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A Dream Weekend

turn the pageThese first couple of years as a published author have been a wild ride with lots of magic moments–including hitting #1 on Amazon twice.  But last weekend I had one of those moments that romance authors–and readers–dream about.  I got to spend the day with Nora Roberts!

It all started at the RWA conference in New York this past July.  During the mayhem that is the”Readers for LIfe” Literacy Autographing, I was approached by Janeen Solberg, the manager of Turn the Page Bookstore, in Boonsboro, Maryland.  The same bookstore that happens to be owned by Nora Roberts.  Janeen mentioned that my book, BACK TO BEFORE, was a favorite with readers in the store.  One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I was being invited to travel to Boonsboro as a guest author at one of Nora’s book signings.  It took me all of a nano-second to say yes. 🙂

So, on a beautiful fall weekend, my husband and I traveled to western Maryland.  Nestled at the base of South Mountain, Boonsboro itself is only a few blocks long, but it is steeped in history.  The town was founded in 1792 by George and William Boone, cousins of Daniel Boone,  Boonsboro serves as a gateway to relevant colonial and Civil War heritage sites including the National Road, Washington Monument State Park, South Mountain and Antietam National Battlefield.  But two of the town’s biggest attractions are the Turn the Page Bookstore and the Inn Boonsboro, also owned by Nora Roberts.

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The Inn Boonsboro is located in the first stone building constructed in the historic town. It received a $3 million remodel and renovation in 2008 and it’s gorgeous!

The Inn Boonsboro is a bed and breakfast that feels more like a boutique hotel.  With the exception of the penthouse, the Inn’s eight guest rooms are named after literary romantic couples.  There’s the Jane and Rochester room, Elizabeth and Darcy, Marguerite and Percy, Westley and Buttercup, Titania and Oberon, Eve and Rourke (of course!) and, the room where we stayed, Nick and Nora, inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s THE THIN MAN.

The Inn also features a dining room, a parlor where wine and cheese is served nightly and a library that featured a cozy fireplace and an ample supple of Jameson whiskey, much to my husband’s delight.

The innkeeper asked me to sign a book for the library shelves--how cool is that?

The innkeeper asked me to sign a book for the library shelves–how cool is that?

There’s also some inviting garden areas and porches to find a quiet place to read in.  The best part about the stay is that many of the other guests are there for the signing, as well, and we all bonded over our love of books.  I met some fabulous new friends and readers including Nora’s UK publicist, Antonia.

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Hardy fans braved the chilly early morning temps to get their tickets. Fortunately everyone was pretty jovial because The Confectionery store beside Turn the Page also sold guns and ammo. 😉

The day of the signing–Halloween–arrived crisp and clear which was a good thing because fans were lined up outside the bookstore before I came down to breakfast at eight!  At ten o’clock, timed tickets were handed out so that folks could return to the store at their allotted interval to buy books and get them signed by Nora and the eight other authors who’d been invited to the event.  Nearly four hundred tickets were handed out.  The signing started at noon and we signed books until nearly four o’clock with only a short break for pizza and champagne!  .

That's Nora's son Jason helping out. You can tell they've done this a time or two before. Nora even wrapped her hand before the signing began. I probably should have taken that as a warning of the fun to come!

That’s Nora’s son Jason helping out. You can tell they’ve done this a time or two before. Nora even wrapped her hand before the signing began. I probably should have taken that as a clue of the fun–and writer’s cramps–to come!

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The lovely ladies of Turn the Page got into the spirit of Halloween. Can you see my tiny witch’s hat on my head?

I spoke with some wonderful readers who came from as far as Texas and Canada just for the signing. Best of all, I was able to catch up with old friends from the Washington, D.C. area who trekked out to Boonsboro.  Okay, I’m sure many of them came to see Nora, but that’s okay, I did, too!  The weekend truly was an awesome author experience.

The line up consisted of authors Sara Humpreys, Terri Brisbin, Heather Heyford, HelenKay Dimon, myself, Nora Roberts and Maryland history authors Mark and Julia Brugh and Leonard Adkins.

The line-up consisted of authors (front) Sara Humpreys, Heather Heyford, myself, Nora Roberts, (middle) Terri Brisbin and HelenKay Dimon and (back) Maryland history authors Mark and Julia Brugh and Leonard Adkins.

If you ever get to western Maryland, be sure and make the trip to Boonsboro to see the civil war battlefields, the trolley museum and, of course, Nora Roberts’ Inn and book store. Tell them I sent you!

GIVEAWAY!!  I’m giving away a copy of BACK TO BEFORE, Nora Robert’s latest book STARS OF FORTUNE (both signed!) and THE THIN MAN to one lucky reader.  Just leave a comment below.

Do you have a favorite book by Nora Roberts? Have you ever stayed in a historic home or B&B?  Would you want to? Have you ever visited a Civil War battlefield?

Comment by midnight on November 8 to be eligible!

A Sweet Treat for Spring

My latest work in progress takes place in a Bed and Breakfast in coastal North Carolina.  Some days, I feel like I’m writing a cookbook, there are so many references to food.  If you follow me on Pinterest, I’ll be creating a board with all the recipes once the first draft is complete.  For now, I wanted to share a recipe for a great spring treat–just in time for Easter.

strawberry brownie heartsLast month, a good friend of mine hosted a fundraiser for TurningPoint, a Breast Cancer rehabilitation center here in Georgia.  Everything about the party was pink–including the foods.  These strawberry brownies were a huge hit!  They’re perfect cut into hearts for Valentine’s Day, for bridal or baby showers or for a little girl’s birthday party. (The boys will love them, too.)

Strawberry Browniesstrawberry brownies

Adapted from: Family Savvy
Serves: 14-16

Ingredients

Brownies:
• 1 box strawberry cake mix (any brand will do as long as it doesn’t have pudding in the mix
• 
2 large eggs
• 
1/3 cup oil
Glaze:
• 
1 cup powdered sugar
• ½ -2 TB milk (it depends on how thick you want your glaze)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment (and spray with Pam. Make sure you get the sides).
3. Mix strawberry cake mix, eggs, and oil with hand mixer until well combined, about two minutes.
4. Pour batter into pan. Note: batter will be tacky, similar to taffy. Be sure to spread it evenly so brownies bake evenly.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until just set; be careful not to overcook.
6. Allow brownies to cool for 10 minutes; lift carefully from pan using ends of parchment to lift.
7. Mix powdered sugar and water until smooth.
8. Pour glaze over brownies, spreading to edges with pastry brush so that glaze will drip down sides.
9. Allow brownies to cool and glaze to set before cutting into squares.

cover-for-BTBWhile you’re enjoying these great eats, check out the first book in my Second Chances series, BACK TO BEFORE.  You’ll get a first look at the Tide Me Over Inn and it’s famous cupcakes.  Happy Spring!

Where Have All the Role Models Gone?

I remember a summer day ten years ago when my sports fanatic son declined going to the pool with his friends so he could watch the final stage of the Tour de France.  He was fixated on his new idol, Lance Armstrong.  So fixated, in fact, that immediately after Armstrong won, my son begged me to take him to the Discovery Channel Store so he could spend a hundred dollars of his lawn mowing money on a replica of the yellow jersey Armstrong wore during much of the Tour de France that year.

My son even wore it as his Halloween costume.

My son even wore it as his Halloween costume.

This was a very big deal because, not only has my son always been a sports nut, but he loves his money, too.  So it took a lot for him to part with his hard earned cash.  But his father and I let him do it because we believed at the time that Lance Armstrong was a pretty worthy role model for a twelve-year-old boy.  Little did we know.

Now here’s the funny (or sad, depending upon your perspective) part:  Armstrong’s fall from grace didn’t traumatize my son as much as I would have thought.  By that time, my teenager had already been jaded to the duplicity of the world of professional sports.  Everybody does it has become a catch phrase that really angers me.  Too many Millennials and Gen-Xers (or Y’s or whatever they are) adopt the phrase as a mantra.

Sure, the list of role models who turn out to be more human than super hero is long:  Alex Rodriquez, Ryan Braun, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, Shaun White and Hope Solo, to name a few.  But there have to be some role models out there, right?  Surely the Kardashians aren’t who we want our children looking up to?  And I’m not even going to suggest they should look up to elected officials who refuse to lead.brian williams

And then there’s Brian Williams.  I have to admit this one is a lot harder to swallow than some of the others.  He’s a likeable guy in a business that I was once a part of.  Because I still consider myself a journalist, the offense of “misrepresenting the facts” really sticks in my craw.  I’m not saying we should hold journalists in esteem higher than others–hello Steve Kroft and Dan Rather, not to mention an entire cable news channel–but, hey, we just can’t go making things up.  Well, unless you write fiction like I do, but that’s not the business Brian Williams was in.  At least not yet, anyway.

This whole mess has left with me a sense of melancholy, especially as a parent.  Who are kids supposed to look up to these days?  My motives are purely selfish here.  It’s a lot of pressure to be the only role-model for your child–especially since they think you’re dumber than dirt for a majority of their life.  Of course, we could all go around adopting the philosophy of Dr. Greg House from TV’s House and submit to the tenet that “everybody lies”.

Photo by Jackolyn

Photo by Jackolyn

I don’t want to be a cynic, though.  I want to believe in the good within people.  That’s why I write romance, because I want to read a happily ever after.  I want role models who are worthy.  And not just for my kids.

But I also subscribe to the notion that we are all human.  We all make mistakes.  It’s how we move on after those mistakes that shows our character.  So no, A-Rod, a hand written “I’m sorry” isn’t going to cut it with me.  And Lance, having your girlfriend lie for you is just unmanly.  It’s left to you, Brian. Please don’t let me down.

This and That

Happy-new-year-2015-wallpaper_lighting_diyasCrazy week.  Versions of the flu have taken my family by storm.  I’m sure I’m jinxing myself here, but Harper and I have avoided it thus far.  Of course, the fact that I had a book come out on Tuesday has given me an added boost of energy. 🙂  Today, I’m starting a self-imposed stay-cation.  I’m going to clean out closets–one blue bin to charity each day and then I can read!  That probably doesn’t sound like too much fun, but one of my resolutions this year is to get organized before the chaos of writing a new book begins.

Speaking of resolutions, did you make one?  Or more?  I’m not big into making promises to myself each year.  Author Lori Wilde posted something that resonated with me.  She said that instead of resolutions, she and her friends each choose a word that they hope to define the upcoming months, a word they plan to live by.  I love that idea!  My word for 2015 is Grace.  Grace for others-whether I know them or not.  And grace for me.  I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and this business can beat you down if you let it.  My goal is to look for grace in everything I do.  Now that I’ve written it down, you all can hold me accountable!

Liz MorganHere’s some fun news:  Last year when FOOLISH GAMES was released, Sara at Harlequin Junkie asked me to name my dream cast if the book were to be made into a movie.  I hate that question for many reasons, but I did it anyway, because Sara is awesome!  Anyway, I listed a relatively unknown actress to play the quirky teenager, Sophie Osbourne.  Well, she’s known to me because she’s my neighbor. Her name is Liz Morgan and, at the time, she was about to make her motion picture debut in a low budget film about the rapture called The Remaining.  The film was a bit campy, but it lasted a lot longer at the box office than Nicholas Cage’s rapture pic.

Fast forward a year. After getting that movie role, Liz went on over 150 auditions with no success.  Oh, how we writers can relate, right?  She applied to Julliard and was rewarded with an audition.  Not everyone who applies gets one.  Of course, right after she got that great news, she was cast for a three episode guest starring role in Chicago Fire!  Yep, as I write this from my warm kitchen, Liz is currently jumping out of a burning building in snowy, freezing Chicago.  Isn’t that cool?  I’ll keep you posted with the dates when her episodes will air.

That’s all I’ve got today. Happy New Year and stay warm and healthy! And if you need a beach fix, I’ve got a book for you!

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