Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Love Conferences! - Terri Brisbin

As you all know from some of the previous/recent posts, the biggest romance industry conference is beginning today in Orlando. Romance Writers of America is bringing more than 2100 members, industry professionals and special guests to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotel for 5 days of workshops, signings, meetings and other events and I admit - I love going to conferences!

Many writers are admitted introverts who are most comfortable in the privacy of their offices or writing space and who avoid large boisterous groups of people like the plague. Working in their pajamas suits these writers just fine and if they never attend a writers' conference, well, that's just fine too.

But I'm not like those writers -- I think because I'm left-handed my brain thrives on the not-usual things, so attending conferences rejuvenates my creativity even if it exhausts my body! I sit in on workshops about the craft of writing in the hopes of learning something from experienced writers that will help me hone my skills. I listen to some of my favorite authors to gain insight into how they create their wonderful stories. I meet, chat, network and talk with other colleagues and friends in the business to keep up on what's happening in the industry and to keep in touch.

All in all, I love it!

Of course, I also love the chance to meet with readers. Though the only part of the RWA conference that's open to the public is the Wednesday Booksigning for Literacy, all romance writers are readers first, and I like talking about my favorite books (or even my books!) with other who appreciate the great characters, intriguing and interesting settings and the process of falling in love that happens in every romance novel. And on Wednesday evening (this year July 28 from 5:30-7:30pm) the doors will open and readers will pour in for the chance to meet their favorite romance authors from among the more than 500 authors signing at the event! It's like Christmas morning for romance readers!

If anyone is in the Walt Disney World area and would like to stop in, please do! Stop by the BR section and say hello and let me know what you like about romance novels.

If you can't stop by, post a suggestion about what you like best about reading romance novels and I''ll pick 2 winners (by 8am Thursday morning) to receive gift coupons for a digital copy of my Harlequin Historical Undone - A NIGHT FOR HER PLEASURE. The coupons must be redeemed through the bookstore and be used by July 31, 2010.

Terri will be signing her new Harlequin Historical THE MERCENARY'S BRIDE and her latest Kensington Brava anthology UNDONE at the RWA Booksigning for Literacy on 7/28@5:30pm in WDW Orlando. Visit her website for more info about her upcoming books and events at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Mistakes Teach Us - Jessica Barksdale Inclan

During the past season of HBO’s drama Big Love, two characters entered into a fraudulent marriage for the purpose of obtaining a green card. On one episode, the newly married couple sat in front of an INS agent, being grilled on personal details, the agent trying to catch them in their own fraudulent web.

According to government sources, since 1998, more than 2.3 million people have gained United States citizenship through marriage. According to other sources, an estimated 5-30 percent of those marriages were fraudulent. I personally know one of these fraudulently married couples. At least, I knew them as a couple until the day the husband was handcuffed, driven to SFO, and put on a plane to Argentina.

In 2006, my boyfriend’s daughter Angela was in a desperate spot, unable to succeed at anything. Barely passing her college classes, she bounced from bad job to bad job. At one of these bad jobs, she met Bernardo, a very sexy, very gay barista from Argentina. At thirty-five, he was sixteen years older than she, and when Angela brought Bernardo to family events, we were confused by their friendship. When they decided to share an apartment--joining forces, they said, in the expensive San Francisco housing market--we all shrugged.

Her father and I helped her move into the tiny place, and I wondered why she was sharing her single, about-the-town girl life with Bernardo, who clearly ran in very different circles.

Nothing computed. But her family went along with it, though there were cracks in the story. One evening at dinner, I noticed the gold glint on her finger and asked, “Where did you get that ring?”

“Oh, Bernardo gave it to me,” she said, picking up her fork. “Great pasta!”

Come tax time, all hell broke loose. Her father wanted to claim her on his return, but she refused for uncertain reasons. A fight ensued, and eventually she spilled the beans. Bernardo and she had married so he could establish residency. The wedding was not held slapdash at city hall but in a Catholic church. There were photos: the ceremony, the cutting of the cake, the first dance. Her sister—her only relative to know of the wedding—was her maid of honor.

Bernardo and she were living together to create a record of their marriage. The ring? Evidence. The trips on the weekend? More evidence. Bernardo had promised to give her a monthly stipend but had never followed through.

“All I wanted to do was help him,” she said.

Months passed. The living arrangement grew tiresome for both, and she and Bernardo loosened up on their plan. Angela moved away to go to school, met her current boyfriend, and took off her ring.

We thought it was all over, but the INS called them in for an interview, taking them both into separate rooms and grilling them with questions neither rehearsed. Within five minutes, Bernardo was whisked away. Within the hour, he was on a plane, never to be seen again.

The agent threatened Angela with fines and jail time but released her. She stumbled out of the interview, certain she would be arrested at any moment.

Three thousand dollars and a divorce later, Angela is now a single woman. She’s also an A student, waiting to be accepted to a local university. Somehow, this hard lesson taught her something that no bad grades or jobs had. Angela has finally learned to take care of herself. She doesn’t have to give away something so important to feel needed.

Lying to the government is not recommended, but what happened with Bernardo was good for Angela. The threat of losing her freedom made her take stock. The INS agent reached her in a way no one else had been able to before.

“You deserve better,” the agent said.

Angela listened.

Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Monday, July 26, 2010

Alternative Vacations... - Sarah Morgan

I badly need a vacation. Unfortunately I don’t always get what I want or need so I’ve been trying to find ways of giving myself that ‘holiday feeling’ without actually going anywhere. Here are a few of my emergency alternatives…..
1) Flick through holiday photographs. If I can’t actually have a holiday, the next best thing is looking at photos of when I was on holiday. Looking at happy faces and sunshine on swimming pools always makes me smile.

2) Have a ‘Greek Night’ (I love Greece). I cook moussaka - traditional Greek dish made with lamb and aubergines - serve a big Greek salad and play Greek music.

3) Sit down and do nothing. I don’t know about you, but I rarely sit down and do nothing unless I’m on holiday so, in theory, ‘doing nothing’ gives me the holiday feeling. In practice it gives me a panic attack because my brain knows I’m not on holiday and I should be working…… ( this particular alternative is still a work in progress……)

4) Watch a film that makes me feel as if I’m on holiday - The other night I watched Something’s Gotta Give (Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Keanu Reeves). Forget the story and the characters – the film is worth watching just for the incredible beach house in the Hamptons. I’ve since discovered there are websites dedicated to achieving ‘the look’ so I’m not the only one coveting that place. Unfortunately I don’t want ‘the look’, I want ‘the house’ (preferably with Keanu Reeves already installed :) )

5) Read a book. Some books have settings that make you feel as if you’re on holiday. My next release for Harlequin Presents, One Night – Nine Month Scandal is set on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu (I’d like a house there too, please) and writing it gave me a brief vacation from rainy England. Hopefully it will give the reader a brief vacation too. Here are a few photos to put you in the mood..

What are your favourite ways with injecting your life with holiday happiness?


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Presents RITA Finalists by Caitlin Crews

Next week I'll be attending the Romance Writer's of America Annual Conference in Orlando. It will be my first time attending the conference as a Harlequin author, which makes everything a whole lot more exciting. I've been reading Harlequin romance novels for as long as I can remember--but it still seems like a dream come true that I'm now writing them.

One of the best parts of the conference is the annual RITA award evening. The RITA is the Oscar of the romance world. Its purpose is to "promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas." Every year, some of the best romance novels out there are honored. This year, four books from the line I write for are finalists:

One-Night Mistress...Convenient Wife by Anne McAllister

Duty, Desire, and the Desert King by Jane Porter

The Christmas Love-Child by Jennie Lucas

Revealed: A Prince and a Pregnancy by Kelly Hunter

Having read all four, I can tell you that there is some fierce competition for the 2010 RITA for Contemporary Series Romance--and these are only the finalists from the Presents line!

You can check out all the RITA finalists over here.

The winners will be announced a week from tonight! Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Anyone got any discipline to share?? Anyone? Anyone??!! - Natalie Anderson

Here in New Zealand we've just had two weeks school holiday. It was the mid-year break (our system runs from Febuary to December with our big summer break from Christmas through January). I have to admit I usually face the end of term time with a little trepidation - my husband doesn't get time off during most of the holidays and I have all four of our kids at home all day (ages 3-7)and it doesn't take long for them to get somewhat restless. And of course my writing routine just disappears altogether - I'm too shattered by the end of each arbitration/cooking/chaos filled day to manage anything at night. So come the end of holiday time, I'm usually hanging out for school to start again for the eldest two and for the younger two (twins) to have a few sessions at preschool.
But these holidays? These holidays were different.

Maybe it is because the children are getting that bit older - its so much easier to load everyone up and go off on a day-adventure when you don't have to take a zillion nappies or strollers and changes of clothes etc. They can all express their needs beautifully now and I'm no longer watching those once teenie premmie twins anxiously to ensure they're getting enough to eat... those terribly fragile first few years are past (as wonderful as they were, there was that huge effort and exhaustion).

Now it's just a huge amount of fun! Our pile of preschoolers has turned into a gorgeous gang of children equipped with endless curiosity, energy and that wonderful ability to giggle lots and lots and lots. Infectiously.

And I even managed to do some writing! Especially in the first week - I wrote late at night then took the children out in the morning through 'til lunchtime and then I confess had a one-eye open snooze on the sofa while they either read or watched a DVD. In the second week the children swam every day (indoor, its winter here) and we went on beach walks collecting shells and crabs in the chilly afternoon wind. Very refreshing!!! We watched an entire season of Merlin (the BBC family drama) in the evenings all bundled up together...

Frankly, I didn't want the holidays to end we were so relaxed and having such a nice time! Of course now I'm having a time settling back into the weekly routine. I have a wonderfully shiny new idea to get working on (just have to, you know, START), there are a million places to cart the kids every afternoon (you know, more swimming, music, brownies...) and there's the New Zealand Romance Writer's Conference in only a month or so (big YAY). But honestly? I'm already totally looking forward to 10 weeks time when it'll be the next round of holidays and we can get back into our lazy swim/play/laze routine... even better hubbie will be off for at least part of the next ones so we can all be together...

For now though, I must find that elusive thing called discipline... have you seen any recently? It's really gone into hiding round here... and I'm still acting like I'm on holiday and reading on the sofa instead of hitting the keyboard or pavement or even bothering to look at that mile long to do list... and of course as term time starts to tick, so does my deadline...

So please, help me out. How do you pick it up and pull yourself back on track after a lovely break? Tips? Motivational techniques?? All suggestions gratefully received :)

Natalie has a few books out at the moment - To Love, Honor & Disobey is available now from EHarlequin and will be on the shelves in the US in August.

Unbuttoned by her Maverick Boss is on the shelves now in the UK and still available from Mills & Boon.

While Caught on Camera with the CEO is available now from Mills & Boon Australia and will be on the shelves in August.

For more information on all of Natalie's books go to her

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grandma and the Prince - Part 19 - Barbara Bretton

<--My great-great grandmother Eliza. She was a full-blooded Chippewa from Ohio who looks as uncomfortable in front of the camera as I do. I wonder if she ever wore that fancy dress again. Knowing her through my grandmother, I kind of doubt it.

CONGRATULATIONS to Marybelle, winner of last month's giveaway! Please email me here with your mailing address and I'll send off your goodies ASAP.

My family saga continues. I'm still fascinated with how a Chippewa/Scots Irish kid from the plains of Kansas ever fell in love with a (formerly) rich girl from Liverpool. How amazing that their paths ever crossed.

Grandma El lived in a mansion. She grew up with servants. Grandpa Larry rode across Kansas in a prairie schooner. But somehow . . .

I guess that's why love stories fascinate me. Somehow, somewhere, two people find each other against all odds, all reason, and a new family is born.

Do you ever wonder who'll be telling your story years from now?

* * * *

This is a verbatim transcript of a conversation with my grandfather Loren R. McNutt, who was one hundred years old at the time.

Taped on February 4, 1997.

My grandmother Eliza, to borrow a phrase made famous by the Readers Digest, was to me a most unforgettable person. Born as near as she knew in the year 1826 in the small Indian village of Wapakoneta, Ohio. Oddly enough, it is also the same town where Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon (you remember that, right?) was born and raised. Exact dates will have no place in this as I do not know the exact ones, but I believe that she settled in the Territory of Kansas in the eastern part where she spent the rest of her life. Just where she lived when she raised her family I never knew. As was usual in my young life, nobody ever, at least not relatives, ever explained much to me.

The only place I ever knew her was in her log cabin, smoking her clay pipe in front of the stove. There was no fireplace, just an old flat-topped iron stove. It was a two-room cabin, one room downstairs and one room upstairs, naturally outside plumbing. It was built in the woods and overlooked a deep but narrow valley where my Uncle Billy, who never married and lived with her, had his truck garden which produced practically everything they needed to survive except, of course, the staples such as salt, sugar, coffee, tobacco, etc.

My grandmother was the only relative after my mother died who I really felt comfortable with. I never lived with her, just visited whenever I could and I loved to have her talk to me. Before she got too feeble ("rheumatics," she called it) she used to take me out in the fields to gather greens. She knew so many different wild plants, the leaves of which made the most delicious greens when properly cooked.

She told me many stories about the hard life in the early days of the Kansas Territory. She knew John Brown, the Abolitionist, who wound up at Harper's Ferry, like I told you about. She raised six children. She had 21 grandchildren and I have no idea how many great grandchildren. Many of the cousins I never knew as my brother, my two sisters, and I were among the youngest of the grandchildren. I know she had a hard life but I never heard her complain. I know that very few of the relatives ever visited her because she was Indian. [Ed. note: Chippewa]

She surely was not glamorous but she had something in her makeup that made me feel peaceful and comfortable. Although she never really expressed it in words, I could feel that she had a great love for me and was deeply concerned about my welfare.

I am sure that she had grandchildren that she had never seen, probably a number of them.

Likely the children of Aunt Belle Griffith, who with her husband had homesteaded in Oklahoma, never came back to see her. They were ashamed to be Indian. In fact, I had only met two of her seven children. Her two eldest sons, Ed and Dave, who in the summertime traveled with the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West Circus and Performing Cowboys. I also knew that some of the relatives were a bit ashamed of her. Some of them were college graduates and did not care for her backwoods way of life.

As far as I know, she was illiterate in the three R's but not in her mental faculties. She was sharp to the end.

None of these things made any difference to me because she was the best friend I ever had and I will always remember her.

* * * *

PS: I'm Barbara Bretton and you can find me on Facebook and Twitter and here and here.
I'm in a giveaway kind of mood so if you leave a comment I'll enter you in this month's drawing. More books! More salt water taffy! The winner will be announced at the top of next month's post.

See you then!

ON SALE 11/2/2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Open Wide and Say Ahhh... - Jenny Gardiner

On NPR this summer they've been featuring life-altering summer jobs tales. Which made me reflect on a summer job I held for many a summer and gladly do not do any more...

in an effort to coerce me into eventually taking over his orthodontic practice, my father hired me as summer help as an orthodontic assistant from an early age (I think I was 12 when I started working for him--clearly I needed no previous qualifications for the job; nepotism was all that was required). This was back in the 70's, in the days before sanitation precautions like face masks & sterile rubber gloves. Instead I was forced to deal mano a mano with a host of greasy, pimply faces, infected gums, & stench breath that could've knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard.

Bad enough I had to don a tight mustard-yellow zip-front rayon top that made me look like an extra from Star Trek (coupled with stylish stretch white polyester pants and white platform-soled nursing shoes that looked like something Herman Munster might've worn to a Great Gatsby party), and be subjected to the molar-grinding strains of hideously trite and repetitive Lite Rock all day long. But I then had to suffer the repeated indignity while checking each patient for loose bands of being pelted in the face throughout the day with chunks of lurking chewed up food bits, rarely brushed from the braces-clad teeth of hygienically challenged pre-teens.

(while some mouths did bear a remarkable resemblance to this one, I was happy that none of my patients were actual cadavers)

This job tested my olfactory system as well as my stamina for the aforementioned food-flinging indignity, and to this day I don't hesitate to chastise a kid in braces for having puffy, infected gums that emit odors akin to that of 3-day old shrimp carcasses.

Back then I felt almost an obligation to follow in my father's footsteps, if only because he'd worked so hard to get to that point (and because my three clearly wiser brothers flat-out rejected the notion, so I felt badly for the man).

You can imagine how thrilled I was when I realized that my ongoing shortcomings in simple high school math classes would ultimately hold me in fabulous stead, never able to get into a dental school with my failings even in remedial math, excusing me from ever having to worry about whether I'd have to take over dad's practice. It was almost worth being lobbed in the face with mascerated Doritos several times a day. Almost...

Alas, on a writers meager salary, I occasionally wonder if the financial comforts of a life of orthodontia would have at least better-prepared me for eventual retirement (as I now envision my twilight years burdened with having to hand out smiley face stickers at WalMart instead). But no doubt by now I'd have been felled by the myriad diseases I caught while breathing too close to those germ-laden, smelly 'tweens. Better alive and poor than wealthy and dead I guess!

Jenny Gardiner is the author of WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO'S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books), the Books-A-Million Pet Book Club pick for June. She is also the author of the award-winning novel SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, and a novel just released exclusively to Kindle, SLIM TO NONE. You can visit her on her website:

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Many Times Before We Learn? - Tawny Weber

by Tawny Weber

My dog met a skunk last night. Again.

She's met this skunk before. Possibly not this exact same skunk, but the same general encounter. Strange animal ventures into our back yard, Sierra the dog chases and corners the strange animal and then gets sprayed in an ugly stinky way. Now, last time this happened, we had the whole miserable tomato bath with the nasally accompanying lecture (nasally because I was holding my nose and trying not to gag). We had to replace her collar. We had a moratorium on petting for a whole week. You'd think she'd learn, right? And yet, less than two months later, I'm hauling in the fan and opening cans of tomato juice.

Why didn't she learn her lesson? How many gallons of tomatoes are we going to have to go through - will we have to resort to ketchup?

Good thing we humans aren't like that, huh?

Hahhahaaahaaaa. Just typing that makes me laugh. I've got a bigtime history of not learning my lessons the first time.

Let's see. There was the black hair debacle. Then, two years later, a repeat, just to make sure I knew how I'd look when I was two-weeks dead.

There was this guy I dated in high school, with a really ugly breakup. Then because I apparently didn't remember the ugliness of both the relationship OR the breakup, I revisited the relationship in my early twenties. Just, you know, for a good ole miserable time.

Then there was the short hair so I can look like a bowling ball nightmare (yes, I repeat a lot of hair mistakes.) And the third drink at a wedding when two is my limit mistake (okay, so that one is actually kinda fun). And the being honest with a friend when they ask what I think of her new boyfriend mistake (I usually get the friend back after she breaks up with the boyfriend, though).

I mean, obviously I know better. I'm an intelligent woman. And yet, I keep repeating these egregious errors. Why? Because they were so much fun the first time? Well, the third drink one, maybe.

So here's my question to you. I can't be alone, can I? Have you ever made the same mistake twice? Care to share? And how does one keep dogs and skunks apart, for crying out loud? I mean, she soaked in tomato juice and she still stinks to high heaven.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Romantically Speaking - Kathleen O'Brien

The other day on Facebook I saw a link that intrigued me. Actor Greg Wise (think Willoughby from “Sense and Sensibility”) was reading aloud from Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles.” I tried not to click. I’m seriously behind in my work, my house and desk are both a mess, and I need to get this next book going. But writers are supposed to immerse themselves in good literature, aren’t they? And romance writers live in a perpetual quest for inspiration for new heroes.

So I had to check it out. (Probably, you will, too! :) )

I think the site is officially selling coffee, but I can’t be sure because I was…distracted. Greg Wise’s voice hypnotized me from the first syllable—even before I saw his face.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Wise is gorgeous. He has one seriously hypnotic face, but that wasn’t what caught me. The first thing I notice about a man is his voice. If the voice is good enough, I probably will think the man is attractive, whether his features technically make the cut or not. For instance, I used to have a major crush on a certain late-night news anchor, which mystified my husband, who insisted the anchor looked like Howdy Doody. Maybe he did. I never noticed. A good voice, one that’s low, elegant and kind, laced with intelligence and laughter, blinds me to everything else.

Conversely, a disappointing voice can reduce even a handsome actor to mediocrity. For instance, Nicholas Cage is a bit nasal. Richard Gere is a touch flat. No matter how interesting or sexy, these two are forever relegated to my B List.

The examples could go on forever, but my absolute favorite celebrity voices belong to Jeremy Irons, Colin Firth, Ralph Fiennes, and Sean Connery. I don’t include Alan Rickman in this list, because he’s in a class by himself. Rickman could seduce a vestal virgin by reading her the phone book. Don’t believe me? Listen to this Harry Potter clip, in which his Severus Snape (not a pretty man) turns the number 394 into a sexual sonnet.

What about you? Are there any actors whose voices make you melt? Or is it something else that hypnotizes you? The eyes, maybe? The smile? I have a friend who has to be sitting down if she’s going to get a glimpse of Daniel Day Lewis’s long, graceful fingers. I can’t wait to hear what makes your knees weak. As I said, it’s a romance writer’s duty to research these weighty matters.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Can't wait to read... - Amanda Ashby

As well as being a writer, I work part-time as a librarian so let's just say that there is never a shortage of books for me to read, but despite my ginormous TBR pile, there are some books that the moment they come out, they won't even hit the shelves because I will be so busy cracking the spine.

So, here is what I'm looking forward to:

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. For anyone who hasn't read the first two books in The Hunger Games series, then I suggest that you race to the bookstore right now to find out just why Katniss is the coolest YA heroine on the block.

I Love the Eighties by Megan Crane (aka Caitlin Crews). I cannot begin to tell you how much I screamed when I saw the details of Megan's next book. I've always been such a fan of hers and now to think that she's tackling the Eighties, time-travel and Duran Duran all in one shiny little package, well it's almost too much for my little fan-girl heart to take!!!!!!!!

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead. Okay, so I never really got into the whole Twilight thing but apart from Buffy, my favorite vampires definitely belong to Richelle Mead and I'm excited (and slightly terrified) to find out what happens in the final book of this amazing series.

Linger by Maggie Siefvater. I really enjoyed Shiver and I've been waiting very impatiently for the follow up book. Soon it will be mine!!!

So, while there are plenty of other books that I'm dying to get my hands on, these ones are topping the list right now. What about everyone else. What are the books that you will stop traffic to try and grab?


Fairy Bad Day (Puffin June 2011)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting ready to go the RWA National Conference -- Michelle Styles

It's official. I'm over excited. For the last six years, I have watched from the sidelines with envy as people reported back. I have combed the blogs for scraps of info and generally longed to be there.
This time I will be! The RWA National Conference in Orlando Fl!
Because I am bringing my new netbook, I will be doing news flashes on the Pink Heart Society blog and several of the Harlequin Historical Authors will be blogging on the Harlequin Historical Author blog about the events they are attending. So hopefully I will be doing my bit for those staying behind. (Or at least that is the plan...but I know that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and I am one of the contractors in chief)
I have been to Romantic Novelist Association conferences before and so know how full on they can be but the RWA is supposed to take it to a whole new level.
In an effort to decide which workshops to attend, I have looked at the handouts. You do not have to be going to the RWA conference to see the handouts and they can be useful. If a workshop has a red title, it means it is the link to the handout. I know I have applied Susan Elizabeth Philips 6 magic words already to my writing and unfortunately Julia Quinn's workshop on dialogue clashes with something that I have to do, so I can't go to her workshop on dialogue but the handout looks excellent. And if you want to know about Steam punk -- what is it etc -- the handout for the workshop looks fantastic. But be warned, looking at handouts can make you determined to go to the conference...
There is the literacy signing which is open to the general public. Over 500 authors! I shall be signing but suspect my line will be short. I'm sitting next to Blaze author Cara Summers and If anyone stops by from Tote Bags and tells me, I will have cover flats to give away. But basically I will just be grateful to speak to people.
Besides the workshops and the signing, there are parties -- Thursday seems to be packed -- starting with a breakfast for Harlequin Historical authors, a keynote lunch with Nora Robert speaking, and going through to the legendary eharlequin pj party in the evening. And then on Friday, it is the Harlequin Author party proper. This year there is a rumour that they are going to be much tougher on gatecrashers...
But mostly I am looking forward to meeting people that I have only met via the Internet. So if you happen to be there and see me, please do come up and say hi.
I suspect by the end of the time, I will be exhausted (and will not have seen Disneyworld!)!

But before I go to the conference, I have revisions on my latest full manuscript to do. My new editor is wonderfully efficient -- not only have I sold a Roman set Undone (these are the sexy short stories that are made to be read in a lunchtime) this week but she has also given me some really good revisions.

And if all this has you excited about writing, Harlequin Mills & Boon are doing a global talent search with their New Voices contest. More details should be up on the website soon. Various authors in the UK are doing workshops in August to support the contest during August and September. My workshop at Knaresborough Library, North Yorkshire is on the evening of 1 September.

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips about surviving business conferences, please let me know.

You can learn more about Michelle Styles and her books at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

When Life Has Other Plans - Anne McAllister

If anyone should happen to look backwards in Tote Bags and discover that -- whoops! -- my post for the 15th was missing, here it is.

Life has had other plans for me this month. My mother passed away three weeks ago, and I'm still trying to get my head around all the things I needed to do after that. I used to think doing taxes was difficult because they came around once a year and I tended to forget what I was supposed to be doing and saving and writing down.

But dealing with the aftermath of a death is even more of a mess -- even when the mother in question was the most organized person on earth. That part she did very well -- better than well. It's just that, as far as I can tell, there is no real guidebook to what you need to know at every given moment. You find out when you forget to do it and someone says, "Hey, what about --?"

Unfortunately no one said, "Hey, what about Tote Bags 'n' Blogs this month?" So it was one of the things I didn't remember until it was too late.

I'm sorry. I'll try to do better. My book is now underway. My life is back under control (well, mostly). And I look forward to seeing you here next month!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love Of Reading Is A Joy Forever - Lisa Dale

When I was a kid, I was the first born “everything” in the family—daughter, niece, grandchild, great grandchild…everything. And I think that, as a result, a LOT of people took it upon themselves to read to me.
My mother in particular would take my brother and I, settle us into the couch in the den, and crack open a book.

We read old school classics—a lot of Rudyard Kipling. My favorite stories were “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” (how could I not love a story whose title had so much internal rhyme!) and also “The Elephant’s Child” (another musical, survival-of-the-fittest story whose lines stick in my head to this day).

Eventually, though, life got busy. My mom had to get a full-time job when my father left. Those long evenings of reading had to come to a close. I went to my mom to ask her, “Can we read?” And sometimes, even though she was exhausted, she said “okay.” Other times, it was just “no.”

The result? I learned to read alone—and entire new worlds opened up. The pleasure of sitting quietly with a book, of concentrating, of losing myself in a story, privately, was a much different experience than reading with family sitting by my side. I read and read.

Now that I’m an adult—the same age my mother was when her life spiraled out of control—I have my own set of stresses to deal with. Nothing too terrible, but occasionally, we all have a sleepless night.

It’s my fiancé who comes to the rescue. “Do you want me to read to you?” he says.

And he cracks open a book, a magazine, or even a website (once, he read me to sleep reading about the nature of fog), and I fall asleep smoothly, easily—my grip on the sound of his voice gently loosening and tightening until I’m only vaguely aware when he turns off the light.

My mother gave me a wonderful gift—the gift of appreciating the written word. And when my fiancé reads to me in the evening, it’s hard not to feel wrapped up in his generosity and love.

When you read a story to someone, I think you give them a little part of yourself. It doesn’t matter that the words aren’t your own. Sharing a story is sharing your heart—and while televisions break and iPods get lost, reading a book is a memory you keep forever.

QUESTION FOR READERS: Who in your life encouraged your love of reading? How have you passed that love along?

Happy, joyous, wonderful reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Anthologies - different voices, different stories - Donna Alward

This month I have my first ever reprint - Hired: The Italian's Bride is out in the anthology Mediterranean Men & Marriage.  When my author copies came, I was so excited.  The book is so BIG! And the cover is gorgeous.  The cover has this purpley colour but the back cover is a stunning navy.

One of the great things about being in books with other authors is then feeling like you've received free books.  :-)  I read both stories by Raye Morgan and Carol Grace and what really struck me is how different we all are!

When you read the title - Mediterranean Men & Marriage, I'll bet you're thinking what I'm thinking - hot Italians.  And you'd be kind of right.  All three stories have great Italian heroes at the core and North American women.  Cool!  But they are also very different.  For example, only Carol's story The Sicilian's Bride, is set in Italy.  Raye's The Italian's Forgotten Baby is on a hot, tropical island and mine is in Banff, a resort town in Alberta, Canada!

All three have a touch of glamour to them - Raye's in the form of the heroine, who is hiding from her father and the paparazzi, Carol's in the rich figure of the hero whose family owns a famous winery and was engaged to Miss Sicily, and my Luca has had his day in the scandal sheets as heir to a hotel kingdom and a bit of a playboy.

Our themes and hooks are also very different - Raye's is the first amnesia story I've read in a long time, and Carol's is a fish out of water/inheritance story, whereas mine is an office romance.

Raye's voice is vastly different from mine, but there were times when I read Carol's that we felt very similar in the rhythm of our sentence construction, which was really weird for me to read and cool at the same time.

I found both stories enjoyable, and hope lots of people get a chance to read them! 

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's All Good -- Michelle Monkou

Let me start of by saying this has been one hellafied year in the life of Michelle Monkou. When I have dreams about life and my glorified ambitions, they usually take place in locations that have the quality of paradise (non-specific, just gosh darn beautiful). The pace is calm and the mood is so inspiring and motivating-- Shrangi-la in the making.

But the reality resembles a piping hot, spicy pot of gumbo that bubbles over a roaring flame. While the cooking heats up, the expectation and hope are that the end results will be freaking fantastic.

Behind me, in the past, I (not personally) had to deal with the responsibility of relocating a writer conference due a natural disaster; my 78 year old mother's dismal post-operative state from back surgery; a book deadline; kids' end of school bustle; and my sister-in-law's battle with breast cancer.

At a self-imposed writer retreat from the world or I'll-go-crazy moment, a black bear came out of the woods and proceeded to rip apart the trash receptacle. He couldn't get in, but that didn't stop him from trying. I watched his tenacity instead of writing--more fun and it required less of me to watch his progress.

A friend suggested that maybe that's my animal totem. I'm not of native American tradition or any religious group that follows animal totem. So I mean no offense to anyone. However, I looked up the meaning of a bear. Just as the bear rests during the winter and awakens during the spring, a person should rest and reflect, achieve a higher consciousness and rejuvenate when the time is right. But then there is time to be assertive and step up to be a leader and fearless in defending her belief.

So looking ahead, I will be attending a fantastic conference with over 2,000 people. My mother is doing well and on the road to recovery. My book deadline, well, now I have another one. My sister-in-law just finished her treatment and is heading back to work as she also heals and recovers.

So instead of thinking - What the bleep is going on with my life!

I'll simply count my blessings. Ya'll have a wonderful day.

Michelle Monkou
The Millionaire's Ultimate Catch
Ready for Pre-order
October 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Early One Morning... - Christina Hollis

...Just as the sun was rising, I found myself scurrying around the chores in typical headless chicken mode. The night before, I’d fallen asleep the second I slumped down in front of the TV. I’d call that a wake up call, if it wasn’t a contradiction in terms! Too exhausted to make the following day’s packed lunches or start off the washing machine, I crawled straight off to bed. That meant I was already two jobs down when I woke up the next morning. Once the laundry was on the go, the online grocery order posted, the hens let out and fed and all the sandwiches made, I skidded into the greenhouse desperate to get all the watering done before the school run.

As I opened the door, the fragrance of growing things stopped me in my tracks. Brompton stocks in full flower, ripening strawberries and lush herb leaves accidentally crushed under foot all added to the delicious mixture of perfumes, warmed by the low rays of the sun. No wonder aromatherapy is so popular. As W.H Davies wrote in his poem Leisure;

‘What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?’

How right he was. No matter how hard any of us work, more jobs will always loom on the horizon. I decided it was time to take a little break. I fetched a cup of tea and enjoyed it sitting on the greenhouse bench. It was worth it to enjoy the pleasures of those flowers and fruit. They are over so quickly.

I’d like to tell you that the hands of the clock magically went backwards for those few precious minutes, but it didn’t happen. We got to school after a hot and breathless hurry, and the panic was only over when I switched on the computer and started work. Working on my latest WIP for a few hours gave me another tranquil space where I could recharge my batteries. Writing is another great stress-buster for me.

That’s just as well, since the whole mouse-on-a-wheel circus of family life starts afresh first thing every morning!
Do you ever manage to snatch a few minutes of time for yourself? And do you have a special sanctuary? I’d love to hear about it!
Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance/Presents for Harlequin Mills and Boon, when she isn’t chasing her tail, the family, hens, or swarms of honeybees.

You can catch up with her here:

Twitter: http://www.twitter/com/christinabooks

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mammoth Excitement - Anna Campbell

by Anna Campbell

I'm really excited that THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF REGENCY ROMANCE is out (in the U.K. 24th June and in the U.S. 27th July). You can order it now from the Book Depository and have it sent post free anywhere in the world:

Some really big names in historical romance have contributed to the anthology. Lorraine Heath. Loretta Chase. Eloisa James. Mary Balogh.

I had a great time writing my story for the collection. It's called Upon a Midnight Clear and it's my first reunion story. Alicia married Sebastian, Earl of Kinvarra, at the behest of her family but fell immediately and passionately in love with her husband. But they were both too young to find happiness and separated. For the last ten years, Alicia has lived a chaste half-life in London. Finally, she's decided to take a lover, if only to prove her independence from her husband.

On the journey to her prospective lover's hunting lodge, her carriage crashes on the snowy Yorkshire moors. To her mortification, the only person who can help her is her estranged husband.

Here's an excerpt:

Alicia Sinclair, Countess of Kinvarra, was bruised and angry and uncomfortable and horribly embarrassed. And not long past the fear her choking terror when the carriage toppled.

Even so, her heart launched into the wayward dance it always performed at the merest sight of Sebastian.

She’d been married for eleven long years. She disliked her husband more than any other man in the world. But nothing prevented her gaze from clinging helplessly to every line of that narrow, intense face with its high cheekbones, long, arrogant nose and sharply angled jaw.

Curse him to Hades, he was still the most magnificent creature she’d ever beheld.

Such a pity his soul was as black as his glittering eyes.

“After all this time, I’m flattered you still recognize me, my lord,” she said silkily.

“Lord Kinvarra, this is a surprise,” Harold stammered. “You must wonder what I’m doing here with the lady…”

Oh, Harold, act the man, even if the hero is beyond your reach. Kinvarra doesn’t care enough about me to kill you, however threatening he seems now.

Although even the most indifferent husband took it ill when his wife chose a lover. Kinvarra wouldn’t mistake what Alicia was doing out here. She stifled a rogue pang of guilt. Curse Kinvarra, she had absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.

“I’ve recalled your existence every quarter these past ten years, my love,” her husband said equally smoothly, ignoring Harold’s appalled interjection. The faint trace of Scottish brogue in his deep voice indicated his temper. His breath formed white clouds on the frigid air. “I’m perforce reminded when I pay your allowance, only to receive sinfully little return.”

“That warms the cockles of my heart,” she sniped, not backing down.

She refused to cower like a wet hen before his banked anger. He sounded reasonable, calm, controlled, but she had no trouble reading fury in the tension across his broad shoulders or in the way his powerful hands opened and closed at his sides.

“Creatures of ice have no use for a heart. Does this paltry fellow know he risks frostbite in your company?”

She steeled herself against the taunting remark. Kinvarra couldn’t hurt her now. He hadn’t been able to hurt her since she’d left him. Any twinge she experienced was just because she was vulnerable after the accident. That was all. It wasn’t because this man could still needle her emotions.

“My lord, I protest,” Harold said, shocked, and fortunately sounding less like a frightened sheep. “The lady is your wife. Surely she merits your chivalry.”

Harold had never seen her with her husband, and some reluctant and completely misplaced loyalty to Kinvarra meant she’d never explained why she and the earl lived apart. The fiction was that the earl and his countess were polite strangers who by design rarely met.

Poor Harold, he was about to discover the truth was that the earl and his countess loathed each other.

“Like hell she does,” Kinvarra muttered, casting her an incendiary glance from under long dark eyelashes.

Alicia was human enough to wish the bright moonlight didn’t reveal quite so much of her husband’s seething rage. But the fate that proved cruel enough to fling them together tonight of all nights wasn’t likely to heed her pleas.

“Do you intend to introduce me to your cicisbeo?” Kinvarra’s voice remained quiet. She’d learned that was when he was at his most dangerous.
Short stories are a recent interest of mine but I've come to really enjoy writing them. I've got three up on my website as free reading. The first is Lady Sarah and the Guardian. The second is The Return. The third is Lady Kate's Scoundrel. Check them out!

So do you like short stories and novellas? What was the last good one you read? By the way, I'm traveling today so I'm not sure how much I'll be around but I'll do my best to get back and answer comments.

Friday, July 09, 2010

My Un-Made Bed by Megan Crane

Earlier today, I went into our bedroom to make the bed, which I must do every morning or I feel like a slattern and a great shame to my mother/an offense to her parenting/etc.

This is what greeted me:

So if you see my mother out and about today, you can assure her that my bed remains unmade *not* because my goal in life is to shame her, but because the bed was otherwise occupied.

I mean, who could move them? They look so cute!

Happy Friday to all! Hope you have a great weekend!

(And yes, sharp-eyed readers, that's a stack of Presents on my bedside table: The Dark Hearted Desert Men series, which I just started. Hooray!)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Devil's Heart -- Lynn Raye Harris

The coolest thing about writing for Harlequin Presents is that I'm also writing for Mills & Boon -- and my books tend to come out there earlier than in the US and Canada. I love the look of a Modern romance; the intensity of the characters, the blue swooshes across the top and bottom. It's true that the covers are changing, and I'm excited about those new covers as well. I can't wait to see my next one!

When I was a kid, I stumbled across my first Presents/Modern when my grandma bought a box of them at a yard sale. I was hooked. The covers back then were white, with gold and black lettering, and the characters in the cameo were drawings instead of photos. I often imagined my name on one of those covers.

Fast forward a few years, and the dream is a reality. And now, this month, my fourth book is out in the UK. The Devil's Heart is an intense story about an Argentinean hero, a heroine with a secret, and a big fat diamond. I had so much fun writing this tale! I've never been to Argentina, but I would love to go.

I ordered several guidebooks and immersed myself in them. I surfed the web for pictures of Buenos Aires and the high desert country of Mendoza, where the wineries butt up against the Andes and grow the finest Malbec grapes. I went to the store and bought a bottle of Malbec, which was absolutely divine. ;)

From the back cover:

A diamond, and a deal with the devil…

Francesca D’Oro was just eighteen when darkly sexy Marcos Navarre swept her up the aisle—then fled before the ink on the marriage licence had dried. Marcos might have given Francesca a jewel for her finger, but he stole another: the Devil’s Heart—a dazzling yellow diamond he believed belonged to his family…

Years later Francesca, no longer so youthfully naïve, is determined to reclaim the precious gem! But she’s forgotten that Marcos lives up to the treasure’s name—and dealing with the devil is always dangerous!

I hope you enjoy this dark and intensely romantic story! Tell me what place you'd like to visit that you've never been to before. Have you tried to create a bit of the ambiance of a place, like I did with the wine? I love sampling food and wine from other places. In fact, have bought myself an Arabian cookbook for this story I'm working on now. Bet that's a huge hint, huh?

For more information on my books, including excerpts and a Behind the Book feature, visit me at!