Friday, October 28, 2016

Until We Meet Again - Michelle Monkou

This weekend marks a special moment when I will attend my mother's memorial and celebration of her full life. While sadness always underscores life altering moments like this, I can't help but be grateful for having her in my life.

Some belief systems say that we pick our parents as opportunities to learn and elevate our humanity or spirituality. That sounds awesome if you've had a great relationship with parents...right? But I often think about it and wonder if we mutually picked each other, because what were we hoping to learn in our 50 years together.

The bond between my mother and me is more special (IMO) because she adopted me immediately after my birth. My parents had decided to step in and assist my birth mother with the process of taking care of me. Love, protection, guidance and all the positive parenting attributes were showered upon me pretty early on in my life.

Words can't express fully what she accomplished in her life as a woman, wife, and mother. But here's is a snippet of who she was:

Doreen Monkou was born on June 2, 1932, in Guyana, to the late Ada Bancroft. Doreen was Ada’s only child. She attended St. Joseph’s high school and upon graduation moved to England.

While living in England, Doreen met Charles Monkou and they were married in 1958, where they lived in Balham, London for fourteen years with their two children: Malcolm and Michelle.
Doreen worked in England and the United States where she made her final home with her family. 

She was nurse’s aide for most of her later years working for Bel Pre Nursing Home, the Jewish Council for the Aging in Rockville, Maryland and in private care, with many families who required her services for their elderly family members.

Doreen loved to travel. Her adventures beyond trips around the U.S. took her to most islands in the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, Holland and Canada. During the quiet time, she enjoyed reading Maya Angelou’s works, O magazine and anything Oprah-related. She was an avid fan of Harlem Dance Theater and went to see their latest shows each year at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She enjoyed a surprise treat with front row seats to see the original cast in the South African play Sarafina. Her wish to see Tina Turner live came true—twice. Doreen lived a full life and will truly be missed by all.

Doreen entered into eternal rest on August 2, 2016. She leaves to cherish her memory, her children: Malcolm (Donsha) and Michelle (Bryan), her five grandchildren: Kristina, Morgan, Gabriella, Lex, and Amber, her great-granddaughter: Aveigh, along with extended family and friends.

Rest in Grace, mom.

Michelle (aka your chatterbox daughter)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Reading Manifesto

Thank you for visiting the blog!
Today’s post was inspired by a blog post at Broke by Books, after I went looking for new ways to entertain you. (I do try.) I read a post about potential topics for blogging to a bookish community, and one of the suggestions was to write your Reading Manifesto. I was intrigued.

Of course, my first thought was that I don’t have one. I read so widely and eclectically, what could I possibly have to say that wasn’t too broad and general? Yet, the idea niggled. I went back and read the prompt more carefully, and Sarah, the author of the piece, suggested writing about “your identity as a reader, your challenges and personal missions, values, and where you see yourself in the reading world.”

Surely I could do that. So here goes…

The Olympians
As a reader, I am interested in fiction and non-fiction alike. I started reading to entertain myself, but educate myself. I took out mountains of non-fiction books, studying broad topics like ballet or western art, then narrowing my focus to art movements I liked. I studied wines for a summer in middle school (why, I wonder? And what did my parents think of all my books on wine making?) and was obsessed with learning as many pantheons as possible once I discovered the Greeks and Romans didn’t have a monopoly on interesting gods.
even in grade school, I turned to the library to

The Christmas gift I lobbied for last year.
For long stretches at a time, fiction took a backseat to my need to learn. And to this day, I still believe in scooping up lots of non-fiction for learning in the most fun way I know. Last year, for Christmas, I asked my husband for a copy Vatican: All the Paintings by Anja Grebe. It’s a gorgeous book that I keep at the breakfast bar, where I learn about the Borgia-commissioned artworks over my bowl of Lucky Charms.

My biggest personal challenge as a reader is the loss of brick and mortar stores. I really miss easy access to a huge bookstore. I love browsing the shelves to see what’s out and what other people are buying. It’s a different experience than a library and I miss it. However, one of my great reading joys has comforted me in the last ten years as bookstores declined. At the same time, my book club world opened up and I’ve learned a lot about the books I’ve read by sharing them with friends and talking about them afterward.
Tonight's dinner inspiration

My fiction reading serves whole other purposes, providing escape, adventure and greater understanding of human nature. I can’t imagine a life without books. My inner world is a place that comforts me when the real world lets me down. I lose myself in books. I learn from books. I explore new worlds in books. Even for the most practical of chores—like cooking dinner tonight—I open up a cookbook for inspiration.

There you have it, friends… my reading manifesto. Tell me what kinds of books populate your reading shelf and I’ll give one random poster a copy of my holiday romance 2-1 with Tawny Weber, Undercover Festivities.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Music Behind What the Gambler Risks

It's no secret that music plays a big part in all of my books, whether they are stand-alone books or parts of a series. Music actually plays a big part in my life - from the time we wake up in the morning until we go to bed, music is usually playing somewhere in the house.

What kind of music is the best music? All of it, really, depending on what else is going on. When I'm cooking, I'll shuffle through all 1432 songs on my iPhone. I have a playlist for when I'm working out, another for when I'm waiting in the carpool pick-up line at bebe's school. When I'm drafting, I'll either have my white-noise app playing (a mix of nature and mellow guitar music) or turn on the light classical station on our TV.

As I'm drafting, though, I'm thinking about pop, country, oldies, rock, and even holiday songs that fit my characters or the plot or a specific scene. And, when the draft is turned in and I'm beginning to think about polishing and revising, those songs become a new playlist - one that gets a pretty heavy workout of its own.

I'm just finishing up my Billionaire Cowboys trilogy - book three released earlier this month - and for that series I actually had a series-specific playlist, and each book had it's own playlist, too. Some of the artists that made the series playlist include Elvis (how could he not? the books were set in Las Vegas, after all!), Kenny Chesney, Smokey Robinson, Train, and Wilson Phillips. Here's a peek into the songs that spoke to me while I was writing What the Gambler Risks: 

Brothers Osborne - 21 Summer
Zac Brown Band - Beautiful Drug
Ashes Remain - On My Own
A Thousand Horses - Smoke & This Ain't No Drunk Dial
Chase Rice - MMM Girl
Taylor Swift - I Knew You Were Trouble
Dierks Bentley - Riser

But the song that got the most play? Sugarland's Run - here's the video, which I absolutely really evokes both Jase and Sabrina, for me:

Okay, readers, your turn to share - does music play a part in  your life? Who are some of your favorite artists? 

Kristina's third Billionaire Cowboys book, What the Gambler Risks, is available now from Crimson Romance. Here is a bit more about Kristina's book:

What the Gambler Risks: 

Best-selling author Kristina Knight's Billionaire Cowboys are back for one final ride with this seductive story of long-simmering feelings and hot Vegas nights.

Twenty-something ice queen Sabrina Smith enjoys the fame and fortune she's found writing self-help books for a largely female audience. Her readers hang on every word of how the Vegas Virgin - an unflattering and inaccurate moniker given to her by a local shock jock - juggles dating, working, and friendships in Sin City.

And that's why Jase Reeves spells trouble.

Jase knows Sabrina's secret - that she's not nearly as cold as she would like people to think - and he's through keeping it. He didn't intend to have a one-night stand with the Vegas Virgin, but now he can't get her out of his head. And he can't keep living this lie.

With Jase back at the tables in Vegas, Sabrina has one goal: stay away from the handsome gambler before he melts her career - and her heart.

Buy What the Gambler Risks: Amazon  B&N  Kobo  iBooks

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Friday, October 21, 2016

Barbara Ankrum: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like October - and a Giveaway!

October’s finally here and with it comes awesome fall weather, changing leaves in the mid-west and (Tah-dah!) my newest, shiny book from Tule Publishing, THE COWGIRL’S CHRISTMAS WISH. I’m so excited about this book, not only because it’s my very first Christmas book, (why did I wait so long??) but because my wonderful publisher gave me a beautiful cover for this book, designed by the talented Lee Hyat herself! Isn’t it gorgeous?

When I started writing this book, (the third book in my Canadays of Montana series) I only knew a couple of things. One, there would be a feather involved. Two, a reindeer. And three, there would be some mystical, Christmas-y magic afoot. Now, I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, so I hope you’ll buy it to see what I got up to with Dr. Ben Tyler and my third Canaday sister, Eve. These two were the definition of opposites attract and did not make it easy for me. But as is true with all my books, I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with them both as I wrote their story. In this one, I explore themes near and dear to me about faith, destiny and choices, and how in control of things we really are. I still find it fascinating that the things that call to me in my own life, the questions that haunt me (or sometimes, bless me) are the same ones that end up finding their way into my writing. So, when I say this was a personal kind of story, I mean the themes my characters explored really touched me and I hope they do the same for you.

THE COWGIRL’S CHRISTMAS WISH is available for presale everywhere e-books are sold and will appear on your e-reader on October 24th! Just in time to get a little holiday escape in before the November craziness sets in. I love hearing from readers and hope you’ll let me know what you think.
Here’s a little sneak peek of my book THE COWGIRL’S CHRISTMAS WISH:

He slid his hands down her neck and bracketed her shoulders from behind, staying any intentions she might have had to ask for a kiss.  For a long moment, he didn’t speak. Didn’t say anything. As if he were trying to find some point of balance he’d lost.  Then he pressed his mouth against the side of her throat in a kiss that reached all the way to her toes.
 “I promised I wouldn’t do this,” he said against her skin, sliding his mouth up the length of her neck.
He nibbled on her earlobe and Eve felt her knees go weak.
“You did. You absolutely did.” She let her head fall back against his shoulder. Heat smoldered through her.
“With good reason,” he added, dipping his tongue into the edge of her ear.
“What reason was that again?”
His arms curled around her waist. “I can’t remember.”
“Oh, wait. Wait. It’s coming to me. We’re trying to get out, unscathed.”
“Impossible,” he said, “and, I’m thinking… highly overrated.”
“Is it?” She rested her hands on his strong forearms. “Why, again, is that?”
He turned her in his arms. “Because no one gets out unscathed. No one.”
Dropping his mouth onto hers, his kiss this time was almost nothing like the last one. This kiss was not apologetic or even tentative, but, instead, full of all the angst and craziness of the last few days. All the moments he’d looked in her eyes and admitted there was more to them than simple friendship.
His tongue plundered her mouth and she welcomed him in. She tasted the sweetness of his breath and the snow-fresh air from outside on him. But all she could think was, finally. Threading her fingers into his hair, she pulled him closer still and any space left between them vanished. No mistaking his desire for her as it pressed up against her. Dampness gathered between her legs.
No one gets out unscathed. True enough. For she could already feel her heart breaking with the hunger of his kiss.
He backed her up against the bed and together they dropped down against the mattress, her atop him. Her breasts pressed up against his chest and in this dress, she imagined she was practically indecent.
Breaking the kiss, she swallowed thickly before lifting her head to look down at him. “So,” she asked, with a small grin, “what are you saying?”
“I’m trying not to talk,” he said, still breathing hard from the kiss. “Talking just screws everything up. I’m better with my hands.”

To celebrate, I’ll give a copy of A COWGIRL’S CHRISTMAS WISH to one lucky commenter. Just tell me your favorite part of the holidays—whichever one you celebrate. Winner will be chosen at 5pm on 10/23 to give everyone a chance to enter. Please check back to see if you’ve won. Winner will have until 10/25 to respond. After that, I’ll choose another winner! Good luck!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Maggie Marr: Strong Women

Recently I was thinking about the women I write in my stories. I was thinking about who they are, what they want and trying to see a common thread with regards to their character. It's interesting to me that I found a couple common elements in all my books. First, the women I write usually aren't, in the beginning of the story, aware of their strength. I see them as strong and perhaps even the reader sees them as strong from the beginning but they (the character) may not believe that they are strong even though they all seem to have some aspect of their lives together. Whether it be that they are smart, articulate, or have a business, all the women in my books have something going for them but they can't yet acknowledge or maybe realize their innate strength. 

They all have a flaw--as do each of us! That flaw is what is preventing them from fully realizing who they are and it is that flaw that isn't allowing them to fall in love with the hero in the book. My hero's don't *fix* the women, as I don't believe another person can *fix* you. I believe that each of us must confront our flaws on our own, but what this hero does (and what I am blessed to have happened in my own personal life) is this hero provides these women a safe space in which to confront their flaw. Almost as though he loves them through the flaw. 

Finally the women I write embrace their sexuality. Even the women I write who at the beginning of the book have not experienced sex, it isn't because they are afraid of sex or they think sex is wrong or dirty--it is often because they've chosen to wait for sex, or they never met or dated a man they wanted to sleep with. My women embrace their sexuality, they see their sexuality as powerful and an expression of pleasure and love. 

All of the above came into my mind as I prepared to write my latest book Wonderf*$k A provocative title with a provocative premise. 

I've enjoyed writing this book which is a romantic comedy. Both the hero and the heroine are fabulous, confused, funny people who think they are doing all the right things and also avoiding love only to discover that love is exactly what they need. Wonderf*$k is available for pre-order now and will release December 22, 2016  I hope you enjoy reading about the Wonderf*$k as much as I've enjoyed writing the story. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Susan Stephens: Excitement in Sheffield

And a wonderful event to celebrate all things romance...

I was honoured to speak at this event. Part of Sheffield’s Festival of The Mind, I sat on a panel alongside editors, academics, and another romance author. It’s only when we talked about what romance means to us and heard readers expressing their thoughts that I truly realised what a wonderful life-enhancing experience we’re all engaged in. Love is a unifying force that brings people together from all across the world, and long may the world of romance prosper.

The general opinion of the academics was that love stories reflect the fashions, manners and politics of their time, and as such are extremely valuable records. Readers talked of how they escaped into the stories, and how those stories helped them, cheered them, warmed them, and left them with an optimistic feeling. It was humbling for me to hear this, though I recognised at the time, that I feel the same. There’s nothing better than a good love story to lift the spirits and put a smile on my face, and I know they do the same for you.

Here are some pictures from that memorable day. The event was held in an antique Spiegal tent, and you can see that the setting for our talk was quite spectacular.

Here’s the interior of the ‘tent’, (which was actually quite a solid structure), before our talk began.

Originally used for burlesque shows, the images depicted on the outside of the Spiegal tent were quite bizarre, but striking and beautiful in their way.

This image is particularly disturbing – note the claws on the little cherub, and those blood-red lips, are actually red with blood.

My next love story tackles a real dilemma for both the hero and heroine. A marriage of convenience—with a difference—as it’s my heroine Rosie Clifton who proposes marriage to proud Spanish grandee, Don Xavier Del Rio.

Rosie will do anything to protect her share of the island she loves and the people who live there. She will even marry this arrogant, heartless man, if she must.

I’m also very excited about my Christmas book, which heralds the start of a brand new red-hot polo series...

 With a hard Russian hero just for you...

This is book 1 of 4 in my new romantic suspense series, Blood and Thunder.
1. Christmas Tsar
2. Argentinian Billionaire
3. Spanish Gold
4. Cold Cache

Release date for Christmas Tsar is November 8th but it is available for pre-order now!

Are you signed up to my Newsletter for regular giveaways and scoops?

I look forward so much to seeing you there!

Speak soon,
Love Susan x

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I know, I know! It's too early!

But shhh... Christmas is coming.

I know it's too early to think about that, but I'm excited. The book releases on Oct 27th and I've been waiting so patiently. It's a particular favourite of mine, partly because I was able to go back and visit Marietta, but also because the hero completely stole my heart.

You see, Quincy didn't know he had a son until the boy's mother passed away. Then he got a call from a lawyer that he had custody. He's kind of freaking out. So he hires Nicki and she's cute and funny and I just adore her. In fact, I loved the story so much, I had a book trailer made.

Watch Book Trailer Here

And, since the story revolves around an Advent calendar of activities, I even had a designer create a calendar you can print out and put together with your own little elves.

The one on the right is what I took to the designer and the one on the left is the almost-finalized mock-up. The kit includes the pages you print and colour, some recipes and some ideas for other activities and crafts. You'll find the link in the back of the book. 

So you see, Christmas is coming. And it's going to be a good one. Want to be sure you get this craft? Pre-order the book or join Dani's newsletter. (You'll also get a free download of my short ebook romance, Cruel Summer as a welcome gift.)

His Christmas Miracle, Montana Born Books, Oct 27, 2016


Nook | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay 

And if you are thinking it's too early for Christmas, His Christmas Miracle will put you in the spirit. I promise.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Jumping the gun, Harlequin's mega sale and paradors in Andalucia

This morning, my twitter feed brought the lovely news that BookScream  had featured AN IDEAL HUSBAND as one of their bargains of the day for 14 October  at $1.99. In fact all my novels are for a limited time $1.99 as part of the Harlequin mega digital  backlist sale. The sale was supposed to start on 18 October but some e-book retailers have jumped the gun and discounted early. Harlequin wanted to keep things quiet until the 18th but…I couldn’t resist sharing after my book was highlighted. The sales officially runs until 25 October but who knows if it will last longer with e-book retailers.
Malaga parador's view

On to paradors and AndalucĂ­a. At this point last month Spanish sunshine and soft sea breezes filled my days, instead of typical British autumn weather . My husband and I discovered paradors some years ago – these are state run hotels which feature comfort, good regional food in stunning locations (often former government buildings that have been put to good use).  They are quite good value.
This year, it was southern Andalucia with Cadiz and Mazagon being the outstanding highlights. Some legends claim that Hercules founded Cadiz and that it served inspiration for tales of Atlantis.
El Rocio near Mazagon -- a town with unpaved streets 
It is certainly old and the region has had earthquakes in the past. The buildings actually hum with insect life.  The Phoenicians  were there and people have lived there ever since. The market still uses the Roman market with its colonnades, for example.  The entire coast was very wealthy during the Roman period because of the fish. It used to produce most of the fish sauce (garum) that the Romans used to season their food. More recently  Nelson bottled up the Spanish fleet in the harbour. However, now it is a bit of a forgotten backwater which slumbers in the sunshine.
The Caduz parador was recently rebuilt and with its infinity pools, electronic blinds and glass cube rooms reminded me of a James Bond movie.  At the restaurant I made two discovered — first sea urchins taste great if someone else has prepared them and that ice cold Pedro Ximinenez served with rich black coffee is a perfect dessert. Pedro Ximenez is a very sweet sherry which tastes like you are drinking  raisins but it is best served ice cold. It should be more popular other places as it is excellent. If you ever get a chance, try it.
View from Ronda parador's balcony
One of my husband’s great joys is bird watching. We tend to take holidays in places which are good  for it. When we arrived in Mazagon which is further along the coast towards Portugal and has golden beaches, my husband set up his telescope so he could do a bit of birdwatching. A man ambled up and said in a tone of great delight –oh you have my book.  By chance we had run into the man who wrote a series of books on where to watch birds in Spain.  In some ways it was a James Bond moment because of  course Ian Fleming got the inspiration for the name from a birdwatching guide. I had him sign the book because it is always pleasant to encounter authors in the wild.  
We also went to Ronda and had a spectacular view from the bedroom balcony. There was a music festival so we were serenaded by a harpist and singer. They mostly played  1960’s folk tunes. SO it was very much figure out the song while watching various birds glide past.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her next book SOLD TO THE VIKING WARRIOR will be published in February 2017. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

Friday, October 14, 2016

Christina Hollis—You Can Do It If You Really Try...

Whenever I’m asked to talk about my work, someone in the audience always says: ‘I wish I could write a book…’

There’s only one answer to that. You can—so get started!  Writing a book is no picnic, but I've found it’s a lot easier than trying to lose the weight you’d put on from taking part in a picnic. 

Writing is a great pastime. It's helped me in lots of ways. I’ve met loads of good friends through local, national and international writing groups. Pouring out your thoughts onto paper or a screen is a wonderfully freeing experience. Many years ago, I had problems beyond the dreams of analysts—or so I thought.  I piled them onto one of my troubled heroines. Reading through and refining her life story a hundred times gave me new insight into my own, real world. From that moment, things looked up for me.  They got even better when that heroine’s troubles won me a short story prize. I was on the road to recovery, thanks to the healing power of words.

In my third novel, One Night In His Bed, the hero Garett tells Sienna:

‘You can have everything you want.  Just reach out.  There are no limits…’
Writing fiction is a great illustration of this. You know the kind of book you like to read.  That’s the story you’re best placed to tell, so why not give it a go? Write from your heart, and you’ll engage with your audience. It’s always easier to work with themes and characters that inspire and interest you.  That’s why I write about complex men and independent women. Some days the rain never stops, and all I want to do is hibernate. That’s when I add exotic settings to the mix. Putting all these things together, and devising plot twists to stop my hero and heroine reaching their happy-ever-after ending too soon is the perfect distraction from everyday life.   
If you need any more encouragement to start a writing project, investigate the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. It’s the chance to have your manuscript, or its first few chapters, reviewed by professional writers. You can find out all about it here.
Find out more at
Start now, and if you only write a hundred words a day between now and the New Year, you’ll have produced around eight thousand words. Polish and perfect them, and you’ve got a submission. 

I'll be posting my collection of hints and tips for Writing Your Book on my blog over the next few months. You can find the first one here, and for more writing news, tips and extracts, join me on my Facebook author page at

When she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping, Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women.  Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold nearly three million books worldwide. 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, and from in the US.