Friday, May 31, 2019

Almost Summer - Are You a Summer Traveler?

             If you watch my Facebook page, you'll know that I seem to travel A LOT in the Spring - especially from mid-April through the end of May. In the past five or so years, I've been to Ireland twice, Germany, Alaska, as well as locations for dental boards (IRL I'm a licensing examiner for dental hygiene boards!) in NY, PA, OH, and NJ.

Ireland - sightseeing/researching and writing with writing friends --


Germany - for the LoveLetters Convention (that's going on right now!) --


 It was amazing fun to meet with over 800 readers from Germany and all over Europe! And to meet the wonderful Sarah Morgan and Annie West and so many other authors....

Alaska was breathtaking and we had wonderful weather for the cruise and visit to Denali afterwards -

Hubby and I were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary and have wanted to visit Alaska for a long time. It was worth the wait. 

So, usually, once we get to summer, I'm over traveling! I love to drive down to the shore (Wildwood or Ocean City NJ) for a day at the beach, but that's as far as I want to go. Over the last few years, I haven't even attended RWA's conference which is in July because I'm exhausted from the Spring travels. 

How about you? Do you vacation/travel during the summer? I know lots of people who are heading to Scotland this summer. Others going to RWA in NYC in July. Others spending time at the beach all up and down the East Coast. Do you have any plans? Tell me about them! 

 Terri is thrilled that THE HIGHLANDER'S DANGEROUS TEMPTATION will hit the retail shelves next week (6/4/2019) in a special edition! Look for it in Target, Walmart, etc. She's also working on the next Harlequin Historical for her A HIGHLAND FEUDING series and on a special Viking project for HH, too! Visit her website for all sorts of info or connect with her on her FB page or profile.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Season of Change and a Day of Remembrance

by Joanne Rock

Today, as those of us in the US remember those who died while serving their country, I'm spending time with my oldest son who lives far from home. A nice benefit of Memorial Day for many of us is the long weekend and the possibility for some extra family time.

We are moving this summer, so I'm sorting through things to give to my boys who are living on their own. I'm contemplating what to do with all the winter clothes now that I'll be spending most of my time in a warmer climate. And I'm really wondering how to fit a whole life in a 27 foot moving truck.

It's been a long time since I did a full-scale move. Although I've hopped back and forth between Florida and New York for the past few years, I haven't truly uprooted since 2002. That's a lot of years for things to accumulate. I don't worry about packing the kitchen or the bedrooms. But places like the attic and basement, where things have been quietly accumulating, are going to be packing nightmares.

I've given myself two weeks for the project, but that might be optimistic given the book-in-progress that needs to be finished. I'm excited to be writing my own six-book series for Harlequin Desire starting in November 2019. The book that's due next is the fourth book which will release in March 2020.

It's a season of change and a day of remembrance. The combination makes me remember how lucky I am to have the chance to make big changes and move forward, no matter how hectic the pace. Don't forget to observe a moment of silence at 3 pm today to remember and honor those we've lost.

**Have you moved recently? Will I survive the mayhem? And how many boxes will I need for this sprawling house?! Share with me any words of wisdom this week and I'd be thrilled to send one reader an advance copy of my June Desire, RANCHER IN HER BED.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Michelle Styles: The Joy of Historical Outliers

Outliers, people out of the ordinary who sometimes do extraordinary things interest me. I particularly like discovering people who do not fit various historical narratives and writing about them. This has been one of the major themes through out my published writing career.  I love the detective nature of it as these are people who exist in the historical records but who are often overlooked because historians view the world through specific lenses (EH Carr was the man who developed the notion that all history is subjective and to understand what was truly going on you must first understand the lenses you are viewing it through. The time line objective view of history is a 19th century Leopold von Ranke idea.  Carr was a Marxist by the way).
The Lady Soldier which I co-wrote with Kate Allan (the agent Kate Nash) was the story of a woman who becomes a successful soldier during the Peninsula Campaign. Kate developed the hero and I was responsible for the heroine. A publisher, John Hale promised to look at it but he didn’t hold out much hope as he wasn’t sure such women existed. Cue a research note at the end of the manuscript detailing real life women soldiers who were being overlooked and my author note habit was born.
I absolutely loved writing His Unsuitable Viscountess as  it allowed me to research women business-owners in the Regency (my editor expressed doubts). I loved discovering the two highest paid bankers in the 1820s were women – Sarah Childs of Childs of Bank (aka Lady Jersey of Almack’s fame  -did the Lady Patronesses actually need Brumnell's input or was it a useful fig leaf?) and Harriot Coutts of Coutts bank ( where the Royal Family still banks). All in all there were 20 women who held licenses to print money in the Regency times. I discovered other businesswomen as well. Of those who married, most had sons and passed the business on to them. Over time, the narrative gets altered and the women are subtly erased until people believe such women never truly existed.
 When I first wrote Taming His Viking Woman, the evidence was circumstantial that such women warriors existed. I was pretty sure they must have. Then they did DNA testing and discovered that women warriors did exist in the Viking age and were not a product of some writer's fantasy.
At the moment, there is a strand of argument in historical romance circles that People of Colour shouldn’t be there in starring roles as it is unrealistic. That no POC was a member of the First Estate, if you will and they all led miserable, horrible lives. What utter balderdash and nonsense. 
There are a few outliers, probably more than the ones I mention), many who have been rendered invisible because their lives don’t fit the historical narrative or lenses of the writer. Simply because people believe the received and skewed historical narrative doesn't make them right.
 Off the top of my head to combat nay-sayer  – John Perkins (the first black British Naval Officer) is from the Georgian period. He won the most prizes of any naval officer in the Georgian period except for Nelson.  He was mostly based in the Caribbean and was particularly effective against he Americans. His Naval Chronicle obituary states ‘ he annoyed the enemy more than any other officer, by his repeated feats of gallantry and the immense number of prizes he won.’ The records of what happened to his substantial estate are lost and he never married. When I last looked Naval officers were members of the First Estate. 2. Nathaniel Wells, the High Sherriff in Wales in 1818 and friend to the Prince of Wales . His first wife was the daughter of the chaplain to George II. His second wife was related to William Wilberforce's wife.  The son of a slave, he inherited his money from his father and was extremely wealthy through sugar plantations.  3. Cesar Picton, a man who rose from being a slave to a wealthy coal merchant in Kingston upon Thames. His estate when he died included 2 acres of lands, ships, shops and a wharf. 4. Equiano aka Gustav Vassa who made his first fortune in shipping and his second from being a best selling author. He marries a white woman and leaves his surviving daughter a sizable fortune.
Protrait of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas from Wikipedia

 There were over 10,000 people of colour living in Britain in the 18th century and not all in abject poverty. It is just that few people are actually interested in researching them as they don't fit the narrative and so they get overlooked.  Or their race and colour is referred to obliquely and people forget or prefer to gloss over. Let me put it this way -- Wellington probably never raised an officer from the ranks as Bernard Cornwell would have it but the Prince Regent did regularly dine with the son of a slave -- Nathaniel Wells. 
I could go on about France which is possibly somewhat more interesting for the historical romance novelist. Alexandre Dumas’s father Thomas-AlexandreDumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a high ranking general in Napoleon’s army. Thomas-Alexandre was the son of a Marquis and his mother an African slave.  And his entire life is fascinating. There was a habit of French planters, particularly men like the Marquis  to send their natural sons (if you will) to be educated in France as they were immediately freed once on French soil (until Napoleon brought back slavery).  People of Colour were very involved in the arts. Gericault the artist had a favourite Haitian model who was very wealthy in his own right. And of course, you have the whole Haitian and Santa Domingo history. 
However these few examples should be enough to prove that there were wealthy people of colour, people who fit the definition of First Estate during this period. It is simply that htey have been overlooked for years because we view history through certain lenses.
Gercault's Raft of the Medusa with his favourite
model, waving at the top, from Wikipedia
This is not to say that these people did not suffer huge racism, particularly from arrogant imbeciles.  It is merely to illustrate that some people of colour were in the First Estate in Georgian and Regency times and they deserve to have their stories used as inspiration, rather than derided as some politically correct  fantasy.

And I have promise myself not to ask why there are so few Jewish set Regencies and Victorians when you have the Rothchilds, Sebag-Montefiores and other prominent families making such positive contributions to British society.
Personally I love researching historical outliers and hope more people will actually try to write stories based on these people or at least stop deriding things as fantasy when they are historical fact.
In other news:
I sold my 28th novel to Harlequin Historical, A DEAL WITH HER REBEL VIKING. It will be published n December.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her most recent was Sent as the Viking’s Bride. You can learn more about  Michelle and her books on

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: A Lovely Puzzle...

Here's where I'm a student. Isn't it beautiful?
I've been amazed how fast my first academic year at university has evaporated. I now have four assignments to complete within the next two weeks, so my mind is buzzing. 

My poor brain went into overload this morning when my husband handed me a present. "I know you don't care about being the only kid in class without a smartphone," he said, just about managing to keep a straight face, "but you'll need this to keep in touch with the others via WhatsApp over the long vac."

One of the many, many reasons I love my OH is his generosity. Only last week he paid the parking fee at the hospital for a mother who couldn't get her credit card to work in the machine. And now this...a beautiful new replacement for my plain black Nokia emergency phone.
A little light reading...pic via Pixabay

The only trouble is, technology is not my friend. I say that all the time, but it's true! It's taken me several hours to puzzle out how to operate this new device. 

Now I'm set up and ready to go (I think).  I'm trying to decide which apps to install and podcasts to follow. Do you have any recommendations? I like reading and writing (obviously!) gardening, cooking and ecology. I've already signed up for Forestry England's iNaturalist project. 

Can you suggest any others? What things do you enjoy listening to on your phone? 

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mothers' Day by Kate Walker

I've never been quite sure why the UK's Mothers' Day is on a different date to - well, the rest of the world, it seems. But I want to wish a Happy Mothers' Day to everyone who is celebrating it today. (Well - to any mother anywhere!)

A  couple of years ago, Mother’s Day weekend had a special impact for me as it fell on the date when we would have celebrated my mother’s 100th birthday. We still celebrated it actually. My sisters and I met up to share a dinner and to raise a toast to her memory.  That way we could follow the advice she left us in her final message to us – a note she wrote to all of us in what she knew were her last days. ‘You have been my joy all your lives,’ she wrote.  ‘I love you. Love one another.’ 

My greatest delight and my greatest sadness came together on the day that I received the letter (there wasn’t ‘the call’ back then!) to say that Mills & Boon were accepting my first novel, The Chalk Line, which was the same day as she was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer.   We had hoped that she would live long enough to read my first novel in print – she refused to read the typescript because she was holding on in order to be able to  hold the book in her hands. Sadly, she didn’t quite manage it, but the doctors said that she lived much longer than they had ever anticipated. I like to think the thought of seeing my book was one of the things that kept her going.

My mother taught me to read. She instilled in me a love of books and reading. Because of her there were always books available at home to feed the reading hunger she created. She also dreamed of being a writer herself and had several poems published in her early twenties. I have one hazy memory of her sitting at a writing desk we had in our Yorkshire home, writing away on what I thought were letters, but later, discovered that in fact she was working on some children’s stories. I don’t know what happened to those tales – which is such a pity as I think she would have been a magical story teller herself.

She also read aloud to us – often by a real coal fire so that we could curl up beside her,  close our eyes, and see the pictures in the story inside our heads… Listening to those stories, concentrating solely  on what I was  hearing, focusing on the way characters behaved, the dialogue they spoke was the best possible training ground for learning how a novel worked on an instinctive and gut level. 

I have no doubt that listening to those stories and then drifting off to sleep with them in my head, I took the first steps on the road to becoming the writer I am today, with a storytelling skill learned, literally, at my mother’s knee! I made up stories to myself, finished off the tales she hadn’t yet  brought to an end, imagined how the characters she had created or read about would have behaved. And I learned the basics of simple, straightforward story-telling , building up excitement, using dialogue as a result.

Happy  Mothers'Day to all mothers  today.  I hope it is a lovely day for you.

Every Day Should Be Mother's Day

I know it's the day after, but I think we all need to pay more attention to the women in our lives.

When I first started writing, I wrote a romcom with four kids at home. They inspired me. I put four kids in a book and someone said, "You can't put kids in romantic comedy." I laughed because I'd just sold a book with five kids. So many of my stories have mothers and their kids. All the how-to-write books say write what you know. I have four kids so...well, let's just say I've got kids in many, many of my books!

But I also write powerful moms in their stories. I've been lucky to have so many strong women in my life. My daughters, my mother, my mother-in-law, my grandmother, my friends and my readers. They've shared so much with me—from fortitude, to resilience, to unconditional love. They've allowed me to be a part of their stories, and they've shared their stories that came before me. Stories of their lives—some where happy, some not so much, but all of those stories taught me—are teaching me—who I want to be.  These amazing women were mothers, grandmothers, friends, Rosie Riveters, secretaries, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, cooks and comics...  

I know how lucky I am to have my live to have lived a life with so many amazing women populating it.  They're each why I love writing moms, grandmas and strong women!

If you're a mom, I hope you had a wonderful day (if you're not a momI hope you had a wonderful one, too)! And if you're looking for a new story (whether or not your a mother), I have a few Mom books for you!

Thanks, as always, for letting me a part of your stories!


Thursday, May 02, 2019

My Month of May by Susan Sands

Hello all, and happy spring!!

I hope you are all enjoying some much-deserved warmer weather wherever you are. Here in Georgia, the days have gotten significantly less chilly and are often downright hot in the afternoons. Of course, after our wet and endless winter, none of us are allowed to utter a word of complaint.

Pollen, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. It's still around and coating everything and everyone in it's yellow glory, though not as thickly as in April.

I'm not particularly allergic to it, but what comes after. The grasses and such that bloom in early May are my kryptonite. I sneeze constantly and want to scratch my eyes out for weeks every year around this time. My husband refers to May as "My Month of May." Not his, but mine. My birthday, Mother's Day, and anniversary are all in May. So, we celebrate them all in the midst of my horrific month-long allergy attack.

If you see a photo of me this month, it will likely be with red, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Yes, I've tried Benadryl at night, Claritin during the day, eye drops, Flonase, and enough saline to lower the ocean's levels. I live in Georgia, y'all. Things grow and bloom. Mostly in the month of May.

Obviously, this isn't going to kill me, so my apologies for living in my own little ragweed-infested world while others struggle with far worse illnesses, but I blog about what's happening in mine. LOL.  I will trudge on with My Month of May and continue to write and enjoy the beauty around me and appreciate the mild temps before they scorch the earth in a month or so.

My current book is out on submission and I'm in limbo waiting to hear back from editors, so keep your fingers crossed on my behalf for good news...

I'm working on a new novel set in the Low Country in South Carolina, one of my favorite vacation spots. It's about a woman whose DNA test results set off a chain of events that threaten to destroy the foundations of several families in the area.

Best wishes on a lovely Month of May!!