Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dani Collins: Family and Holidays – It's Complicated

First, I'm excited to let you know that Blame The Mistletoe is on sale for 99c until Dec 2. That's a special deal that Tule Publishing arranged for this weekend. I hope you'll take advantage

Blame The Mistletoe is a sexy, snuggly story about how family can be complicated, especially around the holidays. 

In our own family we’re always conscious of this as my husband’s mother lives in our old hometown along with his siblings. One of my sisters has been on the move with her husband for the last few years, my parents often winter south in Arizona, and my youngest sister lives in Australia with her family of young children.

We start negotiating weeks ahead. “Are you going to Mom’s? My parents are staying home this year so can we go to your mom’s the week before/after because they’re going to be with his parents that day and…”

I’m sure it plays the same in every household. If you can manage it, it can be a blast. In 2010, we had my mother's side of the family all in one place and if I had permission to post all of my family's photos, I would. You'll just have to imagine all the great shots of kids playing board games, tables laden with food, silly Don't Point That Camera At Me Now expressions... I have a terrific one of my husband crying, he's laughing so hard. Then there are the sweet ones of son-in-law hugging mom and my sister showing off her sparkling new engagement ring. It was a pretty amazing week. 

My middle sister and her husband learned that a donation to Habitat For Humanity would earn them a toque (in Canada, that's what we call these kinds of hats, pronounced Tewk.) They donated enough to get one for all of us. Here I am with both my sisters and my daughter wearing our souvenir head gear. Apparently one of us was caught by surprise with this photo.

My cousin also made the trip from Nevada with her kids, along with our aunts and uncles from far and wide, but with everyone so scattered--my youngest sister is now living with her new family in Australia--we really don't know when we'll all get together again.

These sorts of arrangements get even more complex when the family is blended. I have divorced friends and trying to get our kids together with theirs can be the same game. It’s hard. In some cases, it makes for very lonely holidays.

Which is exactly the blue Christmas I set up for my heroine, Liz. Her ex-husband isn’t cruel, just overly-focused on his own plans. His girlfriend wants to marry and spend Christmas in Mexico with the whole family in attendance. Everyone is going. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

Except it means Liz’s daughter will be gone the entire month of December.

To me, this is very believable. Maybe not everyone can afford a month in Mexico, but plenty of families have weddings and other family commitments where, even though the custody rules might give a parent the right to refuse, it seems churlish to do so. They go along to keep the peace and wind up rattling around an empty house, missing their kid(s).

Divorce is a funny thing, too. Even though a couple might split, depending on the length of the marriage and the reasons for splitting, people don’t necessarily pull away from the family of their ex. Liz is still so accessible to her husband's ex-family, she’s easily ensnared by her ex-mother-in-law into dog-sitting while they’re away.

Now, as for the tricky dynamic between Liz and Blake, I have to ‘fess up. I stole the idea from a friend who is divorced. She has said more than once that she wishes she could get all the former partners of her ex-husband’s siblings together for a Reunion Of The Exes. She liked them. They were funny and she wishes she’d stayed in touch.

I’ve wanted to write that party so many times. Wouldn’t it make a great set up for a serial? Maybe a play?

I settled for including a hint of it here. My hero, Blake, was married to the sister of Liz’s ex. He recognizes Liz at a cocktail party and they bond as comrades in arms. His son is away at the same tropical wedding-slash-Christmas vacation so he’s at loose ends himself for most of December.

They don’t mean to get together, but it happens and they’re happier than they thought possible until their children and ex-spouses find out. Then things get awkward and they’re forced to decide whether this is a holiday fling or something more serious and long-lasting. I won’t spoil the ending, but this is a romance. Wink.

Do you have a lot of family obligations to navigate during the holidays? How do you make it work? Do you ever wish you could run away somewhere tropical for the month of December? (We do!) Where would you go?

I’m happy to send a PDF copy of Blame The Mistletoe to one lucky commenter, but you can buy Blame The Mistletoe for 99c until Dec 2.


Liz Flowers has never enjoyed Christmas, but this one is shaping up to be the worst by far. She let her ex take her daughter to Mexico while she stays behind in a strange town, sitting her former mother-in-law’s high strung little dog. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, but this California girl doesn’t have much in common with the ranchers in small town Marietta.

Blake Canon perks up with male interest when he sees a new face at his friend’s Christmas cocktail party. His son is away and a light affair would take his mind off his financial troubles. Then he realizes he knows Liz. She was once married to the brother of his ex-wife.

Their children might be cousins, but Blake and Liz do the kissing—under the mistletoe. It’s the beginning of a new view of Christmas for Liz, but when their children arrive home unexpectedly, and family secrets are revealed, Liz isn’t sure she’ll stay in Marietta for Christmas after all.

~ * ~


“Uh oh, Liz. You have a decision to make,” Skye said, pointing above Liz’s head.

Liz looked up. Mistletoe.

“The girls made me hang it,” Chase said from behind her, referring to Skye’s nieces who’d been running around with the rest of the children this evening.

Liz’s gaze caught Blake’s on the way down from the little sprig and her heart skipped at the light in his eyes. Her brain grasped for a smart remark, but nothing came.

Blake stepped into her space. “I think we owe it to ourselves,” he said. “Don’t you?”

Swaying, she set her hands on the cold, brushed texture of his coat, feeling ridiculously small and girlish all of a sudden. “Because of our mutual experience with the Flowers?” she asked.

“Actually . . . ” His gaze narrowed as he stared at her mouth and started to lower his head. “Let’s not think of them at all.”

His mouth touched hers and wiped her brain clean. All she knew was the brush of cold lips that warmed against hers, pressing firmly enough to open her lips so the kiss was not nearly so chaste as it should or could have been. He lingered, waiting until temptation got the better of her and she kissed him back, letting her mouth cling to his, then he slowly drew back. Something satisfied flickered in his eyes.

That had been bad. Good in a way that was very, very bad. Liz could barely breathe or muster a smile.

Skye and Chase smirked at each other. Someone from the lounge whistled. Liz rolled her eyes, feeling herself blush.

And Blake didn’t bother to hide the male smugness in his gaze as he took the leftovers from Skye and opened the door for Liz.

~ * ~

Blame The Mistletoe follows Hometown Hero, where school secretary, Skye Wolcott, gets a second chance with Marietta heartthrob and Major League Baseball player, Chase Goodwin. Please look for my next Montana Born story, The Bachelor’s Baby, in March 2015, which will feature Blake’s sister, Meg.

Award winning author, Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, erotic romance, and now small-town rancher novellas. Whatever the genre, Dani always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.

Stay current with Dani’s new releases by joining her newsletter or visiting her here:

Amazon: US | Canada | UK  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lilian Darcy: Great Holiday Reads

I’m writing this while most Americans are sitting down to their Thanksgiving dinner. We had ours last night. Yes, we live in Australia where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, but my husband is American, so we do celebrate it in our family.

We had a big, golden, crispy-skinned turkey, and lots of baked vegetables – potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, carrots, asparagus – and then for dessert there was pumpkin pie accompanied by a friend’s to-die-for home-made ice-cream.

We all sat around the table, and the kids are at an age now where they’ll do that. They’re happy to relax and chat instead of scooting off as soon as they’re done eating, the way they used to.

So I’m thinking about holidays. And I realize I don’t often use those big, festive holidays as themes in my books. I don’t think I’ve ever written a Christmas story. Which is weird because I do love all those big celebrations.

I do want to alert you to some great holiday reads that others have written, however.

Top of the list would have to be Jane Porter’s The Kidnapped Christmas Bride. Yes, it is every bit as fast-paced and sizzling and dramatic as it sounds, and yes, the cover matches the mood perfectly. As well as the drama, there is layer upon layer of real emotion, and celebration, and family, and change, and a love between two people that’s survived more than its share of challenge. You will read this one in a single sitting, while not even hearing your family talking to you.

A close second is Megan Crane’s Come Home For Christmas, Cowboy. The passion and emotion in Megan’s stories is so intense, you feel as if you’re living inside her characters and you don’t want to come back out again. It’s like jumping into a chalk pavement picture in Mary Poppins, only adult-themed. Dare and Christina belong together but they’ve lost their way, and it takes her strong stance and a big, warm family Christmas to help them find each other again. I loved this story.

My third recommendation is actually four stories, all centered around the theme of Christmas in New York. Four friends who’ve grown up almost like sisters, four stories of second chances and lost and found love. Each story is very different and can be read alone, yet together they create such a vivid picture of the diversity and magic of Christmas in one of the world’s best cities. It’s a magical series altogether. The individual stories are This Christmas by Jeannie Moon, All I Want For Christmas by Jennifer Gracen, A Light in the Window by Jolyse Barnett, and Goodness and Light by Patty Blount.

Finally, if you’re ready to skip past Christmas and on to Valentine’s Day and chocolate fantasies, my own women’s fiction novel The Sweetest Thing is free on most major ebook sites. I hope you’ll like it. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Susan Stephens: 2 Pen Names, 1 Passion for Romance.

Writing under two pen names was always going to be challenging as I have a busy schedule with Harlequin Presents, but it's such fun I'm never too busy to explore the ideas I publish as Xandra King.

Xandra  delves into the mysteries of the universe- sometimes dives in, weaving the supernatural and fantasy ideas into myth and legend, but Xandra's most recent series, COSMIC HOT SHORTS sees Xandra King firmly back in the contemporary arena exploring the values of friendship between women. Oh, and hot sex ;) An odd combination, you might think, but when a group of women get together to discuss lots of things, not least amongst which is their ailing, or non-existent sex-lives, there are bound to be developments! In this case they set about finding some great guys for each other so they can all get more out of life.

The first short in this series by Xandra King - Christmas Nights At The Ladies Club - available now - tells Jane's story. 

Jane is one of the quietest members of the group, but it is Jane who comes up with an idea she thinks might help her friends. 

Little does Jane realise just how much her idea is going to help her too! She gets an inkling when Jake with his 'cobalt blue eyes' walks into Jane's auditions for hot guys to work the night shift at the Ladies Club.  

*Sign up for my newsletter - either on my web site or on my SusanStephensAuthor page on Facebook for news of the next story in this series: Valentine's Night At The Ladies Club, which will be a late January 2015 release. 
There are 6 shorts in total and my newsletter will not just run contests, but will let you know all the release dates too so you don't miss any of them.

And then... I absolutely have to write a Susan Stephens Christmas Novella too, because there is nothing I love more than the holiday season when I have every excuse to load my EReader with every Christmas story I can lay my hands on. There's something about this time of year when authors write warm and fuzzy, and readers get that special boost of warmth and love to take them through the year - or at least it keeps them going until the next romance book they read! 

Christmas With the Billionaire  - available now - is unashamedly warm and fuzzy, with a strong heroine who has the knack of bringing people together. Kate Black just can't help herself, even when faced by a Scrooge-like billionaire who would rather bury himself in work until the holiday season goes away. I can tell you now - there's no chance of that with Kate around!!

Christmas With The Billionaire launches my all-new Black-Heart series - so, if you fall in love with Kate, just wait until you meet her brothers, Nathan, Bastien, and Elijah Black. Warning: They may not be quite such warm fuzzies as Kate. In fact, I can tell you now... they're not!!! But they are hot and challenging, which is what we like!

*If you sign up for my newsletter, either on my web site at or at SusanStephensAuthor on Facebook, you will be the first to know about my newsletter Contests as well as release dates for all my books.  

And here's my question for you, with a special - 2 - Hooray! - because it's the holiday season -  $10 prizes, drawn at random for the winners...

What's your favourite thing about the holiday season?

Or, would you prefer to join Jason Kent, my billionaire, from Christmas With The Billionaire, and just hide away until it's all over?

Make us laugh, make us cry with laughter, make us think - We can't wait to share your ideas!!

A belated, but no less sincere Happy Thanksgiving! to all my wonderful friends from the US, and a very happy run up to one of the busiest times of the year for everyone!

Twitter: @Susan_Stephens
Facebook: SusanStephensAuthor

With my warmest good wishes to everyone,


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Stef Ann Holm: A Thankful Blog

“Thankful” is a word we’ll hear a lot today. I’m thankful for all the traditional reasons, but I am more thankful for being born a baby-boomer.

I’m thankful I had an appreciation of our space program and the first steps ever walked on the moon. For airlines with a meal served in coach, the blanket and pillow, the metal wing pins given to kids, and the pilot when he walked through the cabin and said hi to us all. For the narration of what landmarks we flew over, and everyone’s interest in them because we weren’t plugged into anything but the experience. So thankful my daughters could wait for me at the gate with flowers when I got off the plane after being at an RWA conference.

For all the real people who picked up when I called customer service. For Blue Chip stamps and the family decision on what to cash them in for—a new set of TV trays or bonnet hair dryer for my sister and I, for full service gas stations that not only pumped your gas, but checked under the hood and washed your windshield. Thankful that we knew eating out was a big time treat that we appreciated.

I’m thankful for blue shimmer eye-shadow. Davey Jones and Pee-Chee folders. Here Comes the Bride and Bobby Sherman. For teachers who could give you a whack if you deserved it. For never hearing the f-word in the school hallway. Grateful that I never wore my pajama bottoms in public and thought it was okay. Disco, and rock and roll! For sports stadiums not being named after corporations. Hot lunches that were a splurge for my parents and thinking about which day of the week I would choose. Friday fish-sticks and green beans. For appreciating the cucumber sandwich my mom packed for me and the excitement of picking out a new lunch pail at the beginning of the school year. For the vending machine in my high school that only offered apples and no brand-name drinks or snacks. Mandatory P.E. with snap button white blouses and school gym shorts, showers required afterward.

Corner mailboxes that my mother said, “Run down and drop this letter in the mailbox for me.” Wearing rubber rain boots just like everyone else, playground equipment without safety mats, wearing dresses to elementary school, for Campfire Girls. For my friend’s mothers and fathers who I always called Mr. or Mrs.

For summer vacation and the seasonal playing of Alice Cooper’s “Schools out for Summer,” on all the AM stations. For the beach bus that picked up us junior high kids in the Ralph’s parking lot and took us to Santa Monica beach for the day. We didn’t have cellphones and our parents trusted us to follow the bus driver’s rules, and we knew we must—or else.

Playing arcade games with Danny Bonaduce in Reseda. Centipede and Pac Man, Pong on my friend’s television. Seeing Maureen McCormick shopping in the Northridge Mall. My job at Warehouse Records and the thrill of stocking cassettes for the first time next to 8-tracks. Being able to make out the lyrics in songs. For the “5, 7 and 9 Shop”—when those sizes were actually proportionate. Halter tops and hot pants. Vinyl go-go boots. Sbicca wedge shoes, Wallabees, saddle shoes in elementary school. Dittos and flares.

For no answering machines, no call waiting, no caller ID. For my corded blue princess phone. For transistor radios and KHJ Charlie Tuna. For living the moment and putting the memory in your head and not taking pictures of every random and ridiculous event and sending them to Snapchat or Twitter. For never contemplating writing profanity anywhere, especially not for my friends and family to read. So thankful for experiencing the anticipation of having a roll of film developed. Beyond grateful to have so many print photos rather than digital.

I’m thankful for mandatory high school home economics that taught me to cook and sew, for playground recess twice a day. For eating lunch outdoors under pavilions. For my mom never driving me to school because walking the mile-plus was “good exercise.” Thankful that my dad had a steady job, and my mom not having to work because she was so frugal budgeting my dad’s salary. Fond memories of warm cookies and a glass of milk when I got home.

For the gold 1974 Plymouth Duster my dad gave me when I got my driver’s license. I am grateful I was given a car for free. Thankful for having to work for everything else I needed once I turned eighteen. Disappointed with myself for not completing college when that was offered by my parents at no cost. Big mistake. But thankful I have the talent to write a book and that requires no degree. For brick and mortar bookstores, so many to choose from way back when, and with booksellers who knew who you were.

I’m so very thankful I was born in 1958.

Every generation has a story. What’s yours? What are you thankful about?

Stef Ann Holm was born in Southern California near Hollywood. With the fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Universal Studios at her doorstep, her imagination was stimulated at an early age. She attended Chatsworth High where Kevin Spacey, Mare Winningham and Val Kilmer entertained on the school’s stage. As a semester elective, Stef Ann enrolled in drama and played a Fandango hostess in the chorus of Sweet Charity. It was the beginning and the end of her acting and singing career. She got a “C” in Drama and an “A” in Creative Writing.
She sold her first romance in 1987. Stef Ann has had twenty-four novels and one novella published. She lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, extended family and her squirrel-crazy Yorkshire, Cocoa Puff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Fall Asleep Counting My Blessings…

I really do. Not only is counting your blessing a great way to calm your mind, but also it's nice to fall asleep feeling lucky and treasured.
Thanksgiving isn't just for Thanksgiving. :)
A few years ago, I was bummed about something and an ad came on the television for a relief agency.  As is standard operating procedure, they showed the conditions in a rural village, hoping to entice TV watchers to contribute money.

Eager to get a shower, I turned off the TV and headed upstairs. I undressed and stepped under the spray, and it suddenly hit me how lucky I was to have hot water. And my health. And three great kids…And a loving husband. A warm bed. Enough food. (More than enough food if my weight is anything to go by.) A sweet cat. My mom. Brothers and sisters. Nieces and nephews. Clothes. Boots. (It’s hard not to be grateful for great boots.) Friends.

When you begin to realize your blessings, to think of them with more than a cursory nod, your thoughts can snowball. Not because we’re rich in material things, though in the US most of us are, but because we have so many other things. Like freedom.

The ability to read. J

The ability to pursue our dreams.

The right to have an opinion.

Blessings don’t just come in physical form. Even the fact that you are breathing is a blessing. Learning that beauty really is more than skin deep is a blessing. That knowledge opens you up to discovering who you are and why you are valued. Because you are. And really pondering that can open up a whole new world of possibilities and gratitude.

I love silence. I love to meditate on the splendor that is my backyard. Especially in spring and fall when green slowly blossoms, and, months later, when those same green leaves become a fire of red, yellow and orange. I like to think about the genius of dirt.  The glory of color.

I like to think.

The blessings of life aren’t always possessions. And when you realize that, ponder that, you see that those boots (though wonderful) are just a teeny tiny drop in a very big ocean of wonder all around you.

So, love your boots, your cookies, your family, but this Thanksgiving  take a breath, look around. You are surrounded by reasons to be grateful.

You are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving!

susan meier



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Megan Hart: A Bit of This, A Bit of That

Most readers know me for my erotic and romantic work, and it’s true that I’ve been writing sexy romances for a long time, but what many people don’t realize is that I started writing in other genres. Fantasy, science fiction, horror. Mainstream fiction, too. Lovely Wild is a little mixture of several genres, mostly mainstream fiction with a hint of suspense, a breath of romance (though it’s far from traditional) and even a tiny, teeny nudge of fantasy (though not the magic kind!)

Interested? I hope so! Lovely Wild is one of those books you write because the story compels you, and you simply can’t NOT write it. It didn’t have a home for a long time, so when it finally sold, I was thrilled. It’s both very much like my other work in voice and themes but also unlike it, because I wrote it to fulfill my own expectations, not the market’s. It’s a story of hope and redemption and sacrifice and ultimately, although it’s not a romance, it is a story about love.

Most of my stories are about love.

My question to readers is this – when you find an author you love, are you more willing to read books they write in genres you wouldn’t normally explore? What makes an author an auto-buy for you, and have you ever discovered you love a new genre because you’ve taken a chance on a book you wouldn't normally read but it was written by your favorite author?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Lovely Wild!

*** Megan's winner is Melanie McMahon Ives! Please email with your mailing details!***

Monday, November 24, 2014


Kim Boykin

Hey, y'all warmest greetings from the not so warm South! For me, the holidays are all about food and family, and love. And FOOD! 

It is not lost on me that every story I’ve ever written is bound together with passion and food. In many cases, the hero or heroine uses a delicious dish to say I love you, I care about you. This connection is played out in my new novella from the Tule Publishing Group Just In Time For Christmas.
Set in Magnolia Bay, a fabulous little Lowcountry town with its own unique twist on the holidays.  Just in Time for Christmas is the story of smoking hot Logan Mauldin and Miranda Hamilton, a sassy Southern woman who is bit obsessed about making the holidays perfect for her guests at her historic B&B.


Now, I'll be honest with you, normally, I hate turkey, but my husband LOVES my roasted turkey, had rather have my it than fillet mignon. Why? Because his mother made a mean turkey twice a year, so good friends used
to ask her if she'd cook their turkey for them, and she often did.

My mom made all our holiday meals special, but especially breakfast on Christmas morning when she always made a sensational breakfast for us to savor after we tore into our gifts.

Sometimes this breakfast was huge, elaborate, and most decidedly Southern. Bacon, grits, eggs, sausages. Chocolate pancakes. Other times it was just a few yummy finger foods. Sausage balls. Tiny quiches. Date nut balls. 
Mosey on down the page for the red velvet pancake recipe mom perfected and of course my recipe for the perfect turkey.

All of this comes with my warmest wishes for you and your family to have wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

Here’s a little taste of 
Just in Time for Christmas!

Nobody does Christmas like Miranda Hamilton, and now that she finally has her chance to chair Magnolia Bay's tree lighting and the cotillion, which benefits her late mother’s breast cancer foundation, this Christmas is shaping up to be the best ever. That is until her childhood nemesis Logan Mauldin buys his way on her committee and starts making plans of his own.

Logan Mauldin loves to get under Miranda's very sexy skin, and it's only fair. She's been getting under his since long before their first kiss at 13. Logan’s the last man interested in co-chairing a Christmas committee or participating in a sexy bachelor auction, but since that night he interrupted Miranda on a date and cornered her under the mistletoe, he can't stop thinking about her

Christmas cheer isn’t the only thing that heats up between the Miranda and Logan, but, thanks to a lie that is as much her fault as it is his, he loses the woman he’s loved since forever. Logan will need a Christmas miracle for Miranda to forgive him. A grand gesture to melt her heart and win her back just in time for Christmas.


I do not like turkey, but I can’t keep my hands off of this one. It’s that good.

* A turkey is always better when it has been brined. My favorite turkey brine is The Spice Hunter’s Turkey Brine with fruit, herbs, and savory spices. 

1. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 C sugar, 1/4 c. salt, 2 T. black pepper (Preferably fresh ground), 2t. ground thyme.

2. Rub turkey with olive oil. It’s like suntan oil for bird and will make it a beautiful golden brown. You may use an herb or a butter flavored oil if you like. Sprinkle the topside of the turkey with the above mixture. For an optional herby flavor, have some extra fresh rosemary in your kitchen or yard? Cut several branches, wad it up branches and all and put in the chest cavity.

3. (Optional) Bacon lovers, crisscross 4-6 slices of bacon on top of the bird and cook as directed. Tent with aluminum foil for about half of the recommended cooking time. Remove the foil and finish cooking. Enjoy!


1 can cream cheese frosting                                  
1 cup whole pecans toasted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons red food coloring


Whisk the flour, white sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt together in a bowl until evenly blended; set aside. Beat the eggs in a separate mixing bowl until smooth. Whisk in 1/4 cup milk with the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, vinegar, and food coloring. Stir in the flour mixture until moistened. Drizzle in the melted butter, and stir until the butter has incorporated and small lumps of flour remain.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium-high heat. Drop batter by large spoonfuls onto the griddle, and cook until bubbles form and the edges are dry. Flip, and cook until browned on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter. Top with syrup and pecans (and an optional dollop cream cheese icing) to serve.

So what is your favorite holiday recipe to make for family and friends? 

What's your favorite food that says"I love you?"