Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Abby Niles: When Best Friends Fall in Love...

The second book of my Love to the Extreme series, FIGHTING LOVE, released today! I’m so excited about this book. I’m a sucker for friends-to-lover romances. I’m especially fond of the stories that revolve around childhood friends who have grown up together and know every little mood swing and habit of the other. This is Tommy and Julie. They have known each other since they were ten. They know each other inside and out…or at least they believe they do.

Attraction changes the dynamics of their friendship and that’s where the real fun begins. Suddenly Tommy, who has been completely comfortable with Julie, has never hesitated in wrapping an arm around her, doesn’t even know how to talk to her anymore. Just standing beside her is torture because he wants to touch her in a way his never wanted to before and everything becomes awkward.  Especially after she utters the words, “He’s like my brother,” and he starts having thoughts like this:

“If she said it again, he feared he was going to show her just exactly how much of a brother to her he wasn’t.”

Julie doesn’t get off any easier either. She has always known where she stood with Tommy, has learned to keep her own feelings for the man under wraps and just be his best friend. So when he starts acting weird, it weirds her out. This man, who she has always been able to read, is unreadable. Her best friend who has always confided in her about everything, is shutting her out. But, damn it, if he wasn’t looking at her differently and making her think things like this:

“Had the desire really been there? If it had been any other man, there wouldn’t have been a second of doubt in her mind. But he wasn’t any other man. He was Tommy. And Tommy came with a long history that directly contradicted anything she might have thought she had seen.”

I loved writing these two and their transition from being best friends to more. I’m always looking for romances with the friends-to-lovers trope. I’m giving away a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice). To enter, just leave a comment sharing your favorite friends-to-lovers book. 

I want to thank Lee for having me today!!

Talk about kicking a fighter while he’s down.
Former Middleweight champion and confirmed bachelor Tommy "Lightning" Sparks has lost it all: his belt, his career, and now his home. After the devastating fire, he moves in with his drama-free best friend, Julie. One encounter changes everything and Julie is no longer the girl he’s spent his life protecting but a desirable woman he wants to take to his bed. Knowing his reputation, he’s determined to protect Julie more than ever—from himself.
Veterinarian Julie Rogers has been in love with Tommy since she was ten, but would love to get over the man. She’s quiet nights at home and a glass of wine. He’s clubbing all night and shots of tequila. As friends they work great. As a couple? No way in hell. She just can’t get her heart to agree. When she starts spending time with another fighter, the man who’s always treated her like a sister is suddenly not being very brotherly and enflames her body like never before.
Can two childhood friends make a relationship work, or will they lose everything because they stopped FIGHTING LOVE.
Abby Niles has always loved to read. After having twins and becoming a stay-at-home mom, she started doodling stories to keep her sanity. She didn’t plan for writing to become an obsession, but it did. Today, she juggles work, home life, and writing. It’s not always easy, but hey, who said life was easy? When Abby’s not writing, you can find her playing ‘Just Dance’ with her kids or trying to catch up on her never-ending to-be-read list. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lost Days

In Australia, it's summer and now Christmas is over, many people take vacation days between Christmas and New Year. I call these the lost days and I love them. We stay home and potter about, recovering from the frantic rush that was the end of the school year and the run-up to Christmas.

So what do we do?

We play with our Christmas gifts.

We eat the food we baked for Christmas

We read books.

We work in the garden and prune the roses

And we watch movies new and old

Do you have to work between Christmas and New Year or are you on vacation?

If you got some book money at Christmas and are looking to spend it,  then I'm thrilled to tell you that Runaway Groom is up for pre-order now! This is book three in my Wedding Fever trilogy and you get to meet Amy and Ben along with some old Whitetail friends.

What's it about?

Welcome to Whitetail, Wisconsin,  home of Weddings that WOW!

Amy Sagar's life is in ruins. Fired from her fast-track job and dumped by her double-crossing boyfriend, she retreats to Whitetail, Wisconsin, to lick her wounds and regroup. Meeting an impossible, sexy Australian isn't part of her strategy for getting back on track.

Ben Armytage is running away. After being left at the altar and publicly humiliated, he's taking his vintage motorcycle on an extended road trip from Argentina to Alaska. Having his journey interrupted by a breakdown and sharing a house with a curvy, redheaded lawyer in a town obsessed with weddings was never on his itinerary.
Though being stuck in a luxury log cabin isn't really a hardship, living together with their broken hearts isn't easy. When the attraction between Amy and Ben proves unstoppable, they'll both begin rethinking their plans…

For more weddings in Whitetail, check out Saved by the Bride and Picture Perfect Wedding, available now!

Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at herwebsitefacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Debra Webb: Keeping it Real

I’m so glad to be here and to have the opportunity to talk about writing. I love my work and my new series, the Faces of Evil, is one I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. One of the things I try really hard to do in my work is to keep it real. I want my characters to appeal to real people so they need to feel real. The easiest way I’ve found to do that is to treat my characters real. While I’m working on a book, I talk about the characters (sometimes to the characters) as I would anyone else in my life. I find pictures of what I believe they look like. I locate their homes in the city where the story is set. I pick the car they drive and the clothes they wear. I post all those things on my working bulletin board. I decide what they like to eat and what music they like.

One way that helps me keep my characters real is to watch people. I could sit for hours in a mall or a restaurant and just watch. I watch the news, read the papers and I get dozens of magazines. Since I can’t be all the places I’d like to be to know different lifestyles and trends, I get the input I need through every venue available to me. How do you keep up with the latest trends?  Leave a comment for a chance to win a Faces of Evil t-shirt and the first book in the series!

DEBRA WEBB wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain—and a five-year stint with NASA—that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has penned more than 100 novels including her internationally bestselling Colby Agency series. Her debut romantic thriller series, the Faces of Evil, propelled Debra to the top of the bestselling charts. Visit Debra at or at

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shirlee McCoy: Write What You Know

I’ve been published for a long time, so I guess it isn’t surprising that I’ve toyed with many different book ideas. Most of the ones that have made my heart go pitter-patter have been story ideas that coincided with genre trends. For example, I plotted an entire paranormal romantic suspense because that seemed like the ‘it’ thing to write. I got about three pages into it and realized I had no idea how to proceed. When angels and demons become hot again (because, like anything else, book market trends cycle), I brainstormed a fantastical (not to be mistaken for fantastic)demon hunter series. I wrote about sixteen sentences of that one before I threw in the towel. I don’t think the world was ready for my fantastical idea!

Interestingly enough, I have a son who is also a writer. He’s 17 and not published yet, but I think if he keeps working at it, he will be. The Professor has always been an interesting kid. When he was five, he put a towel down on the carpet in his bedroom, built a block town on top of it and created a tsunami by filling a bucket with water and throwing it on top of the town. I discovered his creative genius when he went into the bathroom for a second bucket of water. All the running water clued me in, and I put a stop to the second wave of the tsunami. The kid and I spent a loooong time soaking up the mess.

When this brilliant funny kid decided to write a book, I encouraged him. We came up with a cool plan whereby we would do a writing boot camp. All summer long, these kids were doing ballet summer intensives:

(mine is the one lifting the beautiful young woman)

Meanwhile, this kid and I were going to the gym and plotting our books.

After forty minutes of exercising and plotting, we’d go home and write. During this process, I tried to encourage The Professor to write what he knows. The old adage has certainly seemed to work for me. I write about family, about faith, about small towns and quirky characters. I write about the dynamics of relationships and the deep human need for acceptance and love. I pack all those things into series romantic suspense and, more recently, into sweet small town romances. I do it because those things are what I know.

I told The Professor this, and he wrinkled his forehead (like he does when he’s confused)and looked at me like I was crazy.

“Mom,” he said. “I know about physics. I know about string theory. I know about theoretical science. Do you really think I should write those into a book of fiction?”


I didn’t.

“I guess not,” I responded.

He looked at me quizzically for a moment, because that’s the way The Professor is. Then he said, “Besides, I don’t really think you write what you know. You don’t know about kidnappings, murders and mob activity. You don’t know about Witness Protection.”


I don’t.
Somehow, though, I’ve written about those things.

“I think what we have to do is write what we love,” The Professor continued. “I love ghost stories, so I’m going to write one.”

He does. He did.

I watched him print it out. I held that middle grades manuscript in my hands. I read it. It was good, and I guess it wasn’t because The Professor knows about ghosts and ghouls and ancient curses. I guess it was simply because he was writing what he loved. 

When I sold The House on Main Street, I was thrilled.

My first mainstream book, it is about family, special needs kids, friendships old and new. It’s about finding that one place where you truly belong and doing exactly what you’re meant to do. In essence, it is about everything I love.

This time of year, with snow on the ground and presents under the tree, with the short days and the dark nights, I have to think that there is no greater blessings than those things and no greater pleasure for me as an author than writing about them.

Have a joyous Christmas, a fantastic holiday season and a wonderfully blessed 2014! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Failure To Communicate by Jenny Gardiner

A while back I made the deliberate choice to take some alone time, which is how I ended up traveling on my own hiking in Switzerland and Italy a few months back. Those days during which I walked exclusively for hours on end reaffirmed something I already knew quite well: I'm sort of a people person, and get sick of being by myself pretty quickly. Which certainly begs the question: well, then, why did you go off alone? Don't ask. But being on my own made me very much appreciate the gift of being with others, something I'm afraid so many of us take for granted nowadays. I realized this yet again the other day when my husband and I were having breakfast. Nearby sat a couple with two elementary school-aged kids. As I spied on them (sorry, the writer in me compels me to snoop sometimes) I felt sad, because no one in that family appeared to make much of an effort to communicate. The parents sat in silence, faces aimed downward, typing away on their smart phones. The kids were glued to theirs as well, barely coming up for air, let alone conversation. The family couldn't have been less together had they been in separate corners of the restaurant. This was something I noticed so often while in Italy. I was fairly starved for communication with someone familiar, having been walking for sometimes up to eight hours during the day without seeing another person. As it is, my family occasionally cringes at my tendency to strike up conversation with complete strangers (yes, even in elevators), and that's when I'm not craving human contact. They couldn't imagine the lengths to which I about went to speak with people — in another language, no less — when deprived of normal discourse for even a few days. I got to the point that I'd chat up anyone who would listen to me (and put up with my rusty Italian at that). When I ended up in larger cities and found English speakers? Jackpot for me. Poor English-speaking tourists who sat next to me during a meal! Who knew just hearing someone else speak my language would be such music to my ears? That concept of quiet self-reflection and alone-time upon which my trip was intended must've jumped right out the window. Yet wherever I went, I noticed that so many other people gathered together never seemed very together anyhow. I would see a table full of people, with everyone transfixed by their mobile phones, the cool glow of the lit screen reflecting off their faces, completely ignoring each other. I felt such a pang of jealousy for them being able to be with friends and family — yes, even though I'd made the deliberate choice to not be with mine. Here they had people right there, yet they chose instead to hone in on the digital brain in their hands, that whole other world hidden in their smart phones. Now don't get me wrong. I spend far more time than I ought to online. Between the unlimited accessibility to information that the Evil Genius Google provides, and the non-stop chat-a-thons available via Facebook, Twitter, or far too many other social media to even list, I often allow the Great Time Suck to get the better of me despite my good intentions to the contrary. I can be like a heroin junkie, seeking just one more fix. I follow a link to a compelling story which leads me to a link to another compelling story and so on, and the next thing I know I've frittered away hours on nothing other than added fuel for my brain full of useless Jeopardy factoids which I'll never use anyhow. It was a huge gift for me to be a stranger in a strange land on my own and appreciate how wonderful it is to be able to be with those you love. And to give me some time to break away from that electronic addiction to which most of us are enslaved these days. I befriended an Australian woman who just completed walking the entire length (about 1300 miles) of the pilgrimage route on which I hiked. She's been walking since late August from Canterbury England, and arrived in Rome a few days ago. She claims to be an introvert, yet reading her blog daily, I can see that she has been, nevertheless, desperately lonely. It's hard to walk alone for hours on end, often seeing no one, then arrive in a town, have to find a place to sleep, while hoping to find a restaurant or bar in which to find some food, and with any luck, maybe some human contact. You find yourself going out of your way to talk to anyone when you have no one there. If given enough time I'd likely have been known as the strange babbling woman, frankly. One of those mad-professor types with a crazed glint in her eyes, rambling ceaselessly. I don't think I'd have it in me to have walked alone for three straight months for the sheer lack of engagement with loved ones with which I'd be missing out. Clearly I'm not one for the lone pursuit experience for very long. I know I took for granted the ability to be with those I love and care for. As I reflect during the holidays time, I'm all the more grateful for those who have made my life more interesting, engaging, and exciting. For those who have shared their love, their hearts, and themselves with me. And for my not having to follow link upon link to find them; rather to know that they've been right here all along.

Slim to None

Anywhere But Here

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

Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)

Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)

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

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

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

Naked Man On Main Street
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Laura Resnick: The Best Revenge

I have (so far) based a fictional character on a real life acquaintance just once. And in doing so, I discovered that writing someone you really loathe into a novel is amazingly satisfying and cleansing!

Vamparazzi is the fourth novel in my Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, published by DAW Books (the sixth book in the series, The Misfortune Cookie, was released last month; in between them was #5, Polterheist). Esther is a struggling actress in contemporary New York who gets involved in various supernatural misadventures. In Vamparazzi, she has a supporting role in The Vampyre, an off-Broadway show which is a (wholly fictional) stage adaptation of the (real) 19th century story by Dr. John Polidori.

The eponymous lead character in the show, i.e. the vampire (or vampyre), is played by an attention-seeking D-list celebrity who attracts throngs of vampire groupies and paparazzi. During Halloween weekend, when vamparazzi hysteria around the theater reaches its height, there is a mysterious murder by exsanguination. Esther Diamond's efforts to keep the curtain from coming down on her show bring her into contact with crazed vampire fans, anti-vampire activists, real vampires, and an ancient cult of ruthless vampire hunters. Meanwhile, a skeptical cop who is Esther's ex-almost-boyfriend is convinced that she may be the killer's next target.

I had a lot of fun with this story in multiple ways. One of the best ways involved taking much-needed revenge on a former neighbor of mine.

Back when I was plotting Vamparazzi, I was living in an apartment complex and had a very troublesome next door neighbor. I had filed multiple formal complaints against her with the management of that complex. Crazy Girl (not her real name) was the noisiest person I've ever known. Her shrieking hysterics, tearful rages, and foul-mouthed fits regularly woke up me at 2:00 AM and went on for an hour or two. Virtually all of Crazy Girl's screaming tantrums and profanity-laced hysteria occurred when quarreling with her visiting boyfriend. They had a relationship that made mob wars look peaceful by comparison, and the fights were as frequent as they were noisy and melodramatic.

Thanks to their volume, I know that Crazy Girl found her boyfriend unreliable and untrustworthy, that she believed he lied to her and let her down on many occasions, and that she often doubted whether he really cared about her. I know the squalid details of her many grievances against him precisely because she constantly screeched them at full-volume right outside my doors and windows, usually in the middle of the night. And this went on regularly whether or not the boyfriend was there, since Crazy Girl frequently enacted her half of these noisy late-night quarrels on her cell phone.

Indeed, even when not shrieking at the boyfriend, Crazy Girl lived with her cell phone glued to her ear, yammering about her petty complaints and gripes in a voice like a foghorn—also right outside my doors and windows. Her voice, yakking non-stop on her cell, regularly penetrated every room of my apartment except my bathroom.

Even when she was inside her own apartment, instead of on my doorstep, she often screamed so loudly at her boyfriend, either in person or on the phone, that the noise came straight through my walls. Crazy Girl was also prone to fits of physical violence in which she'd throw things around her home so ferociously that it would make my apartment shake.

Well, even after Crazy Girl moved out of our apartment complex (to go move in with that same boyfriend—pity their poor neighbors!), the stress she inflicted had become so habitual that I couldn't shake her off. I kept flinching in expectation of a screaming fit penetrating my walls. Every time someone passed my windows, I braced myself for wailing hysterics. At night, I kept listening for a sudden tantrum of building-shaking violence.

Until finally, to exorcise this demon that lingered even though Crazy Girl was now gone... I wrote her into Vamparazzi as Mad Rachel, a shrieking, wailing, foul-mouthed, self-obsessed actress who shares a dressing room with my exasperated protagonist, Esther Diamond. Mad Rachel lives with a cell phone glued to her ear, engages in constant screaming matches with her boyfriend, ignores repeated reprimands for disrupting performances of The Vampyre with this behavior, and has such noisy hysterics in any crisis that even hardened New York cops and bloodthirsty vampires can't cope with being around her.

And you know what? It felt great to write this. It was some of the most fun I ever had at the keyboard!

It also banished the ghost of Crazy Girl at long last. Having my protagonist convey to readers what it's like for her to share a dressing room with Mad Rachel, eight shows per week, relieved the burden of stress that I was still carrying from having unwillingly shared my living space with Crazy Girl for two years. It also gave me psychological closure (and great satisfaction) to inflict on Mad Rachel the well-merited indignities that, alas, I could not inflict on Crazy Girl in real life (well, not without incurring a lot of complications and possibly a police record).

There is, however, one drawback to this very satisfying conclusion to that noisily tawdry chapter in my home life. I suspect that when people read the book, they may find Mad Rachel too extreme to be believable. And they will think this, ironically, of the only character whose behavior I have ever based entirely on that of a real person.


Vamparazzi and the other Esther Diamond novels are available wherever books are sold, including the most recent release in the series, The Misfortune Cookie. You can find the author on the Web at

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jus Accardo: Favorite Couples

Part of what keeps me reading a book is the chemistry between its characters. If there’s not some kind of sparkage—romantic or otherwise—then I tend to get board. We all have our favorites. Those swoony matches that keep us sighing. I thought I’d share a few of my faves.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Clayton Danvers and Elena Michaels—Bitten by Kelly Armstrong.  Some of you might be aware of my Clayton Danvers fetish. Seriously. This guy is my fave fictional male. He’s strong and protective and doesn’t take no for an answer. His push/pull relationship with Elena creates the kind of spark that sends chills up and down your spine. Despite—or maybe because of—the fact that they’re just a little dysfunctional.

2.  Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire—The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. These two had an epic kind of love that literally spanned a lifetime. I know some people find the relationship between them a little depressing since, during the span of her life, Clare is always waiting for him, but there was just something about these two that made me fall in love.

3.  Niko and Cal Leandros—Nightlife but Rob Thurman. Okay. So not a couple in the kissy sense, but still, one of my fave parings. Niko and Cal are brothers who battle all the nasty things that go bump in the night. These two play off one another so perfectly. I dare you not to see sparks!

4.  Suze Simon and Jesse—the Mediator Series by Meg Cabot. Suze’s take life head on attitude verses Jesse’s old fashioned thinking, in addition to the fact that, well, he was dead, made this couple so much fun to read.

Number 5 is probably going to get some flame, but...

5.  Buffy and…Spike—Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I know. I know. WTF, right? What about Angel? Angel irritated me. I’m all for dark and brooding, but dude. Come on. There was just so much more to Spike. More personality. More chemistry. More hotness…

Not convinced? Rest In Peace

What about you guys? Who’s your fave fictional couple (romantic or other)?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kristen Callihan: Enemies to Lovers

There’s something quite delicious about seeing a couple move from enemies to lovers. After all, they are supposed to hate each other. How can they be suddenly finding this person attractive? How can they be thinking about them at all hours? It just won't do! Oh, but when they finally kiss, it’s a bit like forbidden fruit, isn’t it? One taste, and they crave more. As readers, we crave more.

I think my first notice of the enemies to lovers trope was in Star Wars with Han Solo and Princess Leia. As a kid, I didn’t get it. Why was Leia kissing Han when CLEARLY Luke Skywalker was the better prize? When Han had been such a jerk to her? Heh. I think back on that now and can only shake my head. How did I prefer Luke over Han? How did I not see the sparks flying between Leia and Han from the first time they met?

Because that’s the thing, for a good enemies to lovers story to work, there has to be sparks. The characters might rub together like oil and water, but it’s clear to all that they want each other. And maybe that’s part of the reason they fight it so hard. Neither of them wants to be the first one to bend.

In SHADOWDANCE, Jack and Mary have been at odds for four years. Now they are forced to work together on a murder investigation. Being in such close proximity, all day, every day, makes it much harder to hide their attraction to one another. And because they’re both stubborn, they fight this growing desire, until it can’t help but combust. I had such fun with that. And such fun with their banter, which moves from cutting to grudging respect to loving.

So tell me, do you have a favorite enemies to lovers book? Movie? Leave a comment for a chance to win one of Four copies of Shadowdance!

Kristen Callihan

***Kristen's winners are Eli, Laurie, Mary and Alina! Please email Thanks!***

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seressia Glass: I love this time of year

I love this time of year. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s a nip in the air (or ice and snow and below-freezing temperatures) and people are in good spirits and a happy mood due to the confluences of many wonderful holidays.  But it got me, as a lover of scifi, fantasy and paranormal romance, to wondering: do paranormal creatures celebrate Christmas? If they don’t what do they do this time of year?

The Sons of Anubis and the Daughters of Isis don’t celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas seeing as how many of them predate Christianity. Most of their traditional religious festivals and celebrations were tied to agriculture and the stages of the Nile. Despite that, they appreciate the secular traditions of food, family and fellowship, peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone. Living in America as they do, the younger generation has fully embraced secular traditions like Christmas trees and presents on December 25. One tradition that the older jackals brought with them out of ancient Egypt and their long-lost town dedicated to Anubis was a celebration focused on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

This night is when Anubis and their departed loved ones are closest to them, and they offer gifts and prayers of gratitude and hopes for continued wealth, health and happiness. They stay up from sundown to dawn, with the first half of the night focused on recounting of how Anubis has blessed them in the past year. They also celebrate those they have lost. The second half of the night is a reenactment of the Journey through the Underworld as the head of the clan, in Anubis form, represents their patron god guiding souls safely to the afterlife. Anubis’ children then shift to jackal form and greet the returning sun with yips and howls and a good wild run.

So that’s how jackal shapeshifters celebrate this time of year. As for me, I’ve been lucky to have a diverse group of friends and family who have shown me the beauty of Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas and Kwanzaa. No matter what the celebration was, it was the spirit of togetherness that was the most important part of the celebrations. No matter what you celebrate, or even if you don’t, I wish you a healthy and happy year to come!

How about you? What are some of your favorite traditions around this time?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

:Michelle Styles: Christmas and a review of a new writing craft book

This autumn I became an empty nester when my youngest went off to St Andrews to study zoology.  So Christmas is particularly special for me as all my children will be back home. And I don't know for how many more Christmases I will have like this with all my children home. After all I left the US for the UK when I was 24 and my eldest is now 23. And to think when he was 6 weeks, I thought I had forever until he went off to school at age five! You have to enjoy the time allotted to you...

So I am determine to enjoy every moment of my very special Christmas.  When my daughter arrived home on Thursday, we went out and chose a tree. It is not perfect but it works. The non-breakable ornaments are on the lower branches as my cat who often displays editorial tendencies loves to rearrange the ornaments. However we have to guess where he wants the ornaments. He just knows where he doesn't want them. Once the tree is to his satisfaction, he loses interest and finds something else to edit. Cats!
I like getting new ornaments every year. This year I  found the sled and skis. They were supposed to go on the tree but they work better with the Kachina dolls which once belonged to my father.  I had put them there is see if my dh even noticed!  My dh added the polar bear which my sister gave me many years ago to see if I would notice that he had noticed! Sometimes men!

As some of you know I can be a bit of a writing craft addict person. I love learning about the whys and wherefores. However earlier this year, I decided no more craft books. I felt like they were undermining my confidence and that I should just go back to the older craft books to refresh my memory rather than seeking some new insight. HOWEVER when Cheryl published her book, I knew I had to get it. I have loved Cheryl's writing for many years and I know that she does emotion very well. Plus she is a fellow Harlequin Historical writer.

I'm so glad that I downloaded the book and took the time to read. It is a book that I wish had been written years ago. Cheryl relies heavily on Dwight Swain as his earlier book The Techniques of the Selling Writer taught her about craft. I love Swain. I discovered him when I was in high school and rediscovered him when I became serious about my writing. BUT he is dated and some of his explanations don't exactly work.

Cheryl builds on his work and provides exercises for the author to use to enhance her own work. She also uses movies and tv series to illustrate her examples. Personally I find it easier to see technique in a film because if the author is doing her job correctly, I am utterly immersed in the Story World.

Cheryl's book is divided into several sections Conflict, Feelings, Setting, Tension, Dialogue and finally Drawing Emotions from Characters. Cheryl is a very character-driven author and so this book is aimed at other authors who are character, rather than plot driven. It is not a book about how to plot but rather how to create characters who leap from page and compel the reader to keep turning the pages. Reading is all about the emotional tensions that the reader feels.

The book is destined to be a classic. I personally preferred her take on Goal, Motivation and Conflict to Debra Dixon's. It is interesting that Dixon owes a great deal to Swain as well. The exercises are clear and helpful.

I can whole heartily recommend the book. Capturing the hearts of your readers is so vital and this book gives a detailed explanation of how to go about it. How to really ratchet up the tension and keep your reader involved. It is definately worthy of inclusion on any romance writer's  craft bookshelf.

It is availabe in both print and ebook and is published by Writer's Digest. You can learn more about Cheryl on her website She also has a blog 

Currently  kindle have one of my books HATTIE WILKINSON MEETS HER MATCH on super special discount of 59p. I can't see the US pricing. But I  thought I would highlight it as I always like knowing about bargain books.

My next Harlequin Hisotrical release is in May 2014 --The Return of the Viking Warrior.

You can learn more about my books on

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christina Hollis - An English Country Christmas...

Harcombe Bottom, source:
By Philip Halling
I love to party, but my OH is all for the quiet life. That's we moved into a house that's deep in the English countryside, shortly after we got married.  Living here, we have the best of both worlds. When OH comes home, he can leave the stresses of his high-powered working life at the gate (assuming I can hide his wretched BlackBerry). If I need a break from the solitude, I can hit town within an hour as long as we're not locked down by wintry weather.

This year, the run-up to Christmas has been exceptionally mild. That makes a change - for the last two years, our village's annual Christmas Tree festival has been disrupted by heavy snow. England doesn't cope well with extremes of weather. We're used to ordinary rain and cold, because we suffer that pretty much all year round (!). Blizzards, floods and other natural disasters do happen here, but so rarely our councils can't afford to tie up much money in specialised equipment and manpower that may only be needed once in a blue moon.  We're hoping it won't be another bad winter. Our lane is too small for the snow-plough, so we always have to dig ourselves out as far as the main road, which is half a mile away!
By Trish Steel
There hasn't been a school-day this term when the weather has stopped me walking the two miles from home each afternoon to meet Son No.1 at the school coach-stop. It's lovely to listen to the blackbirds and pheasants racketing off to roost. It's dusk by the time the coach pulls in, so I have to remember to shut our poultry safely in their run before I leave home, or Mr Fox will be around to pick up takeaway chicken! On my walk down to our meeting-point, I can enjoy all the outdoor Christmas lights going on as the light fails. One of the cottages down in the village has new owners. They've already made a start on their big, overgrown garden and this has meant they've had a bonfire going all week. The smell of blackberry-and-apple-woodsmoke is delicious and seeing the embers glowing as night falls is almost as good as enjoying a log-fire at home.  By the time I reach the coach stop, OH is already waiting in his car. He stops off there on his way home from work to pick up me, Son No. 1 and Son's huge haul of school books, homework and other kit. Carrying that load home, uphill for two miles, would be too much after a long school day.

FOOTNOTE: While I was writing this blog, the BBC announced that the bereaved of Sandy Hook in Connecticut have asked for 14th December to be marked by acts of kindness. That's a generous and dignified way to remember their loved ones, and I'll be doing my best via Twitter and Facebook to spread their message. This happy time of year holds so many memories for all those who have lost loved ones, everywhere - maybe if we could all spare a couple of minutes on Saturday to check on our friends or neighbours, we could make a difference to their Christmas?

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Holiday Motto

I love the holidays! I love that so many people seem willing to not only find the glee that's all around them, but actively try to give glee to others as well!

So when I set out to write a story for Maeve, who was a solitary secondary character in my A Valley Ridge Wedding trilogy (You Are Invited, April Showers and A Walk Down the Aisle), I knew that it had to be special, and that I wanted to find a very special way for her to find her glee by giving it in A Valley Ridge Christmas!

I'd already established she had a giving heart…she reopened the community's small library almost single handedly.  So when a homeless family shows up literally on her doorstep she jumps right in.  What I love about Maeve is she lives her life by the words, "I can't save the world, but I can try."  That willingness to jump in…well, I knew she needed a very special man.  Oh, I wrapped him in a bit of a Scrooge-ish exterior.  He lives life by the motto…everyone's got an angle.  I loved pitting an optimist against a pessimist.

Now that I know that Maeve's got the right man, I'm busy getting ready for the holidays here.  I made my first batch of cutout cookies earlier this week…and they're almost gone.  There's a certain Cookie Monster who's taking finals and she says they help.  So, I'll be making more cookies and I still have some hard candy to make!  I make a number of flavors, but the kids' favorite is one we call Death by Cinnamon.  They're pretty sure that any candy
that makes your eyes water is good!

I hope your holiday prep is going well!  And I'm wishing you a wonderful holiday season.  I hope you're surrounded by friends and family.  And if you have a chance to try out Maeve's personal motto this holiday season, I hope you give it a try!


PS My other Christmas release, Spruced Up: A Maid in LA Holiday Novella is on sale for 99 cents for Kindle until December 15th!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Reading Bonanza!

by Anna Campbell

Firstly, happy Holidays to everyone! And I hope 2014 is a wonderful year for all of us.

Thank you so much to everyone who's swung by to read my posts here and especially those lovely people who left comments during the year. And thanks to Lee for hosting this fun blog!

2013 was a terrifically busy year for me - I feel like I haven't stopped since I was wishing everybody happy new year last January.

So I'm very much looking forward to a few days off between Christmas and New Year. Here in Australia, Christmas falls in midsummer so instead of snow and sweaters, we have beaches and sweat! My plan at this stage is to grab the TBR pile and make some serious inroads before I get into a new project.

So I thought for my final blog of the year, I might give you some idea of the books I'm looking forward to reading over that week of sloth.

This last year, I've read a lot of mysteries, but it seems I'm going (almost) solidly romance for my holiday. The one exception is a couple of the charming Aunt Dimity mysteries by Nancy Atherton to which I've recently become addicted. I'm up to books 12 and 13, AUNT DIMITY GOES WEST and AUNT DIMITY: VAMPIRE HUNTER.

But on to the romance.

First up, I've got three Karina Bliss SuperRomances waiting for me. I love Karina's writing - if you haven't read WHAT THE LIBRARIAN DID, grab it. It's a wonderful story.

Also on the SuperRomance front, I've discovered a Sarah Mayberry hidden in my TBR pile. Hurrah! SUDDENLY YOU looks like Sarah's usual wonderful mixture of aching emotion, sizzling sexual tension and memorable characters.

I've got a couple of longer romances from favorite Australian writers waiting for me.

I love Bronwyn Parry's award-winning romantic suspense stories set in very vividly described outback Australia. I've got her latest DARKENING SKIES calling to me right now. Can't wait.

Cathryn Hein writes wonderful rural romance. I picked up her latest,  HEARTLAND, a couple of months ago but haven't had a chance to dive in yet.

I've been stockpiling marvelous historical romance author Nicola Cornick's Scandalous Women of the Ton books for just such a time as this when I can wallow in her richly imagined and sensual Regency world. I've loved the first few in the series.

If I've got any time spare after all those, I've got a Nora Roberts omnibus, CHARMED, to look forward to. I recently read Nora's NORTHERN LIGHTS and loved it. 

So do you take a break over the Holidays? Are you looking forward to reading anything in particular? 

To add to your Christmas reading, I'm giving away a download (international) of my Christmas novella THE WINTER WIFE to someone who comments today. Good luck!