Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Melissa McClone: Authors With Heart Mother's Day Totes

Romance authors and readers are some of the most caring and generous folks around. When you ask for help, they step forward in a big way.

I want to tell you about a group that I’m calling #authorswithheart. They helped me with a project near and dear to my heart—providing Mother’s Day goodie bags to moms staying at two Washington state Fisher Houses. If you don’t know anything about Fisher House, click on this link. It’s a fantastic organization that supports military families.

The first goodie bag!
For the past three years, I’ve sent Mother’s Day goodie bags to the two Fisher Houses. I’d seen a request for help from a service member care package organization and offered to send something.

The first year was a solo effort. Each clear goodie bag contained an autographed book, a pair of footies, a candy bar and two tea bags. I secured them with a ribbon and attached a little card.

Year two goodie bag!
The next year, I was no longer volunteering with the organization, but offered to send something again if they’d like. They did, and I decided to do more this time.

I asked authors, readers and friends to sponsor Thirty-One Thermal Totes. I also asked authors if they’d send a few books. Some authors sent more than a few and also included swag, which I hadn’t thought to ask for. I was so happy how the tote bags turned out, and they were a big hit!
This year, I found out the organization I’d gone through the past two year had changed their focus so wasn't working with the Fisher House for Mother's Day, but they gave me the phone numbers of the house managers. I called and asked if I could send Mother’s Day totes this year. They said yes!

This year's contents!
I approached authors first, starting with last year’s participants and then asked other authors. I'd learned my lesson last year so made a point to request swag!

By the time I’d heard back from everyone, I had enough authors wanting to sponsor totes. I also had more than enough books, not to mention swag. I was so excited, and that excitement grew each time another box arrived. Opening them was like Christmas!

Thirty thermal totes were filled with over 200 romance novels, a goodie bag filled with book/author swag (bookmarks, pens, post-it notes, jewelry, key chains, chapstick, jar opener, nail files, measuring spoon, combs, postcards, luggage tags, etc.), a goodie bag filled with pampering items (nail polish, shower puffy, tissue, hair band, comb, footie socks, and candy and a cone of flavored popcorn!

Putting it all together!
The goodie bag assembly took place on my dining room table, which we only use for holiday dinners! I sorted the swag into thirty piles then bagged it! All went into a tote bag along with a card with the sponsor author's name. They were boxed and mailed to the two Fisher Houses.

One of the Fisher Houses wrote to me the following: 
"...these have been delightful, the guests love them!"
I'd like to give a shout-out to the authors who helped me this year. Some sponsored totes, others donated books and/or swag. Some did all three. I can't thank them enough for their generosity and time.

Over the next several months, I'm doing features on the Authors With Heart at my website's blog. You can find out about one of the author's titles and win an eBook, too. I hope you'll check out the posts!
Now I have a giveaway for you! I made up goodie bags with the leftover swag from the Mother's Day totes. There’s a grand prize, a 2nd place prize and three runner-up prizes for you to win. 

Leave a comment and I’ll choose the winners using on Monday evening, May 25th. Be sure to check back to see if you won.

If you're a winner, you can contact me via my website or PM me on my Facebook page. If I don't hear from winners by Friday, May 29th, I'll pick new winners and post them here and on my Facebook page on Saturday, May 30th.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Carole Mortimer: A Lifetime Achievement

In late March I received some amazing news—Romantic Writers of America have awarded me the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015!

They had a difficult time telling me about it too—I was away on holiday at the time, and was off internet connection over the weekends, but they finally managed to track me down and tell me the wonderful news. I can’t thank them enough for this wonderful honor, I still wake up every morning wondering if I dreamt it!

It also seems incredible that yesterday, May 17th, I released Midnight Alpha, the 4th book in my bestselling ALPHA series.

Am I still having fun self-publishing this ebook series?

You bet I am!

Is my world still as frenetic and busy as it was when I first started publishing the series back in November 2014?

Yes, it is!

But in a good way. I now understand the process of self-publishing so much more than I did when I first began the Alpha series just seven short months ago, and I can do virtually everything needed myself now—something I’m very proud of, and which my six sons are amazed at. Mainly because I used to be a complete Luddite; if it had a plug on it then I didn’t want to know! I can’t get away with that nowadays, and I don’t want to.

I’m still writing for Harlequin Mills and Boon as well as my Indie books, have the second trilogy of the Dangerous Dukes for Harlequin Historical being released July/August/September this year, plus I’m busy writing a Harlequin Presents trilogy due to be published in 2016.

Life is busy, with both my family and my writing, and that’s just the way I love it to be.

Love Carole

A link for signing up for my monthly newsletter, for news on Carole Mortimer and current and future publishing dates and titles of books, can be found on my website and also on my Facebook page.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Susan Stephens: My trip to Italy

Hello again,

So good to be back chatting with you :)

The hills really were alive with music during my recent trip to Italy. The local youth orchestra was playing in the town nearby and we could have listened to them all day.

I was in Italy for a wonderful writing retreat in Tuscany led by my great friend Sharon Kendrick. We had such a great time- good food, good company, and the best of Italian food to inspire our imaginations. I think the two of us must have broken the record for most miles walked - we both had step Apps on our phones and where better to keep up that daily average than amidst this type of scenery...?

Our last day in Pisa.

Tuscany was just beyond beautiful and I can't wait to go back. I hope you enjoy these photographs and only wish you could hear the birdsong and the rush of the river, and smell the moist green fields. It was just stunning.

Sharon Kendrick, Aine Ni Mhurchu, Linda Gask, and Yours Truly, enjoying the last of the Tuscan sunshine before we head home.

I returned home to find an exciting new multi-book contract with Harlequin waiting for me that will keep me happily writing through 2016/2017.

I have 2 more books in my Hot Brazilian Nights gaucho polo series November and December releases this year-- look out for The Brazilian's 9-Month Notice in November this year, and Back in The Brazilian's Bed in December, followed by a secret baby story - one of my favourite themes of all - in March 2016.

And that's it for now. I do hope you enjoy the pics of the ravishingly beautiful Tuscan countryside, and I look forward to being back here chatting with you next month!

With my warmest wishes to all of you for the merry month of May,

Saturday, May 16, 2015

His Blushing Bride - More Marietta!

Are you as in love with Marietta as I am? We, the authors, are seeing a lot of comments like this on Netgalley, Goodreads and Amazon:
"I've genuinely loved the Marietta Mini series from Tule publishing..."
And we look, yes, we do! We want readers to be as excited to visit this wonderful town and all our characters as we are to write their individual stories.

Which is why I'm so pleased to be part of the latest "Married in Marietta" Bride series. Have you seen the covers?

Very pretty, right? I happen to have bookmarks that look like this. If you would like me to mail you one, contact me through my website ( or message me through Facebook ( with your postal address. I'll pop one in the mail to you.

Now, I'll be honest. One of the reasons I love visiting Marietta is to visit my own characters. While I do my best to pick up other authors' characters for a line or two, I feel most comfortable bringing my own back onstage. In His Blushing Bride, you'll see all the characters from my previous three Montana Born novellas.

Bastian (Sebastian) is actually the brother of Liz from Blame The Mistletoe so I thought it would be fun to include a bit of their interaction for you here:

Excerpt from His Blushing Bride:
(note: I cleaned up the language in this posting. The book uses real swears.)

Bastian ran out to the ranch first thing, gave Blake a hand for an hour, then drove his sister into Bozeman where she shopped for maternity wear and stock for the spa. He bought a new laptop, tablet, and phone along with a few more shirts and shorts, a decent suit for the wedding, some sunglasses and—

“What are those for?” Liz asked in a tone so accusatory, the entire drugstore stopped to glance their way.

“I begin to see how you wound up pregnant,” Bastian said dryly. “Did I make a big deal about you buying a breast pump?”

She gave him the tight-lipped, displeased older-sister look, but stowed whatever she wanted to say until they were in the car.

He threw the bag with the box of condoms at her feet. No way was he going to apologize for being a healthy, responsible adult.

“I guess my real question is, who are those for?” she said, delicately shifting her feet away from the bag.

“Seriously?” She wasn’t teasing. This was a real question, and he couldn’t believe it was coming out of her mouth, directed at him and not her teenaged daughter. “It’s none of your business, Liz.” He shouldn’t have to point that out.

“This isn’t California, you know. Word gets around. Just tell me it’s not Petra’s teacher,” she said shortly.

“It’s not Pet’s teacher,” he lied.

Liar,” she blasted, bracing an elbow on the door and covering her eyes. “Seriously, Bastian. Do you have to sleep with every single female that crosses your path? There’s a word for it, you know. Man-whore.”

“I think you’re a whore if you take money for it. When you do it just ’cause you like it, you’re a slut.”

“I see. This is how we’re playing? Nearly a doctor and you still haven’t grown up?”

“Stick with, ‘Quit screwing anything that moves.’ The ‘Get a real job’ speech is Dad’s.”

“I just don’t know why you can’t commit to one woman, settle down, and—”

“Yell at my kids?” he cut in sharply. “Make my wife cry? Be so unbearable to be around that my son tells me to get lost and my daughters get married out of high school? How did that work out for you, by the way?”

She kept her face to the window, not answering.

He swore under his breath. “Did I make you cry? Now I feel like a jerk.”

“You are a jerk.” She sounded cross, not hurt. When she looked at him, her face was worried. “Is that really it, Bastian? You don’t think you’d make a good husband? Because I think you’d be a great dad.”

He sighed, annoyed. Frustrated. And kind of relieved she’d say that. There were times when he envied his sisters. Their kids were great and their middle sister’s marriage was actually pretty good.

But marriage and family life had always struck him as suffocating. A trap. Their father sure hadn’t been happy. Men weren’t the only ones to feel that way, either. The women, the sheer multitude of unhappy wives who’d hit on him because they couldn’t stand their husbands… Why set himself up for infidelity and a messy divorce when he could skip getting married altogether?

Which wasn’t something he needed to say to his pregnant, engaged sister. She was upset enough. She knotted her hands over the bump in her lap. “Dad had PTSD. I wish our childhood had been different too, but there’s nothing we can do but accept it.”

Yeah, their old man had been the gift of misery that kept on giving while they were growing up. In some ways, he still was. He set very high standards, especially for his son, and wasn’t very forgiving of deviation. But Liz was right. They couldn’t go back in time and change anything. Bastian had fully accepted that. But…

“Listen. It looks like you’re getting it right this time. Blake seems great. I had to wonder about your decision to marry and have a kid and move to off-the-map Montana, but I respect your choice, Liz. And I’m making a different choice,” he summed up firmly. It was something their father had never made peace with.

Liz was slightly more progressive. She sighed out a long, suffering, “Fine. Live your life the way you want. But—not with Pet’s teacher.”

He wasn’t going to plead his case. He simply would live his life however he saw fit and Piper had the same option.

~ * ~

I'll be at the Romantic Times Convention in Dallas when this posts and, as I write this, His Blushing Bride is only available for pre-order so I only have the quick links below, but it is releasing on all digital platforms:

Amazon: US | Cdn | UK | iBooks

Have you been spending time in Marietta? Who are some of your favourite characters? Remember to email me with your postal address if you'd like a bookmark!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Michelle Styles: Do you remember your first library card? plus giveaway

Yesterday, a meme on Facebook reminded me of a long lost technology – sign out cards for library books. And it got me thinking about library cards in general. Library cards have always been hugely important.
My first one was orange coloured from the Mountain View Public Library. I was allowed to have my own card as soon as I could sign my name. I was so proud the first time I checked out books. And then later when I was older, I changed my card for a yellow one so that I could take out books in the adult section. I used to spend hours in the library, looking for great books.
And I have a very vivid memory from when I served as a teenaged  hospital volunteer in the Emergency department ( a Candy striper). One afternoon in January, a young girl had drunk the better part of a bottle of vodka. She was in the operating theatre and no one knew if she’d survive. I went to see if I could get anything for her parents and her father was sitting looking at her orange library card. Turning it over and over in his hand as he asked why she had done it. I backed out and made myself useful elsewhere because intruding felt wrong.
At school things were a bit different as we had the sign out card system. You signed your name on the book’s card which you then handed to the librarian.  One by-product of this system was that you could see who else had taken out the book.
Being a frequent library user, I soon noticed that my choices often had been previously checked by one Lucy Ellis. Lucy Ellis had left the school by the time I started but her name lingered on. As I liked the books and sometimes did not have much time to choose, I started looking for her name. Invariably she had good taste and led to discover authors like Georgette Heyer and Philippa Carr.
I used to try to imagine what Lucy Ellis must be like – answer sauve, sophisticated, with a ready wit.. Many years later, I did get to meet her. She had become some high up executive at a computer company. I can’t remember if I confessed to having searched for her name on the card.
My high school librarian tells me that the system officially changed in 1995 so no one can use that sort of * word of mouth* anymore in theory but in practice the cards do remain and every now and then, she sees my name on one of the cards.
When I was at university in the UK, my library card doubled as my id. I found it the other day and looked so young. It surprised me in a way that when my eldest son and daughter went to that uni, the same system was in place.
One thing they have not done away with at the library I currently use is the date stamp. Because this library is so old (dating back to 1795) it is great to find books that were last date stamped in the 1940s.  I mentioned this to a librarian who sighed and said that sometimes it felt like there was a building full of books that no one wanted to read.
But for me, my library card has always a passport to adventure. Does anyone else remember their first library card? Or have library card memories?
My latest SUMMER OF THE VIKING is officially published on 1 June. I am giving a one signed copy. If you wish to enter the draw, please email with Totebags Summer Contest as the subject and answer the following question: Where does Summer of the Viking take place?
You can read the first chapter for free  here: 
The blurb reads:
We have the summer, Alwynn. It will have to be enough.' Washed up alone on the Northumbrian shore, Valdar Nerison is a stranger in a foreign land. He has unfinished business in Raumerike, but first he owes his rescuer, the beautiful Lady Alwynn, a life debt. Alwynn is wary of Valdar's promise to protect her – after all, she has known only betrayal at the hands of men. And as summer's end approaches Valdar must choose whether to return home and fight for his honour or to stay and fight for Alwynn's heart...
I will do the draw on 21 May

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. You can learn more about Michelle's books at her newly revamped website -- 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Christina Hollis—How Writing One Book Led To Another...
Available from The Wild Rose Press at
Last year, I escaped the horrible winter weather by shutting myself away in the warm to write a book called His Majesty’s Secret Passion. It was published by The Wild Rose Press earlier this year. You can find out more here, and read an extract here
When the hero of that book, King Leo, fell in love with a girl called Sara, his personal assistant Krisia was promoted out of his life. She went to work for the king’s brother, Prince Athan.  Krisia and Athan were such a mis-matched couple, sparks were bound to fly. When readers asked me what happened to them, I knew I had to write a second book about the Princes Of Kharova.  Her Royal Risk was the result, and you can find out more about it here.

When I started brainstorming ideas for Her Royal Risk, I didn’t have much to go on. Krisia resented being pushed aside to work for Athan. He was head of the army, and everything Krisia wasn’t: loud, self-confident and full of native cunning. In contrast, she was quiet, but highly intelligent and determined.  Part of the fun of writing is to take an idea, and let your mind freewheel.

I decided that, as her father worked for the royal household, Krisia could have had lessons with the royal children. I thought back to when I was a swot, and a boy called Gary disrupted every lesson. He was noisy, defensive and could fly off the handle over nothing. He made school life hell for everybody. Nobody could figure him out. In those days, there weren’t many experts ready to identify and help children who fell behind. Gary was pretty soon excluded from school, and left to fend for himself. I met him years later, and  discovered his story had a happy ending. Gary was mad keen on fishing. When he wasn't at school, he did odd jobs at the local angling club.  One of the members had experience with kids like Gary, and a chance remark led to his problem being diagnosed. 

Knowing what was wrong was half the battle. With a lot of help and  hard work, Gary found his feet and was eventually taken on as an apprentice at an engineering firm. Once he had a job, his self-esteem went through the roof. He got married, and lived happily ever after.

I thought a variation on Gary’s story would make a good romance. Playboy Prince Athan has been a bad boy all his life—his parents’ attention was always focussed on his two older brothers, and his problems at school fed on themselves. The routine and camaraderie of military life suits him, so when life bowls him  a tricky ball, he thinks a light is about to shine into all the dark corners of his private life. He needs a personal assistant. Krisia’s the last person he wants, but she’s also the best person for the job.
Available from The Wild Rose Press

Krisia doesn’t want to be a meek housewife like her mother, who has no life outside of their home. She wants to be part of the new, modern country King Leo is building. Until she starts working with Athan, she thinks her new boss is a fool, and her new job is a demotion.  Then she discovers the prince isn't the unruly boy thrown out of the royal classroom any more. He’s a brilliant, instinctive soldier, who’s hiding the problem ruining his life behind his Alpha-male exterior. As long as he’s judged on his actions, Athan is unbeatable. Krisia is completely different. She wants everything done by the book, and properly, first time. 

I threw these two opposites together, then put them under such pressure, they had no one to turn to but each other. Krisia discovers Athan’s secret, but is there time to help him defuse an explosive situation threatening their whole country?

Everybody deserves a second chance. Athan gets it when he’s teamed with Krisia. I got my second chance when I met OH, and he showed me how amazing family life can be. 

What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you? There’s a copy of Her Royal Risk on offer for a comment picked at random after 17th May.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blurred Lines

Sometimes my real life creeps into my books.  For instance, I have two dogs, Ethel Merman and Ella Fitzgerald.  I'd written the Everything But... trilogy about a Hungarian grandmother who'd accidentally cursed her family to bad weddings, then she started a second trilogy where she was playing matchmaker.  I needed a way to end the series and...I don't think I'm giving too much away when I say Nana Vancy started matchmaking homeless dogs to their forever families!  She's made a couple cameos in other books fixing up families with dogs.

The dogs even made the cover...

That's just one of the many ways my real life infiltrates my writing.  I call those pieces, Easter Eggs.  They're sprinkled throughout my stories.  Some only I recognize, but some are pretty blatant so readers can find them.  Just One Thing takes places mainly on Mondays...that was an Easter Egg for my social media friends who know all about my Monday Glee!

So imagine my surprise when lines blurred and suddenly my fictional story crept into my real life!  In my new release, Carry Her Heart, the heroine has a wild garden in her backyard.  I wrote a scene I fell in love with where she's planted some milkweed and is reflecting on life in general..."Maybe we all repeatedly curl up in a chrysalis and emerge as something else entirely."  I loved that entire scene.  Frankly, though I have a big garden here, I fell in love with Piper's milkweed.  Which might explain why I found myself at a Master Gardeners' plant sale last weekend.  I have my own butterfly garden plants now...we're starting to dig them a new home today.

I'm used to my real life influencing my fiction, and when I started writing this blog, I thought I'd end by saying that now there are blurred lines and my fiction is influencing my real life...but as I wrote this, I realized that's wrong.  My writing has influenced my real life in so many ways.  There's a saying about most people live one life, but readers live hundreds (or more).  The same can be said of writing.  Whether I'm writing romantic comedies like Everything But a Dog, or emotional women's fiction/romances like Carry Her Heart, those characters live with me for months as I write them.  I literally walk a mile (or more) in their shoes.  That can't help but impact my life.

I'll keep you all posted on the butterfly garden!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Gift of Books by Kate Walker

I had a birthday last week. That’s why I’m a bit late writing this blog today – I lost track of time – partly because I was celebrating, there were visitors coming to the house – my DH and I went out f
or a couple of days – and then my son and his fiancée came and we all went out for a meal together. It was lovely. A real family time and just the way to celebrate a birthday.

I was going to say the perfect way  - but there was another bit that was needed to make the birthday week (it stretched into a week – aren’t I lucky?) . What made the difference? Books of course!  Lots of books – in different sizes, different types,  different reasons for them arriving. And one that was planned for the future that was one of the best of all.

I suppose it’s inevitable, that people give me birthday presents that are books. After all, I’m a writer, my husband’s a writer, my friends are writers – and we’re all readers.  We’re book addicts and proud of it as the badge that came on one parcel said.   My son knows just the sort of books to pick for me – he’s very good at selecting novels that I’ll enjoy and he doesn’t just choose the ones that he hopes I will pass on to him when I’ve finished them. His book reading habit is worse than my own.  But he chooses  great ‘women’s novels’  as well as the psychological  thrillers we both enjoy.  My husband  - obviously – loves books too but I think he also loves them because they’re easy to wrap, because wrapping is not his very best skill!

I don’t mind! I love to receive a gift that is so obviously a book – another one to add to the TBR  pile. (We won’t mention the TBR list on my kindle – it would be too embarrassing.)    I even got an adult colouring in book   as an ‘anti-stress aide!’  That a wonderful multi-coloured  pack of felt-tip pens and it’s like going  back to childhood.

So, as if I didn’t have enough  books  to read in the birthday celebrations – the next thing that arrived was  a series of packages of my books – books I’ve  written that have been translated into other languages. There was the Russian edition of A Question of Honor, the Dutch version of the same book, the Danish – Norwegian,  Swedish and Finn translations of A Throne For The Taking.  But perhaps the best ‘present’ that I had where my books were concerned was the acceptance of my newest and latest novel – the one I’d been working on the revisions for in the run up to my birthday.  So just before the ‘big day’ dawned I got the wonderful
 news that my editor  had loved the revisions – she loved the book  - and she was accepting it for publication. So my 64th title  Destined For The Desert King will be published in December.

And – do you know what made the whole set of books , books  and more books even more perfect ? That’s the fact that because  this book had been accepted – it meant  that I now have a bit of breathing time – a free space  to settle back and actually read to my heart’s content. Just for this week. I’m loving it! 

Now that’s a real gift to give a reader.   But I’m  a writer too – and  I’ve had the time to relax and read and  . . .guess what . .  there are a new hero and heroine who are  whispering in my thoughts and  demanding that I think about telling their story . . . So  that’s the end of my peace and quiet . But I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Books – I just love them, whichever way they come into my life and fill up my days!

The 63rd book of mine  Olivero's Outrageous Proposal was out in April.
And the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance is now available on Kindle.  And I've recently revised and republished that in a brand new paperback edition that's cheaper than the original one.

You can catch up with all of Kate's news on her website  or on her blog.  You can also find her on her author page on Facebook.