Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jolyse Barnett: Do You Love Series?

When I read romance, I often fall in love with the characters and the world in which they live. Series are especially exciting to many of us because we get to revisit our favorite characters and learn their story after the happily-ever-after. Do you ever read more slowly so you can savor those last few chapters? Do you count on an epilogue to ease your transition back to reality? I do! Knowing there’s the promise of another escape into that world in a future book helps me deal with the separation anxiety that hits at The End.

I’m sad about leaving my story when I write, too. I become so attached to my characters I don’t want them to leave my head. They are, quite frankly, real to me. Last Spring, when I had the opportunity to be part of a contemporary series about four life-long girlfriends each finding love, I jumped at it.
I dove into the setting as well, choosing the Adirondacks region in upstate New York. I was born and raised there, but moved away when I married. The area holds a special nostalgia for me. I named my fictional small town Starling and nestled it in the mountains about twenty minutes southwest of Lake Placid—the real-life town that hosted the Winter Olympics.

In Christmas Light, the heroine Jade Engel returns to her hometown of Starling for the month of December after eight, long years away. She discovers her former neighbor and best friend, Ben Stephens—once a geek but now a successful documentary film producer—is all grown up. The chemical attraction between them is off-the-charts, but they soon realize they must face their complicated past before they can move forward as a couple. The rural setting and the season adds a magical quality to their journey, with various members of the close-knit community all doing their part to either encourage or thwart Jade and Ben’s budding relationship.

Christmas Light can be read as a stand-alone novella, although if you love series like I do, I’d highly recommend reading the entire series. The four girls appear in each other’s stories—which occur on the same timeline—without giving away the details of their individual romances.

Book 1:  This Christmas by Jeannie Moon
Book 2:  All I Want for Christmas by Jennifer Gracen
Book 3:  Christmas Light by Jolyse Barnett
Book 4:  A Match Made at Christmas by Patty Blount

His Kiss, my second book with Tule Publishing, picks up where Christmas Light left off, beginning with Jade and Ben’s wedding eighteen months later at the beautiful, real-life Sagamore resort (see photo at left) in Lake George, a popular tourist town located a few hours southeast of Starling. In this novel, Jade’s younger brother, reclusive author Jeremy Engel, discovers his soulmate. A number of characters from Christmas Light appear in his story, especially members of the Engel family, and includes scenes on Long Island where the four families gather for an annual clambake. In addition, Jeremy’s love interest, Elizabeth Desmond, is introduced in His Kiss, along with her extended family whose roots reach back to the beginning of Starling. I’m excited about the prospect of returning to Starling one day with Elizabeth’s siblings’ stories and to delve further into the complex connections between the Desmond family and the tiny Adirondack town of Starling.

Like Christmas Light, His Kiss is part of a connected series, where many of the characters from CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK and SUMMER IN NEW YORK appear in each other’s stories, although the connections are looser as we move further out on the branches of the characters’ family trees. Readers can enjoy these longer stories as stand-alone books or read in any order. I’ve read them all and truly enjoy the worlds in which these characters find love.

Book 1: His Touch by Patty Blount
Book 2: His Kiss by Jolyse Barnett
Book 3:  His Love by Jennifer Gracen

Here’s a blurb for His Kiss:

After a motorcycle accident and subsequent alcohol abuse, Jeremy Engel has managed to claw his way back from the dark depths of personal hell. He's now a successful comic book author and working on his second book, and when the woman he met while on a rare getaway—the one he hasn’t been able to forget—opens a shop in his neck of the woods, he thinks he's even learned to trust and hope again.

Elizabeth Desmond may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she's determined to make a success of her shop in the Adirondack tourist town of Lake Placid. And just when she thinks it can’t get any better, the mysterious stranger she kissed on a moonlit resort beach walks back into her life.
But when Jeremy's old demons return, it’s up to Elizabeth to show him they’re not so different after all...

Do you have a favorite series or setting that you love to get lost in? If so, tell us about it. If not, what setting would you like to see in a romance?

I’m giving away an ebook copy of Christmas Light or His Kiss to one lucky commenter, winner’s choice of title and in preferred digital format as available. (Winner must be 18 or older and provide a valid email address within seven days of announcement.) The winner will be announced August 5th, 2015, at

A country girl at heart, Jolyse Barnett is living her own happily-ever-after in suburban Long Island with her real-life hero, two wonderful children, and very furry cat. She can’t cook to save her life but enjoys writing delicious tales for her readers. Connect with Jolyse at, which includes all of Jolyse’s social media links. To learn about new releases and be entered automatically into special, member-only giveaways, sign up for Jolyse’s spam-free newsletter.

***Jolyse's winner is Eileen A-W!  Eileen, please contact Jolyse via her website with your mailing details!***

Monday, July 27, 2015

Writers at Play

Jules Bennett and Joanne at RWA 15
I just returned from RWA in NYC and am late posting today because I’m so happily exhausted from five days of visiting with writers, readers and publishing professionals who come together each year because of a shared love of books.  

Highlights included a margarita date with Harlequin author Tanya Michaels, a long standing tradition. I don’t see Tanya all year except at this conference, but we’ve been catching up over tequila once a year for over a decade. I have warned her that we don’t dare break the streak now or our careers may fall apart. Call me superstitious, but I respect a good streak!

I had breakfast with Winnie Griggs, an author friend I met in the days when I lived in Shreveport. I love Winnie’s books and quirky characters and I’m always impressed at her smarts about writing and our industry. If I want to know something about the romance business, asking Winnie provides better answers than Google.

Another breakfast gave me the chance to sit with new author Jennifer Snow, a Harlequin Heartwarming author quickly branching out with stories set in the MMA world. I was lucky to meet her through my sister-in-law, Karen Rock, who also writes for Heartwarming. I talked to Jennifer so long she was probably lucky to make it in time to sign books at the Harlequin signing.

This year also gave me the chance to meet several new-to-me Harlequin Desire authors since I will be writing some books for the series in 2016. Andrea Laurence and Sarah Anderson kept me laughing over dinner one night and Olivia Gates – who entranced me years ago by bringing homemade baklava to a book signing—dazzled me with her beautiful gowns and gorgeous accent. I thought I was happy to dress more casually at the conference until I spotted Olivia, who always looks like she must be royalty. I made a note to indulge myself in more lace and bangles in the future.

But my one surprise NY moment was spotting an NHL player on 45th Street. I was walking to dinner one evening with friends when I spotted Jordan Staal in town. As a dedicated hockey fan, I nearly fainted to see this handsome player in real life. I hand it to him for remaining so composed while I squealed from the other side of the street. I sense more hockey player stories in my future.

***Have any celebrity sightings to share? Any favorite yearly traditions with friends like my margarita dinner? Share with me today on the boards and I’ll give one random poster a gorgeous new Runaway Brides tote or a copy of my new release, THE PLEASURE TRIP!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Eve Gaddy: RWA NYC

This week is the 35th anniversary Romance Writers of America conference. This year it's being held at the New York City Marriott Marquis in Times Square. (No, that's not the Marriott, but it's NYC!)

Each year RWA holds a huge conference in a different part of the country. Around 2,000 romance writers and industry professionals, including editors, publishers, agents, and various people offering all kinds of services to authors, as well as experts in many different fields attend. Wednesday night is the yearly Literacy Signing.

Readers love this and start lining up hours early to be able to buy signed books and perhaps even meet their favorite authors. The proceeds from the book sales go to ProLiteracy Worldwide, Literacy Partners, and Literacy Assistance Center. There were around 480 authors signing this year. Here I am with the wonderful Katherine Garbera.

Writers get together with their publishers. Here are a group of us who are writing the Amalfi Billionaires series for Tule Publishing. Our editors are on either end. Left to right: Lindsey Stover, Mimi Wells, Katherine Garbera, Eve Gaddy, Nancy Robards Thompson, and Danielle Rayner. Not pictured: editor Kelly Hunter and author Kathleen O'Brien.

We had a fun and productive meeting, discussing titles, covers--that's always fun--marketing and more.

There are also specialty chapters that get together and have a small conference of their own before everything really gets started. Here's a fun picture from the Beau Monde conference, where all things Regency are learned and discussed.

When I go to conference I spend a lot of time talking with friends, plotting with friends, eating with friends, discussing the business, going to workshops, going to parties and generally having a good time.
Julia Justiss

Lenora Worth
Julia and Lenora are two of my friends who plot with me regularly. Although, according to them, when we plot one of my books, their function is to throw out ideas and mine is to shoot them down.:)

I'm very fortunate to have a large number of writer friends. My friends and I can plot anywhere. In our rooms, in the bar, in the lobby, at a restaurant, on an airplane. Sometimes airplanes are hard, however, especially when plotting a suspense and not wanting to say things like, "And then the bomb exploded". It can be fun to see the person sitting next to us looking at us in horror and probably thinking, "OMG, what's wrong with these women?" Especially when we say, "That person just needs to be killed off but I don't know how to kill him yet." Or "when in doubt, just kill someone off." Or "when in doubt, add sex." And a lot of other variations on those themes.

One of the best things about conference is that being around writers revitalizes me. There's an energy that arises from a conference with so many creative people that's hard to explain. When writers get together like this, the ideas fly everywhere. I'm sure if you were to walk through the lounge and listen to snippets of conversation you would hear everything from discussions about werewolves and shape shifters to alpha heroes and hot covers, to where the Inspirational market is headed to questions about which market is hot and which one is dead, and everything in between.

The final night of the conference is the presentation of the prestigious RITA Awards for published books and the Golden Heart Award for unpublished manuscripts. The RITAs are the Oscars of Romance Fiction.

Come Sunday most of us will be headed home refreshed, replenished and rarin' to get to writing--after a good night's sleep.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Carole Mortimer's Alpha Series

Carole Mortimer is the author of over 200 books, in contemporary romance, Regency, and her bestselling romantic suspense series ALPHA. She is very happily married to Peter, they have 6 sons, and live on the beautiful Isle of Man.

July is such an exciting month for me!

It’s just a couple more days till I fly to New York to attend the Romance Writers of America Conference—and I still have to write an acceptance speech. The RWA are very kindly presenting me with the Nora Roberts’ Lifetime Achievement Award on July 25th, at the awards ceremony on the Saturday evening of the conference. This is such an honor for me, the highlight of my 37 years as an author.

July 24th sees the release of Renegade Alpha, the 5th book in my Top100 bestselling ALPHA series, which I introduced in November 2014, with the release of the novella Christmas Alpha. I have been overwhelmed by readers’ response to this romantic suspense series, and all five books so far released in the series, are currently in Kindle Top 100 Bestseller lists. I absolutely love writing this series, and Lijah Smith, the hero of Renegade Alpha, is a particular favorite of mine. He’s really hot!

The pre-order for Warrior Alpha, the 6th book in the series, to be released October 4th, will also be available from Monday July 20th.

Even more exciting, my whole family are joining me in New York on July 25th, and arrive in time to be able to attend the RWA awards ceremony. Then we’re all going to have a wonderful week’s holiday together in New York, one of my favorite cities in the world. We’re also going to celebrate my birthday while we’re there. It isn’t till August 5th, but who can resist celebrating in New York, so wonderful they named it twice? I certainly can’t!

Have a great July!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

You Name It I Write It by Jenny Gardiner

I am definitely a crazy mixed-up kid when it comes to what I write. Perhaps it's because I started out as a writer, which isn't always the case with authors. I studied journalism and minored in broadcast news, worked in newspaper, radio and TV, and then as a publicist.
So even before I started writing books, I was all over the place. And even now, I'm always writing and pitching stories for newspapers, magazines, radio programming, and online sites. Sort of Whack-A-Mole publishing, that's me. In some ways that has held me in good stead, but in others it sort of feeds a kind of ADD writing, where focusing on one thing, versus covering all bases and then some, might be a good idea.

For years I would just write the book I wanted to write at the time I wanted to write it. Which led me to writing a novel that was a cross between humorous women's fiction and chick lit. Then a novel that was women's fiction. Then a memoir. Then came some rom/com, one ill-conceived dabble in very steamy romance that came about as a result of a writing challenge. Next I put together a collection of essays, contributed to an anthology about dogs, then some more women's fiction, even 2/3 of a vampire novel (written as a joke), I have a brilliant mystery series, and well, it goes on from there. My last full-length novel that I wrote but didn't publish is serious commercial women's fiction (although it is dead to the world right now, perhaps to be resurrected some day if I get the energy to figure out how to fix it).
Years ago I was at a conference talking with my friend Marie Force. This was before the onset of digital publishing, just on the cusp of it. We were both with some publishing houses, me with my foray of all-over-the-place writing, and her with her romance novels, with which she was wisely building up a group of readers who eagerly awaited her next novel. Both of us were quite frustrated with the publishing climate as it existed back then.

"Did you ever think that maybe you should concentrate on one genre?" Marie asked me.
Huh. I hadn't really considered that, to be honest. I sort of proudly wore that "write what I want to write when I want to write it" badge, hoping for the best.

Fast forward a good handful of years. Both of us got into digital publishing in the early days, me with some terrific early success, though a subsequent hiatus from publishing was a really bad plan, but that is what it is. And Marie has sold tens of millions of romance novels and now runs a publishing empire.

And finally I decided I did indeed need focus on one thing and go from there. Which is why now I've been writing and publishing a rom/com series called It's Reigning Men. And I've got an eye to my next series that I can't wait to start writing (although I'm still having a lot of fun with this one so not sure when I can get around to that).

The fact is, Marie was right: I needed to stick with the program and find an audience who would come along with my books. Which is how I started writing my current series. The great upside is that I've had a lot of fun delving into world-building and jet-setting my characters all over the world.

Now I need to to get rid of the myriad distractions that are keeping me from finishing book four in this series and I'll be good to go!

PS today is the last day that SOMETHING IN THE HEIR is on sale everywhere! Only 99 cents through today!
JennyGardiner_SomethingintheHeir200  JennyGardiner_HeirTodayGoneTommorrow200
JennyGardiner_BadtotheThrone200  JennyGardiner_LoveIsInTheHeir_200
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Heidi Rice: Tempting New York Fairy Tales & a Giveaway

I'm popping over while in the midst of packing to head to the Romance Writers of America Conference in NYC to talk - rather aptly I think - about my first book for Tule Publishing, Tempting the Knight, which is part of a hot new quartet I've written alongside fabulous author mates Kelly Hunter, Amy Andrews and Lucy King called Fairy Tales of New York. 
All the stories revolve around an Irish-American pub in Brooklyn, four BFFs who once went to the same Catholic convent school in Upstate New York and are dark, sexy modern updates of classic fairytales.

My story is a seriously sexed-up riff on Rapunzel, featuring a runaway supermodel, a hard-working legal aid attorney and one hot Labor Weekend booty call on a housebarge in Brooklyn.

Here's the book blurb to whet your appetite:

Once upon a time, poor little rich girl Zelda Madison wanted someone to love her, until she discovered being a badass was much more fun.

Ten years after getting kicked out of convent school and torn away from her three best friends, Zelda has worked hard to clean up her act, but her wild streak has never been completely tamed and — one midnight swim on Manhattan Beach later — she’s suddenly in urgent need of a knight in shining armor…

Hard-working legal aid attorney Tyrone Sullivan is the last guy she should call. Not only does he hold a grudge when it comes to Zelda leading his little sister astray all those years ago, he’s also supremely pissed about having to rescue a runaway supermodel from a Brooklyn police station at two am. But when Ty reluctantly agrees to bust Zel out of her ivory tower and let her hide out on his house barge for a few days, she shows him the wild side he didn’t know he had.

Zel discovers there’s nothing hotter than tarnishing a good guy’s armor… Until he starts to steal her bad girl’s battered heart…
TtK can be read as a standalone book but I'd highly recommend reading the stories in order for the full HOT Fairytale Effect and because you will so want to read about Kelly's Ugly Duckling, Lucy's Beauty and the Beast and Amy's Cinderella getting their happy ever afters too.... Just sayin'

The Fairy Tales of New York series
Book 1: Pursued by the Rogue by Kelly Hunter
Book 2: Tempting the Knight by Heidi Rice
Book 3: Taming the Beast by Lucy King
Book 4: Seduced by the Baron by Amy Andrews
All four books are currently out on Kindle only, but will be available on all ebook platforms from October.

I'm giving away an epub copy to one lucky commentator below. I'll announce the winner in the comments when I'm back from NYC on Monday 27th July!
If you want to know more about the series check out our Facebook page.
Right, back to deciding which shoes to take to NYC... I may be a while.

Heidi x

Friday, July 17, 2015

Susan Stephens: My Cosmic Hot Shorts Series

Hello! It's great to have the opportunity to be chatting with you again. Thank you, Lee for hosting me on your site!

Today sees the release -  on Amazon Kindle only -  of the 4th novella in my Cosmic Hot Shorts series. The Bride Wore Red at the Ladies Club has everything you would expect in a Susan Stephens hot contemporary romance: a red-hot hero, a strong heroine, and in this Cosmic Hot Short series, a group of girlfriends who stick together through thick and thin.

When ruthless billionaire Jack Castle arrives in town intending to buy up everything in sight, he finds one feisty obstacle standing in his way in the sexy, full-figured form of Lady Arabella Frost. 
Determined not to lose her ancestral home Arabella prepares to stand and fight, but Arabella has troubles of her own at home to contend with, in the form of a mean and violent husband. 

Chilling domestic violence hovers in the background of this passionate tale of two strong characters who come together to oppose each other, only to discover that that the attraction between them is too strong to fight. 

I hope you enjoy reading Jack and Arabella's journey from the rainy streets of a country town, to a grand historic mansion, and on to the romantic cobbled passageways of Paris; a city where the iconic Eiffel Tower has never seen such heated activity.

Have a great summer! And if you happen to be in New York next week, do come and see me at the signing at the Romance Writers of America national convention at the Times Square Marriott hotel!

All my very best to you,


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cruel Summer - Free Download!

I'm excited to tell you about this free short story I'm offering!

Cruel Summer is a reunion romance around a wedding in California and reads a lot like all my other books: sexy, emotional, even funny at times. I wrote it to encourage sign ups to my newsletter list and for some reason, that made it feel like a huge gamble.

For starters, it's only my second self-publishing effort. I paid people to help the first time, so a lot of tasks were new to me. (I successfully formatted it for Kindle and ePub, but forgot about PDF until after all the pieces were in place. If you want PDF, email me.)

Also, even though everyone loves to get something for free, I still went through the 'What if they hate it?' phase. (We authors spend half our life there, I sometimes think!)

Setting things up with my website helpers and my newsletter helpers was also a small challenge. I did a lot of hand-wringing. They said a lot of, "There, there," but it's finally available and so far the response has been amazing!

I sent it out to my fans and this was one of my favourite reviews:
Normally, short stories or novellas do not work for me. There is just not enough time to fully develop the story or characters and I am left frustrated by that lack. Not so "Cruel Summer". It was perfect and I felt as if I were reading a full novel. I felt I really knew Chelsea and Gavin and loved all the pain and pleasure of their story.
Here's the blurb:
“Is there anything I could say or do to earn your forgiveness?”
Website designer Chelsea Parks grew up believing she would marry her best friend’s brother. In college, she gave him her virginity and he broke her heart. She knows she’ll have to face him, now that she’s maid of honor at his sister’s wedding, but she doesn’t expect to sit next to him on the plane to California. Good thing she’s so completely over him.
Architect Gavin Fairfield knows he screwed up, but he’s matured since then. Standing in as Father Of The Bride because his dad recently passed, he’s reassessing his future, realizing how short life is and how much he misses Chelsea. He can see now that they’re meant for each other. Too bad she’s so completely over him.
Staying at his family’s summer home, revisiting their old stomping grounds, burns Chelsea alive in old flames. Gavin is as easy to love as ever. She’d like to be friends again, might even succumb to a fling for old time’s sake, but real relationship aren’t built on a weekend of nostalgia. Are they?

If you'd like to read the opening pages, they're posted here: #SampleSunday - Cruel Summer.

Would you like your own copy? You can Get Cruel Summer Here. This will also sign you up for my newsletter. You can unsubscribe anytime, but I'd love to hear what you think of Cruel Summer so please drop me a line or leave a comment here!

Meanwhile, I hope you're have a fantastic summer. I'll admit, at times this year our summer has been cruel. Forty-plus Celsius (One ten Fahrenheit.) Fortunately we have this:

I took this shot on my evening walk/swim, around eight pm a few nights ago. Bliss!

I'm leaving for New York and the Romance Writers of American conference in a couple of days. I may not answer your comments right away, but I'll be taking lots of photos, planning to post them for you next month! Take care!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Michelle Styles: Bee Aware

Michelle Styles explains the importance of bees and why we individually need to do more to help them.

Bees are a theme through out man’s creative endeavours reaching back to the beginnings of time. One of the first paintings ever discovered was of a man gathering honey. Bees have been all around humans ever since, but generally quietly working in the background.

Think of bees and mostly you think of honey or possibly wax (besides candles, beeswax is used in many cosmetics). Honey is proving more and more useful in the fight against disease as it does have certain antibacterial properties. While both of these products are excellent, they are hardly life-changing. Bees actually have a much more important role to play.   Bees are responsible for much of the pollination of our food stuff, particularly fruit. Life on this planet would be very different if the bees were not there to do their job.

 HOWEVER, the bee population has declined significantly in recent years (along with the butterfly population).  One reason has been loss of habitat and another reason has been the chemicals we spray on plants, in particular a group of chemicals called neonicatiniods (neonics for short). They have been implicated in the decline of bees and butterflies.  Gardeners may think they are just killing pests, but they are killing the beneficial insects as well. It is very easy to fall for the need to have the roses looking good without any thought to what is actually happening to the planet. Equally it is easy to plant exotic flowers which are sterile hybrids. If a flower is sterile, there is no food for the bees. Without food, bees starve.

Without bees, we starve.

So what can the average person do? What can one person do?

Simple Actions to help save bees (and butterflies)

First  consider the use of chemicals in your garden. Read the labels and refuse to use  any containing  acetamirid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid  or thiamethoxam. A recent study from Harvard showed that these chemicals do harm bees. Monsanto's roundup has been implicated in the disappearance of the Monarch butterfly. The website has a list of US popular brands which contain these chemicals. Let your hardware or gardening centre know that stocking products that contain neonics means they are contributing to the decline in the bee population. has a campaign to get Ace Hardware and True Value to stop stocking these products.

Second consider planting bee friendly plants, rather than sterile hybrids. Bee friendly plants set seed.  One plant that is often overlooked is the  fuchsia in lists about what to plant for bees. A little fuchsia nectar adds a certain depth to honey – one of the premiere beekeepers in the UK told me this when I was starting out beekeeping and I have no reason to doubt her word. Fuchsias, particularly hardy fuchsias, are great plants for bees. Sunflowers, penstemons, cone flowers, sweet peas, alliums, wild roses (the kind that give rose hips) are also great. Butterflies love buddleia  and lilacs. Herbs such as thyme, rosemary or chive are also good with the added bonus that you can use them in the kitchen. Fruit trees such as apple, pear or cherry (not ornamental)  Honeysuckle however is not useful to bees, despite its name. It is pollinated by moths and butterflies.  You want flowers, rather than ever greens. So consider have a mixed border. Swathes of closely trimmed green grass is not helpful in the least. Clover though is a good bee plant when it flowers. When beneficial insects thrive in gardens, gardens thrive.

Third try to buy raw or local honey. Most of the honey you buy in the big supermarket is ultra heat treated. This is often little better than sugar water. Ultra heat treatment preserves the honey but at the expense of the pollens and other antibacterial qualities. Local raw honey can help fight against allergies and can help to keep colds at bay.  Supporting your local beekeeper means that bees are more likely to be in your area. A healthy bee population means more flowers and fruit in your garden as plants need to be pollinated. And as the population of wild bees (including bumblebees) decreases, we need the domesticated honeybee more than ever.

Finally consider keeping bees. Beekeeping was traditionally done by men.  Among the reason they gave were that women were unclean and therefore unfit to collect the pure wax that was in church candles. For many years they didn’t realise that bee hives were 90% female.  Women can keep bees  just as well as men. There can be some lifting involved when you are removing supers but nothing that is heavier than say lifting a large sack of dog food.  Hives, if properly sited do not cause any trouble. The bees get on with their thing and you look at them about once a week. There is a sort relaxing pleasure looking after  bees. You have to slow down. At various times of the year, you take the honey harvest. Some beekeeping associations run schemes where they match people who want to keep bees but have no space with people who have space but don’t want to fiddle about with hives etc. Generally the beekeeper pays in honey.

If lots of people take  little pieces of action, positive change can come about. We need bees. Our planet needs bees. Albert Einstein predicted without bees, our planet would be dead within four years. For more information about what you can do visit

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Summer of the Vikings was published in June 2015. You can read more about Michelle and her books on  She has kept bees since 2000.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Christina Hollis—Writing, Learning, and Networking: The Romantic Novelists' Association Conference 2015

My Souvenir
I arrived home only five minutes ago, straight from this year's Romantic Novelists' Association conference. It was my first full conference, and it was such a great experience I dumped my case and came straight online to tell you about it.

The conference started at 8:30am on the 10th July, and went right through to 10pm on 12th of July. It was held at Queen Mary's University, Mile End, in East London. Delegates used student accommodation on the campus. It's a great way for the university to earn money while its students are on their long summer vacation.

Jan Jones, Roger Sanderson, Jenny Barden and their RNA team plan these events years in advance, so nothing could be done when a strike of London Underground (subway) workers was called last week for 9th July. That was the day when most people would be arriving at the campus. Worse still, mainline trains running from the west of the country into London would be cancelled, too. People like me who live right out in the shires wouldn't have a hope of getting to the university, as the total lack of parking space there meant bringing a car was right out of the question.

I went up to London a day early to avoid the problems, but lots of people didn't have that option. They battled in on foot on the day, hired cabs, and tried to find a space in one of our traditional red double-decker buses. British people are famously good at queueing, but things got heated and the police had to be brought in to calm things down. You couldn't make it up. We English are usually so peaceful!

The (Prince) Regent's Canal, On Campus
The first day of the RNA conference, Friday, was an industry special. There was a panel of agents discussing their part in an author's career, and talks by editors, publishers, mass book buyers and reviewers. Workshops on character development, finding your writing voice and how to promote yourself, your brand, and your book filled the rest of the weekend. You could learn to punctuate with confidence, experience the intricacies of dressing like a Geisha or a Victorian woman, or (and this was my favourite workshop) learn to shed your inhibitions and project your voice at the same time by jumping up and down and grunting like Bigfoot. Anyone who could do that in a room containing thirty other people had no worries when it came to a one-to-one appointment with one of the agents or publishers who also attended the conference.

Saturday Evening's Gala dinner gave the 300 delegates the chance to dress up and glitter beneath the spectacular vault of books contained in the university's grand Octagon library.

A Touch Of Hogwarts At Queen Mary's
I'm not really a party person—I'd rather read ( or write!)—but the atmosphere was infectious. Joining the Romantic Novelists' Association and taking part in its local chapter meetings has boosted both my career, and my social life. If you've never got around to joining a special interest group like the RNA that's local to you, why not take the plunge? I enjoy being an overseas member of the Romance Writers of America, but however good their online seminars, magazines, message-boards and loops, networking is much more fun when you do it face to face.

What do you think are the best things about belonging to a creative writing group?

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold more than two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books on her website. Her current release, Her Royal Risk, is published by The Wild Rose Press and is available at and

Monday, July 13, 2015

Views of My Garden

Most of the time my books are influenced by my life.  But sometimes, my life is influenced by my books!

My most recent release, Carry Her Heart, has a garden that almost became a character.  I'll confess, I had a bit of garden-envy.  Especially Piper's milkweed and the butterflies it attracted.  So this spring, we put in a butterfly garden here.  My husband tried to tell me I didn't have room for it.  Ha.  There's always room for more gardens!  No monarchs yet, but it is attracting a bunch of pollinators.  I caught some bees in action the other day.

My favorite lines in the book were inspired by Piper's garden...
“Maybe we live our lives constantly becoming and rebecoming. Maybe we’re always in the process of metamorphosing into something new.”

We have a big garden, and most of the plots are dedicated to plants that provide food, but I think that any garden can benefit from plants that provide beauty and inspiration.  More than gardens, I think any person needs them as well!

I have always been a reader, and so many of my favorite books have inspired me to change.  I didn't expect the books I write—books that come from me—to change and influence me as well.  But they do.  In so many ways.

How about you?  Is there a book (or books) that have changed you??

Have a great Monday!!


Holly's current release, Carry Her Heart, is on sale at Amazon this week!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Refilling the Well - with Kate Walker

I’m  a bit late with my blog post for Tote Bags today – but I really believe that my excuse is that it’s for the best possible reason.  Honestly. I was so busy today – though I suspect that other people seeing me and  how I was spending the day  would have said that I was actually  just relaxing.
I  spent a large amount of my time curled up on a cushion in the sunshine with my nose in a book.

Yes – I  was reading. I was reading, deeply involved in and thoroughly enjoying a book that I just didn’t want to put down. I  was almost halfway through this story last night when I found that I really just couldn’t stay awake  and reluctantly put it down as my eyes were closing.  Then I couldn’t pick it up again this morning as I had to get the grocery shopping done, visit a friend, feed my son ‘s cats (he and his fiancée are away this weekend).  But as soon as I got a moment I grabbed the book again (well – I grabbed my kindle again) and lost myself in the world of the mystery and the emotions of the story I was being told.

It can be hard to lose myself like that. Writing fiction for a living makes you too critical of other people’s  novels. You can  begin to see where the story is going, start to question why the characters are behaving the way they are, find the pace begins to lag . . . So it’s wonderful when you feel the ‘can’t put it down’ experience that keeps you intent on the pages.  

It’s special in several ways. Because it relaxes and absorbs you. Because it reminds you of just what you’re aiming for when you’re writing yourself (something that needs bringing home to every author  because there’s always the temptation to write fast  and get the story out , not thinking about the way to keep your reader hooked)  And then there’s the need to ‘refill the well’ - to  feed your own imagination,  take you away from the worlds you build in your own books and into someone else’s stories  so that your imagination has a feast of new experiences and  from those experiences new ideas grow for my own books.
I  usually find that books that are very unlike my own novels are the best ones for feeding my imagination this way.  Contemporary romances or  even historical ones are often too like the books I write so that I end up thinking ‘I wouldn’t have written this that way’  or ‘I would have made  this character do this-  or that. . .’   So I’ve been lucky for the past few weeks. I’ve read some new  books, discovered  some new authors I’ve enjoyed – and who have written  several books that I now want to get hold of and see what the  rest of their output is like.

So there was In The Woods by Tana French  - a gripping murder mystery where the present day mystery  links the detective’s past experiences to add an extra dimension  to the story.

Then there was Amy Snow by  Tracy Rees. This was a historical novel with a  mystery and a 
‘treasure hunt’ at its heart.   Cryptic messages and a journey across  England  leading the heroine to . .  well,  that would be giving the story  away.

Letters to the Lost is by Iona Grey who I know as India Grey who used to write for  Harlequin. Her first single title is a lovely debut  - like the Tracy Rees book, who can resist a mystery that is slowly 
revealed by letters  - though this one links the present day with a   tragic love story from the past   set in 1943.

And today’s book  - my excuse for being late with this post – was A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke. OK, I admit I guessed what the twist at the end was going to be – but that was why I had to keep on reading. I wanted to know how the author would make it work and what would happen when . . . .  It didn't disappoint. 

I’ve had a great time with these  books – all of them  different, all of them absorbing.   They’ve relaxed and refreshed me, intrigued and taxed my imagination – and made me want to get down to my latest story and see just what is going to happen when  my hero and heroine meet up again after five years  apart and realise that they are very different people from the ones who originally met. . .

Have you read anything you’ve really enjoyed recently?  Any good recommendations to add to my TBR pile?  (Not that I need any suggestions – the pile/list of kindle titles is more than full – but a few more won’t hurt!)

My  latest romance  is Olivero's Outrageous Proposal published in April in Harlequin Presents and Mills and Boon Modern Romance. Coming next  is Destined For The Desert King  which is published in December this year.

Then there's the  12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, the newest edition of which is available on Kindle or a revised and updated paperback edition now available on and

Kate Walker's web site is  here   and the up-to-date news can be found on her blog or her Facebook page.