Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don't be a Turkey! Have a Happy Thanksgiving! by Jenny Gardiner

Hi everyone!
I'm so swamped with a book due tomorrow and SOOOO much more to write! So I'm going to share my favorite pumpkin bread recipe--it is the best, so I hope you get a chance to try your hand at it. I wish I could say where I got this recipe from but I've had it for at least twenty years so I haven't a clue!
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!


Makes 3 large loaves                    prep time: 20 mins

4 c. flour
2/3 tsp baking powder
2-1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
3/4 c. cold water
5 eggs
3-1/2 c. sugar
3 c. pumpkin
1-1/3 c. canola oil

Grease and line bottom of 3 loaf pans w/ brown paper overlapping ends so loaf can be lifted out when done  (I don't do that! I just grease it!)
Sift dry ingredients; beat eggs very well, add sugar and beat well. Add pumpkin, oil and water and beat well. Add dry ingredients slowly (&on slow speed on mixer or it'll splash) and mix well.
Fill pans about 2/3 full. Bake at 325° for 1 hour, until nicely browned and toothpick comes out clean.

Great news! Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

And on Tuesday, the final book in the series, Big O Romeo, will be released! You can get it here
But wait, there's more! ;-) I just started a new series! It's called Falling for Mr. Wrong. And book one, Falling for Mr. Wrong, just came out November 14. And Falling for Mr. Maybe is now available for pre-order.

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!




Thursday, November 16, 2017

I have a great memory - It's just I remember late

My husband and I make that joke all the time. It's not that we forget stuff. We just remember it later than we should.

Back in May, I scheduled three posts for May, June and July. They were for the Secret Billionaires trilogy that I wrote with Rachael Thomas and Jennifer Hayward.

That seemed to knock me out of my habit. I then went three months without remembering that I was a contributing member of Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. August, September and October whistled by and I suddenly remembered to post here today by the skin of my teeth.

To be fair, it's been a busy fall. I've had a pile of deadlines and a website to renovate (check it out here!) and a bunch of family stuff all come up at once.

Nevertheless, I somehow went from gorgeous fall to, Brrr. Where did the time go? Clearly my memory is dragging her feet.

Perhaps it's too many watermelons. That's what my massage therapist talked about the last time I saw her. She said every task we take on is a watermelon that we carry until we can put it down. Sometimes we're carrying too many watermelons.

Either way, I'm sorry I missed posting. I like to think of myself as reliable so I'm really quite embarrassed at having completely blanked.

How about you? Is your memory rock-solid? Or always flying in the door at the last minute?

Dani has a new website! Visit to learn more about there, read some excerpts and sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Michelle Styles:Polishing the Clock Face

Writing a historical romance can feel like juggling three balls with one hand while simultaneously keeping three plates spinning in the air with the other and balancing a few objects on your head for good matter. Yes, it is your circus and those are your monkeys and you can lose your focus very quickly and end up writing a different sort of story than the one you had planned. The more you know about the majestic craft of writing, the more you realise that part of its appeal is that it can never be fully tamed and there is always something more to learn.
There are plot points, character conflicts, world building, and writing into the mist. There is learning to revise while still believing in the essence of your story. Your ultimate aim is to create an emotionally satisfying story which has the reader turning pages at great rate.
It took me a long time to realize that I write for the readers who get my writing. I can’t write for my eldest son, the recent recipient of a history Phd who considers historical romance beneath him (the poor dear – we all have our crosses to bear and one of his is having me for a mother). Neither do I write for my husband who prefers angsty detective stories with disillusioned male protagonists. Or indeed my youngest son who prefers fantasy and natural history but knows when to keep quiet about his mother’s work.
 I write in part for myself but mostly for readers who enjoy the sort of historical story I tell – ones with a strong female protagonists who eventually find love and an equal partnership with a strong male. It took me a long time to realise who I wrote for and that I didn’t have to change the way I write for anyone (not even my eldest whom I love dearly).  The realisation made bad reviews easier to take and I didn’t have to retreat to my bedroom with a bottle of gin (or indeed listen to helpful suggestions about my manuscripts or my career path for the male members of my household).
However, one of the compacts  I make with my readers is that I strive to get them the possible Michelle Styles I can produce at any given time. And this means that I always have to keep working on my craft. Craft is such a big topic that I prefer to concentrate on little pieces and work my way around. Thus sometimes, I feel like I am rusty on plot or character and at others on setting. Sometimes it is emotional response. Sometimes it is creativity as a general topic (aka refilling the well). (Have I mentioned that I love books about writing?) Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit  suggested the clock face metaphors as a way for dancers to concentrate on their craft. I feel it is also a metaphor which works for authors.
I am self-taught author – basically I have a degree in Economics (with an emphasis on historical econ) and have never taken a course in writing. A friend is currently doing her Masters in Creative Writing – we have been talking. I lent her one of my favourite books on Point of View and Character (Orson Scott Card’s Characters and Viewpoint). I think she was pleasantly surprised that it was actually very good and full of useful tips.
Because I am waiting on my agent to get me her notes about how I can improve  my latest Viking before submitting it to my editor, one of the things I have been doing is reading Donald Maass’s latest  The Emotional Craft of Fiction about  creating emotional responses in the reader. It plows the same trench as Orson Scott Card and Karl Igleias Writing for Emotional Impact but approaches in a typical Maass sort of way (including a few snide remarks about romance authors). Like any writing craft book, there are parts which speak to me and parts which don’t.  I have tried out some of the exercises and it is interesting to look at my manuscript in a different way (currently I think something does not quite work – among other things, it keeps hitting the same note) But what is interesting is that some of the exercises I go to do them and then think – hey I have already done that because it is good practice to have your reader engaged with your protagonist. Backing myself and my writing ability is something I should do more often – even when I am trying to polish the clock face.
This last month has brought my cover for The Warrior’s Viking Bride – both the Harlequin Historical version and the Mills and Boon one. I love them both. The new look Mills and Boon covers are utterly fab, particularly for historicals. The ampersand between Mills and Boon is the combination of a heart and a kiss.
Harlequin Historical version
MIlls and Boon version
I am really proud of this book and am so hoping that my readers enjoy it. (I have not bothered asking the peanut gallery of the male members of my household for their opinion – my daughter approves of the cover though…)

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her latest The Warrior’s Viking Bride will be published in March 2018. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christina Hollis: A Wartime Miracle

Yer tis, as we say in Bristol.
I’m on the final draft of my major non-fiction project, Struggle and Suffrage: Women’s Lives in Bristol, 1850-1950. Last month I stayed in Bristol for a week on a research retreat. Much as I love my family (and the pets), this was a chance to do nothing but think about my work-in-progress from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. I spent days without needing to worry about getting the washing or housework done. I didn't have to do any cooking, and there were no last-minute games of hunt the missing item of school uniform/gym kit/keys, etc. etc. etc.  For someone who loves their job as much as I do, that week was the ultimate in “me” time.
The first thing on my "to-do" list was something I hadn't quite managed on my previous research trips to Bristol. It meant crossing the city to St Mary Redcliffe church in search of a modern legend. St Mary Redcliffe is the building Elizabeth the First called "the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England". At 292 feet (89 metres) high, its spire is a landmark that can be seen for miles. 

I tried visiting on the last day of my trip during the summer, but the day was hot and sunny. By the time I reached the monument I was looking for it was surrounded by church staff, local people and tourists, all enjoying picnic lunches in the sun. 

Thank Goodness For Low-Rise Living...
What a difference a few weeks made. This time, autumn leaves were falling. I arrived in a light drizzle. The place was deserted. As I walked across the grass to Bristol’s Miraculous Tram Rail, the rain stopped and I was able to take these photographs.

During the Second World War, Bristol was bombed heavily by the Nazis. Not only were the city’s docks a major target, Spitfire engines were manufactured in the Filton factories of Rolls-Royce. These were only a few miles from the city centre. Bombers carried out raid after raid to try and put both Bristol and its aero engine works out of action forever. 

On Good Friday, 1941, one bomb exploded in Redcliffe Street, which runs directly behind the ancient church of St Mary Redcliffe. In those days trams were the city’s major form of public transport. They ran on iron rails, one of which was thrown high into the air. As luck would have it, the airborne tram rail somersaulted over the lowest roof in Redcliffe Street. It missed the house completely before embedding itself to half its length where it landed in the church grounds.

The Dedication
Had the house that rail hurdled been the same height as its neighbours, it would have carved off the top storey. If the eight-foot-long piece of solid metal had flown only a few yards further, it would have smashed into the church. Either way, many people would have been killed by flying debris. 

It was such a miraculous escape, the tram rail was left where it fell as a permanent memorial to a very close shave. In the week when all our town and village memorials are covered in poppies in remembrance of the fallen, it makes you think of the dangers suffered by civilians on the Home Front, as it was called.

Does your town have any stories of a lucky escape?

In addition to local history, 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.

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Come back to school this Thanksgiving with Once Upon a Thanksgiving!

In celebration of my new PTA Mom trilogy, 
let's play a Jeff Foxworthy-esque game:
You Might Be A PTA Mom if...

Here are a few to get you started...

10. ...when you appear in the teacher's workroom all the teachers rush over to see what you brought them to eat. ~Ellen Too

9. know the location of every public washroom in town—field trips help that along. ~Kaelee

8.'ve dressed up in a grass skirt, aloha shirt, and carried around a pink, plastic, blowup dolphin as volunteer reader for the annual Scholastic book fair . . . in a snowstorm. ~Shelley

7. ... your kids' friends call you "Mom." ~Patti

6. You might be a PTA mom if you can sing "Found a Peanut" in your sleep. ~Jody

5. take every school fundraiser to work and then end up having to carry in 100 tubs of frozen cookie dough ~Tammy

4.'ve popped so much popcorn to sell on Fridays that when you go to the grocery store later that day, you notice people around you sniffing the air and saying, "Do you smell popcorn?" ~JV

3. ...the students wave in the hall and say, "HI Laminating Lady!" rather than "Mrs. ____" ~Donna

2.'re so busy with PTA stuff that your husband has to dress out of the dryer in the mornings. ~JV

1. ... if you've ever forged another mom's name on a volunteer sheet. ~Ellen 

So add your own You Might Be a PTA Mom if, or share a story about your time as a PTA Mom! 

And Check Out the PTA Mom Trilogy...they're available for Kindle and as a paperback!  Once Upon a Thanksgiving is on sale today! 


PS Get out the popcorn...

Coming in January, available for pre-order,
the final chapter in the PTA Mom Trilogy
Once Upon a Valentine's

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Special Post on A Special Anniversary - Kate Walker

I was going to call this post A Tale of Two romance covers, but I see that the lovely Kandy Shepherd got there before me!  Like me, Kandy has a new book coming out very soon in the New Year and she has shown you the way that  the UK Mills and Boon covers have been  revamped and  given a very different look.  My own new title will have one of these newly-designed covers  when it is released  at the beginning of February  but I haven’t yet received my author copies of the UK edition  so it’s not easy to show you the new design.

But yesterday there was a delivery to our house – one of those times that is  a real favourite for A Proposal To Secure his Vengeance  will, be available on January 16th next year.  it’s always a thrill to see the new copies of a book, and to actually hold them in my hand.  But this particular time it was an even more special moment.
any author.   That was the arrival of the box of brand-new copies of the Harlequin Presents edition of the  upcoming book.  

Only this morning my husband turned to me and said ‘2017 has been quite a year, hasn’t it?’ It certainly has.    There have been some problems  - health problems, family problems.  There’s been some major events – two gorgeous new additions to the family – my nephew’s  newest baby and my niece’s first  child. Both lovely little boys.  One of my older sisters had a major birthday – and a major weekend celebration to go with it.  We’ve taught  so many courses, weekend ones, a week in the summer at Fishguard, writers’ retreats in cottage with fellow writers – I’ve just come back from the latest retreat that we all had in Wales. It was fabulous.   But all this travelling and teaching and being a ‘great aunt’ was pretty demanding on time. As a result  my writing has slowed down quite a bit. Add in a new change of editor and the need to adjust there again.  . .

Well, let’s just say that all the delays and the demands on the time meant that the writing of this  book – and the one that follows it which is till on my editor’s desk – was much slower than usual and I was more than relieved when it was accepted and scheduled.  Even more so because there had been such a gap between this book and the previous one (Indebted to Moreno )  which was out in October last year.

So it was an extra thrill to finally have author copies of the new title in my hand.  Particularly when I 
realised that  these books had arrived on a special anniversary.

33– yes that’s right – thirty three years ago a parcel arrived at another house – a much smaller package  I have to say -  and that parcel contained the very first ever published copies of my very first book  - The Chalk Line  -  for Harlequin  Mills and Boon.   I can still remember the excitement and the celebrating. And the joy of receiving new copies of new titles had never dimmed. It’s always a very special occasion.

I remember that that first book for we little while seemed for a while as if it might be the first and only book I’d ever written.  Back then, in 1984, life got in the way for some time, and my second  book didn’t appear until 1986.  So I was remembering that time too when I opened this box of the copies of A Proposal to Secure  His Vengeance.  Sometimes this writing business can be a bit up and down – sometimes the books arrive easily  and sometimes they are, as a friend once said –they can be like giving birth to a pineapple!  But I’m glad that I’m still here,  still writing, still publishing and that even if last year was a bit empty of new Kate Walker titles,  2018 will start with a  new tittle in the shops at last.

And maybe even – when I get the revisions done – with the possibility of another book, the second in this duet of connected stories -  later on in  2018 too.

So I’m sure you can imagine how delighted I am to  have these copies of the new title in my hands – and I’m happy to be able to share with you the USA cover at least - and the  blurb from the back cower – hopefully to whet your appetite:

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 my new book now that it's finally coming up on my web site blog page  or on my author Facebook page.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Donna Alward: Being Th New Kid

This year has brought about a lot of changes, and has cemented the feeling that even though I know A LOT, there’s also a lot I don’t know. And sometimes the greatest growth happens when you’re moved out of your comfort zone and into new situations that broaden your knowledge and horizons.

First case in point: I’m moving into more indie publishing, with more control over my work and how it’s marketed. It also means learning so much about what’s working on the marketing front, what’s not, and how to use it most effectively! I’ve taken courses, paid for some services, and am in the process of hiring a virtual assistant. I’m setting my own deadlines and have a renewed focus on delivering what I say I’m going to deliver.  It’s heady stuff, but a little overwhelming at times, so I have to remind myself I need to step back once in a while.  I often feel like the new kid learning what everyone else already knows, but I’ll get there.

The second “new kid” thing is that on November 1st I took on the PAN Advisor position on the RWA Board of Directors. For the past few years, I’ve served on the PAN Steering Committee and last year was the Chair. I thought it would be good preparation for board service, but the first board meeting is TODAY and over the past few weeks I’ve very much felt like I’m treading water in the deep end. I’m more than a little awed by the collective intelligence and success of my fellow board members. 

Here’s the thing with being the new kid in new situations: there’s always a learning curve. And that’s okay. Most of the time, no one expects you to be completely up to speed and for the transition to be completely seamless.  And quite often the pressure we feel is put on by ourselves, and no one else.

At least that’s what I’m going to remind myself as I’m immersed in three days of board meetings, both excited and terrified.

That’s a good thing, right?

Donna’s latest release is DECK THE HALLS, a new novella in her DARLING, VT series!

With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas.
In the last year, George's life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he's still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.
Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother's death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.
With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

Where Your Heart Finds Home…

Thursday, November 09, 2017

A tale of two romance covers – Kandy Shepherd

As an author, one of the most exciting moments for me in the production cycle of a book is my first sight of the cover.

I spend a lot of time with my characters (in my imagination of course!) from first imaginings to totally falling in love with them as the story develops. My romances generally have the hero or heroine alone—or more often both as a couple—on the cover.

To see how my publisher’s cover designer interprets my descriptions of the characters and setting is always exciting. I’ve been fortunate to have been given some beautiful covers for my books.

My next release for Harlequin is Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon in February 2018.

It’s a passionate, emotional story with an estranged husband and wife stranded on a private Greek island in a snowstorm. Gorgeous Cristos Theofanis has one night to win back Hayley, the wife he'd adored.

UK cover

The fun thing working with a Harlequin Romance title is that my books are simultaneously released not only in North America (Harlequin Romance) but also in the UK (Mills & Boon True Love).

That usually means two quite different covers. Then there is the cover for the Australian and New Zealand editions, also released at the same time or very close to it. These often follow the US cover but not always, so that can mean three covers out at the same time.

North America cover

More cover fun comes in the months after that with foreign language editions where the cover is usually completely different.

Above, I've shared both the North American and UK covers for Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon with you. What do you think? Do you have a preference? (To ask me to choose, islike asking a mother to name a favourite child. I adore the cover hero on the UK edition, he is just like I imagined the hero Cristos—handsome and hot! But I also love seeing the hero and heroine together on the NA cover, and she looks very like the Hayley of my imagination.)

Kandy Shepherd’s most recent book Conveniently Wed to the Greek is a May 2017 release.  Watch out for Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon in February 2018.

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