Monday, June 29, 2009

INTRODUCTION: The RITAs® are coming, the RITAs® are coming (to IMHO, that is)!

It's almost here!

For the month of July, IMHO is changing things up a bit. As many of you who are lovers of romance novels know, the Romance Writers of America® hosts their annual conference in July, and the culmination is the Golden Heart/RITA® awards ceremony on the final night of the conference. The RITAs® are the romance industry’s version of the Oscars and represent the best of published romantic fiction (the Golden Heart represents the best of unpublished romantic fiction). This year’s conference takes place in Washington, D.C. from July 14 – 18.

Sadly, I am unable to attend this year, but I had an idea a couple of months ago. What if I asked the RITA® nominees if they'd be willing to bring a little of the celebration to IMHO? I did, and they were. An astounding number graciously said yes, and as a result, almost fifty RITA®-nominated authors have donated autographed copies of their books (in some cases, two!) and many responded to this question: "What does being nominated for the RITA® this year mean to you?"

So, as a result of their generosity (and a few sleepless nights getting everything ready for you, my wonderful readers), beginning July 1 and culminating on July 17, 2009 (the night before the awards ceremony), I will be giving away ten tote bags stuffed (stuffed, I say!) with autographed RITA®-nominated books to readers of this blog. And, in addition, I’ll even throw in a complimentary copy of one of my own critically acclaimed historical romances with each tote, either The Legacy (my debut novel) or The Promise!

REVISED 6/30/09: To be eligible to win the featured tote, all you have to do is leave a comment each week on any of the posts (the more posts you comment on, the more chance you have of winning). Comment period ends July 18th. You can comment on any and all posts, but you can only win once. I’ll pull the contest winners’ names from all eligible comments (once you’ve won a tote, you are no longer eligible to win prizes for July). I'll announce the tote bag winners every Sunday during the contest period. The winners will have a deadline by which to respond or I’ll have to award the tote to someone else. More details of how to win will be up on my contest page in July. It will be an exciting month, and you never know who might stop in to say hello, so be sure to check in daily to see what's up at IMHO in July.

Just to whet your appetite, here's a picture of the RITA® books in the staging area (a box on the floor of my home office).

I've already got a bunch of tote bags ready to go, and a lot of books ready to fill up the rest of them. So be sure to get yours by leaving your comments and by giving a shout out to all the amazing, incredible, munificent, and of course, astonishingly attractive authors who so generously donated their books!

So come back this Wednesday, July 1, 2009, and we will get this party started!

(Note: This contest is neither endorsed, affiliated with, nor sponsored by Romance Writers of America®)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

And the winner of the "Weddings & Beginnings" gift basket is....!

The winner of June’s "Weddings and Beginnings?" gift basket is . . .


Congratulations, MAUREEN! You are the winner of June’s gift basket filled with autographed romances by Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathryn Carmichael, and me, your host, TJ Bennett, as well as a free download of Teri Thackston’s Eppie-winning e-book and a $20 gift card from Target. You have until July 1, 2009, to contact me at my e-mail, tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces). If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another winner from all eligible participants.

This has been a great contest, folks. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. If you loved this contest but didn't win, I'll have an amazing contest starting up on 1 July 2009. In the meantime, if you are interested in hearing about events here, be sure to sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page. I'll notify you of contests, new releases, reviews, or booksignings that might be of interest to you.

What's coming up in July, you ask? Well, I’m putting the finishing touches on my RITA® extravaganza in which IMHO brings to you, my wonderful readers, over fifty 2009 RITA®-nominated books! I’ll be giving you a chance to read the authors’ sometimes funny, sometimes poignant reactions to their RITA® nods this year, telling you about the nominated books of the participating authors, and giving away ten tote bags filled with autographed RITA®-nominated novels, as well as a complimentary copy of one of my own critically-acclaimed historical romances, THE LEGACY or THE PROMISE.

So if you didn't win the "Weddings & Beginnings" gift basket from my June contest, be sure to visit often throughout the month of July and comment for a chance to win one of ten RITA® totes! And you never know who might pop in to say hello…

TJ Bennett (friend me!)
The Legacy When secrets destroy, can love live on?
The Promise In a dangerous world, sometimes the greatest risk is love....

Friday, June 26, 2009

Booksigning in Wharton, TX!

Hi, folks! Just a quick note to let you know if you live anywhere near Wharton, TX, I'll be signing at Tree Frog Café, whose owner-managed roastery is environmentally conscious (not to mention producing one "damn-fine cup of coffee"). Wharton is the home town of Horton Foote and Dan Rather, both Texas natives. Who knew?

I will be signing copies of both THE LEGACY and THE PROMISE.
WHEN: June 27, 2009, 10am – 12pm
WHERE: Tree Frog Café (coffeehouse and roastery), 200 W. Milam, Wharton, TX 77488, 979-531-0940

Wharton is hosting its annual Freedom Day Celebration this weekend, so plan to enjoy the festivities after the signing.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Please nominate my cover for the Cover Art Cafe

Hi, readers of IMHO. If you liked the cover of THE PROMISE, I would love to have it nominated for Best 2009 Historical Romance cover in the annual cover art contest at Cover Cafe. Just click on this link and complete the following information. It's quick and easy, and while you are there, you can check out their website.

Art Credits
(if known): ARTURO DELGADO
Link to cover image:
(if available)


Thanks for taking the time to do this. I love my cover and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves.

Take care,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

IMHO Welcomes Romantic Comedy author Kathy Carmichael!

I'm happy today to welcome award-winning writer Kathy Carmichael, a fellow Medallion Press author. A popular guest lecturer, she gives seminars to writers and readers. Two of her books have won the Reviewers International Organization's prestigious RIO Award of Excellence in two different genres. Prior to becoming an author, Kathy worked in advertising, as a paralegal and as a communications consultant. She also tended bar while in college, where she served drinks mixed with advice. This gave her a unique glimpse into people's lives and motivations, which she uses in her writing.

Her latest release, Hot Flash, received a starred review from Booklist, Coffee Time Romance's highest rating of 5 Cups and a CTRR Award, Reviewer Top Pick from Night Owl Romance, was a Fresh Pick at Fresh Fiction, received 5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies, and a Top Pick from Romance Reader at Heart.

Hot Flash features heroine Jill Morgan Storm, who on her fortieth birthday declares she is through with love. After her husband decided to become a woman, sous-chef Jill found a lover who not only dumped her for a comely young college student but also kept Jill’s perfect, well-seasoned skillet, an important tool of her trade. Her father is in prison. Her mother’s behavior is more than slightly crazy. Jill’s son, Stephen, rarely speaks to her, and when he does, it’s usually in French. The only positive thing about Jill’s life is her faithful group of friends. They decide to help Jill find love—and in the process, a way to finance Stephen’s art school. With Jill, they put together a “Marriage Satisfaction Survey” and send it to couples featured in the newspapers on their 25th and 50th anniversaries, hoping to discover the secret of these long unions. Unfortunately, Jill discovers the one thing they have in common: the husband is never home. As Booklist's starred review puts it: "The road to true love has many twists and turns, and Jill stumbles across all of them in Carmichael’s delightful romantic comedy."

Kathy resides on Florida's west coast, along with her Scottish husband, two not-so-wee-sons, and a bevy of cantankerous felines. Despite rumors to the contrary, she has never been recruited by the CIA or the other CIA (Culinary Institute of America).

Kathy will put a signed copy of Hot Flash in the “Weddings & Beginnings” gift basket for our lucky winner. Her next book, Diary of a Confessions Queen, will be released in February 2010. She loves chatting with readers. Please visit her website at or friend her on Facebook.

IMHO: Welcome, Kathy! So, what is your opinion on our theme, “Weddings & Beginnings”?

KC: Weddings. You gotta love 'em.

Whether you laugh or cry through them, one thing you can count on: there's no such thing as perfect.

Are they really married? During the vows at author Kimberly Llewellyn's wedding ceremony, her almost-husband said, "I, Kimberly, take you, Michael."
At author Elizabeth Sinclair's granddaughter's wedding, the cake collapsed.
She graciously agreed to let me share a photo of it here (note the curving edges of the cake).

Most of us have watched TV's funny videos of either the bride or groom fainting during the wedding ceremony. I've never fainted, but I sure empathize! My wedding dress was incredibly hot, with all those layers of petticoats and lace. There were moments I thought I might pass out -- and no, it wasn't because of too much champagne :)

My nephew was supposed to be the ring bearer at my wedding. Everything went perfectly during the rehearsal, but as we lined up for the wedding processional, three-year-old Jamie took one look at me in the wedding garb and let out a frenzied scream. The terrorized toddler ran and hid behind his mother's back. Who knew brides were so scary?

I'm one of those sappy, sentimental types who cries through weddings, graduations, movies and TV commercials. If it's touching, I'm sobbing. Years ago, a dear friend got married. It was a gorgeous wedding and I stood up as one of her bridesmaids. She started crying while saying her vows and I swear I think everyone else at the ceremony sobbed along with her. At one point, the groom pulled out a hanky, held it up to the bride's face and said, "Blow." We all laughed, but afterwards we cried even harder!

I'm not sure why anyone else cries, but for me it's because I love seeing someone receive their Happy Ending. It's a major reason why I love reading and writing romance novels -- the happy ending is incredibly important to me.

At my own wedding, however, I didn't cry. Go figure! It was a time of laughter, family, love and sharing. My husband is over a foot taller than me and that made for many funny moments.

Here's a couple of photos of him squatting in order to do the champagne toast with me.
In the interests of learning why people cry at weddings, I Googled it. I found some very interesting comments, like the website where the poster said she sobbed at her sister's wedding, but she thinks it was because she was so drunk. Or the other site that said people cry because of their dissatisfaction with their own lives. Huh? I guess that psychologist just didn't get that whole "Happy Endings" thang.

Whether you cried or laughed through your wedding or the weddings you've attended, I hope you receive your very own happy ending!

If you have a wedding story you'd like to share, please do! And tell us, do you cry through weddings? Do you cry when you watch movies or read the Happy Ending in romance novels?

IMHO: Thanks, Kathy. Those photos are great--love the wide lapels on the brown tuxedo. :-) How about it, folks? Do you cry at Happy Endings like Kathy? Be sure to leave a comment for her and at least one of our other guests this month (the more comments you leave, the better) for a chance to win the "Weddings & Beginnings" gift basket full of autographed books by Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, TJ Bennett, and a free e-book download from Eppie-winning bonus guest Teri Thackston, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Target. Details on how to win are on my contest page so I won't repeat them here, but the contest period ends June 26, 2009. Come back for the announcement of the winner on June 27, 2009.

And of course stay tuned for my big RITA extravaganza the month of July, where I'll be giving away over 50 autographed books by RITA-nominated authors all month long before the big RWA Awards ceremony on July 18, 2009. After that I'll be taking a short break and we'll see what happens next...


Monday, June 22, 2009

IMHO Welcomes Eppie-winner Teri Thackston!

IMHO is pleased to welcome a special bonus guest this month to IMHO, Teri Thackston. Teri is a native Texan, practically-native Houstonian, and life-long lover of storytelling. Teri is a Houston romance novel columnist for the Examiner and her award-winning novels, published by Cerridwen Press, cover the spectrum of romance, from suspense to paranormal to historical.

Teri’s paranormal romantic suspense Final Words won the prestigious 2009 Eppie Award from EPIC for the Best Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.
In Final Words, a near-fatal hit-and-run leaves Medical Examiner Emma St. Clair able to talk to the spirits of people she autopsies. Read an excerpt here.

Teri encourages everyone to go green by trying an e-book at least once: “They provide each one of us with an easy way to contribute to saving the environment. They use no paper or ink and there are no shipping costs. All kinds of wonderful books can be downloaded straight to your computer or hand-held reading devices. There are even some cell phones that can double as a reader...So save some money and time. Save some gas. Save some trees. Try an e-book today.” She’s going to help you do that by putting her contact information in IMHO’s gift basket for a free download of her award-winning e-book Final Words.

IMHO: Teri, welcome to IMHO as our first e-published author guest! Tell us how your thriller/chiller Final Words fits our “Weddings & Beginnings” theme. (This should be interesting…LOL!)

TT: Well, TJ, believe it or not, it does. We’re almost through June—the bride month, first month of summer, a time of new beginnings. How many weddings have occurred by now? How many new lives have begun? The number stretches the bounds of possibility.

That’s what I tried to do with my paranormal romance, Final Words—stretch the bounds of possibility. There is no wedding in the book, but the story can be linked to new lives, to beginnings. Medical examiner Emma St. Clair is experiencing a new life: she’s returned to her hometown, she’s newly divorced, she’s newly…alive.

You read that right. Emma, the victim of a hit-and-run driver has been brought back to life from a near-death experience. And there’s something else new for our lovely young medical examiner. She’s returned with the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead on her autopsy table. And do they have stories to tell—chiefly the truth of how they died, which is often at odds with the available evidence.

Of course, she hides this dubious gift in order to keep from being labeled emotionally disturbed. Who would trust a doctor—even a doctor for the dead—that claims to communicate with ghosts? We hear about such things but do any of us really know a person who’s had a near-death experience? I do. One of my dearest friends died on an operating table and she saw things on the other side that definitely test the bounds of possibility. And she came back a new person.

Now Final Words isn’t my friend’s story. It’s Emma’s. It’s fictional. But my friend’s experience proves—at least to me—that it’s possible. Emma has real emotions, real doubts, real fears. She doesn’t want to lose her job as a medical examiner because it’s the one thing in her life she feels she can control. But the spirits give her information regarding their deaths and she feels obligated to take that information and find the evidence to prove the truth.

Of course this is a paranormal romance, so Emma’s new beginning must include a new love. Enter Detective Jason MacKenzie, a man who lost a friend in the accident that “killed” Emma. He’s also still traumatized by his sister’s death a year earlier—in another hit-and-run that remains unsolved. Because of his losses, Jason vows to bring this deadly driver to justice.

Then Emma uncovers a serial killer at work and puts her new life at risk to find him. Learning that another detective was one of the killer’s victims, she enlists Jason’s help. Of course when she solves cases with information she shouldn’t know, he focuses his investigation on her—and investigation becomes attraction. Emma tries to hide her ability but secrets can be dangerous and as she draws closer to the killer, she finds her new life and love in real danger.

IMHO: Wow, Teri, sounds chilling and romantic, a fascinating combination. So, IMHO readers, have you ever experienced any unexplainable phenomena you think might make the basis of a good spine-tingling tale?

Let Teri know by leaving a comment here, and if you want to be eligible to win the “Weddings & Beginnings” gift basket this month full of autographed books by Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, TJ Bennett, and a free e-book download from Eppie-winning bonus guest Teri Thackston, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Target, be sure to leave a comment for at least one other guest this month. And stay tuned for our final guest this Wednesday, June 24, 2009, fellow Medallion Press author Kathy Carmichael! Comment away!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

A picture of the "Weddings & Beginnings" Gift Basket

Yup. Bet you thought I'd forgot. Well, I didn't. Here is a picture of this month's wonderful basket filled with autographed books by Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, TJ Bennett. Not pictured (for obvious reasons) is the free e-book download from Teri Thackston, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Target (because I haven't had time to go buy it yet). But it will all be there when it arrives at the house of our lucky winner of this month's basket.

Be sure to tune in on Monday for our special bonus guest, Teri Thackston, and again on Wednesday during our regular guest host slot for Kathy Carmichael. You'll be glad you did!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

My very first book video!

This is my very first book video for my very first book, The Legacy, from BookVideoProductions. I think it's wonderful! Let me know what you think.


At Home Mommy Knits, where are you?

At Home Mommy Knits, you were the winner of our Random Freebie (see the blog post before Gemma's). You only have until tomorrow to contact me at my e-mail tjb @ tjbennett . com (without the spaces) if you would like me to send you Lori Handeland's book, DOOMSDAY CAN WAIT, or I'll have to award it to another winner. Dem's da rules, and I have to enforce them. So come on over and let me know you want it (because you know you do...)


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IMHO welcomes romantic mystery author Gemma Halliday

I’m delighted to welcome a fellow “Wild Card” (2005 Golden Heart class) Gemma Halliday to IMHO today. In her previous life, Gemma worked in such diverse jobs as a film and television actress, a teddy bear importer, a department store administrator, a preschool teacher, a temporary tattoo artist, and a 900 number psychic. All of which have given her excellent fodder for future characters.

Best known for her High Heels romantic mystery series, in which “high crime meets high fashion,” Gemma started writing fiction in 2002. After winning several awards as an unpublished writer, her career kicked into high gear in 2005 when she won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart Award. One month later, she was offered her first book contract, saving her from adding another dead end to her eclectic employment history.

Her first book, Spying in High Heels, was published in 2006, and since then Gemma has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Reader's Choice award and two RITA nominations. The series’ heroine, L.A. shoe designer Maddie Springer, is a little like Stephanie Plum but with much better taste in clothes. Spying is currently in development for a TV series on the USA Network.

The Chicago Tribune says Gemma’s work is "a saucy combination of romance and suspense that is simply irresistible." Romantic Times BOOKReview says of her latest, Mayhem in High Heels, "This fifth and final installment in Halliday's High Heels series is wonderfully entertaining, with an absorbing and complex mystery. Her pleasingly non-ass-kicking heroine -- with her entourage of quirky and fascinating family and friends -- makes this a fitting finale to these fun stories."

Gemma now makes her home in the San Francisco Bay area, where she is hard at work on her next book.

IMHO: Gemma, welcome! As you know, our theme this month is “Weddings & Beginnings.” Since you’re putting your newest release in the High Heels series, Mayhem in High Heels, into June’s gift basket for our lucky winner, tell us how your book features this theme.

GH: Thanks so much for letting me crash your corner of the cyber world, TJ!

As TJ mentioned, she’s giving away a copy of one of my books as part of her basket of goodies this month. Mayhem in High Heels is the fifth and final book in my High Heels series of romantic mysteries, and it follows fashion designer turned amateur sleuth, Maddie Springer, as she investigates the death of a wedding planner. Unfortunately, hers. As the killer closes in, and wedding disasters from hideous bridesmaid dresses to incontinent doves pile up, Maddie’s race to the altar quickly becomes a race against time.

One of my favorite things about writing this book was all the research. Having never been married myself, I turned to my friends, family, and readers to give me the dirt on what really goes on behind the scenes at a wedding. Some of their stories made me laugh, some made me cry and go “awww”, but my absolute favorite one came from a young woman who posted hers on a wedding forum. I laughed so hard I think I pulled something the first time I heard this story. Here’s what happened at her wedding:

She was just 19 when she got married, and the night before her wedding she let her husband-to-be borrow her car to go to his bachelor party. Only neither he nor the car came home that night. The next morning he still hadn’t brought the car back, and the bride was beginning to worry. Finally, an hour before the wedding is supposed to start, the groom shows up at her house. Only, he didn’t bring her car back. He’s in a tiny, bright purple car. He tells her he knows purple is her favorite color, so he borrowed this one from a friend to make her day more special. (Smooth guy, huh?)

So, the two get in the purple car, pile the best man and maid of honor in the back, and drive into the city where the Justice of the Peace will marry them. But they can’t find the place. The end up asking a police officer, who gives them a police escort – lights, sirens and all – to the JP’s place. When they finally arrive, they realize, to their surprise, they’re in Chinatown. The JP’s assistant comes out and rings a giant bong three times before the JP makes his ceremonial appearance. He starts the service, but his accent is so thick that when he tells them to repeat the vows after him, they can’t understand what he’s saying. They totally wing it, making up the vows themselves as they go. After the ceremony, he brings out little glasses with drinks for a toast. The bride and groom – water. The JP – vodka.

When, after containing their laughter from the mangled ceremony, the bride and groom signed the marriage license and paid the JP, he argued that it wasn’t enough money. He said they got the “deluxe” ceremony (bonging included), so owed extra. So, the entire wedding party started digging in purses and pockets, and between the four of them finally came up with enough to satisfy the JP.

As they were leaving the JP’s, his assistant threw rice at them… and accidentally hit a bee’s nest. Angry bees came flying out and chased the wedding party all the way back to their car. Oh yeah, and the purple car? Once it was time to leave for the honeymoon, the groom confessed that he and his friends had been so drunk the night before, they’d completely lost her car. He’d borrowed the purple one at the last minute, but didn’t want to tell her until AFTER the ceremony. You know, so she didn’t change her mind. So, the bride’s father ended up driving them to their honeymoon destination, in the back of his station wagon. Very romantic.

With a wedding like that, I can only imagine how fun the marriage will be. :) If you have any great wedding stories, please feel free to share them here!

IMHO: Thanks, Gemma. No wacky stories from me, sadly, unless you count our experience at a restaurant on our honeymoon night. We knew we would be too keyed up to eat any of our own wedding dinner during the festivities, so we decided to reserve dinner at the hotel afterward and secured a private booth with a wonderfully romantic atmosphere—all of which was entirely wasted on us as we slept through most of dinner while seated upright in front of our plates! We’d been working on putting our own wedding together for days, hadn’t slept much the night before due to our bachelor and bachelorette parties, and were just plain exhausted! But, that’s as wacky as it gets. If you don't count the Greek-waiter led conga line...

How about you, IMHO readers? Any crazy wedding stories to share? Leave a comment for Gemma and at least one other author this month for a chance to win our “Weddings & Beginnings” gift basket full of autographed books by Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, TJ Bennett, and a free e-book download from Eppie-winning bonus guest Teri Thackston, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Target.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Winner of Random Freebies! And tomorrow's guest reminder!

And the winner of a copy of Lori Handeland's autographed book, DOOMSDAY CAN WAIT is ... "At Home Mommy Knits"!

At Home Mommy Knits, be sure to send me an e-mail to tjb @ tjbennett . com to claim your prize. You have until Friday, June 19, 2009, to do so or I will select another winner. Enjoy your prize!

Remember our next guest host will make her appearance tomorrow, Wednesday, right here on IMHO. Be sure to stop in and give a big welcome to Gemma Halliday, author of the "High Heels" romantic mystery series. You'll love her post, I promise. Leave a comment for Gemma and at least one other guest for a chance to win the gift basket stuffed with autographed books from IMHO’s guests this month, Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, TJ Bennett, and a free e-book download from Eppie-winning bonus guest Teri Thackston, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Target.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Random Freebies!!!

Yes, it's that time again. I haven't given anything away in days, so I'm having withdrawal symptoms. So, I'm going to give away an autographed copy of Lori Handeland's Doomsday Can Wait, part of her Phoenix Chronicles series. Lori will be one of my 2009 RITA-nominated guests for the month of July with her paranormal thriller Thunder Moon.

If you'd like a chance to win Doomsday, leave a comment on this post, this post right here between now and Tuesday, June 16, 2009, and I will chose one lucky winner Tuesday night.

Start commenting!


Friday, June 12, 2009

The RITAs® are coming, the RITAs® are coming (to IMHO, that is)!

Okay, so I've been giving veiled hints about this announcement for a couple of weeks now, and of course, if you are signed up for my newsletter, you already know about it. I've been nailing down particulars and hammering out details and building an extravaganza for your amusement (okay, enough with the architectual allusions). So here's the skinny for the rest of youse:

For the month of July (in less than three weeks! Can you believe it?), IMHO is changing things up a bit. As many of you who are lovers of romance novels know, the Romance Writers of America® hosts their annual conference in July, and the culmination is the Golden Heart/RITA® awards ceremony on the final night of the conference. The RITAs® are the romance industry’s version of the Oscars and represent the best of published romantic fiction (the Golden Heart represents the best of unpublished romantic fiction). This year’s conference takes place in Washington, D.C. from July 14 – 18. However, since I am unable to attend this year, I’m bringing the RITAs® to IMHO!

Beginning July 1 and culminating on July 17, 2009, I will be giving away ten tote bags filled with autographed 2009 RITA®-nominated books to readers of this blog. And, in addition, I’ll even throw in a complimentary copy of one of my own autographed historical romances with each tote, either THE LEGACY (my debut novel) or THE PROMISE! The lineup is scheduled to include 50 RITA® books from 47 nominated authors! Yep! Over half the books nominated as the best in published romantic fiction will be up for grabs. Details of how to win will be on my contest page in July, but the bottom line is, I’ll put up the covers, tell you a little about each of the books, and each author will have a few words about what their nomination this year means to them. Then I'll give away the totes throughout the contest period to commentors on my blog. And you never know who might pop in to say hello.

Each winner should receive four to five 2009 RITA®-nominated books, autographed by the author and donated for this event for your towering TBR pile, plus a nice little tote bag in which to carry them to the beach. Be sure to show your support for the RITA®-nominated authors in July and comment for a chance to win your own tote containing a sampling of the best o' the best. It will be an exciting month, and with ten chances to win, your odds are looking pretty good.

Now, was that worth stopping in to check out IMHO today? You bet it was. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

(Note: This contest is neither endorsed, affiliated with, nor sponsored by Romance Writers of America®)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yummy heroes

Hey, fellow romance author and Houston Examiner Teri Thackston (who will be a bonus guest on IMHO this month, by the way) is running a series this week in her column asking different authors what makes a hero yummy to them. You can check out my response and those of some of the Houston area's best romance authors the rest of the week here. It's a quick read and only takes a minute. Tell Teri hello while you're there!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

IMHO welcomes western historical author Kathryn Albright!

Kathryn Albright has long enjoyed romances with a cross-cultural edge, perhaps because of her upbringing in Southern California and the strong Hispanic/Native American influence there. The very first romance she ever read was Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, which was set in the early ranching community there. Zorro—that mysterious, dashing Latino Robin Hood who fought injustice in early California was a favorite, too.

So when she visited the Alamo in Texas and learned about the territory’s fight for freedom from Mexican rule, it was the plight of the Tejanos that captured her interest. Much like the South seceding from the North in the United States Civil War, in Texas the battle brought father against son, brother against brother. Her second book, The Rebel and the Lady, is set against this backdrop.

In The Rebel and the Lady, Jake, a gun-slinging drifter, comes up against the strong ideals of Victoria, a Spanish landowner during the Texian revolt. In the end, he comes to respect her beliefs (and has some swashbuckling Zorro-moments of his own.) Kathryn will put The Rebel and the Lady in the IMHO "Weddings and Beginnings" gift basket for June's giveaway contest.

In Kathryn’s next book and sequel, Texas Wedding for their Baby’s Sake, the story focuses on Jake’s brother, Brandon, a doctor who was forced to tend the enemy troops. After the war, he must battle his own personal demons, but there is a scene where Jake and Victoria get married.

IMHO: Kathryn, welcome to IMHO, and tell us how Texas Wedding fits our "Weddings and Beginnings" theme (although, cough-cough, I think the title gives it away...)

KA: First off, thank you for inviting me to your IMHO blog, TJ! It is a pleasure being here.

In order to write the wedding scene, I learned about early customs of Spanish/Mexican weddings. One thing I particularly liked was the strong emphasis on family. It was considered an honor for the bride to wear her mother’s bridal dress, the pillow she kneels on to say her vows is a gift from another close relative, and the lasso used to entwine the couple is given by another relative. The fan, prayer book, and rosary beads all have significance in the ceremony, too. One of the customs I hadn’t heard of was the brass box filled with coins that the priest blesses.

A very short excerpt: Jake accepted the box, and in turn, presented it to Victoria, pouring the coins into her cupped hands and saying: “I pledge all my present and future goods into your care for your safekeeping.”

Now what woman wouldn’t like that kind of devotion from her husband?

And the other custom—the lasso…

“This cord is a symbol of the love which binds you and the vows you have made today that you may share equally in the responsibility of marriage for the rest of your lives.”

I thought this was a beautiful idea and am happy to learn it is coming back in present-day Latino weddings.

The formal, Catholic service in the story was quite different from my own ceremony which my son calls a “hippie” wedding on my grandparent’s farm (I’ll spare you the pictures). But that’s another story…

IMHO: Thanks for telling us about those fascinating customs, Kathryn. As a fellow historical writer, you know I'm always interested in learning the traditions of other cultures and how they came about.

Now how about you, IMHO readers? Tell Kathryn what wedding customs you would want—or if you are already married—what wedding customs did you have that are unique to you and your family?

Be sure to leave a comment with your answer for a chance to win the "Weddings & Beginnings" Basket filled with autographed novels from Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, Kathy Carmichael, and me, your host, TJ Bennett, as well as a $20 gift card to Target. Remember to come back all month and leave a comment for each of our guests (you'll need to leave two or more to be eligible to win).


Friday, June 05, 2009

I'm a guest at Fresh Fiction today!

Hi, IMHO readers. Just wanted to let you know I am over at Fresh Fiction, today, June 5, talking about THE PROMISE. I'll also have a little more information about the big shindig I'm hosting here on IMHO in July (if you are a member of my newsletter crew, you already know about this. If not, well, there's a good reason to sign up right there!).

If you get a chance, please stop on by and say hello!


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

IMHO Welcomes inspirational author Deeanne Gist!

IMHO is thrilled to welcome our first inspy author ever, Deeanne Gist. Deeanne was recently nominated for her second RWA RITA® award for Deep in the Heart of Trouble. I read Heart and was so impressed by her very human, flawed, and yet faithful characters, I asked Dee to be a guest here this month. Dee terms what she writes “edgy inspirationals.” To understand what this means, watch her as she discusses her controversial Christian romance, Courting Trouble, which inspired the 2008 RITA® nominated release of Heart, with Lifetime TV’s Romance columnist, Michelle Buonfiglio here.

Her new release, A Bride in the Bargain, is now available, and Dee will be putting an autographed copy of it in the June “Weddings and Beginnings” gift basket this week.

Dee didn’t set out to be a bestselling author of inspirational romance, but she’s found a measure of success at whatever she’s tried her hand at. After a short career in elementary education, she retired to raise her four children. Over the course of the next fifteen years, she ran a home accessory and antique business, became a member of the press, and wrote freelance journalism for national publications such as People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel. In addition, she acted as CFO for her husband’s small engineering firm--all from the comforts of home.

Squeezed betwixt-and-between all this, she read romance novels by the truckload and even wrote a couple of her own. While those unpublished manuscripts rested on the shelf, she founded a publishing corporation for the purpose of developing, producing and marketing products that would reinforce family values, teach children responsibility, and provide character-building activities.

After a few short months of running her publishing company, Dee quickly discovered being a "corporate executive" was not where her gifts and talents lay. In answer to her fervent prayers, God sent a mainstream publisher to her door who licensed her parenting I Did It!® product line and committed to publishing the next generation of her system, thus freeing her to return to her writing.

Eight months later, she sold A Bride Most Begrudging to Bethany House Publishers. Since that debut, her very original, very fun romances have rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere. Add to this two consecutive Christy Awards, two RITA nominations, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

Dee lives in Texas with her husband of twenty-six years and their two border collies. They have four grown children. Visit her blog to find out the most up-to-the-minute news.

IMHO: Welcome, Deeanne. This month’s theme on IMHO is “Weddings and Beginnings,” which seems appropriate for your book, but you’ve dealt with that particular theme many times in your novels. Can you tell us a little about why that is?

DG: Sure, TJ, and if I had to give what I’m about to say a title, it would probably be “WHAT WAS I THINKING?” Let me explain by starting with this Scripture:

“‘It is not good for man to be alone.’”

I can never read this particular Scripture without a smile. Had I been the one translating the Hebrew, I’d have put: The Lord God said, “What was I thinking!”

The idea of a man without a woman’s influence has been the underlying theme of many a romance novel. What is it about men that makes us women want to roll up our sleeves and civilize them?

What is it about men that makes them recognize on some subconscious level that they need that civilizing influence?

I’m always on the lookout for fascinating little tidbits in our country’s history that I can use as the foundation for my novels. And I find myself gravitating toward the ones where there is an all-male society, then suddenly—gasp—a woman arrives.

1644: The Crown wanted to establish Jamestown. The men said, “We aren’t staying here without women!” So the Crown emptied the prisons of all their female felons. Shipped them to Jamestown and sold them as brides for their weight in tobacco leafage (because tobacco was the cash crop). The women became known as Tobacco Brides.

That really happened. Totally true. I fictionalized what happened to one of those women. (A Bride Most Begrudging)

1849: In the early California mining camps, there were no women. So the men threw themselves into the most colorful and violent “social life” ever to flourish in America ... then came the women.

That really happened. Totally true. I fictionalized what it would be like to be the very FIRST woman to hit San Francisco’s shores. (The Measure of a Lady)

1866: A man in the Washington Territory could have 640 acres of land for free IF he had a wife. So an entrepreneur told the bachelors, “For every man who pays me $300, I’ll bring him a bride from the east.”

The men paid up. The entrepreneur went east. But he told the women he’d guarantee them jobs as domestics and he made them pay their way. Never mentioned anything about being a bride.

The women signed up. He took them to Seattle. Dropped them off.

The women went to their “employer’s” door and knocked—expecting a job. The bachelor opened it expecting a bride.

That really happened. Totally true. I fictionalized what happened to one of those women. (A Bride in the Bargain)

So, what about you, IMHO readers? What are some of your favorite mail-order bride stories? Or stories where a lone woman enters an all-male society? What is it about these stories that intrigues you?

IMHO: Those are great questions, Dee! Okay, folks, you heard the lady…leave your comments for Dee and get the ball rolling. Remember, this month the gift basket will include autographed books from Deeanne Gist, Kathryn Albright, Gemma Halliday, and Kathy Carmichael, as well as a $20 gift card from Target to get you started on gifts for June weddings, or even Dad’s and Grads. Comment away!


Monday, June 01, 2009

And the winner is...!

The winner of the "Mother May I?" gift basket is . . .


Congratulations, kerribookwriter! You are the winner of May's gift basket filled with autographed romances by Deanna Raybourn, Catherine Kean, Tera Lynn Childs, Monica McCarty, and me, TJ Bennett, as well as a $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Nobles and the earring and necklace set from BlackDogWhiteDog Jewelry. (This time I'll put a copy of THE PROMISE in the basket.)
You have until June 5, 2009, to contact me at my e-mail, tjb @ tjbennett . com (no spaces). If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another winner from all eligible participants.

This has been a great contest, folks. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. If you loved this contest but didn't win, I'll have another one starting up on June 3. In the meantime, if you are interested in hearing about events here, be sure to sign up for my newsletter at the top of the page. I'll notify you of contests, new releases, reviews, or booksignings that might be of interest to you.

What's coming up in June, you ask? Well, June is the "Weddings & Beginnings" gift basket giveaway. This month, my host authors will be discussing, you guessed it, weddings and, yes, beginnings. Several of their books actually feature a wedding, so this should be lots of fun. And we’ll have a pretty little gift basket filled with autographed books and a $20 gift card for Target! Well, you know, there is a Target store nearly everywhere, and if you are going to a wedding or graduation ceremony in June (and who isn’t), you can re-gift it, or use it to buy something nice for the giftee. I’ll also be including a beautiful silk floral spray to spruce up your basket or your wedding bouquet.

As usual, guests will be visiting IMHO every Wednesday beginning June 3 and continuing throughout the month. They will place their autographed books in the “Weddings & Beginnings” gift basket for one lucky person to win. And we’ll have a special bonus guest on Monday, June 22, an Eppie award-winning e-published author with a dynamite book you’ve just got to read. She’ll be putting her contact information in the gift basket for the lucky winner to send for a free download of her book.

Of course, I'll also put a signed copy of my historical romance, THE PROMISE (see reviews here) in the basket as well.

So if you didn't win the "Mother May I?" gift basket from my May contest, be sure to visit often and comment for a chance to be the one lucky winner of my "Weddings & Beginnings" gift basket.

And who will be IMHO's guests in June, you ask? I shall tell you:

June 3 Bestselling Christy-winner and two-time RITA® nominated author Deeanne Gist.

June 10 Harlequin Historical author of American set romances and former Golden Heart nominee Kathryn Albright.

June 17 Bestselling author of the High Heels romantic mystery series, Golden Heart winner, and twice-nominated RITA® finalist Gemma Halliday.

June 22 (Bonus Guest), Eppie Award winning paranormal/romantic suspense author Teri Thackston.

June 24 Award winning Medallion Press author and humorist Kathryn Carmichael.

Details of how to win will be posted on my contest page soon. In the meantime, see you Wednesday!