Friday, April 27, 2018

The Pleasures of Idea Day

Today is one of the happiest kinds of days in my writing life.  The pleasure of it is a little different from a sale day—fabulous because those days mean I continue to be employed—and not quite the same as a brainstorm day, which is always fun because it means I get to talk on the phone to my cp for hours on end.  Instead, today is an idea day.

What’s that, you say?  Never heard of an idea day?  I didn’t set out to institute this particular event, it   The timing is always pleasant for idea day.  Usually it occurs when I’ve just turned in a book and I am feeling pleased with myself for surviving the ordeal of a deadline.  But aside from the happy endorphins being naturally produced by this post-deadline high, idea day is fun for me because it involves the core activity for which I became a writer.  Idea day is simply that—hours and hours devoted to thinking about future stories just sort of appeared in my life as a time between books when I need to come up with new story material.
I mean, face it, no one goes into writing in order to stare blankly at the computer for hours, wondering what a character is going to do next.  Writers devote themselves to the hard work of putting words on paper because they are gripped by the power of story and the magical, transformative moments that come from a beautifully imagined tale.  Idea day is when the hints of those moments first hit me, when I can spend all afternoon digging through books, magazine clippings I’ve stashed, and online articles I haven’t had time to read. 
At this stage, the story ideas are at their most precious.  Half-formed and full   There is a fragileness to these infant concepts, and I love them dearly for all the hope they represent for my storytelling future of possibilities, these kernels could develop in any number of intriguing directions.

Tomorrow, there will be a refining process, a winnowing away of the more outrageous ideas to polish the most workable ones.  And while that process brings a new kind of creative energy, I’ll miss the wide-eyed wonder of today when the door to my next story was open widest…

** One of my favorite writing resources is Linda Goodman's Love Signs about the ways different astrological personalities connect in a romantic relationship. I can pick it up at any time and turn to something interesting for a quick read. If you need a book to browse over breakfast... or a "coffee table book" that you keep handy to flip through the pages, what book on your shelves would you choose? An art book? A cookbook? Share with me this week for a chance to win your choice of my "McNeill Magnates" stories from Harlequin Desire (any of the six that have released so far). Also, please keep an eye out for my current release, Expecting a Scandal, part of the Texas Cattleman's Club: Impostor series! 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

How Do You Tell Your Editor Your Dog Ate Your Book by Jenny Gardiner

Apologies for missing my entry last month---I was in Australia for my daughter's engagement party and completely dropped the ball on posting something.

In the lead-up to traveling to Australia, I had grand intentions of turning my latest book in to my editor several weeks early---which would be miraculous for me haha. Best laid plans...I got the flu a week before we left annnnd that book didn't get finished. Of course while in Oz, no time to write it. I returned still a bit under the weather---sinus infection and bronchitis, so got a teensy extension on the book.

That took me to Easter Sunday. I had kids in visiting that weekend. My husband had stayed on in Australia to do this cool hike in Tasmania for four days and wasn't scheduled back till the Tuesday after Easter, which I figured gave me plenty of time to wrap up the book from hell....But that wasn't meant to be.

Thankfully after he'd finished his hike, he was pretty beat and ready to get home, so was able to move up his flights to Sunday---scheduled to arrive Easter Sunday night. I was going to get him at the airport, all good. But... I'd been taking antibiotic for my sinus infection and it kind of hurt my stomach but for maybe an hour, then it would go away. But on that day it never went away. By Sunday night I was feeling pretty awful. Luckily one of my kids was able to pick him up at the airport for me and I went to bed. Acutely aware of his jet lag, I tossed and turned but did not wake him all night long as I kind of writhed in pain. So the good news is he got a long night's sleep that night. Which he was going to the meantime I spent all Sunday afternoon trying to write and lord only knows how I got anything written in my state of misery, but suffice it to say I didn't finish that darned book.

Monday I went twice to the doctors, who couldn't figure out what was wrong, and finally we ended up in the ER, where fortunately my daughter was working that day. She couldn't get us moved up the list unfortunately, which meant 3-1/2 arduous hours in the ER waiting room---a really miserable place to be. Basically got there at 4:45 pm, and at 3 am they wheeled me in for surgery to remove my appendix, which by then was ready to burst. A lot of other trauma and drama ensued as we awaited that surgery (just prior to cutting into me they told me they thought they saw what they suspected to be a cancerous mass in my appendix and suddenly my surgery was emergency surgery and they might have to remove my entire right colon. Oy. Yeah we were stressed. And my poor husband was stuck at one point sleeping on the floor of the ER---not a place you ever want to lie on.

Good news is it ended up just being an inflamed appendix, nothing worse, they cut that out of me, we were home before 9 am, but not without a bit of stress!

After that the stress was getting that darned book written finally. My editor, the lovely Nikki Busch, was so patient with me through all of this and she turned in my edits just now with plenty of time for me for this May 15 release, so I'm truly grateful for everything that worked out well in this. And super glad that I hadn't extended my stay in Oz as I had contemplated, because this would have all unfolded while I was on a 15+ hour flight across the Pacific and another 6 hours home from there. And had my husband not been able to change his flights, he'd have been on an 8-hour layover in Beijing, unable to help me. So alls well that ends well!

Hope you can check out my appendectomy book haha---Falling for Mr. Sometimes, releases May 15!

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 free here:

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!




Monday, April 16, 2018

Fifty Sexy, Small Town Romances, PLUS an eReader...?

I'm thrilled when I can offer a freebie here at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. 

For this week (until April 23rd) I’ve teamed up with 50+ fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of steamy small town romances to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a brand new eReader to one Grand Prize winner!

You receive a collection of FREE ebooks just for entering. 

My small town, second-chance at first love romance, Not In Her Wildest Dreams, is among the prizes. (Fun Fact: It's also on sale for 99c on all platforms right now.)

Enter the giveaway here: and good luck!

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, erotic romance, romantic comedy, epic medieval fantasy, but her sexy, small town romances are close to her heart. She lives in a very small town where the post office, coffee shop, grocery store and liquor store are all one building. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: Rediscovering People and voices Airbrushed from History

It is very easy to look at history through monochrome lenses but that would be a mistake. The trouble for a historical novelist is how to portray the world as it might have been, not as how generations of Hollywood movie makers have portrayed. For example, London in the 19th century because of its worldwide empire had an ethnically diverse population. In fact British ports have always teemed with travelers, seamen and the like from  around the world but many of them have not made a lasting impression on the historical record.
For the avoidance of doubt, the written historical record has generally been written and published by men. As such they tend to concentrate on the subjects which interest them and sometimes for self-serving reasons discount or ignore the contributions made by women and ethnic minorities.
For example, take the pinnacle of Regency society – Almacks. It was controlled by the Lady Patronesses. When I last checked, there were no definitive biographies of any of them, despite their huge contributions to the Regency period. Lady Jersey ran Child’s Bank and was one of the highest paid bankers in her day. She literally had a license to print money. She also had the access to the financial information of those who wished to attend. The other Lady Patronesses were similarly well-connected in other areas such as foreign diplomatic circles. Does that sound like  fluffy-headed women who needed to rely on Beau Brummell, a man more famous for being famous than anything, for advice on if someone was suitable or not as his biographer (a well-known chancer himself) claimed? Yet the legend persists and the Lady Patronesses’ lives remain largely  unexplored.
Going further back to the time period I am currently writing in.  nearly all of the primary source documents were written by monks. They tend to have a certain misogynistic bias. But sometimes, you can find out wonderful things about people who have been airbrushed from history. 
On Friday, I happened across a blog which gave details about a Viking raid on Morocco and how the Vikings returned with a large quantity of slaves who were known as the Black men. Even more intriguing the blog highlighted the discovery of 3 Sub-Sahara African women’s graves in England (East Anglia) dating from the late Saxon period. There was no information about their status, but I feel that given that they were properly buried and not just thrown into some pit, they were more than likely high status. What they were doing there, I have no idea and someone needs to write their story (or stories!)  but they were airbrushed from history. Most  historians of the period do not mention the first grave which was discovered in the late 1980’s. The other two graves were discovered in 2013.  
What it means is that the Viking period, indeed the entire Medieval period, is open to multi-cultural storylines as there is hard physical proof that  people from varied ethnic backgrounds live in Britain and it is not some politically-correct fantasy to have them appearing in historical romance novels. I find that tremendously exciting. It is also a challenge for a historical romance writer to  somehow convey the different sort of cultures and peoples who were actually there without puling people out of the story. It is the little facts that are true but seem to be opposite of what standard history teaches that can cause the most difficulty for readers.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of times periods from Roman to Victorian but has lately been writing Viking. Her latest The Warrior’s Viking Bride was published in March 2018 featuring a woman Viking warrior (a creature thought to be a fantasy until archaeologists bothered to do DNA testing of bones)  and she is doing the revisions (due on Wednesday) for the next Viking. You can learn more about Michelle and her books at .

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: Of Blind Dates and Rearranged Fixtures...

The Perfect Blind Date...
It's been quite a week. On Monday, OH and I appeared on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Then on Tuesday, the spotlight swung right away from us, as Son No. 1's much delayed visit to his prospective university went ahead at the third attempt. 

During the first week of April, I got an email from the team at our local radio station, BBC Radio Gloucestershire. They were planning a feature on blind dates. That's how I met my husband, and I'd included the detail in my LinkedIn Profile. A researcher picked up on it, and they contacted me. 

Led to this...
We were asked to get to the studio before 11am. It's near Gloucester Royal Hospital—a journey I've been making every couple of months for the past ten years to take our son for consultants' appointments. The journey is always a nightmare, so we set off at 9.45am to make sure we wouldn't be late. Wouldn't you know it? The traffic was so light, we arrived just after twenty past ten. That was a whole forty minutes early for our interview. Talk about looking keen!

Luckily, the studios of the BBC turned out to be a mini version of St Mark's Square in Venice—the place was full of  interesting people. Two guests came and went during our self-imposed wait, and both were fascinating.  Darren had been invited to talk about the difficulty disabled people face when trying to get tickets for, and decent access to, live music events. Stuart was an historian, working on the history of businesses in the area of Cheltenham around the Bath Road known as the Suffolks and Tivoli.  

While we chatted the waiting time flew by, and then we were led into Anna King's studio to take part in the live broadcast. I've often listened to Anna's morning programme, so appearing on it was a real treat.  Here's the link to the show. Anna has a great taste in music, and all the features are interesting. The blind date section starts at 2:10 on the slider. The Vox Pops and emails about people's romantic experiences are really worth hearing. Most were funny, but it was lovely to hear that Barbara from Cheltenham was married to her blind date for sixty happy years, and they had a large family together. 

Now Our Son's Heading Off To This!
Our own happy family is getting to the stage where the children are spreading their wings. On Tuesday, I took Son No. 1 to view the University of Gloucestershire's computing division. He's got his heart set on going there, but our first two attempts to visit the place were jinxed. Along with everyone else, we were snowed in on the original date of the University Open Day. A revised date was set...and we were snowed in on that day, too! This week we made it, at the third attempt. We had a good look round the campus and halls of residence, and we were impressed. Our son was pretty convinced it was the right place before we went. Now he's certain. That's good news for him, but it's bittersweet news for us. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago we were waiting for him to be born. That happy event happened in Gloucester too, so it's obviously a lucky place for our family.

Christina's next book, Women’s Lives In Bristol 1850-1950 will be published by Pen and Sword Books early next year. As well as her local history work, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her books have been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or beekeeping.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

Friday, April 13, 2018

On Writing: Series

It turns out that I've written a lot of series.  And most of them weren't intentional.

Yes, I'm an accidental series writer.

It all started with the first book I sold to Silhouette Romance.  Do You Hear What I Hear? was the story of a mother with a hearing impaired daughter.  I set it on Perry Square...a real area in Erie.  Only I added my own businesses to it (the real ones are lovely).  When I finished, I wondered what happened to everyone else on the Square and...well, I started thinking about a designer who needed legal help and a lawyer who needed a fiancĂ© fast...and discovered A Day Late and a Bride Short.  Then...  Well, my Perry Square series ended up with eight books in it.  Erie even got their own royalty in that series. (I think my town has everything...except maybe royalty, so I gave us that! LOL)

That need to know what happens's a writer's curse.  But it's a reader thing, too.  I can't tell you how many times a reader has asked for another book in a series.  More than that, specific character's stories.  It's one of the biggest compliments a writer can get.

I wrote Pip's story, Carry Her Heart, then I wrote another book, These Three Words, set in that same "world."  And then, in the middle of the book, I found Pip's daughter come into the chapel and cry and I realized that after I left Pip and Ned in their happily-ever-after, something happened.  I needed to know I wrote Hold Her Heart.

I work to make every book can stand alone, but readers can frequently tell that there's another book in the series.  I love when someone discovers there are more books and feel glee. 

One of the biggest writing tools an author has is the question, What If?  Those two words have become every book I've written.  But in addition to that question, another questions that fuels my writing is What Next? That's the question that fuels my series.

Back to's the thing, every book I write has held the promise of the happily-ever-after.  Even when something hard happens in their life.  I like to think in that way, my fiction represents real life.  Bad things happen...but we can find our way back to happy.

I think that's why I can move from Romantic Comedy to my more emotional Romance + stories, to Cozy Mysteries.  All of them answer that What If question and many answer What Next.  And every single one of them has a happily-ever-after.


PS I have a handy-dandy list of series in order on my website here Holly's Series.

PS It's a sales palooza week.  (Publishers just send me notices...I have no control most of the time and just like to pass them on.)

Hold Her Heart
Just One Thing
Everything But...series

Fairly Human

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring fever? with Kate Walker

I don’t know if it’s spring where you live – or if, on the other side of the  world you’re like my sister and heading into autumn, but here in the UK it’s supposed to be heading into – well into  - spring. I say that ‘supposed to be’ with resigned ruefulness  because  it might be April 12th – but at the moment there is no sign of spring. 

At least not in the weather – which is as grey and wet and  miserable as it has been all April long – and before that really.  There is an old saying that March is supposed to ‘come in like a lion and go out like a lamb’ . . .well, there was plenty of the ‘lion’ about March with snow blizzards and high winds and freezing temperatures  at the beginning of the month  - and at the end.   So that month never went out like a lamb but more like and even bigger, even wilder lion. And March has been much the same, apart from one lovely weekend that I spent at Cirencester Royal Agricultural University,running a writing retreat. So the weather was fine – and  so was the company – but I spent most of the days indoors and missed the sunshine.

And now, a couple of weeks into April, I’m still missing the sun!    But one  things I’m not missing are the other  signs of spring in different ways .  Our garden is full of birds singing their hearts out on the tops of the trees (those are the blackbirds) to announce to the world that they have a beautiful nest and are looking for a lady to share it with.  Then there are the starling family who come and  gobble down the suet and seeds in the fat balls  hanging on a lower branch of another tree, or on the birdhouse.  And  Tim Robin  and his mate come down to feed on the ground, eat suet cakes with insects in them ready to feed the hatchlings from their eggs in their nest.

All these mean extra extra jobs for me to do  as I fill up the feeding trays and the hanging feeders.  And now that the days are getting a little warmer – I said ‘a little’, it’s not much – there is another job, another set of critters to feed. The hedgehogs who live at the bottom of the garden have woken up from their hibernation and they are hungry!  They wander about in the night looking for food to strengthen them after months of being curled up in the straw in their special wooden houses to sleep away the worst of the winter. They  must regret poking their noses out because as soon as they venture into the garden it’s so cold and wet and windy that they will wonder if it really is spring.
I’ve just been out to fill up all the feeder bowls and trays and I can see little paw prints in the mud so I know they’re around.

So although the weather is distinctly doubtful,  I’m still going to call it Spring – and hope that from now on the days will brighten and the sun will appear.  I think we  all need it.
But at least the book I’m working on revisions for opens in the middle of a wild and blustery rain storm  - so the weather outside is proving some sort of inspiration, if not the beauty of nature waking up in spring.  Oh well –  as the rhyme goes:
March winds and April Showers
Bring forth May flowers.

We’ve had the first two (though it’s been April downpours, not showers) so I’m hoping for plenty of those  flowers!

Raoul Cardini will have his revenge!
His preferred method? Ruthless, irresistible seduction!

Imogen O’Sullivan is horrified when charismatic tycoon Raoul breaks up her engagement and makes her his own convenient bride! She once surrendered everything to Raoul—body, heart and soul. But as he stalks back into her life it’s clear he has punishment in mind—not just passion! Can Imogen resist Raoul’s potent brand of delicious vengeance?

You can read more about me and my books on my web site and my blog -  and catch up with me too on my Facebook page

Monday, April 09, 2018

Best Man and the Runaway Bride - Kandy Shepherd

One of my very favourite things about being a romance writer is I get to write the kind of stories I  love to read!

 I've always been a sucker for a runaway bride story (or movie!) and thoroughly enjoyed writing my July release for Harlequin Romance, Best Man and the Runaway Bride. There's a scene very like this one in the book, only the bride heroine fleeing her wedding ends up in the arms of the best man when running in her bare feet becomes a little difficult!

I also love an exotic setting, preferably an island. Last year I had an amazing vacation on the small Indonesian island of Nusa Lembongan – just the right romantic setting for an important part of this story! In fact I wrote some of the story while I was on the island—a writer really takes a break!

Here’s the blurb for Best Man and the Runaway Bride :  

Scandal at a society wedding!

Can he resist the runaway bride?

After helping Nikki Lucas flee her high-society wedding, privacy-loving best man Max Conway never expected to be accused of having an affair with the bride! As the media scandal dies down, he escapes to a remote island—and comes face-to-face with Nikki! Their connection is undeniable but she’s completely off-limits. Yet as the sun sets in paradise, both are struggling to resist…

Kandy Shepherd’s Best Man and the Runaway Bride is a July 2018 release from Harlequin Romance in North America; Mills & Boon True Love in the UK; and Mills & Boon Forever Romance in Australia and New Zealand. 

Kandy Shepherd is a multi-published, award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends.

Visit Kandy at her website

Connect with Kandy on Facebook Twitter Pinterest and Instagram