Friday, January 26, 2018

What's your favorite trope? by Cheryl Bolen

My readers would be the first to tell you my favorite romance trope is the "marriage of convenience" story. Seven of my first nine published books followed this trope, including my first, A Duke Decieved, which was a finalist for Best First Book (Holt Medallion) and won the Notable New Author distinction back in 1999. My 2005 One Golden Ring (now retitled His Golden Ring) won the Holt Medallion as Best Historical, and it too was a marriage-of-convenience story. So I think readers must like MOCs  as much as I. Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line published my Marriage of Inconvenience. I am sure you can figure out what trope it follows!

Another of my favorite tropes in a romance novel is the "ugly duckling" story. I used this in my To Take This Lord (previously published only in paperback as An Improper Proposal), His Lordship's Vow, and in my novella "Home for Christmas" which appears in my Christmas anthology Christmas Brides. I also used it in my novel My Lord Wicked, which won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards in 2011. 

My Love in the Library (Brides of Bath, Book 5), is a fish-out-of-water story featuring one hot nerd hero. You don't find a lot of nerd heroes, but I don't think anything's sexier than tapping into their still waters. I hope you agree.

Cheryl Bolen is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty something Regency romances. Her latest full-length novel is Miss Hastings' Excellent Adventure (a Brazen Brides book), and her last release was the Christmas novella, A Birmingham Family Christmas, also a Brazen Brides novella.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Secrets That Won't Stay Hidden by @lcrandallwriter

I have theories. For instance, those who tell lies a lot don't realize people can see right through them. Often people are not talking with each other, but rather their perspectives are talking at each other. I implemented my theory about secrets -- secrets rarely stay hidden -- when writing my paranormal romance, Secrets, book one in my Fierce Hearts series.

Here's the blurb:

With her penchant for premonitions, Michelle Slade has always had trouble connecting with other people, and a horrific attack five years ago only made her isolation worse. But working to help defenseless animals with her rescue organization, Cats Alive, has given her new purpose and joy in life. When several homeless cats start vanishing into thin air, she’s determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Casey Mitchell has always kept his private identity as a were-lynx secret. But he’s drawn to Michelle, and when he begins to help investigate the odd circumstances surrounding the cats’ disappearance, he uncovers a powerful businessman’s diabolic designs on the unassuming woman.
Now both he and Michelle are in grave danger, and their survival depends on trusting each other with secrets they believe must not come out. Will these two lonely souls triumph and find true love . . . or lose everything?

We all have secrets, or beliefs we are compelled to hide for fear of something. But keeping parts of us safely hidden can be a silent torture, a constant stress to prevent revelation of who we truly are and what we've been through. I'm not going to ask you to reveal a private part of you, but please share something you carried deep inside you for years and have learned to embrace and bring it out into the world. How did embracing it affect you?

Find Secrets on Amazon, along with the other Fierce Hearts books -- Cravings, Heartfelt, Probabilities, and Unstoppable.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rushing The Holidays by @JoanReeves #GemsInAttic

I'm sure some of you are surprised to have seen Christmas books out in October. Now, it's January, and there are already Valentine books and box sets competing for your attention.

Yes, I'm one of those with a Valentine box set up for pre-orders even as we speak.

I'm also one of those who used to complain loud and long about Hobby Lobby putting out the Christmas decorations in the summer. Now, as a self-publishing indie author, I know why they do that. It's all about marketing, and trying to be first to market with something relevant and new.

Being First

Back when we authors were all under contract to big publishing houses, the release of books coincided mostly with the seasons. Books were shipped to bookstores to be on the shelves when people wanted beach books or wanted to begin Christmas shopping.

In this digital age when voracious readers want new books quickly, we try to be first to market with our relevant product--in this case a Valentine box set--in the hope that we may hit in a big way and end up with a bestselling box set.

Sweet and Sassy Valentine

A dozen of us put together a romance collection and dedicated it to the Hopeful Romantic
because that's what romance authors really are. We believe in love, romance, and commitment.

This Valentine romance collection by 12 New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors has something for everyone: sweet romance to blistering hot romance.

With 12 books for only 99cents, you can pick and choose what you want to read!

Discover new authors or revisit favorites, that's what box sets are all about. Pick up Sweet and Sassy Valentine today--only at Amazon.

Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of sassy, sexy Contemporary Romance. Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her Hero, her husband, in a book-cluttered home in Texas.

Check Joan's Amazon Author Page for lists of her books--many of which are available at the other ebook sellers too. Sign up for her mailing list and receive a free ebook. You'll also be the first to know about new books and giveaways.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Year with Elizabeth Hoyt by @BonnieEdwards #Gemsinattic

In January 2017 I clicked a link for book on Amazon. This was a new-to-me author and the book was the first in the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt. Here, I will thank blogger and reviewer Sissy Mae Hicks for sharing that link.
Elizabeth Hoyt
Elizabeth Hoyt's author page on Amazon

I was hooked! And now, a full year later, I've read each story in the series, plus her two other series, The Princes Trilogy and The Legend of the Four Soldiers FOUR times through. And, indeed, I've started the fifth go-round and learned something new today.

The first time through I was simply dazzled by the richness of the stories. The characters are unique, multi-layered and come with quirks, beliefs, and angst peculiar to them. Hoyt has a fondness for Beauty and the Beast but Beauty usually has her own secrets. I was fascinated!

The second time through, I studied story. Again, these are multi-layered, with action, drama, mystery and suspense. Hoyt has a unique style, filtering in small bits that resonate further along...or even several books later. (Yes, this - I realized this morning a character briefly mentioned wearing brilliant yellow and saying outrageous things is, in fact, a hero books and books later.)

Here I will stop and say that I have been writing for over 30 years. I've studied storytelling, pacing, character, setting, description. I've taught creative writing and workshops. And I am still boggled by what Elizabeth Hoyt has accomplished in all of her series.

On my third read through I studied how she sets up her series. Hoyt cleverly places scenes with enough about a character to lead into their story. There's a wonderfulness in ending a book as a reader, desperate to see what happens next in the world another writer has created.

On my fourth read through I studied her transitions and discovered she has a few favorites that I'm attempting in my own work. Then, I totally lost the need to study and simply read every book again for pure enjoyment.

In fact, Hoyt's books make me try harder with my own. I've honed my focus on characters, on setting, and on pacing, thanks to her work.

I don't know Elizabeth Hoyt. I've only recently started following her on Twitter and FB. I'm devastated that the Maiden Lane series has come to a close. (What about Nell? Huh? Steadfast, deserving Nell with the interesting past in the theater? Where's her hero? - yes, that's a whine)

As I write, I know Ms. Hoyt has announced a new trilogy will be coming. I can only implore her to write quickly. But, you know, it doesn't really matter because I'll likely spend 2018 re-reading Maiden Lane, The Princes, and the Four Soldiers again anyway.

I'm writing this on Dec 31, 2017, and it will be posted mid-January. I hope I'm not too late to wish everyone a creative, exciting and wonderful New Year.

You can follow Sissy Mae Hicks here:

Or follow me here:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Taking stock of writing goals by Jan Scarbrough

How many of you write down your New Year’s resolutions? I don’t, mainly because I don’t make them. I do, however, write down my goals as a writer for the year. Then at the end of the year, I go back and look to see where I’ve fallen short.

The year 2017 didn’t seem very productive to me for my writing. The day job took up too much mental time. But looking back at my goals, I see I’ve accomplished quite a few.

Jan’s 2017 Writing goals
Publish My Lord Raven
Write Nom de Plume
Write a Christmas novella for the Montana McKenna’s series
Attend Novelist, Inc. conference
 X Plan and write first book of next Montana series

My Lord Raven was almost ready to go as the year started. I self-published a book that had been published by a small press. It required a re-edit, new final chapter, and new book cover. I was pleased when I released it in February.

Nom de Plume and Home for the Holidays were shorts. I thought I wouldn’t finish Home for the Holidays because the ideas just wouldn’t come, not with everything else going on. Somehow, I pulled it off, and published the short story the first of December, offering a free copy of it to people subscribing to my newsletter.

Content is king in the publishing world, and I just didn’t have any consistency in 2017. Looking forward to 2018, with the day job behind me, I hope to write at least two longer books. I’ve been planning Raven’s Vow for years, and still find the story eluding me, which means I need to simply sit down and start writing it.

So, for the record, here are my writing goals for 2018. Wish me luck!

  • Revise Kentucky Flame, re-edit, and publish as a paperback
  • Plan and write the first book of Ghost Mountain Ranch, a Montana Ranchers series book
  • Plan and write Olwen’s Vow

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Joyful Jar  @kathleenlawless

Last Christmas I gave my best friend a fancy jar and a pad of post it notes, along with the challenge to write down something every week that gave her joy.  I did the same myself and I am still waiting to read them with her.  I know she is avoiding me because she ‘forgot’ for months at a time.  Other times she struggled, looking for something totally “WOW”. 

I don’t know about you, but really don’t have a lot of totally “WOW” moments.  What I wrote down were a lot of times and places and situations and experiences that gave me a nice, warm fuzzy feeling of being in the moment and loving it. 

I haven’t read through them all (still waiting on the BFF) but I did pull out a few for this blog.  Because I live near the beach a lot of those moments were about or on the beach, either here or on vacation.  

Many of those special moments involved making memories with my love; I am grateful every day to have him in my life.  

Picnics, beachwalks, sunshine, sand between my toes, you get the gist.  Things we can easily take for granted if we are not truly present in the moment. 

One of my joyful notations mentions a new journal.  That crisp smell of unused paper interspersed with sayings about, what else?  The Ocean.  Another involved a weekend with the girlfriends.  Family, friends, food and wine, they all found a mention in The Joyful Jar. 

I’m anticipating this newly launched year.  I don’t need the Joyful Jar to remind me of all the good things in my life.  But I am excited to see what 2018 brings. 

I am also very excited to have my novella, Intimate Strangers, part of a new box set next month.  Love Me Hard contains 15 great reads by award-winning authors to be released on February 13th just in time for Valentine’s Day. 

May it be one of many, many joyful moments.  And may you fill your own Joyful Jar, figuratively or literally, with joy.

Kathleen Lawless is the award-winning author of 25 romance novels and novellas, all with happy endings, because life is too short for angst.
Visit her website:  
Friend her on Facebook:  kathleenlawless author.
Sign up for her newsletter and receive a free erotic novella.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

In the Write Mood by @lcrandallwriter

My contribution, Two Days Until Midnight, to the anthology At Midnight puts the main characters in a life and death situation with an impending deadline. I love to write intrigue, suffering, and love’s triumph. But I’ve wondered lately if that kind of writing is true to myself or indicative of a generalized mood.

Two Days Until Midnight focuses on a reclusive billionaire hero and a bird-shifter whose mission is to protect her flock’s habitat from a project headed by the billionaire. As in almost every story I’ve written, the protagonists face dire situations, their own kind of hell.
Here’s an excerpt:
Tamier’s shoulders sagged. It would have been better if the spell caster had killed him too that day in the ruins. The hole in his chest where his love of life should have been had never closed. It dragged him down every day. It stole his life. On his twenty-eighth birthday, two years ago, the cheetah inside him took away everything he’d worked for and wanted.
He stood and turned to the window, staring into the woods and groves of trees surrounding his house. About a mile away, the forest and hills surrounding his home turned into prairie, with tall prairie grasses. When the cheetah inside him took him over, he was drawn to the prairie to run, wild and fast.
His home was equipped with many amenities that made living here inside the three stories of stone and glass less troubling. But it didn’t relieve the loneliness.
            A memory of the spell caster’s grinning face taunted him. Tamier slammed his fist into the stone wall of his office. “I hate you!”
The familiar warning aura scratched like sandpaper under his skin. Stripping off his clothes, he ran down the three flights of stairs to the main level in his house and tore open the back door, racing the cheetah. Panting, he fought the transformation with every iota of his will. Pain shot through his bones, every one of them, twisting them into the shape of the beast. His body throbbed with each cell’s change. Helpless to stop it, Tamier watched paws replace his hands and feet, spotted fur replace his skin, and a thirst for speed bunch his muscles.
            He burst into a full charge, dust churning up behind him as he sprinted through the tall prairie grasses. His ears picked up tiny sounds of rabbits fleeing, of wind streaming around his sleek body, and grass swooshing as he sliced through. None of it, not the speed and agility to run faster than the wind, or the strength and coordination of his muscles, exhilarated him. He wouldn’t, couldn’t take pleasure in any of it.
            All he could do was attempt to outrun his curse until exhaustion returned him to his human form and he took refuge in the solitude of his home.

I love going into a character’s crises. It feels very real and rich there to me. But an article that caught my eye suggested a writer in a depressed mood would be inclined to write dark stories. Maybe it’s true. There are many stories of troubled genius writers. I’m not a genius and I’m not depressed. But it’s an interesting consideration to contemplate if I’m drawn to writing a certain type of story because of my interior life. I am an introvert. A deep, thoughtful story that showcases the emotional turmoil of characters is my kind of story, whether writing or reading. Now, I could cringe to think I could be revealing my psyche in my characters. I’d rather believe I’m tapping into the existential prevailing mood of humanity.

Writers tap into what’s relevant to their writing. Inspiration and fuel for stories comes from personal experience, but probably also personality and curiosity play a role as well. Is there a Write Mood? What kind of stories do you write and read? Does your mood, happy, optimism, sorrow, or fear, play a role?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Toasting 2018 With Cough Syrup by @JoanReeves

Darling Hubby and I welcomed the New Year by toasting with cough syrup and hors d'oeuvres of Mucinex.

Yep. We limped into the New Year coughing and wheezing.

When I realized tonight that it was my turn to post tomorrow, I took the laptop to bed. Now I'm sitting here typing whatever pops into my feverish brain. Without sounding too yippy-dippy-hippy, here I go with a stream of consciousness post.

New Year Thoughts

(1) Let's talk about dreams and aspirations and the New Year.

We all have the desire to achieve something special. If you didn't make IT--your special dream--happen last year, you have a new chance this year. Isn't that great?

Of course, dreams are just dreams unless you make them reality. I like what Colin Powell said about that. "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work."

(2) My IT for the New Year is very simple. Enjoy Life more. Worry less. Ah, simple things are never easy, are they? But I'm going to work on this. More effective effort, not more work. More fun in the real world, and less time in the digital world.

(3) Give away much of the "stuff" that clutters my life. (It can become my kids' problems. *g*)

(4) Make more time for gardening which I once greatly enjoyed.

(5) Read more.

(6) Write more for the sheer pleasure of writing.

(7) Spend more time with family.

(8) Oh, and every single day I want to do what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."

Wishing you good health, peace, prosperity, love, and joy.

Book About New Year's Chances

By the way, if you'd like to read a New Year's story about a woman who takes a chance to turn her dream into reality, try Last Chance New Year.

Cheyenne Smith, better known as C. A. Smith to her co-workers, decides New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to give in to insanity and throw herself at Luke Harper, the man she loves, and hope that he catches her.

Will Luke be her safety net?

Last Chance New Year is a very sexy romance short story, part of A Moment In Time series, and it's only 99 cents.


Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of sassy, sexy Contemporary Romance. Visit her Amazon Author Page for a list of her books. She lives her Happily Ever After with her Hero, her husband, in a book-cluttered home in Texas.

Sign up for Joan's mailing list and receive a free ebook. You'll also be the first to know when new books are released or click  Follow her Amazon Author Page and get an email from Amazon when new books publish.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 - Another Fresh Start

As another year is in the taillights and we look forward to a brand spanking new 365 days, I'm excited.  My life is good, my life right now is happy, and I'm satisfied with the way everything is.

That's not to say I don't have some goals.  (Not resolutions, just goals.)

* I want to read more.  I started this late in 2017 and hope to continue.  I used to read while my       hubby watched TV.  These days, I watch TV too.   I want more quiet time, reading.  I want to find new authors to love and continue reading my favs.

* I want to continue to find joy in my writing.  Last year, I hit my 50 books published milestone and I'm not going to lie.  Some of those books were easier and more enjoyable to write than others.  Not that the others were bad, they just were hard to write.  Difficult, mostly due to the fact that I remain more of a panster than a plotter.  I'd like to try to plot more thoroughly, though I've been saying that for 20 years now.

*  I got the rights back to 9 of my old Silhouette/Harlequin books.  For 2018, I hope to re-release one per month, with new covers and ISBN numbers.  Hopefully starting in Feb or March.  It's been a long time since I've self-published anything (since I got my old Dorchester books back,) so it will be a learning curve again for me.

* Like everyone else, fitness needs to become a priority.  I'd started a workout program in June 2017 and to my surprise, I was loving it.  I made it six weeks of working out to it every day.  Then I broke my ankle.  And ate whatever I wanted.  Now I'm at my heaviest weight since 1980 (Yikes!) when I was pregnant with my daughter.  That's not going to work.  My joints hurt and my body isn't happy.  So, despite the lingering ankle issues, like everyone else, I'm going to work out.  At home, though.  I'm going to restart that program I was doing in June.

* Ditto above on better eating.  While it stinks, I have to accept that I cannot just eat whatever I want.  I mainly do eat healthy, but need better portion control.  And on the times that I don't eat healthy, I need to cut the meal in half and save part of it for later.

Nothing earth-shattering in these goals.  Probably 99.9% of the population makes fitness and diet goals.  The last time I did, in 2016, I lost 15 pounds.  Now, I've gained them back, plus some.  It's a never ending battle.  But the writing and self-publishing more back-list, in addition to continuing to write new books for Harlequin, is unique to me (and a few other writers!)

I had a book out in December and have another out this month, January.  It will be one of my last books for Harlequin Nocturne (the final one of mine for the line comes out in June.)  I love the cover and I finally got to write my Mermaid!

You can buy it here:
Buy Here on Amazon

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


In between the healthy recipes and the diagrams of how to do various excruciating exercises, I found an article on the literature table at the gym about reading.  “Does reading fiction make us nicer?” it asked.  So of course I took it home to ponder.

The article summarized a study by David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Costanzo that was published in Science Magazine in 2013.  ( The authors theorized that reading fiction makes people nicer, in that while reading fiction, people have to be able to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes.  “People reading literary fiction had to fill in gaps about the emotional content of the characters in the stories.”

The researchers found that the process of reading fiction exercised readers’ empathy muscles. (I’m still trying to find a reason why this particular article was mixed in with 10 new recipes for kale and how to do a proper squat.  Exercise!)  The ability to identify what other people are thinking and feeling obviously helps our social interactions and our personal relationships run more smoothly.

The authors considered fiction readers playing an active role in figuring out why the characters behave a certain way, and believe this skill will carry over into real life.

I believe romance authors, as well as readers, exercise their empathy muscles with every story.

Romance novels rely heavily on exploring the characters’ emotions, and as authors, we’ve got to come up with plausible explanations for why our heroes and heroines react the way they do.  Their actions have to be consistent with the personality traits we’ve given them, and if they don’t seem to make sense, we have to be able to show why.

One of my first critique partners, way back when, used to constantly ask “Why?” when commenting on my stories.  She was gentle about it, as in she never said, “Why on earth would any sane person react that way?”  Or “How does this advance your plot, even a little bit?”  My answer was usually that I thought it would be amusing.  I’ve since learned that amusing isn’t really enough. 

I never thought about it before reading this article, but as I continued to write, I found I had to stretch my own empathy muscles.

Otherwise, each of my characters had the same personality as the others.  In the same way authors are advised not to have each character speak exactly the same way, each character can’t react and feel exactly the same way.  Each one has to be their own person with their own quirks and their own way of looking at the world.

Along the same lines, I tended to confuse my critique partners, and potentially my readers, if my each of my characters reacted the way I would react to a situation.  It’s that “Why would any sane person react that way?” again, and if I said that’s the way I’d react…well, refer back to the “sane person” part again.

It would be interesting if these scientists studied writers and how much empathy is required to develop and portray the emotions of so many diverse characters.

I can only hope that having to do that makes all of us nicer people.

Monday, January 1, 2018


New Year’s resolutions have a long history. Why do we have New Year’s resolutions? And how do we keep make (and keep) them?

The New Year’s resolution tradition actually goes back to ancient times. The new year is a natural time to reflect and resolve to change or improve how we live our lives.


In 2000 B.C., the Babylonians celebrated the New Year for 11 days (starting with the vernal equinox). One common resolution was the returning of borrowed farm equipment (which makes sense for an agriculturally based society).

The Babylonian New Year was adopted by the Romans as was the tradition of resolutions.
The timing, however, eventually shifted with the Julian calendar to the month of January which was named for the two-faced Roman god, Janus, who looks forward for new beginnings as well as backwards for reflection and resolution.

Janus was also the guardian of gates and doors. He presided over the temple of peace, where the doors were opened only during wartime. It was a place of safety, where new beginnings and new resolutions could be forged.

If you think about the land and the seasons, the timing of early January makes sense for most of North America. The active harvest season has passed. The holiday frenzy is ending.


Here are tips if you’re taking on a New Year’s resolution.

Make time to pause and reflect. Decide on a morning to make a cup of coffee and sit down with a pad of paper/ iPad. Or, perhaps you think best while doing a mindless household chore.

Keep it simple. Settle on one or two things that you really can accomplish. Not a big list. Define a goal that is measurable, doable, and specific. “I want to lose weight” is too vague. “I will write out a week’s meal plan and follow it for 10 days” is more concrete. Or, “I will not eat desserts or sugary treats for three weeks.” Once you reach your short-term goal, you can reassess or moderate.

Create a short list of diversions that could come up.  Sip on lemon water whenever temptation strikes or nibble on sunflower seeds to get through your midday slump. Many people get tired and have less control late in the day; if you get late-night munchies, be sure to buy something healthy to chew on, such as a handful of almonds.

This year, I resolve to be on time to meetings. To ensure this will happen, I plan to take a moment every day to set an alarm on my phone with a fifteen-minute and a five-minute reminder before any meetings.


List a few regrets about the past year. To help focus on the future, write down your regrets on a scrap of paper.  Are any of the regrets things you would like to focus on in 2018?


Weight loss, get-stay in shape, are items which seem to top everyone’s personal achievement list.
2017, I lost 5 lbs. and went down a slack size.  I was able to purchase 5 pair at 75% off at the after-Christmas Sales!  This hopefully, will keep me focused.  I am downsizing to a salad plate as my china of choice for each meal.  A mug is being utilized as a soup/cereal bowl.  I use a mini-scoop for yogurt/low fat ice cream and a tiny appetizer for any dessert (think shot glass size).

Now, about those novels.  For some odd reason (notice the pun), I have an aversion to odd-numbered years.  Why?  I have no clue.  I was born during an odd-numbered year, married during an odd-numbered year.  Nothing truly ‘horrible’ ever happened to me during an odd-numbered year.  Still, realized I seem have a mental aversion to a pub date that isn’t an even numbered year.  Do I concern myself with a Friday the 13th release date?  No.  Do I have a problem with a book release during a low-sale month/season? No (Yes, would have been the correct response.)  To cut myself some slack, odd-number years do seem to present obstacles: work, family, life in my way (students of numerology will find this interesting).

This year, and next year, I have a plan.  I am plotting my series and outlining my stories.  I am working on book trailers, etc.  This way I look at the end product (via my production line), and I do not care about a pub date. 

What is your personal ‘bump’ in the road?

Happy Reading and Writing in 2018.

As you read this, I will be sitting in my living room, cup of coffee (Starbuck’s Christmas Blend) watching the Tournament of Roses Parade from my living room in SoCal.


Please post your New Year’s Day traditions and resolutions in the comments.

Soon to be released:

    Also my YA historical novel:
    Tanayia--Whisper upon the Water.

Published by:  BWL, Publishing

Purchase links to all my novels:

Barnes and Noble Bookseller

BWL Publisher, website

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