Friday, July 3, 2015

A New Kind of ttq Launch (Tara Taylor Quinn)

While I'm hard at work this week on Book Eight in my Where Secrets Are Safe (The Lemonade Stand) Superromance Series, a new ttq book is launching.  My 70th novel with Harlequin/MIRA.

It's my first original book in Harlequin's Heartwarming series.  I heard someone from the company say Heartwarming stories are 'Supers without the sex.'  The stories are the same complex journeys into the heart of living - as can be seen in Once Upon A Friendship. 

This is the story of three friends - a guy and two girls - who meet their freshman year of college and become family.  Ten years later they've bought an old apartment building together in downtown Denver to save the homes of the elderly residents who've just received their walking papers.  One of the three friends, Marie, owns the popular coffee shop on the bottom floor of the building.

It's also the story of white collar crime, infidelity, bodyguards, and a family no one knew existed.  In other words, it's typical ttq.

In the meantime, I've had a re-release of one of my classic Supers, The Sheriff of Shelter
Valley, bundled with the great Heather Graham's Suspicous, hit the USA Today list this past month.  And spend four weeks on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller list.  And The Good Father, my June Superromance, Book Six in the Where Secrets Are Safe series, spent most of the month at the #1 Bestselling Super spot on Amazon. And in just two weeks I leave for New York to attend the RITA Awards Ceremony for my finaling Superromance, Once Upon a Family (Where Secrets Are Safe, Book Two.)

It's a busy summer and with so much to celebrate I'm partying all over the internet.  There are blogs.  Reviews.  Games. A Facebook Party.  Free Books.  T-shirts, VISA Gift Cards and audio CD giveaways.  You can join in the fun pretty much everyday by clicking the Spend The Summer With TTQ banner at the top of the page.  Click on the party you want and follow the links!

Summer Vacation Recap + HIS REBEL HEART....

Amber Leigh Williams

Exciting news! My latest Superromance novel, His Rebel Heart, is on sale now! (Visit my Facebook page today to learn more about this month's exciting giveaway in honor of James and Adrian's story....)

Can a rebel ever change his ways?Being a single mother and successful florist is tough, especially when your new next-door neighbor is the man who shattered your heart. Eight years ago, bad boy James Bracken walked away from Adrian Carlton…and their unborn child. Now he's back. And Adrian's desire to protect her son from the truth of his biological father isn't enough to hide the wild blue eyes of father and son, or to keep Adrian from surrendering to the raw passion between her and James. But is he truly the changed man he claims to be? Maybe this time his rebel heart really is home to stay.

Buy it this month for just $3.99 at any of the following online retailers….

Every summer, the family stuffs an entire household of items into the back of our 4x4 and heads north for an amazing, four-day lake vacation. Since the mid-1980’s, my grandmother has owned a lake house on Alabama’s Lake Martin. We call it “Sunnyside.” Sunnyside rests on the banks of a quiet slough, a good boat putt away from the marinas and other public areas surrounding Lake Martin.  
Summer of '87

Lake Martin is close to our college football mecca, Auburn University, so in the fall my parents would drive my sister and me to the lake to stay with my grandmother while they attended an SEC game. Even more than splashing in the lake in spring and summer, I remember climbing down the ladder to the lake bottom and walking twenty to thirty feet out to the shrunken waterline where we would skip rocks. The lake dam drains the water in the fall and winter. In January, my son experienced walking the shrunken shoreline for the first time. Watching him roam the lake bottom in his muddin’ boots and chunk rocks made me more than a little nostalgic….

Winter 2015 - Big, tough toddler guy skipping (...or, er, slinging) rocks
Nothing beats those long, summer trips, though. In summers, there’s homemade lemon sorbet….

Summer 2013 - Creating a lemon sorbet monster... 
In summers, there’s boating. I learned to ski behind my grandfather’s boat on the lake when I was 14. And there’s nothing in this world more relaxing than a boat ride, particularly at sunset.

Summer 2004 - The hub and me...the early years!
Summer 2015 - Eleven years later, the hub and his mini-me on the boat
Though this year, we took time out for our annual family water-sports-a-palooza….

Summer 2015 - Not bad for a month and a half post-partum, huh?

Summer 2015 - The hub wakeboarding...just before he busted, LOL

In the end, nothing gets babies to sleep faster than my daddy’s boat.
Summer 2013 - Little guy sleeping on the boat
I'll admit I’m one of them….

Summer 2015 - Babycakes and me snoozing on the boat

When general water merriment and relaxation get to be too much (hahaha), there’s always Kowliga’s Marina and Restaurant. Anybody remember that Hank Williams tune? Turns out that ol’ wooden Indian really does exist....

Summer 2013 - Little guy and his "Dubya" with Kawliga the Indian
A little further past the dam and over the open channel, there’s Chimney Rock. Personally, I’ve never jumped off The Rock. Craggy, giant rock-face, heights…neither are my cup of tea. However, that doesn’t stop the hub from climbing 50-some-odd feet to the top and launching himself off into the water far below. Oy.

Summer 2013 - The hub jumping off the rock...while I scream in terror.
And, yeah, I won't even talk about the year the hub found the secret rope swing....

Summer 2013  - Flight of the daredevil

There’s something healing about lake waters, especially on lazy summer afternoons when the hot sun starts to sink behind the tree line, offering us shade and repose. My father and the hub fire up the grill. The boat traffic dies down so the waters are calm. The view from the sun porch or the Adirondack chairs along the seawall is spectacular. Even the air is different—softer, sweeter. When I was little in still moments like these, my grandmother would tell me to breathe the lake air down deep, deep, deep to the bottom of my lungs so I could take it home with me. I still do this. More, I get to tell my own children to do so. When the time comes for the drive home, we’re all a bit more at peace with the world. Maybe it’s the magic in the air or those rejuvenating, fresh waters. I’ve heard people talk about the air in Tuscany and the light in Ireland much the same way I feel about Sunnyside and Lake Martin. Living on the Gulf Coast close to white-sand beaches and the beauty of the Eastern Shore is a blessing I don’t take for granted. But whenever I feel a little world-weary, my mind and heart drifts back to Sunnyside and the beauty of lake days.

Summer 2015 - Until next time....
And now, as a release week treat, here's an excerpt from His Rebel Heart. Enjoy!

"I don't want you to be alone..." 


Adrian sighed. "James, I have been alone, for a really long time." 

"I'm sorry," he said. "Adrian...I am so, so sorry." 
When he drew her into his arms, she was helpless to stop him. She felt his lips come to rest on the top of her head. His arms wrapped around her back, closing her in, tightening. 
He simply held her, for what seemed like ages. 
A small eternity passed in the space of moments. Memories stirred, whispering to life, ghosts of what had been.  
When his lips touched hers, it felt so natural. The simple press of his lips brought her back to life. Her heart fluttered, lifting and soaring.
She should have pushed him away. After everything, she should shove him back, make him leave. Instead, she let the moment stretch, deepen until she felt him brush up against the soul she'd buried from everything and everyone...


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 New Releases

To Tempt A Cowgirl (The Brodys of Lightning Creek)
Jeannie Watt

Making an offer on love 
Troublemaker-turned-architect Gabe Matthews has an agenda—and a serious relationship is nowhere on it. To repay his mentor, he trades the big city for the rugged country so he can persuade the sexy cowgirl next door, Danica Brody, to sell the Lightning Creek Ranch.

Soon Gabe is pulling out all the stops to get close to Dani. But earning her trust complicates everything. He knows the last thing she needs is another run-in with deception, and the attraction he doesn't see coming changes his every plan.

All I Have (A Farmer's Market Story)
Nicole Helm

Let the battle begin 
Mia Pruitt wishes Dell Wainwright would keep his shirt on. The Naked Farmer lures customers by stripping to his perfectly worn jeans while he and Mia sell vegetables from competing stands at the farmers' market. It's time for a showdown, and they're each in it to win.

Yet when both farms end up in jeopardy, Mia and Dell suddenly find themselves on the same team. If their rivalry was hot, their attraction is steaming, but they can't seem to agree on a plan. If they could only learn to grow together, they might reap the best harvest of all…

Twice In A Blue Moon
Laura Drake

Wanted: one master winemaker 
Indigo Blue is starting over, again. Following the death of her husband, she's rebuilding her life around her only inheritance—a California winery. There's just one problem: she doesn't know a thing about wine. Enter brooding vintner Danovan DiCarlo.

Eager to put his own painful past behind him, Danovan is the perfect partner. And not just in business. As they work side by side, Indigo can feel more than the vineyard coming back to life. Falling for Danovan is a scary prospect. But how do you say no when you find love twice in a blue moon?

His Rebel Heart
Amber Leigh Williams

Can a rebel ever change his ways? 
Being a single mother and successful florist is tough, especially when your new next-door neighbor is the man who shattered your heart. Eight years ago, bad boy James Bracken walked away from Adrian Carlton…and their unborn child.

Now he's back. And Adrian's desire to protect her son from the truth of his biological father isn't enough to hide the wild blue eyes of father and son, or to keep Adrian from surrendering to the raw passion between her and James. But is he truly the changed man he claims to be? Maybe this time his rebel heart really is home to stay.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Why I Write (& Read) + Exclusive Excerpt from HIS REBEL HEART

Amber Leigh Williams

Greetings! We’re less than a month away from my next Superromance release on July 1st….

Have you ever read one of those books that had a profound impact on not just the reader inside you but on your life as a whole? The people involved in these stories (real and imaginary) gripped me so tightly I had difficulty sleeping at night thanks to a constant loop of their actions and words playing out inside my head. Their situations, predicaments, and tragedies wove themselves into the marrow of my bones until, in the midst of reading or re-reading their books, it was sometimes hard to distinguish their lives from my own. Call it well-written prose or the magic of good storytelling, I was thrust quite forcibly into these worlds, into the minds and hearts of these characters, so that their hearths were my own as were their goals and conflicts, and every ounce of their joy and pain. These books are the reason I read. They are also the reason that I write.

I wrote the first draft of His Rebel Heart when I was barely into my twenties. All I knew at the time was that these characters had to be given their due. They demanded it. It was the third book in what was then a five-part series. I rushed it so that I could get the stories behind it onto paper as well. Needless to say, the draft left much to be desired for me and my characters. I didn’t do them justice; which was perhaps why they continued to haunt me and speak to me with increasing volume and detail through the years.

Nearly a decade later, their time came a year after the first book in the series, A Place With Briar, was contracted by Harlequin and I became a part of the Superromance family. After completing work on the second book, Married One Night, I sat down and finally was able to revisit the hero, James, heroine, Adrian, and their son, Kyle. Another pivotal event that led me back to this story: the birth of my own son in 2012. Through my relationship with him, everything involving Adrian and Kyle’s relationship seemed heightened. It added dimensions to an already emotional storyline I hadn’t achieved and couldn’t quite grasp in my early twenties. Similarly, it created an opportunity for me to explore the broken relationship between the hero, James, and his mother.
Can a rebel ever change his ways?  
Being a single mother and successful florist is tough, especially when your next-door neighbor is the man who shattered your heart. Eight years ago, bad boy James Bracken walked away from Adrian Carlton…and their unborn child. Now he’s back. And Adrian’s desire to protect her son from the truth of his biological father isn’t enough to hide the wild blue eyes of father and son, or to keep Adrian from surrendering to the raw passion between her and James. But is he truly the changed man he claims to be? Maybe this time his rebel heart really is home to stay.

This wasn’t an easy process. In order to create a solid Goal-Motivation-Conflict, which is essential to character-driven stories like mine, I have to live and breathe these characters. The funny thing about His Rebel Heart, though, was that this proved easier than most books. I seemed already to be embedded in their lives. In real life, I’m a wife of nine years to a wonderful husband. I’m a stay-at-home mom of two young children (one toddler; one newborn). I’m a lifelong dreamer, a hopeless romantic and a faithful (though deeply sarcastic) optimist. I’m also happy to say I’m on great terms with my mother. While writing this book, however, I was also Adrian, single mother, small business owner, and deeply heartbroken cynic—you could even say “eternal pessimist”—whose relationship with her mother is what a good deal of all that cynicism and pessimism is derived from. For a period of about three to four months I lived Adrian’s life. My life isn’t exactly easy (did I mention I have a toddler?). Adrian’s isn’t either, though it’s not-easy in an entirely different way. Living the life of a pessimist, somebody with serious trust issues, is hard. Why did I put myself through it, you may ask? Like I said, I didn’t have a choice. Much like I didn’t have a choice but to be right there on the page as Alexander Barrington fought his way across Eastern Europe at the head of a doomed penal battalion in Paullina Simons’ Tatiana and Alexander; much like I didn’t have a choice but to watch my lover leave as Brianna did near the end of Nora Roberts’ Born in Ice or to mourn the loss of my young childhood friend in the wake of a terrible shooting accident in Robert R. MacCammon’s Boy’s Life.

Many of those who have read Gone with the Wind have starved alongside Scarlett O’Hara at Tara though they’ve never actually gone hungry. Many, many children have lived in the cupboard under the stairs with orphan Harry at No. 4 Privet Drive without actually losing a parent. They’ve never had to hide for years in a small annex to escape deportation and certain death...though those who have read Anne Frank’s journal had no choice but to be swept up in that grim reality. Why do we do it? Why do we live these separate lives, every heart-wrenching moment combined with every happy one? Because we’re readers. It’s what we do.

While writing His Rebel Heart, the hero, James Bracken, is forced to face up to his mistakes, one of them being the fact that he has not spoken to his mother in eight years. I didn’t just get to be a puppet master, bringing James and his mother together after all this time. I was the mother who hadn’t seen her son in almost a decade, struggling to forgive. I was the son doing everything that he could to bridge the gap and hoping desperately that it’s not too late. Why did I do this? It’s simple, really—I’m a writer. That’s what I do.

It’s difficult for me to define the book of my heart. I love every story I’ve ever written, not because I think they were well-written but because I love those characters, those people, the places that they saw, and the happy endings I was able to give them after putting them through their paces. I can’t possibly choose a favorite…though my World War II historical, Forever Amore, that first romance I began in 2003, was a deep, defining labor of love that inspired me in many ways to write romance on a professional level. Those characters still haven’t left me alone to this day and, frankly, I hope they never do. Every book in my hometown series for Harlequin has personal elements interwoven through characters, dialogue, backstory, settings, and scenes. One of the greatest joys I have while writing these books is bringing those from previous books back as secondary characters. They are the source of several of those lighthearted moments in His Rebel Heart that propelled me through the heavier parts of James and Adrian’s story. I have an incomplete Regency romance I began writing at a time in my life in which I was suffering through personal trauma of my own. It is so associated with that time of my life that although I still feel the pull from its notes and characters, I don’t know if I’ll ever find the courage to finish it.
I’m thrilled that I’m finally able to share His Rebel Heart with you, readers, because although I don’t have a favorite book, this one is as close as it comes. I hope James and Adrian touch your hearts as much as they have touched (and lived inside) mine. Here's an exclusive excerpt just for you….

"How can I help you, miss..."

Trailing off, the man opened the screen door and smiled at her in greeting. One of those long, muscles arms held the door open as he stepped down to the sagging porch. The boards groaned beneath him.

His eyes were blue. But not just any blue. Maybe it was that his face was so tan or his shaggy head of hair and eyebrows were so dark. But no, those eyes were a fierce, wild, familiar shade of blue.

Adrian lips went did her legs. The pie tipped over the ends of her fingers and landed facedown on the porch boards with a splat.

That smile was devastating and, again, familiar.

It had been years. Back then, his face had been close-shaved, his hair more kempt. Not one tattoo had marked his body, much less the thick cords of his neck. But there was no way she could have forgotten James Bracken's devil-may-care smile.

Adrian watched the smile slowly fade from his features. They didn't stray to the pie on the ground or to her useless fingers, which were spread between them like a supplicating statue. The mirth in those blue eyes faded, too, as they searched hers, pinging from one to the other and back in a quickening assessment. His mouth fumbled and he braced a hand against the yawning screen door. "Adrian?" he asked, finally, the name launching off his tongue.

It made her jump. Suddenly, she could feel everything again. The blood spinning wildly in her head, dizzying her, before it fled all the way down to her toes and left her cold, hollow except for the panicked rap of her heart.

"I'm right, aren't I?" James asked, shifting his stance toward her as hope blinked to life in his eyes--the Scandinavian blues that were a perfect match for her son's.

Preorder your copy of His Rebel Heart today for just $3.99 at Harlequin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What We Leave Out

Now that I’m in my twenty-second week of pregnancy, I’ve had a pretty good sampling of the vast array of symptoms, side-effects and changes to my body typical of most pregnancies. From morning sickness to aches and pains, I feel like I’ve hit almost every symptom listed in What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

What I find interesting, though, is how few of these symptoms are described or discussed in TV, movies, fiction and so forth when the reality is that a) half the population of Earth is susceptible to these symptoms and b) we were all born, and it’s likely your dear old mother went through these bodily changes. (Yes, I have become more aware of what I put my mom through. I’m so sorry, Mom.)

In movies and TV, we often see the montages of morning sickness, increased appetites, fatigue and mood swings. But you almost never hear about, say, constipation, diarrhea or the resurgence of adolescent-era acne. Or hemorrhoids. Or the loosening of all your joints. Or that weird vertical stripe that appears on some women’s bellies. Granted, every pregnancy is different. And the reason we don’t hear about these more intimate details is simple: they’re gross. And yet, go to any internet pregnancy discussion board and you can read about every horrible symptom you can possibly imagine in the greatest detail.

Has the sanitization of an essential fact of life made us complacent about the challenges women endure to create life? Have we deceived people into believing that the miracle of life doesn’t come with some negative and impactful side effects? Everyone tells me, “Oh, you’ll forget everything as soon as the baby’s in your arms!” to which I reply “Aha! But I won’t because I’m writing everything down so that I can lay the guilt on my kid when s/he’s being naughty!”

It got me thinking about what other kinds of details we leave out whenever we tell stories. In fiction, writers skip the parts that are boring (thanks, Elmore Leonard) which is why we don’t always see every single detail of a character’s daily routine. Storytellers omit information by necessity. Attention spans are only so long, after all. Romance writers frequently leave things out—it’s romance, after all. There are plenty of details I don’t want to read...and yet I have.

The question is: in the internet age where we share and overshare everything, are we prepared to include more graphic details, more minutiae, more nitty-gritty and mundane? Is it storyteller’s duty to provide the audience with the most pared-down, entertaining version of a story? Or does the creator or artist have the right to expound upon the details they think are relevant or interesting to them?

By any traditional fiction editor’s standards, the answer is the former. But in nonfiction, it’s all about the details, and you still get great stories. Is there an in-between space? What if the world learned more about childbirth and pregnancy—or any other topics—through the consumption of popular culture? Would there be greater sympathy for women? Greater understanding of the world?

What else would you like the world to know and understand more details about? Is popular culture the place to “edu-tain”? Have you seen or read something that you’ve enjoyed and learned a lot about something you had no idea you cared about? Comment below!
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