featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, August 26, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHORS MIN EDWARDS AND L.W. ELLIS

Today we’re joined by co-authors Min Edwards and L.W. Ellis. Min Edwards is the pen name of Pam Headrick, archaeologist and owner of A Thirsty Mind Book Design. Pam is also the author of romance and romantic suspense novels. In her archaeological career, she specialized in North American paleoindian archaeology, historic archaeology, and archaeological illustration, producing more than 1000 images for published site reports and books from the Southwest, Latin and South America. Learn more about her and her books at her website and her Min Edwards blog and Nurture the Mind blog.

L.W. (Linda) Ellis is a writer down to her soul. Whether it's writing up the results of an archeological investigation or letting her creative juices flow freely, she enjoys telling a good story. Of course, after having spent 25 years as an archeologist working for two different Universities and various Cultural Resource Management firms, she has lots of adventures to draw on. You can find out more about her at the Nurture the Mind blog.

Co-Authoring a Series—The Beginning

Hi! I’m Min Edwards and thanks, Lois, for hosting my co-author, L.W. (Linda) Ellis and me on your blog today. We’re new to writing collaborations, but because we’re both professional archaeologists as well as writers, we think that our diverse interests and fields of expertise will be perfect for co-authoring our new archaeological adventure series: TARE: Talon Archaeological Research and Exploration.

The first book in the series will be The Ruby Eye, and the setting of the story is an island on the shores of Lingayen Gulf in northern Luzon, the Philippines. I lived in a small city north of Manilla for several years, and the country isn’t often chosen as a setting for novels ,which is such a shame as it’s beautiful and the people are warm and helpful. So we hope this book will spur on some interest in learning more about the islands.

The process of co-authoring this series at the outset has probably been more confusing than it should be, but we’re still trying to mesh our voices and our styles. To illustrate this we asked ourselves a few questions, which we’ve answered individually.

Why did we decide to Co-Author a book?
Linda: Min and I have known each other for many years and we worked together as archeologists albeit with slightly different yet complimentary skill sets. When we both hung up our trowels, so to speak, and started writing several years ago we became critique partners. Because we both like the same genres, we often find ourselves discussing books we’ve read and what we liked, didn’t like, or what would have made them better. We have a rapport that makes our interactions easy and productive. Because I also do developmental editing, Min initially sent me the first draft of The Ruby Eye to review. It’s a great story and I think our different strengths as archeologists will make it an even better one.
Min: Linda has a better eye for description than I do. If left to my own devices my novels would be 70,000+ words of just dialogue. She’s saved me from that while serving as my critique partner for all five of my previous novels. When I wrote the first draft of The Ruby Eye, I realized that what the story needed was Linda’s input, her research skills, her knowledge of current archaeological techniques, her wonderful use of language. We’re only a few chapters into our final polished draft right now, but I know without a doubt that my decision to co-author with Linda on this project was the right one.

What method are we using to co-author our books?
Linda: Since Min had already completed the first draft, I’ve been recasting the story from a romantic suspense to an archeological adventure story. I revise then send the chapters back to Min for her to review and/or add details. This way we play to each other’s strengths.

Min: Probably the wrong method, but this is our first joint venture. We are working very carefully on the process for our next book in the series. I think sending Linda an already completed first draft was overlaying the process of co-authoring with needless confusion. For the next book, we’ll first be laboring over a very detailed book ‘bible’ before we ever begin writing. That way we’ll both know all the characters intimately, the settings, the plot line. I think this will ease our confusion tremendously.

What do we each like about the co-authoring process?
Linda: It’s a challenge, but I think our books will be better for the collaboration because we both have unique perspectives that when combined, will enhance each story.

Min: I agree with Linda. But for myself, writing with Linda on this first effort has been very rewarding. I love the back and forth conversations over plot and characterizations we have almost every weekend. I’m grateful that the phone company no longer charges long-distance fees because Linda and I now live more than 2,500 miles apart!

What’s coming next in our series: TARE: Talon Archaeological Research and Exploration?
Linda: We’ll be publishing a novella, Talon: Unmasked, that will set the stage for later TARE adventures. But, that’s the beauty of archeology... there are so many fascinating topics to choose from so we’ll see which one leaps to the forefront.

Min: Right now we’re finishing up the ‘bible’ for that novella. It will tell the story of Marc Talon, the billionaire CEO of Talon Global, formed by his ancestor in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. It is a prequel to The Ruby Eye, and will act as the introduction of the major characters and relationships you’ll see as the series progresses.

Are we each working on our own novels as well as co-authoring?
Linda: Yes, I’ve written a two book series that is currently being reviewed by a publisher. The first book in the series is historical fiction, of course, and the second book takes place 150 years later when their descendants’ meet. I’m also working on a Contemporary Romantic Suspense that’s been languishing a bit since I started working on The Ruby Eye.
Min: Yes for me, too. I’m finishing up Precious Stone, Book 4 in my High Tide Suspense series. It’s in final rewrites after spending some time with Linda while she looked for holes in the plot line. So far, in the last few years I’ve indie-published five novels. While Linda looked over Book 4, I’ve been finishing the ‘bible’ and doing research on an historical novella (or maybe a complete novel, only time will tell) which begins in Russia during the Romanov Jubilee year of 1913. It’s the prequel to Precious Stone, so I guess it will be book 4.5 in the series.

The entire process of co-authoring has been eye-opening to say the least. We’ve had to compromise a lot. We’ve had to agree on the personalities of each character in the book and carry those throughout. We’ve realized that a crucial step in co-authoring is that ‘book bible.’ Without it, we’d be lost, and it’s the first thing we’ll do from now on before tackling another story in this series. We’re also contacting specialists in the field of marine archaeology to vet our final manuscript so we don’t stumble over details. And we’ve warned our editor that a collaboration is coming. I hope she’s prepared!

All in all, I think the most important accomplishment in our collaboration is that we’ve remained friends throughout.

Our co-authored novel, The Ruby Eye isn’t published yet, but we wanted to include our cover from artist Brian Wootan and a short blurb.

The Ruby Eye
A woman robbed of her life’s work: A man searching for his family’s legacy.

Bryn Carmichael is finally right where she wants to be. At the top of her archaeological career and with her dream project in the palm of her hands... until one aggravating Englishman throws his hat and his money in the ring.

Thomas Bedford Chambers, Lord Sutton, aka Ford Sutton, itinerant diver and all around good fellow walks into Bryn’s dive camp setting her bullshit meter on high alert and shooting her dreams down in flames. Can he win control of the project without completely alienating her? Can his family’s legacy finally come home?

Stone Cold
Cold Tide Suspense, Book 1

Diana Jennings is hiding in the tiny village of Stone Bay, Maine. A year ago she was Robin O’Shea, supermodel, wife, soon to be mother. But it all went bad one afternoon in her apartment in New York City. Her husband, in a rage, tried to kill her and succeeded in killing her unborn child. Now she’s recovering from the trauma, but has learned that what her husband did to her and her baby just wasn’t enough for him. He’s behind bars but has persuaded his uncle, the biggest mob boss on the east coast, to hunt her down and kill her. Helped by her lawyer and a New York cop, she’s taken on a new identity and gone to a place no one would expect to find her... the edge of America. The last point before Ireland. She hopes it’s far enough.

Sam Gardiner is a structural engineer working all over the world, building geothermal facilities in out-of-the-way places, constructing bridges, cleaning up after storms. FEMA has him on speed-dial. But he made a mistake. He killed a man who was abusing a woman... the headman’s son... in a village in the mountains of Afghanistan. The men in the village wanted their revenge, but he was saved at the last minute by American forces and a wad of cash. Now he’s back in Stone Bay vowing to never leave again when he runs into, literally, a woman on the run, Diana Jennings. She’s been hurt, he can see it in her eyes, and he has to make her whole again. But Diana’s not really on board with that.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

#RETRO-FASHION WITH GUEST AUTHOR CATHERINE CHANT

Award-winning author Catherine Chant writes rock ‘n’ roll romantic fiction and stories with paranormal twists for young adults. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

One of the fun things about writing a time travel romance novel set in 1973 is researching the clothing. Most of the outfits used in Nothing Stays the Same are things I remembered from my childhood, since I grew up in the ‘70s, but I also did some online research to find some questionable outfits that represented the times, and then dressed my characters in them.

I created a Pinterest board as I went. (If you can't see the Pinterest board—you may need a Pinterest account--I have placed links to some of the images in the article below).

Bell Bottoms
A definite fashion staple of the ‘70s. This style of jeans started in the 19th century with sailors, but became popular for everyday wear in the 1960s. Kids were still wearing them in 1979 when I was in high school. They're probably something that will never go completely out of fashion, though they may never be as wide as what David Bowie was wearing in this photo from 1973. 

My main character, Leah, in Nothing Stays the Same is a jeans and sneakers type of gal, so she of course went for the blue jeans whenever possible, and didn’t mind the wide leg.

Gauchos and Culottes
One fashion piece from the early '70s that features in my book has made a recent comeback. Gauchos! You can buy them new at places like Macy's.

Anyone else ever wear these? Or culottes or skorts? They were all very big in the early-to-mid ‘70s, and my school wardrobe had quite a few. I remember the gauchos less fondly than the culottes, though. Culottes looked a lot like a skirt (as seen here), which wasn't bad, but gauchos always felt like high-water pants to me.

I cringe now just thinking about them. Not attractive at all, so of course I decided to torture one of my characters and make her wear them. Leah's older sister, Callie, the heroine from Wishing You Were Here, gets stuck in gauchos in her first scene back in time--hideously bright orange ones, just like I had to wear to school. {evil grin}

Earth and Other Shoes
Earth shoes are classic icons of the '70s, so of course they make an appearance in the book. Anyone remember them? Introduced in 1970, they were quite popular when I was in school, but I never wanted a pair. Ever. They were plug-ugly, if you ask me, but unisex, so both men and women could wear them.

In the book, Leah shares my opinion on the Earth shoes, but sadly she's forced to wear them most of the time. Supposedly the heel design made them good for your back, but that still wasn't enough to make me want them.

No, my coveted footwear in the early '70s was a pair of white go-go boots. My best friend had a pair and I wanted them so badly, but my mother got me black ones instead. Sigh. I still wore them, but I really wanted the white. In one scene in the book, Leah gets to live my dream and wear a pair of white go-go boots to a party.

I also mention the classic white Keds sneakers in the book. Every girl I knew growing up had at least one pair and we’d use white shoe polish to keep them pristine if the washing machine didn’t. Callie chooses to wear Keds whenever she can. After the gauchos incident, she tries to go for a simple, understated look whenever possible.

Men's Fashions
Although I admit I tortured my characters with vintage fashion, I could have done a lot worse. :-) I tried to stay away from the truly embarrassing styles that men endured in the ‘70s, such as the plethora of ugly knit vests and ponchos that were around, but the male characters in Nothing Stays the Same couldn't escape the classic corduroy trousers, the loud polyester shirts or the blue and white striped "Winner" sneakers from Sears. I had a pair of those puppies myself and wore them until they fell apart. They were unisex, like Earth Shoes. The ‘70s seemed big on equal opportunities for groovy footwear.

Men's swimsuits were particularly "interesting" in the '70s, as well. I stayed away from hand-knit briefs in the book, but they did exist and did not look comfortable at all! Instead, I opted for the tight, shorty-short style you see here for one scene where the characters attend a beach party.

So What's Your Pleasure?
If you found yourself stuck back in 1973, what do you think you would wear? What would you avoid? Are there any vintage '70s fashions you wish would make a come back?

I think I still have a yearning for those white go-go boots, but the gauchos at Macy's are starting to grow on me. I might have to go take another look. :-)

Nothing Stays the Same, the Soul Mates series
One Choice Changes Everything…

Soccer star Leah Reinard has been crushing on Brennan Basford for ages. When they end up at the same summer job, she thinks the fates have finally aligned in her favor. That is, until Brennan suddenly disappears. One day he’s there, the next day, he’s gone. And no one but Leah remembers he ever existed.

Brennan’s wish to change the course of his dead father’s life has dropped him back in 1973, on the set of his father’s successful teen sitcom, and into the midst of its disintegrating made-for-TV band, The Beat Detectors.

Brennan’s determined to redirect the course of his father’s young life and create the happy ending the man deserved, but even the smallest change to the past is wreaking havoc with the present.

Can Leah find Brennan in time to stop him from ruining both their futures?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS--GUEST AUTHOR JUDY PENZ SHELUK

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic is her latest release and the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website/blog. 

Fore the Love of Golf

This blog series is titled Favorites, Failures & Frustrations, and to be honest, golf can fall into any one of those categories. Just ask Jordan Spieth about his experience at the 2016 Masters Tournament. But for this post, I’m going to concentrate on why golf is one of my favorite ways to spend time.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I’m by no means a great golfer. I seldom play 18 (lack of free time being the main factor). My typical 9-hole score runs anywhere from low 50s to high 50s, with the occasional peek into the high 40s and low 60s. In other words, the only thing consistent about my game is that I’m inconsistent.

None of that matters. Here’s why:

You can wear clothes you’d never otherwise wear. I actually have a black golf skirt with a pink paisley design that I team up with a pink top and matching visor. I have another blue and white paisley skirt. I can’t begin to imagine wearing paisley anywhere else. Or plaid shorts!

You can walk on lush green grass, surrounded by mini-beaches (also known as sand traps and ponds), and even get a bit of arm exercise while you’re at it.

If you belong to a league (I actually belong to two 9-hole ladies leagues), you can meet other golfers from all walks of life. I once golfed with a woman who was getting married for the second time at the age of 87! Naturally, the ceremony was at the golf course.

It’s a great way to network. When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m an author of mystery novels. Yes, I get people who say they don’t read, or they don’t read mysteries, or they have an idea for a book/always wanted to write a book. But golf has also opened up several book club opportunities for me, and quite a few paperback sales.

Golf keeps life in perspective. To quote Bobby Jones, the founder of Augusta National and co-founder of The Masters: “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots—but you have to play the ball where it lies.”

Skeletons in the Attic,
Book One in the Marketville Mysteries

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she dfidn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR C. HOPE CLARK

Blue Crabs
C. Hope Clark has written six novels in two series, with her latest being Echoes of Edisto, the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries. Mystery continues to excite her as both reader and writer, and she hopes to continue as both for years to come. Hope is also founder of FundsforWriters, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers. Learn more about Hope and her books at her website.             

Crab, Shrimp, and a New Edisto Beach Mystery

My mind lives at a particular beach, and my body goes there several times a year – Edisto Beach, at the tip of Edisto Island, an hour south of Charleston, South Carolina. Having grown up within a half hour of the beach, it’s in my blood. When I lay eyes on a massive, five-hundred-year-old oak in all its dangling Spanish moss swaying in humidity-laden breezes. . . when I cross a bridge from the mainland to the island and take in the aroma of pluff mud . . . when white egrets and great blue herons coast on warm sea air with nary an effort . . . then I am where my soul needs to be.
Edisto Beach
Edisto Beach is like no other Carolina beach. It’s secluded, almost jungle-like, lacking the neon, franchises, and motels of other beaches that prefer the more commercial flavor. It’s where people cross the McKinley Washington Bridge over the Dawhoo River and leave their worries on the mainland behind them. All of which made for the perfect setting to take my broken character, an ex-big-city detective, freshly widowed with no desire to return to law enforcement. And of course I make crime follow her, or have her the only person able to see it, because, after all, crime doesn’t happen on Edisto. No, ma’am. No, sir.

Echoes of Edisto is book three in a series that coastal South Carolina has come to love, and I almost let Callie Jean Morgan settle in this time and decide she’s found her calling . . . but of course I have to rock those doubts. But that story’s for another time.

When Callie isn’t dealing with the unusual threats that come with island living, she is like everyone else, enjoying the seafood so easily available. And with the easy availability of seafood comes unique and handed-down ways to fix it.

But some folks aren’t into the richer sauces, the fried, or the casserole compilations. Instead they prefer the simple, which is Callie’s preference. Crab and shrimp, mainly, and here are two ways that locals eat these favorites. I’d say they eat these quick-fix dishes because of time constraints, but that’s rarely the issue. Instead, the simplest way to eat seafood is the healthiest and the best tasting, and require nothing special. Plus, you can close your eyes when you taste these recipes, and feel like your feet are in the sand.

Citrus Shrimp

(Measurements below are per person in your party)
1 pound of raw shrimp
2 Tbsp butter
Garlic to taste (don’t feel you have to go lightly here)
Salt to taste (but don’t overdo the salt)
Pepper to taste (optional)
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

Turn on your oven broiler. Put shrimp on a sheet pan and dot with butter. Sprinkle seasonings. Cover shrimp with orange and lemon slices. Broil until shrimp are pink, stirring often.

Now, let’s go to the crab. You can substitute the type of crab used, but blue crabs are common on the Carolina coast. They are pretty but they aren’t big, so feel free to eat several. As with all seafood, great with beer!

Steamed Blue Crab

Can of beer
Same amount of water
Same amount of vinegar (apple cider preferred)
Old Bay seasoning to taste
One to two dozen blue crabs (live, please. Just look the other way when you put them in the pot.)

Put three liquids into a stock pot. Place rack into the pot. Put one layer of crab, layer of seasoning, and repeat. Steam 15 minutes or until the crabs turn deep red.

NOTE: Don’t have Old Bay Seafood Seasoning? Use the following ground spices in amounts that you prefer: bay leaf, dry mustard, pepper, ginger, paprika, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and some crushed red pepper flakes.

Echoes of Edisto
Murder came in with the tide . . .

Edisto Island is a paradise where people escape from the mainstream world. Yet for newly sworn-in Edisto Police Chief Callie Jean Morgan, the trouble has just begun . . .

When a rookie officer drowns in a freak crash in the marsh, Callie's instincts tell her it wasn't an accident. As suspects and clues mount, Callie's outlandish mother complicates the investigation, and Callie's longtime friendship with Officer Mike Seabrook takes a turn toward something new—but is shadowed by the unsolved mystery of his wife's death. Everyone's past rises to the surface, entangling with death that cuts to the bone.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEI BEI!

Bei Bei
Who doesn’t like panda’s? They’re adorable! In 1972 two giant pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, were given to the United States as gifts of the Chinese government following then President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China. They arrived at the National Zoo in Washington, DC on April 16, 1972. 

Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, 1985
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29880326
    

In return, our government gave the Chinese two musk oxen. We definitely got the better end of the deal.
 
Musk Ox
During their time at the zoo, the two pandas had five cubs but none survived more than a few days. Alas, Ling-Ling died in 1992 at the age of 23, and Hsing-Hsing followed in 1999 at the age of 28.

Since then, the National Zoo has been home to other giant pandas. A year ago today saw the birth of Bei Bei, one of a pair of twins born to Mei Xiang. His father is Tian Tian. Unfortunately, Bei Bei’s twin only survived for four days. Bei Bei, however, has thrived and hopefully will have a long, happy life. Happy birthday, Bei Bei!

Friday, August 19, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR JUDI PHILLIPS

Today we’re joined by author Judi Phillips, here to talk about the re-release of some of her older books. Learn more about Judi and all her books at her website and blog.

Thank you, Anastasia, for inviting me to your blog. I appreciate the opportunity. Really enjoy your books, by the way. (Anastasia offer a huge cyber-grin and says, “Thank you!”)

A bit about me. I grew up in Maine, lived for a few years in Chicago, Illinois and Racine, Wisconsin, then moved to the Twin Cities, St. Paul/Minneapolis, and lived there for 30 years. Deciding I wanted a quieter life, I moved back to a small town in Maine. And then, The Winter of 2014 struck. Too much snow and too much cold! So, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a block away from my son's family. I now get to see my grandchildren most days. Lovin' living in the Southwest.

In February I re-released Secrets, the first book in the Heart to Heat series. It was originally published back in 2002 and written even earlier than that. Needless to say, it needed a bit of updating--as at one point the hero was looking for a phone booth. Remember those? I got the rights back from my publisher, added a couple of scenes, had it re-edited and got a gorgeous new cover.

I got the idea for the story when I was visiting my parents and their camp down around Machias, Maine, sometime in the mid '90s. We were driving back from downtown, passed a house, and Dad commented that so-and-so had been shooting at another guy for messing around with his bait box for lobstering. The idea rumbled around in the back of my head for a while before I actually started writing.

Here's the blurb:

When, Gregg Hollister, a Department of Marine Resources agent, arrives in Robyn Cushman’s hometown of Tide Rock, Maine, undercover, to investigate a growing problem among the lobstermen, there's bound to be trouble. Especially since Robyn’s brother is Gregg's main suspect, and he thinks small towns are boring backwaters.

Secrets abound. Gregg is keeping them from Robyn. Robyn's father tries to keep them from his easily stressed wife. Robyn's sister-in-law is keeping them from her husband. Robyn's partner and best friend has been keeping one for years. And the person guilty of all the incidents, is keeping one from the whole town.

Will secrets tear apart Gregg and Robyn?

I released Whispers in June, the third book in the Heart to Heat series. When Nikki revealed her secret in Secrets, she informed me I needed to tell her story. There were reasons for what she did. Whispers takes place a dozen years after Secrets. It's a reunion, secret baby book (the one trope I vowed I'd never write). I have referred to it over the years as my banker chick, Italian stallion, secret baby, conniving bad guy story. Pretty much sums it up.

I am busy preparing to re-release Ghost of a Chance, first in the Chances Are … series, and Taking a Chance, second in the series, will follow close on it's heels.

Whispers

Nikki Cushman is the new interim President of a small credit union in Portland, Maine. She knows there's bound to be trouble when she discovers Tony D'Angelo is assigned to handle the transition audit. He does not know he is the father of her twelve-year old daughter, Angie. They are forced to work together to investigate issues with some fraudulent accounts. When threats are directed at Nikki and Angie, can Tony and Nikki listen to the whispers in their hearts?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#TRAVEL WITH GUEST AUTHOR ROBIN LOVETT

Robin Lovett enjoys reading and writing about her favorite things: croissants, France, and sexy athletes. It’s no wonder Racing To You, her debut novel, features all three. Learn more about Robin and her books at her website. 

Going to France costs so much money. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to go there to study during graduate school. And now I’m a writer, what better way to travel back, without buying the plane ticket, than to write a novel set in France?

I want to be transported on the pages of a book. To go to the south of France, to smell the pastries in the patisserie, to feel the breeze off the Mediterranean, to watch the seas of the Côte d’Azur sparkle in the sun, and listen to the French language spoken wherever I go.

But even when traveling in person, it’s not always as perfect as one hopes. My first view of the Mediterranean as a student was on an overcast rainy day, and I was decidedly disenchanted. Without the sun, the water was as gray as any river and the rain reminded me so much of home, I wanted to cry. How could this be France? It was miserable, and no one should ever be miserable in France, right?

That wasn’t the only trouble. I left home thinking my French was stellar. I’d studied for years and spent weeks brushing up, but I never counted on how difficult it would be to understand native speakers. I could barely converse with the locals.

Travelling alone, managing the European transit system without anyone’s help—it scared me. I never knew how much I depended on having loved ones and friends nearby until I was in a strange country with everyone I knew across an ocean.

The good news, though, I had plenty of time to learn and experience. It wasn’t a vacation where I had to go home in three days. I had weeks. The sky eventually cleared and when the sun came out… the sea was so blue, it was blinding, and the sun so bright I could feel it warming me from the inside out. I learned to navigate the town, found my favorite places, and studied how to converse with the local people.

It became as idyllic as I imagined, even though, just like any good story with a well-earned happy ending, it wasn’t easy at first. But the good stuff was all the sweeter when it happened. It made me a braver, stronger person and showed me I was more independent than I ever thought I could be.

Writing Racing To You was as cathartic as I’d hoped. I will go back to France someday. But I learned what I miss isn’t just the place, but the amazing things the journey taught me about myself.

Racing to You
Love—the one roadblock they never expected.

Aurelia is living her dream, teaching for a year in the south of France. Except it’s all going wrong. The carefree culture is challenging her academic goals, and her students are so difficult that she wants the unthinkable: to give up and go home.

Meeting Terrence doesn’t help. When he’s not training for the Tour de France, the cocky pro cyclist is flirting with Aurelia, but she didn’t cross an ocean to hook up with an American jock, even if he does have killer dimples and looks hot in spandex.

Until the jock sets out to prove he’s more than mere muscle. He wants to teach her what having fun really means, which could be as dangerous to her structured life as it is to her heart.

As life hits unexpected roadblocks, they turn to one another for support, and flirtation becomes game-changing love. But Terrence is chasing his dream of being the fastest man on two wheels, and she isn’t sure how far he’ll go to win…or how far she’s willing to follow.

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