Tuesday, June 23, 2015

COTT's Sizzling Summer Reading Clash!

Looking for some awesome take-me-away Summer Reading?

Check out these new releases and I dare you to tell me which one you'd put on the top of your reading list. We offer contemporary and historical romance, a little fantasy, danger, mystery, suspense!
Vote for your next most likely read, and leave the author a word of encouragement, then share with your friends. 

Scroll down, vote in the survey box, and come back next week for the Reveal!



Rachel A. James

To unite the kingdoms and bring peace, Princess Alena must enter into a royal marital alliance, but when the handsome physician, Sherwin, befalls her, matters become complicated. Torn between obligations to her young son and country, she faces a difficult decision, will Alena obey the king’s orders, or choose to follow her heart?


Jennifer Rodewald

Friendship, love, and then betrayal...for Jamie Carson one thing becomes clear: Andrew needs a savior, and she cannot be it. Will Andrew allow the hand of grace to redeem his legacy of addiction, or will he and Jamie remain the casualties of heartbreak?


Heather Day Gilbert 

Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa's back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry...even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that a serial killer's sights have zeroed in on her.

Contemporary Romance

Amanda Cabot 

Marisa St. George has lost her dream job and come home to manage the struggling Rainbow’s End resort in the small Texas town where she grew up. The only silver lining is Blake Kendall, a new guest who is making her believe in love at first sight. But is he really who she thinks he is? 

Historical Romance

Sarah Loudin Thomas 

When family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’s college studies, he consoles himself with his fiddle and the family farm. His grandmother’s helper, Margaret Hoffman, is always around, ready to push his buttons, and it seems she doesn’t care about his troubles. But Margaret has her own problems. Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as they face potential loss and find healing in the most surprising places. 
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Monday, June 8, 2015

A Little Introspection -- To Be the Person You Want to Be Around

Be the person you want to be around. I'm sure that's a famous saying. It must be. I'm thinking of it today because I've been around a lot of people this week -- and a lot of people have been around me. I'm practicing a little introspection and asking myself, am I the kind of person they want to be around, or do they merely have to? Being that kind of individual is a constant conscientious challenge that can change at any given moment, whether my mood is delightful or crabby. How do I project toward others on a regular basis?

I want to be the person another person -- you -- want to be around. I want to be an encourager, a listener, a comforter, a day-brightener -- someone whom you will walk away from after a conversation feeling a bit more uplifted, or at least, not let down or simply tolerated.

I live in circles where I often hear expressions such as, be like Jesus. Well, Jesus was certainly no push-over or door mat (why do some folk think that?). He occasionally expressed righteous indignation or strong criticism. But overall, people were drawn to him, at least until close to the time of his crucifixion when he got a little too radical for their comfort zones. But overall, he taught us to live in such a way that we resonate with actions and attitudes that Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly. (At times, this requires speaking the truth in love, meaning with compassion and humility.)

Isn't that the kind of person we love to be around -- someone who loves and portrays character with attitudes of justice, mercy, and humility? Mm-hm.

What is that individual's counter-type? Narcissistic, self-centered, uncaring. Wow, strong words! Nobody really thinks of themselves that way, but the evidence is in their talk and their actions. What about if we examined those traits this way?
  • Somebody who is interested in their own needs and immediate desires more than the needs and desires of others. 
  • Someone who turns a blind eye to difficult circumstances that make them uncomfortable. 
  • An individual who is self-abasing, yet their humility is false and used as a way to extract attention or pity from others. 
Those kinds of people are easy to identify. Have I ever been guilty of being one of them? Yes.
But that's not who I want to be. I want to be the person you want to be around. AND, I want to be around other people like that.

How about you?

Have a terrific week, and may your outlook be fresh!

Share this post with the hashtag #verilywrite (write in truth) as a part of a group effort to share encouraging thoughts of truth with others throughout the month of June, and visit the Verity Web Solutions site, or join us by sharing your own uplifting words. Thanks!

Featuring Pesto and Potholes by Susan M. Baganz

Poignant romance of two lost souls learning about the things that go wrong, humanity’s fault lines and how to grow and love again despite the potholes that inevitably crop up. Baganz manages to throw some laughter and joy into desperate situations in this debut novel. Read Pesto and Potholes for a crazy adventure that makes Italian food with a side of Ninja warriors seem natural.
--Lisa Lickel

Pesto & Potholes
by Susan M. Baganz

About the book:
Renata tries to escape her past and runs straight into . . . love.
Renata Blake has moved to the Milwaukee area to leave behind a painful past as a victim of abuse. She discovers a family like she’s never had before at Orchard Hill Church and is drawn to handsome Packer fanatic, Antonio. After all she’s suffered through, could she ever trust a man again?
Antonio DeLuca has a full life with his family, church and his job as chef and manager at DeLuca’s Cucina. Having been betrayed in love, he is afraid to trust a woman again. How would he fit her into his already full life anyway? 
As circumstances draw them together and attempt to tear them apart, life becomes a combination of savory pesto and painful potholes as both Tony and Renata learn that with God’s help, and the support of a faith community, they can both learn to love again. 
And maybe fight a few ninjas along the way. 


What COTT Voters Had to Say:

--Susan, I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to read your book. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

--Loving reading this, Susan Bagnanz.

--I'm so excited for you, Susan! Congratulations.

--Going to order this one today, Susan Baganz! Thank you for writing great books!

--Great job, Susan. Way to go!

--Great cover and great story premise, Susan Baganz.

--Excited about Susan's book. The title is so intriguing.

--Susan M. Baganz - I like the happy sound of this story!

--Sounds intriguing, Susan Baganz!

--Susan M. Baganz - You are doing great and your stories are so captivating! Thanks for writing and sharing your gift with others!

We don't often get excerpts from authors, 

so enjoy this one from Pest and Potholes!

Sunday was cold. The sun shined brightly, and Renata sat at church surrounded by more of the De Luca clan. Tony winked at her, and they worshipped together. She experienced such joy and freedom in the music and lyrics. This was the new Renata. Free. Joyful. Loved. What a difference from a year ago.
After church, she raced home to change into jeans, sneakers, a sweater and coat. She pulled on knit gloves to keep her hands warm and found a matching knit cap to put on her head.
Tony arrived to pick her up in his car and they went through the drive-thru at Taco Bell for something to eat. Renata laughed when part of Tony’s burrito dribbled onto his sweatshirt.

They arrived at Brown Deer Park early, and Tony suggested they take a walk over by a small pond.

“This is such a peaceful place.” Reverent awe filled her voice as she gazed about.

“Sure is, but watch out for the goose doo doo.”
“Doo doo? Is that an Italian term for poop?”

Tony laughed, “No, that’s me trying to be more delicate since I am with a gorgeous woman in a beautiful place.”

“Awww, Tony, you are sweet.” They walked side by side, not touching. Renata could see their breath in the air.

“Edith agrees with you.”

“Edith? My neighbor?” Renata stopped to stare at him.

“Yeah, the other night she gave me a kiss because you had neglected to do it for her.”

Renata laughed. “Is she my competition for your affections?”

“Are you seeking my affections?” He looked at her with one eyebrow raised.

Renata looked away. Her entire neck and head grew warm.

“You have no competition. No one can compare to you.” His voice was seductive to her ears when he used those words.

“Now you go too far, Tony. I’m not as perfect as you think I am.” She had to reign this in. She didn’t want to lead him on.

“Who said you were perfect? Surely not I.” He placed his hand flat on his chest.

Renata laughed and gave Tony a playful punch in the arm, but was quickly distracted. She pointed to the pond. “Look at the geese coming in to land. They look like they are waterskiing when they put their feet down.”

“Waterskiing geese. Now I’ve seen everything. What will you think of next, Ren?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was your turn to be absurd for a while.”

Tony reached out and tickled Renata. “Stop!” She laughed and started tickling him back and took off running into the grass. Tony ran after her and with his longer legs managed to catch her causing them both to fall on the leaf-covered lawn. Renata grabbed a handful of leaves and tossed them at Tony, and he returned the favor. Soon they lay there in the leaves giggling and gasping for a breath.

“It is beautiful out here.” Renata said. “It’s hard to believe this is Milwaukee.”

“It’s hard for me to believe my good fortune to be sharing this with you.” Tony looked over to Renata and reached to grab her hand to give it a squeeze.

Renata’s shoulder muscles seized at his touch. The touching, the laughter, and the sense they were alone in the world without any past or present or future to worry about, shook her. She needed him too much. No. She wanted him. She desired him. She looked at his face, so close to hers and imagined what it would feel like to kiss him. Stop. This has to stop. No man will ever love you. No man will ever see you as more than a plaything. The messages bombarded her.

The monsters were back.

About the author:

Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. She is an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group, specializing in bringing great romance novels and novellas to publication. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She serves behind-the-scenes in various capacities at her church. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.