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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Friends Don't Let Friends Write Alone!



      One of the most amazing things about the romance writing community is the friendships and support there. Yes, technically we are all competitors, but I think the message was best said by Harlen Coben at a workshop I attended years ago -- 'no one has to fail for me to succeed.'  And, in the romance community more than in any other, there's not just acceptance of other writers, but also the offering of help and support every step of the way. 

     So, along the way, I've found a number of writing friends who have been there for me when I need them and sometimes when I don't even realize that I do! Large groups like the Harlequin (Historical) Hussies - lots and lots of authors who write the amazing stories in the HH line-- as well as smaller groups like the Hermits. The Hermits are the group of authors who gathered each November at a beach house in Charleston to write and brainstorm and chat and drink wine (and watch Dancing With The Stars and Castle). Let me tell you that those women have saved my sanity more than once over the years!

    One of the other groups I've found is one of authors in the southeastern PA/northern DE area...and me - I'm from NJ. We've known each other for years and about two or so years ago, we began getting together on a regular monthly basis. We started calling ourselves Writers-Who-Lunch and spent the first couple of lunches chatting about all sorts of things including writing and publishing and news and kids. But then someone said - 'hey, we're writers, we should write something together!' 
 
     Within a month or two, we'd gathered for a brainstorming session, chosen a family name (the Blackwoods)  and common history (a Jacobite rebel is transported to Pennsylvania after the Rising in 1715), driven all over Chester County looking at horse farms and stone houses and decided the theme of the first collection - brides! We each picked our time period and generation and planned out our stories -- all the while meeting each month and making sure it all worked together. There were genealogy charts and time lines and historical research on indentured servitude and so much more. One of the original authors had to step out and another friend stepped in. It was so exciting and invigorating and inspiring to work with authors with different voices and stories and yet see everything fall in place. 
 
     Yesterday we held the first print copy of the anthology in our hands and I admit it - there were tears! The author who joined us midway has never been published before so this is her debut and it was so special to watch her face as she held that book in her hands. 

     It is a special moment in an author's career and it was even more special to be part of it and to share this project with these other women....it's just what writers do for other writers. 




 
 Brandywine Brides - A Blackwood Legacy Anthology will be released on April 25 in digital and print editions across retailers. The digital edition is now 99¢  - a special pre-order and first week price! 


Kindle        Nook       iBooks      Kobo     



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Gentle Reminder To Live With Purpose

by Michelle Monkou

Live life with purpose. 

Live a purposeful life.

Live a life with meaning.

I'm sure we've all heard these messages or a variation of the advice. And regardless of our backgrounds and religious faiths, we can come up with an interpretation that contains a few common elements, such as focus, balance, passion.

"Everyone has a purpose in life, and within that purpose [lies] a unique talent just waiting to be expressed and shared with the world." Rachelle Williams, The Chopra Center

"The thoughts you think are not just happenstance; they are within you for a reason, for a purpose, for a destiny you are called to fulfill and that is unique to you. You’ll realize the light of who you really are and why you are here." - Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

 "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.'' - Poem Invictus. Oprah Winfrey's mantra.

So we have an idea of what it means and when the advice is given we nod. But living that ideal every day is tough. When a day has gone by in the blink of an eye or a week has zipped through your consciousness, however, you can't readily recall the details, you are existing/coasting from one moment to the next.

I'm not a self-help guru. I know from my personal experience that it takes deliberate effort to live with purpose. Takes more than a wishful heart to have and maintain that focus and balance and passion. And first taking a look at what distracts me from my purpose is one method I use to stay in the zone.

Distractions aren't things or people who will suddenly vanish from our lives. So waiting for pristine conditions just won't happen. Instead, I'm learning to manage those influences in my life. Not everyone understands what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. Therefore, they take it as a personal slight if I no longer give permission to sway me from my purpose.

But while removing distractions, I've added more uplifting activities like reading. I'm a bookaholic, so it's not a stretch. But I'm making a concerted effort to open my horizons and read a lot.
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry--I'm allowing it all to sink in. And I'm giving myself the time to think and reflect on what I've read.

It's a learning process, but I stand by the need to live a life of purpose.

So, I hope that you find your purpose and take the time to enjoy every minute of it.

All the best,

Michelle


Available on Amazon

Monday, March 27, 2017

What's for Dinner?


Available now!
When I was writing historical romance, I was frequently frustrated by the lack of texts handed down
by women. There are a few notable pieces from medieval times, spiritual writings or diaries, penned by powerful nuns or queens who could afford the expense of preserving their thoughts and who were well educated enough to write them down. Some of the more mundane texts by women that have survived the times are recipes, cooking instructions and ingredients lists that sometimes contain amusing asides about potential preparation hazards.

I am not surprised that at least a few of these writings survive given the necessity of cooking in everyday life and how much it has dominated feminine time for decades. Even now, when we can throw dinner in an “Insta-Pot” we still need to share recipes and idea for how to best use the tools available, and there is no escape the endless rounds of shopping for ingredients. Cooking take time. Furthermore, with studies showing that kids who take part in regular family meals are more well-adjusted, happier, higher achieving, you name it, we are called upon to make a ritual of eating. That means more thoughtful planning, table setting, shopping. If we’re lucky, there will be wine.

I have a binder full of recipes that I’ve acquired since getting married. My favorites are written in loved ones’ handwriting. My grandmother’s scrawled notes on cheesecake. Beloved dinner meals from my youth that my mother wrote down for me. My mother in law’s bonus notes on choosing cuts of meat after I confided that I was often flummoxed at the butcher window. I feel the love when I read those notes.

Available April 1st
But there are other personal recipes that call to me, too. I have a handful of emails from my critique partner, Catherine Mann, from the crazy years when we were both trying to sell our first books, writing constantly while raising lots of kids. Cathy’s asides are all about how to make things better, faster and tastier, how to adjust a main meal for the younger set so that there’s less time spent on prep. Like every other arena of my life, my cooking efficiency benefitted from her friendship.

In a life filled with books, my recipe binder is one of my most important. When I move houses during the year, it’s one that always goes with me. I can understand why medieval women made sure their cooking notes were well protected throughout their lifetime. Long after my latest romance novel is out of print, I hope my granddaughters will find something to smile about in the cooking adventures of their granny Joanne.

***

Friends, my husband brought home a rice cooker for me this week. Any hints? Fav recipes to share for a writer still looking to make the kitchen work faster, easier and tastier? I’d love to hear any and all dinner suggestions! I’ll give one random poster an advance copy of my May Harlequin Desire, The Magnate’s Marriage Merger. In the meantime, I hope you’ll look for the prequel book, The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride, available April 1 from Harlequin Desire!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eve Gaddy: Promotion

Yes, I decided to tackle this bug-a-boo for my blog this month. Promotion is very hard for a lot of writers, and particularly with self-publishing so popular now, it’s very necessary.

Non-writers, think about this. No matter how modest, or unsure, or private of a person she may be, a writer is supposed to toot her own horn about her books. Loudly. A lot. It takes a lot of getting used to, especially for an introvert, as many writers are. “Read my book! It’s wonderful!” We’re supposed to come up with clever ways to say this. And do it without doing it too much. No one wants to be beaten over the head with posts ad nauseum about buying a writer’s books. Yet if we don’t advertise and talk about our books no one notices and then we don’t sell any and that’s no fun at all.

So how do we let people know we have a book out that is just published, or free, or sale price or whatever? I have an email newsletter. That’s one way and it isn’t as painful as some, since (hopefully!) the people on my list actually want to hear from me. I post on Twitter and Facebook. I ask my friends to share. But is that enough?

Not according to conventional wisdom. There are a kajillion ways to advertise and trying to figure out the best is extremely difficult. Especially for the writer who really just wants to write. We lament having to do other stuff. Oh, we love to talk to readers, but that’s fun. For many of us, having to wear a number of hats--promoter, publisher, author, techie person--is one of the hardest things we do. There’s also the fact that what works for one writer might not work for another.

I have to say, when I post about deals for my books or my friends’ books on Facebook, I’m often thanked for letting people know. That makes me a lot more willing to post, since I figure if people are reading my author page, then they’re interested in books. And who doesn’t like free or sale books?

Readers, how do you like to be alerted about books? Newsletters? Facebook? Twitter? BookBub? Goodreads? Advertisements? If you follow an author on BookBub you’ll get updates when they have a new book out or one on special. Why yes, I have my BookBub page right here! Thanks for asking! https://www.bookbub.com/authors/eve-gaddy .

Where was I? Oh, yes, how readers find out about books they’d like to read. I’m sure a lot of people hear from a friend about a book the friend just read. But how did your friend hear about the book?

You can get an ebook of Texas Cowboy free for a limited time at your favorite outlet-- BookBub has all the links. And if you’re inclined, you can follow me too.




Here are the rest of the books in the series. You can find them with all the links at each author’s BookBub page.
Book 2 
 

Book 3 

Book 4 

Book 5 
     
Leave a comment about your favorite way to learn about new-to-you books and I’ll pick one lucky winner to win an ebook copy of Love Me, Cowgirl.:)       

   
Visit me at my website: www.evegaddy.net or

HAPPY READING!!




Friday, March 24, 2017

If in doubt, thunk...

About five minutes ago I was sat on my sofa avidly listening to an impassioned sales pitch on QVC while I was eating my breakfast.

This is sooo convenient,” the presenter enthused holding his mobile phone up to the screen for me to see, “It doesn’t matter where I am- I could be on the train on my way home, at the supermarket or even on my way back from the airport after a long holiday- and I can control my thermostat!”

I am not going to lie. She had me sold. How brilliant would that be? No matter where I am, I can adjust my thermostat, thus ensuring the house is snug and cosy upon my return! And just in case that wasn’t fabulous enough, this wonderful system, priced at a very reasonable £249, was also on easy pay instalments!

My cup literally runneth over. Where had this wonderful gadget been all of my life? I hastily pulled out my own mobile phone, because it is already loaded with the QVC app in readiness for such an eventuality, and quickly put the item into my virtual shopping basket. After all, they had already sold over two hundred of them so far this morning and I certainly did not want to be the dithering fool who missed out…

Then I stopped and did what me and my husband call some ‘thunking’. Because to ‘thunk’ something means to resist the temptation to act on your first instinct. You have to weigh up the pros and cons properly, then make a reasoned decision. Like Socrates or Plato would have done in days of yore.

So I sat and contemplated the pros: virtual control, cosy home, perhaps even a reduction in my utility bills. Splendid. Cons: I usually go on holiday in the summer months when the heating is off anyway, £249 is actually quite a lot of money to do something which is effectively only a flick of the wrist, I work from home…

Good grief!


I work at home, in constant, easy reach of my own thermostat. What an idiot! Why was I even considering such a ridiculous gadget at all?

And that, Dear Reader, sums me up perfectly in a nutshell.

I am an independent, intelligent woman. I have a degree. I used to be a teacher. I write books for a living for pity’s sake, yet beneath all of that common sense, I am a sucker for clever marketing. My husband often comments I would buy a bottled fart if it had the word NEW emblazoned across it. I wish this statement was not accurate, I really do. But alas, I am weak and open to suggestion.

My house is filled with things which, frankly, never should have been bought in the first place. And all because of the lure of hypnotic words like ‘New’, ‘Introductory Offer’ and my personal nemesis ‘Limited Stock’.


I have an electric egg boiler, which claimed to take all of the faff out of boiling an egg. This miraculous invention involves piercing the bottom of the egg with a strange pin attachment so it doesn’t explode during the revolutionary new process. Then you have to measure the exact amount of water for the number of eggs being boiled and according to the desired firmness of the finished egg. Once you have done that, you put the water into the machine, close the device and hey presto! Five minutes later you get the perfect three-minute runny egg. Or not, as actually proved to be the case. But it was ‘New’ and shaped charmingly like a yellow chicken so I had to have it.


Then there was the revolutionary seamless bra which, and I quote, “this unique new bra conforms to your curves… has no wires or hooks that can dig into your skin… giv(ing) you a perfect lift and a smooth shape… is so comfortable it won't even feel like you're wearing a bra at all.”

Well, they got that part right. I’m a big girl in the boob department, and the seamless bra did little to defy gravity. What it did do was flatten my ladies and push them downwards in a most unflattering way! The silhouette created when I looked in the mirror was soul-destroying.


And then there are all those beauty products which make promises they cannot keep. I have not yet found one which significantly reduces wrinkles, repairs damaged hair or gives my complexion the dewy glow of my youth! But I keep buying them because of their clever advertising, I have versions in every premier brand cluttering my bathroom cabinet, each one ultimately a crushing disappointment. Little jars of lies which taunt me every time I reach for the floss. What they do, do is empty my bank balance and make me feel stupid for trusting my aging body with them in the first place.

And as for the miracle grass seed I purchased to repair the bald patches in my lawn. You PROMISED the seed would begin to grow in just SEVEN days. It’s day twelve. There has been plenty of rain and a good amount of spring sunshine. The exact conditions, I am reliably informed, which are perfect for grass seed to grow in.

Look at my lawn people. Just look at it…
Virginia Heath writes witty, fast-paced Regency romantic comedies with a modern twist for Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical. Her novel,The Discerning Gentleman's Guide, was recently nominated for a RoNA (Romantic Novel of the Year Award)



'Choosing a wife is not a task that should be undertaken lightly.’
Bennett Montague, sixteenth Duke of Aveley, is seeking the perfect bride. He’s narrowed his search to five worthy ‘Potentials’…until the arrival of his aunt’s companion unravels his carefully laid plans.
Having fought for everything she has, Amelia Mansfield is incensed by Bennett’s wife selection methods. But as she’s forced to spend time in his company, she begins to see another side to Bennett – and that man is infinitely more tantalising and enticing …




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jennifer Gracen: Transitions

In both my writing life and my personal life, I find myself lately at yet another point of transition. I’ve had to push myself out of some of my comfort zones. And even though I know that I’ll be rewarded with growth and success of several kinds on the other side if I do it, my inner self hates doing it. That inner self alternates between whimpering, grumbling, procrastinating, throwing temper tantrums, and having full blown anxiety.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Why do we let fear hold us back, even when we KNOW the outcome will be to our benefit?

In my writing life, it’s been trying a new angle of writing. Writing some scenes in a way I haven’t before. The character in question demanded it. I had to go to a place with him that I haven’t in prior books. And it’s scary, because writing is such a personal art. Even though it’s the character saying and doing these things, not me, there’s still that aspect of feeling like I’m putting myself out there for everyone to see, naked and vulnerable.

In my personal life, I’m job hunting. Long story short, after being a SAHM and also working from home doing freelance, it’s not enough anymore. I haven’t worked a typical office job in fifteen years. So, it’s more of the putting myself out there, feeling vulnerable, all of that... it’s damned uncomfortable, and it’s a process that can really get me down sometimes.

I recognize that in both pursuits, there’s a fear of failure. Not just failure, either, but failing in spectacular fashion, with images of going down in flames over the side of a cliff as I freefall into choppy, shark-ridden waters. That fear is what makes the inner voice do all those yucky things and makes me twist and whine and, and... And ultimately it doesn’t matter, because I have to do these things. Period, end of story.
We all do.
 
Yes, pushing out of comfort zones brings growth, strength, and goodness. We know this. But it’s really hard. Because we are hardest on ourselves, and change is scary.

So I figured I’d talk about it. Hearing that others endure these growing pains and whispering doubts, to know someone else is struggling with it too, maybe makes someone feel not so alone as they go through something similar. Maybe it’s you. So...


Okay. Strapping my sword and shield back on. I got this. You got this. See you on the other side, fellow warrior.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lara Temple: Unconventional Heroines in Art

In every corner of the Regency world I always come across some amazing women. While doing research for my third book with Harlequin, The Duke’s Unexpected Bride (out next month), I ‘visited’ the 1819 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts which at the time was based in Somerset House. During my research I came across two female artists who reached their peak at the turn of the 18th/19th centuries – Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser. They are perfect examples of the kind of unconventional historical heroines that fascinate me.


My own heroine, Sophie, loves painting but is well aware of her limitations when she enters the amazing exhibition room where the likes of Turner, Constable, Reynolds and other British greats exhibited. She is content merely to be inspired and to be given the opportunity to paint and to buy her art supplies at the famous Cheapside art store, Reeves.

The Duke of Harcourt takes Sophie ‘backstage’ to the Royal Academy Council Chamber in order to show her Kauffman’s famous allegorical ceiling paintings. Sophie however, manages to find her way even further backstage where Academy members exhibit their nude paintings away from public (and female) eyes. I was using a little artistic license here – there were indeed rooms where Academy members could sketch nude models and where a young woman like Sophie (even women like Kauffman and Moser) were not accepted, at least publicly.

This distinction is made abundantly clear in the famous painting by Zoffany which shows the 168 Academy members observing male nude models – the only two Academy members missing ‘in person’ were founding members Kaufman and Moser (the two were also the only female members of the Academy until 1861)! Zoffany at least gave them a presence by adding portraits of them on the wall on the right, looking down on the male models. Here is a section of that painting:



I’m not a great fan of artists from this era other than Turner (and I have to admit Reynolds has a special gift with portraits) but I found the story of the rise of these two female artists fascinating – both had artist/artisan fathers who taught and promoted their girls’ talents very early on (Mozart style) and far from being excluded by the male environment, they were highly regarded at the time (Kauffman had Reynolds as a personal champion). Kauffman’s story is particularly exciting – she travelled all over Europe, was invited to England by the English Ambassador’s wife in Rome, was conned into marriage by a scoundrel, whom she promptly left, and when he died she married a Venetian artist and continued to travel and receive commissions from the high and mighty.
In my own story, The Duke’s Unexpected Bride, Sophie is ambiguous about her talents – she is acutely visual and painting is an important part of how she sees and interacts with the world but she has no great ambitions and no dramatic conviction in her skills. I think this would have been the case with many creative women of the time – unless their talent overpowered them or they grew up in a highly artistic or literary environment women of moderate or even above moderate skills were often willing to regard themselves as mere amateurs. Their best hope was to find someone who saw this additional aspect to their character as positive rather than negative – this is one reason Sophie is drawn to Max. Here is the scene where they discuss Sophie’s artistic talent:

‘I know you would prefer me without all the nonsense about the painting.’
‘I don’t know what you would be like without the painting. It’s not just something you do, it’s how you see the world.’
Sophie’s eyes widened.
‘No one has ever said that to me before.’
‘Is that good or bad?’
‘I…good, I think. It’s like those dreams where you are going about and suddenly realise you are only in your petticoats, you know?’
Max threw back his head and laughed.
‘No, I don’t. Not petticoats.’
‘Well, not petticoats, but you know what I mean. Finding yourself exposed.’
‘That doesn’t sound very enjoyable, then, and that is not what I meant to do. It was just a thought. Why did you think it was good, then?’
‘Because it means you see me.’
His smile faded slightly as he looked at her, but he kept his voice light.
‘Right in front of me. Hard to miss.’

Summary of The Duke’s Unexpected Bride:
When Sophie becomes her reclusive aunt’s companion she also finds herself nursemaid to a pug, stalked by an embittered artist, and the fianc√© of the thoroughly unsettling Duke of Harcourt, a man she has dubbed the Stone Duke. Ten years after his disastrous engagement, Max knows he must choose his bride with caution. Sophie meets none of his criteria – she is impulsive, funny, talks to animals, and her compassion leads her perilously close to danger. Their inevitable clash of wits, passions, and private pain lead to near tragedy and to the realization that the irrepressible Sophie and the Stone Duke are perfectly matched.


Book Buy Links:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2lXdgUZ
Barnes and Noble:
Harlequin: http://bit.ly/2n53GkT
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-duke-s-unexpected-bride

Author Contact Links
Website: www.laratemple.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/laratemple1
Twitter: @laratemple1
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2mWin9R
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/LaraTemple

Saturday, March 18, 2017

An introvert's nightmare...

  
I just attended my very first reader event: Angels & Sirens in Washington, PA. That might not sound like a big deal but when you're an introvert, the prospect of putting yourself "out there" in the middle of hundreds of strangers can be a little daunting. 


It's not that I can't "turn on"--in addition to being in the fire department, I also worked retail, so I can generally flip my internal switch and make it work. That doesn't make it any less daunting…or less exhausting. But I committed and yes, a small part of me was actually excited about it.
Of course, I stressed the two weeks prior, wondering what to bring. Swag? Check. Chocolate? Check. Author banner and table runner? Check. Books?

Okay, yeah, that should be a no-brainer. Of course books. I mean, that's the whole purpose of going to a book signing, right? But how many? Should I bring copies of each title (that's 16 titles in case you're wondering)? If so, how many of each? Just focus on the new release? On the last two releases? Five copies? Ten copies? Eek!

The better plan: just throw a bunch of books in several boxes and load up the truck and be done with it. Okay, maybe not the best plan around, but I made it work. Mostly.

So I loaded up my truck and headed west, arriving entirely too early on Friday. Unloaded the truck (and I swear those boxes of books and swag multiplied during the 4-hour drive!) then…then what?  
Well, I surprised myself by not hiding in my room. I actually went to the lobby, grabbed a coffee, and got in some writing. Sounds brave, huh? Not really: a handful of my hockey romance buddies were also attending, so I was hanging out, waiting for them.

We had already made plans to grab dinner Friday night then go to the Pens game. Part of me thinks that was harder than playing extrovert! Why? Because I'm a Caps fan and felt like I was going deep into enemy territory! I still had fun, because I got to hang with my fellow authors and even a few readers who joined us, which made it worthwhile! 

(L-R): Representing my Caps deep in enemy territory; me and Cat, my uber-awesome PA, before the game; yes, I brought way too much stuff!

Then it was Saturday, the day of the event. I lugged all my stuff over to the signing room (making a mental note to never bring so much crap with me again!) and, with the help of my uber-awesome PA, Cat Parisi, got everything set up so it looked nice and pretty.

Then I sat there, wondering what I had gotten myself into. Would anyone buy my books? Would anyone stop by to say hi? Would people just blow by my table, carefully avoiding all eye contact? 
Thankfully, no. And after the first hour, I was finally able to bury my inclination to crawl under the table, curl up into a little ball, and hide. And I had a blast! It was so much fun meeting fans (who knew I actually had real fans!!) and talking with everyone. Was I exhausted afterward? Absolutely. But it was a good exhaustion, the kind where you're tired but it's the kind of tired you get from being busy and having a successful day. So yeah, I'd count my first reader event as a success. And yes, in case you're wondering, I came back with quite a bit less stuff! 


Would I have been as comfortable if not for my hockey romance buds? Hard to say. Maybe, maybe not. But having them there certainly helped--we're a team, helping each other out, just being there to support one another.

Kinda like the hockey teams I write about! And speaking of hockey teams…

I recently launched a new hockey series, The York Bombers. Book 1, PLAYING THE GAME, came out last month and is receiving some great 5-star reviews (hooray me!). The next title in the series, PLAYING TO WIN, releases next week. The hero in PTW was so much fun to write. Jason loves to win, on and off the ice, but he doesn't always notice what's right there in front of him--until it's almost too late. When he meets Megan, he realizes that winning isn't always easy…and fighting to win makes the prize that much sweeter!

Playing The Game is on sale now for 99 cents, so you can pick up your copy here. And, of course, you can preorder Playing To Win by clicking here


So how about you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Any tips or tricks to surviving those social situations? I'm all ears and eager to learn…because yeah, I have a few more author events to attend this year (you can check out my scheduled events here). Maybe I'll see some of you there! Don't be afraid to stop by and say hi--I'll have lots of chocolate and goodies to pave the way, and I'll be eternally grateful for the company!

Until next month!
LBK
         


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Feeling Lucky?

St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow, which I know very little about aside from you're supposed to wear green and if you find a four-leaf clover, you're lucky.

Frankly, after what has felt like a very long winter, I would feel insanely lucky if I saw any clover of any variety. Our lawn is still white, white, white.

But even in the height of summer when I was a kid with nothing but time on my hands, I never found a four-leaf clover.

My grandmother often did. She was an avid gardener and would leave them to dry in a dish on her kitchen table. It always seemed so magical to me that she could just be weeding away and--oh, there's one! Lucky.

My husband has found them. He would say it's because he's one-quarter Irish, but I know it's because he has infinite patience. (That's also why we're still married.)

Our daughter seems to have inherited the ability from both sides. She finds them quite easily. It's very annoying for someone like me, who is, apparently, four-leaf-clover blind.

Have you ever found one? Comment below with your story. I'll check back in on March 24th and draw one lucky winner. The prize is a print copy of my March book, Pursued By The Desert Prince.

Draped in the Desert Prince’s diamonds…
To ensure his sister’s successful marriage, Kasim, Crown Prince of Zhamair, must stop Angelique Sauveterre’s alleged affair with his future brother-in-law. But when Angelique denies any involvement, Kasim can’t resist the chance to make the feisty beauty his!
Angelique is tempted by Kasim’s offer of a fling—always compared to her twin sister, she’s never allowed to just be herself. They couldn’t be from two more different worlds, yet Angelique blossoms under Kasim’s touch, and surrenders to the desert Prince. But can he give her more than passion and precious jewels?

Dani Collins is the USA Today Bestselling Author of thirty books for Harlequin Presents, Montana Born and herself. 
Join Dani's newsletter and receive a link to download Cruel Summer, a short ebook romance, as a welcome gift. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Priviledged Childhoods

A privileged childhood. It is a tricky word as many people these days associate it with class, creed or colour. It is why it was so refreshing to read an interview with Peaches Golding, Britain’s first black woman lord lieutenant. Peaches grew up in South Carolina and has slavery ancestry but she married a British man (they bonded over a passion for  poisonous snakes) and has spent many years in Britain. The position of Lord Lieutenant is a position founded by Henry VIII and is largely ceremonial – she becomes the Queen’s representative in Bristol.
 In the interview, she stated that she wanted to talk about the privileges that come from  books on the wall, a dedicated place to do homework and parents who believe in education. These privileges transcend class, creed and colour but are absolutely vital to the future success of children. They are aspirational in the extreme and yet we so often take them for granted.
Her words made me think about the things that I took for granted growing up that are truly privileges. For example, my library card. I can remember the pride I had when I could get my very own library card. It was orange and I practised signing my name so many times so it could be perfect.  Then when I grew up enough, I was able to exchange it for a yellow adult card and all the books in the library were open to me (at which point I discovered Harlequins). Several years ago, I was struck at how lucky I was to have an excellent library when I heard Sharon Kenyon speak about her experiences growing up and how she lived for the library and how having reference books made it possible for her to go to college as she couldn’t afford the textbooks. It is why in the past I have fought to keep my local library. I am a big believer in the power of libraries.
The first place I ever drove on my own was to the local library, once I had my driver’s license. And having a driver’s license is another privilege – something that is denied to many, including all women in Saudi Arabia.  Hopefully my youngest son has passed the driving test he was due to take as I write this. He has funded the lessons after the initial few, sometimes privileges  mean more when you have to work for them.
I may have hated my mother making sure that I did my homework but it taught me many things — such as self discipline and the fact that she did care. It also taught me that I needed to study and learn things. Some of her lessons did not  go strictly to plan – for example learning how to quickly and efficiently unload the dishwasher because she was about to return from picking my brother up and I had spent far too long reading but we can draw a veil over such things. The important thing is that she taught me that an education matters.
I could go on and on about the many small advantages I had and took very much for granted.
So when I look about, I did have a very privileged childhood and I am very grateful for it and for my parents who ensured that these things happened. And I am very grateful for Peaches Golding’s interview and how it made me think about what is important. I hope everyone who reads this also had lots of books and reading material in their childhood. And if not, that they do now.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical. Her latest Sold to the Viking Warrior is out now. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Christina Hollis: A Cure For The Homesick Blues?

Clifton Suspension Bridge, via Pixabay
This year, I’m going back to my roots—and in more ways than one. I’ve been writing all my life, but my first published pieces were non-fiction work for local papers and national magazines. These were written in my spare time, while I was employed in a huge office in Bristol. Sat behind a desk, I
was bean-counting all day then writing at home until late at night. Once I began to get paid for my writing, I left my job in central Bristol and joined Rolls-Royce. Their offices are on the outskirts of the city. The move made commuting a lot faster and easier, as my new full-time job was closer to the country cottage on the Welsh border OH and I bought just after we got married. 

Only a couple of years later, OH suggested I give up office work and become a writer full-time. Trying to make it on my own was scary, but exciting. I’ve always been grateful to my husband for supporting me in what everybody said at the time was a reckless venture. It turned out to be the best investment he could make, and the second best thing I ever did (the best thing I ever did was to marry him).

http://mybook.to/MyDreamGuy
Find out more at myBook.to/MyDreamGuy
The Romance genre has been very good to me. I’ve made loads of friends and sold a lot of books, but I’ve been so busy writing fiction, there’s been no time to do anything else. I’ve missed non-fiction work—and Bristol too, if I’m honest.

That’s why I’m so excited to be starting a new non-fiction project. Women's Lives is a series of books to be published by Pen And Sword Books next year. The release will coincide with the centenary of the successful Votes For Women campaign during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Each volume of Women's Lives is devoted to a single city in the United Kingdom. I was born only a few miles away from Bristol, in what was then the Somerset countryside so I was keen to get involved with the Pen And Sword project. My family’s strong ties with Bristol go back hundreds of years, although we’ve always preferred living in the country and “just visiting” the city—usually to find a life partner! 

I've started work on the Bristol edition of Women's Lives: Women of Bristol 1850-1950, and I’m really enjoying it. The research it needs means I’m spending a lot of time combing through archives, but there’s nothing to beat the real-life anecdotes I’m gathering from women far and wide who have stories to share. Can you contribute any information about life in the City of Bristol in the years before 1950? I’m particularly interested to hear about women who left the city for life in America, Canada and Australia. Were you or your mother a war-bride, or an evacuee sent abroad from Bristol?

http://mybook.to/HisMajestysSecret
Find out more at myBook.to/HisMajestysSecret
The work on Women of Bristol is absorbing, and I’m unearthing a wealth of stories. They are a mixture of the happy, the sad, and the alarming. There are one or two really tragic tales, such as the new mother desperate to soothe her constantly crying baby. Not knowing any better, she followed her landlady’s dubious advice, and ended up giving her baby a fatal dose of laudanum. We’re so lucky these days, with qualified advice for all sorts of problems at the other end of a telephone, and support groups online. 


Bristol is a fascinating place. Its women are, and always have been, tough, loyal pioneers. They give as good as they get, and they’re always looking to the future. Despite the love I still have for my almost-birthplace and its people, going back there to work makes me appreciate the peace and quiet of our cottage out here in the bluebell woods. Tottering Towers may lack the conveniences of city life, but with its wildlife and tranquility, there’s no place like home…

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. Catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at christinahollis.com

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at myBook.to/HeartOfAHostage  worldwide.