Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Between the Words

Between the Words

You met Alice in These Three Words. And now she's got her own story, well, part of a story!! It's out today!!

Alice had the perfect life...which fell apart when her husband's pregnant mistress showed up at her door.

Olivia was leading an imperfect life until it fell together when she met her cheating boyfriend's other woman...his wife.

Two Women.

Two Romances.

Two Happily-Ever-Afters in this final installment to Holly Jacobs' bestselling Words of the Heart series.

Life happens between the does love.

I hope you'll check out this newest book in the Words of the Heart series! Each book completely stands alone, but if you've read them all, you'll find the connections!

I'm happy to announce the first three books are on sale this week for $.99!! If you're missing any, this is a great time to pick them up! 
 My love of affair with pottery continues but my bowl-palooza has ended. I made 50 bowls for this spring's Empty Bowl fundraiser. Okay, I made a few more than that! I made one to give away to one of you! You just have to promise to be kind...these are better than when I started, but I'm no expert! It's in the kiln now. I'll glaze it next week. So keep an eye on your email in December. I'll announce the winner near Christmas! How do you enter? It's open to any newsletter subscriber!!

Books and ceramics. That's the biggest happenings in my life other than family. And the family is keeping me hopping! We went to Gettysburg at the beginning of the month. It rained the whole ride down, but the weekend ended up being lovely! The leaves were at their prime! I love Pennsylvania!

I hope you enjoy the new book, Between the Words. Don't forget that the PTA Mom series is available in one Collection that includes a bonus story!  The first story is Once Upon a Thanksgiving...a great way to start the holiday season!! And Quincy Mac's 5th book, Polished Off, is out as well!

I'm signing up for spring term tomorrow...yep another ceramics class is on the list! So you can be sure you'll be seeing more pieces. In the meantime, Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!!


PS If you have a minute, I'd really appreciate it you review the books you've read! Those reviews are a great way to help other readers find my books!

Monday, November 12, 2018

'Dull' November? WIth Kate Walker

When I was  growing up, I remember that my mother always used to quote from a poem that she had learned  as a girl.  It started with these lines:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

And then went through all the months, rainy February, breezy March, hot July . . .  But I’d forgotten what the poem said about November. So I looked it up:

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves go whirling past.

Well, that’s certainly been the way the weather has gone the last week or so.  Dull, windy – lots of leaves falling from the trees. And when the clocks changed, being put back an hour, it seemed as if darkness had suddenly fallen so very early. The evenings closed in, the sun – such as it was – disappeared. It  was so hard to deal with at first. It reminded me of another poem- this one by Thomas Hood:

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

Oh dear.  Summer was definitely over. Autumn (Fall)  seemed to have gone too.  It was cold and miserable . . . but then  we lit the first proper fire of the year. And instantly everything changed. The flames licked at the coal, burning it steadily until it glowed red and warm.  The cats came and sat in front of the flames, curling up on the rug – or stretching out to get the heat along every inch of their bodies.

And I rediscovered the joy of curling up in an armchair,  a blanket over my legs -  and sometimes a cat on top of that blanket for extra warmth – and best of all a lovely thick, absorbing book to lose myself in as I read.

I love sitting on a beach – or out in the garden with a chance to read  and the sun on my back. But really, that just doesn’t compare with the delight of settling down in front of a real, blazing fire, with a book I want to read and a long dark evening in which to read it. I don’t even notice the darkness outside, or the cold. I lose all awareness of the wind or the rain.
Perhaps it’s something like going back to my childhood when my sisters and I used  to gather round the fire and Mother would read to us – or perhaps it’s   the thought of images I’ve seen of Victorian families reading by firelight – but there’s something special about those long, cosy nights  - with a good book.

And I have such a huge TBR pile that I can’t wait to settle down in the evenings and start to make my way through it.  I have more than enough books to last me between now and Christmas and – who know – there may well be some new titles under the Christmas tree (I’m sure there will  be!!)  so that they’ll keep me happy  right through until the next Spring.

What about you? Do you prefer to read  inside , snug and warm in winter – or do you long for the long hot summer days to read outside or on the beach?

You can read more about me and my books on my web site and my blog -  and catch up with me too on my Facebook page

Friday, November 02, 2018

Making Progress--Finally! Susan Sands

Hello, friends! Fall has finally begun to tiptoe its way into the South, Georgia specifically. I'm finally making some real progress in finishing my novel in progress. The past year has proved to be one that put a rope around my waist and pulled and tugged me back every time I tried to make headway or forward progress with my writing. No longer.

I plan to finish my new book within the month and hope it is in keeping with what my agent has in mind for this story. Obviously there will be editing and some rewriting, but typing the words, THE END, will be a personal victory for me with this novel.

Written in first person, this story is far different from anything I've attempted before. I'm excited to see what becomes of it. I'm not turning my back on what I love though, which is Southern women's fiction, and have plans for more stories that fall within a similar vein of my Alabama books to follow.

I hope everyone is enjoying the somewhat cooler weather and looking toward the holidays with anticipation of family get togethers and lots of stuffing, no matter where you are.

I plan to spend Thanksgiving on Lake Burton up in the North Georgia mountains with my family and in-laws. There is no more beautiful place on earth to me in the Fall.

The photo to the right was taken last year near the boat dock after a rain. Notice the amazing rainbow.

Happy reading and writing to everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Susan Sands

Monday, October 29, 2018


I'm so pleased to be here and to introduce my brand new series from Tule Publishing--Four Irish Brothers Winery. The Flaherty brothers, Sean, Brendan, Conor, and Aidan have inherited their family's historic winery in the picturesque town of River's Edge, Indiana, from their recently deceased father. The first book, A SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS is Conor Flaherty's story. I hope you enjoy meeting the Flaherty brothers and find some sweet romantic moments with them. 
Winemaker and single father Conor Flaherty is determined to make this Christmas holiday special for his daughter even though his family’s winery, Four Irish Brothers, is facing some challenges.
High-octane Chicago attorney Samantha Hayes is looking forward to some delicious food, fine wine, small town charm, and a break from her hectic big city life when she agrees to do a favor for her boss and help his younger brother with a lawsuit that’s been slapped on his family’s historic winery in River’s Edge. She’s not expecting that her sexy new client will have a smile that will melt her heart and remind her that there’s more to life than work.
Sam falls hard for Conor, his daughter and the small, friendly town, but can she trust her instincts and risk her heart? Sam hasn’t seen a lot of happy-ever-afters in her life, but Conor and the magic of Christmas make her want to believe.

Nan Reinhardt is a USA Today-bestselling author of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. Nan has been a copyeditor and proofreader for over 25 years, and currently works on romantic fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Although she loves her life as an editor, writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! Her latest novel, A Small Town Christmas, which is the first book in the Four Irish Brothers Winery series from Tule Publishing, releases on October 29, 2018.

Visit Nan’s website at, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs regularly at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with five other romance authors and is a frequent contributor the RWA Contemporary Romance blog, and she contributes to the Romance University blog where she writes as Editor Nan.

Twitter: @NanReinhardt
Talk to Nan at:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

January Isn't the Only Fresh Start Time ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

We're fully into fall here on the North Coast. Chilly mornings, blustery winds, a little snow. School. Which means I'm back at my keyboard with purpose, because when she's home - even though I make a point to hit my word goals - I'm never fully into my writing. There are more interruptions. There are more distractions. There are more...well, everything. More cookies to be baked, more movies to be watched, move video games to be played. More conflict over brushing teeth, making beds, not having our faces stuck in our tablets all day.

I love having her home over school breaks, but I also love it when she's back in school, and the regularly scheduled programming of our life syncs back up. Which brings me to the point of this post: you don't have to wait for New Year's Day to reset your goals, your priorities, your...anything. The beautiful thing about goals, about objectives is that they can be started on a random Monday...or, heck, a Friday. We simply have to do the reset.

Just do it.

Way back in the 80s, Nike started the 'Just Do It' campaign, most of which featured Michael Jordan. As a kid, I loved those commercials. As an athlete, I loved those commercials. As a human who has a bit of a procrastination habit...I didn't love them. I didn't want to get up early to run on our little country road. I didn't want to be serious all through volleyball practices (and too often I wasn't serious enough). I didn't want to write that paper on Moby Dick and I didn't want to dissect that frog in biology.

Michael's (well, Nike's) message was that none of us really want to put in the extra time. But that putting in the extra time is what leads us to the rewards of a great game played, of an extra special vacation with the family, of knowing that we've done our best.

As an adult, there are still things I don't want to do. I still don't want to get up early to run (especially in the winter months) or dance. I don't want to not drink a Coke when I want. I don't want to do the laundry or make the beds or clean the bathroom. I don't always want to shut the world away and write my words for the day. But I like the feel of the house when the rooms are straightened and I like how I feel about myself when I hit that 2500 word daily goal by 11 am and I like that my jeans fit better when I haven't had an extra 1000 calories of soda in my diet. And so, I hear Michael Jordan's voice in my head when I don't want to do the things that I know I should do...and I just do them. I get up a little early to exercise, and I limit my soda intake, and I sit down to write my words...because those are things that I can control. Those are things that I can do to make myself the best Kristina that I can be.

Michael has a newer commercial, too, and I think I like the message of this one even more than the commercial because it asks question instead of demanding an answer. It's a "what if" question - what if his name wasn't in lights?

I like it because it's true. As writer, we don't have cheering stadiums filled with people cheering us on. We face the keyboard alone most days, and if we don't, no one is there to catch us. It can be easy to fall into the 'I'll write twice as much tomorrow' or 'I don't think this story is going anywhere, anyway' ruts. But what if, instead of letting those ruts take hold, we act a little bit more like Michael (or to use a star from the romance world, a little more like Nora) and just sit down and write? Sit down and edit? Sit down and do the things that we know have to be done for us to live the lives we want to live?

What is your 'what if'? 

Kristina Knight’s newest release, Perfect on Paper, is out now. Daisy MacIntosh needs a man, and any man will do. After being jilted by her ex - who is also her boss - she needs a date to the company retreat in Mexico. The only problem? Daisy doesn't have time to find a guy, and her ex is hinting that he'd like this work trip to become a reunion romance. Stepping in to become Daisy's pretend boyfriend isn't the best idea Nick Vega has had, but it's the only one he's got. But are they willing to risk their life-long friendship for a romance that might fizzle once they're back home?

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time ThinMints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Refilling the Well

I know some people who roll the eyes when I say that I need to refill the well and I’m not truly sure why. They are probably the same people who laugh when I talk about my affirmations and I’ve always said ‘writing is fun and easy for me’.  

To be fair neither of these things are quantifiable or actually concrete. One of them is just a feeling I get when I have been writing a lot, which I love to do, but after a while I’m feeling …empty.  It’s not that I avhe writer’s block and that I don’t have any ideas to take to the page, it’s more like I don’t have any creative joy.  That I need to remind myself of the things that make me happy.

I’ve always striven (strived?) for balance in my life.  When my kids were little I was committed to being focused and “there” for them during my time with them.  And the same in my marriage.  When my husband and I are together I put my phone down and focus on us.  It’s hard to keep a relationship healthy when you never make eye contact or talk or laugh together. 

Writing has always been harder for me to balance.  I think because at first I was doing it in every spare second I could find while working full time and figuring out how to parent an infant, but then when it became my job, I had that fear that if I slowed down, I’d forget what I was doing and that the publishers would forget me.

So balance was never something I came close to achieiving with writing. And honeslty, I’m happiest when I’m sitting at my desk creating characters and building their world. Forcing them to face fears that I myself would probably just find a way around, but in my little fiction world, I feel safe exploring them.  

Refilling the well brings me back to joy and a source of contentment.  Sometimes I read to refill the wlel, other times I eat something I’ve been craving or cook. Or call my mom and have a video chat with her and my dad. They make me laugh so hard some times. Always talking to my kids refills my well and sometimes something as small as reaching for my husband’s hand while we are at a party does it.

Other times I get out of the house taking Godiva on a walk and just enjoying nature or on the opposite end of the spectrum treat myself to a day out shopping.

The thing with refilling the well for me is that I’ve built it into my writing process so instead of staring at a blank page while I stress out about a deadline I get up and do one of these things that refills my creativity and then I come back to the page much happier and more productive.

What do you do to refill the well?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tule Book Club's Holiday Kickoff Party! - by Dani Collins

I'm usually one of those people who says Christmas decorations shouldn't go up in stores until after Remembrance Day (Nov 11th, which I think you call Veteran's Day in the US.) I still recall my throat rasping gasp the first time I saw a department store putting up Christmas trees before Halloween.

So I am overstepping my own boundaries by promoting this holiday launch party on Oct 16th, but that's today. And it's fun

Here's who you'll find there (all times are PST):

4:00: Trish Milburn
4:15: Erika Marks
4:30: Patty Blount
4:45: Nan Reinhardt
5:00: Paula Altenburg
5:15: Vella Munn
5:30: Kaylie Newell
5:45: Jeannie Watt
6:00: Melissa McClone
6:15: Dani Collins   <-----Me!
6:30: Shelli Stevens
6:45: Katharine Schwartz
7:00: Joss Wood

That's a kick-butt line-up of authors, right? And technically we're celebrating upcoming holiday releases, but mostly it's an excuse to get together with readers and chat books and recipes and romance.

You need to join Tule's Book Club to join the party. I hope you will! We'd love to see you there.

I'll be chatting about my Nov 8th release, a wholesome and heartwarming Christmas story called Wedding at Mistletoe Chalet. Yes, there's a wedding. And mistletoe! And a chalet! There's also a sheepdog who likes to roll in the snow, a guitar-playing doctor hero who thinks it's funny when moose do people stuff, a tween organizing a vow renewal for her parents, and a heroine falling back in love with her first love. Plus holiday cheer and did I mention the wedding?

Come to the party and I'll share more holiday secrets along with some fun giveaways...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: A Roman era set book and its author Jenni Fletcher

As long time readers of this blog may recall, my first published book for Harlequin Historical was a Roman set historical The Gladiator’s Honor. It was the first time Harlequin (or indeed any major publisher) had published a romance set in that. I now write other ears, mainly Vikings, but Harlequin has a few intrepid authors who have taken up the baton and started writing in that era. First Greta Gilbert and now Jenni Fletcher.
I asked Jenni to explain about how she came to write her book, The Warrior’s Bride Prize. She also kindly allowed me to read it. A happy evening of reading ensued and if you love historical romances which really capture the time period and make you feel like you are there, read Jenni’s latest.
If you are more interested in other time periods, Jenni writes Victorian and Medieval for HH as well. You can learn more about Jenni by visiting her website. 
Here is what Jenni wrote about how she got the idea:
 The idea for my new book The Warrior's Bride Prize first came to me in the heart of Wordsworth country, wandering around the ruins of a Roman fort on the outskirts of Ambleside in the Lake District. Honestly, it would have been hard not to feel inspired, standing on the shores of Lake Windermere in the autumn sunshine, surrounded by so much history and breathtaking scenery, although at the time I was busy with a Victorian story. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to get distracted briefly, imagining a tale about an aristocratic Roman lady travelling to the edge of the Empire and meeting a Pictish warrior.
     At the time, however, I wasn't ready. So I went home and wrote two other books, but the idea of a Roman-set romance never completely left me. Over time, the particulars of the story changed. I watched King Arthur with Keira Knightley and my heroine turned from an aristocrat into the daughter of a Caledonian former slave, while my hero changed allegiance completely and became Roman. The action shifted inland too, staying on Hadrian's Wall, but moving closer to Corbridge and Chesters Roman fort, where the second half of the story is set. 
     What really inspired me to start writing, however, was a visit to the Eboracum Festival in York in 2017. I loved the enthusiasm of the re-enactors (one of whom turned out to be my son's ukelele teacher) as well as meeting lots of Roman authors, all of whom were so inspired by their subject.So I started to write, but after a while I got bogged down in detail. There was so much research to do, not least in terms of military history, which was more complex than I'd imagined. Eventually I had a rough draft, but something wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on the problem exactly, but I knew it had something to do with the atmosphere. I could see my book, but I couldn't feel it. 
     For me, geography is integral to a story (I often think of locations before characters) but for this book that statement was truer than ever. My husband suggested we take a trip north to Hadrian's Wall and once we reached it, everything fell into place. I stood on the edge of the wall, which was even more impressive than I'd remembered from school trips, and imagined how it might have looked almost two thousand years ago. That was when my characters - Livia and Marius - really made sense to me. I wrote another draft and I was finally happy. Which meant that they could have their happy-ever-after too!
     So that's how this story happened. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written, but in retrospect (now the difficult part is over) that makes it extra special to me. It's my small contribution to the Roman genre and I hope you enjoy it too.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her next Viking Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published on 18 December 2018. To learn more about Michelle and her books, visit

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: How To Submit Your Writing...

From This... (Pic via Pixabay)
Whether you’re sending off your novel, or entering a writing competition, the first thing to do is RTFM. That’s customer-service-speak for Read The Flipping Manual.

As part of my day job, I’m a Reader of Manuscripts. I love helping other writers—especially the ones who make my job easier by following the rules for submission. These are designed to ensure a writer's work is easy to read.  

Generalisation is usually a bad thing, but after reading hundreds of  manuscripts in my time here's one I've found to be true:

People who can't be bothered to follow instructions can't be bothered to write a good book.

Well-presented work suggests a writer who pays attention to details. They're more likely to put into practice the things they've learned from writing workshops, courses, and how-to books. 

Make sure your Reader smiles rather than groans when they pick up your work by following these tips!

Overture and Beginners
Once your work is as good as you can make it, go through it again. You want to be absolutely sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. 

Then check the requirements of its destination, whether that’s going to be a publisher, agent, or competition. Remember—these are instructions, not an invitation to improvise. 

You’d be amazed how many people see clear instructions as a challenge, rather than rules. Their online entries are deleted straight away. If they’ve sent in a paper copy their work will be shredded without being read, unless they’ve included return postage. The same goes for those who either forget to include their contact details when submitting to publishers or agents, or conversely make their competition entries identifiable. That’s tough, but fair on all those who have taken the time and trouble to do as they were instructed. 

...To This! (Pic via Pixabay)
Be the One in Ten...
...who gets it right. If a competition has a thousand entrants, up to 90% of them may have sent in work that’s unreadable, poorly formatted or exceeds the required word count. No matter how brilliant their work, it won’t be considered.

That means a perfectly-presented piece will make it straight into the Top 100 before any judge has picked up their marker-pen. 

Give yourself the best possible chance of being on that initial long-list by using an easily-readable font and type size (Times New Roman 12 Point is a good starting point). Unless otherwise instructed, give your work a good margin all the way round, and use double line spacing. Whether you’re submitting on paper or online, number the pages consecutively. 

There—with hardly any effort on your part, you’ve made it onto a professional reader’s desk. How much further you get depends on your writing talent, and that one little thing nobody can guarantee.


Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I'm back in my ceramics class and working at learning to throw on a wheel.  It's not easy.  Not easy at all.  I can't tell you how many pieces have gone caliwumpus (that's a technical term...LOL). But I sit back down at the wheel and try again. And again. And again.  I'm not sure if it's a passion for pottery or just plain stubbornness.  But there I am, clay splattered and trying.

The school will have an Empty Bowl fundraiser in the spring and I signed on to make 50 bowls.  I've got 49/50 right now.  I'm waiting on that last one to assess how they all come out of the kiln.  Then I'll make the last few.  

And I'm learning about finishing, too.  A finished bowl has a foot on it. It's not just decorative. It thins out the bottom of the bowl so it fires better, and it helps keep glaze on the bowl, not on the bottom of the kiln.  Real potters will pick up a piece and check the bottom to see how it's finished.  I guess the true mark of artistry is making something no one sees beautiful.

I like that thought.

Artistry can be something no one else really sees.

It's a nice thought that applies to real life.  I think we should all strive to be an artist at life. Doing kind things no one else will ever see or notice.  I like to think kindness is contagious. So while I'm working at getting better at pottery (my goal is to have my professor pick up a bowl and say, I'd use this) I think I'll try to get better at the artistry of life.  Doing small acts of kindness (maybe large acts of kindness LOL) and spewing kindness like I try to spew glee.  The world can always use a bit more kindness and glee!

Those 50 bowls I've promised to make turned into 51. So many people have asked for my pottery, I thought giving one away would be fun.  The problem with that is how to draw one name.  I've been doing more of my giveaways through my email list. So if you want a chance at a bowl, all you have to do to have your name in the hat (not a real hat LOL) is be signed up for my newsletter. You can do that here.  I'll draw in November.

As we all go out today, let's try to be artists of life and spread some kindness and glee!!


Don't forget my new release Polished Off: A Maid in LA Mystery is out! Check out Quincy's newest adventure!

Then go back to school with three PTA Moms.  There's a bonus short story included! Check out the PTA Mom Collection!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

TV, Movies, Books, Oh, My! Susan Sands

My husband probably doesn't enjoy watching television with me as much as he used to. I've gotten so  accustomed to figuring out the plot lines of every show or movie that often I can tell him who will die, when, and how it's going to end.

I try to keep quiet, but often I blurt out, "They're going to kill him." Or, "His character has become unredeemable, and therefore he will die." I guess story is story, no matter whether it's in a novel, a television series, or a movie. Especially commercial fiction.

Some types of fiction are less predictable, and I'm pleasantly surprised when I don't see "it" coming. I can appreciate that writer's creativity and vision. Don't get me wrong, I love watching all kinds of comedy, drama, romance, and suspense. We run the gamut with our screen time. Netflix, Amazon, and all the premium channels are well watched in our house.

The problem is that as a writer of fiction, I understand it's all been done. Sometimes very well, and others, not so much. There are certain beats to a story, story problems to solve, and black moments stemming from conflict that occur within a given novel, movie, etc. Not everyone does it the same, certainly, but the underlying core of storytelling helps a writer predict someone else's ending.

In the meantime, I will try not to be that obnoxious I told you so who yells out what's going to happen next. Because I like to be surprised and wrong, so I remain hopeful as I continue to watch all the fantastic new programming that keeps me coming back for more.

Happy reading and watching to all!!

Susan Sands

The Alabama Series by Susan Sands

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Power of Play

I came across some interesting research notes this past summer. 

Now, don’t yawn yet.  I know the word “research” comes packed with stuffy connotations.  But the reading I’ve been doing lately has affected my thoughts in so many ways and on so many different levels that I can’t help but share.

Quick background – I participated in a study group at the university where I used to teach. We read a book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. It’s pop science in the Gladwell tradition—lots of vignettes and examples that make the science fast paced and reader-friendly. I thought it would be helpful to read the book for two reasons, to learn how to better motivate students and to learn how to better motivate myself.    

But I got a whole lot more than that.

Sure, the stuff on autonomous motivation was helpful. And I liked the idea of getting away from the rewards/punishments idea (extrinsic motivation) since it doesn’t always work for me.  But then I found a section on creativity, turning our work into play whenever possible, and finding ways to stay engaged with our work. Does that sound fun to you? Sure did to me. I’d like to make my job feel more like play. 

Citing noted psychology professor Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi, “once we realize that the boundaries
between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable.”  For inspiration on how to play, the same source (I won’t spell his name twice!) suggests we look at the children around us, who are engaged with the “work” of childhood, exploring their environment and learning boundaries through play. At some point, we forget how to do this effectively. We shut down some of that natural curiosity in an effort to earn grades, earn adult approval, and become socialized.  But we lose something in the process, something we all need to recover.

I’m still figuring out how to best incorporate more play into my work and leisure life. I think the answers are as unique as we all are.  Still, maybe we could learn from each other today. I think the easier task is to identify more ways to play.  What activities do you miss that you used to really enjoy as a kid?  Maybe the lesson there is—don’t wait for your kids to ask you to color or play on the swing. You can still pursue those activities now, or pursue them in a way that appeals to you as you’ve aged. For instance, bungee jumping might be your new swing. Watercolor lessons might be your new brand of coloring. A few revamped strategies might bring you a new level of fulfillment and engagement, a new energy that will spill over into the rest of your life. 

Because once we can identify more ways to play in our leisure time, I think it will follow that we’ll start to see ways to play at work. After all, more play in general will make us more creative, so the answers are there and just waiting to be discovered by our new and improved thinking skills. Can you make your work more social by starting an online group interested in the same facets of the job as you? Can you subscribe to a publication in a career that complements yours to see what kinds of researching they’re doing in a related field? Can you make a movie about your work? Mentor someone? Find a mentor? Take a professional detour? The goals don’t have to immediate. You just have to mine your field for the things that inspired you to go in that direction in the first place. 

Just think how much fun you could be having….

***Back to leisure time… if you had a free afternoon and weren’t allowed to catch up on laundry or work, in fact you had a mandate that you had to play, what would you do?  Do you already have a dedicated play activity that keeps you energized?  Share with me today and I’ll send a random poster a copy of my holiday Desire story from last Christmas-- His Pregnant Secretary

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sneak Peek of Boy Toy by Jenny Gardiner

Ack! Working on deadline so I'm going to post a tease of my next release, Boy Toy, from my Confessions of a Chick Magnet series, which I'm trying to wrap up for my editor before I leave for a conference this weekend!

I hope you like it!

Chapter One
Sullivan Forester stared into his underwear drawer for what seemed like the thousandth time over the past year, at the black velvet box nestled between the side of the drawer and a stack of boxers, topped by the pair with embroidered Saint Bernards on them. He shook his head, smacked his lips, then ran his fingers through his wavy caramel hair, which had gotten a little longer than he liked it of late. Finally he took a deep breath and blew it out, deciding once and for all to make it official: today was the day he was going to start getting his shit together, which included trimming this shaggy head of hair.
But first, he had more important business to attend to: the ring.
He pulled the box out of the drawer where it had lurked, taunting him for what seemed like ages now, and flipped open the lid to stare at the Tiffany & Co. two-carat brilliant-cut diamond engagement ring, flanked on either side by fat indigo-blue sapphires. The gems caught the early morning sunlight streaming through the window and winked at him. He took it as yet one more sign that it was time to find a new home for this thing that only felt like bad juju now that it had taken up unproductive space in his life for far too long.
At first, when Gretchen dumped him, three whoppingly inconsiderate weeks before their wedding, it felt like he would never get over it. Why would she do something like that to him? Worse still, how could he have been so clueless and not seen it coming? 
A year ago, her words lacerated his heart, where he felt an achy tug that didn’t seem to want to let go of him for months. 
“Look, Sully,” she’d said. “I just realized marriage isn’t for me.”
He remembered staring into her brown eyes, the ones that had once seemed so warm and loving, finally seeing them for the cold dark they really had been all along. Her shiny black hair had been pulled back into a high ponytail, her make-up fresh. She had on one of those bright pastel sundresses she always wore—what were they called? Lilly something or other. He knew dick about fashion, but he always noticed that she was about the only woman in town who dressed every day as if she was going to a cocktail party at a beach resort. He knew that style of dress only because in a way it was emblematic of what he’d left behind when he’d moved to Bristol, Montana a handful of years ago after selling his start-up for more money than he’d have ever imagined attached to his name—not to mention his bank account.
He’d spent a couple of years dabbling in the lavish me-me-me lifestyle of the very rich in New York: the obligatory summers in the Hamptons, the mandatory charity events every night of the week at somebody or other’s exclusive penthouse apartment the rest of the year. The insincere air-kiss greetings by women who wanted your donations but not a decent conversation, the severe handshakes by the Wall Street assholes who were dipping into the cash reserves of the country to line their own pockets all while sticking their dicks into women young enough to be their daughters, as their air-kissing wives went under the knife for yet more unnecessary plastic surgery to try desperately to compete. 
Sully was over that bullshit, which was why he’d come to Bristol. He wanted to start new where no one knew him, where he could be his authentic self and not play the superficial games to which he’d become accustomed.
His mistake, however, was bringing Gretchen Penobscott with him. He and Gretchen had been together even during the leaner years, so at least he could take comfort knowing it wasn’t as if she’d been after his wealth. And to her credit, for a while, she went along with his plan, upending the lifestyle she’d become quite accustomed to. She came with him to Montana, Lilly whatever-the-name-was dresses and all, but it seemed from the minute they’d moved here, things never seemed quite the same between them. 
He’d hoped it was just a matter of getting used to things—it was admittedly weird going from endless black pavement and skyscrapers to fields of wildflowers and mountains that touched the skies instead—and that once married she’d settle in more. But then he never got the chance to see if he was right, because on that brutal early summer day a year ago, she slid her ring off of her left ring finger, tucked it into the palm of his hand, closing his fingers around it, gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek, and walked away.
Well. He eventually learned that time does heal old wounds. And that while he once loved Gretchen, he realized she’d done him a solid by not going through with what she knew in her heart would be a mistake. He’d never really understand it, but hey, much better than finding that out after the wedding. Sure, it sucked, worse still having to take the financial hit for everything wedding-related he had to cancel last-minute, but the good news was it hadn’t even put a dent in his bank account, so it was an emotionally costly but not financially detrimental lesson. 
And today, he was going to take the first step toward making some other man who couldn’t afford it that much happier.
He called for his Husky pup Blizzard, threw on a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and a plaid flannel shirt to fend against the morning chill, grabbed his laptop and went out on the deck off of his bedroom. The sun was shining and the fog had just begun to lift off the still snow-capped mountain peaks as he fixed a quick cappuccino at the coffee bar he’d set up on his deck. He sat down at the long farmhouse table and opened his laptop, then snapped a quick picture of the ring on his phone, clicked on Facebook, then entered this:
Looking for a good home for this briefly used treasure, valued at $85,000. Tell me why you want to share this with the woman you love. Please email me at Deadline is one week from today. Please share.
He uploaded the image, clicked “post” and sent it off into the ether, then did the same on Twitter and Instagram. He rubbed his hands together, took a sip of his cappuccino, and made a mental note to remember to stop in at Jackson’s Barber Shop for a haircut when he went to town later on in the day.
Sully had been working on a song he’d been writing, reveling in the beautiful weather. It had started out chilly but by lunchtime it had become a quintessential Montana summer day: songbirds in full throat, the hum of bees vibrating through the air, all against the backdrop of a bluebird sky. Wildflowers were blooming like crazy in the fields surrounding his custom-built farmhouse that overlooked the Rocky Mountains. The place was truly a slice of heaven.
Life could not be any better. Sure, Sully didn’t have a bride at his side as he’d originally expected, but it was all good. He’d gotten some regular gigs playing guitar at local bars, and that made him supremely happy making others happy with his music. He had a great dog that made him laugh with his antics. He got to spend time each morning doing what he wanted to do: reading, meditating, working out at the gym. He volunteered with an animal rescue clinic, thanks to his friend Tanner Eliasson, who was a local vet. He even spent an inordinate amount of time cooking elaborate meals for himself each night, which was admittedly a little lonely, and occasionally hosted dinners with a handful of folks who’d become true friends, not the superficial acquaintances he’d encountered regularly back on the East Coast. 
Not to dig a jab at the East Coast—there was nothing wrong with that lifestyle for someone else; it just wasn’t for him. He was happy on his horse, or feeding his chickens, or taking a hike on his hundred acres of property. And more than happy to not have to deal with rush hour traffic and Type-A human beings ever again.
His phone buzzed and he pulled up a text message, from his friend Tanner:
Dude. What the fuck? Have you looked at your Facebook in the past hour?
Sully squinted, not knowing what exactly he was talking about. Until he remembered. 
Oh, that. You saw it?
He waited for the buzz of his phone.
Saw it? Me and a few thousand other complete strangers.
Sully’s eyes opened wide. Huh? 
You’re joking, right?
Tanner didn’t comment, but instead sent a screen shot of his post. 
Sully expanded the image to see details up close. Holy shit. He grabbed his phone and pressed Tanner’s number.
“Jesus, Sully,” Tanner said. “Next time give me heads-up on these things. I’ve had every female I know within two hundred miles message me about this, and I didn’t even know about it. You’re givingaway that ring?”
“I just figured it was time. The thing was just taking up space, reminding me of what was. No need in going there anymore. I’m finally past Gretchen, over that whole break-up, and I just want to make something that left a bad taste in my mouth become something better. Lemons to lemonade.”
“That’s a hell of a glass of lemonade,” Tanner said. 
“Yeah well, I thought it could be a fun project. And it would feel good helping someone else out who maybe couldn’t afford to get engaged.”
“Your fun project might turn into a full-time job if my suspicions are right—you’re going to be slammed with people begging for that thing.”
Sully shrugged. “Great! The good news is I’ve got time to do what I want. And right now this feels right. Besides, I’m sure I’ll be able to see through the scammers looking for an expensive ring they could hock, and find someone who is truly in love and has a legit reason for wanting this thing. And to be honest, the sooner I get rid of this, it better. I want to move on without any reminders.”
“Yeah, well, you’d better open up that laptop and start reading your emails because I think you’ve just given yourself a full-time unpaid job for the next year.”
Sully laughed. “No worries. It’s all good.”
“Talk to me about ‘all good’ when you have a million women pounding your door down because they think you’re the swooniest guy on the planet.”
Huh. Sully hadn’t thought about that. Shit. He sure as hell wasn’t looking for women to glom on him for his money. Over the last year since Gretchen left, Sully had been in the habit of one-off flings with women tourists who streamed through Bristol like a hard-running river, looking for sporty outdoors activities by day and even more sporty activities in the sack by night.
His music gigs offered the perfect opportunity to meet strangers in town for a short period of time, guaranteeing he could avoid anyone seeking commitment or anything more a few hours of escapist sex. He’d usually return with them to their hotel or Airbnb or rental up on the mountain, only to slip out hours later under cover of darkness, and be back in his own bed before sunrise. Sure it seemed impersonal, but that’s what he’d needed at the time—anonymous sex for the sake of sex, no strings attached, no commitment whatsoever.
But now, crap, did this mean women were going to seek him out? He hadn’t thought about that. He should’ve just donated the damned ring to charity, be done with it. Because the last thing he needed in his life was to have women honing in on him like a heat-seeking missile, wanting love and marriage and all those things he’d grown a bit cynical about. 
He opened his Facebook page and saw that his post had been seen by three thousand people and had comments by over four hundred people. Hell, another two thousand had shared it. Ho-ly shit. 
What had he gotten himself into?
Chapter Two
Isabelle Strong was tired of licking her wounds over her latest failed relationship. Granted the hot guy from HR, her last impetuous fling, was never truly going to be long-term material—first off, nothing good came from dating a guy from the office. Secondly, it turned out he wasn’t all that interesting. Once they got past the good sex—and she had to admit, it was good sex (the only reason it lasted as long as it did)—she found herself carrying most conversations while he spent an inordinate amount of time on the ESPN app of his phone. If he was going to be so deeply entrenched in his hand-held idiot device this early into a relationship, lord only knew how bad it would be after a few years together.
So she did what she knew she had to do, and lowered the boom, dumping HR-boy before things got any more involved. And now she really didn’t miss him so much as the idea of him. Rather, the idea of a guy she could just have fun with, go away for the weekend, enjoy staying in to cook dinner with and maybe binge-watch several episodes of a show on Netflix before retiring for the night to stimulating sex, then falling asleep curled up in each others arms. Was that so much to ask for?
Apparently so. Because she’d had a succession of equally lame relationships over the past few years—from the lifeguard in Santa Monica whose idea of a good time was watching shark documentaries, to the waiter at The Ivy who only cared which famous celebrity he’d waited on that week. She had to lose him because she couldn’t bear to hear one more time about how he’d yet again served lunch to one of the Kardashians. Then there was the weird guy who had the creepy toe fetish and insisted she wear sandals even when they went to Banff for the weekend to ski. In the winter. Uh, no.
She was stuck in traffic on the freeway and switched off her book tape and turned up the radio to try to find out what was causing the logjam this time on the highway. Instead she got the tail end of a news report about some guy who’d posted on Facebook about giving away a ridiculously expensive engagement ring to a deserving person, and that social networking sites had exploded over it. 
Huh. Intriguing. What sort of guy would have bought an eighty five thousand dollar engagement ring in the first place? And what self-respecting woman would ditch the kind of guy who did? Not that she was chasing after guys with money, but seriously, that woman must’ve been an idiot.
“The man, who lives in Bristol, Montana,” the reporter said. “Is taking pleas from hopeful suitors until the end of the week.”
Bristol, Montana? That was where her best friend Zoey Richards had moved to, after falling in love with a gorgeous veterinarian. She wondered if Zoey knew the guy. No time like the present to find out. She pulled out her phone to call her. Luckily Zoey answered on the first ring.
“What’s shakin’ bacon?” Zoey said in a half-whisper. “You are so not going to believe this but I’m sitting out back, sipping on my coffee, and all of a sudden I look off to my right, not a hundred and fifty feet from me, and see a moose. A moose! This place is amazing.”
Izzy sighed. “Ugh. Don’t be too jealous of me. I’m stuck in traffic on the Santa Monica freeway, bored out of my mind, and just heard something on the radio about some guy in your town who’s giving away a fancy engagement ring. What is up with that?” The traffic had slowed to a crawl so Izzy quickly pulled an elastic off her wrist and caught her hair in a ponytail, then put the phone back up to her ear. 
“Yeah, crazy, right?”
“You don’t know him, do you?”
“Of course I do. In a town this size you get to know pretty much everyone. Especially with Tanner’s line of work.”
“So what’s the deal?” Izzy saw a gap in the left lane and manipulated her car into it just as the driver laid on his horn and flipped her off. She reciprocated in kind. Damn, a girl could get repetitive stress disorder from flipping the finger while commuting in this town.
“He was engaged and she broke it off just before the wedding. It’s been a year now and he’s just ready to get rid of the ring—it felt like a bad luck thing to keep it. Not like he’d ever use it again anyhow.”
“Shit, I’d at least sell it. So he’s just giving it away? That seems crazy.”
“Believe me he doesn’t need the money.”
“Is he a nice guy?”
“He’s great. Very chill. Laid back. Never heard a cross word out of his mouth.”
“Great! I’m coming up to meet him.” Izzy took the first exit she could and pulled over to program her Waze app to redirect her out of the traffic pileup.
“O-kayyyy... That seems a bit extreme,” Zoey said. “But I’d be happy to see you regardless. You know you’re always welcome.”
“Perfect. I’m going home and packing a bag and driving up there. I’ll see you soon!”
Izzy always forgot what a long damned drive it was from L.A. to Bristol, a drive she’d done plenty of times since Zoey had transplanted herself there. It helped that it was right on the way to her place in Banff. But damn, she always felt like she’d been hit by a truck by the time she got there. It didn’t help that instead of overnighting somewhere, she’d just pull over and sleep every couple of hours. A quick peek in the mirror revealed that her usually lustrous long, wavy dark hair looked like a fluffed-up dandelion on steroids. Her mascara, applied yesterday before she knew she was road-tripping that very day, had raccooned beneath her eyes in a most attractive way to make her look like a maniacal Victorian-era slasher. Her unbrushed teeth felt as if they’d sprouted fur. She was sure she was a sight for only the sorest of eyes.
She wanted to grab a token hostess gift to bring to Zoey and Tanner and figured a bottle of wine would suffice. She parked her car on Main Street and got out, walking the block or so to the wine shop, marveling as she did at the spectacular three hundred and sixty degree mountain views set against a pristine blue sky. Even the air felt amazing here, compared to the funk she breathed in regularly in L.A. that she sometimes felt came in chunks. 
She was so busy staring at the scenery that she failed to pay attention to where she was walking, and before she knew it she’d stepped in a disgusting, fresh pile of doggy doo. Furious, she looked around to see who was responsible for it, and just ahead of her she saw a guy with a plaid shirt over a t-shirt and pair of shorts demanding that a nearby husky puppy with bright blue eyes to come to him. The dog instead kept running circles around the sidewalk, defying his orders. He might as well have been flipping the finger at his owner, not to mention at Izzy and her mucked-up boots.
“You!” she said to the man, her voice rising higher the angrier she got thinking about it. All that crapola smeared over her nice cowboy boots, and now she had to get disgusting poop off of them before she could even get to Zoey and Tanner’s.
The guy looked at her and pointed to himself, lifting a questioning brow.
“Yeah. You.” She furrowed her forehead, then pointed at his pup. “Look what your damned dog did to me.” She lifted her foot and showed him the smear on the sole of her boot that extended across the tip of the toe of the thing as well                                               .
The guy stopped walking and stared at her, eyes opened wide. 
“My dog?” he shook his head vigorously. “How do you know that my dog did that?”
Izzy spread her arms out wide. “Um, do you see any other dog around?”
He frowned. “Not at this very minute, but that could have been left there hours ago by someone else’s dog!”
“Not hardly,” she said. “It’s clearly freshly-laid. If that’s a term. Ugh. I cannot believe I’m parsing out terminology for dog poop.” She growled. “Look, dude. Curb your damned dog. You owe me a pair of boots. I just bought these things, too.” She wagged her finger at him, as if that was going to achieve anything.
The guy approached her, his eyebrows knit, his lips pursed. “Quit your bitching, lady. My dog didn’t do that. But if it’s going to make you happy, here.” He grabbed his wallet from his back pocket and pulled a handful of bills from within, reaching for her hand and stuffing them into her palm. “Now you can go out and buy yourself a new pair. Go crazy with it.”
With that he turned away, whistled for his dog and muttered loud enough for Izzy to hear, “Let’s go, Blizzard, and get away from the crazy lady before she hurts you.” Then she saw him shake his head as he added, “Fucking tourists.”
Izzy looked down at the money in her hand and realized he’d jammed six one hundred dollar bills there. Six hundred freaking dollars. In her hand. To replace her boots. That she’d gotten at TJ Maxx for about eighty bucks. Four years ago. Yeah, she knew she’d lied about them being new. But she’d wanted to make him feel particularly badly.
Well, that certainly was a best-case scenario for her boots, even if the guy was a bit of a jerk. She didn’t have time to replace the footwear right now but with the cash in her hand, she removed the yucky one and dumped it in the trash can, limping the rest of the way back to her car, where she put on another pair of shoes from her suitcase  till she got to Zoey’s. What an inauspicious beginning to her quest to meet the charming ring donor. The good news was at least he wouldn’t be a complete asshole like that guy was.

Great news! I've got another free book for you to try! Falling for Mr. Wrong from the Falling for Mr. Wrong series is now free here:

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Also Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!