Tag Archives: Debra Salonen

ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA: Release day blog featuring author Debra Salonen + GIVEAWAY!

Hello, my friends,

I hope you are doing well in these trying times.

I live in California, which, sadly, has had more than its share of wild fires recently. As I write this blog, my eyes are watering and a weight on my chest reminds me not to step outside. Gray-brown smoke has become our new norm, but I’m hopeful that by the time you read this, our nearby #Creekfire will be under control, and all the other blazes across the west will be out.

One of the beautiful things about writing a series set in Montana is…it’s set in Montana! The air there is clean and clear, and the clouds indicate weather changes by virtue of season—not impending evacuation. Yes, disasters happen in every state, but right now in certain parts of California, we have three seasons: Winter, Spring and Fire. Sigh. 

This summer, my daughter visited western Montana—not far from Marietta. Here are few images she took that added to my sense of place—and to my escape–while I was writing my new release: ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA.

Whether I’m writing or reading a book, the setting becomes my virtual reality. And much the Property Sisters of Montana series is set in one of my favorite Montana towns: Marietta.

With this series, I added a new place of business in downtown Marietta: Brandel’s Baubles, Treasures and Fine Art, which was introduced in MONTANA BLUEPRINT FOR LOVE, became a centerpiece of MEET ME IN MONTANA when heroine Amber fell in love with the store—and the owner’s son, and also plays a role in ALL THE STARS IN MONTANA.

Here’s a snippet from this book:

Jade couldn’t remember ever being this nervous around Zach. He seemed right at home in her old hometown—more than she had any of the times she’d come back since Dad’s health scare. “What time is check-in?”

He glanced at a black-and-lime green, rugged-looking watch that didn’t look like his normal style at all. “Three. Have you stayed at the Graff?”

She made a raspberry. “Time and money conspired against me. As did the fact my mother would disown me if I came to town and checked into a hotel. But I’ve eaten there, and they did a great job on Ruby’s wedding in the courtyard. I wrote a glowing review on Yelp.”

“I probably read it. I like getting the lay of the land before I arrive in a new place.” He stopped at Baubles’s oversize picture window to study the whimsical, yet classy, display that included a rope hammock stretched at an angle with an arrangement of summery items: fishing poles, rusty roller skates, a red, white and blue tricycle, and a scattering of hardback books. “Reading in a hammock on a summer day. What a cool idea,” he said before taking a step back to look upward at the second story. “Brandel’s Baubles, Treasures and Fine Art. It’s just how you described it. I wonder if Amber bought any of Darel’s camels. We should go in and see.”

“Another time?” Jade knew her mother was scheduled to work today, and she’d been avoiding her parents since her arrival for a reason. Her sisters didn’t call her a “blabbermouth” for nothing. “Did I tell you the second-floor apartment remodel is being changed to commercial space to house the offices of Trey’s new digital magazine?”

“Yes. You told me.” 

As inhe’s the one who suggested getting a grant for the work. Duh? What is wrong with my head? ‘Baby brain’? She’d heard Ruby and Amber use the term to explain their current lapses in memory or normal thought processes. Just what I need. More mental challenges. As if having a butterfly brain wasn’t bad enough, now I really could be pregnant.

She watched him run a hand across the building’s quarry rock exterior. Weather and age had added to its stature. A shiver passed down her spine, as though he were touching her. She loved his hands. His touch. Him?

She looked away, not ready to answer that sixty-four-million-dollar question.

“I’m glad Property Sisters picked this building as a project. Every fine lady deserves a facelift.” He did a slow three-sixty. “And you can’t beat the location. I’ve always loved the idea of converting existing space into something fresh and new. Very European. This should be a nice boost to the overall rebirth of the downtown area. What do the locals think? Progress can be a tough sell in some parts of the country.”

The question made her stop dead. “II don’t know. The newspaper did a nice feature on Ruby and Boone’s new ‘Right-Size’ homes.” She frowned as she watched traffic pass. Mostly trucks and all-wheel vehicles. Is that a Prius? Ruby drove a Prius before she and Boone got married. But nothing about the cars or the pace hinted at progress and change. “I was in such a hurry to leave Marietta, I honestly haven’t given my hometown much thought over the years. I’d come back for the holidays, of course, but Dad’s health crisis was the first time I’d stayed for longer than a day or two.”

He took her hand again. “From an outsider’s viewpoint, I’m picking up a good strong revivalist vibe here. And it hasn’t snowed once since I arrived.”

“You mean three hours ago?”


In another scene, Jade and Zach meet for lunch at the Main Street Diner—a very popular and frequently visited location in Marietta. (In my very first Tule book, MONTANA COWBOY, an important scene that introduces the hero from second book takes place here.) Here’s a quick snippet. Who doesn’t love Flo?


“HelloGabriella,” Zach said, when he spotted the embroidered name on the hostess’s uniform. “I’m supposed to be meeting a friend” He hooked the bow of his sunglasses into the gap of his three-button Henley and nodded toward a blonde sitting alone in a booth halfway across the room. “That girl.”

“Oh, Jade McCall. Lucky you. Right this way.”

She picked up two laminated menus and set off at the snappy pace of someone who was there to work and get things done. As he followed, Zach cataloged a few first impressions: the Main Street Diner was clean and bright with a sort of modern Old West vibe, exposed brick, and an old-fashioned counter with stools at the back. Every spot was filled too. That—and the lack of parking out front—spoke for the viability of commerce in Jade’s hometown, which, he had to admit, gave off a certain hospitable western charm.

“Here you go,” Gabriella said, waiting for Zach to sit before handing him a menu. “Enjoy.”

His heart almost leapt out of his chest when he looked into Jade’s anxious, worried eyes. “Hello, beautiful. You remind me of someone I know in California. Mind if I join you?”

She gave him a dry look. “Has that line worked for you before? And”—she leaned sideways to glance under the table—“what’s with the hiking boots?”

He shrugged. “I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots. But somebody—you, I think—told me it snows here a lot.”

“In winter.”

The sparkle of amusement in her silvery-green eyes made him want to lean across the table and plant a big “She’s mine” kiss on her perfect, pink lips. Unfortunately, their waitress chose that moment to drop two sweating glasses of water in front of them. “Hello, folks. What can I get’cha to drink?” 

The woman was no spring heifer, as Jade might say. Her beehive hairdo seemed straight out of another decadeor ten. But her friendly smile made him feel welcome. Until she turned her attention on Jade and said, “Well, lookee here. It’s Jade McCall, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you in forever and a day. How are you?”

Jade’s gaze shot to the woman’s chest, but a thin sweater with three-quarter sleeves covered her nametag. The panicked look on her face said she didn’t have a clue to the woman’s identity. 

Zach stuck out his hand. “Hello, there. Zachary Masters. And you are?”

“Flo. You’re new here. I’d remember that face.”

Jade’s eyes sparkled with amusement and gratitude. “Flo. Nice to see you again. You’re right, it’s been too long.”

Flo glanced back and forth between them. “Guess you’re back for that TV business I’ve been hearin’ about. Is he thewhat do you call the main star? The talent?”

Jade’s cheeks turned pink. “He’s very talented, but he’s not in the show.”

“Yet,” Zach said. “I’m angling for a walk-on.”

Jade rolled her eyes and said under her breath, “One can dream.”

Flo coughed. “Drinks?”

“Water’s good for me,” Jade said.

“Me, too. Gotta keep my wits about me where this one is concerned,” he added for Flo’s benefit.

Jade’s shoe connected with his ankle. Hard. He was glad he’d chosen to wear hiking boots.


Wouldn’t you love to meet up at the Main Street Diner for lunch some day? We could talk about books and catch up on all the news in Marietta. I wonder what those Zabrinskis are up to now? I would order the same thing Jade did: bacon burger with sweet potato fries. Tell me in the comments below, what would you order for lunch at the Main Street Diner? Live large, I’ll pick up the tab. ;-)

And to celebrate my new release, I’ll pick also one winner from those who respond to receive a $10 Amazon gift card. (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

Happy reading, my friends. Stay well and please pray for all those amazing firefighters and first responders working so hard in all the critical areas across the country and especially on the West coast. 



Former award-winning newspaper journalist Debra Salonen is a nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin’s Superromance and American lines and one single title release for Harlequin Signature. Several of her titles were nominated for “Best Superromance,” including UNTIL HE MET RACHEL, which took home that honor in 2010. Debra was named Romantic Times Reviewer’s Career Achievement “Series Storyteller of the Year” in 2006. Debra lives in the foothills near Yosemite National Park in California with her husband and two dogs. Luckily, her two children and three grandchildren live close by to keep Debra connected to the real world.

Tule Author Q&A: Debra Salonen talks house renovations!

Debra Salonen stopped by to talk all about the first book in her Property Sisters of Montana series, Montana Blueprint for Love!




Where did you get the inspiration for this novel?

My husband and I had an opportunity to partner with our son and daughter to buy an elderly neighbor’s house when he moved to Maine to be with family. The house had slipped into disrepair after his wife died. We thought we could bring the home back to life and welcome a new family to our neighborhood—and make a little money in the process. What I enjoyed most about the job was the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of the day seeing the visual results of my hard work. That’s not how it happens when you write novels for a living.

Here’s a picture of me in my work gear. I’m giving away a tool belt like the one I’m wearing in the photo along with a bunch of goodies to one of my newsletter followers next month (Sign up here!).


Have you ever worked to restore a house?

Yes. Too many to count, really, because my husband is a contractor. When we first married, we bought a house from my parents. They’d brought me home from the hospital to that house before they built their “big” house across the street (where I grew up). The old house had become a rental for many years. When we bought it, one room had been painted black (even the windows). I forgot to use that in BLUEPRINT. Darn it.  But I did use a lot of things that we encountered in the flip house mentioned above.


If you could spend the day with “Diamond” Jim or Ruby who would you choose and what would you do?

Beaded Assorted-color Necklace Lot on ShelfInteresting question. What I’d really love is to sit in on a jewelry making session with Ruby and Bailey Zabrinski. I used to love to do crafts. My mom and mother-in-law were always doing needlework, knitting, quilting, or sewing projects. When I started writing, all my creative energy seemed to go into my books. Ruby channeled her creative energy to jewelry making to keep her sanity while working in a soul-crushing job. Bailey (my first Tule heroine in Montana Cowboy) is very supportive of local artisans and she sells Ruby’s pieces in her store. What I wouldn’t give to spend a day with these two creative women! Maybe they’d inspire me to start working with my hands again.


This is the first book in your new Property Sisters of Montana series. Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?

I’ve written a number of connected series, including one with three sisters, and I learned early on that your storyline lives or dies by what you lay down in Book I, so I put a lot of thought into the family’s backstory and individual characters’ life experiences that bring them to the jumping off point of the book. But I LOVE writing about families. The psychology of birth order, the shared experiences that affect each child differently and shape their memories, and each child’s relationship with his or her parents intrigues me beyond words.

I recently lost a nephew who was my sister’s third child of five (the youngest died at birth). For reasons we’ll never know or understand completely, he went rogue—and not in a good way. His parents and siblings struggled over the years to help, to understand and, ultimately, to accept that he was on his own path. He would have turned 58 in August. I much, much prefer happy endings, which is probably why I write romance.


Pile of BooksWhat are you currently reading?

I typically lean toward women’s fiction, cozies or suspense when I’m writing. I just pre-ordered Book 4 in the Sydney Rose Parnell series by Barbara Nickless. I recently enjoyed a female Sherlockian first in series called Poison in Paddington by Samantha Silver and bought #2. I’m eagerly awaiting C.J. Carmichael’s new Bitter Root Mystery. Also I adored Barbara O’Neal’s touching story of two sisters called When We Believed in Mermaids. And I stayed up much too late last night to finish Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth Hunter. It’s a very fun story with three best-friend heroines who are in their mid-forties.



Winner will be selected on Tuesday, March 24th!


About the Author

Former award-winning newspaper journalist Debra Salonen is a nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin’s Superromance and American lines and one single title release for Harlequin Signature. Several of her titles were nominated for “Best Superromance,” including UNTIL HE MET RACHEL, which took home that honor in 2010. Debra was named Romantic Times Reviewer’s Career Achievement “Series Storyteller of the Year” in 2006. Debra lives in the foothills near Yosemite National Park in California with her husband and two dogs. Luckily, her two children and three grandchildren live close by to keep Debra connected to the real world.

Visit with Montana Miracle author, Debra Salonen!

Yes, Virginia, your editor really is Santa Claus


Debra Salonen


A good editor is a gift that keeps on giving.

An editor that “gets” you as an author and loves your voice? A gift more valuable than gold.

I’m very fortunate to work with a fabulous editor at Tule. Her name is Sinclair Sawhney. Her brilliance and “get-me-ness” shone through like the Christmas star when I first presented my idea for my proposed holiday book: Montana Miracle.

My chosen topic: suicide.

Because that’s such a happy holiday topic, right?

Most of the writers I know liken that first inkling of story–when it nudges up close and whispers “We belong together” in your ear–to falling in love. Who sees the potential pitfalls in the relationship or the conflict’s inherent weaknesses when all you can feel is the magnetic pull of the story?

That, my friends, is where a good editor steps in.

Somewhere in my writer brain, I glommed onto the idea of a damaged, broken Jimmy-Stewart-sort-of-guy (It’s A Wonderful Life) being brought back from the brink by a strong, determined Donna-Reed-sort-of-gal who whips a Bedford-Falls-sort-of-town into shape to open hearts and arms to help this guy. Yeah, yeah, it’s been done before, but this would be my chance to give Frank Capra and author Philip Van Doren Stern a run for their money. So to speak.images-2
That was until my insightful editor wrote this:

“I am curious as to how you are going to handle his suicidal feelings.  Is it more he’s just tired, full of despair or is he actually planning anything?  I know you are very skilled at walking a tightrope with heavier elements in your stories—abortion, death, and your readers expect and love the heavier themes, but I do want to be conscious that we are also trying to build your readership, plus Christmas stories do have a tendency to be uplifting.”

Can you see the light bulb that magically appeared in my head? Actually, it was a neon flashing sign that read:  “Oh. That’s right. It’s a Christmas story. Good grief, Charlie Brown, what were you thinking?”

With that gentle nudge, the building blocks all fell into place. I’m sure my characters heaved a great sigh of relief that no one was going to come close to dying in this book because almost immediately their natural humor and juicy repartee started to come out.

MontanaMiracle-300dpiHere’s the moment Pastor Sam realizes she misunderstood Gage’s intentions completely:

Sam finished the final few inches of the plank before getting to her feet.

“This is more work than I thought it would be,” she said, turning around to find a tall, large, not unattractive stranger despite the half-moon scar on his upper forehead. Her heart rate spiked. Fear? Maybe. But she’d confronted gangs before. Something else made her mouth go dry and the brush in her hand quiver. “Hello. Who are you?”

He’d removed his black cowboy hat, which he held in his right hand like a Frisbee or one of those star things ninja assassins carried. And that was the vibe he gave off. Intense. Possibly dangerous.

But he didn’t look like an assassin. His heavy, dark brown Carhartt jacket showed ample wear, his jeans could stand to be washed and his boots had seen better days. Not that anyone other than her daughter would want to take out a hit on her, she told herself.

Somebody’s been reading way too many romantic suspense novels lately, she thought, although it was hard to ignore the voice in her head screaming, “You’re alone in a church with a potential murderer or rapist.”

“My name is Gage Monroe,” the potential murderer or rapist said, holding out his hand in a conciliatory way. “I’m looking for Pastor Sam.”

Sam slapped the brush crossways on top of the paint can then clamped her hands to her hips. “Well, of course you are. Because those wiseacres at the Post Office failed to warn you that Sam was short for Samantha.” She shook her head. “It’s getting old, boys,” she said, looking up. But, a part of her still grinned, picturing their boyish pleasure.

“You’re Pastor Sam?”

She stepped toward him, sensing his sudden urge to bolt. “Samantha Zabrinski. Born in Montana, raised in Detroit. I’ve only been back a few months, but I’m happy to be here–despite the weather.”

His hand felt like a block of ice. Did he walk from the Post Office? Maybe. Two blocks wasn’t far, but the only people who seemed to thrive on the cold were young kids and tourists.

“I grew up here, too, but I’ve been gone for quite a few years.”

“I figured as much. Pretty hard to miss a local when there are so few of us. Where do you live?”

“Mile and a half south of town. Used to be a nice little ranch, but it got broken up over the years. Just a few acres with a house and barn left. The Sheriff booted the low-life renters out last week, I was told. Place is in pretty bad shape.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember hearing some talk. You were one of Mr. Vander Wahl’s clients.” The extent of the old man’s incompetence and apparent impairments only came to light after he dropped dead at his desk. “We prayed for his soul. I hate to think of the weight of his burdens at the end of his life.”

Gage Monroe let out a gruff “Pah.” “He left a ton of burdens behind, believe me. I’m trying my best to get out from under them. Which is why I’m here.”

She pointed to the industry behind her. “My prowess with a paint brush precedes me? How nice.”

The reluctant smile that flirted with the corners of Gage Monroe’s nicely shaped mouth made the name Ewan McGregor spring into her mind. Or maybe it was the thatch of longish, cinnamon-brown hair that fell across his forehead that reminded her of one of her favorite actors. Oh, my. Be still my heart. Wait till I tell Makayla.

“I’ve given myself a deadline of December 25th. What isn’t done by then will be somebody else’s problem. I won’t be here to worry about it.”

Sam’s breath caught in her throat making mere breathing impossible. She’d heard another confession like this once and the man doing the talking was found dead the next morning. Suicide. Was that what he meant? A man this vital and filled with life was considering taking his own life?

As she looked closer, she could see tiny stress lines around his eyes and mouth. Was he in pain? Constant physical pain could rob a person of the ability to see a future.

She rushed to him, nearly tripping over her feet in her hurry. “No. I’m sorry, but no. You can’t do this.”

“I can’t?”

She gripped the forearm not holding his hat with both of her hands. “Life is too precious. It may not seem like it now, but you…have…value,” she said, slowly.

Their gazes locked.


She blinked. “You do? You’re not talking about committing suicide?”

The look that crossed his handsome face was not attractive. She let go of his arm and took a step back. “No. I’m talking about leaving this hellhole and never coming back. But I can’t do that until I sell my folks’ old place.”


I loved writing this story. And hope you’ll agree that Bedford Falls ain’t got nothin’ on Paradise, Montana.


I hope this isn’t a silly gift–since you’ve all seen it, but tell me the title of your favorite holiday movie, and I’ll pick one name to win a copy of It’s A Wonderful Life and a backlist holiday title of mine. Cheers!


auth_DebraSalonenFormer award-winning newspaper journalist Debra Salonen is a nationally bestselling author with 26 published novels for Harlequin’s Superromance and American lines and one single title release for Harlequin Signature. Several of her titles were nominated for “Best Superromance,” including UNTIL HE MET RACHEL, which took home that honor in 2010. Debra was named Romantic Times Reviewer’s Career Achievement “Series Storyteller of the Year” in 2006. Debra lives in the foothills near Yosemite National Park in California with her husband and two dogs. Luckily, her two children and three grandchildren live close by to keep Debra connected to the real world.