Whitney Finalists and other Happenings

Wrong for You - more comps3What’s New? Back at the beginning of February, the 2017 Whitney Award Finalists were announced. I’m so happy that Wrong For You was selected as a finalist in the Romance Category. Love at First Note was the winner in 2016, so it was extra exciting to make the cut for a second year in a row. I really love Lane and Simon and the other characters in Wrong For You and am so happy that the book is getting a little bit of love. You can see all the finalists in all ten categories here.

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Winners will be announced at the Whitney Award Gala in Provo, UT on May 5, 2018. I’ll be there, exhausted from a weekend of networking and learning at the 2018 Storymakers Conference, but I’m sure I’ll still be smiling. Because that’s what Storymakers makes me do. The conference is sold out this year, but if you’ve EVER considered attending a writing conference, this is the perfect one to start with. It’s welcoming and inclusive and inexpensive and the quality of instruction blows me away every single year.

I’m throwing my own class into the mix this year–about conflict in Romance and keeping your characters apart in just the right way. If your characters could solve all their problems in one five minute conversation of truth telling? Yeah. That doesn’t cut it.

story geniusWhat am I reading? I’m plowing through (and enjoying!) fellow Whitney finalists. In progress: Sarah M. Eden’s Love Remains. Next on deck: Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days. In addition, I’m working on my novel writing with Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. With a tagline that reads: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before you waste three years writing 327 pages that go nowhere) I figured this was a book I could benefit from. My productivity has taken a hit lately, what with moving and . . . moving. So I’m hoping this will jump start and inspire me back into actually making some progress.

What am I loving? This is not book related. But I’m sharing anyway because I love it that much. DHC Lip Cream. It makes my lips very happy. Keeps them moisturized and DHC lip creamsuper soft and I promise even though it seems expensive, it is so worth it. Treat your lips. You’ll thank me later. And it comes in a two pack, so you can keep one for you, and give one to a friend. I actually made this a part of my Christmas presents this year. It’s just. that. good.

 

What am I eating? This recipe for Pork Tenderloin Sliders from my lovely friend, Randi, as frequently as possible. And Kale Salad made with White Peach Balsamic Vinegar from Spice It Up. Also. I finally made it down to Sweet Belgium (a Belgian waffle bakery that landed on my to-do list fourteen seconds after moving to Charleston) and OH was it worth it.

What am I listening to? 

Leslie Odom Jr.’s soulful Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down and Out) 

Sara Bareilles singing She Used to Be Mine from the Broadway musical Waitress.

Imagine Dragons covering Taylor Swift’s Blank Space

James Arthur singing Say You Won’t Let Go

What am I working on? A YA Contemporary called The Summer of Nell, with another contemporary romance for Covenant simmering on the back burner. And! Starting this month, a collaboration with three of my FAVORITE fellow authors. More about that coming soon!

Romance Written Right

It’s been a season of transitioning at the Proctor house. We’ve transitioned into our new life in Charleston, SC, thanks to a work promotion for my husband (Hooray for the beach!) and me? I’ve transitioned into . . . SOLITUDE. For the first time in sixteen years all of my children are in school. I admit, it was a day I thought I would celebrate, but in truth, I spent several weeks feeling weepy, not knowing exactly what to do with myself. It wasn’t so much that I missed my kids. The youngest was ready for Kindergarten. He’s thriving. I know he’s where he needs to be. I just didn’t know how to be alone. How to make choices when the only person I had to consider was ME. How to spend my time effectively.  So I didn’t. I watched hours of Netflix. And took really long naps. And of course, I read stacks and stacks of books.

And so, in an effort to dust off this, an infrequently used writing space, I’m here to recommend a few of those reads to you. We’re focusing on Romance for today–romance that in my estimation is written just as it should be.

The Fall of Lord Drayson (Tanglewood, #1)The Fall of Lord Drayson, by Rachael Anderson

When Colin Cavendish, the new earl of Drayson, informs Lucy Beresford that she and her mother need to vacate the house they’ve called home for the past two years, Lucy is fit to be tied. They have no money, no relations they can turn to for help, and nowhere to go. How dare the earl break the promise his father had made to the Beresfords without so much as a twinge of conscience?

Fate plays her hand when Lucy discovers the earl unconscious and injured in the middle of the road. When he awakens with no recollection of who he is, Lucy seizes the opportunity to teach the earl a much-needed lesson in humility and tells him that he is nothing more than a mere servant. Her servant, in fact. 

And thus begins the charming tale of a pompous lord and an impetuous young woman, caught together in a web so tangled that it begs the question: Will they ever get out?

Guys, I loved this book so much. I often complain that Regency novels all feel the same. You can only tell a Regency Romance so many ways when limited by the social constraints and customs of the time. But this novel felt fresh and entertaining and funny, which is something you don’t always see in this genre. I can’t wait to read more of Anderson’s work. FIVE out of FIVE STARS.

Buy The Fall of Lord Drayson on Amazon

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The Start of Me and You, by Emery Lord

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? 

This one is an adorable Young Adult Contemporary romance that was nerdy and sweet and pretty much perfect in every way. The chemistry was so good, the characters felt authentic and oh, so real, and the writing was effortless. I wouldn’t call this one fluffy–it has some depth because of the personal struggles the main character faces, but it’s not heavy either. It’ll make you swoon in all the right places and leave you smiling and happy. A sweet feel good love story perfect for fans of contemp YA. FIVE out of FIVE STARS.

Buy The Start of Me and You on Amazon

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

sugar cookieIt took me a long time to find my sugar cookie groove. The whole chilling/rolling/cutting factor was too intimidating. I’m generally one giant Pinterest fail when it comes to anything complicated in the kitchen (Or anything crafty. I’m terrible at crafts.) so avoiding sugar cookies made sense. But this recipe? I can handle it. Mostly because, these cookies don’t require all the fancy rolling and cutting. Instead, you simply shape the dough into balls, then squash them with the end of a glass to make them nice and round. No cookie cutters required.

 

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
4 Tbsp. milk
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, and milk. Mix well. Mix together dry ingredients, then add to the butter/sugar mix slowly. Chill dough for one hour. 

To make round cookies: Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Use the end of a glass and gently press on each ball, until flat. (If you don’t plan to frost your cookies, you can roll the balls in sugar to add a little more sweetness… If I’m not frosting, I  like to use sugar crystal sprinkles, added to the flattened cookies just before baking.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes. (I never bake longer than 6 minutes. I like my cookies soft… the full 8 minutes tends to make them crispier.)

Frosting? I wish I had a concrete recipe I could give you… I generally start with a stick of butter, then add powdered sugar (around 3 cups) until I get a consistency I’m happy with. I’ll add vanilla (2-3 tsp.) and a little milk or cream (2-3 Tbsp. or more, if needed) to keeps things moist. Food coloring to make things pretty and I generally call it good.

*A note: These are not like Pinterest Perfect sugar cookies with fancy pants designs iced on. They’re more like Lofthouse cookies… super soft and sometimes crumbly. (And just as good.)