Friday, November 15, 2019

Dealing with Story Ideas by Michelle Styles

Sometimes story ideas come quietly on cat’s paws. You don’t know they are there until they start to flow from your fingertips. You can’t really say when or why they arrived, you simply know you need to write the story. Other ideas roar into your mind and refuse to let go, drowning out all other ideas until they vanish as quickly as they came, leaving you to sort through the wreckage.
My latest book from Harlequin Historical A DEAL WITH HER REBEL VIKING was one of the latter. I saw a tweet about an Oxfordshire Easter tradition about women capturing men and then men capturing women and thought  there must have a romance in it somewhere. Although I have written a number of Viking set romances, I had never set one in the Midlands, in the old kingdom of Mercia. In many ways, Mercia is overlooked as it became part of Wessex after Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians and daughter of King Alfred died. She is probably the person most responsible for stopping the Vikings and for helping to ensure England evolved as a concept. She is also one of my great heroines. However, my story takes place slightly earlier than her reign, during that period when the Great Army was first on British shores.
  The idea seemed deceptively simple when I first started writing it but as ever with these things, the initial idea proved slightly elusive (among other thing I forgot the romance) and I had to work hard to make the story work for my characters (cue large scale revisions). However after working  very hard and completely re-jigging the ending, my editor loved it (cue celebrations on my part). I was also very pleased with the cover as they used the model Carson who had inspired the hero as the cover model.
As I wrote it, I also realised that there was more than one story here and so I have ended up writing a trilogy. The slight hiccup with this was that I had already committed to writing a book in the Sons of Sigurd series which Harlequin Historical is publishing in 2020. The four other authors are Michelle Willingham, Harper St George, Jenni Fletcher and Terri Brisbin. My book is the third one and is entitled CONVENIENTLY WED TO THE VIKING (publishing July 2020).  Michelle Willingham’s Stolen by the Viking will be published in March 2020. It has one of the new look Harlequin Historical covers. And having read an early draft, it is every bit as lush as the cover looks. Writing in a collaborative series was a totally new experience for me and it took me a little longer than I had planned.
 So after a long hiatus,  I have just returned to Midland set trilogy and am writing the second one. It is wonderful to revisit the world that I created last year.  This time, rather than setting it in the Forest of Arden, I have moved the action northwards to Sherwood Forest. It is easy to forget that these forests existed long before the tales of Shakespeare or indeed Robin Hood and I wanted to do something to address that.
Right now, I am hoping that people enjoy my new book. You can read the start of it here for free.

Michelle Styles writes warm ,witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods, including Roman, Regency, Victorian but most recently Viking. Her latest A DEAL WITH HER REBEL VIKING will be published on 18 November 2019. Her next book CONVENIENTLY WED TO THE VIKING will be published in July 2020. You can learn more about Michelle and her books at

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: Countdown to Launch Day!

We had snow last night—
let's hope the weather's better next Friday!
This is an exciting time for students at the University of Gloucestershire. 22nd November (next Friday) sees the launch of Heritage: New Writing VIII.

Heritage is an anthology of poetry, prose and artwork of work from alumni past and present, young and old. A selection of work from our parter foundation, Humber College in Canada, is included, too.

Creating the anthology was a great team-building exercise for students on our MA course. Our tutor Mike was an éminence gris, overseeing the project while leaving the organisation and method to our group. We managed everything, from call for submissions to planning the launch night, ourselves.

With more than a dozen people involved (and with our typesetter and publisher's baby due at any moment!) it was quite an undertaking.

A special mention must go to Shannon Storm, who created all the promotional artwork together with the book cover you can see below. It's difficult to see the fine detail at this resolution, but the cover includes a map of the world with the countries made up of fingerprints. It looks amazing in real life!

We wanted our theme to appeal to as many people as possible. The title Heritage is ideal as it is open to a wide variety of interpretations. Cheltenham's geography helped with this. As a Georgian spa town and the gateway to the world-famous Cotswolds, there's no shortage of inspiration right here.

The work of our contributors is as varied as they are. We have pieces that look back, appreciate the present, and look forward into dystopian futures.  There really is something for everyone!

Next month I'll give you some more details about Heritage, and report on our book launch.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Writer Goes Back to School

I signed up for a spring class last week. Another pottery class. If you're sixth. It's my third independent study (officially individualized studio) class. I'll confess, the flexibility works well with balancing the minions and the rest of the family. And I like spending a term going in my own direction. Professor H. makes a great advisor. He offers opinions and some direction, but let's me be in the driver's seat. I'm already feeling sad about spring being my last ceramic's class. Of course, by the time the class is over, I should have my own studio up and running! Yep. I've got studio glee!

But here's what being a class of one is missing...reports. Yeah, I know, some people might think that's a plus, but over the out-of-school decades I forgot how much I love doing a deep dive on a topic.  We have to do a report on a ceramic artist in a week. I did a presentation on Rob Bernard my first term. It was supposed to be five to ten minutes, but I had pages and pages of notes. Interesting facts I was sure everyone should know. (My daughter assured me that not only did the kids in class not want to know, but there was a chance my glee over reports annoyed them! If it did, they were kind enough to feign interest. LOL) I did manage to keep it to ten minutes, but would have loved to have gone longer. I left so much unsaid. This time, I'm doing a presentation on Burlon Craig. I'm trying to keep it short...but it's still hard! He's equally interesting and exciting. He is known
Holly Face Jugs
 for his face jugs in the Catawba Valley in NC (my southern roots are firmly planted just north of there).  I bought a great book, The Final Kiln Opening, about his last sale which was so cool. And I bought a book on that folk tradition, based more in Georgia called Brothers in Clay. Equally engrossing reading...alright engrossing in a totally geeky way. LOL I've got pages and pages of notes.

Ten minutes?  I have to fit all this in ten minutes? The trouble is real. LOL

To add to my condensing everything into a less than ten minute presentation, I found YouTube videos from a PBS show called Folkways. They showed Burlon in his studio and firing his kiln. You can find them at Burlon on Folkways. They were fantastic! The second video talked to other local ceramic artists who were related to, or knew, Craig. They watched him work. I wish I'd discovered him sooner and could have visited his studio as well!

I fell in love with face jugs my second term. I wrote a bit about them here.

Holly's Game of Thrones inspired Face Vase
Holly's Jug
 I've done a bunch since then. For me they're a connection to my southern roots and to be honest, I just think they're ugly cute! LOL And art inspires art. School inspires study. I've been trying my hand at some folk art painting and one of my favorites is Burlon's kiln firing. It's obviously rough, but I've done a few versions of it. I love the flames!
Holly's Burlon's kiln painting.

I've been wanting to buy a Burlon Craig face jug but they're a little rich for my blood. But I did find one of his swirl teapots. It should get here soon. I'm soooo excited! I'll post a picture when it arrives.

I don't know what I'm going to take up at school next fall. Maybe some more art classes. I'm working toward a degree...maybe. I plan to just continue taking classes that interest me, and if I get close to a degree, I'll take some of the must-take classes. At this rate, it'll be a decade from now. But hey, for me, it's not really the destination (a degree) that matters. It's the journey. And so far, I've enjoyed every step of My Novel Freshman Experience journey!


PS Just in time for Thanksgiving, another school story...this one from a PTA mom's point-of-view. Once Upon a Thanksgiving is on sale!

Saturday, November 02, 2019

THE END by Susan Sands

I've been writing a story for almost seven months. Finally, after much research, and a gazillion hours
When the DNA is strong
of putting in the hard work, I finished the manuscript. My husband asked if I was feeling celebratory. My response was a blank stare. 

After I type the best two words (THE END), My brain goes hard into overdrive. Did I forget something or someone? Did I tie things up? Did I drop something I started along the way? Did someone have a cat and I never mention it again? That's before I dive deep into the editing. Then there's the timeline. Days, months, years. Did I stick with the continuity of it all?

That's when I ask some folks to read it with fresh eyes and give it to me straight. I can't do it alone. I don't trust myself after rolling around in the words for so long. Plus, there are multiple points of view, which makes it even more complicated. Every scene from each POV has to match up the next time I'm in their head. Pardon my brain fog...

But I'm excited about the story--or I will be once it's all cleaned up. 

It's a story of a woman who gets a DNA test as a gift instead of her expected engagement ring. Predictably, for a great story, the results aren't as expected. Not only does she figure out that she was adopted at birth, a minor detail her loving parents never found the right time to tell her, but she's got a sister who shows up on her "connections" profile. This leads her to her birth mother, who doesn't want her to know who her birth father is except to say, "He's a bad man."

But as fate and fiction would have it, she gets an alert on her profile soon after that she has another connection. A brother on her birth father's side. Now, there's a whole new branch on the family tree; one that's far more complicated. 

This is a story about family; the old, the new, and finding out that some things, as unwelcome as they seem, can complicate and enrich one's life in equal measure. 

Set in the Low Country around the Sea Islands.

Let me just say that researching unexpected DNA results was fascinating. I spoke to several people who'd found out they had siblings and parents who were different than they'd believed. One woman in Florida found four sisters she knew nothing about. Her father had impregnated women throughout the state. They expect to find more matches. 

I haven't done a DNA test personally, but I look so much like both my parents that I wouldn't expect any surprises, but I might do one for the sake of genealogy.

How about you? Do you have a good DNA story?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!! 

Susan Sands

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Cover Reveal

Book 3 in Mesa Falls - February 2020

by Joanne Rock

Happy Sunday, my friends! Today I wanted to share a special cover reveal as Harlequin just released the refreshed Harlequin Desire look for the February 2020 books. My Dynasties: Mesa Falls book, Rule Breaker, got the special treatment with this gorgeous cover!

He always gets what he wants…

She’s strictly off-limits.That’s never stopped him before.

Rebellious rancher Weston Rivera knows saving April Stephens during a blizzard at his luxury retreat is risky. But it’s not nearly as dangerous as the desire blazing between them. After all, Weston is a prime target of April’s current financial investigation at Mesa Falls—and he’s hiding secrets. Now their searing passion is melting the lines between business and pleasure…even as it threatens Weston’s entire world.


There are six books and an online read for Mesa Falls, beginning with The Rebel in November. Marcus Salazar heads to a remote ranch in western Montana to honor his father's dying wish, only to uncover his dad led a second, secret life. Complicating things for Marcus is Lily Carrington, a woman he needs to avoid, not only because she's way off-limits, but also because he's certain her real loyalty is to his rival-- his half brother, Devon.

The miniseries continues in December when you'll meet Devon Salazar, in The Rival. Then, look for Rule Breaker and Heartbreaker in 2020. 

*What's in your TBR this fall? Are you ready for Christmas novellas? Still reading some spooky paranormal for Halloween? Share with me and I'll give one random poster an advance copy of The Rival.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Editing, It Never Ends ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

You Can't Edit a Blank Page.

Sometimes I feel like there hasn't been a time I haven't been editing. In journalism school we edited and edited to get our news articles just so and once they were perfect on the page we printed them out and pasted up the paper. When I moved into TV news I learned that kind of editing was simple. In television they send you out in the big, wide world, tell you to shoot good pictures and get good interviews...and then come back and make the hour of footage you just shot into a story of a minute or less. And then I started writing my own stories and learned all that editing would stand me in good sted...because writing the perfect story the first time through is truly a myth. At least for me.

But I've learned a few things along the way and editing isn't the heinous crime against creativity it once was.

First, don't tackle it all at once. There are layers to my editing. As I'm writing the first draft, I read through the previous chapter before starting fresh with a new chapter. During that pass I correct small misspellings or grammar issues. I don't allow more than that. Once the book is finished I allot time for 3 full passes: 1 to check on grammar issues, 1 to check continuity - is that character's name really Reginald? WTF was I thinking?!? - plot and flow issues (this sounds like a lot but I've found they work well together), and a final pass to see what I've overlooked. On that final pass I print out a copy in 14ish point type and some kind of color ink (lately I like blue). I find the bigger font and color change helps me catch little issues I haven't to that point.

Second, time is my friend. You know those editing layers? I don't tackle them on the first, second and third day after finishing the draft. I wait at least 2 weeks before starting any kind of editing. And I try to let at least a few days slip by before going from one draft phase to another. Those built-in waits help me 'forget' the story so each time it's like looking at it with fresh eyes.

Third, new projects are a great carrot. During those wait times, I'm not twiddling my thumbs. I'm reading - out of and in the genre I write. I'm writing - sometimes on a new book, sometimes researching a new book, sometimes just free-writing some really, truly, horribly bad poetry that will forever be locked under my bed. But I'm still working on the creative side of my brain.

The subject line up there comes from La Nora herself. She said something to that effect a few years ago and it's kind of caught on in writing circles. Because she is 100% right. You can't edit a story that hasn't been written. In some cases you can't tell a story that hasn't been edited.

Do you have an editing tip that you live by?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Moonlight Match, is available now! 

Moonlight Match is part of the Resort to Romance continuity project ~ 10 sweet romances, all set during a week-long matchmaking event in the Bahamas! 
Aster Harrington believes in love but love doesn’t seem to believe in her. She’s hoping Goldie and Ginny, the matchmakers who’ve matched on two generations of Harringtons, can work a little love magic for her…

Some call Ethan Talbot rigid, but he prefers to think of himself as prepared. Unfortunately, when he’s matched with Aster Harrington at Joy Island’s Matchmaking Week, all those carefully prepared plans go out the window. He can get back to finding a suitable wife once he’s home in New York. After all, how much damage can one week in the Bahamas do to his plans?

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 Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: Writing History—Wet Washing and Drying Days

It's been raining cats and dogs here in Gloucestershire for days. While the downpour setting has swung backwards and forwards from "car wash" to "drizzle" it has at least been mild. The winds, though blustery, have been nothing compared to the terrible hurricanes and typhoons suffered in other parts of the world. I love letting the washing dry on a line strung across the kitchen garden, but there's been none of that this week.

My first few weeks back at university have been busy. I've been deciding on modules for this semester and the next, along with my ideas for my dissertation. One of the reasons I signed up for this course in Creative and Critical Writing  was because I found researching Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol fascinating. I wanted to find out more. Where better to do that than in a university? It  has zillions of books, and a huge archive.

I'm working on the effect technology had on women's lives during the twentieth century—specifically, the way it made household chores easier.
Find out more at
Until mid-December 1930, the wives of miners in the Forest of Dean didn't have one wash-day a week. They had at least five days of hauling water, and heating it on the stove in order to scrub their husband's work clothes. Men came home filthy at the end of their shift at the pit. After stripping off his boots and dirty clothes outside the back door, a man would soak in a tin bath in front of the fire in order to get clean.

Meanwhile, his wife had the mammoth task of getting his clothes clean and dry as fast as possible. That wasn't easy at a time when Forest villages had no electricity supply. There wasn't much money about in those days, so when it came to clothes the general rule was "one on, one in the wash". During the summer, drying clothes outside on a washing line was easy—until it rained. Then, and during the winter, it was a case of living with steaming wet washing draped over clothes horses and fireguards all around the house.

On Saturday, 20th December 1930, Christmas came early for some of those Forest of Dean wives. After months of anticipation, Cannop Colliery opened some state-of-the-art pit head baths. 

Instead of walking home filthy, men stripped off their wet clothes as soon as they reached the surface. They showered in comfort, then dressed in everyday clothes for their walk home. They left their sodden workwear to dry overnight in the bathhouse's specially-designed heated cabinets. From that day on, the women's drudgery of doing laundry after every shift down the mine became a memory. Washday became a task done once a week, usually on a Monday.

Not to be thrown out with the bath water...
In the days before my family bought a washing machine, that was the routine in our rural Somerset home, too.  It was an all-day job. Water was heated in an electric boiler.  Shirt and blouse collars and cuffs were scrubbed before being worked up and down in soapy water. 

Then the washing was rinsed, hauled out of the water, wrung, then put through the mangle (mind those fingers!) 

Even as a tiny child I was involved in every stage. I used to love blowing soap bubbles between my cupped hands. I wasn't so keen on getting wet cuffs, though. Gran would roll up my sleeves but somehow they either slid down again, or the water would run up my arms!

The best things about washing day before automation was the sound and sight of fresh washing cracking and dancing in March winds, or the fragrance of Fairy Snow and Sunlight soap on a hot June morning.

Do you have any memories of wash-day?

Christina Hollis's first non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol is published by Pen and Sword Books. You can find out more about that here, catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Sunday, October 13, 2019

100 Episodes!

Last week, Susan Gable and I posted our 99th episode of Trippin' with Holly and Susan! That means tomorrow we'll be posting our 100th episode!! Have you seen them? We try for a nice mix of videos about writing, books, reading, tv shows, movies, Erie PA tours...

Basically, no topic is off limits! Well, almost no topic! LOL

As we approach finishing up the first 100, we're looking at the second 100 and asking for your help. We'd love to know what you'd like us to talk about. So please send us questions or suggestions for topics. Or send us places in Erie you'd like us to visit and take you along for the ride!

I know most of you watch them on Facebook, but I have been busy parking them at YouTube. So if you've missed an episode, or (eek!) haven't seen an episode, you can always find them there! You can post any suggestions here or on Facebook, or send them to me at HollyJacobs1 (at)

Thank you all for trippin' with us! And for helping to fill the tank by buying our books!


October Sales:

Are there any you've missed? Now's the time to get them!

Hold Her Heart:
Steamed, Maid in LA Book 1:
Dusted, Maid in LA Book 2:
Spruced Up, Maid in LA Book 3:
Swept Up, Maid in LA Book 4:
Polished Off, Maid in LA Book 5:
Once Upon a Thanksgiving, PTA Book 1:
Once Upon a Christmas, PTA Book 2:
Once Upon a Valentine's PTA Book 3:

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Things I Do to Avoid Writing by Susan Sands

Most days I sit down in front of my computer screen with the very best intentions of writing like the
wind. BUT, I get sidetracked. Do you? Like any other kind of work,  some days, I do almost anything besides what I should.

And I rationalize that it's necessary. I mean, a good social media presence is a vital part of the author's brand, right? So, there's the quick run through to see what's happening in the world. A lot, most days, let me tell you. And it's important to find something cute or funny (for me anyway) to post on my timeline on FB or IG first thing. Then, there's the never-intended quick stop that can turn into a hellish black hole of Twitter. I try to look away, truly I do. Don't even get me started on the dog and cat videos.

Sometimes I have a quick look to see what books my author friends are reading and recommending, what BookBub's got on sale, and who's released a new book. Y'all, this stuff is legit and it takes time.

By this time, I might need a snack or a bathroom break. I know you're nodding because you understand what I'm saying.

I do write a lot of words. Some days more than others. But it's a process and it takes me a while to gather my courage to open that Word file and get back into the story that's been calling to me in my sleep. By the time I finally do, I'm more than ready to tackle my plot hole, my next complicated scene, or whatever the day's writing holds. Do I take breaks? Yes. But I also hold myself accountable to a word count and deadlines.

Best to all my writer friends out there, and I'm in awe of those of you who can resist the rabbit holes of excessive research and other dastardly temptations to stray from your manuscript.

Happy Writing!


Friday, September 27, 2019

Power to Encourage

"It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop." --Confucius

            I don’t claim to be a wise old crone, but nothing reminds me of how long I’ve been in the writing business faster than speaking to a writing group. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking to the Tampa RWA chapter about tropes and series romance. It was a fun topic, and the group was a supportive, engaged audience. 

            The joy of events like this continue after the formal topic is done and I have the chance to speak with members of the group individually. Writers begin sharing more about their journeys, and firing questions of all kinds. We talk about the writing process, the drive to maintain creativity, the tricks behind writing synopses, but most importantly, we talk about persistence.

            Because by and large, I hope that’s what I offer people attending workshops that I give—reminders of how big a role tenacity plans in what we do. I hope that through my own tale of persistence (six full manuscripts, a partial and at least five synopses for other stories completed before I ever sold a single word I wrote) will provide some inspiration for writers who are drowning in rejections. Not many of us get to that first sale without wading through those waters. It can be disheartening. Creatively draining. But it’s truly part of the process.

            That’s the point of the workshop where I feel the wisest. Not because I know a lot about
tropes, or series, or any single point of craft. But I do know what that slog through rejection feels like. I’ve been there, fending off complete demoralization with nothing but blind faith and a good dose of stubbornness. It takes grit to keep writing in spite of the odds, to keep teaching yourself and flexing the writing muscle to improve. I remember that what helped keep my feet on the path were the occasional tales from the trenches from other authors who took many years and many manuscripts to make that first sale.

            So more than any writing wisdom, I hope that I pass along some of that courage in the face of rejection. I hope that I'm inspiring a certain level of persistence. If I succeed at this, I’ve given a truly valuable a gift. Finding the courage to believe in your dreams is hard to come by, but we close ourselves off to too many wonderful possibilities if we don’t keep taking steps to achieve them.

*** From a pep talk for a girlfriend to a heart-to-heart with a nervous child, we all take on the role of mentor and cheerleader sometimes in or lives.  When was the last time you exercised your power to encourage someone in their goals? I'll give one random poster an advance copy of book 1 in my new Dynasties: Mesa Falls series, The Rebel!

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Most Important Part of Writing ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
If you read many ‘how to’ type of posts you’ll find a lot of different answers to the question ‘what is the most important part of writing’.

This is one of those posts, but it’s also not one of those posts.

For me, the most important part of writing is simply to write.

On any given day, there are about a thousand things that crop up that I’m not ready for. Whether it’s my daughter coming home from school with marker on her shirt from art class, or my husband calling to say he won’t be home for dinner, which also means I’m on homework duty. To having a non-fiction assignment come up. To having first round edits and final read-through documents come in from my editors on the same day.

And all of those things can seem, in the moment, to be more important that getting the two or three thousand words on paper that I’ve set for my goal.

What I’ve found, though, is that putting off the writing has a snowball effect. Because the next day not only do I still need to write those words, I also need to write the current day’s words. And there are more last minute emergencies to deal with: like learning my mother-in-law is coming over for dinner, and that I have to fill out an art fact sheet for my cover designer, and I have blog and promo posts to write for my upcoming book release, and I haven’t updated my social media sites in too many days. And. And. And and and and and.

That’s why, no matter what else I have going on, what other items are on my to-do list, what little emergencies have come up that day, at 1 PM every day, I’m at my computer. Writing the new words. The emergencies wait. The to-do list waits. The new words get written, and then I go back to the errands and emergencies and to-do list items. Because if the new words aren’t on the paper, I can’t edit them. If I can’t edit them, I can’t turn them in to my agent or editor. If I can’t turn them in, I can’t perfect them. If I can’t perfect them (at least as much as I can perfect them), I can’t publish them to share with readers.

What about you? What is the most important part of writing, for you?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Moonlight Match, is available now! 

Moonlight Match is part of the Resort to Romance continuity project ~ 10 sweet romances, all set during a week-long matchmaking event in the Bahamas! 

Aster Harrington believes in love but love doesn’t seem to believe in her. She’s hoping Goldie and Ginny, the matchmakers who’ve matched on two generations of Harringtons, can work a little love magic for her…

Some call Ethan Talbot rigid, but he prefers to think of himself as prepared. Unfortunately, when he’s matched with Aster Harrington at Joy Island’s Matchmaking Week, all those carefully prepared plans go out the window. He can get back to finding a suitable wife once he’s home in New York. After all, how much damage can one week in the Bahamas do to his plans?

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time TKD-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more about Kristina and her books on her website. To get even closer, stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Michelle Styles : Harlequin's new Romance Includes You Mentorship sacheme

Sometimes, someone does something so simple but wonderfully powerful  that you wondered why it had not been thought of before but are very pleased that it is being done now and you hope that it will be a huge success and continue for many years.  This is how I feel about Harlequin’s Romance IncludesYou Mentorship scheme.

It can be argued it is long over due but one simply cannot  turn back time or change the past. The past is written stone but the future is yet to be.
 The fact the largest publisher of romance in the world has recognized that the reading public is not simply from one background but from a myriad of backgrounds and that they are going to cater for that by actively recruiting voices from underrepresented groups is something to be celebrated..
Sometimes people from these groups have felt discouraged from submitting because Harlequin doesn’t appear to publish the sort of books they write. Because series romance in particular can be very specific about the type of story (tight focus on the growth of the emotional relationship between an aspirational couple), it can help if an aspiring author can get a mentor who knows the business. However, getting that mentor can be difficult, particularly if you feel you will be rejected or torn to pieces simply because of the stories you want to tell. The aim of being a mentor should never be to create cookie cutter lookalikes.  Kate Walker, a woman I very much consider a mentor (even when she didn’t know she was my mentor)  and now a friend, once told wrote something along the lines – Harlequin has its Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, Betty Niels and dare I say it even Kate Walker and can reprint those stories at will but what it doesn’t have is you and the way you tell your stories.  As a very newbie author, I found that horribly comforting as I knew deep in my heart and still do sixteen years later I can’t write like anyone else.
Mentors can really help but the fact remains that not every author is the right mentor for that particularly author. Sometimes it can be in the way the mentor is saying things. Sometimes they don’t understand the question or the answer. Sometimes because of the differing backgrounds, they think are talking about  page 100 but the other person is actually on page 20.  Or people do not bother asking simply because they don’t want the rejection.
Harlequin has recognised that authors from underrepresented groups need mentors, just as badly (if not more so) than authors from groups which have traditionally made up their authors. Therefore, they are running the Romance Includes You Mentorship scheme. The grand prize is a book contract, working one to one with a Harlequin or Carina editor and $5,000 to help the author complete the book. The money is because they recognise that often people from underrepresented groups are often financially disadvantaged and can simply lack the time to write. In order to establish a career in writing, you actually need to sit down – bottom in chair, hands on keyboard -- and write.
The real winners in this scheme are the reading public who will eventually get to read the mentored author  and be able to be in their shoes or slip into their skin for a short while. Reading is the best way to develop understanding and empathy.
So if you are an aspiring author from underrepresented group or if you know of anyone who might be interested, the initial phase runs until 15 October 2019 (You need to submit the first chapter, a synopsis and a 500 word personal statement) – the full details are be found here. Good luck.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her first book The Gladiator’s Honour  (published in 2006) was the first time  a major publisher had published a historical romance set in that time period (something that people who thought they were in the know confidently predicted could not happen) . Her 28th book for Harlequin HIstorical A Deal with Her Rebel Viking will be published in December 2019. You can learn more about Michelle  and her books at

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: September—New Starts, Old Friends

I love a quiet life. Writing lets me lead one. When you spend your days in front of a keyboard, the rest of the world passes you by—most of the time.  

My wedding bouquet
Everything changes in September!

For me, this month is on a par with December. There's something going on all the time. Much as I enjoy living like a recluse, there's too much going on over these thirty days to sit at home.

For a start, the birthdays of both my husband and his sister fall this month. When we got engaged, my then soon-to-be husband wanted to marry in September. "That way I'll never forget our anniversary," he said—and he never has.  My sister's wedding anniversary is a few days before us, so there's no excuse for forgetting that, either!

The Society of Authors has a small but lively local group which meets in the next county. I attended a meeting only last week.  I'm also a keen member of the Romantic Novelists' Association. Their local chapter has unmissable meetings too, so I've been to their September session as well. 

I also love cake!
A few years ago, the York chapter of the RNA hit on the great idea of hosting a formal afternoon tea  for people who live in the North of England and Scotland. It isn't always easy for them to make the London meetings of the association. York is much closer for them.  

York's a long way from me, involving a long car journey to the nearest station before a three-hour train journey, but my daughter is very fond of that historic city. She did some of her training as an archaeologist there so three years ago I booked us a weekend break there. She showed me round, and I took her to the York tea. A day's sightseeing followed by cake and fancy sandwiches in great company was a fantastic experience. The RNA tea is now an annual fixture in my diary. 

September is back to school time, of course. In my case it's back to university. I'm half-way through my Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Gloucestershire (you can find out more about that here) and I can't wait to get back to it after the long summer break. I've already been researching some ideas to incorporate in my final modules.
Find out more at
After working on my book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol, I've become interested in the way the simplest advances in technology have made huge changes in the lives of working people. I've taken out an annual pass for the Dean Forest Heritage Museum, and will be visiting it as often as possible to help with my research. The museum and its archive are stuffed with interesting items and books. They even have a miner's house on the site, decorated and stocked  exactly as it would have been in the late nineteenth century—complete with china chamber pots under each bed!

The final thing written in my diary this month is the talk I'm giving to the Bristol and Avon Family History Society.  I met several members at the Bristol city archive while I was researching Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol. They were very helpful, and friendly. Now I've been invited to their family history fair, and I can't wait!

Have you got anything exciting lined up for the last days of summer? 

Christina Hollis's first non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol is published by Pen and Sword Books. You can find out more about that here, catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Friday, September 13, 2019

Got Questions or Topics?

This week, Susan Gable and I posted our 95th episode of Trippin' with Holly and Susan! Have you seen them? We try for a nice mix of videos about writing, books, reading, tv shows, movies, Erie PA tours...

Basically, no topic is off limits! Well, almost no topic! LOL

As we approach finishing up the first 100, we're looking at the second 100 and asking for your help. We'd love to know what you'd like us to talk about. So please send us questions or suggestions for topics. Or send us places in Erie you'd like us to visit and take you along for the ride!

I know most of you watch them on Facebook, but I have been busy parking them at YouTube. So if you've missed an episode, or (eek!) haven't seen an episode, you can always find them there! You can post any suggestions here or on Facebook, or send them to me at HollyJacobs1 (at)

Thank you all for trippin' with us! And for helping to fill the tank by buying our books!


PS Check out my summer of Rom Com:

The Makeover (a bad makeover...and a fun comedy!)
How to Catch a Groom (a science geek and a romantic makes for a lot of fun!)
How to Hunt a Husband (a fake-stripper with a heart of gold and her fake-biker boyfriend try to fool their meddling mothers!)

And September Sales:
Laugh Lines (a book with the ugliest cover ever but a lot of comedy!)
Bosom Buddies (the opening scene is based on my years as a lactation consultant...and it's a comedy!)

Monday, September 02, 2019

Meet the Neighbors by Susan Sands

If you've read any of my blogging in the last six months or so, you'll remember that we moved into
a new townhome neighborhood. Because it was dead winter and too cold to really venture out for several months (for me), I didn't meet many new neighbors here. I'm a weird blend of introvert and curious neighbor and don't typically seek out a social life with my neighbors now that my kids are grown. I was part of a long-standing bunco group in my last neighborhood, so I had lots of friends there, but here, not so much.

I go to the mailbox, smile, and say hello. But this summer, my husband and I got into the habit of going to the community's pool on the weekends. So, we've slowly begun to meet some of the folks we now live amongst. I have to say, it's an interesting group.

The guy next door is a gastroenterologist and plays the banjo (not well) on his back deck. I know his profession, not because he told us, but because the guy on the other side of him told us. He knows this, not because the good doctor told him, but because that guy is an attorney and does background checks on all his neighbors. You know, because you gotta know who you share walls with. They are super nice though, and we found out that his wife is the daughter of a golfing buddy of my husband.

There are a handful of women at the pool who are readers and always show up with a new book. It's been fun to discuss what we are reading from our floats and loungers. The group also consists of single career women, a woman veterinarian, several empty nesters like us, and younger couples who are at the beginning of their professional careers. So far, I'm the only author in the group that I'm aware of, but writers don't always show themselves right away.

It's been fun to slowly make my way into the community. I hear there are some pretty interesting parties, but I'll settle for a little pool socializing for now. And learning second-hand about my neighbors from my other neighbors...LOL!

I wish everyone in the path of Hurricane Dorian the best. Coming from Louisiana, I'm glued to the coverage. If they tell you to get out, get out!

Have a great Labor Day!


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Let’s Take a Shelfie

by Joanne Rock

So I’m in a position where I need to reorganize my bookshelves. I realized that so much of how I organize books depends on how much space I have. When I have lots of room, I can afford to have more keeper shelves and maintain a broad collection of books from all my areas of interest. I have many shelves of the books I’ve written, the books I’ve written that are translated to other languages, shelves of friends’ books, and signed books. Plus there are books I organize by interest—medieval culture, castles, knighthood, medieval literature, the courtly tradition, the Pre-Raphaelites, mythology, psychology, world religions, literary novels, poetry, and the list goes on.

I love my bookshelves! Browsing is a joy, and I continually find old gems I haven’t looked at in a decade. If I had my choice, I’d leave them as is. But I’m consolidating homes after living in a few places of the last decade, and that means merging collections—and, worse, losing the home of the biggest, best bookshelves.

One of several shelves I had to dismantle.
Minimalist sensibilities might say that’s a great thing. Do less with more! And if it was anything in my life except for books, I’d agree with that idea. But we love books, don’t we? Parting with them is like saying goodbye to old friends.

First to go were books that weren’t favorites—works I’ve only read once and didn’t feel called to read again. That wasn’t so bad. But then there was the pairing down of my own foreign editions, which was hard because I had hoped to keep one of everything. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, so I mailed books to libraries all over the country, re-homing them.

Now, I’m in a period of stasis, trying to figure out what can go next. Most days I contemplate building more bookshelves in my new home to accommodate all the volumes. But in my more productive periods of organization, I try to choose the “best of” books from each favorite category. I don’t need all the books I have on mythology, so I pick my top two or three choices, and so on.

We’ll see if this yields a more manageable collection. For now, I can say that I have renewed appreciation for cyber bookshelves like those I have at Goodreads. Even if I no longer possess the physical copy of the book, I can keep track of what I’ve read there—when I remember to enter it. I also like that I can put a book on multiple shelves so that it’s not just a book poetry, it’s also a book by a friend and a book I read for book club. Having the ability to sort books into topical categories and specialized fields makes it easy for me to look up all the books I’ve read for book club or all the books I’ve consulted on Avalon.

But I’d love to know what you do! Do you keep track of books in a platform like Shelfari or Goodreads? Do you use a notebook and paper to list books you’ve read in a year or by series? And how to you keep your home shelf or shelves organized? Share with me here and I’ll give one reader a print copy of my Texas Playmaker story, THE PERFECT CATCH. Book #2 in that series is now available - GAME ON!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ahhh, finally, the rains came…

I feel like the heat has had a death grip on us for too much of this summer—like it’s left bruised fingerprints around our necks as it strangles us with dire humidity.

Okay, enough with being literary. It’s freaking hot out here, people! I’m thrilled to be looking out the window at some rain, finally. Feel free to remind me of that next time I complain about too much rain, okay?

We’ve got a guest spending the week with us: our youngest started medical school (!) and has an intensive semester’s worth of biochemistry in two weeks so she sent her beloved Rosie back here to visit. We’ve missed Rosie (and Gillian) since they moved out last month, so we’re happy to have her. Though Rosie isn’t necessarily sure about this as now that she’s back, she’s being mauled by  our new puppy Pippa (they're half-sisters!), who has some seriously sharp teeth and knows how to use them (and fails to take social cues from dogs that they do not want to have their ears severed by puppy  teeth!).

Between bouts of bared teeth, they are having plenty of fun, though. I took them out back this morning before the heat broke and had them fetch tennis balls till their tongues lolled from the sides of their mouths like slices of bologna. Now they’re resting peacefully, and maybe I'll have a fleeting moment or two to actually  write a book. Highly unlikely, as Pip’s quite the demanding pup and loves to make sure I don’t get work done. Good thing I adore that girl!

If your demanding 4-legged or 2-legged babies are giving you a break, I hope you can find some time for end-of-summer reading. I’ve been engrossed with 
Ask Again, Yes. Author Mary Beth Keane (a homegirl UVA MFA grad!) has quite a gift for keen observations about everyday humanity. Unfortunately, this has caused  me to read until the wee hours, which does me no favors with our pup (and Rosie, natch) wake with the sun.

Happy end of summer and let’s keep our fingers crossed for some sweater weather soon!

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:

Google Play

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!

Skirt ChaserBoy Toy and Cabana Boy are available! And Bird Dog is available for pre-order!

Happy reading!