Thursday, December 31, 2020

Let's Kick 2020 to the Curb - C'mon In 2021!


So many things could be said about this last year - and they will be said and analyzed and discussed for years to come - right?  Since January, we've been dealing with a pandemic, worldwide fires, hurricanes and storms, chaos, food (and toilet paper) shortages, quarantines, no hair-coloring, contentious times, cancelled trips/travel, missing family and friends and especially grandbabies, elections, deaths and general mayhem. Yes, 2020 will not be soon forgotten. 

But there were good things in 2020, too. 

The quarantining forced us to be more creative about staying in touch with families and friends (and even school and work). To keep in touch with family and friends, we learned to stream and to zoom and to gather safely if distantly. 

The friends I've traveled to Ireland with - affectionately called The Plucking Monkeys - create fictional song titles from bits of conversations while learning to do zoom calls. I so needed this kind of thing while isolated with only my husband -- and he needed me to do this virtual getaway to give him some time alone, too! LOL!

 We LEARNED TO BAKE BREAD! and other skills, too. We learned how to curbside-pickup. We perfected the art of online shopping and learned the importance of supporting local businesses. 

Performers shared their music and art with worldwide audiences in a way we'd never done. One of my favorite Scottish musicians - Dougie MacLean - began streaming a wee concert several times a week, then twice a week, then weekly since April and he's just done his 66th performance. Many others are doing the same kind of thing - from podcasts, to talks and concerts.  Baking and cooking and drink-making demos abound. 

 And, of course, face mask making. I've sewn since I was about 10 years old, so when the need arose, I got my machine out and found directions and began sewing. For several months early on, making masks grounded me and gave me some tangibly productive to do with all my time. The only time I left my house then was to go to one of my local Joann Fabrics stores and curbside-pickup of orders. By July I had made more than 300 for family, friends and two local senior centers (one my mom lived in before she passed) and my 44 year-old machine died... Got a new one and continue to make masks.


 Personally, after three years of being almost unable to write, the stories began to come back and talk to me. I managed to write a novella and a whole novel this year along with finishing the majority of another one. And, I've brainstormed out a new series with 2 authors and another possible series for myself! So, 2020 was the year my writing got back in gear - though painfully different than I've written in the past.  And, The Highlander's Inconvenient Bride will be an August 2021 release from Harlequin Historicals! 

And now, 2021 is coming in quickly and I am cautiously optimistic about the new year. I wouldn't dare say 'well, it couldn't be as bad as 2020' because I don't want to tempt the Fates into doing anything crazy...but I'm hopeful for the first time in a long time. About life in general and writing, too. 

How about you? Ready to get rid of 2020 and move on? 

I'll do a giveaway here - choosing from those who comment to this post and tell me one good thing they're looking forward to in 2021. I'll giveaway a print copy of one of my books, a facemask, and some other goodies, too.

 So Happy New Year to you and yours - I wish you happiness, health, safety, good times and all the books you need! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

How to Make a Vision Board ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

For those of you who have been around here for a while it will come as no surprise that I stopped making resolutions a few years ago. I don't really believe in resolutions, although I do think they can be helpful for people whose minds are wired that way. My mind just isn't. Making a goal? I can totally do that. Picking out a word for the year? Yep, doable. But resolutions, while they sound good as I'm coming up with them are just not something I can stick with. I'm not quite sure why.

Last year, for the first time, I made a vision board to go in my planner and I liked that a lot. Having a vision of what I want for my career and family that I saw every day? That was really helpful to me in making decisions and saying yes to a few things that came my way. So I decided to make another board this year - only I ended up making two: one for Writer Kristina and one for The Family Knight. I thought I'd share a little bit about how I make a vision board, just in case any of you would like to make one.

First, the supplies you'll need: a two-page spread in your planner (two pages means plenty of space but not too could use a single piece of paper, though, if that suits you better). You'll also need several old magazines, preferably those with lots of pictures. Travel magazines work well, women's magazines, even some kids magazines can be a good choice. If you don't have a bunch sitting around, hit up your local thrift store or call your local library. They usually have tons of magazines that they eventually have to toss...I picked up a stack of about ten magazines at our thrift store for $1. You'll also need a pair of scissors and a glue stick, double sided tape or those sticky tabs that scrapbookers use to tack down pictures. Some fun/inspirational/quote-type stickers would be good, too.

Kristina's 'family' vision board

The next step is simple: you're going to go through the magazines, cutting out pictures and headlines and quotes that speak to you about your vision for the coming year. Do the same with the stickers - pick out a few that speak to you. Maybe there are beach pictures and the beach makes you feel creative. Maybe there are pictures of a small town street and that speak to the settings you choose for your books. Maybe it's a phrase that makes you feel peaceful or excited. Go through your supplies and cut out anything that inspires you or makes you smile or makes you think YES!

When you're done cutting you'll probably have a stack of clippings that you feel is way too big to use, that's okay. Go back through the stack and choose just one image or quote that is your absolute favorite/top of your line. Put it right in the middle of the planner page (or printer or notebook paper, if you don't use a planner) but don't tape it down yet. Just let it sit there while you start going through your stack looking for other images or quotes or ads that speak to you.

You want things to be in different sizes and in some cases you'll just want a little piece of a bigger ad, image, or quote so don't be afraid to cut things down. I tore out a full page ad of a purple night sky with the word 'wonder' on it. I love the whole ad, but I couldn't fit a full page magazine ad on a planner page so I cut around the word wonder, leaving just enough of that night sky there for inspiration. Another thing I did: there was a full-page ad with packs of pens and little notepads. I tore out the entire ad and then cut down the pens and pencils and papers from it. Anything goes, just start with one image and add to that.

Part of Kristina's 'author' vision board

Once you've filled your page with clippings, it's time to embrace your inner tweenager and start taping or gluing things in place. Again, there is no set way to do this so just start with one image and build out from there. Add in stickers as you go, washi tapes if you like them, quotes and headlines. I like that main image to stay in the middle and everything else builds out from that core piece.

When all your favorite clippings are on the page, you'll probably still have a stack of clippings. That's okay. You can keep building your vision board, filling in every single stretch of white space on your page or you can toss them in the trash - after all, they've already served their purpose. They helped you find your favorite images or quotes to build a vision board for the year.

Do you make vision boards or resolutions or goals for the year? 

What's your process like?    ~ Kristina Knight  

Kristina Knight's latest release, Jase, Nevada Cowboys Book 3, is available now in paperback or e-format:

Hot Las Vegas nights get even steamier for these three powerful, wealthy businessmen with cowboy roots and the strong, independent women who fall for them. What happens in Vegas certainly won’t stay there as these successful tycoons win at love.

Jase Reeves lives his life by rules: never get emotional at the poker table and never get emotional with women. But when he meets self-help author Sabrina York all bets are off. Sabrina enjoys fame and fortune writing her female-empowerment books, but she could do without the reputation – that of the Oldest Living (Supposed) Virgin in Vegas. Blowing up her entire life because sexy gambler Jase Reeves has shown an interest in her? Sabrina has already written the book on that, but staying away from Jase isn’t as simple as closing the cover of her favorite book. And for Jase, melting the heart of the Vegas Virgin might be his greatest gamble yet…

Buy Jase: Amazon  B&N  iBooks  Kobo

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time TKD-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.

Sunday, December 13, 2020


In my last blogpost I mentioned being a part of family members' lives even when we're physically on they're not in town. They're a part of it doesn't matter how far apart we...we're never far apart.

Yep, I've had family on my mind.

I've been working on my family tree and discovering more stories. There are so many stories waiting to be discovered. I was reading a book—Memoirs of Grassy Creek—about the county part of my family was from—Ashe County, NC. The author used my family surname and a first name I recognized. I have the same name and the right birthdate in my family tree. But honestly, that side of my family reproduced like rabbits and the recycle so many of the names over and over. LOL So he might be a direct relative, or he's a shirttail cousin. Either way, it was cool to see his name. 

I fell back down the rabbit hole and started research. I found United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet and more mention of my family mentioned in the 112 page report. 

"Settlers to the county came south from Virginia or west from the Catawba and Yadkin valleys. Most were of British or Scots-Irish descent, but German and Swiss ancestry were also common. One of the earliest settlers was Martin Gambill, who was born in Culpepper, Virginia, to parents who had also been born in Virginia. Gambill came to Wilkes County in 1768 and settled on the South Fork in 1778. In July 1780, Gambill, played a prominent role in the Battle of Big Glades at Old Fields, where local troops defeated a detachment of ISO Loyalists. The incident was part of the larger regional contest settled at Kings Mountain in October 1780. In the days leading up to the battle, Gambill made a famous 100-mile ride to Seven Mile Ford, Virginia to deliver a message to Colonel William Campbell. The message alerted the American commander to move his men to Kings Mountain. Gambill was seriously wounded at Kings Mountain, but recovered to become Ashe County's first tax collector and in 1806, as well as the county's' first sheriff. In 1810, Gambill was elected as the first State Senator from Ashe and held that position until his death in 1812."

I'd heard about Martin before. As a matter of fact, I have a print of his ride hanging in my house. His is one of the stories I love.


I think that's what I love so much about the research. Some of the stories are amazing. An Irish doctor marries the daughter of a British aristocrat. They move to the US settle around DC. Two generations later his grandson was a sharecropper. I wonder what happened in the family. And I marvel that their house still stands outside DC. I found a family member who was one of the founders of Brown University. Another one who was one of the original founders of Penn State. I've found immigrants. Politicians. Soldiers. Doctors. Train engineers. Farmers.


I found that one relative was one of the first settlers in the area around camp. As I dug through information about the family, I realized that a road I drive on to get to the cottage was named after family. Then I found his homestead listed and realized it was the corner of my road and the family's named road. I've passed it thousands of times. I could walk there from our place.

So more than stories, connections. Realizing I'm connected to all these people. If they hadn't done what they'd done, lived the lives that they led, then I wouldn't be here. That's amazing to realize. Just how many puzzle pieces had to fall into place to build my life. The life I love.

Stories. They're what I do and they're where I come from! I hope you'll check out some of my Hometown Hearts series. Something Borrowed will be out in January and three more are coming in 2021. Plus two Christmas books are on sale at Amazon right now! Hopefully those stories will make you smile this very strange holiday season!

Stay safe!


If you haven't visited yet, come see what HollysWoods Studio has to offer.

Christmas in Cupid Falls and Everything But a Christmas Eve are both on sale for $.99 for Christmas!

And check out Hometown Hearts:

Crib Notes
: Hometown Hearts #1

A Special Kind of Different: Hometown Hearts #2

Homecoming: Hometown Hearts #3


Suddenly a Father: Hometown Hearts #4

Something Borrowed: Hometown Hearts #5
PREORDER. Available 1/21

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Does Age Matter? by Susan Sands

 Of all the terrible isms out in the world, some are far worse than others. While we're not all directly targets of the worst discrimination, at some point we do experience bias in our lifetimes. Discrimination because of factors we can't control about ourselves is frustrating and terrible. 

Things change as we go through life. If we have acne when we're young, at some point, hopefully, it goes away. Some things get better, and others, not so much. Those stages and experiences shape us for the better or worse.

When we're young, we believe we'll never get old. Looks fade, no matter what. The way we're treated in the job market changes as we age even though technically it's not allowed. As we age, we gain a better perspective about the balance of our life experiences. But our ability to find gainful employment decreases.

As a writer, I believe I'm improving my skills with every book I write. I'm constantly reading books, taking craft classes, and using my life experiences to enrich my stories. But does my age make a publisher pause? Will it? This is theoretical. I worry for the coming years, I guess.

We all want to remain relevant. And we can, given the flow of information all around us. But will be considered relevant. I've watched older people be dismissed as they try to contribute to conversations. It's heartbreaking to see the impatience all around. 

Ageism is age discrimination. And it's rampant in our world. Life doesn't end because we're not cute any longer. Most of us know this, but we are a society that still celebrates youth and beauty. That's okay as long as we can also celebrate age and wisdom. 

Let's be comfortable in our skin and help others to do the same.

Susan Sands

Friday, November 13, 2020

My Cottage

 I post a lot of pictures from my studio. It's been a while since I've taken friends on a tour of the cottage. Rectifying that today! We're hoping to start the addition next year. Like everything else, it'll be done in fits and bits, but high on my list is indoor plumbing. I know, I'm all fancy! LOL

Anyway, come on in and see my favorite place in the world...

Hope you enjoyed seeing where we're at! It's been a beautiful autumn out in the woods. I'm anxious to be out there more this winter! And if you want to see what's up at the studio, check it out here.


Check out Hometown Hearts:

Crib Notes
: Hometown Hearts #1

A Special Kind of Different: Hometown Hearts #2

Homecoming: Hometown Hearts #3


Suddenly a Father: Hometown Hearts #4

Something Borrowed: Hometown Hearts #5
PREORDER. Available 1/21

Monday, November 02, 2020

A Precipice of...Something by Susan Sands

Hello all! Tomorrow is election day. In 2020. The year has been, well, you know. It's been difficult, to put it mildly. 

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I'm concerned. Mostly about the fallout no matter which candidate wins. Half of the country will be devastated. And angry. Will there be violence in the streets? 

Leading up to election day there has been an incredible amount of screaming by pundits on both sides. I don't like politicians and I don't like watching the news. Common sense seems to have gone out the window. 

I hope there will be a clear winner. I hope the election won't be contested. I'm sick of the country screaming at each other. I like my friends; all of them. But the media and social media tells me I'm not supposed to like anyone I don't agree with. I hate that it's come to this.

I wish you all peace during this time of unrest. We are all Americans and I hope we can get back to civility very soon. I refuse to scream. I refuse to predict gloom and doom for us all. All I can do is vote and deal with the results.

Stay well and healthy, everyone, and hang in there. We will get through this together!


Friday, October 30, 2020

If you haven't heard from me for a while... might have missed that I've moved.

To stay up to date with everything I've been up to - even writing the occasional book! - you'll find me talking about the joys of having the decorators in, my playlist when writing my latest book, and the nervous wait for the reviews of Christmas Reunion in Paris.

This month I've been chatting to Kandy Shepherd about the books she'd want with her if fate stranded her on a desert island, so come and follow me at my new home and maybe tell us what books you couldn't live without.

Have a lovely weekend. Stay safe.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Writing the Book Might be the Easy Part! By Susan Sands

When an author releases a new book, especially a holiday title, she has a short window to get the word

out. The publisher does a certain amount of publicity, but it's up to the author to find creative ways to reach readers, especially during a pandemic. There aren't a lot of opportunities for in-person book signings and personal appearances. Zoom isn't especially well-attended, unless you are a big bestselling author. I am not a big bestselling author. But I do have friends who are.

I'm trying to be as creative as possible and do as much as I can during the short window between release day on October 19th and December 25th to promote my new book, Noel, Alabama. Besides screaming myself hoarse on social media, I've got an online book tour scheduled, lots of shoutouts with my author friends on release day, pre-release reviewers who've read the advanced copy, a big Zoom event with some of those big author friends I mentioned on release day, hosted by FoxTale Books, my local indie bookseller. I could go on because there are plenty of other smaller events to share... 

I'm scheduled to appear on my publisher's blog and their Facebook book club and they will be posting my cover on the website and social media pages. They've been doing some pre-pub publicity stuff as well. And I know there are so many other things done leading up to pub day on the publisher's end.

I say all of this to show how much time and effort goes into finding readers for mine and any author's book. The sales window for a holiday book ends on Christmas day, so all the effort is concentrated into a few short months--weeks. Writing the book really is only part of the whole picture.

It's a lot of effort for a book. I do hope my readers enjoy it!

Have a happy October!!

Susan Sands

Sunday, September 13, 2020


 I tend to join Ancestry every few years to update my family tree. They're always adding new resources, so there's generally something new to find. One great-grandmother was a complete mystery when I started my family tree. My grandmother was adopted. A family friend told me her adopted father was in actuality her biological father. I found her original birth certificate and the father listed was a variation of his name so I thought that clicked. And there was a mother's name listed.

Before DNA testing was available, I was pretty sure I tracked down my grandmother's mother. And I listed her adopted father as her bio father on my tree, though I didn't have proof. Since then, DNA has shown that her dad was her biological father, and my guess at her mom was correct as well.

Here's the thing, I like knowing who I came from, but I also know who my family truly is. I look at those names on my family tree and can trace my roots to Ireland, England and Germany.  I can follow my northern family lines from a Brown University founder to Erie, PA. I can trace my southern family line from the Appalachian Mountains, to Erie. I know I've had politicians, doctors, sea captains, train engineers, homesteaders and share croppers in that tree. 

All that is great and truly fascinating but my family? My real family? Well, there's John. Papa John to me. He wasn't related through DNA, but he was my Papa through and through. He gardened. Every Christmas he brought me a poinsettia and every Easter a hyacinth. (Himself occasionally tries to buy me an Easter flower to remind me of Papa...and he invariably buys a lily. But that always makes me smile and think of Papa anyway! LOL) Then there's Elmer. He wasn't a blood relation either, but he was my grandpa. He lived on a farm in western Erie county. He mowed a golf course in the summers and had permanently sun burned arms. His mom was named Maggie Mae and I have the vaguest memory of her in a rocker.  Both of these "grandfathers" were my real family.

Family isn't DNA. I mean, I love knowing these people and their paths that all converged and led me here, but Papa and Elmer...they were family. 

I think my fragmented family tree is why writing stories about how families come together is such a theme for me. That's what the entire Hometown Hearts series is. In Crib Notes there's an unexpected pregnancy and a baby who finds a true father. In A Special Kind of Different there's a special needs character who brings together a special relationship and creates a family. In Homecoming a loss leads to the discovery that hearts have infinite room...loving someone new doesn't take away from others you've loved. And in this month's Suddenly a Father, Tucker was a teen mom who spent her adult years taking care of her son and her career. She's never needed anything—anyone—else. But she meets a man who truly knows what family is and is willing to put his entire life on the line for them. How can she resist him? (She can't. LOL)

Next year's stories continue that exploration of family in Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Perfect and Something for Christmas

Family. It's a fascinating subject that I will never get tired of exploring in my life and my writing. 

Thank you everyone who's come along for the ride! I hope you'll pick up this month's release, Suddenly a Father and the first three books as well!


Crib Notes
: Hometown Hearts #1

A Special Kind of Different: Hometown Hearts #2

Homecoming: Hometown Hearts #3


Suddenly a Father: Hometown Hearts #4

Something Borrowed: Hometown Hearts #5
PREORDER. Available 1/21

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Sweet September by Susan Sands

Georgia's weather is a mixed bag for sure. It gets super hot in summer with high humidity from May

until late September. So, when cooler weather comes, it is a blessed relief.

With COVID-19, fall festivals and book conferences will be limited, but getting outdoors comfortably will be nice for everyone. Here's hoping the world keeps spinning and the virus is flattened and cold and flu season will be mild this year.

My daughter is back at college where they are quarantining in waves as the students gather, as students do. 

In book news: I've finalized a three-book contract with Tule Publishing for my upcoming Lousiana series, with the first story due out next summer. And I've signed with literary agent Elaine Spencer at the Knight Agency. 

So, September moving forward is going to a busy time for me. My new book, Noel, Alabama comes out October 19th, so the promotion begins now!

I hope this finds you well and healthy. I'll be hosting a big, fun, online event on October 19th which will include Eloisa James, Vanessa Riley, Karen White, Kristina McMorris, Kimberly Belle, and Emily Carpenter!!

Check out my website for more details coming soon!

Take care!!

Susan Sands

Monday, August 31, 2020

Wait! Summer's Over?


How did that happen? 

I confess, I've been inside a lot since March so I barely notice the change of seasons from spring to summer and now getting ready for fall. And, added onto that is that whatever is growing outside bothers my allergies, so, I'm indoors most of the time. 

And, of course, this is no UCR (usual-customary-reasonable) fall either. Staples and other stores selling school supplies should be packed. Beaches should be filled to capacity in that last effort to relax before the real world comes back. I should be on my way to Scotland for a 3-week tour/reseach/writing trip. But no, we're all trying to make our way from an unexpected summer to an unconventional fall. 

 The one thing that usually means summer to me is a visit to a beach - I love sitting on a beach and watching and listening to the waves. But mostly I like people-watching AND reading. I remember when my family rented a place on Long Beach Island and I began packing books first! The best part of that trip (since I had 3 boys at the time) was the long afternoon when my hubby took them back to the house and let me read uninterrupted on the beach for 4 hours! Bliss, sheer bliss! I may yet try to get down there for a couple of hours of beach reading....

Now (literally today!) the temps will shift a tiny bit cooler, forewarning us of the change of seasons coming. Personally, I love the fall - the cooler temps, the crispness in the air, the colors changing around me, the coming holidays. The smells of fireplaces and more baking will fill the air. Ahhhhhh. 

How about you? Are you mourning summer's departure or cheering fall's arrival? Was there a high point to your summer? Or expecting something fabulous this autumn? Let me know by commenting and I'll choose a summer and a fall person to receive a copy of my latest release - An Outlaw's Honor - or my rereleased - A Highlander's Hope. I'll choose on September 5.


Vikings lovers enemies Harlequin

Terri is working on her next Harlequin Historical romance while waiting for the release of TEMPTED BY HER VIKING ENEMY in November. The final book in the #SonsofSigurd series, it arrives on October 27(print) and November 1(ebook). Visit Terri's website for all the info! 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

VJ Day 75 by Michelle Styles

Today is the 75th Anniversary of Victory Japan Day -- the day when Japan actually surrendered. In the US, 2 September was chosen as the date commemorate.  

In the UK, they are doing various ceremonies including the piper at dawn playing the battle is over.

I thought you all might enjoy the actual footage of the surrender.

It is a time to reflect that peace which resulted was hard won with contributions from many nations, and that in total war, no one ever has the moral high ground.

Michelle Styles writes warm witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her next Viking set book  will be published Feb 2021. You can learn more about Michelle and her work on

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Puppy Training


I've said before that Tallulah hates cars and robins. And since witnessing her passionate dislike for robins, I've learned to look at them with a more jaundice eye. There's a chance she's right...they look as if they could be up to something. LOL But her hatred of cars is more problematic. She's 45 lbs now and when she pulls, especially if I'm not expecting it, it has almost toppled me. I've tried everything I could think of or read about to break her of the car phobia. And while she's better, she still sometimes lunges. So I tried a gentle lead. She was spayed a week ago and while we weren't walking, we practiced wearing the harness. She got a lot of treats and praise whenever I put it on.

When she was ready for a short walk, we used the new harness. It worked! She occasionally pawed at it, but I just said, "Uh, uh," and she stopped. Cars went by and she wanted to eat them, but didn't lunge. Success!! By the time she's ready to get back to our five miles a day, I feel confident we'll be all good.

As I reflected on gentle leaders, my thoughts turned to John Lewis. He was a man who lead through example and stood up for what he believed in. Everything I've read about him points to a gentle man who led gently and passionately. 

He said, "When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something."  I love that quote and his talk of "Good Trouble." The minions were over and we watched part of his funeral. They asked me about him and I told them how much I admired him. I told them about Lewis's march over what I hope will someday be the John Lewis Bridge. We talked about racism against black and brown people. One of the minions who has a dark summer tan asked me if people wouldn't like him because he was brown. I said, no that while he was definitely brown  when people saw him they saw him as white. He asked about an even browner cousin. And I assured him they were seen as white too. He was so confused. It broke my heart and made me proud as well. We talked about how people's actions matter more than how they look or where they come from. It's a lesson I tried to share with my kids when they were young. And I try to give my characters that kind of world view. 

I write about the Keller family in my Hometown Hearts series. The youngest Keller sister, Cessy, wrote about her family in an essay for school. I tear up every time I read that part of Crib Notes. (Yeah, I know I wrote it, but if my books don't move me, I can't expect them to move readers.) Here's the excerpt:

Mrs. Keller cleared her throat. “My family, by Cecily Keller.’

“‘When I was in fourth grade, our class made cards for our families for Thanksgiving. We traced our hands and turned them into construction paper turkeys. After school, I ran out and gave mine to my mom when Leslie, a girl in my class, came up and said, ‘You’re supposed to give it to your mom.’ I was confused and told her this was my mom, and she said it couldn’t be ’cause we didn’t match. Until that moment, I don’t think I ever thought that way about my family.’

“‘Oh, I knew my brother Zac always called me cocoa because my skin is the color of chocolate, and there was no way to miss that Mom is as pale as a white person can get. But I never saw those differences.’

“‘After that, I did. I noticed the looks my family got when we went out together. None of us are alike. We have brown hair, black, reddish-brown and blond. Some of us are very tall, a few are vertically challenged.’

“‘When I was ten, we all went to Disney World and Mom made us wear matching T-shirts that proudly proclaimed The Kellers. We got looks there, too.’

“‘The fact that we all were so very different made us stand out, and any school kid will tell you that standing out can be a problem. So I hoped no one would notice.’

“‘The Kellers took me home weeks after I was born. I have biological parents, but I never knew them. Then when I was five, my biological father took me back. I still remember that day. My whole family stood on the porch as the social worker led me away to her car. I didn’t understand what was going on. My mom had told me that I was going to live with my real dad, but I felt that my real father was the man on the porch physically holding my brother Zac, who was struggling to get to me. I was only five and I knew who my family was. The stranger the state decided should have custody was nothing to me. The six months he kept me were bad. I don’t talk about them. But they taught me something.’

“‘Before, I wanted to hide how different my family was, but then I figured out that biology might determine your skin and hair color, it might determine if you’re tall or short, but it’s your family that makes up your heart. It’s your family that makes you whole, the person you really are.’

“I took my family to school later that year for show-and-tell. Though in fourth grade we’d really outgrown the tradition, Mom stood by me and my entire family showed up and let me introduce them to my class. And I told all those kids that my family didn’t match on the outside, that we never would, but we matched on the inside and that’s all that counts.’

“‘And that’s what family means to me.’”

And that's the gift I hope I gave to my kids and now to the doesn't matter how someone looks on the outside. It doesn't matter if they 'match' us. What matters is what's in their heart. I wrote about our neighbor Tiffany in the Dear Reader letter for A Special Kind of Different. She was different but special and my kids recognized that. It's another moment that I hold dear. It's another case of seeing what's important about someone. This is at the heart of Hometown Hearts...and hopefully at the heart of my family.

I think the world could use more gentle leaders in it. I hope I'm doing my part to bring up a new generation of them.


Check out the Keller family in:

Crib Notes: Hometown Hearts #1

A Special Kind of Different: Hometown Hearts #2

Homecoming: Hometown Hearts #3

PREORDER  Suddenly a Father: Hometown Hearts #4
Available in September

Sunday, August 02, 2020

New Horizons by Susan Sands

I feel like I'm turning a page. Yes, I know the COVID is still all around me, and the year is still 2020. But I've survived the virus, thankfully, and I'm on my way to hopefully working with a new agent and getting the books of my heart published. Books set in my home state of Louisiana. My very first ones. They won't be exactly the same. But it's been a dream of mine to do these stories and see them come to life--finally.

No details yet, but. I can already see the covers--kind of. I've got a Cajun cookout menu already planned for the first book release. Red beans and rice with smoked sausage, crawfish etouffee, and crusty French bread with butter. Bread pudding with a vanilla glaze. So, yeah, I've been dreaming about these books in every aspect for years.

My new website will go live in a few days, and it's a beauty! I'm hoping to use it for my latest news instead of doing a newsletter. It's an experiment to see how many people will follow for giveaways, etc. There is going to be a giveaway as soon as it goes live, so be on the lookout at

Right now, it's still the old WordPress site, but it will switch over soon.

I'm focused on what I can control right now. Yes, I'm worried about the world. Very. But I'm mostly staying home and writing. I'm wishing you all good health, both mental and physical. 

I'm always available to writers who have questions, or who I can help. I will always try.

Have a fantastic day, or try to. Keep trying to. Love to all!

Susan Sands

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A free digital jigsaw or two by Michelle Styles

One thing I enjoy doing is jigsaw puzzles and so when I saw that I could create digital puzzles from my covers, I just had to give it a try. I suspect you all are better at jigsaws than I am. But I do enjoy jigsaw puzzles. They can help me to think or to plot because while one part of my mind is working on the puzzle, another part is puzzling out the answer to the tricky plot problem.  And sometimes it can just be good to focus on something else for a change.
The first one is I did was of my latest cover Conveniently Wed to the Viking:

And the next one was one of latest shareable for the five book series: Sons of Sigurd.

I am very excited that my book is out and the other two books Redeeming Her Viking Warrior by Jenni Fletcher (Sept 2020) and Tempted by Her Viking Enemy by Terri Brisbin (November 2020) continue the story in such an exciting way.
Currently you can read the prequel by Michelle Willinghamfor free and the first book Tempted by the Viking  Warrior by Michelle Willingham is at the special price of $1.99 wherever ebooks are sold.
Here I have just handed in my revisions for the 2nd part in my trilogy about 3 Anglo Saxon  high born women who have to negotiate the changed landscape of war torn middle England and find love in unexpected places. A Deal with Her Rebel Viking was the first part (but I came involved with the Sons of Sigurd…). I am about to start the final part as well. It can be strange to go back into a world after creating another world.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods from Ancient Rome to Victorian. Her latest Conveniently Wed to the Viking is now out. You can learn more about Michell and her books on