Happy Friday everyone! Hard to believe that my first cozy mystery will be out in the world on Tuesday. Hope you'll give it a try. I've been thinking a lot about how much emotion songs invoke and how, sometimes, it takes a whole book to do the same. When I have teasers made, I always think the image and words together capture that similar kind of emotion. Like a snapshot of the powerful moments in my books. I just wanted to share some of those images today because I like looking back at them and remembering that I created those moments in print even though others helped me capture the meaning with their artistic wizardry (talking to Tanya and Nicole here ;)
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Yesterday, I took my fifteen year old to the Surrey International Writing Conference. This is a great event. I've never been able to go for more than one day but every time I've gone, it has been memorable. Back in January of 2013, I started this website and blogging and it was after I'd gone to my first SWIC. I'd met an agent interested in signing my picture book. At the time, I knew nothing about publishing.
Now, there are days I still feel like I don't know nearly enough but what I do know is yesterday, I was able to go and feel comfortable, like maybe I belonged. It was interesting to see my daughter connect with Tanya Lloyd Kyi for a blue pencil session because all of those years ago, she gave me a confidence boost before I had a sit down with my first agent.
I'm sixteen books in and none of them are picture books so it definitely shows that the road doesn't always lead where you expect it to. It's hard to remember that every journey is different and accept that if you just follow your own road, you'll end up where you're meant to be.
Going to the conference with my daughter again made me nervous and excited. It's incredibly inspiring to watch her navigate this path but it's also hard. It can be a bumpy road but as I watched her interact with industry professionals and take notes, I realized, she knows more at fifteen than I did the first time I attended the conference.
I didn't know, five years ago, that I'd have a collection of romance novels published, some self, some traditionally. I didn't know I'd be working with my third agent or that publishing wasn't easy. I didn't know it requires a village of people to support you and keep you moving forward. What I did know, was that I loved to write. That hasn't changed. Being there, yesterday, with my oldest, reminded me that no matter where the road leads, we were both there for the same reason. That love of and passion for writing. It's easy to forget that some days. Her enthusiasm helps me remember, her drive pushes me forward, and her attitude inspires me.
I don't know where I'll end up, but I feel pretty lucky to be standing right here, where I am.
I might not have the little blue check mark beside my name anywhere and I don't have a quadrillion followers, but I'm really excited that I'm nearing 1000 likes on my Facebook author page. This is huge to me. It means that slowly and steadily, I'm gaining readers and friends who love books and I'm so grateful for that. So grateful that I'm doing a giveaway!
While I get pretty nervous talking, or being, in public, I really, truly enjoy the opportunity to talk about my books. Interviews and blog posts are one of my favorite parts of releasing a new book. I was super excited to blog for Romance Junkies this week. You can read the post below, but let me just say, the owner of the site is AWESOME. I was lucky enough to meet her in Denver, Colorado at the RWA conference. Not going to lie, I may have made a little bit of a fool of myself. More than once. I've told you guys before, I am unintentionally funny. Trust me when I say I proved this to Marie Harte.
Today is the release of Never Expected You, my sixteenth published story. I will be brutally honest and tell you, it was the hardest one I've written. I have no idea why or what made it so challenging compared to the others, but because I struggled so much with it, I was very worried about how people will feel after reading it. Let me just say, I'm more than a little relieved and thrilled that readers are enjoying it.
This is one of those books that just hit every emotional button and left me happy and satisfied.
~Bette H.~ Goodreads reviewer
I can always count on Jody Holford to deliver beautifully layered, heartfelt romances. And, deliver she did - on every level.
~Bookgasms Book Blog
So many things have changed since my first foray into publishing. The one thing that hasn't is how grateful I feel to be part of this amazing writing community, to have a wealth of supporters who make me feel like I'm doing what I should, and to have actual readers who look forward to my books.
To celebrate the release, I'm giving away a signed paperback copy of Let it Be Me and some swag. Thanks for reading.
Because I'm getting antsy to share, I'm letting you see the first chapter of book 2 in the Love Unexpected Series, NEVER EXPECTED YOU. I'm excited for you guys to meet Stella and Zach. It might not be a holiday where you are, but it is here, so Happy B.C. Day!
With all the things she’d been through in the last year, Stella Lane had no intention of letting a bird get the best of her. She stared up at the pain-in-the-ass-albeit-kinda-cute parakeet
trying to poke holes in her good intentions. It was just after ten a.m. and she was ready to call it a day. She wasn’t even supposed to be working today, and she’d already helped a Great Dane through a tricky delivery, given shots to a very sweet kitty, and had her purple Converse puked on by a nervous labradoodle.
Just another day at the office. She grinned, thinking it could be worse. Right now, the bird was just flying around. At least he wasn’t dive bombing her or leaving messes everywhere. The bird chirped, mocking her as it flew a little higher in the reception area.
“Come down here and say that,” Stella sang out in a syrupy voice. She crooked her finger, like somehow that was a magic spell. She snorted out a laugh. Didn’t work on men, it wasn’t likely to work on a damn bird.
As she inched toward the other side of her waiting room counter, she kept her sight glued to Pedro, certain those marble-sized eyes were sparkling with mischief. Stifling a yawn, Stella reached up and held out a hand, willing the bird to perch on her fingers.
When the door behind her swung open, she whirled. She was not the bird’s biggest fan at the moment, but she was pretty sure her owner wanted her back. Seeing as this particular owner actually paid in cold hard cash rather than most of Brockton Point’s preferred currency of casseroles and favors, Stella needed to keep the animal safe.
“Close the door. Quick,” Stella called, looking up into a gorgeous set of eyes that were somewhere between gray and blue.
Wow. When she’d signed up for another veterinarian practicum student, she hadn’t considered he might be smoking hot. Truthfully, she hadn’t thought much about it at all, since it
was routine. But this guy was enough to make her forget she was on a mission to catch a bird. Business and pleasure do not mix. The lesson might as well have been tattooed on her skin. Plus, Hot Guy was late, and that was as irritating as Pedro’s taunting. Okay, squawking, but it feels like taunting.
The heat of summer and the scent of cologne wafted through the door before he could get it closed. It was a powerful combination, but Stella regrouped and turned back to the bird.
“Bird trouble?” the man asked, his voice low and amused.
She sent another quick glance his way. He was easily a foot taller than her, but that was nothing new. At five feet, most people towered over her. Those smoky blue-gray eyes stared
back, crinkling around the corners. His dark hair was cut short on the sides and perfectly styled on the top—like the thirteen minutes he was running behind had been used to sculpt it into
“You could say that. You’re a bit late,” she answered. Cut him some slack. It’s not Dexter’s fault Pedro’s owner thought he could walk right in and drop off his pesky pet.
The student’s brows rose. “I’m sorry?”
Stella noted the light gray T-shirt and jeans, thinking that while they looked damn good on him, it wasn’t the typical student attire for the first day. Most practicum students—especially
those in their final leg—were eager to impress the veterinarian they worked with in hopes of securing a position. Not that she was hiring. Unfortunately, free labor was all she could afford.
She had a solid relationship with the University of Maine and didn’t want to wreck that by snapping at her newest recruit. Or hitting on him. It was hard to ignore the fact that he looked
more like he’d walked off a movie set than a college campus.
Focus. The last thing she needed was to cut off the supply of free, educated help. Pedro eyed the new guy, who took small, soft steps and made a clicking noise with his
tongue. Stella appreciated the initiative.
“She startles easily. Have you worked with many birds?” Stella asked, moving with a stealthy slowness to shut one of the open exam room doors.
“I’ve worked with a few different breeds. Mostly tropical.”
Interesting. She wondered if he’d done any of his earlier schooling overseas. She would have loved an opportunity like that, but her goal had been to come back and work with her dad.
That had trumped any other job offers. The bird fluttered her wings. Oh no you don’t. With the doors all shut, Stella knew it was just a matter of time. She hadn’t been able to give Pedro an
injection, but the bird was older and likely to tire soon.
Pedro cooed at Stella’s new student. Actually cooed. Traitor. “She likes you,” Stella said, trying not to scowl.
Maybe Pedro could sense Dexter Braun’s—which was the name on the files she’d received earlier that week—patience. Animals sensed emotions and Stella’s were riding high.
Running on too little sleep and knowing she had to ask a big favor of a petty person later today had stretched her nerves thin. When Dexter shot her a lopsided smile, her belly rolled over like an easy-to-please puppy. You’re as bad as Pedro. You might as well coo. Nope. No. No. Not only would she be his boss, but she didn’t do relationships. Ever. Not anymore. Flings, sure. Though even those had become a thing of the past. For the last several months, all she did was work. A work fling would be convenient, except for the multitude of gray areas. Gray was an off-limits color in Stella’s world. Black and white suited her just fine. She thought about his eyes again but didn’t let herself look. She needed more caffeine.
Her brain didn’t usually travel so many tangents at once.
“Did you hear me?” Dexter asked.
Stella widened her eyes and realized she’d completely zoned out—and it wasn’t even about work.
“No. Sorry. What did you say?”
“If you sit in one of the chairs, she might feel less threatened. Both of us shuffling her into a corner probably makes her nervous,” he cautioned. Holding a muscled, tanned arm out in a
way that showed a hint of dark ink near the cuff of his short sleeve, he placed his palm upward.
Stella sat and watched. “She’s not nervous. She doesn’t want a shot.”
Dexter smiled. “Parakeets are quite intelligent. Perhaps she senses your underlying disdain for her.”
Stella arched a brow, unsure if she was amused or annoyed. Mr. University of Maine Veterinarian School certainly wasn’t shy. “Well, Dexter, if she’s that smart, she’ll realize drawing blood is immediate grounds for disdain. If you’re smart, which I’m guessing you are, you’ll realize the combination of being bitten by our clever pal, not having enough coffee, and
having a practicum student arrive late are grounds for irritable outbursts.”
Dexter’s eyes widened. “Actually, I’m not—”
Stella held up her hand. “Shh!” Did Pedro just move closer? The parakeet seemed to have shifted down the wall. Dexter grabbed a dog treat from a bowl on the counter and crumbled some
of it into his palm, once again holding it face up.
“Come here, girl. You’ve caused enough havoc for one day. Come on down and say sorry to the pretty doctor before she gives in to one of those outburst urges.”
Despite herself, Stella grinned. “Right. She’s so not coming down for me.”
Stella had a feeling females of all species listened when the sexy-doctor to be spoke in that low, gravelly voice he’d just used.
Pedro inched along the wall at a diagonal, coming closer without a lot of wing movement. Dexter patiently held his hand aloft and leaned against the reception counter.
“Is it always this quiet in here?”
Stella laughed. “No. Honestly, it hasn’t been this quiet in months. But I was supposed to be closed today.” So I could meet you and then go grovel to the bank.
Dexter crossed his ankles over each other and turned his gaze to her instead of the bird. “Is Pedro an overnight visitor?”
“No. I was coming in to check on some of the animals and Mr. Sutter caught me outside before I could tell him I was closed. I rarely am.”
Since they were waiting on the whims of the bird, Stella decided to use the time to her benefit. She had a standard routine with new students, starting with getting to know them. “Why vet school?”
He glanced at her, seemingly weighing his words.
“I kind of fell into it actually. I always wanted to work with animals, but I joined the army and realized the number of animals impacted by combat is disgustingly high. It didn’t seem
right, so it became my focus.”
Admiration and warmth filled her chest. He’d done a lot in a short period of time. She’d had lots of late bloomer students, but she’d thought his paperwork said early twenties. That was a
lot of experience for someone so young. The idea that he’d put his heart and talent into animals in such conditions was more swoon worthy than the flex of his biceps when he stretched out his arm and rubbed two fingers together, calling to the bird again.
“Have any of your rotations included surgery?” Stella asked, afraid to move when Pedro lowered her position about a foot.
Before he could answer, Pedro swooped down toward Dexter’s outstretched palm and actually settled on his arm.
“Son of a bitch,” Stella muttered under her breath.
“Hi, sweetie. Hungry?” The bird pecked at his hand.
Stella rose slowly as her show-off student stroked the bird’s feathers. The stupid bird actually preened. Dexter’s hands were large, with long fingers that easily wrapped around the
Pedro’s body, preventing the bird from spreading her wings.
When he looked at Stella, his smile made her stomach somersault again.
With a cocky nod of his head, he asked, “What now?”
Stella laughed quietly. Gesturing for him to follow her into the exam room Pedro had escaped from, she glanced over her shoulder. “Let’s see how docile she is for you while I give
her a shot.”
Dexter’s chuckle vibrated in the small, sterile room and sent shivers over Stella’s skin. Or maybe it’s just cold in here. Right. It was cold.
They made it through the shot a lot easier with four hands, and when Pedro was back in her cage, dozing off, Stella breathed a sigh of relief. Dexter was making himself comfortable, looking around the open reception room while
Stella wrote up her notes. She’d never had a student with such…sex appeal? A sculpted body? Mesmerizing eyes?
“Confidence!” Stella closed her eyes when she realized she’d blurted the word out loud.
“Pardon me?” Dexter moved closer, but she refused to look at him.
“Uh, nothing. I’m just making notes.”
“You’re putting something in your notes about Pedro’s confidence?”
Stella looked up, and sure enough, Dexter had crowded way too close, his eyes locked on hers doing strange things to Stella’s sorely deprived libido. “I am. Yes.”
Right. Stick to your story. The look on his face proved he didn’t believe her.
Straightening, she closed the file and walked to the cabinet to put it away. She needed to reattach her walls of professionalism. This guy had definitely caught her at a weak moment, and she prided herself on not having many.
“There are no other patients in clinic today, so I’ll show you around, but I do have some errands I need to run in a bit. Plus, I have farm visits. You can fill out some paperwork and then
we’ll head down to the stables. I need to check on my horse.” Just the thought of spending a few minutes with Chocolate Chip made the tension slip from her shoulders. Too bad she didn’t have time for a ride today.
Grabbing her boots from under the counter, she switched her Converse for them, then grabbed the clipboard with the paperwork.
“So, listen,” Dexter said, taking the clipboard from her after looking at it like it might bite him.
Now he was nervous? Stella headed for the door with him on her heels. It would be easier to rebuild those sex-starved barriers if she wasn’t breathing in the delicious smell of him. Six weeks. She could handle six weeks with a sexy, smirky student if he was as competent as he appeared. They’d barely stepped off the porch of the clinic her father had built before she was born when a tow truck came rumbling up the drive.
Stella shielded her eyes to block the already hot sun. Dexter shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels.
“You fix cars as well as animals?”
“Not so much,” she replied, not recognizing the tow truck driver or the passenger.
The big truck pulled a small, beat up two-door vehicle behind it. Her own dogs, Nacho and Soda, howled from the wraparound porch of the farmhouse she’d grown up in. It sat a short walk away on a small incline.
The tow truck driver parked, and the guy in the passenger side rushed out, almost bailing on the gravel drive.
“Slow down, guy,” Dexter mumbled.
Stella winced, amused at Dexter’s commentary but worried the person rushing them would face-plant in her clinic parking lot. He reminded her of one of her labs as puppies, all feet and ears.
“Something I can do for you?” Stella called as he continued to rush over to her.
Dressed in light chinos and a button up shirt, he straightened his shoulders like he was just now thinking of making a good impression.
“Hi. I’m so sorry for being late. Are you Doctor Lane?”
Stella’s brows scrunched together. Dexter mumbled something under his breath that sounded a lot like “uh-oh.”
“I am. And you are?”
He stopped in front of her, his breath choppy and his smile crooked. He had curly dark hair and the slightest hint of stubble on his young-looking face.
“I’m Dexter Braun, ma’am. From the University of Maine Veterinarian Program. My faculty associate arranged my practicum with you. I truly apologize for being late. My car broke down about fifteen miles from here. I tried to call but it went to voicemail.”
Stella’s heart hammered uncomfortably. Turning slowly, she saw who she thought was Dexter staring at her with an abashed forgive-me grin.
This ought to be good. This is exactly what happens when you get sucked in by sexy eyes and a killer smile.
She covered her chagrin with a glare. “Who the hell are you?”
Ever connect with someone on social media and realize you have a lot in common? Then go on to realize that not only do they say nice things about YOUR books, but they write kick ass books of their own? This is a tale of two Canadians, who are actually in the same province and not so far apart that we can’t meet IRL who share a mutual affection for reading and writing swoon worthy romances. Okay, it’s actually a story of how one of them just had a new book release and I can’t wait to read it.
Meet my friend Sara Rider.
ike me, she lives in British Columbia, Canada. Sara writes contemporary romances full of heart and heat about strong women and the men who can’t resist them. I can attest to the accuracy of this statement because I just finished reading For the Win and fell in love with her characters, her writing, and the story. I’m very much looking forward to reading not only the other two books in that series, but her newest release, Real Kind of Love. This is Sara’s first self-published title and it released on June 5th, 2018 (another bit of kismet since that’s my birthday so it seemed like a gift just for me).
I asked Sara a few questions about her new book. First, let’s take a look at her gorgeous cover.
Isn’t it pretty? And it sounds great, too! Read the blurb below:
What happens when a fake relationship turns into a real kind of love?
As an audiobook narrator, Clementine Cox has no trouble mastering the voices of space aliens, elven warriors, or even demon-possessed cats. But the moment she tries her hand at an erotic romance, she’s stumped. With her deadline looming, she books a week at a secluded cabin to restore her inner muse, telling her loving-but-overbearing family it’s a romantic getaway with her not-so-existent new boyfriend to keep them from worrying. She never expects them to invite themselves along to meet the new guy. Now, she has less than twenty-four hours to find a pretend boyfriend in order to save her job and, potentially, her sanity.
Workaholic Jake Donovan isn’t interested in a real relationship. After a broken engagement, all he wants to do is focus on keeping his brewpub, the Holy Grale, afloat. But when he finds out his favorite customer is in need of a fake boyfriend, and his business partners insist he take a long overdue vacation, he has no choice but to help Clem out. All he has to do is enjoy the sunshine, play nice with her family, and keep his hands to himself for the week.
But Jake’s not prepared to like waking up next to Clem every morning as much as he does. Or to feel so welcome by her quirky family. And as the line between real and fake starts to blur, he realizes one week might never be enough.
I love fake relationship stories so this is right up my alley. Leave a comment below or on the Romance Chicks Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram telling me what your favorite trope is and I’ll randomly choose one person to win a copy of Sara’s book For the Win.
FAST FIVE with Sara Rider
Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book! Trying to figure out exactly why my characters would fall for each other is one of my favourite parts of writing, so it’s fun to be able to talk about it here
1.Where did the idea for Clem and Jake’s story come from?
Unlike most of my stories, REAL KIND OF LOVE just popped into my head one morning, almost completely plotted from start to finish. I was drafting another book at the time and had to put it aside to write this one. It was the quickest book I’ve ever written. I’d been playing with the idea of writing a very introverted heroine for a while and I love the fake relationship trope, so the story practically wrote itself. Most of my stories, however, come from a spark of an idea or scene that makes me laugh, and I build the story around that.
2.What do you think Clem adores most about Jake?
Clem is first drawn to Jake because he makes her feel comfortable in her skin. He doesn’t pry or pressure her into talking about herself when she’s not ready. But as she gets to know him better, she realizes he treats every person with complete respect and kindness, and that’s what makes her fall for him. Once she sees how hard he tries to fit in with her family in spite of their quirks, she’s a goner.
3.Same question but for Jake?
Jake has always been drawn to the mysterious woman who’s been coming to his bar for the last three years, ordering the same meal and reading her books. But as he gets to know her better, it’s her passion that makes him fall for her. Jake spent a long time in a failed relationship feeling like he didn’t recognize himself, so he respects the way Clem is unapologetically herself—whether it’s her love of romance novels or her quirky sense of humour or her need for time to herself.
4.Fake relationship stories can lend themselves to some embarrassing, albeit fun for the readers, moments. What is a favorite of yours for your characters?
REAL KIND OF LOVE is a lighthearted, funny book, so there are quite a few of those awkward moments full of sexual tension. My personal favourite is the moment Clem and Jake realize there is only one bed in the cabin where they’re staying for the week. Clem is already panicking about what to do when she discovers her older sisters have snuck in earlier in the day to leave a giant box of condoms on the pillow. Jake comes into the room just as she’s trying to hide them, only to have the box explode and the packets of condoms go flying everywhere.
5.How was the process of self pubbing different than going through a traditional publisher?
On the surface, the process is pretty similar: draft, revise a million times, edits, copy edits, proofread. But aside from the fact all the decisions were solely in my hands, the biggest difference was the freedom I felt when writing the book. I knew from the get-go I wanted to self-publish this, so I let myself write the book of my heart without worrying about whether anyone else would like it or even read it. Self-publishing meant I could write a heroine on the extreme end of introversion and let my particular brand of humour run wild. On the downside, self-publishing also meant I could tinker with the book right up until publication date, which is a very hard compulsion to resist!
I'm giving away a copy of my friend Jennifer Shirk's book to celebrate the release of the second book in her Accidentally Yours series, which releases next month. All you have to do to enter is comment below, @me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook with #romancerocks and you'll be entered to win and ecopy. Winner will be announced June 15th...plenty of time to read book one before book two releases.
I love strolling around our local used and new bookstores. As much as I'm there for the books, I enjoy finding bookish treasures as well.
With conference season coming (here?) a lot of authors are talking about swag. These are the little tokens of appreciation that are handed out, like bookmarks, pens, cups, that sort of thing. As authors, we wonder what to give away and as readers, we love to get our hands on anything that relates to our favorite books or story tellers.
Even if I wasn’t an author, I’d be obsessed with bookish items. Below is the top of my laptop. You can see I’m a fan of Rainbow Rowell and Alice in Wonderland.
The cool bookish pillows I've collected.
Our house is littered with bookish items, including my Alice in Wonderland writing gloves, my oldest’s multiple Shannon Messenger prints, my youngest’s Peter Pan and Star Wars quote pillows. We love words. Seeing them decorate the space around us is a joy so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite sites for finding our treasures.
The first is Redbubble. I LOVE REDBUBBLE. Mostly because you can find ANYTHING on there (or at least, anything I’ve been looking for). I’ve gotten several posters, pillow covers, pillows, and computer decals there.
For art prints, we generally shop Society 6. This site has so many things to offer and every piece feels unique. My heart tree by Shannon Messenger is one of my favorite purchases from there.
Another is Hot Topic. The one closest to us is actually a little annoying because (cue the I’m old newsflash) they play their music SO loud. It’s crazy. And usually some sort of thrash metal mixed with squealing squirrels or something. It’s not pleasant. However, if I can tolerate it long enough to dig through their sticker bin, I’ve found some awesome pins and decals that are connected to our favorite stories. They also have a ton of clothing, Pop Funkos (are we just not calling these bobble heads anymore?), and great accessories like Harry Potter socks!
I’m a big fan of Storyarts but I do find, at the moment, it’s limited. My Alice in Wonderland writing gloves were a gift from my bestie and I adore them (and her). It sounds funny (my mom thought I was a weirdo for wanting them) but my fingers and wrists get really cold while I write so I wear them and magic happens (just kidding, I wear them and I’m not as cold). They have items more geared toward the classics. Their stuff is elegant and timeless.
If I’m making something, I prefer sites like Zazzle or Shutterfly. There’s also a used bookstore in our town that is a trove of bookish treasure. My daughters bought a big portion of their Harry Potter trinkets there. I love discovering little stores and shops that carry unique gifts or items I can enjoy and share.
Do you have any bookish collections (other than books)?