Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ho Ho Ho Merry Jenny Gardiner

    I’m a sucker for the Christmas season. Always have been. Don’t know if it’s the deluded optimism the holiday thrusts upon us, or just a strange affinity for otherwise maudlin songs dressed up as cheerful seasonal chestnuts. I mean, let’s be honest, at any other time of year, who would actually listen wistfully to a yawner like “The Little Drummer Boy”?
    Whatever it is, I have always ensured that my family gets into the holiday spirit, starting with finding the perfect Christmas tree.
    When I was a kid, the search for the ultimate yuletide tree took us to the nearest gas station: hardly a romantic venue from which to choose the centerpiece of our holiday decor. We’d pile into the station wagon for the three-block drive to Buck’s Esso station, spill out onto the oil-slicked parking lot, mull over three or four already-netted spruce trees, and then dad would haggle down the price. End of story.
    Ah, so I was determined to rewrite that tradition with my own family. Early in my marriage, we decided the most festive tree-acquisition could only be achieved by cutting down our own (plus you get the added benefit of the needles actually staying on the tree all month rather than littering the floor). Because we lived in citified Northern Virginia, the cachet of escaping to the “country”--i.e. the closest remaining patch of farmland untainted by greedy developers--only added to the allure.
    But one year, I found myself almost wishing for the chance to just pop down to the local gas station to buy a tree…
    That year, my husband and our three children, all under the age of four, trekked to the Clifton Christmas Tree Farm, where awaiting us were candy canes, hot chocolate, homemade wreaths and the typical abundance of forced holiday cheer that we craved.
    I had whipped my kids into a tree-chopping frenzy, and so they took their task quite seriously. For forty minutes, we foraged throughout the whopping half-acre “farm” until we found the perfect tree: seven feet of holiday splendor, as wide as it was tall, perfect to fill our cathedral-ceiling’ed living room and flood us with the Christmas spirit.
    The kids took turns on the ground with the saw while my husband supervised the chopping honors. Their excitement was palpable. We dragged the tree back to the cashier stand where the farmer’s son coiled the netting around our white pine. The kids stood by, sucking on candy canes, sipping hot cider and petting the farmer’s dog, who’d recently wandered over. I was just about to retrieve the car to load on the tree, when Fido lifted his leg.
    “No!” I shouted in what seemed like a frame-by-frame slow motion, as a steady stream was released onto our perfect tree.
    For a moment we stood stupefied, not knowing what to do. But we weren’t about to keep a tree covered in dog wee, so we grabbed the kids’ hands to head back into the wilds to hunt for a replacement one.
    Until our kids let us know in no uncertain terms, that this tree was the one, the only. They threw themselves on the ground, flailing and crying, thrashing and moaning, like something from a Greek tragedy. They wanted their special tree, and nothing else would suffice.
    Their wails did not subside until we relented, and agreed to load up the tainted tree.
    The farmer found a makeshift bucket, filled it from a nearby stream and doused the offending urine from the tree. We loaded it onto the roof of the car, and went home.
    I have admit, I sort of detached emotionally from the tree that year. Couldn’t quite get over the psychological hurdle of having a tree the dog peed on in my living room. Somehow it clashed with the whole festive notion.
    But for my kids, the tree was just about perfect, despite its incumbent flaws. And maybe that’s exactly why I like the holidays so much: because at this time of year, we’re all a little more likely to forgive the small things in order to see the bigger picture.

A few housekeeping notes to catch you up on what I've been working on...

I just got the rights back to my parrot memoir, seen way below in it's original incarnation as Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me.

I've always wanted to offer this as an affordable ebook, since my publisher charged a crazy amount for it the whole time they had the rights. So I changed the title to Bite Me: A Parrot, A Family and a Whole Lot of Flesh Wounds, and the cover, and it's now a reasonable $2.99, so I hope you'll check it out if you've not before. Here's the new cover:

So hopefully in the next week or so I'm also finally publishing the first in a new series, the It's Reigning Men series, with the first book, Something in the Heir --- it's a flip on the old Roman Holiday movie, which I love. Book two is Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, and book three is Bad to the Throne. Here's a sneak preview of the covers:

 He's a prince with a problem. She's a commoner with a getaway plan…
Modern-day Prince Adrian of Monaforte has a most old-fashioned problem: his demanding mother wants him wed to her best friend’s daughter, the hard-partying Serena. When his refusal falls on deaf ears, Adrian decides it’s time for him to slip away from his gilded cage and figure out his life, all on his own. As luck would have it, event photographer Emma Davison, weary of a revolving door of lost-cause men and tired of her outsider-looking-in career, is in need of her own escape clause, just in time to help a wayward prince in need. And she soon discovers that sometimes a girl’s gotta sweep a prince off his feet.
For any girl that’s ever held out hope that some day her prince would come…or better yet, hoped that some day she’d come to him.

It’s all fun and royal games until somebody’s heart gets broken

In his line of work, royal heir Darcy Squires-Thornton has always been content playing second fiddle to close friend Prince Adrian, and happy, too, with whatever brief romantic encounters come his way. Especially one with carefree Caroline McKenzie, whose best friend is engaged to the prince. Fun-loving Caroline McKenzie's motto has always been "love the one you're with". But when the one she's no longer with is the one with whom she's fallen in love, what's a girl an ocean away to do?

Sometimes you can let your heir down a little too much…

When wild-child Prince Alexander goes on a naked bender in a Vegas swimming pool, cocktail waitress Andi McDonough decides to preserve a shot of those family jewels on her phone. But when she’s fired for capturing the royal treasures, she heads off to find herself. After backpacking the world-over on a dime and a prayer, she finds herself in Rome, where a chance encounter with the wayward prince only reinforces to her that Prince Zander is indeed bad to the throne. And more than likely to her fragile heart as well.

Lastly, I'm finally getting around to doing a newsletter! It'll be the first one in about 5 years! I'd sure love new subscribers, so if you'd like to check it out, please sign up here (and I promise I won't bug you all the time!).

Thanks and Happy Holidays everyone!

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)
find me on Facebook: fan page
find me on twitter here
find me on my website

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Terri Brisbin: I'm Late! (too!)

I just realized it's December 20th - my day to blog -- and realized I had not posted one. I usually post one about the Winter Solstice (tomorrow!) at this time of year but I didn't. I apologize! Yes, like Susan Meier said yesterday, I could blame deadlines, etc. But my delay has a specific reason -- her name is Alexis!

 My first grandbaby arrived earlier this week (2&1/2 days ago!) and I am completely captivated! And I have gotten almost nothing done this week - not Christmas preparations or writing! I know I'm not with her in person or taking care of her but I keep texting and getting new photos and call and just now visited. Other experienced grandparents tried to tell me how wonderful it would be, but I just didn't understand. Much like my son and daughter-in-law didn't understand anything we parents told them -- before she arrived! 

So, rather than ask a writing question - I thought I would ask a family one:  the big question everyone is asking me -- what are you going to be called? 

   I called mine Grandmom (only one alive while I was growing up).... My hubby's family go with Mom-mom and add a modifier like Mom-mom T or Mom-mom Jean.... I think I'm going to go with that, too. Be Mom-mom Terri....

 What do you think?  If you are a grandparent, what are you called? If you have a grandparent (LOL), what did you call yours? 

PS - if you're interested:  

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rising Fire by Terri Brisbin

Rising Fire

by Terri Brisbin

Giveaway ends January 15, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, December 19, 2014

Susan Meier: I'm late!

I'm late because I'm behind. LOL

Who isn't?

This year my mother's hospitalization has taken what is a normally busy season and made it crazy.

But...lateness not withstanding...

I had a conversation with my daughter today. Not only was she recently in an automobile accident, but also her washer broke. Add to that a few other unexpected expenses and she was working (read: struggling) to figure out how she was going to buy gifts.

I told her the usual stuff a mom tells her child. 1) Daddy and I don't want a gift. 2) Gramm would shoot you if she knew you were even considering going without eating so you could buy her a gift. 3) Your brothers don't want gifts.

She still seemed reluctant to believe me and her week's supply of ramen noodles remained in jeopardy.

So I pulled out the big gun...

I said, "What if the universe is trying to show you the real meaning of Christmas? What if, this year, you're supposed to see that you are loved for who you are, not for the gifts you buy?"

Ah. Something to think about.

Nobody wants to be in a position where they can't buy gifts. But wouldn't everyone on your list be happy to see you with or without a gift?

And isn't it nice, every once in a while, to stop the hustle and shopping bustle to realize we are loved.

Happy Holidays and a Very Blessed 2015!

susan meier

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eve Gaddy: Christmas is Coming--And I'm in Writer's Mode

Writer's Mode: That peculiar place writers go when plotting or thinking about or revising or writing their books. If you have a writer in your life you probably don't need that definition. You know.

I can't remember the first time I heard the expression, "I'm in writer's mode." Before I published, I'm sure. I was already very familiar with it since I discovered it the first time I sat down to write a book. It's a state where you're so involved with the book in your head that while you're in a certain place physically, mentally you're in a totally different place and possibly another time. A place known to my family by the impolite term, La-la land.

I have gotten in a lot of trouble over the years from being in Writer's Mode. One of the first times I remember was when my daughter was about eight. I was happily working on a book on my ancient computer when the phone rang.

Me: Hello.
Diana: Mom!
Me: Oh, hi, honey!
Diana: (sounding annoyed as only an eight year old can) Mom, I'm at dance.
Me: Okay.
Diana: (even more annoyed) Mom, you forgot to pick me up!

Oops. Bad Eve.

Another time I remember was when my daughter's boyfriend was running and stopped by our house. It was summer and as usual for a Texas summer, brutally hot. I answered the door, smiled at him and told him she wasn't home. It didn't occur to me to offer him water. He had to ask. In my defense, I wasn't really there.

Oops again. Bad Eve.

My husband, of course, has experienced this phenomena countless times. Quite simply, he loves it. No, of course he doesn't.:)

I am deep in the middle of a scene and he comes in the office and starts talking to me. Me thinking: His mouth is moving. I know he's saying something but I have no clue what it is. I'll just nod and say okay, honey and maybe he'll go away so I can finish this scene. And of course I have no recollection of what he said to me, therefore when he refers to it later I try to convince him that he never told me any such thing.

Oops. Bad, bad Eve.

My son, Chris, is well, a smart-ass. Always has been. He gets it from his father. But I digress. One time when he was younger and had done something stupid (I don't remember what of course.) I asked him why in the world he'd done something. His response was, "I don't know, Mom. I guess the voices in my head told me to do it." To make matters worse, I burst out laughing. He's a funny smart-ass.

They all think it's so amusing that my characters talk to me, but how could I write them if they didn't? That's one of the best things about writing. When the characters either pops into your head or they take the story in a whole different direction and it works out great. There's a saying that Writer's Block is when the voices in your head stop talking to you. Very true.

The first time I met my daughter's husband, Russ, I was, you guessed it, in Writer's Mode. I don't remember this but Diana said he told her he didn't think I liked him. She asked him why. He said, "Well, she just stared at me and didn't say anything." She laughed and explained that no, that was normal. I was just in Writer's Mode.

You ask what this has to do with Christmas? I'm having a hard time getting my decorations up, my shopping done, cooking or any of the other things I'm supposed to be doing. Except listen to Christmas carols. That I can manage.

But when you're in Writer's Mode it's hard to think about Christmas, especially when you're writing about a summer romance. Hmm. Maybe I should try to write a Christmas story this Christmas!

Not a book, but I did write a Christmas poem to get me in the mood.


Christmas is coming and I’m in a mess
It will just have to happen anyway, I guess.
With boxes galore and presents unwrapped,
They sit on my table and I feel quite zapped.
I do have a tree, I put it up early,
Thank goodness for grandkids, what cute little girlies.
The decorations are lovely,
And the girls are sweet and cuddly.
I’m really quite blessed, because family is key
They’re even better than chocolate candy!
May your Christmas be happy, blessed with family and friends.
That’s all! Merry Christmas! The end!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Susan Stephens: Happy Holidays!

I'm going to start right out by announcing my winner from my last blog. And, thank you all for being so patient!!

Traveler, it's you! Please send your details to Lee at so she can send you something from the US, and if you send Lee your snail mail, I would like to send you a small holiday gift from the UK. It may take a while with the holiday rush with mail here, but it's just a little token from me to reach out to you to say, Happy Holidays!

I don't want you to miss out on my other contests, so when you have chance, pop along to SusanStephensAuthor on Facebook and 'LIKE' that page to be entered automatically in my monthly draw. I visited London recently to plunder the stores for my readers, and I have some great little gifts to give away!

The other way to enter an entirely separate contest with more prizes, is to subscribe to my Newsletter - We have prizes for both 'New' and 'Established' subscribers, so you're never disadvantaged whenever you decide to sign up for the latest info on my crazy life here on the wild Yorkshire moors, and of course my books. 

Isn't that the great thing about the internet? When I started writing it was in complete isolation, but now we can chat and comment, and we authors can learn what our readers want us to write, as well as what our readers other interests might be. And authors can open up and share their process, and something of their life. I was lucky enough when I started out to have the amazing Penny Jordan living just down the road, and that was the most incredible thing imaginable. Penny's generosity of spirit was second to none. Her encouragement was invaluable. And our shared love of animals the bond that joined us, as well our writing. 

And then there was Lee, the host of this Blog. Leena Hyat was the first person to contact me when my first book came out. Lee conducted my first interview and we have become good friends and stayed in touch ever since. What a wonderful warm circle the world of romance can be when we reach out.

Talking of books!

Here's what's coming up - both under my Xandra King pen name and Susan Stephens.

This is a late January release - there will be a newsletter announcement to all my subscribers.  Do you have Xandra's first book in this series?

And Now For Susan Stephens - 
Available for pre-order...

You know I just can't get enough of hot polo players with iron thighs ;)

I can now announce Release Dates for my entire HOT BRAZILIAN NIGHTS SERIES - MARCH APRIL NOVEMBER DECEMBER 2015.  Enjoy!!!

My contest for you, here on this Blog... Which cover do you like best, and why?

Wishing you all the very best of everything this holiday season, and success, happiness and good health in the New Year!!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jennifer Gracen: Christmas in New York

When my three friends and I geared up to write our novellas for the Christmas in New York anthology, we were all excited. None of us had ever written a Christmas story before, and it was also our first time writing for Tule Publishing. And there we were, writing about Christmas, winter, snow... in July. Yup, we wrote our holiday tales during the sweltering summer months. It was strange to get my mindset into cold, snowy days when I had the windows open, the heat and humidity floating into my room along with the sounds of crickets chirping.

But what it cemented for me was how much I really love winter. I had to conjure up all the things I love about it, since they weren’t around me, and it wasn’t hard. My friends who love warm weather—which is the majority of them!—think I’m crazy, but I do love winter. I hate sweating, so right there, winter wins. I love the cold, brisk air (when it’s not subzero polar vortex kind of temperatures, mind you). Winter air wakes me up and makes me feel alive. The air feels clearer, sharper, and pulls me into focus. I love burrowing into cozy clothes—soft fleeces and flannels, thick wools, heavier cottons. Layering in them, then wrapping an extra blanket around myself for ultra-coziness, preferably in front of a fireplace. I love enjoying hot cocoa or tea and comfort foods like soup and other warm, delicious things. Most of all, I love watching snow fall. It softly turns the landscape into a magical realm of pristine, sparkling whiteness. Beneath newly fallen snow, the world is transformed into a breathtakingly beautiful place.

And of course, I love the holidays! December has a vibrant energy all its own. I tried to describe it in my novella, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, but I don’t know if I did it justice. Think about it... how everyone you see seems to be revitalized, a little bouncier, a little brighter. The decorations everywhere, the lights and colors... the music! Songs that everyone has heard so many times they know all the words and still sing along. The holidays end the calendar year with a wonderfully festive feeling, the year’s grand finale. And for me, growing up on Long Island, there really is something unique about Christmastime in New York. I was thrilled to be able to write a story in that setting. Now that the holidays are here, I’m so enjoying all the things I mentioned, instead of only having to daydream about them. I hope you all are too.

Jennifer Gracen

Reflecting and Looking Foward

I'll come right out of the closet and admit I'm a bit of a solstice worshipper.

This isn't meant to take away from Christmas in any way. I simply find the shorter days of winter depressing and derive great comfort in knowing the sun is returning and the days are beginning to lengthen. By the same token, I get a bit blue at summer solstice, when the longest day happens and the sun retreats. Maybe I should identify as a sun worshiper.

In any case, whether you are like me or if you just like the clean slate of a fresh calendar for a new year, you probably do a bit of reflecting and projecting this time of year. I certainly do.

I like to take stock in December, writing down some of my accomplishments for the year and recording things that I am grateful for. It's easy to forget to take time to evaluate yourself and your life, so the solstice is a nice reminder for me. The astrologers look at New Moons as a great time to cast intentions so I think the solstice must be a good time for new beginnings, too, don't you think?

Years ago, I took a fabulous online course from the incredibly fabulous Lucy Monroe. The aim of her course was career planning, but the goal setting piece was life changing for me. Basically, she had you list out broad goals, then break them down into do-able pieces. It's Project Management 101, but at the time I'd never encountered anything like it. She changed my entire approach to goal setting.

At the same time, one of my Life Goals has always been to find and maintain balance. I love writing. It's hard for me to step away from it, especially now when I'm seeing some success and want to keep feeding my fan base with new books. Sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew.

Exhibit A: Books published Oct 2012-November 2014

Other times, real life happens and I wind up chasing a deadline. It's super easy for me to lock myself in my attic office and not speak to my family for ten to twelve hours. That's bad, right? I'm just checking, because I'm pretty sure it is, but I still get away with it more often than I should.

Therefore, some years ago, I began working on a holistic approach to my year end goal setting. I have writing goals, absolutely, but I look at my life in general and try to set goals like: Walk Every Day or Go To The Gym Twice A Week. Non-writing stuff that certainly impacts my writing (positively) but helps me become a more well-rounded person. (Less rounded in the case of the gym!)

So, to that end, I have a list that I came across years ago. It was part of an article on writing that I didn't have the sense to keep. I only hand wrote the list, but it comes from a martial arts class. If I recall correctly, the aim is to practice one of these eight disciplines each week.

  1. Flexibility: In my case, this means not only being willing to try different lengths or genres in my writing portfolio, but also being willing to close my computer to drive my son into town or have coffee with a friend. Time was always so precious when I was writing around a day job, I often pushed important things like social contact to the perimeter of my life. I can do better!
  2. Strength: Hey. I lift. I really do. Not much, but I do. It was weird at first, but now I love it. But strength also means supporting a friend emotionally, bouncing back from rejections and other career lows, and not only identifying where you are weak (dialogue, confidence, cooking skills, time management) but being willing to work harder to build strength in those areas.
  3. Stamina: This is a big one for me. I had nine titles come out this year. On the one hand, very exciting, on the other, completely exhausting. I was courting burn out so, while I advocate pushing yourself in small ways, don't be dumb. On the non-writing front, um, cardio. I have some serious work to do there, but I'm also looking at my house and thinking about how long I can stand certain things that have outlasted their purpose (carpets.) 
  4. Skill: Let's talk about parenting for a sec. Do you ever feel like you've finally mastered how to work with your child then they go and change on you, hitting puberty or getting a girlfriend or what-have-you? Parenting is one of those things you practice, throwing more skills in the tool box as you go. On the writing side, I'll be honest. I am always willing to learn more about the promotion piece, but I freak out if someone starts messing with my process. I took a long time to figure out how to write books. I shy from workshops on dialogue and romantic conflict, afraid they'll mess with my mojo. Skill can be anything - golf even. I took lessons for a while and loved it, but I let it go when time got tight. I'll work on time management and consider golf again when I master my calendar.
  5. Proper rest: Okay, this is a no-brainer for me. Once I had the forced sleep deprivation that is an infant, I recognized that I am a much better human being if I have slept well and I am a fire-breathing dragon if I have not. I think better on eight hours of sleep and I sleep better when I exercise. It's a vicious cycle.
  6. Proper Attitude: I've done a lot of work on positive thinking and how we phrase things when asking favours from the Universe. I'm careful with my 'I' statements. While I'm often self-deprecating, I try to avoid negatives remarks about myself or others. We can always improve on ourselves so I'm going to try to be nicer than I already am. ;o)
  7. Proper Nutrition: 'nuff said, right? 
  8. Proper Attendance: This means practice. Show up. Be willing to do the work. For me, I also look at it as staying mindful of who I'm with and what I'm doing, whether that's driving, talking to my husband, or cooking. (Do you smell smoke?) 
I'm big on lists and guidelines that help me feel like I'm doing things well. If my goal is to find a better balance in my life, this seems to cover a lot of bases, don't you think? Of course, if I sleep eight hours of each day, that only leaves sixteen hours for the other seven disciplines, but come on. Sleep. I'm still catching up from those newborn years.

Now, I have a friend who actually lights a candle and does a little ritual in preparation for this ceremony. I just spend a few days hand writing my goals into a notebook. I break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly, checking back often and bringing forward whatever I haven't done. It's not a science, but it does set me up for success when I can cross something easy off the list like Have Coffee With Ange.

Do you feel the new year is a time of new beginnings? How do you feel about the short days of winter? Do you find your life is out of balance? What steps are you taking to bring it back to something healthier?

I'd love to send a PDF copy of my Christmas book, Blame The Mistletoe, to one lucky commenter. You can also enter my Goodreads giveaways for print anthologies that include Blame The Mistletoe and Hometown Hero. Both giveaways are open until midnight tonight.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Christmas In Montana by Melissa McClone

Christmas In Montana

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Montana Homecoming by Eve Gaddy

Montana Homecoming

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


Award winning author, Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, erotic romance, and now small-town rancher novellas for Tule's Montana Born imprint. Whatever the genre, Dani always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.

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