Saturday, January 31, 2015

Home is Where the Heart Is - Isn't It?

Lately I’ve been thinking about what defines a home. 
Not a house, but a home. You see my husband and I have just moved into a new (old) home. We purchased a single-level house we can grow old in and hopefully remain in our house for a long time. Surprisingly I’ve discovered a growing fondness for the grab bars in the bathrooms—who knew what joy a grab bar could give? Unfortunately, the house needs remodeling. The previous owners had a penchant for wallpaper on the ceilings. What is up with that? Here’s a picture of the garden growing on my new kitchen ceiling. 


So my husband and I are currently surrounded by our “stuff” hidden in boxes and piled high in the dining room. Our furniture is packed into the living room, all to make room for remodeling.

For some reason, this house does not yet feel like home. Why? Is it because I am surrounded by someone else’s taste in decorating? Is it because my beloved Danish Modern items are hidden away? Or is it because I miss our old house of fifteen years? My husband is here, so it should feel like home. But instead, it feels like a hotel in Scotland with questionable wallpaper (spend some time staying at Scottish B&Bs and you know what I mean).

What makes a place home? Many find comfort in communities of shared interest, like retirement communities. Some call a place home because their family and friends are nearby. Or they have lived in the same place for a long time and love their town or city.

Several days after we moved in, came the first anniversary of my father’s death. My mother now lives in a one-bedroom penthouse suite in a retirement community. Her apartment is beautiful and it looks out over Mission Bay in San Diego. She is a very social person and enjoys the arranged events in her community. She seems happy. So I asked her if it felt like home to her. She said, “No. No place will ever be home again because your father is not here.”

My heart broke a little.

So I returned Home and embraced my wallpaper in my new home. It’s home because my husband is here. I cherish that.

What makes a place a “home” for you?

Friday, January 30, 2015


By Michele Summers

These past nine months in particular have taught me how lucky and fortunate I am to come from a large family. Yes, they can be overly involved in my life, my kids’ lives, my kids’ friends’ lives, my neighbors’ lives…you get the idea. But when the chips are down…you want that hurricane force heading straight for you and picking up the pieces.

I have six sisters (and two sister-in-laws) who have all helped me and my family this past year while I’ve battled a rare autoimmune disease. And each brought their own time and talents to the table in different ways.

My oldest sister: The Brainiac researched my disease on my behalf, kept me informed and talked me off the ledge. And since she doesn’t live near me, had meals ordered and delivered to my home. My second oldest: The Bossy Control Freak took over in her usual fashion and got me in front of doctors and specialists I would’ve otherwise never seen. She also grocery shopped and delivered food which is something I did for her on a weekly basis, when I was well (because she hates to shop and hates to cook). Has no clue how to work any of her kitchen appliances. So hitting a grocery store on several occasions for her was an act of love. My third oldest sister: The Health Nut has given me holistic approaches to getting better and new recipes with ingredients to combat my disease. My fourth oldest: My Favorite (shhh…don’t tell) cleaned my house, ran my errands and held my hand while I cried. My fifth oldest: Ms. Take Charge drove me to my doctor appointments, asked questions and took copious notes. And also rode herd on my kids when I didn’t have the energy. My youngest sister: My Parent’s Favorite sent funny texts and well-wishes from NYC and gave me big hugs over the holidays. And my two sister-in-laws checked in on a regular basis and delivered home cooked meals.

It takes a village or in this case a very large-in-your-face-family to lift your spirits and help you through the hard times. And that goes for my extended family of girlfriends and tennis team members who sent sweet cards and dropped off delicious goodies. I’m very blessed and fortunate. Thanks to all my sisters out there! I’m so happy you’re in my life. Love you! And yes, I owe you…big time!

Do any of you have sisters or siblings who have come through for you? Please share.

Michele Summers

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tackling My TBR Pile by Terri L. Austin

If you’re like me—and you know you are, minxes—you eschew New Year’s resolutions. It’s too much pressure. Trying to cram half a dozen new habits into my schedule at one time is daunting. But right before the holidays, as I was cleaning my office, I realized I was going to have to buy yet another bookshelf to house all of my unread books.
My husband suggested that I simply have too many. And like every bibliophile, I snort laughed. In his face. Too many books? There’s no such thing. Then he suggested that before buying a new book I should read at least one book that I already own. That seemed a bit extreme, but the truth is I’m running out of room. And before you ask, yes, I have an e-reader. Its shelves are virtually overflowing, as well.

So I finally broke down and made a New Year’s resolution—my first in years. Read more. That’s it. A challenge I’ll happily accept. I even came up with a genre list based on my TBR pile. It goes a little something like this: 

January: 1 Young Adult (I read 2, so I’m ahead of the game.), 1 Urban Fantasy, 1 Mystery (I’m currently beta reading my friend, Larissa Reinhart’s, next release—I guess that technically doesn’t count, since it didn’t chip away at my TBR pile, but it’s a fabulous, funny book. I regret nothing!)
February: 1 Historical (I ache for a rake, y’all.), 1 Young Adult (My indie bookstore had great big bin of them on sale, and I may have binged.), 1 Procedural (Does J.D. Robb count? I think it does.), 1 Erotica (Happy Valentine’s Day.)
March: 1 Historical (Perhaps something set in Ireland in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.), 2 Urban Fantasy (Dragons, anyone?)
April: 2 Young Adult, a contemporary trilogy (My Kindle will thank me.)
MaySince I fully intend to bring home a truckload of books from the RT Booklovers Convention, I need to up the ante this month. 2 Mystery, 2 contemporary, 2 Paranormal Romance
June: I heard wedding bells chime 4 books. I’m thinking all Regency, all brides, all month long.
July: Thus far, I’ve neglected my non-fiction shelf like that last fancy chocolate, languishing in the box. It’s raspberry crème and tastes like Robitussin. But my non-fiction books won’t be ignored, Dan, therefore, I’ll read 3.
August: Bad boys make the perfect summer fling. I’m on the lookout for 5 dark and dangerous heroes this month—men with an edge and a few tats to prove it.
September: Girl, are you being stalked by a serial killer? Well, that hot, rugged detective wants to help you stay alive. 3 Romantic Suspense, 2 Mystery
October: To the boys and ghouls everywhere, Happy Halloween! 5 Urban Fantasy (3 shifter heroes and 2 witchy heroines.)
November: Ah, Thanksgiving. A perfect time for the old going-back-home-to-find-love trope (4).
December: Sports heroes are the best. So alpha. Rowrrrrr. 3Athlete Romances

If I can stick to this schedule, that’s about 50 books, or three shelves worth of space. Wish me luck and Happy New Year!

What’s in your TBR pile?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Want to Be Entertained

I've always been a reader. I'm partial to romance, but I like all genres, mostly. Horror, fantasy, thriller, mystery. Even the occasional biography, though I haven't read one of those in years. I have my own "library" at home, what I call my keeper shelves. And lately I've been rereading old goodies.

In particular, sexy romances in contemporary and futuristic settings, oddly enough. I like contemporary romance. Heck, I write in all the genres, but my McCauley Brothers series for Sourcebooks was contemporary. Unfortunately, I can't find any good contemporary romance movies. I'll take any movie, but I really like the ones that have a nice romance thrown in to boot.

Now, take John Wick. Not a romance, I know. It was a thriller, adventure, gun-fu (as the directors often referred to it) assassin revenge flick. I LOVED it. And you know why? Not just because Keanu Reeves was in it, or because there was so much bad-assery in the flick. But because the main character goes through hell for love. His wife recently passed away and left him a puppy to care for. Something to bring him out of his grief. Well, bad things happen, and the hero is out to get revenge. Throughout the movie, we see flashbacks to happier times with his wife. That depth really made the movie for me. (And okay, I admit, I loved seeing Keanu kick a lot of butt.)

There is another movie coming out soon that I'm dying to see. Why? Because it involves science fiction, adventure, and romance (of course.) I am referring to Jupiter Ascending. I'm totally stoked to see another science fiction movie that seems like it'll be right up my alley. The last one I fell in love with was Guardians of the Galaxy, a Marvel movie, but hey, it had everything going for it, especially Chris Pratt!

Ahem, okay, so Jupiter Ascending (releasing 2/6)... The plot, per IMDb:

In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

I feel like I've read this plot somewhere before... in a romance book! Heroine who doesn't know who she really is. Check. Alien guard sent to protect her who falls in love with her. Double check. Sean Bean. Oooooh. Check check check. I'm very much looking forward to watching this, and I really hope it lives up to its trailer.

Check it out, and let me know what movies you might be planning to watch. What's out there you can't wait to see? What am I missing?  Oh, and for the record, I don't know that I'll be taking in 50 Shades because I'm a bit miffed at reports of the lead actor being a jerk to the BDSM community. Totally not cool. Also, the whole innocent virgin being taken by the billionaire businessman who happens to be into domination is not my cup of tea. LOL Virgins in their mid-20s? Um, okay. Sexy, rich bazillionaires who ONLY want that naive, innocent girl/woman? Yeah, right. But hey, you enjoy it. Whatever floats your boat. Mine will be floating to Jupiter Ascending, and probably the new SpongeBob movie, because my kids are frantic to see it. Oy.

Happy Wednesday!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Time to Cozy Up

Well, winter’s in full swing. As I’m writing today, there’s snow falling in some parts of the country and icy rain in others, with the thermometer dipping into single digits. Even if it’s not cold where you are, the days are shorter, the leaves are gone from the deciduous trees. It’s time to find ways to be cozy.

 The impulse must be as ancient as the human species. A fire in the hearth is so comforting, I imagine, because there was a time when crackling flames, and a good stack of firewood, meant survival. They let you relax while the wind howled outside the cave, hut, farmhouse. Fire lit the long nights and discouraged hungry predators for so many millennia of our history.

I miss having a fireplace where I live now. But I still find plenty of ways to be cozy. My recipe? Brew up a pot of good English tea, add a cookie or two,  curl up under a fluffy blanket, or a thick comforter on the bed, and break out a good book. Maybe it’s a new author, maybe a familiar comfort read; either one can transport me. I enjoy this scenario as much as, or maybe more than, a balmy summer day.
Are you staying cozy this winter? What’s your favorite method?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reading Trends

by Susanna Ives

I have a “thing” for the nineteenth century. I can’t explain it except that maybe there is something to those former life theories. I read books written in the 1800’s, and adore the art and the history of that age. I’ve filled my Pinterest pages with all things nineteenth century.  It’s rather weird, I admit.

However, I recently noted an interesting non-1800’s reading trend.

Months ago, I downloaded a bargain book about a woman who becomes a spy for the Allied Powers titled The Time in Between and promptly forgot about.  Then a few weeks ago, I became irritated with the book I was reading, closed it, and thumbed through my Nook library. There was that bargain book waiting.  I opened to the first page and gave it a half-hearted try. Four hundred pages and forty eight hours later, I’m on the edge of my seat and completely hooked into the lives of the book’s characters and their world.  I thought about some of my favorite books The English Patient, Shining Through, and The Wedding Officer (BTW - I really didn’t enjoy the movie versions of these books) and I realized that I also have a “thing” for stories about women in World War II.

What about you? Have you ever noticed an interesting and unexpected trend in your reading choices? 

Susanna Ives is the author of the funny Victorian romances Wicked Little Secrets and the upcoming Wicked, My Love.

Ooh! Pretty cover!

You can learn more about her work at her Website/Blog  | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest |

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Creativity and the Flow of Writing

The latest novel in my Broadswords and Ballroom series for Casablanca is due in a week, so thoughts of writing flow and creativity have been at the forefront of my mind. One of the things I love most about being a writer is the same thing I love about being a reader, namely, being swept away into another world. I love to get to know my characters as they interact on the page, as a scene I thought would be a simple moment in the park, for example, turns out to be a pivotal moment when a Highland girl with a claymore and an unsuspecting earl meet. It is always fun to watch scenes unwind themselves in the theatre of my mind as I write, but it is especially fun now that I am writing comedy, because the freedom of comedy allows my characters to step out of their norms in ways that shock me a little, and often shock the calm English characters who watch them do it.

The flow of a scene, whether comedy or drama, comes at its own pace when I sit down to write. I have a word count to make each day, but the question of how long it takes me to write those words depends on the flow of the story. Some days, the words are a torrent, flowing like the waterfall behind my house. 

Other times, scenes in the very same book will move more slowly, like the stream that runs down from the waterfall, hidden under ice. The flow is still there, I just have to chip away at the ice, warm it with patience and time in the chair, before those scenes finish on the page, and my daily word count is reached. 

Writing is a joy, but it can be hard going as well. On the days when I have a sniffle, or less time before work, or when I haven't slept the night before, I have to whip out the caffeine to spur myself on, or take more time at the lap top on my lunch hour, or write when I get home from work. This is always a challenge for me, because my brain turns to mush after dark. I am a morning writer, but I am also a writer who wants to make her deadlines, so I dive in even at night, when the word count hasn't been reached yet. 

Some of you out there are writers too...what makes changes happen in your work flow? What are your most frequent stumbling blocks, and how do you get past them?

Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. Sometimes an actor, always a storyteller, Christy works happily with Sourcebooks Casablanca to bring the knife-throwing women of her novels to life. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in North Carolina. Please join her for more fun and frolic on her website

Friday, January 23, 2015

Valentine’s Day...Already? by Jade Lee

Valentine’s Day...Already?  by Jade Lee

Don’t panic. It’s still January. That means Valentine’s day is still a month away by my count. It’s not true, but if I try to think in terms of actual days and weeks, my brain might freeze up. Can’t have that, right?

But let’s slide right into the quiz. Guess what I find most annoying about February 14.

A. That the decorations go up in stores before I’ve even taken down my Christmas decorations. Or Halloween decorations.
B. I’m on my post-Christmas diet and suddenly I’m flooded with emails about chocolate hearts.
C. I’m supposed to think of something romantic to do with my husband. Last year’s winner: we said to each other, “It’s Valentine’s day. Happy Valentine’s day.” We’re so romantic...not
D. As a romance novelist, Valentine’s Day is a great promotional opportunity. So not only do I have to be romantic with my husband, I need to think of something awesome to do in public.
E. Absolutely nothing. I love this day!

Answer: All of the above, including E. Sound contradictory? Well, that’s me. Because I find the commercialization of holidays inevitable. Ever been tempted by a Kwanzaa corn cookie? I have! And all the preparation and thought that goes into holidays are definitely annoying, but then all part of the joy of the day, right? Or maybe I just like emoting, which is what my family says. Valentine’s day? I wuv you! Halloween? BOOO! Scared ya?  Kwanzaa? Have some sweet potato pie!

Yup, I’m a holiday junkie. So next question. Guess how I loooove to celebrate a holiday, any holiday.

A. Gifts! Little ones, big ones, I’m all about giving and receiving.
B. Stretch out on the couch and read a good book.
C. Marathon Benedict Cumberbatch session. Or Nathan Fillian. Or whomever is my flavor of the day.
D. Food, food, food. Yum!
E. All of the above!

Answer: E, naturally. I love all of the above. But D is the reason I’m on a post-Christmas diet. Gotta get lean before the Valentine’s day chocolate binge, right?

Now as a treat for you! Tell me what’s your favorite way to celebrate a holiday and I’ll give one lucky commenter a pre-order copy of my Valentine’s Day anthology A Dozen Rakes, Renegades, and Rogues, Oh My! A dozen historical romance authors are selling it at 99 cents, release day Feb 14! But don’t wait. Get it now. Here’s the amazon LINK
Oh, and don't forget to join our Dozen Days of giveaways event; Romance, Rakes, Renegades & Rogues, You could win a new Kindle Fire HD.
Click the image below to go to the Event page:

If you’re the lucky winner and you already have pre-ordered it, I’ll send you something else.

Thursday, January 22, 2015