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Jill Shalvis on the Making of "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Merry Christmas BabyWild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed. She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to impending fatherhood. So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the party will give him a chance to set things right. But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time. While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart, an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up...and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen. Here, Jill Shalvis talks about the inspiration behind writing Merry Christmas, Baby.

I love the holidays.  All the kids are home, and it’s usually snowing outside and warm inside from the baking of cookies – or in my case, the burning of the cookies…

Last year when this happened, our new fire alarm went off and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.  We have really high ceilings and there was no way to reach the smoke detector.  A neighbor called the police, and a sheriff came to the door.  He looked a little rumpled and a lot overworked, but he smiled when he saw the burnt cookies.

“My wife does that a lot,” he said with obvious warmth and love.

It reminded me that one of my favorite couples--sexy sheriff Sawyer Thompson and wildcard Chloe Traeger from my book Head Over Heels--would be celebrating this holiday too, and chances were that Chloe was doing something to both irritate Sawyer and yet turn him on at the same time.

The thought wouldn’t leave me alone. But how I could I do justice in a novella to a couple who had an undeniably explosive chemistry and whirlwind romance the first time around?  I also didn’t want to give them some silly misunderstanding or lightweight conflict and take away from their intense and fierce relationship, the one I’d painstakingly built in Head Over Heels.  I mean, to be honest, those two nearly drove me to drink the first time around.

Then it hit me, the idea for the story I could tell that would at once both heighten their relationship and yet change it forever.  Picture me cackling and rubbing my hands together in glee over my laptop as I spun the new web.  I’m not going to tell you what I did, or what Chloe and Sawyer have to go through, but suffice it to say I loved every minute of the writing of this story, Merry Christmas, Baby.   

Though I was so happy to revisit these characters, it was also a little bittersweet since this would be the last Lucky Harbor – for now.  I never say never, especially since readers tend to get upset when they realize this might be goodbye to Lucky Harbor.  So let’s just call it a goodbye for now, okay?  Can we all live with that?  And I promise to come back and visit it when the time is right.

Happy Reading,
Jill Shalvis

Guest Post: Norman Bridwell on the Enduring Appeal of Clifford

CliffordNorman Bridwell reflects on his career writing Clifford the Big Red Dog, a beloved children's character for more than 50 years now.

Clifford has been a big part of my life for more than fifty years now, and I am so pleased to be able to share him with you.

When I was a child, I spent much of my free time drawing imaginary people in imaginary scenes. I remember walking to and from school making up these stories. At the end of the day, I’d illustrate them on a scrap paper my father had brought home from work for me. 

After I finished high school, I dreamed of doing cartoon-style illustrations for magazines and newspapers. My mother suggested that I go to art school, and I took her advice. While I was there, I found that people enjoyed my funny illustrations and stories filled with wordplay.

In 1962, my wife thought I should try to illustrate children’s books. I showed my paintings to several publishers, but no one was interested. I was very disappointed, but there was a ray of hope! One editor told me to try writing a story based on my painting of a little girl with a very big dog. I was so excited that I wrote the story in just three days.

When my story was bought by Scholastic and published in 1963, I was shocked. I had not expected Clifford the big red dog to be published. Thanks to Scholastic, and some very wonderful editors, the Clifford books were born... and my life changed completely.

Because of Clifford, I have traveled all over the world. The Clifford books themselves have taken quite a journey, too. They’ve delighted children as far away as Siberia. I know because I’ve gotten letters from children who live there.

Creating Clifford has also given me the opportunity to meet incredible people like the President and First Lady of the United States, movie actors, newspeople, and famous authors and artists that I admire.

But most wonderful of all, Clifford has brought me into the lives of many children. I am very lucky. I love kids, and I love to make them laugh – and I hope whether you’re a kid or a grown-up, that’s just what Clifford will make you do.

Writing Big-Family Romances with Melissa Foster

As families across the country sit down together this week for Thanksgiving, New York Times best-selling author Melissa Foster shares how her personal insights into the large-family dynamic helps her experience the joys and appreciate the challenges of writing big-family romances. The latest novel in her Love in Bloom series, Seaside Sunsets, is available for pre-order now.

Seaside sunsetsAs the only girl in a family of seven children, writing about siblings—brothers, specifically—and large families is kind of my thing. The danger of writing these big-family romances is that I become attached to my characters and never want to let them go. This is why my Love in Bloom series is the umbrella for five family subseries so far, with two more planned for the future. Characters from each family appear in future subseries, which is not only exciting for me, but it gives fans a chance to read about the growth of characters after they’ve reached their happily ever afters.

Jealousies, secrets, trust, and loyalty all come into play in real-life families, and bringing those challenges to life for my fans in a realistic way is one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of writing big-family romance novels. Large families often have significant issues that those outside of the family rarely see, and since most of my characters tend to have emotionally rooted barriers rather than typical tropes of conflicting goals, I explore rich backstories with intimate, and often conflicting, relationships between siblings and parents.

While it’s important to know a character’s image and style, who a character is goes far deeper than physical appearances. We must understand what their lives were like before the story begins—from the schools they’ve attended to their previous relationships with friends and lovers and the emotional scars endured—and the ones they’ve left behind. Characters’ failures and successes help to form their fears and insecurities as well as their confidence, and each plays a major role in their development as an adult.

Understanding the roles between family members and how they will grow and change over the life of the series is also imperative in family romances. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but overcoming them within a family circle is vital in order to move forward as confident alpha heroes and smart, sexy heroines of romance novels. It would be easy to gloss over the families and make them happy-go-lucky, but that would not reflect real life, and I’m all about reality. The relationships we have with our siblings as teenagers are not the same as the ones we have as adults, and I try to bring those changing dynamics into the story. Although I have to admit that while certain parts of those relationships change, others never do—like the teasing and wrestling that goes on between brothers even as grown men.

For those of you who are wondering, no, my brothers do not mirror my heroes. However, at times in their lives, they certainly have played the parts. My older brothers were quick to come to my defense as teenagers, and they were just as quick to lock me in the basement with the crickets when I was too short to reach the light switch.

Creating large families isn’t about creating perfect, beautiful people. It’s about creating beautifully flawed characters with believable bonds that stand the test of time and provide a solid foundation for when a member of the family needs it most. My Snow Sisters, Bradens, Remingtons, Ryders, and even my Seaside Summers characters (who have become a family among friends) were all developed with that in mind. And, of course, family loyalty is a big theme in all of my books, because as Hal Braden reminds us often, family knows no boundaries.

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When I Won the Lottery

81Gcz2pRU7L._SL1500_Douglas E. Richards, shares with us his journey to becoming a New York Times best-selling author and his approach to adding vivid details to his novels.

I may be the luckiest man on earth. I have a master’s degree in genetic engineering, and several years ago left a lucrative position as a biotechnology executive to pursue my dream of writing, penning a science fiction thriller called Wired. Several major publishers loved it—but just not enough for them to take a financial risk with an unknown writer. So after years of fighting the good fight, and of near misses, I threw the manuscript in a drawer, gave up on my dream, and returned to biotech.

But a few months later I decided to publish the novel myself on Amazon. It couldn’t have been simpler to do. And why not? I had put considerable effort into the novel, and it would mean a lot to me if even a few people managed to find it.  

And that’s when I won the lottery (and left biotech for a second time). Because WIRED went viral, spending five weeks on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, a testament to my brilliant marketing strategy of doing absolutely nothing and scratching my head in wonder as I watched it all happen (I call it the “sit on your hands and hope you get really, really lucky” strategy).

Suffice it to say that even a handful of novels later, not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for being able to pursue my dream, or grateful to those readers who continue to support my work.

Continue reading "When I Won the Lottery" »

Kindle Most Wanted Icons | Stephen King

Best-selling authors Aric Davis and Marcus Sakey, discuss why Stephen King is an iconic mystery, thriller and suspense writer in a Kindle Most Wanted interview with Reed Farrel Coleman.




Exclusive Q&A with George O'Connor

George O'Connor talks about his series Olympians and his love of the Greek gods and goddesses that he writes and illustrates. 61BgoQzDgFL

Charlie Chang: How did you get your start in comics and illustrations?

George O'Connor: I was one those guys that always liked comics but when I got out of school I broke into kids books initially, I did picture books first. I got out of school in the 90s, the comics industry wasn't doing so great, at least the stuff that I wanted to do. I was publishing some children's books at Simon & Schuster and the designer on those books was Mark Siegel so we were both comic guys and then a couple years later he started this new imprint, First Second. He was me if I had any ideas to pitch cause I'd wanted to do comics for years. Now I had done some stuff that I'm not going to admit to but I got to work on my first graphic novel Journey to Mohawk Country. Since then I've been doing tons of stuff with First Second.

CC: Let's jump right into Olympians, where did this idea come from?

GC: When I was in fourth grade I was introduced to Greek mythology for the first time. I always used to like to draw monsters and muscle men being eaten by monster and pretty ladies and Greek mythology became my big thing. I became this huge Greek myth nerd. I actually got into comics through Greek mythology cause I had read other types of myths like Norse mythology and my first comic I really got into was Thor because of that. So I always associate superheroes and Greek myths. To me it's the  same thing, a good superhero comic is mythology. Neil Porter who is my editor on Olympians and I were at a party once and I made a super geeky Greek mythology reference about someone who we both knew at the party and Neil looks back at me and pulls a book off the shelf that was about the size of Olympians and goes "What if you did a graphic novel that was about Greek myths?" So I ran home and wrote the first draft of Zeus over the next two weeks.

I can completely relate to that because I remember Greek mythology being the first lesson in my history class that I genuinely cared about and had an interest in.

GC: I make jokes about how you get to study all this stuff that you really can't tell stories about people eating each other and monsters but in Green mythology that's all it was. The funny thing is it was good, you were supposed to be doing it. I think so many comics people go through that myths phase. I think it's almost ubiquitous where everybody's got a period where they are very into whatever your myth is at the time.

CC: Do you have a favorite Greek god or goddess?

GC: Yeah! I have two. Favorite god is Hermes. When I was a kid I had t do an oral report dressed up as Hermes. He's still my favorite. You'll probably notice if you read the series but he gets all the best lines. The other character that gets the best lines is Hera. I love Hera! That's a weird one because everyone remembers Hera as being jealous and weird but the reason she's jealous and horrible is because she's got the worst husband that's ever lived.

CC: With all of the different gods and goddesses, was one of the books particularly surprising to write?

GC: I save some of my favorite characters for some of the series. I'm actually saving Hera for later but the one that surprised me is the newest one Ares. He's just kind of a maniac and I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to find a way to make him more relate-able. While doing his book I noticed there were a lot of myths where he gets upset when something bad happens to his kids. It's a motif that pops up in a lot of his stuff so I kind of hung the story on that where I showed that out of all the gods he's the most sympathetic father. There's an issue in the book where I retell the Iliad and the Iliad has that famous scene where Zeus tells him in front of everyone that he's his least favorite child and that's the moment where I really tried to make Ares a human and sympathetic character. That was one of those cool things that I didn't know going in and eventually discovered as I worked on that book.


This interview was conducted and transribed by Charlie Chang. Interested in comics and graphic novels? Sign up for Comics Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in comics each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from creators.

Exclusive Q&A with Jeff Lemire on "Teen Titans: Earth One"

DC Comics has published some great original stories through the Earth One series of graphic novels. Jeff Lemire talks about his new take on the team, their history, and writing a brand new chapter for the Titans. 51N7lLs7ZwL

Q1: You mentioned before that “The New Teen Titans” by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez was your introduction to comics as a child. Was this a factor in your decision to do a Teen Titans original graphic novel?

Jeff Lemire: Absolutely. I loved Wolfman and Pérez's Titans in the 80's as a child. It was the first comic book I truly became a fan of. So there was already a deep seeded affection for these characters when the book was offered to me.

Q2: Did you choose this roster of Titans based on your love of that series? How did you decide which members would found the team?

JL: I loved how Marv and George revamped the TITANS in the 80's by bringing in a brand new cast of young heroes to mix, heroes that were unique characters and not sidekicks or variations on existing superheroes.

For my purposed here, I wanted a fresh and clean take on a teen super-team without having to rely on other heroes or continuity. So I gravitated to these unique teen characters Marv and George had created, and re-envisioned them through my own sensibilities along with artist Terry Dodson, who really helped them come to life.

Q3: What was it like taking on these characters that you love? A dream come true or nerve-wracking?

JL: Dream come true. It's exciting and challenging, but I really felt I had a story and a take on these characters that was new and unique, but still kept some of the aspects I loved.

Continue reading "Exclusive Q&A with Jeff Lemire on "Teen Titans: Earth One"" »

Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Rosanna Chiofalo

Wrapping up our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1, part 2, part 3). Last but not least is Rosanna Chiofalo with her recipe for fried honey balls. Her latest work can be found in the holiday collaboration, When the Snow Falls.

WhenthesnowfallsRosanna Chiofalo’s Fried Honey Balls (also known as Pignolata or Struffoli)

Every year for Christmas I helped my mother make Fried Honey Balls. In my Sicilian dialect, they’re called Pignolata, but many Italians also know the golden balls coated in honey and adorned with colorful confetti as Struffoli. Whatever you call them, the appearance of these gumball-sized fried pieces of dough signify Christmas, and can be found in many Italian American bakeries during the season.

Cooking and baking was one way for my family and me to share the food from our culture, along with the other customs surrounding the holiday. In addition to special dishes, another custom my we shared while I was growing up was playing cards for pennies after our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve—just the way my character Bianca Simone and her family gather to play cards in my novella “Seven Days of Christmas.”

Last year I decided to finally take on the challenge of making Pignolata to continue my mother’s tradition, especially now she’s older and does not bake or cook as much for the holidays. The gods of baking were with me, not only did my Pignolata come out great, but my husband even thought it was better than my mother’s! Shhh! Don’t tell my mother!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and share it with your loved ones during the holiday season!

Rosanna Chiofalo    

Fried Honey Balls

(also known as “Pignolata” or “Struffoli”)


3 eggs

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, add extra if needed

Vegetable oil for frying


¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

1 ½ cups honey

Colored candy sprinkles

To make the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a whisk, then beat in the sugar, salt, and oil. Sift in the flour, and with a wooden spoon, mix to form soft, but not sticky, dough. Add a bit more flour if the dough is sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes (until the dough has a smooth consistency). Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll, one at a time, into ropes about ½-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut each rope into ½-inch pieces, and transfer the pieces onto a lightly floured baking sheet, separating them so they don’t stick to one another. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let them rest while you heat the oil.

In a large, deep, heavy saucepan or pot, heat 3-inches of oil to 350⁰ (use a deep-fry or candy thermometer). Fry a handful of the pieces of dough at a time in the hot oil, stirring with a wooden spoon so they brown evenly, until they are a deep golden brown, for about 3 minutes. Resist the temptation to add too many pieces of dough to the hot oil as this will lower the temperature of the cooking oil. Drain the fried pieces of dough on paper towels.

To make the syrup:

In a large pot or deep frying pan, bring the water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the honey. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the little balls, stirring to coat them evenly with the syrup. Be careful while working with this syrup. It is very, very hot. Continue to cook and stir for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the balls have absorbed some of the syrup and look glazed. Be sure not to let the syrup get too dark. Turn the balls of dough onto a large platter. Using a metal spoon dipped in water, form the balls into a pyramid. Add sprinkles.

Characters to Lighten the Way

91SScpHUvYL._SL1500_R.L. Naquin, author of "Demons in My Driveway", sheds some light on the characters from her Monster Haven series.

I didn’t set out to be funny when I began the Monster Haven series. The story lines themselves can get pretty dark, though, so the characters keep things from getting too angst-ridden and depressing. They lighten the mood.

Book one, Monster in My Closet, dives right into the weirdness. Zoey grabs a toilet brush as a weapon on her way down the hall to confront an intruder. To her surprise, she finds Maurice, the closet monster she was terrified of as a child. Reading the newspaper. And baking muffins. Why? He’s currently homeless and needs a place to live. We’re also introduced to a pygmy dragon with a cold, a skunk ape who smells like flowers and a family of brownies setting up house in the linen closet.

In the second book, Pooka in My Pantry, the pooka looks a bit like Danny DeVito and hates wearing pants. Only Zoey can see and hear him, which makes for some funny moments when other people are in the room. At the office, Zoey has to stop her best friend from sitting in the waiting pooka’s lap. Friends don’t let friends get felt up by the supernatural. Especially when the supernatural’s not wearing pants.

Stakes get higher by book three, Fairies in My Fireplace, but nobody can be serious giving a dog a bath—even when the dog is a hellhound with a nasty case of mange. Sponges fly, the hellhound’s splash zone is huge, then THUNK. Somebody shoots a tranquilizer dart into a passing thunderbird. The enormous bird lands on Zoey’s VW Bug, squashing the car flat. Kam—a djinn recently escaped from her master—pokes the unconscious thunderbird and informs it that it can’t park there. She wasn’t helping with the dog wash, by the way. She didn’t want to ruin her dress—a replica of Pat Benatar’s costume from the ’80s “Love Is a Battlefield” video.

Golem in My Glovebox was tough to lighten up. Creepy little girl, gruesome deaths, mind control. I had to bring in some extra craziness. In one of my favorite scenes, Zoey and her reaper boyfriend, Riley, meet with an O.G.R.E. squad—the police of the Hidden world—in a skeezy bar in the middle of nowhere. Included in the group are the world’s shortest giant, the world’s tallest dwarf, two actual ogres and a siren with social anxiety disorder. Gris, the government official they brought along—a pint-size golem hiding in Zoey’s magic handbag—and the O.G.R.E. foreman, Frankie the Imp, run off to the men’s room to negotiate. Zoey is left to wonder about her life choices and whether she’ll ever see her purse again.

Book five, Demons in My Driveway, releases soon, so I can’t give away too much without spoiling it. But Zoey and her team are trying to avoid the zombie apocalypse. The harbingers of the apocalypse come chanting up her driveway, Hidden creatures failing in their attempt to appear human: a female gargoyle in a blue polyester pantsuit, a satyr in shirt and trousers, a harpy in an overcoat. They’re not fooling anybody.

The final book in the series, Phoenix in My Fortune, isn’t out until next March. But I’ll tell you a secret: it begins with a bucket of purple house paint, a pygmy dragon and rainbow-toe socks.

I still don’t set out to be funny. But apparently, my mind is a ridiculous place.

Romance Authors' Holiday Recipe Series: Lin Stepp

Continuing our 4-part series, popular romance authors share their favorite holiday recipes--some even inspired by their novels--to help you with your holiday entertaining (part 1, part 2). Up next is Lin Stepp, author of the Smoky Mountain series. Her latest work can be found in the holiday collaboration, When the Snow Falls.

WhenthesnowfallsIn my short novel A Smoky Mountain Gift, Veda Trent makes up a recipe of her Aunt Rita Jean’s Christmas Cookies with the eager and excited help of eight year-old Pamela.  They cut out sugar cookie shapes of trees, stars, ornaments, snowmen, Santas, and reindeer, and then lavishly decorate the baked cookies with colored icings, candy sprinkles, silver balls, and cinnamon dots.  The book’s happy scene reminds Veda of loving times with her Aunt Rita Jean baking cookies in the same farmhouse kitchen. The scene also brings back memories of my childhood days making sugar cookies with my mother and of later decorating warm, fragrant cookies with my own eager, excited children … The recipe below from mountain storyteller Rita Jean O’Neill is also my recipe passed down from my mother.




2/3 cup solid shortening                            

3/4 cup sugar                                                           

1 tsp vanilla                                                  

1 egg

4 tsp milk

2 cups plain flour

1/ 4 tsp salt

1 and 1/ 2 tsp baking power                                                             


Thoroughly cream shortening, sugar, and vanilla by hand.  Add egg. Beat until light and fluffy.  Stir in milk. Sift together dry ingredients – flour, salt, and baking powder – and blend into creamed mixture. Chill for one hour; then roll out the dough 1/ 8 inch thick on lightly floured counter. Cut with Christmas cookie cutters.

Bake cookies 6-8 minutes at 375 degrees.  Cool slightly, and then remove. 

Decorate with colored icings and add assorted sprinkles, silver balls, cinnamon dots and decorative outlining as desired. … And above all, have fun!!!    

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