Friday, October 09, 2015

A romantic destination – Kandy Shepherd

 A highlight of my visit to England last month was a one-night stay at the beautiful art deco hotel on Burgh Island on the coast of Devon.

The wonderful 1930s hotel on Burgh Island in Devon in the UK

 One of the hotel’s claims to fame is that Agatha Christie was inspired by Burgh Island to write two of her most famous novels—Evil Under the Sun and Then There Were None (originally published with a title considered now to be offensive.)

I thrilled to the idea of visiting this hotel, which is cut off at high tide from the village of Bigbury-on-Sea with no way off the island. It’s where Agatha Christie got the idea of a household of potential murderers cut off from escape and trapped in each other’s presence. The actually hotel and island were the setting of the “Evil Under the Sun” episode of the television series Poirot (Christie’s famous detective). I recognized the setting straight away.

Art Deco splendor 

 Agatha Christie is said to be the best-selling author of all time. What fun it was for me as a writer to stay in the place that so influenced her writing. Our little visit was with both my bridesmaids and their husbands and it was a wonderful (yes, expensive!) treat to celebrate us all being together. Who knows what inspiration the stay will give me for future stories…

The hotel was established in the 1930s with famous celebrities of the time staying there. Apparently they welcomed the privacy and isolation. The rooms are named after famous people who stayed there over the years and are beautifully decorated in the Art Deco style—much of it original. Having a drink in the ancient (1336 AD) Pilchard Inn was also a memorable experience.

Having a drink at the ancient Pilchard Inn was quite an experience

 As you can see from my photos, the weather wasn’t wonderful but we didn’t mind. The rain held off for a walk around the rugged coastline and the rest of the time we spent enjoying the luxury of our surrounding. And the excellent food. The hotel staff were brilliant too. My only regret was that I didn’t get to ride the water tractor, the unique mode of transport that drives through the water with the enormous tires on the sandy bottom of the channel.

This eccentric vehicle is the sea tractor that transports guests to and from the island through the water

 Is it no wonder that Burgh Island came second in the Mills & Boon Romantics awards for most romantic destination?

Is there a romantic destination you’d like to visit—or already have visited? A destination that turned out to be not so romantic after all? I’d love to hear about it. I’ve got an advance copy of my next Harlequin Romance, Gift-Wrapped in Her Wedding Dress, to give away. Make a comment if you’d like to be in the draw. Please include your email address.

Gift-Wrapped in Her Wedding Dress (yes, it’s a Christmas themed novel!) will be released next month on November 1. It’s an intensely emotional story about a brooding billionaire Scrooge and a vivacious party planner. 

The billionaire's Christmas proposal… 

Billionaire Dominic Hunt's Christmas ball is a chance for hard-working party planner Andie Newman to make her name. She's intent on convincing gorgeous Dominic that decking the halls is the way to transform his brooding reputation, but he has an alternative idea—a festive proposal! 

After Dominic unexpectedly helps Andie with her own emergency, she says yes! The engagement is meant to be just for show, but as Dominic and Andie are surrounded by the magic of Christmas, they find their fake feelings are becoming all too real…

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

Connect with Kandy on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Eye Candy by Katherine Garbera

Hello readers! I'm happy to announce that the print version of Eye Candy is available today.  Here's a little Q & A I did talking about the book.

-What inspired the idea for ‘Eye Candy’?
To be honest watching Great British Bake Off inspired me.  I had written a series for Harlequin Blaze with a bakery in it and a cooking competition, so I thought this time I’d like to do a candy maker.  I’ve dabbled in making truffles and different kinds of chocolate at Christmas so I knew the basics of chocolate making.
 -Are Hayley and Garrett based on anybody you know for real?
No, they aren’t. I never base any of my characters on real people.  I took my love for cooking and used that as a basis for Hayley.  For Garrett I started with the core of him always wanting to be a cop and then questioning if he still wanted that.  What else was there for him?  I also am very close to my own family and wanted to explore what it would be like to grow up in the shadow of parental expectations without them being around so that Hayley could never get a thumbs up from her mom.
 -How do you keep coming up with so many different ideas?
I don’t know! The thing is I really love writing.  I always have different characters or scenes popping up in my head.
 -What do you like to read in your free time?
Mostly romance but I also really love Margaret Atwood and Nelson Demille.  I read a bit of Lee Child too. :)
 -Have you always written romance, or have you ever thought about anything else?
I have always written romance but sometimes I write more adventure/thriller plots than just straight romance.  I have thought about writing suspense but I like exploring relationships too much to give up romance entirely.  :)
 -Did Hayley and Garrett surprise you when writing ‘Eye Candy’, or did you have the story planned out from the start?
It did surprise me.  Originally I had thought of Garrett’s character as sort of Cary Grant in Rear Window.  And it was only when I started delving deeper to figure out why he was home that I uncovered his involvement in the death of a suspect, which took the story in a different a direction.
-Which stories are the most fun: billionaires, tycoons, policemen or cowboys?
I love them all.  What’s the most fun is writing about all these different men because they all have something different that makes them tick.  Money, saving lives, the land, but at their core they are solid men who will do anything for their family and the women they love.
What's your favorite: billionaires, tycoons, policemen or cowboys?
Tell me for a chance to be entered to win an autographed copy of EYE CANDY plus some fun book swag.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Gorgeous dress and fabulous jewels...

Research is one of the best things about being a writer. When I first started writing it involved trips to the library, coming home with piles of books on wherever I had happened to be setting my latest story. Travellers tales, gorgeous coffee table books with photographs of deserted lagoons so luscious that you could almost feel the sand between your toes, lovely houses, background information on trades, crafts.

I had lovely conversations with helpful tourist information officers in London embassies — and always sent them a signed book as a thank you. I had a breathtaking brochure describing all the fabulous houses on Mustique where I set All She Wants for Christmas.

At the moment, tempted by my editor, I working on a new “sheikh” story — working title, The Sheikh’s Temporary Princess — and I’m having an absolute ball on my latest passion, Pinterest.

It’s a marriage of convenience story, always fun, and my Cinderella needs a “princess” dress for her transformation. This is the one I chose. And these are the jewels her prince gives her to wear on this momentous occasion...

Here’s a sneak peek—

Ruby’s heart was racing and in an attempt to slow it, reclaim control of her body if not her life, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again Bram was standing in front of her and her heart rate shot through the roof.
She had only seen in him in the most casual of clothes, a towel, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, dusty riding clothes, the chinos he’d worn with a loose, collarless shirt to travel into the city. Now he was wearing traditional robes.
Everything was simple, understated. A plain white thaub over which had been thrown the finest camel hair bisht, a fine white keffiyeh held in place by a plain black egal and at his waist he carried a knife in a traditional, curved black and silver filigree scabbard. Simple, understated, regal, he was every inch the desert prince but it was his face that held her, his golden eyes, a jaw strong enough to slay dragons, the seductive curve of a lower lip that she wanted to suck into her mouth.
No, no, no—
‘Wow…’ she said, all faux brightness. ‘Look at us.’
‘Ruby… Rabi…’
She frowned, distracted. ‘Rabi?’
‘It means harvest. For the contract I had to give you an Arab name. I tried to get as close to your own as I could.’
All afternoon Violet and Leila had talked about weddings. Their own, those of their friends. They’d shown her photographs of their children assuming that she would soon be a mother and she’d had to play along, smile as if she couldn’t wait.
The name he’d given her implied fertility, fecundity and the lie was like a cold hand squeezing her womb.
‘Your father will like that,’ she said as he put down the leather case he was carrying. He glanced up, frowning, clearly catching something in her tone. ‘Good choice,’ she added with the smile she’d once practised in the mirror. The smile she used to cover hurt, pain, the spiteful remarks of others. It had been so long since she’d used it that her cheeks creaked a bit with the effort, but it seemed to reassure him and, as he opened the case, she didn’t have to pretend to catch her breath as he revealed the jewels within.
Her gasp was totally real.
‘Oh, my…’ she said, staring at the art deco parure of diamonds and rubies.
At one point, feeling that she had to add something to the dress, shoe, underwear debate she’d suggested that perhaps she needed some colour to offset the silver-grey but Leila had it covered with ruby polish for her nails and colour for her mouth.
‘You approve?’ he asked.
Approve? Was he kidding? ‘It’s perfect… How did you know?’
He smiled. ‘Violet sent me a photograph of the dress, although I have to say it looks a lot better on you than a tailor’s dummy.’
She felt her cheeks warm as he continued to look at her and she said, ‘You owe her, Bram. She must have had a thousand things to do today but she and Leila have overseen every detail.’
‘I’ll repay her when I donate to her charity tonight.’ He turned to the case and picked up one of pair of bracelets that nestled against the silk. ‘Shall we begin?’
She raised her hand without a word and he fastened the wide cuff of diamonds and rubies over her left wrist. Was he taking care not to actually touch her or was that her imagination?
He repeated the performance with her right wrist and no, it was not her imagination. When the
clasp proved awkward she saw that his hands were shaking. No doubt like the Imam who fainted, he was counting the cost of this temporary arrangement but the jewels, at least, could be returned when it was all over.
She held out her hands to look at the result. Hers were shaking, too, she realised and he caught them and held them, held her gaze. If he thought that was going to steady her he couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘Are you going to be all right, Ruby?’ he asked.
‘Fine,’ she managed through a throat that felt as if it had been stuffed with boulders. ‘It’s just that I’ve never worn anything quite so…sparkly.’
He laughed. ‘Shall we try the collar?’
She nodded and he released her hands to pick up a necklace that was a simple V-shaped geometric collar of diamonds and rubies, with clusters of rubies forming hearts down the centre of the V.
It was set dressing, she told herself. Putting on a show to convince his father that this was real.
‘You seem taller,’ he said, as he lifted the collar to her throat.
‘It’s the shoes.’ She lifted the skirt an inch to reveal a barely-there shoe, her ruby painted toenails.
He glanced down and it seemed half a lifetime before he finally looked up. ‘Very pretty,’ he said, his face expressionless, ‘but I’m going to have to ask you to bend forward a little.’
She dipped her head and as his fingers brushed against the back of her neck she struggled to control the shiver that rippled through her body, tightened her nipples into hard buds against the lace that he would see the moment she straightened.
After what seemed like an age with his arms around her, drowning in the scent of clean laundry, warm skin, something that might have been sandalwood, the clasp finally clicked into place. He stepped back and she could breathe again. Too soon…
The backs of his fingers brushed against her skin as he lifted the collar and eased it into place so that the row of hearts was perfectly vertical and the necklace echoed the neckline of the dress where it dipped between her breasts.
‘How does that feel?’ he asked.
‘Heavy…’ There was a heaviness in breasts and low in belly. An ache between her thighs. It had been a long time since she’d shared a bed with a man but with every touch the heat was building.
‘It will soon be over,’ he said, reaching for one of the earrings — long falls of diamonds and rubies.
‘Shall I…?’ she asked, shakily. She was unravelling and if he touched her again…
‘Your hands aren’t steady enough.’
‘If you were wearing this many diamonds you’d be feeling a bit wobbly,’ she said.
‘You’ll get used to it,’ he assured her.
‘I doubt it and you wouldn’t do this for Bibi,’ she said, desperately, her knees, hips melting as women’s bodies had melted since the morning Eve woke up and discovered Adam staring down at her.
‘No, Bibi would come ready gift-wrapped,’ he agreed as he carefully fitted the earrings in place.
And it would be his duty to unwrap her. In her case he was doing the wrapping but it wasn’t going to be Christmas for either of them.
‘Are they comfortable?’ he asked. ‘Not too heavy?’
She shook her head and they brushed against her neck.
Next he took the small, matching tiara from the centre of the case and lifted it onto her head, setting it firmly amongst the ruffle of curls arranged by Violet’s hairdresser before, taking the last item from the case, a curious piece of white gold, scattered with diamonds and rubies arranged in flower shapes.
‘What is that?’ she asked.
‘Give me your left hand.’
She raised it and he took it in his, held it for a moment before sliding the confection over her hand so that the gems sparkled along her thumb and index finger. ‘A double ring,’ he said, continuing to hold it.
‘Did I say wow?’ she asked.
‘I think that’s my line.’
‘No, really. I feel like a queen,’
‘You look like one,’ he assured her.  ‘No one is going to lift an eyebrow when I tell them that when you appeared, unexpectedly, at the fort yesterday morning I knew that I could never let you go. They’ll only wonder why on earth it took me so long to figure it out.’
‘A fabulous dress and a king’s ransom in jewels will work wonders.’
‘It takes more than that.’ For a moment he just stood there looking at her, then seemed to catch himself. ‘Time to go.’

You can see more of Liz's inspiration on her Pinterest page.

To keep up to date with Liz’s releases, “like” her author page on Facebook (where she does regular giveaways) and sign up for her newsletter (for those little extras) at her website

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Addison Fox: A Passion for Books

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be involved with an event in the Dallas area for the past decade called Buns & Roses. The event raises money for the Richardson Adult Literacy Center, a resource in North Texas for those who are seeking literacy skills or the ability to read, write and speak English as a second language.

For several years I attended as a reader and then about 6 years ago I was privileged to be invited as an author host. The event is a lot of fun – we have a tea, a keynote speaker (Tessa Dare was this year’s keynote and she was amazing!) and then a book signing. All proceeds from the event go to literacy (including this gorgeous quilt that was part of a silent auction at the event).

As someone who has loved books since before I could read, I know the joy to be found in the pages of a book. It’s such an amazing thing to sit in a room with about 300 other readers, raising money so we can help others find the same joy.

I’m reminded of this every year but it bears repeating. Reading is a gift. And while it so often provides a pleasurable escape for a few hours time, the ability to read provides so much more. Understanding. Education. An ability to function in the world around you.

Reading is a gift in my life I’m deeply grateful for. What an honor it is to hopefully have contributed in some small way so others may experience that same joy.

Thanks for joining me today!

Despite early ambitions of being a diver, a drummer or a doctor, Addison Fox happily discovered she was more suited to life as a writer. She lives in Dallas and - thankfully - doesn't have to operate on anyone. You can find her at her home on the web at Her latest book, THE PROFESSIONAL, will be out October 6th from Harlequin Romantic Suspense. You can visit her at her website at

Monday, October 05, 2015


I'm lucky enough to have a little piece of heaven on the Isle of Palms in the famed South Carolina Lowcountry just twenty minutes from Charleston. I'm also a midlist author trying to grow my readership. Two years ago, I told my agent I was going to do a giveaway of sorts to reach out to book clubs. The idea was to hold a drawing form entrants online and from events that I did for a weekend, bed and breakfast style, for one lucky book club. She told me I was either the smartest author on the planet or the stupidest.

But I figured book club members know each other, and for the most part actually like each other, so
how bad could it be right? The winning club was a group of six women from NYC who wanted to wait until one of their members who was very sick got better to claim their prize. The date rolled around for the trip and they forfeited, and the Read Between the Wines book club came that weekend. We had such an amazing time, I wanted to try this year's giveaway with six winners who did not know each other, each of whom would bring their bestie.

It was risky to be sure, but on a beautiful spring weekend this past April, twelve women invaded my house. All different ages, all from different socioeconomic levels, all of them bonding over their love for books. It was truly the most amazing weekend, and it was also a testament to the power of books and the kindness of women.

We were pretty far from the presidential elections when I hosted the first girlfriend weekend, but after being bombarded with candidates who want to rule our world, I can't help but think if everyone just got out of the way and let those women figure things out, this world would be much better off. And they'd probably convert a slew of readers in the process.

So, I'm doing it again, the Great Girlfriend Beach Getaway. If you'd like to enter just click here. Travel IS NOT included, lodging, breakfast and a fabulous time are guaranteed. Y'all come!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

CJ Carmichael: How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

This is one of the questions people most frequently ask me when they hear that I’m an author. I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re hoping it doesn’t take much time and they might be able to squeeze “writing a book” into their calendar next month?

The answer, of course, is complicated. Many factors come into play. How long is the book? (My books range from short novellas of 35,000 words, to longer novels upwards of 80,000 words.) Also, how much research is required to write the book? And what else is going on in my life—are there going to be interruptions for holidays, family-stuff or other writing-related tasks.

Here is a photo of me, starting a new book in June of this year. I had the title (A Bramble House Christmas), and the picture that would be on the cover of the book, and not much else. At the time, I had planned the book to be 40,000 words and I hoped it would be ready at the end of October.

What actually happened, is that despite tons of fun distractions (lake and hiking stuff) the book turned out to be 45,000 words and I just finished the first draft a week ago. I guess I got lucky this time…once I really had time to focus, the story just sort of flowed. Some books are like that. Others are like English Assignments from Hell. But maybe I shouldn’t get too smug. I haven’t had comments back from my editor yet, which means I still don’t know how much time I’ll be spending on revisions.

And that’s the other tricky thing. When people ask how long to write a book, do they mean including revisions, copy edits, etc? Since there can be time lags of weeks or even months between these stages, you can see why it’s a hard question to answer.

So next time you ask an author a question, ask her something easy like… “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

C. J.’s A Bramble House Christmas will be available October 26 from Tule Publishing. While you’re waiting why not pre-order A Montana Born Christmas—this boxed set of 8 stories is a special holiday price of just 99 cents. And it took about a gazillion combined author hours to write.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Lucy Monroe Recommends: A Perfect Time for a Gothic Wedding

The month of October has thoughts of gothic romance and weddings swirling through my head because my son is getting married on the 25th! And you guessed it, he and his bride have picked a gothic theme. It has been so much fun to work with, especially for my party planner daughter who doesn't mind skulls on the bride's skirt and in the centerpieces. LOL My house has been filled with ravens, black glitter and table cloths in red hues galore. So, it only seemed natural to give you an offering of gothic romance with maybe a little schmaltzy wedding tossed in for good measure.

If you are looking for a gothic tale of romance and love, you couldn't do much better than now in mass market paperback DARK GHOST by one of my all-time faves, Christine Feehan. It should in fact, be exactly what you are searching for. From the back cover: Geologist and woman on the run, Teagan Joanes, comes across a wounded bounty hunter and vampire slayer named Andre. That fateful meeting intertwines their destinies and ignites a passion they cannot ignore.

“The Dark series has always been some of my favorites. This one was one I thoroughly enjoyed. The love scenes are great! Sexy, HOT and drool worthy. Loved the connection between the Teagan and Andre. One of the sexiest Dark ones I have read in a long time.”-Amazon Reader Review

Jennifer Hayward’s new release of the second book in her The Tenacious Tycoon series (from Harlequin Presents) is REUNITED FOR THE BILLIONAIRE’S LEGACY and it features a wedding gone wrong with a modern day twist on the gothic romance, mixing my two themes perfectly if you ask me. From the back cover: After a short but passion filled matrimony, Diana Taylor spends years trying to get her husband, Coburn Grant, to agree to a divorce. She succeeds in her request but one last night of pleasure changes plans when she finds out she is going to have a baby.

“Ms. Hayward has done an incredible job penning this story. With the right words the author brings out the raw emotions her characters feel, giving readers a clear perspective to the renewed romance is edgy and the chemistry just catches fire between the pages…” Goodreads Reader Review

Now for some pure schmaltzy, tear jerker romance with a wedding thrown in for good measure. It's an oldie but goodie. We are going to go back to February of 2002 to look at Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel THIS HEART OF MINE. From the back cover: Molly Somerville’s not-so-perfect life is turned upside down by her long time crush, quarterback Kevin Tucker. The pair battles each other and their attraction as they face life together.

“…a fabulous read. Humor, poignancy, creative plotting, wonderful characters, and superb sexual tension make this book an all-around winner.” - All About Romance Review

Another interesting spin mixing that gothic flavor (BDSM included) with the lovely flavor of weddings and honeymoons from one of my other publishers and new to me author. Meredith Wild’s new release HARD LOVE introduces us to Blake and Erica Landon right as they embark on their honeymoon. Soon, Blake finds himself in the center of controversy and Erica will stop at nothing to clear his name. (From the back cover.)

"Hard Love is suspenseful, sensual and spectacular. The combustible sexual chemistry left me in need of an ice bath and some oxygen, while the emotional twists and turns ruined my manicure. Not that I am complaining, I would gladly beg for another round." - Bookalicious Babes Blog

For those of you who have not yet read my 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys series: RAND, COLTON, and CARTER, they are going to be on a fall flash sale for two weeks in October. Visit my social media pages for more information on this opportunity to get to know these bad boys.

“These three novellas
star the Denning "bad boy" brothers and a trio of delightful females who heat more than just their blood. Each tale is distinct because the lead couples contain differing personalities and albeit divergent relationships. Though Phoebe trade raises eyebrows even if her motives are pure, fans of erotic romantic anthologies will enjoy Lucy Monroe's passionate love stories due to a fine cast.” – Amazon Reader Review

With more than 7 million copies of her books in print worldwide, award winning and USA Today bestseller  Lucy Monroe has published over 60 books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world.  While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all of her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all.  A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.

Visit her on the web:
Personal Blog
Book Blog

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Susan Sands: Busy Times

There's always something shaking around here at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. I love all the fun topics and favorite authors who appear almost daily!      

Hopefully, I can keep up.

My debut novel, AGAIN, ALABAMA, was released back in June from Tule Publishing Group, and let me tell you, it's been a wild ride. Wild for me, anyway. I used to be a stay-at-home-waiting-to-be-published mom. I'm still a mom, and I still stay at home--a lot. But now it seems like I'm constantly begging someone to buy my book. Between Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, etc., it feels like a hamster wheel of non-stop self-promotion. It isn't for the faint of heart. I miss just writing. But I'm not ungrateful--just busy.

My oldest son recently graduated from college and moved home, the other is a senior in high school, and the girl just started driving--alone. And I'm supervising home improvements in preparation for putting the house on the market. Granite, tile, plumbing. Today I called 9-1-1 because the gas line we ran to the new stove was leaking. Yeah, that's the kind of fun we're having at my house.

I hope y'all are having a better kind of fun today.

I'm looking forward to connecting with new readers here now that I'll be a regular contributor!

(Here's a little more shameless self-promo) Great news!! AGAIN, ALABAMA will be on sale for only .99 beginning Saturday, October 3rd for a week on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iBooks.

You can find me at all the fun places on social media:

Twitter:  @susannoelsands

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hobbies with Kate Hewitt

Recently, when talking to a new acquaintance at the local playground, we exchanged the usual information: how many children and their ages, whether we worked and what we did, what our husbands did. And then came the surprising question: “Do you do anything else?” Anything else? I have 5 kids, a full-time job, and a dog. What else can I do? The woman kindly clarified.: “Do you have any hobbies?” “Reading,” I said, rather lamely. “I like to read.”

The question got me thinking, though. For years—decades—writing was my hobby. It was the thing I did to relax, how I used my down time. And then, over the course of the last seven years, it became my job. Having it as my job is a huge privilege and blessing—but it’s also brought the pressure of deadlines and providing income. So what do I do now for my downtime? What is my hobby?

Part of me rebels against the whole idea of hobbies. Doing something for the sheer (and mere) enjoyment of the thing seems… wasteful. Another part of me recognizes how useful hobbies are. We can’t be working all the time. Having something to help you unwind is a valuable (and enjoyable) tool. And what’s wrong with doing something just for pleasure? A lot of my heroes and heroines have hobbies, funnily enough, from piano playing to Sudoku to reading cozy mysteries. So what can my hobby be? I like to cook and bake, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a hobby. I’m not taking sugar craft classes or learning how to make my own chutney. I like to garden, but my thumb is merely greenish and I usually run out steam. It’s not entirely relaxing. As for exercise… best not to go there.

I’m not, I confess, craft-oriented at all. Anything involving sewing machines, following a pattern, or a glue gun usually has me trembling in fear. I did learn to knit a long time ago, and made precisely two scarves. So what can my hobby be?

Do you have a hobby, something you love to do, whether it is create or collect or something else entirely? What helps you unwind. Please share with me and give me some ideas!

Happy Reading (& Hobbying!),


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lauri Robinson: Bit-O-Honey

Recently, I’ve had a series of book signings at a local Barnes and Noble stores for my Daughters of the Roaring Twenties series, and I bring along a candy dish full of Bit-O-Honey candies for the table each time.
Why? Because Bit-O-Honey candy bars—I can only ever find the individual pieces—were one of the most popular candies in the 1920’s. Invented in 1924 by the Schutter-Johnson Company out of Chicago, the ‘candy bar’ was a ‘brick’ of six individual pieces wrapped together in wax paper and then covered with a candy bar wrapper. The long chewing honey-flavored taffy with its bits of almond quickly became a hit from coast to coast.

The recipe for Bit-O-Honey candies has not changed over the years, but the company making them has a couple times. The last time was in 2013 when the Pearson’s Candy Company of St. Paul, Minnesota bought the brand.

I was excited a couple of years ago when I found a bag of Bit-O-Honey candies because I hadn’t seen them in years, and I’ve kept them in my candy jar ever since. It’s amazing the amount of people who are thrilled to see them. The same thing has happened at the book signings. The candy dish full of them certainly has been a conversation starter.

Other popular candy from the 1920’s includes Charleston Chews (named after the dance of course!), the Baby Ruth candy bar (yes, named after the old grand-slammer himself, Babe Ruth), Slo Pokes, and Teaberry Chewing Gum. This is also the era that brought us Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers, and Milk Duds. So, in other words, candy lovers have a lot to appreciate about the 20’s!

Are any of these favorites of yours?

For me (beside the Bit-O-Honey) it’s the Butterfinger, and I have a fun recipe that tastes remarkable close to them. Just take two Cheez-It crackers, put a dab of peanut butter between them and dip the mini-sandwich in melted chocolate almond bark. (Try it, you’ll be amazed!)

The Forgotten Daughter, the last book in this series, will be released October 1st. RT reviews had this to say about it--Robinson completes her Daughters of the Roaring Twenties series by exploring a dark problem of the era: human trafficking. With a courageous heroine and stalwart hero, the story moves quickly, losing nothing of the ‘20s atmosphere Robinson infuses into these stories. The addition of characters from past novels, Babe Ruth, a few gangsters and revealing secrets add to the fans’ pleasure.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bringing Romance to Life

by Joanne Rock

I'm looking forward to a new release from Harlequin Superromance this Thursday. Dances Under the Harvest Moon is my third book in my Heartache, TN series, and writing this one brought me as much joy as the first two in the series. Some of that, I realized recently, had to do with the beautiful titles for these stories. Call me crazy... how can a title shape my whole experience writing an eighty-thousand word story? But for me, it really does. Allow me to explain.
My October release

I find it hard to work on a story without a title. It doesn't matter if it's not the title that goes on the cover in the end. I need a working title before I can begin a single word of a synopsis or chapter. While I certainly have book ideas that begin with characters, plot concepts, conflicts, or themes, I never really have a story take shape in my head until I've attached some kind of title to the idea. Only then does a book really start to grow for me.

With the first Heartache, TN book, I really felt from the start that I wasn't just creating a story. I was creating a world. It seemed important for a small town romance that I be intimately acquainted with the town. For me, that meant collecting photos, creating a map and sketching out some of the town's key figures. But the town itself wasn't the story world. That didn't really crystallize for me until we called this one Promises Under the Peach Tree.

Such an evocative title! Now the world wasn't just a place... it was a place with heart. A place I could breath in and feel the grass under my feet. Not only did Heartache become real for me, it became a place I enjoyed visiting each time I returned to the manuscript. I knew these people. They were friends.

With each return to Heartache, the titles have helped solidify moods and feelings. Nights Under the Tennessee Stars brought to mind drive in movies, midnight tailgating parties and drinks on the back porch. And this most recent story, Dances Under the Harvest Moon, well that just oozes romance! Hearing the title and seeing that book cover takes me to a romantic dance in the moonlight. Anyone else a fan of the Neil Young song Harvest Moon?

Like any romance reader knows, of course, a romance book is not just full of moonlit dances. We read romance to see how real characters combat the same kinds of conflicts we face in our lives, and to root for love to conquer all. But it makes me happy to give my characters those beautiful moments in the course of their journey that help make the battle for love all the more worthwhile. And in this book, a slow dance in the driveway helped remind me why this was a romance worth fighting for.

We all need our own moonlit dances, or nights under the stars or peach tree promises to get us through our own romances, I think. Those memories within our relationships pull us through real life battles and make us smile through hard times. It never hurts to think up your title-- to give yourself that memory or the lens through which to view your love-- and let it shape how you think about your romance. Our words mean so much. They shape how we think and articulate how we feel. Use yours kindly and christen your own romance with something to make you smile, too.
A giveaway for you!

***When you need a good, happy memory to make you smile, do you envision a shared romantic memory or a shared laugh? The times I love my husband the most are when he makes me smile at the moments when I'm discouraged. When he's at his best, he can tease a smile from my worst mood, and that's a special gift! Share with me this week and I'll give one random poster a little everyday romance to make YOU smile! A copy of Promises Under the Peach Tree and some decadent bath products to bring back the scent of warm summer days.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Eve Gaddy: Confessions of an Office Supply Junkie

There. I've admitted it. I love office supplies. I've written more than one blog about them because, well, it's an addiction.:) I was going to the office supply store the other day to buy mailing envelopes for a weekly giveaway on my Facebook page-- --Marvelous Mondays, if you're interested. Anyway, I needed size #2 bubble mailing envelopes. That. Is. All. I. Needed.

The first temptation, other than computers, of course, were the jump drives of various cartoon figures. Loony Toons, Superheroes, dinosaurs, turtles, penguins, you name it, there's probably a jump drive shaped like it. I have approximately 437 jump drives. I like to keep separate ones for each book, for other business related stuff, for old projects in case I need them. But my drives are not by any means full.

Sometimes I have a reason for choosing which drive goes with which book. Often I do not, or at least, not one I know of. 

For the Billionaire's Charade, Amalfi Night Billionaires Book 5, which just came out, I used the little spaceman. I don't know why. Perhaps because it's set on an exotic island?

For several of the Whiskey River books I used the fish. I have no idea why. Because I liked it?

And for Cry Love, my interracial, reincarnation, romantic suspense book, I used Bugs Bunny. Since it deals with heavy topics I must have thought I needed some levity. I love Bugs. He makes me laugh. But back to the store, I managed to avoid putting any jump drives in my basket, even though they had some new-to-me ones that were only $9.99!  Then I went down the notebook aisle.

These are just a sampling of my hundreds of notebooks. Some are pristine, having never been used. Some have very few pages because I try to rip out the old, unnecessary pages. Some are important. They are not organized by book, though I try. But again, I do not need notebooks. Of any size. Yet I had to drag myself away from the notebook aisle.

After swinging back by the jump drives and resisting temptation again, I narrowly avoided the pens and calendars. I looked at the doo-dads for the office, organizer files, pen holders, and the like. I looked at the office furniture, and no, I don't need that either. Eventually I made it out of the store with a box of the envelopes I went to buy and a three-tier small desk organizer to use for the SWAG I send with my weekly giveaways. Yes, I actually needed what I bought. But I felt like I'd run a marathon. I was totally exhausted from forcing myself to be practical! Next time I'm buying something I want that I don't need.

I have just discovered that there are writers out there who DO NOT have an addiction to office supplies. I didn't think such a thing was possible. But one of my friends, a wonderful writer, said that office supplies are necessary but why would I be addicted to them?

To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. I don't know whether to pity her because she'll never know the joy of having 8,000 pens, 427 jump drives, 952 notebooks, countless labels, sticky notes, stickers and other various and sundry items, or to ask her what her secret is.

How about you? Are you a "I can take them or leave them" or someone who likes nothing better than to browse office supply stores and lust over the goodies inside?

One lucky commenter will win one of my giveaway packages. A signed copy of Cry Love, a Tule Book Girls book bag, and lots of SWAG. Visit Eve at her newly revamped website, @evegaddy on Twitter or on Facebook at

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kristina Knight: Behind the Book: The Rockers Series

I'll let you in on a little secret: I can't write without music. Seriously. My brain stops sending messages to my fingers and I freeze. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? A writer should be able to write from anywhere...and I can, as long as there is music, too.

I know several writers who listen to a specific playlist from the start of a project all the way through edits. I don't do that. My writing process requires different types of music for different areas: when I'm drafting, it's light classical or jazz. No Muzak and no instrumentals of popular songs because I'll wind up singing and not writing. Once the draft is in the can and I'm on to edits, my playlist comes into play, and it will have a little bit of everything from pop and rock to country and even some oldies thrown in for good measure. While I'm editing, the songs on  my playlist will help me remember the mood of a scene or the crux of my hero's or heroine's problem...or the song will remind me of the book in general.

Here's a sampling of the playlist behind my Rockers series: Light My Fire, Start Me Up and Call Me.

1985 by Bowling for Soup
Springsteen by Eric Church
Raise Your Glass by Pink
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
Light My Fire by The Doors
Dance Forever by Allstar Weekend
Daylight by Maroon 5
Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson
Come Over by Kenny Chesney
(Kissed You) Goodnight by Gloriana
Here Comes Goodbye by Rascall Flats

An Excerpt from Light My Fire:
“Don’t.” Her words were a whisper, but still loud in the back of the limo.
            “Don’t, what?”
            Finally she looked at him, her deep brown eyes molten in the darkness. “Don’t be my brother’s best friend tonight. Don’t be my cheerleader. Just…” Her hand trembled against his on the cool leather seat. “I’m not America’s favorite sixteen-year-old any longer. I don’t need to pretend I’m still sixteen, and the magazines are already burning me at Trey’s sacrificial altar, so why not send that old image up in flames all the way?”
            She leaned across the seat, brushed her sweet lips across his cheek, and Nate nearly lost it. He was holding on by a thread. This was Lily.
            The same girl he’d grown up with. The Lily who’d brought him home after school because she noticed he hadn’t eaten lunch for three days. The Lily who cheered for him at the high school talent show. The Lily who couldn’t really want him, because if she did…he would ruin her.
            Nate groaned when her lips brushed against his. A bit of her hair had come loose from the sleek updo and brushed against his neck, fanning that trickle of flame even hotter.
            Her hand traced the line of his jaw, and Nate’s resistance burned to the ground. He pushed her back into the corner and dug his hands into her hair. “You don’t know what you’re asking for.”
            She panted. “I know exactly what I want, Nate Lansford, and what I want is you.”
            Nate lowered his lips to hers, tasting the sweetness of her lips for the first time. Her tongue tangled with his, pushing him further, asking him for more. And Nate gave it.
            When Lily arched her back, Nate reached for her breast, feeling her nipple pucker beneath the fine silk of her dress. She moaned, a tiny sound, but it was enough to pull him back into the present.
            What was he doing? This was Lily. The girl who made him want to be more than the kid from the wrong side of Malibu’s tracks. His friend.
            He couldn’t mess that up.
            Nate pushed away from her, fisting his hands in his hair as he tried to put a few more inches between them. The back of the limo was too tight. He was too close to Lily. He needed air. Space.
            “I’m sorry.” His voice was rough. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

Nate smiled at her. “Still putting on a show?”
            She could only shake her head.
            “Because I’m about through watching it.”
            Her belly twisted at the innuendo. “Sometimes you have to be part of the sh—”
            He put his index finger over her lips. “No quippity-quips. Not now, Lil. Let’s just dance, okay?”
            Her lips burned under his finger, but she nodded and slid into his arms as the DJ switched from bass-thumping fun to guitar-sensitive slow.
            Nate slid his hands beneath her coat and reached under the camisole to play with the sensitive skin at the small of her back. And she melted into him. Lily rested her head below his shoulder and twined her fingers with his. She sighed at the rightness of being in his arms, even in the middle of a crowd and fully clothed.
            He played his fingers along her sides like a piano and then worked his way around to the small of her back again, burning her from the outside in. Lily swallowed. She might want Nate, but she wasn’t ready for him.
            Wasn’t ready for whatever this was building between them.
            A small part of her still wanted the Nate she remembered—the boy who stood up to school-yard bullies for her, who smiled at her and only her while he performed before the rest of the student body in talent shows. The boy she shared her lunch with, the boy who took her to the senior prom when Bailey Yeardley stood her up at the last minute. She had so many memories with Nate, and almost all of them also involved her brother. What if whatever this was messed up not only her friendship with Nate, but also Chase’s?
            Her waking up a year ago and realizing the boy she’d grown up with had become a heart-stoppingly attractive man didn’t mean a thing . He was still her brother's best friend. He might be the guy who would give the reporter's something to talk about besides her show being cancelled, but that wasn't a good enough reason to act. Not if they couldn’t salvage their friendship when this lust train arrived at the next station.

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An Excerpt from Start Me Up:
She sat back, crossing her arms over her chest. "You can't be serious."
            His posture was the exact opposite of hers. Everything about him was opposite. Where she wore a pretty Stella McCartney blouse and prim pencil skirt, he wore ripped jeans and a tight black tee. Her strappy Manolos hadn't a single scratch. His Dr. Martens had to be from 1999 and looked like they'd cleaned up after one too many groupies in the green room.
            You're in control here, Nina. You're the professional. He's the client. Shoo him away like the ass he really is.
            Oh, but what a fine ass he has, the part of her brain she was definitely not listening to today said.
            "I assure you I'm serious. I need a non-clingy, well-proportioned date for a gala fundraiser in two days and I'd prefer she have no illusions as to what this is about." He sat forward in his chair and Nina was sure she saw his abs ripple. She caught her breath and then forced her gaze from the spectacle and back to those blue-blue eyes. And promptly forgot to breathe again. "The money raised will keep music programs in at least fifteen local schools. To keep the cash coming I need the headlines to be about the event, not my social life."
"Then you should go alone."
"Going alone will keep the gossip rags talking. What I need is a pretty date for a one- night-only performance."
            Nina blew out the breath she'd been holding. She didn't believe for a second this was a mercy date situation. More like a mercy hookup. She didn't do hookups. Her business set up marriage minded people who were matched based on an algorithm her aunt developed ten years before. An algorithm that had made the company a go-to in Los Angeles.
            She shot a glance out the window at the press corps on the sidewalk below her window.
            Well, until this morning, anyway.
"I think you've got my firm confused with…something else entirely, but for future reference—" she typed a few words into the search engine on her computer and flipped the screen to face him "—I am a matchmaker. A noun, meaning one who arranges relationships or marriages." She opened the next tab and gestured to the computer screen. "I am not a madam, although madams are also nouns. There is a very large, very cavernous area between matchmaking and houses of prostitution."

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An Excerpt from CALL ME:
“Hello, Josh,” she said, echoing his tone from a few minutes before.
            He blinked and then sat up straight. “What the hell are you doing in my car, Kat?” His smooth baritone slid over her senses and, just like that, she was pulling herself back from the abyss she’d been in five years before. This was just a one-night stand. Nothing to get excited about.
            Okay, one thing to get excited about. He knew all her secret places. She knew how to push him to the edge. And in the past few years, they’d probably both learned a few new things.
            “What do you think I’m doing here?” she countered, crossing her legs and spreading her arms over the back of the seat. “You practically invited me.”
            The car began moving. Well, at least he hadn’t kicked her out of the limo.
            “I said hello.”
            “You told me not to leave on your account.”
            “And then you did.”
            “I thought you might want a little more privacy.” She slid across the side bench to Josh’s seat, bent her leg to sit sideways and rested her head against her elbow. “This is pretty private, I’d say.”
            He watched her for a long moment. “You’re here for sex.”
            Kat nodded. “I don’t usually go for casual, but since we have a history, this isn’t your typical one-night stand.”
            “This isn’t what I expected when I came down here tonight.”
            “This isn’t what I expected when I showed up for work tonight.” She reached out to trace her finger along his jaw. That contact zinged along her nerve endings straight to the butterflies flapping around in her belly, electrifying their beat.
            “I’m headed straight to the airport.” He leaned toward her.
            “LA traffic’s a bitch no matter what time of day it is.”
            “You’re not the girl I remember.” This time he reached for her, his hand drawing a path of fire down her arm. “The girl I remember—”
            She cut him off before he could get started on the girl she used to be. The girl who was of so little importance he felt no qualms about walking away from without a single word. Well, she’d grown up since then. Had other relationships. Sure, none of them as serious or deep as what she thought she’d had with him.
But then, she’d never really had him, had she?

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Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police--no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. Her career took her all over the United States, writing about everything from a serial killer's capture to the National Finals Rodeo. Along the way she found her very own Knight in Shining Cowboy Boots and an abiding love for romance novels. And just like the characters from her favorite books, she's living her own happily ever after.
Kristina writes sassy contemporary romance novels; her books have appeared on Kindle Best Seller Lists. She loves hearing from readers, so drop her a line!  Website  Facebook