Sunday, January 27, 2019

Kid Characters

by Joanne Rock
My cartoonized profile
pic from a reader friend!

My first writing love will always be romance, so kid characters are never my central focus. But I dearly love it when I have a child in a story because they are so much fun to write. From teens to babies, the differences in personality, gestures and actions are so vastly different from one year to the next. Think about it… between the time you are thirty and forty, does all that much change about you? Maybe you tweak your hair cut or color. But in a child, the difference of ten years is a whole world. So to write any age authentically means research.

My first stop is often my family photo albums. Because what better case studies do I have than the kids that I raised? I had a front seat to watch them grow through all stages. To marvel at their new mastery of skills day by day, seeing how they changed from adorably dependent little baby bundles to the amazing young men they are today.

Bachelor dad falls for nanny
to his nephew
For my January release, THE RANCHER’S BARGAIN, the story set up was given to me because it is part of the Texas Cattleman’s Club series. That means the Harlequin editors dream up the rough concepts and outline character basics, then I write a fifty thousand word story based on a couple of outlined pages. It’s a fun challenge. And for this particular story, I was given a toddler named Teddy.

In one important way, he was very different from any of my boys in that he’d lost his birth parents at a young age. When we meet him, he’s been given to his bachelor uncle to raise—a good-hearted with man with no knowledge of parenting. Is it any wonder my toddler character acts out in unpredictable ways after so much injustice in his young life?

But in so many other ways, Teddy was a boy I absolutely recognized. While my heart hurt for all Teddy had lost, he also has the gift of toddlerhood that allows him to find joy in the moment no matter what happened the day before. Tears to giddy laugher and back again comes with the age. So when my baby-loving nanny steps onto the scene, she can find this boy’s smile in no time.

One of my three favorite toddlers-- my middle
son being sweetly adorable. Yes, that's a
sock in his mouth.
I love the irreverent goofiness of this age. The way a toddler will go full throttle at whatever they try—running down a hill, climbing a bookcase (you know they try it), throwing their sippy cups across a crowded restaurant. It’s amazing what a toddler can do. Who would guess their arm had enough range to ping the man seated at the next table? Toddlers can be exasperating, yes. But so amazing and fun. And you won’t find a more loving age than this one, when sticky hugs and kisses are given with abandon, declarations of love made on a regular basis once the find their words. It’s enough to make a mother’s heart—or a nanny’s, or a bachelor’s—swell with joy.

**Do you have any toddlers in your life? Enjoy a certain age of childhood in particular? Share with me in the comments and I’ll give a random poster a copy of an earlier Texas Cattleman’s Club book, Expecting a Scandal. In the meantime, I hope you’ll keep an eye out for THE RANCHER’S BARGAIN in stores!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

You Can Make Lasting Change by Michelle Styles

It is now just over two weeks into the New Year and the shining new resolutions look far less shiny and bright. It is far easier to fall into old habits and to think you can never change. This is not true and it is your limbic system (the flight or fight part of the brain) speaking. Meaningful change never just happens. There is always false starts and falls off the bandwagon. The people who make the changes permanent do so because they see the change as being important, rather than the fall.  They don’t  see it as a perfectionist all or nothing. It is more about the overall picture and trying until you succeed..
When I first became serious about my writing, the easiest thing would have been to give up. In fact, various people  suggested that I would. After all, I had wanted to be a writer from the age 12 and there I was 38, never having written a complete manuscript.   I would get to about the first page, not even the first chapter and find something else to occupy my time but oh how I wanted to be a published author. I knew I had stories to tell inside me. I knew I could write.

 Getting ill with gallstones changed me. It made me realise that I wanted to do something for me.  Equally I didn’t just sit down in three days and write a novel which was instantly accepted. It took me several months and then I received a form letter in the post so fast from Harlequin/Mills & Boon, it made my head spin. However, getting that form rejection letter really spurred me on. My immediate goal became — the next time, they will not be able to dismiss me that easily.
I went back to basics and wrote another manuscript and sent it off. It was over Christmas and I hoped for a slow response. It was a quick one — a request for the full manuscript from a proper editor. That one was eventually rejected as well, but next one (a hugely revised version of my first manuscript) went to revisions and I gained an editor who was willing to work with me and answer questions.  It took several more manuscripts and a change of series to Historical (the editor was hugely support of this) for me to sell to Harlequin.  By that time, the editor had left the company after giving the manuscript we had worked on to her senior editor.  I then had a very long wait of nearly a year while the manuscript was reviewed and then revised.  Since June 2005, I have written 27 more books which Harlequin Historical has purchased. I am currently waiting on my editor’s thoughts for the 28th one and  there is more to come.

If I had given up at the first hurdle, at the first rejection or when the words became tough in the first manuscript, none of this would have happened. So if you feel overwhelmed by not fulfilling your New Year’s resolutions, start afresh today. Make the change happen. It may lead to something wonderful. Persistence worked for me.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical, her latest Sent as the Viking’s Bride is out now. Visit Michelle Styles’s website  for more information about her and her books.
Read a little of Sent as the Viking's Bride.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: Oranges and Lemons

When I’m not writing, I like to grow delicious things to eat. This has been a great year for my collection of citrus trees. They're not keen on English weather, so I grow them in big tubs and keep them in a greenhouse between September and May. In early summer, I wheel them outside and line them up in the sunshine—or what passes for sunshine 800 feet up a breezy, east-facing Gloucestershire hillside!

Part of our crop 
My interest started one Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day). I told the children I'd love to try growing our own lemons. Three weeks later, on the day before Mothering Sunday, a mysterious parcel arrived. It was a little Meyer lemon tree—a present from my daughter.

We had some good crops from that tree over the next few years. Sadly a very long, cold and wet winter finished it off. Citrus fruit don’t like too much moisture, and the atmosphere inside the greenhouse was too damp for it. 

That lemon tree’s successor had almost sixty fruits on it this year. Lemon curd made with eggs from our hens is a million times better than the stuff sold in the shops. It’s a lovely deep yellow colour too, thanks to those golden organic yolks.

My orange tree only has one ripe fruit!
As well as a lemon tree, I have a Tahiti lime, and a Seville orange fruiting at the moment. I bought a small yuzu bush earlier this year, but that will need to be a bit older before it produces any flowers. 

It will soon be marmalade-making time, but my single ripe orange won’t produce enough peel and juice on its own. I’ll have to buy some fruit to add to it!

The tahiti lime is fruiting for the first time. Until this morning it has fifteen fruit on it. Now there are only eleven left, as I made what Tesco calls Key Lime Pie. I’m not sure what Florida residents will think about the recipe, but it was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. 

This picture is courtesy of Pixabay—my basic pie looked the same, but the presentation was so much prettier I used this photo instead of my own. 

Have you ever grown anything exotic?

Christina Hollis's first non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol will be published by Pen and Sword Books on 28th February 2019. You can find out more about that here, catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebookand see a full list of her published books at

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pop vs. Soda

I'm went to Susan Gable's this weekend to film more Trippin' with Holly and Susan videos. They're so much fun to make because they're really just the two of us gabbing. That's something we do well and with ease. We talk about anything from our writing/books, to pop vs. soda. Yes, that's a thing. Different regions have different words for the same thing. It's not just a US thing.

I have some lovely UK friends. One of them taught me that the word knackered meant tired. It was a big conference so I was knackered a lot of the time.  I happened to mention my knackeredness to my dear friend, Kate Walker (who also blogs here) and she said I shouldn't be knackered because it meant tired, but in an "after-glow" sort of way.  Uh, Himself (my husband) was in Erie and I was not, so I definitely wasn't that kind of knackered. When I mentioned it to my other friend, she said that wasn't right. So we went to the ultimate authority, some English editors. They said I could indeed be knackered even though Himself was in Erie. LOL And then it was agreed that Kate had a dirty, dirty mind. (Said with a very English accent and a smile, so it was endearing.)

Regionalisms. They're more fun than you think. You can listen to my discussion with Susan here...
(Yes, she won the Pigs in a Blanket debate!)

We post videos (most) Mondays and Fridays. You can follow them on FB, or I park them all here on YouTube.

I will say that when I'm knackered, I do love a good pop! 



Check out 2018's releases!!
(And keep an eye out for 2019's! There are a bunch!):

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

The appeal of the single dad

There’s something very appealing, isn’t there, about a loving dad and his sweet baby?

I had a friend who was a single dad with a dear little girl. He went on a walking vacation with her in a backpack and said he couldn’t get over how much female attention he attracted. I told him I didn’t know why he was so surprised!

I like to challenge myself in my writing. My February release for Harlequin Romance, Second Chance with the Single Dad, is my first “single dad” story. It’s also my first “friends to lovers” story.

Girl-next-door schoolteacher Georgia Lang and handsome self-made millionaire Wil Hudson go way back as “just friends.” They know each other so well they claim to read each other’s thoughts. But not everyone wishes the platonic friends well and the friendship ends abruptly and painfully. What happens when Wil becomes a single dad to adorable baby Nina and asks Georgia for help? Can they salvage the friendship—and perhaps acknowledge the tiny flickering flames that just might have been there all along?

Here's the blurb for the story:

From long-lost friends...
To newfound family?

“Georgia and Wil were best friends until he married and disappeared from her life. Now he’s back, asking Georgia to forget the past and help him secure his future—the daughter he never knew he had! Georgia’s heart goes out to new dad Wil, but there’s an uncharted chemistry fizzing between them and she must protect her heart. Can they confront their unspoken attraction and finally become a family?”

I’m always seeing on social media happily married couples saying they married their best friend. Do you think friends-to-lovers is a good basis for a happy relationship? Or do you prefer the quick flare of instant attraction?

I’d love to see your comments! Post a comment to be in the draw for a signed copy of my new release Second Chance with the Single DadPlease include your email contact if you’d like to be in the draw.

Second Chance with the Single Dad is a February 2019 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

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

So Many Changes! By Susan Sands

Let me start by wishing everyone a very happy new year!! My life mirrors the old adage of "out with
Our Boudreaux
 the old and in with the new" like never before. I've complained incessantly on this blog as we've had three contracts on my house fall through over the last two years. We had so much hope and then excitement turned into bitter disappointment as the sales fell apart.

But, just before Christmas, we finally sold the old unique property we'd lived in for the past eighteen years. Hurray!! After two-and-a-half years on the market and a new realtor, the sale went the distance to closing. We lost our shirts as expected but the home is now a lovely memory as the place where our kids grew up. It was their childhood home and the place of many Christmases past, along with birthdays and other important milestones in our lives.  But we are thrilled to wave goodbye and move forward and embrace the next chapter.

Unfortunately, our sweet love, our family dog of eight years, Boudreaux, had been declining all the while we were packing and moving. We lost him the day after the move three days before Christmas. He was suffering from a neurological condition and a spinal tumor that affected his hind legs. I can hardly type this without tears.

Boudreaux's counterpart pup, Watson, has rolled with so much change in losing his sidekick and moving to a new place with amazing grace. I can tell he wonders and looks for Boudreaux and I wish I could explain it all to him puppy style.

There are still a few boxes left to unpack and moving from a giant house to a townhome has been a massive feat. I've donated so many things even after having an estate sale last year where I unloaded most of my furniture, rugs and art. I sold the baby grand piano just before I moved. So, I thought I was ready for the sizing down. Ha. Not so much.

Change has come to us in ways we've hoped and some we feared, but time moves forward and now we're embracing this new year in new surroundings with one less family member.

Again, Happy New Year to you and yours!! May it bring all the good and none of the bad.