Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Michelle Styles: Historical fact-checking can be rewarding.

People like their history to be the way they think it was. They tend to get upset when a historian or a historical novelist makes a change that  seems different than their perceived notion. It can be the things you think you know because they are widely accepted fact that can get you into difficulties.
Recently there was a social media kerfuffle about a Roman British cartoon by the BBC. One of the characters was an African military officer supposedly serving in the Britannia. In one picture, he was flanked by his wife. Apparently people on the both sides of the Atlantic (who thought they knew history) screamed – Impossible, political correctness gone mad. Everyone knows Roman Britain wasn’t like that. There were no sub-Saharan Africans there and other such exclamations.
Photograph BBC
 I rolled my eyes. I have spent many hours along the Roman Wall, researching the period and I am happy to report that yes, there were African officers on the Wall. Some of whom may have their families (officially or unofficially) with them. There is a story that the Roman emperor Septimus Severus (a man with North African roots,  it was where the money was during the 2nd century AD) encountered an Ethiopian legionary officer when he arrived at the wall. There were others, including a troop of Nubian cavalry officers who probably were stationed at Chesters. (They may have been responsible for the re-dedication or rejuvenation symbol aka the phallus tile in the floor of the headquarters building which made my children giggle). The Roman Empire was ethnically diverse and they moved trouble-makers from one region to be soldiers in another, but Rome was not multi-cultural. When in Rome, do as the Romans do was an apt saying. It always surprises me when film-makers or other people depict Rome as one single national type. The Roman empire was huge and people did move about.
My problem with the cartoon was that having gone to the trouble to get the skin colour correct, was it too much trouble for the BBC to get woman’s costume correct? Her hairstyle and dress were all wrong for that era.  If you look at tombs of Romano-British women, particularly the famous Regina tomb, Romano British women tended to be all covered up in what has been termed a Gallic robe. Wearing something bare armed would have resulted in the woman being cold and several of tablets found at Vindolanda complain about the cold!  The woman on the tombs had big hair. But that is an aside. The BBC was right to point out that Roman Britain like the rest of the Roman Empire had many hues of skin contained within it. This is far better than assuming African people only really reached Britain after the World War 2 which some people myopically seem to think. 
One question is what happened to these African legionaries and possibly even merchants?  The short answer is we do not know.The large scale excavation of Roman cemeteries really has not happened. They could have served their time and retired back to their homeland. They could have retired in Roman Britain or even beyond the wall (the wall was more like a porous border control) and married local girls or other Romano-British inhabitants. They might have left when the legions left and the entire economy collapsed. Why stay in such a lawless and cold place? They might have been killed during the plague of 541 when approximately half the population of Britain, Europe and the Byzantium empire died. And some might have stayed and intermarried. There could be people whose families have been in the North of England for nearly two thousand years who had an African legionary as an ancestor and that is kind of cool to think about.

In short, checking facts can lead to interesting discoveries.  Given what passes for news these days, it can be helpful to go back to primary sources.  It is always useful to remember that history by its nature is always written through a dark and shadowy mirror and sometimes those reflections are not entirely accurate.


My latest Viking set historical romance THE WARRIOR’S VIKING BRIDE will be published by Harlequin Historical in March 2018. It features a Viking Shield Maiden and a Celtic warlord who has been sent to  return her to her long-estranged father. 

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances set in a wide variety of time periods from ancient Rome to the Victorian. Her most recent SOLD TO THE VIKING WARRIOR was set on the Western Isles of Scotland in 875. You can read more about Michelle and her books at her website 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Christina Hollis: A Country Conference

Last month, I and around two hundred and fifty other members of the Romantic Novelists' Association converged on the Harper-Adams University in Shropshire for our annual conference. From Friday 14th July until Sunday 16th, we enjoyed three days of talks, workshops, and networking.

There were sessions on the role of an agent and how to write the perfect submission letter, using images from embroidery and tapestry as inspiration for historical fiction, how to make social media work for you, how to revive your backlist, how technology can help writers and many more. The  Gala dinner gave us all a great excuse to dress up and act like romantic heroines.

Harper-Adams University is set in glorious English countryside, and the fresh air gave us all big appetites. Luckily the catering team are geared up to feed hungry farmers, so there was a huge range of food on offer every morning.  After a croissant followed by porridge and fresh fruit, then tea and biscuits mid-morning, a cooked lunch and dinner in the evening, I came home quite a bit heavier than I left.

All the sessions on the craft of writing were fascinating. Hearing the stories of other writers' roads to publication was inspiring. Jill Mansell has a very civilised way of working. She writes her first draft longhand with a gold Parker pen, on the right-hand side pages of a Pukka Pad. Her editing notes are made on the left hand side pages. When she's happy with the result, she has her draft typed up by somebody else. I hate sitting at a computer screen, so if I can come to some arrangement with my offspring, I'll sub-contract my word-processing and go back to writing on paper, which I love.

After hours, the University campus came alive with people socialising at the students' bar. Residential delegates stayed in student accommodation with one communal kitchen to every six flats. That meant the fun went on after hours, too. great opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new ones. I enjoyed every minute of The Romantic Novelists' Association's Conference 2017. IT's being held in Leeds next year. I'm already looking forward to it.

I'll be posting my notes from the conference at over the next few weeks, so follow my blog to read more about individual conference sessions.

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

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Her current release, Heart Of A Hostage, is published by The Wild Rose Press and available at  worldwide.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School!


I'm going back to school this fall. My first official school event was orientation. About a dozen adult students and grad students gathered and listened to the Adult Ed people talk about schedules, dates, parking...  Travis headed the team.  He asked who was one raised their hands, but I glanced around the room and a few people did seem to fall into that category.  He talked about making sure you got the best grades you could in every class.  Scholarships and Grad programs rely on it.  I've got to confess, I wasn't nervous.  You see, I'm in this weird position.  Most of the adult/grad students are working toward a specific degree with a specific goal in mind.  I have no goal.  I'm going back to school for fun and for personal growth.  And while I'd like to get good grades, I will confess, I'm sort of ambivalent about the idea of someone else judging what I learned and accomplished in a class. I've spent my entire adult life taking classes and learning new things.  From my work advising lactating moms, to learning sign language, to beer classes, herb classes, composting class, water conservation class, basketweaving classes...and oh yeah, writing workshops.  You've seen some of my eclectic learning reflected in my books.  I covered composting in Her Second-Chance Family, sign language in Do You Hear What I Hear?...

But here's the thing, none of those learning experiences came with grades. My kids have assured me that years of working at home in a fictional world has ruined me for the real world.  I'm my own boss. I create my work environment every day.  I create my coworkers...otherwise known as my characters.  I choose my projects, set my schedules and basically learn what I need (want) to learn for fun.  And I'll confess, even though I will be graded on this first ceramics class, I'm going in with that same sense of learning for the joy of it...for the glee of it if you will.

I plan to blog the experience, so keep an eye out for my first day of's almost here!


You can also keep your eye out for my newest releases:

2017 Beach Reads

Can't Find NoBODY

Confessions of a Party Crasher
The Book

Not Precisely Pregnant

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Holidays? Kate Walker

It’s still supposed to be summer. At least that’s what the calendar says.  August  - is part of summer isn’t it?  Though I have to admit that, listening to the rai lashing against the windows as I write this, it doesn’t seem that way, It feels a lot  more like autumn – sorry, Fall – with a nip in the air and a
wind whistling round the chimney. 

In the UK the  schools are still closed and the children on holiday so everywhere is busier than normal.  If we go out, travel anywhere by train or bus, the seats are full of boys and girls, all glad to be out of the classrooms and enjoying their free time. So right now, for me, it’s a good time to be staying at home and writing.  It’s cool enough to work, damp enough to want to stay indoors, and I can get the peace and quiet I want sitting at ,y desk and enjoying the company of my characters.
So as far as I’m concerned, August can stay like this for a while. I’m glad to pause and take a breath. 

  You see,  July is always a pretty hectic time for me and my DH. We have the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference  which this year was held in  Telford, Shropshire. That was  a fun get together of so many romantic fiction writers-  or would-be romantic fiction writers – lots of great workshops, discussions, debates,  excellent meals and a little bit of wine drinking.  Oh, and a quiz – our team (myself, DH and  4 friends) won the quiz, if only by half a mark!

We had time to come home, do some laundry, arrange for a changeover of cat-sitters, and then we set off again – for Wales this time.  As always we headed for Fishguard and the wonderful Writers’ Holiday.   More workshops, more talking, more discussion, more eating – the food in Fishguard is always good and plentiful. Another quiz – which our team won again,  this time by 5 points!  Oh yes, and the usual wonderful ending to the holiday listening to the fabulous sound of a Welsh Male Voice Choir.  We were all in tears by then at the thought that so sadly  this was the last summer Writers’ Holiday. (But we will be back again for February!)

After we arrived home, we had to set out again – this time for my DH to appear and do a signing in a bookshop in York – August 1st is Yorkshire Day – so as a Yorkshireman  born and bred, his books on Yorkshire history and crime were very popular. I’m always happy to visit this wonderful city so  I didn’t even mind when the rain started – there were plenty of shops to visit!

So that was July. And I’m sure you can understand why I feel glad to snatch a break and stay inside at home and actually do some writing! I have a book to finish and send in to my editor before September – because in September it all starts again – There’s a trip to London  for the Association of Mills and Boon Authors lunch. A Conference in Liverpool  (DH is speaking there so hopefully I can find it a bit of a break ) . . . another writing weekend to plan and teach.

Funny thing is, DH and I are supposed to be retired!  But then I suppose writers never really retire.  Certainly my husband never did – he’s written more since he left his fulltime job than he ever did before.

So – summer holidays?  Er, no – we plan (fingers crossed ) for a short break later in the year. I won’t mind where or what the weather’s going to be like because I have a pile of books to be read that
would challenge the Eiffel Tower in height.

And of course, by then I will have hopefully finished off the revisions on this book and maybe even started on another . . .

What’s that they say about no peace for the wicked? Well, all I can think is that I must have been very
very bad – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope your summer is fun – whatever the weather.

I've been slow writing this year so there isn't a new title out until January - which I'll tell you about just as soon as I get the full title and cover details - but until then you can keep up to date with all my news on my web site blog page  or my Facebook page   where you can find out when I have new books appearing in the shops.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Jeannie Watt

Today for your viewing pleasure, I offer up the men of Tule's American Extreme Bull Riders Tour.  If you haven't done so already, you might have to check out these guys as they tour around the USA challenging bulls and learning a few lessons in love.

This is the first round of stories, and they are all available right now!

The next three stories, including Katherine Garbera's American Extreme Bull Riders Tour finale, will be released in August and are available for pre-order.

It was so much fun writing with so many authors and researching bull riders. Sarah and I accidentally discovered that our heroes were cousins, which we didn't know going in.

I had the great pleasure of meeting with Katherine Garbera, Megan Crane and Barbara Dunlop at the RWA conference and we had an excellent chat about bull riding guys.

So without further ado, here are the final three entries in the American Bull Rider's Tour--

Jeannie Watt writes contemporary western romance for Tule Publishing and Harlequin. She's currently in the middle of the world's longest settling-in period after moving house and hopes to someday be totally unpacked. In the meantime, she writes books. 


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Close to home – Kandy Shepherd

I love to travel but for various reasons (most to do with dollars or shortage thereof!) sadly no travel plans were made for this year. Most sadly, I didn’t get to the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Florida. It’s been a cold winter in my part of Down Under and I was looking enviously at peoples’ social media posts from the hot summer in Orlando and feeling sorry for myself.

But then I had to go spend some time in a town not too far from my home town in Sydney, Australia. My daughter was on a university placement at Lake Macquarie, near the city of Newcastle less than two hours drive away. We drove up and spent a few days with her. While it wasn’t a vacation, it was a lovely short break in a part of the world I hadn’t visited since I was a teenager. (And that's a long time ago!)

We loved the sea birds on the dock of our motel

We stayed in a family run motel right on the lake, which is more of an inland sea. Each morning we woke to a glorious view of the ever-changing sky and water. 

There's something about palm trees to give a vacation feel!

We went for walks on fabulous beaches that were practically deserted in winter.

There's something moody about a beach in winter!

 And we ate wonderful food at cafes and restaurants not far from our motel. 

This caramel stack was demolished in minutes!

It made me appreciate how sometimes the nicest places to visit can be not far from home.

Do you have a favorite place to visit or vacation that’s not too far from home?  I’d love to read your comments!

Kandy Shepherd’s most recent book Conveniently Wed to the Greek is a May 2017 release from Harlequin Romance in North America; Mills & Boon Cherish in the UK; and Mill & Boon ForeverRomance in Australia and New Zealand.

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

Visit Kandy at her website

Connect with Kandy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

We stayed at the Squid's Ink Motel at Belmont, NSW Australia.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Addison Fox: Family

I’m fortunate to come from a large family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws – all combine to add a dimension and layer to my life that have helped mold and shape me into the person I am. Recently, we had a family reunion. The purpose was to welcome our newest family member, born in June, to the ever-growing fold, but it also served to get us together and celebrate the joys of a shared past—and future.

For me, this sense of family and history – nearly all of my great grandparents and one of my grandparents immigrated from Europe in the early 20th century – are a part of who I am. It’s shaped how I see the world and its certainly shaped the themes in my book. Over and over, family plays a role – the families we’re born with and the ones we make on the journey of life.

A sense of family is also something I’m drawn to in the books I read. Trilogies of brothers or long running series about a given family always make the top of my to-be-read pile. It’s something I understand and connect with and it is something I find great joy in reading.

What about you? Are there themes you come back to over and over in the books you enjoy? Is there a topic that you find you always come back to in the books that end up securing a place of honor on your keeper shelf?

Thanks for joining me today!


Despite early ambitions of being a diver, a drummer or a doctor, Addison Fox happily discovered she was more suited to life as a writer. She lives in New York and - thankfully - doesn't have to operate on anyone. You can find her at her home on the web at Her latest release, FOREVER YOURS, a novella in her Brooklyn Brotherhood trilogy from St. Martin’s Swerve, is out now. You can visit her at her website at

Friday, August 04, 2017

Nicole Locke - Birthday Giveaway and Release!

I’m celebrating this month.

First off, it’s my mum’s birthday today. To say how grateful I am for her in my life isn’t enough. Happy Birthday, mum! Love you lots. Really do.

I’m also celebrating the release of Rhain and Helissent’s story: The Knight’s Scarred Maiden.

Let me tell you a bit about it.

Mercenary knight Rhain wanders the lands, fights for coin, and is haunted by his past. Then in a wreck of an inn, he tastes a cake made sublime with honey, and rescues a woman he wants more than any sweet. But with a vengeful warlord pursuing him, he’s merely a dead man awaiting the sword.

Helissent’s family died in a tragic fire, and she bears the scars for all to see. When she’s forced from her home, she bargains with her cakes for the traveling mercenaries to take her to a different town, even though, disfigured and shamed she survived when her family didn’t, she knows she’ll never have a better life.

Along the way, both Rhain and Helissent reveal their pasts, and begin to long for a future. But with the enemy pursuing them both, is it too late?

There’s so much to this story. A fun fact would be that the heroine, Helissent, is a baker. She compares her struggles to failed bakes, and thinks of people like ingredients. She also talks in baking terminology, which confuses many a discussion. I loved discovering how she thought.

So I had the bright idea to try a few of her Medieval recipes. Let’s just say I had a few failed bakes of my own, and I shared my misadventures at the Harlequin Blog:
If you want to follow the Blog Tour from August 1st to August 25th, where I talk more about the story, what's on my desk and even in my closet, the schedule is here:

Now, to celebrate the release, I’m giving a signed copy of The Knight’s Scarred Maiden to one randomly chosen person who comments to this post.

The question is: How do you like celebrating special occasions?

The contest is internationally available and I’ll keep the comments open until August 22nd when I announced the winner!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Susan Sands: Hottest--Happiest Place on Earth!

I just returned from the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Orlando. Disney at the
end of July ain't for sissies, y'all. The conference was held at the Dolphin resort, adjacent to its sister hotel, the Swan. Our rooms were located in the Swan, wouldn't you know? We made the "hot walk" several time a day between the two, where my sunglasses fogged up and my deodorant was challenged in ways that you don't want to hear about.

As always, RWA did an amazing job of hosting a few thousand of us writers, and keeping everyone darting to and fro to super informative sessions and workshops hosted by the industries' most savvy authors and professionals. My takeaway is, as always, that things are rapidly changing in the publishing world, and if you close your eyes, you might miss it. Don't chase trends. They will be gone by the time you arrive. Nothing is truly dead. Not chick lit, not paranormal, nothing. The names might change, but it's all semantics.

So far, I've managed to avoid the conference crud this time. Fingers crossed it doesn't catch up with me. I'm feeling a little discombobulated, though. I turned in a book I'd been frantically trying to finish just before I left, and now that I'm home, it's strange not to have that deadline looming. Of course, my daughter is a senior in high school, so there are many other obvious deadlines coming up, not to mention more college visits and the pace that is senior year. She's my third, and final child. I've now got one out of college, one in college, and one about to finish high school. The empty nest is just around the corner. We can discuss that later.

I hope everyone is enjoying their last sliver of summer.

My first book, Again, Alabama, is still free in all digital formats! Look for Christmas, Alabama coming up for pre-order very soon!!


Monday, July 31, 2017

Christmas in July? What?

    I know that, for many people, it's almost painful to even think about Christmas in July. I confess - I'm usually one of the last-minute-louies who don't think about it until it's breathing down my neck in early December. I also know that many people are already planning and shopping for the holiday that won't arrive for 5 more months.

   Down at the Jersey shore (the REAL Jersey shore, not the one on the show), many families who hail from different parts of Philly celebrate Christmas in July because they won't be together at holiday time. In Wildwood, several blocks decorate their houses, turn on Christmas music and exchange gifts during July.

For most of us, though, it's hard to even think about winter, snow and Christmas.And when summer is here and temps and humidity are high and heavy, it's even more difficult to get into the Christmas spirit.

But, authors must be able to shift their seasons when they write. Sometimes, we have little control over the way our stories are scheduled to be written and released and we find ourselves writing Christmas stories in the heat of the summer and summer stories in the freezing temps and snow of winter.

Like I have just done.

Last year, I was asked to write a Highland holiday novella by a publisher and snapped at the chance to write for them. Though completed some time ago, I've just been working on revisions and have been writing scenes of swirling snow, Christmas (Christ's Mass at that time) and Hogmanay. Each chapter into the story brought winter more fully on the lands and, though I was sweating through a heat wave here in NJ, my characters were trudging through FEET of snow and making their way through their daily lives in the Highlands of Scotland. The funny part is that I found myself dressing for their weather instead of my own!

Now that the story is in and done, I can settle back firmly into summer....and enjoy my 4+ months until I have to deal with Christmas.... Not really - the Christmas stories, books, collections, etc. will begin to 'hit the shelves' in early October so my focus will be on it by then!

So - do you begin thinking of Christmas early? Or are you a procrastinator like me? More important, do you like to read Christmas romance stories, novellas, collections? I tend to read the anthologies of novellas or short stories during the busy holiday season - I can finish one story in a sitting amidst the crazy schedule.  Let me know and I'll choose a person at random to receive a copy of my upcoming holiday story and a little goodie or two, too!

   Terri's Christmas story - which could be described as 'The Highland Harlot's Happy Holidays'! is titled A HIGHLANDER'S HOPE and part of CHRISTMAS IN KILTS, from SMP Swerve. The collection will be released on 10/31/2017. Terri's story is part of her MacKendimen Clan series and features one of the characters in ONCE FORBIDDEN, Book 2. A LOVE THROUGH TIME, Book 1, is currently available only in Lords of the Highlands, a special Amazon exclusive boxed set. Visit her website for lots more info. 

(and Merry July!)