Fact: Nobody can resist baked goods.

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never stopped loving you

Keri Ford here and I’m taking my first spin on the Carina Press blog! (psst…lots of you leave me comments so the people in charge will be all “whoa, she’s amazing. look at all those comments!”). What can I say? I like to impress. My husband calls this brown-nosing (and several other things I won’t repeat here).

But as for me and my heroine, Kara Duncan, we are aiming to impress. Especially Kara. A few years back, she really gave the town of Bella Warren something to talk about. I don’t hold it against her.

Y’all know what it’s like. You’re young, you’re 18 and the guy you’ve been crushing on for *ages* finally notices you. You want it to be special. And you want the guy to think you’re special. So clearly, you need something to set you apart and make you different from all his former girlfriends. Am I right? I know I am (just jump in here in my head if you don’t agree. You’ll see the light soon).

For poor Kara though, her plans didn’t work out so well. And the more she tried, the worse it got until she got so deep in her own muck, that she just packed up and got out of town. She was scared and she didn’t know what to do.

Fast forward to present day and Kara’s back in town. Back in the same small town where her crush is still living. Oh, and he’s still single. Not that she can deal with that. She’s got to make amends with her past and get her reputation together. She’s also got friendships to fix. Like the one with her very best friend, Whitney….who also happens to be the younger sister of Kara’s crush.

Yeah, poor Kara. She didn’t, well…she…yeah, well, she just didn’t handle her past well at all, bless her heart. But if there’s anything a good cook knows, it’s that food is the way back into good graces, and Kara can cook. She learned from the best. A lady who happens to be her crush’s mom.

During Never Stopped Loving You, Kara makes several things. One of them is rainbow cupcakes she makes for Whitney. My editor had asked me about these cupcakes, so I thought, why not share them? So I did.

First start with your favorite white colored cupcake mix (this recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens 1950s cookbook)
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Once the batter is made, split it into however many different colors you want. Kara made rainbow cupcakes, but since it’s the holiday season (and I couldn’t find all my food colorings), I went with red and green. (You’ll need a lot of red to make it red-red. I don’t know how much I used. I swiped that bottle from my mom’s house and used it all.) I’m hearing red and lime green are *THE* colors this year, so I just did a few squeezes of the green. Mix the batters well.
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Next, spoon the first color in the bottom of your cupcakes. Why no, I’m not using cupcake wrappers. Was I trying to be all let the colors shine once they’re baked!? Nope, I was out of wrappers! Mom had some Easter ones, but this is Christmas, Bunny. So I have naked cupcakes. Next, spoon the second color on top of the first. You see how I started one? look at that *waves arms in mythical motions while making woo-woo noises*.
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Use all the batter. Poor 12th hole. There was none for you.
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Put cupcake tray in your preheated oven, and 20 minutes later (or however long your cupcake recipe says to cook them for) we have… Cupcakes!

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And pretty big! I guess I did have enough for the 12th hole. I just didn’t share. Anyway. I like the ones with green on top better.

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Now frost. Then sprinkles, because who doesn’t like sprinkles? (Funny story about the sprinkles: I was frosting and it’s white so I thought it looks like snow! and then I  added YELLOW sprinkles. YELLOW. Don’t eat the yellow snow! ran through my head in spit-fire paces.) And since I was trying to be spectacular to impress you all like Kara does, I made some chocolate into stars, snowmen and gingerbread guys. I spent hours cutting them into shape.

 

I lied. I melted the chocolate and poured it into a mold. Ta-da! *jazz hands*

Kara really wants to find her place back home. Cooking is what she’s good at and so long as people are eating good food, they’ll be happy, right? I think it’s a solid plan.

I know at some point we’ve all tried to impress somebody by doing something. I found out my husband’s favorite dessert was chocolate pie and I whipped that baby right on up. What’s something you’ve done to impress someone. Doesn’t have to be someone you were flirting with, but a parent? Sibling? Friend? Tell me! 

never stopped loving you

At eighteen, Kara Duncan had already made her fair share of mistakes, choosing the wrong boy and earning herself a bad reputation in the process. Hurt and humiliated, she’d packed up and moved on, sure that everyone in Bella Warren, Arkansas, would be better off without her. She’d planned never to return, but when crisis strikes, she has nowhere else to turn.

After seven years, Wade Chester thought his feelings for Kara were finally ancient history. Until he sees her again, standing on his front porch just as she’d done a million times before. She needs his help—and his family’s crops—if her canning business is going to survive. The rest of his family has let bygones be bygones, so why is it so hard for him to let go of the past?

While Kara claims to be interested only in putting things right, the old heat flaring between them is undeniable. But Wade will need to risk his heart—and the reputation of his farm—to prove that they’re meant to be together.

 

Buy it now from Carina Press | Amazon B&N | ARe | iBookstore Kobo | *Audio Book*

Check out the first chapter on Keri’s website.

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Keri Ford was raised in South Arkansas on a farm surrounded by family, horses, cows, donkeys, ostriches, emus, chickens, ducks, Canada Geese, and enough dogs one would think they were a pound…and then she bought a Cosmopolitan when she was twenty-two. All it took was one excerpt of a sexy romantic suspense and her life would never be the same. Well, parts of it. She still lives on that farm.

Visit Keri all over the place. She mostly lives on Twitter. But you can find her at Facebook too. She has Tumblr that she’s still trying to figure out. Then, there’s her website. Don’t forget her newsletter! She gives away a lot of books on her newsletter.

Stumped By Sex

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 photo FriendsToLovers.jpg I’ve been quite vocal in past blog tours about how I hate writing sex scenes (a loathing I recently learned that I share with Meg Cabot, which reassured me quite a bit). How it takes one perfectly mixed White Russian to get me through it. How I have to buckle down and get it all out in one sitting, no matter how long it takes or how late it gets.

That being said, I churn out pretty darn exciting sex scenes, if I do say so myself. Because I’m a strong believer that if you’re going to do something-even something you hate-you should do it well. Every book I try to top the sex in the previous book. My characters get, um, imaginative, shall we say (e.g. the sexy chocolate sauce scene in A Fine Romance - check it out!)

But….Friends To Lovers (releasing this week!) absofreakinglutely stumped me. Why? Because its hero, Gibson Moore, is a legendary lover. Here’s how you meet him:

Gibson Moore was far from sweet. Polished, elegant, refined and swoon-worthily sexy, yes. A wicked lust-’em-and-leave-’em ladies’ man. He snared them without even trying. The combination of his upper-crust British accent, wavy brown hair and eyes the color of a tropical sea pulled women to him with the strength of a tractor beam. Gib lived in the moment, and when that moment was gone, so was whatever woman had been lucky enough to share a few hours, or at most, a few days with him.

In fact, I spent two whole books describing just how epic his lovemaking skills are. I put him on the cover of a magazine captioned as ‘The Lusty Lothario’.  Basically, his lovemaking skills are a 17 on a scale of 1-10. Which was really fun to tease him about for two books. I never thought about how, at some point in THIS book, I’d have to actually give a move-by-lick-by-thrust description of his bedroom magic. This is what is called writing yourself into a corner. PSA for other writers – this is to be avoided at all costs.

So aside from having them swing from the chandelier (dangerous), do it on an escalator (would get them arrested) or bring in a jazz quartet and a play-by-play announcer, how the heck was I supposed to make this so darn spectacular? I worried about this pretty much the moment I wrote their first kiss. My critique partners teased me mercilessly about being stumped by sex. How’d I get over the hump? I found the answer in the golden rule of romance writing – by bringing it back to the emotional connection. That their feelings for each other were the most special part of the whole scene.

Don’t be worried – legendary bedroom antics still occur that will give readers the payoff they’ve been hoping for through all three books. And, as a tiny spoiler, wait’ll you see where my hero and heroine get it on in book four of this series!

Purchase at Carina Press

Website | Blog | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page |Facebook

Christi Barth earned a Master’s degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage.  A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning.  Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance.  Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband. Friends To Lovers is book 3 in her 4 book Aisle Bound series.

Welcome to my inner world! C’mon in and stay a spell

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 photo Ugly_Ducklings_Finish_First_final_zps17b71958.jpg

 

 

Yay, the first book set in the fictional town of Bitterthorn, Texas is finally here! Welcome to my inner world, showcased in UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST!

So, how long have I been living with this world inside my head? Oh, only about a decade. It’s this tiny Americana-like town that’s a little bit like Mayberry, with a dash of those homey Hidden Valley Ranch commercials thrown in, and a huge helping of Norman Rockwell to finish it out.  Idyllic, right?

Oh, how I love turning that idyllic crap inside out.

There’s no such thing as perfect, and Bitterthorn’s no exception.  There are secrets behind every smile and casual glance.  Wiley “the Coyote” Sharpe seemed to be nothing more than a skirt-chasing pretty-boy, whose high school peers voted him  “most likely to be slapped with a paternity suit”.  But in reality he’s as sharp as his name implies, and now that he’s all grown up and established as a lawyer, he sees things aren’t quite right in his town.

Too bad he can’t think straight now that his high school tutor, Payton Pruitt, has returned.

The character of Payton was inspired by a mish-mash of people.  For instance, when my brother was a kid, he skipped a grade and landed in a class where he was physically smaller than his peers, but just as smart, if not smarter. That meant he got bullied before he hit a growth spurt (and then… well, you know what they say about payback, heh).  My bestie Eva, a doctor of internal medicine (and to whom UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST is dedicated), is a genius who always had her nose buried in a book and was made to feel like the odd-girl out, no matter what she tried.  And then there’s me, the awkward goofball who’d rather be reading or writing than anything else.  Smoosh all that together, and you have the heroine of this story.

Payton is living proof that Bitterthorn isn’t perfect.  Bullied unmercifully during her school years, she got out just as soon as she could. She had one friend to her name—Wiley—and only the thought of showing him how she’d grown into a beautiful swan could bring her back to the town she hates.  As she returns for her ten-year high school reunion, however, she can’t help but notice that Bitterthorn is almost… tolerable.  What’s even more amazing is that Wiley is passionately determined to show her that as far as he’s concerned, she’d always been a beautiful swan.

Too bad someone is targeting him in a way that could put an end to their reunion… forever.

Want to know more about UGLY DUCKLINGS FINISH FIRST? Here’s the blurb:

Metal Mouth. Queen Geek. Dr. Payton Pruitt heard it all growing up. But she’s over it, and attending her ten-year high school reunion is the perfect way to prove it to herself. Even if there’s only one person she’s interested in seeing in Bitterthorn, Texas: Wiley Sharpe.

Now a respected lawyer, Wiley didn’t live down to the label Most Likely to Be Slapped with a Paternity Suit. But recent acts of vandalism suggest someone still sees him as a heartbreaker, and the reunion seems a likely place to find the culprit. Instead, Wiley comes face-to-face with his old pal Payton—and is wowed not only by her transformation into a ravishing swan, but by the connection they still share.

Payton is pleased the playboy she used to tutor has grown into an honorable man, but she’s too smart to fall for a guy with roots in a place she couldn’t wait to leave. But while Payton is an academic genius, Wiley is the one with the PhD in pleasure, and he intends to use it to convince her to stay…

63,000 words

FYI: Be on the lookout for the second Bitterthorn book, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, a Carina Press holiday novella coming this November and edited by the amazing Angela James!

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BUY LINKS:

Carina Press, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Google Play, ebooks. com, Kobo, BAM (Books-A-Million), ARe, iTunes

 

Want a chance to win a $25 Amazon GC?  Here’s your chance!  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 Question: If you were to go to your high school reunion, would it be out of curiosity?  To meet up with old friends?  To share with everyone that amazing life you’ve worked so hard to get?  To settle old scores? Or to put the ghosts of your past to rest?  I’d love to know. :)

 

 

 

The Worst Bad Dates

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At what point would you give up on finding love? Or at least take a break from it? A handful of bad dates? Six months’ worth? A year? And how horrific would they have to be for you to finally throw in the towel and declare yourself off the market and on a break from it all?

Those were all thoughts that went through my mind when Olivia’s character from Plus One first came to me. After that, I started getting bombarded with all these absolutely horrendous dates that she’d been on. There was the cat pee guy. The plumber who discussed his work over dinner. The thirty-five year old who lived in his mother’s basement and brought porn along for their first date.

Wretched, right?

Now, I’ll admit—I’m not the authority on this subject. I’ve never really had a bad date. In my defense, I’ve been with my husband since we were wee little babies at the age of fourteen.

But still.

I hear stories—awful, horrible and (forgive me) sometimes hilarious stories—from friends who are fully immersed in the oftentimes dreadful dating scene.

But even with all these bad dates, you can’t give up hope, right? There still has to be that glimmer in your subconscious that thinks, Maybe it will be different with this one… Otherwise, everyone everywhere would have given up on dating a long, long time ago.

And, yeah, I’m a hardcore romantic, in case that wasn’t clear.

Once Olivia’s character was fleshed out completely in my mind, I wanted her to have hit rock bottom on the dating scene. To be completely fed up with the crap that goes along with it. And I wanted her to have kissed a lot of frogs before giving her a chance at her prince. (In case it wasn’t obvious, Ian is one hell of a prince.)

But I think the one thing that worked for Olivia was, even when she’d declared herself on a break from all things men and dating, in her heart, she didn’t give up. Even though she was taking a break from the true dating scene, she was open to the possibility. Of a connection. Of meeting someone when it seemed like she’d gone through the entire state population of Minnesota in her quest for her prince. Of love.

And, really, that’s what it’s all about, right?

What was your worst date? And did anything ever come of it? Post in the comments and on Wednesday I’ll pick one winner to be the happy recipient of a shiny $10 gift card to your choice of e-book retailer.

~*~

Olivia hates the singles scene, so when her best guy friend, Ian, offers to be her plus one to a series of weddings she has to attend, she agrees. Although she doesn’t want to complicate their lifelong friendship, she can’t pass up the chance to have a steady date without the dating drama. What she doesn’t expect is to now find Ian so incredibly sexy.

When Ian sees his old friend Olivia dolled up for wedding #1, the boyhood crush he once nurtured transforms into smoldering attraction. It doesn’t take long for their no-strings arrangement to turn physical. But as Olivia’s desire to stay “just friends” becomes clear, Ian’s feelings are deepening. In the time they have together, how will Ian convince Olivia that one plus one can make for a lifelong pair?

Plus One available for purchase at: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Brighton bio pic Brighton Walsh is a storyteller at heart. Whether through words or pictures, she’s been weaving tales for as long as she can remember. After decades of cultivating her writing, she finally decided to give life to the voices in her head and set forth to write her first novella. Love is her first love, and writing about it is a dream come true. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her nose buried in a steamy book or partaking in some retail therapy. She lives in the Midwest with her swoony husband and two energetic kids who (fortunately) know nothing about the naughty things she puts down on paper. She frolics around online frequently and loves to chat, so stop by and say hi. website | twitter | facebook | pinterest | goodreads

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

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Everyone needs a place to get away from it all.

For me, that place was my grandparent’s cottage in Muskoka.

Otter Lake

Muskoka, for those of you who aren’t Canadians or cottagers, is the quintessential wildness/getaway place.   It’s been painted and visited and touristed since the late nineteenth century and made famous by the Group of Seven.   In a nutshell, lots of granite rocks. Ice blue lakes. Big stands of trees.  Rinse.  Lather.   Repeat. :)

Toss in a few shiny celebrities and million dollar four-season retreats, a smattering of skidoos and as many long weekends as possible and voila – you have Muskoka.

Otter Lake

Except that the cottage I went to wasn’t like that.  It wasn’t big.  It wasn’t winterized.  It wasn’t fancy or trendy or anything much at all.  Just three small bedrooms, a common room with an enormous granite fireplace and in the loft above, a steep pitched roof you invariably bumped your head on.  For a long time, there was no TV, only a radio, a dart board and some really old board games that were always missing a few crucial pieces.

But the view was incomparable and I visited every summer from the time I was a small infant.  I learned to swim in the lake and helped my grandmother fill the hummingbird feeders.  I fished with my grandfather and explored every nook and cranny of the surrounding area.  My dad taught me to canoe there.  And now, with kids of my own, we go every summer to terrorize the fish and pick raspberries along the roadside and eat licorice on the dock.

Otter Lake

Everyone needs that place.  A place where they can simply escape and be themselves.

So I suppose it’s hardly surprising then that I set my latest book, “Something So Right” in Muskoka, too.  After all, Lily Carver, the heroine, has a real need to escape.  Leaving a horribly toxic relationship, Lily craves safety and she finds it in the North with her childhood friend, Sam Denning.  But she learns that living in a retreat doesn’t mean you can go on holiday from your life or your emotions.  Where ever you go, try as you might, they go with you.

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Sam and Lily have a space to get away (fictionally speaking :)) where they can start to explore the sparks that might turn their friendship into something more.  Where do you go to get away from it all?  To recharge and reconnect?  Do you have a special place that holds memories like the cottage?  What place is it and why?

Elyse Mady is the author of “Something So Right”, “Learning Curves” and “The Debutante’s Dilemma”, all with Carina Press.  Upcoming books include “The White Swan Affair” (2012).  She blogs at www.elysemady.com.  You can also find her on Twitter at @elysemady and Goodreads.

In addition to her writing commitments, Elyse also teaches film and literature at a local community college. In her free time she enjoys (well, enjoys might be too strong a word – perhaps pursues with dogged determination would be better) never ending renovations on their century home with her intrepid husband and two boys.

With her excellent writerly imagination, she one day dreams of topping the NY Times Bestseller’s List and reclaiming her pre-kid body without the bother of either sit-ups or the denunciation of ice-cream