, strands of hair clinging to her forehead. “Yeah, especially right about now, all smelly and sweaty.”
“I can assure you no man would be turned off by a sweaty woman.” He grinned. “Quite the contrary, in fact.” He didn’t want to scare her off with being too suggestive so he diverted the conversation. “But in answer to your question, I’d love to be your pulse.”
She jumped up and clapped her hands. “Oh goody! And honestly, you’re way more than a pulse—you are one hundred percent good-looking prop material.”
Cameron had never been more thrilled to be used by a woman in his life.


Great news! Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

Check out my Falling for Mr. Wrong seriesFalling for Mr. Wrong,  Falling for Mr. Maybe, and Falling for Mr. No Way in Hell is now available for pre-order.

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!