Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Saints' Day BOOK BIRTHDAY!

October 31 is a busy day around here. 

Halloween, of course, comes to mind first. And the original Celtic celebration of Samhain. The religious holyday of All Saint's Day is also in the mix. 

I try each year to not think about or look forward to the Christmas holidays until long after Halloween. I don't care if the stores have already brought out their holiday merchandise or if the Christmas shopping adverts have begun. . . I ignore the whole Christmas business until its time.  

Um. . . until this year, that is! Yes, in a small way, I've been thinking about Christmas for some months now. I've been living in the Highlands with the winter snows swirling around me as I wrote a lovely Christmas story about the magic and hope of the season. In my defense, the Christmas festivities in the medieval Highlands is completely different from the way we celebrate them now.

And now, the true conflict happens today -- my Christmas book is available on Halloween! Yes, I have to begin celebrating the Christmas holidays today. I mean, there's nothing more exciting than when a book is released and gets into the hands of READERS! Book birthdays are THE BEST day! 

This story - A Highlander's Hope in CHRISTMAS IN KILTS - is very special to me. 20 years ago, while writing my first series - the MacKendimen Clan series - I always wanted to give a particular character her own happily-ever-after. But, for many reasons, I never wrote that story. Then, a few years ago, I planned out the novella for Robena MacKendimen, and again, never got the chance to write it. So, when St Martins Press/Swerve (then) editor Lizzie Poteet asked me to write a holiday story, it was this one I really wanted to tell. I'm thrilled that they gave me this chance to tell this emotional, sexy story of a man who knows what/who he wants and a woman who deserves happiness and hope in her life.  I hope that readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

As a reader, I always glommed the Regency Christmas anthologies each year. For me, they were the perfect length for the busy times when I had little bits of time to actually read. I could read a novella in a few hours and enjoy a complete story. Rinse, repeat over and over throughout the crazy, busy end-of-year festivities. How about you - do you like to read Christmas stories now? Or do you save them for closer to the actual holidays? Do you like full-length or the collections of shorter works better? 

Post a comment and I'll pick 3 people to receive a digital copy of ONCE FORBIDDEN, the story that leads into A HIGHLANDER'S HOPE... 

 Terri is working on new stories for Harlequin Historicals and a few surprise projects, too. You can always find news and updates about her stories and events on her website or connect with her on Facebook.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Wheel of My Year- The Writing Life

by Joanne Rock

Hello from sunny Florida...
I’m at the end of a long book contract right now and it’s interesting how different my writing days are now versus when I’m at the start of a long book contract. Or in the middle. Or when I have a no contract at all!

As a creative endeavor, writing can be a challenging way to earn a living. It starts out as a passion and, if you aren’t very careful to protect the art from the income, it can quickly become a chore. I was warned about this as soon as I sold a book. I would bubble with enthusiasm when I spoke about all the projects I couldn’t wait to write and more experienced authors would exchange wry glances. I was warned the “honeymoon period” with my writing wouldn’t last.

Like so much advice from those who have tread the path before me, they were spot on. It gets hard to stay excited about your creative passion when it suddenly becomes your means of support. You need to set dependable hours and produce pages regularly. There’s no more sweet-talking your Muse until she’s ready to cooperate. She has a job and she’d better show up daily.

My latest release! 
But over the years, I’ve found ways to keep my creativity flowing in spite of the more rigorous demands on it. One trick is to mix up my schedule so that I’m bouncing back and forth between kinds of story. For a while, I would write historical stories in between my Blaze books to give myself a break from the same style of novel. Or write a few short books, then a long one. The different demands of different story styles helped me to stay engaged and excited about what I was doing.

As my readers have asked for more contemporary stories, I’m often writing books in similar genres, close together. That presents new challenges. Lately, I’ve found it helpful to write fast and furious while the Muse turns cartwheels at the start of a new contract. Chase the ideas fast, write like a madwoman, and get lots done before the creativity wears off a bit. Then, I slow down. Recharge more often. Read a lot in between writing a little. It helps me to feel like I’m taking more downtime, and really, I am. I focus more on scenes and less on the big picture. I research little snippets of a story and that jazzes me up to fuel more pages.  

Coming Soon...
Really, I play a lot of mind games. Like any self-employed person, I have to stay disciplined to get my work done. But since the work is creative, I know better than to crack the whip too much when my brain is churning at a different speed. Right now, my pace is leisurely. I think a lot and stare off into space. By the time the contract is done, I’ll take a few weeks off and forget all about writing.

Funny how when I ignore my Muse how impatient she gets. After a few weeks of quiet, she’ll start pinging ideas around. I won’t listen. She’ll talk even more. Then, the frenzy to create starts all over again. A new phase of writing mania begins. An all new honeymoon period. The wheel of my writing year turns.


Speaking of “all new”… I’ve got fresh-off-the-press copies of Little Secrets: His Pregnant Secretary available this week! You can win one by sharing with me your favorite way to recharge after a big project. One random commenter will win their choice of print or digital book. And if that doesn’t work, go enter the contest at Goodreads where I’m giving away five more copies!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Eve Gaddy: A Whiskey River Christmas

Three of my friends and I were chatting about writing a connected series and set it in Whiskey River, Texas. We talked about how fun it would be to write a riff on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But our series isn’t exactly like that. Our ghost is a matchmaking ghost. 

Our matchmaking ghost first appears in Julia Justiss’s A Texas Christmas Past, set in 1918 and 1919. A Texas Christmas Reunion by Eve Gaddy, A Texas Christmas Homecoming by Nancy Robards Thompson, and Once Upon a Texas Christmas by Katherine Garbera are set concurrently, so you’ll be able to read them in any order you want. Come experience the Christmas Ball at the Harwood Inn, Christmas on the Square, Floats, Boats and Whiskey Barrels, and lots of other Christmas fun and romance. And last but not least, a ghost who is determined to help bring people together with the magic of Christmas.

Years ago, Harlan Sullivan broke Savannah Taylor’s heart. Now he’s back in Whiskey River as the new owner of the local construction company--and Savannah’s new boss. Giving up Savannah was the hardest thing Harlan ever had to do, but it’s way past time to explain why he did.  Besides, after fourteen years, they have both moved on.  Or so he thinks—until their unexpected meeting at Felicity’s Christmas Ball shocks him into realizing his buried feelings—and secret passion—are very much alive. 

As long as she keeps a tight grip over her emotions, Savannah is confident she can weather having her old flame become her new boss.  She’s even willing to indulge the desire that time seems to have intensified.  But there’s no way she will let Harlan anywhere close to her heart.  

Harlan soon realizes he wants more from the sexy, sultry Savannah than a temporary affair and sets out to convince her that this time, their love will last forever. But it will take a bit of Christmas magic from the Harwood Inn ghost to bring this reluctant banker’s daughter and determined Barrels Bad Boy to their happily-ever-after.

Visit me at my website:
Twitter: @evegaddy

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Historical Romance Retreat

Last month I did something truly amazing. I was invited to be one of the featured authors at the Historical Romance Retreat, a dedicated reader event which took place in the opulent Historic Davenport Hotel sleepy Spokane, Washington. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the entire event blew me away. The attention to detail was staggering and all credit must go to historical romance authors Renee Bernard and Delilah Marvelle.

The readers were fabulous and all dedicated fans of the historical romance genre. One of the best things about the five days I spent with them, is that I spent it with them. You are not an author behind the table. At HRR you are very much part of the event, whether that being the table host serving tradition English afternoon tea to the readers, being a croupier at the period themed gambling night or leading the dancing at the fabulously ostentatious Grand Ball. Authors host workshops. Mine was entitled The Discerning Lady's Guide to Regency London, a raucous romp through my home town in the 19th century that started and ended in the gutter.

Other workshops mixed perfumes, delved into the fascinating world of herbal medicine and we all got to make hats with Eloisa James. My was a doozy which was coveted by all (or so I am led to believe!).

The best part of the whole event was being with friends. I went with my good friend and fellow Totes Bags 'n' Blogs historical author Nicole Locke. I knew nobody else. I left with so many new friends- both authors and readers alike- that I cannot count them.

Next year it is in California and the author line-up is being announced soon. If you love historical romance YOU HAVE TO GO! It is the most fun you can have with your (period) clothes on.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Get Your Fall Fix from Falling for You #newrelease

If you're looking for a taste of small town fall, look no further! The Falling for You anthology - 10 brand new, fall-themed, small town romances - has released, and I couldn't be more excited about it!

First, because it's a series expansion, and second, because it has been such a joy working with the other authors in the set. We had envisioned the anthology as a spotlight for our line, Harlequin Superromance, but when we heard the line was closing, it became our send-off for the line (but don't stop buying Superromances, there will be new books out through 2018...and our backlist books will be on sale, too!).

The other thing I love about this anthology? All the stories are fall-themed --- so you'll get a peek into some small town, fall festivals, some great fall food, and if the weather is still hot in your neck of the woods, we'll transport you to a place with crisp fall breezes and falling leaves!

Do you have a favorite season?          ~Kristina Knight

Here's a bit about the anthology:

Foreword by Brenda Novak.

When the weather cools down, hearts heat up…

Bonfires aren't the only things warming up the night. Across the land, hearts are falling along with the leaves. Curl up with a pumpkin spice latte and warm your heart with ten tales of autumn love.

It Was You by Tara Taylor Quinn:
He has no problem respecting the fact that she is off limits…until the one night he does.

The Right Man by Heatherly Bell:
When one long planned dream day veers wildly off-course, she must decide between the perfect wedding or the right man.

Her Hometown Cowboy by Claire McEwen:
Falling for him wasn’t part of her plan.

Meet Me in the Middle by Jo McNally:
She’s used to playing it safe, but when her old crush comes cruising back into town, she might have to risk it all.

Outsider in a Small Town by Kristina Knight:
She may hold the keys to his heart…and his future.

If I Fall by Kris Fletcher:
What goes up must fall…in love.

Finding Harmony by Janet Lee Nye:
Jericho was the last place she wanted to be, but it was becoming the best place for her.

Perfect Fit by Angel Smits:
She never forgot her first love…and though he never measured up, neither did he.

Home to You by Dana Nussio:
Can a woman who ran from home and a man who never had it ever hope to discover that home really is a place for hearts?

Can’t Help Falling in Love by Lisa Dyson:
She’s career-oriented. and he’s the one who just broke her boss’s heart.

Buy Falling for You: Amazon   B&N   iBooks   KOBO   Google Play 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Can writing what hurts be romantic? - Lara Temple

I long ago decided that writing what you know isn’t the best way to begin a writing career. Sometimes writing what you know, what you feel deeply, can stifle your voice much more successfully than flights of pure fantasy. Sometimes you have to work up to it. You don’t approach a scared animal by gallumphing up to it, hand outstretched. Often you have to sit nearby, back turned for quite a while before you can even consider getting close, let alone making contact. But what we know is always there.

Even writing Regency romances (how much more flight of fancy can one get short of adding magic?) I never stray that far from what I am, good and bad. In fact, by writing what some would consider light hearted romance stories, I find I am connecting more deeply with issues that matter to me than when I tried to write them as they are. I don’t even mean to put them in there – it isn’t a conscious agenda (I’m a thorough pantser, I’m afraid), I just suddenly find them there, whole and working away and that is that.

In my latest book Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Heiress I touch upon issues that affected people I care and cared for very deeply – suicide and survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and bullying. They don’t take over the story but they are there and from some of the reviews coming I am relieved to hear they have enriched the characters and the romance. In the book Hunter’s younger brother, a sensitive boy who joins the army to prove himself, is captured and maimed and never succeeds in recovering either physically or mentally. Despite Hunter’s efforts he commits suicide, locking Hunter into guilt and remorse and inadvertently connecting Hunter’s life with that of Nell who is trying to escape a bullying aunt and indifferent father. Nell finds her personal redemption by giving love, to horses and to the schoolchildren she teaches. Hunter finds his in helping war veterans avoid the path his brother took and in otherwise indulge in a care for nobody rakish lifestyle.

I was once told that ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I don’t believe in that. I think we could probably do without a great many of the knocks life deals us. But I do believe that dealing with those knocks, and in particular knowing how to seek help and depending on others to see us, support us, and even to know when to ask them to stand back, does make us stronger. That is why I love writing about people going on these difficult journeys and helping each other find that strength (and their HEA, of course).

So, writing about what hurts you can indeed be very romantic because if love can grow on such rocky ground, it is love truly worth nurturing. 

Excerpt from Wild Lords book #1: Lord Hunter’s Cinderella Bride (November 2017)

Hunter’s grin widened.
‘Very amusing, Saxon. Now come down before I decide to put all this hay to good use.’
She really should get down but she didn’t want to, not yet. As she remained unmoving the raffish quality of his grin shifted, mellowed, his lashes dipping slightly.
‘You do look like a Saxon queen up there; about to bestow her favour on her knight.’ He observed and Nell planted her feet more firmly as the bale quivered beneath them, or maybe that was just her legs that had wobbled. She was used to looking down at men, but very contrarily looking down at him made her feel dainty. Dainty?
‘She would probably be a Norman queen if there were knights,’ the schoolmistress corrected, and then, more to the point and in a less resolute voice. ‘I don’t have anything to bestow.’
‘Yes you do.’

How could three words turn a quiver into a blaze? He might as well have touched a match to the hay the heat was so intense. And the sense of danger. He was making love to her in the middle of a stable yard without raising a finger and she didn’t want it to stop. This is not making love, just flirting, the schoolmistress pointed out and was kicked off the bale of hay. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Writerly Distractions by Jenny Gardiner

I was talking with an author friend about writing distractions the other day and it got me thinking about the biggest distractions to me over the years (er, um, besides Facebook, the time-suckiest thing ever invented), and I realized for me, hands-down, it's our pets. 
So I wrote this piece about that, which I thought I'd share with you:

For many years my household was a veritable menagerie. At one point we had our parrot (more on her in a minute), two dogs (one a complete reprobate), a cat and a rabbit, not to mention three kids at home. Back then I surprised even myself by being able to hone my focus despite the myriad distractions that were implicit with our many four-legged (and two-legged) creatures. The kids were the easy part--I got to be so disciplined I’d even whip out my laptop and work on my novels while in the pick-up line at school for ten minutes, or on the sidelines of soccer practice, which seemed to be pretty much every afternoon. 

The pets were the ones that gave me fits. Our cat, Sushi, has a free pass for life for being care free (except demanding endless head-scratches while I write, which does make it tricky typing, not to mention plenty of fur on the keyboard). Albert the bunny, well, the one thing going for him is that he’s quiet, which sort of makes him out of sight, out of mind. I’ve always joked that he’s not particularly engaging, which my daughter (his owner, though we’ve basically been saddled with him for the past 7 years) takes as a personal affront. But really, he is completely void of personality. But like I said, at least he’s silent.

Our Labrador Sassy, who passed away last year was mostly calm and cooperative except when nudged into naughtiness by our Australian cattle dog dingo-esque mutt Bridget, who we lost two years ago and almost until the end had a wild streak that knew few bounds. We called her the Pick-Up Truck Dog Living the Mini-Van Life, and she never met a containment system that she couldn’t evade.
What this meant was frequent interruptions from writing when I would get a call from the neighbors that the dogs got out “yet again” and were wandering the neighborhood, one terrorizing people and pets, as she had a glint in her half-blue/half-brown eye that spooked people, and a ferocious bark that ensured those nearby stood up and took notice. She was generally harmless but nevertheless, I spent many a writing afternoon piling into my mini-van, driving through the neighborhood with the door open, at the ready to shove wayward dogs into the car before they could evade my capture.

When home, Bridget spent far too many of her waking hours barking—at the wind, at blowing leaves, at doorbells, at delivery people, at cars driving by, at imaginary creatures, I swear it. I would often have to either don a pair of industrial earplugs or blast my iPod to stop dwelling on the shrill bark that pinned my ears back with its particularly annoying pitch.

We loved our Bridget but she was good at trying my patience and precluding my getting in dailiy word counts. But none of our pets has been quite as masterful at that as has Graycie, our African Grey parrot that was a gift to us in 1990 and has now, to all of our surprise, been with us for 27 years—some of them longer than others ;-). Greys are brilliant creatures, and are quite gifted in outwitting their keepers.

To be sure, I’m not a fan of keeping parrots as pets—I think they belong in the wild. But ours came back from Africa one Christmas as a gift and there she was, and here we are, about ten million parrot poops later, with a somewhat domesticated yet wild-at-heart parrot who more than a quarter of a century later thrills when she is able to clamp down her beak on my flesh and draw blood. It’s what keeps her young, I’m convinced. I know it sounds a little paranoid to say that she thrives on challenging my sanity, but at times it does seem that way. Because she will not ever allow me to just sit down at my desk—not particularly strategically located in our open floor plan kitchen/living room/dining room, where she, too, resides—without her demanding that she be freed from her cage to perch atop a large “tree” perch.

Which is all fine except that persuading her to go from said cage is no simple feat, and sometimes i just don’t have the time, desire, or inclination to do so. The rest of the family also got parrots that Christmas of yore, and not a one of them balks at being left in their large cages. But Graycie, ah….Graycie, she is wont to let her will be known. In the form of either dragging her beak across the metal bars of the cage like an ornery prisoner thrown in the drunk tank on an episode of Gunsmoke, or plucking the bars with her beak incessantly, like some audio form of Chinese water torture until she gets her wish. But granting that wish can take precious time, because she doesn’t just walk from cage to branch. No. She wants bribes, in the form of peanuts, and for me it is a test of wills to see who wins. Long ago our vet warned us to use peanuts sparingly, and that they’re bad for the bird’s health and can clog arteries. So I simply won’t give them to her except on rare occasion. But my husband chooses the path of least resistance and freely feeds them to her (which of course creates a mess of shredded peanut shells reminiscent of the concrete floor of a baseball stadium after a World Series match). So I try to lure her with veggies, and what self-respecting bird with the congition of a 3-year old would settle for health food when she can wield her powers of annoyance to win the junk food prize?

Instead what she ends up doing to climbing down the cage, onto the floor, click-clacking her little black clawed-feet across the hardwoods, walking backwards while looking over her shoulder, as if some cloak-and-dagger spy, ensuring she won’t be caught. Her goal? To get to the cabinet where the peanuts are stored. If she won’t get them from me, then dammit she’ll just have to help herself. I may have mentioned, parrot beaks are destructive. I have the scars to prove it. And they can do a number on hardwood cabinets, shoe-molding electrical cords, you name it. So while I doggedly refuse to accede to the demands of a petulant parrot, cutting my nose to spite my face since this interaction is cutting into my writing schedule, she has time on her hands and nothing better to do, so it becomes a test of wills.
 My family all shrug and shake their head at me, wondering why I engage with a veritable 27-year old toddler on such a regular basis. Particularly when I have deadlines constantly looming with my editor often drumming her fingers awaiting my latest submission. And I can’t even find a legitimate excuse for my own obstinacy, except that I refuse to be outwitted by a bird-brained, well bird. Even if that brain has the capacity to outwit me, like it or not. And when she decides to laugh in my voice, practically mocking my idiocy, or makes a kissing sound and says “I love you”, I really wonder why I can’t just let the parrot win, and get on with my writing. But I suspect the darker truth is its all part of my own inherent procrastination tactics, and she’s become a conspirator in my own efforts to sabotage my writing progress. Sometimes I just need to remind myself it’s best to ride the horse in the direction it’s galloping, and then maybe I’ll actually produce some copy!

Well--it turns out another writerly distraction for me is going through pet pictures! I couldn't even decide which to put in so I used lots of them! Hope you found them amusing!!!

Great news! Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for a limited time here:

And on Tuesday, the final book in the series, Big O Romeo, will be released! You can get it here
But wait, there's more! ;-) I just started a new series! Falling for Mr. Right. And book one, Falling for Mr. Maybe, comes out November 14. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!



 Coming November 14! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Michelle Styles: Hidden Histories

In 1866 Malinda Russell self-published a cookbook containing useful receipts for the kitchen  in the hopes of raising enough money so she could return to Tennessee and attempt to reclaim her property, property she’d been forced to leave behind when she’d fled Northward due to her Union sympathies. Malinda Russell was a Woman of Color, born free by law because her mother Karon had been born after her grandmother, also called Malinda Russell, was emancipated. The US slave system was descent down the maternal line based, a particularly noxious form of slavery which still exists in some African countries (see for the definitions of  modern day slavery). It is notable that she does not mention her father's or grandfather’s status. She also doesn’t mention any aunts or uncles who might have been born prior to her grandmother obtaining her freedom and what their status was.
Her book was the first cookbook published by an African-American woman and one of the very few cookbooks which authentically details Southern plantation cooking and as such is a hugely important primary source document. While she mostly focuses on cakes, Russell also includes recipes for cordials and preserves, how to make eggs last longer and how to make various medical ointments. My love of old cookbooks is such that I spent a morning happily enthralled reading the free digital version of her book.
Malinda’s life story reads like fiction – as a teenager she tried to emigrate to Liberia but was robbed and forced to obtain work as a laundress in Lynchburg VA and there she learned how to cook. She married but her husband died, leaving her with a disabled son and so she ran a boarding house in a spa town in eastern Tennessee  and then for  6 years successfully ran a pastry or cake shop until the American Civil War forced her to start over in Michigan. Among other things she was robbed of her considerable life savings by a Guerilla band who threatened her with death if she revealed their names.  I do hope she did raise enough money to return to Greenville Tennessee and reclaim her property.
 I love reading and writing about women with indomitable spirits who struggle against the odds and succeed but Malinda's is not a story I can tell. Thankfully there are other writers who can. At the moment they are often marketed as African-American historical romance writers but they are really saga writers in the tradition of Catherine Cookson, that great doyenne of British woman’s historical fiction who famously claimed she didn’t write romance (meaning books like Barbara Cartland wrote).  Other British saga writers include Josephine Cox, Benita Brown and Penny Jordan when she was writing as Annie Groves as well as Winston Graham who wrote Poldark.
British saga writers differ from historical romance writers in that historical romance writers like me tend to focus on heroes who are of the first estate with the emotional growth of the relationship being the primary focus, whereas saga writers tend to have the heroes being working or lower middle class (the villains are often weak men of the first estate) and the romance is often secondary to the woman’s personal growth. Sagas are sometimes in UK publishing parlance known as Clogs and Shawls or Rats and Rickets books.  When I first moved to the UK, the saga reigned supreme in the UK publishing world with Mills & Boon being basically the only publisher to publish the sort of historical romance I had enjoyed in the US. It wasn’t until more than a decade after she published her last book that Cookson ceased to be the most checked out author in the UK library system. Before I moved from California to Northumberland, I read a lot of Cookson so I could better understand my new home and grew to enjoy this sort of writing.
If anyone else like me loves reading about indomitable women who overcome great odds to thrive,  Alyssa Cole and Piper Huguley write excellent historical sagas. There are other American saga writers but I really enjoy these writers’ novels. They both contributed to The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Anthology which I was privileged to read before Alyssa Cole  received a Rita nomination for  her novella Let It Shine. That anthology can be a good place to start to get a flavour of the books available. Piper Huguley’s Milford College series is also excellent (her prequel The Lawyer’s Luck is free to download). If you enjoy reading Catherine Cookson or Annie Groves (Penny Jordan), you will love Piper Huguley.
 My only regret is that because these books are often marketed African-American historical romance and shelved in the African American section of booksellers that they can be overlooked by readers who go to the romance/women's fiction section, looking for such books which illuminate hidden bits of the American experience and feature strong heroines.  I am firmly of the view that we need diverse romance and that all romance should be shelved together, not softly segregated by skin colour.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her next Viking-set romance, The Warrior’s Viking Bride, will be published in March 2018. In her free time, she loves reading all sorts of romance because it affords her the opportunity to walk in someone else’s skin. You can read more about Michelle and her books at