Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Meet Gwen Overland. Spicy Contemporary Romance #Giveaway

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with 2 comments
Meet Gwen Overland who writes spicy small-town contemporary romance.

The first novel of her Salmon Run Series, Love’s Harvest, was released December 13th of last year.  And She's giving away a copy. (see Rafflecopter) 
Her second novel in that series, Free My Heart, is due for release this coming March.


Gwen, please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised near the Puget Sound in Washington State, but now live with my husband and son in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Prior to that I lived in Los Angeles where I had careers in directing, acting, and performing at the piano. After years in academia, writing one research article followed by another, I turned my talents in 2012 toward writing fiction and found I happily could not stop.
In addition to writing romance I’ve also published two non-fiction books on the work I do in conjunction with my business, Expressive Voice Dynamics: Soul of Voice and Soul of My Voice. I love Seattle. I lived there from 1990 to 1993 during the filming of Northern Exposure. I love going back to visit.
When not reading, writing, or playing with my two black pugs, Buster Keaton and Emmett Kelly, I work in the theatre as a stage director and actress, teach college students how to muster the courage to follow their dreams, or assist psychotherapy clients in discovering more joy and meaning in their lives. Ah, a fellow actor-writer. That's great. 

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
 I had spoken with an editor from Soul Mate Publishing at the RWA Conference in San Diego, July of 2016. I had gone to a Spotlight on Soul Mate Publishing and could tell from the presentation that this was hopefully the publisher for me. After the event, I quickly pitched my series idea to her. She seemed interested enough to give me her business card and told me to send her the full manuscripts of the first two series novels. I did so immediately but didn't hear back from her for months. I had just about given up when the first week of December I received an email from her offering me a contract for both Love's Harvest and Free My Heart. I was so shocked I think I read the email 50 times to make sure I hadn't misinterpreted her reply.
I immediately called my writing peeps, my husband, and my personal assistant to let them know my good news. And the more I told people what had happened, the more excited I got. I'd been waiting and hoping for so long, that it took me most of that day to realize that I was soon to become a published author. 
And so, here I am today a little over a year later with  the release of Love's Harvest last December and a promise of release for Free My Heart this coming March.

Tell us about your latest release, Love’s Harvest.
Love’s Harvest is the story of Julia Reynolds, a young widow, struggling to make a go of her family’s dilapidated winery. Her only help comes from the quiet and reclusive Diego Gonzales-Martinez, her orchard manager. In spite of her reticence to trust again, and his own personal reluctance to believe himself deserving a woman’s love, the two of them soon find a way to let their resistances fall away and open their hearts to love.
This series is near and dear to my heart. I based the fictional town of Salmon Run on the small town where my brother and his family live in northwest Washington State.  I love Whatcom County for its diverse populations, its geography, and its varied economies. I’m a frequent visitor, and not just because I love my nieces, but because I love the richness what the people and the land offer to those living, working and vacationing there.
Excerpt
When Julia woke from her nap, she immediately felt disoriented. The sunlight was still pouring into her bedroom, giving her the sense that she may have slept through the entire night. The clock read 6:30. But was that a.m. or p.m.? Feeling the heat of the day, Julia soon realized that she had only been asleep a few hours, except her body suggested a much longer time. Even when Julia washed her face, she could not help but notice how much more rested she appeared. She even had some color on her cheeks, perhaps from yesterday’s graveside service.
            Most startling, however, was the sudden realization that not only had she slept well but by herself and in the very bed she and Robert had shared years before everything went haywire. Julia moaned softly as she realized that now the bed no longer belonged to her and Robert, but rather was hers alone. Odd to suddenly come to that awareness. Robert had passed away less than a week prior, and already Julia was beginning to feel him gradually disappearing from her life. A part of her knew that Robert would never be totally gone from his place in her heart, but she also knew that it was time for her to release the vice grip he had on her soul.
            After a quick shower, Julia set up her computer at the dining room table, hoping to get her mind off of her loneliness for Robert.  Due to Robert’s illness the winery’s finances had over the last year been horrendously neglected. Then just as she was clicking open one of the file folders, her mind unexpectedly drifted to the conversation she had with Diego the night before. No doubt about it, Julia had enjoyed his company. And what that was about she hadn’t the foggiest. After all, she wasn’t particularly interested in starting a relationship, not this early in her year of mourning. Nor did it have anything to do with the business of the winery. She simply wanted to see him. Funny, she thought. They hardly knew each other, and yet Julia felt as if she and Diego had been dear friends for years.
            She imagined he was more than likely at the compound, or perhaps out in the vineyard. It was probably best she wait to talk to him until tomorrow morning at their meeting. But something compelled her to grab her sweater and walk down the road toward the workers’ housing. She thought about what she would say to him once she got there, but nothing came to mind. Several times Julia thought about turning around and returning home, but she wasn’t quite able to do that either.
My God, she thought to herself. I feel as if I am in high school again.
            The closer she got Mariela and Rafael’s apartment, the clearer the voices of the children playing soccer became. She and Robert had once talked about having children, but with her concertizing career and his focus on the winery, nothing ever came of it. And quite honestly, children had never seemed to be her thing. The only thing that had at that time mattered was her piano. And Robert—of course. Yet she had to admit that she had enjoyed playing the piano and sharing her dinner with Felicia and Eduardo yesterday. And they seemed to have had fun with her as well. Who knew?!
            “Señora!” piped up Felicia. “Señora, look. I am playing football with the big kids. They let me play with them!” The smile that overtook the child’s face was enormous. Even with the few missing front teeth, Felicia’s smile was a beautiful thing to behold.
            Julia smiled back. “That’s wonderful! Good for you!” But her focus was suddenly drawn to Diego who stood on the opposite side of the field coaching the children, giving them tips on how to warm up their muscles and stretch so as not to be injured. Julia waved at him. But he did not return her greeting. Instead he turned his back, keeping his focus on the children at his feet. Surely he had seen her, she thought. But why did he obviously ignore her? He seemed friendly enough the evening before.
            Feeling awkward, Julia did not know whether to once more try and get his attention, or merely turn around and head back up the road toward her house. But she was no dummy. Even though Julia would prefer Diego acknowledge her, she also had her pride. Just as she decided to return home, Mariela emerged from her front door.
            “Eduardo. Felicia. Time now to come in for supper. And don’t forget to wash your hands.” Mariela’s voice carried like nobody’s business. When she saw Julia, she smiled at her and walked over to where she was standing.
            “Señora.” She nodded toward Julia.
            “Mariela.” Julia nodded in return. Now she was on the spot.
            “Can I help you with something?” Julia noted a slight terseness in Mariela’s voice.
            “I uh … I just wanted to thank you one more time—before tomorrow—for all you and your people here at the compound have done to make me feel welcome and cared for. We begin a busy week tomorrow morning, and I just wanted to make sure you knew how much you were appreciated.”
            Mariela looked at Julia and was silent.
            “You already told me that, Señora. Why are you really here?”
            Oh, boy, she thought as her face reddened.  Julia was totally stumped as to what to say.
            “That’s all.” Julia fidgeted. “Well, maybe I am being somewhat repetitive. It’s just that I feel a bit lost without Robert. And you and Diego were so kind to me last night ...”
            Mariela took Julia’s soft and elegant hands between her own rough and calloused ones.
            “I understand, Señora. But you must also understand about my brother. He has been hurt in the past. Hurt so badly that for the longest time he did not talk to anyone, let alone another woman. Now he speaks with you. And laughs. And smiles. But this cannot continue, for if it does, Diego will find himself destroyed, perhaps even worse than before. And I cannot allow that to happen. You understand?”
            Julia felt the heat of shame rising up the front of her chest, flushing her cheeks. She nervously diverted her eyes to the two pairs hands clasped in front of her and nodded. Then taking in a deep breath, she raised her head and in the most business-like voice she could manage she said, “I understand your concerns. Once again, thank you for your help this weekend. I look forward to our meeting in the morning.”
            Julia turned around slowly and began to make her way up the hill along the winding road connecting the housing of her workers to her own. Mariela’s eyes aimed at her back. But Julia did not dare turn around and look to see if Diego was aware of her conversation with his sister. It didn’t matter. Julia’s loneliness had allowed her to forget that Diego was merely her employee and probably nothing more. She was on her own for the first time in her life and it was time she realized it. Terrifying though that may be!
Sounds like an excellent read. Gwen's giving away a copy of Love's Harvest. Enter here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
The best advice I was ever given was from Maisey Yates, a member of one of my writing groups. When I asked her what I could do to get published, she said, “Write a lot and send it to everyone.” At first I was a bit perplexed by her answer, but now looking back, I see the wisdom in what she had to say. By the time Soul Mate Publishing contracted my first two books of the Salmon Run Series, I had already self-published my two non-fiction books. I had also written two of my Millicent Winthrop Novels. In other words, I was polishing my craft. I have since written three additional novels, and I don’t foresee stopping any time soon! It takes years to establish a career, but also time to develop one’s one unique voice. I’m grateful that I have a publisher, but I’m also grateful for the time it took me to find one.
 What’s your current WIP?
Under the name of Cunigunda Valentine, (yes, believe it or not, that’s my grandmother’s name!) I write in a hybrid chick lit/cozy mystery voice. I’m just finishing the fourth book of my Millicent Winthrop Series and plan to publish the entire series in 2018, beginning with the introductory novel, Just My Luck. All four books follow the exploits of a woman (Millicent Winthrop) with a multiple personality disorder, who with the help of her two canine assistants, Holmes and Watson, solves crimes against world soccer, while at the same time falls in love with her all-too-handsome psychiatrist.
Oooh! Can we have a blurb and an excerpt?
Just My Luck Blurb
Kathryn Richards, having recently graduated with her PhD, is ready to begin her first library position at the prestigious UCLA. Things should finally be going her way, but unfortunately she runs into one challenge after another including running out of gas, pissing off her employer, falling for a man already spoken for, and falling victim to one of LA’s infamous category five earthquakes. Yet in spite of all that, Kate’s life has just begun!
Chapter One Excerpt
Kathryn Richards had no idea what hurt more – her aching back or her broken heart. She’d been driving sixteen hours straight since leaving Seattle. And still had another eight or nine hours to go before reaching L.A. If only she had budgeted her money more wisely, then she might have had enough for a night’s stay in a cheap motel. Which of course wasn’t the most ideal of choices, but at least that would have gotten her out of this excuse-of-a-car and allowed her to stretch her legs. Take a quick shower. Or treat herself to a long nap. As it was, Kate barely had enough money for gas, and even less energy to make the long and arduous trek down the I – 5 corridor.
            Yet nothing compared to what she had gone through her last year of graduate studies at the University of Washington. What with classes, comprehensive exams and orals, and dealing with her dissertation committee (particularly one professor, Dr. Randall Carlyle by name), she was exhausted beyond anything she imagined she could endure.  But it was all worth it, for at last she held her PhD diploma in Library Science in her hand and nothing or nobody was ever going to take that away from her.
Not even Randy.
The douche canoe.
“Oh, crap!” Kate blurted out as once again she found her eyes welling up with tears.  When was she ever going to be done crying over this man who she thought loved her as much as she loved him?
Soon, her mind kept assuring her. But her heart kept repeating not yet.
Still the tears came whenever she thought about how stupid she had been to get herself romantically mixed up with the one professor who served as her dissertation chair. True, Randy—that is, Dr. Carlyle—had been super kind, respectful and irresistibly handsome. Unfortunately, however, and unbeknownst to her, he also had been married.
“Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!” Kate chanted as she pounded on the steering wheel of her twenty year old Honda Civic, no longer directing her anger at Mr. Sexy Ass Hat, but solely at herself. “For an overly educated woman, Dr. Richards, you sure are a dunce!” she scolded as she turned off the freeway to gas up at the first station she spotted.
For the umpteenth time Kate found herself standing in an ice cold, stinky public bathroom splashing water on her swollen face and reapplying what little makeup she had brought with her for the trip. As she looked in the mirror, Kate noted that with each pit stop her face became less puffy and her crying less frequent.
“Criminy!” she said out loud. “By the time I get to LA I may actually be over that turd!”
Kate then put on her best fake smile as she pointed at her reflection. “It’s show time!” she pronounced to no one other than herself.  And then shoved her things back into her oversized tote—the Jimmy Choo knock off she bought at Wal-Mart for one sixteenth of the going price. And made a bee-line for the cashier, where she not only paid for her gas, but a few necessary snacks to tide her over.
A box of Junior Mints.
A can of Diet Coke.
And a two-pill packet of Aleve.
After checking all four tires to make sure they still held enough air to complete her trip, Kate crawled back behind the wheel of the only vehicle she had ever owned and aimed the front grill toward her final destination. She had been lucky to have been given the car by Grammy Lou, one of the few friends she made so far in her short life. Louise Pederson had been Kate’s case worker all the years she lived in foster care. And unlike the many foster moms Kate had been subjected to, Grammy Lou truly cared about Kate. And offered her the kind of stability and encouragement she needed as a young girl and teen.
But even Grammy Lou was now gone, having passed away several years earlier from a sudden heart attack, leaving Kate with many treasured memories as well as an ancient car with low mileage.
Kate was also fortunate that the first job since graduation waited for her at the prestigious University of California, Los Angeles. Assistant Research Librarian for the main library on campus was nothing to sneeze at. And after all the hoopla between her and her dissertation chair, Kate knew how lucky she was to have gotten out of Seattle with her degree, let alone a job offer!
And a chance to start over.
Again.
In fact, Kate was a bona fide expert at the starting over game. From the time she left the orphanage in Tacoma as a young girl of seven, to the many foster families she was shifted to and from over the next ten years, Kate had grown accustomed to new beginnings and at the same time more wary of them.  As far as she was concerned, starting over was over rated.
 Okay, great beginning. This sounds like fun. 
And, finally, where can we find you?
Twitter:  @gwenoverland
Gwen Overland Author on Facebook    
Instagram  @GwenOverland 
Or at www.gwenoverland.com and www.cunigundavalentine.com.
Nothing like managing two websites to keep you busy. Thank you so much for being here. Good luck with all of your many projects. I am so happy for you.
And, dearest readers, if you didn't enter the giveaway above, you can enter by leaving a comment and an email address so we can reach you. Happy Reading.  




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Kristan Higgins Now That You Mention It. #Giveaway

Posted by Susan J Berger on 3:00:00 AM with 4 comments
Dearest Readers
A joyous 2018 to you. I'm giving you a chance to win the ARC of Kristan Higgins' Now That You Mention It. USA only, please. 
PLUS!!! Kristan is running her own giveaway which is much better than mine.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Try this book if you like hilarious and heartbreaking women’s’ fiction. It’s chock full of snarky humor, smart writing, and interesting characters. I read way past my bedtime. There is definitely a happy ever after, but I truly hate heartbreaking, so while it’s excellent writing, I gave it Four Stars. If you like heartbreaking, you will probably give it Five.
Here's Kristan's description of it from her hilarious interview with Joyce Lamb at USA Today. (do follow the link. This is such a funny interview.)

What does a person do after being run down by a pest control van? One goes back home, of course, and reassesses life.

Nora Stuart has worked wicked hard to make a perfect life for herself in Boston after leaving her tiny island hometown off the coast of Maine. She’s a doctor, has a great apartment, a dog, friends, a pretty good boyfriend … and then she’s hit by Beantown Bug Killers Pest Control. In the moments after the accident, Nora decides to go back to Maine and make things right with her family. Her mom and she have never been close, her younger, once-beloved sister is now in jail, and that sister’s teenage daughter is living on the island for the summer. Nora decides she’ll set things right in one fell swoop … and find out what happened to her dad, who left the family when she was 11.

The hard part is, she’s not exactly the island’s favorite child. People have long memories, and way back when, Nora won a scholarship that was supposed to go to Luke Fletcher, her academic rival and high school crush. There’s still a lot of bad blood, especially since the Fletcher twins got into a car accident after Nora stunned the town by winning. She finds an unlikely ally in Luke’s twin, badly hurt in the accident, now a single dad of a girl who reminds Nora a lot of herself in high school.

As the summer unfolds, Nora finds herself face-to-face with memories of her childhood — as well as a traumatic event she’s tried to bury — learns that you can’t rewrite the past as much as you might want to, and maybe falls in love.

And of course, there’s a great big beautiful dog in the book as well.

Interested? Yes? Enter Kristan's giveaway above and my giveaway below. Happy Reading.
a Rafflecopter giveaway