Friday, November 16, 2018

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Back in 2010, my sister came home from Australia for Christmas. You can't see it, but she's pregnant with her first, who is now a boy of 7. (She's on the left, then me, my daughter on my right and my middle sister on the far right.)

In June of 2016, they were here again. Here's my daughter holding my niece, three at the time, now five.

Yes, we decided on a barbecue and thus it rained cats and dogs and hens and swine that day. The poor wee Aussie cousins got to experience a Canadian 'summer.' But we had a ball and my sister said she would bring the kids back for Christmas in 2018, so they could experience a white Christmas. (I tell ya, if we only get rain this year, I'll be shaking my fist at the skies.)

So for two solid years, we have been planning this nice, big family Christmas. Middle sister is coming from Winnipeg (three provinces over.) My kids, who are now grown and living elsewhere are coming. It was shaping up to be so great.

And then... May. Floods.

My parents, who had a full suite in their basement, wound up with twelve feet of water in there instead. Their alternate, reliable accommodation, their fifth-wheel trailer, was also submerged.

Here they are looking in the direction of their house, which is behind the ones you can see. Shocking, right?

But they were safe and are actually back in their house now, but they were with us for two months while the water receded and the basement was gutted and treated. They're extremely lucky that their top floor was untouched and that's where most of their living space was.

So they're back in their home and things are fairly normal, except all that extra accommodation for family is gone. The walls in the basement are still bare studs, the floors bare concrete. No problem, right? Insurance will restore it? Here's the plot twist...

The local government wants to appropriate their house and set reinforced dykes pretty much where their house sits. But they have to wait for higher levels of government to approve it. So my parents are in limbo. They don't want to sink a pile of money into refinishing the basement only to be told they have to move.

My sister said maybe she shouldn't come home with things in such disarray. All of Mom's Christmas went into the dumpster with so many other family heirlooms.

In the end, however, we decided that Christmas arrives even in times when things aren't ideal. It's kind of the point of it.

So we're going to pull together as a family and make decorations with the kids and they're going to sleep in rooms with blankets hung for walls and if I have my way, we'll even trek into the bush to drag a live tree into the house. A pioneer Christmas, if you will.

What else should we do? These kids are used to having a barbecue at Christmas. They've never seen snow. What makes Christmas for you and your family?

~ * ~

Dani's latest release is Wedding at Mistletoe Chalet, a sweet, wholesome reunion romance and it's available on all digital platforms now.

Eager for a warm and cozy Christmas… 

In the midst of a changing career, Kristen Benz leaps on the temporary job at Mistletoe Chalet. Soon she’s wrapping presents, trimming the tree, and helping her new boss’s tween daughter plan a Christmas Eve vow renewal for her parents. The holiday is imbued with a magical glow—especially when Kristen’s high school sweetheart appears on the doorstep.

After years of medical school, Finn Garrett has promised his parents he’ll be home for the holidays. His detour to see his first love is supposed to provide closure, not rekindle their long-ago romance.

Can a matchmaking tween and the magic of Mistletoe Chalet spark the happily ever after that eluded them in the past?

Wedding at Mistletoe Chalet is out now. Buy links are here.

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with some laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life.

Mostly she writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of nearly fifty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy.

When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. She lives in Christina Lake, BC with her high school sweetheart husband who occasionally coaxes her out of her attic office to visit their grown children.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Becoming a British citizen: Michelle Styles

5 November is a day of bonfires and fireworks in the UK. However this year, it was a momentous day for me because I finally became a British citizen. I retain my US citizenship but after living over here for thirty years I admitted this was my home.
The ceremony was far more moving than I thought it would be. The words of welcome meant a lot and people from Poland, Ireland, China and Malaysia also participated. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony, do. It will restore your pride in your country.  The people who are going through it have made a choice to take on the responsibilities of being a citizen and have jumped through all the legal hoops.
People often joke about getting another passport or changing your citizenship as if it is not big deal. I beg to differ. Even becoming a dual national was huge for me. It has to do with the responsibilities of citizenship.
So how did I go about it? I decided to start the process on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding day. There were many reasons for it including the Windrush scandal which showed me how vulnerable you can be as an ex-pat.
Michelle Styles receiving her British citizenship
The first thing I had to do was to the take the Life in the UK test. Because I am a native English speaker, I didn’t have to take the English test. I understand from friends who are not native speakers that it is actually very difficult to pass.
 You can do a sample Life in the UK test online and it may seem easy. However, something like a third of people who attempt it don’t pass the first time. There is a book called Life in the UK and the questions can be on anything from the book — from British history to poets and painters to the legal system including laws about forced marriage and FGM and everything in between. I learnt about painters who I had never heard of and the fact that the first Indian restaurant was started in 1810 (it eventually failed), and the proprietor (who had eloped with an Irish woman) went to Bath  and became hugely successful at running a health spa. He was also the one who brought the concept of shampooing to Britain. Shampoo is an Indian word meaning head massage.
 I knew too much history and was tempted to argue that scholars do not now consider Kenneth McAlpin to have even existed but recognised that it was for the test. I did loads of sample questions and felt ready for the test at the beginning of June.
When you know something counts, it becomes a bit more terrifying. I was not allowed to take my phone, watch or earrings into the test. It does show the lengths that some people will cheat! But I did pass.
After that came the many hours of filling the form out and paying the £1330 in addition to the test cost for my application to be considered. I also had to have my fingerprints electronically taken plus get my passport sorted out. The great part was that I finally visited Durham cathedral and saw the oldest embroidery in the UK as well because the biometric machines are few and far between and Durham was one of the closest. The other in the North is in Penrith.
 The hardest part was finding the documentation to support the fact that I had been living in the UK for the requisite time. This may eventually prove problematic for the Duchess of Sussex because you have to show you have been physically present in the UK for 3 years minus no more than 270 days in that period.  Waivers are not available. The law applies to both the Royalty and commoner alike.
 My US  passport has stamps but I had to produce other supporting documentation with little help from the website. Thankfully the US makes all of its citizens file tax returns (Iran apparently is the only other country to tax worldwide).
Once everything was submitted (to my surprise I was told that several weeks before someone had come in with a Leave to Remain visa dating from the 1970s, so mine from 1988 wasn’t truly that old), I then had to wait and wait.
I cried when I opened the letter saying that all I needed to do was to attend my citizenship ceremony.  Because on one level, I knew there was no reason for refusal but on another, there have been so many scare stories in the British press about refusals.  But mainly because the act of belonging is a very powerful emotion.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published on 18 December 2018 in the US and 27 December 2018 in the UK. To learn more about Michelle and her books visit

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: A Learning Experience

Beautiful, isn't it? Pic via Pixabay
I can't believe how quickly my first term at university is passing. It's flying by. I assumed it would be only my writing that saw the benefit of a Masters course at the University of Gloucestershire. Instead, it's proving to be invaluable in all sorts of ways. 
My navigating, driving, parking, and socialising skills are all improving in leaps and bounds. I can now find my way around Cheltenham pretty well (both on foot and by car), I've learned the best lanes to be in during rush hour (because there's so much traffic you can't always see the lane markings). I always used to go shopping very early, so there was plenty of room to park. My university schedule means that's no longer an option. I've had to get used to reversing into the very last parking space in a packed car park (driving a tiny car helped with that one!).  Workshopping as part of a group of ten isn't half as bad as I thought it would be, now I've got used to everyone.
I'd recommend further education to everyone. You're never too old to learn something new!
Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Between the Words

Between the Words

You met Alice in These Three Words. And now she's got her own story, well, part of a story!! It's out today!!

Alice had the perfect life...which fell apart when her husband's pregnant mistress showed up at her door.

Olivia was leading an imperfect life until it fell together when she met her cheating boyfriend's other woman...his wife.

Two Women.

Two Romances.

Two Happily-Ever-Afters in this final installment to Holly Jacobs' bestselling Words of the Heart series.

Life happens between the does love.

I hope you'll check out this newest book in the Words of the Heart series! Each book completely stands alone, but if you've read them all, you'll find the connections!

I'm happy to announce the first three books are on sale this week for $.99!! If you're missing any, this is a great time to pick them up! 
 My love of affair with pottery continues but my bowl-palooza has ended. I made 50 bowls for this spring's Empty Bowl fundraiser. Okay, I made a few more than that! I made one to give away to one of you! You just have to promise to be kind...these are better than when I started, but I'm no expert! It's in the kiln now. I'll glaze it next week. So keep an eye on your email in December. I'll announce the winner near Christmas! How do you enter? It's open to any newsletter subscriber!!

Books and ceramics. That's the biggest happenings in my life other than family. And the family is keeping me hopping! We went to Gettysburg at the beginning of the month. It rained the whole ride down, but the weekend ended up being lovely! The leaves were at their prime! I love Pennsylvania!

I hope you enjoy the new book, Between the Words. Don't forget that the PTA Mom series is available in one Collection that includes a bonus story!  The first story is Once Upon a Thanksgiving...a great way to start the holiday season!! And Quincy Mac's 5th book, Polished Off, is out as well!

I'm signing up for spring term tomorrow...yep another ceramics class is on the list! So you can be sure you'll be seeing more pieces. In the meantime, Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!!


PS If you have a minute, I'd really appreciate it you review the books you've read! Those reviews are a great way to help other readers find my books!

Monday, November 12, 2018

'Dull' November? WIth Kate Walker

When I was  growing up, I remember that my mother always used to quote from a poem that she had learned  as a girl.  It started with these lines:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

And then went through all the months, rainy February, breezy March, hot July . . .  But I’d forgotten what the poem said about November. So I looked it up:

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves go whirling past.

Well, that’s certainly been the way the weather has gone the last week or so.  Dull, windy – lots of leaves falling from the trees. And when the clocks changed, being put back an hour, it seemed as if darkness had suddenly fallen so very early. The evenings closed in, the sun – such as it was – disappeared. It  was so hard to deal with at first. It reminded me of another poem- this one by Thomas Hood:

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

Oh dear.  Summer was definitely over. Autumn (Fall)  seemed to have gone too.  It was cold and miserable . . . but then  we lit the first proper fire of the year. And instantly everything changed. The flames licked at the coal, burning it steadily until it glowed red and warm.  The cats came and sat in front of the flames, curling up on the rug – or stretching out to get the heat along every inch of their bodies.

And I rediscovered the joy of curling up in an armchair,  a blanket over my legs -  and sometimes a cat on top of that blanket for extra warmth – and best of all a lovely thick, absorbing book to lose myself in as I read.

I love sitting on a beach – or out in the garden with a chance to read  and the sun on my back. But really, that just doesn’t compare with the delight of settling down in front of a real, blazing fire, with a book I want to read and a long dark evening in which to read it. I don’t even notice the darkness outside, or the cold. I lose all awareness of the wind or the rain.
Perhaps it’s something like going back to my childhood when my sisters and I used  to gather round the fire and Mother would read to us – or perhaps it’s   the thought of images I’ve seen of Victorian families reading by firelight – but there’s something special about those long, cosy nights  - with a good book.

And I have such a huge TBR pile that I can’t wait to settle down in the evenings and start to make my way through it.  I have more than enough books to last me between now and Christmas and – who know – there may well be some new titles under the Christmas tree (I’m sure there will  be!!)  so that they’ll keep me happy  right through until the next Spring.

What about you? Do you prefer to read  inside , snug and warm in winter – or do you long for the long hot summer days to read outside or on the beach?

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

Friday, November 02, 2018

Making Progress--Finally! Susan Sands

Hello, friends! Fall has finally begun to tiptoe its way into the South, Georgia specifically. I'm finally making some real progress in finishing my novel in progress. The past year has proved to be one that put a rope around my waist and pulled and tugged me back every time I tried to make headway or forward progress with my writing. No longer.

I plan to finish my new book within the month and hope it is in keeping with what my agent has in mind for this story. Obviously there will be editing and some rewriting, but typing the words, THE END, will be a personal victory for me with this novel.

Written in first person, this story is far different from anything I've attempted before. I'm excited to see what becomes of it. I'm not turning my back on what I love though, which is Southern women's fiction, and have plans for more stories that fall within a similar vein of my Alabama books to follow.

I hope everyone is enjoying the somewhat cooler weather and looking toward the holidays with anticipation of family get togethers and lots of stuffing, no matter where you are.

I plan to spend Thanksgiving on Lake Burton up in the North Georgia mountains with my family and in-laws. There is no more beautiful place on earth to me in the Fall.

The photo to the right was taken last year near the boat dock after a rain. Notice the amazing rainbow.

Happy reading and writing to everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Susan Sands