Pages

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Dani Collins: On The Edge...Of a new series!

My grandmother loved her gardens. Loved them. In the same way that I get an idea for a book and build a story around it, she would get it in her head that a certain plant was needed in a certain spot and plotted how to make the whole thing work.

One of those plants was a Blue Spruce tree. She lived with my parents and my dad, her son, hated that tree. Oh, he agreed they're pretty as a picture to look at, but mowing around them is a matter of taking your life into your hands. They're one of the most prickly trees imaginable.

But Grandma won. And they are pretty! I wander around my neighbourhood enjoying them all the time, thinking of her whenever I see one. They have a distinctly blueish tinge to their needles which makes them stand out.

The prettiness of them, coupled with my warm memory of Grandma, is the reason I called my new series Blue Spruce Lodge.

This series turned into quite the family affair. My daughter helped me decide this particular lodge was a mountain chalet catering to skiers and you can read more about other family input here.

Even my sister's dog, Murphy, shows up in this series.

In fact, since the heroine of On The Edge, Glory, is a closeted romance author, I'm practically part of the story. I certainly relate to her introverted, sarcastic personality. (And her penchant for swears.)

Also, I worked at a ski hill in a past life. A very past life where I did office work and had perks like free lift tickets and free rentals and free lessons and rarely took advantage of it. Like Glory, I'm more of an observer of nature, rather than a go outside on a cold day type of person.

Rolf, on the other hand, is an alpine champion. He's everything I don't typically encounter and one of my edgiest heroes yet. He owns a world-renowned sports conglomerate, has won countless medals and cups, and is bent on turning a defunct ski hill into a training facility for elite athletes--if his kid brother doesn't mess it all up.

I hope you're intrigued! Here's more about On The Edge, the first book in this series that releases today.

RELEASES TODAY!

The champion meets his match… 

When Glory Cormer’s father introduces her to ‘their’ new business partner, she’s appalled. Viking-like Rolf Johansson exudes the same alpha-intimidation that jocks used to torment her through high school. After nursing her mother the last several years, she’s trying to break out of her shell and secretly pursue a writing career, but Rolf insists she go through with the rotten deal her father struck with his brother to renovate an old chalet.

Rolf envisions this mountain as a world-class resort for elite athletes and other jet setters. As a downhill champion and owner of a world-renowned sports equipment empire, he knows what it takes to get what he wants. Nothing will stop him, especially not a hotheaded wallflower who turns the ice in his veins to lava.


Fun Fact: This book includes Blessed Winter, secretly written by Glory. It’s the long-awaited sequel to Cruel Summer, the short story you receive when you join my newsletter.

There's a Rafflecopter giveaway celebrating this book launch if you'd like to enter:

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio:
Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with some laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life.

Mostly Dani writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of forty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing.

Dani lives in Christina Lake, BC with her high school sweetheart husband who occasionally coaxes her out of her attic office to visit their grown children.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Beating Blue Monday -- Michelle Styles

Today Monday 15 January 2018 is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year also known as blue Monday. However it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of ways in which you can beat the January blues. Here are some of my suggestions:
  1. 1.      
    Watch uplifting or feel good television. My daughter and I discovered The Marvellous Mrs Maisel at the end of  November and binge-watched it. It is a comedy with a little bit of drama about a Jewish woman from the Upper East Side New York City who becomes a stand up comic in the mid-1950’s. Beautifully acted with gorgeous dresses and a great sound track. Beats watching the news, an event which always seems to sap my will to live these days.
    2.       Book tickets to a great live action event. Last year, my daughter booked Hamilton tickets on blue Monday for December. She had to do as it was when they went on sale but the unexpected benefit was when ever something was not quite right or I felt a bit blah, I’d go ‘ah but we have Hamilton tickets’ and put the music on. But anything you can look forward to will work. It does need to be live and therefore what you are going to see will be unique.
    3.       Go see a great exhibition at a museum. I was lucky enough to see two brilliant exhibitions in December at the V&A – the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit and the Balenciaga exhibit. The first allowed me to release my inner child and the second allowed me to indulge in my love of great clothes (see above for more about my love of great clothes). But any exhibition will do – go with an open mind and see what you can learn or simply enjoy.
    4.       Go for a walk and release your inner child as you do. Getting outside with natural sunlight can be a great way to lif your mood. If it is horrible out, consider wrapping up well and going puddle jumping or if icy, find some place to slide a bit. Watch the clouds and make up stories about what they represent. I find releasing my inner child is a great way to lift my mood. It means I don’t have to be serious and weighed down with responsibility.
    5.       Put on some favourite music and dance like no one is watching.
    6.       Make time to see an old friend and have a good natter about nothing in particular.
    7.       And last but by no means least, read a romance – something that will allow to escape into another world where you know the Happy Ending is guaranteed. It can be one you enjoyed in the past or a new one by a favourite author or even a new to you author.
    What ways  have you found that work to beat the Bluest of all Mondays?





Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods for Harlequin Historical. Her latest The Warrior’s Viking Bride will be released on 22 February 2018.

You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: Be Prepared!

A light dusting before the blizzard
Winter hit hard here before Christmas, with a blizzard. We're surrounded by woodland, and the sound of boughs snapping under the weight of snow echoed around our valley like gunfire.  A particularly loud bang gave us all a 4am start, as some power lines came down. They snaked around in the darkness in a shower of sparks until the supply was shut off. After that, we were without electricity for eighteen hours. 
Disasters can strike in town as well as country, so before something unexpected happens in your neck of the woods, here's my top tips for managing when modern life unravels...

HEAT: The pump for our gas central heating runs on electricity, so a log burner provides extra warmth. Dancing flames lift the spirits, too. Curling up in front of the fire with a good book when the various screens and devices aren't working makes the past seem very close. While we have an electric oven, our hob is gas. In the event of a power cut we can light that manually, to boil a kettle for tea and coffee, fill hot water bottles or make meals that don’t need an oven.  We have carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms, and check their battery levels regularly. We also keep a fire blanket handy!

Come home to a real fire...
LIGHT: I use a head torch for cooking, or checking round outside. It leaves my hands free, which is always a good thing. Unlike ordinary torches, LED lights die suddenly instead of fading away like a traditional torch. Make sure you’ve got plenty of spare batteries. 
Cold candles burn for longer than those stored at room temperature.  Make sure you secure them in a jam jar or saucer before lighting. Keep them well away from anything that might catch fire. Keep a supply of matches or a lighter in a dry place, and make sure everyone in the house knows where they are. 

SAFETY: Make sure you've got a basic first aid kit with over-the-counter remedies, plasters, dressings and bandages. Keep paths clear and spread rock salt to keep them safe. Make a list of emergency numbers, and personal contact details. Print out and laminate several copies. Keep one in the kitchen, one in the bathroom and one in your car. 
Get the right tools for the job. Proper snow shovels are much lighter and easier to use than garden spades when you have snow to shift. Keep one in your car (and it's a good idea if that has winter tyres fitted).

SUPPLIES: Each autumn we make up a winter box, filled with things like toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, tea, coffee, dried milk, tinned goods and dried food like pasta. While researching Women’s Lives in Bristol, I discovered the story of an emergency box just like ours, which came to the rescue of people trapped in a church during the great air-raid the city suffered in November 1940. 
Severe weather rarely cuts anywhere in England off for more than a few days, so we'd rather sit it out in the warm than risk an accident. I had one of those in snow a few years ago, and I don't want another one! Stocking up with the basics means we don't run out if we're snowed in. It's all stored in a cool, dry place. We don’t rely on being able to use frozen or chilled foods. In a power cut, we keep the freezer shut and avoid opening the fridge. Milk and other dairy products live outside the back door, in a big insulated box.

COMMUNICATION: Mobile signals aren't good round here, so we’ve kept our landline. Wherever you live, a mobile's no good if it’s flat. Make sure all your devices are fully charged while you have power. Keep a good supply of batteries for radios. If you're going on a journey, make sure your car is serviced, and the fuel tank is filled. Blankets, a torch, first aid kit and cereal bars don’t take up much room on the back seat, and could make all the difference during a long cold wait for roadside assistance. 

If you'd like to keep up with my writing life, and the goings-on here at Tottering Towers (Gloucestershire's least stately home), just drop me a line at christinahollis(at)hotmail(dot)co.uk with "newsletter" in the subject line—and putting an @ and a dot instead of the words in my email address, of course!


Christina Hollis has been writing all her life. With many magazine articles, six historical novels and eighteen contemporary novels to her credit, she has sold nearly three million books and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, gardening, or walking her dog. Her next book, Women’s Lives in Bristol, 1850-1950 is part of Pen and Sword Books’ major 2018 series Struggle and Suffrage commemorating the vote being given to the first women in England. Follow Christina on Facebook at http://bit.ly/FacebookAuthorPageCH for more details.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Word of the Year


I know we're a few week into 2018 and most New Year Resolutions are already forgotten, but I think there's still time to...well, not make a resolution, I gave those up years ago.  Instead, I pick one word to build my year around.  I love that other people have joined me in the tradition.  I've used words like Stop, Moment, Awareness, Step, Optimism, Change, Stretch, Time, Hope...

I spent a great deal of time mulling 2018's word and finally landed on Chapter.  With that word I'm acknowledging that things changed last year and will continue to change next year.

In 2017 I lost my mother in July and losing her has left a hole in my life.  I went back to school in August and discovered so much glee in Ceramics and My Novel Freshman Experience.  My family is another year older and they're lives are changing and evolving, and I'll confess, I feel such a sense of pride when I look at what amazing people they all are.

So 2018 sees me in a new place...a new chapter if you will.  By choosing that as my word of the year, I'm reminding myself that even when change is hard, I should more than accept those changes, I should embrace them!  I should try and make this chapter the best one yet.


So even though we're a couple weeks into the year, I hope you reflect on what you want from 2018.  Do you have a word of the year?

Happy New Year, my friends.  I love stopping by this blog every month.  Thank you to everyone who's followed my pottery adventures and a huge thanks to everyone who's picked up a book, left a review and shared a bit glee with me!


Holly

PS The 3rd book in my PTA Mom trilogy it out...Once Upon a Valentine's 
and
Hold Her Heart is on sale for $.99.  It's one of my Romance+ stories...a story about woman's journey that includes romance, but romance isn't the reason for her journey, nor is it her final destination!

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Year New Look New Book with Kate Walker

I’m in  celebratory mood today. This is a post that I’ve been waiting so long to write – since  the end of 2016 in fact.   That was when my last  new title – Indebted to Moreno – had been out on the  shelves for October/November  - and I needed to make sure there was another new book to follow it.  It’s been a long wait.

So what happened?  Life.  I suppose you can sum it up in that one short word.  Just life. There were some health problems – mine and my husband’s – family problems. . . But there were also some good things – enjoyable ones.  My sister had a big birthday – one of those with a 0 at the end. So did a friend. So of course we had to celebrate just a  bit, didn’t we?  Then  two new members of the family arrived. Two little boys who were born within 6 months of each other.   They are both gorgeous and thriving -  thankfully. Considering that one of them, arrived  rather late and in a rush, on his parents’ bathroom floor instead of the water birth they were expecting!  Life has a habit of doing that, doesn’t it?  Changing the rules just when you were least expecting them.

It seemed a bit like that all last year. I know so many people who had a tough year, found that things didn’t go as they expected them.  Sometimes I find that I can turn my attention to writing, concentrating on the fictional world and disappearing into it so that I can forget about reality. But not 2017.     Still, I persevered – and  this month I get to celebrate the fact that at last I have a brand new novel out  this month.


I may have written 66  novels for Harlequin, but that feeling of having a brand new book on the shelves – holding it in my hands is a really special one and it always feels so wonderful. It’s a joy that never goes away.  And it  has an extra special feeling to it this time as my new book (I love saying that!) A Proposal To Secure His Vengeance is one of the first  books to be published with the new look, revamped covers  that are the result of the major makeover that Harlequin Mills and Boon  have  organised and that  starts to appear in shops from this date on.  The coves are very new, very different – but the great stories under the covers are just the same.
 
I’ve had some wonderful messages from kind readers, telling me how much they’ve been looking forward to having a new Kate Walker story to read. How  happy they are that it’s finally here. That means so much to me.  When I haven’t had a new novel available  for so long, I was a bit afraid that readers would forget me – that they’d look for other authors’ names instead.  So these fabulous messages have really made my day – I’d almost say they’ve made my year but perhaps it’s a bit early for that!

But it’s not too early to celebrate this special publication day  - and to share with you the covers – USA and UK – of this new book.    There’s the ‘blurb’ from the back of the book too – that re
ally made me smile as it so sums up the tone and mood of the story I’ve written. I hope you’ll enjoy it too  and I hope you’ll love my sparky, beautiful heroine Imogen and  the sexy, brooding hero Raoul Cardini  -   known by his nickname the Corsican Bandit! 

 
Meanwhile, I’m busy working on the revisions for the next book – this one doesn’t have a  title yet but it’s  a story that’s linked to Imogen’s story because the heroine is Imogen’s sister, Ciara.  I’ve called these two linked stories  by the working title  The Scandalous O’Sullivan Sisters.
And I really hope it won’t be quite so long  before I’m able to tell you that Ciara’s  story will be published too.


It’s a little late but I still want to wish all my lovely readers a very happy new year. I know that with the publication ofA ProposalTo Secure His Vengeance  it’s  definitely the  happy start to 2018 for me. Let’s hope it continues that way!

Raoul Cardini will have his revenge!
His preferred method? Ruthless, irresistible seduction!
Imogen O’Sullivan is horrified when charismatic tycoon Raoul breaks up her engagement and makes her his own convenient bride! She once surrendered everything to Raoul—body, heart and soul. But as he stalks back into her life it’s clear he has punishment in mind—not just passion! Can Imogen resist Raoul’s potent brand of delicious vengeance?


You can read more about me and my books on my web site and my blog -  and catch up with me too on my Facebook page

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Where are the books you love?

2017 was a very bad year if you prefer to read your romance in a traditional paperback book. Publishers have been cutting back on paper release of series romance - not because readers don't still love them, not because the they are no longer being written or published, but because shelf space has become such a rare commodity.

With the loss of bookstore chains such as the much-lamented Borders and with supermarkets cutting space for everything but the fastest moving titles, publishers have been forced to reduce paper sales of some of their series to their bookclub subscribers and online sales.

Series that are now digital only include Harlequin Romance but to reassure you, they are still available in paper direct from Harlequin and from Amazon.

But...

While online sales and digital work for the dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core fans who know what they like, have authors they auto-buy and have access to a debit or credit card, the sad fact is that the point-of-sale reader, the woman who, passing the shelf during her weekly shop and makes a spontaneous decision to buy a book, no longer has the same wide choice.

She may have always bought from her favourite series in the past, grabbing one with the right colour cover and buzz word title in the few seconds she has to make her choice because she knows it will deliver the romance hit she loves. If that option is no longer open to her she may choose from what is there - or not buy at all. It's a bit like the supermarket reducing your choice of cookies to a few top-selling brands. Their only interest is, after all, the bottom line and they figure that you'll buy something even if it isn't your first choice. Or, of course, you may go somewhere else. If it's cookies, not a problem. If it's books it may mean the local thrift shop where there will be secondhand copies of the books she loves. At least for a while.

Meanwhile the  paper copies are only available in limited numbers and you can't buy them secondhand. Even when there are fabulous deals - a lot of my books are on special offer at the moment - they are available only to those with an expensive eReader, computer or phone and access to a debit or credit card. For vast numbers of readers the books will simply have disappeared. They won't know why. They'll merely shrug and stop looking for them. Maybe they'll stop reading romance.

I have no answers, just a sore heart.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Wishing Everyone a Balanced New Year! Susan Sands

A new year always feels like beginning with a clean slate in so many ways. The resolutions, you
know. Eat better, exercise more. Keep an organized schedule. All the things. And yes, I do plan to improve myself in all those ways. Last year I began my second half-century of life. That sounds pretty momentous, doesn't it? Yes, I thought so too. I was busy last year. Writing, and taking care of all the things and people who live in my circle.

I'll do that this year, but I have plans to do more. Write more and better. Bigger. But I've also got to nurture and support the heck out of my last chick until I send her off to college in a few months. Give her my best as well. It's all a balance, and it's one that is easy to upset with too much focus on one thing or the other. So my biggest goal beginning the year will be balance. Family, work, exercise, nutrition, sleep.

I spent the entire day reading a book just released by one of my favorite authors. Nothing else, just reading. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy just reading. And how it inspires me to write. So, today, I'm motivated to work on one of my new projects because of the day spent immersed in that book. It was something I'd denied myself because I'd lost the balance. I don't know how I could have forgotten the pure joy of reading, of losing myself in a book. I'm a writer for heaven's sake. But I've rediscovered it and won't let it happen again.

I hope everyone who celebrates enjoyed their holidays. I had all my children under one roof for an entire week, which is hard to come by these days. I've cooked, baked, and just rolled around in the family time.

Happy New Year to everyone! I wish everyone good health, humor, and happiness in the coming year. And balance. We'll see how that goes, won't we?


Susan Sands
         

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Christmas Present - Bonus Scene


Happy Almost-New-Year! I love this week of the year, the “found” time between Christmas and New Year’s when life slows down enough for me to sit still and take stock before I turn the last calendar page. I reflect on the blessing of the past year and get excited for what’s to come. I always try to take it off from work so I can savor this time.

During this week of “bonus” time, I also have another special bonus to share! This fall, I polled my mailing list about which romance couple they’d like to check in with over the holidays. I gave everyone a choice of four books from my 2017 list and the winner was Matt and Larissa from Second Chance Cowboy. (By the way, if you’re not on my mailing list, sign up here!)  

I
t was such a pleasure to revisit this couple! I gave them a happy ending in the published story, of course. But the added scene gave me a chance to think more about their happily-ever-after and what it might look like this Christmas. What a joy to savor a healthy, happy relationship between two people who are in love. So much of writing romance involves writing the conflict, the battle to overcome obstacles so the heroine has a chance to build a happy future. This scene gave me the chance to simply revel in the fun stuff.

I hope you take a peek at it, and if you like it, consider downloading the story to see how this brooding cowboy reunited with his dancer heroine in the first place! Read the bonus scene here.


And if you like my Harlequin Desires, drop by the Harlequin website this month to read a free online read of mine, Christmas with the Rich Rancher. It’s a double bonus of free for readers 😊.

Finally, I'd like to give away an advance copy of my February book, For the Sake of His Heir to one random poster who shares with me... how do you traditionally spend your week between Christmas and New Year's? Do you get some quiet time with the family? Do you like making New Year's resolutions or shopping post Christmas sales? Share with me this week and I'll send one reader a copy of For the Sake of His Heir!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

It's Christmas Eve and I'm sure, like me usually on this frenetic day, you will be up to your elbows in Christmas preparations. However, please take some friendly advice and make sure that you make plenty of time for yourself over Christmas, especially if you are the host.

You see, the trouble with hosting is that you are so concerned with making sure that your guests are having a good time that you run yourself ragged seeing to their every need. One thing I have learned after years and years of hosting is to do as much in advance as you possibly can. Christmas Eve is always a cooking day for me. I precook everything that I can- Yorkshire puddings, desserts- and prep everything else including the vegetables. That way, I get to sit down with a glass of bubbles on Christmas day and join in the fun which I am denied in the kitchen.

This year though, I had to be super organised. All my pre-cooking, present buying and decorating happened weeks ago. You see, with impeccable timing, as you read this I will be on a plane coming home from my Christmas present from Mr H, a lovely trip to Barbados. I land at Heathrow at 7.30am tomorrow and once I get home my lovely son and daughter will hopefully have started making Christmas dinner in my stead. I can't wait! This is the first Christmas in twenty-one years I haven't had to completely host and I hope its the first of many now that my children are adults.

I hope yours is filled with family and friends too...

Happy Holidays!

Virginia Heath's Christmas Regency Romantic Comedy His Mistletoe Wager is out now!

His Mistletoe Wager is out now


 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dani Collins: A Year with the Sauveterres

In the next few days, the final book in my Sauveterre Siblings quartet will hit the shelves. I'm very excited for Trella to come out of seclusion and into the light.


It was probably two years ago that I sent a proposal to my editor at Mills & Boon in London, suggesting a mini-series about two sets of identical twins, older brothers and younger sisters. They're a very wealthy, glamorous family. Their father was a French tycoon, their mother is Spanish aristocracy. Think Kardashians on steroids.

I knew there had to be a thread that ran through the series and decided the youngest sibling, Trella, had been kidnapped as a child. Initially, I pitched her story as the second in the series.

My editor had a few suggestions, one being that Trella's story should come last. I agreed with her and started writing. And writing. And writing. I lived with the Sauveterres a long time. With each successive book, I gave Trella more baggage. By the time I got to her story, this poor woman hadn't left the house in years.

That's not quite true, but due to panic attacks and other traumas, she was only beginning to experiment with being in public by impersonating her sister--which is what she is doing when she meets Prince Xavier.

He thinks he slept with her sister, Angelique. In book one, he learns Trella tricked him. Then in successive books, he learns she's pregnant, but she refuses to take his calls. She has reasons. Trella always has reasons. She has been through a lot, but she's not a victim. She's resilient and independent and determined to shape her own future despite her difficult past.

Except she's carrying the next ruler of Elazar. Xavier has to kidnap her to have a conversation with her and insists she marry him to legitimize his heir. It's supposed to be a marriage of convenience, but, well, it turns out they still can't keep their hands off each other. And then more stuff happens, because Trella is nothing if not a drama-magnet.

As I was finishing up this book, the first in the series came out. I've spent all of 2017 anxiously watching and waiting, hoping each of my Sauveterres would find a warm welcome. So far, so good, but Trella is my favourite. (Shh.) I'm scared for her, but I'm excited, too. I hope you like her.

Back cover copy:
Carrying the prince’s secret heir!  
For one night, reclusive heiress Trella Sauveterre throws off the fear-ridden shackles of her childhood abduction—succumbing to a sizzling seduction, she falls unexpectedly pregnant! Deeply uncomfortable in the spotlight, Trella can’t bear a high-profile pregnancy and keeps the identity of her baby’s father hidden… 
Then a tabloid photo of a scorching kiss implicates Crown Prince Xavier of Elazar in the scandal. He’ll do anything to claim his shock child—even kidnapping Trella! Now Xavier must legitimize his son. And it’ll be his pleasure to make Trella his royal bride!

Learn more about Prince's Son of Scandal here.

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with some laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life. Mostly she writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of forty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. She lives in Christina Lake, BC with her high school sweetheart husband who occasionally coaxes her out of her attic office to visit their grown children.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Hamilton West End: Beating the Hype by Michelle Styles

The adventure started back in August 2016 when my daughter who was visiting friends and relations in the US discovered the Hamilton soundtrack. She then learned that it was coming to London and was determined to go. At this point I became hooked on the soundtrack and agreed it would be a good idea. When the pre-booking opened in January 2017, my daughter gave up her lunch time and secured two seats. The great Styles December London trip was on.
Since January whenever I have hit any set backs, I was told myself – I have Hamilton tickets to look forward to and it is going to be great. 
The hype surrounding the trip and indeed the musical increased as the months went on as my daughter and I worked out what we were going to do. I sort of worried it might not live up to expectations. Could anything  be that good? 
Afternoon tea at the Wolseley (scones under the dome)
The biggest hiccup was waking on Monday morning and discovering the local train was running very late due to adverse weather conditions. Cue defrosting two cars very quickly and then driving to the station with a half-frozen windscreen which did not thaw until halfway through the journey (about the same time I started to feel my fingers).  I was not about to miss my shot. We  are arrived with a few minutes to spare. My daughter who is supremely organised had managed to bag first class seats during a sale in August so we had breakfast as the train sped through the snow landscape.
London in the snow was magical and felt like being in Christmas romance novel. My editor did a historical walking tour of Borough on the way to lunch. I got to see a coaching inn in the snow and could easily imagine what it would look like with stage coaches. We found part of a Tudor building when searching  for the remains of the Marshalsea prison where Dickens’s father was imprisoned.  Lunch with my editor was everything an author’s lunch should be and included a tour of the offices, complete with a sunset (I decided to live in the moment and not take a bad photo).
The next day included a 6 hour visit to the V&A museum (Winnie the Pooh, dresses and period rooms all featured) and afternoon tea at the Woleseley before Hamilton.
The set of Hamilton before the show started from our seats
Hamilton does live up to its hype. The pre-show atmosphere buzzed. In part because they had run out of programmes (arrived at the interval), theatre-goers spoke to each other – mostly to apologize in advance if they screamed too much. Everyone there was a fan of the show. One lady whom I later realized was Edwina Currie (a former British politician) confessed she had already booked more tickets as she knew she would love the show. She had taken the same approach as my daughter – follow the instructions, give up a lunch time and book in advance.  
The staff behind the bar coughed that the reason for plastic glasses was that the dishwashers were not yet installed (they are still refurbishing the theatre during the day). The wine was very good, no matter what sort of glass it was  in.
The show excelled. The soundtrack is basically the show (so more opera than a play with songs) BUT it is how the actors present it And the sheer energy behind the live performance. I suspect London is the only place George III gets a bigger than George Washington, the first time he appears. The actors appeared to feed off the buzz in the theatre and really responded. The stand out actors in a stellar cast were Jameal Westman who plays Alexander Hamilton and makes the part his own (first production he has starred in and is utter mixed-race hero inspiration material – The Times proclaimed a star is born and I can see why), Rachelle Ann Go who played Eliza  and who has a voice which does not quit and Giles Terara who played Aaron Burr and held the whole thing together. The experience is why people go to live theatre. Totally unforgettable. I was completely blown away. The standing ovation at the end went on until they turned on the lights.

If you can go see Hamilton, do – particularly in London.  The libretto is very clever and it bears listening to the soundtrack several times before you go. I suspect it will be seen in time for a revolution in musical theatre. For me, this was one time the show more than exceeded its considerable hype. Just book tickets in advance and go as then you have the added bonus of being able to think --ah but I have Hamilton tickets and it is going to be a great night.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin and Mills & Boon historical. Her next book will be published in March 2018 The Warrior's Viking Bride. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christina Hollis: Hello Winter, Goodbye Whole Foods...

Alex's first taste of snow, with me in the distance.
We're snowed in at the moment, half a mile from the nearest road. We’ll have dug our way out to civilisation by the time you read this, but the threat of power cuts here in rural Gloucestershire is constant in winter. It pays to stock up with the basics in late autumn, as it only takes an inch of snow to make the steep and winding country lane leading to Tottering Towers impassable.

My post today is seasonal, and sad. One of the places where we used to shop at Christmas has closed down, and around eighty people have lost their jobs. Whole Foods Market only had a couple of stores in this country outside of London. A few days ago their    “local” (it was about twenty-five miles away from us) outlet shut down.

It was far too expensive for us to shop there regularly, but for the occasional lunch and impulse-buying session it was a real treat. The last time I visited, just before it closed, I picked up all the fruits, nuts and spices for our Christmas cakes, puddings and treats.  Although the store was situated in a weird place, it always seemed to be busy, and it employed a lot of people. Goodbye, WFM. You’ll be missed.

To mark its passing, here's my version of a favourite Christmas song...

On the first day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
My lunch in a little brown tray
On the second day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Sauerkraut and kimchi
On the third day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Three local cheeses
On the fourth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Four rocky roads
On the fifth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Five sourdough loaves!
On the Sixth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Six spotted Quails’ Eggs
On the Seventh day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Seven types of muesli
On the Eighth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Half a pound of nutmegs
On the ninth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Nine vegan salads
On the tenth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Ten scoops of spices
On the Eleventh day of Christmas Whole Foods Market sold to me
Eleven sorts of tea bag
On the twelfth day of Christmas Whole Foods Market…
… didn’t sell me anything. 
All that’s left is a great big sign saying “Goodbye Forever”.

See you next year!
What’s your favourite place to shop when you’re in the mood for some guilty pleasure?

Be the first to see cover of my next non-fiction book, Women’s Lives in Bristolwhich combines family history with centenary celebration by emailing “subscribe” to christinahollis(at)hotmail(dot)co.uk ahead of the big reveal in my end-of-year newsletter!

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written six historical novels, eighteen contemporary novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, gardening, walking her dog, or beekeeping.

Catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on Twitter, Facebook, 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.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Have A Holly Jolly....

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Chanukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Happy New Year...Enjoy whatever holiday you're celebrating!

Oh, I love the Hollydays...er, Hollidays...er, Holidays!
I think that shows in my books.  It turns out that I've written a lot of Holiday romances.  Even in books that aren't precisely holiday romances, there can be a scene or two that focuses on celebrations.


Why?  It's not just my name!

I love writing holiday stories because of my family, friends and the fact they represent glee!  If you follow me on social media you know how much I love glee!  There's something about getting together with people you love and spending time.


This year, the holidays are going to be a bit different here.  We're not getting a tree.  We had a flood in the basement and everything from my family room down there is in the living room up here.  Tomorrow the plumber is coming to install a new back-flow preventer.  Then Monday, the flooring guy is coming to install a tile floor (after ripping up wet carpet, I'm not putting that down again). He's hoping to be done by midweek.  Less than a week before Christmas.  So no tree.

But to be honest, that doesn't dim my Hollyday spirit.  And my kids are part of the reason why.  We all agreed as a family to forgo exchanging presents and are instead donating the money we would have spent to an orphanage.  As every one of my kids said they had everything they needed and gave gleefully gave up their gifts to give to others...well, I don't need a tree.  I don't need anything like that.  My kids are more of a shiny symbol of the season than any tree could be.

Yes.  I love the holidays and have written a lot of holiday stories.  And my family is one of the biggest reasons I believe in and write about the holiday spirit!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be filled with family, friends and the holiday spirit!

Holly

Check out some of my HollyDay Stories:


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Twelve Days of Christmas - covers and giveaways

Last time I posted,I was talking about the arrival of the new copies of   my next book -
 A Proposal to Secure His Vengeance - which is out in January 2018.   January 16th to be precise.  It seems so close now, thankfully - especially when  it has been such a difficult year .  One in which I  had times of wondering if I'd  ever hold a  brand new book  that I'd written  in my hands  ever again.


So it's a delight to know that this new title will be coming out and will be  on the shelves in the new year.


It will be  an interesting time as well because, as many of you may already know, the UK  section of  Harlequin  - Harlequin Mills and Boon -  will be having a new makeover  and launching it in the new year.   The new look is very different - and will create a lot of interest in the  books, I'm sure.

Here's  the sign  that Mills and Boon are using  to mark the start of the makeover.    And here   is the new logo that  will be used from January onwards.

The changes are interesting - and I'll be talking  about them more on my own blog and my Facebook page as the details are released  - and my own  'new look' book appears   in more places.

Perhaps the first thing that people will notice - and the thing that so many  readers have already mentioned to me is that  in the new logo, that traditional symbol of  Romance - the rose of romance  - is now missing from the logo. Instead, the new look includes 'the heart of romance'.

Can you see it ?  Some people haven't been able to spot it - so take a look at that ampersand - &  - between the words Mills  & Boon.  It's not the traditional  & but it's a heart lying on its side with  a line (an arrow? ) through it.

So obviously  - with the new  look covers coming in, the new logo, the new colours - wait and see, there! -  I've been wondering about  the sort of cover design s that make readers want to grab a book  and take it home.

In America, the Harlequin Presents cover has been much the same, almost unchanged, for years and years, and when my  UK cover will be very different  ( think I'd better emphasise that  -very - different ) the one that my lovely American readers  will see will be much the same.  I showed it  last month  - and here I'll include it again.
So  - what about that question I asked you?  What sort of a cover makes you want to grab a book and take it home with you? Do you like that fact that the Presents cover has been around so much it's now described as 'iconic' - or would you like to see a new version?

Later in the month, over on my own blog I'll be looking at some of my older covers - the successful  ones and the - not so great ones!

And as I look at the different covers and other things about books, I'll be offering a book a day  as a giveaway in the lead up to Christmas.

So I'd love to see your comments - and to know what covers you like and the ones you don't. And Charlie the Maine  Coon  of his little sister Ruby will pick a winner from the comments - to win a signed copy of one of my backlist books  this month.


I hope everyone is  enjoying the lead up to Christmas  or whatever festival you're celebrating around this time. I hope the holidays are full of love and happiness and real joy for you all - and most of all, I wish for peace for everyone amongst families and countries so that we can all enjoy this special time.

Next year I'll be back to celebrate the publication of A Proposal To Secure His Vengeance.   But in the mean time I'll be running other 12 Days of Christmas giveaways  over on my personal blog  and on my Facebook page    so perhaps I'll see you there  - and maybe Ruby  or Charlie will pick your name as one of my  12 Days  winners.


Happy  Christmas - and Happy Holidays  to everyone. See you in 2018!