Monday, July 21, 2014

I Should Stick to Writing by Jenny Gardiner

            I hate that I'm an arts ignoramus. I wish I were that person who could steep myself in a classical music concert and not want to flee for the exit doors (although in truth, I get tired of even a normal concert after an hour or so and want to be done with that as well).  Or trot out to the ballet and really absorb the beauty before my eyes, rather than fidgeting or clock-watching. But try as I might, I just don't tend to gravitate toward fine art. I guess I'm a déclassé slob.
            I'm ashamed to admit the extent of my fine arts education (or at least that which imprinted in the haze of my brain) sprung from dubious sources. For painting, the board game Masterpiece was my instructor. Yep, my grasp of the Dutch Masters ran to the famed Rembrandt rendering of an old man who looks like an old woman with a feather in his/her cap. American classics? That celebrated all-night diner oil painting by Edward Hopper. I was particularly proud of myself when I recently recognized a spoof of Hopper's painting in the window of an alternative art gallery in Philadelphia. And to think I owe it all to Masterpiece creators, Parker Brothers!
            My appreciation of classical music and opera begins and ends pretty much at the Barber of Seville (make that Rabbit of Seville; thanks, Bugs Bunny). To be fair, I could throw in Elmer Fudd's Wagnerian masterpiece, "Kill the Wabbit!", just to put a finer point on that bonanza of childhood musical education. Likely my aversion toward classical music was further enhanced by my mother and her husband bombarding us with Pachebel's Canon till our ears practically bled. Gimme Bugs Bunny any day over that! In the immortal words of boxer Roberto Durán, no mas!
            The first time I traveled to Italy we hired a tour guide to show us around Florence for a few hours. The guide, an American ex-pat, had majored in Art History during college in the States, and immersed herself in glorious Renaissance art while studying abroad, loving the culture so much she stayed. I was amazed at the breadth of her knowledge and even more so the depth of her passion for the subject matter a double whammy of art and history zeal. Damn! When I was 18 years old, it would not have dawned on me to consider studying art. I thought I needed to pursue an area of study that would lead to a steady income (though recognize in hindsight that journalism didn't made so much sense in that endeavor). But art? I can't even doodle well! Why would I bother?
            Yes, I admit it: I'm a cultural troglodyte.
            I don't doubt that the manner in which history and art are taught contribute to one's ability to ingest it. I had a peculiar professor in a mandatory European history class during college who felt compelled to act out the high (or low) points of a thousand years of Europe, taking on often many roles in each class. I suppose there are those who were on board with it; I just thought it was a weird distraction.
            Yet when I've toured historical venues over the years, I find it most interesting to learn about day-to-day life from so long ago in some way I can better relate to that versus what Charlemagne was up to on his horse. Perhaps if I had approached the study of history and art from a plebian perspective, it would have struck a more familiar nerve, instead of merely ringing hollow. Better yet, perhaps an historical People Magazine-style education would have done it: celebrity gossip from the Middle Ages! Who's cheating on whom! What's popular this week in illuminated manuscripts and Gregorian Chants!
            Drats. Where my interest thrives in useless pop culture, it plummets when it comes to cultured culture.
            One thing I think would have helped immensely is emphasizing the whole notion of history being doomed to repeat itself. The older I get the more I see this again and again, and from this perspective it is ingrained into my brain more readily. It seems not a day goes by when that adage isn't reinforced in the news (Soviets invade Afghanistan; Soviets fail in Afghanistan. America invades Iraq; well, you know the drill.)
            Perhaps I'm taking baby steps toward acquiring some cultural enlightenment. Ish. Making a foray into a classier classicism, if you could dare call it that (granted it was by accident, but whatever works). Several weeks ago we purchased tickets to see Ben Folds in concert at Wolf Trap Farm Park. Folds is a musical genius whose earlier foray into contemporary music featured profanity-laced lyrics that are largely unprintable. He's since evolved, even launching the popular a capella show Sing Off, with nary an f-bomb.
            Too late I realized Folds was performing with the National Symphony Orchestra, which I figured meant I'd be asleep in ten minutes once under the influence of the dulcet strains of the violin section. One person in our group perhaps influenced by an upbringing devoid of musical culture (my bad!) — didn't care for the symphonic component of the program, But most unexpectedly, I was quite mesmerized by the merging of disparate musical genres in such a beautiful way. And when he impulsively composed an orchestral piece on the spot, teaching each part section by section, well, wow. It helped me to really appreciate how disparate instruments (and their masters) get along for the greater good of the group. It gives you a sense of comfort in this sometimes very dark world that ultimately people can work together to achieve something bigger than themselves as individuals.
            Maybe it's never too late to start with this newfound appreciation for the arts. Perhaps in addition to doing a bike or walking tour in the next city I visit, I'll venture into the museum as well. Certainly if they have air conditioning. And maybe a lovely little café. Baby steps, people.

  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street
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 find me on my website

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Midsummer Past-times

Isle of Palms SC

Well, we're into the thick of summer now and in southern NJ where I live I do mean thick -- the heat and humidity can be overwhelming! Temps reach into the 90s and so does the humidity levels. Most of us seek relief in air-conditioned places or pools or the sacred place that we South Jerseyans call 'the shore'. 

(And please do not mistake the REAL Jersey shore for that mess you see on MTV!)

I'm fortunate to live about 45 minutes from some of the best beaches, so day-trips are a favorite past-time -- both when I was a kid and when my kids were little. And some of my favorite vacations were spending a week down there, enjoying the sand and water during the day and then going on the boardwalk at night to play arcade games or miniature golf. 

For me though, I lived in anticipation of true joy -- sitting on the beach with something cold to drink and a book to read. I would slather on the sunscreen, put on the big sunglasses (sadly, now prescription ones! LOL!) and read away. My hubby and I had an agreement that I would get some non-supervisory time on the beach when we went with the boys. 

And the first thing planned and packed was my ample supply of books! 

My boys grew up knowing that if Mom began making a pile of books (and magazines), there was a trip coming. During the heyday of my reading (aka before I began writing romance novels), I would take no fewer than 10 books and 10 magazines for a week-long trip that would include reading time. 

Maui - 2012
 The boys have grown now and we haven't had a shore  vacation in a while, but I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii in 2012 and my goal was a simple one -- to read on a different beach every day of the trip. And I did, since there is beautiful beach after beautiful beach all around the islands. Can you say: ahhhhhhhhhh-loha!?                                                                                                                 So, what kind of summer pasttimes do you look forward to each year? How has your summer been so far this year? What are your plans for the rest of it? No matter what it is, I hope you have time for some reading! 

Speaking of summer activities - I'll be heading off to the Romance Writers of America's Annual Conference in San Antonio TX next week. If you're in the area, I hope you'll come to the Marriott Rivercenter on 7/23 at 5:30pm for the open-to-the-public Book Signing for Literacy party. There will be over 500 romance authors signing and raising money for Literacy projects both locally and nationally. I'll be signing my current book - YIELD TO THE HIGHLANDER! And visit my website or FB page for lots more info about my upcoming books and events! 
Happy Summer everyone! 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Susan Stephens: The End Of A Series

Coming to the end of a four book series leaves me with mixed feelings. I am happy for the characters I've nurtured and cared about, laughed with, and been anxious for, to leave the nest, but I will miss them. After all, Britt, Eva, Leila and Tyr, have been a big part of my life for over a year now.

I have to confess that Tyr holds a special place in my heart. As each of the Skavanga sisters' stories unfurled on my screen, I knew I was coming closer to writing Tyr's story, and I knew it would be exciting for me to write, because I had seen Tyr through his sisters' eyes, and of course, I finally saw Tyr through the eyes of his childhood friend, Jazz.

We all change as we go through life, some more than others, and when a carefree youth goes through war as a serving soldier, he's likely to change more than most. This was Tyr's fate, and we soon discover that in the years Tyr and Princess Jasmina of Kareshi have been apart, things have changed radically for both of them. Jasmina is no longer the tomboy Jazz, Tyr remembers from his youth, but a highly protected princess who believes her duty lies in serving her country, and that her own happiness counts for nothing. And as for Tyr... Tyr has grown dark and distant, and, on the surface at least, he appears to be practically unrecognisable from the youth he once was.

I love it when a heroine is big enough to accept she might have been wrong, as Jazz discovers when she reviews her life to date. But she doesn't sit back and do nothing about it. Oh, no. Jazz regroups and starts to fight back. There's no chance Jazz is going to wait for a hero to ride to her rescue - though in this book, it could be argued that Tyr is the character most in need of rescuing, so I hope you find this strong heroine equal to the task. I certainly did. I love Jazz, and firmly believe that I found my damaged hero the perfect soulmate to help him heal and go forward.

If you would like to read a little extra about my Skavanga Diamond series and how I came up with the idea to combine the elements of ice and fire, you can visit the special dedicated pages on my web site at where you can find the images I have chosen to represent my characters, plus their bios and background information, as well as lots of personal photographs.
Happy hunting!

And because it wouldn't be a Susan Stephens blog without a giveaway, I would love you to share some special friendship you have experienced with us. Make us laugh, make us cry, the essence is in sharing, and there will be a signed copy of one of my books, together with some other small gifts, for one contributor selected at random.

As always, it is a real pleasure for me to be able to connect with my readers, so GOOD LUCK everyone!

With my warmest good wishes to you all,


Friday, July 18, 2014

Maggie Jaimeson: What Shall I Be When I Grow Up?

Today is my 60th birthday. Yes, I have actually been on this earth that long, though I think in my mind I’m still about 28. My body begs disagree, but it is my mind that counts.  When I look back on my life I have been pretty blessed. I’ve enjoyed at least three careers—computer programming and IT management, teacher and academic executive, and now full time author. I love learning and I’ve done it through education and travel and lots and lots of reading—both fiction and non-fiction.

One of the great benefits of being an author is that I am always learning—learning about my characters, learning about the craft of writing, and learning about the people and places and cultures and decisions that impact my characters and their stories. I get to vicariously live many lives through my characters, and most important I get to control the final outcome to be what I want it to be. I get to create a happily ever after no matter what tortuous journey my characters have undertaken.

All of my stories are some reflection of me. I can’t help but do that. It doesn’t mean I’ve personally lived those lives, but I believe our human experiences of grief and joy and discernment are universal no matter the country, the culture, or even a different world than earth. Often the lives of my characters are ones that I dreamed I could have for myself, but never had the guts or the time or funds to pursue them. For example, in my Sweetwater Canyon series I follow five women in an Americana band. I played piano and violin as a child and into high school and college. I had dreams of being in a band, but I never pursued it as a career. I couldn’t imagine supporting myself as a musician even though I often dreamed of it.

In my Forest People fantasy series, my young adult heroine not only has to figure out who she is and what her gifts are, but she has to save not one world but two. And she is only sixteen! I can remember being a teenager and feeling like the world was on my shoulders. I was bound and determine to make a difference and to do the right thing. Figuring out how to do that is really the journey of moving from young adult to adulthood.  I’ve learned that most of us re-evaluate that journey at every decade in our life. My path at 25 was not the same as my path at 40, and now at 60 there is even more that I want to accomplish in my life.

In my new romantic suspense Shadow Finders series, my Marine Corps buddies are backed up by the women who love them. They take on truly evil people, corporations, or governments to save those who are forgotten or lost. Though I grew up at a time when women in combat or as police officers or other typical male roles was not at all common, I still fantasized about being a big hero—whether that was as an EMT or a mercenary or my version of superman as a woman. Yes women can kick butt too, but I would do it with less violence and more thoughtful and permanent changes. Shadow Finders allows me to explore the tension between violence and peace and change while still believing that love conquers all.

What were your dreams for your future? Do you still have some of those dreams? Have your dreams changed over the years? If so, in what way?

Because this is an important birthday for me, I’m giving away a free fiction ebook of your choice. Anyone who answers my question about your dreams for your future can choose any ONE of my currently available fiction titles in the ebook format you desire.

Go to to read more about each of my books. Choose one that appeals to you. Complete this form and I’ll send you the book of your choice.

Happy Reading!

After more than 30 years in careers including software development and training, distance learning, and executive leadership in academic computing, Maggie decided to follow her first love and pursue writing full time. She writes adult fiction in romance and SF under the name Maggie Jaimeson, young adult fiction under the name Maggie Faire, and non-fiction under the name Maggie Lynch. You can find all of her books at 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lilian Darcy: After The Rain

Hi everyone, Here’s the cover of my latest book.

I love it because of its promise.

“Into each life some rain must fall,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and it’s true.

But then, oh then, sometimes when you least expect it, there are those times when the sun comes out and you have a parasol instead of an umbrella, and even the departing clouds suddenly look beautiful, and you’re wearing a dress you love and you have flowers in your hand.

This cover isn’t from an actual scene in the story. It’s more symbolic than that. It’s about what the story promises to the characters if they can just make it through.

And they do!

Kira, Casey, Linnie, good news, the sun is coming out, and it’s all the richer because of the clouds that have gone before.

You can find this women’s fiction novel on all ebook platforms. I’m adding the buy buttons via a link to the Montana Born Books website, because there are so many other great books on that site, I hope you’ll have a good browse.

After The Rain:

How do you stop being angry at someone when they’re gone?
Kira Shepherd Blair’s older sister Neve died eighteen years ago at River Bend Park, on the night of the 1996 Marietta High School senior prom, and Kira is still mired in feelings she can’t resolve. So much of her life has been shadowed by Neve, from the adolescence she spent banished from the family spotlight because Neve was so greedy for it, to the bad marriage she made at twenty-one because she and her parents needed the security and the promise of a future, after Neve’s tragic death.
Kira is working to make a good life for herself and her ten-year-old son Jake after her divorce and is finally starting to feel that she’s getting on track, when Neve’s high school boyfriend Casey “Jay” Brown comes back to Marietta and turns everything upside down.
Casey has never known in his heart how much he was to blame for what happened to Neve that night, but when he and Kira are forced to work together at the renowned Haraldsen Architectural Foundation in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains, she leaves him in no doubt as to her opinion on the issue.
That’s how you stop being angry at someone when they’re gone. You channel your anger onto the man you hold responsible, the man who’s right here, no matter how heart-stoppingly gorgeous he is.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Debra Salonen: Love Me Some Library

Do you remember visiting a library when you were a child? For me, the Carnegie Library in Brookings, South Dakota was my first love, my happy place, my escape from a hectic adult world (my parents ran a taxi company out of our house). Librarians helped shape my love of reading, fuel my addiction to learning and feed my fascination with language and the written word. I will forever be indebted to Andrew Carnegie for taking the initiative to build libraries in small towns around the nation.

I bring up the subject of libraries for two reasons. First, in my new release, Cowgirl Come Home (releasing Friday, July 18, from Tule Press) my heroine's mother, Louise Jenkins, is a librarian. Louise is a complex character that I really grew to love. In fact, she intrigued me so much, I wrote a holiday short story in Louise's point of view. (Her Forever Gift will be free to my newsletter followers later this year.)

Here's a snippet:

But then one evening in mid-December, I stopped at the Marietta Library. Confession: I have always loved libraries. They were/are a haven for a mind like mine. They're both restful and stimulating. I can leave the library excited about some new possibility I discovered or I may amble home all mellow and chill because I spent time in someone else's peaceful, interesting life. If you're wondering, I hadn't considered a career in library management at the time because my parents insisted I become a teacher because teaching was a job that would allow me to be self-sufficient.
That night was special because school was out for the holiday break. I couldn't afford to go back home for Christmas. My new friends were busy with their families. I was completely, utterly alone. And, I admit, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. I decided to treat myself to a stack of books, which I intended to read over the next two weeks.
I parked in the mostly empty parking lot, dashed through the bitter cold, and nearly slipped on a patch of ice on the library steps. A man I hadn't noticed seemed to materialize out of thin air to catch my elbow and help me stumble drunkenly to dry ground. I realized instantly the man was my poet/wanderer/Hippie/peacenik. (In hindsight, he could just as easily have been a murderer/rapist/crazyperson.)
"Thank you, kind sir." Yes, I said those exact words like the true dork I was. "Where did you come from?"
"Saw you running. Knew you wouldn't see the black ice. Told the old b...witch inside but she ignored me."
The idea that a public servant would purposely put patrons at risk upset me to no end, but before I could march inside and give the woman a piece of my mind, my hero said, "She doesn't listen to vagrants, but she might listen to you."

Louise quickly discovers her rescuer's secret: he can't read. And she can't accept that. She can't NOT share her gift...a gift that, in return, rescues him--and opens the door to friendship and love and, above all, possibilities.

Which brings me to my second point. Not long after I began writing Cowgirl Come Home, I was asked to join a grassroots effort to bring a library to my small, mountain community in central California. Three years ago I was part of a group that started a local charter school, so I knew the work involved in creating something from nothing. But, naturally, I said yes. How could I not? My job was to help write the library's Mission Statement. Using social media, I asked my Facebook friends to share memories of their childhood libraries. The results were outstanding.
"A library is a place to share and learn and grow and change."
"...a place to be inspired."
"...a place to be yourself."
"...a place to figure out who you are, individually--and as part of a whole larger community."

Our library committee has passed our first hurdle--the school board, but we still have to win the support of the County Board of Supervisors. Money and budgets are big stumbling blocks. Luckily, we have our own Andrew Carnegie...of sorts. A local woman left behind an endowment earmarked for rural libraries. Bless you, Tilly Stroming, for your fabulous gift. You might be the reason some child someday is writing a blog about the importance a library had in her life.

I'd love to hear your memories/opinions of libraries. I may wind up using quotes when we take our petition public. I'll draw one winner from the answers to send the following prize package:

Two autographed books from my backlist (if you've read either or both, other titles available), Ghost DVD starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, cookies, gift cards, gel pens, notes and some great Tule Publishing swag.

Also, please sign up for my newsletter HERE to be the first to see my release day link and stay abreast of all my upcoming books, including Book I in my Big Sky Mavericks series, which opens with Nobody's Cowboy on August 28.

***Debra's winner is Penney!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Michelle Styles: Stumbling across gold nuggets

At the weekend, while doing some research for my latest work in progress, I stumbled across something that might help answer one of the great historical mysteries — why did the Vikings attack Lindisfarne in 793 AD , in a bolt from the blue?
No one knows for certain. Many theories exist.
One thing for certain is that the Vikings did have trade with Charlemagne, did know about the lands to the West and indeed there are reports dating from before 793 of North men. . What they were not supposed to have was warships that were capable of travelling across the seas.
So why attack Lindisfarne?
When I wrote Taken by the Viking in 2006, the most plausible theory that I read  was that it was a trading mission gone wrong. There is precedent for thinking this. It is what happened in East Anglia a few years later. The Vikings wanted gold and silver. They either traded for it or they took items which cold be traded.
However, recent books, most notably the Hammer and the Cross by Robert Ferguson (2010) speculated about Charlemagne and his muscular Christianity (basically he was fond of invading pagan kingdoms). He thought that maybe the Vikings were reacting against this and this is why they became so violent after years of successful trading. He doesn’t satisfactorily explain why the Vikings would attack Northumbria to get back at Charlemagne though. He did mention that Charlemagne was not very keen on trading with pagans and it was possible that they had gone in search of new markets as traditional markets were being closed to them..
  Max Adams in his 2013 book King of the North  briefly mentions the Viking problem and speculates that perhaps it is to due with the Northumbrian situation. They had turned more towards God than being warriors. But he didn’t have any explanation as why then. But it got me thinking. What did Northumbria have to do with it? Why target their holy sites?
My research from the immediate post Lindisfarne raid threw up a couple of interesting points. There is a brief mention that King Eardwulf (796 -806) married a daughter of Charlemagne.  Alcuin who hailed from Northumbria was also at Charlemagne’s court.
If Northumbria was in alliance with Charlemagne and the Vikings (whoever they were – most likely from Norway around Oslo aka Viken) had grievance against them because of this, it is entirely possible they attacked Lindisfarne with premeditation to send a message to Charlemagne. If Northumbria was an ally, then it might be a way of attacking them by proxy.  The Anglo Saxon chronicles lists all North men as Danes, but recent advances in looking at teeth and where they came from has shown that the Norwegians tended to raid more in the North and over to Ireland. The Danes were definitely at war with Charlemagne though.
Equally it could be that because of the alliance, following Charlemagne’s lead,  Northumbrians refused to trade with pagans. And the North men reacted – either then and there or with pre-meditation, travelling from one of the many trading towns. Or possibly, even as a warship from Scandinavia.
The next year 794, the North men again attacked Northumbria, this time in Jarrow where St Bede’s monastery was. This raid, however did not go as the North men planned, the Viking leader was killed and thanks to a storm (dubbed St Cuthbert’s storm) the boats were shipwrecked  and the surviving North men killed.  Unfortunately as far as I can determine, no tangible trace of this raid has been found  as it is quite probable that they came from same general area as the 793 lot.
Notwithstanding the threat from the North men, Northumbria then dissolves into one of its many civil wars in 796 where Eardwulf emerges as the winner.  He then has to hold the throne against several rival claimants (and various pagan raids)  before he is banished in 806, but returns in 808 with Charlemagne’s help.  Basically Game of Thrones has nothing on English Dark Age politics. It is enough to make your head spin!
But I love doing research and finding out bits that make history more accessible.
In other news:
UK version

US version.
My latest cover arrived in my inbox last month. I was intrigued to see that they had reversed the covers in the UK and the US!  I am not sure which one I like better...Saved will be going out in NA print retail so I am v. excited about this.
 Only last week I was given the exciting news that my latest –TAMING HIS VIKING WOMAN has sold.  I also signed a new contract and am currently writing the second book in that contract -- the reason for doing research on Northumbria!

Michelle Styles writes war, witty and intimate historical romance of Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods, including Viking. Saved by the Viking Warrior will be published on 19 August 2014. has an excerpt.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Christina Hollis - The Dangers of Pure Imagination
Walters Art Museum
I've just finished writing a novel, Bright Danger, which  centres around the discovery of a priceless work of art. Everything about my story is completely fictional, including the beautiful gold and lapis necklace at its heart. I work with inspiration boards pinned with pictures of locations and characters to keep me on track, but there was one glaring omission from Bright Danger's Work In Progress file. I didn't have a picture of the necklace, because it didn't exist.

The idea had come to me in a dream one night. It was after a visit to the British Museum, although as far as I know my imaginary necklace is unique. When I scribbled down the details next morning (I knew keeping a notebook beside the bed was a good idea!) I didn't realise this would pose any sort of problem. It's only now, when I'm going to be working with a cover artist, that I've discovered a big problem. I can't find pictures of anything online that remotely resembles the pictures inside my head.

The closest I've come to it is the beautiful Byzantine necklace you can see here (above). Unfortunately, it's more likely to have been worn by Elena in my latest release, Jewel Under Siege, than by Julia from Ancient Rome. All this has made me  think twice about the things to include in my next book. Online, images are everything. If a picture can't be produced, a piece lacks impact. Bright Danger will definitely have a suitable picture on the cover, but how closely it fits with my idea is something that will need work.

I wish now I'd found a picture to write about, rather than relying on pure imagination. I'm not keen on the idea of sorting out loads of royalty-free images for an inspiration board before I start writing my next book. It might take away all the spontanaeity. On the other hand, I might come across something unexpected which fires my imagination. Don't you love being distracted like that, when you should be looking for something else entirely?

Have you ever been inspired by a work of art? Comment to be entered into a lucky dip for the chance to win a signed book from my backlist.

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction - when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with her at, on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at If you'd like to keep up to date with the progress of Bright Danger, email Christina at christinahollis(at)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Just One Thing

 I wrote an article called Sunday Books for a magazine a few months back.  It centered around writing books of your heart.  Just One Thing was just that for me...a book of my heart.  I wrote it knowing it couldn't be pigeoned holed into a designation.  It's a romance, but it's also very much women's fiction.  It's the heroine's journey, though the hero's story is told as well.  It tells a story that has tragedy, but it also tells a story that's filled with hope and beauty.  It tells… 

Let's just say, it's a story that I longed to tell even though I knew it wouldn't fit easily into any publisher's guidelines. 

And it's been just over a month since it's been released.  I'm so thrilled that readers seem to be responding to it.

I think they can relate because almost everyone has experienced some profound loss that fundamentally alters their world.  Almost everyone understands that kind of pain.  And if we're lucky, we've all had friends who've stepped in and helped us through those dark times.  

I have a friend like that.   When we lost my mother-in-law, who was also one of my best friends, I called Lori.  She lives in Alaska now, but at the time she was living in Virginia and was on her way home from visiting Alaska.  She got off the plane in Virginia, got in her car and drove to Pennsylvania to be here.

 So I wrote a book with that kind of friend.  The kind who would throw everything aside in order to lend a shoulder.  
I wrote the book I longed to write, not sure that it would ever come out from under my 'bed.'  I was so very lucky to find editors who understood my vision and embraced the book, despite the fact it was an unusual romance. And I've been so very lucky to find so many readers who could relate to my heroine's going through.  So many who understood having a friend who had your back, offered a shoulder and kicked your butt when you needed it.

It's been a month since Just One Thing hit the shelves. For me it's been a month of just one lovely thing after another.  And I want to thank everyone who's given the story a try.  I've had so many touching emails from people who've understood, related with, and embraced Lexie and Sam's journey.

 The last month has been filled with very good moments!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Escapism - Kate Walker

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks.

Ok,  who am I kidding – it’s been a tough  couple of months  - and the last two weeks have been particularly hard. One of those times when life  gets up and bites you and turns the peace and quiet you’d been hoping for upside down.

My dearest friend – we’ve been friends for over 33 years  and we met when our sons were both in playgroup -  has been fighting breast cancer for  almost 3 years.  But she’s  been losing that fight recently and  3 weeks ago she had to go in to hospice care where she could get the best possible help. At the same time I was called up for jury  service . This meant a long train journey  to travel to the court – sometimes with a long wait between trains if the timings were wrong. Then there were  long difficult hours  in the court.
Sometimes these were spent  waiting and waiting for something to happen. And at other times the jury was actually in the court – and that was not exactly fun by anyone’s description.

Rarely, if ever, have I been so grateful for a good book.  There was all that extra travelling. When I’m used to getting dressed, making a cup of coffee and walking through a door into my office, the trip to the railway station,  train journey, walk to the court – and back at the end of the day, seemed  really long and tiring ion contrast.  The sitting about waiting for something to happen  - well, I’d been warned, so I had preloaded my kindle with plenty to read.

And then at the weekend I was warned that my friend had taken a turn for the worse.  Sadly she died two days later.  I’ve been  feeling lost as so so sad at this and once again I found that the only way to escape from the miserable day was  to bury myself in a book.

So I’ve read plenty -  Last Year’s Bride by Anne McAllister and  Second Chance Bride by Trish Morey were great company in the jury room.  Liz Fielding’s  For His Eyes Only and  This House is Haunted by John Boyne   helped those train journeys  pass. And  a great psychological thriller Precious Thing by Colette McBeth  kept me focusing on its mystery and tension when I couldn’t cope with much else.

If ever I wanted a classic example of why ‘escapist’ books are so valuable – contrary to the opinions of those who  might look down their noses at ‘light reads’.   These books were friends when I needed them, distractions when I needed distraction, and fillers of empty spaces of time when I wanted  that.

Some years ago I received an email from a reader  who wrote to tell me how much she had enjoyed one of my older books – His Miracle Baby. That’s always a welcome event but this time it was particularly lovely to read this one. The book had originally been bought by this reader’s mother who then passed it on to her
daughter when she had to get on a plane to visit her sick father in another state in USA.  Knowing her daughter was fearful of flying, she gave it to her to read on the flight, and it distracted her from the worry she normally felt.  That was good enough for me but there was more.

At the hospital, waiting for news of her father, she finished the book – shared it with her sister, her aunt, even her male cousin. It helped distract them from their worries,  fill those anxious hours.  And then, when everyone in the family had read it, the nursing staff – particularly those on duty at night – were able to share it and relax during their long shifts in the dark hours. 

Luckily my reader’s father recovered, which was great news. But as a writer the great news for me was the way that my light romance novel provided the perfect escapee from stress and worry for people who needed it. I’ve experienced that for myself this past few weeks and I’m truly grateful to the people who wrote the books who helped me through some difficult days.

It’s another reason why I’m proud to write what I do – why I’m never insulted or feel criticised when what I write is  described as escapist. That’s fine by me. And if I what I wrote helps someone through a hard time then I’m doubly pleased – couldn’t be more so.

What about you? Have  you read a particular book that helped you through a bad time?  Or is there one you turn to again and again knowing it will cheer you up when you’re feeling down? I hope so.

A Question of Honour  - or A Question of Honor depending on whether you're reading the Mills and  Boon Modern edition or the  Harlequin  Presents one  is out now .

And the new, revised and updated Kindle edition  of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide
to Writing Romance is now available on Amazon  at a much lower price than the old paperback.

You can find out more about Kate Walker and her books over on her web site  which has just been updated with new information added.

And there is all the up to date news on her blog   or Facebook page

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Latest Crush

by Anna Campbell

I think this might be a companion piece for my May column about how much I love stationery. Sort of the horror version of the story! Well, horror for any paper product within reach, anyway!

I'm currently clearing out years and years of junk/treasures as I prepare the house to go on the market at the end of the year. Last month I shared a gorgeous childhood book I found. I suspect there will be more than one blog here about the joys of packing up after years in one place! And I use "joys" ironically.

Paperwork has proliferated in this process. I was ripping it up as I found it, but I have to say that got old VERY quickly. So I went on the hunt to buy a shredder. After a few hiccups, I picked up a Lowell that has become my latest crush (bet you thought I was going to talk about George Clooney or Richard Armitage when you saw that title!).

I'd never used a shredder before and I have to say in my naivety, I imagined I was getting something whose joys would be purely practical. But I've since discovered that there's something mind-bogglingly satisfying about munching up the detritus of years (and it is years - I've got electricity bills here in Mum and Dad's paperwork that I swear go back to before they invented electricity!). It's a fabulous stress release, works out any aggression, and leaves you with a wonderful sigh of satisfaction to rival the end of a great romance novel.

The fruits of my labors - boxes of shredding ready for the recycling!
What's not to love?

Well, the machinery is rather noisy but that's part of the fun. And it heats up fairly quickly so I have to be careful not to love my darling to death.

And oh, my goodness, is my house covered in a mixture of paper dust and little curly white worms of paper. The vacuum cleaner has been out a LOT lately.

Danger! Danger! Shredding in process!
Still, nothing can take away from the fun of seeing one's history become piles of little pieces of paper. It's so cathartic!

Do you own a shredder? Do you have fun with any of your office equipment? Should I seek counselling over my new obsession? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Boys of Summer : : Anne McAllister

When I was growing up, the boys of summer were baseball players.  And we watched a lot of baseball in my family. 

When my kids were growing up, they played a lot of baseball – on the street and in leagues – especially our oldest son who seems to have inherited what we have referred to as “the baseball gene.”  The apples didn’t fall far from his tree, either. All four of his boys play baseball.  Not just in the summer, either.  Even in Iowa they somehow manage to play all year round. 

e sign 3But summer is when we go watch them play, which we did this past weekend when the oldest, playing now in a Minnesota college league, was on the field near his hometown.  It’s always fun.

Most summers, too, we either tune in early or set the DVR and record the Tour de France. Those ‘boys of summer’ are exciting to watch, too.  Talk about endurance and stamina and sheer guts just for riding in such close confines where road rash and broken bones are a split second away. 

Clint_Dempsey_vs_Kevin_Mirallas_USA_vs_BelgiumThey provide daily examples of focus and determination and a lot of those ‘heroic’ qualities that I look for in my heroes.  I haven’t ever written a bike racer, but Freya North did some years back. Very entertaining.

It is, too, a lovely way to see a lot of France – which is quite gorgeous, especially on an HD TV.  Sometimes I find myself watching for the geographic scenery, not just for the men!

And this summer, of course, there has been the World Cup to watch. Not regularly ‘boys of summer’ – at least not in their club football – but every four years we get to watch the national teams who have qualified battle each other for soccer/football supremacy.

Again, stamina, endurance, and determination are on display for the better part of a month.  Not to mention the sheer physical spectacle of very fit men in shorts.  I’ve had a hard time focusing on my revisions.  I keep getting distracted!

If you haven’t bothered until now, you still have plenty of opportunity to get into the Tour de France. It’s still in the first week.  The World Cup Final ends this weekend, so you can catch the top two teams, Germany and Argentina, kicking it out on Sunday afternoon (in the US and South America), on Sunday evening in Europe, and sometime in the middle of the night the following day if you’re down under. 

Worth a look!

Do you watch sports? Which ones?  Feel free to add to my list of revision-avoidance activities. 

(soccer photo: Erik Daniel Drost, Flickr, wikimedia commons)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Cover art -- Kandy Shepherd

 Covers are so important, aren’t they? For books and magazines they are the first meeting between publisher and reader and do a lot to entice readers to buy the book—or at the least pick it up.

In my former life as a magazine editor-in-chief I was fanatical about covers, knowing what an influence they had on sales. We spent so much time on getting covers as right as we could get them. Our circulations people who would let the editorial team know in no uncertain terms why they thoughts sales had dipped or peaked.

When I edited a gardening magazine we had to plan our covers a year ahead. If, for example, we wanted to feature lilac on the cover we had to photograph a lilac cover in spring one year to feature on the next spring cover. The production cycle being what it was, we were getting those covers ready in the winter when lilac bushes were totally dormant! Same with rose covers (often best-sellers!), pansies or tulips.

Roses go well on the covers of gardening magazines (these are from my garden)

On food magazines, we had to do the same thing with seasonal fruit and vegetables. Cherries were a particular problem. Cherries are a favorite fruit at Christmas in Australia (Christmas is in summer Down Under) and we really liked to have fresh cherries in our Christmas recipes. So again, cherry covers had to be shot a year ahead. Christmas issues are usually worked on in September. There is not a fresh cherry to be found in either hemisphere of the world at that time. I know from experience!

You have to plan ahead for cherries on a food magazine cover (also from my garden) 

When I self-published novels I was determined to have good covers. I’m sure The Castaway Bride would not have been the best-seller it was without the lovely cover! (It was designed by the amazing Kim Killion at the The Killion Group.)

 I have truly been blessed by the cover gods for The Tycoon and The Wedding Planner my July 2014 release from Harlequin Romance. I just love this cover. To me it is deeply romantic and sensual in a subtle way. I love the way the cover models represent the story and I especially love the heroine’s gorgeous hair.

The Australian edition of the novel used the same image in a slightly different way. Again I love it!

The UK cover is also romantic and lovely and beautifully represents the story inside

How important are covers to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’m giving away a signed copy of The Tycoon and The Wedding Planner. To be in the draw, please include your e-mail address in your comment.

Kandy’s second Dolphin Bay story for Harlequin Romance, The Tycoon and The Wedding Planner is on sale now.

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

Visit Kandy at her website

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