Saturday, April 27, 2019

When Life Gives You Lemons...

April has pummeled the heck out of me this year. It started off happily, as I was able to spend time
with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in years. I met her in New Orleans and we had days of “just us girls” time, which I love. But once I got home, things fell apart fast and I’ve been limping along ever since. Throw in a significant work deadline, and I’m exhausted—emotionally and physically, too.

I’m not here to complain… just maybe to commiserate, because I know you’ve all been there. Whether it’s a family crisis, a personal rift, a health scare, a death in the family or… well, there are many things that can wrong in a life on any given day, aren’t there? Anyway, picture a month that trampled you, and let’s talk about it for a minute.

It’s funny how when things start rocking in life, the reverberations are felt in every corner or your existence. Work feels harder. Tasks that you used to be able to knock off your to-do list easily start piling up and feel overwhelming. And the loneliness of going through a hardship is unique too. No matter how many friends you have, some hurts are yours alone, and there’s a sadness in having to bear those wounds by yourself.

I’m determined to shake off some of my hurts and worries as May begins. I’m not depressed in a clinical sense, so please don’t think I’m offering advice on how to battle something like that. I’m just talking about coming back from those life potholes that leave us bruised and saddened. Where to start to find joy after an emotional wound?

For starters, I’m choosing my safe places to talk openly very carefully. I’ve learned that venting too
much, or in too many directions, can only come back to bite me when well-meaning people in my life inadvertently remind me of the crisis down the road when I don’t want to think about it. So I share the hurts with just a few trusted souls, and find the balancing of venting enough to get the sting out, without overloading everyone I know.

Then, I’m exercising. And I don’t do the gym or anything strenuous, but I’m getting out every day to walk or ride my bike. Sometimes twice. The fresh air and moving around is always, always a good idea to change my perspective and helps me look outward. Eating well when I feel down is more important than ever too, since a poor diet when I’m down only succeeds in making my body feel as bad as my head and my heart!

You know else has been kind of helpful for me? Taking a mental inventory of my worries, figuring out if/how I can address them, making a plan to fix what I can, and then giving myself permission to bag up the rest and toss it out of my head. If I need to get up and write down my plan before I go to bed, I’ll do it. But once I write it, I can’t think about it anymore. I guess taking the worry out of my swirling thoughts and putting it somewhere else is what I find useful.

So, change focus, take of myself, share what I can of the burden, and then get back to doing the things I love until I can stop fixating on a hurt/loss. I hope I can find time to sleep a little more, too, but I know that’s not always an option when you’re going through a tough time. But small kindnesses to yourself count. You might not be able to sleep in on the weekend, but could you call a friend for coffee? Treat yourself to a new plant that will remind you of growing in a positive direction? Rearrange a room in a way that you find more cheery? My environment has a big impact on me, so things like that are good for me.

But I do think the prescription for getting through a tough time is uniquely personal. Ideally, we learn how to come back from life’s arrows more effectively over time. We strengthen our relationships with those who remain close to us. Hold hands with those we love and hope things get better. Certainly, we owe it to ourselves to nurture our spirits with the same tender kindness we’d show to a dear friend.

*What do you do for a pick me up when you need some emotional TLC? And let me share some kindness with you by sending a book to one commenter, because I always think romance is uplifting no matter what. And yes, I’m reading more this week! I’ll send one random poster an advance copy of my June Desire, Rancher in Her Bed.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

On Celebrating Art ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Photo Courtesty Paul Gilmore on Unsplash
"art is more than a product of your efforts - it should be about feeling, life, attitude, soul..." ~Sergio Bongart

I love this quote, and it seems to me to go with the picture over here. Because it's all about frame of mind. If you focus on the long, slippery, empty road, it's a rainy day...but if you focus on the sky, you can see the sun beginning to break through the clouds, the lushness of the green grass and trees, and you can see that the day is about to change.

Around here, this would turn into a muggy, humid yukky afternoon. The kind that requires a lot of cold beverages and a cool pool to float in. I imagine, with the mountains in the background, that maybe it wouldn't be so humid in the picture. Maybe the ground would remain wet and maybe the leaves on the trees would make that slippery sound as I walk through, and maybe the road would make that swooshy sound if a car were to pass by.

Back to the quote. To me, art is an amazing painting or a great photograph or a really well made quilt. It is something that I can look at, something I can't touch (because museums frown on that sort of thing), and that ability to only look and imagine might, in turn, change the way I look at things.

Which, I suppose, means the books I read (and write) are, in fact, art. Because while I can touch the cover, I can't reach out and touch the sunrise or the first kiss or that horrible, terrible black moment when all is lost. I can experience those things, but I can't touch them. Like I can't touch the paintings at the museum or the quilts on display at the county fair. However, if you ever hear me say something like, "I'm an ahhhtist", please feel free to slap me about the head, mmmkay? Back to the topic of art.

There are days when I look at my computer and I am the rainy, slippery, lonely road: I need to be avoided. I'm focusing on what is wrong with my book or characters or whatever kerfuffle abounds on the interwebz that day. Lately there seems to be a new kerfuffle every day and it's maddening and its tiring and I'm getting of the subject really quickly, aren't I? Those are the days when I'm in the wrong frame of mind. I'm missing that beautiful moment when the sunshine (a review, a new contract, a kind word from my agent or editor) breaks through  to change the day.

Those are the days when I remind myself to change my frame of mind. Not to focus on the slippery road of a bad review or another writer whose career seems to be going places faster than my own. Instead of that negative focus, I look for the sunshine breaking through. Maybe it's a new freelance job or maybe it's a "OMG, how did you make me like *him*" comment from my critique partner. Sometimes it's something wonderful happening for a dear friend. Sometimes it's a bebe moment of triumph. More often than not, that sunshine is as simple as re-reading a sentence that I wrote a week or a day or a month ago that makes me see a character (or something happening in my real life) in a different light. And I realize, even if things aren't all roses and success, that I get to do this wonderful, amazing thing. I get to tell stories and the stories that I tell might change the way someone looks at their corner of the world. Maybe just for a moment, but maybe, that change will be longer lasting. In either case, I've done my job well.

What is your art? How will you celebrate it today?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Moonlight Match, is available now! 

Moonlight Match is part of the Resort to Romance continuity project ~ 10 sweet romances, all set during a week-long matchmaking event in the Bahamas! 

Aster Harrington believes in love but love doesn’t seem to believe in her. She’s hoping Goldie and Ginny, the matchmakers who’ve matched on two generations of Harringtons, can work a little love magic for her…

Some call Ethan Talbot rigid, but he prefers to think of himself as prepared. Unfortunately, when he’s matched with Aster Harrington at Joy Island’s Matchmaking Week, all those carefully prepared plans go out the window. He can get back to finding a suitable wife once he’s home in New York. After all, how much damage can one week in the Bahamas do to his plans?

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Reflection and Resilience

I have a new book out this month, but I'll bury that news because today, as I write this, Notre Dame Cathedral is burning.

It's six or eight or nine hundred years old. (Every time I read a headline, it gets older.) I visited it some thirty-five years ago. The fact that I have this photo of this landmark in my weathered old photograph album, with snapshots taken on a film camera, has forced me to take a moment to consider how the loss of such an ancient building in our modern world makes me feel.

I'm not particularly religious, but I feel the magnitude of this event. I feel connected to the millions of people who have glimpsed this touchstone through the centuries. Perhaps you have sat inside its walls for prayer or reflection yourself?

Remember when we had time for such things? When we didn't fill our heads with the next item in the news feed? When we had to wait for our film to be developed to show people what we had seen and done? When we returned from vacation and waited weeks before we turned in our rolls of film to the one-hour developer?

The world has become such a busy, fractured place, yet I found myself talking about this with a lot of different people today. For the first time in a long time the world seems to have all glanced the same direction, paused in a moment of unnatural quiet, and agreed that this is a terrible shame.

It is upsetting, but according to this article on CBC website:
It was ransacked by rioting Protestant Huguenots in the 16th century, pillaged again during the French Revolution of the 1790s, and left in a state of semi-neglect. Hugo's 1831 work led to revived interest in the cathedral and a major "partly botched" restoration that began in 1844.
French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to rebuild fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral and says he is seeking international help to restore the Paris landmark.
That's heartening, isn't it? Despite the fact the entire world seems to be burning down on a daily basis (according to my social media feeds) this devastated cathedral continues to symbolize a tremendous resilience. I have no doubt that it will be restored and that the restoration will bring people together in its own way. Believing that brings me a lot of comfort.

How are you feeling about this loss?

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. Her latest Harlequin Presents, Innocent's Nine-Month Scandal, is on shelves now.

Watch for a related story, Innocent's Pregnancy Revelation, to appear as a free, serialized short story on starting April 22, 2019.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A new Harlequin Historical Author -- Joanna Johnson by Michelle Styles

Once upon a time about last September, I went to the annual Association of Mills & Boon Authors lunch and then to the Toast to the Authors. As I went into the toast, an editor waylaid me -- she had that day telephoned a new author to buy her book for Harlequin Historical. She'd been very nervous as she was about to go on sick leave for a few weeks and did not want to delay one second as she wanted the story scheduled as soon as possible. Luckily the woman in question had answered and all was fine. The editor loved the book and wanted to ensure the author in question was scooped up by the other Historical authors because she had taken to heart my little talk about hard it can be for new authors as it is a steep learning curve. It was the first time I had seen an editor immediately post call and believe me they are every bit as thrilled and excited as the author in question. They love finding new talent.They want to nurture that talent and they are secretly hoping when manuscripts get returned that they do get the chance to buy so other people can get the same thrilling read.

Anyway, as requested  I scooped up Joanna Johnson who was still in that state of pleased bemusement. I was thrilled to do so as it can be such a daunting experience to be new. And she agreed to tell her side of the story: 

I definitely didn’t expect to get ‘The Call’ while 100 miles away from home, standing in my parents’ kitchen.

I’d sent the full manuscript for my first historical romance, The Marriage Rescue, off to Julia Williams at Harlequin a few weeks before. She had given me some very useful and encouraging feedback on an earlier draft, but I assumed her emailed request to phone me was to explain my rewrites hadn’t quite hit the mark. You can probably imagine my reaction then when instead of a kind rejection she offered a two-book contract – I think only bats and dolphins could have understood my squeaking! Being a published author was something I’d always dreamed of but never expected would really happen, so it took quite some time to sink in. It still hasn’t fully, although I’ve had fantastic support and a very warm welcome from the Romance community.

The heroine of The Marriage Rescue is the feisty Selina, a young Roma woman left with little choice but to marry country squire Edward. Roma culture has always interested me and I wanted to explore one of my favourite timeframes, the Regency era, through that lens. It was fascinating to research more deeply the customs and way of life of those on the road in 19th-century England, contrasting sharply with the Jane Austen-esque world that was more familiar. Travellers faced such abuse and prejudice, reflected in Selina’s somewhat spiky demeanour – developing her personality was one of the things I enjoyed most about writing the book, as well as her struggle to overcome some prejudices of her own.

I think what I love most about historical romance fiction is the escapism. While writing The Marriage Rescue I could step into the shoes of a completely different person from a completely different time and try to experience life from their viewpoint, while being reassured there would definitely be a happy ending! It opens a window into another world and I’m not sure there’s anything I’d rather write. Hopefully that love will shine through, and others will enjoy reading the book (almost) as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Joanna  also kindly allowed me to read an advanced copy of The Marriage Rescue. It is a Regency but with an unusual twist -- the heroine is a Roma. Most Regency featuring  Roma have a Heathcliff vibe with the hero in question being part gypsy,  but Johnson really delves into the Roma culture and provides a worthy heroine who is fully Roma and more importantly at the start wants to stay that way. The story is a good one and a very pleasant way to pass a few hours. I look forward to seeing Johnson's undoubted talent grow as she learns to work with her voice. There is no doubt in my mind that Joanna Johnson  is far more than a one-book wonder.

You can read the first chapter for free here:

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Sent as the Viking's Bride was published in January 2019 and her next Viking (Tentatively titled Ramsomed by the Viking's Kiss) will be out later this year. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: Quick as a Flash!

Pic by Ipicgr via Pixabay
That's how fast the past six months have gone. I'm already well into my second semester at the University of Gloucestershire, yet as recently as last July becoming a mature student was the last thing on my mind.  I picked up a prospectus when I took my son to the university's open day I am, studying for my Master's in Critical and Creative Writing!

Over the past twenty-six weeks I've read what feels like a million books, analysed the living daylights out of the pastoral tradition, developed the idea for a novel about coercive control, and written the first ten thousand words of a non-fiction project on the changing role of women in the countryside. Oh, and I'm also part of the editorial team putting together the university's 2019 collection of new writing. 

Friday12th April was the end of term. I spent the first day of my Easter break recovering! A lie-in until six am, then dog-walking, gardening, and eating. That's my idea of the perfect holiday. Today I'm blogging, then next Sunday I'll be taking part  in the village's Easter Service.  

We're not going away at all for the holiday, but compared to many of the women I wrote about in my most recent book, Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol I don't have anything to complain about.
Find out more at
In August 1886, social campaigner Mary Clifford wrote of a workhouse treat she organized to the seaside.* A poor one-eyed girl who had been found a position as servant in a lodging house fifteen years earlier was allowed to accompany her old friends on the trip. The annual workhouse treat to the seaside was the sole outing she had all year. As well as putting her helpless mistress to bed each night, she was looking after another old lady of ninety-two and waiting on other lodgers in the house. This poor servant made the most of every minute of her day at the seaside. She gathered a long black tail of seaweed, filled her pocket-handkerchief with pebbles as a souvenir to take back for her mistress, and spent her holiday money on a bunch of country flowers. 

It makes you realise how lucky we are these days, doesn’t it? 

As well as non-fiction, 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

*Williams, Gwen Mary, Mary Clifford Bristol, 1921 Arrowsmith books.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

My kids are not as funny as they think.

The Makeover
My kids are not as funny as they think.

I do not have a chicken collection. A certain daughter thinks I do and has infected her siblings. So I have an ever-growing chicken population in the house. A reader even sent me the cutest chicken bowl a few weeks was adorable. But I do not have a chicken collection. 

So when this certain person gave me two new chicken books, and I sighed. Because I do not have a chicken collection. But then I read them. I was hooked.  For years, I was the kindergarten story lady, like Pip in Carry Her Heart.  I love children's literature. Love it!  Still, I do not have a chicken collection.

Check out Interrupting Chicken. You'll be as hooked as I am.


PS I do not have a chicken collection.

PPS I do have a new book, The Makeover. And the main animal in the story isn't's cattle.

Friday, April 12, 2019

National Pets Day . . . everyday by Kate Walker

Yesterday was apparently National Pets’ Day so on  my Facebook page I posted pictures of my two ‘official’ pets – Charlie the giant red and white Maine Coon cat  and his little ‘sister’ Ruby the black and white Cat’s Protection rescue who, chose us when we went looking for a new furry  Well, my official pets.
to love. These. I said – are my pets.

Then I moved away from my keyboard and went into the garden to organise things  before the sun set and darkness fell.  And that’s when I realised how inaccurate I had been when I said Charlie and Ruby were my pets.

W  well grown and fill the spaces wonderfully.  Then there’s a hedge and  what we laughingly call ‘the orchard’ beyond that. This space  is what my son used to label ‘the secret garden’ – it’s a rather hidden part of the garden beyond the hedge and there are some old apple trees and pear trees where there is always a huge crop of apples  but not so many pears to pick in the summer. Most of these apples  tend to become wind falls – that is when there is any typically British ‘spring’ weather the wild winds and the rain knock them to the ground and they all have to be gathered up before the birds get the. The windfalls go to the  home for retired horses where the horses and donkey there enjoy them with relish.
e have a large garden – with a long lawn and then a shrubbery down one side of the fence. Lots of shrubs and they have all been there for years so they are

So – as well as the two cats  - there’s the horses and the donkeys that are ‘pets’.

Back home in my garden I have a morning  and an evening ‘pet’ routine.  The mornings are for the birds who are usually sitting waiting for me before I venture out the door first thing. You’d think that feeding the birds would be simple – some wild bird seed  . . .and that’s it? But  no – I don’t know if we had particularly fussy eaters  but it goes something like this: wild bird seed on the hanging feeder for the  doves, the starlings, the sparrows.  The suet balls hanging in a tree  for the blackbirds, the ravens and the crows –  then suet cakes on the ground and mealworms for the robins, the bluetits, the seagulls – yes we get seagulls  even though we’re  miles from the sea . . . .

Right now it’s nesting and egg-laying time and it seems like some of the eggs are hatching as there is a HUGE amount of food disappearing every day. The birds themselves are so small that we assume they must be feeding babies because they’d be bursting at the seams if they ate all the food themselves.

When the birds have had their fill in the mornings things get a bit quieter – at least until the squirrels arrive.  I’ve tried to protect the bird food from these greedy little things but they have wo
rked out ways of hanging upside down from the bird feeders and pulling out peanuts and sunflower seeds to gobble up.

The evening is the time to put out the food for the hedgehogs. In the UK hedgehogs are in danger of becoming very rare so we’re always glad to encourage the family of these cute prickly creatures  who live at the bottom of the garden – they love the shrubbery and the little wooden ‘hedgehog houses’ we have set up for them.  He haven’t actually seen any of the hedgehogs this year but we know they are there because all the food goes and we have seen  bits of hedgehog poo around. What do we feed hedgehogs? Well, you can get special hedgehog food – but we use kitten crunchies and they love that. Sometime they hedgehogs get hungry early
and they come out looking for food before dusk. That’s when the cats play with them, sniffing and patting them and sometimes jumping right over them
So as you can see I have more than just my two beautiful cats as pets There are the horses and donkeys at the rescue centre -  . Out in the garden it’s more of a mini wildlife park – birds, gulls, squirrels and hedgehogs – and now I think we also have an occasional visiting fox!   I love feeding them and enjoy watching them from our garden room – but the animal feeding bill is ridiculous!

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

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Now We Wait! by Susan Sands

If asked to identify my most self-defeating trait besides procrastination, it would be IMPATIENCE, hands down. While I work to portray a calm outward demeanor, I have an internal screaming banshee who is rather hard to live with. Are we there yet?

I'm impatient with drivers who do dumb and dangerous (and incredibly slow) things on the road. And people in general who show no desire to move out of the general flow of humanity. I work at it. I really do. And I'm terribly hard on myself when I can't produce words when I'm writing.

So, you can imagine how this being on submission thing is for me. It's like watching paint dry in the rain. Molasses in winter. And the new book went out to editors just over a week ago. So, yes I understand this is going to take awhile. Don't "they" say we detest in others what we don't like in ourselves? Um, yes. Those who make me wait. But I procrastinate in starting work a new book while I wait. So, I am at the same time annoyed with myself for dragging my feet while others aren't as snappy as I'd like them to be.

I'm breathing deep breaths (of yellow pollen here in Georgia) currently. And settling in to start my new novel. And checking Instagram frequently. And Facebook. And Twitter. And Pinterest.

But I have a great new premise and I'm outlining currently. So, yes, I'm working at it. And taking my Allegra while I breathe the tainted air.

I hope you are finally enjoying a little Spring weather where you are. I hear there's still snow out there. No thank you. I'm also impatient for warmer weather.

Take care, y'all!!