Blogs at Amazon

Guest Post by Tamara Hughes: Weird Writing Quirks for the Slightly Deranged

81V4ITXL2LL._SL1500_Tamara Hughes writes historical romance and is the author of Tempting the Pirate (Released Jan. 2015): As violence and danger mounts on the high seas, Charity will have to put all her trust in the most untrustworthy of men...the arrogant pirate who just might steal her heart.

Crack an egg for inspiration? Tamara Hughes contemplates an unusual tip given by a life coach for more effective writing.

Many years ago, I attended a workshop where a writing/life coach suggested that when you first sit down to write, break an egg into a bowl. I wasn’t the only one in the class who thought this guy was nuts. Break an egg?

Yes, break an egg, shell and all, and then periodically stir it. Hmm, yeah…What? We were told the purpose of the egg trick was to make ours brains focus on writing instead of letting our minds wander. I guess the act of stirring the egg was in some way a reminder to stay in the present.

Along with many of my classmates, the problem I had with this was how I’d be wasting an egg. The lecturer soon was riddled with questions about if the shell really had to be mixed in, or if it could be discarded. That way, the egg could be used later. Maybe as an omelet, or scrambled eggs? But what if you write for hours? Would the egg still be good? Of course, then everyone in the class started talking about what recipes they could use to cook the egg once the writing was done. I don’t think the instructor was all that thrilled with us. To him, it was just one egg that could be thrown away because it had served its purpose. Ah, men and women obviously see things differently.

However, I did get his point. I just don’t want to waste an egg to achieve the goal. Instead, I’ll waste a candle. Not sure why this is better, but…I light a candle every time I sit down to write. It represents my writing time. When that candle is lit, I’m not supposed to think about what I’m going to make for supper or if I’ve forgotten to put pickles (or eggs) on my grocery list. It’s the time set aside for me and my writing, nothing else. Yes, easier said than done, but I’ve got to try. There’s also something less icky about looking at a candle flame vs. playing with a goopy egg.

So, egg or candle, the intent is still the same. A little weird, but usually pretty effective.

 

Guest Post by Suzanne Enoch: Romance Heroes and Why We Love Them

Romance heroes are cool. Authors and readers alike describe them in sweeping terms, from arrogant to mysterious, dark to deadly, and wild to unrepentant. They're in that Indy 500 race, taking that dip in the shark cage, going on that trek through tiger territory we all want to experience.... vicariously.  They’re archetypes, embodying emotion in well-cut trousers – or jeans or cargo pants. We read about them, we swoon, we inwardly shout at their wicked, wicked ways, and we love them.

We love them in our books, that is. In real life, especially modern-day life, half of them would be in jail for stalking, public intoxication, fighting, kidnapping, murder, theft, piracy, smuggling, and in a few cases, treason. So while they might be perfect fantasy material, would we really want the real thing looking in our direction?

912SQnHoJSL._SL1500_Princes, for example, are a romance writer's stock in trade. We write about princes based on the fairy tale belief that these guys are better than real life because they are rich (Yay!), well-bred and arrogant. Wait. Arrogant? Who wants a guy who's arrogant? Who wants a guy who thinks he knows better than you, a guy who manipulates "for your own good"? In real life, these men are better known as creeps. And that's being polite about it. In A Pirate's Wife for Me, by Christina Dodd, Prince Taran grows up indulged and arrogant. Also degenerate, self-serving and cruel. It takes being usurped, sold to the pirates, tortured, sailing for years under miserable conditions: in general being sent through the fires of hell before Taran becomes the tough, triumphant, noble and arrogant prince of legend. Yes, he's still arrogant. But, you know, if he wasn't, Caitlin MacLean would fall instantly in love with -him. And she's far too stubborn for that.

And what about a man with dark compulsions and sexual obsessions?  Untreated OCD in a new husband might not be very much fun for a modern day woman to deal with.  But those attributes sound much more intriguing when we're talking about a rich and handsome (and fictional) regency earl.  A brand new debutante bride could tame that beast, couldn't she? Would she have any choice? That's exactly what happens in Julia London's The Devil Takes a Bride –Grace Cabot discovers some shocking and heart-pounding secrets about Jeffrey, her new husband.  Grace makes it work because she must, and eventually comes to understand and love this mysterious, aloof, and deadly handsome man.

We can’t forget those wild, untamed, kilt-wearing Highlanders, either. Take Lachlan MacTier, Lord Gray, for example. He’s rough and tough, and most definitely does NOT want the girl next door. In my newest Scandalous Highlanders book, Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid, Lachlan goes from trying to hook up with Rowena MacLawry’s friends just to show how uninterested he is in her, to trying to get a selection of her potential beaux humiliated and possibly killed (okay, injured) – and subsequently pushing everyone in the area to the brink of open clan warfare. Sure, he does it to win his lass, but in real life he probably would have been imprisoned for aggravated mayhem.

Romance heroes are larger than life. They make our – and their heroines’ – hearts pound, and our pulses race. Thankfully most of them stay happily in our romance literature, where only our very capable heroines have to deal with them. Really, they’re all about the heroines, aren’t they? And about we, the readers, knowing that if we had a man like that, we would be enough to tame them.

 Can you name a romance hero who is perfect on the page, but would probably be a felon in real life?

 

Author Guest Post by Hannah Howell on Highlanders

912JziyJx7L._SL1500_Highland Master was the nineteenth Murray story and although I love all my characters, some linger in my heart and mind longer than others. They are ones who eventually get their own story. Like Sir Simon Innes, a dark, somber man who acts like a sixteenth century Holmes, and who helped Tormand Murray in Highland Sinner by hiding Tormand and his lover Morainn from danger. He says something that nicely sums up his need for justice.

“When did ye arrange this?” She asked Simon as she set her small bag of belongings down next to a small chest at the foot of the bed. “I began preparing it the moment I heard the first whisper of blame placed at Tormand’s feet.  I have seen too many innocent men die because a judgment of guilt was made too quickly.” He shrugged.  “Wherever I am, I make certain I ken where there are hiding places, places where one can wait safely until the truth is found and they can return home without fear.”

A man with skill and that philosophy demanded his own tale, finally getting it in Highland Protector.

I like heroines who are strong and clever like Gillyanne Murray in Highland BrideShe’s faced with three men demanding she choose one of them for a husband. Inviting one and his men to a meal, she drugs them all.  As the hero realizes what she has done, he says:

“Ye poisoned the food.”

“Nay poisoned.  Just something to make ye all sleep.”  Gillyanne yawned again.  “After all, I wouldn’t poison myself, would I?”

“Clever lass,’ he said as he stood up, even as he wondered why he was doing so.

“I would sit down, sir.  Ye won’t have quite so far to fall that way.”

 

Then there is Fiona MacEnroy who meets the hero of Highland Warrior while fleeing an enemy.  The hero attempts to take her for ransom. She faces him and a dozen warriors with sword in hand.

“Ye can’t be thinking to fight with me, lass,” he said, scowling at her.

“And why shouldn’t I?” Fiona asked.

“Because I am a mon, bigger than ye in height and breadth.”

“I did notice that.”

There were characters in those tales who demanded their own stories as well. It also happens in my Wherlocke series. I am now finishing Sir Bened Vaughn’s tale in If He’s Noble. He stumbles upon Primrose Wooden wandering in the woods searching for her horse. Before he knows it, his natural inclination to protect pulls him into her troubles. He joins in her hunt for her missing brother and elects himself as her shield against the dangerous plots of her greedy aunt. 

“You are moving again.”

“I know.”  He took one swift, large step and snatched the pistol from her hand.

“Stop moving!”

“I told you, I mean you no harm but I prefer not having a pistol pointed at me.”

“Fine.  I quite understand, but I need you to stand still. Considering your size I suspect you have large booted feet and I have lost my spectacles.  I would rather you did not find them by stomping on them.”

Suppressing a sigh Bened stepped closer, ignoring how she tensed, plucked the spectacles caught in the button loop of her coat, and gently put them on her.

 

 

 

Paranormal, you say?

Leigh Evans, author of the Mystwalker series, reveals the hidden truth about writing paranormal romance.

815N3Ql7hnL._SL1500_Occasionally someone will ask me why I write paranormal romance. I always tell them it just happens to be where my books are shelved. But since you are a Kindle reader, and I’ve got a Kindle too, I’ll tell you the truth.

I like long, soft kisses that make your knees go wobbly. I am also terribly fond of smart-mouthed heroines who have magic at their fingertips and are quite willing to bash the bad guy over the head with whatever is handy.

Put that way, it makes perfect sense that my Mystwalker series is found under the paranormal romance category. For all you know, the author of THE DANGER OF DESTINY is edgy, angsty and deeply romantic.

However, in real life, I’m kind of fluffy. If I pushed myself away from this keyboard and allowed you to the right to rifle through my desk’s drawer, you would find three pens filled with shocking pink ink.  

(Don’t judge me. Those babies were on sale.)

See? Fluffy. Thus, creating a dark paranormal series about a half-Fae, half-Were outsider named Hedi Peacock wasn’t anywhere in my game plan when I sat to write the great Canadian novel. Actually, I was aiming for a cheeky urban fantasy book—lots of action and smart chatter, lots of suspense and surprises, and of course, a parade of smoking-hot supernatural beings.

Indeed, the first few draft pages of THE TROUBLE WITH FATE were droll, but then Robson Trowbridge strolled into Hedi’s Starbucks, and after that, even though I fought it, being flippant and irreverent became a background feature.

Love is the whole darn thing, isn’t it? It is passion and it is heartache. It is yearning to be understood and straining to understand. It is two steps forward and one step back, and in the beginning, it is constantly fighting to move forward—pushing to get past the awkward beginning to that place you know is just up ahead.

It’s a complicated and thorny journey and one that can be difficult to write, because in most romantic fiction, you have to complete the entire passage from hello to heck-yes in one novel. That’s where I was lucky: I had four books to build Hedi’s and Trowbridge’s path toward happiness.

I learned a few things writing these novels. An author can’t fight the call of the story any more than she can fight who she is. She’ll end up writing what she likes to read, what she’s experienced, and/or what she hopes to live.

Also, it turns out my heart is actually not a withered piece of old leather. It’s flexible and pliable and it’s happiest writing love stories. Take a closer look at my Mystwalker series. What have we got left once we remove the amulet with the attitude, the dangerous Faes and lusty Weres, the cold mages and drawling ex-drag queen? Two pairs of lips, two busted hearts, and—by the end of the final book of the series—two people who were healed by the real life magic that each one of us deserves.  

That’s why I write these books. That and the fact that along the way, I get to kill bad guys, see pigs fly, and indulge in long, soft kisses that make my knees go wobbly.

 

#

Author Guest Post by Heather Heyford: Writing, Wine and Romance

“Buena noches, señora.”

My head lolls in the direction of a gravelly voice to see that my able-bodied massage therapist has arrived.

“Take your time. I’m here whenever you’re ready.”

91ItWO6Fp7L._SL1500_Okay, that never happened. Truth is, I turned down a trip to Florida this winter to slave over a hot book. Today I’m staring out my office window at a late season snow shower, having just waved bon voyage to my dear husband. Why should he suffer because I’m on deadline? Don’t feel sorry for me, writing a delicious love story is the gig of a lifetime. There’s a wealth of satisfaction in making up your own world—particularly when that world includes all of your favorite things.

My fascination with the grape began when my family moved into a chateau near Épernay, France, the town that invented champagne (I know),but this story is true. I grew up surrounded by magnums of Moët et Chandon crowding every horizontal surface. My mom stuffed the empties with candles again and again until their shoulders ran with multi-colored streaks. Later, when we moved back to the states, I was perplexed as to why the wine bottles here were so…puny.

Once I reached (ahem) legal age, I discovered my gateway drink: the sugary moscato. Gradually I worked my way up to white zinfandel, before graduating to woody, buttery chardonnay.

I was in northern California researching The Napa Wine Heiresses series when I first learned the world’s most popular white wine doesn’t have to taste like drinking a Christmas cookie. Until that trip, I had only tasted chardonnay aged in oak, and frankly, I wasn’t the biggest fan. But when it’s matured in stainless steel tanks, chardonnay emerges fresh and crisp as springtime. Just look for the word un-oaked on the label. Sip it snuggled up in a pastel-colored throw with your copy of A Taste of Chardonnay on your lap.

It was inevitable that my wine journey would one day venture over to the dark side. I found that cabernet could be tricky. Cab has so many variations that when you order a glass, you can’t be sure what you’re going to get. Sorry, pinot…you scare me with your brooding, chocolate-tobacco-equine nose.

I immediately loved merlot for its friendly, fruit-forward appeal. Pop open a liter to see if you can taste strawberries, raspberries, and a touch of herbs. While we’re on the topic of merlot, after befriending Char, Xavier St. Pierre’s compassionate middle daughter in A Taste of Chardonnay, you’ll want to get to know her baby sister. Meri is a budding jewelry designer…young, but not so innocent! The heroine of A Taste of Merlot is as different from Char as—well, red wine is to white.

Back to that hot book I’m working on, A Taste of Sauvignon. I’ve taken to heart the advice of a seasoned writer who recommends abstaining when on deadline. So while you’re curled up with your wine glass and Kindle, I’ll be jealously subsisting on green tea. Oh, the angst-filled life of a romance author…

Author Guest Post by Avery Flynn: Killer Style for Tour TBR Pile

81FSR6v4hoL._SL1500_Some days, clicking on my Kindle is a lot like cracking open the door on my closet when it’s way past time to weed out the out of style items. But unlike what’s in my packed closet, the books on my Kindle are always in fashion. Yay!

Are you like me? Do you have book boyfriends lined up for miles just waiting for their turn and yet your Kindle is so packed you’re not sure what to read next? Don’t worry. We’re going to give your to be read (TBR) pile a makeover in three easy steps! Here’s how.

 

 Step 1: Always Coordinate

The great folks at Amazon have a handy-dandy guide to create collections for your books on your Kindle. That’s right, just like designers have collections based on the seasons, you can create book collections based on your mood, genre, series (Killer Style anyone?), author (like me!) or recommendations from friends. Now that’s even better than color coordinating your shoes and lining them up perfectly on the shelf - wait am I the only one who does that?

 

Step 2: Freshen Up

Every new season means finding a fun new fashion trend to incorporate into your look. The same goes for books. Since it’s the new year, it’s time to freshen up your TBR pile with a hot new series. I love how Amazon makes this easy with their Hot New Romance Releases page and with the by-publication-date search option. For example, if you’re hunting down the next fun, sexy romantic suspense, you can do a search for Entangled Ignite and then sort the results by publication date just like this.

 

Step 3: Find the Right Fit

With fashion the right fit is all about perfect tailoring so that a garment fits your body as if it was made for you—and what doesn’t fit gets tossed. When it comes to books, the right fit is all about finding an author or series that puts your in your reading happy place. For example, are you looking for a sassy, sexy thrill ride filled with heroes who are good with a quip as they are with their equipment and brainy and brave heroines who stand on their own two feet and knock the bad guys off theirs? Then check out my Killer Style series (High-Heeled Wonder, This Year’s Black and Make Me Up), a romance series that takes you for a walk on fashion’s dangerous side.

Of course, now that your TBR pile is all shiny and pretty again, what’s the next step? Why filling it on up again. It’s what we readaholics do.

Christopher Rice Reviews "Younger" by Suzanne Munshower

YoungerChristopher Rice, author of The Vines, reviews Suzanne Munshower's new mystery Younger.

Suzanne Munshower's novel YOUNGER doesn't just blend genres. It defies their restrictions, and in the process it delivers an unvarnished depiction of our culture's punishing treatment of women who've had the temerity to age past forty-five. Older heroines like Anna Wallingham, the veteran PR pro at the center of YOUNGER, are no strangers to popular fiction. Constantly in danger of being edged out by younger, prettier models in most areas of their lives, they're often depicted through a series of lonely nights spent wondering what might have been with former, lost loves if certain words hadn't been said in anger. But these characters usually come to us by way of saucy romantic comedies, where sarcastic humor acts a lubricant when the unpleasant truths about aging become too hard to swallow dry. Or they're featured in romance novels in which a happily-ever-after is guaranteed from the outset, and the book's packaging makes this comfortably clear. Or they're relegated to the category of "wise matron" in both of those genres, largely unconcerned with the day to day flow of their own settled lifestyles, working tirelessly to marry off their daughters or younger sisters while occasionally making sport of their obviously advancing years.YOUNGER is neither a romantic comedy nor a romance, although it's laced with effective strains of the later genre. Mystery and thriller are the words that come closest to describing it, but the heroine isn't rushing to stop a doomsday clock or rescue her kidnapped children. She's rushing to save herself, first from a youth-obsessed L.A. culture that pathologizes wisdom and turns life experience into a liability, then from a diabolical plot to avert the aging process itself.

            When we first meet her, experienced fifty something publicist Anna Wallingham has just been fired. Worse, she's been fired for doing a good job. It doesn't matter that her latest client is more than happy with her work. For years Anna's industry has been beauty and now she's reached that age where the products sold by her former employer only seem to turn the clock back a year at most – except for one. With her career prospects in the toilet, and with scant emotional support from her social network made of other women suffering the myriad stresses of growing older in the city that sells idealized youth to the world, Anna decides to accept a shady offer from one of the executives of the company that just fired her – to become a test subject for a new and possibly revolutionary line of cosmetics with the power to return her looks to those of a woman decades younger. If this description has you braced for a sadistic techno-thriller, in which an angsting heroine is ceaselessly tortured with needles and scalpels and ultimately humiliated and broken across a series of examining tables, rest assured, YOUNGER is not that book. Rather, it unfolds with the kind of gradual, dread-inducing subtlety that marked classic paranoid Hollywood thrillers of the 1970's. Indeed, YOUNGER is at it's most creepily effective when Anna willingly assumes an identity that's been provided for her by a powerful series of shadowy multimillionaires whose motives are anything but clear, hastily cutting herself off from everything she knows in her rush to achieve what might be a miracle cure for laugh-lines, wrinkles and liver spots.  But by not letting her novel spiral out into theatrics or action-driven spectacle, Suzanne Munshower creates a tight, tense canvas on which her characters can continue to probe, discuss and engage the topics that give the novel it's unsettling center. In short, YOUNGER is an intriguing buffet of unexpected literary combinations, a suspenseful but controlled exploration of aging, a topic with the potential to make some of us cringe worse than we would at the sight of blood.

 

Guest Post by A.L Herbert, Author of "Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles"

ALHerbertA.L. Herbert shares a delicious recipe and discusses the inspiration for his book Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles.

I remember the first time I went to Sylvia’s Restaurant in New York and the collective “wow” that came from all of us at the table when a piping hot basket of cornbread arrived and in front of us. The delight continued as we were presented with cornmeal dusted fried catfish, smothered pork chops, and Southern fried chicken and grits.  Luckily, as a Washington, D.C. local I can make regular visits to places like Eatonville and Georgia Brown’s who also serve delicious soul food, or as Georgia Brown’s calls it, “Low-Country Cuisine.” These restaurants, among others, inspired Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles. While writing the book I tapped into my experiences at soul food and comfort food eateries and combined them with my history of growing up in Southern Maryland (Prince George’s County and Charles County). There stuffed ham and crab cakes are serious business…and my grandmother made a habit of not only cooking bacon for breakfast, but using the leftover grease to fry whatever was on the menu for lunch and dinner.

I’m pleased to share my heroine, Halia Watkins’s corn bread recipe. Halia says as she reminisces about the first time she tried it, “It had a taste that danced on my tongue…a sweet yet salty flavor with a texture somewhere between bread and cake.”

You’ll find this recipe and others (including Halia’s Sweet Corn Casserole and Celia’s Banana Pudding Cake) throughout the book between Halia and her fast talking cousin, Wavonne’s comedy of errors as they try to solve the murder of Halia’s business partner.

Continue reading "Guest Post by A.L Herbert, Author of "Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles"" »

Author-Illustrator Salina Yoon Shares Artwork From Her Latest Book "Stormy Night"

StormyNight1
Beloved author-illustrator Salina Yoon returns to the charming world of Found with her new book Stormy Night, a story about scary thunderstorms and finding comfort in family and friends. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a stormy night, and Bear can’t fall asleep! Thunder and lightning might be frightening, but with the help of his parents, his bunny Floppy, and a special song, Bear learns not to be afraid.


StormyNight2

StormyNight3

StormyNight4

Stay up to date on the latest in children's books while discovering ways to advance kids' reading skills by signing up for our children's newsletter. These monthly newsletters for ages 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 highlight new releases, learning resources, exclusive author content, deals, and more.

Author Susan Verde Shares Five of Her Favorite Books About Friendship

You and Me
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” – William Shakespeare

Thank goodness for friends! They are what make life full of connection and adventure. They are the inspiration for my new picture book, You and Me, which considers the journey, the what-ifs, and the serendipity that brings friends together.

Friendship is a common theme in children’s picture books because it is the place where kids learn to navigate the world at large. Friendships teach us how to share, listen, empathize, work things out, be selfless and vulnerable, and learn about the kind of person we want to be. Through the years I’ve read countless wonderful children’s books about friendship and all of its components. I would love to share a few of my favorites.

Amos and Boris by William Steig: This is a beautiful tale of a friendship forged between a mouse and a whale. Their friendship begins as Boris the Whale saves Amos the Mouse, who finds himself fighting for his little life in the middle of the great big ocean. As Boris carries Amos to safety they share their stories and dreams and become fast and deep friends. Amos wonders how he can ever repay Boris for saving his life and ultimately gets the chance to prove the depth of his friendship when Boris becomes beached on the shore. I love this book because it shows how true friends find a way to be there for each other no matter the obstacles. I can’t help shedding a tear or two when reading this story.

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems: This is just one of the stories in the “Elephant and Piggie” series, all of which tackle the layers and challenges of friendship with simplicity and humor. This particular story makes me laugh out loud when a snake wants to join in Gerald (Elephant) and Piggie’s game of catch. The dilemma? Snake has no arms (albeit a great sense of humor)! But Gerald and Piggie are determined to include their new friend and keep his self-esteem intact. I must have read this one hundred times and with each read I laugh and feel proud of the way these friends find a solution.

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers: This is the story of a boy who finds “a penguin at his door.” Deciding the penguin must be lost, the boy does everything in his power to bring the penguin home to the South Pole only to realize that “home” is being with each other. The boy’s empathy and kindness and the connection between these two characters, expressed in so few perfectly chosen words, makes me ache in my heart. 

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel: I like this series of short and sweet stories because they tell of a friendship that is already well established. Frog and Toad’s personalities balance each other out and they know just how to care for each other and run interference when life gets them down. Each tale is sweet and tender with a little bit of an edge and an appreciation for the occasional curmudgeon in all of us.

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann: This story is the ultimate friendship tale of acceptance and appreciation. Through bold and beautiful illustrations, Mouse expresses his love for his friend Rabbit, in spite of the trouble that always seems to follow him. We all have friends like this (or maybe we are that friend)! Although the situation is fantastical, the message of the story is real and full of fun!

These stories have touched my heart and captured the true meaning of friendship.

Stay up to date on the latest in children's books while discovering ways to advance kids' reading skills by signing up for our children's newsletter. These monthly newsletters for ages 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 highlight new releases, learning resources, exclusive author content, deals, and more.