Tuesday, October 21, 2014

So Sorry for the Apologetic Post ;-) by Jenny Gardiner

I used to play a lot of tennis, back before my crotchety knees and a few other rickety joints decided they weren't on board with the program and thus brought that fun to a screeching halt. I loved to play the game, but I found that I (and many of my cohorts on the courts) had the unfortunate habit of apologizing for every whiff. And trust me, I whiffed plenty. Apologies were so rife that I entertained the idea of designing a brand of women's tennis clothes called "Sorry!" I think my game would have shortened by a good fifteen minutes minus the redundant apologies.
I'm afraid women are particularly adept at excessive apologizing. Perhap it's a culturally-ingrained thing, hard to say. Although I doubt it's such a great character trait—it must speak to self-esteem issues for one to feel the need to do so too much. And while apologies at times are essential, I guess even more important would be forgiveness, a practice with which most of us aren't particularly skillful.
I've had forgiveness on the brain since hearing a philosophy- and ethics-themed program on National Public Radio the other day, in which two philosophers pondered when and where forgiveness is acceptable, or even essential. A man called the show and proclaimed that he'd decided recently that from here on out, he would neither forgive nor forget, because whoever the violator or perpetrator is suffers no consequences for their transgressions when you forgive them. The hosts suggested that forgiveness isn't actually for those who have done wrong, but rather for those who need to release their anger or sadness, to free their soul, and went on to speculate that the caller was merely imprisoning himself in a web of rage and resentment. Who's the loser in that scenario?
I can't help but agree. Forgiveness does free the soul, it does enable you to purge a world of misery, providing you're actually able to undertake the action for real, not simply pay lip service to it. I have been trying (when I remember to, once I stop being so angry!) to work on this skill. It is an action that needs some regular flexing, exercising those tools that aren't so capably used in our society. Say someone cuts you off in traffic. Of course you want to yell at him, perhaps even flip him off. But what if it was erroneous? Maybe he was having a bad day. Or his mother just died, or his wife left him. So many times I've judged someone for their ugly behavior, only to realize in hindsight that they had real reasons for what they did. Not good reasons, necessarily, perhaps nothing particularly justifiable, even. But understandable reasons behind their bad actions. Maybe instead of my ire, they needed my empathy. So with the wisdom of age, I'm trying to accept and respect that the middle-fingered digital salute isn't always the answer. Trust me, I'm a work in progress with this effort, and my genetically-honed temper often gets the best of me, despite my occasionally magnanimous intentions.
I read a great book about an Israeli man and a Palestinian man, both of whose fathers were murdered by the other's countrymen. For years they both festered with anger, desire for revenge, and untenable loathing. But independently they both grew to understand that this simmering toxicity didn't help them to live well, that it held them back, and only fueled irrational bitterness. Eventually they joined forces to work for a higher peace, to help troubled teens turn around, and to help their parents understand how they could all work together to solve their relational problems.
I think of a woman I'd read about once, whose son was murdered by another man. This woman chose to embrace her son's executioner, to take him in as her own. Now out of jail, he shares a life with her and operates under perhaps a genteel penitence through the grace of this woman's ability to forgive. What a remarkable level of serenity must lie beneath her to be able to do this. Maybe she proves that just as humans have the capacity to inflict the most abhorrent violence on others, so, too, do we have the ability to rise above the worst that life has to offer us. Perhaps only a select few ever discover that internal grace that can allow them to reach that level. It's certainly one we can all aspire to.
Lately, I can't help but be reminded of the many cases of young people who have disappeared in my neck of the woods in Central Virginia in the past several years, most —assumedly all —victims of unspeakable violence. And I wonder how we collectively could ever forgive those whose monstrous acts that stole beautiful young lives and left a ripple effect of destruction well beyond their immediate families. I don't know if forgiveness is possible. I don't know how to be so evolved as to be able to forgive such heinous acts.
But I hope and pray for the healing of all in this community and especially for the immediate families of these young victims, so that at some point perhaps we can access that place, if only not to corrode from the anger. I struggle to imagine how those parents could ever release the rage, the eviscerating grief, to let go of it and forgive a fellow human being who could perpetrate such ungodly acts upon their innocent child. It's beyond the scope of comprehension. But for those who have that ability in them, I don't doubt it makes life somewhat more livable.
Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)
find me on Facebook: fan page
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find me on my website

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Back in Time with Historical Romance on November 1st!

  On the weekend of November 1st--which is the end of Daylight Savings Time--more than 200 romance authors of the Historical Romance Network will be celebrating the diversity of historical romances by asking readers (all of you!) to show the world that we love and read historical romances. How do you do that? 

  Here’s all you need to do:

1. Take a selfie with a favourite/recently read Historical Romance.

2. Post it to social media sites starting on 10 am CST 1 November 2014. Please include the hashtag #FallBackinTime. If pictures start sneaking out on the 31st and continue through the 2nd that’s okay, too!

3. "LIKE" our Historical Romance Network facebook page and join the event on Nov. 1st!

4. Spread the word about our love for historical romance through tweets and facebook posts. Here are some generic tweets you can use:

#FallBackinTime to your first historical romance! This was mine: (pix)
#FallBackinTime with this historical romance! (pix)
#FallBackinTime Look, it’s me in the [middle ages/regency era/etc]
If I could #FallBackinTime, it’d be to this book, this era: (pix)
Where would you #FallBackinTime to? I'd go here: (pix)
My favorite time machine is a book. #FallBackinTime (pix)
Escape with a historical romance #FallBackin Time. I do! (pix)

Historical Romance Network social media sites:

And here's a flyer you can share on your FB page or wherever else you'd like....

So, I hope you ARE reading and loving historical romances and I hope you'll join us in celebrating them on November 1st!  But why wait, give me some hints about which ones are your favorites? 

As you can see from the flyer, Jo Beverly's The Shattered Rose is one of my favorites! 

Terri is working on the second in her upcoming NOVELS OF THE STONE CIRCLES series for NAL - RAGING SEA will follow RISING FIRE in 2015. Visit her website or FB page or page for lots more info! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Kendall Talbot: Learning to Survive

When a small plane crashes into Australia’s Kakadu National Park, the survivors think they’re lucky to be alive, until rescuers never come.

Lost In Kakadu, winner of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year (RUBY) offers a survival theme, fabulous Australian setting, secrets, grief, adventure, and of course a happy ending, what more could you want? Lost in Kakadu is also the only romance ever to be set in Kakadu National Park, some 20,000 hectares of virgin Australian bush.

I did many crazy things while researching this book. I hiked in our sweltering Australian bush until my blisters almost needed their own postcode. I ate witchetty grubs that I dug from my garden, not only so I could describe their weird texture and nutty flavour but also so I could see what they did when I tossed them onto a hot pan. I made slingshots with my bras and actually hit the target a few times. I sat in the bush in the pouring rain and smelt the damp leaves, listened to the raindrops filtering through the foliage and tasted tree sap straight off the bark. I also experimented with baked beans, flour, coffee and sugar until my family complained I was torturing them. You’ll have to read the book to understand why. I did many other things that had my family assessing my sanity. But it was all worth it.

My leading lady is a pretentious socialite, and learning to live in such a brutal environment takes her to shattering point. But as the weeks thread into months her Botox fades, her makeup runs out and the physical labor shapes her body into a lean sensual figure she’s proud of. As she gathers the pieces of her sanity she discovers a new woman within her who's not afraid to wield an axe or eat snails in order to survive. The pompous façade disappears and a strong, passionate and resourceful woman emerges with a wicked sense of humor and a fierce determination to live.

Have I enticed you enough to buy my book? It’s costs less than a cup of coffee, and will last much longer.  Click on the links below to purchase:

If you crashed into the jungle, what’s the one thing you couldn’t live without? For a chance to win a free eBook of Lost In Kakadu, leave a comment below.
Winner will be announced after 25th October on my facebook page: 

You can find out more about my crazy life at Or on twitter: kendallbooks

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lauri Robinson: Happy Birthday!

To me. Today, October 18th, is my birthday. I’m the seventh of eight children, six boys and two girls. When my parents learned they were expecting again, my father told the doctor to make sure this one was a girl. (My sister is eleven years older than me.) The doctor then gave my mother pre-natal vitamins (tablets that were half blue/half pink) and told her to swallow the pink end first. Until the day he died, my father claimed he wasn’t surprised I was a girl.

He wasn’t ‘big’ on being surprised.

I inherited that from him.

Picture explanation—this was taken at my granddaughter’s birthday. Our family is ‘big’ on birthday parties and everyone is expected to dress accordingly. That year it was a princess party, I was dressed as a snow queen. I believe this picture was snapped when the cake almost hit the floor. 

This year I plan on celebrating quietly. Dinner out is all I need. I’ve had the big parties. The pajama parties when I was young. Years later, the ones where it hurt to open my eyes the next morning. After that came the sentimental ones, like the time my hubby and sons forgot about the ice cream cake on the backseat of the van. And then there were the surprise parties. Oh, who could forget them? As if hitting those monumental BIG O’s wasn’t enough.

I’ve had three such events. Three. Not to scorn the people who worked so hard to pull them off, but to be frank, I loathe surprise birthday parties. The last one, just two years ago, I innocently agreed to ride to town for a short errand, only to end up in a banquet room (my sons and their wives went all out) in comfortable clothes—which means nothing was being held in or up—and no make-up, surrounded by a horde of people ready to party the night away. I didn’t even have my glasses so couldn’t read the cards everyone else was laughing their behinds off while reading. (My youngest drove home and got my glasses for me, bless his heart.)

To me, surprise parties are like that moment when you step out of the shower and discover someone else in the bathroom. Startled, you attempt to jump back over the rim of the tub and get tangled in the shower curtain. The rod lets loose, hitting your head before the sharp metal end lands on your big toe, right after it managed to hit the water knob—the cold one—which blasts you in the face.

That is exactly how I feel when entering a room full of people shouting, “Surprise!” Like a turtle on its back, arms and leg flaying. Butt naked.

In the bathroom you ultimately come to the realization the other person isn’t a mass murderer ready to stab you with a kitchen knife, it’s just your husband looking for the dental floss. However, at the party, you’re stuck with people describing their impression of how your face looked when you entered the room. Or sharing the pictures they’d snapped like the one above. (That one made its debut on facebook before the party was even over.)

Don’t get me wrong, the birthday parties have all been fun. I feel blessed to have such a thoughtful family and honored so many chose to celebrate birthday milestones with me. BUT, I have told my family, no more surprise parties.

On the other hand, I like small surprises. A bouquet of flowers, or unexpected phone call. A REAL letter in the mailbox. Finding money in the dryer, or in a coat pocket you haven’t worn for years.
My hubby is good at little ones. While I was in Texas this summer for the RWA conference, I discovered an envelope in an obscure zipper of my suitcase (one of those top one you never use). It held a Hershey’s Kiss and a sweet note saying he hoped I was having fun. Along with a post-it note that said, “Go shopping” stuck to a hundred dollar bill. (Yeah, he’s good at little surprises and knows me well.)

I love those kinds of surprises. It’s the caught-naked-with-nothing-but-a-shower-curtain ones I don’t like.    

How about you? Do you like to be surprised or not?

The heroine, Marie Hall, in The Wrong Cowboy which will be released November 1st, isn’t fond of surprises, but is determined to do anything for the six children in her care.

Here’s a short snippet when she meets Stafford Burleson—not Mick Wagner as she’d expected:

Tipping the edge of his hat back, and giving her a very penetrating stare from eyes that looked to be as gray as a storm cloud, the man acted as if he wasn’t going to answer her questions.
Marie’s nerves started jumping faster than the grasshoppers the twins had been chasing. She’d been charging things in Mr. Wagner’s name since leaving Chicago. Soon the bills would be more than she’d be able to repay. That wasn’t her major concern—the children were—but with each day that passed, their financial situation had started to trouble her more and more.
Finally, when the air in her lungs had built up a tremendous pressure from his stare, Mr. Burleson said, “I’m here to take you to Mick’s place.”
It wasn’t the answer she’d expected, but her sigh was so long she wondered if her toes had been holding air. When it was all out, she nodded. “Well, thank you. We’ve been expecting he’d send someone.” In truth she’d been praying Mick Wagner would come to collect them, or send someone, but she’d never allow the children to know she’d been worrying about the outcome of their adventure.
The man nodded. “We can head out in an hour.”
“An hour?” Still shaky with relief, it took Marie a moment to process his statement. Her thoughts shifted to everything that needed to be done before they left, and she shook her head. “That’s not possible. We’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
Mr. Burleson’s stormy eyes glared again. “We’ll leave in an hour.”
“No, we won’t.” She spun about, gestured to the children. “Gather your playthings. It’s time to return to our hotel rooms.”
They minded without question, for once, and she turned back to the man. “We’ll be ready to leave tomorrow morning, after breakfast.”
“It’s barely noon,” he said. “We can get a good number of miles under our belt yet today.”
“Tonight is bath night, Mr. Burleson,” she said, holding her ground. When it came to the children and their needs she’d argue until the sun set—dealing with the solicitor back in Chicago had taught her to not back down. No matter how frightening it was. “I will not have the children’s schedule upset.”
“You will not—”
“That’s correct,” she interrupted. “I will not.” No good nursemaid would, and she was the best nursemaid that had ever come out of Miss Wentworth’s training course. The owner herself had said as much. Marie had a document that proclaimed it in writing. She’d used it as a testimonial when interviewing for positions. Not that she’d need it anymore. Abandoning the Meeker children was something she’d never do. That’s what she’d told Mr. Phillips, the solicitor, back in Chicago, as well as several other people who’d suggested such a thing. She’d been hired as their nursemaid, and she would fulfill her duties.
The children had gathered around again, holding their toys and looking at her expectantly. So was Mr. Burleson. With so much to do, Marie couldn’t waste any time. “You can see to the hotel bill and the train fares, Mr. Burleson, and then bring the wagon around. A large number of our possessions can be loaded this afternoon.”
“Hotel bill? Train fares?”

Marie and Stafford are in for several more surprises before their story ends.

I have two advance copies of The Wrong Cowboy to give away. Just leave a comment telling me about one of your best—or most startling—surprises to be entered in the drawing. There may be a little something extra that goes along with the books. (One thing I didn’t mention is that I do like instigating surprises. I inherited that from my father, too. April Fool’s Day was his favorite.) Be sure to include your email address along with your comment. Our wonderful host, Lee, will randomly draw the winners and their names will be posted at the bottom of this post.

Thanks for joining me here today! If you’d like to, I’d be honored to connect with you elsewhere:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Character Pets: Nova and Virtus from Jill Archer’s Noon Onyx Series

The Noon Onyx stories are set in a dark world. Armageddon is over and the demons won. Although this post-apocalyptic world is far from perfect, beauty, goodness, light, and love still exist.

From the beginning, I wanted to create a dramatic, unique world where my main character could experience moral conflicts, solve intellectual puzzles, fight deadly monsters, and fall in love. In fact, the stories are as much about Noon’s relationships with other characters as they are about her academic challenges and off-campus adventures.

Two characters that were especially fun to write about were the four-footed ones: Nova and Virtus.
Nova is Noon’s barghest. Telling you that is somewhat of a spoiler because Noon doesn’t adopt Nova until the end of White Heart of Justice, but if you haven’t read the books yet, I’m betting you need a little encouragement and maybe this post will pique your interest. :-)

What the heck is a barghest?

It’s a goblin dog – a hellhound – from British folklore. Other names for it are the Demon of Tidworth, the Black Dog of Winchester, the Padfoot of Wakefield, and the Barghest of Burnley. Its appearance is considered incredibly unfortunate. It often portends death. It has fiery eyes, huge teeth, and razor-sharp claws. In other words, this is not a dog you want to curl up on the couch with.

But all of this means that a barghest is the ideal companion for Noon. (She’s training to be a demon peacekeeper; poodles, pugs, even pit bulls weren’t going to be tough enough to hang with her). She doesn’t need a dog you can curl up with. She needs a loyal monster who’s not afraid of rogare demons!

And what about Virtus? Who’s he?

Virtus was actually introduced a book earlier than Nova, in Fiery Edge of Steel. He’s a resplendent feline beast – an “exotic” tiger who lives in a land where most of the dangerous creatures are demons. He belongs to Fara Vanderlin, a Guardian Angel who becomes one of Noon’s close friends.

Virtus (which is Latin for courage, btw) is strong and sleek. Looks-wise, he is everything Nova is not. Nova has grub-laced gums, horrible breath, and mangy fur, whereas Virtus has pearly-white teeth, a glossy pelt, and bright eyes.

Do Nova and Virtus get along?

Ha! Now revealing that really would be a spoiler. For now, I’ll simply echo Noon’s thoughts on their first meeting (see the excerpt below – Ivy is Noon’s roommate and Fitz is Ivy’s cousin; they’re all good friends).

If you are interested in reading more about barghests, check out these links:

If you are interested in reading more about my pets (who also served as partial inspiration for Virtus and Nova), check out these links:

I’m giving away a signed set of Noon Onyx novels – all three books: Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. U.S. only due to mailing costs. Leave a comment, answer any of my questions, or ask your own to enter to win. 

Do you have pets? Dogs? Cats? Something more exotic?
Who is your favorite four-footed character?
What neat monster out of myth or folklore do you think would make a good pet?

Thank you, Lee, for inviting me to guest blog today!

Excerpt from White Heart of Justice
“I saw you got a dog,” Fara said.
I bristled. “A barghest.” As if anyone would mistake a barghest for a dog . . . I knew Fara was teasing though. She loved to try to get a rise out of me and I loved her for it. My mock frown turned into a grin, but quickly disappeared when both Ivy and Fitz started shouting at once. Ivy wanted to make it absolutely clear that she would not, under any circumstances, sleep next to a barghest. She’d just gotten used to Virtus, Fara’s tiger, and now she was expected to live with a barghest?! Besides, no barghest would even fit in Room 112 of Megiddo. Where on earth was I going to keep it?
“Her, not it,” I corrected. “Her name’s Nova.”
“Nova,” Fara said, amused. “That’s cute.”
Fitz, on the other hand, just wanted to make it absolutely clear that I could not, under any circumstances, allow anyone else but him to dog sit.
“She’s not a dog,” I cried, groaning.
“I wonder how she’ll get along with Virtus,” Fitz said. We all looked at each other, eyebrows raised, considering—and then we burst out laughing. Their first meeting wouldn’t be dull, that’s for sure.


Noon Onyx has been accepted into the prestigious St. Lucifer’s Law School where her mother hopes she’ll be trained as a Maegester. But Noon doesn’t want to control demons, set fires, or destroy things. She wants to become a Mederi so she can grow gardens and heal people.

Noon's best friend, Peter Aster, is an Angel spellcaster who thinks he has the answer to Noon's predicament - an ancient, mysterious, lost spell that can turn Noon into the Mederi she always wanted to be. Only one person stands in the way of Noon's dream - Ari Carmine, a fellow classmate who seems fascinated by Noon's fiery side.

Noon Onyx is the first woman in memory to wield waning magic. Her unique abilities, paired with a lack of control and reluctance to kill, have branded her as an outsider from her peers. Only her powerful lover, Ari Carmine, and a roguish and mysterious Angel, Rafe Sinclair, support her unconventional ways.

When Noon is shipped off to a remote outpost to investigate several unusual disappearances, it seems Luck is not on her side. But when the outpost settlers claim that an ancient and evil foe has stepped out of legend to commit the crimes, Noon realizes that she could be facing something much worse than she ever imagined…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race.

Noon’s task, however, is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from.

But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse – and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again.

Jill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Laura Childs: An Interview with... Me!

Wherein Laura Childs interviews herself and asks all those pressing questions she’s dying to answer.

Okay Laura, tell us how you got started in writing.

I wrote a short story called George the Ghost when I was six, then kind of went on from there.  I told campfire stories, wrote plays and poetry, worked on school papers.  After college I was a writer/producer at several national ad agencies and then took the big plunge and headed my own ad agency for 20 years.

But what about fiction writing?

Since I’d written so many radio and TV scripts in the ad biz, I started writing screenplays.  When that didn’t pan out (I was optioned but never produced), I switched to writing novels.  Kaboom – they took off like wildfire.

You write three different series.  Did you set out to make them all a series?

Oh, absolutely.  Once you create a cast of characters and a fun place for them to inhabit, you want to keep expanding your concept.  Case in point, I’m writing my 13th Scrapbooking Mystery and outlining my 17th Tea Shop Mystery.

When you start a book, do you always know the title and the basic plot?

Always.  If I don’t have a title and key character names figured out, I can’t start the book – I’m totally befuddled.  And I always create an extensive outline.  First on a large sheet of paper (with suspects color coded), then I transfer it to my computer and take it to about 85 pages.

How do you feel about the term “cozy mystery?”

I love it.  Because that’s exactly what my books are – sort of bloodless, feel-good mysteries that you can curl up with and enjoy.  But I have to say, I’ve long since been sneaking in much faster pacing to my novels, and incorporated double murders, multiple plot lines, and elements of thriller writing.  I even coined the term “thrillzy,” which has been picked up in interviews I’ve done with Publishers Weekly and several major newspapers.

What’s next for Laura Childs?

A 4th series – a brand new sharp-edged thriller series that I’m writing under my real name of Gerry Schmitt.  The first book is titled Finders Creepers and features Afton Tangler, a single mom and Outward Bound enthusiast.  As a liaison for the Minneapolis Police Department, Afton gets pulled into a bizarre, high-profile kidnapping.

Sounds great.

Believe me, it’s a nail biter.

Thanks so much, Laura.

Thank you, Laura.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a book from Laura!

Watch for Gossamer Ghost, Laura Childs’ brand new Scrapbooking Mystery with an October 2014 release.  And watch for Scorched Eggs, her new Cackleberry Club Mystery coming December 2014.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Michelle Styles: When history becomes fiction

When I first started studying history, one of the things I loved about it was that it was known. The past is unchangeable, written in stone. Sure different historians could highlight different things but the facts were the facts. Uh, no. Not when you go back to the early Middle Ages.
The history of the early Middle Ages is like doing a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces missing, and those which remain are mainly sky, sea and grass. To add to the complications, other people in earlier times might have invented their own jigsaw pieces and crammed them in. Disentangling those pieces can be an impossible task. For example, Sir Walter Scott romanticised the legend of Rob Roy. He did do some research and spoke to various people. Scott also didn’t get Gaelic humour. When he was told that Rob Roy’s arms were so long that he didn’t have to bend to put on his stockings, he duly reported it, rather than asking if it was a tall tale or exaggeration. Or Rosemary Sutcliffe wrote her Eagle of the Ninth about a missing British legion (wonderful book btw). The only trouble is that the so-called missing legion turned up in Germany afew years later when other excavations took places.
Sometimes we genuinely do not know. Take for example 7th century Northumbria and its first Bretwalda or over king of Britain Aethelfirth. How many times was he married? Bede mentions him. He mentioned that he was married to a Picticsh princess and then a Deirain  princess called Acha. He takes over Deira and rules  fothere for 12 years. All well and good except towards the end of his reign, a major fort gets renamed after his queen Bebba. Who is Bebba (the modern day Bamburgh)? Is she the Pictish princess who bore him his eldest child? A third wife? Was he married to both at once? Bede doesn't mention two concurrent wives but Aethelfirth was pagan and so there is no reason why he shouldn't have had two wives. There again that sort of gossip about pagans is exactly the sort of thing Bede would have passed on. The answer is we just don’t know.
Also why did Bamburgh stay as Bamburgh or Bebba’s fort. It becomes the royal residence so why take the name of this queen. Amd it should be a great queen or at least the mother of a great king. The most influential king of the period was Oswui. He reigned for 40 years and was the only one to die in his bed.
Acha’s son Oswald wins a victory over the pagans, restores his kingdom and brings Christianity to Northumbria. His brother Oswui secures the throne after Oswald’s death in battle. Oswui then marries the daughter of the former King Edwin who also happened to be Acha’s brother who disposed his father. If you think Oswui is Oswald’s full brother, then he and his wife are first cousins and the Church at the time was generally against consanguinity. Oswui like his brother had become a Christian on Iona.   If Oswui had another mother (perhaps Bebba) then it explains in part why he might have married Eanfled. Except  Eanfled does a memorial to Acha at Whitby Abbey, not to Bebba. 
Does anyone have any suggestions? Because apparently nobody genuinely knows, people are just making best guesses.
The only answer is to write fiction because the facts do not give us a definitive answer. It is part of the fun of studying history.
In other news:

My trio of Victorians are released today as e-books in the North American Market. Victorian history is slightly easier than the 7th century but no less fun.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods. You can find out more about Michelle and her books on 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: Food, Glorious Food...
Venus of Willendorf, by Matthias Kabel
Poet Philip Larkin had strong views on parenting. If you don't know This Be The Verse you can read it here, but be warned. There's strong language right from the start, as they say on the BBC.

I knew I was in trouble from the moment I could tell Mama from Dada. They were both healthy, active people but while my mother was permanently on a diet she was never anything less In contrast, my father ate like a horse, yet was built like a greyhound. You can guess which traits I inherited from each parent. I love my food. It adores me in return, so I'm in constant danger of turning into the Venus of Willendorf.  I'd love to excuse my weight problem by blaming it on my family, but there comes a time when everyone has to excuse their genes and accept responsibility. But cake is so delicious, and celery's not a comfort food–no matter how you dress it up.

Writing all day doesn't help me. Sitting is fast becoming the new smoking here in England, where we have a real obesity crisis. Strapping my keyboard to the treadmill to make a standing (or walking) desk hasn't been too successful. So what's the answer? In my case, there's no substitute for eating less and moving more. Reducing portion size is horrible.  Using a smaller plate and chewing every mouthful forty times is no substitute for that lovely  "full-up feeling", to quote Lionel Bart's Oliver! again. Driving ten miles to the gym and back eats into writing time, so I had to find a different exercise regime, that fitted in with my lifestyle. In theory I use my non-electric treadmill to jog for twenty minutes every other day, but sometimes that's just too much like hard work.

Wearing a pedometer helps, as I have a competitive streak. During an uninterrupted writing day, I'm lucky to clock up 2,000 steps. That only burns about 24 calories, according to my pedometer. On the bright side, that would earn me all the celery I could eat. Knowing how hard it is to "earn" treats is a powerful incentive to keep my step-count going.

Venue-The School Run
The school run is a non-negotiable part of my day, so I've tried adding exercise into it. Every morning in term-time, I have a quick walk by the river after dropping Son Number One and his huge haul of books at the bus stop. Then in the evenings, I power-walk the two miles from home to the bus stop (4,100 steps, btw)  and meet up with OH. He drives there after finishing work in the city, to give both me and Son Number One a lift back to the house. It's a lovely area for walking when the weather's good, and the view from the bus stop is pretty stunning, don't you think?

Smaller portions and more exercise has kept my weight stable for several months now. To actually lose weight, I'd have to cut down on food still more and run harder, too. The trouble is, exercise makes me hungry and fills me with a gnawing sense of entitlement ("I got up in the dark and did all that running in the cold. I'm entitled to another slice/chunk/handful!") Increasing it can only make things worse,  which means temptation will be ten times harder to resist. All things in moderation–including moderation!

And my children cook like this...
I love cooking as well as eating, and include recipes in my occasional newsletters. Taste and satisfaction feature more often than low-calorie this, or fat-free that. As long as you watch the size of your portions and go easy on other treats for a while, what's not to love? My next newsletter's going to feature Roasted Pumpkin Soup, which went down a storm at our local Harvest Festival. To find out how to make it, you can sign up here. What's your favorite tip for healthy living?

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into over a dozen different languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at,on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Monday, October 13, 2014

Christmas in Cupid Falls

Welcome to Cupid Falls, Pennsylvania…well, actually, this is Waterford, PA.  But it's where my October 21st release, Christmas in Cupid Falls opens.  In Waterford.  You see, the real town of Waterford has a real statue of George Washington because the real George visited there.

My imaginary town of Cupid Falls doesn't have an imaginary statue of George…no, it has an imaginary legend...


The Legend of Cupid Falls, Pennsylvania

To the south of Erie, Pennsylvania—south of the Great Lake that shares a name with the city—is Falls
Creek. It is bigger than most creeks, but not quite large enough to be considered a river. It runs through field and forest to a ridge, carved millennia ago by a glacier. There, it plunges over the edge, falling to a hollowed-out swimming hole before becoming a creek again and meandering on its way.

Local legend has it that when George Washington visited the nearby town of Waterford in 1753, one of his retinue was touring the area. The locals took him to the falls, and there he met a farmer’s daughter. He married her later that same year and they settled near the creek. Years later, their daughter went to the falls with a group of friends and noticed that one of the boys in the group might be more than a friend. They married later that same year. And so it went, year after year, decade after decade, couple after couple, until the small waterfall, which in actuality was little more than a creek tumbling over a small cliff, became known as Cupid’s Falls.

When a town grew up a few miles away, the residents named it Cupid Falls as an homage to their waterfall.

And to this day, it is said that when two people meet at the falls and declare their love, they are destined for a long, happy romance . . .

Even if that’s not what they went to the falls looking for.

I love writing small town romances that have a lot of humor and heart like Christmas in Cupid Falls.  I also love writing, romantic drama, romantic comedy, women's fiction with a romantic twist (I've coined the term Womance for it) and now even comedic mystery.  It doesn't matter what I'm writing, I think there are threads that runs through all my books…things like heart, community and humor.  I hope you enjoy this first book in my new Cupid Falls series!

As for the movie…well, I'm sure Spielberg isn't worried! LOL But I hope it gives you a taste of what small town Pennsylvania is like!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Connected Characters - with Kate Walker

I wrote the first pages of my newest book this month. It’s just over a month since the revisions for
the previous story were accepted and the book scheduled, under the title of Oliver’s Outrageous Proposal, for next April 2015.  I was so busy through the month of September, travelling to Wales where my husband was speaking at a book festival about his latest book, then visiting London for the Association of Mills & Boon Authors annual lunch and a get together with all the editors from the Richmond office.  Back home, I had just time to unpack and do the laundry before I set out again for Weetwood Hall  in Leeds  where I was  running a Writing Retreat on Romantic Fiction for the weekend.

It was just the pause I needed, the chance to take the time to draw breath after a hectic summer and take the time to think and plan ahead. While everyone else was working on the writing tasks I’d set them, I was able to follow my own advice on planning and starting a book and make lots of notes and write several pages of the new story.

Another thing that helped was that I’d ‘met’ this hero before. When I wrote A Question of Honor which came out in the summer this year, my editor loved the book, but she was also intrigued by one character in it – Nabil, the bridegroom Clemmie should have married if her arranged marriage had gone ahead. What happened to him after A Question of Honor ended, she wanted to know – what was his life like after that? And how did he end up with his happy ever after?

The answer, then, was that I really didn’t know. The only thing I was sure of was that he had a lot of growing up to do. He was only young, little more than a boy really – just 19  - so he needed to mature if he was to become the hero of his own book. And a lot of things had to change.  I didn’t know what had happened in the time after one book had ended and a new one (Nabil’s story) began – so I waited, wrote Olivero’s  Outrageous Proposal, and waited to see what would develop.

It turned out that lots did! Nabil waited  until  Dario Olivero’s story was finished – just – before he began to start dropping hints about his own romance.  Then, all the way through that journey to Wales, and in the lovely quiet, sunny days when we were staying in a beautiful Welsh manor house, and again in London,  he started putting ideas into my head so that I knew I just had to go ahead and write his story.  So this book, one that is loosely connected to A Question of Honor had been burning inside my head and is  pushing to be written – now!

I don’t often write books that are connected. Some authors set out to plan and write series in which characters who had appeared  in the first story have their own romance told in a later book, but I have only deliberately planned to do that one – in The Alcolar Family series  where the stories of two  brothers and a younger sister followed on from the story of Alexander Alcolar in the novella Wife For Real.  A couple of other times, the hero of one book has had a brother and I’ve told both their stories (Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride and A Sicilian Husband are an example) but these  second stories usually grow out of the story and I don’t know it’s going to happen until I realise that I just have to write them.

But there’s a special pleasure in writing these connected stories. It means I get to develop the personality and story of someone who only briefly appeared in the original book, and then I get a chance to go back and revisit the hero and heroine whose story was in the earlier novel. It’s fun to see them again and to get to know what’s been happening to them as well as the hero and heroine of the new story.  This new book starts on a very special day for Karim and Clemmie from A Question of Honor and it was lovely to be able to celebrate with them, and see what’s been happening to them too in the time that has passed since their happy ending. I’m enjoying writing this connected book, and building on the original story I wrote before.

What about you? Do you like connected stories? Do you like it when a character who has a ‘bit part’ in one story then becomes the hero and heroine of their own romance? And do you like catching up with past characters, so that you can see what’s been happening with them and how they’re getting on?
My next title out  is - as I said Olivero's Outrageous Proposal which is published in  Harlequin Presents and Mills and Boon  Modern in April 2015. But before then there are 2 reprints coming out - Kept for Her Baby will be in a 3 in 1 collection  His Secret Baby and The Konstantos Marriage Demand will be in His Revenge Seduction in  November 2014.

Meanwhile, the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is available on Kindle
Details of these books and all the latest news are available on my web site and on my blog.