Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is your favorite western hero by Cynthia Woolf

I had to think about what I do when I create a hero in one of my westerns.  He has to be bigger than life.  Think, John Wayne in the western movies of a time gone by.  Big.  Strong. 

Think of Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under or any of the Sackett TV films he did with Sam Elliot (also another portrayer of western heroes to die for) based on Louis L’amour’s series of books.

Who were our real western heroes? How about Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok?  Like them, he must have a strict sense of justice and be a generally upstanding citizen.  Hickok and Earp were lawmen in several different towns, but Abilene, Kansas and Tombstone, Arizona come to mine. Their reputations were that they didn’t put up with lawlessness and used their guns to bring order out of chaos.

We wouldn’t want that kind of law and order in today’s world. It wouldn’t work, but in those days, when the justice system as we know it was unavailable, these men did what they had to do.

Also, for my books, although, he and my heroine might make love before marriage, the hero knows there will be a marriage.  And if the heroine doesn’t want to get married, he will do everything in his power to change her mind.

He’s a wonderful father.  Teaching his children, sons or daughters, to ride, rope and shoot with the best of them.

My heroes are also caring and gentle.  They know their strength and make sure to rein it in when dealing with the heroine.  No matter how obstinate or ornery she gets he never physically harms her.  He may intimidate her, he may restrain her, but there is always an innate respect for her.

He is always slow to anger but once riled, look out.  And don’t even think about harming someone he cares for, he’ll always make you sorry you did, assuming you live to make it to the hanging.  He won’t kill you outright or without reason, but you’d better not give him a reason. He won’t hesitate to use his gun if he needs to.

Creating a western hero is not any easier than creating a Regency or Highland hero, or any other kind.  They are as strong and have as great a sense of right and wrong as any of those other heroes.  But I tend to think of them as quieter, more reflective.  The strong but silent type who never toots his own horn.  I think that’s one of the reasons that I love them so much.  

Cynthia Woolf is the author of six historical western romance books and one short story with more books on the way. She was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends. Their closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006. Cynthia was and is an avid reader. Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug. She wrote her first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy she liked at the time. Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similiarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner. Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she's made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Isabel Sharpe: Romancing the Scone

My husband and I just returned from an idyllic trip to Ireland.  I expected the green fields and sheep, but was totally unprepared for the remarkable drama of the western coast and the welcoming charm of the people.  We fell utterly in love with the place—and with having a pint in a pub before dinner every night.

So many favorite moments, but one of the best was on a mid-morning drive (on the left!) on a twisty narrow road around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, roaring ocean on one side, mountains on the other.  We passed an ancient stone house with a sign, "Home Baking."  The day was damp and cold and we were hungry, so we stopped.  Inside, a low-ceilinged room with two tables and a couple of easy chairs in front of a lovely fire.  The owners, an elderly couple, served us excellent tea and just-baked scones.  We sat there, warm and cozy, feeling part of something foreign and very, very old.  And then, blaring from the kitchen, Neil Young's Southern Man.  A small world after all.

The sad truth is, after such an enchanting time . . . we had to come home.  Thirty-three degrees here in Wisconsin the day we landed, April 15.  We wanted nothing more than to climb back on the plane and return to the bed and breakfast that served scones, brown bread with butter and jam, fresh orange juice, assorted fruits, yoghurt, muesli, amazing cheeses and then an enormous hot breakfast.

Back home, in a somewhat crazed effort to keep the magic going, I scoured the Internet for brown bread recipes and made a worthy version.  I baked scones.  I made muesli, beef and Guinness stew and a dessert called Eton Mess (here I’d like to point out that as of this writing, we have been back for only four days.  I was obsessed).

However, by last night, inevitably, the trip’s magic had faded into all we had to do and catch up on and be responsible for here in our real lives.  Ewww!  So this morning I put down placemats, China and silver, and arranged the leftover scones, muesli, yoghurt and fruit onto and into elegant serving pieces.  I offered our orange juice from a small crystal pitcher and milk from a china one.  My tea and my husband’s coffee I poured out into proper tea cups.  With saucers.

And you know what?  In spite of seven thousand extra dishes to wash afterward (where was that B&B staff?), it was a really lovely escape back into fantasy.  We made a pact to remind ourselves that it only takes a little extra effort to transform the ordinary routine into something more special.  A good lesson learned.  Think how many more there must be!  Clearly we need to visit several more countries to search them out.

If anyone would like the recipe for scones and/or brown bread, please let me know!  And I would love to hear how you keep your lives from sinking too far into the ordinary.  My favorite response gets a copy of my April Harlequin Blaze, Nothing to Hide.

Cheers and happy travels, armchair or otherwise,


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Talking About Talking About Writing by Jenny Gardiner

Sheesh! When I started writing novels, it was because I just kept reading books and thinking "I could do that!" After all, I was already a writer; my overwrought Christmas newsletters no doubt kept recipients on the edge of their seats each December (make that February, as I was always late with them). And my grocery lists, well, let's just say I compose a mean grocery list.

In truth, I have long been a little too fascinated with the stories of peoples' lives -- be they the sordid tales of famous people, the unfathomable actions of "what-the-hell-were-they-thinking" criminals, or the simple stories of average peoples' lives (I am so addicted to reading obituaries), I guess I'd stockpiled enough information that I was ready to make up my own characters with their own issues. Throw in a slight obsession with what motivates people, and I guess I needed to become a novelist, or a psychologist.

However, I hadn't bargained for the whole other side of writing a book, which is promoting the thing. This aspect of publishing has eclipsed the mere writing of a book over the past few years, with the growth of the internet and the vast and boundless world of social networking. Sadly, in many ways, promotion efforts by necessity dwarf writing duties. I suspect most writers would far prefer to just get to work on another book, rather than jumping through the many, many hoops of fire in order to sell the previous one. By the time I've finished writing a book, I'm sort of finished with it: I lose perspective on the story and couldn't begin to tell you if it's good, bad or indifferent. Plus I then promptly forget the names of my characters and much of the storyline. I've loved them and left them behind.

But like it or not, promotion happens. And one of the aspects of promotion with which I have a love/hate relationship is public speaking. I hate it because invariably I become slightly terrified. I suppose this is natural -- think Jan Brady having to imagine her audience at a debate in their underwear so she didn't freeze in fear. I worry that I won't say the right things, entertain my audience, and provide them with their money's worth (not that anyone is actually paying for the performance!) all while sporting a fat piece of parsley on my teeth the entire time. I guess it's not fear of public speaking so much as fear of making a fool of yourself in public. And then having it end up on Youtube.

But the reality is, I end up loving speaking to groups. Whether they're book clubs, or at conferences, or civic organizations, book festivals, writing workshops. I am comfortable with my subject matter, which I suppose would mean the contents of my vivid imagination. I could go on for hours about the weird stuff I can fantasize about if given the chance. And if I can fantasize about it, I can write about it. And I've been around long enough to know about the vagaries of the publishing industry.

I think that's the thing: by the time a writer ends up in the position of having to speak publicly, usually said writer has been through the wringer, has suffered the slings and arrows of defeat in this business, and has experienced the great good fortune and joy of being published, which in itself is almost akin to winning the lottery. I enjoy sharing my experiences with the many people who might harbor a secret desire to write and publish a book some day. And I'm thrilled to find people who have enjoyed my writing enough to put on an outfit, hop in the car, and make it to that venue where I'm speaking. It doesn't get more awesome than that. Well, maybe even more awesome when I can elicit laughter. There is something magical about being able to entertain your audience enough that you've made them forget bad things even for a second, long enough to laugh. It's a great feeling.

Ultimately I view public speaking as a real privilege, something that came about as a result of many years of toil to get to where I am professionally, to hone my craft, to learn the business, and to do any and everything required of the world to get me to where I am as a published author. It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it, every step of the way, every mistake, every misfortune that might have befallen me even, because it seasoned me enough to be able to share my experiences and my world with others.

And if I've been able to help even one writer on the path, to pay it forward by easing their way, it's all the more sweet an accomplishment.

  Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)

And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions

The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck

Naked Man On Main Street
find me on Facebook: fan page
 find me on twitter here
 find me on my website

Happy Easter!


    I know I am a bit late with my HAPPY EASTER wishes but I do hope that your Easter is a happy, healthy and blessed day for you and your families! 

   It's an easy day for me now that the kids have grown and we have no wee ones who need to hunt for Easter eggs...I even try to avoid getting Easter candy because we (hubby and I) are the only ones who will eat it...LOL! A far cry from the days of multiple Easter baskets filled with cello grass, plastic eggs filled with pennies and lots and lots of chocolate eggs, bunnies and assorted shapes....

    So, I'm off to cook the ham, hashbrown casserole and green beans.... Hope your day is a good one....! 


Terri is thrilled that the last in her MacLerie Clan series - YIELD TO THE HIGHLANDER - came out in print this week and will be released in digital on May 1st! Visit her website for more info! 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vicky Dreiling: Fictional Families and Friends

One of the things I loved best when I first started reading historical romances were the friends and family members in the books I read. I remember how much I liked the wise grandparent or the loyal butler in the books. I especially enjoyed the interaction of family and friends. It’s little wonder that these special characters started showing up in my own books.

In What a Reckless Rogue Needs, Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire and Lady Angeline Brenham have known each other all of their lives, but their relationship turned more than a little frigid years ago after an incident at a ball. In modern terms, we would call them frenemies. But once a year, their close families meet at a house party and neither are able to escape each other.

I had so much fun creating the various members of their families. I especially had fun with Colin’s twin step-sisters who are always into mischief. How could I not adore his sweet stepmother, and Angeline’s shy little sister?

Colin’s wily father, however, is one of my favorites. He’s determined to see his roguish son settle down with a wife. His methods may seem a trifle unreasonable, but his heart is in the right place.

I can’t ignore the furry family members. The twins have a pug puppy named Hercules who is in desperate need of training. Naturally the twins help him create even more havoc.

Not everything is fun and games. Beneath the surface, Angeline’s family is dealing with issues they find difficult to discuss openly. Unbeknownst to the parents, Colin and Angeline band together to help each other. Along the way, they fall madly, deeply in love.

Do you enjoy reading about families in historical romance novels?  Do you have a preference for certain family members such as grandparents, aunts, brothers, and sisters? Do these family members enhance your reading enjoyment?

Leave a comment telling me what you like about fictional families for a chance to win one copy of WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS (US Only please).  

Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and most of all, long lunches with friends. A native Texan, she holds degrees in English literature and marketing.  Visit her at:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Susan Stephens: The Purest of Diamonds?

There are some wonderful people who can brighten a day and lighten your life. I count myself lucky to have family members, as well a few precious friends just like this, and they - combined into one character - were the inspiration for my heroine Leila Skavanga.

Leila, the third and, apparently, the quietest of my Skavanga Diamonds, is one of these radiant types who makes us smile and feel good while they're around. I guess we root for them to succeed more than most other types, because while they're busy spreading a glow over everyone else's life they don't spare a thought for themselves.  

And of course I had to pick the hardest of my three men for Leila. Raffa Leon, a ruthless Spanish grandee, finds himself hog-tied and mesmerised by someone so forthright and appealing, he just can't sustain his ruthlessness for very long - though he sure as heck tries! Just as Leila decides that for once in her life that she's going to 'let that mouse inside her roar'!

I hope you enjoy reading the result of this combustible pairing as much as I enjoyed writing the book. And now my question for a signed copy from my backlist is this...

 Who in your life 'lights up your life' and why? There's a signed copy of my book waiting for the best answer, and I for one can't wait to get this happy focused chat underway!!

All the very best of luck to all of you
And, Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lilian Darcy - Bridal Showers

Recently, a friend asked on Facebook about life’s little pleasures, and what we loved. We all at once said, “Coffee!” naturally, but then I started thinking about a few others, and came up with showers.

No, not bridal showers. Those are hideous. C’mon.

…Although if you want to read about train-wreck Bridezilla wedding events – where somebody, somehow, manages to pull a happy ending rabbit out of the hat, even if this happiness does not include the original bridal couple  - you cannot go past the new Great Wedding Giveaway mini-series from  

With authors such as Trish Morey, Kelly Hunter, Sarah Mayberry and Megan Crane involved, there are some amazing books to devour.

The covers, alone, I could eat for breakfast, and since I’m not part of the series as a writer, it means I get to enjoy them a reader. Such a treat!

Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, showers.

Real showers.

Hot showers.

I don’t think we appreciate them enough. Of a morning, it’s that damned coffee that gets all the attention.

But, really, is there anything like a good hot shower?

If you’re a parent, think about when your kids were little (maybe they still are) and how sometimes those minutes you spend in the shower are the only ones you truly have to yourself all day.

If you’re the outdoor type, think about coming back from a day on the boat or the ski slopes or with the horses. You’re filthy and smelly and tired. You strip off, step under those steaming needles and the dirt and fatigue just wash away. You put your water-buffed body into clean, comfortable clothes and then fall asleep on the couch watching re-runs of old crime shows and… ahhh!

If you’re a lover, you get to share your shower. Let’s hope it’s big enough. You lather your hands up with soap and run them all over your beloved’s body, and water streams down your faces and drips into your mouth as you kiss.

Hm, I think Casey and Kira, the hero and heroine I’m writing about, right now, in After the Rain could do with a shower scene of their own…

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Michelle Styles: Premise for Return of the Viking Warrior plus giveaway

because I love knowing where authors get their ideas from, I thought I'd explain a bit about mine for Return of the Viking Warrior
The premise for Return of the Viking Warrior came to me several years before I actually wrote it. I wanted to tell a tale of a woman whose husband returns from war, and then the relationship is very different to the one they had previously.
 At first it was going to be a Roman and then a  Regency. Finally it seemed right to be a Viking and the two leads decided to be cast. My heroine, Kara decided that she was tired of waiting around for my hero and in any case, he was supposed to be dead, so she was going to remarry. Ash, my hero responded by showing up on her wedding day. So it is a back from the dead story which is a trope that I happen to love and have done ever since I first read The Return of Martin Guerre in high school. Does anyone else remember the story? It was made into several movies, most recently Somersby, but it was based on a true story. However, in my story, the returning warrior is indeed the husband, rather than someone pretending to be him.
 I also happen to love the true story of one of the dukes of Richmond (I believe the father of the one whose wife gave the ball before Waterloo) where it was a marriage of convenience to pay a gambling debt. After which the Duke took off on a tour of Europe. When he returned than going to see his bride, he went to the theatre and spied an absolutely gorgeous woman. He made enquiries and learnt that the woman in question was in fact the Duchess of Richmond. It is not recorded how he wooed her, but they did remain devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.
Back from the dead stories are easier to write in historical as communication is so much better today. What was plausible once is far less plausible in our social media connected world. But you still do have the problem of readjusting when someone returns from a long absence, particularly if they have been through a life changing experience such as being on a battlefield.
Return of the Viking Warrior is available both print and ebook in the UK. In the US, it is available as print and ebook through Harlequin and ebook everywhere. 
Because   Return of the Viking Warrior is officially publishing in May, I am doing a giveaway for readers of this blog. Please email me  with the answer to this question: In what year does Return of the Viking warrior take place. (hint read the excerpt).  Please put ToteBags contest in the subject line.
I will do the draw on 21 April. Void where prohibited.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Return of the Viking Warrior is published in May 2014. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

Monday, April 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: This Writing Life...
On Sale Now
I've written here about the importance of getting someone else to read your creative writing, to give you a different perspective on your work. On 31st March I stepped up and took the challenge myself at a workshop arranged by the local chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association. You can read about that in more detail here. Seven of us met to discuss our current projects, and it was invaluable. If you get the chance to do something like this, grab it with both hands. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I submitted the first pages of a manuscript that's undergone a radical reworking, but it was fine.

Everyone liked the revised version, thank goodness! The Survivors' Club is a contemporary romantic novel whose heroine, Eden, is a victim who learns to stand up for herself. Adam is a burned out executive who forges a future by slamming the door on his tumultuous past. They need each other, but the past threatens to tear them apart. Why is Iolo the mysterious drifter so obsessed with Eden's home at Owl Farm? And why has the place always been known as The Ghost House?

I hadn't been sure whether or not to include the supernatural element in The Survivors' Club. The workshop convinced me to go ahead and do it. This is a complete departure from my normal style, so here's a short extract from The Survivors' Club to whet your appetite:

Iolo woke with a smile on his face. 
There’s change in the air, he thought. I can hear movement inside the house. Maybe today’s the day for Owl Farm. 
His optimism didn’t last. As he worked the life back into his feet, the weight of ages dropped onto his shoulders again. Without opening his eyes, he stretched his neck. There was no point in going out yet. It felt too early.
Down on the floor, Bran thumped his tail against the dusty floorboards. Iolo opened his eyes, blinked once or twice, and yawned. He stretched again. Then he listened, hoping to hear a Northwesterly rising from the direction of Horsgrave Wood. Strong winds used Owl Farm like a reed, softening their cries in the chimney throat. When that happened, Iolo could pretend they carried Julia’s voice. 
That wouldn’t happen today. The air was still as a sepulchre. He shook himself, then closed his eyes again.
At times like this, the woman he loved felt further away from him than ever.

If you'd like to keep up to date with the progress of The Survivors' Club, drop me a line at and I'll sign you up for my occasional newsletter. 

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction - when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with her at, on Twitter and Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Don't Worry—Be Happy

I'm doing my first commencement speech in a few weeks.  I'm a bit nervous.  Over the last fifteen
years, I've talked to a lot of writers and a lot of readers, but I've never had to talk to a group of people who're all opening a new chapter of their lives on the same day.

With four kids, I've sat through a lot of graduations and I know I have more in my future.  I tried to think of all the commencement speeches I’ve heard.  So many seem to center on the speaker telling the audience about their experience.  Well, I’m a wife, a mother and a writer.  There.  Nailed that.
The other speeches seem to center on, AS YOU GO OUT AND MEET YOUR FUTURE sort of tips.  I think it's a bit cheeky to offer insights on people's personal paths. So, I thought about it, and finally came up with my theme, something that speaks to everyone, regardless of their career path...HAPPINESS.

Yeah, some of you are rolling your eyes. I'm sure the graduates will as well.

But I’ve made a study of happiness for years.  My Facebook friends would tell you I’m a bit nuts with my Monday Glee topics.   Yes, I like Mondays.  They’re a rather overlooked day.  But for me, Mondays are the aftermath of a crazy, family filled weekend.  Everyone goes back to school, or work and I sit in the quiet house, in holey jeans and work…in silence.  What’s not to love?

But more than my Monday Glee, my inspiration came from a TED radio hour I listened to on NPR in February.  The subject was happiness.  I even joined a study on being happy.  3 times a day I’d get a text and it would ask me how I was feeling, then ask me what I was doing, did I have to be doing it and then some other random questions.   It would ask me to rate my happiness level. After the first few days, I made a discovery…I am very happy with my life.

The text message ding would sound… 
~How are you feeling?  Good.  Really good.
~What are you doing?  Writing.
~Do you have to be doing it? Yes.  I’m under contract and it needs done.  Although, my grandmother always said the only two things anyone has to do is die and pay taxes.  I’m not sure why she always put death before taxes—mom says that's just how the saying goes.  I guess I could choose not to work, but I kinda like eating and that’s my paycheck, so yes, I have to do it.

Now, here comes the big question…
Do you like doing it?  And I realized I did.  I like what I do.  Oh, there are bad days.  There are times I think about finding a real job.  You know, the kind you do out in the real world, with real people, wearing something other than holey jeans.  But after the annoyance passes, I realize I’m doing exactly what I want to do.

So, that’s the first part of being happy talk.  As my upcoming audience is finishing school and I plan to remind them to take a few moments every day and stop. Stop and ask themselves if they're happy doing what they're doing.  If they're answer is yes more than no, then I think they're doing pretty good.  If it’s not, then maybe they haven’t found the place they really belong yet.

Here’s a second Happiness tip I think I'll share…be willing to work hard.  I meet a lot of would-be-writers when I do workshops and speeches.  They all want to know the secret to making a career of writing.  I think they expect some secret handshake, or program that helps me write book.   I tell them that the secret is two part, they wait anxiously for me to share.  Here you go…I’m ready to share it with the graduates and with you. 

Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Maybe you’re starting at the bottom rung of your profession and hoping to advance.  Having an eye on a goal is always a good idea, but don’t forget to concentrate on where you are.  Work hard at the job at hand.  Enjoy it.  Be happy.

I read an interview with a CEO who climbed the proverbial ladder.  She spoke about always trying to have an impact and enjoying whatever job she was doing.  Maybe there’s something to that.  That's what I plan to tell the graduates.  Work hard at whatever you’re doing.  Have an eye on the future, have goals, but not at the expense of wherever you are and whatever you’re doing at the moment.

When I’m writing a book, I might know what my next book will be, or I might have an idea.  But what I try to do is concentrate on the job in front of me…the story I’m working on.

As a writer, I have to convey my character’s world view to the reader.  I have to cue the reader into   Satisfied, annoyed, content, aggravated, competitive…happy.  As a romance writer, I know that the HAPPY part is important.  It’s so important romance writers end every one of their stories with an HEA…a happily-ever-after.  So as I give my first commencement speech to people who've chosen they're degree, I'll wish them that…a happily-ever-after.  And I hope as they start this next chapter, they stop on occasion and ask themselves, How am I feeling?  What am I doing?  Do I have to be doing it?  Do I want to be doing it?  Do I like doing it?
how that character’s feeling.


And that's what I'm doing with this blog today.  Asking you to ask yourselves those same questions.  I
I hope your answers  give you some insight on your life.  I hope they help you find your own personal, Happily Ever After.

And I hope that this first commencement speech offers some insights to the graduates!  Wish me luck!