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CATCHING HELL release today - a baseball romance you'll love!

Klasky-CatchingHell200x300The second volume of Mindy Klasky's Diamond Brides Series, CATCHING HELL, is in stores today! Each of the Diamond Brides books is a fully self-contained hot contemporary romance -- you don't have to read the other short novels in this series to enjoy the one in your hands (or on your ebook reader!) Here's what CATCHING HELL is all about:

Anna Benson is an eager “May” to Zach Ormond’s downright sexy “December”. At age thirty-seven, Zach is a veteran catcher in the last years of his contract, grateful for a no-trade clause that will let him retire a star in Raleigh. Twenty-five-year-old Anna has grown up in the Rockets’ front office; her grandfather has long groomed her to take over the team.

When Zach finally realizes Anna is no longer a star-struck kid, their passion flares like a game-winning grand slam. But after a freak accident injures a young phenom and forces the team to land a new player, Anna must sacrifice Zach for the Rockets, convincing him to forfeit his hard-won no-trade guarantee.

There’s hell to pay. He’s doing everything in his considerable seductive power to make her keep him—on the team and in her bed. How can Anna and Zach live happily ever after when their romance will destroy the team they love? You can buy your electronic or print copy here: http://www.mindyklasky.com/index.php/books/buy-books-here/#catch To get you in the mood, here's a great excerpt:

* * *

Some day, all this would be hers.

Anna Benson sighed as she looked around the owner’s suite at Rockets Field. The cleaning crew had worked their magic during the night, emptying trashcans and restocking the small refrigerator with soft drinks and game-time snacks.

But they hadn’t touched the huge table that ran along the side wall, the one snowed under by a blizzard of papers. And they hadn’t moved the beat-up laptop that was plugged into the wall. And they hadn’t shifted a single one of the multicolor pens, pencils, and highlighters standing at attention in a variety of old coffee cans scattered around the room.

The cleaning crew was the best that money could buy.

Anna grabbed a can of Coca-Cola, her third of the day, but before she could drink it down she turned to the thermostat on the wall and made a quick adjustment. The suite was chilly, especially for a Friday evening in June. Maybe it would warm up before Gramps had a chance to complain. Anna shook her head. The gruff old man complained about everything—the weather, the umpires, the low-sodium, low-sugar snacks Anna kept on hand.

Let him argue. She intended to keep him with her as long as possible.

As if in response to her tart mental challenge, the door to the suite opened, and her grandfather’s querulous voice drifted into the room. Damn. Gramps was in the heavy-duty wheelchair, the one that gave him full support for his head and neck. A quick glance at Rob, Gramps’ day-nurse, confirmed her suspicions. This was a bad day.

Fighting a heavy heart, Anna crossed the room to plant a kiss on Gramps’ temple. The old man patted her arm, but he was already gesturing for Rob to roll him toward the front of the suite.

“I want to keep an eye on Ormond tonight,” Gramps said, clearly bristling for an argument.

Anna nodded, hiding the automatic flip of her belly as she spread a red and blue blanket over the old man’s lap. She wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on Zachary Ormond herself. She always had—from the moment she’d first met the catcher, when she’d been a star-struck ten-year-old with scabs on her knees from learning how to slide into home plate. Then, he’d been her hero, a twenty-two-year-old switch-hitting rookie who’d gone first in the draft and was already called up from the minors because the Rockets needed his defensive arm behind the plate as much as they needed his bat.

In the intervening fifteen years, Anna had become interested in a lot more than Zach’s legendary on-base percentage. Even before she’d truly understood the challenges of marriage, she’d watched him succumb to an ill-fated union with a surgery-enhanced bimbo as fake as the silk-wrapped nails she sported on national television. As a high-school student, Anna had watched Zach’s marriage fall apart; she’d daydreamed about the then-available star taking her to Homecoming, to Prom, to all the other high-school dances she skipped. In college, Anna had majored in Sports Management, and she’d written her senior thesis on the potential economic disruption of one player’s blockbuster long-term contract, using Zach’s ten-year deal with the Rockets as her primary example.

And all the while, Anna had found herself wondering how it would feel to have the legendary Ormond charm directed at her—Zach’s famous chivalry, his gentlemanly goodwill.

Okay, truth be told, Anna had wondered about a lot more than chivalry. She’d lost herself in more than one daydream about those Gold Glove hands, about…

She shook her head. She’d known Zachary Ormond for fifteen years. He’d watched her grow from a little girl to the woman she was today, and he’d never given her the slightest hint that he thought of her as anything other than Old Man Benson’s granddaughter.

She kept her voice carefully neutral as she responded to Gramps. “With yesterday as a travel day, his knees should be in good shape.”

“But that motherf— mummy Cranston is the ump behind home plate. We’ll be lucky if he only fu— fouls up half the calls.”

Anna swallowed her smile as her grandfather scrubbed his language. The managers and coaches who worked for him often remarked that the old man had taught them compound nouns they’d never imagined. But Gramps took preternatural pride in the fact that he’d never sworn in front of his wife, not once in the sixty-two years they were married. And Marty Benson would rather be confined to a hospital bed than defile the precious ears of the orphaned granddaughter he’d adopted twenty years before.

As Gramps went on to castigate the opposing team’s owner, the lack of double-salt pork rinds, and—yes—the glacial temperature in the suite, the room began to fill up. Anna smiled at the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Public Relations. She distributed stacks of papers to each staff member who arrived, efficiently explaining problems that needed more detailed attention.

As a barbershop quartet sang The Star-Spangled Banner, everyone took a respectful break from business, but after the anthem they returned to the serious work of managing a baseball team. The suite door opened just as the Rockets’ pitcher threw his first fastball over the plate, and Anna glanced up at the disturbance with a quick frown.

Gregory Small eased into the seat next to her. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “I was on the phone with Cincinnati.”

She nodded, accepting the excuse, even though the general manager should be offering it to Gramps and not to her. Small had been her grandfather’s right-hand man for nearly a dozen years, exercising ultimate power over all new contracts and trades. The man had a computer instead of a brain, and he’d long ago replaced any semblance of a heart with a 108-stitch baseball. But he was good at his job, the best Anna had ever seen.

And she’d seen a lot.

With the exception of the four years she’d spent at University of Michigan, Anna had practically lived at Rockets Field. Her parents had been killed by a drunk driver when she was only five, and her grandmother had surrendered to a torrent of illnesses, all tied to severe depression over losing her only son. Gramps had made the best of a terrible situation, keeping Anna close every waking moment that she wasn’t at school.

At her grandfather’s side, Anna had learned the ins and outs of baseball, the highs and lows of team ownership. She’d watched silently as Small argued for multi-million-dollar contracts, and she’d learned to predict how her grandfather would invest the profits from his furniture manufacturing empire.

When Anna had first returned from college, she’d worried about the Rockets’ management, about their accepting her as a valuable member of the behind-the-scenes staff. But after three years of hard work—years when she had steadfastly refused to rely on her family name to win even a single argument—her co-workers had come to accept that Anna was the real thing. She had baseball in her blood. She was respected for her business acumen, completely separate from her position as Gramps’ heir apparent.

And now it was time for Anna to give back to her grandfather. The old man might be grumpy. He might complain about everything in sight. He might be dictatorial as he gestured from the stiff seat of his wheelchair.

But Anna knew that Marty Benson loved two things in this world—the Raleigh Rockets and Anna herself. And she was determined to give him confidence that his beloved team would survive—would thrive—even after he was gone. She was going to prove to her grandfather, no matter what it took, that she had the grit to own the Rockets and to make them succeed.

DJ Thomas rang up his third out, a great start to the game. Anna watched Zach straighten from his catcher’s crouch and walk back to the dugout. He was moving easily, without a hint of the lower-back tightness that had kept him out of the last two games.

Pulling her scorecard in front of her and selecting the bright green pen she always used to record Philadelphia’s moves, Anna settled back in her chair. This was a perfect night for baseball.

* * *

This was a perfect night for baseball.

Out of long habit, Zach tapped his batting helmet twice before he stepped out of the dugout. He took a couple of practice swings from the circle plastered with the Rockets’ logo, watching the Philadelphia pitcher deliver his fastball to Cody Tucker.

Damn, Tucker was a cocky son of a bitch. He stood on top of the plate, daring the pitcher to brush him back with a hundred-mile-an-hour ball. The kid had already been hit by pitches half a dozen times in the two-month-old season, but he was leading the league in home runs. And he wasn’t even legal to drink yet.

Zach took another practice swing. With Tucker in front of him in the line-up, Zach’s own stats were shaping up. He was on track for 125 RBI. Maybe that would get the goddamn press to give it a rest about the eighth year of his contract, about whether the Rockets were really getting their money’s worth.

Another practice swing. Zach could feel the tightness in his lower back, the nagging ache that never really went away. But he’d babied himself for long enough. Rockets fans came to see him play, not to watch him huddled in the dugout, spitting sunflower seeds and squinting at guys who were younger, faster, and a hell of a lot more limber. Zach had spent his entire career with Raleigh; there were grown men in town who had never known another catcher behind the plate.

Not that he could put off the inevitable much longer. Two more years, after this season. Two more years of proving he was worth every penny he’d negotiated so long ago. He wanted to make Raleigh proud. Wanted to make Old Man Benson say that Zach’s contract was the best piece of paper he’d ever signed.

Even if Zach couldn’t help being jealous of the speed and strength and downright ability of a kid like Cody Tucker.

Crack!

The ball flew off Tucker’s bat, shooting down the first-base line. The right-fielder took a shitty read on it, missing the rebound off the wall. Tucker flew by the bag, easily rounding toward second.

The right-fielder finally got his glove on the ball, but he made an awkward pivot back to the diamond. He bobbled the ball on the transfer, and Tucker exploited the mistake, turning toward third with a burst of fresh speed.

Zach moved with the ease of many years of practice, darting toward the plate to pick up the bat Tucker had flung away. The throw in from right was impossibly high; the cut-off man had to waste time leaping up to snag the ball.

Tucker barreled into third as the first-baseman recovered. The third-base coach made a split-second decision, windmilling his arm, sending Tucker toward the plate and an inside-the-park home run. The kid lowered his head and drove forward like a missile.

The ball came hurtling toward home, hitting the catcher’s waiting mitt. He was too far from the plate, too far down the line to tag up, so he planted himself squarely in front of the charging Tucker.

“Back off, asshole!” Zach bellowed to the other catcher. Tucker barely hitched his shoulders as he braced for the collision, even though the opposing player outweighed him by thirty pounds, and that was before the leather and steel of protective gear was taken into consideration.

The impact sounded like a side of meat dropping onto a steel table. Zach’s retinas registered the carnage before his mind was consciously aware:

The Philadelphia catcher, knocked back on his ass, sliding all the way behind home plate.

The ump, his hand already folding into a fist, his thumb extended, calling Tucker out.

The kid, jaw set, legs extended, sliding in hard.

The ankle, twisted to an impossible angle, 180 degrees from normal.

The crowd, frozen in immediate silence, still on their feet from cheering their hero home.

The kid again, screaming through clenched teeth, curled into himself, stretching for his foot, craning his neck to see something he should never see.

Zach hollered for the trainer even as he threw himself to his knees beside Tucker’s head. “Look at me,” he shouted, desperate to make contact through the kid’s wall of pain.

Tucker whined in high-pitched agony, writhing like a speared fish. The motion was the worse possible thing he could do; he was twisting his foot even more, forcing it further in directions it was never meant to move.

Zach swallowed hard, banishing the bile from his throat before he planted his hands on the kid’s shoulders. “Tucker! They’re coming out now.” Nothing. The kid couldn’t hear him. Zach leaned in, putting half his weight on Tucker’s chest. “Cody,” he snapped. “Stop!”

Even though it seemed like a century had passed since the collision, the ballplayer’s clock inside Zach’s head told him it had scarcely been thirty seconds. The trainer was already shouldering Zach aside, waving out another one of the team’s medics. As the medical professionals executed their quick triage, Zach shifted toward Cody’s head. His fingers were firm on the other man’s chin as he forced the kid to meet his eyes. “You’re going to be fine,” he said, power-driving certainty into his tone. “Let them do their work.”

But Zach knew the kid wasn’t going to be fine. He was out for the season, at least. Maybe forever. An ankle like that, his foot at that impossible angle…That had to mean surgery, pins, a plate…

“How bad is it?” Cody gritted, involuntary tears mixing with the red dirt of the playing field.

“They’ll take care of you,” Zach said, unwilling to tell a complete lie.

The trainers pushed him out of the way before Tucker could demand more information. The two sturdy men wedged their shoulders beneath Cody’s armpits, pulling the kid into a standing position by brute strength. As Zach watched, Cody tried to touch his toe to the ground, but he gave up as the pain bleached his face to a transparent sheet. The trainers hustled him off the field before the kid could try again.

Zach whirled on the Philly catcher, who was hovering several steps behind the plate. “You were blocking the goddamn plate!”

“I made a baseball play.”

The adrenaline buzz in Zach’s ears ratcheted up an octave. “Asshole! You didn’t give him a chance!”

“Cocksu—”

Zach didn’t wait to hear the rest of the retort. He planted both hands on the other guy’s chest, pushing hard to make sure he got his momentum past the insulating pads.

The other guy’s eyes flashed in surprise, the emotion quickly replaced by a shit-eating grin. His fist sailed out of mid-air, connecting squarely with Zach’s jaw.

Zach’s own left hook was automatic.

He barely saw the benches empty. He was only marginally aware of the men at his back, his teammates pushing against their Philadelphia counterparts. A couple of Rockets threw their own punches, but he couldn’t tell if his guys were actually escalating the fight or merely retaliating against Philly’s aggression.

Umps wasted no time wading into the scrum. Zach had enough presence of mind to edge away from the black uniforms. Nevertheless, it took Coach standing in front of him, shouting directly in his face to get him to stop shoving against the piece of shit Philadelphia catcher’s chest protector. He looked toward home plate just in time to see an ump pointing at him, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

Zach was tossed.

For the first time in his fifteen-year career, he’d started a fight on the field. Sure, he’d joined in melees before, supporting his teammates when they’d been driven too far by one opponent or another. But he’d never been the one to deliver the first punch.

What the hell. There were some records that were meant to be broken.

Now it was time to hit the showers, leave the shambles of a game knowing that Coach was going to be red-hot about bringing in his back-up catcher for the rest of the game. Tucker’s bat was out, and Zach’s too. And there were still eight and two thirds innings to play.

Shit.

At least he could go straight to the hospital. Tucker should have a friendly face beside him when he learned the full extent of the bad news. Zach didn’t look at his teammates as he stalked through the dugout on his way to the locker room.

 * * *

The emergency room was a zoo. Cody Tucker had the piss-poor luck to shred his ankle on the night of a three-car collision that resulted in two patients with massive chest trauma and another with open head wounds that left the EMTs looking green. A gunshot wound from a drunken backyard hunting expedition, complete with a wailing woman who had never meant for anything bad to happen, only added to the insanity.

The Rockets’ trainers were vocal enough to get Tucker into a curtained examination area, and a doctor ordered the start of an IV drip, along with something for the pain. After that they were all reduced to a long wait. The kid just stared at the wall, sweat soaking through his uni with the stink of despair. Despite Zach’s best efforts, Cody had seen the damage. He knew what he was in for.

The rest of the team started showing up around eleven, showered and subdued by a brutal loss to Philadelphia. They paced and swore and demanded that the docs change their priorities. Just breathing, the guys shrank the emergency room waiting area. Seething with impatience, they made the entire hospital seem smaller than a postage stamp.

Zach steeled himself to go play team captain, to knock the guys into order. Just as he ducked under the polyester curtain, though, Anna Benson strode into the room.

In any other context, he might have taken her for a fragile child. She was thin as a greyhound, poured into her skinny jeans and a curvy Rockets T-shirt. She’d pulled on a hooded sweatshirt against the nighttime chill, but she’d pushed the too-long sleeves up to her elbows, exposing wrists that looked like they might snap in a strong wind. Her wide eyes, ocean-blue beneath the fluorescent lights, made her look like one of those animated heroines from some kids’ cartoon. Her cheekbones seemed sharp enough to slice open his palm.

But Anna Benson wasn’t a little girl any more.

She took about fifteen seconds to locate the triage nurse. Crossing to the desk with a minimum of fuss, she engaged in a quick, efficient exchange of information. Her jaw tightened. The nurse obviously didn’t have good news.

But that didn’t stop Anna. She turned back to the chaos of the overflowing waiting room. The guys still hadn’t noticed her; they were too busy devouring all the oxygen in the space. Anna raised her hands above her head and clapped three times. “Enough!” she shouted, her voice sawing through the fug of locker-room speculation.

She pressed her advantage with the instinctive drive of a shark. “Gentlemen! Thank you for coming to Raleigh Memorial. My grandfather and I appreciate your showing support for Cody. I just spoke with the nurse, and she confirmed that Cody’s in good hands. But it’s going to be hours, maybe days before we know anything specific. It’s after midnight, and you have to report to the park in less than twelve hours. Show your respect by giving the doctors the space they need to do what’s best for Cody. Go home and get some sleep, so you can put Philly in their place tomorrow!”

She hit the perfect tone. She let the guys know they were valued. She made them understand that she was worried—as much as they were, maybe more. She gave them a way to fight back, to get a ballplayer’s professional revenge.

And the team gave way before her leadership. One by one, the guys filed past her. She spoke to each of them, touching a shoulder here, shaking a hand there. She met each man’s eyes, assuring him his contribution was noted and appreciated.

And when the last ballplayer slipped out to the parking lot, Anna turned that cool intensity back to the triage nurse, demanding to know where Cody could be found, what Anna could do to expedite getting him out of the emergency room and into a less hectic standard room. As the nurse bent to her task, Zach ducked back into the curtained alcove, finally believing that this godforsaken night might be taking a turn for the better.

Please Vote to Make Me March's Book of the Month!

Super exciting - A Matchless Romance is up for the March Book of the Month at the TBR Pile! How did this happen? Well, they gave it a rave review, and now you all can vote to move me to the top of the pile! Just go to http://thetbrpile.weebly.com/ and vote on the right side of the page. Thanks in advance - so much - for your help!

Want to see their 5 star, must-read rave review, so you feel justified in voting? Here you go:

It’s been a long time since I adored a story as much as I did, a Matchless  Romance. Full of endearing characters with  layers like sponge cake, decadent, rich, and completely satisfying. This story will fulfill are your romance needs. Ms. Barth wrote an intelligent, wit filled, humorous love story I couldn’t put down! Tabitha is the type of heroine I could get behind. In control of her own life, passionate, intelligent, and giving, the type of woman we all aspire to be. Despite having it together on her surface, she has a surprising past that surfaces later and catches you unaware. The twist is one of many in the book that really make it unique. From the moment Tabitha is practically run over by Drew, a hopelessly awkward, logical, sexy, and fit video game designer, their chemistry vibrates right off the page. In trouble with his boss because his interaction with women is less than stellar, and has run off potential clients, Drew is in desperate in need of help. So running into Tabitha, who happens to be a matchmaker seems like fate. He convinces her to take him on and polish his rough edges. But there’s one major problem, their attraction to one another. The pull between them is unstoppable , and it’s like watching a ticking time bomb as they maneuver their way toward d-day, his meeting with potential investors.  God, I can’t gush enough about Drew. I enjoyed seeing him get himself in to scrapes Tabitha, and his geek charm allowed him to slid out of by the skin of his teeth. 

Entertaining, exciting, and sweet this is a great read for romance readers of all genres, but especially those like me who have a soft spot for geeks. I actually worked for a video game company before, and I have to say, Ms. Barth got the environment spot on. While there isn't an abundance of sex or a lava like heat quality, the meaning behind it trumps any explicitness she could’ve added, but didn’t need. I highly recommend this one.

New & HOT baseball romance!

Today is Opening Day for Mindy Klasky's PERFECT PITCH, a hot contemporary romance, the first volume in her Diamond Brides Series.  Who could resist a story like this:

Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant's rules—no smoking, drinking, or "cavorting" in public. That's fine, until D.J. Thomas—God's gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam's no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.'s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss. Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam's music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.'s son begs to trade in Little League for music class. Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?

This short novel is a perfect way to celebrate spring!  Buy your electronic or print copy today!  
 
Here's a peek at Chapter One:

No good text ever arrived after midnight.
Samantha Winger’s phone buzzed against her nightstand, waking her from restless sleep. She groaned, knowing she should have turned off the buzzer. Would have turned off the buzzer, if she hadn’t been so exhausted when she’d climbed into bed.
She’d spent the day in a series of meetings, each less successful than the one before. Time was running out. She had eight weeks left to track down funding for Musicall, her fledgling charity to offer music classes to all North Carolina school kids.
Flexing her calves, Samantha tried to fall back to sleep. She had almost succeeded, when her phone buzzed again. And then, like a hornet’s nest knocked from a tree, a dozen more messages screamed for her attention. Swallowing a curse, Sam fumbled for her phone.
She squinted at the screen, trying to make sense of the jumble of letters and numbers. It was the same sequence, sent by half a dozen people. Touching the link, she automatically launched a video.
The picture was grainy—someone had clearly been filming their television. The sound wasn’t great either. But Sam could make out a good-looking guy staring at the camera, a broad smile across his face beneath his navy blue baseball cap. His close-trimmed hair was blond, and his eyes were a shocking sapphire blue. He rubbed a broad-fingered hand against the hard line of his jaw, and then he grinned.
“I get it,” he said. “I do. Everyone came to the ballpark expecting to see Braden Hart pitch. Instead, Braden’s got the flu, and the crowd ended up with me. It’s sort of like thinking you’re going out on a date with Miss America and getting stuck with the Summer Queen instead. No wonder they booed when I took the mound. But I’d like to think they felt better when I delivered a perfect game.”
The pitcher laughed and flung up his arm, fending off an icy shower of sports drink from a pair of laughing teammates. The camera angle jerked, and the video cut off abruptly.
Stuck with the Summer Queen.
Sam shivered, as if she’d received her own ice-filled shower. Another two texts arrived, and she pressed the little arrow on the screen, forcing the video to play again.
Yeah. It didn’t get any better the second time. Or the third.
Another message came in, with a new link. Catching her breath, she touched the screen, only to see the pitcher grin and laugh, over and over again, as one line looped in endless repetition: “Stuck with the Summer Queen.”
Sam tossed her phone onto the bed. Who was this guy, anyway? And why was half the world up at this hour, anyway, to forward a million links to the video?
Grabbing the crocheted afghan from the foot of her bed, Sam dragged herself into the living room. She tugged the blanket closer around her shoulders as she opened up her laptop. Typing in a quick query, she ignored the browser’s prompt offering of the two videos, along with a slew of other recordings.
DJ Thomas, that was the pitcher’s name. Daniel Junior, she quickly read, son of Hall of Fame pitcher Dan Thomas. A seven-year veteran, useful in the bullpen when they needed long relief.
Sam clicked over to social media. DJ Thomas was already a trending topic. The guy had saved the Rockets in a big way, going from boos to cheers in nine perfect innings. The story was going viral, even as she watched the screen scroll by.
Great for him. Yay for the Rockets.
Stuck with the Summer Queen.
Sam knew she should stop watching. She should go back to bed, get a good night’s sleep.
Because the morning would come far too soon. The morning, and an inevitable phone call from the North Carolina Summer Fair. Ten months into her one-year reign as Summer Queen, Sam knew exactly how the game was played. By morning, she needed to have the perfect response—funny and sweet, and absolutely, completely, one hundred percent family-friendly.
No one would expect anything less from the Summer Queen. No one would expect anything less from Samantha Winger.

Ginger Chocolate Chip Bars-Because You Have To Take More Than Books To A Signing

I participated in an author panel at a local historical society last night. It was a wonderful chance to share our love of writing with a different audience. And since they were nice enough to buy our books and listen to us for two hours, we all brought some snacks to share.

This happens all the time. You go to a book festival and need to bring treats. You do a panel, or a reading or any sort of appearance, and want to entice readers on over. My original plan was to bring lemon bars, but spring has yet to make an appearance here in Maryland, so that felt wrong. Instead, I embraced the cold and rainy weather and made ginger chocolate chip bars. Took me less than five minutes to mix before popping in the oven. Couldn't be easier, or more delicious! Thanks so much to Real Simple magazine for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line it with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugars, using an electric mixer, until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into 32 bars (8 rows by 4 rows).
     
    To store: The tight seal on a take-out container will keep the bars moist and chewy. 

The Awesomeness of Small, Regional Conferences for Writers & Readers


I'll admit I adore conferences. Unabashedly living and breathing and talking romance twenty-four hours straight for four days with 2,000 other people is my idea of heaven. The fancy publisher parties, the loads of free books, the excuse to get dressed up...LOVE it! I'm headed to the RT convention in New Orleans in two months, and I'm already counting the days.

But huge cons are not the only way to go. Last weekend I participated in the Liberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical conference, and had a blast. Here are the reasons why everyone should consider adding a smaller, regional con to their schedule:
Location and affordability. Find one close to you, preferably within driving distance. One tank of gas is much easier to swallow than a cross-country plane ticket. This particular con had a readers track for $75 and a writers track for $125. For a jam-packed day, that is a deal you can't beat.  They won't break the bank (unless you go hog-wild at the book fair).
Speaking of the book fair, that can be a huge plus. Our keynote speaker was the awesome and famous Sherrilyn Kenyon, and she stuck around to sign at the book fair. People were lined up out the door, but because it was such a smaller conference, the line was fast and reasonable. People were able to wander the ballroom and not just frenziedly shop for books. Every reader that bought one of my books stopped to chat for at least five minutes. We actually had the chance to connect, rather than just transact. That is a big benefit to both authors and readers.

Accessibility - I wandered into the lobby to grab a soda and ran into two delightful women who had just zoomed through four pitches to editors and agents. No slush pile for them! We started chatting, and I ended up giving them quite a bit of advice - kind of an aspiring writer counseling session. When do you get the chance to pick the brain of published authors? At a small gathering like this one. Everybody is there to share and have fun.


And speaking of fun, well, you put a bunch of friends together who only see each other once a year and usually only chat on social media, and you get a boatload of fun and shenanigans. Two of us went to dinner with an awesome blogger, because 1) she's awesome (everyone should check out Read Love Blog, and 2) we didn't want to be just faceless authors begging for reviews. We wanted to laugh and drink together...which is what led to this hysterical photo. Our waitress dropped an entire strawberry mojito right into her crotch. We laughed it off, but the night was truly made when she left us a note on our bill. The waitress had no idea we were romance writers, so she lucked out making this ballsy comment to us. Take the time to make moments and seize opportunities at a smaller conference. You'll be thrilled you did.




Sit Down And Write!

Today I'm giving all the writers out there a pep talk combined with a stern finger wag. Yesterday a friend of mine on Twitter who is a full-time writer was contemplating the choice between a nap (it was 3 in the afternoon) or a cup of coffee. I spluttered my indignation at her. This is why people think we romance writers laze around in yoga pants eating truffles between sex scenes. This is why her own mother still wistfully talks about her getting a REAL job, even though she's a bestselling and award winning author. I was ready to jump in the car, drive to her house in Wisconsin and slap her awake. And it wasn't just bitterness that I was stuck at my day job, where they tend to frown on naps.

It was the final straw in a rant that had been gathering steam in me for a while. Writing is a job and must be treated as such....here's the kicker...WHETHER YOU ARE PUBLISHED YET OR NOT. Because you've got to set up the rigorous habits right now. I'm moving next week. Most of the house still needs to be packed. It'd be easy for me to skip writing at night for the next week with that as an excuse. But I won't. Because writing is my job. And there are no excuses (although be prepared for me to whine a little...or a lot...about all the packing). Yes, your child is home with the umpteenth snow day and your schedule is disrupted. Yes, you are repainting the bathroom and the whole project has escalated into two weeks of non-stop home improvement. Yes, you've got a big proposal due at the day job that requires extra hours.

No, that does NOT mean that your deadline will change. The words have to come out anyway. My husband has admitted that he could never, ever work from home, because he needs the structure of an office and daily reminders of deadlines. Well, writers don't have that luxury. Our editors leave us alone for four months while we write. We ourselves have to be the bad cop, the one filling in the squares on the mental timesheet. Time you steal one week becomes time that you can't necessarily make up the next week when suddenly promo is due for a blog tour. Or when you lose hours to designing snazzy swag for a convention. Without anyone looking over our shoulders on a daily basis, we have to kick our own butts. We have to flip off the damned imaginary muse and make the words come out no matter what.

Would you nap in the middle of the day if you were a court stenographer? Nope. Would you not clock in for two days as a cop because you'd rather get your bathroom done quickly? Nope. I promise, if you turn yourself into a hard-ass boss on this whole writing thing, your life will actually become easier. The words will flow with more regularity...as you write with more regularity. The stress of squeezing in the time to write a three-book proposal on top of the book that is due will even out, because you will already be on schedule with the WIP. People will learn not to call you in the middle of the day to chat, because it is your work time (or at ten at night - whenever you may put your fingers on the keyboard). Clock in five days a week. You'll end up thanking yourself.

Fabulous Cover Reveal for Caged In Winter!

I'm so happy to share this cover reveal of CAGED IN WINTER by Brighton Walsh. We were in a Christmas anthology together last year, so I can personally attest to her writing brilliance. I'm super excited for this book to come out, so at least seeing the cover helps tide me over....


In this emotional and sexy New Adult debut from Brighton Walsh, the only thing more frightening than commitment is hope…

Aspiring chef Cade Maxwell is immediately, viscerally attracted to Winter Jacobson. But it’s not her mouthwatering curves he’s drawn to—it’s the strange emptiness in her eyes. When Cade saves her from a drunken customer with grabby hands, he’s shocked at her response…

Winter doesn’t need Cade’s help. After a lifetime of getting by on her own, she’s happy to rely on herself. She’s exactly seventy-six days away from graduating college, and if she can hold it together that long, she’ll finally be able to rise above the crappy hand she was dealt.

But now, every time she turns around, Cade is there, ready to push her, smile at her, distract her from her plans. Winter knows she can’t afford to open up—especially to a man she’s terrified to actually want.

Brighton Walsh spent nearly a decade as a professional photographer before deciding to take her storytelling in a different direction and reconnect with her first love: writing. When she’s not pounding away at the keyboard, she’s probably either reading or shopping—maybe even both at once. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, and, yes, she considers forty degrees to be hoodie weather. Her home is the setting for frequent dance parties, Lego battles, and more laughter than she thought possible. Visit her online at www.brightonwalsh.com.