Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Lara Temple: Sneak Peak at the “Meet Cute” of #3 of my Wild Lords Series

This month my fifth book was published, exactly two years to the day since my first book saw light with Harlequin Mills&Boon, and my sixth book will see the light of day in May. What a ride! So I thought I’d celebrate here by sharing an excerpt from the final in my wild Lords series: Lord Stanton’s Last Mistress.

This is the “meet cute” scene which takes place five years before the bulk of the story – in it Christina, the English companion to the princess of a Greek Island, has been told to nurse a wounded and unconscious Englishman. In this scene she is reading aloud from advertisements from the agony columns in The Times and he awakes...

‘Here, listen to this advertisement,’ Christina informed the unconscious form on the bed. ‘This is a very passionate fellow. ‘To M-A,” which I presume is Maria, or could it be Margarita? That would add an exotic touch. Anyway, this is what he writes: ‘DO I DESERVE THIS?” In capital letters, too. I wonder if that costs more? Then he continues: “Is it generous? Is it equitable? If I hear not from you by Wednesday hence I will strike thy graven memory from my heart and endeavor to efface thy sweet smile from my soul. Orlando.” This was three weeks ago so Wednesday has come and gone and I shall never know if Orlando has been blessed by his Maria or whether she has chosen someone rather more sensible. I think living life in capital letters might be a little tiring. Oh, no. This is even worse. Here, Just at the bottom of the page. “To P---. If you could conceive the sorrow and despair into which I am plunged, you would not raise your head. With you I could suffer every privation. Alone I am all misery. A hint of kindness could obliterate all pain. S. B.” Goodness. Well, I think it is very brave to put such pain on paper but I cannot imagine ever writing something so…’
The paper scrunched between her hands. The word was faint but decisive and for a moment she searched the room for its source until she realized it came from the Englishman. He was awake, not the brief fevered awakenings of the past few days but awake and inspecting her. Lucid, his eyes were even more dramatic – as sharp and steely as a sword.
‘Where the devil am I?’ he asked as she remained tongue-tied, her pulse as fast as his had been at the height of his fever.
‘Illi…bloody hell. I remember. The storm. They shot at us.’
‘They thought you were pirates,’ she tried to be conciliating, thinking of the King. 
‘We were flying Maltese colors. Clear as day.’
‘Yes, well, it wasn’t. A clear day, that is.’
He groaned as he tried to shift on the bed.
‘I remember. The blasted fog. We rode up on the shoals. Why are you reading the agony columns? Out loud too, for pity’s sake.’
‘King Darius requested I read the English papers to you. He thought it would help you recover.’
‘That mawkish pap is more likely to send me into a decline. I had no idea people wrote such drivel.’
‘It is not drivel to them. Anyone willing to bare his or her soul like that deserves some sympathy, whether you approve or not.’
‘You didn’t sound very approving yourself just now, so I don’t think you can claim the moral high ground,’ His mouth relaxed into the beginning of a smile, amusement lighting his grey eyes. It was the first time she had seen that expression on his face and her pulse, which had begun to calm, went into another gallop.

Wild Lords:
#3: Lord Stanton’s Last Mistress:
#2: Lord Ravenscar’s Inconvenient Betrothal:
#1: Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress:

Author Contact Links
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter: @laratemple1
Amazon author page:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sexism in Romance

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about when I came in to prepare my post, but I took a quick read down the list of recent posts here and recalled that it's Women's History Month.

It was also International Women's Day on March 8th and, despite that, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I received an infuriated email from my sister the other day. 

She is a manager in a male dominated industry, but has a number of female coworkers of similar age, education and experience with the company. Most, including her, have a lot more on their resume than the recently hired twenty-something man.

However, when it came time to name a "Go To" temporary supervisor while the boss and his usual "Go To" were scheduled to be away, guess who the boss appointed? 

It's the sort of casual sexism that is so common we almost don't question it. We almost, almost, believe that men are more logical, commanding, and capable of resolving issues. My sister isn't in a union. It's totally up to the boss's discretion. She's not in a position to hold him to account and probably no one will. So it will continue. 

With all of these things in mind, I can't help using a different lens as I look at my own stories. Am I perpetuating sexism if my hero feels sexually attracted to my heroine even as he realizes she works for him? What about when he fires her out of revenge? 

It's that old debate about whether art imitates life or the other way around. Sexism is a reality. So is sexual attraction. Romance novels certainly get criticized for depicting unenlightened men, but those are real, too. 

I've always tried to be conscious of consent, especially if passions are particularly inflamed, but I also believe that a core message in romance is the transformative power of love. Some men are sexists. Sometimes they objectify women. I like writing a hero who has those flaws. Then I can show how his journey of falling in love also teaches him respect and empathy for the heroine and all women.

Is it realistic that we can change men? Not necessarily, but we can change our expectations and give the men in our lives the choice to adjust their behaviour and meet those expectations. 

That's why I think it's so laughable when romance novels are criticized for setting women up to have unrealistic expectations. Yes, there is a level of fantasy that isn't likely to be fulfilled. I'm still waiting for my husband to show up in a helicopter and take me to his private Greek island, but the part where I expect him to view me as his equal, that's completely realistic and not just achievable, but achieved. 

What are your thoughts about sexism in romance? Do you think authors should be more careful how they depict both sexes? Are you influenced at all by what you read in romance novels?

Dani's latest book, Consequence of His Revenge, features an arrogant alpha-male who fires the heroine, takes her virginity, gets her pregnant, and expects her to marry him. 

The heroine fights for her job, helps his grandmother, uses him for his hot tub, throws his jewelry in his face, and only goes with him to Sicily to clear her father's name. 

It's totally realistic. Start Reading.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: Roman gladiators, highlanders and Vikings Oh My!

One of the great things about being part of the Harlequin Historical authors is that I am part  of a sisterhood who are passionate about writing historical romance, and history in general. I have been part of this particular sisterhood since 2005 and sometimes forget that when others join, they might have read my books. Earlier this year, I realised a newish author, Greta Gilbert had written a Harlequin Historical set in Ancient Rome. I wanted to read it so contacted her, expecting to have to explain who I was etc etc. To my surprise and delight she had read some of my books and graciously allowed me to read her latest (it is absolutely cracking). She also agreed to do a short blog for Tote Bags so you all could get to know her better:

When I was asked to tell my call story for Tote Bags, I immediately thought back to my twenties and the release of the movie Gladiator. I was an unpublished fictionista then, and I remember thinking that it was one of the best-written movies I had ever seen. Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) was the honorable (and rather hunky) general-turned-gladiator whose story was both plausible and incredibly poetic. The moment he touched his fingers to the sands, he had my heart.

Rejection letters piled up through my thirties, and by my forties I had mostly given up writing fiction and was working at an education publisher. A coworker told me that Harlequin was accepting unsolicited submissions for its Historical Undone! series, so I summoned my inner Maximus and wrote a gladiator story. When I got the call that my manuscript had been accepted, I could hardly believe my ears. I suppose I felt a bit like Maximus after he survived the Carthaginian horde. I still can hardly believe it.

Michelle Styles, friend and author of some truly epic Roman romances, says interest in ancient Rome is due for a resurgence. I hope she is right. With its greed, brutality, pluralism, inequality, and globalism, ancient Rome seems to me like a parallel universe to our own--and one capable of producing great heroes.

And though Russell Crowe’s beard is now more grey than brown, he will always be the honorable young gladiator who inspired me and stole my heart. (Russell, if you’re reading this, call me! ; )
To whet your appetite for this great book 
Cleopatra’s slave girl…
And an enemy Roman soldier…

Egyptian slave Wen-Nefer is wary of all men. But she can’t help but be captivated by handsome Titus, advisor to Julius Caesar―even though he is commanding, and intolerant of bold women like her. Their affair is as all-consuming as it is forbidden. But is he a man who will go to any lengths to love her despite their boundaries…or a sworn enemy she must never trust?

You can read the first chapter for free.

In Other News:

Make a Date with Harlequin is back. 
This time they have a date with a Highlander doing karoke.
They have also done several print ads with Woman’s World. The March 19 2018 edition features a Viking and my latest book. I didn’t know it was there until Denise Lynn, another Harlequin Historical author, alerted me.
What will be next year ? A Date with a Roman Gladiator?

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods including Vikings and Romans. Her latest The Warrior’s Viking Bride is out now. You can learn more about  Michelle and her books on

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: Let’s Hear It For The Girls!

…and that’s what we were called when I worked in an office, at the end of the twentieth century. March is Women’s History Month. If you think history is only about politicians and wars, think again. It’s also about the lives of unsung armies of ordinary people, just like you and me. A single flake of snow can’t achieve anything, but thousands of them can create an avalanche. It's the same with women working for change. In Women’s Lives In Bristol, I trace the story of the rich and poor, lucky and unlucky women who battled to gain the basic respect, rights and independence most of us enjoy today.  
From Salisbury Cathedral—perfect for Women's History Month
Never let anyone tell you that writing is a waste of time. Women’s Lives In Bristol tells the stories of two women who, in their different ways, both wrote their way out of trouble. 
Emma Marshall (1830-1899) was the daughter of a relatively rich man, and went to a private school until she was sixteen. In 1854, she married banker Hugh Graham Marshall. Her duties after that were supposed to be nothing more than acting as  hostess for her husband’s business associates, and to be a stay-at-home mother to a huge brood of children. The Marshalls had nine daughters, and Emma enjoyed making up stories for them. In 1861 she published a book, Happy Days at Fernbank, which she called "...a story for little girls...". That marked the beginning of a spectacular career for Emma. Over the next thirty-eight years, she wrote more than two hundred stories. Often weaving a drama around a real historic figure or event, Emma instilled a love of English history into a whole generation of children—but behind her enormous success lurked a domestic disaster. When the bank her husband worked for collapsed in 1878, the Marshalls faced ruin. The loss of his job meant they would have lost everything—if not for Emma. By writing continuously, she became her family’s breadwinner and managed to pay off all their debts.
Emma died from pneumonia in 1899, and was writing until the end. Her daughter Beatrice completed The Parson’s Daughter, the story her mother’s was working on when she died. Emma’s youngest daughter, Christabel, was also talented. She became a playwright, author and campaigner for women’s suffrage. 
Long after Petticoat Government, cathedral life is still full of intrigue!
Frances Trollope, née Milton (1779-1863) was born in Stapleton. That’s now a busy suburb of Bristol, but when Frances was born it was a small Gloucestershire village. She didn’t marry until she was  thirty. Barrister Thomas Trollope turned out to be a bad choice of husband. Their marriage was unhappy, but this was in the days before women could obtain any reliable contraception.  The Trollopes had four sons and three daughters, and were always short of money.  At the age of forty-eight Frances fled to America, taking some of her children with her. She wanted to join the Nashoba community, which was a project to educate and emancipate slaves. This was started by Frances Wright in 1826, on the present-day site of Germantown in Shelby County, Tennessee. The high ideals of the commune weren’t realised. It collapsed within a couple of years, and Frances returned to England with her children. The book she wrote about her experiences, Domestic Manners Of The Americans, was very popular in its day. 
After that, Frances’s writing became her family’s main source of income. She produced several more non-fiction books on travel, as well as some fiction. A great campaigner against slavery, her book Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw allegedly inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Frances Trollope’s books were soon overshadowed by the work of her famous son Anthony. Her book Petticoat Government (1850) with its English cathedral full of manoeuvring clerics ruled from the sidelines by a domineering woman is not very different from  the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which Anthony published from1855 onwards. He obviously knew a good idea when he saw one.
English contemporary novelist Joanna Trollope is a distant descendant of Frances Trollope. Literary ambition must run in the family’s genes!

Women’s Lives In Bristol 1850-1950 will be published by Pen and Sword Books early next year. Follow me on Facebook, and drop in on my blog for updates.
As well as her local history work, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her books have been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or beekeeping.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at
Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Take a Journey...

Last week, on International Women's Day, I posted this video and talked about who I am.  I think all of us should spend time thinking about who we are.  It's hard to decide where you want to go if you don't know where you are. 

elcome to #ThisIsMe...the Holly edition.

           I am a Woman.

I am part of an amazing family.
I am a friend.
I've been bruised, but I have healed.
I am all the books I've ever read...or written.
I believe in something greater than myself.
I am Gleeful.
I am Clay-Happy.
I am a Solitude Loving Camp Lover.
I am a Wood Splitter.
I'm a shower singer.
I am a Baker.
I am a Cook.
I am Weird.
I'm a brewer.

I am a lover of odd science facts (Schrodinger, Pi Day...).
I am a lover of Buffalo Plaid.
I am curious, inventive, self-motivated and introspective.
Despite what people think, at heart I'm an introvert.
I believe in justice.

I try to see people for who they are, not how they're packaged.
I am so much more than all this...

Man, I love the line, "I'm not scared to be seen...I make no apologies.  This is me."

Still, I'm more than those things...I'm all the people who came before me.  And just as I don't think you can decide where you're going until you know where you are...I don't think you can know where you're going until you know where you're from.

I've been working on my family tree off and on for a few years.  On my mom's side, I come from pre-revolution New England.  My father's side has just as deep history, but from down south.  His family came from the mountains in Virginia, down to North Carolina, then back up to West Virginia.  I am a northern girl through and through, and find this deep southern part of my history fascinating.  One of my favorite books last year was Victuals.  I tend to read cookbooks like novels, and this book had a mini novel in amongst the recipes...stories from the mountains my family came from.  I read about sorghum in that book and a lovely friend, Tami, sent me some. I so enjoyed trying it became one of my Cooks and Books videos.  You can watch it here.  

I was doing some research for my family tree and stumbled across a documentary by NC State called Mountain Talk and watched it last week. I was fascinated by the stories about their speech and the music.  This is my heritage.  These are my people.  I think I miss the mountains, even if I've never lived there. 

One of the words that really struck me in the documentary was poke. A shopping bag.  I love that.  And of course, watching the documentary, made me do a bit more research (the trap of every writer...I can get lost in this stuff) and found a fun blog, Blind Pig and an Acorn.  I read an article about pokes there, and am now subscribed.  Yes, I'm falling down the rabbit hole...again.

Before I knew about my heritage, I loved mountain stories.  Do you remember Foxfire Books?  I've got more than a few.  I love to pull one out and read a story about someone's life.

Maybe this is part of why I write.  I get to explore other people's lives and pasts and the pieces of themselves that are there This Is Me definitions.  Because yes, I am part of my wonderful family, a friend, a writer, an amateur potter, a... so many other things.  I am all of them.  But I am my parents' daughter, and their parents' granddaughter...right on down the line. 

I come from a wide rich heritage and that is part of who I am.  And that's what I try to give each character I write.  That kind of history.  Briar Hill Road is a story that deals with more than a couple falling in's about their lifetime of love.  Their ups and downs.  And it's about their history. 
Yes, this is where one documentary led me today!  Down the rabbit hole again.  LOL

I hope you'll join me and take a journey down Briar Hill Road! And maybe give some thought to who you are.  We'd love to have you post your own #ThisIsMe list!


And while you're thinking about This is Me, here's a mash-up of it with Dear Evan Hansen's You Will Be Found...amazing!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Early St Patrick's Day Greetings from Kate Walker

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to everyone.   

Yes, I know it’s not actually St Pat’s Day yet, but it’s getting near to the  17th March, and at this time of year my thoughts always turn to the ‘Emerald Isle’  and my family’s connection with that beautiful country.   And then it was Mother's Day here in the UK yesterday so naturally I was thinking of my mother who was born in Clones,  Monaghan.

Both my parents were  born in Ireland -  and on my mother's side I’m descended from a man called Chevalier Charles Wogan whose story is something of a delight for any romantic novelist – here is a brief summary:

"The Chevalier" (Knight) Charles Wogan was born in Rathcoffey. Is it possible that his heroic actions on the night of April 29th 1719 have given rise to the romantic fairy-tale tradition that for every fair princess shut up in a castle tower there comes a knight in shining armour ready to set her free so that she can marry the handsome prince of her dreams?

Wogan was a staunch supporter of the Stuarts. He initiated the alliance which led to the marriage of James Edward Francis Stuart (the Old Pretender), son of Charles II, to Clementina Sobieski, daughter of John Sobieski, King of Poland. She was apprehended, however, on her way to marry the Prince in Bologna. She was held captive in Innsbruck in the Tyrol. Wogan arranged false passports with the Austrian Ambassador and along with a small group feigning to be a Count, Countess, the Countess’ brother (Wogan) and her maidservant, managed to gain access to the princess. Following a quick exchange of clothing between the princess and the maidservant, the party escaped in high winds and blinding snow through the Alpine passes into Austria.

The marriage to James took place and from it Charles Edward (the Young Pretender) was born in Rome in 1720. Wogan’s reputation for daring and enterprise spread throughout all Europe.
It’s rumored that in fact Charles Wogan and Clementina fell in love on their journey but that his loyalty to his king meant that he didn’t press his own claim for marriage. It’s also rumored that as a result of this, the Chevalier and his family are entitled to wear their hats in the presence of the king and to a pension of £10 a year. Unfortunately, like most of these things in English law, this was only passed down through the male side – which has now died out - and I come from the female line.
But this story has been in my mind a lot lately and I keep thinking that seeing as there's really nothing really new in romance plots, it could make a good romance story for Presents.

What do you think?

But for now, I have to  drag my mind away from the ideas that this story is sparking off and make myself focus on the revisions for my next book.   This is the trouble with the way that writing works. You write a book – send it to the editor.  The   editor wants revisions – but the revisions always seem to arrive just when you’ve thought of a new story and are itching to get on with it.

So I’m going to have to push this story from the Irish part of my family to the back of my mind while concentrating on the current book.  I may have mentioned that this is the second part of the duet of books that I started with  A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance.   I need to get this finished because it seems a lot of people are waiting impatiently  for the second half of the story – Imogen and Raoul have had their happy ever after  so now it’s the turn of Imogen’s sister  . . . and it seems that so many of you have guessed who her hero will be and can’t wait to read it .  So I’d better get back  to those revisions.   the meantime,  I’m itching to go back and reread the story of Charles Wogan and his Princess  and see where my imagination will take me.
A Proposal To Secure His Vengeance  was published in Harlequin Presents
in  February and is still available on Amazon etc.

I'm planning an revamp and a much needed update on my web site   - just as soon as I  finish these revisions!  And you can find any news and up to date information on my Facebook page

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Inspiring images — Kandy Shepherd

Back in the day, I used to prepare a scrapbook style story board for each of my stories. They would be filled with cuttings from magazines and catalogues, key words, even scraps of fabric. The boards were a bit messy and cumbersome and my skills with glue and sticky tape left much to be desired—bits and pieces were always falling off!

Then along came Pinterest! What a joy to make a digital scrapbook for each story. Inspiration for every aspect of my book at the click of the keyboard—hero, heroine, their clothes, their jewellery, their rooms, house, places they travel. I became a big fan. Some might say an addict!

First I start with inspiration for the hero and heroine. What an excuse to trawl through photos of gorgeous males! 

The joys of research!

Equally fun to find my perfect heroine. Even more fun the clothes she wears. As many of my books for Harlequin Romance feature a wedding, I have a page just for beautiful wedding ideas, including spectacular gowns.

For my latest book STRANDED WITH HER GREEK TYCOON, I researched inspiration for the hero Cristos: Greek, exceptionally handsome, tall and dark (of course!) with the kind of looks that made him an international model. After much pleasant browsing, I settled on French model Nicolas Simoes.

 For petite, blonde heroine Hayley, I went no further than lovely actress Michelle Williams. Then there was the blue coat Hayley wore—I found one that was just what I imagined. And her wedding dress of course!

Michelle Williams - inspiration for my heroine Hayley
 The story is set in the Ionian islands in northern Greece. I’ve been there in summer—my research showed my what the islands look like covered in snow in the  winter.

Of course as the writing of the book progresses, the hero and heroine become people in their own right (in my imagination, that is!) and very soon they are uniquely themselves, and perhaps different from the images that inspired me.

Here’s a screenshot of my Pinterest board for Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon. 

Why not hop over to the site and see it in more detail. If you’ve read the book, I wonder if it differs from the image you have in your mind of the characters and the settings!

 Do you use Pinterest for inspiration (I also have boards for home and garden!) Do you scrapbook? I'd love to see your comments.

Kandy Shepherd’s Stranded with Her Greek Tycoon is a February 2018 release from Harlequin Romance in North America; Mills& Boon True Love in the UK; and Mills & Boon Forever Romance in Australia and New Zealand. 

The model on the covers of the UK and Australian editions is just how I imagined Cristos—and not dissimilar to the images I collected on my board!


Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, 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, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

Photos of male model and Michelle Williams from Deposit Photos.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A Royal Wedding and a freebie!

I'm moving house and so I'm crazy busy right now, but I had to drop in and let you know that the fabulous Invitation to a Wedding quartet from Sophie Weston, Jessica Hart, myself and Anne McAllister, published by Tule, is now available in paperback. Just look at those luscious covers!

It won't have escaped anyone's notice that we have a real royal wedding this spring and we were all delighted to hear that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have - like Hope and Jonas, our own royal couple - decided to invite the locals into the grounds of Windsor Castle to witness the arrival of the bride and the royal party at St George's Chapel. We are all smiling.

And here's the freebie..

It's Read an eBook week and to celebrate I've made a number of my books free at Smashwords including a rare opportunity to download my Little of Book of Writing Romance.with a click that will cost you nothing.

Here's the link so don't delay - grab them for your reader! 

Friday, March 02, 2018

Learning from Teaching by Susan Sands

Many of you don't know that I was a teacher in a former life. I even forget sometimes what it was like
to create lesson plans, hold parent/teacher conferences, and get up every morning and head to school and spend a full day shaping young minds. It was rewarding, challenging, and exhausting.

Recently, I've been asked to present workshops at several writers' conferences in my area. I've also been asked to judge a couple contests. I've created handouts for my "students," worked on my presentations, and received material to critique from writers trying to publish their work. I'm to meet with each person whose pages I've critiqued and discuss my notes and suggestions for ideas to help them reach the next level in their publishing journey.

I'm back to teaching, essentially.  And I'm really enjoying it. What I didn't expect was how much I would learn about improving my own work from critiquing others. When I return to my work in progress after editing someone else's, I'm able to recognize more clearly where changes and improvements are needed.

I'm grateful for taking some of, what would have been, my writing time to change gears and work with others. It's definitely helped me in countless ways. I can't wait to meet these writers and brainstorm with them about their stories. I hope I can help them in some way reach their goals.

If you're in the Atlanta area March 10th and have an interest, check out the one-day Atlanta Writing Workshop. I'll be presenting two one-hour workshops. There will be agents and editors on hand taking pitches and lots of other great information.

Happy reading and writing!


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All Fun and Games

**I wrote this blog post six years ago, and the words are never truer! I hope you don't mind me
sharing an archived piece with you today. I hop back to the present at the end to update you on my life and thoughts today. But first... rewind to Joanne of 2012:

I found myself at a 6th grade basketball tournament last weekend.  It’s a place I’ve found myself a lot this time of year.  In our house, football season melts into basketball with only a two week hiatus, and hoop turns into baseball with even less down time.  With three boys playing sports, the cycle is familiar and sometimes exhausting.  Most of the time though, it’s fun.

Two of my sons from about the time I penned this piece.
As I cheered loud and long for my son—and for all his teammates who aren’t my sons—I thought about why we as a culture are so passionate about youth sports.  Sure, we all know the horror stories of the parents who yell all game and the coaches who take it all so seriously that practice turns into boot camp.  But that’s not the case in my town.  Youth sports are fun here, and every parent I know gets as hopped up about cheering on their kids’ successes as I do.  The losses… well, we might not cheer, but the lessons there are as valuable as the wins.  No doubt, we all tend to remember the times we failed more than the times we won. 

There are a million and one analogies between sports and life.  My husband wrote about a lot of them during his career as a sports editor, so they are often in the back of my mind as I put my time in at games.  But a new parallel occurred to me last weekend as I cheered on the boys and watched them grin when they made their shots.  Watching the kids play is fun because of the enthusiasm they bring to the game.  They’re not at the advanced level that puts so much social pressure on performance.  They’re at an age where they are allowed to simply enjoy the game.  And don’t we love that kind of innocent pleasure when the stakes aren’t so high and failure isn’t the end of the world?  At this level, you usually get your pizza party whether you win or lose.

I think that kind of fresh perspective and enthusiasm is what makes it exciting to be around new writers.  I get letters sometimes from writers new to the business who are looking for a little direction and those folks are usually pleased when I gab away about the writing life and the business.  I understand that they are getting something out of my conversation.  But I don’t think they necessarily realize what I’m getting out of theirs.  It’s that fervor and eagerness for writing that I remember with fondness.  Not that I mean to suggest I’m a cynical old crone at this point in the game.  Far from it!  I’ve got a Pollyanna streak a mile wide.  Still, my years in this business and my 30-odd manuscripts written (not all of them published) have definitely left me wiser and warier.  That’s a good thing.  And yet—I really miss those days where I’d stop at the end of a paragraph to admire what I’d written, kind of like those 6th graders smiling openly at a foul shot that swished cleanly through the net. 

There’s a joy associated with any new endeavor, a joy that quiets a bit as you become more of an expert and have been fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a profession.  The well-loved pursuit soon comes with deadlines and expectations of editors, agents and readers.  And the more successful you become, the higher the stakes of failure.  That success is a blessing, to be sure.  But there is always a bit of nostalgia involved in talking to a writer who still regularly takes time to savor the play of her words on paper or who is bursting with story ideas and can follow only her own direction about which idea to pursue next.  So don’t be surprised if you’re an aspiring writer and I quiz you about what you’re working on and how you manage your schedule and what you’ve got in mind for career goals.  I promise I’m not trying to steal ideas and I’m not just making small talk for the heck of it.  I’m just enjoying your journey along with you, and in doing so, I’m also remembering and enjoying my own.

**Present Day: I loved this piece because I just celebrated my youngest son's final season of high school basketball. I cried when it ended, probably more than I'll cry on his graduation day since sports have been such a defining element of my family and my life for the last twenty years. I will miss the tournaments, the young athletes and the fierceness of competing. But at the same time, I'm heartened to remember that this joy doesn't go away. Those memories will fill my books for many years to come.

And so funny to think that when I wrote this I had thirty some books. I just celebrated the release of my 80th novel for Harlequin. Have you read my February 2018 release, For the Sake of His Heir?

For today, I'll leave you with this thought / question- Have you ever acted as a mentor to someone in your business or personal life, or have you been on the receiving end of mentoring?  Did that experience bring similar emotional rewards to the ones I mention? Share with me this week and I'll give one random poster an advance copy of my April Harlequin Desire, Expecting a Scandal