What is Summertime for you?

Although summer vacation started three weeks ago, my vacation hasn’t started yet!

On the contrary, I am busier than ever driving the grandchildren to camp, gym, swimming pool, and others. The only thing that makes me feel summer is really here is to swim in the pool.

Swimming is my new relaxation, my new passion. I can spend two to three hours in our building pool, swimming or lazing with a noodle behind my back while plotting my next scene. Unfortunately, I don’t often find the time to indulge in my new hobby.

Why? Because duty calls. Duty is half babysitting and driving, and half writing and publishing.

So how do you plan to spend your summer vacation?

HER FRENCH COUNT –previously published in paperback as French Peril– was part of the BBC Summer Lovin’ box set. I still don’t have a link for it. But here are some reviews previously garnered by this romantic suspense from official review sites.

Barbara Vey’s Beyond her Book Blog on Publishers Weekly- French Peril is a great romance with an excellent mystery. Who wouldn’t want to lose themselves in Mona Risk’s French Peril? Her traveling to the beautiful French countryside, staying in a marvelous, ornate chateau, eating fine food and drinking the chateau’s wine, and let’s not forget the charming and handsome host. Sign me up, Ms Risk, I’ll be looking for your next foreign escape.

N Y T Her French Count 6715Review Your Book- Mona Risk offers her fans a great read. She creates a swirling air of mystery around the excavation of a chapel ruin. Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists François on his project. A great contemporary romantic read.

Romance Studio- This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil. The love story between François the Comte and Cheryl is very engrossing all on its own.

Two Lips Review-  Mona Risk brings old-fashioned romance back into style with French Peril… French Peril is full of mystery and intrigue.  I loved Ms. Risk’s injection of humor into the story. The ending was every romance readers dream! I love happily ever afters! A sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.

Simply Romance Review- Ms. Risk does a nice job of building the relationship between the main characters while exploring the mystery of the lost statue.

Night Owl Romance Book Reviews- Mona Risk will pull you in with her amazing characters and in-depth twisting suspense. She takes armchair travel to whole new heights as her characters travel to their heart wrenching and spine tingling doom.

Coffee Time Romance- French Peril is a great romance with an excellent mystery. The instant attraction is met with a slow and sure build up of emotions. The couple are very complementary, compelling, and wonderfully romantic. Ms Risk writes outstanding dialogue and this, combined with the lushness of the Loire Valley, are the final elements that make French Peril an excellent story.

 

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LIGHTHOUSES and STORIES

file9381281147629Loving Lexi

Lighthouses have always held a tremendous fascination for me. Mystery and beauty surround the age-old structures.

Is it any wonder my next novel includes a lighthouse? LOVING LEXI is due for release Summer of 2015.

LOVING LEXI is set on the Texas coast, present time. Lexi Warner, a reporter, is persuaded to interview Tyler Hawkes, a former sports announcer whose wife’s boating death appears more than accidental to some. After his disappearance, Lexi must embrace her values while tracking down Tyler, and the story of the year.

There is a beautiful lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida. It’s the oldest surviving brick structure in St. Augustine. http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustinelighthouse.html

Tybee Island Lighthouse, in Tybee Island Georgia, is one of seven surviving colonial era lighthouse towers. It was modified in the mid 1800s.  http://tybeeisland.com/site/tybee-lighthouse/

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, in North Carolina, built of brick it is the tallest of its kind in North America. http://www.outerbanks.com/cape-hatteras-lighthouse.html

Point Sur. It’s reported that Point Sur in California is haunted by at least 18 spirits and maybe more. It’s believed to be one of the ten most haunted lighthouses. If you don’t believe in ghosts, enjoy your tour if you have a chance to visit! http://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=88

Yaquina Head in Oregon, at ninety-three feet, is Oregon’s tallest lighthouse. http://theoregoncoast.info/Lighthouse/YaquinaHead.html

Portland, Maine boasts of six lighthouses within twenty miles of the city. It’s said that the most memorable light house is the Portland Head Light. I can certainly believe it’s true. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=546

Aransas Pass (Lydia Ann) Lighthouse, in Texas has a lot of history, as do all lighthouses. I find the history behind this particular lighthouse one of the most interesting. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=158

I hope I’ve stimulated your interest in lighthouses. They are quite captivating once you get into a little research.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website for all My Books

 

Summertime Reflection by Joan Reeves

Cover of Heat Lightning by Joan ReevesI love that old song “Summertime?” Maybe it’s just me, but it’s like the summertime I lived as a child.

Fish jumped. The cotton was high. The heat was a palpable thing because no one had air conditioning back then.

The bluesy melody plays in my head as I write this, and it makes me think about all the things I loved about those long ago summers when the living did seem easy.

Bygone Years

Since we had no air conditioning, summer evenings were spent on the porch and out in the yard. We kids chased lightning bugs, or fireflies if that’s how you know those little insects that could make a Mason jar glow like a lantern if you caught enough of them. If it wasn’t quite dark yet, most of us played baseball. We never seemed to tire of baseball.

The porch swing creaked as it swayed back and forth. The quiet voices of the adults on the porch talked about the happenings of the day, and the talk gleaned from the grapevine that always seems to wind through every small town and rural community.

The Evening Calm

Evenings were peaceful and a time to relax after a long day. I think people in today’s world lose that winding down at the end of the day. Instead of talking quietly, as a family, about the day, we seek relaxation in front of a television set, computer screen, or video game. It’s just not the same.

In fact, a lot of scientific studies have been done that say these activities interfere with sleep rather than make it easy. In a society where sleep deprivation is rampant, maybe we should change the way we unwind in the evenings?

The habit of enjoying the quiet calm of evening still lives in small towns and rural America. I see it whenever I visit my brother on his farm or talk with friends who live in the small towns near our country house. That small town environment is what I often write about in my romance novels.

In my most recent work, Heat Lightning for Summer Fire, the NY Times and USA Today bestselling romance collection, I touch on this a little. Tessa and David are secluded at a lake house in West Texas. When their WiFi goes out, a neighboring rancher offers his mobile device for David to use.

That’s what people in ranch country do. If a neighbor has a need, they’re willing to help. Later when there’s trouble at the lake house, not only does the county Sheriff show up, but also the neighboring ranchers. Farm and ranch folk are used to helping each other out.

Weather Phenomenon

The title for my romantic suspense novella was a no-brainer for me because the phrase heat lightning has always had a certain cachet for me. Perhaps because I remember watching it often in the night sky at summer.

I’ll be publishing Heat Lightning on June 30, apart from the box set which will be taken down in a few weeks. The story ended up being one of my favorites because the phenomenon known as heat lightning, where lightning can be seen but no thunder is heard, figures in the story.

I hope your summertime is full of good books, good times, and easy living!

Post Script

Bestselling romance author Joan Reeves lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Her books, available as ebooks and audiobooks, all have the underlying theme that is her motto: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Readers, sign up for WordPlay, Joan’s email list/newsletter. Joan also publishes Writing Hacks, a free newsletter for writers. Find Joan at SlingWords, her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Ah, summer at last!

SolstciojpgAlthough summer doesn’t “officially” start until the June 21st solstice, it’s officially in full swing here.

school outThe kids are out of school and the Scottish Highland season has begun; which for our family is time to celebrate our heritage and business.

nessI will be in Scotland doing research for a series of Scottish Historical novels for half of July and most of August this summer. My daughter is part of an archaeological dig on the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney, and I’ll be spending nine days with her there. I’m thrilled to be going and will be sharing my experiences with you over the next few blogs.

Wishing you a happy and magical summer,

Leigh

What Makes a Hero?

dancingcoupleThere’s a theory that when a little girl grows up she seeks out a mate with similar traits to her father. In my case, I think it’s somewhat accurate. Similarly, the heroes in my novels have elements of my very first hero, my dad.

One or two readers have pointed out that my heroes are not “alpha males”. I might sell a few more books if I wrote about cowboys, billionaires, firemen or detectives, but I don’t know any of those types of men. I have no idea how they think, and they don’t particularly appeal to me.

My dad’s a physicist and an avid outdoorsman. He’s quiet and cerebral with a clever sense of humour. When I was growing up, you wouldn’t find him watching sports on TV, but in the dining room jotting complex algebraic equations on a notepad. He introduced us to classical music and made a point to take us places (into the wilderness or to museums) where we could explore and learn. If he couldn’t get out canoeing, hiking or skiing on weekends, he’d be grumpy. Now that he’s retired, he’s still just as active. He’s a devoted grandfather too.

But being gentle and soft-spoken doesn’t mean he’s not strong, loyal or firm in his principles. Most of all, he’d do anything for his family. It was always important to me to make my dad proud. In many ways he’s still that little voice in my head that steers me in the right direction.

When I met my husband, his warmth, smarts and an easygoing nature drew me to him. His passion for history, music and travel gave us a lot to talk about. He’s far from a duplicate of my dad, but they do share many qualities.

When I dream up a hero for my books, he invariably shapes himself in my mind as kindhearted, polite and family focused, and he’s unlikely to enter the scene on a horse on in a limousine. Indeed, my ideal guy has to have some of the same traits as the man I grew up admiring and still do today—my dad.

Happy Father’s Day to all the quietly heroic dads out there.

Visit my website – www.susanrhughes.weebly.com

Why I’m Grateful my Parents Made me do Chores

(I never thought I would write this.) A few years ago while I was helping my sister-in-law prepare a Thanksgiving feast for a crowd of family and friends, we stood at the kitchen sink peeling potatoes. She pointed out that I was able to peel about five potatoes in the time that she was able to peel one. Because of my chore filled upbringing, I’m also really fast at snapping beans, shelling peas, and shucking corn, and here’s why: I didn’t like snapping beans, shelling peas or shucking corn. I also didn’t like mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, or washing windows. But I did all of that and more. And because the sooner I finished the sooner I could play, I learned to do them fast, efficiently and well, because shoddy work just prolonged the ordeal.

Because my garden in Orange County is about the size of postage stamp, today I rarely snap beans, shell peas or shuck corn, but when I do, I’m still pretty fast.

I accredit what I learned while doing chores to a few things:

Muscle memory. Muscle memory is good for more than just drudgery, it’s also useful for playing an instrument, shooting free throws and hitting home runs. When I taught piano lessons, I explained to my students that the reason we practice over and over is so that our fingers can learn what to do without any interference from our pesky, thinks-it-knows-it-all brain.

Efficiency. “By the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.” Efficiency helps you take a large hairy, ugly task and break it down into bite size pieces. Just like a marathon is one step at a time, a novel is one word upon another, and a wall is built brick by brick. Doing chores taught me how to line up the ducks and shoot them down one at a time.

Doggedness. This is the ability to keep on going when you really, really, really want to quit. When you’re tired, when you’re not feeling up to snuff, and when everyone tells you that you’re wasting your time. And sometimes doggedness is silly, but all in all, it’s a useful to trait to be able to pull out of your hat when the time is write, I mean right.

You might wonder why I’m grateful for the chores my parents made me do umpteen years ago when today I can hire people to do the drudgery for me. Here’s just a few examples from recent experiences.

Last Saturday I hosted a party at my house. 70 people came. Saturday morning my house looked like this living roombecause the painters who were supposed to be done painting my house on Friday were not. Also, the house guests that were supposed to arrive on Saturday night changed their plans and arrived on Friday afternoon. (They had to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor.) At one point, I knew that there was a possibility that all my planned entertaining might have to shift from my living room to the back yard, but there was also a part of me that knew I could pull my house together. And I did. Although after the guests arrived I noticed that I had forgotten to dust the piano. No one mentioned it, and I don’t know, or care, if anyone noticed.

A month ago I enrolled my book Witch Ways in the kindle scout program. You can read about that here: The Kindle Scout Program

I pretty much hate promoting my books and I knew that to be successful in the program, promoting would need to happen. This is what I did:

I sent out a newsletter telling people that if they nominated my book they could potentially get it for free.

I posted the same thing on about 40 Facebook “promote your book here” pages.

I made up business cards and handed them out to people.

For about two weeks my book rode the hot and trending list. When it fell off, I:

Contacted the 300 plus people who had signed up for my book in a recent online contest.

Sent an email to friends and family.

Posted a link and a plea on Facebook.

Contacted more than 100 Goodreads people.

My book returned to the Kindle Scout hot and trending list and it stayed there for the duration. (My campaign is over now. I should hear yea or nay from Amazon in a few days.)

I don’t think riding the hot and trending list will secure me an Amazon contract, but it can’t hurt. Besides, now that it’s over, I can honestly say I did my part. I played hard.

I have often thought that growing up doesn’t necessarily happen when you graduate, marry or turn a certain age. Being a grown up means that you’re able to do the things you don’t want to do because they must be done. Being a grown up means putting your hand down a stuck garbage disposal when it’s full of debris, cleaning up a loved-one’s vomit, unclogging a poopy toilet, and getting rid of the dead bird in your back yard. It’s being able to put on your big girl panties and get a nasty job done even when you really, really don’t want to.

Thanks for the chores, Mom.