Are You Having Fun Yet? by Natalie Ann #mgtab

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A little over 3 years ago I published my first book. Road to Recovery. It was the start of a 4 book series, called the Road Series centered around the Mathews’ Clan. By the way it’s a permafree book so download a copy and check it out!

By time I got to the 4th book, Road to Reason, I started to love my supporting characters so much, that I formulated a spin off series called the All Series that would focus on the Harper Clan.

The best way to blend these two series was to have one Mathews and one Harper…fall in love. So in Road to Reason, playboy Ryan Mathews meets his match with Kaitlin Harper. Not only does she give him a run for his money, but he has to deal with her 3 older brothers!

Road to Reason is free for this week, starting today. Grab it while you can.

Fast forward 3 years and I decided to put together a novella on how the Mathews’ and the Harper’s actually met way back in the day…starting with their parents.

On January 16th, All for Love- Road to Romance will be released for just 99 cents.

All for Love will also be included in a new Sweet and Sassy Valentine boxed set coming out in early February. Keep your eyes posted for the pre-order!!

Also, Road to Redemption will be included in another boxed set called A Valentine She’ll Remember released in early February too. Pre-order should be available soon. Both sets will be just 99 cents!

It still amazes me that in 3 years’ time I’ve published 3 series, totaling 16 books. And I’ve got 2 other series that will be published in 2018.

So that old saying of ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ can definitely ring true for me. Because right now, I’m having a blast! Bring on 2018!

You can follow along with what I’m doing here:

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PIONEER RECIPES @_Nancy Radke #mgtab

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I never did join an ancestry search organization, but I have done my own ancestry search. I’ve always been interested, because when I was a child, I visited often with my great great aunt, Alice Wolfe. She told me a lot about her family, the Wolfe family, who was involved in the Revolutionary War. She traced the line up to her sister, my grandmother, and herself, and then on to me. I was fascinated to learn about the Wolfes, the Wetzels, and the Zanes, all pioneer frontier families related to me in one way or another. In their days, the frontier was Ohio. Some lived far from a fort, and had to fight off any groups who were not friendly. Think “Last of the Mohicans,” for that was the kind of life they lived.

The other thing my great aunt shared with me was her pioneer recipes. Pie recipes start out with “Make a coffin,” which was a term for a piecrust. These recipes have vague measurements, calling for a pinch of this and a handful of that, a spoonful of sugar and a sifter full of flour. I think it is amazing that they were able to cook so well. I tried using the recipes, and some are pretty good. As long as you don’t care how it turns out (you aren’t expecting anyone for diner), they are fun to experiment with.

My great grandmother, whose son married a Wolfe, came west in a wagon train. She kept a journal of the trip, and recorded many of the events that I used when writing “The Handsomest Man in the Country,” my first book of the Trahern series, which I keep permanently free. Her recipes included lye soap, which I remember watching my Grandmother (Wolfe) and my mother making, after the pigs were butchered.

My favorite pioneer recipe is for Sourdough pancakes. I got it while living in Alaska. I included it in the book, “The Stubbornest Girl in the Valley.” She knows how to cook pies and dumplings and pancakes, and uses her skills to buy time at the Trahern ranch until Barnabas Trahern will take notice of her. As Barnabas says, “It sounded awfully good to me, for I’d been cooking for myself for some time now, and couldn’t make a pie, or dumplings, or biscuits. I’d need to hire a man to come out and cook for us. One who didn’t have violet eyes that challenged me. And lips as red as the sunsets.”

My grandfather had a truck/tractor like I described in this story. It was an original “off-road” vehicle. He taught me how to drive, as a child, in a more “modern” truck with no doors, and a throttle, starter, gas pedal, clutch and brakes. I bring these experiences into this story.
What old time favorite recipes do you still make?

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WILD ABOUT ANIMALS @PRosemoor #mgtab

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I’ve always been an animal person with a special love for cats. Despite being allergic to them as a child and my parents not letting me bring in the young cat I found outside my back door, I fed it and gave it water and lots of petting any time I could. Away at school, I got my first cat that could come inside. Currently, I share my home and computer with Blitzen and George, cats 14 and 15. But my love for cats goes beyond house pets.

When I first volunteered at Lincoln Park Zoo, every week I visited the big cats in their outdoor enclosures. I would whistle softly to entice them. Usually I got an ear twitch, but one of the cougars responded by moving closer every time, usually rubbing against the fence. I wondered what it would be like if I could talk to the animals and they could understand and respond. Yes, I wanted to be a cat whisperer, and I gave my Animal Instincts heroine Skye Cross that ability. Skye is an animal rescuer, something I’ve done in a minor way myself, so I guess she represents me as I wish I could be.

Rather than setting my stories in a paranormal world, I like using what everyone considers a normal human world with a paranormal underground. It’s the human vs. “something else” conflict that interests me.

Even though he is half-human,hero  Luc Lazare is part of that underground. He’s a conflicted black panther shifter. Raised by his human mother in the human world, he also spent time with his Kindred father and half-siblings. Torn in two directions, he fought a war in which he assumed his conflict would be settled for him and he wouldn’t have to make a decision that would hurt one of his parents. Instead, his panther found its true power and he did things to the enemy that he wants to forget.

I got the idea for the Kindred Souls world from researching demons. Demons led to the Nephilim, children of fallen angels and human women. The Nephilim corrupted humans and Biblical history says that God sent the flood to destroy them, which meant Noah’s Ark had to play a part in Kindred history. Now The Ark, Chicago’s first casino boat, is run by the Lazare family. Kindred are corrupting humanity as did their Nephilim ancestors. I hope you enjoy this entry into their world…

Excerpt:

The predators moved in on me. Trying not to show the anxiety that threatened to consume me, I curled my hands into fists and edged backward. They continued to advance on me. My heart was pounding, my blood racing. Knowing they could sense my fear, I tried to control it. Futile. No escape.

The hyena broke from the pack and rushed me. If I turned my back on it, I was dead for sure. I kept putting one foot behind the other and the wolf and the lion picked up their pursuit. The hyena’s muscles bunched and it flew through the air at me. I threw up my hands to protect myself, but it never reached me. Instead, it was as if an invisible wall stopped it cold. It shrieked and fell to the ground in a heap.

What do you think you’re doing? Go!

The predators stopped and I sensed their sudden fear.

Now! the voice in my head thundered.

The animals fled and quickly disappeared into the night.

I flipped around. At first I didn’t see him. Then I caught a movement to my right and nailed him where he stood. Dark hair whipped around features so rugged they could have been cut from granite. High cheekbones. Broad forehead. Square chin. His eyes appeared silver in the moonlight, and they glowed at me, tightening my stomach and making it hard to breathe.

Trembling, I gasped. “What just happened?”

“You got into something that doesn’t concern you.” Forget about it.

I started. He hadn’t said the last bit out loud. There was something about him so powerful I almost agreed.

I fought the desire to give in. “I’m not forgetting about anything. Who are you?”

I felt as if he were trying to push the command into my mind.

Glaring at him, I pushed back.

“What are you?” he asked.

“Someone who protects animals.”

His silence told me that wasn’t exactly the explanation he was looking for. My pulse threaded as he stepped closer. I sensed both threat and something less tangible, something that made my stomach knot and my throat tighten.

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To goal set or not to goal set . . . It’s not even a question!

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I used to always stay up extra late on New Year’s Eve, past the time all the celebrations ended, to light some candles, have a cup of tea, and journal about anything I was happy, sad, angry about in the past year, write out my hopes for the new year, and generate a huge list of resolutions.

In recent years, the timing changed, becoming a few stolen hours on the first or second of the month. The journaling remained, but the huge list of resolutions morphed into a sheet of more specific goals, with tangible steps on how to attain those goals.

This year, I spent the first week of January reflecting and planning for 2018—and I’m not done yet. I’ve created an official goal document (LOL—but totally not joking!) with five separate goal categories, but my year-at-a-glance calendar needs filled out and I plan to start utilizing a handy dandy little app (or so it appears on first glace) called Perfect Day (but spelled as Perfct Day).

I realize how much attention I put into goal setting might make me sound a little OCD, but I find time spent looking back, considering the present, and contemplating the future very helpful. Sometimes it’s a little bittersweet, but mostly I find a lot of joy and rekindled ambition and motivation. I tend to be someone who beats myself up for never doing enough. Taking stock of accomplishments and met goals helps me shut the mean voices up.

So what about you? Do you create a map to help you make it to your goals, or are you more of a seat-of-your pants life traveler?

Whatever your approach, I hope 2018 is full of new (fun!) challenges, met goals and happy surprises. (No matter how much of a planner you are, we all need nice surprises once in a while.) And, of course, I wish you tons of cozy reads and life-affirming, thought-provoking, page-turning stories!

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Help! Please Enter My Name That Character Contest!

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So there I was, sitting in front of a blank screen, the stupid big fat clock staring at me from the wall across the room. I would have been unnerved by the ticking if the clock had a ticker, but you know everything is digital these days–never mind, I digress. There I was, with the blank screen and the clock AND the DEADLINE.

Let me digress pause here to address the non-writers in the room–and I hope there are billions many of you–to let you know that the picture of the blissful artist working away in their turret spinning fancy words into mesmerizing stories is a bad joke hoax. We working stiffs authors really work at the kitchen table, the desk, the lazyboy chair, the drivers seat of the car (although we try to stop driving first), the dentist office waiting room … You get the picture.

Why? It’s the clock. And the deadline. Even if we don’t have a publisher or editor setting our deadline, we still have a deadline. Life throws them at us in the form of mortgage bills, grocery bills and the occasional prompt from a loving impatient reader.

What does any of this have to do with a Name That Character Contest you ask? Well, I don’t technically know if you’re asking, but Myren, my chauffeur, is asking and he’s the ridiculous unofficial stand-in for an below average reader for the purposes of this stupendous informative blog. I’ll tell you.

So there I was, not sitting in my turret, staring at the blank page and STUCK. Why was I stuck you ask? (Let’s not go over again how I know you’re asking.)

I was stuck because I needed a name for the bad guy and I couldn’t think of one. He was about to lower the hatchet and I had no idea what to call him.  X. That’s what I typed. Not for the first time. I was on page 152 and I had a story filled with X after X where the character’s name ought to be.

I threw down my pen closed my lap top (although this action lacks the dramatic appeal of throwing down a pen) and decided I needed to get rid of all those Xs. But how, you ask? (You’re so full of questions!)

Now backed into a corner, chased there by dozens of Xs, there was only one thing to do. Yes. I had to hold a Name That Character Contest!

(This is a true story, I swear.)

And so now, in order to get unstuck, in order to go on and complete my current work-in-progress, Beachcomber Love, I am reaching out and asking for your help, dear readers!

Enter the Stephanie Queen Name That Character Contest Here!

(Yes, there’s a prize in it for you, but I KNOW you’re really entering it to rescue me from my sticky spot.)

Here’s some details about Beachcomber Love and the character X:

BEACHCOMBER LOVE is the next novella in the Beachcomber Investigations romantic detective series. This bad guy, X, has come to town on Martha’s Vineyard from the mainland. He’s a he, a seedy low-life who mysteriously wants to extort money from the Lucky Parrot (local dive bar frequented by ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise and his partner/lover ex-Scotland Yard detective, Shana George, the hero and heroine)–and X thinks (incorrectly) that he can get away with it. Someone must have sent X to ruin Valentine’s Day. What’s his name?

Thank you so much for saving my life entering my contest to help me name X and get unstuck!

**Beachcomber Love will be released in the set A Valentine She’ll Remember, an anthology of 8 very special valentine romances, on February 1st. Look for it on Amazon for only $.99 or read the set for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Thank you for entering the contest!

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Food Truck Heaven

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So, while everyone is talking about healthy and wise for the new year, Christopher and I braved the cold (for Florida, lol) weather in Pompano for the town’s first Friday of the month food truck and art festival. Chris’s sister is in from Chicago for the holidays so our forty degree weather was nothing to her as we stood in various lines for arepas, smoked barbecue, burgers piled high with slaw and fries, and pulled pork. My favorite was the grilled corn on the cob. Oh, and crab and shrimp macaroni and cheese. Yum!

Turns out there are quite a few breweries in Pompano and we hung out at Odd Breed where they specialize in sour beers. They also have mead, cider and wine–and the atmosphere, with barrels and various tables, was very fun. Also pet friendly!

If you are local, Pompano has a green market every Saturday with everything from coffee to seafood. See, I’m so focused on the food that I forgot to mention the cool art set up. Artists are in the building doing actual work and showcasing their talents. Paintings, ceramics and mixed media art.We definitely will go again—hopefully February it won’t be so cold.

What tempts you out of your warm house on a winter night?  Have a great day and don’t forget to feed the muse something besides salad–mine prefers beef brisket…

Happy New Year!

Traci

www.tracihall.com

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Goals or Resolutions? by Natalie Ann #mgtab

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What does the new year mean to you?

I used to think it was a time to start over. To start fresh. Think of all the bad that happened in the year that just ended and try to change it. Or find a way to change it. Resolutions, some might say.

Not me. I’m a goal oriented type of gal. And I don’t just set goals on January 1st of every year. I set them all year long. It helps keep me on my toes. Inspires me and gives me a little kick in the butt when I’m feeling lazy.

And all those bad things that happened in the past. Well, there’s no going back in time. Though time travel would be pretty awesome. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, is that going back and changing one thing could change the future. And I’d rather control that on my own than take a chance—or wasting my time—on second guessing myself.

So in 2018, I’ve got a ton of goals and plans. Personal and professional. Professionally, I’ve got a lot of books in the works. A new series, which I entered the first book into the Kindle Scout Program here. You could check it out and read the first few chapters for free and vote if you think I should be awarded a publishing contract.

My 16th book will be published on Jan 16, 2018 called All for Love-Road to Romance. It’s available for pre-order now for just 99 cents! If you’re familiar with my Road and All series, then this is the prequel that ties William and Isabel Harper and Thomas and Michelle Mathews together.

I’m also hoping to finish up my Lake Placid Series. And I’ve got another project. A collection of sorts. The Love Collection. Because I write romance, and well, love and romance go hand in hand. This will be a series of 12 novellas, one released each month starting this summer. Ambitious, sure, but that’s my goal and when I set one, I try my darnedest to stick to it.

Personally, I’m a simple type of gal here too. I want to spend more quality time with my family and continue on a journey of good health and well-being. Not a tall order at all, huh?

So what about you? What goals have you set for 2018?

Natalie Ann

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It’s a New Year

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The beginning of a new year always makes me reflect on the months just past and the time that stretches out before me. What would I change about the previous year, and what am I going to do differently?

Interesting what leaps to mind first. Like most women, I think I ate too much! <g> And probably not enough of the right things. Why is a good Danish pastry so tempting when there’s all that kale in the produce section begging to be cooked? And what should I really be doing to eat healthy? Thirty years ago I thought I understood nutrition. But since then, the experts have changed their minds a lot. In 1987 Nancy Baggett, Gloria Kaufer Greene, and I wrote Don’t Tell ‘Em It’s Good for ‘Em (Times Books), a cookbook designed to help homemakers gradually change the ingredients in recipes so their family didn’t know they were eating healthier versions of old favorites.

Back then, the main goal was to lower fat in the diet. In fact, we were urged to consume fewer than thirty percent of our calories from fat. And when Nancy Baggett and I wrote 100% Pleasure for Rodale Books, published in 1994, low-fat was still king. Then gradually, we started hearing about a lot of other things like the distinction between good and bad fat. Fiber. Oat Bran. The Paleo diet. Gluten free. The health advantages of intermittent fasting. Baggett and I got in on that one a few years ago with The 2-Day a Week Diet Cookbook.

Then there’s the whole question of exercise. I didn’t do enough in 2017. I hope I’m going to do better this year. But the difference between diet and exercise for me is—I love to cook. I’d rather sit and read than walk around the block. A friend told me to listen to a book while I exercise. I’ve tried that in the past, and it never worked too well. Maybe in 2018?

In one blog, I can’t cover all the things I’ve been considering. But there’s one big hairy issue I should mention—my professional life. Devoting more time to getting my writing done is definitely on the agenda. But how do I balance it with everything else? And how much time should I commit to publicity versus developing and writing fiction? Should I think about another cookbook? How much time should I spend on social media? And which social media? As I sit here now, I’m telling myself I’m going to do more writing. But yeah, I’m also itching to check my Facebook feed to see if I got some responses to the post I put up yesterday.

My latest novel is Bedroom Therapy, and it is available in the anthology Love on Fire: 6 Hot Romances.

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