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Saturday 31 December 2011

Happy New Year Cake!

I hope you are still enjoying the Holiday Season, and that you aren't completely worn out by it all yet. Just in case, here's a simple treat.

I've used the past couple of weeks to try out lots of new recipes on my family. The star of the show was undoubtedly this Chocolate Fruitcake, which I made to replace our traditional iced Christmas cake this year. It was originally a Women's Institute recipe, and I must admit I had my doubts before making it (chocolate and mincemeat?) but it's delicious. It is really easy to make, too, and doesn't need to be made in advance and matured so it would be good at any time. In fact, it was so popular we're having it again for our New Year celebrations! Here's the recipe:

5 oz (150g) soft margarine
5 oz (150g) soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6.5 oz (185g) self-raising flour
1.5 oz (40g) cocoa powder
1lb jar (or  400g of home-made) top quality mincemeat
3 oz (80g) sultanas
3 oz (80g) raisins
2 oz (50g) blanched, chopped almonds
4 oz (100g) packet of chocolate dots

Line an 8-inch (20cm) cake tin with two layers of greaseproof paper/baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to GasMark 3/Electric 160 degrees C or equivalent fan temperature (generally around 145 degrees C)

Put the first five ingredients in a big mixing bowl and beat together for a couple of minutes until they're completely mixed. Then fold in the mincemeat, dried fruit, almonds and chocolate dots. 

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for around an hour and three quarters, or until a skewer pushed into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Check after it's been in the oven for about an hour, and if the top's browning too much, cover it with some foil.

When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool in its tin for a few minutes before turning it out on a wire rack to cool completely (if you can wait).  You can ice it like a traditional Christmas cake or give it a simple chocolate icing, but the family verdict was that might make it a bit too rich.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my blogs and blog tour, or written to me over the past year. I hope 2012 will be happy, healthy and very productive for you all! 

Thursday 15 December 2011

The Party Starts Here!

Long, long ago or so it seems, I started a Big Blog Tour to celebrate the release of my latest Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd - Weight of the Crown. A lot of sand has blown across the desert kingdom of Rosara since then, and I'd like to thank Nas Dean of Romance Book Paradise (http://nas-dean.blogspot.com/), all the kind hosts who have published my blogs and interviews, and everyone who has been kind enough to read and comment on my work, whether on my blog, by emailing me direct or by entering the competition on my website. Today's the day it all wraps up: everything closed at 12 noon GMT, so while you enjoy a virtual feast of Cyber champagne and mince pies around my Internet Christmas Tree and toast your toes at the roaring webcam log fire, I'm going to collate all the names and come up with the names of some winners.
Watch this space...
(Much mince pie munching later....Congratulations to Sonali, who won first prize and LibraryPat, whose name was second out of the hat. If you could both email me at christinahollis at hotmail.co.uk (removing the gaps and replacing 'at' with @) with your snail mail addresses, I'll get your prizes in the post asap.
Thanks again to Nas for organising everything, to everyone who said such lovely things about Weight of the Crown,  and to all of you who commented on my Big Blog Tour, whether online or privately. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday 12 December 2011


I’ve been writing all my life, and my inspiration comes from many different sources. My father was a great countryman, and he introduced me to the descriptive prose of H.E.Bates. There was always a book or two of his about the place. As Dad was a great one for reading aloud,  over the years our family must have heard almost everything Bates ever wrote. He was writing fifty years or so ago, and his use of language can feel a bit dated now but his themes are constant. His short stories are often bittersweet, focussing on ordinary people whose futures seem bleak and limited. A common theme is someone’s silent dilemma: they are worrying while all around them life goes on cheerfully. The First Day of Christmas, for example, focusses on a man who has taken refuge in a pub after a lovers’ quarrel, and faces up to some hard thinking while his companions are dabbling in celebrations.
Thanks to film and TV adaptations, the five novels H.E.Bates wrote about the Larkin family are some of his best known work. The Darling Buds Of May, A Breath of French Air, When the Greenwoods Laugh, Oh! To Be In England and A Little of What You Fancy are set in the years after the Second World War but with Pa to duck and dive and Ma to cook, they are full of fun and feasts. Now foreign holidays and fast food have taken the place of fruit picking and home cooking, that way of life has practically disappeared. I can just about remember country living being as the Larkins knew it, but my children look on those stories as something from a different world!
My favourite work by H.E. Bates isn’t actually fiction at all, but his garden writing.  A Fountain of Flowers and A Love of Flowers in particular are two wonderful books, full of his keen observation and humour. His writing makes plants interesting in a way few others can. I could never see the attraction of one particular tree until I read his description of it in flower. He thought its white bracts looked like a flock of white doves - what’s not to love about that? And he’s dead right when he says tulips are always doomed to be “Very expensive mouse food”! I tried to collect all the plants H. E. Bates recommended in my own garden, but I suffered from the same problem he had - the dead hand that steals away treasures the moment your back is turned. “I had them all,” he sighs after listing a lovely range of plants, “but I do not have them now.” Celebrity horticulturalists on TV never own up to their failures, but every keen gardener recognises the resignation behind the words of H.E.Bates! 
"A garden should be in a constant state of fluid change, expansion, experiment, adventure; above all it should be an inquisitive, loving, but self-critical journey on the part of its owner."
This could equally apply to writing. A writer can put anything down as a first draft, simply to disrupt the cruel white plane of an empty page. The care taken to design, mould and perfect a piece of work through many drafts can be seen as similar toil to building a garden. Writers and gardeners enjoy the same sense of satisfaction - a job well done is always worth celebrating.

Monday 5 December 2011

Have Yourself a Berry Little Christmas...

This may be the only holly we will have to decorate our house this year, as the birds in our garden have been eating all those juicy berries as fast as they ripen.  Unusually, they stripped our yellow-berried holly tree first. Normally, the traditional red berries go first. The yellow ones must have been tastier!
I've had some very welcome news this week. My latest book for Harlequin Mills and Boon has been accepted, and it will be published in the summer of 2012. I'll let you have all the details as soon as I can, but for the moment I can tell you that it will be called The Count's Prize.
My Big Blog Tour for Weight of the Crown has given me a great chance to chat to readers and writers alike. Everyone who has posted a comment will be included in the wrap party draw on December 15th, so drop by to share  a virtual mince pie. If you haven't had a chance to call in on any of  the various blogs yet,  you can catch up on the remaining few dates: see http://rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/

Sunday 20 November 2011

Some Good News on A Dark Day...

It's been a real, old fashioned November day today, murky and damp. I'm still struggling to shake off a horrible virus, and was in two minds whether or not to go to church today. I compromised and took the car (which I hate) instead of walking (which I love). I've missed the past couple of weeks, so I didn't realise that today we had a baptism. It was lovely - the church was packed, and there were lots of children, which makes a welcome change. The little boy who was Christened was very good, considering how strange it must have been for a two-year-old. His extended family seemed to enjoy themselves - fingers crossed we see some of them again, sometime!
My other bit of good news is that I've had another story accepted by Harlequin Mills and Boon. Details still need to be finalised, but Dario and Josie's story will be appearing in 2012. Watch this space for details!
Finally, news of my Big Blog Tour. I'm blogging here at the moment http://nas-dean.blogspot.com/ and for details of my next appearances with the free book offers etc, check here http://rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/

Wednesday 2 November 2011

The Nights Are Drawing In...

The clocks went back last weekend. That means everyone in the UK got an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning, which was good news. The bad news is that it now gets dark just after tea, and there's a definite nip in the air. That's a good reason to stock up with plenty of nibbles and settle down to some quality reading and writing time. I was snowed in for days on end during the early part of this year, and that's when I worked on my latest release for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Weight of the Crown is set in a hot, exotic fictional country. It was wonderful to have the best of both worlds while the weather was bad. I could enjoy the snow with my family until it got too cold and wet, then scurry inside to curl up beside the fire with either  my trusty Neo or good old pencil and paper. It was a lovely indulgence to spend time writing about a land where the air was perfumed with roses and the sun was warm.You can read more about Weight of the Crown on my website, http://www.christinahollis.com and check on the progress of my Big Blog Tour here: http://rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/

Sunday 16 October 2011


It's been a hectic few days. I've hardly had time to catch my breath since my latest Modern Romance for Mills and Boon, Weight of the Crown, was released in the UK. Thank you to everyone who has sent lovely comments to me via my website, http://www.christinahollis.com, direct by emailing me at christinahollis@hotmail.co.uk, or by commenting on one of the blogs I've posted as part of my Big Blog Tour. This has been my first experience of serial blogging, and it's been great. I've learned so much from people who have been kind enough to leave comments: from scrummy recipes to being directed toward some wonderful crafting sites on the Internet. 
If you'd like to take part in the fun, you can catch up by checking the sidebar on my dedicated Weight of the Crown blog tour site, http://rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/ where you'll see all the dates and venues. 
To whet your appetite, over the next few days I'm appearing with Kylie Griffin at http://kyliegriffinromance.blogspot.com/ on Monday 24th, then I'm being interviewed by Zana at LoveCats DownUnder http://lovecatsdownunder.blogspot.com/ on Wednesday 26th (because of time differences that'll appear a day earlier for those of us Up North) and I'm there to on Sunday 30th October for the deliciously named LoveCats Sunday Smooch! There, I'll be talking about - among other things - Lysander and Alyssa's first kiss in Weight of the Crown. I'd love you to drop by all of these sites and have your say - there'll be signed copies from my backlist for a comment picked at random from each one.

Friday 7 October 2011

Focus on...Rachel Leigh

Today I'm delighted to welcome UK author Rachel Leigh, who is giving us the low-down on her latest release Coming Back.  

The story behind the story…
When people ask writers where they get their ideas from, more often than not we have no clue – or is that just me? Having said that, I know where the idea for my latest release started at least. “Coming Back” came from a snippet of dialogue I heard in my head while ironing – I kid you not.
I was watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy when I heard someone say “I am going celibate until I find love. End of.” I knew whoever said it was young from the phrasing and I knew from her tone of voice she was struggling to be heard. Someone was either making fun of her or at least taking her claim with a note of derision.
That’s how a lot of stories start for me. I usually get to hear a character’s voice in my head either telling me their problem, or what they want or, like the character who eventually became Kelly Hampton, wanting to start a new phase in their lives.

Storytelling is about a journey, a protagonist’s change as they work through problems and obstacles, and in romance, finding a love that will last the rest of their lives. I love my job and hope I can do it forever.
Excerpt from “Coming Back”
Kelly Hampton looked along the line of faces sitting at her bar, her body humming with frustration. “What? I mean it.”
Narrowing her eyes, she planted her fists on her hips and waited. So she’d lived in Jessop Hill, a sleepy town in rural England, all her life. So these men looking at her with such reservation might have known her since she was an eight-year-old kid running around the fields, climbing trees with muddy knees and scraped elbows…didn’t mean they knew her, right? Twenty years on, Kelly owned the bar they needed more than their beds, so they better listen up before she kicked them out on their asses.
 “No more sex,” she said. “Nada. I will be celibate for the foreseeable future and that’s final.”
Another long moment passed, the only sound in the bar was Bryan Adams rasping about heaven and wanting nothing else but his baby - before Len, Kelly’s surrogate father and general all-round protector, picked up his pint of beer and sniffed.
“Yeah, right.”
Like the ‘joined-at-the hip’ drinking buddies they were, the four regulars looked at each other before emitting a barrage of dismissive male laughter.
“Fine.” Kelly slapped a cloth up and down a two feet space of the bar. “I’ll show you. I’ll show all of you. I’ve had enough with the wasters and idiots who want nothing more than to cop a feel. From now on, it’s commitment or nothin. Either they want a lasting relationship or they’re out. No negotiation.”
Rachel Leigh lives in the UK and is married to her own sexy hero.  With two erotic romance novellas published and numerous short stories in UK national magazines, Rachel loves her job. Her next novella is about two Brits living in Greece…where things get hot, hot, hot!
When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, watching American TV dramas. running around after her two daughters….or playing with her husband.

Thanks for blogging today, Rachel, and best of luck with Coming Back.

Sunday 25 September 2011


...to Lorraine Nelson, who won a copy of my latest release Weight of the Crown on Ju Dimello's delightful Of Dreams and Realities website.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my interview, it was great as always to hear from you. The next spot on my blog tour is on 28th September, when I'll be at http://christinenolfibooks.blogspot.com/.I'm looking forward to meeting you all there, and don't forget - comment on every one of the remaining blogs on my tour, and you'll be entered in the draw for my Grand Christmas Stocking Prize. You can find a list of dates on my Romance Book Paradise author page http://rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/ or click on the Blog Tour link on my archive in the right hand sidebar of this page.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Focus On...Patricia Fry

Today's guest is  dedicated writer, publishing guru, and Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) Patricia Fry. Welcome, Patricia!
I’ve been hanging out in the world of writing and publishing since 1973 when I submitted my first magazine article. That article was accepted as was the first book I wrote, “Hints for the Backyard Rider.” 
I wrote for publication for many years before ever meeting another career writer or author. Now just about everyone I know writes to be published. I separate authors into two categories: those who, like me, can’t not write (I call us Writing Fools) and those who simply have one concept, story or theme they want to share. I consider them One Book Blasters. Those who write for the love of writing may produce books in many genres and categories, which was my mode of operation for many years. Of course, I wrote on subjects that were close to my heart—horse care, long-distance grandparenting, youth mentoring, cats, how to present a Hawaiian luau, the history of my home town and journal-keeping for teens, for example. I also penned a situational memoir during the late 1980s. And I established my own publishing company in 1983, before it was fashionable or even convenient to do so.
I’ve observed many changes over the years. I wrote my first book on a manual typewriter. Those of you who were born post 1975/80 have no idea how cumbersome the process of writing was. You would handwrite and then type your manuscript. Then you would make corrections by hand and retype it again and again and again. And when you submitted something, you did it by regular mail after which you waited and waited and waited for a response. Now you might receive an acceptance or a rejection within minutes of typing “send.” And if there are any revisions needed, you can complete them with relative ease.
About twenty years ago, I finally caved in and accepted my first client. I set my own writing projects aside in order to work with an author whose book needed editing and who needed guidance in how to proceed through the publishing maze. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with many, many authors since. And one way I contribute to the success of other authors is through my books on publishing and book promotion. It’s obvious that some aspects of writing and publishing are definitely simplified compared to the earlier models. However, the fact that it’s easier to produce manuscripts has created challenges of a different kind. The competition for a publisher as well as for readers is more fierce than ever before. The options for authors are more numerous than ever. And the responsibilities of published authors are greater. As a result, publishing just isn’t as straightforward as it once was.
The thing is, without an understanding of the publishing industry, your options, the possible consequences of your choices and your responsibilities as a published author, you will not survive in this business. My goal is to educate authors and provide the information and resources they need in order to make the best decisions on behalf of their particular books.
Allworth Press recently released my latest book, Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author. This book is designed to help the new, the struggling and the veteran author to devise a more sensible, workable marketing plan for his or her book. It pleases me to come to the point in my career where I can give back. Heaven knows that I have been blessed to be able to establish a career doing what I love most and rely on it to support me for all of these years.
Patricia Fry is the executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) http://www.spawn.org. She is also the author of 34 books, most of them related to publishing and book promotion. Learn more about Patricia and her work at http://www.patriciafry.com and http://www.matilijapress.com. Check out “Promote Your Book” at http://amzn.to/oe56Ia
Thank you for such an interesting blog, and for so kindly re-scheduling your blog, Patricia!

Monday 12 September 2011

The Weight of the Crown Blog Tour Starts Here!

This is a very exciting week for me. My latest Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, Weight of the Crown, is released in the UK. To celebrate, I'm starting a blog tour on 13th September. Lots of kind hosts have agreed to let me blog on their websites, and I'm really looking forward to it. If you'd like to follow me as I surf the cloud, here's a list of dates and places:

  The Words Behind the Writer14thSep
  Ju Dimello-of Deams & Realities19thSep
  Christine Nolfi28thSep
  Seven Sassy Sisters6thOct
  Totes Bags 'n' Blogs9thOct
  The Character Depot10thOct
  Writing PlayGround13thOct
  Minxes of Romance19thOct
  Guest Post20thOct
  Kylie Griffin24thOct
  Sunday Smooch LoveCats30thOct
  The Book Bordello8thNov
  Totes Bags 'n' Blogs13thNov
  Romance University18thNov
  Romance Book Paradise21stNov
  Fresh Fiction23rdNov
  Bird's Eye View29thNov
  Author Interview8thDec
  Totes Bags 'n' Blogs11thDec
  Seven Sassy Sisters14thDec
  Winner Announcement and Wrap-Up Party!15thDec

Those dates and places are correct at the time of posting this blog, but to be absolutely sure you can check an up-to-date listing anytime at http://www.rbpp-ch.blogspot.com/. The Weight of the Crown blog is masterminded by the incredible Nas Dean of Romance Book Paradise, who has done a wonderful job co-ordinating all the dates for me.

I love writing, and working on Weight of the Crown was a particular joy. It gave me a chance to do something a bit different. By setting Lysander and Alyssa's story in the fictional country of Rosara, I was able to escape the gloomy English climate by imagining scenes like this...

The rising sun was already staining the Eastern sky with colours of pomegranate and peach. down in the gardens, nightingales still sang. Their music was a grace note for Alyssa's perfect fantasy, and she relaxed into Lysander's embrace. No woman had ever felt so adored. As she felt his kisses on her hair and looked out over the ageless scene she allowed herself to imagine being this happy forever...

Copyright Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd, 2011

I hope you'll be able to follow me over the course of my blog tour. There will be giveaways and spot prizes
at various sites and if you've got the stamina to comment on every single one of my guest blogs, your name will go into the final draw for my special Christmas stocking surprise, announced on 15th December. For further details, and the chance to enter my first competition in the series visit my website, http://www.christinahollis.com/
I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Friday 9 September 2011

Focus on...Rachel Brimble.

Today, the spotlight falls on Rachel Brimble who lives not far from where I grew up in the UK. Here's the lowdown and an extract from her latest release, Paying The Piper...

Nightclub manager, Grace Butler is on a mission to buy the pub where her mother’s ashes are scattered – except the vendor wants to sell to anyone but her. And the vendor happens to be her father…with a secret Grace will do anything to uncover.
Social worker and all-round good guy, Jimmy Betts needs cash to buy a house for three special kids before their care home closes. In a desperate bid for cash, he agrees to a one-time ‘job’ for bad-man Karl Butler. But in a sudden turn of events, Jimmy finds himself employed by Karl’s beautiful, funny and incredibly sexy daughter, Grace.
Their lives are so different except for one unifying thread – they are both trying to escape the binds of their tyrannical fathers. But is the key to their liberty each other?

Grace’s mouth dropped open and stayed open.
He was huge. Huge and muscular, tall and strong. The saliva drained from her mouth, forcing her to snap her jaw shut so she could swallow. She felt her eyes expand in awed fascination as he stepped out from under the cover of chairs, crates and crap to stand in front of her. She met his gaze.
He held out a hand and nodded in the direction of the teenager who now stood behind him smiling like a demented clown. “Sorry about Billy. He can be a cheeky son of a gun sometimes. I’m Jimmy. Jimmy Betts.”
His voice was deep and rich. Warm and smooth. Grace blinked, licked dry lips and tentatively slid her palm against his. It was hot--in a nice way. Not in a clammy “I’ve-just-had-that-down-my-pants-hot,” more...open fire in a log cabin kind of hot.
She snatched her hand away, snapping her brain back into gear despite the fact her nipples now tingled. These two were trespassing. They had no right. “What are you--”
“Doing rummaging around in your rubbish?” The Adonis smiled.
She smiled back. She couldn’t help it--much to her irritation. His boyish grin kicked her in the stomach and sent her heart ricocheting to the back of her throat. His thick, black hair shone beneath the overhead lights, and even in the semi-darkness, his eyes glinted blue like cut Bristol glass.
“Exactly.” She nodded, not trusting herself to use full sentences. Her physical reaction to him was terrifying. Since when had Grace Butler wanted to grab a man’s face and mash it between her breasts?
He turned away and gripped his companion’s collar. “Billy and I come here from time to time to see if we can pick up a bargain or two. Say hello to Miss Butler, Billy.”
Her gaze shot from Billy back to Jimmy. “How do you know my name?”
He grinned. “What can I say? I read the occasional gossip magazine. You’re Grace Butler, daughter of the Great Karl Butler, and future heir to the infamous Butler Empire.”

Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Having always believed there’s someone for everyone, Rachel started writing her own tales of love once her children were at school. Since then, she’s had several books published with The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press and Lyrical Press. She has recently acquired a US agent with her second Victorian historical. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, Rachel cannot imagine her life without romance or writing!
When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. And in the evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused…
Thanks for sharing, Rachel!
You can find out more about Rachel and her work from: 
www.rachelbrimble.blogspot.com  and

Thursday 1 September 2011

Focus On...Bernadette Marie

Today I'm very pleased to welcome writer and publishing entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie...

Bernadette Marie has been an avid writer since the early age of 13, when she’d fill notebook after notebook with stories that she’d share with her friends.  Her journey into novel writing started the summer before eighth grade when her father gave her an old typewriter.  At all times of the day and night you would find her on the back porch penning her first work, which she would continue to write for the next 22 years. 
In 2007 – after marriage, filling her chronic entrepreneurial needs, and having five children – Bernadette began to write seriously with the goal of being published.  That year she wrote 12 books.  In 2009  she was contracted for her first trilogy and the published author was born.  In 2011 she (being the entrepreneur that she is) opened her own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, and has released contemporary titles and will begin the process, eventually, of taking on other authors in other genres.  Also in 2011 she became co-owner of Seven Songs Press and will release a novella as part of an anthology with other very talented authors in November 2011.
Bernadette spends most of her free time driving her kids to their many events.  She is also an accomplished martial artist, working her way to her second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.  An avid reader, she enjoys most, the works of Nora Roberts and Karen White. She loves to meet readers who enjoy reading contemporary romances and she always promises Happily Ever After.

Here's how Bernadette finds her inspiration - 

 I'm often asked by aspiring writer and readers alike, “How do you come up with your stories?”  I can’t say I’m very quick with an answer, but I am quick to tell them the one little component that brought on the whole story.
Let’s call it a blessing.  Anything can spark my imagination.  The Executive’s Decision was all built around the first moment Regan and Zach met on the bus – when she literally fell into his lap.  What better way to meet a woman?  My next release, Cart Before The Horse, was a whim at the airport in Washington D.C. as I was leaving the RWA conference.  What if you were a super-smarty pants, a prodigy, and your life was always backward.  You graduated college when your friends were going to prom, that kind of blessed backward.  What if you’d never in your life done something wrong, and then one night you let go threw caution to the wind?  How would you deal with finding out your were pregnant, and not knowing exactly who the father was.  Certainly it would disrupt things.
I can hear verses in songs and in my head a sixty thousand word book has just been written.  The sound of my kids’ hockey coach yelling, “Get the puck!”  Even a shifty glance from the guy on the street corner with his card board sign can cause my head to fill with ideas.  So what do you do with those ideas?  You write them down.
It doesn’t have to be the current work in progress to deserve a little note on your computer or a page in a notebook.  Start jotting down any little thing.  One night I brain stormed at my computer and I came up with thirty-six different working titles.  Suddenly I could imagine a little blurb to drive the story.  What did I have when I was done?  Thirty-six potential books!  You know what really happened?  I wrote one of those book.  It turned into a trilogy and that became two more.  The Executive’s Decision was supposed to be one book.  (They all start that way.)  But Regan had a sister, two brothers, and a nephew who will be plenty old for his own book soon.  Now I have a series, all because when I was on a tram with my husband at an amusement park I fell into his lap.  SPARK! 
If you’re an aspiring writer, open your eyes and ears.  Take the challenge to write a book about the next thing you hear in a conversation, the first job you ever had, the color of the next car that drives by.  You’ll be amazed at what you can do if you just start adding components.  If you’re a reader and you have taken the time to get to know authors, give them your ideas.  Do you like a certain character in their books that you would like to see with their own story?  Let me tell you, we love when secondary characters mean something to you.  It means we’ve done our job.
So the next time you see an opportunity to observe, take it.  It just might be the inspiration you need to write the next bestseller.

Regan Keller fell in love with a wealthy and powerful man once. He was her boss. When that turbulent relationship ended, she swore she’d never again date someone she worked with. That was before she literally fell into her new boss’s lap.

Zachary Benson is the head of a successful empire and used to getting what he wants in the boardroom and outside of it – and what he wants is Regan Keller. He’s determined to convince Regan that even though he’s her boss, they can share a life together.

However, when Regan’s past threatens to destroy the architectural firm Zach has invested his entire career in, he has to make an executive decision whether to choose his business or fight for the woman he loves.

Thunder rippled through the gray clouds that loomed overhead.  Regan Keller raised her eyes to the sky.  Please, please don’t rain. As she sent up the silent prayer, she felt the first drop  hit her forehead.
The nervous flutter in her stomach quickened as she looked down at her watch.  Surely her day couldn’t get any worse. But the sky opened up, and those around her crowded together in the bus stop shelter.  Her hair, tied in a tail at the base of her neck, dripped rain down her back as she hunched in her coat.  How could she have forgotten her umbrella?  Had her car been running, she’d have the one tucked safely away in the glove compartment because spring in Tennessee often meant sudden storms.  She should carry one in her bag but had suffered a lapse in memory, having opted for the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the past two years.  
As the bus arrived, those under the shelter huddled onto it ahead of her, claiming every seat.  Soaking wet, Regan wedged herself between two people and held onto the handrail above her head. She looked out the window at the commuters driving themselves to work in the pouring rain.  That should have been her.  
A bitter-faced old woman sat below her, her oversized bag occupying the next seat.  Regan bent to ask her to move it, but the woman glared up at her and gave a grunt that sounded like a dog’s bark.  Regan flinched and tried to look away.  But she was compelled to keep an eye on the woman. 
The man to the other side of the vacant seat snickered. Regan looked down at him in his long black overcoat and perfect hair.  Hemmed in between the old lady’s bag and an overweight man in a jogging suit, he was as pinned in his seat as she was to the people around her.  She would have given him a piece of her mind for laughing at her had the bus not jolted to a sudden stop.  It lurched forward then back and tossed Regan onto the man’s lap.
“I would have offered you my seat,” he said with a bright grin as the bus lurched again.
“Why, you…” She struggled to free herself, but the crowd moved in tightly around them as the bus bounced down the street.  The pace of her heart kicked into gear and she could feel the sweat bead on her brow.  
She hadn’t been this close to a man in over a year, and the panic of having him actually hold her on his lap was making her more than uncomfortable.  “I need to stand up.”
“You might as well sit.” He wrapped his arms around her.  “Doesn’t look like you’ll be standing again anytime soon.”
Regan took a few deep and cleansing breaths.  She forced down the panic that was filling her body and tried to push it away.  Alexander Hamilton thought she was dead.  There should be no danger in sitting on the lap of a nice-looking man.  She should find it within her to enjoy the experience and focus on something else.
He didn’t have an accent native to Tennessee like hers.  Perhaps the rain had caught him off guard as well.  If she didn’t relax, she’d have a heart attack, and this nice gentleman who wasn’t from Nashville would probably be blamed for her death on the bus on his way to work.
Accepting her predicament at face value would be a prime opportunity to let go of bitter feelings for the opposite gender, though after what she’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could.  The thought of ever loving another man or letting one touch her made her palms sweat and her stomach clench.
The man smiled at her, and a dimple formed in his cheek. “This is your first time on this bus, isn’t it?” He pushed back a wet wisp of hair from her forehead, and she flinched away.  “It’s always crowded, but I know I would have seen you.”
“My car wouldn’t start this morning.”  She pressed her hand to her jittery stomach and willed it to settle.  “I start a new job today. Car trouble couldn’t have come at a worse time.”  
“New job?  Congratulations. So what is this new job?”
God, he was handsome, and wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the ride?  But she wasn’t.  “Executive assistant.”  The words shook as she spoke.
“Pretty important.” 
“You think it’s just some glorified secretary, don’t you?”  She clenched her teeth and her fists.  Why wouldn’t she be angry?  The last man she’d worked for had interpreted the title executive assistant as a license to run her life and to ruin it.
“No.  I was serious.  It’s a very important position.”  He looked sincere.  “So where is this new job?”
“Benson, Benson and Hart.”
“Real estate development.”  
“Yes.”  Her breath was becoming harder to push through her lungs. “I should get off your lap.”  
“You’d ruin my day.”  He laughed easily, so she tried to relax.  “So whose executive assistant will you be?”  
“Zachary Benson’s.” She looked around for a space to stand.
“CEO?  He must have been very impressed with you.”
“I’ve never met him.  His current assistant is having a baby and leaving the company.  He was out of town when she interviewed me.”  She thought about Mary Ellen, his current assistant.  The interview had had a motherly quality to it.  She wasn’t sure whether it was because Mary Ellen was pregnant or that worried for her boss. “I think she takes good care of him.  It’ll be a hard pair of shoes to fill.”  And if that hadn’t had her stomach tied in knots, here she was having a conversation about it with a man she didn’t know while sitting on his lap.  Had she completely forgotten the last man she’d gotten this close to tried to kill her?
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased with her choice.”
“Thank you.”  She wanted to wiggle away from the hard muscles she could feel in his chest, from his arms that held her tight against him, and from the legs of a man who obviously kept in shape.  She couldn’t, so she kept talking. “I hope he likes me. I can’t imagine him not wanting to meet me first.”
“Maybe he’s ugly.”
Finally a laugh rolled from her throat. “That’s not what Mary Ellen said.” She tucked in her lips.  “She says he’s a hottie.”
“Hottie?”  His voice lit with humor.  “Well, you’ll enjoy your job then.”
“Strictly business here.  I don’t get involved with the boss,” she said sternly.  Not anymore.  This was, after all, her chance to take back her life after making such a mistake.
The bus stopped, and the old woman stood and grabbed her bag.
“Move!”  She shoved her way through the people who climbed on and made her way out the door.  Before Regan could stand and claim a seat, the crowd around her pushed her closer against the stranger, whose arms wrapped tightly around her as others dropped down beside them.
“Your stop is the next one,” he offered, and she nodded.  “So what’s your name?”
“You’re native to Tennessee, aren’t you? Your accent gives you away.”
“I was born in Memphis.  I spent most of my life in Nashville though.  I did a stint in Los Angeles and then lived in Maui for the last two years.  I missed home though.”  The more she tried to suppress her nerves, the more she talked.
“Los Angeles?  Tried your hand at Hollywood?”
“No.” She shook her head.  “I worked for a prominent lawyer who had some big-name clients.  But I wasn’t seeking fame and fortune.”
“Well, Ms. Executive Assistant, I’m glad you came home or this would have been a very boring ride this morning.”  The bus stopped, and most of the people began to move to the door.  “This is your stop.”  
She finally stood and turned to exit with the crowd without looking back.
The man caught her hand and held it.  Her very core shook, and her first instinct was to rip her hand away.  But she needed to move on and not be so damn afraid of every man that gave her attention.
“Would you have lunch with me?” he asked.
“What?” She looked back at people climbing on. If she didn’t exit the bus now, she’d miss her stop. “Oh, I don’t think so.” 
“Meet me at the hot dog stand at noon just on the north corner of your building,” he said with a wink and a nod.
She couldn’t think to speak.  She nodded as she hurried off the bus.
The rain had subsided for the time being.  Regan had almost dried off as she sat on the handsome man’s lap.  The smell of his cologne lingered on her coat.  She closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of him.
She stopped as she neared the door and turned to see the bus drive away.  He was watching her from the window, and he waved.  It occurred to her she didn’t even know his name.  
She looked down at her hands.  They were shaking. 
Get over it.  Move on.  Not everyone wanted to hurt her.  Not every man was evil with ulterior motives.  No, some were just nice men who wanted to take you to lunch.
Well, it wasn’t like he’d asked her to stay at a hotel.  He’d offered to buy her a hot dog.  Really, it was harmless.  And he’d assume she was too busy with her new job if she just didn’t show up.
But she wanted to.
Well, there was no better time to move on with her life, and no better way to get to know the man on whose lap you’d ridden to work than over a hot dog.  
A tingle of hope shot through her.  She needed to start taking back her life the way she wanted it.  No more mistakes. No more regrets.  It was her life now, and she was going to enjoy it.

TWITTER: @writesromance

Thank you for that great insight into your work, Bernadette, and for introducing us to Regan and Zachary. Good luck with all your projects, now and in the future!

Friday 26 August 2011

Focus on...WeWriteRomance.com...and WeReadRomance.com, too!

Today I'm delighted to welcome Heather Reed, from WeWriteRomance.com and its sister site, WeReadRomance.com, two great resources for lovers of romance.

When Christina asked if I’d like to guest ‘post’ on her blog, I thought sure…why not? After all, I just had to talk about the site I’ve babied for the past seven or so years. How hard could that be?
Of course, the answer caused panic to set in. How do you narrow down all you want to say about your baby? All the reasons others should love it as much as you do? Then I realized I’m sure I’ll leave something out, but you can always visit WeWriteRomance.com yourself. And that’s when the words started flowing…
A Bit Of History
First, I wanted to drop in a bit of the site’s history. It often helps to relate people, places, books, etc. with its history. So when you think of WeWriteRomance.com, I want you to recall that it’s a dream. One shared by two friends who had a true love of romantic fiction. We read and wrote romance novels, as well as developed websites for authors…so we decided to combine all three, and as they say the rest is history.
In late 2004, WeWriteRomance.com was launched. As an author and reader community, it had a variety of features from chats, forums, workshops, and interviews to books, reviews, and other industry news. The site had everything but the kitchen sink as they say.
The reality of what we’d endeavored was soon clear, and the work on narrowing down what features were really useful to authors and readers began. While the site has gone through many evolutions (and still has some more to come), it has consistently been one thing above all else, a labor of love. A place where authors can share their writing tips and latest news in tandem. A place where readers come together to discuss their latest reads and ask their favorite authors questions.
What You Can Find On The Site
In 2011, WeWriteRomance.com actually split and WeReadRomance.com was born. As the site titles are pretty self-explanatory, you can probably guess most of the writing and author related information stayed on WeWriteRomance.com—like Guest Bloggers / Interviews, Industry News, and Articles. And the reading related information moved to WeReadRomance.com—like Book Lists and Reviews. While both sites have something for both authors and readers alike, it’s a bit easier to find things now. If you’re looking for a book review, you know WeReadRomance.com is where you go. If you’d like to read an interview about an author you’re going to want to check out WeWriteRomance.com.
WeWriteRomance.com also houses the blog for both sites, and has special monthly features like Kate’s Corner (with Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon Author, Kate Walker) and Carolynn’s Clues (with Best-Selling Author and all around Grammar guru, Carolynn Carey). Readers (and writers) can find contests to enter for some great prizes and free online reads to enjoy through the blog as well.
In short, there are many reasons to visit and enjoy what WeWriteRomance.com/WeReadRomance.com has to offer. If you’re an author and would like to participate by guest blogging or promoting your book(s) on the site, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re a reader who enjoys romance novels as much as I do, you’re going to want to check out the latest reviews on WeReadRomance.com and chime in with your opinion.
Thanks, Christina, for having me by to let people know about the site!
Happy surfing,
Heather R.

Thank you Heather - it's great to get the background on such useful sites!