Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Art of Acknowledgement

by Joanne Rock

I was reading something in the Guardian online yesterday and got tugged into reading an article called- excuse the somberness- regrets of the dying. Now, that’s not normally something that would get a double click from my mouse, but there was a sweet picture of a wrinkled hand holding a strong, youthful one and the emotional author in me was hooked. I had to take a peek to make sure I wasn’t going to have any regrets on my way out. You can guess most of them—I shouldn’t have worked so much, I should have followed my dreams—but one that really caught my attention was a wish to have kept in touch with old friends.

Writers are fortunate to have a secret, powerful weapon that helps them do just that. Not many other professions encourage “acknowledgements” each time you finish a piece of work, but upon completing a novel for publication, writers are asked to recognize the people who have helped them on their journey. Every time I’ve penned a dedication, I’ve thought about how lucky I am to be able to publicly reflect like this.

From The Wedding Audition by Catherine Mann & Joanne Rock
It’s a huge treat for me, for one thing. It nudges me to be introspective for a few hours and really think about who has helped me to come up with an idea or who inspired me to write. I’ve acknowledged high school English teachers, bloggers, other writers, family members and yes… old friends. I’ve penned dedications to women who cheered me on personally and professionally, girlfriends who cheered me up when life got too difficult, and mentors who showed me how to do things better, faster or more efficiently. People who’ve made an important impact on my life and my happiness.

I also like to think this tradition is a treat for the people who are recognized. Actually, I can attest that is an honor because I’ve been named in friends’ books as a helper in the story process and it always makes me walk a little taller. Plus, it touches my heart to be valued that way, and to have a friend use that limited space to give a shout out to me. When my first book came out and I mentioned my English teachers in the dedication, I had fun sending them a copy of my debut along with a letter telling them how much they inspired me. I hoped that my enthusiasm would help make up for the fact that some kids occasionally yawn in their classes (who could yawn during a lesson on the Romantic Poets??) and it was just plain fun.

Win my June release!
Knowing how cool it’s been to send out acknowledgements into the world, I guess I wanted to share the idea with anyone who hasn’t written a book and had the thrill of penning a dedication. You can still write a letter to tell someone who inspired you that you still remember their awesome contribution to your life. That their words meant a lot to you or helped you grow, change, see the world a little differently.  Your old friends, mentors, teachers or family members will be touched to be recognized, and the joy you spread will sure make you smile too.

***Who came to mind right away when I mentioned someone who has inspired you? Share with me this week in the comments and I'll send one random commenter a copy of my June Harlequin Desire release, Rancher in Her Bed

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Puppy Love by Jenny Gardiner

hi! I'm sorry I've not been here lately--things have been a bit crazy in my  world.  My father passed away unexpectedly right before Christmas and the next several months was filled with helping settle my dad's affairs, followed by the joyous occasion of my middle daughter's wedding. Throw in a book deadline and my time kind of got swallowed up with everything going on.

And now I have a new time-suck, but an absolutely adorable one: our new white Lab puppy Pippa just joined us this week!

So I just wanted to share some pictures of our new baby---who is half sister to my daughters' two white Labs, Rosie and Millie, who they got two years ago. Keeping it in the family! She brings us such  joy and is  just  so darned previous I want to eat her up with a spoon! Hope you enjoy  her pictures!

Great news! I've got another free book for you to try! Falling for Mr. Wrong from the Falling for Mr. Wrong series is now free here:

Google Play

Also Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Skirt ChaserBoy Toy and Cabana Boy are available! And Bird Dog is available for pre-order!

Happy reading!




Saturday, June 15, 2019

Starting to garden mindfully : Michelle Styles

Last month, I happen to read Rebirding by Benedict MacDonald and it was one of those life-changing world -altering reads.
 In my defence I had not clocked how dire the wildlife situation had become in the UK. I suffered from shifting baselines and simply accepted a lack of butterflies, the disappearance of birds etc as the new normal. I had failed to connect that the way I garden might make a difference. One of my immediate changes was to alter the way I garden — although I don’t use pesticides as we have kept bees since 2000, I have been afflicted with Ecological Tidiness Disorder and am attempting to overcome this. Also although I had wildlife at the back of my mind when I garden, I didn’t really think about the eco-system and how things were interlinked, right down to the microbes in the soil.
Verge with nettles where
I hope the butterflies will grow.

For example, I love butterflies and try to ensure that we have nectar plants. (We also keep bees so this is pretty easy). However, I had not really clocked that caterpillars have different needs than butterflies. I wasn’t thinking about the whole lifecycle of the insect. Some of my UK favourites (the Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies) feast almost exclusively on stinging nettles. No prizes for guessing what plant I have spent ages pulling up. While I am not at the stage where I want to give the entire garden over to nettles, I am ensuring we have several large clumps which are in sunny spaces. Hopefully that will entice the butterflies to lay their eggs, and the lifecycle to take place so that my garden can be filled with butterflies in the late summer. Instead of thinking – weed, I am thinking nettles will bring butterflies. In California where I grew up, if you want Monarch butterflies, the best way to do it is to plant milk thistle. In the UK, it is the humble stinging nettle.Opefully that will entire
My liberated lawn.
birdhouse where tree bumblebees
are nesting.
Similarly I have decided to liberate the back lawn from the tyranny of mowing. Eventually I am hoping for a wildflower strewn orchard, maybe with an orchid or two (a woman can dream). But it is going to take time for the wildflowers to establish, particularly as the soil is rich and the ryegrass does grow strongly. In the autumn after I have done the annual mow, I will scatter Yellow rattle seeds as the plant preys on ryegrass and makes it easier for the wildflowers to set. This is the second year of my experiment and already I have noticed more birdlife visiting the area. We have such red-listed species (i.e. those species whose numbers have crashed) as the house sparrow, dunnock and song thrush nesting in the garden. A pair of bullfinches have also started visiting, instead of just coming around when the damson is about to burst into bloom. I do think it is working but my husband sometimes just sees the scruffy lawn. And I discovered the bird box which I should have cleaned out has become home to tree bumblebees who are new pollinators to the UK but  at the moment very welcome. 
It is about changing mindsets and recognising that sometimes what I consider normal isn’t how it used to be at all. I have been blogging on my own blog about my journey and what I am learning.
In this age of doom and gloom about the environment, it feels good to be doing just a little more.

When not gardening, Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods  for Harlequin Historical,Her next book A Deal with Her Rebel Viking will be published in December 2019. You can find out more about Michelle and her books at  

Friday, June 14, 2019

Christina Hollis: International Cuisine, English Style...

I have dozens of cookery books, but after seeing a programme about Lebanese food on TV I couldn't resist buying one more. Saffron in the Souks by John Gregory-Smith is full of wonderful photos, and  its tactile cover makes it lovely to handle.  I read it straight through from cover to cover. Every recipe looked better than the last. I couldn't wait to try them all out, but that meant a frustrating wait. 

Our nearest "exotic" grocery shop is a forty-minute drive away, so I had to choose recipes which called for things from the garden, or that I could buy close to home. While we've got plenty of lemons and vine leaves here, it'll be weeks before our sour cherries and figs are ready to pick. 

Although that restricted my choice of recipe, I'm much luckier with my ingredients than my grandmother was. International cookery was a big challenge for her. Before her marriage, she was the cook in a real life, scaled-down version of Downton Abbey. In those days, women had to give up work when they married, so at the age of twenty-seven, she "retired". Her new husband was a career soldier. While he spent years on active service abroad, Gran stayed at home in Somerset, raising their family.

Feeding children is vital work, although it's often a thankless task. Gran missed her previous career, but Grampy came up with a solution. He sent home the recipes of his favourite local dishes so she could perfect them before he came home on leave.

Gran, with two of her four children

These days that would be—quite literally—a piece of cake. In rural England during the nineteen-thirties it was almost impossible. The local butcher couldn't get hold of goat meat, and citrus fruit was only available in winter. Gran grew the staple herbs of English cookery such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and mint, but brown dust sold in a box marked "curry powder" had to stand in for many of the ingredients. Cardamon, fresh ginger and even garlic bulbs were unknown to Gran's grocer. Coriander leaves had to be grown from seeds (when they were available). She had to adapt all the recipes using local ingredients and techniques.

At least I didn't suffer Gran's supply problems when trying out recipes from Saffron in the Souks. I've found it to be an almost perfect cookery book. Almost, because it recommends serving several of the dishes with flatbreads, but supplies no details. Luckily, one of Gran's Anglicised recipes came to my rescue. 

I mixed a cup of flour with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and enough warm water to make a soft dough. Kneading this well I then covered the bowl with a damp cloth and left it to stand for half an hour. After another good kneading, I divided the dough into twelve pieces and rolled each one out into a thin pancake. These cook in seconds in a dry frying pan. Like pancakes they are best eaten straight away, but the first ones can be stacked in a warm oven for a few minutes while you finish cooking the whole batch.

So this evening we'll be sitting down to shish taouk (chicken kebabs), served with genuine Somerset chapattis!

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

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Change of Plans

I was going to make a quick video yesterday about my summer of love and laughter. The first two books, The Makeover and How to Catch a Groom are already out, and How to Hunt a Husband comes out in August. That was my plan, but after a trip to the doctor's office, I turned the video into a PSA...of course, I did mention the books, too! LOL


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

All round the world - with Kate Walker

Hello!  I’m sorry I’m  a bit late with this post . I am suffering with a bit of jet lag!
On 31st May my DH and I travelled to USA  - to Montana to be exact  - to stay with my very dear friend, Anne McAllister and her family/  We also travelled  further- though Yellowstone park and into Cody Wyoming where  DH had a wonderful time learning all about the Wild West  and studying all the information in the Buffalo Bill Museum Centre.

We only got back on Tuesday and after the l-o-n-g journey home , flying through the night, we were hours  in order to recover., It was that long journey (both ways ) that had me thinking about  how wonderful it is that  through Harlequin, my books reach so many people and readers on both sides of that huge ocean we laughingly call ‘The Pond.’
totally worn out and slept for

For one thing, we wouldn’t have bee heading for Montana if I hadn’t met Anne through my writing – when she was writing for Harlequin Presents too.  And then there are the Harlequin Presents books  on sale in America too.  Finally, when I came home there were  a couple of boxes of foreign editions waiting for me that had been delivered while I was away.

In this picture, there are the Swedish and German  editions of  A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance   German reprint of The Antonakos Marriage, (I recently got a fabulous Manga edition of this book too. There's a Polish translation of  The Devil and MissJones,  a French edition of  The Married Mistress(as Love and Treason) and an Italian reprint (second time around ) of Kept For Her baby.

I’m always so thrilled to see these foreign editions and reprints of my books. Often they are books that were originally publish five or even more years ago so it’s great to see them having a ‘second life’ in these new editions. But most of all it’s because they remind me of one of the most wonderful benefits of this writing career I’ve had creating romance stories and sharing them with so many readers and friends all over the world.

That long journey to and from Montana reminded me of just how huge this world is and I’ve only visited a small number of places in it. But my books have gone all round the world and they share my stories with so many readers in different countries, different  languages, different time zones.
It’s a thrilling feeling  - and I’m  so grateful to all those readers who have shared in my book over the year. It means so much to me – and I  couldn’t have done it without you. 

Thank you all!

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Falling for the Secret Princess – Kandy Shepherd

Sometimes I write a book and a secondary character clamours to be heard. They nag away at me until I know I just have to give them their own story!

Princess Natalia of Montovia was one such character. She’s the sister of Crown Prince Tristan, and appeared briefly in Tristan’s story Crown Prince’s Chosen Bride (Harlequin Romance 2016). 

I really liked Natalia (I know that sounds kinda weird as she’s a fictional character from my own imagination, but we writers really feel we know our people!) and loved giving Natalia her own wonderful romance with gorgeous hero, Finn O’Neill.

Falling for the Secret Princess will be published by Harlequin Romance in September this year, in both e-book and print.

Here’s the blurb: 

A reunion…

…fit for a princess in disguise!

At his friend’s wedding, millionaire Finn couldn’t take his eyes off the gorgeous stranger whose naivety intrigued his cynical heart…until she suddenly fled! 

So while on business in Montovia, he’s shocked to come face-to-face with her—as Princess Natalia!

Finn’s once again compelled by their instant connection, but Natalia’s duty makes a future impossible. Unless he can convince her their love is worth breaking a few royal rules for…

I hope you enjoy Natalia and Finn’s story!

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,Pinterest and Instagram

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Crawdads by Susan Sands

I'd been on a reading dry spell for some time before picking up Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia
Owens recently. After hearing so many wonderful things about the book, it would be my first read as I jumped back into novel reading.

The story was amazing. But what blew me away about it was how quiet the story was and how  nature lived and breathed within the pages. Ms. Owens is a bestselling non-fiction author and a wildlife scientist. In Crawdads, she applies her extensive knowledge of flora and fauna within the setting and creates a rich canvas where Kya, the heroine lives completely alone most of her life. But  even when she's alone, she's not. There are the birds she feeds, the insects and feathers she collects lovingly, the marsh. Constant sounds and activities of life surround her. They are her family. She can count on the tide to come in and recede every single day. It never lets her down, not like the people who were supposed to love and care for her but didn't.

I could go on and on about symbolism and the author's knowledge of her subject and how it enhances the reader's experience. But there's something else that makes this book so different. The way it breaks the rules. The rules of writers in many ways.

As a writer who's published several books and continues to work toward larger publishing goals, as most authors do throughout their careers, this baffled me. But as I read and relaxed into the story, I didn't care. I only wanted more. The constantly switching points of view without changing scenes or using devices to do so,  the pages and pages of introspection without dialogue where nothing much happened didn't throw me out of the story. Not. One. Bit. This book did all the things every craft class /book says not to, but it did it so well that I didn't care. I just wanted to keep reading.

And there was payoff. I won't say what it was to avoid spoiling it for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading the book, but there was.

So, breaking the rules well, as they say, works. As long as you can get it past your editor. Great job, Ms. Owens. I'm a fan.

Happy summer reading, everyone! Where the Crawdads Sing is wonderful!