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Friday, September 30, 2011

Sylvia Day: What is it about the angel hero that’s so sexy?

There’s just something about ‘em. When I see a winged hot guy on a book cover or DVD case I always look twice. I can’t help it. They’re just so visually striking. But why? Why is a really sexy guy with wings sticking out of his back so delicious? Is it the mixture of naughty--washboard abs and golden skin--and nice--angelic wings? Or something else? What incites that double take?

The hero of my upcoming series launch, A Touch of Crimson, is an angel (as you can see by the cover). Adrian is sexy for a lot of reasons. He’d be sexy even if he wasn’t an angel. But as an angel...  wow. It’s got a lot to do with those gorgeous crimson-tipped wings of his. Not just the wings themselves, but how he uses them.

He uses them for flight, of course. His heroine, Lindsay, loves to fly with him, even though she’s afraid of heights. She loves the way his body feels against hers as he pushes through the air--she admires the strength required to lift their combined weight and she’s aroused by the powerful flexing of his muscles as he holds her tightly against him.

He uses them in battle. Adrian’s wings are his greatest weapon. They’re impervious to damage from mortal weapons and the tips slice like blades. When he pivots, they flow fluidly around him, like a cape. Lindsay is mesmerized by the way he fights, finding his agile movements lethally graceful, a deadly dance that’s both graceful and frightening.

He uses them to shield Lindsay, not just from danger but from the world at large. In intimate moments, he wraps them around her, creating a private space where nothing exists but the two of them.

Lindsay uses Adrian’s wings, too. As impervious as they are to damage, they’re highly sensitive to her touch. The lightest stroke of her fingertips brings him the greatest pleasure.

And when his wings aren’t needed, they dissipate like mist, allowing Adrian to move through society like anyone else. Although he could never really fit in. There’s just something about him...

So, if you’re an angel hero fan, what is it about them that does it for you? Is it the good boy gone bad? Or something else entirely? I’ve got a copy of MEN OUT OF UNIFORM to give away to one commenter!

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giveaway - Lynn Raye Harris

I'm such an idiot, y'all! I knew I had a blog post due, and I even had my online calendar send me a reminder. The problem, however, is that I lost a day when I thought that today was the 28th. No idea why I had that idea in my head, but I did.

Very blonde moment, right?

I'll try to make up for it with a giveaway! I just got author copies of THE MAN WITH THE MONEY, Book 5 in the Notorious Wolfes family saga.

Here's what the book is about:

Jack…Red-Hot. Renegade. Restless.

Notorious gambler Jack no longer gets a buzz from the risks he takes at the card table. In fact it bores him. Until one night he wins more than he ever bargained for…

His prize is stunning Cara Taylor – she might be down on her luck but she certainly doesn’t need rescuing by a card-shark like Jack! Now she’s stuck with him she doesn’t know whether to love him or loathe him.

And here's a video about the Wolfes:


I'll give away one signed copy to a lucky commenter!

Update: Friends, the Random Number Generator has chosen Marybelle as the winner of the signed book! Marybelle, email me at Lynn AT LynnRayeHarris DOT com with your details, and I'll get the book to you.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or read my site regularly, look out for other chances to win! I will give more away soon. :)



Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. You can learn more about Lynn and her books at http://www.lynnrayeharris.com/. You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLynnRayeHarris

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Carrie Lofty: Respecting Creative Boundaries

Believe it or not, I initially imagined FLAWLESS as a near-slapstick romance, where a hapless husband and wife struggled comically against the elements in an usual setting. I kept imagining Goldie Hawn from Private Benjamin where she's sitting in a mud puddle sobbing about her situation.

Oh, gosh. Who did I think was gonna write this book??

About four minutes into the first draft, I realized exactly how daft my brain had been. I admire writers who do comedy well. I really admire them, because aside from cutting banter and wry, amusing comments, I'm not really known for comedic romances.

Angst, however. I love angst.

And especially considering the setting I'd chosen--colonial South Africa--did I expect clowns and farce? It wasn't the most pleasant of places, and it certainly wasn't a barrel of laughs for most of the intrepid pioneers who staked their lives on the gamble of diamond mining. I can imagine Cecil Rhodes laughing with his cronies while dividing up Africa on a map in the famous Kimberley Club, but that's about it.

Luckily, research and a firm trust in my voice led me to the right path. Miles wound up a deliciously sexy scamp. He's the right blend of Indiana Jones and someone sly and sneaky like Robert Downey Jr. His estranged wife, Viv, became a vulnerable yet steely young woman who has to take on both business and private matters to achieve the independence she craves.

But then came the angst, naturally, because she rather craves her husband too.

So yeah...what was I thinking?? Maybe I was imagining what sort of book a parallel universe version of myself would create. But back in this world, I truly hope readers fall in love with the lush, sensual, angst-fest that is FLAWLESS. I did, even without mud puddle farce.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Day at the Pinetum




When I was 12, I decided that I needed to see some castles. Looking back now, I'm surprised I didn't become a historical romance writer, all my setting in ancient Europe, drawbridges and moats and dragons. Seriously, at 12, I had a jones for castles!

I had been reading about them in Gothic novels for years, and I determined was high time to get a map together of all the spots I needed to see. I brought out the family atlas and commenced to draw.

Never mind that my family wasn't planning a trip to England nor could it afford to. I was undaunted in my drawing, though, and I wish I still had that little map of England, sadly misshaped and out of proportion but labeled clearly with all I knew I had to visit.

Many years later, I traveled to England twice. The first trip was one during a very cold Christmas break, and my family and I took buses to various spots, shivering in our timbers, staring out through the mists at Stonehenge and Bath and Canterbury. We went to the London Tower and all available old buildings in London, but it wasn't until a trip the following summer that I was able to see my beloved castles. Hastings, Bodiam, Scotney (my favorite, so charming, with a warning to "beware the moat"), Dover, and Hever, so many that finally, my boys cried for something other than the damn castles, and we went to Lego Land in Windsor, skipping the damn castle there.

But my favorite memory ended up not being at a castle at all. In fact there were many excursions that I loved for their simple pleasures: the K &E, SR railway trip to Bodiam Castle, the swim in the English Chanel while at the rocky beach in Hastings, the fish and chips in Rye, the small village of Battle, the petting zoo in Kent, wherein we met the giant pig.

Yet it was Bedgebury that I loved the most, the National Pinetum and forest garden. Pinetum--a label so much better than pine garden or collection of conifers. But a pine garden it was, an amazing forest of thousands of trees, winding through a green as green could be. As I walked, I could imagine all the characters I'd ever red about in Gothic novels fleeing something, someone, each other, many of them wearing nightgowns. I could see the characters from English literature sitting comfortably on the grass. Probably Austen's folk would have loved a picnic there, not to mention Forster's.

Wandering in silence, looking at the trees, I felt at peace. It's hard to say that I was unhappy while spending three weeks in Kent, but I was irritable, something itching me in a place I could not identify. Was it the novel I was soon to write and try to sell? Was it that my marriage was soon to have it's hardest moment? Was it that just a half a year from that walk in the Pinetum, my older son was going to go through a teen-aged time that would effect us all to the core?

I knew none of that then, no inkling of my life coming unhinged that summer in 1999.

I suppose I could have had that moment of peace at home I suppose, outside wandering in natural beauty. But despite my unease, I was in a place of bounty and beauty, a green world of my imagination but real, too. Characters ran around, my life ceased to pester, the birds overhead sang.

Later, we would go to another castle, another museum, but there, right then, I was in a cocoon of green, a nature I'd only imagined lulling me for an hour, keeping me from what was to come. Even my 12-year-old castle crazy self was satisfied.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dreaded Maintenance Plan - Virna DePaul

When I was in college, I had career dreams.  Before I owned a home, I fantasized about where I’d live.  Before I sold, I worked hard at becoming published. 

But once you attain a dream, then what? 

The maintenance begins.  What I’m learning is that maintaining what we’ve achieved is often the most difficult task we face.

Maintenance is dealing with the reality of the career you’ve chosen, including office politics, a long commute, disillusionment, and boredom.  It’s having to mow the lawn, wash the dishes, do the laundry and constantly dust the home you’ve built.  And it’s having to constantly face all the things that you haven’t done but could be doing to further your publishing career—finish those revisions, self-publish a book, update your website, send swag to the conference you can’t attend, write that next contracted book, meet new readers online, etc.

There’s always something more I can do to promote myself as an author.  Sometimes I find myself drowning in a sea of possibilities rather than doing the one thing I used to enjoy most—writing for the sheer pleasure of discovering new characters and worlds.

Probably everyone’s heard the adage that “Anything worth keeping is worth fighting for.”  A corollary sentiment is that “Anything worth achieving is worth maintaining.”  Of course it is.  Marriage and children.  A slender, healthy figure.  A writing career.  They’re all good and they’re all well-worth fighting for. 

But it’s still hard work.  It’s easier said than done.  And it’s easy to beat ourselves up for not perfecting our maintenance plans.  Occasionally, I think, we need to step back and let ourselves dream again, so that the possibilities aren’t just about tasks to be done but delights to be discovered.  That’s why, in honor of my latest book, Chosen By Fate (Para-Ops Novel #2), being released, I’m adopting a new goal.  Hawaii, anyone?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Erin Quinn: Mists of Ireland

The Mists of Ireland series takes readers to Ireland to meet the families MacGrath and Ballagh.  For eons these two families have been entwined in love, jealousy and the mysticism surrounding an ancient tome called the Book of Fennore.  Entrenched in lore and superstition, this ancient Book wreaks havoc on humanity—but when it falls into the hands of the MacGraths and Ballaghs, it ignites powers within them that make them its most formidable enemy. 

Haunting Embrace, the final book in the Mists of Ireland series, is a time-travel love story that spans centuries and reveals the secrets behind the Book of Fennore’s creation.  Áedán Brady—once known as Brandubh, the most powerful druid of all time—has been trapped in the Book for millennia until Meaghan Ballagh enters his life and sets him free.  Meaghan is an empath who sees beyond the front Áedán presents to the honorable man he once was.  She believes that man still exists, though Áedán himself refuses to even admit to being human anymore.  While Áedán fights to hide the vulnerability Meaghan’s perceptions reveal, he discovers hidden depths inside Meaghan as well.  Her blood runs hot and inflames him.  The more he knows about her, the more he wants to know.  But then he senses the soul of another woman lurking beneath Meaghan’s skin…a woman who betrayed Áedán centuries ago and cursed him to spend eternity in the Book of Fennore.   

Now Áedán must decide if love and trust are stronger than fear and revenge or he will everything, including the one woman who was meant to be his.



Here’s a brief excerpt of a crucial moment when Áedán begins to put it all together.

Meaghan’s eyes widened as Áedán lowered his mouth to hers, but she didn’t turn away, nor did she push him away. He felt the pending rush of fate slam into him as his lips touched hers. Thoughts of the stolen moments on the cliffs that afternoon had all but consumed him. He’d craved the sensation of her arms clinging tight, the softness of her breasts crushed against the wall of his chest, her hips pressed to his. . . .

Now he felt like an anchored ship whipped by a storm that refused to let it idle securely at bay. He ripped free in a powerful surge, back­ing her to the wall, needing that solid surface to keep from hurling himself out to sea.

The eye of the storm was within him, the fury of it all around. It uprooted his convictions, his resentments, his foundation. For a thousand years, he’d loved Elan, despite her betrayal, despite her condemnation. For a thousand years, he’d hated her, bitterly tar­nished every memory, purposefully corroded every recollection until what he felt was a mordant collage of distorted untruths.

Meaghan made a soft sound that was so heartbreakingly familiar, so longed for, so desired that it made his knees buckle. She kissed him back with desperation, begging him with her lips to make Mickey and all the terror he represented go away. Áedán tried, even though he feared it might be futile.

He realized then that she might have once been the woman of his past, the woman who had destroyed him, but she was something else now. She was more . . . and less. Better . . . and worse. Different. Ex­citingly fresh, startlingly distinctive. She might flash glimpses of Elan’s eyes, but her scent, her lips . . . her kiss. Everything about Meaghan was unique.

Thanks for stopping by to see me today!  Have you heard about my Spread the Word contest?  (Click for details).   For more information about me and my books, go to www.erinquinnbooks.com .  I’d also love to give away an autographed copy of Haunting Warrior, the third book in the Mists of Ireland series to one lucky commenter…so talk to me!

***Sonali is the winner of Erin Quinn's copy of Haunting Warrior!  Sonali, please email me at totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your full name and mailing address so we can get the prize in the mail to you.  Thanks to everyone else who commented!***

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some advice for writers

Lately my life has been a bit crazy thanks to a big move from New Zealand to Australia, doing some workshops and getting revisions done on one book and copy-edits on another, so when it came to thinking of a blog topic, my mind went blank (well, okay it didn't go blank but all it could conjure up was images of chocolate).

So like many writers before me, in my hour of need I turned to Twitter and asked what I should write about. Anyway, Catherine Haines (Kiwi writer, blogger and all around awesomely cool person) said this:








So Catherine, this is for you!

Find your voice

Voice is one of those strange things that we often ignore when really it's the thing what will help your books stand out in a crowded market. So don’t be afraid to write the story the way you ‘really’ want to write it as opposed to how you think you should write it.


I say this because for six years I kept coming up with all these weird paranormal romance ideas, but because I was trying to write regular romance novels, I would carefully cut the paranormal elements out of each book (I really wish I was kidding about this but I’m not). However, when I finally had the idea of a dead girl who gets kicked out of heaven and sent back to earth in a guy’s body, I realized that there was NO way I could cut it all out, so instead I finally embraced the voice that I had been trying to stifle for so long and I wrote the book in all of its glorious weirdness. It was called You Had Me at Halo and not only did it finally help me get an agent but I also got a book deal two weeks after it went out on submission.




Take risks


If you want to get published you have to send your work out to agents and editors because as a rule they won't come looking for you. Yes it's scary and yes there is a good chance (a very, very good chance) that they will reject you. However, while rejections suck, they are also the stuff that good writers are made of. If you're lucky enough to get a personal rejection then you can take what they are saying and apply it to your writing. If you are only getting standard rejections then use them to motivate you to improve your craft.

And I know this sounds really obvious but over the years I've lost count of the number of amazing writers I've met who are too scared to send their work out (of course it's hidden under the guise of 'it's no good/I'm too busy/it's not where I see my writing career as going' excuses). Please, don't be that person. Take risks with your writing. Put yourself on the line and send your work out. Let the market help you learn your craft.

Have fun

So much of writing can be hard work. Especially when it comes to dealing with rejection, but there is a reason why we all wanted to become writers so try not to lose track of what that reason is. Especially since there is a certain freedom in being an unpublished writer. You're not tied to deadlines or editorial revisions or genres (or all the delightful head-games that can go along with this stuff).

And finally...

It goes without saying but eat lots of chocolate. It might not make you write a better book, but I’m sure it will make you feel better!!

Amanda Ashby has been ignoring her own advice for years but despite herself she still manages to write young adult and middle-grade books for Puffin (US). Her latest book, Fairy Bad Day is now available and is full of action, romance and lots and lots of Skittles! To find out more you can visit her at her website or twitter!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Melanie Milburne: Outback Heroes

One of the biggest thrills of being a Harlequin Mills and Boon author is having one of your books come out in a collecting with other authors. It's even more thrilling when those other authors are ones you know personally and count as friends. Fiona Lowe and Amy Andrews are out with me in the outback this time with our Outback Heroes collection called Australian Bachelors.

I love the Australian outback. It's so rugged and the colours so rich and unusual. The red ochre of the rocks and the shimmering of the heat on the vast landscape is something I think of again and again here in my green English countryside-like state of Tasmania.
One of my favourite holidays was to the Northern Territory a few years ago. We went to Darwin and then Uluru and Alice Springs and Kings Canyon. We also went out into the desert for dinner under the stars where an astronomer showed us the constellations in the brilliant night sky.

Another highlight was when I went to the Darwin Show. It had such a wonderful old world feel about it. And all those gorgeous men in moleskins! I had to fan my face many times. It was such a great trip and truly inspiring, which is why I came to write this particular book.
In Top-Notch Doc, Outback Bride I have Kellie Thorne thrown out of her depth in the outback. She really is a fish out of water as she is a beach chick from birth. 

The guarded and unfriendly Matthew McNaught is not quite what she is expecting. She is all bubbles and enthusiasm. He is brooding and enigmatic. Just what I love in a hero! But behind Matt's aloofness is a man who is not quite ready to let go of the past. His fiancee was tragically killed six years ago and he has not moved on from it.

One of the things I thought about as I wrote this novel was how soon is too soon to have another relationship after a partner has died? Does grief have a time limit? What do people think is the right period of time? Does the length of time say something about the relationship that has been lost?
I used to think if men remarried quickly that they must have been really unhappy before, but apparently that's not what studies have shown. It is more likely for a happily long-term married man to remarry sooner rather than later after the death of his spouse. Interesting, isn't it? What do you think is the reason? I will send a copy of Australian Bachelors to a random comment posted.
Warmest wishes,
Melanie Milburne

***Marybelle, your name was picked as the winner!  Please email me at totebag@authorsoundrelations.com with your full name and mailing address so we can get the prize in the mail to you. Thanks to everyone else who commented!***

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Sneak Peak by Jenny Gardiner

This month instead of my usual post I thought I'd share some great new covers that the talented Kim Killion made for me for two new books I'll be putting up digitally on Amazon, iBooks, BarnesandNoble.com, etc this week. These books are a little bit of a departure for me as so far other books I've published lean more toward straight out commercial women's fiction, but both of these novels are romance!

In Accidentally on Purpose, Washington, DC, photographer Lucy McSweeney has given up on men. Her timeclock ticking, she's decided there's no point in waiting for the man of her dreams when she's perfectly capable of starting that family without him---all she needs is a turkey-baster. Well, sort of. Doesn't it figure she finally stumbles upon that perfect guy in Andrew Madigan, only by then she's months into her turkey-baster pregnancy. And, she's just been hired to be the photographer at his upcoming society nuptials to the shrew of all shrews...

In Compromising Positions, Mercedes Fortunato just wanted the Capitol Hill job she was totally qualified for. Except the snooty press secretary refused to hire her, clearly objecting to hiring a woman for the position. That is until his boss, a horny Viagra-addicted U.S. Senator who's never met a woman he didn't want to bed, sets his sites on Mercedes as she's leaving the interview, and forces Mike Garrity to have to swallow his pride and hire Mercedes against his better judgment. Soon Mercedes finds she's fending off the advances of her boss, the Senator, while encouraging the advances of her boss, the press secretary, and finding that she is neck-deep in scandal and danger that could spell trouble for all.

I hope you'll check them out --they should be up some time this week or early next week at the latest!

Oh, and don't forget to check out Wade Rouse's humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship, in which I am a contributor and which features a top-notch list of contributing authors (Jen Lancaster, Jane Green, Jill Connor Browne, Sarah Pekkanen, Caprice Crane, W. Bruce Cameron, Rita Mae Brown, and many more, with a foreword by Chelsea Handler's dog Chunk). Half the royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States.

And my novel SLIM TO NONE has been teetering on some of the Amazon bestsellers lists---if you haven't read it I think you'll enjoy it. Anyone who's ever been on a diet will "get" it! Sleeping with Ward Cleaver is enjoying a wonderful revival as an e-book, so if you haven't read that, please do! And while you're at it, check out House of Cards and Over the Falls.
Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, as well as the novels Slim to None and Over the Falls, the novel House of Cards, and the humorous memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me. She also has a story in Wade Rouse's upcoming humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/Sept '11), a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the US and selected animal charities.





Saturday, September 17, 2011

Scarlet Wilson: The Steep Learning Curve of the New Author


This year, has been a big year.  On the 21st January I got The Call.  By the time this blog appears my book, a Mills and Boon/Harlequin Medical It Started with a Pregnancy will be on the shelves in the UK.  Since January I've been on a steep learning curve.  I've learned things I didn't even realise I needed to know! 

So, I thought I would share with you some of the things I've learned in the last few months, rather than give you a Call story!

1.  Revisions  This was the first thing I had to master.  I had four sets before I got The Call.  And for the two books I've sold since I've had two sets for both. 

2.  Contracts People say that Harlequin contracts are boilerplate and don't change.  I've asked for a few amendments and got them without any problem.


3.  Pseudonym  I had to pick a pseudonym as someone already writes romance novels in the US under my own name.  I ended up with a list of 7, which my workmates all voted on.  Scarlet was the obvious choice for me as I have a red car, numerous red coats and bags, a red bedroom, a red living room......etc, etc, etc.

4.  Website  After I picked my pseudonym, I had to register for a website name and get my website set up.  I was lucky, I had a colleague who could help with this and you can visit me at www.scarlet-wilson.com

5.  Publicity I finally set up an Author Page on Facebook. (http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Scarlet-Wilson-Author-Page/124872094266360) I also have a blog, linked to my website, but so far have resisted the temptation to Twitter.  Right now, I want to concentrate on my writing.  The less distractions - the better!

6.  Write every day.  This is probably the most important thing that I've learned.  I work full-time and have two young sons who have activities nearly every night of the week.  Time is at a premium in my house.  I've learned the best time for me is lunch time.  I can write 1000 in half an hour.  So I do that everyday.  Some are good, some are bad, it doesn't matter!

7.  Take the good with the bad.  Yes, I've had a bad review already.  But, I've also had seven great reviews.  And I have to be pragmatic about it.  I don't love every book I read - and I can't expect everyone to love mine. 

8.  I really love writing!  A few years ago I worried in case I wouldn't have more ideas for a story.  This seems to be unfounded, as at present, I'm working on book 4, have 2 ideas for new medical stories and an idea for a Riva.

To celebrate, I'd like to give away one of my books.  It's a 2-in-1 with Sue Mackay's Return of the Maverick.  Distance is no object, so to enter just leave a comment below.  I'll post the winner back in the comments in a few days time.
  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lisa Dale - Not Before I've Had My Coffee

Hi all!

Hope that those of you living in the Northeast are enjoying the beautiful weather. Here is a quote about autumn that just broke my heart:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

But I haven't popped on this morning to blog about autumn. I want to blog about morning.

Here's why: Every darn morning my husband and I participate in what I like to call The Glockenspiel Hour. Chimes galore.

For one hour, we both lie in bed, half-dazed and paralyzed by sleepiness, listening to our alarm clocks. And lest you think this is a SMALL feat, I will tell you that we have no fewer that FOUR alarm clocks (two cell phones, my alarm [which has two different individual alarms set], and his alarm).

We've tried everything--putting the alarm clocks across the room. Setting only one. Trying to give each other a "time to get up" pep talk...nothing works!

At least, not usually.

But yesterday morning, I was able to get myself up at the fragile hour of six a.m. to head off to Panera to do some writing on my new project (which is desperately due). And I was reminded: I love early morning. I love watching the bathroom get brighter while I'm brushing my teeth. I love the strange light before sunrise. And I love writing first thing in the a.m.

So why, if I love morning, do I suffer The Glockenspiel Hour?

I also love my husband, who often works late at night. I like when he's all sleepy and cuddly. I like to hear the sound of him grumbling when the alarm clocks go off, the pulling me closer. And I like getting up at the same time as he does--instead of rising early--because I like hearing him putter around: the buzz of the razor, the water falling in the shower, and the smell of his skin when he gets out.


So what's a writer to do?

If you're an early morning riser, I would love to hear your tips! I may have to make a concerted effort at forfeiting the GH so I can focus on my new book. But I'm not a morning person and need your help!

Ideas?

Good things,

Lisa Dale

P.S. I posted honeymoon pictures (with goofy commentary) at my blog! Comment and enter to win my Love To Readers prize.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

The First Frost


I'm not sure I'm ready for it -- in fact, I'm quite sure I'm not -- but the frost warning flickered across my computer screen about 2 this afternoon.

We had a ghastly summer with lots of high humidity to turn our reasonably high temperatures into a sauna.



We ordinarily walk the dogs in the evening. But the heavier-coated golden retriever just looked appalled at the thought. So he and I walked about 10 p.m. when it was at least slightly cooler.

And that was last week.
Good grief.



But another part of me is glad to see fall (that's 'autumn' for you folks across the pond) coming.

I love the bright crisp days and the startlingly blue sky. I love the lack of humidity. I love the changing colors on the trees and the 'burning bush' hedge at the back of my neighbor's garden.

I also love the fact that my computer is happier in the cooler weather.

There was a time before The Prof (with whom I share a life) decided that air conditioning wasn't evil that it was so hot that my computer refused to type the letter "a."

As you might imagine, this put a serious cramp in my novel-writing. Thinking of words without "a" took more time than writing a whole scene.

Now every summer -- with air conditioning -- I don't have that problem.

But even so, I think my computer is happier with cooler weather anyway. I know I am.

I love fall. Fall, for me, is a time for hiking through the woods hereabouts, of picking
apples and making pies and watching football.

It's a time of haunting office supply stories and stocking up on school supplies (yes, even though I'm not a student officially anymore -- unless you count the course in Scottish records I'm taking -- I still need my notebooks, pens and paper fix).


It's also time for television programs to turn up again with their new season.

For years we didn't have a television at all. But now that we do (like air conditioning, it has been allowed in the house because we've proved we can live without it), I find myself looking forward to NCIS, Castle and The Mentalist.

I know that other series start at other times -- and I'm grateful for that because I wouldn't have time to watch them if they were all on the same week -- but traditionally tv started its new season in September, and I'm old enough to be a traditionalist!

It's also a time for deadlines as, this year, I have one coming up in a few weeks.

I'm hoping that the book behaves itself for the rest of September, so I can send it out the door with the same bright optimism (and relief) with which I used to send the kids off to school. It's got a ways to go yet, though. So I'd better get back to work.

First, though, I'd better go throw a sheet over the tomatoes!

Do you like the change of seasons or are you -- like my mother -- a one-season-is-fine-with-me-as-long-as-it-never-gets-hot-or-cold sort of girl?

Anne's next book, The Night That Changed Everything, will be out from M&B Modern in October and from Harlequin Presents Extra in November. Please watch for it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reaching Rock Bottom and Climbing Up Again

It happened 23 days ago. I had had pasta and cake. My head swam and I knew I had to do something or I would regain all the weight I'd lost over the last year. I had done well in a way but I was plateauing and my waist was starting expand again. This was despite doing 50 minutes of  exercising per day, following along to a dvd.  Rock bottom had been reached, one of those deciding moments when you know that your life can go two ways.
 It was time I decided to bite the bullet and try The Tracy Anderson Method.
The Tracy Anderson Method was developed by Gwyneth Paltrow's trainer who claims that she can transform any woman if she is willing to sweat. It involves 2 hours of exercise a day including dance cardio and a restrictive diet but one which has high marks for vegetables and fruit. I'd looked at it before and decided it was not for me. Despite enjoying dancing at the Harlequin party, I am not a big fan of dance cardio. The humiliation of always being the one out of step in various dance classes lingers. I was very much you can ask me to do anything but don't ask me to do dance cardio in pursuit of losing weight.
That day I decided to face my fears..for 30 days. Even I could do dance cardio for 30 days.
I sent off for the book The Tracy Anderson Method 30 Day Boot Camp from Amazon. It arrived the next day, along with its dvd. One of the first things I read was if you start this programme tomorrow, in a month's time you will have a changed body. And then the only fairy dust I can give you is sweat. Sweat, I decided I could give...even if I had to do dance cardio. Besides the only creatures I might frighten were the dogs.
I sweated in bucket loads. My daughter commented several times that I looked like I had a shower with my clothes on. I ignored her. Despite my two left feet, I have been mastering the dance cardio and can now do 60 minutes vigorous exercise, plus all the mat work (about an 60 minutes). The food while not plentiful has filled me up and I have rediscovered how much I do enjoy salads and fresh fruit. The emphasis is on fresh, easy to prepare foods. On the whole the recipes are very good. I have become a confirmed herbal tea drinker.
Best of all I have lost 18 lbs and am now just within the healthy BMI range (because of this I am foregoing the 5 day detox at the end -- the thought of pureed corn and sweet potato makes my stomach churn). I have also had lost something like 19 inches, including 4 inches from each thigh.  The net result is that I can fit into clothes I wore in my early twenties before I had children. Equally my lymph oedema in my left arm which nothing has touched is severely reduced. My energy levels have really climbed and I feel so much more awake.   And I have gone from a skeptic about Tracy Anderson to a whole hearted believer. The woman can work miracles.
I had had low expectations of the experience and have been utterly astonished by the success. Things like this don't happen to me. I had been struggling for ages to lose weight and had despaired about getting down to a healthy BMI. And while I had lost a significant bit last year, nothing much had happened this year.  I stubbornly stayed around 170. I tried to tell myself that it was because I discovered various exercise dvds like Jillian Micheals and had really increased my muscles. as certainly my inches went down. I had sort of thought that I was destined to be larger than I wanted to be. Middle age spread and low metabolism. Now I know that was not the case.
In the short term, I am going to finish the boot camp. I have about 15 lbs more that I want to lose. In the longer term, I am waiting for her metamorphosis (4 dvd 90 day programme of exercise)  to arrive so I can go on to that programme.  She has found a way to target the accessory muscles, rather than the large muscles groups and pulls things in. And dance cardio is hard work but fun.(Colour me astonished here) She claims that if you do the exercise, you can keep your figure. She has done it for over 13 years.
So if anyone needs to shape up quickly, you could investigate Tracy Anderson and her Method. Jillian Michaels is also good but as I said you tend to lose inches rather than the weight.  I know Donna Alward has had great success with PX 90. Not every trainer is right for every person, so it is worth taking the time to investigate. And sometimes, facing your fear like I did with dance cardio can really reap rewards...

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin. Her latest book To Marry A Matchmaker was out in the UK in July (remains available as an e-book) and is currently out in Australia and New Zealand. You can read more about Michelle's books on her website at www.michellestyles.co.uk

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Starting Something New - Kate Hewitt

September always feels like the beginning of the year to me, with school starting and the fresh smell of autumn in the air. It feels like a good time to make resolutions or start new things--and wow, have I started a lot of new things lately! 


A month ago my family and I moved from New York City to a small village on the northwest coast of England. We got a dog, my children have all started new schools, my husband a new job, and life feels very different. It’s exciting and nerve-racking and overwhelming all at once. 


Amidst all this change I’ve been working on my 20th romance for Harlequin Presents, and I feel very thankful to have that constant in my life. When house, children, dog, and moving boxes are all chaos around me, it’s been great to turn on my computer and lose myself in my current story. Yet I’ve also started something new with writing--I’ve self-published a historical saga Down Jasper Lane available now on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble, and soon on Kobo and Amazon. Down Jasper Lane was originally published in hardcover, and I’m very pleased to be able to offer a revised and expanded version to readers in digital format for a much cheaper price! You can check it out here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/80506


I also have a Harlequin Presents out this month, The Secret Baby Scandal, a duet with the wonderful Jennie Lucas. Leave a comment on whether you like starting new things, or what new things you may have started, and I’ll draw a winner for a copy of one of my recent releases, either The Matchmaker Bride or The Man Who Could Never Love.

Happy reading,

Kate 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Better Late Than Never!

by Anna Campbell

More photos than text today!

Do you remember last month I did a piece on midwinter in south-east Queensland in Australia where I live?

I had a couple of shots of a beach at Maroochydore from a charity talk I gave. But I'd also taken a stack of photos on a late afternoon walk along the seafront near my house and then my digital camera decided it wasn't talking to my computer anymore. So I couldn't include them in the original blog as intended.

Grrrr.

As a result, I promised to share the pics if I could get the camera working again. Well, thanks to some seriously techie friends of mine, I now have access to my photos.

Huzzah!

I hope you enjoy these shots of Pumicestone Passage at Golden Beach in the late afternoon on a beautiful winter's day.


The first picture is of one of my favorite local birds, the blue heron. They're usually quite shy so I was delighted I got close enough to get this shot. This particular walking path is popular with dog walkers so the birdlife is best after all the pooches have gone home for dinner.

The next shot looks south along the passage to Moreton Bay. The trees in the distance are on the Bribie Island National Park. From my house, which is about five minutes walk from where this was taken, you can hear the surf on the ocean side of the island at night. It's a wonderful sound!

Speaking of birds, this area is one of the world's largest tern sanctuaries. Vast flocks of migratory birds use the sandbanks to stop off for rest and recuperation. Some birds come from as far away as Alaska and Siberia! Wonder if they get jetlag!

The next shot looks north to the holiday resort of Caloundra - see the high-rise apartment blocks. There's some wonderful beaches and cafes up there. I'm definitely on the quieter end of the Sunshine Coast.

Just to prove the seasons have moved on, check out this magnificent melaleuca that grows in my neighbor's garden but cascades over my back fence like a beautiful white waterfall. Spring has definitely sprung down here!

I've always loved the ocean and it's such a treat to live so close to it. So are you a seaside person or do you prefer the mountains or the plains or the city? If you could have your choice, where would you settle?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day To Remember

It was a perfect afternoon in late summer. The weather was warm and sunny, but not too hot. My husband had taken some time off from work, and we were both worn out from amusing our toddler all day. Maybe it wasn't the most romantic way to spend our wedding anniversary, but when you become a parent, you soon learn to choose your moment. Our special time was going to come much later on, after the children had gone to bed. There was a pizza in the fridge, together with gateau and a bottle of wine, all ready for our celebration. 
My over-worked husband had used our special day as a lever to escape a big client meeting in Manhattan, but (then, as now) he could never let up completely. While I got ready to collect our ten-year old from her after-school club, he rang in to his firm's New York office see if everything was running smoothly. For the first time ever, a call to his colleagues was over in seconds - even before I'd had time to leave the room.
'That's odd,' he said. 'The PA hung up on me. She said she couldn't talk. Something's happened.'
He was already firing up his laptop as he spoke, and was composing an email as I walked out of the house.

It was our 19th wedding anniversary: 11th September, 2001.

Half an hour later, I was back from the school run and we'd forgotten all about our special day. The horror unfolding on TV and radio wiped everything else out of our minds then, and for a long time afterwards. My husband should have been in the WTC that morning. Like the thousands of people who were actually there in Manhattan, he is very conscientious, really hates being late for anything and was bound to have been on the spot, way too early for his meeting. 

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and ours is no exception.  Yet not a day has passed since then that I don't look at him and think 'I am so lucky to still have you by my side.' It could have been very different. My whole family are deeply grateful for our good fortune, but we are painfully aware that friends, colleagues and many, many other people in the United States and around the world are facing today in terribly different circumstances.

When I saw my regular monthly spot here fell on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I thought for a long time about what I could possibly contribute. Finally, I decided that the First World War poet Laurence Binyon said more than I ever could, and in only a few lines. His words have been a comfort to millions over the years, and I hope these extracts from For the Fallen will help you through today wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them...



...But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known,
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain. 


All over the world today, names will be read out as we remember those who died. Their most fitting tribute is that they will all live on in the memories of their loved ones, and in the thoughts and prayers of those of us who witnessed the indescribably tragic and world changing events of 9/11.

Christina x


Christina Hollis is a writer. Today, that's all you need to know.