Thursday, April 23, 2015

Madeline Ash: Reuniting again and again…and again…

I’m currently writing a four-book series, all following the theme of reunions. I’ve chosen this recurring hook because it’s one of my favorites – there’s something special about giving characters a second and usually unexpected chance at love.

I suppose you could call it cheating. That in these romances, the characters’ existing backstory means the hard part of getting to know each other is out of the way. It also avoids the issue of developing the romance so quickly as to be unbelievable – it can sometimes be difficult to swallow a happily ever after that takes place over the course of a few days, but with a reunion romance, this is absolutely possible.

But I don’t think it’s cheating! There’s always a good reason characters have fallen out of contact. Often their parting was rife with conflict and it can be almost impossible to convince them to give each other a chance, as determined as they are to avoid falling in love!

There are so many ways a reunion romance can go; so many reasons the characters could have been separated in the past. The possibilities for this structure sucked me in – so many juicy set ups to accompany a reunion!

The first two books in this series have already been released by Tule Publishing. THE PLAYBOY came out as a part of the Hot Aussie Heroes series in January, and the second, HER SECRET PRINCE, was just published as a part of the Royal Holiday series.

Each book begins with a prologue set in their adolescence. In The Playboy, Parker tries to take advantage of Alexia, resulting in a mortifying experience for both. When Alexia returns to her home town years later, their reunion is thick with distrust, residual awkwardness, and scalding sexual attraction.

Her Secret Prince focuses on best friends and lost love. In the prologue, Dee and Jed are school friends who have secretly been in love with each other for a long time. They’re on the cusp of taking their friendship to the next level when Jed disappears. This makes for a heartbreaking reunion, weighted down with hurt, angst, and a burning decade-long love.

As for the remaining two books in the series, well, let’s just say I have a thing for boys next door and the forbidden call of a best friend’s younger sister. :)

To celebrate my first guest post on Tote Bags n Blogs, I’ll be giving away a free kindle copy of The Playboy. Just share whether you’re a fan of reunion romances – and if so, I’d love to know your favorites! I’ll keep the contest open for 48 hours before randomly selecting a winner.

Thank you very much Lee for inviting me here today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cooking as Love

This summer Harlequin will be releasing one of my favorite books I've ever written. The title A BRIDE FOR THE ITALIAN BOSS doesn't do justice to this story about a chef who falls in love with a woman who comes to work for him as a hostess in his Tuscany restaurant.

I say the title doesn't do the book justice because it doesn't mention that he's a chef. From the beginning of the book, it's easy to see that cooking is a very personal thing for Chef Rafe. He loves flavors and scents...but he also loves pleasing people. He's big and gruff and bossy -- very Alpha male -- the way a lot of celebrity chefs are. But at his core is a man who knows the power of food.

We don't think about this often. But pause for a second. Food gives us pleasure. Too much of it and we're unhealthy. Too little of it and we're unhealthy. :) Food starts conversations. Food brings people together. Cooking as a couple can change a marriage. Eating in front of the TV can change all your relationships. Food makes us shop. And, unless you order from the Internet, that shopping makes you interact with other people.

Rafe knows this power. He feels it in his hands every time he kneads a dough. He throws this power around like a man who could some day rule the world. He needed a love interest like Daniella who is very down to earth and sees his cooking more as an act of love than power. It's a way he's never looked at his profession, so her presence in his life changes his life -- makes him a better man.

And that's really what a great romance does. In fiction or in real life, a true love will change your life...will make you better.

A BRIDE FOR THE ITALIAN BOSS is the first book in an 8-book continuity that begins in July. But...there's also  FREE online story, a prequel to the first book in the continuity that will be on in installments. I also wrote that. :)

If you love Italy, Tuscany in particular, if you love food and wine and romance, you'll love these reads.

But since that's almost two months away...Think a bit about food. I'm currently working to lose twenty pounds so I'm learning things about myself and food. My relationship with food. And my inability to cook food! It all works together though. Because cooking well and cooking right, using good ingredients, learning about spices and fats, that's truly an art...and an act of love. is my birthday! It's the one day I will go to a restaurant and have a low-cal meal. I'll probably skip the margarita though! LOL

Happy Reading... 

susan meier

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's Time for some Royal Romance! by Jenny Gardiner

I'm so excited to let you know I just released book two in the It's Reigning Men series, HEIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW. And book three, BAD TO THE THRONE, is available for pre-order, with the release set for June 29.

If you love a modern royal romance, I think you'll enjoy this story, set in the beautiful fictional European principality of Monaforte.

Here's a sneak peek of HEIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW. Now it's Caroline and Darcy's turn...I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter One
“It was a dark and story night,” Caroline McKenzie typed. Only her m key kept sticking, so instead of stormy, it apparently was story. Whatever that meant. That stuck key was pretty much a metaphor for how this embarrassing attempt to figure out if maybe she could just drop everything in life and be a writer was going.
Ever since Caro’s best friend, Emma Davison, had jumped ship for the small European principality of Monaforte and the gorgeous Prince Adrian who’d lured her there, life had become a distinctly dull shade of gray—and no, not in a way that involved hot men and questionable bondage practices, thank you. Until then, Caro had worked as a photography assistant for Emma while she was figuring out what she wanted to do with her life and had enjoyed a perfectly fine time in her off-hours social life, flitting about like a hummingbird, zipping from flower to flower and drinking tasty nectar.
For her that nectar came in the form of mostly charming, usually handsome, and almost always entirely forgettable men. But now without that job, she really had to decide what she wanted to do with her life and maybe put a lid on that boy-crazy nonsense and start figuring herself out. Considering she was fast approaching thirty with little grand achievement to show for it, it seemed time. At least according to her mother—and latest stepfather and grandmother, and any other blood-ish relative she knew of, come to think of it.
She closed out of her document, putting an end to her fledgling writing career. She figured her time was better spent FaceTiming with Emma, whom she’d been missing something fierce since her friend had closed up her business, packed up her belongings, and departed for a life most people could only dream of. She opened up the app and dialed through.
“Caro! What a pleasant surprise!” Emma said.
“What up, bitch?” Caro replied, sticking out her tongue and then putting her face so close to the screen Emma could see likely every pore on her nose.
“Awww, so glad to see you haven’t changed on me,” Emma said. “I’d bitch you back, but I’m trying to pay attention to decorum—”
“—now that you’re going to be a real-life princess.”
Emma laughed. “Honestly, I still can’t get used to that whole concept. Me! Of all people! Although I suppose if the media can dub Kim Kardashian American royalty—I mean, come on, now, seriously?—I guess anybody can be.”
“Yeah, well, I’m still waiting on my chance,” Caroline said, forcing her lower lip out in a pout.
“Still haven’t heard anything from Darcy?”
Caroline and Darcy Squires-Thornton—the Marquess of Weltenham and Adrian’s best friend and equerry—had seemed to hit it off, well, royally, when Emma and Adrian were getting to know each other, when Emma had helped Adrian flee a forced marriage his mother was trying to impose upon him. Right up until the time Caro hastened Emma off by surprise to Monaforte to be reunited with Adrian. After which Darcy weirded out and turned into a complete and total jerk.
“The guy’s a complete and total jerk. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Only she did. Big-time.
“Okay, let’s change the subject then.”
“Have you seen him?”
“I thought you said you didn’t want to talk about him!”
“I don’t,” Caroline said, pulling strands of her hair outward and making long, thin braids with her gorgeous, bright red hair. “Maybe I should be a hairdresser?”
“Oh yeah, that would be perfect for you,” Emma said. “You did such a good job frying my hair with a curling iron in college. I had hair sprouts growing out of my scalp for months. I’m still not sure if I’ve forgiven you for that.”
Caroline sighed. “Too late. Now that you’re a princess to be, the slate’s wiped clean. Guess it’s back to the drawing board for moi. My writing career didn’t pan out either.”
“Caroline, you regularly got Cs in English class. And didn’t you drop that creative-writing class your sophomore year?”
“Well, we had a really long paper due,” she said, raising her voice in a whine. “Besides, that was the weekend of that superfun fraternity festival out at that big lodge on the lake. Priorities!”
Emma shook her head. “Oh yeah, I remember. We had to hitch back to town, and it was like ten degrees out, and you kept sticking out your leg to try to attract cars, and then that idiot Bruce Bishop stopped for us—”
“—but he’d been drinking all day long, so we refused to ride with him. And he was so insulted, but he agreed to pull over on the side of the road and we all slept in his tiny two-seater car with the heat blasting, you and me squished together in that one seat, till about five in the morning when the car ran out of gas and the heat died.”
“And then we had to find a tow truck on a Sunday morning, and I think we had about half a bar on our crappy old flip phones, so it took a thousand times trying to get enough of a signal to call someone.”
“Ah, but we lived to tell about it. And then I lived to watch my best friend grow up and have the kick-assiest life imaginable while I lingered here and became a has-been.”
Emma tsk-tsked loudly, wagging her finger at her friend. “Hey, Care. That’s not you talking. You’re no has-been. You’re an up-and-coming. You just haven’t gotten there yet. But in the meantime you’re the most fun friend a girl—or guy—could have.”
Caroline felt tears welling up. “If I’m so fun, then why did that jerkball bail on me just when we were starting to have a great time? Was I that bad in bed?”
“Don’t you mean in beach?” Emma said with a wink.
Caroline and Darcy had sort of PDA’d it after skinny-dipping in twenty-degree weather at the beach in North Carolina where Adrian had holed up, and they had seemed to actually have some potential as a couple. Back then, Emma had been too busy blubbering about her own broken heart once Adrian returned to his real life to worry about Caroline. Besides, Caroline had a reputation as a love-’em-and-leave-’em type, which suited most guys just fine. After all, from a guy’s perspective, what’s better than a girl who’s full of life, loves to fool around a little, and then doesn’t demand the guy put a ring on it?
“You never answered my question.”
Emma arched her brow. “Which one was that?”
“Have you seen him?”
Emma shook her head. “Honestly, Caro, I’ve been crazy busy since I moved here, and Adrian has too, and now he’s been out of the country for weeks, so I haven’t had a chance to think about much of anything except what is right in front of my face. I know a few weeks ago Adrian said something about Darcy’s father being ill, so maybe he’s been sticking close to his family lately. Plus you told me not to ask around. You said you’d feel stupid if he knew you were prowling.”
“Yeah, but that was before I didn’t hear from him at all.”
“How was I supposed to know you had a sudden change of heart?”
“You’re my best friend. Of course you need to know that intuitively.”
“Okay, then. I’ll just double-check in my crystal ball next time I have a chance to come up for air so I can second-guess you from across the Atlantic Ocean.”
Caroline rolled her eyes. “Rubbing salt in the wound that you’re so far away. And that you’re so busy you don’t have time to deal with the likes of me.”
“Oh, honey. I know you’re upset with him, and I totally understand that. But I hope you can understand that I’m just doing what I have to do to become part of this family.”
“This royal family.”
“Oh yeah, no forgetting that. I think I’ve seen more sabers in the past month than I saw in the entire Three Musketeers novel. And velvet. Wow, do we have a lot of velvet here. And ermine. The queen has a deep red velvet cape trimmed in ermine. If I weren’t so sad about how many little ermines had to die to make that cape, I’d want to use it as a blanket at night. Even though I’m not sure what an ermine even is.”
“A weasel.”
“I don’t think Darcy’s a weasel, Care. I think he’s just dealing with other things right now.”
“I wasn’t talking about Darcy, you dingbat! An ermine is a weasel.”
“Huh. Wonder who decided it was particularly regal to wear a weasel. I could see something like a sable sounding more royal, but a weasel?”
“A sable’s kind of weaselly too, to tell you the truth.”
“And you’re an expert on royal fur trimmings because?”
“Remember that protest-march phase I went through? Only I wasn’t so wild when the group decided to throw red paint on fur-wearing women, even if I did think their fur coats were better off on the original owner?”
Emma nodded her head knowingly. “I was sort of glad you stopped that only because I wasn’t up for having to bail you out of jail. Even though I totally respected your conviction.”
“Yes, conviction minus the conviction. To be honest, my mother threatened to take me out of the will if I got cuffed and put in jail. Even though we all know there is no will. But considering I’m still paying off college loans, I didn’t want to cut off my nose to spite my wallet, just in case my mother ever happened into a cash windfall. Or something like that. But enough about me. Let’s hear more about palace life.”
Emma walked over to sit in what looked like the world’s most comfortable chair, something long and overstuffed but posh with what appeared to be hunt scenes involving leopards on the upholstery. It was right by a fire blazing in one of those mammoth fireplaces in which you could cook an entire ox on a spit. She put up her feet and leaned back, settling into the chair, which seemed to swallow her whole, it was so cushiony. A beautiful yellow Labrador was asleep beside her. It could’ve been a scene from a Norman Rockwell: the Royal Years painting.
“They call this a fainting couch. Do you love it?”
“I’d love it more if I were sitting in it rather in my apartment in northern Virginia.”
“I hear ya. You know you have an open invitation to come over here anytime.”
“Thanks, Em. I do know that. And believe me, I’ll take you up on it. As soon as I can drum up the funds.”
“Once I’m feeling more settled, maybe I can figure out how I can enlist the royal jet to come for you. Surely I’ll have some access to it.”
“Don’t force it yet. I don’t want you getting kicked out before you’re even in.”
“I really do want to see you. And I’d love for you to be here to help me plan this wedding.”
“Oh, my God. I still can’t believe you’re going to be married. You, of all people. The last of the holdouts. Well, besides me, that is.”
“Tell me about it. If you’d have asked me just a few months ago if I’d even date someone, let alone marry them, I’d have cackled in your face.”
“I think maybe you did that.”
“Okay fine. You know what I mean. But really, Caroline, you’re my only royal attendant. There are going to be times where it would be really nice to have you here.”
“Like, say, a bachelorette party, being that you don’t know a bleeding soul in the whole country? It will be the world’s smallest hen party.”
“Oh, you are so funny. Actually I really love Adrian’s sister Isabella. She’s as sweet as can be and a little feisty. Reminds me of you, sort of. And I even kind of enjoy Serena’s company, believe it or not. She’s not half bad, especially now that I know all that I thought was true about her wasn’t. She’s got a little pissy streak in her, in a good way. And she can be pretty bawdy too, for a blue blood.”
“So what’s it like having people wait on you hand and foot?”
“Sometimes it’s amazing. I mean like never having to wash a dirty dish is so not a bad thing. I could truly get used to that. Actually, I have gotten used to it. Wait—no I haven’t. At meal times I go to clear my dishes, only someone else clears them before I can even think to. Sometimes I feel a little pampered. Okay, I feel really pampered. It’s just incredible.”
“And your royal wardrobe?”
“So get this: they come to me. I mean if I want to shop at stores I can, but I can also have people bring me clothes. Stylists and designers. Considering the fanciest I ever got was J. Crew or Anthropologie, and that was only for really special occasions, this is way out of my league.”
“And you and Adrian?”
Emma’s eyes got all swoony and her face Dalai Lama–serene. “It’s amazing, Caro. He’s amazing. Never could I have imagined being so happy with someone. I am absolutely over the moon.”
Caroline smiled, finally. “Enough with the amazings already! But seriously, it couldn’t have happened to a better person. I’m so happy for you, Emma. So, so very happy for you.”
And she was. Although she wished right about now she could make crank calls to Darcy like the kind she and Emma used to make back in sixth grade. Maybe one of those I hear you have Prince Albert in a can. If so, you’d better let him out! type of calls. Maybe she could say Prince Adrian, make it more authentic. Anything to get his attention. To hear his voice with that dreamy accent. To enable her to take the pulse of the situation. To understand why it was that they had gotten along so well and their chemistry was pretty darned electrifying, and then all of a sudden he’d dropped off the face of the earth. It didn’t make any sense, and things that were senseless made Caroline crazy.
But the fact was she couldn’t be making long-distance phone calls to Europe. Nor did she want to come across as desperate. If he wanted her, he’d have reached out to her. And clearly he had moved on. So what that when she showed up at Emma’s wedding he was going to be the royal equivalent of best man to her maid of honor? They’d likely be paired up and have to fake it that they even wanted to look at one another, pretend that they hadn’t almost cared about each other. Because by then she wasn’t going to care. Not one whit. And if Darcy wanted her, he was going to have to crawl to her on all fours. Better yet, slink. Like one of those royal ermine. Skitter and slink right back into her heart, damn him.

Sign up for my newsletter here to learn about my very own encounter with the future King of England...

"SOMETHING IN THE HEIR by Jenny Gardiner is a wonderful tale of love and self discovery, as two people who should have nothing in common, somehow are perfect for each other. The story flows at an enjoyable and natural pace, with plenty of funny moments, alongside the romantic scenes. I love the secondary storyline of Caro and Darcy, and I look forward to the next instalment, to see their relationship develop. SOMETHING IN THE THE HEIR by Jenny Gardiner is a fabulous short, modern day fairy tale, with interesting characters, and I highly recommend it."  
--Linda Green for FRESH FICTION

"Jenny Gardiner tells a wonderful, feel good story about an American commoner and a European prince. If you're looking for a quick read that's sure to make you smile, Something in the Heir will do the trick!"  

--Bethany Petty for CHICK LIT CENTRAL

Book one in the It's Reigning Men series: SOMETHING IN THE HEIR.
Book two in the It's Reigning Men series: HEIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW.
Book three in the It's Reigning Men series: BAD TO THE THRONE.

And all will be available in book form soon!
JennyGardiner_SomethingintheHeir200 JennyGardiner_HeirTodayGoneTommorrow200JennyGardiner_BadtotheThrone200

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

and some time soon I'm going to reissue Anywhere but Here---I'll keep you posted.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

It Must Be Spring - I'm on the Road Again!

Most people look at the calendar and think about Spring flowers, Spring showers and Spring allergies. Okay most people don't think of the allergies, but I do! And right now we're in the throes of an epic allergy season in southern NJ....

But I look at the calendar and see. . . traveling!

In my other, other life, I usually get to travel because I'm a licensing board examiner in the NorthEast region of the US. I visit dental and dental hygiene schools in places like NYC or Detroit or Chicago or Pittsburgh or Harrisburg PA. Those trips are usually just short ones - - in, over and out.

And then there are some of my favorite trips -- to writers and readers events!

I usually get to one or two regional writers' conferences -- last year I went to the Washington DC retreat and the New England Conference in Boston. Lots of great speakers and inspiration for writing.

 The other very fun event I attended last year and head to this year is Barbara Vey's Readers Appreciation Luncheon -- a misnomer because it's really a weekend of fun. I'll be sponsoring a table again and am looking forward to meeting readers there. I've even got some lovely table gifties planned like these:

And some other surprises at my Scottish-themed table.  Should be fun! 

But the big excitement of my Spring is that I will be going to IRELAND!! Part research, part history, part visiting the lands of my ancestors, it will include visits to stone circles and cairns and burial mounds and end with a week of writing in Dingle - in a stone cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean! I'm going with 3 other writers and yes, driving the other side of the road will be involved!

So, what does your Spring look like? Are your kids in sports? Any special school events coming up? Trips of your own? Post a comment and I'll pick a couple of commentors out to get some books I get at the luncheon this weekend!

Terri is working on her next books - RAGING SEA is an October release from NAL and continues the Novels of the Stone Circles series. And she's writing her next Harlequin Historical in her new A HIGHLAND FEUDING series.... Visit her website for more info.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Melissa McClone: The Real Miss Mousie

I love my cats and dogs. Some are only here temporarily if they are fosters, but each holds a special place in my heart. And sometimes in my writing.

My furbabies sometimes manage their way into a story, as inspiration or namesakes. Yoda—a black kitten we'd adopted from the rescue I'd eventually foster for—inspired "Boots," the black kitten who steals a prince's heart in NOT-SO-PERFECT PRINCESS and leads him to the heroine. Manchester/Manny in IT STARTED WITH A CRUSH is based off Rocket, one of my first cats who is no longer with us. Maurice, a Norwegian Elkhound in THE MAN BEHIND THE PINSTRIPES, shares a doesn't-know-when-to-stop-eating trait with our dog Chaos. The diva foster kitty Blossom in THE BILLIONAIRE'S NANNY was inspired by a foster cat named Gabbro.

Not all the animals in my books are character pets.

In my new release HER CINDERELLA PRINCESS, my heroine Emily's has an old, worn, used-to-be-white stuffed animal cat named Miss Mousie. The name comes from a real life Miss Mousie—a foster failure who we adopted.

Miss Mousie has a blog and Facebook page of her own. A couple years ago, romance and mystery authors helped raise money for the then-foster cat so the animal rescue could afford an expensive surgery she needed. She sometimes appears on my Facebook page or Twitter feed as my author assistant and muse. She takes her job seriously, never leaving my side while I write. All her hard work leads her to sleep and sleep and sleep some more. Perfect inspiration for Emily's stuffed cat!

Do you like reading about animals in stories? Do you have a favorite animal character that's stuck with? Comment with your answers.

One winner from the comment section will get a prize pack that includes an autographed book, chocolate, bookmarks/swag and a stuffed animal kitty that can be named Miss Mousie or not! Be sure to check back here in a week to see if you won. I post a weekly winners recap each Tuesday morning on my Facebook page so you can check there, too.

If you want to find out more about me and my books, check out my website. Subscribe to my newsletter if you want to keep up with new releases, sales and special news. I occasionally tweet, but mainly I hang out on my Facebook page. Stop by and say hi sometime!

I hope you have a great day!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kathleen O'Brien: The Road Not Taken

Everyone always asks where I get my ideas, and often I don’t have an answer.  I’ve written about 45 books, and I long ago ran out of material even remotely autobiographical. :)  Now it’s up to the muse, the newspaper, the desperate searchings of my brain…

But the release of my Tule Publishing novella, HIS DEFIANT PRINCESS (watch for it next Thursday!) is the exception.  In this story, a nineteen-year-old American student takes a summer vacation in Cornetta, a beautiful little principality in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of France. On the ferry, she meets a cute boy, and they spend three magical months together roaming the wild fringes of the island.  Nine years later, when she returns to Cornetta, she discovers her summer lover was really the second son of the royal family, a rascal known as the rogue prince.

This marvelous fairy tale never happened to me, of course.  That’s the point.  There was one summer in particular that it didn’t happen—and that’s what gave me the idea.

I was maybe eighteen or so. I had, or believed I had, a broken heart.

(To be honest, getting our hearts broken was a routine summer game for my friends and me back then, but this year must have been a doozie.)

To help me recover, my mother decided to send my sister and me to Jamaica for a few days.  If you’re a historical romance reader, you probably recognize this as a scaled-down version of the “Grand Tour.”  Surely a change of scenery would put things into perspective.  A new adventure, a glimpse of all the wonders and fun that did not require my current Mr. Wrong…surely that would fix me up.

So off we headed.  My sister is two years older, and back then she was at least twenty years more daring.  First thing, we went to a rental car place to choose our wheels.  At the counter, doing the same, were two incredibly good-looking American boys. 

When they started chatting us up, my sister was definitely receptive.  We talked a while, and then the guys suggested maybe we’d like to share a car and do some sightseeing together. 

My sister looked at me, asking the question silently, in that way brave older sisters can do.  And I said nononono, please don’t say yes, in that way fearful younger sisters can do.

She was good-natured about it, but I could tell she was disappointed. Waving goodbye, we went off to our separate adventures.  My sister and I swam, toured a witch house, read books on the beach, ate good food and played gin rummy in a luxurious hotel room.  Then we flew home, and I found a new boyfriend.

But you know what?  I never quite forgot about the chance I was too nervous to take.  I still remember the cute brown eyes, sweet smile, and tumbling curls of one of those young men…and I sometimes wonder “what if?”

And so…THE DEFIANT PRINCESS.  Because hey.  Isn’t answering the eternal “what if” question exactly what novels are supposed to do?

How about you?  Have you ever passed up a chance to do something daring…and then always wondered what you might have missed?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Susan Stephens: Some Really Great News!

It’s so good to be back chatting with you—and with some really great news!

For those of you who will be attending RWA conference in New York this July, I am so thrilled and honoured to tell you that I have been invited to introduce my dear friend and fellow author, the fabulous Ms M... Carole Mortimer, when Carole receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Romance Writers Of America. This is also the year Carole celebrates the publication of her 200th book. Yes. 200. Incredible, isn’t it? And with 90 million sales at the last count, it is impossible to calculate the number of people to whom Carole has given reading pleasure. What an inspirational career, and I can tell you from personal experience, what a wonderful woman.

* For those of you who won’t be attending the conference—don’t worry! It’s going to be ‘live streamed’ so you don’t have to miss a thing. And I will give you a personal update in August to fill you in on all the exciting things that happened ‘back stage’. J

And now my news...

With the first 2 books in my Hot Brazilian Nights series releases in March and April 2015, I am eagerly anticipating the next two releases in this series in November and December 2015.
November, The Brazilian’s 9-Month Notice.
December: Back in The Brazilian’s Bed.

It might seem a long wait until November, but there will be more Susan Stephens stories in my Cosmic Hot Shorts series.  The first three are available now:
1.      Christmas Nights At The Ladies Club
2.      Valentine’s Night At The Ladies Club.
And have you read the latest?
3.      Hot Spring Nights At The Ladies Club.
Look out for the next one... up for pre-order today!
4.      The Bride Wore Red At The Ladies Club
(Release date July 17th 2015)
I think you’ll agree that the covers for this series of short stories are just phenomenal...

And that’s it from me until next month...

Wishing you all good health and happiness with the best of friends and the warmth of family around you. And, of course—non-stop reading pleasure!

With my warmest good wishes to you,
Susan xx 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Revisions - Re-envisioning your story

As you've probably guessed, I received some revisions today. I don't complain about them. For one thing, I spent so many years wishing an editor would give me the time of day, I know that it's actually a privilege to receive feedback. I also know my editor is as invested as I am in making my stories as good as they can be so she's not saying what she says to torture me or anything. It's vegetables and cardio, for my own good.

But revisions are a challenge. In this particular WIP, the heroine has just had a baby so I feel like I need to make at least a month go by before the hot and heavy stuff starts between her and the hero. I thought I'd keep them in London and send them to Italy once she's pretty much been cleared to 'resume relations.'

My editor has asked if I can get them to Italy sooner. No, I whimpered mentally. Not because I think it's a bad idea, but because writing is a process of making decisions and if you don't decide and commit, you have a wishy-washy story that wanders around all over the place. So you make a decision and you hold it in your heart and then... revisions.

What if they do go to Italy? In the original draft, I had them going directly to the ancestral estate, but should I move that month they spent in London to his townhouse in Naples? Suddenly a whole new set of decisions has to be made and the story that I had in my head has to be, well, re-envisioned.

Now, on the personal side, my husband is renovating our en suite. We--I'm using the royal we because he's doing all the work--have taken out a shower and are putting in a tub and shower, moving a  wall to do it.  When I told him about these revisions, he said, "You don't have to tell me about the challenges of revision." No sympathy there, apparently. Not that I'm complaining.

Side note: while I was writing this post, he called me in to look at said wall that is being removed and we realized we both had completely different visions of how the other side of that wall would turn out. It backs onto our closet and he thought shelves while I said I thought it would be completely open. We both stood there staring at the same bare studs, trying to see what the other was proposing.

And then he said he'd have to move some studs and put in another one over here... It's all about studs in our house at the moment, as he holds a hammer and wears worn out jeans. But I digress...

The point is, revisions are part of just about any process, I suppose. There is no way that every word that goes onto the page is gold. Goodness knows, there are published stories I want to go back into and tweak. Even as I write this short post, I'm backspacing and changing my mind and clarifying my thoughts.

Most importantly, if you're not willing to look at things from other angles, then go in and do the work to improve, you're going to have to keep climbing into that grotty old shower. No one wants that.

So I'm going to quit using the writing of this post to avoid the hard work of making new decisions. Time to get on with my revisions. Are you re-envisioning anything in your personal story?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The why of a Happily Ever After by Michelle Styles

At the end of last month, I had the pleasure of speaking to a local reading group. Before I started, I knew the group would be difficult. They tended to read *worthy* books and I write historical romance. However the group meets in my local gastropub and I happen to like the owner. So they put aside JG Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and read my Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match.
And the dozen or so ladies came prepared to discuss and dissect my novel.
By far the biggest complaint was that there was a happy ending and things were neatly tied up. Real life isn’t like that quipped the former English teacher who preferred her endings open. She wanted to guess.
 I pointed out that closed endings with a satisfactory outcome were preferred by the vast majority of people. And when I read a book, I want closure of the main driving force behind the story or else the story isn’t really done. If you read a murder mystery and the killer was never revealed, you would feel cheated. 
In a romance, the spine of the story is the growth of the relationship of the central couple. And that relationship needs to reach a satisfactory conclusion. For the vast majority of readers, they prefer an upbeat ending to one which is shrouded in gloom, doom and despair. So Happily Ever After where the reader can feel that the couple’s love and relationship will survive is a necessity. It was the growth of this relationship which was driving the plot after all. 
One book which had a profound impact on me was The Gifts from Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In it, she describes romantic love as  a fragile but perfect shell where the two halves form an identical whole. It doesn’t last long and eventually gives way to the much less pretty but infinitely more practical nautilus shell, a shell which often has bits added but can withstand rigours everything the sea wants to throw at it.
For me, the romance genre concentrates on the perfect but fragile shell but as a reader and an author, I want to know the couple can survive to the nautilus stage. That the shell which holds their love is hard and withstand the hardest storms. And for me, if the couple’s relationship is at the centre of the book and is the glue holding  the whole thing together, I want a satisfactory ending for the relationship. In other types of stories where the relationship is not the main glue, a satisfactory ending can be achieved, even if the relationship doesn’t turn out how I would like.
After I explained this, the meeting went far better. However, I doubt I converted that particular woman to the infinite joy and pleasure that is the romance genre. It is her loss and a cross she will have to bear. Personally if I am reading a romance, I want that Happily Ever After feeling when I reach the end of the book.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historic romance. Her next book will be SUMMER OF THE VIKING. You can read more  about Michelle and her booksl on her recently re-done website

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Christina Hollis—Royal Baby Fever!

False alarm—this is Prince George
Pic by Christopher Neve/Jaqen via Wikimedia
As I write this, devoted royalists are getting ready to welcome the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's second child—a little brother or sister for Prince George. Nobody except the Royal Household knows the due date, but it's expected to be in the second half of this month. Babies don't take much notice of predictions, anyway. 

There are already two important dates in the Royal Family's diary for April. It's Queen Elizabeth's real birthday on April 21st, as opposed to her Official birthday. That's held on a Saturday in June. This is England, after all—there's a better chance of good weather for the Sovereign's birthday parade if it's held in what we call "summer".

William and Kate's fourth wedding anniversary falls on the 29th April. Like the rest of us, they'll be wondering where the time went. If they've got any sense, they'll have a quiet celebration alone together, before the new baby arrives. Royal parents may be able to avoid some of the walls we poor commoners run up against such as sleepless nights, but as Prince William said; "The first baby is a life changer. The second baby is a game changer."

At least this royal addition won't be pushed straight onto the throne of England, unlike King Henry VI. Son of the "Once more unto the breach..." warrior made famous by Shakespeare, Prince Hal II lost his father when he was only nine months old and too small to be left alone with a cat, much less a kingdom. Henry VI's life, along with his kingdom, was run first by regents—and then later by his wife (according to staunch supporters of the House of York).

James Francis Edward Stuart, also known as "The Old Pretender" or "The King Over The Water" was another royal baby famous for all the wrong reasons. His mother, Mary of Modena, must have had a very traumatic labour. Depending on who you believe, her child was either a) stillborn and replaced with a healthy baby boy smuggled into the lying-in room inside a warming-pan, or b) produced under the full glare of publicity, to the cheers and leers of seventy eye witnesses. Whatever his beginnings, the child ended up disappointed. He was son of King James II of England and Ireland (King James VII of Scotland), who was later deposed. 

Find out more at
Whether the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's child is a boy or a girl, while they'll have all the disadvantages of growing up in the media spotlight, they'll also have many enormous advantages. The most useful (apart from the obvious) is a father who grew up in the same public goldfish bowl, and knows all the pitfalls. The Royal Family also has a huge, international army of enthusiastic fans. I used to work with a woman who not only sent hand-knitted baby clothes to Buckingham Palace for every new arrival, she baked and posted celebration cakes to them, too!

I'm guessing Baby Cambridge will be a girl, especially as there's a rumour the duchess has been spotted carrying a tin of pink paint. For all we know, she's renovating the royal chicken coop, but it's harmless fun. 

If the gloss-watchers are right, I like the sound of "Sophie Victoria Elizabeth". How about a game of guess the Royal Baby's name? For the chance to win a copy of my latest contemporary romance, Her Royal Risk, leave your suggestion as a comment below. During the weekend of 18th-19th April I'll pick one name at random—that way it can't be influenced by William and Catherine's eventual decision!

There are no babies in my April release for The Wild Rose Press, Her Royal Risk, but there is plenty of sexual chemistry, conflict, and one of those electrifying moments when somebody bursts into church and shouts "Stop!" 

You can find out more here, and keep in touch with all my works in progress by visiting my author page on Facebook and clicking "like", or following me on Twitter.

Monday, April 13, 2015


In two weeks and one day (not that I'm counting—who am I kidding, I'm counting) Carry Her Heart will hit the shelves...and Kindles...and your MP3 player!

This is my second not quite traditional romance.  Just One Thing was the first.  When describing it I said, "It's women's fiction with romance."  But in the nine months since its release, I've been thinking about that definition and decided that a woman's journey that includes romance is closer.  When Just One Thing came out, more than one person said, write more like that.  I hope Carry Her Heart is what they wanted.

It's the story of Piper George.  She got pregnant in her teens and gave the baby up for adoption...then built a life around that child she only held for an hour.  She lives a quiet, but meaningful life. When a new neighbor moves in, things change...maybe for the better.
As always, I slipped a few Easter Eggs in for friends and regular readers.

Yes, she wears holey jeans, hates shopping for new ones (hates shopping for almost anything) and...  Well, there are a few more foibles that Piper and I share. LOL

I hope you'll watch for Carry Her Heart and take a journey with Piper!


PS. Piper's notebook is an ongoing theme in the story, so to celebrate, I'm giving away a journal at the end of the month!  This is my year of the reader, so I'm giving away something each month to readers.  If you get my newsletter, you're already entered.  If not, you can sign up for it here: newsletter.