Night Owl Reviews “Love is in the Air” Booklover Contest

There’s a very cool contest going on through the month of February over at Night Owl Reviews. If you’re looking for some new books to read and want to win some prizes, this might be the contest for you.

Love is in the Air / Night Owl Reviews

I’m a sponsor for NOR’s “Love is in the Air” contest, which runs February 4th through February 27th. It’s a scavenger hunt, and BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE is one of the featured titles. Prizes range from $5 to Amazon all the way up to the $100 Amazon Gift Card Grand Prize.

Of course, it’s not all about the virtual money. There are a ton of great reads that are part of this scavenger hunt, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s a great way to get in the mood for some romance!

Check out the contest page over at Night Owl Reviews for more details and to enter!

New Year, New Goals

2015 proved to be a huge year for me. We moved from my Upstate New York hometown to Charlotte, North Carolina. Even as I wrestled with sleep training, weaning, and teething, I returned to work full-time as a 4th grade teacher.

And I landed my first publishing contract for not just Better Than Chocolate, but an entire series! (If you want to keep up on the latest news when it comes available, don’t forget to sign up for my email newsletter!)

Another new year is upon us, and as usual, I find myself thinking about the goals I would like to set for myself this year.

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In years past, I’ve focused my goals and/or resolutions on a variety of aspects of my life. But with my career as a published author in its fledgling state, I decided to be a little more precise with this year’s list of goals.

This is not to say, of course, that I don’t have goals relating to my personal life. I’d like to get back in shape (or even just start with finding time to exercise regularly again!), read more for pleasure (I just downloaded about a dozen new Kindle books), figure out how to balance my return to full-time teaching with being a mom (because I’m still not there yet), cook more (this will be much easier when we’ve moved to our new house and I have a gourmet kitchen), and so on.

But it’s important to put my writing goals down for all to see. You can keep yourself accountable if you not only write down what you hope to achieve, but make sure those in your support system are aware of what you want to accomplish.

So here goes.

  1. Finish Sweet Somethings Book #2. This one is kind of a no-brainer and a requirement, as we’re looking at an April release. But to hit that release target, I need to get the finished product to my editor at Soul Mate soon. So that’ll be my primary focus for the next couple weeks.
  2. Related to number one… Write something every day. I forget where I read it, and I’ve probably read it in several places. But this fall there were a lot of days, weeks even, when I never even opened my writing program. Even if it’s just a couple paragraphs, writing every day will help me keep moving forward with my career.
  3. Develop a stronger online professional presence. Before Babycakes, I had more time to spend online, blogging, and interacting with friends and followers on social media. I used to live-tweet SU basketball games and episodes of “Sleepy Hollow” – which I haven’t even watched this season – and a lot of my early online connections were made with people who liked the same things I like. I want to get back to all that, along with doing a better job promoting colleagues’ work as well as my own.
  4. Peddle my post-Civil War historical romance. I have a lot of editing to do, but I’d like to start shopping the manuscript around before 2016 is out.
  5. On a similar note… Return to the “Magnum Opus”. I haven’t done any serious work on the Magnum Opus in close to a year. Volume one is almost to a point where I’d feel comfortable querying it, and the characters have started bugging me to not only take them down that road but also return to volume 2, which has sat in First Draft Limbo for literally years.
  6. Do more freelance work. Some of it’s boring, some of it doesn’t pay particularly well. But I’d like to take on freelance projects with more regularity, even if just to say, “Hey look, I made an extra $50 this month!”
  7. Write and submit more short stories. Short fiction isn’t my forte, and I don’t pretend that it is. But I have a lot of little plot bunnies swirling around that could become interesting stories if I ever got around to playing with them. I’d like to do that – and if they don’t hit the pages of online or print literary magazines, I’ll just start posting stuff here for fun.

Bring it, 2016!

Merry Christmas!

From the craziness of Thanksgiving to the craziness of Christmas, the past three weeks have been something of a blur.

We only had three weeks of school between Thanksgiving Break and Christmas break. Every year I always feel like there should be another week between the two holidays. I mean, I know it’s four calendar weeks between them, and that school usually runs for about three of those. But it always feels like there should be more time.

I’m never ready for Christmas.

After this week, I’ll be sharing a few other fun things related to Better Than Chocolate – some inside scoop sorts of things. Also, I’ve been working on Book 2 of the “Sweet Somethings” series in particular. (No major details yet, as it’s still quite early in the drafting process. But I will share that Book 2’s heroine will be traveling to Rome, Italy!)

In the meantime, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to stay in the loop with announcements about the “Sweet Somethings” series.

And to everyone who celebrates, Merry Christmas! (And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, may these final days of December be full of fun, laughter, and love, with a joyful New Year just around the corner.)

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This Thanksgiving, I’m Counting My Blessings

Let’s face it. Our entire world seems to be heading to hell in a handbasket.

That’s an unusually pessimistic statement from me, someone who is generally a perpetual optimist. But given the events in recent weeks and months, both in the US and abroad, it seems true.

Humanity is in trouble.

And it’s not just the terror attacks overseas. It’s violence right here in America against our fellow citizens. It’s individuals and groups who are calling for increasingly intolerant measures to label, track, and not-quite-but-almost persecute people who should be protected under the laws of this nation. (I would argue that most of them don’t actually understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights, based on comments they’ve made. But that’s another post.)

It’s easy for us, as we go into the holiday season, to obsess, worry, and otherwise feel like there is nothing good left in our world for which to be thankful.

But even as those terrible, nightmarish things are happening across the world and even just across my city, I actually have an easier time being thankful.

My family has had more than our share of tragedy and struggle over the past five years. I’d like to think we’ve managed to triumph over all of it – but again, I’m the perpetual optimist. Even if I’m leaning to the “rose-colored” side of things, I can still find so much to be thankful for today.

I can count my blessings, and they are the simple things.

Seeing the joy in my daughter’s eyes as she toddles to meet me at the front door each afternoon, arms outstretched for “Mama.”

Falling asleep each night next to my own Romantic Hero of a husband, even if he does sometimes steal the covers.

A solid roof over our heads, good food on our table, warm clothes on our backs.

Good jobs with good pay.

Knowing family and good friends are only a phone call away, even if it takes a plane ticket to see many of them.

It’s the little things. The simple blessings. In a world seemingly gone mad, it’s important to keep things in perspective. We can’t control what happens outside the circle of our lives. We can only be grateful for what blessings we have.

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Waking Up to Love by Katie O’Boyle (Book Review)

Happy Halloween, all!

I have a completely non-spooky post in store for you today. It starts with a review of a new book release and ends with a giveaway!

Intrigued? Read on.

Waking Up to Love

by Katie O’Boyle

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About the book

Kyle Pennington broke Lyssa’s heart when he let her go, rather than interfere with her budding career. An ocean away now, Lyssa has fallen under the spell of golden-tongued Rand Cunningham who’s in a hurry to marry her. But Kyle is miserable without her and is willing to risk everything to get her back. Will Lyssa wake up in time to ask who she really loves?

Waking Up to Love is on sale now at Amazon.

My Review

Waking Up to Love, the fourth book in the Lakeside Porches series begins as Lyssa, the heroine, is faced with a tough decision. She’s been offered the chance to interview for her dream job at Tompkins Falls University – except it means she must leave England, where she’s lived and worked for the past year. At the same time, she’s trying to determine whether her feelings for Kyle, the hero, are reciprocated to the level where he’s looking for forever. So far, he hasn’t shown much inclination that that’s where he stands. Ultimately, they need to part ways, but when before boarding a flight to the United States, Lyssa drops a bomb on the seemingly clueless Kyle – she thinks she’s in love with him.

Upon returning to the US, where she’s reunited with her sister and brother-in-law, as well as a few other familiar faces from her past. Despite her joy at being together with family once again, Lyssa’s broken-hearted over Kyle and completely stressing about doing her very best at her new job. And she has reason to be stressed. As a recovering alcoholic and addict, Lyssa seems to struggle to keep herself on even footing, especially after she literally runs into Rand Cunningham.  The fellow professor who decides on sight that Lyssa’s the only one for him. But he’s trouble from the get-go.

Eventually, Kyle comes to the US, both to win back Lyssa as well as help a mutual friend and head of the college solve a major problem with internet security and hacking, grade fixing, and the otherwise unseemly antics of several faculty members. He and Rand quickly begin to butt heads, but Lyssa is overjoyed to be reunited with Kyle – if only she knew for sure he’s the one she’s suppose to be with. Kyle has to prove to Lyssa that he’s serious and returns her love.

Waking Up to Love is a multi-faceted story that  walks the fine line between romance and romantic women’s fiction. Both Lyssa and Kyle must not only figure out where they stand with each other, but must also overcome obstacles to their personal happiness. Lyssa’s desire to remain on the straight and narrow after a year of sobriety plays along with her insecurities about the relationships with friends and family alike – and no wonder, given the tumultuous path she followed as a young girl. Kyle, in turn, is the sort who likes having control over what’s happening in his life, but he has to figure out how to balance his business and desire to plan for others with the demands of family obligations and, of course, his love for Lyssa.

Katie O’Boyle has created a cast of memorable characters that engaged me. I wanted to strangle Rand much of the time, and shake both Lyssa and Kyle in turn when they were being obtuse or stubborn about their relationship. There were a few sections that referenced the stories told in books 1-3 of the Lakeside Porches series, but without the general summary of events that often accompanies the reintroduction of characters. I was able to figure out who was who and the general gist of their stories, but having not read the first three books, I admit I was a little lost at times.

Overall I enjoyed this book, but I would recommend picking up volumes 1-3 in addition, so you can get the full story behind the story, as it were.

4 out of 5 stars in my book!

*I received an ARC from the author/publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

And Now for the Giveaway!

Katie has been kind enough to partner with me for a Rafflecopter Giveaway. She is giving away two Kindle copies of Waking Up to Love. There are several ways to enter.

Check out the Rafflecopter Giveaway for details and enter for a chance to win!
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About Katie O’Boyle

Born in the upstate-New York village known as the Birthplace of Women’s Rights, Katie O’Boyle loves the Finger Lakes in every season. She enjoys lunch with friends at quaint inns, and she cherishes the lakeside porch as a place for intimate sharing, laughter, and inspiration. To the outside world, she’s a tech-savvy college professor. In her soul, she’s a passionate author of warm-hearted romance.

Find Katie O’Boyle online:

Facebook: katie.oboyle.author
Twitter: @TompkinsFalls
Website: http://katieoboyle.com

To Tweet or Not to Tweet – Guest Post from Author Madelyn Hill

Today I’m pleased to host fellow Soul Mate Publishing author Madelyn Hill, who will share some of her tips of the trade when it comes to marketing through Twitter.

Don’t forget to check out info on her latest release, Heather in the Mist, at the bottom of today’s post!

I’ve been on Twitter for quite a while, however I’ve just started embracing the social networking tool as a way to connection, share and learn.

My goal for the rest of the year was to increase my followers in a big way. So, I did some research and learned you have to tweet—a lot—to engage and increase followers. Also you do not want to constantly push your books, you need to share your interests and offer something of value to followers. And finally followers like images and quotes. I found some tools to help me achieve my goal.

Some of my rules of practice:

  1. Always thank followers with a Tweet including their Twitter Handle
  2. Favorite or ReTweet tweets from authors promoting their books, reviews, or sales
  3. Follow those who follow me
  4. Look at the Moments (new to Twitter) and retweet or reply to a tweet of Moments that interest me
  5. Interact with Trending tweets (left hand side of Twitter page) Many times there are author friendly trends such as #WritersWednesday #MondayMotivation etc
  6. Follow celebrities, but don’t expect them to follow you back or interact, however, this may happen! I’ve had some great interactions with celebrities and brand I love to use.

CoPromote is cross promotion source for engaging with others and having them re-tweet your boosted tweets. I use the free service and do not feel I need the paid service. I boost a tweet and others who have a shared interest re-tweet my tweet, thus increasing tweet impressions (number of followers who will see your tweet). I can gain more re-tweets by tweet others post. I get to select and determine what I will share.

RSS Feed is a way to have a direct feed from blogs. Real Simple Syndication (RSS) allows for me to have the feed automatically sent to an aggregation site. In this case Twitter via Twibble (see below). I use RSS feed for writing sites and cooking sites. The sites I like are Romance University, Helping Writers Become Authors, Positive Writer, Pioneer Woman, and Extra Virgin Cooking Blog. This way content is sent directly to my twitter feed and I do not have to search out the content I want to read. Also, I love cooking so the information is feed to my Twitter feed as well.

Twibble allows for me to copy an RSS feed and arrange the blog post to be automatically sent to my Twitter feed. I pick the day and times I want the post sent and the rest is history.  I use the free Twibble and haven’t found the need for the paid service.

I have been doing this for the last 2 weeks and here are the results:

  1. Tweets have increased by 81.8%
  2. Tweet Impressions increased by 215.1%
  3. Profile visits increased by 243.8%
  4. Mentions increased by 550%
  5. Followers increased by 344

I will continue to watch the stats of my efforts and will keep you posted. To follow me on twitter, my handle is @AuthorMaddyHill

Check out Heather in The MIst by Madelyn Hill

Forced to wed to save her clan, Lady Rogan Cameron agrees to wed without love. heatherinthemist (200)
What her father doesn’t know is Lady Rogan has plans of her own—plans to keep her from a loveless marriage. Can she save the clan before she has to say “I do?”

Ian Albright abolished all ties to Scotland after his family betrayed him and he is now nursing a wounded ego due to an unfaithful fiancée. He pledges never to return to his home until the fateful day he accepts an invitation to his dear cousin’s wedding. The minute he sees his cousin’s betrothed, his heart is captured. If only she didn’t belong to another . . .

Lady Rogan and Ian have known each other since they were young and bent on vexing each other. Now, the only thing they find vexing is the fact Rogan is betrothed to another. Together they fight their growing attraction while investigating the forces bedeviling the clan. Yet at every turn their foe appears and wreaks havoc. When tragedy strikes, their hopes are dashed again.

Can Lady Rogan and Ian’s love win when fate seems determined to keep them apart?

Buy on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015EFRB6G/

about Madelyn Hill

Madelyn Promo-PhotoMadelyn Hill has always loved the written word. From the time she could read and all through her school years, she’d sneak books into her textbooks during school. And she devoured books daily. At the age of 10 she proclaimed she wanted to be a writer. After being a “closet” writer for several years, she sent her manuscripts out there and is now published with Soul Mate Publishing. And she couldn’t be happier!

A resident of Western New York, she moved from one Rochester to another Rochester to be with the love of her life. They now have 3 children and keep busy cooking, watching their children’s sporting events, and of course reading!

Follow Madelyn on Social Media

Website: www.madelynhill.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/madelyn.hill.94
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorMaddyHill
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/madelynhill68

The Bittersweet Moments We Cherish

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day, and this year, as last year, is a bittersweet day of remembrance for me.

Those of you who’ve followed my blog over the past few years know our story, but for those who don’t, here it is.

The hubs and I started trying for a baby in June of 2010, but never saw the “two pink lines” we hoped for until a full year had passed.

Joy is an understatement of what we felt.

We shared with a select few friends and family members, and started making our plans for a nursery, for names, for baby furniture, and everything else that goes with it.

Then, it ended.

On August 4, 2011, my early missed miscarriage was confirmed by an ultrasound. My body had not recognized that our baby had died in utero, so we opted to have a D&C procedure. I remember asking my husband the night before if we should request another ultrasound, just to be sure. But in the end, we knew it would be useless and would just confirm what we already  knew.

Our prayed for, hoped for baby was now an angel.

It took several months for me to even begin feeling like myself again, but so much had changed. I was a mother, but I would never be able to hold my first baby. I would never know the color of that baby’s eyes or hair, or hear that baby’s laughs or cries. I would never watch that baby learn to roll, crawl, stand, and walk, and never pace the floors at night when that baby couldn’t sleep for teething, sickness, or because it was Tuesday.

We went on to undergo round after round of fertility treatments, but to no avail. We were losing hope, and each year when March 4th rolled around – the date our first angel would have been born, would have celebrated a birthday – my heart broke all over again. On the outside, few people knew how much we were hurting, but the truth of our loss was always there – in the panted and recarpeted bedroom that should have been the nursery, in the one early ultrasound picture that, once upon a time, confirmed for me that our baby had a heartbeat, and was now hidden away to prevent further pain.

In March 2013, two pink lines again appeared. We dared to be joyful again, but it wasn’t to last. In fact, it lasted only a week before the numbers from my blood draws confirmed it.

This second baby was also an angel.

In some ways, this second pregnancy was less real, because I never reached the point of feeling exhausted or nauseous, as I had during my first pregnancy. We started talking about our options. We decided to apply to begin the process to adopt. At the same time, we continued a few rounds of fertility treatments, both medical and homeopathic, as well as tests to try and determine why I couldn’t get pregnant, or if I did, why I couldn’t hold the pregnancy.

There were no answers. Just empty arms.

We’d finally given up on having a biological child. We were accepted into a home study program for domestic infant adoption, and were a week away from beginning.

And then…

Two pink lines.

We were actually at my in-laws for Thanksgiving when we learned of our third pregnancy. I was terrified, certain this one, too, would end in miscarriage. My doctor put me on a medical regimen to prevent miscarriage, which included the use of progesterone supplements, hormone shots, baby aspirin, and injections of a blood thinner. My lower abdomen was a patchwork of bruises from the daily injections, but it was also a reminder that we were doing all we could to hold onto this baby.

Nausea set in. It wasn’t just morning sickness. It was all-day sickness. If I was awake, I was on the verge of puking. I was exhausted. My sense of smell went crazy, and I could barely eat for weeks, let alone cook anything for myself or my husband. We didn’t travel at Christmas to visit family like we normally did, for fear of being too far from my doctor. I had ultrasounds and blood draws every two weeks, and my doctor promised that, if it made me feel better, I could have ultrasounds done in between just to see my baby.

We made it to the end of the first trimester. The “morning” sickness ebbed away. My belly began to become a bump.

I felt the flutters, then the little kicks, that told us Babycakes was there.

Alive.

Growing.

Safe.

I never let go of the fear of losing her, even to the very moment she was born by c-section, following 12 hours of labor, on August 14, 2014. In the back of my mind, shadowing my entire pregnancy, was the knowledge that I’d hoped twice before, and lost twice before.

Even as I labored at the hospital to bring Babycakes into the world, I thought of my angel babies.

The first, who would have been a two-and-almost-a-half year old toddler, overjoyed at the prospect of a baby sister.

And the second, whose brief time with me imprinted on my heart but is even more bittersweet because, without that loss, there would be no Babycakes.

The first time I held Babycakes, the first time I nursed her, I felt the aching, missing weight of the two babies I never got to hold, and never will in this lifetime.

The first time Babycakes cried out in the night, I remembered the two babies whose cries I never got to hear or comfort.

The first time Babycakes looked at me and recognized me, smiled at me, laughed at me, I heard the voices of the babies whose voices I will never hear and whose smiles I will never see.

Babycakes has been the most amazing, unexpected blessing. She is a gift, a miracle, a joy we never thought we’d knew. At times I feel guilty when she has to be left to cry in her crib because I have to use the bathroom, or I feel like I’m being ungrateful when my frustration over her lack of uninterrupted night sleep has me drained, frustrated, and failing as a parent. I end up holding her and crying as she nurses back to oblivion, whispering how sorry I am for not being perfect, and feeling in my heart that I will always be trying to make up, with her, for the things I will never get to do with my two angel babies.

I still cry for my angel babies, the first who would be three and a half, the other not quite two years old. I hope someday I’ll be able to explain to Babycakes about them, how someday we will all be together again.

I still wish for them.

I hope they know how much I still love them.