Saturday, December 20, 2014

Terri Brisbin: I'm Late! (too!)

I just realized it's December 20th - my day to blog -- and realized I had not posted one. I usually post one about the Winter Solstice (tomorrow!) at this time of year but I didn't. I apologize! Yes, like Susan Meier said yesterday, I could blame deadlines, etc. But my delay has a specific reason -- her name is Alexis!

 My first grandbaby arrived earlier this week (2&1/2 days ago!) and I am completely captivated! And I have gotten almost nothing done this week - not Christmas preparations or writing! I know I'm not with her in person or taking care of her but I keep texting and getting new photos and call and just now visited. Other experienced grandparents tried to tell me how wonderful it would be, but I just didn't understand. Much like my son and daughter-in-law didn't understand anything we parents told them -- before she arrived! 

So, rather than ask a writing question - I thought I would ask a family one:  the big question everyone is asking me -- what are you going to be called? 

   I called mine Grandmom (only one alive while I was growing up).... My hubby's family go with Mom-mom and add a modifier like Mom-mom T or Mom-mom Jean.... I think I'm going to go with that, too. Be Mom-mom Terri....

 What do you think?  If you are a grandparent, what are you called? If you have a grandparent (LOL), what did you call yours? 

PS - if you're interested:  

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rising Fire by Terri Brisbin

Rising Fire

by Terri Brisbin

Giveaway ends January 15, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, December 19, 2014

Susan Meier: I'm late!

I'm late because I'm behind. LOL

Who isn't?

This year my mother's hospitalization has taken what is a normally busy season and made it crazy.

But...lateness not withstanding...

I had a conversation with my daughter today. Not only was she recently in an automobile accident, but also her washer broke. Add to that a few other unexpected expenses and she was working (read: struggling) to figure out how she was going to buy gifts.

I told her the usual stuff a mom tells her child. 1) Daddy and I don't want a gift. 2) Gramm would shoot you if she knew you were even considering going without eating so you could buy her a gift. 3) Your brothers don't want gifts.

She still seemed reluctant to believe me and her week's supply of ramen noodles remained in jeopardy.

So I pulled out the big gun...

I said, "What if the universe is trying to show you the real meaning of Christmas? What if, this year, you're supposed to see that you are loved for who you are, not for the gifts you buy?"

Ah. Something to think about.

Nobody wants to be in a position where they can't buy gifts. But wouldn't everyone on your list be happy to see you with or without a gift?

And isn't it nice, every once in a while, to stop the hustle and shopping bustle to realize we are loved.

Happy Holidays and a Very Blessed 2015!

susan meier

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eve Gaddy: Christmas is Coming--And I'm in Writer's Mode

Writer's Mode: That peculiar place writers go when plotting or thinking about or revising or writing their books. If you have a writer in your life you probably don't need that definition. You know.

I can't remember the first time I heard the expression, "I'm in writer's mode." Before I published, I'm sure. I was already very familiar with it since I discovered it the first time I sat down to write a book. It's a state where you're so involved with the book in your head that while you're in a certain place physically, mentally you're in a totally different place and possibly another time. A place known to my family by the impolite term, La-la land.

I have gotten in a lot of trouble over the years from being in Writer's Mode. One of the first times I remember was when my daughter was about eight. I was happily working on a book on my ancient computer when the phone rang.

Me: Hello.
Diana: Mom!
Me: Oh, hi, honey!
Diana: (sounding annoyed as only an eight year old can) Mom, I'm at dance.
Me: Okay.
Diana: (even more annoyed) Mom, you forgot to pick me up!

Oops. Bad Eve.

Another time I remember was when my daughter's boyfriend was running and stopped by our house. It was summer and as usual for a Texas summer, brutally hot. I answered the door, smiled at him and told him she wasn't home. It didn't occur to me to offer him water. He had to ask. In my defense, I wasn't really there.

Oops again. Bad Eve.

My husband, of course, has experienced this phenomena countless times. Quite simply, he loves it. No, of course he doesn't.:)

I am deep in the middle of a scene and he comes in the office and starts talking to me. Me thinking: His mouth is moving. I know he's saying something but I have no clue what it is. I'll just nod and say okay, honey and maybe he'll go away so I can finish this scene. And of course I have no recollection of what he said to me, therefore when he refers to it later I try to convince him that he never told me any such thing.

Oops. Bad, bad Eve.

My son, Chris, is well, a smart-ass. Always has been. He gets it from his father. But I digress. One time when he was younger and had done something stupid (I don't remember what of course.) I asked him why in the world he'd done something. His response was, "I don't know, Mom. I guess the voices in my head told me to do it." To make matters worse, I burst out laughing. He's a funny smart-ass.

They all think it's so amusing that my characters talk to me, but how could I write them if they didn't? That's one of the best things about writing. When the characters either pops into your head or they take the story in a whole different direction and it works out great. There's a saying that Writer's Block is when the voices in your head stop talking to you. Very true.

The first time I met my daughter's husband, Russ, I was, you guessed it, in Writer's Mode. I don't remember this but Diana said he told her he didn't think I liked him. She asked him why. He said, "Well, she just stared at me and didn't say anything." She laughed and explained that no, that was normal. I was just in Writer's Mode.

You ask what this has to do with Christmas? I'm having a hard time getting my decorations up, my shopping done, cooking or any of the other things I'm supposed to be doing. Except listen to Christmas carols. That I can manage.

But when you're in Writer's Mode it's hard to think about Christmas, especially when you're writing about a summer romance. Hmm. Maybe I should try to write a Christmas story this Christmas!

Not a book, but I did write a Christmas poem to get me in the mood.


Christmas is coming and I’m in a mess
It will just have to happen anyway, I guess.
With boxes galore and presents unwrapped,
They sit on my table and I feel quite zapped.
I do have a tree, I put it up early,
Thank goodness for grandkids, what cute little girlies.
The decorations are lovely,
And the girls are sweet and cuddly.
I’m really quite blessed, because family is key
They’re even better than chocolate candy!
May your Christmas be happy, blessed with family and friends.
That’s all! Merry Christmas! The end!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Susan Stephens: Happy Holidays!

I'm going to start right out by announcing my winner from my last blog. And, thank you all for being so patient!!

Traveler, it's you! Please send your details to Lee at so she can send you something from the US, and if you send Lee your snail mail, I would like to send you a small holiday gift from the UK. It may take a while with the holiday rush with mail here, but it's just a little token from me to reach out to you to say, Happy Holidays!

I don't want you to miss out on my other contests, so when you have chance, pop along to SusanStephensAuthor on Facebook and 'LIKE' that page to be entered automatically in my monthly draw. I visited London recently to plunder the stores for my readers, and I have some great little gifts to give away!

The other way to enter an entirely separate contest with more prizes, is to subscribe to my Newsletter - We have prizes for both 'New' and 'Established' subscribers, so you're never disadvantaged whenever you decide to sign up for the latest info on my crazy life here on the wild Yorkshire moors, and of course my books. 

Isn't that the great thing about the internet? When I started writing it was in complete isolation, but now we can chat and comment, and we authors can learn what our readers want us to write, as well as what our readers other interests might be. And authors can open up and share their process, and something of their life. I was lucky enough when I started out to have the amazing Penny Jordan living just down the road, and that was the most incredible thing imaginable. Penny's generosity of spirit was second to none. Her encouragement was invaluable. And our shared love of animals the bond that joined us, as well our writing. 

And then there was Lee, the host of this Blog. Leena Hyat was the first person to contact me when my first book came out. Lee conducted my first interview and we have become good friends and stayed in touch ever since. What a wonderful warm circle the world of romance can be when we reach out.

Talking of books!

Here's what's coming up - both under my Xandra King pen name and Susan Stephens.

This is a late January release - there will be a newsletter announcement to all my subscribers.  Do you have Xandra's first book in this series?

And Now For Susan Stephens - 
Available for pre-order...

You know I just can't get enough of hot polo players with iron thighs ;)

I can now announce Release Dates for my entire HOT BRAZILIAN NIGHTS SERIES - MARCH APRIL NOVEMBER DECEMBER 2015.  Enjoy!!!

My contest for you, here on this Blog... Which cover do you like best, and why?

Wishing you all the very best of everything this holiday season, and success, happiness and good health in the New Year!!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jennifer Gracen: Christmas in New York

When my three friends and I geared up to write our novellas for the Christmas in New York anthology, we were all excited. None of us had ever written a Christmas story before, and it was also our first time writing for Tule Publishing. And there we were, writing about Christmas, winter, snow... in July. Yup, we wrote our holiday tales during the sweltering summer months. It was strange to get my mindset into cold, snowy days when I had the windows open, the heat and humidity floating into my room along with the sounds of crickets chirping.

But what it cemented for me was how much I really love winter. I had to conjure up all the things I love about it, since they weren’t around me, and it wasn’t hard. My friends who love warm weather—which is the majority of them!—think I’m crazy, but I do love winter. I hate sweating, so right there, winter wins. I love the cold, brisk air (when it’s not subzero polar vortex kind of temperatures, mind you). Winter air wakes me up and makes me feel alive. The air feels clearer, sharper, and pulls me into focus. I love burrowing into cozy clothes—soft fleeces and flannels, thick wools, heavier cottons. Layering in them, then wrapping an extra blanket around myself for ultra-coziness, preferably in front of a fireplace. I love enjoying hot cocoa or tea and comfort foods like soup and other warm, delicious things. Most of all, I love watching snow fall. It softly turns the landscape into a magical realm of pristine, sparkling whiteness. Beneath newly fallen snow, the world is transformed into a breathtakingly beautiful place.

And of course, I love the holidays! December has a vibrant energy all its own. I tried to describe it in my novella, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, but I don’t know if I did it justice. Think about it... how everyone you see seems to be revitalized, a little bouncier, a little brighter. The decorations everywhere, the lights and colors... the music! Songs that everyone has heard so many times they know all the words and still sing along. The holidays end the calendar year with a wonderfully festive feeling, the year’s grand finale. And for me, growing up on Long Island, there really is something unique about Christmastime in New York. I was thrilled to be able to write a story in that setting. Now that the holidays are here, I’m so enjoying all the things I mentioned, instead of only having to daydream about them. I hope you all are too.

Jennifer Gracen

Reflecting and Looking Foward

I'll come right out of the closet and admit I'm a bit of a solstice worshipper.

This isn't meant to take away from Christmas in any way. I simply find the shorter days of winter depressing and derive great comfort in knowing the sun is returning and the days are beginning to lengthen. By the same token, I get a bit blue at summer solstice, when the longest day happens and the sun retreats. Maybe I should identify as a sun worshiper.

In any case, whether you are like me or if you just like the clean slate of a fresh calendar for a new year, you probably do a bit of reflecting and projecting this time of year. I certainly do.

I like to take stock in December, writing down some of my accomplishments for the year and recording things that I am grateful for. It's easy to forget to take time to evaluate yourself and your life, so the solstice is a nice reminder for me. The astrologers look at New Moons as a great time to cast intentions so I think the solstice must be a good time for new beginnings, too, don't you think?

Years ago, I took a fabulous online course from the incredibly fabulous Lucy Monroe. The aim of her course was career planning, but the goal setting piece was life changing for me. Basically, she had you list out broad goals, then break them down into do-able pieces. It's Project Management 101, but at the time I'd never encountered anything like it. She changed my entire approach to goal setting.

At the same time, one of my Life Goals has always been to find and maintain balance. I love writing. It's hard for me to step away from it, especially now when I'm seeing some success and want to keep feeding my fan base with new books. Sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew.

Exhibit A: Books published Oct 2012-November 2014

Other times, real life happens and I wind up chasing a deadline. It's super easy for me to lock myself in my attic office and not speak to my family for ten to twelve hours. That's bad, right? I'm just checking, because I'm pretty sure it is, but I still get away with it more often than I should.

Therefore, some years ago, I began working on a holistic approach to my year end goal setting. I have writing goals, absolutely, but I look at my life in general and try to set goals like: Walk Every Day or Go To The Gym Twice A Week. Non-writing stuff that certainly impacts my writing (positively) but helps me become a more well-rounded person. (Less rounded in the case of the gym!)

So, to that end, I have a list that I came across years ago. It was part of an article on writing that I didn't have the sense to keep. I only hand wrote the list, but it comes from a martial arts class. If I recall correctly, the aim is to practice one of these eight disciplines each week.

  1. Flexibility: In my case, this means not only being willing to try different lengths or genres in my writing portfolio, but also being willing to close my computer to drive my son into town or have coffee with a friend. Time was always so precious when I was writing around a day job, I often pushed important things like social contact to the perimeter of my life. I can do better!
  2. Strength: Hey. I lift. I really do. Not much, but I do. It was weird at first, but now I love it. But strength also means supporting a friend emotionally, bouncing back from rejections and other career lows, and not only identifying where you are weak (dialogue, confidence, cooking skills, time management) but being willing to work harder to build strength in those areas.
  3. Stamina: This is a big one for me. I had nine titles come out this year. On the one hand, very exciting, on the other, completely exhausting. I was courting burn out so, while I advocate pushing yourself in small ways, don't be dumb. On the non-writing front, um, cardio. I have some serious work to do there, but I'm also looking at my house and thinking about how long I can stand certain things that have outlasted their purpose (carpets.) 
  4. Skill: Let's talk about parenting for a sec. Do you ever feel like you've finally mastered how to work with your child then they go and change on you, hitting puberty or getting a girlfriend or what-have-you? Parenting is one of those things you practice, throwing more skills in the tool box as you go. On the writing side, I'll be honest. I am always willing to learn more about the promotion piece, but I freak out if someone starts messing with my process. I took a long time to figure out how to write books. I shy from workshops on dialogue and romantic conflict, afraid they'll mess with my mojo. Skill can be anything - golf even. I took lessons for a while and loved it, but I let it go when time got tight. I'll work on time management and consider golf again when I master my calendar.
  5. Proper rest: Okay, this is a no-brainer for me. Once I had the forced sleep deprivation that is an infant, I recognized that I am a much better human being if I have slept well and I am a fire-breathing dragon if I have not. I think better on eight hours of sleep and I sleep better when I exercise. It's a vicious cycle.
  6. Proper Attitude: I've done a lot of work on positive thinking and how we phrase things when asking favours from the Universe. I'm careful with my 'I' statements. While I'm often self-deprecating, I try to avoid negatives remarks about myself or others. We can always improve on ourselves so I'm going to try to be nicer than I already am. ;o)
  7. Proper Nutrition: 'nuff said, right? 
  8. Proper Attendance: This means practice. Show up. Be willing to do the work. For me, I also look at it as staying mindful of who I'm with and what I'm doing, whether that's driving, talking to my husband, or cooking. (Do you smell smoke?) 
I'm big on lists and guidelines that help me feel like I'm doing things well. If my goal is to find a better balance in my life, this seems to cover a lot of bases, don't you think? Of course, if I sleep eight hours of each day, that only leaves sixteen hours for the other seven disciplines, but come on. Sleep. I'm still catching up from those newborn years.

Now, I have a friend who actually lights a candle and does a little ritual in preparation for this ceremony. I just spend a few days hand writing my goals into a notebook. I break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly, checking back often and bringing forward whatever I haven't done. It's not a science, but it does set me up for success when I can cross something easy off the list like Have Coffee With Ange.

Do you feel the new year is a time of new beginnings? How do you feel about the short days of winter? Do you find your life is out of balance? What steps are you taking to bring it back to something healthier?

I'd love to send a PDF copy of my Christmas book, Blame The Mistletoe, to one lucky commenter. You can also enter my Goodreads giveaways for print anthologies that include Blame The Mistletoe and Hometown Hero. Both giveaways are open until midnight tonight.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Christmas In Montana by Melissa McClone

Christmas In Montana

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Montana Homecoming by Eve Gaddy

Montana Homecoming

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


Award winning author, Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, erotic romance, and now small-town rancher novellas for Tule's Montana Born imprint. Whatever the genre, Dani always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.

Stay current with Dani’s new releases by joining her newsletter or visiting her here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 Purchase on Amazon: US | Canada | UK  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Michelle Styles: Being Home for Christmas (if only in your dreams...)

When I was growing up,  the song Home for Christmas seemed a bit overly sentimental. I couldn’t imagine not being home. Then life happened and I began to understand the meaning of the song.
Some of it is about being in a specific place with people you love. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Christmas there has a very different feel to South Carolina where I spent Christmas  when I was 19. That year Christmas was exciting as I was busy being a debutante. The next year, I was in Europe, alone.  And the following year I spent Christmas in England for the first time. Since then we have bounced back and forth from the UK and US but mostly in the UK. It has been ten years now since I spent Christmas in the US and 20 since I spent it at California.. Christmas in Northumberland is just different but after 26 years  it is my home now (something that was awhile coming).
Christmas in the UK is different. There are things like Boxing Day (26 December) which is another huge meal and lots of sport on the telly. Christmas crackers with their paper hats, inane jokes and  little gift.  The flaming Christmas pudding (the secret to getting it to light is to gently the heat the brandy until fumes are given off), Christmas cake and the mince pies.  Everywhere you go in the UK at Christmas in the UK, you get offered mince pies. At first I thought no or  oh yuck, but actually they are totally delicious. The meat comes from shredded beef suet – a type of fat. It melts down in the cooking and you just get the dried fruit cum spice taste. Until the recent British baking boom it was hard to find gingerbread and there was no real tradition of baking cookies. Baking Christmas cakes, yes but not cookies.
Also people tend to serve mulled wine rather than eggnog. Most people in the UK have never tired eggnog. You can get Avocaat (Warninks)  which is a Dutch drink and basically commercial eggnog but it tastes a bit different. In the UK it is often drunk as a snowball with lemonade (7up) added. The sheer range of alcohol on offer at Christmas in the average British house astonished me the first time I encountered it.
And then there was the Christmas panto (again full of bad jokes) instead of the Nutcracker. SF Ballet’s Nutcracker used to be a yearly treat and I was so very pleased when I was able to take my oldest two to see it…many years ago. And I missed US Christmas ornaments which tended to be nicer. My tree is now mostly decorated with US ornaments that I have acquired over the years plus a few hand made ones, including sprayed walnuts the children and I did when we first moved to this house.
At first when I lived in the UK, I used to wish British Christmases more like the ones  I had experienced in the US but as  the UK as become home, I realise, neither Christmas tradition is better just different. As long as you are surrounded by ones you love, then all is well. And if you can’t be home for Christmas, you can at least dream.
So other than the people, what Christmas tradition do you feel the need to hang on to?  I have always insisted that we have fondue for Christmas eve and open one present each. It goes back to when my parents got a fondue pot in the early 1970s…

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty, and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. Her next book TAMING HIS VIKING WOMAN will be published in February 2015. You can find out more about Michelle at

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christina Hollis: Storytelling Like It's Deep And Crisp And Even...

[CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Gryffindor, via Wikimedia commons
Most of the time, I have a terrible memory. I mean, really bad. Only last Monday I rang OH at work in a panic, thinking I'd thrown my purse in the boot of his car for the drive to church the day before. It was only after he'd answered his phone I remembered we'd gone in our daughter's car. Oops.

 There's one curious thing about recall in general, and my own memory in particular that's always puzzled me. I'm in the Slackers Club now, and we start playing Christmas carols sometime in November, but that wasn't always the case. I was brought up in the strict Methodist tradition of nothing but contemplation from the first Sunday in Advent, followed by a quick burst of carols squeezed between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night. Despite this, I can sing along with virtually every known Christmas carol that comes on the radio or TV.  My party piece is Good King Wenceslas. I know every single word off by heart, despite never singing it more than once or twice a year. Why, when I can't remember what vehicle I sat in yesterday?
By Kris De Curtis, via Wikimedia
It's because the most memorable carols have a conventional narrative arc. There's a beginning, a middle and an end. Things happen, and people are changed. You aren't simply reciting verses that have been formed around abstract spiritual concepts of love. You're telling a story one step at a time, in the tradition of the earliest peoples who gathered around a fire. Carols are often sung to melodies written by those two local heroes, Trad and Anon, too, which makes them much more user-friendly than many High Church tunes. That's the case for Good King Wenceslas, whose words have been fitted to the tune of a lively spring folk dance. The whole package combines a cheerful tune and regular rhyme scheme in a story of generosity towards those people who have little or nothing. It's a wonderful exercise in giving, teamed with a great lesson in dramatic tension. At a time when the excesses of Black Friday are still fresh in everybody's minds, it's the perfect sentiment for the season.

At this point it's traditional to include a pack shot of the blogger's current novel. As the cover of His Majesty's Secret Passion features a hunky, semi-naked guy, it hardly seems right to display him beside talk of Christmas carols.

If you'd like to see King Leo of Kharova in all his glory,  just hit the like button here on my author page, and you'll be able to find out all about him, between now and the release date of His Majesty's Secret Passion.

Christina Hollis writes both contemporary and historical fiction–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen different languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at,on Twitter and Facebookand see a full list of her published books at Her next release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, will be released in early 2015

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A 2,000 Mile Year

Walking from Erie, PA to Twin Falls, Idaho

Last year for Christmas, my husband bought me a gift I didn't ask for...heck, I didn't know anything about them.  He got me a FitBit.  He said he knew the tiny device would combine my love of techie things with my obsession  love of walking.  He was right.

I pick an annual word.  Something that I can look at and remind myself of what I want to work on that year.  2014's word was STEP.

And though I am not someone who makes New Year's resolutions, I decided to set the goal of trying for 10,000 steps a day for the whole year.

So every morning, I walk the dogs.  They do their dog stuff and I reflect on the day's work.  It's quiet in the morning.  I feel like the world is mine.  I think about what I wrote the previous day and try to decide where to write next.

Every evening, my husband goes for a walk with me.  We walk around the neighborhood and reconnect.  He tells me about his day at the office, I tell him about mine on the couch working on my WIP.

And every day this year, I've had at least 10,000 steps, which is about five miles a day.  Most days I go a lot farther.

I visited Mapquest a couple weeks ago and realized that if I'd walked west in a straightish line, all those steps and miles would have taken me to Twin Falls, Idaho.  It's not quite to the coast, but it's close.  Just over 2,000 miles.

So, what is my takeaway from my year of walking?
~I like walking, but I knew that going in to it.
~If you set a goal, you can reach it, one step at a time!
~Sometimes it's best not to look too far down the road.  It's easier to concentrate on the next step...the next mile.  The other 1,999 miles will sort themselves out.
~Walking is great exercise for your body...but it's also a great time to sort out things in your mind.

So as I approach the end of my year of walking, there's not just a good chance that I'll be walking again next's a certainty.


PS. I have a couple coffee mugs that I'll be giving away to one of my newsletter subscribers at the end of the month, and a few more subscriber giveaways planned for 2015! Maybe you can share some coffee glee with me!  Not subscribed yet?


Christmas in Cupid Falls
Just One Thing
Maid in LA Boxed Set
Carry Her Heart, Release 4/15

Friday, December 12, 2014

A New Beginning and A Special Anniversary

My family has an usual approach to their careers, the jobs they do in life.   I have four sisters and
not one of them is in the job they first started out in – five of us if you include me in that number, as you need to do.
The thing is, we all seem to get to a certain age -  around early thirties is the common number – and  then we launch into a new career and  it’s not the one we  originally planned.  My eld est sister trained as a radiographer.  That was the job she qualified in, the one that took her from the UK to work in Canada – where after some years she changed her career path completely.  She went to university, studied archaeology and anthropology and ended up teaching in the u8niversity where she had her degree. (She later changed again when she went to live in Australia – and went back to being a radiographer so came back to where she’d started).
The next sister never really settled to anything early on so she was a stay at home mother to her  two boys  - until they grew up more, and she got to that  just after thirty age  when she trained to be a librarian -  which was the job I’d had . . . but then I changed mine!

My younger sister (I’m right in the middle) was a medical secretary but she left that job (quite early for one of our family!) and joined the army in the army.  After she married she went back to being a secretary  - another one who went full circle.  And then the youngest of us  started out, like my eldest sister, as a radiographer.   Some years later she went to work in Africa on voluntary service  - and when she came back she completely changed her career and became a social worker.

And me? Well, you should be able to guess this one – you have a few clues!  As I said, I started out as a librarian. I went to university, got a ;librarianship qualification,  got a job as  the local Children’s Librarian – and I loved it -  but then when my son  was  born,  I decided to try for the dream job I had always wanted – that of being a writer.  I didn’t actually know what sort of books I wanted to write then, but when I picked up a romance after years of not reading them, I knew I’d come home. And you know the rest . . .
As I was writing this post, I began to wonder if perhaps it might not be better to plan this one for January – new  year, new beginnings and all that  - but then the thing that got me thinking about this special new beginning of mine is that fact that this month marks a special anniversary -   December 2014 marks a special anniversary for me. It’s 30 years since my very first book – The Chalk Line – was published   way back then.

And I’ve never looked back since. I found what I really most wanted to do  - and the  copies of my first book was my  best ever Christmas present back in 1984.    I’ve never wanted to go back to being a librarian and I’m so happy to look back and see the 62 books that have been published in those 30 years.

So to share the celebrations of my special anniversary of my brand new start I’m  wondering what you’ve always dreamed of doing -  perhaps there’s some dream that you might want to consider  starting afresh to try for as that stroke of midnight sounds out at the end of this month.  If you had a mid-life change, where would you head next?   Or perhaps  you’ve already got your best dream – I’d love to know that too.
Let me know in the comments and I’ll get my cats Charlie the Maine Coon and his apprentice Ruby the black and white rescue kitten to pick a winner each – and I’ll send each winner one of my backlist  titles so you can share in my special 30th celebrations

So now, this week, I’m celebrating the 30th anniversary of my very first published  book – and I’m looking forward to the publication of my  62nd  (Olivero’s Outrageous Proposal) coming in April and working on the next one with a handsome sheikh hero who first appeared as a difficult 19 year old in A Question of Honor (or Honour if you're in the UK.)

I don't yet know what the UK cover of my next book will look like - but I can share the Harlequin Presents cover with you for the first time today. 

My latest releases are two reissues -  first there's Kept For Her Baby which is out in the 3 in 1 By Request  called Secret Love -Child.  

And coming up next, there's the reissue of The Konstantos Marriage Demand  again in a 3 in 1 collection - His Revenge Seduction.

And the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance is now available on Kindle

You can catch up with all of Kate's news on her website  or on her blog.  You can also find her on her author page on Facebook.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So Long, Farewell!

by Anna Campbell

I've put up a picture of my first historical romance CLAIMING THE COURTESAN here because not long after Avon accepted me as one of their authors back in 2006, lovely Lee Hyat who runs this blog asked me to be a contributor to Tote Bags 'n' Blogs. It was the first time anyone had asked me to blog - in fact, back in 2006, even blogging itself had a lovely new shine.

Fast forward to over eight years later. It's 2014 and after many happy years of being a dedicated contributor every month to this wonderful blog, I'm moving on to new pastures.

Next year holds a lot of changes for me. Hopefully a new house in a new city.  A long trip to the U.K. Some new stories (always new stories in the life of a writer!). And a cutting down of some of my commitments outside my writing.So sadly after my many years here, I'm hanging up my tote bag!

We've talked about so many interesting things over my years here at Tote Bags. All my new releases and the inspirations behind them, life in Australia, other books I've read and enjoyed, travel, silly daily stuff like my love affair with a new appliance or a new piece of office equipment (my scanner still occupies a niche in my heart, you'll be glad to know!).

Thank you to everyone who has read my columns over the years and thank you especially to those wonderful people who have taken the time and trouble to leave me a comment. I've so enjoyed our conversations over my time here.

I love how the blogoverse has allowed me to find so much stimulation, discover so many likeminded people and also make so many friends. You've enriched my life immeasurably so please take a bow.

I'd also like to offer my deep gratitude to Lee, firstly for inviting me onto the blog (such a thrill for a new author!) and also for letting me meander through whatever my current preoccupations were over the last eight years. I hope one day, Lee, you and I can meet face to face and I can say thank you in person.

I'm not abandoning social media. I'll still be blogging a couple of times a month with the Romance Bandits and I update my website ( at the beginning of each month with latest news. And of course I'll still be active on Facebook and on Twitter so I'd love to see you there if you don't already follow me.

So given I'm looking backwards and forwards in the spirit of yesterday, today and tomorrow, I thought I'd put up the cover for A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT, my next Sons of Sin book which is out at the end of April 2015. And also the cover for my current release, my Christmas novella, HER CHRISTMAS EARL (only 99 cents), which hit the shelves 21st October.

I wish you all a very happy festive season and the best in 2015. With lots of happiness, health and great books! 

Goodbye and good luck! Here's a red rose from my garden for luck - and for romance!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Celebrating old friends : : Anne McAllister

When I was four I met a girl who lived in the next street.  I could see her house from my bedroom window because there was plenty of empty space between her house and mine.  We became friends and used to run across the lots to play together regularly.  We walked to grade school together, rode bikes to school when we got to junior high, and rode the bus together when we reached high school.

She wasn't my only friend, but she was a good friend.  And then she moved away.

At the end of our freshman year, she and her family moved to Washington state.  We wrote letters sporadically.  We kept in touch when we got out of high school.  We sent Christmas cards.

I saw her once the year after I got married. I saw her again in 2009 when we went to Washington ourselves to meet our sixth grandson.

And last year when we planned to meet after she had a meeting in Chicago, the weather exploded in our faces.  Howling winds, piles of snow.  Piles of snow?  In early December? Ye gods.  Well, yes, that was last winter.

But we are nothing if not determined.  So this year, she tried again. The weather cooperated.  And on Friday evening she turned up on my doorstep!

What a treat.  We spent a lot of time catching up, reminiscing, recalling bits and pieces of our childhood that one -- or the other -- of us hadn't thought of in years. She reminded me of how we used to walk in the puddles in the alleys during rainstorms.  I had forgotten about alleys all together.

We tried to piece together our shared past and put it into the context of what our families were doing at the time, of what our parents were thinking.  Always a challenge, trying to discover what your parents were thinking!

One thing I hadn't forgotten was how creative she was.  What I didn't remember -- and still don't -- is if it had anything to do with fabric.  But it certainly does now!

Her name is Melody Crust and she is a nationally celebrated fabric artist.  She designs, she quilts, she gilds, she embellishes.  As she says, she "loves all things shiny."  And she translates that love into spectacular works of art.

She also teaches other people how to do it.  She has written books about it, has a slew of Power Point presentations she has created to help others understand how to begin to do things that boggle my mind.  She's an inspiration not only to them, but also to me.

Several years ago, I wrote a book called Antonides Forbidden Wife.  Ally, the heroine, was a fabric artist.  She owed a lot of her career to Melody.  I have another heroine waiting in the wings who also works with fabric and with wool.  She began as a  weaver, but she's become a storyteller with her art. She will undoubtedly owe a lot to Melody, too.

People often ask, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Sometimes when you're four years old, they're right outside your window.  You just have to hang onto them until the time is right.

images from, copyright: Melody Crust, used with permission.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

What’s in a (hero) name? – Kandy Shepherd

When it comes to naming a romance hero, there are certain names that do it for me: Matt, Nick, Sam, Tom, Joe and Luke have all starred as heroes in my novels.

But one of my very favorite guy names is Jesse. I don’t know why it conjures up tall, dark and super sexy for me but it always has.

I’ve met a few Jesses in my time—and they’ve all been charming. Did their mothers have some intuition about what kind of men their infant boys would become? Or did they just like the name?

Because Jesse is such a favorite with me, I don’t know why I used it for a secondary character in my first book for Harlequin Romance The Summer They Never Forgot.

The hero of that book, Ben Morgan, had a brother Jesse. That Jesse was quite a heartbreaker became apparent both in that book and the second Dolphin Bay book The Tycoon and the Wedding Planner. Had I thrown away that wonderful name on a secondary character?

All made sense when I went to write the third book in the series, A Diamond in Her Stocking. This was going to be Jesse’s story—Jesse the handsome heartbreaker was going to fall very hard in this book.

Before writing the story I had a strong image in my of what my Jesse looked like:  “Jesse Morgan. All six foot three of him—black haired, blue-eyed, movie-star handsome.”

Jesse Spencer

So did I look for inspiration in gorgeous celebrities named Jesse? How about Jesse Spencer from House and Chicago Fire? I’ve always liked him, even when he was in Australia soapies and teen flicks.

Jesse Metcalf

Then there was Jesse Metcalf. It wasn’t just the Desperate Housewives who swooned over him in the role of John.

No. Handsome as those two are, I knew exactly who could model for my Jesse Morgan. Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries) fitted the bill in every way—except of course for his name. Ian. I’m sure there are many wonderful romance heroes named Ian. It’s just not a name that does if for me.

Ian Somerhalder

So with an image of Ian Somerhalder (who I think is totally swoonworthy and especially because he is an animal lover) and the name of Jesse Morgan, the hero of A Diamond in Her Stocking came to life. Then, of course, as I wrote he became entirely his own person. I relished every moment of making Jesse worthy of lovely, feisty Lizzie Dumont, the heroine.

By the way, my next book for Harlequin Romance From Paradise to…Pregnant! (June 2015) has a gorgeous hero named Mitch. Mitch is another of my favorite guy names. I’ll share more about Mitch some other post...

What about you? Do you have a favorite romance hero name? Are there certain names you love/hate in a romance hero?

Make a comment to be in the draw for a signed copy of A Diamond in Her Stocking. Please include your email address in your comment if you want to be included in the draw.

Before I go, I’d like the chance to wish you all a wonderful festive season—see you in January!

Kandy’s third Dolphin Bay story for Harlequin Romance, A Diamond in Her Stocking, is a December 2014 release and is available now.

Kandy Shepherd is an award-winning author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She lives on a small farm in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her family and a menagerie of four-legged friends.