Today I am deeply honored to welcome Ava Miles to Fab Fantasy Fiction. Ava is an author that truly amazes me. Both she and her writing radiate sincerity, humor, and kindness. In addition, each book in her Dare Valley series is a jewel of a romance. Just like the namesake of her first book, NORA ROBERTS LAND, I imagine twenty and even fifty years from now that these books will continue to be read and enjoyed - touching the heart and soul of each reader. Ava, thank you so much for taking the time today to step away from your writing and join us here.
(AM) I’ve been making up stories since I was a kid, and writing them since I was a teenager with a spiral notebook. There was a longing deep inside me to share this inner world that appeared to me, all of these fun, vibrant, and often zanny characters who became my best friends. I wrote for myself since I was raised not to think of writing being a possible career. But the longing continued, and the stories and characters continued to appear. I finally had a change in jobs and had characters who just wouldn’t let up until I wrote their whole story. I wrote them in the wilds of Africa at night when the generator had gone out and there were fires in garbage cans outside my window, lit by the street thugs who roamed at night. It was terrifying, and I finally realized, I wanted to write myself to a safer, happier life. I also realized I really wanted to share stories about empowerment, forgiveness, family, and the transformative power of love. So I finished the manuscript, and thankfully friends and family told me I had something. From there, I joined Romance Writers of America and our local Washington chapter. I learned about the business, and from then on, just considered it a matter of time until everything would fall into place. It finally did this May. I quit my old career and launched myself out into the ether as a writer. I am truly blessed.
(AM) Dare Valley is an amalgamation of small towns I have lived in in the Midwest and out West. I drew out the town as I saw it and am lucky enough to have Gregory Stewart as my graphical artist to help it come to life. Every map has presented new local spots, especially the 1960 story THE TOWN SQUARE. I love that map especially since it has a drive-in, and seeing that was just too cute for words. I’m an artist as well, so I wanted to visually convey Dare Valley as well as describe it. We went to lots of family reunions in Colorado growing up since there’s an enormous family contingent out there. I love it, and it just seemed like the perfect place for Dare to be.
(AM) My sister’s story is like the old adage of turning lemons into lemonade. And she was so eager to have me tell the story because she hoped it would empower, comfort, or resonate with other people who have been divorced or had their hearts broken. She wanted some good to come out of her situation. I didn’t show her the manuscript until I was finished—that’s just my process. She told me I nailed how she’d felt, feeling divorced, and I was so grateful. I had listened to my heart, and it told me how it felt. The heroine, Meredith, isn’t my sister, but an amalgamation of all the people I’ve known, including myself, who have had their hearts broken and had to rebuild that sense of self. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing, and I’m so glad Tanner was the perfect man to be her supporting partner in that journey, one she took alone and with him.
(AM) Sure, I was nervous. She’s Nora Roberts, my favorite author. The Universe simply could not have scripted it better. I had just met Nora’s best friend and reached out for advice, and with her help, I approached Nora camp. There were some ongoing discussions, and ultimately she gave her blessing for me to use her name in the title and the premise. Nora’s best friend has become my own bestie, and her publicist, the lovely Laura Reeth, has become a treasured friend. I am so incredibly blessed.
(AM) Hope is the breath of life, and I’m so glad you’ve picked up on how important it is to me. My characters go through such tremendous transformation, some of it pretty tough and painful. I’m thinking about Peggy in THE GRAND OPENING, who had to totally transform her view of the hero and his profession. She had to heal some serious childhood wounds to get there. The love she felt for Mac gave her hope. To me, hope is the taste of eternal promise. It’s the Holy Grail that keeps us moving forward when we’re in the dark, confused, overwhelmed, or feel totally out of control. Hope is magic, as a friend recently told me. And to be human and call in more abundance in our lives, we need to have the courage to hope that it will find us.
(AM) Golly, that is really tough. I love them all, but I have to say it was really hard to put aside THE GRAND OPENING. I love Peggy and Mac, and Mac, well, I fell for him. Hard. He lovingly supported the prickly heroine, Peggy, and his moments with his teenage nephew and Peggy’s six-year-old son melted my heart. He was the man you want to curl up with for the rest of your life. You know he’s going to do what’s right, support you, tantalize you, and simply love you until your last breath. Ah, a true hero.
(AM) My next book will be out February 11, 2014 and is called COUNTRY HEAVEN. It’s the first book in a connected series called Dare River, which is set down South, outside Nashville. In THE GRAND OPENING and THE HOLIDAY SERENADE, one of the characters is friends with a country singer, Rye Crenshaw, and I just knew he needed his own story, and thus The Dare River series was born. COUNTRY HEAVEN is a modern beauty and the beast story where the beauty tames/tempers the beast through food. He stops by a diner after a concert and has the best meal he’s ever tasted. Asking to meet the cook, he offers her a job as his cook on his tour bus, and so the journey begins—or at least until he discovers the father who disowned him for becoming a country singer has had a heart attack and wants to reconcile. So he takes the cook with him, and together they both learn what family means and how to forgive and reconcile.
(AM) With my old job being rather dangerous, I wasn’t on social media, so it was a huge learning curve. I was also not raised to ever talk about myself, so it’s been an adjustment for me. Once I realized I was just talking about my message of inspiration, empowerment, and transformation, it all clicked. In the beginning, I was learning about the various avenues on social media to see what seemed the most comfortable to me. I spend most of my time on Facebook and Twitter. I love Pinterest, but I haven’t had as much time for it. I have been seriously thinking about a Street Team, yes, but want to make sure it’s the right time and I know again the message I want it to convey. It’s in the planning stages, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m grateful for all of the support I have on social media from readers, other writers, and bloggers like you.
(AM) As a kid, we went to the library every week or ordered books through school (something I am still so grateful to my parents for since there wasn’t much money growing up with us six kids). I loved Judy Blume, Beverly Clearly, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Anne of Green Gables. My grandma was a huge reader and gave me those last two. I have her copies now that she’s passed away just a year ago, and they are some of my most treasured books. As for current authors, Nora, of course, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson, Sherry Thomas, Eloisa James. I love books with humor and transformation, and those ladies ring that up every time.
NORA ROBERTS LAND BY AVA MILES
Dare Valley Series, Book 1
Meredith Hale scanned the bookstore window. There it was—the new Nora Roberts book—the cover a bold, powerful landscape of sky and water.
Her superhero alter ego, Divorcée Woman, couldn’t override the rash of goosebumps on her arms or her knotted stomach. Meredith patted the red lace La Perla bustier hidden under her black suit jacket and took one hesitant step closer to the glass, her breath hitching as she scanned Nora’s prominent display. She imagined Divorcée Woman telling her to suck it up. It was only a bookstore after all. It wasn’t like she had to take a bullet for the president or anything.
She’d gone cold turkey on Nora’s books a year ago, when her ex-husband, Rick-the-Dick, threw Black Hills at the wall, snarling that her favorite author had given her an unrealistic view of love. “Our marital problems are her fault,” he said. “She’s made you believe in happily ever after—something any adult knows is a myth. Grow up.” Then he packed his custom-tailored suits and slammed out the door of their swanky Manhattan apartment.
At first she’d thought maybe he was right. But she missed Nora’s books. And not reading them hadn't made the whole divorce thing any easier on her. It hadn't made the panic attacks go away.
She wanted her Nora Roberts back, dammit. It was time to reclaim her life.
Unfortunately, just looking at the cover had her hovering on the edge of a panic attack. Her hands grew clammy. She wiped them on her black suit and dug into her matching purse for her cell phone. Her sister would be able to talk her into going into the store. After all, Jill could talk anyone into anything.
“Hey, Mere,” Jill greeted, the ever-present sound of her favorite band, Abba, in the background. Jill wanted to live life like a dancing queen.
“Hey,” she said, making sure to sound calmer than she was. “How’s business at the coffee shop?”
“Well, after a regional dairy salesman tried to talk me into changing my store’s name from Don’t Soy With Me to Don’t Milk Me, I’m about ready to bash my head against the espresso machine. He was so dense. I tried to explain it’s a play on words, but he just blinked like one of those dairy cows and went, ‘Oh.’”
Meredith’s panic slowly eased. Jill and her stories were always a comfort. “Being in New York, I don’t run into too many milk salesmen. Does he wear a special outfit?”
“No, thank God. Speaking of milk, did you get my present?”
Ducking closer to the store window so she wouldn’t be mowed down by a rush of pedestrians, Meredith said, “You mean the coffee mug with the line, ‘You’re My Udder One’?”
“Yes. I tried to appease the milk guy by telling him I’d put those mugs out for display, but he wouldn’t leave. He even offered to teach me how to milk a cow. I think he was hitting on me.”
As Meredith muffled her laughter, a passing banker gave her a disapproving stare. His shoes, belt, and briefcase matched—the Wall Street uniform. “And I thought my love life was pathetic.”
“What love life?”
“Funny. Speaking of which, I’m outside a bookstore. I woke up this morning and decided I want to read.”
“Oh, honey, I didn’t know you were illiterate.”
“Hah.” She eyed the rush of people heading in and out of the bookstore on 82nd and Broadway.
“Okay, take a deep yoga breath. Jeez, Mere, you sound like Great Aunt Helen when she put down her oxygen to steal a swig of Grandpa’s scotch at Christmas.”
“Right. Breathe.” Was her vision blurring? “I’m taking a step.”
“Oh, baby, I wish mom and I were there to see it.”
Her sister’s wicked humor cut through the fogginess in her head. Meredith wasn’t sure she was in her body anymore, but it moved when she walked. Her hand managed to open the door. She walked in on legs wobbling like an untangled yoyo.
“Are you inside yet?”
She squeezed into a book aisle as people cruised by. “Yes.”
“Welcome back to the land of the reading.”
Was there anything more comforting? “Thank you. I’m standing by the thriller and suspense section. Makes me think of Grandpa. He’s convinced there’s some sort of conspiracy going on at the university. I’m researching the college drug trade for him on the side. Maybe I should buy him a John Grisham book instead.”
“I know! He keeps pumping me for information about the parties I’ve gone to. I told him people drink too much and puke. End of story.”
“Tell that to his infernal journalism gut.” Not that she could point fingers. Hale DNA had given her one too.
“I know the fam’s grateful you’ve been helping out with the paper after Dad’s heart attack,” her sister said, “But Dad’s still working too hard. He loves that paper like it’s a child—just like Grandpa.”
“I know, Jill.” Suddenly guilt pressed down on her, its force almost as strong as the panic. She was helping, but she wished she could do more. Sometimes being long-distance sucked.
Her sister cleared her throat. “I don’t know how to say this, but you need to know. Sorry the timing’s not great with the whole one-year-divorce anniversary thing, but…” Her sister’s breathing went a little ragged on the line. “The doctor’s concerned about dad’s progress and wants him to take some time off. Mom hasn’t wanted to ask you, but someone needs to help Grandpa. I know he can run circles around us all, but he’s in his seventies. Is there any way you can come home to help out for a few months? I’d do it, but I have zero journalistic instincts. Plus, I have Don’t Soy with Me to run.”
“Come home?” She bumped into a book display, and a whole parade of James Patterson hardcovers slid to the floor. Her lungs seemed to stop at the thought. “I can’t breathe...and I really want to.” She gulped in air.
“Go to the coffee shop and sit down. Put your head between your knees.”
She wobbled over to a chair and caught sight of the romance section. The tightness between her ribs could have competed with a boa constrictor as it killed its victim. She didn’t care what people thought. She put her head between her legs when she saw red.
Her phone buzzed in her clenched hand, signaling another call. She ignored it, breathing deeply. When her equilibrium returned, she took deep breaths until she was sure she’d inhaled all the circulated air in Manhattan. She put the phone to her ear again.
“You still there?”
“Yep. You okay?”
Question of the year. “I didn’t pass out, but it was close.”
“Meredith, your husband cheated on you, and then blamed it on you—and Nora’s books. You’ve been through an emotional wringer. Give yourself a break. I keep telling Jemma that too.”
Jill’s best friend had just been dumped by her childhood sweetheart. “You’re pretty good at giving advice.”
“Practice. Jemma’s devastated.”
“Yeah, I get that.” Her eyes burned, and she pinched the bridge of her nose. “I can’t stand another night in my apartment. I miss my Tribeca place and eating out in restaurants and visiting gallery openings. I don’t miss Rick-the-Dick, but I do miss being part of that jam-packed world.”
“You have the Power Couple Blues, Mere. Maybe coming home to help the paper will give you a new perspective. You don’t have any family there. Most of your friends changed when you got divorced.”
True, she had become intimately familiar with the term “fair weather friend” over the past year. “I miss you guys.” But going home? She’d been in New York since starting at Colombia. “Let me grab a coffee.”
“I wish I was there to make your favorite. Then I’d give you a ginormous hug and tell you about Paige Lorton snorting whipped cream up her nose and old man Perkins giving her the Heimlich.”
Her laughter popped out like the final popcorn kernels in the microwave. “Oh, Jillie, I love you.”
“I love you too. You’re my big sis. I miss you, Mere.”
Holding the phone away from her face for a moment, she walked up to the counter and gave her coffee order—a tall, no foam latte—before shuffling back to her chair. She slumped against the metal back, returning the phone to her ear. “Let me think about coming home.”
“Surely Karen knows how hard you’ve worked after joining her paper. You’ve been there for a year now. Plus, it’s Rick-the-Dick’s rival paper. That’s gotta be extra bonus points.”
Her coffee magically appeared in front of her. She looked up to see a petite barista with flat-ironed hair. “You look like you needed me to bring it over.”
Kindness didn’t happen often in New York. In her hometown of Dare Valley, Colorado, it happened more times than she could count. “Thank you.” A wave of homesickness hit her. “Maybe you’re right, Jill. It would be nice to be around people who know me.”
“Good! So think about it. Talk to Karen. Now, drink your latte, and then we’ll talk you into the romance section. Nora Roberts Land awaits.”
A smile tugged at Meredith’s lips. “I forgot how mom always used to call Nora’s books that. She’d point her finger at dad and say she was taking a few hours to visit Nora Roberts Land, and then she’d seal herself off in the bedroom. Like it was an adult version of Disneyland. Dad never got it.”
“Yeah, but at least he didn’t blame divorce on Nora’s books. Rick-the-Dick’s the kind of man who can’t take responsibility for his cheating, so he blamed it on you—and fiction. Isn’t that the most pathetic thing ever? It’s like blaming teen suicide on Romeo and Juliet. It’s asinine.”
“Actually, I think that’s been done.” She took the last drink of her latte and stood. Tested her balance. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“So strut your stuff over to the romance section.”
Ava Miles burst onto the contemporary romance scene after receiving Nora Roberts’ blessing for her use of Ms. Roberts’ name in her debut novel, NORA ROBERTS LAND, which kicked off The Dare Valley Series and brought praise from reviewers and readers alike. Much to Ava's delight, BlogCritics says "It [NORA ROBERTS LAND] captures the best of...a Nora Roberts novel,” while USA Today's Happily Ever After blog praises the series noting its “wonderful, idyllic setting... [and] great characters." Ava continued The Dare Valley Series in FRENCH ROAST, which Tome Tender says “raised the entertainment bar again” and then THE GRAND OPENING, which reviewer Mary J. Gramlich says “is a continuation of love, family, and relationships.” The fourth book in the series, THE HOLIDAY SERENADE, was met with high praise, and now Ava shares her ode to the early 1960s, THE TOWN SQUARE, what she calls Mad Men in a small town with a happy ending. A descendant of generations of journalists, Ava—a writer since childhood—now lives in her own porch-swinging-friendly community with an old-fashioned Main Street lined with small businesses. Much like Dare Valley.
Keep in touch with Ava……………………………..
BY AVA MILES
TO YOUR BOOKSHELF
Nora Roberts Land (Dare Valley Series Book 1)
Publication Date January 12, 2014
Journalist Meredith Hale's ex-husband claimed her Nora Roberts addiction gave her unrealistic expectations about marriage, and she believed him. All dreams of happily ever after — or Nora Roberts Land as her mother calls it — went up in smoke. But when her family asks her to temporarily help their Dare Valley, Colorado newspaper, she decides it’s time to change her life and prove her ex wrong. She's determined to find her own small-town Nora Roberts hero, prove that true love exists, and publish a story about her quest.
War correspondent Tanner McBride has just returned stateside to work for a major newspaper, and the last thing he expects is blackmail. Yet, before he can even unpack, he’s headed to Colorado. His assignment? Make his boss’s ex-wife fall for him and then break her heart. Her article about discovering love à la Nora might air dirty laundry about her marriage to the media mogul, threatening his senate run. The mogul wants Meredith stopped, and he makes sure Tanner has no choice in the matter.
When the two meet, the sparks between them are undeniable. Meredith, who vowed never to date another journalist, begins to succumb. Could Tanner be her Nora Roberts hero? As they work together to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death, the depth of their feelings unfolds and both realize they've kept their secrets for far too long. But before the truth can be revealed, their investigation takes a deadly turn, one that might make Meredith's personal Nora Roberts Land go up in flames.
French Roast (Dare Valley Book 2)
Publication Date: August 7, 2013
An exciting new contemporary romance with a New Adult and foodie flavor.
Small-town biz wiz Jill Hale has been in love with her childhood best friend Brian McConnell for as long as she can remember. A falling out led to years of estrangement, but when Brian returns to Dare Valley after trying to make it big as a chef in New York City, Jill’s determined to make amends. She’s convinced that starting a restaurant together will be the perfect win-win situation, allowing her and Brian to work together and play together.
After a series of missteps sliced and diced Brian’s career in the Big Apple, he came home to regroup and find himself. He’s convinced that reestablishing his connection with Jill, the girl who got away, will put his life back on track. And when she approaches him with her plan for going into business together, he’s certain it’s the one way he can have it all—his dream job and his dream girl.
Jill and Brian are falling for each other all over again when Brian’s ex sashays into town, intent on sabotaging their reunion. Add in a mysterious investor who’s determined to get Jill on board with his project, and the bond between the couple is tested to the limit. Will their second chance at love implode, or will they find their own recipe for a happy ending?
The Grand Opening (Dare Valley Book 3)
Publication Date: September 21, 2013
When Peggy McBride moves to Dare Valley, Colorado, the last thing she wants is to meet a man. If she’s learned one thing from her divorce, it’s that love is a messy business, and as a single mom and the new deputy sheriff, she has her hands full. But when hotel magnate and poker player Mac Maven moves to town, she becomes enthralled by the very last man she would ever consider dating...
Mac Maven has come to Dare with ambitious plans for his new project, the restoration of The Grand Mountain Hotel as a boutique poker venue. Only one person offers him a less than warm welcome: Deputy Sheriff Peggy McBride, who is dead set against gambling. But although Peggy’s a fierce opponent, Mac senses a tenderness and passion within her that he longs to free. Having helped his sister raise her teenage son, he understands Peggy, and can see past her tough–as–nails exterior.
When a threat to Mac’s hotel surfaces, he and Peggy must join forces to find out who’s responsible. Working together ignites the white–hot connection between them, and their cooperation takes a decidedly personal turn. But can Mac convince Peggy to set their differences aside and take a gamble on love?
The Holiday Serenade (Dare Valley Book 4)
Publication Date: December 11, 2013
Professional gambler Rhett Butler Blaylock is everything Abbie Maven doesn’t want in a man—flamboyant, flashy, and unreserved. After a horrible experience in her youth, she has spent her life trying to make all the right choices, pouring her energy into being the best possible single mother to her son. But though Rhett doesn’t seem to be husband and stepfather material, he awakens emotions in her that are as frightening as they are powerful. They had a fling she’s never forgotten, and now he has followed her to Dare Valley, Colorado with the intention of winning back her heart…this time, forever.
Rhett’s determined to show Abbie he can be the man of her dreams. He’ll do whatever it takes for the woman he loves, including giving up his flamboyant lifestyle and bad-boy image. As Christmas approaches, he prepares a special surprise for her, hoping the holiday will work its magic and grant him a miracle. Will his holiday serenade heal Abbie’s heart and convince her to give love a second chance?
The Town Square (Dare Valley Book 5)
Publication Date: December 15, 2013
1960 is ushering in a new decade of change, and journalist Arthur Hale is determined to be on the forefront of it. A successful New York City journalist, he returns to his hometown of Dare Valley, Colorado to start a new newspaper that will channel the voice of the West, joining the ranks of prestigious papers like The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune.
But the bigger the dream, the higher the price. Arthur’s ambition and drive isolate him, and the only person who can break through his self-imposed solitude is Harriet Jenkins, his talented and mysterious secretary. Though Arthur’s sixth sense as a journalist tells him the beautiful and complicated redhead is hiding something, he can’t stay away.
What he doesn’t know is that Harriet Jenkins is actually Harriet Wentworth. A newspaper article ruined her father and sullied her family name, and now she’s out for revenge on the journalist who wrote it: Arthur Hale. As she gets to know Arthur, Harriet discovers he’s not the monster she thought he was. He’s a man of integrity, committed to uncovering the truth at all costs. Soon the impossible happens, and she finds herself falling for the man she set out to destroy, but can the two build a future on a foundation of lies and ugly truths?
Just as Nora Roberts' stories served as the inspiration for Meredith Hale's quest in NORA ROBERTS LAND, why don't we see how we can find inspiration in Nora Roberts' hometown of Boonsboro, MD.
Let's visit "Nora Roberts Land"
More about Boonsboro, MD