Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Donna Grant: Magic – Do you believe?

First, thank you, Lee, for asking me to guest blog!

It seems in every culture throughout history there has been mention of magic. Some would say it doesn’t exist, some would argue it does. How can something so widely spoken about not be real? And if it is real, how do you prove it?

The wonderful thing about writing fiction is that I can include all kinds of paranormal elements in my worlds. The world in my new Dark Sword series is most definitely filled with magic. Both my heroines and heroes hold magic, though in different ways.

My heroes are warriors with primeval gods inside them giving them immortality as well as enhanced senses and the ability to control something be it water, people’s minds, or the very air you breathe. The gods also transform my Warriors. Each god favors a color, so when unleashed, the heroes turn the color of their god. They also have fangs and claws, and some even have horns and wings. It has been fun matching heroes to their powers.

My heroines are Druids, blessed with certain magical abilities that will aid the heroes in defeating the evil spreading over their world. There are two sects of Druids in the series – the mie, or pure Druids, who practice healing and using their magic for good. Then there are the droughs who go through a ritual that binds their souls with evil to create black magic.

In SHADOW HIGHLANDER (Aug 30, 2011) the heroine, Reaghan, is a Druid. Reaghan thinks she has no magic, but in reality, she’s one of the strongest Druids around. But will she be able to discover the magic within her in time to save herself and Galen before the evil finds them?

The Dark Sword series captures all the power, passion, and magic of Scotland’s legendary warriors—sworn to fight for victory, in battle and in love…

Sent on a dangerous mission into the shadowy world of the Druids, Galen must find a powerful ancient relic to defeat the enemies of MacLeod Castle. But what he discovers is far more powerful—and far more dangerous. A Druid lass whose beauty is as spellbinding as any magic...

Reaghan is the most enchanting woman Galen has even met—and the most enigmatic. She alone is immune to his mind-reading gifts. He alone makes her feel safe and secure. But Reaghan holds a secret power deep inside her that could destroy them both. And if Galen hopes to hold this captivating woman in his arms every night, he must defeat the darkness that draws closer around her every day...

My question is: If you could have magic, what kind would you have?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of UNTAMED HIGHLANDER to a commenter so talk to me. :)

To find out more about me please visit my website at To read more about the Dark Sword series, see pics of the Warriors, take the quiz, download wallpaper, read excerpts, search characters, or watch the book trailers please visit

Happy Reading!


***Lil is our winner!  Congratulations!  Please email me at with your full name and mailing address so Donna can get the prize in the mail to you!***

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lynn Raye Harris: Gotta Love a Bargain!

While I suppose I should be posting something book related or writing related, I am in fact going to talk about one of my favorite activities which doesn't involve writing: shopping for a bargain.

Now, I'm not a power shopper by any stretch. I start to get seriously antsy after about 3 or 4 hours. If I'm shopping all day, I'm not going to be very happy when I get home. I think it's because I get buyer's angst: should I buy this? Should I not buy this? What if I get home and don't like it? Etc. It can get crazy sometimes, let me tell you.

But on Saturday, the hubby and I decided to visit a place that's practically in our backyard: the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. If you've ever lost your luggage while flying, I seriously hope you got it back again. But if you didn't, then all your stuff probably ended up here.

The UBC can be a thrift shopper's paradise. The stuff they have here is unbelievable! It's not just luggage that gets lost, but also cargo. So sometimes there'll be twenty espresso machines or a dozen oriental carpets. In fact, there was a huge Turkish rug on the wall this weekend for $1899. It was gigantic, and completely hand-knotted.

But I digress. *g*

What else did they have? Ipods, iPhones, iPads, Sony Readers, 2nd generation Kindles ($75), laptops, cameras, DVDs, books, shoes, clothes, belts, handbags, jewelry -- well, I could keep going, but you get the idea.

My husband isn't the happiest shopper in the world, but he handled this like a trooper. By the time we left 3 hours later, we had a bag full of clothing (some with the tags still on!) for $150. I don't always find things when I go to the UBC, but this time I was happy.

My best find was a 100% Cashmere sweater, with the tags, for $40. The retail ticket said $90. That was also the most expensive thing I bought. Everything else was well under $20 each. Hubby found a pair of jeans for $4.

Quite possibly the best deal I've ever known someone personally to get was a pair of Christian Louboutin boots that retailed for $1200 -- my friend paid $150. Another friend found some Stuart Weitzman heels once for about $20. The last time I went, I got a great pair of Steve Madden suede pumps for $30 (retail was over $100).

This time, it was the cashmere sweater that made me happy. I'm almost looking forward to colder weather so I can wear it. Almost.

If you'd like to visit the Unclaimed Baggage Center, you can read more about it here.

And now I have a bargain for you! If you're in North America, my April book, The Devil's Heart, is available right now on Kindle for $1.60! That's ONE DOLLAR SIXTY CENTS! You really can't get a better deal on a powerful, sexy story with a hot Argentinian hero, a determined heroine, and a priceless jewel they both claim ownership of. I don't know how long the deal will last, but it's there right now. :)

So, have you gotten any bargains lately? Have any great bargain hunting tales to tell? I keep hoping I'll be that person who buys something really cool in a second hand shop -- and then finds out it's a priceless original instead of the fake I thought it was. :)

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes powerful, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents. You can learn more about Lynn and her books at You can also follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnRayeHarris or visit her author page on Facebook,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anne Frasier: Deadly Treats

Two years ago I decided to start my own publishing company, and I planned to begin with a single ebook. This was around the beginning of the real ebook rise. Everybody and their uncle had jumped in, but not the aunts, cousins, and kissing cousins. I settled on horror and suspense as a publishing focus, and I called the house Belfry Press. The first book would be a collection of Halloween stories, and I sent out invitations to twenty-five authors, published and unpublished, asking if they would like to join me in my little experiment. I promised nothing but possibly a rubber bat and a free download of the Halloween anthology, which I was calling Bats in the Belfry. I thought that would be a nice launch title. The first story came in and well…it blew me away. The next story came in and well, it blew me away. And so on, and so on.

About this time, I started releasing my backlist in digital format, and I saw that sales weren’t spectacular. And I quickly came to realize that a digital ebook by an unknown press might not be the best place for these wonderful stories. They deserved more. So I asked the contributors if they’d be okay with my shopping the collection around, and all but a couple said fine. About the same time, one of my old Theresa Weir books was reissued by an ebook house, and less than twenty-four hours after the release it was being pirated in several places. So I suddenly wasn’t feeling all that warm and fuzzy about ebooks. I submitted Bats to a print-only house in Minneapolis called Nodin Press. Nodin Press has published a lot of mysteries and anthologies, but never a Halloween book, so I was surprised and thrilled when the owner, Norton Stillman, called and said he’d like to publish Bats. Along the way, we decided the title no longer worked because, well, it was chosen with Belfry Press in mind. After some back and forth emails, we decided on Deadly Treats. I think my offering was something about Mysterious Tricks and Deadly Treats, and Norton shortened it to Deadly Treats—a wise move! The book just came out, and honestly, this anthology is such a LOVELY TREAT, and I'm in awe of the writers and the writing. I'll think, Oh, this is my favorite. No, this is my favorite. Oh, but what about this one? And this one? SO MANY great stories!

Anne Frasier (Theresa Weir) is a USA Today bestselling author of twenty books that have included memoir and nonfiction as well as the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, and paranormal. Her books have been printed in both hardcover and paperback and translated into twenty languages. Weir’s debut title was the cult phenomenon AMAZON LILY, initially published by Pocket Books and later reissued by Bantam Books. Writing as Theresa Weir she won a RITA for romantic suspense (COOL SHADE), and a year later the Daphne du Maurier for paranormal romance (BAD KARMA). In her more recent Anne Frasier career, her thriller and suspense titles hit the USA Today list (HUSH, SLEEP TIGHT, PLAY DEAD) and were featured in Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. HUSH was both a RITA and Daphne du Maurier finalist. Well known and respected in the mystery community, she served as hardcover judge for the Thriller presented by International Thriller Writers, and was guest of honor at the Diversicon 16 mystery/science fiction conference held in Minneapolis in 2008. Frasier books have received high praise from print publications such as Publishers Weekly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Crimespree, as well as online praise from Spinetingler, Book Loons, Armchair Interviews, Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, and Ali Karim’s Shots Magazine. Her books have featured cover quotes from Lisa Gardner, Jane Ann Krentz, Linda Howard, Kay Hooper, and J.A. Konrath. Her short stories and poetry can be found in DISCOUNT NOIR, ONCE UPON A CRIME, and THE LINEUP, POEMS ON CRIME. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Crimespace.

Look for Theresa’s memoir, The Orchard, coming September 21 from Grand Central Publishing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lost in Translation

I've been fortunate enough to have several of my novels translated into other languages: Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Czech. With Spanish, I can figure out if things are on the up and up. I can read along and see if the meaning is still clear and if sections are still in place. It takes me a lot longer to read my novels in Spanish, not only because my Spanish is about eighth grade level but because my story suddenly seems not mine. The story rolls out with a different attitude and accent and temperament. And what are all those English place names doing in here, I think, my eyes bugging out when I read all the names that seem more appropriate for San Francisco than Barcelona, the city of my Spanish publisher.

And there are aspects of every language that are impossible to translate. As a reader of translation, I know this, and our best hope is to believe the translator presented the intent if not the exact meaning.

But with my Spanish translations, I'm able to read and finish them, knowing that whatever I was trying to say in English, I said in Spanish, too.

However, the other languages are far away and above me. I have listened to folks speaking Czech, and I am clueless. It sounds pretty, I think. Dutch? Not so many of those speakers around here. But I was able to communicate via email with the Dutch translator, and she and I went back and forth over certain ideas and words. And Portuguese makes me think I'm listening to Spanish under water and I can't get to the surface.

When Intimate Beings came out in Portuguese, I was surprised because the story seemed to have gone on a diet. In English, it's almost 300 pages long. In this version, about 200. Hmmm, I thought. Very strange. The good news is that I have a friend who is fluent in Portuguese, and she told me that the translation, "Wasn't so bad."

Which meant, translated, the editors took a lot out.

But the good news is that Intimate Beings is about ready for its mass market debut, September 8th, in English, with all the words it's supposed to have! Please read more here. What you read is really what you will get.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Secret addictions - Sarah Morgan

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m addicted to notebooks. Every time a pretty notebook catches my eye I’m consumed by such a powerful craving that I stand there salivating, convincing myself that with such a beautiful, shiny new and EMPTY notebook in my possession, I cannot fail to write something amazing.

I gaily hand over the money, telling myself that it is an investment in my creative process because this is how I work. Yes, I use my laptop to write the book, but there is no doubt that ideas come faster when I’m scribbling in a notebook. I take it everywhere with me. If it’s especially pretty I have been known to whip it out of my bag just to give it a stroke (I am a founder member of the Notebook Appreciation Society ) and a small notebook can go to places that no laptop can ever go. I’ve written on the top of a mountain in a howling gale, on a sandy beach, on a roller coaster and in the dark in the movies (that made for interesting reading afterwards). I’ve even been known to leap from the shower to scribble in my notebook and once my husband even bought me a waterproof one (interesting concept, but not pretty enough for more than occasional use).

Polly, my heroine in my next release Doukakis’s Apprentice shares my appreciation for notebooks. Polly is extremely creative, but she has her own unique style and that style clashes violently with that of her new boss, ruthless Greek tycoon, Damon Doukakis. He is less than impressed by his new employee’s attachment to her fluffy pink pen and her notebook. In fact he takes it as yet another indication that she’s frivolous and shallow, but soon he’s forced to eat his words (and as this book is largely set in Paris, he’s probably eating them fried in garlic and washed down with a robust bottle of red wine).

So what is your secret addiction? What can’t you resist?

Sarah Morgan’s latest release for Harlequin Presents, Doukakis’s Apprentice, will be available from  from September 1st and in stores mid September.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grandma and the Prince - Part 30

What is it with food and families anyway?

My Grandma El was many things to many people. I don’t think she really believed she was the Queen Mother but I’m fairly certain she believed she was worthy of the British Royal Family. (Whether she believed they were worthy of her is a whole other story!). Grandma El was difficult, demanding, manipulative, occasionally dangerous, often devious, a diva in every way possible. She was also the world's most fascinating grandmother but, to be completely honest with you, during the early years of my parents' marriage she was definitely the mother-in-law from hell.

My mother was twenty-two when she met Grandma El for the first time. Grandma had reason to believe that my father (aka the Messiah – beware the mother of an only son) was serious about the green-eyed blonde he’d been seeing for the past year and she decided to invite the young couple over for a proper English dinner.

<==engagement photo

“Remember Vi doesn’t like liver or kidneys or brains,” my father told Grandma. No innards. No organ meats. No sweetbreads. "She's a very delicate eater."

Grandma El smiled and patted his hand. "Don’t worry," she said. "I’ll make a fine dinner to impress your young lady."

And my poor innocent lovestruck father believed her!

Finally the big day came and my terribly nervous and insecure and beautiful mother showed up for what turned out to be her Engagement Dinnerl. Grandma was charming and warm in the manner of all English gentlewomen. She served cocktails before dinner. She served homemade cheese straws. She served a lovely clear consomme. She served an appetizer – something savory baked in a little tin and covered with a golden crust. My mother took a bite, chewed, swallowed, then smiled.

“How do like it, Vi?” Grandma asked sweetly.

"Delicious," said my mother.

“I’m so pleased,” said Grandma, even more sweetly. “Would you like to know what it is?”

"Oh yes," said my mother, still innocent in the ways of the Fuller Family. "Please tell me."

Grandma leaned back in her chair and smiled. “Kidneys and brains.”

At which point my poor mother turned her head and lost her dinner.

Yes. Right there at the table. Her reaction was so strong, so involuntary, that she didn’t even have time to push back her chair and stand up.

Grandma told that story over and over through the years and each time I swear to you she laughed even harder. “You don’t even know what you like,” she said many times to my mother. “If I hadn’t told you that you were eating kidneys, you would have asked for seconds.

Somehow, and I don’t know through what act of God, my mother always refused to take the bait. She would simply turn away and pick up the thread of another conversation. Grandma's Practical Joke became part of family lore.

(Remind me to tell you my husband's Beef Stew story one day.)

A few months ago I started gathering up some family recipes and the stories that went with them. I wasn't sure what I planned to do with them or when I planned to do it but Fourth of July weekend something came over me and I found myself scrunched over the keyboard teaching myself how to put together an e-cookbook.

The results can be found here. A SKILLET, A SPATULA, AND A DREAM is currently on sale at Amazon for 99 cents and I hope you'll take a moment to check it out.

I also hope you'll take time to leave a comment below. Family food fights or favorite recipes: I'd love to read about all of them. I'll choose one commenter at random next month to receive some signed books.

Hope your summer has been everything you hoped it would be and more!

PS: My name is Barbara Bretton and you can also find me here and here and even here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers - Natalie Anderson

As many of you will know, the romance community is mourning the loss of our wonderful, talented Sandra Hyatt. Sandra died suddenly after taking ill during the Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference. Over at the LoveCats blog today, several of us have posted tributes to Sandra - if you would like to read them, or share your thoughts, that would be lovely.

I had been at the conference and had the privilege of spending a wonderful hour late on Friday night with Sandra and some of her closest friends. I still can't believe she took ill so quickly from then.

On Sunday I was at the airport, my boarding call being announced when I got the call from another friend to say that Sandra had passed on. Almost the last to board the plane, with no tissues in hand to mop the streams, the other passengers averting their eyes, I was a mess.

And I felt sorry for the young woman I was seated next to - I think most of us are uncomfortable with raw emotion in public places. Inside you feel pained for the person, but there's often not a lot you can do. You don't know what to say.

But this young woman was amazing. She didn't bury her head in a magazine, she didn't look away, instead she looked at me, with open body language and a calm expression. I apologised and made a brief explanation. And she waited.

So I ended up talking. She asked easy, gentle, interested questions. We talked that entire flight - I told her about Sandra. We shared earthquake stories. She told me about her life, her partner, her work. I got to a point where I could breathe again. I mopped up - frequently. I even laughed. She got me through a really rough hour. And I am so grateful to her. She was so very kind.

Somewhere in Christchurch there's a lovely young woman named Bianca. To her, I say thank you.

And my sincerest condolences to Sandra's family and those closest to her. She was a wonderful woman who is greatly missed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Melanie Milburne: Triumph and Tragedies

Do you ever look at other people and think how beautiful they are and how successful or popular, and wish you were like that? Or what about people who always seem to sail through life without any hassles? They never seem to have health issues, money worries, problems with their kids or pets or partners.

It's easy to look from the outside and feel envious but the truth is we all take turns at both triumph and tragedy. It's what life is all about: suffering and joy. It also is a good training ground for deeply emotional writing. What doesn't kill us makes us better writers.

I had a triumph at Romance Writers of Australia last weekend where I won the R*BY award (Romantic Book of the Year) in the Sweet/Traditional category for The Doctor's Rebel Knight. It was a huge thrill and a massive surprise as my Presents voice is the same in both Medicals and Moderns/Presents.

But as I walked to the podium I couldn't help thinking of the other nominees who had been hoping for a win as well. It was a very humbling moment to think my triumph was someone else's tragedy. I said as much in my acceptance speech.
But just as I was unpacking my trophy when I got home, my daughter-in-law got the news that her 17 year old dog Fifi had to be put down. We both went through a box of tissues together! I didn't feel like celebrating my win at all. Life got in the way as it nearly always does.

In my next Presents release His Poor Little Rich Girl, Alessandro Vallini has suffered a tragic health collapse he is desperate to keep hidden from the public. He is determined to keep his private pain out of the merciless hands of the press. Super-successful and rich beyond all measure, this is a set back that he is struggling to deal with on every level imaginable.
Rachel McCulloch, the young woman who spurned his heart-felt proposal in the past is equally determined to get inside the private fortress of his Positano villa to have a face to face meeting with him.

Alessandro is left with no choice to allow her access after she nearly faints in the heat outside, but he cleverly maintains his tragic secret until he has her agreement to stay a full month with him as his housekeeper.

This is a rag to riches tale with a difference. Both Alessandro and Rachel have suffered highs and lows and must forge a way forward to embrace life in all its complexities.

I've often wondered if all romance writers have a burning need to right the wrongs of life. Is that why we are attracted to the genre that guarantees a happy ever after? What do you think?

I will send a copy of His Poor Little Rich Girl to a random comment post.
Warmest wishes,
Melanie Milburne

***Kaelee is Melanie's winner for this post!  Congratulations, Kaelee!  Please email me at with your full name and address and we'll get a copy of the book in the mail to you.***

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Denise Rossetti and the Curse of the Tiny Tootsies

I’m an unrepentant shoe slut, I admit it. I love shoes with a deathless passion. The right footwear just finishes an outfit somehow. Heels flatter your legs and make you feel like a million bucks. Sandals, flats, boots – they can be cute or goth, flirty or dominatrix. Whatever. Doesn’t matter, shoes express a woman’s personality.

For example, I bought these red hussy heels when I signed my first real contract. Red patent leather with velvet bows and heels and an ankle strap. (Couldn’t believe my luck in finding them. It was An Omen.) They make me feel like a romance writer, you know? Also powerful and sexy, which in real life I am not, believe me! As an aside, my entire evening wardrobe is now red and black, a testament to dressing from the shoes on up.

Earlier this week I was in Melbourne for the annual Romance Writers of Australia conference (always a total blast, by the way!). It’s a big city, with a well-deserved reputation as a shopper’s paradise, so I trotted off to famous Chapel Street hoping against hope…

Silly me! Having been burdened from birth with the Curse of the Tiny Tootsies, I should have known better. But – sigh – hope springs eternal in the heart of the shoe shopper. You see, my feet are a size 35 European, a 3 in the UK and a 5 in Australia and the USA (?). Not especially outrageous, you’d think. After all, my mother’s feet are a whole size smaller, poor darling.

Nope. Shop after shop, the smallest size was a 36. I try so hard to ask first, averting my eyes from the display so I don’t inadvertently fall in love, but sometimes I – just – can’t – help – myself.

Is there such a thing as an average foot? I think not! Thin, wide, short, long – we’re all different. I bet every one of you has her own version of the Curse of the Tiny Tootsies. What is it? The Curse of the Titanic Tootsies, the Tender Tootsies, the Tumbling-Down-Arches Tootsies. Ack! Stop me!

I dream of having my shoes hand-made. I wonder if Stephanie Meyer does that? Or Janet Evanovich, or J. K. Rowling? Sigh.


When Denise Rossetti was very small, she had an aunt who would tell her the most wonderful fairy tales - all original. Denise grew up, as little girls do, but the magic of story still dazzles and enthralls her. On the good days, she likes to think of herself as Scheherazade's sister. On the bad days - not so much.

A two-time winner of Romance Writers of America Passionate Plume Award, Denise’s work has been described as "darkly intense, warmly romantic, and blazingly erotic". Reviewers praise her world-building and her ability to write "erotic scenes that exude sensuality without sounding at all cliché".

Her latest releases are The Lone Warrior (Four-Sided Pentacle #3) -  - with Berkley Sensation and Guilty as Sin (Phoenix Rising #4) - - with Ellora's Cave. Follow the links for all the details, including covers, first chapters and buy links.You can also find Denise messing about on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for her free monthly newsletter here -

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'M ON A Jenny Gardiner

I have a friend with a real eye for design---in another life she definitely would have been a fabulous interior decorator if not an engineer creating useful products for better functionality. Often she'll stare hard at something, point a menacing finger toward the thing and say, "That was designed by a man." She never means this as a compliment. Rather, she she thinks men tend to design for looks, not function. Including functional flow in houses, on boats, in products we use in our everyday lives. They may think they're helping, but generally, it seems not (or so my friend contends; do direct your complaints her way, thank you!).

(I Googled "man made" images and this is what came up first!)

I remember years back when public bathrooms started being retrofitted for wheelchair accessibility. It was at about the same time that the salesman for the Giant Toilet Paper Roll Company clearly hit the sales jackpot, because it seemed you couldn't stumble upon a public loo in the U.S. without a gargantuan roll of the stuff. Which from a male-designed standpoint made some sense: buy big, buy cheap, sure. Buy big, replace less often. Okay, I'm with you. But then the plans things went awry: someone (a male? One wonders…) established standards that seem to have been implemented nation-wide about where to position these mambo-rolls within the narrow confines of a bathroom stall. It had some vague connection to wheelchair accessibility, but I can promise you it had nothing to do with how those in a wheelchair would then be able to access the stuff.

I think it was all about avoiding the handle bar that is installed midway up the stall. So this rocket scientist had a choice: position the paper high, above the bar, or install the paper low. For some reason low made imminent sense (is this because they don't use the stuff, thus don't "get" the failed functionality test?). Thus, these mega-rolls are forever installed wayyyy downnnnn lowwwww, requiring the user to lean far to the left and back slightly or forward too much to then get her arm bent enough to be able to reach up into the roll canister to access the stubborn paper that is stuck therein. Once there, you must hard, but argh, you can't, because some brainiac (perhaps an infrequent user of the product, like, say, a man!) decided it was going to be even cheaper (yay!) to make the paper one-ply (sometimes I think they've gotten it down to near zero-ply), so that if you try to pull it--and bear with me because there is physics involved in this and I fail miserably at science concepts--the weight of the 20-lb. roll of toilet paper (TP for short) precludes the ability for the ply-less paper from holding strong against the vigorous force of the pull.

(it seems Bessie the elephant has it easier in the loo than your average woman)

So the innocent bystander (or should I say sitter) in said stall is left, shall we say, holding the square. Because the paper is not going to come off but for sheet-by-miserable-sheet, while you bend over at an awkward angle (and dare I suggest that your average wheelchair-bound woman in a public restroom is likely ill-equipped to be lurching gymnastically leeward to do the TP-twist?).

To compound this dilemma, you have the auto-flush toilet (man designed? you decide...). I once was helping potty train a kid who was terrified of the auto-flush. Poor child burst into tears upon hearing the ominous rumbling of the oncoming flush, a locomotive coming down the tracks. Once, when attempted to help wipe said child, the power flush erupted after having to tilt the kid to one side, and the poor thing literally flipped into a forward roll off the toilet from fright. Leaving me---the one who always cracks up over the wrong things---to laugh till tears streamed down my face.

Okay, so how this fits in with this theme: when you are in the midst of the left-leaning swoop to try to clutch at the elusive weak-willed TP, you then move away from the omniscient laser-beam light that tells the pot it's time to flush. So while you're desperately grabbing for paper, that cursed thing is flushing. Again, and again, and again. Because after the first flush you instinctually sit upright to stop the thing from happening, but then darned if you don't have to reaacchchhhh wayyyyy down to try to get that elusive paper.

Maybe the end-result of this design flaw issue is that women are less likely to use public bathrooms, an added bonus for the provider, who then saves in water usage (except when the auto-flush goes awry), paper consumption (because you can't get to it and thus you give up even trying), and cleaning supplies (because no one is using it with the regularity of days gone by). Plus you save on all that toilet paper theft.

About that TP theft…I'm sorry! I did it! I was a stupid college student! What can I say?

Yes, I have a dirty little secret: I have to assume some of the blame in this TP quandary. I admit there were times when my college roommates and I would help ourselves to a spare roll or two from the dorm bathrooms and take them back to our apartment. On a college budget sometimes you had to choose between spending spare cash on beer or TP. I think you can guess which usually won the internal debate. I do remember being at a bar one night with three rolls tucked lumpily in my backpack. I have to concede that it would be downright impossible (not to mention awkward) to lug a 10-lb roll of that cheap paper in your backpack. Plus once you got it home, what would you do with it? You'd have to hammer a railroad stake into the wall and dangle the thing from it. (note to students: if you do so, please hang it high enough!).

I have absolutely no idea what this has to do with this blog post but it seemed like such a bizarre image I just had to include it!

Okay, so back to the design thing. I am a female. I know how to do this better. It's actually quite logical. Put the mega-giant-gargantuan roll of toilet paper up HIGHER, people (i.e. men who have decided it should be as close to the floor tiles as humanly possible). We women will appreciate it, and I have to assume particularly those in wheelchairs will thank you as well. End of rant.

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, as well as the novels Slim to None and Over the Falls, the novel House of Cards, and the humorous memoir Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me. She also has a story in Wade Rouse's upcoming humorous dog anthology I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (NAL/Sept '11), a fundraiser for the Humane Society of the US and selected animal charities.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fiona Lowe: Life imitating Art ? or Are you Serious?

On my honor and cross my heart, this story really did happen!

I was on a plane recently fact a week before my book Boomerang Bride was released, and an American woman in her early 30s, with carry-on luggage (one tiny suitcase), sat down next to me. She'd flown into Sydney and was on her way to a town not too far from where I live. Now, we don't get many overseas visitors where I live because we're not a tropical climate and we're not a capital city, so the fact she was visiting intrigued me. Her reason? She was coming to marry her Australian fiance. (Blogger won't let me use accents!)

As a romance author I LOVE hearing about how people meet so I asked that very question. Turns out she'd met him on on-line. 'Really?' says I as I think about Matilda, my heroine from Boomerang Bride. 'Yes', she says. 'We met and I came out last year for a while and now we're getting married.'

I thought about the carry-on luggage. 'You've come with one suitcase?'
She had. Everything else had been packed in a container and was being shipped out. Her clothes, her furniture, her money; everything. Just like Matilda, she was crossing the world to marry the man she'd fallen in love with and starting a new life in a new country, a very long way from home.

I swallowed at this point because my Matilda arrives from Australia into the USA and finds her fiance has vanished. I wasn't going to mention that! I mean, there's nothing worse than raining on someone's parade, right, and my book was fiction. So I warmly congratulated her and mentioned I'd written a book about an Australian marrying an American after meeting him in a chat room.

We disembarked and walked across the tarmac into the wind and the rain. I was keen to get a look at this man she was leaving her country for, but just like when Matilda arrived in the USA, her fiance wasn't waiting at the airport. However, this women didn't seem to be expecting him as she walked confidently toward the local taxi and disappeared.

Her story was so spookily similar to the start of Boomerang Bride that it blew me away. I only hope she ends up as happy in her life as my fictitious Matilda, that her finace is not a "Barry-the-Bastard" and was in fact meeting her in the next town with the marching band, flowers and a hug that says, 'I am so glad you're here with me.'

Fiona Lowe is an award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch. A previous finalist in the Romantic Book of the Year award, she's writing her 19th novel. She loves to hear from readers and you can find her at her website, facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Boomerang Bride is availabe now from Carina Press, Amazon Kindle, Nook and all other online book stores.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anne McAllister: Samplers–recovering the past

Sorry I’m late!  That seems to be the story of my life this summer.

I can’t, today, even claim that I wasn’t near a computer. I was. But I was so enthralled with what I’ve been doing that I forgot what day it was.

photo (2)It began on Monday when my dear friend Kate Walker told me that while she was out last week at an antiques place near where she lives, she saw a wonderful stitched sampler.  She collects them – and I collect family history. And this sampler was both.

So she asked me if I could find out anything about the family of children whose names and birthdates had been painstakingly embroidered quite beautifully in tiny tiny stiches on this sampler.

There were six children, born between 1809 and 1822, two girls and four boys, and if the initials of the maker were anything to go by, she was Eliza, the youngest girl.

Armed with the names and dates, I went forth using Family Search and Ancestry and Find My Past, all very useful sites for those of us who like dead people, and lo and behold, before long I was pretty sure I’d turned up the oldest son.  And then the older daughter. They’d both  been born in Derbyshire.  Then all four of the younger children turned up in the Hertforshire baptismal records. 
I found the family in censuses and I was able to trace Eliza through her marriage, the births of her children, a move to London and back to Hertforshire again, and finally her death there in 1909.

Everything I found, of course, was the prod to ask more questions. Many of them have not been answered. Most will probably never be answered. 

But between us, Kate and I feel we have rescued and recognized 12 year old Eliza’s efforts (she made the sampler in 1834).  Census records told us she’d become a seamstress and a dressmaker. We’re not surprised. 

Kate has a whole collection of samplers she’s rescued and given a home to where their makers are appreciated and visitors can marvel at the patience and skill of the young girls and women who made them.
As a terrible embroiderer myself, I stand in awe of their talent and their diligence – and I’m grateful that through research I can sometimes do a small part, as in this instance, to bring a light of recognition to their lives.

So that’s why I’m late. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of Princesses and Princes

I'm spending some time in Walt Disney World this week and I've been ooh-ing and ah-ing for days now. Over the fireworks. Over the rides. Over the characters. And it led to a discussion with my son that reminded me in many ways of discussions and comments others make about romance novels. My son's premise is that the world of Disney princesses give young girls an unrealistic view of love.

I've been thinking about that since he said it and realized that this is exactly what a lot of people think about romance novels. Over the last couple of months, there's been a huge brouhaha about an article published in the UK about the deleterious affects that reading romances can have on women. A scholarly article, it claimed that women could be addicted and have unrealistic expectations about true relationships.

But could those comments about the princesses be true? Do they mislead girls? Us? Well, I don't think so.

Let me point out what I think is the best of our favorite Disney princesses: Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" -- Hmmmm. A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and ends up seeing the true man instead of the beast her captor has become -- thereby falling in love with him and saving them both.

In the other stories, young women fight injustice, prejudice, social and class differences, racial differences, dysfunctional families, their own weaknesses and sometimes even magical powers. They overcome obstacles, help others and even sing their way to the happy ending they earn.

And that's what happens in the romance novels I write and you read. We know the happy-ever-after is coming, but we follow, we become, we believe in the heroine's journey as she struggles to find her prince (charming, brooding, dangerous, sexy, handsome, rugged or whatever!). We hope for her along her way, we cheer her steps forward and share her hurt and disappointment when things go bad. And best of all, we are thrilled when that happy ending is in her grasp.

So POOH!!! (no pun intended!) on those naysayers who warn us off of Disney princesses or romance novels -- there's nothing wrong with little girls (or grown women) dreaming about princes who rise to the challenge and princesses who overcome the odds to attain their dreams.

While I'm in Disney World enjoying the make-believe and the dare-to-dream and reveling in storytelling at its best, I'm wondering who your favorite princess is? Clearly mine is Belle because I simply love 'beauty and the beast' stories (and I write them, too!). But who is your favorite one -- and why? I'm going to choose one winner from those who post and they will receive a special Disney princess souvenir (and include a signed book of my own, too!). I'll choose the winner on Friday, August 19 - so post away!

Terri is still celebrating the release of the third, and final, book in her STORM trilogy - MISTRESS OF THE STORM. Kensington has also released the novella that began the stories, A STORM OF LOVE, in digital formats. For more info about Terri, her current releases and her upcoming books and events, stop by her website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lisa Dale: Tips For Reading People

Hi all!

I’m back from my honeymoon. My DH and I went to California—Napa and San Fran, then to Monterey and Yosemite. Soon, I’ll be posting some pictures on my personal blog.

But in the meantime, I’m finishing up the last of my edits for my book that’s coming out in January, called A Promise of Safekeeping. It’s about a woman who reads people—you know, like on the show Lie to Me.

Lauren, the heroine, is a body language expert who has become quite well-known when the book opens. A case she’d tried when she was a very young lawyer has come back to haunt her. A man that she’d helped put in prison for nine years is found to be innocent. Now, Lauren must make amends.

I’ve had to do a lot of research about body language for this book. And I’ve found out some really fun, surprising things. Even though the book is just about done, I’m still reading about body language—just because it’s fascinating (and because, as a writer, it helps to make any story stronger when you really grasp the nuances of nonverbal communication).

Here are a few tidbits from a book called What Every Body Is Saying, by Joe Navarro.

  • Think that the eyes are the window to the soul? Navarro says: Wrong. It’s the feet. Yep—the feet are the window to the soul. He says people can be quite conscious of controlling their expressions, their arms, their torsos—but that leaves the feet and legs to their own devices. Interesting, right?
  • Jurors at a trial will apparently turn their feet toward the nearest exit if they are responding negatively to a witness. It’s a vestige of our flight instinct—preparation to get away.
  • All people have pacifying behaviors when they’re stressed. Women will tend to cover suprasternal notch (that little dimple at the base of the neck) by either touching it or playing with a necklace. Men may stroke the area above their Adam’s apple—a gesture that apparently reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

Neat, huh?

Yes—I know I’m a nerd.

I’ve also been learning a bit about human courtship—and discovered some pretty peculiar stuff! But I’m not going to include any of that here (or in A Promise of Safekeeping) because, let’s face it: Sex becomes kinda unsexy when looked at in a clinical light.

And now it’s back to work on my last little revisions!

Happy (people) reading!

Lisa Dale

Monday, August 15, 2011

Michelle Styles's tips for the New Voices 2011 competition

The Mills and Boon New Voices 2011 Competition really gets  under way next month on 13 September when unpublished authors can start uploading their first  chapter. You can find out more about this brilliant completion at The winner will have her book published in a Mills and Boon series and gets a Mills and Boon editor for a year. And entry is free!

To help get people going with their entry, I thought I’d give a few tips.

1.       Do your research. Decide which series you are targeting and read a few of the debut authors as well as reading guidelines and listening to podcast.  Know the promise each series makes to the reader. Think about what themes you like to write about. Which series can you see yourself writing forty books for?

2.       Make sure you have sustainability. Even though the contest only requires the first chapter, try to write a complete draft or at least a partial. Many times my first chapters change after I have finished the book.  You don’t want to suffer from first chapter contest syndrome and remember you can submit the manuscript through normal channels afterwards. Yoiu want well developed characters rather than cardboard cutouts moving through plot points.

3.       Series books are short and don’t have much room for subplots. Make sure the meet between the hero and heroine (the incident which causes their world to change) takes place in the first chapter. Don’t go for a long set up. Hook the reader with the premise. Make her want to turn the pages and find what is going to happen next to this couple.

4.       Keep your chapter focused on the hero and heroine, rather than adding lots of secondary characters. The reader wants to know who to root for! Everything starts with strong  main characters. Make sure they shine in the first chapter.

5.       Make sure your heroine is empathetic  and the reader wants to spend time with her.  Give the reader a reason to identify with her the very first time she appears.

6.       Make sure the reader will fall in love with your hero instantly. It might take the heroine a bit longer BUT the reader does have to think yum rather than yuck. If your hero needs to be redeemed, show that he is capable of redemption.  Think Richard Armitage in North and South. The first time the heroine sees him, he is beating someone up. But  the viewer knows he is doing it because that man’s smoking amongst the cotton bales endangered the entire factory.

7.       Above all remember they are looking for a NEW author rather than a carbon copy of an existing author.  Work with your voice. Create the sort of characters you love rather than trying to create characters you think the editors want.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin and Mills and Boon. She writes in a wide variety of time periods including ancient Rome, Viking, Regency and Victorian. Her latest book To Marry A Matchmaker was published in the UK in July 2011 You can read more about her books on
You can also find her on twitter @MichelleLStyles

Sunday, August 14, 2011


When I started writing full time, word processing was unheard of, the Apricot computer was the height of cool  and we only had 4 TV channels. It's amazing to think how radically life has changed for all of us since then. Everything was laboriously typed up on a manual typewriter. Mistakes meant re-typing, while multiple copies meant using carbon paper (the right way round!), or paying 5p a sheet at the local library for a photocopy. Real, paper manuscripts had to be laboriously packed up and taken to the post office. If you think it takes a long time to get a reply from your editor or agent now, imagine having to add in postal delays! All research had to be done via the public library and in my case that meant a forty mile round trip, with a baby. That's unimaginable in these days of 24 hour news and the Internet. There are now a bewildering number of gadgets available to make our lives easier, and here are my current favourites:
Much as I love the Internet, it's a terrible time suck. If the modem is on while I'm working on my computer, I cannot resist dipping in and out. That's where my Alphasmart Neo comes in. It's simply a keyboard with a memory. That's it. I type into the memory, and then upload it onto my computer. No frills, but no distractions either. It's battery powered, which makes it brilliant for my life-of- many-powercuts and my first set of batteries have lasted for 2 years while in everyday use.

What can I say? I take it we're all addicts here, for better or worse?

These are definitely a two edged sword. My husband loathes his Blackberry. He works in finance, so it has to be on all day from the moment he wakes until he goes to bed at night. If he doesn't check in regularly, the number of incoming mails builds up to an intolerable level. On the other hand, I love my mobile because I so rarely turn it on. I take it with me whenever I leave the house, but only use it in emergencies. These include shopping expeditions, when one of the party gets lost! It also comes into its own when the children are away from home. They know they can always contact us or ring for help, wherever there's a signal.

I love cooking, especially making all sorts of bread by hand. Nothing compares, but once you've tasted it, supermarket bread is relegated to the occasional bacon sandwich. Unfortunately, there are times when quite frankly I'm too tired to organise and knead. That's when my electric breadmaker comes to the rescue. It takes only five minutes to start it off, fresh hot bread can be ready in less than two hours, and my hands stay clean throughout. No floury fingerprints on the phone or the door handles. The fragrance that fills the house is unbeatable, too!  

When you spend your working life driving a desk and a lot of your spare time either cooking or eating, as I do, there's one big problem. Writer's bottom! My treadmill is a basic version which operates on friction, rather than electricity. That is, I'm powering it! This means I can get plenty of exercise even when the weather is bad or the days are short. Combined with my pedometer, it's a good way to make sure I get some exercise every day.

All these wonderful new gadgets have definitely improved my life, but I wonder what happened to all the extra leisure time and the paperless offices we were promised 20 years ago? Not to mention the idea 'they' keep trying to resucitate about replacing all our everyday foods with one little pill. That's been popping up for decades.
What are the gadgets you couldn't live without? Do you have any favourite predictions about our brave new future that didn't come true?
Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appear as Harlequin Presents Extra in the US. Her latest title, The Count's Challenge (UK title: The French Aristocrat's Baby) is available from Harlequin at and Amazon. You can catch up with Christina on her website, on Twitter, and Facebook