July 23, 2017

Jennifer Wilck Takes Us on a Walk of The Garden State: New Jersey

New Jersey is the Garden State, and at no time is that more apparent than in the spring. Give us a few days of warm, sunny weather, a bunch of rain, and magic happens. Our trees start budding. Our grass greens. Our flowers bloom. Beauty returns after a long, cold winter, transforming our state from grey to green—nothing like what most people picture New Jersey.

I’m always astonished at people’s perceptions of where I live. I grew up here, but attended college in the Midwest. Everyone I met, when they heard where I lived, asked me what exit I was from. Few of them had been to New Jersey, and those who had hadn’t seen much beyond the highways surrounding the airport. Or they knew we had a lot of shopping malls. No one mentioned how beautiful our state can be. Today, people know about us because of the show Jersey Shore, which did little to highlight the beauty of our beaches, and a lot to highlight some unfortunate people with crazy accents.
As an adult, I live in a part of the state where open space is protected, trails cross much of my county and beauty is everywhere. Despite the seasonal allergies, its beauty is awe-inspiring and refills my soul.

Most mornings, I take my dog on a long walk around our lake. The walk takes about an hour, with a distance of three and a half miles. Although it’s suburban, I’m constantly seeing beautiful nature everywhere I look. One morning I even saw a bald eagle! I walk for exercise—for her and for me—but I also do it because it’s often on those walks where I get my writing inspiration. I’m the crazy lady talking to herself or dictating into her phone, trying my best to get down what pops into my head before it flies right out again. Once home, I can flesh it out and hopefully use it in my books.

Many of my books take place in or around New Jersey. It sometimes feels a little odd to me to include towns I know, but at the same time, there’s comfort in the familiar, and it’s easy to describe what I know. I’ve set books in Morristown, a picturesque small town with a town square and beautiful Victorian houses; Hoboken, a small city popular with the twenty-something crowd because of its nightlife; and Ridgewood, another small town with lots of shops and restaurants. I’ve had characters hike the Patriot’s Path trails that wind through Morris County. They’ve taken the PATH train to New York City and worked in Jersey City. They’ve seen shows in Newark, visited relatives in Livingston, and yes, even flown into the airport. I love adding the local flavor and showcasing parts of my state some readers would never know about until they read my books (http://jenniferwilck.com/books.html).

My latest book, Addicted to Love, is set in Hoboken. The heroine, Hannah, lives there with her grandmother. The hero, Dan, also lives there with his teenaged daughter. Hoboken is a great place for characters in a contemporary romance to live. It’s a commuter’s hub, which means they can work in New York or other parts of New Jersey and easily commute. There are a ton of restaurants and bars and there is a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline. It was a great location to use and I was also able to add pictures to my Pinterest board (https://www.pinterest.com/jenniferwilck/addicted-to-love/) so readers can visualize it easier.

Here’s an excerpt to give you a glimpse of their story:  
Dan Rothberg struggled after an accident killed his wife and he nearly lost custody of his daughter. He can no longer allow himself to get attached to anything or anyone. Until he meets Hannah.

Hannah Cohen is a young executive with a meddlesome grandmother and a troubled brother. She’d like nothing better than to find her own Mr. Right, after too many Mr. Wrongs. A sexy older man with a teenage daughter was never in her plans.
As they navigate their relationship through adolescent attitudes and grandmotherly interference, they realize age is just a number and love can be right in front of them. But when the terrible truth of Dan’s former struggles is exposed, Hannah must decide if she can get past his deception and allow love to conquer all.

Thanks for stopping by to read about why I love living in and writing about New Jersey. I have two prizes to give away to a lucky blog reader—a copy of Addicted to Love (Kindle version) and a “Devoted to Dessert” spatula from Carlo’s Bakery (that’s the bakery featured on Cake Boss, and it’s also located in Hoboken. Simply tell me where you’re originally from and what you like best about your state.
Jennifer Wilck’s website information is http://jenniferwilck.com/index.html There you’ll be able to see all her releases plus some other great stuff about her! Stop on over. 
(information provided by author)

July 16, 2017

New Hampshire and Margaret Porter

I’m not a native of this state in which I live. By moving here, I returned to the place my English ancestors settled in the mid-1630s. Unlike most immigrants, who stopped first in the Massachusetts colony, my forbears sailed directly to the New Hampshire coast. For me, this fact is a point of pride. My husband and I spent our honeymoon here one blazingly colourful autumn, and for many years we were seasonal residents—at our vintage cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee—before making a permanent move. I suspect those early settlers would be pleased by our decision to re-locate. Here are some of the reasons:

Seasonal variety. New Hampshire boasts four distinct major seasons, and even a few lesser ones. Winter feels long and can be extremely cold, but when the snow isn’t falling the sun gleams down upon the white landscape from a brilliant blue sky. With the thaw comes maple sugaring time, closely followed by mud season. Spring delivers pastels, and beautiful aromas when the lilac (our state flower) blooms in May. Summer means strawberries and kaleidoscope colours in gardens and wildflower meadows, and blueberries—wild or cultivated. Autumn harvest provides a abundance of apples and pumpkins, and the vivid oranges and reds of the trees—our state is 85 per cent forested—for which New England is rightly renowned.

Geography. It’s no exaggeration to say we have it all here. Mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls, and a seacoast with rocky sections and vast sandy beaches. Our tiny state is divided into seven regions named for distinguishing features: Great North Woods (forests), White Mountains (peaks), Lakes, Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region, Monadnock (mountain), Merrimack Valley (river), Seacoast. Our border with Canada makes for an easy international trip!

Recreation. Whatever the season, there’s something interesting to do. Ice castles, ice fishing, and international sled dog races in the winter. Agricultural fairs and festivals in summer and autumn. One of the most popular events is the https://nhscot.org/ New Hampshire Highland Games where folk of Scottish descent and notable visitors from Scotland dance, perform feats of strength, listen to traditional music, shop, and compare kilt patterns.

Culture. For centuries artists, sculptors, musicians, novelists, and poets have been drawn to New Hampshire for inspiration and relaxation. It features in Henry David Thoreau’s travelogue A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Louisa May Alcott spent summers here. The http://robertfrostfarm.org/ Robert Frost Farm in Derry is open to visitors, and many of his best-loved poems originated in that locale. Poet e.e. cummings was a summertime lakeside resident. Thornton Wilder wrote the play Our Town, set in New Hampshire, during a stay at the http://www.macdowellcolony.org/ Macdowell Colony, where numerous writers have been granted a productive residency, resulting in award-winning and bestselling works. Present-day local authors include such household names as Jodi Picoult, Dan Brown, PJ O’Rourke, Janet Evanovich, Sy Montgomery, and Tomie di Paola. The http://currier.org/ Currier Museum in Manchester, the largest city, houses a world-class art collection and sponsors tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House, and the http://www.manchesterhistoric.org/millyard-museum Millyard Museum highlights the era when Amoskeag Manufacturing was the world’s largest textile factory. The twenty-six colleges and university offer an array of public programs and exhibitions to entertain and inform, as does the https://www.nhhistory.org/ New Hampshire Historical Society and similar societies in most towns, no matter how large or small. Our Native American, colonial, and Revolutionary War history are celebrated at numerous sites. I love taking our visitors on a Covered Bridges Tour—we have so many, each one unique!

Politics. New Hampshire’s State House, the capital building located in downtown Concord, has the nation’s oldest legislative chamber still being used. During my two terms as a State Representative, every time I entered the historic building—two years shy of its bicentennial—I experienced a thrill. But in the warmer months, I melted from the lack of air conditioning! With 424 members, counting the House of Representatives and the Senate, ours is the third largest legislative body in the entire English-speaking world, after the British Houses of Parliament and the U.S. Congress. It is very much a legislature made up of ordinary citizens rather than political professionals, and close to and responsive to the needs of the people in cities, towns, villages, farms, factories, and schools. Our First in the Nation Primary in Presidential election years is mixed blessing. There’s really no year at all when presidential hopefuls aren’t trying to gain traction among New Hampshire voters! It’s unusual for a resident of this state not to have met one—and usually many more—of the top tier candidates before entering the voting booth on Election Day!

Quality of life. All the above adds up to the quality for me, but New Hampshire is nationally recognised as the Most Livable State, one of the Healthiest States, and one of the Safest States. And for the tax-averse, we have no income tax and no sales taxes.

Admittedly not one of my twelve published novels is set in New Hampshire, but I’ve got plenty of story ideas—so it’s only a matter of time. If you haven’t visited the Granite State, I do hope you will, and I can assure you of a very warm welcome!

MARGARET PORTER is the author of A Pledge of Better Times and eleven more British-set historical novels for various publishers, including several bestsellers and award-winners. Many foreign language editions have been published. She studied British history in the U.K. and afterwards worked in theatre, film and television. Margaret returns annually to Great Britain to research her books. She and her husband live in New Hampshire with their two dogs, dividing their time between a book-filled house in a small city and a waterfront cottage located on one of the region’s largest lakes. More information is available at her website, www.margaretporter.com . 

Leave a comment for your chance to win these prizes: an autographed copy of A Pledge of Better Times with bookmark, and a selection of handmade maple sugar candies from a New Hampshire maple sugaring operation. Please be sure to provide link to contact so you can because, if you win, I'll need to be able to find you for your mailing address!

July 9, 2017

A Rare Side of Nevada and Las Vegas with Author, Kay Phoenix

Tony Bennett serenaded me as a child.  I saw Siegfried and Roy before they were mega-famous, and now I see them at the gas station because they live nearby.  I know people that dance in and work on Cirque Du Soliel shows.  And, if I happen to see someone dressed like an Avenger cross the street in front of me, I don’t even blink an eye.  The first time I went to California on vacation, I remember asking the nice lady at the check-in desk what show their hotel featured (we were probably at a Travelodge or something).  
That’s Vegas for ya.  And, it’s my hometown.  Nevada is my home state, and although I admit to hating the summers when it’s 115 degrees outside, I kinda like it here.  Where else could I live that has so many world class restaurants and entertainment nearby, and such gorgeous National parks and recreation areas just as close? Plus, the only harsh weather we have to worry about is the sun. 

When I grew up I ended up working in the gaming industry.  I was a graphic designer and I worked for a casino supply company designing signage, slot machine graphics, and anything else that was flashy and would make the tourists want to drop their hard earned money on the slight chance they might walk away rich. 

Honestly though, Vegas is so much more than the Strip of casinos that line the center of the valley.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on planes coming home from vacation to hear someone talk about all the “inside information” they have on how to win the slots (hint: there aren’t any magic formulas).  Or, where the best buffets are (arguable).  I usually prefer to keep my mouth shut because if I mention I’m from here, inevitably they will talk my leg off the rest of the flight.  

If you’ve been here, I hope that you’ve spent some time away from the Strip, and have taken in some of the beauty the Nevada desert has to offer.  Red Rock Canyon is a favorite, and it’s the closest spot to the city, and the one that most of the tourists visit. Then, there’s Lake Mead Conservation Area, which, interestingly enough, is actually patrolled by the coast guard because of Hoover Dam.  Valley of Fire is near, as well as Death Valley national Park.  Further north is Great Basin National Park.  There’s also a little place called Area 51 nearby, if you’ve heard of it (or even if you haven’t- hehe).  Side note on Area 51:  if you’ve lived in Vegas for any amount of time you will undoubtedly come across at least one and maybe a bunch of people that have worked there.  Funny for a place that doesn’t exist. 

Northern Nevada is full of wide open spaces, many ranches and the beauty of the true west.  Lake Tahoe, Reno and Carson City are vastly different than Las Vegas not only in climate but also in population and culture.  

Last year, some local writers formed a group called The Sin City Romance Writers.  We have published an anthology “Decades of Love” basing each novella on a different decade in Vegas’ history.  We plan on having several more anthologies out soon, each one providing Vegas as a backdrop to the tales.  

I mostly write contemporary and paranormal romances.  I enjoy keeping things real as I’ve found that reality is often stranger than fiction (and especially true if you live in Vegas!).  My book, “Steele and Stone”, from The Wild Rose Press was recently a finalist in the Holt Medallion contest.  By the time this blog comes out, I’ll know whether or not I was a winner.  

I hope that if you ever venture to Vegas for the first or fiftieth time, you’ll plan to take a few days to visit everything else you can find outside of the strip and toward the state lines in all directions.  You’ll fall in love with my home state, just as I have.  It’s rugged, solid and beautiful, just like the wild mustangs that still run free in its lonely mountains.  

Ms. Phoenix is a rare bird herself...a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. She belongs to Las Vegas Romance Writers and has served on the board for several years. She is also a member of Romance Writers of America with PAN status.

Prior to writing, Kay was a Graphic Artist for fifteen years in the casino industry and holds degrees in both Graphic Arts and Psychology. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, traveling and photography. She is also involved in several Las Vegas non-profits, and is the current Chairman of a popular, long-running, local art show.

Kay has been blessed to be able to travel many places, which inspired her to host a weekly author spotlight called “Midweek Escapes” on her blog. It features guest author’s favorite vacation destinations, their travel tips, and, of course, information about their book releases and occasional giveaways.

Please visit her website at www.KayPhoenix.com.

Comment and I’ll pick TWO winners.  Yes, TWO.  I’ll send you a book and some Vegas swag. Good Luck! 
(all info provided by author)