Christmas in July

Here in Los Angeles, we’re on the cusp of a blazing hot week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get in the holiday spirit. Especially when there are four fab Christmas reads on sale for 99 cents all week long, including Merry & Bright! With six cheery tales of wintery bliss, you’ll be transported to cooler climates, warm cups of cocoa, rosy cheeks, and hot Christmas kisses!

Sip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humor, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.


My Top Five Online Dating Tips

Recently, I stepped back into the online dating pool. I’ve been dating online off and on for a number of years, so by now I consider myself a pro. I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way that have helped me figure out the best way to navigate the maze that is internet dating. It may seem impossible to find a good guy online, but they are out there! In fact, I met two of my best guy friends this way. And to this day, we are still great pals. I also met my last boyfriend on the internet, and though that didn’t quite work out, we’re still friends (of a sort). Anyway, on to the good stuff! Below are my tips to keep you from hating online dating:  

1.      Put on your party dress – It might seem obvious, but it you’re looking to attract romantic interests online, you need to make a great first impression. Put some thought into your profile. Don’t just slap up a selfie you took at the beach and jot down a few stale lines about finding “the one.” Be creative and let your personality really shine. And get a friend to take your picture, preferably one that has a good eye. You need to stand out from the crowd. And that starts with a great, captivating picture and a brief, but clever description of yourself and your passions.
2.      Make the first move – See someone you really like? Be bold and send him an email. Not a flirt or a wink. An actual email. It only needs to be a couple of sentences, but make them strong sentences that will grab him from the beginning. After all, that’s what you would want to get, too, right?
3.      Trust your gut – If you get an email from a guy (notice I said email, not a wink – ignore those), and you’re just not sure about him, hit the delete button. Yep. Trust me on this. After years of online dating and giving guys the benefit of the doubt, I have learned after many awkward coffee dates that my first instinct was always correct. Don’t second guess yourself. You will avoid a lot of uncomfortable conversations over chai lattes.
4.      Don’t take things personally – By this I mean, don’t get upset if some promising guy you’ve been emailing and texting suddenly disappears. It just means he wasn’t the one for you. Yes, it’s frustrating when you get dumped without so much as a farewell before you even meet him, but this is a clear indicator that he really wasn’t that into you and found someone he liked more. And on the internet, no one has any manners anymore, which leads me to my fifth tip…
5.      Be heartless – We’re all nice girls here, but I’ve learned that if someone who has emailed me doesn’t pique my interest right away, it’s best simply to hit delete. I know we’re all tempted to send a “thanks, but no thanks” response, but in my experience, it just leads to more awkward emails. A lot of these guys are playing a “numbers game” where they just wink and flirt with every cute girl that pops up on their screen. And if one bites, even if it’s a rejection, he keeps trying to reel you in. I have even had to block guys that I’ve deleted. They just don’t give up!
So, if you’re having a go at online dating, keep these tips in mind to make the process much less irritating. You may even have a little fun!

Q&A with Kelly Rimmer

Today on the blog, I’m happy to have Kelly Rimmer, author of Me Without You, for a little get-to-know-you Q&A. But before we dive right into that, here’s a bit about her new book! It sounds like a real tear-jerker!

Me Without You

A story of how love can break our hearts – and heal them.

A year ago I met the love of my life. For two people who didn’t believe in love at first sight, we came pretty close. Lilah MacDonald – beautiful, opinionated, stubborn and all kinds of wonderful in ways that words could never quite capture. The woman who taught me to live again.

My Lilah, who gave me so much, and yet kept from me a secret that she knew would break my heart.

My name is Callum Roberts, and this is our story.

Q&A with Kelly Rimmer

Q: What was the inspiration for your novel?
A: I was literally on a ferry when I had the first idea that lead to this book! I saw a lady in a suit – without shoes – and a man tried to pick her up. She was quite dismissive and it was actually rather awkward, but it got me thinking…what if it wasn’t like that…what if they had hit it off…? I’d had a few key ideas that I wanted to explore and the opening scene became the vehicle for that broader story.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?
A: There’s a lot I admire about Lilah, although she wouldn’t be an easy person to have close in your life – people who are that passionate rarely are!! I think most of us want to live a life that’s true to our principles and that makes a really positive, strong impact – Lilah really takes that concept very seriously, and I just love her for it.  

Q: What is your writing method? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A: Left to my own devices I am absolutely a pantser, I’m usually as shocked by surprise plot twists as anyone. But it’s a horribly inefficient way to write, so I’m trying very hard to plan my novels more!!

Q: Do you have any writing rituals to help set the mood before sitting down at the keyboard?
A: I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old -  and until recently I also worked full time – so my pre-writing ritual has traditionally been to sprint to the computer and to start frantically typing before someone disturbs me !! 

Q: What was the first car you owned?
A: It was a white 1981 Ford Laser with velour trim, and when the engine died, I literally wept.

Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: I have an aunt who lives in the rainforest in far north Queensland – I mean, quite literally in the middle of the rainforest, you can only get to her house by boat. I spent a few weeks with her over Christmas nearly ten years ago, licking my wounds after a horrendous year. Being four hours from anywhere in a Daintree paradise, eating great food, drinking great wine, sharing fantastic company – it just rebooted so many things for me. In hindsight, it was the dawn of a whole new (and much better) era in my life, so that holiday has particularly special memories for me !!

Q: Who was your first celebrity crush?
A: Michael J. Fox. I was pretty sure I was going to marry Alex P. Keaton.  

Q: Do you have a current TV show obsession?
A: I’ll answer this question after I watch just one more episode of Orange is the New Black…I’m so addicted – it’s brilliant!!  

Q: What was the first concert you went to and how old were you?
A: Living rurally as a teenager, there wasn’t much available in the way of recognisable-name concerts – not that I was much of a concert-goer anyway, I was much more likely to be at home reading.  

Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
A: That haircut you’re about to get will be a terrible mistake!!!  

LOL! Thanks for visiting, Kelly! I think I also had a wee crush on Alex P. Keaton back in the day. I’m still a fan of Michael J. today. He’s just so cute and funny.

About Kelly Rimmer
When Kelly’s childhood friends grew out of make-believe games, she realised she’d have to become a writer (or join the real world with them, but that seemed far too dull). Several decades later, she lives in rural Australia with her husband Daniel and their two young children, and when she’s not reading, writing, or daydreaming about reading and writing, she has one of those unfathomable IT jobs which no one outside of the industry really knows about.

Fiona Valpy’s French Lessons

Fiona Valpy, the author of The French for Always, and I have a few things in common. Aside from the fact we are both authors, we’re also both yoga teachers. And, funnily enough, I just bought a Fiat 500L and named it Fiona! And as I’m writing a novella set in France, Fiona’s guest post serves as the perfect inspiration for me, and hopefully for you, too! But before we get to that, here’s a bit about her new book to whet your appetite.

Five Weddings. The perfect venue. One little hitch…

Leaving the grey skies of home behind to transform a crumbling French Château into a boutique wedding venue is a huge leap of faith for Sara. She and fiancé Gavin sink their life savings into the beautiful Château Bellevue – set under blue skies and surrounded by vineyards in the heart of Bordeaux.

After months of hard work, the dream starts to become a reality – until Gavin walks out halfway through their first season. Overnight, Sara is left very much alone with the prospect of losing everything. With her own heart breaking, Sara has five weddings before the end of the season to turn the business around and rescue her dreams. With the help of the locals and a little courage can she save Château Bellevue before the summer is over?

French Lessons

Every now and then in life, you find yourself standing at a crossroads. Different paths open up before you and you hesitate, deciding which way to go. There may be a well-trodden path, one which you know will be safe, staying well within your comfort zone; and there may be paths that are less certain, riskier, leading off into uncharted territory. Six years ago, my husband and I took the riskier path, selling up in Britain and moving to France, in pursuit of our dream of owning a wine farm here. We’d researched it thoroughly, and our two sons were moving on in their own lives so it didn’t mean too much upheaval for them. We thought we had it sorted.

Which brings me to the first Life Lesson I have learned here: Never, ever think you have it sorted!

Having left our jobs and sold our house in Edinburgh, burning several bridges behind us, we arrived in France to buy our dream vineyard. And then the world changed overnight. Northern Rock collapsed, the world economy wobbled on its foundations, currencies began to slide, and we discovered that the French wine industry was in crisis. Whoops! We visited about thirty wine farms that were up for sale and ended up deciding to err on the side of caution (I know, I know, talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!) and buy a rambling farmhouse instead, a former wine chateau where the surrounding vines had all been sold off to other local winemakers so that we wouldn’t have the overwhelming responsibility of sinking our life savings into a risky business where we were complete newbies. It’s worked out perfectly – we support our local winemakers by buying the wine they make from “our” vines, so everyone’s happy.

So now we had a project on our hands, renovating our farmhouse, and for the first couple of years we worked flat out to restore it, creating a bright, welcoming home out of a collection of distinctly unloved-looking buildings.

And here’s my second Life Lesson: You’re never too old to learn new skills.

I now know how to mix cement, build a swimming pool, create new rooms out of drywall panels, and my painting and decorating skills have come on nicely so that, these days, more paint ends up on the walls and window frames than on me. We replaced draughty windows and rotting beams, re-roofed, re-wired and re-plumbed, put in heating and cosy wood burning stoves for the winter and created a garden with shady terraces for the summer heat.

Finally we sat back on our newly paved terrace, surveying our handiwork over a glass of chilled Bordeaux Blanc as the sun set on another beautiful summer’s day and then my husband and I looked at each other and said “What now?” Because whilst we’d created our dream home (and neatly resolved the wine-supply issue), we now needed to earn a living.

And here’s the third Life Lesson I’ve learned here: Trust yourself! You can always fall back on your own resources.

Over the years when I worked nine-to-five in an office, I occasionally used to wonder what it would be like to be able to do exactly what I wanted… and suddenly here I was in that position and it was completely terrifying! What would I do? What if I failed? Suddenly it was all up to me to make it happen, no nice safe salary coming in at the end of every month. But it was also exhilarating. Here was an opportunity to do the things I loved in order to make my living. And there are two things I REALLY love: books and yoga. So I gained my yoga teaching certification and I started to write. And I discovered that these two very different strands have created a new, fulfilling balance in my life. With my writing I’m free to explore the creative side, letting my imagination soar. And the yoga brings me back down to earth, keeping me grounded. Yin/yang.

These days I teach in a beautiful yoga studio, looking out towards the surrounding vineyards across the rose-filled garden that we’ve created, and I’ve established a thriving Yoga Association, through which I’ve gained the most wonderful circle of friends.

And the lovely people at Bookouture have published my first two novels, The French for Love and The French for Always, which have become Amazon bestsellers, and we have a third book in the works for later on this year.

They are books about women who find themselves at a crossroads in life and have to rely on their own instincts as they choose which path to take – with a little help from the lively local community, some delicious Bordeaux wines, and a very handsome Frenchman or two! And maybe, just maybe, they’ll also have the opportunity to learn a few Life Lessons of their own along the way…

About Fiona Valpy
FVFiona Valpy lives in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007. She left behind a career in Marketing and Public Relations to explore new avenues and now teaches yogaand writes. Having renovated an old rambling farmhouse with her husband, she has developed new-found skills in cement mixing and interior decorating, although her preferred pastime by far is wine-tasting.

Facebook: Fiona Valpy Books
Twitter: @fionavalpy

Q&A with Jenny Hale

Today I welcome Jenny Hale, author of Love Me for Me, to the blog for a little get-to-know-you interview. And check out her new book! I love the cover and it sounds so fun!


Sometimes you find perfect where you least expect it…

Libby Potter has just lost the perfect job, the perfect apartment and the perfect boyfriend. Moving back to the same home town that she couldn’t wait to escape when she was younger was definitely not on her todo list. Especially as it means running into the man whose heart she broke when she left.

Pete Bennett can still walk into a room and make Libby’s world stop with just the sound of his voice – even ten years on. Only now, she is the last person in the world that he wants to see. As everyone else welcomes Libby home with open arms, she realizes she’s missed that special closeness that comes from lifelong friendship. And, as Libby tries to make amends with Pete, she begins to wonder whether she made the right choice in leaving all those years ago.

When an amazing career opportunity gives her the chance to leave again, Libby will have to decide what her version of perfect is… and where she really belongs.

Q&A with Jenny Hale

Q: What was the inspiration for your novel?
A: Love Me for Me is set in a rural town in Virginia called White Stone where I rent a cottage for a week or so in the summers.  My best friend lives nearby, and we have many friends who also visit, so when we get there, we always have people around us.  It was this small town and my experiences in it that inspired the novel.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?
A: I just love Pete.  I love his honesty and loyalty to his family.
Q: What is your writing method? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A: Pantser!  I get a basic plot in my head, but how the characters respond to that plot depends entirely on how they emerge on the page.  As I’m writing the character, I’ll get to know him/her, and interactions and dialogue will come from that.  I set up the scene and watch them go!
Q: Do you have any writing rituals to help set the mood before sitting down at the keyboard?
A: I work full time as a teacher and have two small children.  If I spent time on rituals, I’d never write!  I write any and every free minute I get–even if it’s for two minutes.  I’m always plotting out little scenes and scenarios and building characters in my head, so by the time I get a moment to write, I’m ready.  I do listen to music if I get stuck.  The right song can inspire a few pages or more.
Q: What was the first car you owned?
A: A tiny, blue Geo Metro.  I don’t think they make it anymore, do they?
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: My favorite holiday is definitely Christmas.  I love the whole atmosphere–the trees, the lights, the family get-togethers.
Q: Who was your first celebrity crush?
A: Joe McIntyre of New Kids on the Block  (I had many posters…  Was slightly obsessed…)
Q: Do you have a current TV show obsession?
A: I don’t watch TV hardly at all.  I enjoy watching college football, and I’ll get into a show here and there if my hubby is watching one, but it’s very rare that I turn on TV on my own.  I will turn my head to The Voice, any music awards show, and some sporting events.
Q: What was the first concert you went to and how old were you?
A: Whitney Houston.  I went with my mom.  I was ten.
Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
A: I am where I am now because of the choices I’ve made in my life, so I wouldn’t want to jinx it.  I’m keeping my 16-year-old self in the dark–no advice! :)

Thanks for chatting, Jenny! I love your “advice” to your 16 year-old self!

About Jenny Hale
When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her. Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel. Coming Home for Christmas went on to be a Kindle hit on both sides of the Atlantic – reaching the top 20 in the UK. Love Me for Me is Jenny’s second novel and you can visit her at: