Thursday, May 25, 2017


by Angel Smits

            Some weeks just don’t go quite like you plan. 
Last week was one of those.  My husband and I had been planning a trip to the Preakness Horse Race for months.  We planned to meet some of the people he’d gone to school with at the Air Force Academy—people we haven’t seen in a gazillion years. 

            Early in the week the announcements came from Harlequin that they were restructuring the lines.  My heart hurt thinking about how hard I’d worked to get this far, and how much I still wanted to accomplish.  I worried about what was ahead.
            Then in my day job, I had to cram five days of work into three.  It was crazy and I came home every night exhausted.
            Like I said, it wasn’t going like I planned. 
            To top it off, I was getting ready to head home on that last day, packing up my laptop for work when it froze.  It wouldn’t turn off.  Wouldn’t restart.  Wouldn’t do a blessed thing.  Then the dreaded blue screen appeared. 
            Panicked, I ran down to IT.  They would have to keep the laptop to see what was wrong.   There wasn’t anything they could do. 
            Now, I was heading out for a few days of vacation, so I didn’t need it to work.  But I don’t like to come back to 100+ email, so I do look through and weed out the useless stuff and get my brain prepped for the next week sometime when I’m off. 
            But I wouldn’t have the laptop.  I’d be disconnected.  Completely. 
            We packed up and planned to leave early in the morning.  I was still in the dumps about my writing, and decided I wasn’t even going to pack a notebook.  It was going to be a short vacation, and we were going to be too busy for me to write anyway.  Besides, all good hotels have notepads available, and I’ve been known to write entire plots on coffeeshop napkins.  If all else fails, my phone has a notes app.   
            I woke up in the middle of the night and heard it raining hard.  Great.  It only got worse—when we woke up in the morning, we learned it wasn’t rain—it was snow!  I do live in Colorado, so spring snow isn’t unheard of, but—really?  We had to drive to the airport two hours away.
            This week, this trip, was starting to feel doomed. 
            Sometimes, however, the universe knows what I need more than I do. 

Leaving Colorado

Arriving in Washington, DC
             We landed in Washington DC to a beautiful sunny day.  We used the GPS function on my phone to find out hotel, and throughout the weekend.  Our friends were in our room visiting, so we didn’t turn on the television.  In the car, we were talking and laughing.  No phone.  No computer.  No TV.  No radio. 
            It’s been years since I’ve been that disconnected.  It was wonderful!! 
            And we didn’t even have to go to the boonies to get away—we were smack in the middle of one of the country's busiest metro areas.
            The Preakness is held in Baltimore, Maryland, and is the second race in horse racing’s triple crown.  The Kentucky Derby and the Belmont are the other two races, which the Preakness is in between.  If it isn’t on your bucket list, it should be.  Just the experience of it.  The horses, the people watching, the fresh outdoors--it was all wonderful and a lot of fun. 
            I came home more relaxed than I’ve been in ages.  Yeah, the whole vacation helped, but honestly, being unplugged was a huge part of escaping.  I can’t recommend it enough. 
            Now back home, things aren’t all “fixed.”  There’s still a lot of uncertainty in my writing career and, yeah, I had over 100 emails waiting for me.  But I was rested up and I can handle it.  I’ll figure out something.  I always do. 
            Maybe we all should unplug sometimes, and not wait until the universe does it for us.  Just a thought. 
            Oh—and no I didn’t win my millions by betting on the right horse.  My horse was edged out at the end of the race.   But what fun it was to cheer him on while he was ahead! 
            And not do anything with my phone—but take pictures! 
The track was so close!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Balancing Contemporary and Historical Romance - How I Divide My Writing Styles...

I often get asked how I divide my time between contemporary and historical novel writing and in an ideal world, I like to alternate the two subgenres to keep my writing fresh and interesting. For the reader and me!

I began my career writing contemporary because I’d always been told to ‘write what you know’. I have devoured romantic suspense for as long as I can remember and so my first two novels with The Wild Rose Press were romantic suspense. I then wrote a romantic comedy. Throughout writing and promoting these books, my mind started to wonder whether I could attempt an historical….after all, I didn’t ‘know’ how to abduct or murder anyone as the characters did in my first two books J

Like most (if not all) writers I read voraciously and reading historical work, whether novels or biographies, is amongst my favorite choices. I love history! I am drawn to British Royal history especially, but also love the social and industrial changes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. As I was and, still am, intimidated by including real people and events in my work, I decide my first attempt would be Victorian and focus entirely on fictional characters and their emotions.

Emotion is key in romance. Love, hate, revenge, loss, joy and tenacity would have been felt in the same way in the late 1800s as they would today. So with this thought at the forefront of my mind, I dove straight in and wrote The Arrival of Lily Curtis (The Wild Rose Press). It sold a lot more copies than my previous contemporary work so that gave me the confidence to continue.

Today, I am lucky enough to write contemporary romance and romantic suspense for Harlequin Superromance and Victorian romance for eKensington.  I love that my writing has fallen into a routine that I find so satisfying. I now aim to alternate my releases between contemporary and historical…although this year, it is a little more heavy on the contemporary!

The best aspect of writing in two genres is the research – it doesn’t matter where I go, what places I visit or what non-fiction books I read, I am always looking for story ideas. Whenever I go to a new place, learn something I didn’t know before or come across a story or character who fascinates me, I think how I could write both a contemporary and an historical story around this new discovery. I usually come up with an idea for each which means I have two new stories at my disposal. Result!

I’d love to know if you prefer contemporary over historical or vice versa? Or, like me, do you like the mix of both?

Happy Reading!

Rachel x

Ethan's Daughter - coming August 2017
Saved By The Firefighter - Nov 2016
Her Hometown Redemption - Sept 2015
Christmas At The Cove - Nov 2014
What Belongs To Her - Mar 2014
A Man Like Him - Aug 2013
Finding Justice - Feb 2013

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

When The Rumors Are True

By Abdullah Freres - Library of Congress, Public Domain,

Mark Twain is famous for saying that, "The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated," but unfortunately there are times when the reports are true.

This is one of them.

The news has been all over social media, but in case folks haven't heard yet, Harlequin authors were informed yesterday that five lines will cease publication in 2018. Superromance is one of them.

We are all still waiting to hear more, so there's really nothing else to share. The bright spot on the horizon is that Supers will not end until next June, which means we have another full year to share with you, our wonderful readers and supporters.

Thank you for your concern. Thank you for understanding that we are still processing all of this. Most of all, thank you for being here, and reading our stories, and being our friends. We are so very grateful for each and every one of you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Kris Fletcher's Winner

Many thanks to all who offered suggestions for a topic for me to use when I speak to my church group. I am soooo grateful for your input. I now have a plethora of ideas - AND I got to use the word "plethora" in a blog post, which automatically makes me feel wise and learned!

Summer, you're the winner of my drawing of a $10 gift card to the online bookstore of your choosing! Please shoot me a line ( and we'll get you all prized up.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Journey Itself Is Home

Gable Mansion, CA
Amber Leigh Williams

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." - Matsuo Basho

In Woodland, California, there is a historic Victorian manse called The Gable Mansion. Built for two brothers, pioneer ranchers Amos and Harvey Gable of the post-Civil War era, it is arguably the greatest example of Victorian architecture in America.

In my latest Superromance novel, Wooing the Wedding Planner, it was part of my evil writing plan to plant my hero, Byron, and his heroine, Roxie, in the same house and watch the tug-of-war over its possession play out between them. Byron is finally recovering his life after tragedy while Roxie is a year divorced and eager to start fresh. Both see the grand Victorian home on Serendipity Lane in Fairhope, Alabama as their chance to do so. When I saw an image of The Gable Mansion, I knew that it (or some close reincarnation of it) was perfect for my characters.

I started to write down the details that Byron and Roxie would see when they first walked in. I could envision it vividly – the sea-glass chandelier in the foyer. The charming trim and chair-rail throughout. The transom windows in the sitting room. The once wood-burning stove and glass-front cabinets in the enviable kitchen. The curving staircase with French Creole-style wrought iron railing and the fleur-de-lis accents throughout. The odd pitch and angles of the upstairs rooms and ceilings and the hidden alcoves sprinkled throughout. Maybe most of all, I could see the stained glass window on the second floor landing blazing with color and refracted light when the sun dips low enough to touch it.

Byron and Roxie’s Victorian might be my own dream house. The master bathroom alone would make me sing – rain showerhead, periwinkle tiles, claw-foot tub? Yes, please! However, this house was imagined in every way for these two lucky people—together. They simply had to come to that understanding themselves.

As I crafted the house on Serendipity for Byron and Roxie, I could see the individual (often opposing) touches each would wish to implement in the interior. Roxie’s lace curtains and purple settee in the living room. Byron’s gym packed wall-to-wall in another and his big-screen television on the master suite armoire. His business brogues kicked off helter-skelter by the welcome mat. Her apron on a hook by the pantry door. A bottle of wine left to breathe on the prep counter for her. A six-pack of Stella Artois in the fridge for him….

More than I enjoyed watching their dreams for the Victorian come to life and even coalesce, I’m moved by how the eternal optimist and the trusty cynic not only learned to cohabitate but realized what the house really represents. In Wooing the Wedding Planner, they learn what “home” means, whether it’s a place, an ideal or another soul.

Writing Byron and Roxie’s story was a pleasure. I love how their house came to life and how, through it, they came to understand what living really means. Wooing the Wedding Planner is on sale now for $3.99! 

No more wedding marches for her! 

Wedding planner Roxie Honeycutt can make happy-ever-after come true for anyone except herself. Freshly divorced and done with love, she's okay with watching clients walk down the aisle. What's not okay? Sharing a charming Victorian house with accountant Byron Strong. He's frustratingly sexy and determined to keep her confused. 

Roxie thought Byron's expertise was numbers, yet somehow he sees her for who she really is. Somehow he understands the hurt she hides behind a trademark smile. Suddenly romance is tempting again, even if it means risking another heartbreak.

For more behind the story of Wooing the Wedding Planner, visit the book's inspiration board on Pinterest!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May Superromance Authors Are Having a Party!

Hi, Readers! The May Superromance authors are having a party today, to celebrate their new books - and you're all invited! All the fun will happen over on Facebook. You can click here to join the party.

We'll have lots of games and giveaways, some teasers from all of our books, and a lot of fun. So grab a glass of wine, jump in your PJs, and tell your friends!

The party starts at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific.

Don't forget to invite a few reader friends - and here's that link again so you can join the fun! 

Please Give Me Something To Talk About

Kris Fletcher

A few months back, my minister pulled me aside after church and asked to speak to me for a few minutes. My immediate reaction was to ask what I messed up this time :-) He assured me that I hadn't screwed up anything (for the moment), and that he wanted me to speak at an upcoming Lenten service. Fool that I am - and because I had just finished reading Year Of Yes, by Shonda Rimes - I agreed.

The first hint of trouble came when I realized that I had absolutely nothing to say. Oh, the minister had given me some guidelines, but "serving with our minds" wasn't exactly the bullet point outline I needed. I finally cobbled together something to fill the seven minutes allotted to me and set out, confidant that if I could not speak intelligently, I could at least grunt out something that sounded like words.

My second whack of trouble when I looked out over the group and remembered that there is something very special about my church, and that is the number of retired pastors among our membership. They're like their own little gang, complete with their own turf (a pew affectionately known as Preachers Row). Individually they are wonderful, kind, and loving people whom I adore.

Collectively, they scared the crap out of me.

I got through my talk somehow. I remember very little of what I said. And I can honestly say that it's
the first time in my life when I have come home from church and gone directly to the bottle of Irish Cream in the fridge.

You would think I had learned my lesson.

You would be wrong.

A few days after my debacle debut, the head of the women's group gave me a call. Could I possibly talk to them at their June gathering?

I should have said no. I should have said that I would be celebrating my son's birthday. (It is the same day. So what if I'm in central New York and he's in Boston? I can still celebrate!) I should have assured her that I was having elective surgery that day, preferably to have my tongue removed.

Instead, because she is a wonderful, kind, and loving woman, I said yes.

And now I am doomed.

I have nothing to say. I talked to this group once before, two or three years ago, so they have already heard my comments about the myths and realities of writing romance. (Summary: no to feather boas, yes to sweaters with holes in the sleeves.) I see them every week, twice weekly for my fellow choir members, so they know all my stories already. Worse, I can't pretend to be witty, charming, or intelligent, because they have all seen me in my Spongebob costume, and believe me, there is no coming back from that.

I need to come up with a truly wow-worthy topic. And so, dear blog, I am coming to you.

What would YOU like to hear from a romance writer? What do YOU think would be worth leaving home to listen to? All suggestions will be welcomed with sobs of joy, and all comments will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card to the online book retailer of the winner's choice. (Drawing to be done Sunday May 14 at whatever time I get a chance to do it.)

Help me, Obi-Blog-a-Roni. You're my only hope.

And if you, like me, are now humming along to that old Bonnie Raitt tune, well ...

Friday, May 5, 2017

Famous in a Small Town ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

You guys! It's here! It's finally here! This week the first book in my brand new here! I'm super-excited to share these books with you because Slippery Rock - while completely made up! - is really special to me. 

I grew up in a small Missouri lake town - the kind of town that rolls up the sidewalks by 8pm most nights, where in the summer the tourists can out-number the residents, and where everybody knows everybody else. 

I wouldn't trade that upbringing for anything - my brother and I would traipse across a field to go and play with our cousins, or we would walk the mile or so from my grandparents house to the corner store to pick up a gallon of milk for our grandmother...we spent afternoons fishing with our rancher grandfather or playing intricate games of cowboys-and-indians in our other grandfather's hay barn...

Writing about that kind of town has been on my mind for a while, and as I was writing Protecting the Quarterback, I decided my next book would be my based-on-my-town small town. I also wanted to write about family, but not just parents and siblings and cousins...I wanted to write about a family of the heart - people who choose to be family, because I think we all, at some point in our lives, choose who will be our family. That is where Collin, Levi, James, Adam, and Aiden came in. They were five guys who played football together, who took their team to state. All five of them, for reasons of their own, have come home, and while they are still very much the stars of their hometown, they are also figuring out who they want to be as adults. Enter Savanna, Mara, Jenny, Camden, and Julia - the women these guys will fight for. 

I'm hosting a fun giveaway throughout May to launch the series, you can enter on my blog (I can't get the silly rafflecopter widget thingy to do what it's supposed to do - sorry!). 

I hope you enjoy your visit to Slippery's a little peek into the first book:

He was probably in the orchard, anyway, but she could at least check the door near the back of the barn with the sign reading Office.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Savannah marched back into the barn and knocked on the door. No answer. Just like a man to not be around when a woman wanted him to see how not-hung-up-on-him she was.
Probably for the best, anyway. Chances were she’d say something she would regret later. Or find it impossible to not kiss him again.
“No one uses that office anymore,” Collin said from behind her.
Savannah whirled, putting her hand to her chest. “What are you doing here?”
“I work here, and I own the place. What are you doing here?” He looked scrumptious in another pair of cargo shorts, this time olive-colored, and a black T-shirt. The man had to have stock in some cargo shorts company, as often as he wore them. He had old Nikes on his feet, and a Slippery Rock High ball cap on his head. His sunglasses were perched on the bill. “Finished with your inspection?”
“I was buying apples.”
“Nice try. The apple stand is at the end of the drive.”
“I needed irregulars.” He raised one eyebrow in disbelief. “For Mama Hazel. She’s making pies. For the farmer’s market. Caramel apple.”
“And the apples are?”
“In the trunk.” She pointed to the blue sedan.
“And you’re knocking on the office door because?”
“Because I don’t want to have sex with you.” Savannah immediately wished the words back. “That came out wrong.” She fisted her hands at her sides. Well, she’d started this. She could finish it. “I, uh, wanted to let you know I’m okay about how things ended the other day. I’m not interested in starting anything up with you, either. So, we don’t have to avoid one another or feel weird around one another or…tell anyone else about what happened.”
There, that almost sounded like something a self-confident adult would say. Collin looked bewildered. Or something. She couldn’t quite read the expression in his clear, blue gaze. He tilted his head to the side and the movement reminded her of his sister. The Tyler family definitely had that resemblance thing down. Longing squeezed Savannah’s heart. She’d spent so long pretending to find resemblances between herself and her adoptive family, and then so long pretending it didn’t matter that she was so different from them. Her skin lighter, her hair different.
She wasn’t like them, though. Her parents and her brother always did the right thing. Savannah made all the wrong moves, although it was hard to remember that having sex with Collin was a wrong move when he was standing three feet away from her, the embodiment of a bunch of her teenage fantasies.

Kristina’s latest release is Famous in a SmallTown, the first in her brand new SlipperyRock series!
Lifestyles of the small-town famous
Forced to leave Nashville after a scandal, Savannah Walters has come home to Slippery Rock, Missouri, with a bruised ego and her singing career in jeopardy. As if that isn't humiliating enough, on her way into town she's rescued by her swoon-worthy childhood crush, Collin Tyler.

His hands are full running the family orchard and dealing with his delinquent teen sister, so Collin doesn't need to get involved with someone as fiery and unpredictable as Savannah. But the intense attraction between them can't be denied. And when disaster strikes, they'll both be surprised by who's still standing when the dust settles.

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Happy 80th Birthday to Me! (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Ha Ha! I'm not 80 but I'm celebrating an 80th birthday today with the release of The Fireman's Son! It's my 80th published Harlequin novel!! I was packing up boxes this past weekend - re-visiting things I haven't seen in a long time and I came upon two copies of my very first published novel - also a Harlequin Superromance. The book is no longer available anywhere that I know of. It's one of only two that have not been re-released in eFormat. I looked at that cover and I was 80 books ago. I knew the story. I could remember how I felt writing it. Revising it. I remembered lying in bed before dawn one morning in Arizona and hearing the phone ring. The call was from someone in RWA letting me know that the book was a RITA finalist! I thought it was for Best First Book, that that was my only hope of being a finalist, but it was a finalist in the Best Long Contemporary category. So much has happened since then. Six more RITA finalists. RT noms, a Reader's Choice Award. My books and I have been on national TV - including CBS Sunday Morning and Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee (my book was on that one, not me!) We've hit the USA Today Bestseller List.

And we've got so many more places to go. So many more things to do. It's a good thing only they are 80, not me! They'll be up to 82 before this year is out! And to 90 in 2018. That's a whole lot of love and hope, of testimony to the strength of the human spirit and belief in happy endings out in the world! But today it's just one book. THE book - as each book is THE book. I leave it in your hands...

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 2017 New Releases #HarlequinSuperromance

Stranded with the Captain (The Florida Files) by Sharon Hartley

What she wished for…and more! 

An adventure is exactly what Cat Sidran wants when she and two friends charter a boat for a sailing trip in the Florida Keys. Throw in a swarthy captain, and Cat has the perfect amount of excitement. Until pirates overtake them, and Captain Javi Rivas reveals himself to be an FBI agent. 

Working with Javi gives Cat a thrill like she's never felt before. She can handle danger for a couple of days if it means saving her friends, but anything longer… She loves her quiet life; Javi thrives on adrenaline. She needs to forget her captain…if that's even possible.

Famous in a Small Town (Slippery Rock) by Kristina Knight

Lifestyles of the small-town famous 

Forced to leave Nashville after a scandal, Savannah Walters has come home to Slippery Rock, Missouri, with a bruised ego and her singing career in jeopardy. As if that isn't humiliating enough, on her way into town she's rescued by her swoon-worthy childhood crush, Collin Tyler. 

His hands are full running the family orchard and dealing with his delinquent teen sister, so Collin doesn't need to get involved with someone as fiery and unpredictable as Savannah. But the intense attraction between them can't be denied. And when disaster strikes, they'll both be surprised by who's still standing when the dust settles.

His Last Rodeo (Sierra Legacy) by Claire McEwen

Back in the saddle again… 

Tyler Ellis catches Kit Hayes completely off guard when he swaggers back home and into the bar she manages. Since high school, he's been a champion rodeo star…a notorious playboy…and now, apparently, a bar owner. She accepts his offer of a hefty bonus and helps him transform the place because she's desperate to escape their tiny town in the Sierras. She doesn't expect him to work this hard beside her. Where's the cocky cowboy he's supposed to be? Instead she discovers he's still the sweet, genuine young man she once knew. And so much more…including a threat to the adventurous life she craves.

The Fireman's Son (Where Secrets are Safe) by Tara Taylor Quinn

Secrets are burning out of control 

After she broke his heart in college, Faye Walker is the last person fire chief Reese Bristow ever expected to see again, especially as his new EMT. But that's not Reese's only surprise. Faye has an eight-year-old son, Elliott, whose counseling at The Lemonade Stand shelter is her first priority. 

It's nearly impossible to accept that she had a child with another man—and married that man—right after their breakup. Trusting Faye won't be easy. Especially when she reveals a secret about the boy that might tear them apart for good.

May 2017 Box Set

Harlequin® Superromance brings you a collection of four new novels, available now! Experience powerful relationships that deliver a strong emotional punch and a guaranteed happily ever after. 

This Superromance box set includes:

Where Secrets are Safe
By Tara Taylor Quinn

Sierra Legacy
By Claire McEwen

A Slippery Rock Novel
By Kristina Knight

The Florida Files
By Sharon Hartley

Look for 4 compelling new stories every month from Harlequin® Superromance!

Join to earn FREE books and more. Earn points for all your Harlequin purchases from wherever you shop.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Writer's Empty Nest

By Angel Smits

        Saying goodbye is always hard to do.  And it’s even harder when you’ve never actually met the person.
        As a writer, I meet someone new every day.  Granted, a lot of them are technically figments of my imagination, but still they’re full—living, breathing—people.  At least they seem that way to me.  (Other people maybe not so much.)
Over time, I spend a lot of hours with these people—sometimes more than with my real family.  I get to know them because I live inside their heads.  I hear what they think, see what they see—and sometimes do what they do.  (Research trips can be such fun!)
After doing five books in my CHAIR AT THE HAWKINS TABLE series, I’m now writing the last sister’s story.  Just saying that makes me sad.  Not that this is the last story for this series, but these brothers and sisters--and all their assorted friends and lovers--are finding their happy endings.  They’re moving on and I, well, I’m saying goodbye to them.
Oh, just like kids who’ve flown the nest, they pop in for a visit now and then, dropping by to tease or help a sibling in a scene.  But they don’t really come home to stay.  To be honest, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with them if they did.  I like their completed stories, the lives they’ve found.
One trick that many of my writing friends do to help them get into a character is to use actors/actresses as models for their characters.  Tons of us have “borrowed” characters from TV or movies to inspire stories.  It’s a great learning tool for one.  And it helps with the visuals.  But recently I found another benefit of doing that.  

In my second Super Romance, SEEKING SHELTER, I used the actor Christian Kane as the inspiration for my hero.  His music, his looks and his voice were my hero, Jace Holmes.  Recently, my husband and I watched some shows that Christian Kane was in (LEVERAGE) and it’s like going back to my story.  My characters are coming home to visit!  Part of me wants to go back and write more story—a lot like wishing your kids were little again, I guess.    
But just like my kids, I need to let my characters go and move on, even though the idea of writing a recurring character is tempting.  Besides, there’s always someone new to meet with a new story to tell.  And how exciting is that?  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Embracing Who We Are

I know the title of this blog post sounds like the title of a self-help book, but maybe that's fitting because the heroine of my May book, His Last Rodeo, reads a whole lot of self-help.  Kit Hayes has a broken heart, and is trying to figure out how to recover.  

As the story unfolds, her self-help books become an ongoing conversation between her and the hero, Tyler.  He's kind of fascinated by, and loves to tease her about, whatever self-help book she's currently reading.

But as I wrote this book, it became clear to me that Kit and Tyler's story wasn't about self-help as much as self-acceptance.  Kit had to learn to accept who she is, and not allow one person's rejection to devalue that. And Tyler, returning home to an unsupportive father, and struggling with a learning disability, had to learn to accept himself as well.

Which got me thinking about the rest of us.  How we are bombarded with information every day about how we should dress, what our weight should be, how many friends we should have, what we should eat.  We see pretty photos of our friends on social media and wonder if we should be as happy, active, and interesting as them.  But the truth is, if we get too caught up in all of those shoulds, we can end up feeling like we aren't okay just the way we are.  

I’ve had my own recent run-in with The Shoulds.  I’m turning 50 this year, and that saying, ‘50 and Fabulous’ keeps running through my mind.  I’m turning 50 so I should be fabulous.  I should be confident, and organized and strong.  But frankly, it’s not the most fabulous time in my life.  An injury to my leg has prevented me from exercising, and I’m busy with a young child, so it’s not like I’m running around (or hobbling around) looking amazing and doing a lot of glamorous, interesting things.

I was feeling almost guilty.  Like I was letting all women down with my lack of fabulous-ness.  Until recently I realized that, just like Kit and Tyler, I need a little self-acceptance here!  I need to let go of how I imagine I should be at this particular age, and just accept where I’m at, and enjoy it as much of it as possible.  Maybe my current form of fabulous is just hanging in there, doing physical therapy, trying to be a good mom and write a good book.

Every time I release a book, I do a themed giveaway in my author newsletter. And this time around the theme is to appreciate how wonderful we are, just the way we are.  So make sure you hop on over to my Facebook page (my website is down! How un-fabulous!) and sign up for my newsletter, if you haven’t already.  I found some really sweet items, like this cute bag, and I’m looking forward to sending this message out into the world. 

You are wonderful, just the way you are!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Do one thing a day that scares you by Piya Campana

“Do one thing a day that scares you” is the sort of suggestion I usually ignore because it doesn’t fit into my cocoon of books, Netflix and chips. But I definitely saw the value in it on my vacation to Belize in March.

Belize is a wonderful country to visit because it has so much to offer—if you like the beach, there are the sunny Cayes. There is ample opportunity to snorkel, scuba dive and kayak. The inland offers beautifully preserved jungle, fresh-water swimming holes, Maya ruin sites and a vast cave system.

Friezes on El Castillo at Maya ruin site Xunantunich
In the ten days I was there, I did many fun and exciting things I’ve done before, like swim in the ocean, read on the beach, explore new cities and eat at least four times my weight in local food (if you visit Belize, be sure to try the fryjack, the papaya, the rice and beans, the stew chicken, the conch curry…). And for the whole trip I had been looking forward to one particular expedition. Well, sort of.

It was with a degree of fearful excitement that I had been describing the ATM tour to others before I left for Belize. ATM, or Actun Tunichil Muknal, is a large cave an hour from San Ignacio, in the Cayo district. It is believed to be a Maya sacrifice site and is home to calcified human bones (including a nearly intact skeleton called The Crystal Maiden), pieces of ceremonial pottery and cave formations that were apparently modified into altars or carved in certain ways to create silhouettes and cast shadows of faces, figures and animals.

No cameras are allowed inside (thanks to one tourist who dropped theirs during the tour a few years ago, breaking a thousand-year-old skull), but that turned out to be fine with me! Because after a forty-five-minute hike through the jungle and shallow rivers, as well as a swim into the mouth of the cave, I needed both hands and all of my energy in the next three hours to squeeze through tight spaces, climb down into tunnels of rushing water and scale slippery rocks as we made our way around.

When we weren’t swimming through the cave’s river system, we took off our water shoes to walk the dry chamber areas in stocking feet to get up close to the artifacts. It was dark, damp and cool and we occasionally shared the space with some cute little bats…and a huge spider that I studiously avoided. I was grateful for my headlamp!

While wildly outside of my comfort zone, the ATM tour was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

In the spirit of pushing limits, what’s a story idea you’ve always wanted to explore but were too afraid to? Please tell me in the comments!

And if you’re interested in learning more about ATM and seeing some photos, here’s a good resource.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring is Here ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

by Kristina Knight

Hey, there, everyone! April is almost over and that means spring is definitely here - at least in our area...and at least for today!

bebe and I have been taking in the scenery at one of our local nature preserves, and the scenery has made me so glad that I live at a lake. Ask me that again once December rolls around and I might say I was crazy...but when the weather warms up, and the flowers begin blooming, and the lake is starting to warm...its just perfect.

Here are three of my favorite things about spring:

3. The nights are still chilly. I'm over the super-cold, below-zero temps, I swear. But I do like a little bit to the air. For me that bite has a smell, it's sharp like the perfect cheddar. I smell it in the fall, too, before the first snows fall, but in spring it is just a bit sharper.

2. The feel of warm sunlight through the windows. There are moments when I just stand in the sunlight and bask, along with Hazel the Pup and Angel the Dog. Its the promise that things are changing and will continue to change, a reminder that I'm not always in control and that it okay.

1. The color. I'm not sure about where you live, but here in the winter it is very stark - grey when there is no snow on the ground and brilliantly white when there is. When we drive along the lakeshore there is a vast tundra of white and grey jumbled together and its pretty. But once spring comes, the grass turns green, the tulips bloom and it seems as if all of that starkness softens into every color you could imagine.

Kristina’s new book Famous in a SmallTown, is the first in her brand new SlipperyRock series and releases May 1!

Lifestyles of the small-town famous
Forced to leave Nashville after a scandal, Savannah Walters has come home to Slippery Rock, Missouri, with a bruised ego and her singing career in jeopardy. As if that isn't humiliating enough, on her way into town she's rescued by her swoon-worthy childhood crush, Collin Tyler.

His hands are full running the family orchard and dealing with his delinquent teen sister, so Collin doesn't need to get involved with someone as fiery and unpredictable as Savannah. But the intense attraction between them can't be denied. And when disaster strikes, they'll both be surprised by who's still standing when the dust settles.

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Question of the Month: What Are You Looking Forward To This Spring?

Spring is in bloom across the US, and we hope it's warm wherever you are, too! The nice weather has us wondering: what are you most looking forward to this spring?

Amber Leigh Williams: Springtime means a return to the beach! It's a struggle in summer to enjoy it because of 100+ weather and visiting crowds so springtime is our chance to grab as many beach afternoons with sun, salt and serenity. I love watching the kiddies rediscover seashells, dolphins and stingrays (these from a distance) and chase sand crabs, herons and seagulls. Plus, the hub brings home fresh Gulf fish. Nothing like a little kingfish or pompano for your dinner table!

Kristina Knight: Baseball! From Spring Training all the way through the World Series, I just can't get enough baseball. And I prefer going to the actual games, but I'll watch my favorites (Go Tribe!) on TV...or even listen on the radio if we're on a roadtrip.

Claire McEwen: I love the wildflowers in spring, and this year, after so much rain in California, the flowers are just gorgeous.  I also love the longer days, and we usually get some really great beach weather before the summer fog starts rolling in.

Tara Taylor Quinn: I am most looking forward to the return of my desert heat! It’s like an instant gift of a soothing hot tub without the water, or need to dry off! Anytime I want or need it, I just step outside and my body relaxes and spirit finds calm.

Jo McNally: Since moving to the South from the Northeast five years ago, I have a whole new love affair with spring. There is nothing genteel or subtle about a Southern spring--everything just bursts into blossom (seemingly overnight), and the world is suddenly full of color and perfume and birds singing. It's sort of an "in your face" springtime here, and I love its total lack of propriety!

Kris Fletcher: We moved at the end of August, so this will be our first spring in our new house. I'm excited to reclaim a couple of rock walls on the property that have been overgrown with brambles and picking out flowers to start there. And I can't wait to see what plants are already here, waiting to pop up and meet us!

Jennifer Lohmann: I'm with Kris. I also moved into a new house, so spring has been a time to discover what's growing. The Viking and I have ripped out some ugly shrubs, planted a pollinator garden, and are making plans for azaleas, a sitting place by the creek, and raspberries. I'm sure that's too much to conquer this spring -- but it's nice to imagine!

Sharon Hartley: Kayaking!  I love venturing out on Tampa Bay in my kayak to bird, but am a total wimp when the weather is chilly.  I really miss my kayak during the winter, but the days are beautiful and clear now  -- time to get back out on the water. 
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