Monday, December 31, 2007

Comfort Reads and Family Series—Barbara Pierce

Happy New Year’s Eve, Everyone!

With the exception of coming down with a nasty cold just before Christmas, this has been a productive month for me. My draft for Scandalous by Night is in my editor’s hands, Naughty by Nature hit the stores early this month, and I just heard Sinful Between the Sheets is a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee for Best Sensual Historical!

I’ve had so much fun writing about the Carlisle family. I was a huge fan of family series books long before I was published. The appeal as a reader was the enjoyment of catching up with beloved characters after they’ve had their happily-ever-after. As I writer, I’ve learned that as much as I love the characters from previous books, there is a delicate balance that must be maintained. You’re striving to satisfy faithful fans of the series, while not overwhelming new readers with a lot of back story or distracting secondary characters.

Thoughts of old favorites had me rummaging through my book boxes this afternoon. This week I’ve been catching up on movies, but now I’m in the mood for some old comfort reads. The first book I pulled out was Johanna Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue. James Mallory. I still sigh when I think about him and his brother Anthony. I have a weakness for unrepentant rakes.

Next, I removed Jude Devereaux’s Montgomery and Taggert books. I haven’t read The Raider in years. However, I do recall a hilarious scene where everyone in the village including dogs, cats, and horses where parading around in black masks and capes.

Another box contained Lorraine Heath’s Texas trilogy. I adored her Leigh brothers. All of Heath’s books fall under the category of books that I will never loan or give away. Mary Jo Putney’s Bride series and Catherine Coulter’s Sherbrooke series are also keepers.

That’s just a few of my favorite historical series. I also read contemporaries, short contemporaries, and paranormals—Well, you get the idea. I love books! What about you? What series books are your old favorites? What new series books are you looking forward to in 2008?

Happy Reading!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Limbo & New Year Wishes - Susan Mallery

The time between Christmas and New Years is always kind of weird. Holiday limbo. The present thing is done and the last of the baking pans from the big meal are at least washed...if not totally put away. But there's still the New Year to celebrate and it certainly deserves a good party.

I never know what to do with the tree and stuff. Keep it up? Take it down? Everyone wants it up until after New Years, but my personal theory is they say that so they'll be gone and they won't get stuck with the work. And then there's the issue of resolutions.

Last year I made a lot of resolutions. I wrote them down, printed out the list and promptly lost it. This year, I think I'm going to cut back to just one or two thing, but try to remember them. Because I have a feeling 2008 is going to be a very good year.

It's starting great--a book I've been waiting and waiting to see released is finally out. Even as we speak (or I type and you read) Accidentally Yours is on shelves.
Books are supposed to be like kids—as writers, we shouldn't have favorites. But this is one of mine favorites. I love everything about this book. I love Kerri, my heroine, who is determined and tough and vulnerable and willing to do anything in the world to get the job done. I like that Nathan, my hero, is so sure he’s a heartless bastard, when in truth, he’s terrified of loving and losing again.

Accidentally Yours is one of those special books writers talk about. A book of the heart. It just came to me over take-out, while my husband was out of town and I was trying to decide which chick flick to watch. I can’t explain the process by which a book arrives fully formed in my head; I only know I wish it happened more often. There was something so easy about writing this book, as if I knew everything that was supposed to happen. It felt a little like magic.

During this special time of year, I wish you and yours the very best of everything. May the New Year bring you happiness, good fortune and health! And if you’re looking to add a little sparkle to your holiday season, give Accidentally Yours a try. I think you’ll love it!

If you get a chance, please visit my website We’ll be running a special contest for Accidentally Yours starting January 1st, 2008!!


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anne Gracie -- The dreaded R-word

Wow, when I signed up for this date, I didn't realize Lilian Darcy was going to be on before me. Thanks Lilian, and I so agree with you about the importance of friends.

In fact I think one of the best things about being a romance author has been the friends I've made -- and keep making. It came as a surprise, actually -- I expected to be working totally alone, and that I'd miss the friends I'd made at my other workplace. Nut no -- I do work by myself in something of a cave but I'm never really alone. There is always a friend on the end of the email or the phone. And that's a real blessing.

But that's not what I planned to blog about today. It being nearly the end of the year, I thought I ought to write something about that little piece of insanity we all go through around New Year -- I'm taking about the dreaded R-word -- resolutions.

I don't do resolutions. They invariably make me feel like a failure, as very few of these bright shiny new intentions last. So I'm not making a resolution -- but maybe I have a Plan. ;)

A few months back I was feeling really stale. I was suffering from post book slump, and though I had a big to-be-read pile of brand new shiny books, for some reason nothing appealed. I picked them over listlessly and they slid to the floor. So then I looked at my bulging bookcases and decided it was time for a clear out. (Clear outs for me are much like resolutions -- a guaranteed failure! I'm such a pack rat.)

So I started with my keeper book case ... Yes, another spectacular failure, if you use the number of books cleared out as a marker.

But oh, what a time I had!

It started with Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Nobody's Baby But Mine. What a mistake. ;) There went the next few hours. Blissfully.

I opened keeper after keeper, just to check whether they still hit the mark, and got lost in each one. It was the beginning of a massive reading binge -- a rereading binge, actually.

Over the next week I became a complete glutton, filling up on the stories that had first caused me to become a romance writer; I fell in love with again heroes like Dominic le Sabre, with the Marquis of Dain, with Simon Augustus Blade, the Earl of Traherne and with some really hunky navy seals. I got my socks knocked off by Johanna Lindsay's warriors, and by Wolf Mackenzie and his gorgeous son. I sobbed at the end of Eva Ibbotson's Morning Gift and LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory, and I traveled the south of France with my ancient copy of Madam Will You Talk. I chuckled through the dinner party scene in Strange Bedpersons, and the Nemesis and old Horley conversation from Friday's Child and I went on a complete Heyer glom, loving the fiery courtship of Deb and Max, Phoebe and Sylvester, and the incomparable Damerel.

I had the most wonderful time. And in the process I fell in love all over again with my chosen genre. What a gift these books are, to make you laugh and cry and feel so satisfied at the end. And how lucky I feel to be writing in such a gorgeous genre.

So if the New Year madness comes upon me, and I find myself making a resolution, it won't be one I'm likely to break; it's to reread my old keepers, as well as new books.

So what are some of your favorite keepers, or beloved comfort reads?


Friday, December 28, 2007

Paying Tribute to Friends - Lilian Darcy

Since I’ve been around the romance business for quite a while, I know a lot of writers – seasoned professionals with fifty-plus books to their name, over-the-moon new writers still celebrating all the milestones that come with their first publication, writers hitting their first serious block after their career had been looking so good, writers who’ve started asking themselves, “Should I be pushing myself so hard?” and even writers who are thinking they might retire in a year or two.

The one thing they all have in common is the value and importance they ascribe to their writing friends. Everyone says it in a different way. “Even after I stop, I don’t want to lose my friends.” “The best thing about this business is the friends I’ve made.” “I couldn’t stay the distance if I wasn’t for my writing friends.”

Today, then, since it’s the holiday season, I want to pay tribute to my writing friends. I can’t mention everyone, and this is in no particular order, but here are some of the people I really love and value and couldn’t do without:-

Anne Gracie – she writes gorgeous historical romances with gorgeous covers, she works tirelessly for our genre through her involvement with Romance Writers of Australia, and has some of the best arguments I’ve ever heard for the value of what we do and why our books deserve the respect they so often fail to receive. She also spoils her friends with her magical discoveries – exotic gourmet treats, wonderful music we’ve never heard before, that store in Melbourne where you buy the feather boas and other finery. This year Anne’s gifts to me range from home-made salted capers through to hours of listening and advice about my writing, and I’ve appreciated every word and every crystal of salt.

Jane Porter – you don’t have to be a single mom to love her “Odd Mom Out” or “Flirting with Forty”, the truth and humor leaps off the page regardless, and her ever-increasing success shows that word is getting out. But you do have to know her to understand just how much she gives, not only to her own career but to any writer needing a fresh creative insight, or a morale boost after a negative critique, or a quiet drink/coffee in a dark corner somewhere at RWA National. Really, seriously, I could not do without Jane, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Marion Lennox – you’ll recognize her at RWA National because she’s bowed down by the weight of her Rita pins. Eleven nominations, is it? And two wonderful wins. Time and time again, Marion’s books take you to her own unique universe where the grit of real life is touched with the gold dust and magic of humor, warmth and romance. Marion is the kind of person people instinctively turn to with their problems, so when I send her one of my long, whiny emails I suspect it’s usually about the twentieth such email she’s already had that day. This does not stop her from replying with as much warmth and generosity as she would if it was the first email she’d ever received in her life.

Bronwyn Jameson – with three Rita nominations for her Silhouette Desires in one year, she doesn’t need me to tell anyone what a fabulous writer of contemporary romance she is. What you probably don’t know is that the two of us managed an eight-hour car journey together last year and did not stop talking about writing the entire time. Were we bored? Not for a second. Did we agree about everything? Pretty much. In March, we’re making a similar journey, and doing the reverse trip five days later. Can we talk about writing for sixteen hours? I’m feeling confident. Watch this space.

Okay, this is already getting long and I’ve hardly mentioned anyone. There are so many more. Trish Morey (Harlequin Presents) and Carol Marinelli (Harlequin Medical and Presents) who are both so funny and clever and make me laugh all the time. Liz Fielding and Barbara Hannay (Harlequin Romance) and Kate Hardy (Harlequin Medical and Modern Extra) who said such lovely things about my novel Café du Jour, at times when I was, as usual, riddled with doubt. Beverley Brand and Brenda Hiatt – we got to know each other at the Ninc conference in San Diego and had some great times - belly dancing, opera, late night conversations, I could go on. I’m leaving people out, I know I am. Meredith Webber and Alison Roberts, the other two (along with Marion Lennox and myself) “Croc Creek girls” self-named after our twelve-book Medical Romance mini-series, “Crocodile Creek – 24-hour Rescue.” Kelly Hunter and Fiona McArthur, um, um, Wendy Warren, Laura Iding, all sorts of people I only see at RWA National but who I immediately want to hug, such as Barbara Dunlop, C.J. Carmichael, Su Lute.

My teenage son has just come up behind me and heaved a large sigh, indicative of his desire to take over my computer, so I’d better stop. Happy New Year, everyone, and may you love and value and enjoy your friends as much as I do.

Lilian Darcy

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year Wishes - Helen Bianchin

It's the time of year when families and friends gather together to share the spirit and joy of Christmas, reflect on the year with all its highs and lows ... and look to the coming year with anticipation and hope.

Achievements in 2007 saw two books sent in on deadline (and yes, meeting deadline is something!)
As a family, we've been fortunate to enjoy good health.

Our three felines continue to give and receive affection.

I think I'm ready to welcome a little llaso apso puppy into the family after losing our beloved Maltese terrier almost a year ago.

Resolutions for the year fell a little by the wayside ...

Consequently, I'm listing sensible resolutions for 2008!

Here are just a few ...

1. Write good books and meet deadlines
2. Give up chocolate ...
3. Reduce my to-be-read pile of books.
4. Master chess, so the youngest members of my family don't wipe the board with me.
5. Learn the Italian language fluently ...
Maybe giving up chocolate might be a bit of a stretch!

So, too, might be becoming fluent in the Italian language.

But hey ... three out of five can't be bad!

I'd love to hear some of your New Year wishes ... together with a resolution or three!

I have an upcoming release in April 2008 ... The Martinez Marriage Revenge featuring Shannay and Marcello Martinez, set initially in Perth, Australia, and mainly in Madrid, Spain.

Purchased: His Perfect Wife features Lara and Wolfe, set initially in Sydney, and mainly in New York. The release date has yetto be announced.

To one and all ... may your 2008 be filled with good health and happiness.

Kind regards,
Helen Bianchin

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Deep And Crisp And Even… - Christina Hollis

…that’s what we like – snow, for a proper, old fashioned English ‘Boxing Day’. Unfortunately we rarely get it these days. Whether or not global warming is to blame, weather in this country is usually damp and mild until Christmas, and then cold and dry until April. Of course, there’s always the unexpected blizzard to keep us all on our toes and off the roads!

The seven days between Christmas and New Year always seem gloomy, no matter what the weather. Knowing how miserable this can be, I’ve been saving a special treat for myself. The moment I saw the cover of Michelle Styles’ book ‘A Christmas Wedding Wager’, I knew I had to have it. After getting my hands on a copy, I’ve managed to avoid opening it so far. I’ll be starting Emma and Jack’s story later today, as soon as I can find enough time to curl up with a cup of tea and a slice of home-made Clementine cake. A solitary pleasure like that makes a lovely contrast to all the partying, and there’s been plenty of that this year.
With three titles out in 2007 (The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin, Count Giovanni’s Virgin and One Night In His Bed) my feet have hardly touched the ground. I’d like to thank all my readers for making this year really special for me. Visit my website,, to keep an eye on what’s going on. In February 2008, One Night In His Bed is going to be my first USA ‘Presents’ release, so that will be a really exciting time. I’m already starting to plan the stories I’ll be writing in the New Year, which will keep me busy until drier weather lets me start work on the garden again.

Christmas can be a difficult time for some people. I hope you have had a peaceful, restful holiday season wherever you are, and whatever you’ve been doing. And to end on a cheerful note, look what my lovely sister and her husband got for Christmas 2007 – triplets!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christine Rimmer Wishes Everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

Well, here at my house, we've had our traditional Christmas breakfast of bacon, French toast and coffee with cream. Now it's on to the preparation of the Christmas feast. This year it will be prime rib in a rich rub of garlic, butter and herbs. And mashed potatoes (more butter, more cream) and green beans and cranberry sauce and...

Okay, okay. Enough with the food. I'll be dieting and I know it--after the New Year.

At my house, the kids are young adults now. And it's more about the getting together and the good times than it is the gifts. You could say, being together is the gift nowadays. And that's just lovely as far as I'm concerned...

I can't linger here long. I know you all understand. Just wanted to let you know I appreciate each and every one of you. And whatever your holiday traditions, may every moment be filled with joy, peace and most of all, love.

--Christine Rimmer

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays! - Susan Stephens

Sunday, Sweet Sunday, with Nothing to do...

Ha! Is all I'm saying about that. I don't know about you, but glorious chaos reigns triumphant in the Stephens' household for weeks at a time at this time of year.

If there's anyone out there who manages to keep up with everyday chores and still find time to sit back and appreciate the holiday season, I salute you.

Once a year I hear from a whole crowd of people I knew years back. We write 'Round Robins' to keep up with each others news, and just occasionally, depending on where we are on the planet, distance permits us to get together.

It's a real joy to make contact with good friends even if I don't see them on a daily basis, and I say hang the washing and ironing I want to take advantage of this. Right now my house is bursting at the seems with family, friends, and friends of friends, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I wish you and all those closest to you the happiest of times during this wonderful time of year- make time to enjoy it, y'hear?

Big smiles, hugs and friendship coming your way from the UK, and I hope 2008 proves to be your best year yet, in every way.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Author Trivia - Lee Hyat

Can you guess this author?

* She's lived in exciting places like Tokyo, Beverly Hills, New York, and Greenwich.

* Paris felt like home the moment she caught a glimpse of it.

* Her favorite authors include Balzac and Stendhal.

* Art history is one of her passions.

* She co-authored a column for the monthly Hollywood Reporter Magazine.

* She was a contributing writer for Capital Style Magazine.

* She became intrigued with Impressionist Paris during her year of academic research at Christie's.

* She graduated from UCLA.

* She lives New York & Connecticut.

* Her next book, another historical novel, is also set in Paris.

If you can guess her name and then also tell me the title of her current book, please email me at totebag[at] with your answers and be sure to put Author Trivia in the subject heading.

At the end of this month, I'll pick 3 winners from everyone who answers correctly. The prize for each winner is a copy of the book. And everyone's entitled to play - even authors. (You were readers before you were authors so for my contests, it's all fair!)

Please don't post your answers here - it would ruin the fun for eveyrone else. Just email them to me at totebag[at] :)

Good luck!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Giving a gift. . .to myself

I know it’s the season of giving, and I know it’s bad form to buy yourself a gift this close to Christmas, but there was no way I could resist this sizeable and somewhat heavy treasure: a reissue of the 1897 Sears & Roebuck catalogue.

Can you imagine how exciting this is for me? As a writer of historical romance, I’ve spent countless hours researching the cost of goods and services, but now I don’t have to – I have it all right here at my finger tips! Detailed descriptions of everything from Stetsons to Winchesters, saddles to wagons, dry goods, clothing, hardware, and everything in between. It’s all here, and to make it even more exciting, there’s a list of shipping costs!

It’s like I died and went to research heaven.

Treasures like these are not to be ignored and I’m so happy I found it. If Santa leaves naught but coal in my stocking this year, that will be okay because I have this beautiful old book to keep me occupied for a very long time.

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, filled with love, happiness, and your own Sears & Roebuck catalogue.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Traditions

Traditions give our lives meaning. As a society our holidays are bound up in traditions, and my family is no different. Some are ones I’ve brought with me from my family and childhood, some are from my husband’s, and some are ones we’ve simply created on our own. We don’t have any family remotely close to us, so we really are a unit unto ourselves which is in some ways very, very special.

When I was growing up we always went to the Christmas Eve service and then went to my brother’s place for a potluck style late dinner. My brother is 16 years older than I am, so when we started this tradition it was when I was still very young and he and his wife had started their family. Now he lives in Utah, I’m in Alberta and the rest of our family is in New Brunswick, so this doesn’t happen anymore. But I still love going to Christmas Eve services and luckily our church does the same thing my home church did – we all have candles and sing Silent Night by candlelight.

Dinner at my brother’s has been replaced by one of my husband’s family’s traditions. No matter what the weather, be it +10 or -40, we have a steak barbeque. Sounds odd – 24 of December, bundled up in a parka and boots, grilling steak and potatoes, but its so much fun! We’ve been known to wheel the barbeque up to the back door so we just have to make a quick step outside to flip things over. The menu is traditionally steak, potatoes, onions peppers and mushrooms, Caesar salad and sometimes I do carrots in foil. And we buy dessert for this one night. It has been, for the last few years, lava cakes. This year I think we’re living on the edge and trying sticky toffee pudding!

Other than Christmas Eve though, the holiday season can feel so rushed and stressful so many of the traditions we have in our family relate to keeping it simple and enjoyable.

My girls and I always make a gingerbread house, and spend an afternoon putting it together and decorating. This picture is from 2004. As the girls get older, the decorating gets a little more elaborate. This year we decided to do a train instead.

We are also suckers for Christmas movies, so it’s often you’ll find us on a Sunday afternoon, cuddled under a blanket on the couch, watching a movie, drinking real hot cocoa and munching on fresh cookies. The tree lights will be gleaming, providing us with a lovely light and we’ll be watching something like White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street, or even The Sound of Music (which was a tradition of mine when I was a girl, it would always be on tv and my mum and I would watch it).

And bedtime on Christmas Eve is magical. Even as the girls get older, they love opening one present – and it’s always new pyjamas! LOL. And we still read The Night Before Christmas.

This year I'm also carrying on a new tradition - a professional one. Eharlequin always holds an Open House where their authors can pop in and chat with readers and offer prizes - and I'm there today, with a hardback of my new release up for grabs. It's loads of fun!

Whatever your faith and wherever you are, Happy Holidays from my family to yours.

Love and Blessings,


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Gifts for Writers - some suggestions from Trish Morey

Stuck on what to get a writer friend for Christmas? Well, fret no further. Here’s a list that’s going to make your job a whole lot easier, with something for all budgets and tastes, so let’s get started!

Write up a storm!
What writer doesn’t love stationery? Pens, pads, paper, clips, staples, journals, folders... the list is endless and your writer pal will no doubt love them all, whether it’s a blue metallic gel pen for book signings or a novelty stapler. Still can’t decide? Easy. Get a gift voucher from their favourite office supplies store and you’ll be in the good books, I swear.

Procrastination central
We’re not just staring out the window - writers need time to think –it’s a fact! So how do you make your friend’s staring time productive while she awaits her muse? A nail buffer, a coffee mug with a pithy slogan (“finish the damn book” and “my husband sleeps with an author” are my personal favourites) and a framed picture of Antonio Banderas/George Clooney/Matthew Mcconnaghy (insert stud of choice).

Atmosphere is everything
An inspiration scented candle can help set the mood for your writer pal or a Chinese lucky plant will add freshness to your air and need nothing more than water to grow. Or think about a themed CD collection – anyone for romance and love songs perchance?

The moving finger writes, and having writ...
...needs a jolly good massage, along with the rest of your writer friend. Get them a voucher for a relaxing massage and you will be #1 friend! Or if your friend is eager to catch up with all that telly they missed while in deadline hell, get them a season of their favourite TV show so they can spend some quality time on the sofa. Or even a magazine subscription (GQ works for this little black duck).

The sixth major food group
Chocolate. Should be more of it. You can never go wrong with chocolate. But make it the good stuff. If someone’s gonna be putting on weight, make it worth their while

Fact is stranger than fiction
So get them something strange – biographies are great inspiration to the writer looking to work out what makes characters tick! Don’t know which one to get? Again, go the voucher route. Seriously, nobody minds getting a voucher – it proves you want them to have a gift they like!

And if all else fails, buy them my bookJ The Boss’s Christmas Baby is a November Harlequin Presents release, still available from in both print and e-book.

And happy Christmas!

*This blog first appeared the December 2007 ezine. Reprinted with permission.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Summer in Australia

It's always slightly surreal to talk to my Northern Hemisphere friends at this festive time of year. A lot of them (although I have it on good authority that Alabama at the moment should be called Ala-balmy, it's so warm) are getting all the stuff I see on Christmas cards. You know, snow and ice and frost and robins and people rugged up in their winter best.

Down here in Australia, it's sweltering. And this year, we're having a proper wet season. Or at least we are in the part of Queensland where I live. This is a good thing (in spite of the inconveniences) as we've had the worst drought on record for longer than I can remember. Brisbane, the nearest major town, has been on water restrictions since Noah was a pup. Which means my place is a very popular destination for visitors - just so they can wash their car, something they haven't been allowed to do in Brisbane for years! Really puts you in your place when visitors arrive, say hello, and then start reaching for the hose so they can wash months of dust off the vehicle!

It's the time of year when everybody starts to slow down. It's our long summer holiday as well as Christmas. Everything is a bit crazy up until 25th December and then we all settle down for lots of junk food, visits from friends and family, long days of cricket on the TV, lots of swimming - beach or pool - repeats on TV, the enticing aroma of barbecues sizzling in every backyard.

My Christmas plans involve attacking my to be read pile. It's been growing exponentially over the year. I haven't stopped buying books but I've been so busy, I haven't done nearly as much reading as I usually do. There are so many treasures waiting for me, I'm drooling at the mere thought of getting my hot little hands on it. And believe me, in this temperature, hot is exactly what my hands are!

I've included a lovely photo that my neighbour Anne took of the flowering gum tree in my front yard. Isn't it gorgeous? And the perfect colors for Christmas, wherever in the world you are. And that's how I'd like to finish. Happy Holidays to everyone, no matter where you live. May your 2008 be blessed with much love, good health, great happiness and truckloads of good books!

Best wishes!

Anna x

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Traditions - Sandy Blair

Holiday traditions tend to make for warm family memories, and for decades I’ve had the pleasure of creating a good many. For years our family (and any girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws and out-laws who happen to be in town) would settle in our family room before a roaring fire on Christmas Eve to string popcorn and cranberries while everyone chatted, laughed and consumed quarts of spiked eggnog and pounds of homemade Christmas cookies and plum pudding with whiskey sauce, after which our stockings were hung by chimney with care.

And then my daughters married and the time had come to pass the holiday torch to them, so they might establish their own family traditions. Christmas gatherings now alternate between their homes. This year we’ll be at Rachael’s, where my traditional turkey dinner and eggnog has given way to her wonderful Christmas goose and awesome wine selection.

Last night as I was wrapping presents--and growing nostalgic, Rebecca called to ask, “Mom, when making garland, you use three cranberries to ten popcorn kernels, right? I want to make sure I have enough of each for Christmas Eve.” Smiling, I told her, “Yes.” Not five minutes later Rachael called asking for my sugar cookie recipe…which had been my mother’s. After hanging up I found myself grinning like an idiot, pleased both daughters thought some traditions were worth keeping.

May this holiday season bring you and yours more wonderful memories, much love and great happiness. And if you need a good holiday read, may I recommend A Highlander For Christmas. If you enjoyed the movie “Kate and Leopold” you’ll love Claire and Sir Cameron MacLeod in this heart-warming fish out of water tale.

Sandy and her Highlanders in Kilts.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Are you a Writer, a Reader, or Both?

I've been doing a whole lot of reading lately and it has been heaps of fun. I've revisited authors I've always loved and tried a few that I've never read before.
I know there are authors who prefer not to read while they're working on their own manuscripts, in case they inadvertently filter what they're reading into their work. I imagine this can be a real concern when you're reading in the same line that you write for. Me, I tend to read a lot of romantic suspense (in fact, my TBR pile is growing in anticipation of a gorgeous holiday break away camping in January) so I don't worry over much since that's not a romance sub-genre I write, and when I do read books in my own niche I tend not to be writing (which is the case right now as I'm between books.)

In many ways, it also comes down to voice. After all, they do say there are only a set number of plots out there in the world and it really breaks down to how you say what you say in your story. I've often wondered what would happen if, say, four well-known authors, e.g. Debbie Macomber, Suzanne Brockmann, Mary Balogh and J.R. Ward, were given the same basic story premise and let lose to tell their own story. Just think of the diversity! And all with the same basic characters, plot and outline.

Anyway, I digress. For myself I find if I'm not reading books I enjoy, i.e. read for pleasure and not for market research, then my own creativity tends to wane. Since writing is a solitary game most of the time, reading other stimulating works is almost like networking in a way. It feeds my need for entertainment and satisfaction and thereby gives me the mental stimulation and pleasure to approach my work effectively.

So, when it comes to the question of are you a writer, a reader or both, I fall very definitely and very happily in the 'both' camp. In fact I've been known to get a little (or a lot) cranky when I'm either not reading a good book or writing one! Which are you; reader, writer or both?

Look out for Yvonne Lindsay's February release TYCOON'S VALENTINE VENDETTA with Silhouette Desire, February 2008!
And visit Yvonne at her website or via the exciting Diamonds Down Under website and blog! Exciting Diamonds Down Under competition details will be announced soon!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Will You Spend the Holiday Season? Annie West

It’s that time of year when the world seems to get more frantic. People are trying to catch up on all the tasks they want to complete before 2008, arrange to meet friends and family, organise celebrations or even vacations away. As usual, I approach the end of the year with a sense of anticipation and nerves (at everything I have to do). How about you? Do you have everything under control, are you in a panicked rush or does the holiday season slide by easily?

I decided not to fret over the small things. Here’s my list of major tasks/pleasures I’m working on:

Ensuring we have plenty of food in the house. (Not easy with teenagers). This is the time of year that we make a special effort to spend time with family in particular and there’s nothing like an abundance of food to help the celebrations along.

Making sure we get together with friends. It’s summer here and the parties have begun. I’m looking forward to sitting by the pool/lake/barbeque/beach with a long cold drink and chatting with friends.

Organising gifts for the special people in our lives. Last year we had such fun buying gifts via Oxfam. Those gifts supplied clean drinking water, fruit trees and livestock to people in different parts of the globe. I loved seeing my brother in law’s face when he received a card saying his gift was a goat for a family on the other side of the world. I’m glad to say he was pleased.

Starting the next story. Actually I’ve started writing but I want to learn more about these characters and how they’re going to grapple with the conflict I’ve given them. It promises to be fun!

Writing letters. Yes, I know it can be a chore but I LOVE to receive news from my friends who live a long distance away, even if it’s just a couple of scribbled sentences on a card, so I’m working my way through my own address book right now!

Volunteering time with a local charity as part of their Christmas support for families.

Sneaking time to read some of the fabulous books that have come my way. There’s nothing like an Aussie summer’s day when everyone is well fed, there’s a leisurely cricket match on the TV keeping people occupied and I’m relaxing with a good book.

Above all, taking time out to reflect and be thankful for the many wonderful things in my life.

How about you? Do you have priorities for the season? Do you celebrate at this time of year? Or if not, when is your special time?

Annie is thrilled to say her next book, ‘The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife’ is out very soon: UK (Jan), Aus/NZ (Feb) and a little later in North America (Presents May).

If you want to check out an excerpt, just visit her website and go to the books page.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hooray For The Holidays...Or Bah Humbug!!!

My emotions swing from one extreme to the next during the holiday season.

In one sense, I'm excited to spend the upcoming holidays with my family. I have relatives coming from New Zealand and England. We will have traditional meals from Guyana and England, and depending on the weather, have some food from the grill.

Late in the afternoons, the board games will be pulled out and madness will ensue over Monopoly. I've never seen so much negotiating and other crazy business deals go on over property. I stay far away.

And yet, this make my holiday experience even more special in a house filled with people, food, and lots of laughter.

Then there is the hectic scene at malls that I can't stand. Even if I'm going in a store for an item of necessity and not a gift, I have to deal with harried shoppers. And that frenzied behavior isn't only at the mall, it creeps into my house. A thorough housecleaning seems to be in order for some reason. I would like to follow one of those home designing shows and pull everything out of the house into the front lawn...or maybe the back, so that I don't horrify the neighbors.

But I would have no desire to pull any items back into my house. Hmmm. Sounds like a post-holiday shopping spree to me!

Yet at some point, you have to say - enough is enough! That's when I grab a romance book, find a quiet corner and take a breather.

Share your favorite holiday experiences or even if you have a rant to share. In keeping with the season, I wish you all a peaceful and safe holiday.

Michelle Monkou

Trying to find winners . ..

My apologies to Michelle Monkou whose day it is today but before she blogs can I just sneak in here and say that I haven't heard from either of my winners from my 2nd December post

Can I ask JILL and GEORGIE LEE to email me so I can send on their prizes.

Thanks - and Michelle a special thanks to you for letting me butt in.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a Gerard Butler Christmas, Personally by Megan Crane

And you know you are too.

Out there fighting for parking places in the malls.

Leaping over small children in line for Santa Claus as you race for that sale at Macy's.

Battling your own financial panic and social ennui as you choose between glossy un-necessities at the Sharper Image and the failsafe baked goods you'd need a free afternoon (or five) to prepare...

Think of Gerard, and be still.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Brrr! (Or not...)

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas this year?

I’m not. Because I live in a SFHZ (snow-free holiday zone), and I’m finally over the idea that a happy holiday must include sparkling snowdrifts and genuine snowmen. It must include family, friends, candy canes, plenty of lights, and at least one Christmas tree (of any size--I keep a foot-tall model in my office), but the fluffy, freezing white stuff is optional for me.

It wasn’t always this way. When I moved to Arizona (from Michigan) as a teenager, I hated my first snow-free holiday season. It just didn’t feel right to break out the Christmas decorations when we hadn’t even unpacked our winter coats yet. When my dad headed outside with a few strings of holiday lights, joking that he might get a sunburn in the 80 degree weather, I was not amused. And no matter how much the neighbors admired it, I did not think our plastic Santa-plus-reindeer set looked the same when perched in the middle of our desert-landscaped gravel patch of a “yard.”

But gradually, something happened to me. I began appreciating the ease of putting up decorations without trudging through ankle-deep snow. I learned to love that people could go all out with their décor when they didn’t have to worry about the effects of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures on their creations. I started thinking that palm trees look really cool wrapped in multicolored lights. I experienced luminarias and potted amaryllis and (yum) bizcochitos. I went hiking in the desert foothills on Christmas Eve...and I experienced my first-ever tumbleweed Christmas tree.

You might think I’m kidding. I’m not! Near where I live in Chandler (a suburb of Phoenix), the city erects a thirty-five foot tall Christmas tree made of around 2,000 tumbleweeds. It’s built on a wire frame, decorated with 1,200 holiday lights, and dusted with sixty-five pounds of glitter. It’s quite a spectacle! The tradition began in 1957 and is still going strong today, using tumbleweeds collected by the parks department. You’ve got to see it to believe it. We Southwesterners are resourceful types. Who else would be crazy enough to wrap lights around a prickly saguaro?

Anyway, this amazing tree was so unusual that I couldn’t resist sharing it! So the Chandler tumbleweed Christmas tree makes a special guest appearance in “Merry, Merry Mischief,” my contribution to the Santa Baby anthology (in stores now!). I hope you’ll pick up a copy. In the meantime, I’ll be heading to the mall in a T-shirt and shorts, stringing lights on the ocotillo in my yard, and sipping a peppermint mocha under a ceiling fan in the living room...where my Christmas tree will stand tall, oblivious to the lack of snowfall outside but totally crowded with ornaments (because I just can’t quit collecting them...I may be obsessed). Happy holidays to you!


- - - - - - -

Bestselling author Lisa Plumley has written more than a dozen books for Zebra Books and Harlequin Historicals, including contemporary romances (Mad About Max), western historical romances (The Rascal), and stories in romance anthologies (Santa Baby, on sale now!). Her funny, warmhearted style has been likened to such reader favorites as Rachel Gibson, Jennifer Crusie, and LaVyrle Spencer, but her unique characterization is all her own. Her latest release, Let’s Misbehave, earned a 4½-star Top Pick! rating from Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine and was chosen as one of Booklist’s Top Ten Romances of 2007. Please visit Lisa at, be her friend on MySpace at, or drop by her blog at today.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rest, Revive and Restore - Christina Hollis

I’ve been so busy lately there’s hardly been time to look up between researching, writing and, it has to be said, some re-writing. Now and again those heroes just don’t want to play ball. But everyone needs a break, and Christmas is coming up fast on the inside rail. Time spent clearing out the stores and baking in preparation reminded me why I decided not to become a professional cook. All that time on my feet, the hot claustrophobia of the kitchen and one eye always on the timers…no thanks! After a few days of that, I needed a day off to recharge my batteries before the big celebration.

An hour’s drive away from us, there’s a big nature reserve. It has all sorts of habitats from mudflats to farmland, and plenty of feeding stations. It’s the perfect place for some rest and relaxation. In theory, nothing could be further from my every-day desk bound life. I’d be leaving it all behind. In practice, I ended up taking half of it with me. Bag bursting with food, drink, notepad, sketchbook and pencils, I parked the car and set off into the wilderness. But it wasn’t so deserted after all. Unknown to me, a rare bird had just taken up residence. More people than usual were packed into the largest hide. But even that had its compensations.

One of them was an absolutely drop dead gorgeous guy – perfect hero material! He’d been sent to cover the story by a local newspaper. With the dark good looks of Rufus Sewell, but absolutely no interest in the job he’d been given, he was at a loose end. His photographer had won a lot of money at a glamorous poker game the night before, so to the fury of the real birdwatchers around them, they spent the whole time discussing it. Nobody saw the rare bird, but the time wasn’t totally wasted. While others moaned, I made notes. Now all I have to do is put my own experiences together with the ones I heard being discussed. Then I can try and work out how many ways a poker-playing hero might get a cordon-bleu chef all hot and bothered!

My next blog will be after Christmas, so let me wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday season right now. And don’t forget to drop in on the Open House chat on 19th December 2007. I’ll be popping in and out during the day, along with lots more Harlequin Mills and Boon authors.

Meanwhile, who would you like to find, waiting under your bouquet of mistletoe?


Saturday, December 08, 2007

What I Never knew... by Ally Blake

I’ve written numerous books about single mums and single dads finding love. Kids are an excellent source of fun banter, of conflict, of reasons not to want to get close. But being that I was not a parent myself, writing about families such as these fell under the “write from your imagination” place inside my head.

One of these books is my current Australian release MILLIONAIRE TO THE RESCUE. Brooke is a single mum with two young kids. Her husband, a big shot motorbike racer has died leaving her with nothing. And in steps goooorgeous Danny, her husband’s best friend and agent, a guy who has been on the periphery of her life for over a decade, and the one man she was sure would never be on her side.

Brooke's kids, Beau and Lily, were wonderful foils. They served to keep Brooke an emotional island unto herself, their comfort and safety were the only reason she gave into Danny's invitation to stay in his mountain hideaway until media interest died down, and watching them interact with Danny only made her fall for him the more. Makes me wonder why I don't give every heroine a coupla kids!!!

Anyhoo, the reason I bring this up is because last month I had a baby. My first. A gorgeous little girl my hubby and I named Bridget. (Excuse the gushy mum moment but if you wann see some piccies check out my blog ;))

As was to be expected our whole lives have changed since her arrival. My time is not my own. As a mum everything I do feels in dedication of my little girl's happiness and safety. Doing revisions in five minute blocks, napping during the day any time I can, washing two loads of baby clothes a day, realising I may never get to sit down and watch a whole DVD uninterupted again are some of the new experiences I am living every day.

These are the kinds of precious reality bites that someone who hasn't been there can't know. Can't even imagine. These are the insights that give a writer scope and colour and light and nuance when they "write what they know".

I wonder even as time goes on and I expiernece new changes to my life each and every day if I will even remember half of the weird and wonderful realities of being a mum with a newborn. And I wonder too how I will next approach writing about a character with a child.

Or will life as a new mum be too...challenging to even imagine such a thing being romantic ;)?



Sweet Romance Aus/NZ December 07
Harlequin Romance, Mills and Boon Romance October 2007
Available now online!!! @ eHarlequin NA & @ Mills and Boon UK
Read an excerpt here!

Friday, December 07, 2007


I cannot believe we are in December already. It seems only the other day that I allowed my hero, Nathan Shepherd, to take over and write a blog post here on 24th February 2007. If you remember, he was decidedly miffed that I had abandoned his story in the first chapter and told him he had to wait for a while before he could continue his quest to win back fellow A and E doctor Annie Webster, the woman he loved and lost. There has been much foot-tapping, huffing and puffing from him throughout the following months but I've been too sidetracked to take much notice of him.

2007 has been an amazing year and a very busy one during which I seem to have spent most of the time barricaded in the cave meeting deadlines and bringing three unexpected Medical stories I was asked to write to life.

One of those, An Italian Affair, tells the story of deliciously sexy Italian Sebastiano Adriani, from Florence, and caring nurse Gina McNaught, from my fictional world of Strathlochan, who meet on the beautiful island of Elba where much of the story is set. It will be out in April 2008 in a bumper anthology with titles by Annie West [Modern] and Annie Burrows [Historical].

The other project I was involved in was my first experience of a continuity and I was honoured, excited and terrified to be asked to write two of the twelve books in the series. Set in beautiful Cornwall, the Medical series – Brides of Penhally Bay – begins this month with Caroline Anderson's fabulous Christmas Eve Baby and follows on one a month as part of the celebrations of Mills & Boon's magnificent centenary milestone. My titles are book 8, Virgin Midwife, Playboy Doctor, out in July 2008 and book 12, Dr Devereux's Proposal, which closes this series in November 2008.

Writing is usually a solitary occupation so it was something new for me to collaborate with other authors. Email was a great help as we discussed areas which overlapped, came up with local characters and patients who would populate the stories and bring a real community feel. We also put forward ideas on the main continuity thread which runs through all twelve books, concerning Nick Tremayne, the senior partner in the surgery. We all had our own individual stories to write and focus on while doing our best to accommodate each other's thoughts and keep the continuity moving.

It was a new experience, very enjoyable and I learned a great deal. I also fell in love with Penhally and with my characters – especially my heroes, as usual! Both dedicated doctors, lovely Oliver Fawkner (left) and charming Frenchman Gabriel Devereux (right) have become very special to me. As you can see from the pictures in this blog, I've had some wonderful inspiration to bring all these scrummy men to life!

I hope readers will be gripped by the whole exciting Brides of Penhally Bay series. But for now it is over and it is time to move on. Which means letting Nathan off the leash again so he can return to his story and renew his efforts to woo Annie. He'll have a job on his hands. They both have very different ideas about why things didn't work the first time and Annie will be horrified when Nathan reappears in her life. To begin with, anyway! She has a journey ahead of her, facing up to the mistakes of the past, realising where responsibility really lies and admitting her own feelings. I'm hoping for both their sakes they won't give me too hard a time and they will come to embrace each other and their happy ending.

So that's me ... I've had a few puffs of fresh air and must now head back into the cave and start the adventure all over again with new characters and some familiar ones as I get back to my fictional world of Strathlochan.

If everything goes well, perhaps Nathan will be back in the new year to tell you how things are going with him and Annie! Then I have the even more impatient orthopaedic surgeon Luke Devlin, who is desperate to get his hands on Strathlochan Hospital radiographer, Francesca Scott. A whole bevy of other heroes and heroines are also waiting in the wings and I just hope I will have the opportunity to bring you their stories in the future.

My current title, Their Christmas Vows, which tells the story of hunky flight doctor Frazer McInnes and feisty flight paramedic Callie Crogan, partnered on the Strathlochan air ambulance, is in the Christmas Weddings anthology with stories from Carole Mortimer [Modern] and Shirley Jump [Romance]. This book is still available from or, for the rest of this month, from under Special Releases. There is also a copy in the December goodie tote on this blog!

I wish everyone a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and much health and happiness for 2008. It's a very special year ahead – 100 years of Mills & Boon! That's certainly something to celebrate.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Real Call Story by Jennie Lucas

After seven years and eight full manuscripts, I finally got the Call on a warm autumn day last October.

To be honest, I can barely remember either the day or the Call. I was seven months pregnant, exhausted, huge, and very busy. I was trying to finish a new writing project in time to enter the 2007 Golden Heart. I was traveling for three weekends back-to-back. I was trying to take good care of my husband and our energetic 18-month-old when all I really wanted to do was nap on the couch with a pint of Chunky Monkey.

When I saw my agent's number on Caller ID, I thought she was calling to discuss the partial I’d just sent her of my second Presents-targeted novel, The Spaniard’s Stolen Bride (later titled The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin). But no. She had different news: I’d been offered a two-book contract with Harlequin Presents. Did I wish to accept the offer?

She said it so casually it took several minutes before I understood what she’d said. I remember feeling faint. I remember hoarsely gasping “Yes.” Afterward, I remember screaming and dancing around with my confused toddler who didn’t understand the fuss, but was willing to dance and laugh along with me anyway. I kissed my husband. I whispered the words aloud over and over, words I dreamed of saying for my whole life, trying to make myself believe what had just happened. “I sold a book.”

But the truth is, it didn’t really sink in. Not until yesterday.

At the grocery store, wearing a t-shirt and old jeans with my unwashed hair yanked back in a ponytail, I was pushing the shopping cart and scanning the shelves for something I could make for dinner. My 11-month-old baby was whining his boredom as my toddler raced up and down the aisles begging for candy. And then…I stopped short.

I saw my debut book, The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge, on the shelves of my own grocery store.

How long had I bought romance novels here? How long had I dreamed of someday seeing my own book with the others on the shelf?

In that moment, all my seven long years of rejection and failure and heartache were forgotten. It was all worth it. And I nearly burst into tears.

This was really the moment I realized I was a published author. And unlike my dazed memory of the Call, I'll remember that grocery store aisle for the rest of my life. The moment it finally sank in: my dream had come true.

Do you have any Call fantasies? Where do you most dream of seeing your own book someday?


P.S. BTW, to see my diet tips about how I lost that Chunky Monkey weight (nearly 70 post-baby pounds since last Christmas) see here.

P.P.S. You can also read an excerpt of The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge and enter to win a Jane Porter book here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Father Christmas Story

Susanna Carr's blog reminded me of what happened to my eldest and Father Christmas.
Back in 1993, when he was 3, we went to visit my mother for Christmas.This was the first time he had experienced an American Christmas and one of his big treats was being taken to see the San Francisco Ballet's production of the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve.
The Nutcracker is one of my favourite ballets and to see it performed by the SF Ballet is wonderful. A truly magical happening and on Christmas eve, they used to sing carols after the performance.
My son had not see the Nutcracker live before and was totally entranced with Clara's Nutcracker. At the interval my husband took him to look around as I was busy with our daughter who was a baby at the time. She was very good by the way and slept the entire way through the performance.
They came back to the seats and my son was very excited about the possibilities of a Nutcracker. My husband lifted an eyebrow, indicating that I should go and somehow get one, but I shook my head. It was Christmas Eve and there were loads of presents to come. To avoid a huge temper tantrum, I did concede that he could put an emergency letter up the chimney to Father Christmas but more than likely Father Christmas had left the North Pole. My son, tears filling in his eyes, agreed.
The curtain went up and the second act started. Both my husband and I stayed in our seats and we did not leave the ballet with any extra packages. In fact, we purchased nothing at the ballet.
When we returned to my mother's house, my son duly put up his letter and excitedly talked about the nutcracker. My husband was quite cross with me btw and predicted a ruined Christmas. I said that my son would forget in the morning.
From this point on, no adult left the house to purchase anything. Nothing was purchased or brought into the house. Can I be clear on this point -- other than paying for parking that day, no money was spent and no presents were bought.
On Christmas morning, in front of the fireplace in pride of place stood a Nutcracker. Exactly like the one he had seen in the ballet. Father Christmas had come through. Even though, no one could have guessed that it would be the one thing my son would desire. Oh how my son's eyes shone!
I have told all my children when they can figure out how this happened, then they can tell me that Father Christmas does not exist.
The Nutcracker now slightly battered still graces our mantelpiece at Christmastime.
And even though my children are in their teens, they still have not been able to explain it. Or maybe they just like the magic.

I have discovered that A Noble Captive is out in Italian this month. Although it was published in the UK last January, it has not appeared in the US yet. I have a copy of the English edition to give away.
The question I would like answered is what are the names of the hero and heroine of A Noble Captive.(Hint check the blurb)
If you email me the answer, I will draw the winner out of the hat on 12 December. Please put totebag contest in the subject line.
A Christmas Wedding Wager is currently in the stores. It is a Dear Author December pick and The Romance Reader Connection called it simply enchanting.
A Happy Christmas to you all.
And has anyone figured out, how the Nutcracker appeared?


Blessings of a Nor’easter

I live in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. If you haven’t traveled to my neck of the woods, the Adirondack Park is a 6 million acre state park that includes both state owned and private holdings, with over 2 million acres dedicated to a forest preserve. We’ve got Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain up here, and it’s a gorgeous, quiet place to live and work. It also happens to be the setting of my current anthology release with authors Jacquie D’Alessandro and Kathleen O’Reilly, A BLAZING LITTLE CHRISTMAS.

There’s a lot to love about life up here. For one thing, it’s quiet. It’s fun to drive on deserted country roads where there’s no stress about the traffic. For another, there are no long lines at my post office and we get to know most all the locals on sight. The spectacular beauty is nothing to sneeze at either. But one of the coolest aspects is a phenomenon we’re experiencing now—the advent of the Nor’easter.

Every winter we get a few of these big storms. Tons of snow, whipping winds, low visibility, freezing cold temperatures. Some might say that’s awful. And I’m sure there are lots of problems associated with that much snow. But for me, it’s a great big excuse to stay indoors and count my blessings.

I love the opportunity to sit inside a cozy warm house and sip cocoa all afternoon, surrounded by my family. And nothing reminds me of the awesome power of nature as quickly as a big, bad winter storm. That in itself comes with a lot of important messages to think about. As in—the world is bigger and badder than me, and no amount of fretting, scurrying or working my tail into the ground will give me control over things that I have no control over. There’s a certain peace in letting go of your worries and saying—today, I did my best and that’s all I can do.

Mostly, I love that a winter storm tucks us in tight with the ones we love and reminds us that all we really need is right there at home with us. When the power goes out, we’re called to sit around the table and play board games by candlelight. And when night falls, I can still read a good book if I double up on the hurricane lamps and crank the wicks. Of course, my husband appreciates that no T.V. before bed means we ought to entertain each other.

So whether this winter finds you in the thick of a blizzard or on Florida’s sunny shores, I wish everyone a quiet day sometime over the holidays—a day to stay at home, unplug the family from the life static that is modern technology, and a chance to count your blessings.

Happy Holidays! And please do enter my contest this month at where I'll be giving away lots of great new reading material for your New Year.

Joanne Rock is a three-time RITA nominee and author of over thirty novels from a variety of Harlequin and Silhouette series. Check out her website or her myspace page to learn more about her upcoming releases.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Milk, Cookies and Cheese - Susanna Carr

When I was very young, my sisters and I would read Santa Mouse by Michael Brown on Christmas Eve. The story is about a lonely mouse who wanted to show Santa his thanks for the presents he received each year. So he wrapped up a piece of cheese and left it by his stocking. Santa was so pleased by the thoughtful gesture that he asked the mouse to come work for him.

As you can imagine, my sisters and I decided to add a slice of cheese to Santa's tray of milk and cookies. This tray was important and everyone fought over who got to do what. The milk was poured into a Santa mug that had his hat as the handle, and the cookies were made from a recipe handed down by my great-grandmother.

The cookies, milk, and slice of cheese were lovingly placed on a metal tray. The tray was used exclusively for this occasion because it had a depiction of children leaving a bottle of Coca-Cola for Santa. We placed all of this next to the fireplace where our stockings were hung. On Christmas morning, we were always thrilled to see a big bite taken out of the remaining cookie!

Did you leave out a tray for Santa? What was on it?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Counting down and looking forward - by Kate Walker

I love Christmas. I love the way that it brightens up the dark, cold (well, it's cold here in the UK) days of December with decorations and celebrations, I love the way that, when it's celebrated right, it brings together loved ones from near and far, puts you in contact with people you don't connect with the rest of the year, and brings friends and warmth into your life and home.

I just had my traditional early Christmas with a group of very special writer friends who all come to stay at my home for a long weeked. They've only just left, that's why I'm a little late writing this blog. We ate a lot, drank some wine, visited 'Christmas World' in a nearby village. We played silly games, laughed a lot, some of us had things they needed to shed a tear or two over as well. And we talked and talked and talked . . .

There were different generations gathered together too - one of my friends couldn't make it last year because the birth of her baby was very close. This year, her almost one year old son joined us for the weekend - hopfully the first of many such visits by him and other new members of the 'family of friends'.

For a time, for various reasons, I'd been feeling too stressed to think of Christmas without worrying but this weekend has brought home to me just what it's really all about.

It's about sharing. About reaching out to other people and letting them know that they are important in your life. And that includes my readers. Every year as Christmas approaches, I run several contests to involve my readers in my Christmas celebrations. To reach out to them and let them know how much I appreciate them and how grateful I am to all the readers who buy my books and so keep me writing and published next year and for years (hopefully) to come.

Like this post, I'm a little late with organising this but now I'm in the Christmas mood I'm organising my 12 Days of Christmas contest and the details will go up on my web site just as soon as I can get them there. And then here on My Tote Bag Leena will be running my 12 Days of Christmas contest. Every day for 12 days leading up to Christmas I'll be giving away a signed copy of one of my books and a little extra Christmas Gift to all the lucky winners. So why not check out my blog or my Contest page on my web site soon to see when the contest is starting?

The other thing I do is ask my readers to help me with my Christmas Charity Card. I would love to be able to send you all a Christmas card to wish you all the happiness of this special season, but the planning and organising of all that is just impossible - so I'm going to be doingwhat I did last year, and that is to give a real, practical gift tothose in need instead of cards. Last year's gift was a batch of essential medicines for a whole village - that was the choice voted for by most of the visitors to the blog. So this year I'll be running the poll again and I hope you'll drop byand vote for your choice of special gift that I'll be sending this year. It is, after all, in place of a card to say thank you to each and every one of you for your support for me all through this year.

And as I did last year, I will be posting up a special cyber card foryou all on my web site from December. I have at least got that organised and it's up on my web site from today so I hope you'll come by and see that.

And looking forward? Well when 2008 dawns, Lee and I have some plans that we hope will interest those of you who want to be writers of romance as well as readers. Today's blog is on the 12th of the month and from January 2008 I will be regularly posting on the 12 of each month and then I will be talking about writing - 12 points on the 12th. Because, of course, my award winning guide to writing Romance is called the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. And I hope to have some exciting news about that to tell you very soon. So I hope you'll come by and join me for that too.

And to celebrate Christmas with all the readers of this blog, and too look forward to those special posts, I'm going to offer a special prize today. I have 2 copies of the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance to give away - and if you're lucky I'll put in a copy of my current Harlequin Presents title too, That's The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife a book that's still riding high on the bestseller lists on and

All you have to do is to post me a reply to this blog - telling me what you're most looking forward to for Christmas and New Year. Let me know what you're hoping to write too - that would help me for the 12 Points on the 12th blog starting in January.

At the end of the week I'll get Sid the cat to pick a winner, as he picks all my winners and if you're really lucky you'll have those prizes with you in time to be an extra present for you.

And even though it's still a little early, I'd like to wish all of you a really happy, joyful, sharing Christmas. I hope it's everything you've ever dreamed of and leaves you with some truly special memories to treasure. And I wish you a fantastic New Year, with lots to look forward to in the next 12 months.

One of which I hope will be joining me here on the 12 for the start of those special posts.