Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Christmas is coming...I'm not ready...

Im late for Christmas. 

My decorations are still in their hidey-hole in the roof, my lights are sitting in their boxes, the Christmas hanging basket that Ive adopted instead of a wreath is still in the shed.

The Christmas short story Id planned to write is still just a bundle of notes.

What is up at Fielding Towers I hear you shout?

Nothing bad, its just that weve had builders working in the house for weeks. Weeks of dust. Weeks of noise. Weeks in which everything has been out of place and upside down.

But finally the room is done, bricklayers have done their stuff. Electricians have worked their black arts. The plumber (a romantic who read one my books and fell in love with reading again) has moved and installed radiators. The painters have given me beautiful walls that are just waiting for pictures and I have battled the dust ninjas and fought them to an honourable draw you can never win.

My grandchildren are coming this weekend (they dont know it but theyre going to Disney Paris for Christmas!) and so now I have to get cracking and sorting out the decorations and putting up my tree.

There are gifts to be wrapped. Cards to be written, treats to be baked. Oh, and the small matter of a broken tooth to be fixed the dangers of eating toast.

There is also a book to be written, but not this week. This week is spoken for.

I hope your holiday preparations are in better shape than mine.

Have a wonderful Christmas (with a ton of books under the tree) and may 2017 be a happy and peaceful year for everyone.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Addison Fox: Traditions

I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that you could ask just about anyone about the traditions they’ve grown up with and/or created in adulthood and they could give you several right off the top of their head. Specific holidays celebrated in a certain way with family. A favorite dish that makes it to every Thanksgiving table. A vacation ritual that is followed each and every trip. I’ve got several of my own and I look forward to all of them. But one that’s become a personal favorite is my annual “holiday girls’ dinner.”

Twenty years ago I moved to Dallas. I was in my early 20s and was fortunate to make a group of good friends very quickly. I moved in February so by the time the holidays rolled around I had a group of friends I was actively spending time with. As we were all in the same boat – young and watching our budgets – we decided that instead of buying small gifts for each other, we’d do it up and go to a nice restaurant as our gift to each other and to ourselves.

This tradition has stuck. Although some of the faces at the dinner have changed, for 20 years these are the women I celebrate my life with. We’ve seen each other through life’s ups and downs and I know that will continue, no matter what.

What I also see, when I look around that table now, are women who are older and wiser. Women who have now had some life experience and some miles on our years. We’re not old, but we’re not the young ones any longer. We talk about aging parents and mortgages and friends who are divorcing. We also talk about children’s accomplishments peppered in with our own. We talk about new homes and exotic vacations. We talk about the interesting people we’ve met. Our conversation has changed along with our lives and we’re changing with each other.

There’s something so rewarding each year as I look around that table. These are my friends. The sisters of my heart. These women are my tribe. Holiday girls’ dinner is a tradition I am so deeply grateful for. More important, it’s the people I celebrate that tradition with who are the true source of my gratitude.

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 two releases, AT LAST from St. Martin’s Swerve and A HUNTER UNDER THE MISTLETOE from Harlequin Nocturne are currently available. You can visit her at her website at

Monday, December 05, 2016

Roxanne Snopek: The Chocolate Cure & Christmas Letters

Hello readers!

It’s time for the Annual Christmas Letters to start arriving. I don’t write one, figuring that if you don’t already know what’s going on with us, we don’t like each other that much anyway.

Plus, I’m always depressed after hearing about how great everyone else’s lives are. After all, I didn’t put in a pool last year… or save a whale/cure Chlamydia/get my PhD/bear famous offspring/visit an orphanage/run for office/kick the booze/etc.

So, if I DID write a Christmas letter, it would probably go something like this:

(Tongue firmly planted in cheek)

Merry Christmas from the Champion Family!

To our distant relatives and obligatory acquaintances:

Since we won’t be there to partake of the Sweet-Potato-Brussel-Sprout Delight with you in person, we’ll share the highlights of the past year like this.

First of all, our best news of all: that thing on Jumbo’s neck turned out to be benign. What a blessing! They won’t take it off, something about insurance, so I made him a scarf. You can still see the outline, but it helps hide the smell and it’s pretty dashing, if I say to myself.

Also, we’re officially empty-nesters now! Between Jumbo’s traveling five days a week and having the trailer to ourselves, we’re like newlyweds again! Although I must give credit to our court-appointed therapist, who helped us each grow and develop personally, as people, and as individuals, too.

Our oldest, RuBella, is a new gal these days, since they changed her medication. She’s now pursuing her dream of becoming a taxidermist. If what she did with the neighbor’s dearly departed pet raccoon, Stink-Eye, is any indication, she’s found her path! And they said she shouldn’t be around knives!
Just goes to show you, doctors aren’t always right! LOL! (Don’t worry, sis, I know Johnny is better than the average doctor. We’re so lucky to have such an accomplished, handsome, sweet nephew in our gene pool. I KNOW.)

The twins, Calico and Fortrel, had a big year, too, between getting the ankle bracelets off and passing their urine tests! Cali, the brainiac, is studying for her piercing certificate, and Forty, the maternal one, is going after her kids again. If she wins visitation rights, I’ll be a grandma! And me so young!
Though if they find the father of the third one, we might be SOL, so I hope he stays “disappeared.” I loved him dearly but, to be honest, he was a bit of a felon.

The other twins, Beau and Deau might not be doctors, (LOL, love you sis!) but we’re still proud of them! They’ve really turned things around with their latest business venture! We’re not too sure of the details; first it was agricultural. Now they say it involves cooking. Who knows these days? And not to brag, but it sure brings in the cash! Just last week, they bought me a skillet!

Perfect timing because since the menopause, I’ve been a wee bit moody and I find throwing cookware helps. It’s great exercise! LOL! And thanks to the hot flashes, I haven’t had to plug in the heat yet this winter! Bonus!

And then there’s our little after-thought, Pru-Marie-Suzette. PMS is such a blessing! She’s off on another one of her crazy adventures to parts unknown, with funds unknown, and her new guy, also unknown. The police know him, though, so that eases our minds. It’s hard to let go of your babies, isn’t it?

As for me, I’ve been restless, what Jumbo on the road and my chicks all launched, so guess what? I started my own business! I’ll have more details when the kit arrives but let me just say it’s a product I believe in 110%! I’ll be making $4000 a week, from my own home! (Don’t tell Jumbo… but this year he’s finally getting that fancy Blackberry he’s had his eye on!)

If you get a chance, stop by for some home-brew. Don’t worry, success hasn’t changed us one bit!
Love, and Merry Christmas from the Champions

And to read about a slightly-less-crazy family, watch for Roxanne’s upcoming book THE CHOCOLATE CURE, coming January 4, 2017, as part of the Love at the Chocolate Shop series from Tule Publishing.


No more chocolate! No more meddling! No more men!

New Year’s resolutions are great. Announcing them in a crowded bar, with a chocolate martini in her hand? Not Maddie Cash’s finest moment. It’s time this new realtor got serious about her life and this time, she means it.

But when hospital volunteering lands her at the bedside of bruised and battered Mick Meyer, who has no knowledge of Maddie’s reputation – and no memory of the kiss he begged from her during that long, pain-filled night, her best-laid plans are put in jeopardy. It’s not just his sweet tooth that’s tempting her.

The hunky bush pilot with the concussion has an old family property to unload. Making this sale could be Maddie’s professional salvation. But when Mick turns on the charm, she’s in danger of forgetting all her best intentions... on chocolate... on meddling... and especially on men.

Available for pre-order NOW:

Sunday, December 04, 2016

CJ Carmichael: Goodbye for Now

I’ve been a guest blogger here on Tote bags ‘n’ blogs for a good many years and this month I want to take the opportunity to thank the woman behind the scenes…Lee Hyat. They say writing is a lonely business, but every smart author has a support team behind them to help with the many steps involved in publishing and promoting their novels.

For me, Lee has been one of these important people. She has designed some of my most beautiful book covers…like these ones for my Carrigans of the Circle C series:

She has designed graphics for me as well, including this beauty that she created to promote a 99 cent book sale on Close To Her Heart:

In addition Lee has posted numerous reviews on my books, chatted me up on Facebook and Twitter, and basically been incredibly supportive, pleasant and lovely at every turn.

So thank you Lee for all you’ve done to help me and other authors like me in this crazy romance writing world. This may be my last guest blog for a bit, but I know I’ll be back because I’ll miss you too much!

C.J. Carmichael

Friday, December 02, 2016

Susan Sands: Birthing a New Book

It's all beginning again! The exciting process of birthing a bright, new, shiny book baby is still a pretty new one for me and I wonder if other authors still get as starry-eyed as I'm feeling right now. I signed the contract, turned in the manuscript, and I've just received the cover art fact sheet asking all the questions about my setting, story, and characters. I love that my input and opinion really matters to my publisher, and thus far, they've knocked it out of the park when it comes to creativity and beautiful cover art.

Now, I wait for my fabulous editor to read the book and get back to me with her thoughts and suggestions. That's the hard part, isn't it? The waiting. And hoping. Hoping she will connect with my story the way I've written it. Hoping once again I've done my characters justice and didn't let it get too far off the rails. Will this one be too suspenseful? Sexy enough? Too sexy? So, I wait...

The self-doubt creeps in every time the book leaves my hands and goes across the net into someone else's court. (I just lost a tennis match today in three sets, so tennis is my analogy for the moment).

I can't wait to see the mock-ups for the new cover. It's like waiting for Christmas! Oh, wait, it's really almost Christmas too! I love the big reveal on social media to my friends and readers. I think I love almost everything about the steps in the process. When one works as hard and for as long as I did to realize this dream, I don't see how I could ever not appreciate all of it. Yes, it's hard most of the time, but this is the fun of it--seeing the fruits of your labors come to life.

Thanks so much to the team at the Tule Publishing Group, Lee Hyatt, who publishes this blog and has designed my covers, and to Sinclair Sawhney, my lovely editor, who took a chance on me. I'm just all full of giddy today as I await the next steps toward book #3!!

Hopefully, I'll have a title and cover to reveal next month!

Have a safe and very happy holiday season!!

Susan Sands


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Gifts of Love - 'The Desert King's Secret Heir' by Annie West
Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to be sharing news of my current release THE DESERT KING'S SECRET HEIR, and to muse a little on one of the themes that found its way into the story - love tokens.

I was talking with one of my children recently about how special it is when someone prepares a meal for you, not because you paid for one but because they care for you. That led to a discussion about the many ways we show love, with gifts or favours, with actions as well as words. And that led me straight back to my desert king! Hey, I'm an author - of course I spend my time thinking about my characters.

This is a reunion story about a couple who were lovers for a brief time years before but were parted in difficult circumstances. When they meet again, under the scrutiny of the world's press, Idris is now a royal sheikh. He demands Arden marry him for the sake of the son she'd had and who Idris hadn't known about. They embark on a marriage of convenience, each believing the other couldn't possibly love them. 

I don't think I'm giving away secrets if I tell you they're both wrong! Along the way the reader sees the various ways they begin to reveal their love in actions if not words.

But one of the tokens of affection that becomes a real theme in the book is flowers. Arden is a florist. On her way to Idris's royal palace, passing through streets lined with silent people paying homage to their prince and his soon-to-be-bride, she sees one person with a gift for her. It's the first evidence of affection Arden receives in her new country. Here's a snippet. Idris is on horseback while Arden and their son Dawud are behind him in a limo:

‘Highness. The car. It’s stopped.’
Instantly alert, Idris whipped around, pulling his horse to a halt.
There was no sign of a problem yet his heartbeat quickened, his body tense, ready for action as he scanned the street for signs of an ambush. Security was a necessity these days, yet in his homeland Idris had always felt his bodyguard was more to satisfy tradition than because of any threat.
But if anyone were to threaten Dawud and Arden—
The rear door of the limousine opened and she emerged, the afternoon sun turning her hair to spun rose gold. The quiet crowd seemed to still completely. The silence grew complete so that the thud of his horse’s hooves as it pranced towards the car filled the void. That and the rough pulse of blood in his ears.
What was she doing? No stop had been scheduled. Was she ill? Was his son ill?
Idris vaulted from his horse, thrusting the reins into the hand of a nearby guard, then slammed to a halt.
That’s why the cavalcade had stopped?
Arden crossed to the side of the street where the onlookers crowded in the shade of an ancient shop awning. Near the front of the packed group one single person had ignored tradition. A girl, no more than six or seven by the look of her skinny frame. She sat in a wheelchair, gripping a straggly bouquet of flowers, her eyes huge as Arden approached.
In her slim-fitting, straw-coloured suit that gleamed subtly under the fierce sun, Arden probably looked like a creature from another world to the girl.
The sight of Arden, cool and sophisticated with her high heels and her hair up, unadorned yet lovely, had stolen his breath when he’d seen her. The air had punched from his lungs as desire surged, as fresh and strong as it had been years ago. Desire and admiration and something else, some emotion that was tangled up in the fact she’d borne his child. His responsibility to protect. His.
His visceral reaction had been possessiveness. The desire to claim her, and with far more than words, had sent him into retreat. He’d taken a separate vehicle to the airport and then on the plane had immersed himself in work. Keeping his distance meant keeping control.
Arden stopped before the girl and crouched down, saying something he couldn’t make out. He strode across, his steps decisive on the ancient cobbles.
The girl whispered something, shyly smiling, and held out the flowers which, he saw now, were no more than a collection of wildflowers such as grew in the rare fertile areas near the city. One of them, yellow as the sun, looked like a dandelion.
But Arden held them carefully, as if they were the most precious bouquet.

When Idris's people see Arden's response to the bouquet word soon gets out that she loves flowers. Soon the palace is bombarded with floral gifts, but not quite in the way you would expect (you'll have to read the book to discover why). And if you want to read it, here are a couple of links to buy it:
Barnes and Noble

I love receiving flowers and I've included here a photo of one of my favorites: tulips. There's something about them that always makes me feel good.

I'd love to hear what gifts you've given or received with love - the ones that stand out to you!
Don't forget, if you want to know more about any of my books, head to my website where you can sign up for my exclusive newsletter and read excerpts, news and behind the scenes details.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Getting Into The Holiday Spirit -- Michelle Monkou

Thanksgiving in the the over. Black Friday mayhem is another memorable blip on our timeline. And now it's time to get into the swing of things with the holiday season.

For me, Christmas is about childhood memories and the ones that I hopefully created for my children. The smell of food cooking, especially baked goodies, would fill the kitchen and the rest of the house with delicious smells. Decorations would be pulled out for quick inspection and then adorn walls, shelves, and the corner for the Christmas tree. And Christmas songs playing on the stereo were the official signal that our house would be turned into a winter wonderland.

From the list of popular Christmas songs, I have a few that always touch me and bring me closer to the reason for the season.

I hope that whatever your faith or philosophy you also have wonderful memories and songs that bring you good cheer.

Here's to a delightful December:

Celtic Women - O Holy Night

Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song

How do you celebrate the season? Any favorite songs to share?

All the best,

Michelle Monkou

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holiday Writing

I wish this post was about writing a holiday romance—something I love to do. Witness my super fun holiday release, Last Chance Christmas. But I wanted to share a few insights about another kind of holiday writing today—writing during the holidays. That can be decidedly less pleasant.

It’s an interesting dichotomy for creative folks when we are lucky enough to work in the field we once passionately pursued for fun. Mixing up the income stream with something that was once a labor of love is an emotionally confusing place. This puts a whole lot of demands on the labor of love to be much more than that. It must also be a labor of efficiency. A labor of smart economy. A labor of financial means.

Ask any Muse and she’ll tell you how much she hates this.

Pre-published writers don’t give any thought to this dilemma. I know I didn’t, and I had years of intense writing before I sold a book to consider every facet of the craft. But I was far more focused on craft than business, and I sure didn’t think about problems that selling a book could introduced. I thought only about the problems that selling a book would solve! I mean, if I was spending 90% of my waking hours writing anyhow, it only made sense that I’d love getting paid for it.

Of course, I do. Thank goodness I finally cleared that final hurdle to selling my stories. I’m happy
I won a Snow Globe Award for Last Chance Christmas! 
and grateful to be able to share those works with readers. But the creative dynamic shifts in immeasurable ways once the passionate pursuit becomes a livelihood, and those changes are never more evident than during the holidays when a writer wants to play.

Writers aren’t unique in this, of course. We all want to play during the holidays and chances are you have to earn a living too, so you can’t play all month long. What’s different about creative work is that—to do it well—the time investment is huge. Often, we are thinking about our work the majority of our waking hours. A piece of our brain is always engaged with the work-in-progress. Most of the year, that’s okay, because of the “labor of love” element. We wanted this job, after all. During the holidays, however, we all want to labor over gingerbread houses or tree trimming and—more importantly—to be really present in those moments. Too often when I’m writing through the holidays, I feel like I’m going through the motions since my story is always consuming huge amounts of brain space.

My cure is to write as little as possible during December. I’d rather work like a madwoman in January and November and close my laptop for a couple of weeks in December. Some years that’s just not possible, but every year, I try. For the first five or seven years of my publishing career, I tried to maintain my schedule through December (Be more disciplined! I told my Muse). For me, that was simply an exercise in frustration. I didn’t write well anyhow, and I still felt cranky and robbed of my holiday.

This year is one of those years where I really needed to write some during December. I’m super excited to have a new series out with Harlequin Desire in 2017 and I very much wanted the extra releases to get the McNeill Magnates up and running. That helps, knowing that I set up this schedule to accomplish a bigger goal. Another trick I’ve finally discovered after writing for almost twenty years? I can write the framework of a story without knowing every detail. That’s been revolutionary for me since I used to get stuck on small plot points in my writing, wanting clear answers before I moved forward. In the last few years, I’ve gotten much better at moving plot points forward, then going back to layer in depth and conflict elements. Go me!

Turns out you can teach old dogs new tricks. But next year, I’m going to box up all my tricks when I close my laptop early in December to simply enjoy the holidays! Until then, my friends, I’m focusing on what I love most about my stories, just like I did back in those pre-published days when I wrote because I couldn’t NOT write.

***I’m not the only one wrestling with how to do it all this holiday season! Tell me what parts of your holiday feel daunting and we’ll commiserate or share ideas to make it better! As a bonus, if you share your thoughts with me this week, you’ll be automatically entered to win this fun prize pack with Christine Rimmer’s Carter Bravo’s Christmas Bride from her award-winning Bravos series, plus my holiday 2-in-1 with Tawny Weber featuring two sexy Blaze Christmas stories AND a Runaway Brides tee!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Eve Gaddy: Christmas is coming!

Christmas is coming! I know you're all out shopping on Black Friday. No? I'm not either! I figure if you're reading this there's a good chance you're not shopping.

I have a number of friends who adore this day. They get all their Christmas shopping done and for a good price. Sometimes they get amazing bargains. But the few times I tried to shop on Black Friday were not a success. First, I'm very short. When you're as short as I am, you are eye level with most people's elbows. Consequently, I really don't like crowds.

The second thing. I've talked before about my problems with organization. Sometimes I know several things I want to get for friends and family early. But that's rare. I think you need to go with specific things in mind that you want to buy. I don't usually manage that. Besides, I like to Christmas shop but I don't want to do it until closer to Christmas. If I do it early I feel kind of lost for the month of December.

Third thing. This is a biggie. I can't think of any reason to voluntarily get up at two or three in the morning to stand in line in the cold darkness.

Are you a Black Friday shopper? Do you love it, hate it or don't care? Make a comment and I'll select one winner for my Christmas book, The Doctor's Christmas Proposal. This is Wyatt Gallagher's story. Here's a peek at the cover. If you want to see more, check out my webpage,  Available at all digital retailers.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Great Christmas Tree Tour 2016 Kicks Off!

The Great Christmas Tree Tour has become a popular tradition for readers, writers and even editors! I just love seeing how others decorate and hearing about their family customs, and plenty of you enjoy it too, because it's my biggest traffic event all year.  

Once again this season I have a great line up of trees and Christmas decorations you are going to love. You'll want to visit every day to see who has shared their lovely Christmas tree.

I have a few spots left if you'd like to participate. All that's required is a photo and a big dose of Christmas spirit. 

email me at for available dates.

Here's how to participate and see your Christmas tree on the web: Take a photo of your tree as soon as it's up. 

Take a photo of a tree you particularly enjoy, for example at a museum, a lobby or mall.
Send me the photo as a .jpg attachment. Include anything you'd like to share: a family tradition, something about the ornaments.

If you're an author, include a cover and a brief blurb about your current book, so readers can learn more about it and you.

Check back in the morning to see Laura Chapman's tree and a GIVEAWAY!

Virginia Heath: Lost in Translation?

This week I am heading back to the USA. A country I love and have visited many times. And will continue to. Top of my bucket list is to visit every single one of the 50 states. As a Brit, American culture is so interchangeable with ours that in many ways it is a home from home.


There are certain things about the Land of the Free that baffle me and only one which truly makes me mad. The tea.

Proper tea- made with tea leaves. The words on the mug are true!
Tea is our national drink. It is the perfect accompaniment to gossip, happiness, sadness and fatigue. It gives us Brits something to cling to if people insist on discussing uncomfortable topics like feelings. We start and end our day with the stuff. If a typical human is 65% water, then your average Brit would be at least 50% tea. There is nothing worse than a bad cuppa. A brit will tolerate poor service stoically, choke down a plate of bad food in a restaurant without complaint- but serve us a weak, lukewarm brew and expect terse words.
American tea is alien. Everything about it is wrong. If you ask for tea in a restaurant you get given a cup of tepid water with a teabag on the side.

When it should be immersed in that water.
If you dunk said bag of dust, masquerading as tea, into the water, at best you get a beige drink when every Brit knows tea is a beautiful, steaming, golden brown! Hotels are worse. They expect you to make tea in a c-c-coffee machine. Just typing those words makes my blood boil. And seriously, do not get me started on the practice of providing coffee creamer when you ask for milk… it is a Traves-tea. No wonder everyone in the states drinks coffee.

But fear not, I would ever allow something as petty as a simple hot drink to put me off my American adventures. I am prepared. Proper English teabags and my trusty travel kettle are already packed in my suitcase- once I get stateside, the very first thing I am buying is milk! And I still love the USA...

Happy Thanksgiving!
Virginia Heath writes witty, fast-paced Regency romantic comedies with a modern twist for Harlequin Historical and Mills & Boon.
Her latest novel, The Discerning Gentleman's Guide, out now.
You can find her on Facebook and Twitter or in a tea shop somewhere.