A Mutual Connection



It’s easy to walk into a patient’s room and proclaim, “Good morning, Mr. Soty, it’s time to get you bathed, then out of bed and up for a walk.” Shift starts and there’s a to do list that could stretch 20 yards or more to complete. That doesn’t even include the ‘to-dos’ that pop up as the shift goes along.

Well, let’s see the doctor has ordered a whole new set of antibiotics for Ms. Donaldson and Mr. Higgs decided to pull his IV out. Or the patient in B Bed has a procedure you haven’t done in awhile so you need to brush up on the facility’s policy.

It’s hard and stressful because as a nurse, you want to get everything done. You hate to leave something at the end of the shift. Inevitably, the nurse has to pass something along. But, the fewer, the better.

All the tasks and the burden of trying to get everything done sometimes makes the nurse forget what’s most important: the patient. Not just knowing the patient but understand what the patient truly needs.

Sure, the patient wants a bath and to get up, but have they had a meal? Was it enough? Maybe there’s a morning show they like to watch as part of their morning routine.

What will make them happy at that particular point in time?

And there’s something else patients want. It took me years to learn this. They want to know the nurse caring for them. They want a connection. More, importantly, they want to know we care.

When a nurse walks into a patient’s room, they know everything about that person from home address right down to every procedure they’ve had over their entire life. And, yet, the patient knows nothing about the person telling them to take this medicine or get ready for this procedure.

It took me a long time to open up to my patients. It takes a long time for me to develop trust. When I did, I felt different about what I was doing. It had more meaning for me. I also found a way to make the grouchy patient no one wanted to care for smile.

I created a connection. If the patient had a military background, I told them about mine. If they were a football fan, I shared my favorite team. Or I made sure they knew how to tune into the next big game on their TV.

My connection with patients has taught me a lot about life and to look at the other side of the equation. Sometimes the answer you need is there.

And, yes, it makes me happy to know I’ve made a difference beyond instruments and medicine.

A connection on both sides helps makes the healing process go a lot quicker.


Being connected… in person


by Donna Alward

This month’s Happiness theme is Connections. I love that we started with this particular “project” because it’s RWA National Conference month and the one time of year I get to see many of my friends in person. We’re spread all over the globe, though most in my inner circle are from North America, the UK, and Australia and New Zealand. Still, geographically that’s a really big area.

One of the benefits of technology is that we’re all able to stay in touch at the touch of a “send” button. I can’t tell you how important that is… I don’t know what I’d do without my close friends. We check in with each other daily. We share our burdens and our good news, new baby pics (from new additions to grand babies) and those connections are really important.

But as an introvert, sometimes my biggest challenge is to make connections with actual people – not by sitting in front of a keyboard. Which seems a little strange considering I’m in the romance business. But then I realized I could use that business to also help me get out more.

One, I’ve started meeting a friend for a “write-in” one morning a week. No wi-fi, and we only talk a little, but we work, and chat a bit, and get out of the house. I get some really good word count during that time.

I’ve had a few meetings where we chatted over coffee outside a local “Second Cup” instead of skyping or being stuck in the house.

It’s true that a lot of my friends are in the writing business, but that’s okay. Getting out to my RWA chapter’s day-long workshop in June was a day away that I needed so much! Even visiting my family proved to be something I needed very much. I spent a weekend chatting IN PERSON with my mom, step-dad, and my sisters. I don’t see them very often, so it was good to catch up in real life and not over the phone.

I got tickets to the NS Royal Tattoo which is always a great show. I went to the high school graduation, too, and chatted with some of the parents I know.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to do things like that, though you probably wouldn’t know it to see me. But getting out “into the world” and connecting with not just people but the world itself is pretty important.

And I can hardly wait to see everyone in New York at the conference. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s really special. And I always come back home feeling refreshed and refilled.



Being a Mom — July is Connections Month


Today is my oldest son Michael’s birthday. I remember the day he was born vividly. I remember the days all three of my kids were born. Also vividly. Who can forget that kind of pain? LOL My husband worked in another city when our youngest was born and I had to “do it all” myself. Except Allen was born in 45 minutes. It was almost as if, knowing my husband wasn’t around, life gave me a break.

And those breaks ended there because raising kids isn’t easy. Some days it’s downright hard!

You never stop being a parent. My Aunt Helen Meljac told me that at a family reunion when my kids were elementary school age, and I gaped at her in horror. She laughed and said, “Not only are you always a mom but it becomes an impossible task when they are adults. They’re too old to listen to you and yet you still worry. So you worry without any means of making things better.”

She’s right. LOL

But oh the joys outweigh the troubles. Our oldest, albeit that he’s disabled, has the ability to make us laugh like no one else — even when he’s not trying to be funny. Because he is limited, he looks at life so differently than the rest of us, and when he’s sad, or introspective, he pulls us up short — reminding us that people with the freedom to drive, go where they want, have a job, have friends, frequently don’t appreciate it. The very things most of us whine about he longs for.

Our second child Sarah is a seeker. I don’t even think she knows this (and I know she doesn’t read my blogs so I can comfortably tell you this here…) but she’s curious. A massage therapist who knows the mind/body connection and the connection between relaxation and health, she reads everything she can get her hands on about the mind, the body, spirituality. She’s a amateur painter (never took a class) and I can see her entire soul in her work. She mates odd colors. Her shapes frequently have lines that reach out into the future or curl back to a misshapen heart. She’s looking for the same things the rest of us are…but she’s looking harder and maybe with more purpose.

Our youngest is smart and savvy. I firmly believe he was born in 45 minutes because he doesn’t believe in wasting time. He’s married to our lovely daughter-in-law and they’ve given us one of life’s greatest gifts. A grandchild. He’s more organized than I ever was (and at one time I was pretty darned organized! LOL) and he’s got a great job…a career.

So I’m happy to be the mom for these kids…Even on the difficult days. Because when it comes to being a mom, the good definitely outweighs the bad. And being a mom is the BEST connection in my life.

Happy birthday, Mikie…

And happy reading!


susan meier

OH, btw, A BRIDE FOR THE ITALIAN BOSS was released yesterday! The first book in the Vineyards of Monte Calanetti continuity series, this is the story of Rafe and Dani. It introduces Louisa and Nicco, the two characters whose story runs through the entire eight books! I loved this book and these characters and think you will too.

bride for the Italian Boss





Sing, sing a song



So, peeps, how did you go with our singing and connecting experiment? Did you manage to sing a song a day for the last fortnight? When you were rushing around the shops, did you manage to make eye contact with another shopper and smile? Did it make you feel happier?

In all honesty, I don’t believe singing a song a day will help someone through a tragedy, nor do I believe that it will miraculously cure clinical depression, but did it make me (I’m going through neither of those things) happier? You know what? I can’t give a definitive answer to that. This is what I found:

  • Singing a song made me stop thinking about whatever it was that had my mind currently occupied. For three to four minutes (or nearly six minutes if singing Bohemian Rhapsody) all I focused on was singing the song.
  • Likewise, whenever I went down to the local shops, rather than wrestling with the plot problems of my wip, or stressing about some element of my PhD, reminding myself to smile at a minimum of three other people really pulled me out of my own head.
  • So, for me, singing and connecting like this was almost a form of meditation—it forced me live in the moment. It gave me a breather from the endless cycle that my brain gets into. What’s more, those breathers helped my creativity. Maybe it’s because it gave my subconscious a chance to work. Maybe it’s just that I’m not mentally wearing myself out so quickly. To be frank, I don’t care why—I just really appreciated this benefit.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody is the BEST song to sing to. 😉 (And I won’t admit to grabbing the remote and pretending it was a mic) But singing this song was…I don’t know…play for play’s sake? I was grinning for ages afterwards.

So I did a little research on the benefits of singing. Apparently, belting out a tune releases endorphins. It’s also an aerobic activity, which means singing increases the oxygen levels in your blood, which in turn improves circulation, which in its turn promotes a good mood. Furthermore, singing requires deep breathing. What else requires deep breathing? Meditation!

ID-100280849And guess what else? Because you are gently exercising your facial muscles while you sing, one of the great benefits of singing regularly is that it can keep you looking younger (I have high hopes of singing away my double chin!).

Given the above, is it any wonder that an Australian study revealed that choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than other members of the community? What’s more, Professor Grenville Hancox, director of the Sidney de Haan Research centre for Arts and Health in Kent, has been working to persuade the medical profession to prescribe singing instead of Prozac. “If we could engage more and more people in singing, I’m sure we would have a healthier nation.”

treble_staff_with_notes_01 So there you have it. The singing wasn’t a chore. Most of the time I really enjoyed it—more often than not the live-in-the-moment time of the actual song was fun and lifted my mood. So I’m going to cultivate the habit and stick with my song a day. What about you? How did you go?

Books and Crannies – a Pinterest Affair


Welcome debut author Michelle Helliwell to the blog today!


First of all, I wanted to say thanks to Donna Alward for inviting on the Chocolate Box! Donna’s a fabulous writer and I’m really flattered to be invited.  And now I’m going to start with a question:

Do you pin?

Facebook might still be the king of social media but Pinterest, dear Pinterest (I can barely type the word without letting go a whistful sigh) is my social media drug of choice. I have spent hours there, looking through images of grand houses I’ll never live in, cupcakes I’ll never bake, and motivational quotes I strive to live up to.

A lot of writers, myself included, use Pinterest as vision boards for their books. I’ve got a board for Not Your Average Beauty, and you can see images of characters, settings, emotions or historical facts pertinent to that book. But I’d love to connect with authors and my readers at Pinterest, so I’ve started with a single board called Books and Crannies. It’s the place to put all of those amazing, dreamy spaces we’d love to do nothing better than to read in. Whether it’s in a hammock under a weeping willow, in a deep cushioned chair in an amazing library, or just curled up with a cozy blanket and a cup of coffee by a fire, we all have a special place we’d love to read.

In Not Your Average Beauty, my heroine, Rosalind Schofield adores reading, and when she’s invited to the library at Barronsfield Manor, she’s overwhelmed by the magnificence of it. She’s also given an insight into the real character of the hero, Stephen Pembroke, who local legend says is the horrible Beast of Barronsfield. Not Your Average Beauty is, as the name suggests, inspired by the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, and I couldn’t help but make sure the library plays an important role in the story and the romance between the hero and heroine. Indeed, if you go to my pinterest board, you’ll see a few images of libraries that inspired the library in my story.

So if you’d like to join in on my Books and Crannies board, contact me on my website or through Facebook, and I’ll send you an invite! I’d love to see you there and your pins of reading spaces that inspire you. And if you’re interested in Not Your Average Beauty, I’ve included the blurb here.

MichelleHelliwell_NotYourAverageBeauty_blogsizeStephen Pembroke, the Marquess of Barronsfield, believes that where his love of beauty goes, death follows. Cursed to loveless existence, and with his legacy at stake, Stephen makes a desperate proposal of marriage to Rosalind Schofield, his steward’s new ward – and the plainest girl he has ever met. Rosalind has spent a lifetime being overlooked for prettier faces, when she is singled out for her lack of beauty by the Marquess, she begins to doubt if she is deserving of the love she inwardly craves.

When unusual things start happening around her, Rosalind can’t help but wonder if Lord Barronsfield or his curse are who and what they appear to be. When she openly challenges Stephen about the curse, he begins to doubt everything – and comes to realize that this apparently plain, ordinary woman is not as unremarkable as he believed. Strange things are happening in Barronsfield. As they move closer to the truth, Rosalind unwittingly finds herself in the sights of the real beast in Barronsfield, and Stephen must decide if his growing love for Rosalind will be his salvation or her doom.   

Thanks again for having me at the Chocolate Box!

Michelle Helliwell is an historical romance author who loves fairy tales, lego video games, and guys in breeches. You can find her occasionally on Twitter, sometimes on her tumblr, usually on Facebook, and on Pinterest far more often than she should be.

Not My 1st Rodeo – the site


By Donna Alward

This month Jenna Bayley-Burke, Sarah M. Anderson and I launched a new trilogy of novellas called Not My 1st Rodeo. It’s based on a fictional dating site for cowgirls and cowboys who’ve had a go-round with marriage and lived to tell the tale. We had a ton of fun coming up with it – so much that we decided to make a website to feature the books, and also the dating profiles of our characters.

So far there are three books in the series, though we’re already talking about writing more! Jenna, being our “out of the box” ideas girl, came up with the “criteria” for the dating site. Have a look:



Then we did up dating profiles for our characters! You can check those out at the site itself. There are even pictures.

We have excerpts, our bios, latest news…it’s just been a blast. Why don’t you come on over and have a gander? It’s all happening at www.notmy1strodeo.com.



Changes Coming to the Chocolate Box!


Happy Friday Readers!

The past month or so, we here at the Chocolate Box have been talking about how to make the Chocolate Box more interesting for you, our readers.  While we want to continue bringing you news about our upcoming books and appearances, we also want to make sure our blog posts are fun and interesting to read.

When we created this group blog, we wanted it to be a happy and positive place.  And so, we decided that for the next year, we’re going to focus on exactly that – being happy and positive!  We’ve taken the Dalai Lama’s tips for happy living and added our own special Chocolate Box twist.  Every month, our blog will focus on one of these tips.  We’ll be sharing personal thoughts, essays, and other fun information.  We’ll be talking about it on our Chocolate Box Facebook Page as well.

We’ll be talking books too. (Naturally!)  What we’re reading. What you’re reading. What you want to read.  Plus we have a few other fun surprises up our sleeve.  Our goal is to turn this blog into a community where friends meet up and chat.  We want to get to know you!

Next month, we’ll be focusing on CONNECTIONS. We’ll be celebrating the friends, strangers and other things that keep us grounded in this crazy world.  Please come join us.


Last blog post, I told the story of Pup Pup’s quest to best the red squirrel.  (He lost.)  Sadly, twenty-four hours after I posted, Pup Pup had a stroke.  Technically, it’s called Old Dog Vestibular Disease, but one of the underlying causes a stroke, and since he also has high blood pressure, the veterinarian is fairly certain he had one.

The good news, however, is that dogs recover from strokes much quicker than humans.  The little guy is already much improved.  He still has some weakness in his back legs and some facial palsy, but hopefully both of those will clear up in a few more weeks.  Of course, he wouldn’t be Pup Pup if he didn’t have some quirk to go along with his illness.  In this case, it’s a penchant for Rice Chex cereal.  Seriously, it’s all he ate for an entire week.

On another personal note, I gone an entire month without speaking to my son, Tattoo who is attending the U.S. Army Summer ROTC Summer Training Program.  As part of the rules, they’ve taken his phone.  I’m pretty sure not being able to text is the hardest part of the program.

Finally, this is the final week that A MILLIONAIRE FOR CINDERELLA will be on store shelves (in the few stores that still carry Harlequin Romance).  It’ll still be available online however.  E-books are forever.

Millionaire for Cinderella

You shall get your happy ending!

Patience Rush has never wanted a knight in shining armor. She’s perfectly happy cooking and cleaning for her elderly charge. Here Patience feels safe, secure and protected for the first time ever.

Until rich and incredibly gorgeous Stuart Duchenko arrives, determined to figure out his great-aunt’s unlikely housekeeper! He’s sure Patience is hiding something…but what?

Except as this unlikely pair grows closer, Patience realizes that letting go of her past might be the key to a blissful future with Stuart…

Ms. Wallace has given us a strong story about people who haven’t always made the best choices but they have helped to make them the people who they are now. – Harlequin Junkie Reviews

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Harlequin.com, Kobo, Books A Million, and iTunes.


Meeting Online Friends, by Samantha Hunter


I first started meeting friends I made online over twenty-years ago. Meeting someone you only talk to online can be awkward, and some of those meetings went better than others. You could say the most successful online to IRL (in real life) meeting I ever had was with the guy I married 18 years ago (and we met 21 years ago, so well before Harmony dot com, Facebook, etc — those things weren’t even thought of then). :)

I’ve had a chance, through travel and conferences, to meet wonderful writing friends I’ve known only through email, social media, etc — and many of those I considered, good, close friends and confidants long before we met IRL. The IRL meeting made no difference — all of the bonding carried over, and our friendships just grow stronger (including several of the lovely Chocolate Box ladies here, though I still need to meet several of them, but I know it will be fun. No doubts there.)

I met another online author friend a few weeks ago in Seattle, the lovely Serena Bell, and it didn’t feel like a “meeting” at all, but just getting together with a good friend, which is the best! She’s lovely and warm, and she asked me the most intriguing question: had I ever had the experience of not meshing with someone IRL that I had interacted well with online?

The answer of course is yes — there have been a few folks who when we met things didn’t quite mesh the way I thought they might. There were no negative experiences, no actual dislike, etc but the meeting loosened the bonds rather than tightening them for various reasons, losing touch afterward instead of growing closer, etc.

So what about you? Have you ever met people online whom you had been friends with for some time, and how did it go? Was it like meeting an old friend you already knew, or did the bonds loosen?

Share and I’ll choose a winner to receive a Net Galley ARC of Serena’s upcoming release, TURN UP THE HEAT (it’s a scorcher, so maybe I should give away a set of potholders with it — especially since the heroine is a cook and the hero is just hot hot hot!)

Here’s the blurb and the cover… need I say more?

sbFor readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell teases all five senses in this poignant, tantalizing novel of fantasies long hidden . . . and finally indulged.

Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.
Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.

Ice cream and Italy


Book Giveaway VettoriThe release of a new book is always a big moment and it’s been a year since the last one so I’m pretty excited about Vettori’s Damsel in Distress

It’s also the wind up to the story of the Amery sisters and their adventures in ice cream; they’ve been a part of my life on and off for the best part of five years so I’m making a big of a song and dance about it.

Rosie widgetI’ve created a free book — Rosie’s Little Book of Ice Cream – with all the wit and wisdom from Rosie (the ice cream van that started it all) along with a little history, some recipes and the first chapters of Tempted By Trouble, Anything But Vanilla and Vettori’s Damsel in Distress. Here’s a link to Smashwords which works for any eReader, but you can download it anywhere.

11390285_986887964678737_8905722954691537704_nI’ve done a Goodreads giveaway – you’ve got until June 29th to enter.

This gorgeous tote bag is just for my newsletter subscribers — there’s still time to still sign up to be in the draw before it goes out on the 3rd July.

notebookI’ve also got this lovely notebook, some nail art and the cutest “ice cream cone” eraser. This one is for my Facebook fans.

Ice Cream EraserFor a chance to win this little bundle of goodness, go to my Facebook page, “like” it if you haven’t already, and post a photograph of the book – in a bookstore (tell me where!), in your hand (I love to see my readers), on top of your tbr pile. It’s being released in the US, UK and Australia simultaneously and I’ll send the prize anywhere.

sticker uprightOh, and I’m giving away a copy of the book here and now with one of these cute little ice cream stickers which I found online with the help of my mate, Sarah Morgan.

I’ll pick a winner from the comments column so share an ice cream moment with us. Your first memory of ice cream. A favourite flavour. Knickerbocker Glory or Banana Split. A trip around Ben & Jerry’s factory… Go!

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