Friday, February 16, 2018

Dani Collins: Rock Bottom and From The Top

I talked in my last post about how my grandmother had inspired the name for my new series, Blue Spruce Lodge.

I can also credit (blame?) Grandma for my aspiration to write romance. Along with my mom, she read romance and we often talked about the books we shared. "That was a nice one," she would tell me as she handed over a stack.

I always imagined surprising her by putting a book with my name on the cover into her hands. Alas, it was many years after she passed away that I finally published.

The disappointment of not realizing a dream like that is pretty deep. It actually took me twenty-five years to publish and I have to admit to having some dark days in those years when the rejections piled up. I completely lost faith in myself and thought very seriously about quitting more than once.

Persevering after your expectations have been dashed is hard. Fortunately, I had family who gave me some 'chin up' speeches, plus I felt I'd come too far to quit. I finally got The Call in 2012 and I've been publishing seven or eight books a year ever since.

But I brought that experience of failing and losing hope to Ilke when I wrote From The Top.

She's an alpine skier and, like writing, there's a lot of commitment and self-discipline, even some self-delusion. You have to believe you can do something you've never done.

In Ilke's case, she didn't have a support structure. She's even a bit pigheaded about getting to the top on her own, not relying on anyone. It's is a character flaw that needs ironing.

But she also winds up failing when she thought she would sweep the podiums at this year's Olympics. It's a huge blow. And unlike my receiving a rejection letter, her loss means she loses her sponsors. Her income. All the pieces of her carefully planned future fall apart.

Then she realizes she shouldn't have been skiing at all. She's pregnant! Now what? The only thing she truly loves--skiing--is denied her. She never wanted to be a mom, doesn't know how to be a parent, and has no one to turn to except the baby's father.

Nate has some issues of his own. He wants his baby, make no mistake, but there is ambivalence on both sides at first. They both have a lot to navigate, but when it comes to solid-gold, that's what Nate is.

Here's the blurb:

Their hot New Year’s Eve wasn’t supposed to have consequences… 

Fiercely independent after a difficult childhood, Ilke Lunquist devotes herself to one thing: skiing. She’s on the cusp of gold when an unexpected pregnancy throws her future into chaos.

Nathaniel Hart takes on the daunting project of restoring Whiskey Jack Ski Resort to be close to his young son, but with one failed marriage behind him, he avoids serious relationships.

They might be virtual strangers with only a baby in common, but Nate is determined to be part of his child’s life. Ilke didn’t become a champion by ever backing down from a challenge, especially not one where her child’s happiness and her own heart are on the line. When tragedy strikes, heartbreak draws them closer together. Nate discovers he’s more than ready for a bigger family and maybe, just maybe, Ilke will find the home that has eluded her all her life.

From The Top releases on all platforms Feb 27th. Read the first two chapters now.

USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of forty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. She lives in Christina Lake, BC with her high school sweetheart husband who occasionally coaxes her out of her attic office to visit their grown children.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Celebrating Strong Women in History and Details of a Massive Giveaway: Michelle Styles

In the aftermath of the US Presidential election, I returned a manuscript I’d abandoned earlier in the year, partly because I knew my heroine needed to be a proper warrior and I wasn’t sure how she’d be received. Suddenly,  the way forward became clear and I was able to write the strong woman protagonist that I had envisioned. It also enabled me to focus my annoyance at male entitlement behaviour and use it in a constructive fashion. Some of the writing process for me is utilizing my emotions in a positive fashion.
Do not let anyone fool you, women have always been strong. And history is littered with examples of  women who broke the mould if you look beyond the brief outlines. For example, one of Xerxes’s main naval commanders was a woman – Artemisia of Caria. He revered her advice above his other naval commanders and when she said to attack the Greeks at the battle of Salamis, he did. Or  Septima Zenobia who fought the late Roman Empire. Or St Bathilde who rose from being a slave to ruling the Merovingian Empire and who instituted the first laws against slavery in the 7th century. To name but three. They tend to be overlooked, just as the women who ran banks and had licenses to print money during the Regency period are overlooked and brushed under the carpet. As an aside, I still see no reason (except for a male self-publicist’s word) why the Lady Patronesses who had access to  bank records, foreign courts etc would need to hang on Beau Brummell’s words about who to admit.
Within the Viking sagas, there are the Valkyries, long held to be a myth because no solo grave was ever found which contained both women’s implements and weapons. However, DNA testing recently turned this on its head when it proved a number of male warriors were in fact female. It had merely been male prejudice that had them wrongly attributed.
When it came to revisions, my editor gently pointed out that I had bottled showing the villain getting his just desserts. I had to agree. In discussions with my daughter, I realised that my heroine had to act. It was a case of an editor’s eyes really opening up mine to the possibilities. I do think The Warrior’s Viking Bride is one of the best books I have written thus far.
The reviews I have received  for The Warrior’s Viking Bride have confirmed my view.  4 stars from the RT. No one does Vikings better than Michelle Styles. The Warrior’s Viking Bride is a passionate romance between a Shield Maiden and a Gael warrior, who find love amid danger and betrayal. Styles’ attention to detail will captivate readers, as will her powerful characters and elaborate plots.
  And a lovely one from Chicks, Rogues and Scandals.Ms Styles has created an original and I found it to be a very moving story about moving on, and second chances. The storyline is a wonderful blend of romance and action with that seductive and mysterious quality that you only get from the Medieval era. I think Ms Styles has got Aeden and Dagmar spot on, they are both highly charged individuals who need the other in each of their lives.
This is so good, I cannot recommend it more. 


I have teamed up with Book Sweeps and 41 other authors to create a lavish giveaway which includes my latest The Warrior’s Viking Bride as well as a chance to win a new e-reader. The giveaway ends on 19 February and is very easy to enter.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances generally featuring strong heroines. Her latest The Warrior's Viking Bride is published on 22 Feb (in case you haven't guessed) You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is traditionally supposed to be the day that birds choose their mates and begin building their nests. Our local birds are always well ahead of the game. Famously furious robins have started encroaching on each other’s territory in search of love, while dunnocks are flirting  shamelessly with each other. The dawn chorus is beginning to gain strength, with the local thrushes starting to sing before daybreak and continuing until the light fades in late afternoon. 
Did you get any Valentine cards today? If not, remember that this was the original Hallmark holiday—an excuse for big businesses to get richer still. The words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson; “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” are as true today as they were when he wrote them in the Victorian era.  
Sometimes, Valentine’s Cards cause more trouble than happiness. I really envied a girl at school who showed off sheaves of Valentine’s Cards each year. Years later, I found out she was so desperate to be seen as popular, she’d sent them to herself. 
 First prize for the worst idea in the history of Valentine’s Day has to go to Bathsheba Everdene, heroine of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far From The Madding Crowd.  A capricious beauty who inherits a farm, she makes the most of her new position as lady of the manor. Intending to treat a little child by sending him a Valentine card,  on a whim she redirects it to dignified local landowner, William Boldwood. This gentleman farmer has annoyed her by failing to fall under her charms, like all the other men in the parish. In a fit of devilment, she sends the Valentine card to him instead of little Teddy Coggan. In the days before self-adhesive envelopes,  Bathsheba closes it with a blob of sealing wax and impresses it with a novelty stamp which turns out the read “marry me”. 
Their shepherd's busy elsewhere, getting on with some ignoble strife.
Bathsheba thinks it will upset Boldwood’s solemnity. It does that all right. He becomes obsessed with her, his “…mind crazed with care and love…”. 
Far From The Madding Crowd is one of my favourite books, and I hope you’ll read it to find out what happens.  I won’t spoil the end for you, but Bathsheba’s casually-sent Valentine card turns out to be as deadly as that fateful bowl of soup served on the Battleship Potemkin.
Whether it birds or humans having fun on Valentine’s Day, spring is definitely in the air. It’s been a long, miserable winter. How do you beat the winter blues? 

Christina Hollis  writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written six historical novels, eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, gardening, walking her dog, or beekeeping.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happy Valentine's!! I've got a gift for you...

Happy Valentine's!  I hope tomorrow is a wonderful day for you.  I've got a houseful here, so it's bound to be chaos...but a good chaos!

 Once Upon a Valentine's is the perfect book to talk about on the day before Valentine's!  This is the third and final book in my PTA Mom series.  If you missed they other two, you can find them here!   This is Carly's story.  She's my accidental arsonist.  Yes, that's a thing.  And when she's partnered with an Erie cop for her community service, Sparks Fly. (I know, I know, that was bad, but I just couldn't help myself!)  

What are people saying?   

"An overcommitted and lovable but prickly heroine and a no-nonsense hero spar brilliantly in this sassy, tender, sometimes hilarious romance set in Jacobs's hometown of Erie, PA. Another winner from the author of Once Upon a Christmas." ~Library Journal  

"After Carly burns a couch -- and the neighbor's shed -- she's court-sentenced to help steamy lawman Chuck teach fire safety classes in the schools. As things heat up with Chuck, Carly struggles to balance her responsibilities: her kids, her last semester of nursing classes and her PTA seat. And when Chuck isn't satisfied with keeping things casual, Carly gets in way over her head! Jacobs reminds readers that not having time to fall in love won't keep it from happening." ~Romantic Times BookClub    

In other news,  I've started my second Ceramics class. Keep an eye out for more My Novel Freshman Experience posts and pictures!  And keep an eye on future newsletters...I have some fun giveaways and plans for the year!  I was in the studio working a few weeks back, carving some clay spoons and had an idea for a short story.  As my Valentine's gift to you's free this week.  (Those are my spoons on the cover.)  You can grab a copy here...SPOONS.

I posted my 'gift' on FB yesterday and a friend said that giving spoons on Valentine's was a tradition.  I found it on Huffington Post...
"One traditional romantic Welsh gift is a love spoon. As early as the 17th century, Welsh men carved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for the women they loved. Patterns and symbols were carved into these love spoons, each signifying a different meaning. A few examples include horseshoes, which stand for good luck; wheels, which symbolize support; and keys, which symbolize the keys to a man’s heart." You guessed it...I had geek glee all over the place!  

That's it!  Wishing you a wonderful Valentine's filled with spoons, good romance stories and lots and lots of love!


PS. Briar Hill Road is out in March.  I'm so in love with this cover!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valentine's Day means - what? by Kate Walker

What is romance?

Would it shock you if I said I didn’t know? 

I  write romance  for a living – I’m involved in ‘Romance’ almost every second of every day –   certainly every day of every year – but I don’t think I can define it for you.

On Wednesday – Valentine’s Day – I’m  giving a talk in a local library.  The title of it is The ABC of Love. In this case the ABC stands for   Authors  Bubbly and Cupcakes.  So that’s   what  the focus will be on  - for this event. For myself, I’m fine with the authors.  After all, I’m one of them. The bubbly is good too (though as the talk is at  12 noon, I’ll need to  err on the side of caution there.)  But I have a problem with cupcakes. I’ve never  gone along with the current  obsession with what seem to me to be over sweet, over coloured, over iced  little cakes .    They don’t really appeal to me. Too much of everything.

So I wouldn’t find a gift of cupcakes, no matter how pretty or sentimentally designed to send a message, something to enjoy on Valentine’s Day and my DH  would know better than ever to get them for me.

But I know that at this library   event I’m going to be asked  if I’m ‘a romantic sort of person’  - to which the answer will be ‘Yes’. And then the next question will be ‘What is romance?’.  If they ask ‘what does romance mean to you’, then I’ll  be OK  - because I know what is romantic for me.  Butu Romance in general – for everyone? That’s too big a question.

My books are sold all over the world – I just got some foreign editions from Germany, from France, from Japan. So I know that my ‘romances’ appeal to readers from so many different countries – but this doesn’t mean that romance means the same thing to every reader of every nationality. You see, for me I think that romance means thinking of someone else  and doing what pleases them most,  giving them what they’d most like if you’re into giving Valentine’s gifts. Not just giving them red rose or a cuddly toy because that’s what the advertisers try to push you into buying. Romance is knowing that every person is an individual and making them happy – each in their individual way.

I was thinking about this as I was working on the revisions for my next book.   This story is the second in a duet of stories about two sisters – my working title has been The Scandalous O’Sullivan Sisters. If you’ve read my latest publication A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance  - then you’ll already have met one of these woman. Imogen O’Sullivan is the older sister, the younger one is her sister Ciara. I’m working on Ciara’s story now.

Imogen and Ciara are two very different characters. The things that have happened to Imogen haven’t  happened to  Ciara. The things the older sister loves are not what suits her younger sister. And then of course the men that the fall madly in love with and ultimately  want to have a happy ever after ending with are not the same either. That would cause real problems for me to write!

So when I wrote Imogen’s story I wrote a very different romance from the one I’m creating now for Ciara. Two different set ups, two different men, two different romances. And it helped  me answer a question from a  not yet published author who asked how did I manage to keep my writing fresh through all the 66 novels I’ve had published. The answer?  I treat each individual couple as just that – individuals. Their stories are theirs  and theirs alone – what makes  each one happy is unique to them.

That’s what romance is for me – whether in real life or in a story. Not lumping everyone into the same pot, the ‘buy her red roses’ and you’re done images that so often appears for Valentine’s Day. That’s why I write romance – to tell each individual story for each different hero and heroine and they way they work through their conflicts and head for that Happy Ever After.

It would be so boring if all my characters were the same. After all, we’re all individuals aren’t we?  So romance means different things to everyone of us.

I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with the romance you enjoy  - whatever that is.  And I’ll   have to remember this post to use as a reply when someone at that library talk asks me  what romance is.

What about you? What’s the most romantic thing that’s ever happened to you – or someone has done for you? I’d love to know.

Raoul Cardini will have his revenge!
His preferred method? Ruthless, irresistible seduction!

Imogen O’Sullivan is horrified when charismatic tycoon Raoul breaks up her engagement and makes her his own convenient bride! She once surrendered everything to Raoul—body, heart and soul. But as he stalks back into her life it’s clear he has punishment in mind—not just passion! Can Imogen resist Raoul’s potent brand of delicious vengeance?

You can read more about me and my books on my web site and my blog -  and catch up with me too on my Facebook page

Friday, February 09, 2018

Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon—Kandy Shepherd

Have you ever met someone just fleetingly, yet you can’t get them out of your head?

That happened to me with a minor character named Cristos in my last novel for Harlequin Romance, ConvenientlyWed to the Greek (May 2017). Cristos was the cousin of that book’s hero. I didn’t know a lot about him other than he was extremely good looking. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Cristos. Why was someone so handsome on his own? Why did I sense secrets and sadness behind his happy-go-lucky mask?

I had find out more about Cristos Theofanis—so he had to have his own story! I discovered Cristos was estranged from the wife he’d adored, Hayley Clements. They’d married young but trauma and tragedy took the gloss off their marital bliss and they’d spiralled apart. When Hayley unexpectedly reappears, she and Cristos get a last chance to save their marriage.

Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon is set in the beautiful Ionian Islands in Greece. What a perfect place for a couple to reignite the spark of their passion and fall in love all over again—just in time for Valentine’s Day!

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit those beautiful islands and hope to return. Our visit was in September when the weather was hot but not too hot and the water glorious for swimming. People there told me, however, that they could have a cold winter on the islands. I discovered that sometimes it actually snowed.

What’s more romantic? Summer where clothes are minimal or winter where you can snuggle to keep warm? I decided to set Cristos’s story in winter—with snow!

Where I live in Australia, we get snow. Not in Sydney but certainly in the mountains. In fact I learned to ski on the Australian snowfields. We’re having a very hot summer DownUnder. But I know right now friends in the northern hemisphere might be snowed in. Is it actually as romantic as we authors suggest in romance novels like Strandedwith Her Greek Tycoon?

UK edition

What are your thoughts on snow? Comment here for a chance to be in the draw for a paperback copy of Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon.

US edition
Kandy Shepherd’s Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon is a February 2018 release from Harlequin Romance in North America; Mills & Boon True Love in the UK; and Mills & Boon Forever Romance in Australia and New Zealand. 

Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends.

Visit Kandy at her website

Connect with Kandy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

Friday, February 02, 2018

Reading and Writing

By:  Susan Sands

I'm reading and writing this month, but my reading load has increased exponentially between now and the next couple months. While normally I would spend my days writing with a little reading on the side, it seems I'm full up with reading as well as crafting stories.

I'm judging two contests and taking critiques for another workshop where I'm giving two one-hour talks on craft. Me? Craft discussions? Critiques? A few years ago, I would have actually laughed out loud at the idea of telling someone else how to improve their writing or edit their stories to make them stronger. But I've learned a few things since working with editors and publishing books of my own. Sharing any bit of wisdom and information is the very least I can do for those who are working so hard to get to the next level with their manuscript, find an agent, or publish for the first time.

I've had help from wonderful author friends along the way, and without it, I don't know where I would be in this very difficult process. We put in our time for others because it's our turn. I'm not a brilliant writer, but sharing the hard lessons that might make it less hard for someone else in their journey feels right.

I continue to learn about myself as a writer with every page I complete and rewrite. I still attend craft workshops and industry talks by other authors in hopes I'll hear something to get me to the next level in my own journey. Still waiting for the next light bulb to go on...

Wish me luck to finish all my reading, critiquing, and stay on my writing schedule!! It really is the most fun job in the world.

I hope everyone stays warm and dry until spring finds you.

Take care!

Susan Sands

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I survived 2017!

2017 started out a bit wobbly for me and then it just took the craziest roller-coaster ride the rest of the year. Personal challenges, health issues, family issues, losses and more just kept coming at me, beating on me as I fought to keep moving ahead. There were high points, too, when that roller-coaster reached the top of those hills, just before screaming back down. My writing disappeared in this emotional time - I found that that words and the drive to write were gone. MIA. Then, to add to the overall ambiance of 2017 (make sure to say that with a French accent) - I lost my job of 25 years!

But, to balance things, two wonderful, amazing grandsons joined us to buoy our spirits and fill our hearts with love when we most needed them. But I will admit that 2017 was probably the most difficult one of my life.
 How did I get through it all? With the love and support of friends and family. My friends helped in every way they could. My family was at my back. Even my publisher (thank you Harlequin!) gave me the time I needed to grieve and work through things I needed to handle. 

Reading helped me immensely. I moved away from the dark, angsty books I usually LOVE to lighter, more entertaining romances. And time....time needed to pass. 

About mid-December, I finally felt  the stirrings of story and the characters started whining at me to finish their story. And I did! And I began to enjoy life again. I'm not 100% back - I still have my dark days -- but I'm coming back to myself. 

Then 2017 came to a close and I cheered! So many friends and family members said the same thing - 2017 had been a terrible, horrible year and thankfully it was gone.

So now... we're a month into 2018.  It's continued to be somewhat challenging but I don't feel the same darkness in control that I did last year. I can see the light ahead and I'm steering to it. I brainstormed a whole new/next story with my writing colleague. I'm still looking for a job (yes, most romance authors, most published writers, work day jobs to pay their bills) and I'm hopeful.  So, I guess my reaction to 2018 is....welcome!

How're things going with you? Were your holidays good? Have you escaped the plague er.... flu/virus/cold that is out there? Most importantly - are you reading anything good? Looking forward to any upcoming releases? I'd love to hear about those! My TBR pile and file are never quite full-enough! 

Well, Happy 2018!  I hope that it is filled with everything -big and small-that you need and want!

I'm excited to be re-releasing my STORM series in the next couple of months. Check out my website for info about these steamy, dark, Fae romances, formerly published by Kensington Brava!!