Accidental Series

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This month I’ve been writing the final book in a 3-book series for Harlequin Romance. It doesn’t have a flash or a series name. We didn’t know it was going to be a series!

It all started when I wrote DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS. daring to trust the boss

Olivia was a brand spanking new college graduate who moved to New York City with two friends, hoping to start her exciting life in the best city in the world. (At least to New Yorkers. LOL) Anyway, she had to have roommates because no one can really afford to live on their on in NYC on a just-starting-out salary. Thus, two friends were born. Eloise Vaughn, a spoiled rich girl who’d been kicked out of her house by her parents. And plain Jane Laura Beth Matthews. She sees them in the morning before she buzzes off to work and, again, when she comes home at night, exhausted.

The more they appeared it book one, the clearer it became that Eloise needed a story. And the next thing I knew I was writing THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS (to be released this fall), pairing Eloise with the love of her life…though she doesn’t realize it as they are going on date after date to fulfill his social obligations. But isn’t that the way it is with love? It sometimes sneaks up on you. Of course, it’s always best if it sneaks up at you at 12 Christmas parties where you get to wear fabulous clothes!

And then there’s Laura Beth. Dating a company vice president the whole way through Eloise’s book, she appeared to be set. Unfortunately, though Laura Beth thought she was dating the love of her life…readers and I knew she wasn’t. The guy didn’t treat her well, but with stars in her eyes, she couldn’t see it. How could we NOT tell Laura Beth’s story? How could we not give her a great guy and a happy ending like her friends had.

Which is where we are today. With me busily proving to Laura Beth she isn’t a plain Jane and she does deserve a happy ending.

So what do you think? Should this series at least have a title? It’s too late for a flash but a series title would work well on Amazon and B&N. But what would we call it? 3 Friends in the City?

I’m stumped. I could use some help.

 


All that glitters… Michelle Douglas

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In my last post I talked handbags. This time around I thought I’d talk jewellery. Just because. :-)

I don’t have very many expensive pieces of jewellery. The responsibility of not losing an expensive piece makes me break out into a cold sweat. But I do have lots of inexpensive, fun stuff. I mean, a whole lot. So I thought I’d share a selection with you (an even dozen to be precise). :-)

Let’s start with necklaces…

Tree

 

This is made of wood would you believe? I wear a lot of orange so the green is perfect. There’s a whimsy to this piece that makes me smile.

And because I wear a lot of orange these two pieces are perfect as well. A writer friend gave me the piece on the left for my birthday and it just makes me think of summer (even though my b’day is in winter). The piece on the right I found at the markets. Don’t you just love markets?

orange

 

I call this my liquorice allsort necklace. I love it. Also, it’s made of plastic.

liquorice

 

This is the silliest ring. It’s called a Picasso ring. I wear it to writers conferences in an effort to channel Picasso’s creativity. :-)

Picasso

 

I love earrings. I believe I have more earrings than my suburb has ears. These three are on my current rotation. The blue of the opals is quite vivid. I always get comments whenever I wear the peridot and moonstones. As for the garnets…well, I just love garnets. :-)

earrings

 

Pendants are fun too. I have a real weakness for amber.

Pendants

 

My absolute favourite piece of jewellery, though (not counting wedding and engagement rings as they’re in a class all of their own) is my Pandora bracelet. My DH bought it for me and buys me a new charm for every book I publish. This is one of my favourite things in the world. :-)

Pandora1

 

Pandora2

 

So, are you like me? A magpie when it comes to anything shiny and bright (or orange)? Or do you prefer to not bother with anything much more than a watch?

www.michelle-douglas.com


The simple joy of walking barefoot on a beach

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by Jackie Braun

In late March, I decided to treat myself to a pedicure. At the time, it seemed like a frivolous thing to do considering that the weather outside was frigid, and snow still covered much of the ground. I wasn’t going to be wearing sandals anytime soon, even though Spring Break was right around the corner.

pip and me

Our dog came with us on the trip. I think he was as happy to be in warm weather as we were. We’re pictured here on a dock on Little Lagoon.

My family didn’t have a vacation planned, although we were going to be in Elizabethtown, KY, the weekend of April 11-13 for a baseball tournament. The rest of the time was going to be spent at home, closed up in the same house that has felt like a prison at times during this endless winter.

We consoled ourselves with the thought that at least in Kentucky, which is a couple of states to the south of ours, the weather was likely to be warmer and the possibility of a snowstorm remote.

gulf coast beach

Lots of white sand to sink my toes into.

Then my husband surprised me with this suggestion: Why not head a little further south in search of sunshine?

He could take a couple days off work, he said, and we could head down midweek. It sounded good to me. Anything to leave the frozen tundra that is Michigan behind, even if only briefly.

Well, one thing led to another and, with just one week to go before the official start of our kids’ Spring Break, my husband and I wound up booking a place in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We spent not a mere couple of days but six blissful ones a short walk from the Gulf of Mexico in a condo overlooking Little Lagoon.

The weather wasn’t the greatest at first. We rolled into town during a downpour with the temperature dropping by the minute. The next day wasn’t much better. In fact, it started with a thunderstorm. But a heated indoor pool made up for that as far as my boys were concerned.)

sunrise in alabama

Sunrise on Little Lagoon. I took this picture from the side balcony of our condo.

Then, it happened. The clouds parted, the sun came out and the temperature began to climb. Finally, I got to take my pretty pink toes out for a test drive on the white sand beach of the Gulf.  Heaven, I tell you. Absolute heaven.

As vacations go, this one was perfect. We did whatever we felt like doing, whenever we felt like doing it. Until the baseball tournament in Kentucky, our entire trip was unscripted and unscheduled, so much so that I rarely looked at a clock. In fact, we were two days into our trip before it dawned on me that at some point we had crossed into a different time zone!

Now that’s what I call a vacation!

Jackie Braun is the author of more than 30 romances. Love Unleashed, a novella from Entangled Indulgence, is on sale now.

 

 


Top Ten Reasons I love… Badminton?

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This month marks the pinnacle of badminton season. Both my kids play and so the last 2 months in particular have been busy with extra practices and tournaments. This isn’t the first competitive sport they’ve played, but it’s my favorite. Badminton seems to be devoid of a lot of the other BS that happens with other sports, and that makes me happy.

So here are my top ten reasons I love badminton:

10) Take it or leave it. My eldest belongs to Badminton Nova Scotia. The season actually runs from October to May, with approximately one tournament a month, many of which are in the capital region or within an hour’s drive. You don’t need to participate in every tournament, and you compete as individuals, not as a club as a whole. So if you miss a tournament, you’re not there, but you’re not letting your club down. You just sign up for the next one. I think my daughter has missed two tournaments this year, and both were because she had other events happening the same weekend with drama. No biggie.

9) Relaxed atmosphere. The games are competitive, but the people are fun and pretty chill when they’re off the court. The kids usually sit as a team when they’re not playing, cheer each other on, joke around.

8) Low cost. The whole year costs just over $300. If you’ve ever paid sport fees, you know that’s not a lot, particularly for a full 8 months. Tournament fees are generally $15 for the first event, and $5 each additional event. So even if your kid does singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, it’s $25. Granted, eldest got new shoes this year ($100) and a new racket ($200) and there is the cost of shuttles because they use feather, but it’s still not an expensive sport for a year. Plus there are typically prizes at tournaments. She’s come home with Yonex clothing and posters and grip.

7) The moms. There are two moms in particular who I love hanging with. One I’ve known for years – her son and my daughter have been good friends since elementary school. The other is the mom of my daughter’s mixed partner, who I just met this year and who is awesome and funny and reads romance novels like a crack addiction. Need I say more? I don’t get out much socially, so hanging around the gym in my yoga pants and having coffee with these ladies is actually kind of a treat.

6) The coaches. All of the coaches I’ve been associated with have been awesome, working with the kids on skills but also relaxed, fun, and emphasize being competitive without stressing the kids out.

5) A short school season: the school season begins first of March and ends mid-April. Basically six weeks and you’re done. And since club runs all year, it’s really just that six weeks where things bottleneck, and it’s only briefly. My eldest plays both club and school; my youngest does school and might be doing club next year.

4) Tournaments vs games. One of the key differences between badminton and, say, volleyball (because that’s the other sport we have a lot of experience with) is that there are no league games. With volleyball (and basketball, rugby, any of those team sports), you might have 1-2 games a week at different schools through the season. Badminton is just tournaments and the school tournaments happen during school time/right after school so it doesn’t eat up your weekend. Depending on your group, you’ll do zones/counties/regionals/provincials and you’re done. A maximum of four days.

3) Grilled Cheese. It’s like a ritual: grilled cheese at tournaments. Usually the canteen is put on by the local club as a fundraiser. Grilled cheese is like a tournament staple.

2) No funky or expensive uniforms. Sometimes there are team shirts. I pay a uniform deposit for my eldest’s school shirt, and she wears black shorts.

1) And finally: It’s a game for everyone. I used to play ages ago and still think about getting back into it. A few of the tournaments are “OPENS” which are A and B divisions and not divided by age group. Two of my daughter’s favorite games this season were when she and her partner played against teams in their 30′s and 40′s. One beat them, they beat the other team, but the game was characterized by smiling, compliments on good plays on both sides of the net, and fun. Next year, my husband and I might try one or I’ve considered playing with one of the coaches. Whenever I’ve helped with practice, we’ve had a ball.

Is there a sport you played or your kids play that you particularly enjoy (or don’t enjoy?)?

www.donnaalward.com


Guest Chocolate Robin Gianna on Orthodox Easter

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Springtime means tulips, raindrops, warmer temperatures, and, for many of us, Easter.  You probably saw the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but at many Greek homes, Easter is pretty big and fat, too!

Orthodox Easter is often a different date than Western Easter, which some Greeks I know say imageshappens to ensure they can get their chocolate bunnies at half price. :-) The real reason has to do with Western churches using the Gregorian calendar, and Orthodox churches using the Julian calendar, even though both celebrate the first Sunday after the full moon.  If you’re confused by that, join the club, because there is also some disagreement about the exact definition of the vernal equinox and full moon.

In any case, the two Easters are on the same day this year, and we’re hosting at our house.  The head count is still being finalized, but it looks like there will be at least fifty of us.  Using Chinet and paper cups would be frowned upon—and needless to say, there’s a lot involved getting tables set up and using real dishes, silverware, and glassware for that kind of crowd!

img_44501Thankfully, everyone brings food and the feast is always fabulous.  Traditional Greek foods like pastitsio, spanakopita, roasted potatoes, and salad are in abundance.  Cookies such as koulourakia and kourambiethes are gobbled up.  But the star of the day is LAMB.

Many of the men in the family are big believers in the tradition of a whole lamb cooked on a spit that they get up at the crack of dawn to prepare and cook.  My husband shrugs off good-natured ribbing from male cousins about his lack of manhood when he chooses to cook up only boneless legs of lamb on his rotisserie.

Whole lamb or legs, rain or shine, we always have a great time spending Easter with family.

What about you?  Do you have any special Easter traditions?

When not cooking delicious Orthodox Easter dinners, Robin Gianna writes for Harlequin Medical Romances.  Her debut, CHANGED BY HIS SON’S SMILE remains among the Top Ten medical romances on Amazon.  Her most recent release, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF DR. DALTON is out now.

TheLastTempationofDrDalton_US_300When cool, collected hospital director Charlotte Edwards throws caution to the wind for one hot, reckless night with Dr. Trent Dalton she has no idea it’s going to backfire on her so spectacularly—because the next morning she has to bury her pride and ask for his help!

Trent shouldn’t mix business with pleasure…again! But Charlotte is a delicious temptation he just can’t resist. Yet when Trent finds out she’s been keeping him around under false pretenses he might just have to teach this little minx a lesson…in passion!


Does a Good Romance Make You Cry? by Samantha Hunter

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cryingOkay, so I was going to follow suit and post pictures of my bags as has been done on recent posts, but this topic came up in a conversation, and I decided to go with it. I always hear people talk about how a romance made them cry as if that is a good thing, and authors who also talk about scenes they are writing that make them cry. I’m obviously missing some romance writer gene, since not only don’t I cry over my writing like Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, but I don’t cry over reading — and I don’t want to.

There may have been one book ever (Sarah Mayberry!) ;) that made me cry (just a little) and that was not even a romance scene, but one between two brothers. Some TV shows, yes… the military dog scene in NCIS or the scene on The Blacklist when Lizzy loses her father… yep, they got me. I remember them specifically because it doesn’t happen very often. Usually things will make me tear up if they remind me of something sad in my life, or if it has to with animals — the animal stuff always gets me.

But I don’t like to cry. Like vomiting, it’s something you can’t help sometimes when it really hits you, you can’t hold it back, but who wants to do it? (Sorry, I know that’s gross, but it’s the closest comparison I could think of).

I know now and then there is the “happy cry” and that’s okay, too (in moderation). At best, I’m uncomfortable with crying and sobbing. I suppose it’s the loss of control (and all the snot) as well. If possible, I will avoid it. You’ll notice the same in my heroines, actually. :) One exception is laughing until you cry — that I adore, because those hard, hard belly laughs are so wonderful and well worth a clogged nose and red eyes. I love laughing until my face hurts, actually.

I understand why authors like it if their books make people weepy — it means they’ve hit an emotional pitch of sorts (I had one book that people said was hot and also would make them cry, and I have to admit I was happy about that — but I also feel like I should apologize.)  I would rather make people laugh, think, get turned on, or just feel happy than make them cry (though I know some of you love it, LOL). I even found a Goodreads shelf of “Books that are good to cry over.” It’s not the only one — Google “Crying Over a Book” and you will find all kinds of lists and sources for books that will reduce you to tears. If this is your thing, then have at it, but I can’t say I share the urge. :)

So, do you like books that make you cry? Is that somehow the hallmark of a good romance? Therapeutic? Cathartic? Are you “comfortable” with tears or not?

 


Yet another bag lady…

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by Fiona Harper

Well, now Michelle and Kate have got the ball rolling by talking about handbags, it would be rude not to join in, wouldn’t it? My husband thinks I have a problem with handbags. I really don’t. And I don’t tend to go for ultra-expensive, although I have a couple of nice ones that I’ve splashed out on. For me, it’s more about having the perfect size, shape and number of pockets and compartments for the current occasion. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, I’d better kick things off by showing you my most recent purchase – a Cath Kidston bag that I got for my birthday. I bought it to replace a cheaper imitation that fell apart after two to three years of steady use and I love it to bits. It’s strong and sturdy. Waterproof and it’s even got a divider inside so I can slip my iPad or my laptop in it. :-)

kidston2

The next is my Radley bag. Kate’s shown you hers, so I thought I’d better show you mine. I bought this one six years ago and it’s still going strong. What grabbed me about it was the cute little charm that hangs round the straps. Instantly sold.

radley

The next is my evening bag, which didn’t cost much, but I love because it’s covered in chiffon ruffles and had a wrist strap that means you can hang it on your wrist and still hold a glass of wine in one hand and a canape in the other and not drop everything. Essential feature for a clumsy lass like me!

ben

And finally I have to share what I have now laughingly dubbed my ‘shameless self-promotion bag’. It’s a Clippy bag. (If you haven’t heard of Clippy, check out their website. Cute little see-though bags with pockets that you can customise. I used mine for book jackets and mementos. I’ve taken it to a couple of writing conferences as a talking point, and people have started recognising my bag before they recgonise me! Every now and then I have a reshuffle, print out new covers, put different things in the pockets… Endless hours of fun!

clippy new side 2 small

So… if you had a Clippy bag, what would you put in it?


Another bag lady, here…

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Kate HardyMichelle Douglas’s post last week made me think I just had to confess about my own bag habit.

I’m a Radley girl. Specifically, I like the ‘signature’ bags which have a picture on them. They’re quirky, they’re fun, and they’re also beautifully made and sensibly designed – there are lots of pockets inside. And they last forever – I have one particular bag that I’ve used almost every day for four years and it’s still in good condition. The larger ones are also big enough to contain my iPad, so they’re really useful if I have to go to London on the train.

Anyway. Me and my Radleys. (And yes, it’s true that I named a family in a medical trilogy after my handbags. My editor was highly amused.)

The first one I bought is still probably my favourite – the racing car.   It was the most expensive bag I’d ever bought, but I’m so glad I did. The softest leather, the cute picture, the pockets…

june radley car

 

And then I was shortlisted for the RoNA Rose for the very first time. Well, I needed a new handbag to go to the awards do, didn’t I?

june radley teatime

 

It has little teacups on the back. How could I resist?

And then there was the one with the balloon. I just loved the colour. (I wish I’d bought the weekend case as well. But DH might have killed me for that.)

june radley balloon

And the beach one. (This is one of the bigger ones.) This could have been Wells-next-the-Sea, which is one of my favourite places in the world. How could I resist that?

june radley beach

 

And finally there’s the last one I bought – all the apples are different, the cloud is stripy (as is the Radley tag), and given how much my husband likes cycling… I think this one had my name on it.

sept Radley bag

 

So that’s me and my Radleys :)  Do you have a favourite bag designer?

 

 



Questions Answered

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Normally, I don’t get questions on my books. My stories are fairly straightforward. But my March release, HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE, came with a question from a few readers. Not a lot. Most people loved the book. But some wondered…Why the heck would the hero chose to run a funeral home? LOL

The answer is easy. Finn Donovan is a businessman. But he also thinks like a chess player. He plays down the board. He doesn’t just see what’s happening now. He looks for what will be happening in the future. When he got out of the marines, knowing he had to settle in Harmony Hills, he looked at the economic landscape of his small town and saw most needs were already filled — except that Mark McDermott, the funeral director, was getting old. His goal was to work for Mark and ultimately buy him out. But when he was ready (after he did his schooling and apprenticing) Mark wouldn’t sell. Not one to waste an education, he started the competing business. Which ultimately puts him and Ellie in competition and also gives them a chance to realize they are the love of each other’s life. <3

I like using everything in a story.

But back to Finn. Something that a lot of writers forget when they are writing about small towns is that the economics of a small town are different than those in a big city. Granted, you will sometimes find a housewife who starts selling cookies from her garage and ends up as successful as Mrs. Fields. Or as in the case of my heroine in A FATHER FOR HER TRIPLETS, you find a heroine who starts baking wedding cakes for friends and ends up an accidental entrepreneur. But, mostly, the businessmen of a small town make their money serving the needs of the people around them.

It’s more true to life to have a hero who makes his money serving those around him, then a secret late-night stock market trader. :) (Though I’ve written about that guy too! LOL)

I wanted The Donovan Brothers series to be about “real” small town life. I wanted to show that the leaders of a small town are part of the town. Not just bystanders who make their money on the Internet or through mail order and have no other tie. I wanted to show that small town leaders live with and work with the people in their community. So, later this summer, you’ll meet Finn’s brother Cade, a rancher, who suddenly finds himself “saddled” with the town’s grocery store…and the town’s runaway bride. A few months after that, you’ll get Devon’s story. Devon is a big city guy finally tying up the loose ends of being the executor of his friend’s estate — who discovers his duties aren’t done when the money is all divided. He’s got responsibilities far beyond that! LOL

So why did I want to go this route of a “real” small town experience? Because investing in your community is the way a small town entrepreneur doesn’t just make money; he makes a life – Finn. Because sometimes we think running away and reinventing ourselves is the way to escape our past, but life has a way of drawing us back and forcing us to face our issues – Cade. And because sometimes you have to go the extra mile for your neighbor, realizing, in a small town, everybody is your neighbor — Devon.

I loved the fact that so many people were intrigued by my choice of funeral director as Finn’s occupation. I’m sure it prodded people to read on. LOL But I especially loved the fact that I get three books, three brothers, to really explore small town life and show readers a true glimpse of living with the same people you work with, go to church with, shop with, share a fence with.

To me, small town life, real small town life, is a blast of loving, fighting, coming to others’ rescue, and loving some more.

So if you like small town gossip that turns into genuine caring, watching the members of a community live and love, you’re going to love The Donovan Brothers series. <3

Happy Reading…

susan meier

Oh, and, btw, someone asked me what happened next with Finn and Ellie. :) A wonderful fan went to my Goodreads page and said…Hum, so did Ellie sell Finn her funeral home? Short answer: Given that they were married, it become community property. :) But another thing I didn’t get to talk about in the book — no time — was that Finn started many, many more businesses in Harmony Hills and beyond. He was, after all, a businessman who played down the board. :)