Monday, November 28, 2016

Getting Into The Holiday Spirit -- Michelle Monkou

Thanksgiving in the the over. Black Friday mayhem is another memorable blip on our timeline. And now it's time to get into the swing of things with the holiday season.

For me, Christmas is about childhood memories and the ones that I hopefully created for my children. The smell of food cooking, especially baked goodies, would fill the kitchen and the rest of the house with delicious smells. Decorations would be pulled out for quick inspection and then adorn walls, shelves, and the corner for the Christmas tree. And Christmas songs playing on the stereo were the official signal that our house would be turned into a winter wonderland.

From the list of popular Christmas songs, I have a few that always touch me and bring me closer to the reason for the season.

I hope that whatever your faith or philosophy you also have wonderful memories and songs that bring you good cheer.

Here's to a delightful December:

Celtic Women - O Holy Night

Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song

How do you celebrate the season? Any favorite songs to share?

All the best,

Michelle Monkou

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiday Writing

I wish this post was about writing a holiday romance—something I love to do. Witness my super fun holiday release, Last Chance Christmas. But I wanted to share a few insights about another kind of holiday writing today—writing during the holidays. That can be decidedly less pleasant.

It’s an interesting dichotomy for creative folks when we are lucky enough to work in the field we once passionately pursued for fun. Mixing up the income stream with something that was once a labor of love is an emotionally confusing place. This puts a whole lot of demands on the labor of love to be much more than that. It must also be a labor of efficiency. A labor of smart economy. A labor of financial means.

Ask any Muse and she’ll tell you how much she hates this.

Pre-published writers don’t give any thought to this dilemma. I know I didn’t, and I had years of intense writing before I sold a book to consider every facet of the craft. But I was far more focused on craft than business, and I sure didn’t think about problems that selling a book could introduced. I thought only about the problems that selling a book would solve! I mean, if I was spending 90% of my waking hours writing anyhow, it only made sense that I’d love getting paid for it.

Of course, I do. Thank goodness I finally cleared that final hurdle to selling my stories. I’m happy
I won a Snow Globe Award for Last Chance Christmas! 
and grateful to be able to share those works with readers. But the creative dynamic shifts in immeasurable ways once the passionate pursuit becomes a livelihood, and those changes are never more evident than during the holidays when a writer wants to play.

Writers aren’t unique in this, of course. We all want to play during the holidays and chances are you have to earn a living too, so you can’t play all month long. What’s different about creative work is that—to do it well—the time investment is huge. Often, we are thinking about our work the majority of our waking hours. A piece of our brain is always engaged with the work-in-progress. Most of the year, that’s okay, because of the “labor of love” element. We wanted this job, after all. During the holidays, however, we all want to labor over gingerbread houses or tree trimming and—more importantly—to be really present in those moments. Too often when I’m writing through the holidays, I feel like I’m going through the motions since my story is always consuming huge amounts of brain space.

My cure is to write as little as possible during December. I’d rather work like a madwoman in January and November and close my laptop for a couple of weeks in December. Some years that’s just not possible, but every year, I try. For the first five or seven years of my publishing career, I tried to maintain my schedule through December (Be more disciplined! I told my Muse). For me, that was simply an exercise in frustration. I didn’t write well anyhow, and I still felt cranky and robbed of my holiday.

This year is one of those years where I really needed to write some during December. I’m super excited to have a new series out with Harlequin Desire in 2017 and I very much wanted the extra releases to get the McNeill Magnates up and running. That helps, knowing that I set up this schedule to accomplish a bigger goal. Another trick I’ve finally discovered after writing for almost twenty years? I can write the framework of a story without knowing every detail. That’s been revolutionary for me since I used to get stuck on small plot points in my writing, wanting clear answers before I moved forward. In the last few years, I’ve gotten much better at moving plot points forward, then going back to layer in depth and conflict elements. Go me!

Turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks. But next year, I’m going to box up all my tricks when I close my laptop early in December to simply enjoy the holidays! Until then, my friends, I’m focusing on what I love most about my stories, just like I did back in those pre-published days when I wrote because I couldn’t NOT write.

***I’m not the only one wrestling with how to do it all this holiday season! Tell me what parts of your holiday feel daunting and we’ll commiserate or share ideas to make it better! As a bonus, if you share your thoughts with me this week, you’ll be automatically entered to win this fun prize pack with Christine Rimmer’s Carter Bravo’s Christmas Bride from her award-winning Bravos series, plus my holiday 2-in-1 with Tawny Weber featuring two sexy Blaze Christmas stories AND a Runaway Brides tee!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Eve Gaddy: Christmas is coming!

Christmas is coming! I know you're all out shopping on Black Friday. No? I'm not either! I figure if you're reading this there's a good chance you're not shopping.

I have a number of friends who adore this day. They get all their Christmas shopping done and for a good price. Sometimes they get amazing bargains. But the few times I tried to shop on Black Friday were not a success. First, I'm very short. When you're as short as I am, you are eye level with most people's elbows. Consequently, I really don't like crowds.

The second thing. I've talked before about my problems with organization. Sometimes I know several things I want to get for friends and family early. But that's rare. I think you need to go with specific things in mind that you want to buy. I don't usually manage that. Besides, I like to Christmas shop but I don't want to do it until closer to Christmas. If I do it early I feel kind of lost for the month of December.

Third thing. This is a biggie. I can't think of any reason to voluntarily get up at two or three in the morning to stand in line in the cold darkness.

Are you a Black Friday shopper? Do you love it, hate it or don't care? Make a comment and I'll select one winner for my Christmas book, The Doctor's Christmas Proposal. This is Wyatt Gallagher's story. Here's a peek at the cover. If you want to see more, check out my webpage,  Available at all digital retailers.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016 Kicks Off!

The Great Christmas Tree Tour has become a popular tradition for readers, writers and even editors! I just love seeing how others decorate and hearing about their family customs, and plenty of you enjoy it too, because it's my biggest traffic event all year.  

Once again this season I have a great line up of trees and Christmas decorations you are going to love. You'll want to visit every day to see who has shared their lovely Christmas tree.

I have a few spots left if you'd like to participate. All that's required is a photo and a big dose of Christmas spirit. 

email me at for available dates.

Here's how to participate and see your Christmas tree on the web: Take a photo of your tree as soon as it's up. 

Take a photo of a tree you particularly enjoy, for example at a museum, a lobby or mall.
Send me the photo as a .jpg attachment. Include anything you'd like to share: a family tradition, something about the ornaments.

If you're an author, include a cover and a brief blurb about your current book, so readers can learn more about it and you.

Check back in the morning to see Laura Chapman's tree and a GIVEAWAY!

Virginia Heath: Lost in Translation?

This week I am heading back to the USA. A country I love and have visited many times. And will continue to. Top of my bucket list is to visit every single one of the 50 states. As a Brit, American culture is so interchangeable with ours that in many ways it is a home from home.


There are certain things about the Land of the Free that baffle me and only one which truly makes me mad. The tea.

Proper tea- made with tea leaves. The words on the mug are true!
Tea is our national drink. It is the perfect accompaniment to gossip, happiness, sadness and fatigue. It gives us Brits something to cling to if people insist on discussing uncomfortable topics like feelings. We start and end our day with the stuff. If a typical human is 65% water, then your average Brit would be at least 50% tea. There is nothing worse than a bad cuppa. A brit will tolerate poor service stoically, choke down a plate of bad food in a restaurant without complaint- but serve us a weak, lukewarm brew and expect terse words.
American tea is alien. Everything about it is wrong. If you ask for tea in a restaurant you get given a cup of tepid water with a teabag on the side.

When it should be immersed in that water.
If you dunk said bag of dust, masquerading as tea, into the water, at best you get a beige drink when every Brit knows tea is a beautiful, steaming, golden brown! Hotels are worse. They expect you to make tea in a c-c-coffee machine. Just typing those words makes my blood boil. And seriously, do not get me started on the practice of providing coffee creamer when you ask for milk… it is a Traves-tea. No wonder everyone in the states drinks coffee.

But fear not, I would ever allow something as petty as a simple hot drink to put me off my American adventures. I am prepared. Proper English teabags and my trusty travel kettle are already packed in my suitcase- once I get stateside, the very first thing I am buying is milk! And I still love the USA...

Happy Thanksgiving!
Virginia Heath writes witty, fast-paced Regency romantic comedies with a modern twist for Harlequin Historical and Mills & Boon.
Her latest novel, The Discerning Gentleman's Guide, out now.
You can find her on Facebook and Twitter or in a tea shop somewhere.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Tasty, Snacky Recipe

I can't believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving - I'm ready for it, but I still can't believe that it's here. It seems like we should still be rummaging through the leftover Halloween candy, don't you think?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, from the parade in the morning to the football that will be on for the whole rest of the day. I like that turkey-coma feeling, and I love pumpkin pie, and I even like that it takes nearly six hours of prep for a meal that lasts less than an hour.

You know what I don't love? Cleaning up (which is why we've instituted the Kristina Cooked It, Someone Else Cleans It rule at Casa Knight). Also, after slaving away for six hours, the last thing I want to do for about a week afterward is cook. And there are always people in our house who come looking for snacks an hour or so after the big meal.

I know, after all that turkey who has room for snacks? It's a mystery to me, too, and yet every year - usually in the middle of the second football game of the day - someone (*coughRadioMancough*) comes into the kitchen looking for a snack. I've found that sometimes a little spice is the perfect thing to make turkey-tummies happy. So, I'm sharing my super-simple Easy, Cheesy Dip recipe today. It's so easy there are 3 ingredients. Seriously, three.


1 container of Philadelphia Cream Cheese - the kind in the foil wrapper and don't go with the light version
12-16 oz of salsa - brand is your choice. I'm partial to Tostitos or On the Border
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese


Allow the cream cheese to soften for 45 minutes before beginning preparations. Once softened put the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and pour the salsa over it. Stir with a spoon until well mixed - you don't want chunks of un-mixed cream cheese. Put the mixture in a serving bowl and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Cover and refrigerate until party time!

Although this dip is great with tortilla chips, I think it's the best with Fritos Scoops. Also, if you like a lotlotlot of spice, add some sliced jalepeno.

That's it. Enjoy! Do you have any favorite snack recipes - especially those that are super-easy for the holiday season?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Protecting the Quarterback, is available now from Harlequin Superromance: 

This is more than just a game … to her

Sports broadcaster Brooks Smith has always been more involved with the game than the players. But after she shares the spotlight at an awards ceremony with tabloid sensation Jonas Nash, one night of letting her guard down around the infamous quarterback spirals into many heated days and nights together when she gets assigned to the story of the year…

The hottest player in professional football is hiding a secret that could end his career for good. Now Brooks is caught on the sidelines between the job she loves and the man she is falling in love with.

Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks  Harlequin

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Monday, November 21, 2016

Barbara Ankrum: The Zen of Hopefulness

I have erased more words this week than I have written. Make that for two weeks. The longer my brain freezes up, the more stressed I become. Compulsively checking the internet a hundred times a day isn’t helping. The news makes my throat close up. I actually choked on an innocent sip of coffee the other day while watching the news. It’s hard to avoid, really.

I think I’ve mentioned here before how much I love gardening. (That seems like a right turn, but stay with me here.) When I was younger, I never thought much about why I gardening spoke to me. I just loved the way flowers looked in my yard. Learning to care for the rose bushes I planted, how to meticulously cut them back in winter and feed them in the spring and earn an explosion of blooms as my reward. The miracle when the Boysenberries on my back fence produced juicy berries that would fill buckets and get shared with neighbors and friends. My tomatoes graced salads all summer long beside the basil, peppers and zucchini I grew.

I squeezed in my gardening time around my writing schedule and my children, and discovered it filled my well in a way other things could not. But still, it was just something I did. I was intentional about it, but I suppose I took it for granted. I would always have a garden, right? There will always be the next planting season.

Nope. Having moved to the mid-west to be nearer our daughter and grandkids, we don’t have a garden space and now I found myself longing for one. Never more than these last couple of weeks when I realize that planting growing things is an investment in the future. A promise, if you will, that things will get better, more abundant. Even hopeful. I need that.

In the same way, the books I write are an investment in that same hopefulness. I suppose that is why we are drawn to romance, the promise of a happy ending, the hope that everything will work itself out. In my books, seeds of promise are planted and the fun is watching them grow, despite adversity. And whether we’re gardeners or writers, activists or mothers, planting hope is something we women are pretty good at. We tend to that hope in different ways, but right now, I think it’s important to remember that we are the keepers of the garden. The watchers of the blooms.

This week, I bought some fancy, imported, double Dutch tulip bulbs for my daughter’s garden (Yay! She’s willing to share!) and yesterday I put them in the ground. The bulbs were smooth and plump and ready for the cold winter to come. Bursting with promise for next spring. I fed them a little bone meal and tucked them under the soil for the winter. And one day, late next spring, they’ll surprise me. Little green buds will come pushing out of the soil. And when they bloom, I’ll remember this day I planted them with their secret promise to remind me that “Hope is a thing with feathers,” (Thanks, Emily Dickenson) or, in my case, petals.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Barbara’s latest book, “The Cowgirl’s Christmas Wish”—a story chock full of hope and the third installment of her The Canadays of Montana series—is available now at all e-retail outlets and is available in print.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! by Jenny Gardiner

Hi all!

I don't know about you but I'm gearing up for Thanksgiving---making my grocery lists, strategizing going very early in the morning so as to avoid the crowds, and I'm even making pies with my good friend who wants to learn how to make pies. Should be fun!

Not to be cocky but I do make a mean pie---no credit to myself, but thanks to my mom and my grandma, whose fabulous recipes I do my  best to replicate. And now to be honest, my pies aren't always the prettiest---each time I make one I get a little anxious about how the crust is going to fall when I least expect it, or if I haven't rolled off enough dough to have an adequate crust, in which case the contents will end up leaking all over the oven while the pies cook and ugh, do I hate cleaning that baked-on mess when it happens! (though truthfully I never get around to cleaning out my oven so it ends up smelling like burnt fruit whenever I use the oven thereafter ;-). I'm disclosing all of my dirty secrets now!

We always have Thanksgiving with my husband's family but I then come home and replicate the entire dinner so that we have leftovers, so the pressure is off of me for perfection and having everything ready at the same time (impossible to do that with Thanksgiving dinner isn't it?!). I like to cook my turkey pretty straightforward---no deep-frying for me (I've watched too many fried turkey flash fires on America's Funniest Home Videos, thanks). I brine it for 24 hours in sugar, salt and water (I've tried it with lots of fancier recipes but don't like my turkey taking on a lot of flavors, so this just helps to keep it moister). I always make a family favorite---rice croquettes, which has been in my family for several generations (if you read my novel Slim to None you can get the recipe!), and then, well, I'm not a mashed potato lover but I'll make them for the few in my house who'll eat them. Gravy, of course! And that's gotta be homemade. Again, I keep it super simple---to me Thanksgiving isn't one of those meals you play around with perfection ;-).

And once Thanksgiving is over, I've got to hunker down with a December book deadline plus the release of Black Sheep Romeo---book 2 of my Royal Romeo series---on December 6. Hope you can check it out here! And I'll reveal the cover for book 3---Red Carpet Romeo, which will be out February 17! If you want to start from the beginning of the series--which is a spinoff from my It's Reigning Men series---you can start with Red Hot Romeo.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Maggie Marr: Home For The Holidays

I love the holidays. Every year I express my joy about the holiday season by writing a holiday book. My past books have included A Christmas Billionaire , The Christmas Wish , and A Billionaire for Christmas  . This year, I had the extra-special gift of sharing my love for the holidays with nine other authors. I was invited by Allison Bell to be a part of a Holiday Anthology. I was both delighted and excited by this invitation.

The theme for our project was 'coming home for the holidays' hence the title Home For The Holidays. I'll also admit that my excitement wasn't just about the subject matter, my excitement was also over the fantastic authors I got to work with. I am a *BIG* fan of authors. I've worked with all kinds of famous-types from politicians to directors to producers to actors and I have to say the most fan-girl swoony I get is with authors. 

I adore authors. 

To the point where sometimes around an author I'm particularly fond of, it's hard for me to speak. Seriously, I have a hard time forming words--and words are my business. 

The line up in Home For The Holidays is just that fabulous. I've downloaded my copy and read every story and I have to say I've enjoyed each and everyone. Much like the holiday season, this anthology is only around for a limited time so if you'd like to read 10 romances at the extra low price of .99 go on and get your copy of Home For The Holidays now. I know that my fellow authors' stories have really put me in the mood for the holiday season and I hope they do the same for you!

Happy Reading!!


Friday, November 18, 2016

Romance On Fire; Romance On Ice -- Lisa B. Kamps

Many thanks to Lee for allowing me to be part of this blog. I'm so excited! I guess the best place to start is with a little introduction.
I was born and raised in Maryland and currently live in the northern part of the state in the "country". I've been married to hubby for 24 years and we have two sons (22 and 19). We also have some shorthorn cattle, way too many freaking chickens, two attitude-toting cats, and one Border Collie who's the princess and actually runs the place.
I write contemporary romance and have two series out: The Baltimore Banners (can we say hot hockey players?!) and Firehouse Fourteen (yup, hot firemen!!). So why hockey?
Well, I came into my love of hockey in the late 90's, thanks to a friend of mine--a big hockey fan--who moved here from Colorado. We won club level seats to a Washington Capitals game (they played Florida, and won by something like 11-2) and I was instantly hooked. It didn't hurt that Richard Zednik (who was a scratch that night) happened to be sitting right in front of me. Literally. Like, his head was damn near between my legs. Oh, if I only knew then what I know now…! So yes, I like to tell everyone that I had a hockey player between my legs and watch their faces (before I give them the whole story, of course!). I've been a hockey fan since then and it seemed only natural to incorporate my love of hockey into my writing.
Every hockey team needs a hometown so I decided to turn Baltimore into a hockey city! Even the team name has a connection to Baltimore: it's a reference to the Star Bangled Banner, which was written right here in Baltimore in 1814. 
And yes, I love writing about the "hard-hitting, heart-melting hockey players" (so says USA Today!) that make up the Banners, and the independent, maybe-a-little-quirky and sometimes-stubborn women who love them.
There are currently eight stand-alone books in the series (Crossing The Line, Game Over, Blue Ribbon Summer, Body Check, Break Away, Delay of Game, Shoot Out, and On Thin Ice), and one novella (Playmaker, which released as part of the Seduced By The Game Cancer Charity Collection). Coach's Challenge, the second novella, releases on Monday, November 21, and One-Timer, Book 9, releases December 26.
As a hello-and-thank-you, I'd love to give away a digital copy of any of my available titles. Just let me know below which title you'd like and I'll choose one random winner on Monday. You can learn more about my titles by visiting
Of course, my website isn't the only place you can keep up with me. If you're into stalking, check out these other links:

Kamps Korner (reader FB Group):

Thanks again, and I'll see everyone next month!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Susan Stephens: Warming up the winter...


Hello! How good it is to be back here, chatting with you again :)

Thank you for inviting me, Lee!

November is my birthday month, so I love this time of year, though not so much the harsh winds and the icy cold up here on the Yorkshire moors. What I do love is to hunker down with a good book in front of a roaring fire, or have people round to share a meal, so we can all be cosy. Here’s me, wrapped up against the freezing winds high up on the moors where the Bronte sister’s trudged back and forth. I’m guessing once they were safely back in the Parsonage, they must have worn those fingerless mitts when they wrote their marvellous, atmospheric books set in this very area.

I have some exciting news for my Newsletter subscribers. There is now a Members Only section on my web site where you can access this free bestselling feel-good Christmas novella as a Mobi file, as well as deleted scenes from works in progress, and other snippets, including excerpts from those same works in progress, as well as the bio’s and photos that have inspired me to write about the characters. Here’s the link for you.

I am also thrilled to announce that both my recent books in my new Blood And Thunder series have become Amazon Kindle Bestsellers here in the UK. And that’s thanks to you, my fabulous readers – and to one reader in particular, who asked me when I visited the USA this year: “When are you going to write some more bad-boy polo books?” I can’t thank Karin for putting the idea in my head, and for setting me back on the trail of these billionaire cowboys. I just LOVE writing about them!!! And I hope you love reading about them too J

Here are the first two books in the series, with more to come...

Hope November is a brilliant month for you!

Let’s chat really soon,

Susan xx