Friday, February 27, 2015

My Friend, My Co-Author

By Joanne Rock
Catherine Mann & Joanne Rock at RWA
I’m so excited to be writing a book with my critique partner, Catherine Mann, this month. We’ve worked together—reading every sentence one another has penned—for almost eighteen years. I can always keep track of the date since I’d just had my second son the first time I went over to Cathy’s house for lunch and we embarked on the coolest partnership and friendship. The baby I’d been rocking over that lunch turns eighteen in April and my critique partnership with my fabulous friend has spawned a fun new creative direction—writing a series together.

Like all great ideas, it seemed to jump from our brains simultaneously. We might have been talking about the pressures to write more and faster in the current marketplace. Or we might have been discussing stories we’d love to write and hadn’t found the time. But something prompted the spark of an idea—what if we co-wrote some stories for fun?

Snapped this pic on a long ago road trip 
Because at the heart of the business still rests the creative joy of writing. It's a tricky balance when you turn your creative outlet into your work. New pressures are applied. Deadlines become important, looming beasts. “Productivity” enters your vocabulary and makes you wish you’d never heard it. So it’s important to peel away the work environment around our beloved craft sometimes and remember why we started in the first place—for the sheer joy of telling a story and entertaining a reader with the effort.

Before either Cathy or I sold our first books, we dreamed about what it would be like to have readers who sought out our books. We worked hard to tell the best stories possible—to make our writing engaging and our storytelling unique so that an editor had to buy our manuscripts. We’d share fun books we’d read and dissected what made them great. But over the years, as we’ve each pursued our writing dreams, we have less opportunities to call one another and blurt out a story premise because it’s so new and exciting. Part of that is because we've each been blessed to find readers and audience so we blurt out fun ideas to them! But it’s also because our storytelling fell into a rhythm and pattern.

That’s good, of course. Yet it’s always fun to mix things up as a creative person. To dig deep. To reinvent yourself—if only a little facet of yourself—and see what else you can do. To try a new process and find out what it yields. Working on a story together has done all of those things for me. Cathy called me yesterday and the ideas she brought to the work-in-progress were so exciting. She took the story in new directions, added fun levels I hadn’t thought of, and forced me to up my storytelling game. Even eighteen years into our professional partnership, she’s teaching me things. I hope I’m inspiring her right back.

All of this is to say, I’m really excited about the new Runaway Brides series Cathy and I are rolling out on April 7th (would you believe that’s my middle son’s birthday? Kismet!). Tule Publishing is working on gorgeous covers for us that we’ll share soon. But first, we have some finishing touches to put on a series that has pulled from the very best of us and given us a chance to savor the creative fire of something new.

***Have you ever had the pleasure of working with a good friend? Or has your work led you to important people in your life? Share with me today on the boards and I’ll send one random poster a copy of my upcoming Harlequin Superromance, NIGHTS UNDER THE TENNESSEE STARS!  


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eve Gaddy: A Cover Affair

I've been thinking about covers lately. I recently posted a picture of my least favorite cover ever, for one of my own books. I love the book but the cover . . . well, it sucks. I gave away the book on my Facebook author page and in the picture I covered it up with SWAG. (There are puppies. I wish the puppies were the only thing on it.)

I mentioned that the cover sucked, which is why I buried it, and one person said, "Oh, I bet it's not that bad." When I posted it, she had to agree. Yes, it was *that* bad. Really, really awful. Really. Awful. For the curious, it's A Marriage Made in Texas--it's a Harlequin cover. The cover won't change until they give me back the rights.:(

My question is, how much does the cover affect your perception of the book? Would you buy or not buy a book based solely on the cover? I know what conventional wisdom says and I agree for the most part. I have to say I think covers are important. But does a bad cover doom a book?

I just asked my daughter, son-in-law, and husband their take on this topic. After they finished groaning, (here she goes again) they answered. My husband Bob said everybody judges by appearances. He says that of course people judge a book by its cover.

My daughter Diana said that if she didn't know the author or know of the author, as in the book was recommended to her, she would not read a book with an ugly cover. (Bearing in mind liking or disliking the book cover is subjective.) I said, "Even though you know the author doesn't always have control over the cover?" She said yes, even then. She says if she knows nothing about the author the cover and blurb are all she has to go on.
My son-in-law Russell said most people don't realize the author has no control over the cover. (With self-publishing, the author does have control, but with other publishers she often does not.) Russell also said that with ebooks it isn't important to him because he doesn't look anymore. I didn't manage to ask my son, Chris, what his opinion was. Or my 94 year old father-in-law. I'll ask them my next question, but that's for another blog.

Then I asked my four-year-old twin granddaughters. I showed them two of my book covers and one said she would read the ugly one and the other said she wouldn't. But they both said they'd read the pretty one. My daughter said they're four and don't understand theoretical, but my grandchildren are brilliant so I think they do.:) However, I think they're still a bit young to be as influenced by the cover as adults or teenagers are.

I've been known to buy a book with an ugly cover. Although when I do it's usually because I've heard of the book, or read the author and don't care about the cover.

I have another question. Does it jerk you out of the story for the cover to be nothing like what you imagined? Or do you just ignore it? How much does it affect your enjoyment of the book if say, the hero in the book is a clean-shaven blond but the man on the cover is a dark haired man with three days of stubble?
Or what if the cover implies a dark, suspense type book but when you read the book it's a light-hearted romance with no suspense?

I'm very fortunate in my current publishers, Bell Bridge Books and Tule Publishing. They understand the importance of the cover and the author has a lot of input. I am now eagerly awaiting a new book cover from each.

Last Shot is published by Bell Bridge Books and should be out any time now. Last Shot is a romantic suspense with a very sexy hero who I've wanted to write since he first walked onto the page in my book Just One Night. Nick Sheridan is the brother of Alex Sheridan, heroine of Just One Night. I'm dying to see what Debra Dixon comes up with for my cover.

I'm guest blogging today for the wonderful Lee Hyat, who also happens to be hard at work on a cover for a new series from the marvelous Katherine Garbera and me from Tule Publishing, Texas Born, Whiskey River. The first story, written by both of us, is Where There's a Will and it should be out some time in May. We are very excited about our new series. Can't wait for the covers!

Do you buy a book for its cover? Yes, no, sometimes? Which one best describes you?  I'm giving away an ebook of Sing Me Back Home to one commenter today. I love this coverJ

***Eve's winner is Erin!  Please email with your mailing details!***

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kate Hewitt: Comfort Reads

Some days I’m in the mood for a comfort read. You probably know what I mean: the literary equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate, a warm fire, or a bubble bath. The kind of book you can just sink into and sigh happily as you read; it’s an escape from work, from dirty dishes or whining children or ill relatives or unpaid bills or whatever else life is throwing at you at the moment.

Lately I’ve been gorging myself on Carla Kelly’s backlist of Regency romances. These books are light without being too frothy; her heroes and heroines are genuinely nice people but they have often have some emotional baggage. And yet that baggage, whatever it is, does not cause them too much angst; Kelly’s Regencies are full of witty repartee and intelligent banter and of course a few sparks, although in general the romances are quite sweet and the bedroom door is very much closed.

I’ve read five or six of them in the space of a week, usually in the evening when the children are in bed and I can disappear for a short while into a world of eligible marquesses and women who tend not to have two pennies to rub together, but plenty of charm and wit. If you are new to Carla Kelly, I’d recommend Libby’s London Merchant and its semi-sequel, One Good Turn. I also particularly like The Admiral’s Penniless Bride.

Of course there are other books I turn to for that much-needed comfort read: Anne of Green Gables, Tisha, Wintercombe, and any Harlequin Presents by Sarah Morgan also can often fit the bill! What about you? Do you have a favorite comfort read? Please share your recommendations—I’d love to have a few more on my go-to list!

Happy Reading,


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rejection? Or High Praise? You Jenny Gardiner

Rejection? In the publishing world? Ha! That is downright inconceivable! I mean, isn’t writing all about pouring your heart out into the novel of your dreams and then everyone loves it and you sell it for a fortune and land huge film deals and you earn enough money to quit your day job and take some fun trips and maybe pay off some loans and you all live happily ever after as you write subsequent bestsellers in your lovely Parisian artist’s garret????
Welllllllll….Gather ’round, kiddies, and let me dopeslap enlighten you!
Not to complain, but just to burst your bubble open you to the potential soul-sucking vagaries realities of the publishing business…
Rejection isn’t simply the rejection of your words by agents and editors and reviewers. It’s really more like the endless obstacles that threaten the potential success of your writing career/marathon.
A sample of such things that you might well encounter along the way:
  • A director of sales at a publishing house who doesn’t like your book and therefore won’t do much to try to sell it (which means forget it, your book is doomed).
  • A publishing house that goes belly-up and you never see payment owed you (don’t quit your day job!).
  • Editors who are Goldilocksian in their rejection of your masterpiece (Too long! Too short! Not happy enough! Not sad enough! Lacking character development! Too much character development! Plodding! Too fast paced!). I think if the future of the human race relied upon editors loving someone’s work, the species would be long gone by now.
  • An agent who disappears off the planet after you sign with said agent, who then simply never does even the basics of what needs to be done to pitch your book, leaving you flapping in the wind and your career on default life support.
  • An editor who leaves the business halfway into the editorial process, leaving your book with no advocate (also known as Dead in the Water; see doomed book, above).
  • An editor who loves your voice and loves your book and really wants to publish it, but one editor on editorial board kiboshes it, so it’s not going to be acquired (Dead in the Water, natch).
  • A big name author who bails at the last minute with the cover blurb promised you for months.
  • You get so bogged down with marketing and publicity that you never write another book.
  • An industry that changes like the shoreline, leaving you feeling as if you are trying to capture elusive air between your fingers.
  • Life crap that decides to interrupt your creativity so that you fall off the planet and miss the myriad changes that have befallen the industry and, as an added wallop, lose your readers, while you were in a life-induced writing coma.
A career as an author is not for the faint of heart. It is for someone who has deep conviction in their product and one who is determined and hearty and perhaps a little foolish and—despite deeply-entrenched, occasionally self-sabotaging cynicism—holds out a bizarre scintilla of optimism in the face of overwhelmingly grim odds (this could simply be human survival skills at work).
So my advice is this: ignore everything. Ignore it all. Because you can’t control one damned bit of it. Instead, just write. Get back to the basics: read and write and write and read and refine your craft as you so do, and to hell with the rest of it.
In the early days of my career, writer friends and I repeated to one another this mantra: TPT—Talent. Persistence. Timing. Honestly, I can tell you from some books I’ve read that talent is actually optional (though desirable)—plenty of crap books get published, which still mystifies me. Persistence, however, is essential. And timing? Well, that’s the ingredient over which we have little power. If you’re lucky enough to have the fairy dust sprinkled over you and you write a book that becomes a blockbuster and you are the darling of the publishing world, well, hey, good on ya’. But if you don’t, it’s vital that you are able to maintain that very core of what started you on the process to begin with: you love words, you love stories, and you know you have an ability to combine them in a way that works.
And sometimes, that’s all you can hang your hat on.
I was quite frustrated recently, feeling as if launching a book nowadays is sort of like felling a tree in a remote forest—does anyone hear a thing? —wondering how anyone can hear about your book if no one is listening.
And then, voila, I got a lovely review from a book reviewer, which helped me to remember what it’s all about: writing something that will touch others.
Now go. Write. And to hell with all the rest of it.
The first of my IT'S REIGNING MEN series was just released: SOMETHING IN THE HEIR. Here's the cover (alongside the covers for books two and three in the series--more to come!)
JennyGardiner_SomethingintheHeir200 JennyGardiner_HeirTodayGoneTommorrow200JennyGardiner_BadtotheThrone200
and some time soon I'm going to reissue Anywhere but Here---I'll keep you posted.
Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)
find me on Facebook: fan page
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find me on my website

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Melissa McClone: Cleaning on Deadline

Last month, a reader asked how I handled it all—family, writing, house, laundry, etc. I'd love to say effortlessly. I'd really love to say I have someone who cleans my house for me. I'd love to say anything but the truth.

What's the truth?

When I'm busy, especially with writing, something has to give, and that's the house. There are times when I've let things go completely for months due to a combination of illness and deadlines, but the fallout (as you can see in the before and after pics) is too hard to deal with. 
So I've found a few ways to keep the house liveable while on deadline or caring for sick kids or dealing with some other curve ball being thrown at you. Emphasis on liveable. f you're into white glove cleaning or a neatnik, stop reading now. By many standards (including my mother's), this wouldn't pass muster or be considered cleaning. But it works for me, so thought I'd share for others who find themselves with too much going on and the housekeeping falling by the wayside.

Years ago I discovered the Fly Lady. It wasn't long before I unsubscribed to her notices because the constant emails on what I should do around the house drove me crazy. I also had a huge issue with her saying to get dressed first thing each morning. One of the perks of being a writer is being able to write while wearing pajamas. But a couple of her ideas made sense to me then, and I still use them though I have no idea what she calls them. I seem to remember snazzy names for things so check the site if you want her official take on the tasks.

This is my Keep the House Liveable daily list:

1) Do the dishes
If the kids did what they were supposed to the night before (unload, load and start) then I skip this step. More often than not the sink looks like it had a party overnight, and it's up to me to clean up. But this is always the first thing I do if it hasn't been done. Nothing like an empty sink to start your day. The kitchen just looks better. The Fly Lady sure is right about that!
2) Put in a load of laundry
With two adults and three kids in the house, I can't afford to miss a day without doing a load, sometimes two. With three swimmers in the house, we go through many towels, too! By doing a load in the morning, I've got a big item crossed off my To Do list. Of course, folding is another matter. I don't mind wrinkled clothes and the cats like to sleep on the pile on the bed, so folding is one of those things I save for when I'm talking to someone on the phone or the pile gets so high the peak deserves a name!
3) Clutter Buster
In five minutes or less, I pick up any paper that can be recycled or whatever else can be thrown away. Sometimes I spend the time going through the mail if I haven't.
If there's something left out in the Great Room or kitchen that doesn't belong, it goes in that person's crap baskets, something I learned about in this article. You can read about me implementing them at our house here.
This step is key for me and why my office in the pics above became a nightmare. Clutter is one of those things that I can overlook and even picking up for five minutes can make a big difference when it's time to get back to your normal routine.

4) Spot Clean
I'll take five minutes to 10 minutes, to spot clean whatever needs it most that day whether that's the kitchen counter, bathroom, table, walls, shelves or floors/carpets when the dust bunnies are more the size of hares.
The key to doing this quick is having the right equipment handy. For floors: broom, dustpan, Swiffer, vacuum cleaner (depending on what the floors/rugs/carpets needs it.) For dusting: a feather duster makes it easy-peasy. For surface cleaning: I have two spray bottles that I've filled myself. One contains a mixture of vinegar and water. The other is a mix vinegar and Dawn dishwashing liquid. This will pretty much tackle anything I need it to and is inexpensive to make.
So in just a few minutes, I can do the bare minimum while life is crazy-busy to keep the house from being a total hazard. Then once things slow down I can get back on track and do some real cleaning.

Do you have any cleaning tips you'd like to share? Comment below and I'll pick one winner who will receive a fleece throw, chocolate, hot chocolate, bookmarks and an autographed book!

If you'd like to know more about me and my books, check out my website.  You can also find me at my Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Debra Salonen: Wasting Time

I don't know about you, but I'm terrible at wasting time. Just awful. I keep thinking about all the things I should be doing. Books I could be reading. Books I should be writing. Chores that won't get done by themselves. Dust bunnies that are breeding as I sit there trying to do nothing. This makes doing nothing counterproductive because I'm all stressed out about not doing something productive.

I'm going to make a really bad retiree when the day comes.

But the day will come.

So, lately, I've been thinking about creative time wasting--or, how to waste time in a way that doesn't feel so wasteful. Yes, I see the irony, steps, people. I'm thinking I need to ease into this.'s what I've got:

1. Step away from the phone.
Already, I can hear my brain generating a million reasons why this is a bad idea. But, if you think about it, there was a time, not long ago, in fact, when you weren't accessible 24-7. Pre-answering machines. Pre-pagers. Pre-cellphones. If people couldn't reach you, they accepted that you "weren't available." This needing to be available at all times, makes doing nothing very difficult.

2. Accept that walking without a destination or purpose is okay.  If you must, take along a dog. That will allow you to pretend you're doing something useful (and maybe in your dog's opinion, you are). Normally, when I'm walking, I carry my phone so I call family members and catch up on news--something I feel guilty about not doing when I'm working. But, talking is still doing something. So...glancing back at #1...leave the phone at home. Just walk.

3. Practice sitting--without a laptop on your lap. This may require you to sit as far away from your  desk or laptop or electronic device as possible. Even though Facebook is a huge time suck, and, thereby, technically, a waste of time, it's also part of the bigger problem for me: it's work. If there's a computer in range of my hands and eyes, I will be writing...something.
I'd like to share a meme from a book I'm writing for my family called: The Wisdom of Milt. It's based on the sayings of my late father-in-law, Milt Salonen. I love the Zen of this one, and I aspire to reach this time wasting plateau.

4. When weather allows, cloud gaze. I live in a part of the world where clouds can feel like a gift, and on those rare days when blue skies are dotted with puffy white orbs, I highly advise assuming a comfy position with appropriate SPF and eye protection, then let your imagination play. Perhaps, you'll get lucky and a dragon will drop by for a visit, as this fellow did a few weeks ago when I was on the coast. If I hadn't been standing outside doing nothing, I wouldn't have noticed.

So, um, that's all I've got. It's going to be an uphill battle, I know, because I come from a long line of busy women. My mother was still cracking walnuts for pay in her nineties.
How do you waste time--and not feel guilty about it? And, since I firmly believe reading is NOT a waste of time, you can't count that. But you can tell me what you're reading because I'm not giving that up EVER. I will pick one name from the comments to receive a $5 Starbucks gift card, because, for me, doing nothing is easier with coffee/or tea.


You will find Debra Salonen: Amazon  Facebook  Twitter  Website Blog

Winner of Romantic Times Reviewer's Career Achievement "Series Storyteller of the Year" award in 2006, Debra Salonen's 26 titles for Harlequin Publishing have sold more than 2.3 million copies, worldwide.
A six-time nominee for RT's Best Superromance of the Year award, UNTIL HE MET RACHEL (May 2010), took home that honor with Debra's most unlikely hero and a never-say-die heroine.

Montana comes alive with bold heroes and modern heroines in Debra's Big Sky Mavericks series from Tule Publishing, check them out on Goodreads:
`MONTANA COWGIRL - "Cowgirl, you can go home--and love--again."
`MONTANA COWBOY - "He's nobody's cowboy until his new neighbor rocks his world."
`MONTANA DARLING - "Her land. His tent. And this is Montana, where property disputes can lead to a range war...or love."
`MONTANA MAVERICK - "A lone wolf PhD rescues a rancher--and gains a life."
`HER FOREVER GIFT (a FREE holiday novella) - "The system failed him, but she never would."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Susan Stephens: Why Polo?

Hello! Its so good to be here chatting to you again :)

Today I thought Id answer the question Im always asked in regard to my Acosta polo series, and my latest Hot Brazilian Nights polo series: Why Polo?

I love horses. I love hot guys. I love hot guys on horseback. I love hot, wild polo guys on horseback in particular.

Plus, who doesnt love a cowboy? And my polo guys are ranchers first, and polo players second. Close to the earth, they are strong and loyaland their animals love them! What more do I need to say J

And now I have a confession to make. Im sure you know my own, personal Love At First Sight story by now, Im sure:  met my husband on a Monday, engaged by Friday and married 3 months later...

We met in Maltaa tiny jewel of an island, packed with history in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily. And he played polo. Not the groomed variety, but the wild, no holds barred variety on the wildest of ponies. Once seen, never forgotten. Did I have to think twice? Hmmm. No.

So now you know why I have an obsession with mad, bad polo players with a dangerous glint in their eyes.

Which brings me on to my latest Hot Brazilian Nights series did I mention that my preference is for hunky, swarthy men?

Book 1. In my Hot Brazilian Nights series is called, In the Brazilians debt, and is available for pre-order now, with a release date in March

Paying for the past...
Lady Elizabeth Fane has two choices: lose her familys Scottish stud farm or swallow her pride and beg Chico Fernandez for help. Shed never forgiven the arrogant Brazilian polo star for abandoning her years before, so instead she will collect on the debt he owes her.

Yet in the sultry Brazilian heat passions flare, revealing feelings Lizzie thought she had long conquered. That until Chico finally reveals the truth behind his desertion and Lizzie realises that he not only has power over her body, but its she who is in the Brazilians debt.

For more info jon the series, just follow this link: to the dedicated pages on my web site where you can meet the muses for the characters on team Thunderbolt! and learn more about my inspiration for this series.

Chico Fernandez. Age: 30
Single. And no wonder!
Arrogant Brazilian polo player Chico Fernandez has never had his heart brokensome say, because Chico doesnt have a heart to break. Running the worlds top-class polo training school is more than a hobby for gaucho polo international Chico, it is his life, his passion, and his obsession. Few pupils make the grade. Few survive his relentless training methods. It would take an exceptional woman to not just to survive, but to thrive and to conquer the heart of this cold, seemingly heartless man.

Lizzie Fane (Lady Elizabeth Fane) Age: 26
Shrewd, focused and determined, Lizzie may be young, and a difficult childhood may have made her wary, but when life gets tough Lizzie gets going. Taking on the responsibility for the stud farm her grandmother built up, Lizzie handles everything that comes her wayincluding an impossibly arrogant man from her troubled past. Grit, skill, and dogged determination, allows strong-willed Lizzie to go head to head with the most impossible man in the polo world, Chico Fernandez.



What was it about music and sex? The rhythm, he decided. Dancing was the perfect prelude to sex. Lizzies breathing had quickened, and her heart was pounding furiously against his chest. What was in her head? Raw sex was swirling round them, and that couldnt be helping Miss Prim right now. All the other dancers were intent on each other, and no doubt, the inevitable outcome of the evening for them. How did Lizzie think this would end? With a good nights sleep?
Dont fight me,he murmured, his mouth close to her ear. Once a day during training sessions, thats okay. Here on the dance floor? No.
Stop,she warned him in a whisper.
Stop? Of course Ill stop, if you want me to.
Her answer was to shake her head as if she had given up on trying to reason with him, but she didnt pull away and that brought more of her into contact with him. That brought all of her into contact with him.
You are a very bad man,she chastened him and, unless he was imagining things, seemingly enjoying the fact.
Im glad we understand each other at last,he murmured.

I hope you enjoy reading about my hot guys as much as I enjoyed falling down the rabbit hole and joining their lives!

Join me for more heat, more pics, more everything, on Twitter @Susan_Stephens and Facebook

Or contact me:

With my warmest good wishes to all my wonderful readers for allowing me to share my dreams.



Monday, February 16, 2015

The Sheikh's Sinful Seduction Releases Tomorrow!

I try to write my blog posts ahead of time. This month I was feeling very uninspired so I was reading an article called 28 Blog Post Ideas For February. It was chock full of good advice and all the topics made me go, "Meh."

Then I went back to suggestion #7 and it said, "Give something away." My poor, beleaguered brain thought, "I could give away a copy of my new release, The Sheikh's Sinful Seduction." Then, in a very slow turning of the cogs, I realized this post would come out the day before the book releases on Amazon. Sheesh! Of course I should mention that here.

Writing is hard, people. Promotion is next to impossible when your mind is wired for fiction. Hard facts just don't penetrate.

But I DO want to share this book with you. If you haven't heard about the concept yet, it's based on the seven deadly sins. Harlequin, however, only does things sexy so they're the Seven Sexy Sins. You might have seen this blurb in their Reader Catalogue if you're a subscriber:

Yes, they've even covered sloth--and Cathy did it very imaginatively, too! Me, I was given the easy one: Lust. And I adored writing this story. I had so much fun thinking of all the ways it was positively sinful for these two people to get together and yet the sexual pull is impossible to resist. Of course there are very permanent consequences to their giving into their desire.

Here's the back cover blurb and you'll see what I mean:

Ruled by duty… 

A king among men, Sheikh Zafir cannot allow emotion or feelings to color his judgment. His carnal desires must be curbed for the sake of peace in his kingdom. But his control is tested by the feisty Fern Davenport; Zafir must have her. 

Driven by desire… 

Innocent Fern Davenport tries to resist the sheikh's skillful seduction—she knows that he could never marry her. But under the blistering sun an incendiary thirst awakes, and one incredible night results in a very lasting consequence. 

Now this sheikh must claim his heir and his bride!  

Book Two in Harlequin Presents Seven Sexy Sins series—The true taste of temptation! 

I'll share an excerpt here too:

Fern usually walked away when feeling picked on, but despite the seventeen square kilometers around her, she didn’t have anywhere to go. The only place she could hide from Zafir was her own quarters, so she ducked into them. She bent under the light weight of the silky red fabric to pick up the pole from the ground and worked her way to the center, where a grommet awaited on the roof and the floor.

Of course it wasn’t as easy as it looked. She got the top one hooked in, but even though the tent wasn’t heavy, the tension in the fabric was resistant to her attempts to align the bottom of the pole into the floor.

“You spaced the pegs too far away,” she told him, hearing her mother’s voice and cringing.

“I’ve pitched more tents than you have, Fern,” he drawled and she narrowed her eyes at him even though they couldn’t see each other. Another pole made a zipping noise as he slid it into the pocket that would form one of the corners. “Let me finish this part then I’ll help you.”

Oh, great. I’ll just stand here looking stupid then. The tent shifted on her hair, making it crackle with static. She debated crawling out, but couldn’t make herself go out there and face him.

Another zip, zip, zip sounded and he had the back and walls stabilized. Leave when he comes in, she thought, but he lifted the front of the tent and took up all the space, bringing the middle of the tent pole so it slid through her light grip and the roof climbed as he neared her. Then he was standing before her, the narrow pole between them, his tanned face tinged by the translucent red of the fabric, his gaze fixed on hers.

He slid his hands over her limp ones and guided the bottom end of the pole into place. She tried to look away, but he was tall and very close. He smelled good. Earthy and sweaty, but not overpowering. Masculine and intriguing. Aside from her mother’s specialist, she’d never met a man with such an air of command and that physician had been white-haired and potbellied.

Zafir was in his prime, not just healthy, but radiating supremacy. In the back of her mind, she knew she was behaving like some kind of rock-band superfan, speechless in the presence of a man with star quality, unable to move, but he was so incredible. She found herself staring into his eyes for too long. She knew it was too long, but she couldn’t look away from those crystal blue-green depths. They quested, delving into hers, demanding something she didn’t even understand.

Say something, she thought, and let her tongue wet her lips.

His gaze lowered to her mouth. Her breath evaporated. She found her own gaze dropping to his mouth, wondering how it would feel to have those smooth lips rubbing against hers.

Her heart was fluttering like a trapped bird, her pulse pounding in her ears. He lifted his hand to hover hotly next to her cheek, scorching her. His brows jerked in some type of struggle. Was he going to kiss her?

It was remarkable yet terrifying. Did she really want to do this? It was so wrong, but he was right there.

“Miss Davenport, are you in there?” Bashira called from outside. Fern’s heart went into free fall. Her conscience gave her a hard shake and she jerked back, shocked.

“I am,” she stammered, discovering her hand was still trapped under Zafir’s on the pole.

His grip tightened briefly before he released her with a flare of his fingers. He lifted away his touch as though she’d burned him. A muscle ticked in his cheek. He looked very displeased. Accusatory, but also confused.

She surreptitiously touched her mouth, and avoided looking at him as she edged around him to open the flap of the tent.

~ * ~

And now I'll ask you a terribly challenging question to qualify you for the giveaway. Which cover do you prefer above? Sexy, Presents or M&B Modern? (Red, White or Blue?) I will randomly draw from all the comments for one signed copy on Sunday morning (Feb 22) so check back Monday for news of the winner. (Note: I'm Pacific time.)

If you want to go ahead and buy your own copy of The Sheikh's Sinful Seduction, the quick links are here: 

Amazon: US | Canada | UK  
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Have a great week! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Michelle Styles:Learning to deal with feedback

One of the things about being a published author is that you get feedback (not all of it good) from editors, family and strangers, particularly in this day and age.

The pain of my first form rejection letter remains still seared on my brain. But  the good part was that it made me determined. Others I know gave up when faced with the same words.  I also can easily recall the joy when I had my first Reader letter.

 Letters from Readers are a gift because they show your writing can connect with people. I didn't realise how welcome and wonderful they were until I became a published author. But then there can be the trolls, the Mean Girls and the petty-minded. I can remember a review once, knocking for me for the cover and the title -- two things I had no control over. I think when I got that review, I stopped taking them so seriously.

You learn to cope with the negative or you end up curled up in a little ball and never submit again. A case in point, I suppose is Harper Lee whose brush with fame from To Kill A Mockingbird led to her becoming a recluse. And her second book (which was written in the 1950s!) being published later this year. Lee is currently nearly blind and deaf and living in a care home. I suspect it will make it easier for her to cope this time around.

Over the years, I came to realise that there were people who got my voice and my writing and  people who for whom it didn't work. I write for the readers who love my work. Other people write for  the  readers who don't connect with it. The world is an awfully big place and there are many writers and published books in it. 

As a reader, it can be disappointing when an author whom I have previously enjoyed  goes in a different direction. Or maybe I am the one who goes in another direction. It happens. And I know that some of my readers have enjoy certain of my books more than others. It doesn't mean I should not have written the books they enjoyed less. It just means there was a slight parting of the ways and different pathways taken.

Recently I read an article that Gwynneth Paltrow published on her weekly newsletter goop. It was an interview with Tara Mohr whose book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message was recently published. It seeks to deal with why women criticise each other and how  we as women can deal with some of that. Women take criticism more to heart than men. Taken to its extreme, fear of criticism to can lead to things like footbinding in pre-Communist China. In this month's Smithsonian magazine is a very interesting article on why footbinding persisted for so long in China.Answer -- peer pressure.  

Real shoes from a footbound  grown woman --Smithsonaina magazine.
In the Mohr interview on goop, she said something that resonated with me. Feedback can never tell you anything about you the recipient, instead it tells you about the person giving the feedback.

Feedback can tell you what they connect with and what they don’t. It will not give you the magic keys to say – this is what everyone connects with and this is why. For example, if someone doesn't like blue dresses and tell you that they don't like your dress which happens to blue. It doesn't mean the dress is wrong. It simply means they don't like that colour.
It goes back to the maxim – beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 Whether or not something resonates with you says more about you than it says about the person who created the object.

This does not mean that feedback is unimportant but rather that it doesn’t take away from the achievement of having created something you are proud of. Of course it is great when you get positive feedback. It is wonderful to create things that resonate and to find your audience. But the feedback doesn't say that everyone will like it, just that one person did did. And you know what? Sometimes on a day when I am struggling to write, when the Crows of Doubt loom that is enough.

It means what I say reflects about something reflects on me and my attitudes, rather than the actual piece or person.

For someone who does put her work out in public, it makes it easier for me to cope. It is about separating the act of creation from the finished product. I can't control how other people feel about something but I can control my reactions to that. It took me a long time to learn (and some days I need to learn the lesson all over again). But I think Mohr's mantra about feedback telling you more about the giver than recipient is worth knowing.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historicals. Her latest from Harlequin Historical was published this month: Taming His Viking Woman. You can read more about Michelle and her books on 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Christina Hollis: Six Tips For Keeping Your Valentine's Day Flowers Fresh

On Sale Now!
Happy Valentine's Day! I’ve written before about how I had to wait until I’d left school and started work before I experienced the romance of getting an  anonymous Valentine's Day card. As for flowers—well, not one of my boyfriends was old-fashioned enough to send me a bouquet, until I met OH. He knows how much I love flowers, so he often picks up a bunch on his way home from work. It's a really romantic gesture, which is why I’ve made sure Sara, the heroine of my new book, His Majesty's Secret Passion, gets the right royal treatment. Her boyfriend has just dumped her, and she makes an embarrassing mistake in front of a handsome stranger. King-in-disguise Leo sends her a huge explosion of sumptuous lilies—but it's not the romantic gesture you might expect.  There's a sting in the tail (and the tale!) of Leo's generosity.

Sara's flowers are arranged for her by staff at the luxury hotel where she's having the holiday of a lifetime. If you want to keep your Valentine's Day bouquet (or any cut flowers, for that matter) fresh for as long as possible, here are my top tips:

1. If your bouquet comes complete with cut-flower food, mix that up according to the instructions. Use tepid water, as flowers find this easier to drink. If your bouquet didn’t come with a sachet of flower food, you can make your own. Dissolve a dessertspoon of sugar in a little hot water, add a teaspoon of bleach, and put this mixture to your vase before topping it up with plain water.  

2. Work at a sink—or over the bath, if you’ve been very lucky! Strip off any leaves that would be under water when arranged in your vase. Trim off the bottom half inch of each stem at a slant, to give a big surface area. Then put each flower straight into a bucket of tepid water, so the cut surfaces don’t have time to dry out. 

3. Flowers with hollow stems need help to draw up water, as those stems are full of air. Turn each one upside down, fill the stem with tepid water, and put your finger over the end. Turn the flower right way up again, get the cut surface below the water in your vase, then take your finger away. It helps to work fast with this trick!
By Liz West
4. Stand your finished arrangement out of direct sunlight. The flowers won’t open so quickly, and they’ll keep their true colours for longer. Don’t stand them near the fruit bowl, either. Bananas in particular give off ethylene gas, which promotes ripening in fruit, and ageing in flowers. 

5. Last thing at night, move your flowers to the coolest part of the house. This could be at the bottom of the stairs, but you may need to take them out to the garage. Just make sure they are kept cool, but not frozen. 

6. Every few days, empty out all the water, wash the vase and repeat the stem trimming. Snip off any flowers and/or leaves past their best. Fill the vase with fresh, tepid water including more cut-flower food, or the home-made sugar and bleach mixture.

You can keep some cut flowers going for nearly three weeks using these tips, although what starts out as a full bouquet will dwindle as time goes on.   

What’s the best Valentine’s Day present you’ve ever had? There’s a signed copy of His Majesty's Secret Passion on offer for a comment drawn at random, after 15th February.

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold over two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at Her current release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is available from its publishers,  Wild Rose Press, and also from and