Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vicky Dreiling: Fictional Families and Friends

One of the things I loved best when I first started reading historical romances were the friends and family members in the books I read. I remember how much I liked the wise grandparent or the loyal butler in the books. I especially enjoyed the interaction of family and friends. It’s little wonder that these special characters started showing up in my own books.

In What a Reckless Rogue Needs, Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire and Lady Angeline Brenham have known each other all of their lives, but their relationship turned more than a little frigid years ago after an incident at a ball. In modern terms, we would call them frenemies. But once a year, their close families meet at a house party and neither are able to escape each other.

I had so much fun creating the various members of their families. I especially had fun with Colin’s twin step-sisters who are always into mischief. How could I not adore his sweet stepmother, and Angeline’s shy little sister?

Colin’s wily father, however, is one of my favorites. He’s determined to see his roguish son settle down with a wife. His methods may seem a trifle unreasonable, but his heart is in the right place.

I can’t ignore the furry family members. The twins have a pug puppy named Hercules who is in desperate need of training. Naturally the twins help him create even more havoc.

Not everything is fun and games. Beneath the surface, Angeline’s family is dealing with issues they find difficult to discuss openly. Unbeknownst to the parents, Colin and Angeline band together to help each other. Along the way, they fall madly, deeply in love.

Do you enjoy reading about families in historical romance novels?  Do you have a preference for certain family members such as grandparents, aunts, brothers, and sisters? Do these family members enhance your reading enjoyment?

Leave a comment telling me what you like about fictional families for a chance to win one copy of WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS (US Only please).  

Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing.  Visit her at:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Susan Stephens: The Purest of Diamonds?

There are some wonderful people who can brighten a day and lighten your life. I count myself lucky to have family members, as well a few precious friends just like this, and they - combined into one character - were the inspiration for my heroine Leila Skavanga.

Leila, the third and, apparently, the quietest of my Skavanga Diamonds, is one of these radiant types who makes us smile and feel good while they're around. I guess we root for them to succeed more than most other types, because while they're busy spreading a glow over everyone else's life they don't spare a thought for themselves.  

And of course I had to pick the hardest of my three men for Leila. Raffa Leon, a ruthless Spanish grandee, finds himself hog-tied and mesmerised by someone so forthright and appealing, he just can't sustain his ruthlessness for very long - though he sure as heck tries! Just as Leila decides that for once in her life that she's going to 'let that mouse inside her roar'!

I hope you enjoy reading the result of this combustible pairing as much as I enjoyed writing the book. And now my question for a signed copy from my backlist is this...

 Who in your life 'lights up your life' and why? There's a signed copy of my book waiting for the best answer, and I for one can't wait to get this happy focused chat underway!!

All the very best of luck to all of you
And, Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lilian Darcy - Bridal Showers

Recently, a friend asked on Facebook about life’s little pleasures, and what we loved. We all at once said, “Coffee!” naturally, but then I started thinking about a few others, and came up with showers.

No, not bridal showers. Those are hideous. C’mon.

…Although if you want to read about train-wreck Bridezilla wedding events – where somebody, somehow, manages to pull a happy ending rabbit out of the hat, even if this happiness does not include the original bridal couple  - you cannot go past the new Great Wedding Giveaway mini-series from  

With authors such as Trish Morey, Kelly Hunter, Sarah Mayberry and Megan Crane involved, there are some amazing books to devour.

The covers, alone, I could eat for breakfast, and since I’m not part of the series as a writer, it means I get to enjoy them a reader. Such a treat!

Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, showers.

Real showers.

Hot showers.

I don’t think we appreciate them enough. Of a morning, it’s that damned coffee that gets all the attention.

But, really, is there anything like a good hot shower?

If you’re a parent, think about when your kids were little (maybe they still are) and how sometimes those minutes you spend in the shower are the only ones you truly have to yourself all day.

If you’re the outdoor type, think about coming back from a day on the boat or the ski slopes or with the horses. You’re filthy and smelly and tired. You strip off, step under those steaming needles and the dirt and fatigue just wash away. You put your water-buffed body into clean, comfortable clothes and then fall asleep on the couch watching re-runs of old crime shows and… ahhh!

If you’re a lover, you get to share your shower. Let’s hope it’s big enough. You lather your hands up with soap and run them all over your beloved’s body, and water streams down your faces and drips into your mouth as you kiss.

Hm, I think Casey and Kira, the hero and heroine I’m writing about, right now, in After the Rain could do with a shower scene of their own…

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Michelle Styles: Premise for Return of the Viking Warrior plus giveaway

because I love knowing where authors get their ideas from, I thought I'd explain a bit about mine for Return of the Viking Warrior
The premise for Return of the Viking Warrior came to me several years before I actually wrote it. I wanted to tell a tale of a woman whose husband returns from war, and then the relationship is very different to the one they had previously.
 At first it was going to be a Roman and then a  Regency. Finally it seemed right to be a Viking and the two leads decided to be cast. My heroine, Kara decided that she was tired of waiting around for my hero and in any case, he was supposed to be dead, so she was going to remarry. Ash, my hero responded by showing up on her wedding day. So it is a back from the dead story which is a trope that I happen to love and have done ever since I first read The Return of Martin Guerre in high school. Does anyone else remember the story? It was made into several movies, most recently Somersby, but it was based on a true story. However, in my story, the returning warrior is indeed the husband, rather than someone pretending to be him.
 I also happen to love the true story of one of the dukes of Richmond (I believe the father of the one whose wife gave the ball before Waterloo) where it was a marriage of convenience to pay a gambling debt. After which the Duke took off on a tour of Europe. When he returned than going to see his bride, he went to the theatre and spied an absolutely gorgeous woman. He made enquiries and learnt that the woman in question was in fact the Duchess of Richmond. It is not recorded how he wooed her, but they did remain devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.
Back from the dead stories are easier to write in historical as communication is so much better today. What was plausible once is far less plausible in our social media connected world. But you still do have the problem of readjusting when someone returns from a long absence, particularly if they have been through a life changing experience such as being on a battlefield.
Return of the Viking Warrior is available both print and ebook in the UK. In the US, it is available as print and ebook through Harlequin and ebook everywhere. 
Because   Return of the Viking Warrior is officially publishing in May, I am doing a giveaway for readers of this blog. Please email me  with the answer to this question: In what year does Return of the Viking warrior take place. (hint read the excerpt).  Please put ToteBags contest in the subject line.
I will do the draw on 21 April. Void where prohibited.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Return of the Viking Warrior is published in May 2014. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

Monday, April 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: This Writing Life...
On Sale Now
I've written here about the importance of getting someone else to read your creative writing, to give you a different perspective on your work. On 31st March I stepped up and took the challenge myself at a workshop arranged by the local chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. You can read about that in more detail here. Seven of us met to discuss our current projects, and it was invaluable. If you get the chance to do something like this, grab it with both hands. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I submitted the first pages of a manuscript that's undergone a radical reworking, but it was fine.

Everyone liked the revised version, thank goodness! The Survivors' Club is a contemporary romantic novel whose heroine, Eden, is a victim who learns to stand up for herself. Adam is a burned out executive who forges a future by slamming the door on his tumultuous past. They need each other, but the past threatens to tear them apart. Why is Iolo the mysterious drifter so obsessed with Eden's home at Owl Farm? And why has the place always been known as The Ghost House?

I hadn't been sure whether or not to include the supernatural element in The Survivors' Club. The workshop convinced me to go ahead and do it. This is a complete departure from my normal style, so here's a short extract from The Survivors' Club to whet your appetite:

Iolo woke with a smile on his face. 
There’s change in the air, he thought. I can hear movement inside the house. Maybe today’s the day for Owl Farm. 
His optimism didn’t last. As he worked the life back into his feet, the weight of ages dropped onto his shoulders again. Without opening his eyes, he stretched his neck. There was no point in going out yet. It felt too early.
Down on the floor, Bran thumped his tail against the dusty floorboards. Iolo opened his eyes, blinked once or twice, and yawned. He stretched again. Then he listened, hoping to hear a Northwesterly rising from the direction of Horsgrave Wood. Strong winds used Owl Farm like a reed, softening their cries in the chimney throat. When that happened, Iolo could pretend they carried Julia’s voice. 
That wouldn’t happen today. The air was still as a sepulchre. He shook himself, then closed his eyes again.
At times like this, the woman he loved felt further away from him than ever.

If you'd like to keep up to date with the progress of The Survivors' Club, drop me a line at and I'll sign you up for my occasional newsletter. 

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don't Worry—Be Happy

I'm doing my first commencement speech in a few weeks.  I'm a bit nervous.  Over the last fifteen
years, I've talked to a lot of writers and a lot of readers, but I've never had to talk to a group of people who're all opening a new chapter of their lives on the same day.

With four kids, I've sat through a lot of graduations and I know I have more in my future.  I tried to think of all the commencement speeches I’ve heard.  So many seem to center on the speaker telling the audience about their experience.  Well, I’m a wife, a mother and a writer.  There.  Nailed that.
The other speeches seem to center on, AS YOU GO OUT AND MEET YOUR FUTURE sort of tips.  I think it's a bit cheeky to offer insights on people's personal paths. So, I thought about it, and finally came up with my theme, something that speaks to everyone, regardless of their career path...HAPPINESS.

Yeah, some of you are rolling your eyes. I'm sure the graduates will as well.

But I’ve made a study of happiness for years.  My Facebook friends would tell you I’m a bit nuts with my Monday Glee topics.   Yes, I like Mondays.  They’re a rather overlooked day.  But for me, Mondays are the aftermath of a crazy, family filled weekend.  Everyone goes back to school, or work and I sit in the quiet house, in holey jeans and work…in silence.  What’s not to love?

But more than my Monday Glee, my inspiration came from a TED radio hour I listened to on NPR in February.  The subject was happiness.  I even joined a study on being happy.  3 times a day I’d get a text and it would ask me how I was feeling, then ask me what I was doing, did I have to be doing it and then some other random questions.   It would ask me to rate my happiness level. After the first few days, I made a discovery…I am very happy with my life.

The text message ding would sound… 
~How are you feeling?  Good.  Really good.
~What are you doing?  Writing.
~Do you have to be doing it? Yes.  I’m under contract and it needs done.  Although, my grandmother always said the only two things anyone has to do is die and pay taxes.  I’m not sure why she always put death before taxes—mom says that's just how the saying goes.  I guess I could choose not to work, but I kinda like eating and that’s my paycheck, so yes, I have to do it.

Now, here comes the big question…
Do you like doing it?  And I realized I did.  I like what I do.  Oh, there are bad days.  There are times I think about finding a real job.  You know, the kind you do out in the real world, with real people, wearing something other than holey jeans.  But after the annoyance passes, I realize I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

So, that’s the first part of being happy talk.  As my upcoming audience is finishing school and I plan to remind them to take a few moments every day and stop. Stop and ask themselves if they're happy doing what they're doing.  If they're answer is yes more than no, then I think they're doing pretty good.  If it’s not, then maybe they haven’t found the place they really belong yet.

Here’s a second Happiness tip I think I'll share…be willing to work hard.  I meet a lot of would-be-writers when I do workshops and speeches.  They all want to know the secret to making a career of writing.  I think they expect some secret handshake, or program that helps me write book.   I tell them that the secret is two part, they wait anxiously for me to share.  Here you go…I’m ready to share it with the graduates and with you. 

Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Maybe you’re starting at the bottom rung of your profession and hoping to advance.  Having an eye on a goal is always a good idea, but don’t forget to concentrate on where you are.  Work hard at the job at hand.  Enjoy it.  Be happy.

I read an interview with a CEO who climbed the proverbial ladder.  She spoke about always trying to have an impact and enjoying whatever job she was doing.  Maybe there’s something to that.  That's what I plan to tell the graduates.  Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Have an eye on the future, have goals, but not at the expense of wherever you are and whatever you’re doing at the moment.

When I’m writing a book, I might know what my next book will be, or I might have an idea.  But what I try to do is concentrate on the job in front of me…the story I’m working on.

As a writer, I have to convey my character’s world view to the reader.  I have to cue the reader into   Satisfied, annoyed, content, aggravated, competitive…happy.  As a romance writer, I know that the HAPPY part is important.  It’s so important romance writers end every one of their stories with an HEA…a happily-ever-after.  So as I give my first commencement speech to people who've chosen they're degree, I'll wish them that…a happily-ever-after.  And I hope as they start this next chapter, they stop on occasion and ask themselves, How am I feeling?  What am I doing?  Do I have to be doing it?  Do I want to be doing it?  Do I like doing it?
how that character’s feeling.


And that's what I'm doing with this blog today.  Asking you to ask yourselves those same questions.  I
I hope your answers  give you some insight on your life.  I hope they help you find your own personal, Happily Ever After.

And I hope that this first commencement speech offers some insights to the graduates!  Wish me luck!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Achieving a dream? with Kate Walker

When you were young,  you have a dream of what you wanted most  from life? Was there a job you wanted
to do?  A special type of  man you wanted to marry? A certain number of children you wanted?  

Well, when  I was small – almost from the moment that I could write anything  down, I wanted to be a writer –a novelist, with my name on the jackets of books you could find in the shops.  I used to make up stories all the time, sometimes when we were on car journeys – to help to pass the time, sometimes when trying to get to sleep, sometimes (and I admit I sometimes got into  trouble for this) at school in classes  when I wasn’t interested.   I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a writer, but  no one was ever encouraging. In fact, some people were really  the opposite – telling me to stop dreaming and to  plan on having a ‘sensible’ career.  Perhaps, like my mother, I could be a teacher?
Well, I took their advice – to start with.  I worked hard at school, studied at university, gained  degrees and a professional qualification – as a  children’s librarian. Not a teacher. I hated the idea of being a teacher. It was  not what I wanted to do!   

And then – well, as  you all know, I became a writer. I have 61 books with my name on them.  And this year I’m celebrating  the 30th anniversary of being  first published.  I achieved that dream.
So I did both –the dream and the sensible option -  and I  escaped being a teacher – didn’t I?  Er – no.
Well, that number of books should be 63 books with my name on them. Because only this last week, I realised that, in spite of everything. In spite of never ever wanting to do it,  I’ve  become a teacher – and I’ve gained quite a reputation for it.   I started out giving talks about my writing. Then I did  short talks about How to Write Romance. Those turned out to be very popular  so I ran a few How To Write Courses . . .  The next thing I knew, I was being asked to do more. . . and more.  And when people wrote from USA or Australia and asked questions about what I taught in those courses ,  and said   how much they wished they could come on them, I wrote a book  called  The 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance.  That was published in 2004.  And  that first edition sold out. So I wrote a second edition . . .and a third.

It’s not 10 years since that book first appeared. In that time I’ve been asked to run more and ore courses. I have to be careful not to do too many or they’ll   interfere with writing the novels! I started with running a 
course at the week-long Writers’Holiday. Then they added the weekend course in February – both take me back to Wales, which I love. (After all I went to university in Wales and I met my husband there – so obviously it’s one of my favourite places!)  These are my ‘regular’ courses, I would teach others during the year but nothing else so regularly. But now I’ve been asked to run some course for  Relax andWrite  which aims to – well, to do exactly what it says on the tin.  Again, I started with plans for one weekend course. Then two – now there are two courses, a writing retreat, and plans for more . . .

Hmm – it seems I’ve ended up being a teacher after all. And  the courses are almost always sold out.  When I asked some students to comment on how a course had gone, one student told me that: “coming on your courses is like a blood transfusion, minus the blood!”

So this year, I’ve decided to admit that perhaps I  do want to be  teacher– at least when I’m teaching the thing that I love doing – and that’s writing romance.  Because of this, I wanted to take that 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance and make it available to more people. There wasn’t an ebook – and the book was difficult to get if you were in America or Australia or Canada . . . And it was expensive!

So I got my rights to the book back and I decided that I would  self-publish an ebook  edition – and that I would make sure that this time the book was easily and cheaply available to everyone who wanted a copy.  I didn’t know what I was doing  but I needn’t have worried – I had fantastic help from  the lovely Lee Hyat here at   at Author Sound Relations – who also designed me a fabulous cover. And so this last week, I finally published the Kindle edition of the 12 Point Guide. At the moment it’s on a special introductory price of  
$0.99 . And the new cover looks like this:

The book has been flying out of Amazon, so it turns out    that perhaps I have become well known as a teacher too after all! Oh well, my mother  and the teachers at my school who said I should do that will be delighted! I’m happy to have achieved both my dream of becoming a published novelist  - and this ‘sensible’   achievement of being a teacher as well.

Special thanks must go to Lee Hyat for helping me with this. And to everyone who bought a copy of the 12 Point Guide this week – or at any time in the past.

The special introductory price comes to an end this weekend – so if you want to grab a copy while it’s on sale, you want to move fast. Bit afterwards it’s still only going up to $3.99  which is a tiny price compared with the   $16  I’ve seen quoted for  the past paperback  (or even  - eeek  ! -  $93  used!)

And, I know it’s a long shot but – if you should ever want to come on one of my courses, then you can find the details on my Events page. on my web site.

That's where you'll also find all the news and updates about my books - including the new title out in June - A Question of Honor
And all the latest news and interest is on my blog page there.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Life's Soundtrack

by Anna Campbell

Recently on Facebook there was one of those things going around where people tagged their friends to list ten things. I find these endlessly interesting - and almost invariably surprising. So I thought I'd break out of the Facebook ghetto and ask my Tote Bag chums the same question.

This particular meme doing the rounds was naming ten albums that have stayed with you. That doesn't particularly mean your favorite albums, but the ones that had some influence over you - or at least that's how I took it.

Inevitably, a lot of the records I picked (and I'm old enough that most of them actually WERE vinyl) went back to my childhood/teens and include some records my parents played a lot when I was a wee gel.

Here's my top 10 as of today (it's slightly different to the one I posted on Facebook but that's the nature of these things, isn't it?).

1. Swan Lake Ballet - Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic

2. Station to Station - David Bowie

3. Rubber Soul - the Beatles

4. Standing on a Beach (the Singles) - the Cure

5. Beethoven's Greatest Hits - various CBS artists

6. Les Miserables - Original Stage Cast

7. The Sound of Music - Soundtrack

8. The Glenn Miller Story - Soundtrack

9. My Fair Lady - Original Stage Cast

10. Lawrence of Arabia Soundtrack

So clearly my tastes run to classical and musicals with a bit of classic pop thrown in. Yup, that pretty much describes it, with a few movie scores as runners up.

It's been great fun to revisit some of the music that's influenced me. And even more fun to look at those album covers. Talk about a trip down memory lane! 

Now it's your turn. And if you want to put in a line or two about why you made your selections, I'd be very interested!

Oh, and by the way, if you don't follow me on Facebook, you can find me at:

I'm pretty active there and I regularly do giveaways! 

Looking forward to seeing your music lists!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Kitty companions – by Kandy Shepherd

 Some writers work in cafes or noisy parts of the house where they feel part of the world. Not me. I need to be by myself to write—away from noise and distraction so I can draw deep from my imagination and escape into the creative zone where the words start to flow. I like a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the closed door. And none of that music that other writers find so inspiring.

Alfie helps keep the printouts of my drafts from blowing away (actually he just likes the box!)

 That solitary, writerly existence could get lonely. Not so with cats for company.

Ivy supervises from a stack of books waiting to be filed

 There’s nothing three of my cats like better than to be with me—on my lap, on my desk, on a chair or floor nearby. As I write—often very late into the night—I’m never short of feline company.

Tabitha prefers to be on my lap as I type, but a nearby chair will do as second choice

 Of course my kitties can become a distraction. Like when the one who always wants to sit on my lap squeals in protest when my back starts aching and I lift her off. Or when two of them start to argue in escalatingly loud cat voices for possession of a prized cardboard box.

Ivy tucks herself neatly nearby behind my computer, sometimes I don't know she's there 

And my fourth cat? She’s primarily an outdoor cat who loves to go for walks with us around our farm and into the surrounding bushland. Sometimes during the day she appears at my window sill as if to urge me outside for some much-needed exercise. Being a natural-born procrastinator, that's often just the excuse I need to down tools!

Cindy makes sure I get off my chair and get some well-needed exercise

 What about you? Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you’re at home? When you're concentrating on a task do you need quiet or thrive on music or chatter?  Please make a comment, I’d love to hear about it!

I have one copy of my debut book for Harlequin Romance The Summer They Never Forgot to give away—either a mass market paperback or via an Amazon gift voucher for an e-book

Please include your email address in your comment if you want to be included in the draw (and let me know if you prefer print or e-book.)

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction.  The Summer They Never Forgot is Kandy’s first release from Harlequin Romance in the US, the UK and Australia. Watch out for The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner in July 14.

Visit Kandy at her website