It’s Almost RITA Time!

RITA_edited-1Romance Writers of America have two annual awards they bestow. The Golden Heart is for unpublished writers and the RITA is for excellent books that were published that year. The winners are announced at the annual national conference every summer. I got to go to San Antonio in 2014 as a Golden Heart finalist. And I’m going again next month in San Diego to cheer on some fabulous friends who are finalists for both the Golden Heart and the RITA. Not the same friends for both awards though. 😉

I’m currently trying to read all the nominees. They are all fabulous, so far. You can look back here on a Book Talk Tuesday for a review. What’s really crazy for me, is that I personally know five of the finalists! So I’m super excited to share about their books and their upcoming drawing.

Today I am sharing an incredible giveaway hosted by the 2016 ‘Best First Book’ RITA Nominated Authors! They are giving away 2 $50 Amazon Gift Cards, and a copy of each of the nominated titles. There will be 3 winners total. Be sure to sign up below and check out the authors who are participating and their incredible titles.

NO BETTER MAN by Sara Richardson

NBMBook Blurb: When it comes to business, Avery King always comes out on top. So after a very public breakup, work is the perfect excuse to flee the Windy City for the gentle breezes of Aspen, Colorado. Her mission: acquire the land of a rundown mountain ranch. Avery expects an easy win . . . until she meets the rugged and irresistible rancher who won’t give up his property without a fight. Bryce Walker is stunned by the stubborn beauty determined to get what she wants. But what she wants is his last connection to the life he used to have. Bryce has plans to return the ranch to its former glory and no way will he sell his family home. Yet the more time he spends with Avery, the more her sweet touch makes him forget his painful memories. Now Bryce must decide whether living in the past is worth losing his future . .
Buy Links:
Amazon:   B&N: iBooks: GooglePlay: Kobo: BAM: Indiebound:
Author Links: Website: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram:
NIGHT HUSH by Leslie Jones

Book Blurb: NHNight Hush is a 2016 RITA® nominee for Best First Book, and the winner of the New England RWA’s Reader’s Choice Award. In this gripping and action-packed debut, an Army Intelligence officer and a Delta Force soldier must race against the clock to stop a catastrophic terrorist attack … When Army Intelligence officer Heather Langstrom’s military convoy is ambushed and she’s taken prisoner, she knows she’ll need all her strength and courage to survive, escape her captors, and report the whispers of unrest brewing in the Middle East. Delta Force Captain Jace Reed isn’t one to throw caution to the wind, but when his team stumbles upon beaten and weak Heather fleeing the terrorist training camp they’ve been dispatched to destroy, he’ll risk everything to get her to safety. Once back on base, they learn her convoy’s ambush was no accident … she’d been targeted. As the evidence of an impending attack mounts, Jace and Heather uncover a deadly terrorist plot that could kill hundreds of civilians. But Jace’s protective instincts and Heather’s fierce independence put them at constant odds. And as they close in on the extremists, they must learn to trust one another in order to save innocent lives … even if it means sacrificing their own. Buy Links: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: HarperCollins Publishers: Author Links: Website: Facebook: Twitter: LinkedIn: Pinterest: Tumblr:

SSBook Blurb: “An incredible story about healing, pain, and trust…you don’t want to miss this one!” –New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin “I know what you’re up to,” she said. “And what would that be?” he asked with a devious smirk. “You know.” “Is it working?” She looked over her shoulder to where he was still reclining against the wall, watching her patiently. All the reasons she’d vowed to stay alone, to remain uninvolved, fled as he grinned at her. “Maybe.” In Scarlett Cole’s The Strongest Steel, Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning. The scars that decorate her back are just one more reminder of things she’d rather forget, the past she wants to leave far behind her, but before she can move on, she needs him. Trent Andrews has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And there’s no way in hell he’s going to turn Harper away. Not when a swirling mix of tenderness and desire slams into him every time he sees her. Being with Harper is like going ten rounds in the ring―exhilarating,
powerful, and dangerous. She stirs feelings in him he thought were long gone… if he can only get past her carefully constructed defenses. Running was the only thing that saved Harper last time, but each session at Second Circle Tattoos brings her closer and closer to Trent. His lingering touches seduce her, making her believe in a life without fear, where she can be happy, whole, in love. But when cryptic messages start appearing on Harper’s phone, strange deliveries arrive at her door, and Second Circle is vandalized, Harper is convinced that her ex-boyfriend has tracked her down, and worse, that he knows about Trent. She ran from her past once before; this time will she have the strength to fight back? “This book gave me so many feels! Angst, passion, and love all set in Miami, my favorite city. I can’t wait for more from this author and I can’t recommend this book enough.” – Sidney Halston,USA Today bestselling author of Against the Cage
Buy Links: Amazon US: Amazon UK: Barnes & Noble: Chapters Indigo: iBooks: Author Links Website: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: ———————————————————————————————
ALTERED by Marnee Blake
ALTBook Blurb: When “normal” ends, survival begins… The sickness came on suddenly and violently. When it was done, waitress Blue Michaels was different in a really strange way. And the entire town of Glory was dead…except for her. Only that’s not exactly true. A handful of people made it, including U.S. Army Specialist Seth Campbell, who was caught in the wrong town at the worst time. He’s fierce and protective, and way too good-looking. As much as they need a leader—as much as Blue wants to trust him— there are too many questions and not enough time for answers. Now they are hunted. But what their pursuers don’t know is each of them has strange new powers. And they’ll use their “gifts” to survive…no matter who stands in their way. Buy Links: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: Kobo: Google: iTunes: Author Links: Website: Twitter Facebook:

VWRBook Blurb: Immortal Vikings are among us. Leif Skarsganger and his elite band of immortal warriors have been charged to protect humanity from the evil Norse god Loki. Under attack from Loki’s minions, Leif is shocked to encounter a dark-haired beauty who fights like a warrior herself. Wounded and feverish, the Viking kisses her, inadvertently triggering an ancient Norse bond. But when Naya Brisbane breaks away and disappears before the bond is completed, Leif’s warrior spirit goes berserk. If Leif doesn’t find her fast, he’s going to lose himself to permanent battle fury. But Naya doesn’t want to be found…and he’ll do anything to track her down. Because they’re both running out of time.
Buy Links:
Amazon: Barnes & Noble: Books-a-Million: Indie Bound: iTunes:
Author Links: Website: Twitter: Facebook: Goodreads:
A NOBLE MASQUERADE by Kristi Ann Hunter
NMBook Blurb: Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother’s old school friend, a duke–with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she’s heard stories about but never met. Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marlow, her brother’s new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marlow accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men–one she’s never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marlow is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda’s heart is far from all that’s at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.
Buy Links: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: Books-a-Million: Indie Bound:
Author Links: Facebook: Instagram: Twitter: Pinterest:

FTBook Blurb: Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self.
It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision-a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A worldclass swimmer. A renowned scientist.
Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.
In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo-a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.
But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all-Callie, herself.
Buy Links: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: Kobo: Book Depository: iTunes:
Author Links: Website: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Goodreads:
PAIRING OFF by Elizabeth Harmon
POBook Blurb: American figure skater Carrie Parker’s Winter Games dreams were dashed when her philandering partner caused one of the greatest scandals in skating history. Blacklisted from competing in the United States, her career is over…until she receives a mysterious invitation and is paired with the most infuriating, talented—and handsome —skater she’s ever met.
Russian champion Anton Belikov knows sacrifice. He gave up a normal life and any hope of a meaningful relationship to pursue his dream. And he’s come close—with a silver medal already under his belt, the next stop is the gold. All he needs is a partner. While he’s never forgotten the young American skater he seduced one longago night in Amsterdam, he never expected to be confronted with their past…never mind share the ice with her.
When what starts as a publicity stunt grows into something real, Carrie and Anton’s partnership will test their loyalties to family, country and each other. With only a few months to train for the competition of a lifetime, can they master technique and their emotions, or will they lose their footing and fall victim to the heartaches of their pasts?
Buy Links: Amazon: Barnes & Noble: GooglePlay: Kobo: iTunes:
Author Links: Website: Newsletter Sign-up: Facebook: Twitter: Google +: Goodreads: Amazon:

Thank you to the First Book RITA nominees and good luck to us all!

Enter here:

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Back from Texas

We had a blast!

Although I didn’t come home a Golden Heart® winner, I am and will always be a certifGolden Heart ® finalist. And I have the certificate to prove it!  Even if someone says there was a mistake and it’s not really mine, they’ll have to take from my cold dead fingers.

Some of the many highlights:




  • Red heart   Meeting my favorite authors, Nora Roberts and Kristan Higgins at the Literacy fundraiser book signing Wednesday evening. This is me and Nora. I loved hearing her talk the next day. My takeaway: “Quit whining and write. Quit f—ing around and write. Quit making excuses and write.”

Red heart   Enjoying San Antonio. The Riverwalk and the Alamo were amazing! We got a special treat when we happened to be driving past the Alamo after dark onealamo evening. I was amazed at the self-less sacrifice of the men who fought to defend the fort from General Santa Anna’s troops.



Red heart  The Riverwalk is an area of shops, restaurants, and hotels that line the banks of the San Antonio River. Stud Muffin spent several days walking the paths and he took a riverboat tour. I was able to join him for a second tour and then we had dinner and walked around a bit. It was hot. And humid. I’d love to go back. Anytime except July or August though.

Red heart   food 2The amazing restaurants. We enjoyed Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Italian cuisines. Apparently San Antonio also has a large German population but we didn’t get to try any German fare. Next time! The picture on the left is my green chile enchilada from the Texican menu at the Republic of Texas restaurant. Yumm!

We also made it a point to go for a late lunch at a place we’d recently seen on the Food Network’s coveDiners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The Cove is part of a car wash and laundromat  and was amazing. We shared a sweet potato hash and a portabella mushroom burger. The place was HUGE. We couldn’t remember what we’d seen Guy Fieri and the owner Lisa making on the show until after we ordered. We’ll have to go back to try the lamb burger.

All in all, we had a great trip! Thank you so much for all the support, prayers, and encouragement along the way.

What about you? Any road trips this summer? What was a highlight?

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Big Time

Just about the time this posts, Stud Muffin and I should be pulling into San Antonio for the Romance Writers of America national conference.

toesI think I’ve mentioned that I’m a finalist in the Golden Heart ® contest.


God willing, we’ve had a good trip, no breakdowns. I’m writing this in faith and hope because right now the car is still in the garage, my dress is still at the seamstress’s, and my mind is still in a fog.

I’ve been to writing conferences before, so I kinda-sorta think I know what to expect. But the emails have been flying furiously and I’m having all kinds of doubts and differing ideas.

I bought a portable phone-recharger, in case I run out of battery power during the day.

I’ve downloaded the RWA® app, so I can plug in my meetings and appointments and the workshops I don’t want to miss.

I missed the deadline to pre-order the conference recordings. Guess I didn’t need them after all. Or at least not at the bargain price.

I bought a fan to keep in the hotel bathroom so I can hopefully do my hair and makeup and stay cool enough that everything doesn’t melt off as soon as I finish.

I’ve gotten my last pedicure and added gold hearts to my toes.

I’m as ready as I can be.

Onward to San Antonio!


Spotlight Thursday: Sara Tompkins

It’s Thursday, so there must be another Golden Heart® finalist to meet!

Sara Tompkins Author PhotoI caught Sara Tompkins in the midst of a ballet recital rehearsal and packing up her household. More on that in just a sec.

Welcome, Sara!

Please tell us a bit about your Golden Heart® Inspirational finalist manuscript. Is this your first time entering?

Better Than a Movie features a young legal assistant who aspires to become a litigator. She’s obsessed with movies and has carefully scripted her life to ensure a happy Hollywood ending. Things go off script, though, when her irrepressible teenage niece comes to live with her and she falls for her niece’s shy school counselor. The manuscript is about learning to let God write the script of our lives. This is my first time entering the Golden Heart® contest and the second writing contest I’ve ever entered. I submitted the manuscript on a last minute whim, with no expectation of winning!

Sounds like a fun premise. Now, on to the important question: chocolate or peanut butter?

My friends tell me I am the only woman in America who doesn’t love chocolate. My ten-old-daughter doesn’t either, so maybe it’s a genetic aversion! Peanut butter and apples, though? Yum.

You know, I’ve heard of people who don’t like chocolate but I thought it was an urban myth. What’s your day job?

I’m an attorney and have spent most of my career working with refugees. I’ve done stints at various refugee resettlement organizations and spent a few years at the State Department. I’m really passionate about helping persecuted people, particularly those resettling in the United States. I’m also passionate about my two school-aged kiddos, though, and recently left my busy career to focus on them. It’s hard for a mommy who is scooting off to the Middle East to drive the soccer carpool!

I’ve always loved great escapist fiction, especially after the grim stories of war and displacement I’d face at work. There’s nothing like some yummy chick lit to redeem a hard day. In a flash of insanity, I decided to write my own novel. It turned into a little adventure story I used to affectionately call, Sara Attempts to Write a Book and Wonders Most Days What She Was Thinking. Critiquing a novel is so much easier than actually writing one, isn’t it? Man, has the process been humbling! But I love it.

Wow, your passion comes through! I agree, nothing works like a little chick lit to escape the heaviness of life. Although of course, for most of us, it’s chick lit and chocolate. Winking smile  Tell us a bit about yourself. Family, hobbies, etc.

Right now my life is in transition. My husband just accepted a job at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, and we are moving our two kids and two naughty dachshunds from Washington D.C. to California. Goodbye Capitol Hill, hello Hollywood!

I spent a few days in the D.C. area in September 2011 and wondered how I would have survived an August there with the humidity. I’m betting LA weather will be a lovely revelation for you. Who are your favorite authors? Your go-tos for fiction?

I love a lot of authors and genres, but some books I’ve enjoyed recently are Me Before You, The Husband’s Secret, My Name is Russell Fink, and The Rosie Project.

Oh, I loved The Husband’s Secret, too! Are you coming to San Antonio this summer and what are you looking forward to most? What are you wearing to the awards banquet?

I am coming to San Antonio! I’ve never been to a writing conference in my life, large or small, so it should be an adventure the size of Texas. Just thinking about a dress stresses me out! Did you have to ask about that? Seriously, Carrie, I’m sending you my therapy bill. This conference is in Texas. Aren’t blue jeans permissible? I mentioned to two of my girlfriends who happen to have a style blog — — that I think this is a dress-up affair, and they quickly jumped into gear advising me to “rent the runway” or something of that sort. I’ll let them pick out a dress because goodness knows I have no clue what to choose.

I clicked through and looked at the blog. I think you’re in good hands! What did you do/think when you got “the call” on March 26th?

When I got the call about the Golden Heart® contest I almost hung up on the caller. I thought she was trying to sell me a time share when she said I’d won something. Not kidding. I forgot I even entered. That’s how little I thought of my chances!

Sheesh, the rest of us were sitting by phone like Kim McAfee in Bye Bye Birdie. What are you currently working on?

My husband and I stayed with our two girls and two doggies at a dog-friendly hotel in the Midwest last winter. I thought the location would make a great setting for a novel. I love the idea of a bunch of very different dogs with very different owners all trapped in an Illinois hotel during a snow storm. It’s still in the development stage, but think uptight D.C. girl who dislikes dogs and warm-hearted hotel employee who rescues dogs in his spare time.

Oh, I would totally read that!

Thanks for stopping by, Sara. I look forward to meeting you for real in San Antonio and best of luck to you!

Thanks Carrie!

Spotlight Thursday: Piper Huguley


We’re visiting every week with some of my fellow Golden Heart ® finalists.

PperToday I’m pleased to introduce you to Piper Huguley from Georgia.

Welcome, Piper! Tell me about your GH Finalist manuscript. Is this your first time entering/finaling?

A Virtuous Ruby is the first book in my “Migrations of the Heart” series. These books are historical romances about five African American sisters who journey from the south to the north between 1915-1936 during The Great Migration. Each sister leaves home for love or finds love when she arrives at her destination–my hometown of Pittsburgh. Ruby is the oldest sister. A Champion’s Heart, the fourth book in the series, was nominated for the Golden Heart in the Historical Romance category. That book is about the baby sister, Cordelia.

Sounds fascinating! Best of luck to you, although since we’re in the Inspirational category, I should probably wish you God’s blessings!

Now for the really important question: chocolate or peanut butter?

I see where I’m supposed to say both, so I guess I will. Primarily in the form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs or whatever holiday shape the candy takes: pumpkins, trees, valentines. Now there won’t be anymore until Sept. 1….*sniff*

I’m so with you on that one! I love all the Reese’s products. Anyway, what’s your day job?

I’m an English professor at Spelman College. And no, there is no summer off this year.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Family, hobbies, etc.

I am married and I am the mother of one child–a man-sized 12-year-old boy child with size 14 feet. Besides reading and writing (my son believes I collect books as a hobby), I love taking my son places and exploring the world through his eyes.

Yes, I tell my husband all the time, “Not needing another book is no reason not to buy one!” Speaking of books, who are your favorite authors?

For what I call my “work people” I read Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes. I also like Theodore Dreiser and Jhumpa Lahiri. For my “pleasure reading,” I enjoy Siri Mitchell, Serena Miller, LaVryle Spencer, Philippa Gregory and Beverly Jenkins.

Best vacation spot? Wherever I can discover unknown history. That is the most fun for me.

Are you coming to San Antonio this summer and what are you looking forward to most? What are you wearing to the awards banquet?

Yes, I am coming and combining it with our family vacation so we will all be there. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family and seeing my author friends, old and new. It’s going to be exciting. When I was shopping for conference clothes last year, I found a black and white colorblock dress on the clearance rack and I bought it, thinking that I might need it sometime. It turned out that now was the time!

That’s awesome! I love those little serendipity moments in life. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

I don’t usually do nature, but… I like those Spanish moss trees in Savannah with all of the moss hanging from them. Those trees have always fascinated me.

What did you do/think when you got “the call” on March 26th?

I was ready to hunker down and see who made it in the Inspirational category. I had put in two entries to help keep the category open. However, I had also personally asked a number of people to enter to help the category stay open since it had been cancelled last year. I wanted to see which one of them would be nominated. I saw a FB friend had been nominated in Romantic Suspense and I was in the middle of sending her congrats, when my phone rang with a strange area code. I thought, “That can’t be for me.” But it was on my phone! I was shocked because my Ruby has been around the block more than a couple of times. I didn’t think that story would be nominated, but it was!

Congratulations! What are you currently working on?

I am preparing my novel The Preacher’s Promise for self-publication at the end of July. The prequel novella, The Lawyer’s Luck will be published on July 1.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond Carrie!

Thanks for stopping by, Piper!

You can find Piper online at:

Twitter: @writerpiper