Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly


family, Holidays, Jaunty Post, Vanessa Kelly


Yes, that is a chocolate dragon’s egg, er, Easter egg, and it was filled with CHOCOLATE COVERED POPCORN!!!

I think we can agree that’s pretty good. And it’s also bad, because eating so much Easter candy (along with not one but TWO chocolate cakes), especially when combined with champagne, can lead to some very bad things. Like an EPIC sugar hangover.

Some of my family was visiting for Easter this last weekend. Which was mostly very good, except for the few times we wandered into the political arena. Fortunately, we all managed to pull back before too much damage was inflicted on the combatants.

We were a fairly small group this year: my 92-old dad, my stepmother (who takes excellent care of Dad), my brother and his wife, and two of my nieces. It was actually the perfect size because my dad does tend to get a bit overwhelmed with the noise and commotion. Because in addition to celebrating this joyous religious holiday, we were also celebrating my sister-in-law’s 60th birthday. As you can imagine, that is both good and bad depending on how you feel about turning 60. But as my esteemed father says: it’s hell getting old but the alternative is worse.


This is a picture of my father and my sister-in-law cutting the rug to some Frank Sinatra. That is indeed good.

And here’s a picture of Dad with his two beautiful granddaughters. Trust me when I tell you that they are beautiful both inside and out, and super smart. And that’s where the fun–and the funny–came in. Those two gals pretty much had us in stitches all weekend. Of course, I also shared some pretty funny stories about their father and uncles that they hadn’t yet heard, which is always LOTS of fun. Nothing like getting back at your dopey brothers for all that childhood teasing!


Another good thing? My one niece taught me how to do GIFS on my cellphone and also on Twitter. I am now constantly texting Adele and Kim Kardashian GIFS to my husband. I think that’s VERY funny. Hubby, however, does not. Killjoy.

Here I am with  my truly stunning niece:


We had four wonderful days of hanging out, telling stories, sharing the occasional heartache or worry, cherishing every moment we had with my dad, and basically eating and drinking non-stop, except for the occasional sleep breaks. All very good…except I did mention the too much chocolate, cake, champagne, sangria, cocktails….well, you get the picture. By Monday morning, we were all feeling pretty…bad.

In fact, this magazine I spotted in the supermarket seemed printed just for us:


I swear I’m getting right on that–as soon as I can get off the couch!!

Do you have family events that are, perhaps, a bit too much fun? Do you ever regret them in the morning? Tell me all about it for a chance to win a copy of my latest VK Sykes contemporary romance, SEE YOU AT SUNSET.



000_0014When I first started writing I was 23 years old.  Not a sophisticated 23, but a rather shy bookwormish 23 who had brought her parents, husband and new born baby to her first writing conference.  I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, had talked on the phone with Ann Bair aka Ann Evans, a fabulous writer and one of the nicest women I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet and then I showed up at the Morrisons Cafe where the group met.

It was 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning and I had arranged for the day off from work and my mom to watch my nine-month-old daughter.  I sat in my car for about 15 minutes trying to get up the courage to go in.  I saw other older women going inside and then this hipster in a convertible drove up, hopped out of her car and walked inside.  She looked to be closer to my age, had curly hair like me and when I finally gathered my courage to go inside I met Mimi Wells for the first time.

The group was large it seemed at the time like there were at least 50 people I know now that there was closer to 30.  I didn’t get to sit next to Mimi but she sought me out after the meeting and we chatted.  Honestly, at first, I’m sure it was because we were the only ones in our 20s in that room…Nancy Robards Thompson would join a few years later.  But for a while we were the young ones.

100_0431My friendship with Mimi was started that day and over the years as we both served the chapter our friendship grew.  We were both pregnant to our sons at the same time and honestly when I think of my writing journey there are a handful of women that I’ve known from the beginning.  Mimi is one of them.

She’s a fabulous writer who also has a very strong calling to be an educator.  She’s been Florida Teacher of the Year and has a bond with her students that endures long after they’ve graduated.  For years I’ve read everything she’s written and encouraged, nagged and pushed her to submit it.  And so I was thrilled when her first novella was released, followed by her second and now her first novel length book…The Devil You Know.

Since Mimi is one third of my devilish triad I think that the title is perfect.  Here’s a little blurb about her latest release.  I know she’s going to be guest blogging here later in the month so I won’t tell you too much except to say you really don’t want to miss this one.


Wells-TheDevilYouKnow-300dpi-300x450Domnhall Cameron, the Devil of the Pitch, has come a long way from the gritty streets of Glasgow. Now an international football star, he has a new team to launch, but only one thing stands in his way: Calla Stewart. They shared one explosive night years ago that ended with him in handcuffs and her out the door…

Now that Domnhall is the bad boy darling of European football, he and his millions are stirring up trouble from Scotland to South Beach. But Calla’s divorced, down to her last few hundred bucks, and desperate to unload her house before it drags her down for good. So when Dom makes her an offer that is her ticket to a new life, she can’t refuse. Even if it means ten days at his command…

Tell me about one of your best-friends to be entered to win a Cheryl’s Cookie Card and a copy of THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.

Kathleen O'Brien
Kathleen O'Brien


family, favorite things, Jaunty Post, Kathleen O'Brien

Not long ago, when my sister and I were reminiscing about our childhood, she laughed and said, “You always remember how things smelled.  That must be really important to you.”

 Her comment surprised me.  Of course, I knew that the sense of smell was said to be powerful in memory generally, but I definitely don’t have any special talents in the nose department.

I’m hopeless when it comes to sniffing wines or analyzing the lower notes of an expensive perfume.  I’m never the first to say, “Oh, you put some clove in the cranberry sauce this year, you clever thing!”

cinnamon sticks

But apparently my olfactory sensory neurons work better in hindsight than they do in the present.  I definitely remember the scents of my memories far, far better than the visual, or even the factual details.

 For instance, there’s a men’s cologne I remember intensely from my teenage years.  Royall Lyme.  The scent of it fills me with feelings of such happiness…and, oddly, it’s a happiness that feels very peaceful and secure, not at all the kind of thrill I ordinarily associate with my teens, or the boyfriends of my youth.

woodhue and royall lyme 2

I have no idea who I ever knew who wore Royall Lyme.  I can’t put a face to the scent, or a place.  I just know that the memories it invokes are so powerful and so pleasant that I actually bought a tiny bottle of the stuff a few years ago, hoping to convince myself I was imagining things.  I wasn’t.  The sight of that little silver crown that tops the bottle brought it all back to me, and when I opened the stuff I nearly swooned.  Whoever this boy was, he must have been an amazingly nice guy.  Weird, because, like most melodramatic teenage girls, nice wasn’t my usual type.

 Other scent memories that are super powerful for me include…

 Nanny's beach house, rear view  Michaela Celie, Tina, Teresa and Rory (?) at Nanny's beachhouse

1)  The sticky, green, pungent scent of the Australian pines that used to line the beachfront at Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, where we spent more happy summer days than I could count.  My father’s mother owned a big wooden house there, right on the beach, and when we were children it was our own personal sandcastle.  The Australian pines are mostly gone now, as is the wonderful old house, but IRB is still one of my favorite places in the world.  Even today, the ghost smell of those tall, shaggy pines carries on the warm sea breezes and makes me four years old again, waiting for my father to take my hand and lead me to the water’s edge.


2)  The smell of incense at six a.m. Sunday Mass.  My father and I were earlier risers than my mom and sister, so often we’d stumble through the cool morning fog to early Mass.  We loved having our obligation behind us and the day stretching free in front of us, but we also loved the quiet, almost eerie feeling of the beautiful, half-empty church in the early morning.  I am not sure every Mass actually included incense, but the interior of Sacred Heart was permeated with it, and the scent takes me back in an instant.

paper mill smoke 

3)  The sickly sweet smell of the paper mills that seeped into our car on family trips and told us we had crossed the border from Florida to Georgia.  My mother’s family was from Georgia, and we have, even now, many relatives there, so we often made the trek from Tampa to Atlanta.  Because Florida is such a long state, and because children are so impatient, it seemed to take forever to reach the Georgia line.  Plus, I was a terrible traveler and always got motion sickness within a few hours, probably coinciding with the arrival of the paper mills.  Even the remembered scent of that thick, gluey air is enough to make my stomach tighten unpleasantly, but it is mixed with primitive feelings of relief and anticipation because it marked the beginning of the end of a long, uncomfortable trip.

 kitty smells

What about you?  Does the sense of smell bring back powerful memories for you?  What scent can you remember clearly—even though you might have forgotten other details about the moment?  I’d love to hear what lives on in your olfactory files!  I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today.


Also, I must apologize for not having posted the winners from my last blog about traveling with fictional characters.  My wonderful big sister, mentioned here, is very sick, and I haven’t really been on top of my professional life for weeks now.  But I did read all your comments and thought they were brilliant!  The randomly chosen winner is bn100, and the suggestion I chose as my personal favorite came from Michelle Fidler, who nominated Nancy Drew.  I adore Nancy Drew and think she’d be a fabulous companion for a road trip! 🙂

I’ll be posting the winners as always this Sunday, in case my winners don’t see this today, but if bn100 and Michelle do see this, please send your email addresses so I can get the gift certificates out asap!  And thanks to everyone for playing along.


Nancy Robards Thompson
Nancy Robards Thompson


family, favorite things, friendship, gratitude, Nancy Robards Thompson


When I stop and count my blessings amazing things happen.  If I’m feeling blue, stressed or otherwise out of sorts, I take a moment and write down the things for which I am grateful and I feel much better. It’s an instant attitude makeover. 

Here are some things that make my heart happy :

heart1. I’m grateful for my family and for the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make each of us individuals. My husband, my daughter, my father, my brothers.  I am grateful that they love me unconditionally despite my flaws and foibles. They are my heart.

2. I’m grateful for good friends who are steadfast and true. best friendI believe in quality over quantity.  Anymore, I’m not so eager to prove myself to others who make me feel bad or make things right with difficult people.  I’ve grown to detest drama. I saw a meme recently that said, “I’d rather have four quarters than one hundred pennies.  I am blessed with such good friends who I call “the family I choose.”  I would go to the mat for them. They are priceless.

 Power of Words3. I’m grateful that I’m a writer. It’s not always easy, especially when I’m working toward a deadline and I have to say no to a lot of things I’d like to do… but that’s okay…there’s nothing like typing THE END at the conclusion of a writing marathon and seeing a new book on the shelves. This is my joy.


4. I’m grateful for my animals – my old cat and my sweet corgi. animalsThey torment each other sometimes.  The dog charges at the cat. The cat hisses at the dog. Several times a day I feel like a parent reprimanding fighting children… but they make me smile. They are balm for my soul.

5. I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience each new day. heavyLately, I keep running across quotes that reinforce this thought: “Just breathe.”  “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”  “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Each new day is a gift. I’m trying my hardest to live in the moment and not let unimportant things steal my joy or waste my time. This is my perfectly imperfect attempt at Zen.

6. I am grateful for you. That you choose to be part of our JQ youcommunity. That you take the time to read our posts and spend time with us. You make me smile.  Thank you for that.

For what are you grateful? I hope you’ll take a moment to share it with us here.  I will choose one person who comments to receive a $5 Amazon gift card. 

The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome back historical romance author Christi Caldwell. She’s consistently a bestseller, and if you’ve ever read one of her books it’s not hard to see why. She writes heartwarming, sexy, and delightful Regency romances.

Readers, keep reading to find out how to win your signed print copy of For Love of the Duke!

Shana: Welcome back, Christi! Tell us about To Trust a Rogue, the newest in the Heart of a Duke series.


Christi Caldwell: “To Trust a Rogue” is really a story about a second-chance at love. The hero, Marcus, Viscount Wessex and Eleanor Carlyle were desperately in love, until one day, she just left with nothing more than a note. That betrayal was a defining moment for both of them, and from it, Marcus fashioned himself into a carefree, charming rogue determined to never again, trust in love. Flash-forward 8 years later, and Eleanor is back, and with a daughter in tow. Now, a poor-relation living with her eccentric aunt, she is in London to face the demons of her past, and…Marcus. For me, this was an emotional book. Lots of tears were shed while I wrote this story.

Shana: From the reviews I’ve read, this book is receiving kudos for the way the emotional aspects of the story resonate so deeply with readers. How do you manage to write such powerful emotional scenes? Do you draw on past experiences or are you able to step into the characters’ shoes?

Christi Caldwell: For me, writing is a cathartic experience. I began seriously writing when my son Rory was born, and I learned his diagnosis of Down syndrome. There was so much emotion: fear, shock, pain, blended with this overwhelming love, and eventual joy. In the days after his birth, I put words onto a page, and found a sense of healing from the process.

When I write, my characters are multi-dimensional. If they know joy, I go into the greatest moments I have known. I pull from how I felt; the whole sensory experience, that is absolute happiness, and I try to paint that with words. I do the same with the fears and agonies that I knew, and still sometimes know, for my son’s struggles. There is no greater agony than seeing your child hurt or suffer.  And because of that, there is never a shortage in the emotional well I have to draw from for my characters.


Shana: I know you have two little girls who, along with your son, are the light of your life. If your girls were to read your books when they got older, what would you want them to take away?

Christi Caldwell: I would want them to realize my books are about broken and imperfect people, because ultimately we are all in some way flawed, and it is those flaws that make us beautiful and unique. We struggle. Life is hard. Life isn’t always fair, and sometimes cruel. And just because we might know struggle or tragedy, or pain, there is always love, which is more powerful than anything. Every person, for the hardships they know, can still find a happily-ever-after; they still deserve it.

Shana: That’s really lovely. Who are some of the authors who’ve influenced you the most and who made you want to become a writer yourself?

Christi Caldwell: I grew up on Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, and Jude Devereaux. I was a pretty lonely girl without a ton of friends, but found a love of books, early on. I cut my teeth on romance novels at age 13, and lost myself in those stories. They were authors whose books shaped me; authors whose emotion I felt bleed off the pages. I wanted to do that. And at fifteen, my mom found my first work in progress, a Regency romance and said: “Are you writing romance novels?” I smiled and said: “Yes. Someday I’m going to be romance author.” J 

Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.

Christi Caldwell:  February 19th, I’ll be releasing Book 3 in my Lords of Honor series titled “Rescued By a Lady’s Heart.” The story is about the Duke of Blackthorne who returned from the Napoleonic Wars without the use of one of his legs and half of his face burned. Shunned by his family and society, he’s become a recluse whispered about and feared.

Enter his heroine, Lily Benedict. She is equally broken, and motivated by reasons of revenge and desperation, she takes employment inside his household. In the process, she finds love.

This is a darker story, about two equally broken people healing one another.


Readers, now it’s your turn.  One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win a signed print copy of For Love of the Duke (U.S. and Canada only; international reader will win the ebook). The winner will be announced Sunday and contacted via email.

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