Monday, August 27, 2018

Writer's Life Top Ten

by Joanne Rock

Writer conferences are good perks! With Catherine Mann
Being a writer isn’t all fun and games. The down side involves lots of isolation, not much affirmation, rejection no matter where you are in your career, and constant preoccupation that makes it tough to focus on anything but the work in progress. Being an optimist, however, I choose to focus on the positives. So here’s my personal top ten list for what I love most about being a writer.

1)     Work in pajamas. Every day. That’s as much fun as it sounds. My pajama game is strong, and I have cute pairs for all occasions.
2)     No alarm clock. Now that my youngest has finished high school, I have no reason to wake with the roosters and can sleep until I’m no longer tired. There’s no better recipe for mental clarity than getting adequate rest.
3)     Flexible schedule. Sometimes my family needs me—for days on end. I can put down a book and pick  it up later, which is a wonderful perk. As long as a book is done by the deadline, it doesn’t matter if I work hardest in the early days, the middle days, or if I write non-stop for the last week before a deadline.
4)     It’s a fun topic for cocktail conversation. If I tell someone I’m a writer at a party, it’s not a way for me to talk about myself. It’s the ultimate ice breaker for other people to chat about themselves. Because the line “I’m a writer” is always answered—sooner or later—with “Have I got a story for you.”
5)     Research trip! Exploring new places is one of the best ways to heighten creativity and inspire new stories. It’s not quite the same as a vacation, but it’s darn close.
6)     I write what I love. I choose the storylines and the characters, so there’s no one to blame but myself if I’m not having fun with a story. I try to mix up tropes and character types to keep my storytelling fresh and my Muse engaged.
7)     Sexy times. Does that ever get old?
8)     Romance. My genre is the best one because the hard work my characters put into their relationships always pays off. I realize that’s not always true to life, and that good, deserving people have their hearts broken. But those aren’t my stories. I can focus on the relationships where effort and sacrifice are rewarded.
9)     Readers. Love of romance brings a wonderful group of like-minded book-lovers into my life every day. I have made lifelong friends because of what I do.
10)  The emotional reward of creating something meant to be enjoyed. Hearing from a reader “I loved your book” or “Your book gave me a welcome escape when I was going through a hard time” is incredibly fulfilling.

So I’m on deadline this week, and even though this is when writing is toughest, I choose to focus on the positive. I feel fortunate to do what I love every day. What about you? Do you have a favorite aspect of work that you do? Share with me for a chance to win a copy of any book from my 2018 backlist!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Closing Down Summer

Photo Courtesy: Photo by Todd DeSantis on Unsplash
I know, I know, it's still August...we haven't even hit Labor Day! But, for us, summer is basically over because school is back in session this week. And, I have to say, I'm kind of ready for summer to be over.

The past few weeks have been a little weird. I'm a serious creature of habit. I like my routines. I like have a rhythm to my day. This summer it's been impossible to find a rhythm that sticks around for more than a week or two.

June started with bebe out of school, a very early birthday party for her, family visiting, and then more family visiting, and then a couple of graduation trips, and then another family visit.

Oh, and I've been writing. I've been working on a book that is...different from anything I've written before. It's scary and its exciting and its a writing rhythm I've never done before.

Before you think I'm whining, I'm actually not. While I am a definite creature of habit and I work well within an established framework, what this summer has taught me above all else is that I can adapt - my life, my writing, my favorite summer indulgences - into whatever new schedule I need to create. Here's what I learned:

1) I found that not only can I read in a car, I can write in a car when necessary

2) Sometimes you just have to bend. I had a Kindle filled with new reads at the beginning of this summer. Most of them are still there. I think I've read about ten books. That is a looooooow reading count for me, people. I also gave up weekly pedicures because I can do the same thing with my bubble tub and a pumice stone in half the time.

3) Sometimes what you think you know about your kiddo isn't what you know. bebe took a break from swimming this year (something I never thought would happen) in favor of learning karate. Her skills have quickly developed and I think she's more excited about karate than she ever was about swimming. I don't know when (or if) she'll pick swimming up again, but seeing her grow in different ways this summer has been so rewarding!

4) New rhythms can be the best of all. No, my summer didn't have the smooth, relaxing rhythm of, say, the Little Big Town song Pontoon. At times it might felt more like a ripped up, screaming version of The Rolling Stones' Start Me Up, but that weird, cacophanous rhythm got me through the summer and now, looking at Labor Day weekend, I met my goals.

I spent a lot of time with family. I saw bebe grow in new ways every day. I'm learning a different way of writing.

What about you? How has your summer been? And, if like mine it was mad, how did you survive?

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Kristina Knight’s newest release, Perfect on Paper, is out now. Daisy MacIntosh needs a man, and any man will do. After being jilted by her ex - who is also her boss - she needs a date to the company retreat in Mexico. The only problem? Daisy doesn't have time to find a guy, and her ex is hinting that he'd like this work trip to become a reunion romance. Stepping in to become Daisy's pretend boyfriend isn't the best idea Nick Vega has had, but it's the only one he's got. But are they willing to risk their life-long friendship for a romance that might fizzle once they're back home?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Return to Blue Spruce Lodge! - Dani Collins

Come on back for another visit to Blue Spruce Lodge, this time to watch Trigg discover how to be a dad when his twelve-year-old daughter appears. Her aunt, Wren, needs help in the parenting department, but Trigg is--for once in his life--out of his element and, as the title suggests, In Too Deep.

Like the first two books in this series, In Too Deep can be read as a stand-alone, but you'll visit with all the previous characters--including attend Rolf and Glory's wedding. Sky, Trigg's daughter, has her own opinions expressed on the page and Murphy, that rascal, is still turning up at inopportune moments.

Here's what reviewers are saying on Netgalley:
"This book had me laughing, crying and everything in between. A great read and I recommend it!" 
"This is a definite MUST read! This book keeps you engaged from start to finish. "
I loved revisiting the lodge, but most of all, I loved pushing Trigg way past his comfort zone. He's a thrill-seeker and a playboy, but man is he outdone by his adolescent daughter.

Wren is more introspective. I adored her, to be honest. And I felt for her, trying to be the best mom she could to a child who is infuriated by the changes that puberty is forcing upon her. Haven't we all been there?

Want to check into Blue Spruce Lodge? More info and buy links are here.

USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins writes sexy, witty, vibrant romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Tule's Montana Born, and herself.

Her latest book takes you back to the Montana Rockies where the Johanssens are struggling to build a family along with an elite ski resort. These gold-medal champions win by losing their hearts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: Curing my writing resistance (or attempting to)

One of the things about being a writer is that sometimes the words flow easier than others. It can be for a variety of reasons but I know I am in trouble when I keep finding excuses to do other things. There are often really good excuses for procrastinating. The trouble with procrastination is that the manuscript doesn’t get written if you are busy doing something else.
Over the past year, I have noticed my daily word count which used to be respectable has started becoming more and more pathetic. I didn’t have full blown writer’s block, but I definitely had resistance. So when a writer friend mentioned she was reading a book  Around the Writer’s Block by Roseanne Bane about the science of the brain and writer’s block, I knew it was something I had to read.
After all why write, when you can read about why you might not be writing?
 To my surprise, Bane has some very sound things to say about why a writer (any writer) might be avoiding writing. It has to do with the way your brain works. When you are under stress, your limbic system takes over. And even though you think you are in charge, you are really in panic mode. The big revelation for me was that I did not need to know why I had gone into panic mode, simply to acknowledge that I was and to refocus so that my cortex, the higher functioning part that allows me to write could take control. It was about recognising the pattern, rather than finding the source. She pointed out that acknowledging the fear is there is more important than examining precisely what the fear is.
She suggested a three part strategy – breaking your work down into process time, product time and self care as all three were important for writing. I was pleased to see with my daily exercise habit, I was doing good on the self care. But what was immediately clear — I had fallen down was scheduling my process time – ie free thinking time where my hands were doing something and my mind was allowed to think.  For a variety of reasons, I had stopped keeping a journal and had not done much needlework recently. I have started doing these things again and it is helping.  15 minutes of freewriting about whatever pops into my head first thing in the morning is great. Also instead of focusing on word count, I am focusing on the magic 15 minutes. For me this means working in 15 minute stretches where my focus needs to be on the work in progress. It is also the realisation that product time does include freethinking time, research, editing, revising and not just the raw word count.

It does take time to rewire your brain, particularly if it has been used to behaving a certain way. You need to keep doing the new habits so you can force out the old ones. I know this to be true from when I first started exercising seven years ago. You have to schedule and force habits until they become second nature.
In doing the magic 15 minutes when nothing is allowed to interrupt,  I have found that about the 7 minute mark, I have really have to refocus or I will find a reason to check my email, FB or something else. Until I had done this experiment for a few days, I had not really recognised that I did that.  But I can work for 15 min at a time and so I have started doing a series of 15 minute stretches. The net result is that my word count has gone up considerably  instead of stagnating and I am making significant progress on my latest Viking. 
Bane has a lot to say on rewards and finding out about your Saboteur. She also maintains a website and blog on engaging your creative brain which deals with some of the issues.
 I throw this out there in case someone else is suffering – not from writer’s block from resistance. I suspect the theory can apply to anything that you want to do well.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide variety of time periods. Her next Viking set historical Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published in January 2019. She is also brilliant at finding new and unusual ways to procrastinate but is currently hard at work on her next novel. You read more about Michelle and her books at

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Christina Hollis—What A Holiday!

Who says conferences are boring? The Romantic Novelists' Association's 2018 Conference held at Leeds Trinity University over the weekend of 13th-16th of July, was anything but dull. 

Our annual get-together is the perfect excuse to meet up with like-minded writers from all over the world. Most of the delegates are from the British Isles, but this year we had three stellar writers visiting from the United States; Andrea Penrose, Mary Jo Putney and Patricia Rice. They and their fellow member of the Word Wenches blog, current RNA Chair Nicola Cornick, held a panel entitled  "Two Nations, One Language of Romance?"

The RNA does a fantastic job each year, putting together a programme of talks, panels and entertainments. They make sure there's something for everyone. The only problem is, with so many things on offer it's often hard to choose. I made a big mistake in choosing a talk about self-publishing instead of one called From Baby-Wipes to Burlesque.  My friend went to the burlesque session and it turned out to be a workshop! There was dressing up and dancing involved, which was a lot of fun. 

There's been some bad news this week about my own dancing (although "dancing" isn't quite what I'd call my efforts!) which I told you about last month. After four weeks when attendances at Adult Ballet were down to me, one other dancer and the teacher, classes in our village have sadly come to an end. It's such a shame. Twenty-two people signed up when classes were offered, but no more than four of us ever turned up. That was on the first night—and three of those four were me, DD, and Son Number One! Are local events better supported where you live?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trippin' with Holly and Susan—19

I was posting today's Trippin' with Holly and Susan and realized that I had to blog...I thought it might be fun to talk about these videos here.

They started a couple months ago. Susan and I were taking a roadtrip from Erie, PA to Syracuse, New York to speak. She rolled the camera and we talked about writing, reading and books. We finished them all up and started a new batch around Erie. We both live here and set books here. I grew up here. We spent a day filming episodes around town, showing off some of our favorite downtown spots. It was a breezy summer day and my Medusa hair continued to make a break for it all day, but it was fun. I hope you enjoy this one, and if you want to catch up on some of the episodes you missed, you can find them on YouTube. We post new episodes on Mondays and Fridays.

Hope you enjoy the trip!


PS I have a few books on sale this week: Just One Thing (Paperback and ebook)
Hold Her Heart
Everything But....series

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It's an ill wind . . .

Some years ago . .  .eek! It was back in 2004  - so that means those 'some years' were in fact    fourteen years ago . . .

Anyway,  fourteen years ago I wrote a  How To Write Romance  Guide  called  Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. It started out as a  small,  self-produced pamphlet of just 24 pages  - that I had printed myself and took to the courses I ran so that  students could take it home with them when we had finished.

The original 12 Point Guide  was first published in 2004 and  it seemed that everyone had been waiting for it – and they found it so helpful. In that first year it won  2 awards from the Cataromance   site  - - the Reviewers’ Choice Award and the award for the most helpful book for writers.  I was thrilled when several newly published writers  - India Grey – Natalie Rivers – Natasha Oakley – Michelle Styles – all told me  that they felt  the 12 Point Guide had helped them on their way to publication. Since then there have  been almost 20 more. 

When the book went into its second edition  I  wanted to add a special section with advice from other authors – after all, my way isn’t the only way to do things!  So I asked around amongst friends who were fellow writers and I was so thrilled to find how many of them responded. As a result of their generosity in  sharing their experiences,  the From The Authors’ Desks section was  created and added a LOT to the original Guide.

But  there were problems with the distribution of the book.  Writers in America, Australia etc were having difficulties getting their hands on copies,  and when they did the books were very expensive. It was when the publisher was reluctant to produce ebook versions  that I decided to take things into my own hands. For a while I self-published the book, but still distribution internationally was a  problem.

But one thing that did come out of that was the fabulous new cover that the wonderful  Lee Hyat (the lovely lady who runs this blog  and Author Sound Relations  and who helped me set up  the new edition, the kindle edition – and most of all designed that amazing cover – thank you Lee!

That was when my husband started working with Emerald Guides (he wrote a Crime Writers’ Handbook  for them with a friend who was a detective in the London Met) – and the publisher asked it he could take over the 12 Point Guide – and all the distribution.  I was delighted to have that responsibility taken out of my hands -  but I realised that before they could publish the book it really needed to be revised and brought up to date.

   There were a lot of romance lines that were no longer published,  lines where the names had been changed . . .

So I revised the whole thing, added more details about how to submit by email,  tried to include all the new names for the lines-  but those can change so fast that I’m not holding my breath everything will stay bang up to date for ever!

The brand new, revised, updated edition is out now  and on sale  in both paperback and ebook form. It   still has that fabulous cover (again -  thank you   Lee!)  and  I took delivery of my author copies just before the RNA Conference last month.

But . .  . and here’s where the ill wind  bit comes in.  You probably can’t see but when I received my first delivery, I looked at the cover  where there is a fantastic quote from the great Michelle Reid . . .
“ A must-have for any aspiring romantic fiction writer. Brilliant. . . A page-turner all on its own.”  She said .

  Except that on that first delivery  there was a misprint and what it actually says is:
“ A must-have for any inspiring romantic fiction writer. Brilliant. . . A page-turner all 
on its own.”
Err. . .  No!   So the new printing had to be started again.

But it left me with some not-quite-perfect copies to  find a good home for.

Would you like one/ I have  a copy to give away today. If you don’t mind that small mix up on the front cover -  everything else is just perfect inside –  honest!

 So if  you’d like to tell me what you’re writing and why  you  think the 12 Point Guide can help you with your journey to publication . . .then leave a message in the Comments section below and I’ll get Charlie the Maine Coon cat to pick a winner on Monday morning.

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

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Conference in Colorado – Kandy Shepherd

 Last month I travelled from Sydney, Australia to Colorado, USA for the Romance Writers of America annual conference. I love the buzz of the conference where romance writers and publishing professionals from around the United States and the world gather. Of course a lot of fun and catching up with friends is involved! (Not to mention yummy meals.)

I started the conference with three days in wonderful Colorado Springs with two friends. What an awesome landscape! I need to go back and explore even more.

Then the conference itself—four days of meetings, talks and inspiration. The RITA awards for best romance novels published in 2017 was exciting and I had several finalist friends to cheer. Meeting with my wonderful editors from Harlequin Mills & Boon was such a pleasure—culminating in the amazing Harlequin author party. Catching up with industry news, attending workshops and chatting with fellow authors was inspiring and enervating.

However for this conference for me the highest of highlights was meeting some of the readers who attended the book signings. It was heart-warming to hear them thank me for the stories I write and tell me how my books not only entertain them but have helped them through illness and dark times. As an author, what more could I want to hear?

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 FacebookTwitter,Pinterestand Instagram

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Moving, Moving, Moving! By Susan Sands

We are scheduled to move the middle of this month. Fingers crossed all goes well with the closing on
our house! It's a local move--a downsize that's a long-time coming. Add to that my daughter's move to college, my middle son's move to a new apartment for college, and my oldest son's upsize with roommates. That one I'm not paying for!

With everyone in my family moving, it means the landscape of our world is changing permanently. Forever. We've lived in the same house for seventeen years. Our children were eighteen months, three years, and in second grade when we moved in 2001. It's the only home they remember--their childhood haven. You'll forgive me if I'm having a moment. My youngest is leaving for college in a week.

I've also been searching listings for a place to live. Has anyone done that lately? Such a big decision to make in a short amount of time. I can't even...

Someone asked me how the writing was going and when my new book was scheduled to release, and I think my stare resembled a cross between wild panic and goofy drooling confusion that made her question my sanity.

Yes, that's how the writing has gone the past month. I've missed it terribly! But sometimes life truly takes over, and without a deadline, I've allowed my passion for writing to take a back seat to the demands of now. But the story hasn't left me. In fact, it's been rolling ahead in my brain during this hiatus. I've solved some plot issues and worked out a timeline conundrum during the packing and hefting. Taking a writing break might just make things go more smoothly when I sit down and open the file. Or, so I like to tell my guilt-ridden self while away from the document.

Anyway, wish us luck with our huge changes. I look forward to the coming weeks, when, for better or worse, we will be on the other side of change.

I hope your summer has been a sweet combination of reading, picnics, and very few mosquitoes! I'm imagining summers' past in my head and wondering where the years went.

Enjoy the last weeks of the best time of the year!!

Susan Sands

Just a little late for Christmas in July!!