Thursday, December 31, 2015

So Long 2015, Hello 2016!


Another year come and gone! It was a fabulous year, but we're looking forward to next year too! Here are a few of our resolutions for 2016 and some highlights from 2015.

Theresa Romain

In 2015, I wrote the books that will begin two new historical romance series. I'm excited to have readers meet those new characters in 2016!

An author's most necessary resolution is probably "write the best books I can and meet all my deadlines," and I'm sticking with that for 2016. But I also want to be more active in the new year. I got a pedometer for Christmas and will be counting steps.

Terry Spear

After Christmas packing party!
Old House
I just bought a new house! It's my first time to buy a new house, and the first time to buy one in nearly 20 years. I'll be less than a half mile from my daughter, so it's a hectic end of the year for me, and a hectic beginning of the year. I have a book deadline coming up for Loving the Silver Wolf on March 1st, release of SEAL Wolf in Too Deep in February, had to change my airline reservations from leaving Waco to leaving Spring to go to the Coastal Magic Convention in February, and tons of stuff I have to do between now and then. I'll be glad when I'm truly settled!
New House--I'll have my writing desk next to the bow windows
Have a great New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy Almost-New Year! (Plus, Book Giveaway)


Is it just me, or did Christmas come on like a runaway train in 2015? Granted, everything seems to speed up after Thanksgiving, but this time around, I was caught flat-footed. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt so unprepared for the holidays!

Which made the week after Christmas more welcome than usual. The Big Feed has taken place, the gifts have been exchanged, the shopping is done—unless you’re among those enthusiasts who hit the malls on December 26—and you can simply relax, enjoy the company of family and friends, immerse yourself in good books, take in some new movies, and watch the year wind to its close.

It’s natural enough during that week to reflect on the year that’s passing and the one that’s about to dawn. Many people make New Year’s Resolutions, some triumphantly realized, others possibly destined to fail! My own list of those tends to be short and fairly general, mainly because life is an unscripted event, and it’s easier to adapt a list to suit a life than the other way around.

But one resolution I did succeed in keeping in 2015, so of course, I’m renewing it in 2016. I resolved to take more chances, to try new things and not shy away from them simply because they were new.

And the biggest chance I’ve taken was with my writing, experimenting with alternate genres and varying lengths. In the spring, I put out Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales, a collection of fantasy short stories—a “niche” project that still remains close to my heart. An audiobook version is currently in production.


In the summer, I revisited Victorian Cornwall to write my first novella, a companion tale to A Song at Twilight.




And this fall, I wrote my first holiday novella, The Advent of Lady Madeline, now available in digital and print editions. Fittingly, the story deals with taking chances and trying new things—and how that can completely transform your life.




Responsible, level-headed, and invariably good-humored, Hugo Lowell, Viscount Saxby, has his plans for Christmas—and his future—all mapped out. Until a surprise invitation lands him at the country estate of Harold Lyons, the rich and powerful Duke of Whitborough.

Drawn into his host’s charming, often contentious family circle, Hugo finds himself matching wits and words with the Duke’s eldest daughter, Lady Madeline. Striking, clever, and as sharp-tongued as she is sharp-witted, Madeline is the polar opposite of the placid, proper beauty Hugo intends to marry. So why can’t he get her out of his mind? And how is it that she can persuade him to attempt things he’s never tried before? As Advent yields to Christmas, Hugo’s future becomes far  less predictable…and infinitely more exciting.
  *

So what new things did you try in 2015? And what new things would you like to try in 2016?


I will be giving away two signed copies of The Advent of Lady Madeline. Please comment by midnight, PST, 1/3/16, for a chance to win. And stay tuned for the novel-length sequel, Devices & Desires, which will be available in January 2016!


PAMELA SHERWOOD

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ETA: Amy C and knye have won giveaway copies of The Advent of Lady Madeline! Please contact me at pamela@pamelasherwood.com with your mailing addresses so I can send the books to you ASAP. Thanks!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Holiday by Victoria Roberts

I was finally able to have a movie fest over the holidays in order to play catch up on some titles that I missed along the way.

The Holiday (2006) with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and Jack Black was the cutest movie that I've seen in a while. I absolutely fell in love with the concept. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, two women with relationship and career issues swap houses in each other's countries (USA and England.) The ladies meet local guys and fall in love.

Hey, I'm a romance writer so being fond of the love stories was a given. But what I found fascinating was the swap. There are times when life gets overwhelming, whether it's from the holidays, job, family or finances. Wouldn't it be nice to just say you've had enough and take off somewhere to recharge your battery? For me, two weeks in a cottage in the Scottish Highlands would be ideal. That's where I would want to regroup.

According to mindbodygreen.com, here are 27 ways to recharge your battery.

1. Plan a tech detox.

2. Go out with your girlfriends and drink a little too much wine.

3. Plan a swap group with your closest friends. This can be a clothes swap, book swap, or any theme you can think of!

4. Get out in nature. Nothing is more refreshing than some time outdoors! Look up new hiking trails online or spend the day at the beach.

5. Connect with your inner child. What did you love doing when you were little? Draw a picture, make a collage, build a fort.

6. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or even adopt a new pet from a shelter.

7. Try something new. Go rock climbing, try a foreign cuisine or simply read a book you wouldn't normally choose.

8. Clean out your closets and any clutter around your house and donate to Goodwill. Your energy feeds off your environment, so tidy up!

9. Plan your next vacation. The thrill of having something to look forward to will keep your going for awhile.

10. Light candles and take a bath with essential oils or Epsom salt. The Epsom salt will relax your muscles, and essential oils like chamomile or lavender will relax your body and mind.

11. Take a mental health day from work. Watch your favorite movies, meet up with a friend, walk around your neighborhood, see a matinee movie. Sometimes being "bad" is just what you need.

12. Recreate your favorite fancy, decadent restaurant meal at home. Chances are it'll taste much better when it's made with an ingredient list you control, plus some love.

13. Plant a garden. This idea will recharge you more than once. You'll feel good creating life, saving money on food and you'll get time to yourself out in nature every time you need to tend to it.

14. Rearrange your furniture. A new environment will likely bring new ideas and perspectives.

15. Budget money to get a quick 10-minute shoulder, neck and head massage once a week, or a 30- to 60-minute massage once a month.
Massages increase circulation and can help you relax.

16. Start a bucket list. Thinking about your goals in life will help you focus on the big picture and what will truly makes you happy.

17. Create something. Work on one of those projects you've neglected on your Pinterest board. Make it a Pinterest party by inviting friends.

18. Make a playlist of all of your favorite songs. Play them at home or take a drive and sing along at the top of your lungs.

19. Go to your local farmers market and talk with the farmers and people at the booths. You'll feel great connecting with your community and learning where your food comes from.

20. Plan a date night. Chances are, if you have kids or a demanding job, you haven't been on a proper date in quite a while. Here are 20 great date night ideas. If you're not in a relationship, have a friend date! Try to make it a weekly ritual and take turns planning the date.

21. Take a 20-minute cat nap.

22. Drink a green juice or smoothies when you start feeling the afternoon slump.

23. Set an alarm for each hour to remind yourself to get up and move around.

24. Get outside during lunch. Take a walk, eat outside, go to a local cafe. The main point is to get away from the office and your computer screen.

25. Meditate. Meditating sitting, or even lying down for 15 minutes can help you relax before you dig back into your work.

26. Take a shower. If you're stuck on an idea or frustrated after a hard day, a shower will give you a chance to relax and rethink your situation.

27. Exercise! Aim for 30 minutes of medium-high intensity exercise every day. It doesn't have to be all at once. Regular exercise will help regulate hormones (hello, endorphins!), increase circulation and often helps people clear their minds and reduce stress.

If you could swap places with someone anywhere in the world to recharge your battery, where would you go?


Monday, December 28, 2015

How to Win a Viking’s Heart by Gina Conkle

Don’t you love how those magazine articles titles on supermarket shelves? 


There's

Shrink Your Thighs NOW!  
This cracks me up because my thighs take their sweet time.


Or

Sex Tips for the Modern Woman  
Was it really so different for the ancient woman? How many positions are there? (quick, let me check my Kama Sutra).

And a personal favorite


Touches That Lock Down His Love
Ask the single ladies about this...I've been married too long.


You might be surprised how long ago Viking's had a fascination with sex and romance --- the men and the women. But, they didn't have colorful magazines dispensing advice.  Skalds (storytellers) shared Viking lore in smoky longhouses until one famous 12th century Icelandic chieftain, Snori Sturlson, put those tales on paper. Snori was most interested in history and mythology, but the steamier stuff showed up in his writing. 

If Snori Sturlson wrote for Cosmo, he might call this:





1    1. To Amuse Oneself (at skemmta ser)

This term shows up in the Sagas, letting us know the Vikings didn’t take the “lay still and think of England” approach to sex. Physical intimacy, sensuality was to be enjoyed, as much by women as men. In fact, you’ll find just as many references in the Sagas to Viking women seeking their pleasure as the men.







2     2.    Crowding Together in Bed (hviluprong)

Are you a snuggler? Then you would’ve liked the Viking approach to romance. One common sign of courtship was a man stretching out on the bench near his love interest and laying his head in her lap.

Picture an evening in a long house. Everyone is feasting, and a warrior freely shows his affection for his sweetheart. Another sign of courtship was a Viking woman making or mending a fine shirt for her love interest (but we won’t go the route of chores! Let’s stick to the romance).

The idea is the snuggling carried on to bed…as much for warmth in those cold northern climes as for tenderness and affection.





          3.     Enjoy Him (njota hans)

             Viking women liked sex. In fact, some divorced their husbands if they weren’t                            sexually satisfied. How many other cultures in Europe can claim that?!

            One Saga tells of a handsome Iceland Viking falling for a pretty, young Iceland                           maiden. He plans a summer of trade in Norway to shore up his fortunes, promising to             return soon.

While in Norway, the young Viking falls under the influence of an older woman with magic skills. She has her way with the young Viking but the young man’s heart belongs to his girl back home. Miffed by his rejection, the older woman casts a spell, making him impotent for his true love (unbeknownst to him).

Upon returning home, he marries the young maid, but after a year of trying, sex comes up short for her. She goes to her father to argue why she’s divorcing her otherwise upstanding young husband. She explains how she’s unable to “enjoy him.” And, yes, divorce resulted in the sagas.
           


Next time you think about those Vikings…remember, they weren’t all about raiding and pillaging. 

If you're up to the challenge, please share a title of a magazine article you've seen. I'd love to read it!


Gina writes Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. She loves history, books and romance. When not visiting fascinating places she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons. 

Connect with her:

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Curious about my Viking romance? Check this out: Norse Jewel

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tied Up With String by Grace Burrowes

In the United Kingdom, today is Boxing Day. A lot of tradition surrounds this occasion, some of which you can read about here. I'd like to see a few aspects of Boxing Day go viral, maybe as an antidote to all the (cyber-) acquisitiveness we're encouraged to show elsewhere in the month.

The basic idea of Boxing Day is that after spending Christmas at home or with friends and family, Boxing Day is a day to Go Out, usually bearing gifts to more friends and family, sometimes to co-workers, employees, or the less fortunate. In days of yore, this was a day for the great houses to throw open their doors and provide hospitality to neighbors from many walks of life.

My take aways?

First, don't limit Christmas to one day, or to a holiday that ends at midnight on December 25. When I was small, my oldest brother was serving in Vietnam. Every year, on December 25, there would be a 24-hour cease fire, and then on Dec. 26, the war would resume. That drove me nuts (and still does). If we can find our humanitarian and tolerant impulses for a day, we can find them for a week, a month, a year. Keep the Christmas candle lit in your heart, even when the world insists it's April 15.

Second, especially at this cold, dark (and for many us DAMP) time of year, to get up and move is a Good Idea. I am using the holidays to frolic my way through a rough draft of manuscript, which means a lot of sitting, and many of us have also been sitting at the groaning board. Time to get outta the house!

Third, extend the cheer of the holidays by bearing gifts after the holiday is over. When I'm having a
stink-o rotten day, one surefire way to turn my mood around is to extend kindness to others. At the grocery store, on Facebook, wherever I am, I can share a figurative smile. Works every time--it's empowering to me, and probably helpful on the other end, too.

Fourth, if there's an occasion for joy, connection, and socializing in our lives, somebody will try to make a buck off it. Boxing Day sales rival Cyber Monday for their loudness. That's OK, but let's be joyous and connect anyway.

Those are my Boxing Day take-aways. What aspect of Christmas would you like to keep with you all year? Is there a way to do that? To one commenter, I'll send a signed copy of Daniel's True Desire.... talk about keeping Christmas in your heart!

Happy Holidays!
Grace

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Every Author has Something Unique to Say, By Kathryne Kennedy


I have been clearing out some room by reading my husband’s books—even those that involve battles and political intrigue, which aren’t my usual cup of tea, but which my DH adores. If I don’t do this periodically, my house would be covered in books…literally. I only keep those books that I plan to read over and over again. But all books are treasures, of course, so I don’t throw any of them away: they go into a box to donate to my local library. And regardless of the genre, a book won’t leave my home until I have a chance to read it.

So in the last few months I have read over a dozen fantasy and science fiction books, most of them with just a little romance tossed in as a minor subplot (which is one reason why I started writing fantasy romance). Often, there’s lots of agony, blood, guts and the political intrigue, and I focus on the romance more in my head than what’s written on the page. Regardless, I find most of the books fantastic, and many just darn good. I have yet to find a book that I haven’t learned something from, or isn’t praise-worthy in some way.

And so I came across a book of the type of fantasy I love. (Her Majesty’s Wizard by Christopher Stasheff) A hero from our modern world travels back in time and can do magic. He rescues a princess, and is attracted to her. He meets a dragon who doesn’t fit in with his own kind, and they become friends. They meet a dark enchantress, who lures men into her castle for pleasures of the flesh, and our hero defeats her magic, and she loses her powers…and is taken to a priest to be shriven. And said priest turns out to be a werewolf, and has passions of the human flesh, so he has evil in his soul.

And then it starts to get all about religion, as our hero has a long dream about hell and the devil and the evil in his own heart. He must overcome this evil, overcome his ‘lust’ for the princess. Now, my books are all about lust, and how it leads to love. So this black and white thinking now has me puzzled. So I read the bio in the back of the book.

The author realized that many fantasies are medieval, and in medieval times, people saw God in everything—and the devil waiting to pounce at the first hint of sin. And so he set about writing a ‘realistic’ fantasy. Hence, writing a story that delved into the author’s own questions about faith.

This was the author’s own quest, in a way. No one else could have written this book quite the way he did. And although the hero does ask the princess to marry him in the end, it’s in a rather (unique) way. Sort of like an argument between the two of them.

My point is, no matter how many thousands of books are printed each year, no matter that they carry similar concepts (for fantasy, we usually have dragons, trolls, and the ultimate evil are demons), every author tells their story in a different way, from their own perspective. With perhaps similar themes, but never exactly the same.

It doesn’t matter whether critics, awards, or bestselling status lauds a book. Each is a work of art, unique in the hand of the author who writes his story with broad strokes of a brush. And in my humble opinion, there is no book that is published that doesn’t deserve the honor of that praise.

My Magical Best,
Kathryne
http://www.KathryneKennedy.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Changing Times (and a Giveaway!)

By Cheryl Brooks

I feel like I cheated this year, buying nearly every Christmas gift online. No hustle and bustle of shopping with the crowd for me, only the click of a button followed by the arrival of the UPS truck. This past Saturday, I wrapped all the presents and put them under the tree. You can do that when your kids are grown up, which is a lot easier than trying to hide everything until after they go to bed on Christmas Eve, although not nearly as exciting.

There's a lot to be said for having plenty of time to get everything done. Little or no stress. No last-minute panic. No dragging out the wrapping paper only to discover that you're out of tape. I look back on some of the things I've done in the past and don't know how I ever managed to pull it off. We used to leave early on Christmas Eve morning and spend the entire day visiting family and friends, then make the two-hour drive back home, arriving sometime around midnight. I'd feed the horses and help my husband bring all the presents down from the garage attic and put them under the tree before we went to bed. How we ever managed to get up bright and early on Christmas morning is a mystery. But of course, we were younger then.

Our traditions have changed over the years. Some of the people we used to visit have moved away. Some are no longer with us. It's easier now, and we have more time to spend with those who remain, but rushing from one house to the next defined how we celebrated the holiday. Now, we usually make the rounds on the weekend before Christmas instead of Christmas Eve. We had our family party this past Sunday, so that part is over for this year. My son's girlfriend visited us over the weekend, but she left to head on to her mother's home yesterday.


And so... The tree is up. The presents are wrapped. The stockings are filled.


And now we wait...

What about you? Have your holiday traditions changed in recent years? Post a comment below or use the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a free copy of The Cat Star Chronicles: Rebel or Cowboy Heaven!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

http://www.cherylbrooksonline.com/

Monday, December 21, 2015

Celebrate the Holidays! by Shana Galen


It’s almost Christmas, and I’ve been to several parties all with yummy food and drinks. Here are some of my faves of this season.



Candy Cane Martini
Shot vanilla rum
Shot Godiva chocolate liqueur
Shot peppermint schnapps
Candy cane for garnish

Butter Rum Coffee
1 shot butterscotch schnapps
1 shot vanilla rum
1/2 shot Irish
Coffee
Whipped topping for garnish

If you’re going to be drinking, you need to eat something. One of my favorite appetizers is Pumpkin Pie Dip.
1 can pumpkin
¾ cup brown sugar
6 oz. Greek yogurt
6 oz. whipped topping
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Mix it all together and serve with apples, pears, and cinnamon graham crackers.

Have a happy holiday!



Saturday, December 19, 2015

The value of romance novels

I hope this finds you well! I wanted to let you know about a price promotion that will be taking place from December 1 to December 31 for How to Date a Dragon (Flirting with Fangs Book 2) as a part of the Kindle December Holiday Store sale. Even though it is a Kindle promotion, the price of the e-book will still drop to $1.99 across all platforms (not just Amazon) during this time. All of my books can stand alone, and this one has a spin off series coming!


And now to our blog post...



Do Romance Novels Have Value?
Ashlyn Chase

Because I’m a romance writer, you can probably guess my answer to the question, “Do romance novels have value?” Of course I believe they do! I suppose if I were strictly mercenary I’d still say something to the effect of, “Well, duh. It’s a multibillion dollar business that outsells all other genres.” 

But my feelings go much deeper than that. You see, I get fan emails saying things like, “Your sense of humor got me through a difficult time.” Or, “I know I can count on your books for an uplifting ending. I need that right now.” Even my own story begins with a similar experience.

I was raised by intellectuals. I had never read a romance novel, yet I was conditioned to think of them as “trash” and far beneath anyone with a brain. That’s the very definition of prejudice. I prejudged a whole industry without investigation. 

Then my life took a challenging turn. My parents became terminally ill at the same time. As an RN, I wanted to take care of them so they could remain at home as long as possible. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Fortunately, another nurse handed me a book and just said, “Here. Read this.” I’m glad I didn’t know it was a romance novel, or I would have politely refused it.
Before I forget to say this, thank you, Diana Gabaldon, for writing Outlander, and thank you, Pat Rugg, for loaning it to me. That book was my guilty pleasure. When my parents were sleeping or had visitors, my nose was in that book. It was a welcome distraction from the harsh reality of taking care of the people who had taken care of me—and sometimes in the same way. Feeding them, helping them to the toilet, making sure they got their medication and other health needs met. Watching the two people who had been my lifelong stalwart supporters crumble and die was emotionally devastating. 

Yes, a romance novel got me through it. The interesting thing is that I didn’t realize I was reading a romance novel until I was well into the sequel! It was extremely well written with complex characters and a situation that required inner strength to overcome. I was transported to another world. What a gift! 

My parents were my last patients. I had to take some time for myself and went to work in a garden center, breathing in the fresh air while watching green things grow. It was a nice antidote…and so was writing.     

I wanted to pay it forward, and I thought I could begin to do that by writing what I now loved to read. I must say that my first novel was pretty bad, but it still had value as a learning experience. I had to learn how to write—to walk before I ran—and I learned from experienced authors. 

Recently a man wrote that romance novels had no value. It’s been scientifically proven that men have narrower synapses between the left and right hemispheres of their brains. If they complain that women get bogged down in the details, it’s because our brains let more of those details in. Some men are uncomfortable with emotions, and whether it’s one of those Mars vs. Venus things, or conditioning, or their narrow synapses, I’m not sure. I’d say it’s conditioning since more European men seem comfortable with the whole idea of romance than American men do. (Sorry about the generalization, guys.)

We know that what we write isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But for those who need a little love in their world (and who doesn’t?), we romance writers try to offer something toward that end. I love what I do. Writing romance helps me to express my creativity in a way that nursing never could. Writing has been as good for me as I hope my books have been for others. 

So, yes, naysayers…Romance novels have value. A lot of value if you count the many authors like myself who receive thankful emails every day. It’s okay not to like romance. It’s not okay to judge it as having no value.  

Contest! For a signed copy of How to Date a Dragon. 
Just leave a comment to enter!


Watch for the new series Boston Dragons, beginning with I Dream of Dragons in April 2016.