Monday, January 27, 2020

My Page in Woman's World

by Joanne Rock

I'm excited to have a story in Woman's World magazine this week! If you're out grocery shopping, look for my short Super Bowl-themed piece called "A Tailgate Romance" in the February 3rd issue.

The story is set in Mesa Falls, the fictional town in western Montana where my current Harlequin Desire miniseries is set. I gave the heroine, Lexi Grayson, a reunion romance with a cowboy who left the ranch.

It was fun for me to write a football-themed story. Readers who've been with me for awhile might remember that my first miniseries for Harlequin Desire, Bayou Billionaires with my friend Catherine Mann, was set in the world of pro football. My titles were His Secretary's Surprise Fiance and Secret Baby Scandal. The hero of the former was a coach. The hero of the latter, a quarterback.

But then, I love sports romances. I've done hockey heroes and baseball players too. My current miniseries for Tule, Texas Playmakers, features baseball-playing brothers. Perfect Catch and Game On will be followed up by Scoring Position, due out in May 2020.

But one of the most interesting facts about this month's story in Woman's World? You may be interested to know it's not my first time in the magazine. Long ago, I appeared in the pages of the publication modeling back-to-school fashions! My guess is it ran sometime in August of 1985 or 1986. That'll tell you how long it's been since I looked like someone getting ready to go back to school. I wish I had the picture to share with you, but like so much of my life right now, it's packed in boxes as I'm between houses. One of these days, when I'm reunited with all my things, I'll post a pic.

For now, however, I'm far more proud of having my words on the magazine pages! Please do keep an eye out for the story, and for my February 2020 Harlequin Desire release, Rule Breaker.

***So if you're at the grocery store you can look for the magazine... I'm curious what are you most likely to forget to buy at the grocery store? Or what shopping oversight is most apt to send you right back out to get it? For me, it's coffee creamer. I can't cope without the kind I like! I'll give one random commenter an advance copy of my March Mesa Falls book, Heartbreaker!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

#WriteTip: On Story & Voice ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about voice.

Barbara Kingsolver once said, "Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."

For a very long time, I thought that quote was about theme...and maybe it partly is. We all have themes that we navigate to. I love friends-to-lovers and reunion tropes, and if I can throw in a loving/finding yourself theme that makes it all the better. That's why I've come to believe this quote is also about voice.

We all have unique experiences in roughly the same place. I blog a lot with a group called WordWranglers; we're all over the 35 mark in age, so we have some of the same references, but we aren't in the same country (shout-out to our Canadian, Jana!) or region (hey, Margie, how's life in the PNW lately?). I have a group of writer friends within about an hour's drive from me and we meet for coffee and every year we have a writer's retreat. We're mostly from the same area (northern Ohio/southern Michigan) and we're (mostly) also over the 35 year mark. But, ask us who the hottest 1980s actor was, and we'll all have a different name (I call Tom Selleck because...well, short-cargo-shorts). Ask which is the best spring flower (I call Nemesia because of the color and resemblance to Orchids). Ask us why we are writers, you'll get another unique answer. And its the same within every writer group I've known. Different people, unique experiences, singular feelings.

All of that uniqueness creates a voice, a frame of reference that we bring to every book, be that a friends-to-lovers romance or a mistaken heir romance or a were-being meets Darth Vader space comedy. Voice includes our syntax, our slang, punctuation and even diction.

A writer's voice also covers the things we care about.

Step One in finding voice and story is to think about what makes you you and not your brother, sister, best friend, or spouse.

Here are just a few of the things that make me, well, me: I'm a soapbox-standing proponent of adoption and advocate for kids in foster care because of our experiences adopting bebe. I'm a die-hard Kansas City Royals fan (but never the Chiefs. Never. Okay, fine, they're in the Super Bowl and *my team* isn't so I'll root for them), lover of Cadbury Caramel eggs who also has a slight addiction to tuna-on-wheat, peanut-butter-on-white and mustard-and-bologna sandwiches. I am also a day-dreamer, and once the letters and numbers combined I couldn't do math to save my life. I was raised on a farm but was afraid of the goats and cows in our fields, and although I love to ride, I could never remember how to cinch the freaking saddle correctly...mostly because when my family would demonstrate, I'd get lost thinking about my books again. For a very long time I felt like I didn't fit in my own family.

So a big part of my voice, of the stories I tell, is finding home. Finding safety and security and coming to terms with who you are...and who you aren't. My core story, and my voice, are suited to optimism and embracing differences and learning to love yourself so that you can love others.

Once I figured out what my voice brought to the table, writing books became so much simpler...because I knew what I had to say.

Step Two in finding voice is ... well, just to think about these things some more. How are your experiences already influencing your writing? Are you digging deep enough into YOU to dig deeper into your characters? If you can't see the connections between yourself and your writing, take that deeper look. Sit down with a notebook and write about you. Then write about your favorite character (one you didn't write) and what makes them stand out to you. Then write about a favorite character you've created. What things do you and these characters have in common?

Have you found your voice? What is it that your stories bring to the table?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Moonlight Match, is available now in paperback or e-format! 

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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Michelle Styles: New Year, Great New Viking Series --The Sons of Sigurd

2020 heralds the start of a Harlequin Historical series – The Sons of Sigurd. This is the first time there has been a Viking continuity. Five authors – Michelle Willingham, Harper St George, Jenni Fletcher, Terri Brisbin and yours truly have penned exciting stories revolving around five brothers and their quest to avenge their father’s murder. The first one Stolen by the Viking debuts in March (this means it goes on sale at on 1 February. Harper St George’s  Falling for Her Viking Captive comes next and then mine Conveniently Wed to the Viking in July.
The series came about as a result of Jenni Fletcher visiting me when her family were on holiday in Northumberland in 2017. Over tea, cakes and much gossip, she mused that it would be great fun to do a Viking continuity. I promised to see what I could do. I am not sure she expected me to do anything.
When the annual AMBA lunch and toast to the authors rolled around, with knocking knees and a faint tremor in my voice I spoke first to my editor and then to the Historical team. Luckily they were all enthusiastic. In fact we were pushing on an open door. After getting the editors’ backing, Jenni and I were able to get the others involved. Then the hard work began — creating a series which could be sustained over five books and also showcased the individual authors’ talents.
Working in collaboration was something new for me. There is always give and take and the insight into other people’s working habits has been interesting. It is the first time I have dealt with dropbox, or a spreadsheet, for example. And the sheer pleasure of being able to spark ideas off each other was just wonderful. One of the bonuses has been being able to read each other’s work at an early stage and see the ideas start coming to life.
We are very proud of the series. The books can be read individually or as an overarching story. Personally we think, once you have read one, you will want to read them all.
To give you a flavor what is in store: this is the blurb for Michelle Willingham’s Stolen by the Viking
Bought for his vengeance

But claimed for his bed!

Battle-scarred Viking Alarr is a broken warrior who expects to die carrying out his oath of blood vengeance. He saves maiden Breanne î Callahan from slavery only with the intention of getting close enough to kill her foster father. Until their spark of passion ignites a desire to keep her close…and presents Alarr with a gut-wrenching choice—his revenge or his heart?
You can read the start of the story on for free. And then hopefully you can see why we are all so excited by the prospect.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her most recent book A Deal with Her Rebel Viking was published in December 2019. Her next book Conveniently Wed to the Viking will be published in July 2020. You can learn more about Michelle and her books at

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Christina Hollis: Dreadline Fever, and A Winter Warmer!

DD's new (actually 400+ years old!) house
I hope you had a lovely start to the New Year. I've been busy working on an assignment since the semester ended just before Christmas. The deadline is tomorrow, which is why I'm typing this  blog with one hand while making dinner with the other!

I've only cooked about one or two meals per week since term ended on 20th December. Each Sunday I did a big roast as usual, and I also cooked lunch on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The rest of the time my family took turns, so I could concentrate on writing my essays. 

Now everyone has gone back to work. DD has the added stress of masterminding the move into her new home, so I'm back on cooking duties. Tonight we're having one of our favourites—vegetable casserole.

We're not vegetarians by any means but vegetable casserole is one of the cheapest, easiest and most filling things in the world to make, although it takes a while to prepare everything and it takes an hour or two to cook. It's a recipe I invented so there are
Pic by Loubos Houska via Pixabay
no weights and measures. That's what makes it so easy! All you do is peel and/or trim some carrots, potatoes, onions, and any other similar "hard" veg you have to hand such as celery, swede, turnip or sweet potato. Cut everything into slices about as thick as a coin. Put all the sliced veg into a big casserole dish and add enough stock (made from a cube if you don't make your own) to almost cover it. Cook in a low oven (about 160 degrees) for a couple of hours, or until the vegetables are soft. Stir once or twice, and season before serving. If you have room in your oven you can put in a milk pudding and a rich fruit cake at the same time, as they benefit from long slow cooking. 

I serve vegetable casserole either with home-made bread or cheese scones. If there's anything left over, I liquidise it, add some chilli powder or garam masala,  and reheat it next day as soup. 

What's your favourite warming winter recipe?

Christina Hollis has written six historical novels, eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t working on getting her MA from the University of Gloucestershire, Christina is cooking, gardening, or walking her dog.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Monday, January 13, 2020

Real Life in Fiction

I have an avant-garde influences a lot of what I write.

I worked with breastfeeding moms for years. My first speaking gigs were talking about breastfeeding to medical people and colleges. My most memorable talk was a university psych class at 8am on a Monday morning. I doubted the kids would be really excited about asking questions (I so prefer doing talks with audience participation) so I asked them to write their questions/comments on index cards (Hey Susan, I used index cards!). One of their first questions I read was, "Does the size of the breast matter?" I should mention I talk with my hands. So I did a little palm-up hand motion, as if weighing breasts without thinking about what I was doing. I should also mention that the front row consisted of huge, football-looking guys. As I realized what I'd done, I started to laugh and the football team cracked up. Pretty soon the entire class was laughing with us. The rest of the talk went very smoothly. LOL I added a breastfeeding baby to Bosom Buddies. It was one of my earliest sales and started with an absurd breastfeeding situation. I really thought I'd gone over the top and considered cutting it, but in the end I left it in. I'm glad I did because the editor called after reading it and said, "I just died laughing. I'm buying the book, but let me finish reading it before we talk." If I wrote the book today, I'd have written it differently, but I still love this early example of my work. I love that early works are still out there for readers to find, but I hope they all go on to read more current books. My writing has grown. And truly, if it hasn't, I should find another job.

Speaking of jobs, I volunteered at my kids' grade school for years. I was on the school board (school board president one year), worked with PTA and for a number of years I planned and ran the kids' games at our annual Feather Party.  Those experiences influenced my PTA Mom Trilogy. I really loved getting to focus on the balancing act all parents have to do. There's a bonus story in the bundle because truly, I loved those years on PTA and I loved giving PTA moms a shout-out in the stories! It was fun to go back to Erie Elementary.

Speaking of Erie schools, for years I worked with the Erie School District's teen parenting program. Once a year I went in to talk to the kids in the program. There were three of us who were core speakers, with others joining us on occasion. Deb talked about programs available to the girls. Craig talked with a male perspective. I talked about parenting. The teachers who worked in the program at the different district high schools were amazing. This volunteer gig is definitely part of the first book in my Hometown Hearts series, Crib Notes. The book is about a teacher who runs...a teen parenting program, of course. She finds herself pregnant and dumped. So while she is an adult, her journey echoes the journeys of the girls she's worked with for years. And it turns out no matter how old or young you are, there are a lot of similarities in being unexpectedly pregnant and on your own. A lot.

The second book in the Hometown Hearts series, A Special Kind of Different (out in March and available for preorder) has a very special character. Here's my Dear Reader letter that tells how a neighbor inspired that :

Dear Reader,
My family had a very special neighbor, Tiffany. My kids and their friends accepted her without question. She didn't verbalize much, but she always had a smile and an utter fascination with watches. One day my kids and their friends came running to the house to get me because a group of strangers were picking on Tiff. We went outside and with a few mom-threats on my part, they left. In that moment, the kids showed not just compassion, but they showed that they knew that different isn't something to be afraid of or's special. I was so very proud of all of them!
In this second book in my Hometown Hearts series. I introduce the Sunrise Foundation, whose goal is to help exceptional people lead exceptional lives. Instead of locating the story in Erie, I used the fictional neighboring town of Whedon—the setting forCrib Notes—because Erie already has an organization that helps our special residents,The Gertrude A. Barber National Institute.They do such wonderful work.
In this story, Anna and Liam both believe that they know what's best for Liam's brother, Colm. In the end it's Colm who teaches them an important life lesson--that you need to stand up for what you want and love!
A Special Kind of Different is a book that's...well, special for me as the writer, and hopefully for you as the reader!

One last story...

My biological father left when I was a toddler. I never met him until I was in my thirties.  That idea of a parent giving up a child came up in Carry Her Heart. I wrote the story from the mother-who-gave-up-the-baby's perspective. And then followed up with the story of that daughter finding her biological mother in Hold Her Heart.  No, not my story really, but stories that echo my stories. (They're on sale this week on Amazon.)

I could go on. There's some element of me, my life, my questions about life in each of my books. None of my experiences are really autobiographical in my fiction. They're a starting point. A place to build off of. I twist my facts and turn them into something totally different and unique. I build characters who do things and see things differently than I do or would. They're uniquely themselves. Real people and real stories in a very fictional way. LOL

I hope you try out any new-to-you stories!

And a special thanks so everyone who picked up Crib Notes last week! After you've read it, I would really appreciate it if you left a review at your favorite online site!


PS Links to my new releases and books on sale!

Crib Notes:

A Special Kind of Different:

The rest of the Hometown Hearts series will be coming soon.
Homecoming and Suddenly a Father will be out in June and September of 2020 and
Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Something Perfect in 2021!


Hold Her Heart
Just One Thing
First Everything But trilogy

PPS Today's Newest Episode of Trippin' with Holly and Susan...we're talking about our Words of the Year!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Where Was I? By Susan Sands

This past month has been a blur. More so than last year even, which is saying quite a lot. My mom
spent most of November in the hospital recovering from setbacks from a fall after spinal fusion surgery. Then two my college children had wisdom teeth removed the week before Christmas, which required more caregiving on my part. Christmas was almost not a thing this year, as it wasn't a thing last year because we moved.

I did manage to sign a contract for a new holiday Alabama book that is scheduled to release sometime in 2020. That right there is progress, folks. Tangible fruits of labor I will yield in the coming months. I also hope something great happens with my women's fiction titles on submission.

I'm hoping that good things happen for us all moving forward. 2019 was a contentious year in the romance writing world. In the world in general It won't sort itself out, and there is much to be done. Every time I read about it, I feel the weight; the drag. It's ugly and it's big.

I will continue to write and focus on my career and pursue my goals. I can't let this hurricane take away my passion. I hope something positive can prevail in the end. I'm  more determined than ever to succeed.

Best to you all in 2020!