First Day of Class – 2nd chances!


You walk into the new classroom with your new backpack, sparkling new shoes, new outfit that you’ve tried on a few times before today, and school supplies you’ve recently purchased. The idea of crisp white paper, never written upon excites you.

Your classmates are staring at you. You nervously inch to the back of the room, hoping you’re invisible. But then you notice the cute boy across the way, laughing with his friends. They turn their eyes toward you. Your cheeks heat up. You drop your backpack and all your belongings fall out to the floor. You quickly try to pick up everything, only to have a pair of brand new sneakers come into view. You look up. It’s the cute boy. Your breath lodges in your throat and you try to smile, except you give him a wobbly glare instead.

He shrugs and walks away. Then you call yourself a million times a fool and think these things only happen to you. You shove all your supplies into your backpack and scramble to the seat in the back of the classroom. The boys are laughing about something but you’re pretty sure they’re making fun of you.

First day of school. Sound familiar?

It’s amazing how fast times flies. As a child, I always wished I was older and could skip past the awkward encounters, the learning curves of puberty and adulthood, and worst of all relationships and figuring out what I want to be when I get older. Now that I’m older, I would give anything to go back to being a child. Life was so much more carefree. School was exciting. And I didn’t have to worry about how my book sucked or battle the uncertainties of being a writer or go through the struggles of submission and finding the perfect agent.

In actuality, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be. Do you know?

I actually went to school for marketing but find that writing interests me like no other career. I remember when I used to go to school with my composition notebook and write notes and jot down ideas throughout the school day. Then I’d go home and put my notes and story ideas onto paper in longer paragraphs. The writer in me started the day I picked up my first romance book when I was nine.

If I did have another chance at school, I think I would go back for my MFA. Just so that I could study the art of writing and wrap myself in the great literary stories introduced in classes I’ve seen. I’d have a ball freelancing and writing creative stories, just because I had to do it for homework. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

If you had a second chance to be back in school, what would you do?



About Clarissa Yip

Constantly on the run, Clarissa leads the life of adventure and mischief. When she's not getting herself in trouble, she's usually busy studying the art of eating and curling up with a good book or spending numerous hours reading and writing. It's really hard to find her in one place for too long...

Guest Post – Cynthia Owens

Back to School
By Cynthia Owens

Whenever I think of “Back to School,” so many images come to mind. Walks to school through crisply crunching autumn leaves. New teachers, classmates. New books in the school library. Pencils, pens and notebooks. New challenges.

This year, back-to-school will be a little bit different. This year my beautiful daughter will take the first step into adulthood when she starts college on August 21.

So many firsts, and all of them heart-wrenching. On her first day of pre-school, I’m not sure who shed more tears, me or her! When she started kindergarten, I was a little bit more prepared…though not much. By the time she got to high school, she and I were both looking forward to it…okay, well, she more than I, but I think we were both ready for the new adventure.

And now she’s a lovely young woman embarking on a new phase in her life. I’m grateful she’s going to be commuting every day…I’m definitely not ready for her to move out on her own, though I know that day will eventually come, and sooner than I’m prepared for it.

Many people think of autumn and the back-to-school season as the end of things. The dying of the year, the end of the summer. But I’ve always thought of it as an exciting time, and yes, even a romantic time. Cooler air is just made for cuddling by a sweet-smelling fire, and I love the smell and the sound of fallen leaves, especially at night, when the moon is a glorious golden orb hanging low in the sky.

Lydia Daniels and Shane MacDermott think autumn is a pretty romantic time, too. In fact, they had their very first kiss on a bright autumn day under a canopy of watermelon-red, lemon-yellow and pumpkin orange leaves.


Deceptive HeartsHer breath caught in her throat, making her feel dizzy and faint. The blazing canopy of leaves above her whirled crazily. “Please,” she whispered, wondering what she begged for. “Oh, don’t…”

In an instant he was beside her, his arm sliding around her shoulders. The heat of his body seared her to her very soul as she sank into the depths of his obsidian eyes. She felt the strength in his arm, in his hand. But he wasn’t threatening or intimidating. Instead he emanated a quiet, gentle, strength, almost caring, almost…tender.

“Are you all right, lass?”

His voice! Slightly gravelly, mellow, filled with concern. She stared up at him, and felt as if she were falling. Falling from some incredible height, knowing he’d be there to catch her. Falling into a soft web of gentleness, of caring, that she’d never known before.

“I-I am so sorry.”

“Ah, you needn’t be.” Humor laced his tone, and suddenly he smiled again, an endearing glint of mischief dancing in his eyes. “What man doesn’t want to play the hero to such a lovely lass as yourself?”

He thought her lovely! She despised herself for the little thrill that trembled in her heart, but she couldn’t help it. He was so compelling, so warm, so utterly masculine. He was gentle. She knew better than to trust such a man, she knew she did.

And yet…

“And what man doesn’t want to hold a beautiful woman in his arms?” His voice roughened, one hand reaching out to touch her cheek.

Despite herself, she flinched.

His hand paused in mid-air. “Don’t be afraid.” His voice flowed over and around her, making the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees seem brighter, the blue October sky seem bluer, the crisp, smoky air sweeter. “I mean you no harm, Lydia, I swear I don’t.”

He’d caught her up in his spell. “Then what do you mean, Shane MacDermott?”

He moved closer, closer, until she could feel the warm, moist whisper of his breath on her cheek. “This.”

He lowered his mouth to hers, capturing her lips in a kiss so sweet and so gentle that it stole her breath, filled her with warmth, and chased away her fears. His hand came up to stroke her cheek, his touch feather-light against her skin. His callused fingers scraped her flesh, thrillingly abrasive. Her heart pounded against her chest.

And she felt no fear at all. There was no harshness in Shane’s touch, no brutal invasion of her mouth, her body, her very soul. This…why this was comfort. This was warmth and tenderness and caring.

He raised his mouth. “Lydia,” he muttered, his breathing unsteady. “You’re so sweet. Sweeter than ripe strawberries. Sweeter than honey. Your hair…” He ran his fingers through the locks she’d allowed to escape, making her wish she’d loosed it all. “’Tis like the finest silk. Your skin…” He stroked her cheek, and she shuddered with pleasure. “’Tis the softest velvet. Your taste…” His tongue licked over her skin, sending lightning bolts of heat dancing through her. “I want to devour you.” His lips moved to caress her cheek, nuzzle her hair, skate over her collarbone, sending shivers of delight through her entire being.

This was insane. It was folly to allow her hands to slide up the strong, corded muscles of his arms. It was absolute madness to sink her fingers into the rough, dark curls at his nape, to press closer to him, absorb the warmth of his body with her own.

But she did. She breathed in his spicy scent, lost herself in his strength. She stroked the back of his neck and gloried in the harsh groan that rumbled through him. His hands slid around her waist, bunching in the fabric of her gown, pulling her closer, and closer still.

“Shane…” Her body trembled with desire, her entire being in thrall to his magic. “Shane…”

As if the sound of her voice had poured a bucket of cold water over him, Shane jerked away from her, his face accusing. Jumping up from the bench, he stalked a few paces away, his breathing harsh. “It seems you’ve a way of turnin’ a man’s thoughts from his purpose, so you have.”


DSCN1026I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17thCentury “King’s Girl,” one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of  Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there. My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII. A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three. I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond. The first three books in The Claddagh Series, In Sunshine or in Shadow, Coming Home, and Playing For Keeps, are all available from Highland Press. Deceptive Hearts, the first book in The Wild Geese Series, has just been released, and Book II, Keeper of the Light,will soon be published by Highland Press. I am a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.

You can find Cynthia and her books on her webpage, and most online book retailers:


**Thank you so much to Cynthia for sharing her life with us. Please take the time to leave a comment for her. All comments will be entered to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card! Happy September!!**

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

School for Grown Ups

I have to admit that I approached this theme with some trepidation. I don’t have children and the whole summer holiday’s thing just passes me by.

But maybe going back to school shouldn’t just be for children. I think as we get older (and I do know a little about that) we need to make the effort to learn new things.

My life up to the age of twenty-four was pretty much all schooling. First, actual school, then University where I studied Ecology and Marine Biology, and finally, studying for my Accountancy qualification while working in London (by far the hardest). Anyway, once that was over, I understandably decided, no more—I was through with learning.

Or so I thought.

Of course I wasn’t. All through life, we pick up new skills. In this age of fast changing technology we have to or get left far behind. But I did manage to put off any formal education for a good long time. And didn’t return to “lessons” until I took up writing seriously and realized just how much I had to learn.

My first venture into re-educating myself was an Open University online course called “Start Writing Fiction.” I loved it. That was around eight years ago after we’d moved to the mountains in Spain—the perfect place to write—and it was my first creative writing course.

I’ve done a lot since then, everything from, writing dialogue, description, branding myself, marketing myself, how to edit, how to crit, how to kill someone with a pointy (or blunt) weapon, how to plot not to plot… There are courses for everything. And I’ve found I really enjoy learning new ways of doing the same things—but of course doing them better (I hope).


But writing is pretty much my life now, and I think it’s important to look outside that and learn something different, some totally new skill. My latest re-education venture is far different from writing—I’m learning to trim my horse’s hooves. I have a mare called Gencianna. Up until now, like most horses, she’s worn shoes. No more—she’s going barefoot, which means she needs a regular pedicure. And so far, it’s a lot harder than learning to plot.


So have you been back to “school” recently? What did you learn? And if not, is there anything you’re dying to study. Let me know for a chance to enter into this month’s draw.

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Back to School = Back to Writing Routines


There always seem to be an ebb and flow to my writing. The ebb usually coming in the summer. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those consistent writers. I do tend to slack off a bit in the summer to spend more time with my family.

But now that school has started again and the beach is no longer calling my name, it’s time to get back into my normal writing routine. But I confess, it’s been kind of hard to get into the groove even though I really want to.

So to better prepare for my writing days ahead, I’ve done FOUR things.

1) I downloaded the first ten chapters of my WIP (where I left off) to  my Ipad and have read through it entirely and made some notes. Truth is, I kind of forgot my story and needed to reintroduce it to myself. (it’s not half bad!)

2) I’m caught up on all my laundry, food shopping, and house cleaning. (No need to have any added excuses around vying for my attention)

3)I went to the library and took a walk around—just to SEE the books. I took a look around and thought, “Oh yeah, if all these people can get  ‘er done, so can I.”

4) Lastly, I looked at my beginning of the year goals, made some adjustments, and rewrote what I want to get done this fall. (I do love goals)


I’m ready for the flow to come back now and I’m off to edit!


How about you? If you’re a writer, do you tend to write less in the summer?

If you’re a reader, are you anxious to get back into your normal household routine now that school has started again?

***The blog swag this month is a $10 Amazon gift E-card courtesy of author Julie Jarnagin! Comment on any post in September to be entered to win!***

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

A Seasonal Effect


September was always my favorite time of year. School always started on the 1st. There would be new clothes, new books at school, new pens. New teachers and new friends. Crisp autumn mornings and flaming leaves ushered it all in.

Fall meant change for me and always has. Even after I graduated from college, I would still sniff the change in the air one morning and feel hopeful suddenly. It’s become a time to begin new projects (most of which I never finish)–new blankets to crochet, new story ideas, even a new wardrobe makeover. Even though the leaves turn and float to the ground, I can’t see it as an ending, thought it’s often referred to that way metaphorically. For example, I’m nearly 40–does that mean I’m in the Autumn of my life?

Actually, that’s totally okay. I do want a new beginning. I do want to begin developing new habits. I want to eat healthier, I want to live happier, I want to see life more clearly. Maybe it means we can look at our lives and just let ourselves explode with color, begin the work that will bear fruit in the future.

What seasons affect you the most? I can’t be the only one who takes a cue from their environment. Does summer make you vow to enjoy life more? Does spring make you hopeful? Does winter make you sentimental?

Don’t forget, every comment is entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card from Julie!

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Back-to-School for Adults


My son started preK this year. It was exciting and a more-than-a-little scary to drop him off on his first day, but he’s not the only one in the family who is working to learn more this year. As an author, I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills. Whether you’re a writer or have a different passion like learning new languages, improving your health and fitness, or couponing, living a life where we’re always striving to learn more and better ourselves can help us live more successful, fulfilled lives. Here are a few of my favorite ways to learn something new.

  1. Read a book. Whether it’s a book on writing or a great novel, reading broadens our horizons and teaches us valuable lessons.
  2. Go to a conference. I’ll be headed to a conference later this month, and I can’t wait to connect with like-minded people and hear experts teach. There is nothing like being able to escape the expectations of your daily life to immerse yourself something you love to do.
  3. Take an online class. If conference fees and airfare are too much of an investment, check out some of the free and cost effective online classes available. Online classes can provide access and sometimes even feedback from some of the biggest names in the field.
  4. Find a group or support system. I have a stellar writers’ group in my area and another amazing group online (waving to all my wonderful critique partners). Whether it’s face-to-face or through the computer, having a group of peers who constantly push and encourage us is vital to growing and improving.

What about you? What’s your favorite way to learn something new?

About Julie Jarnagin

Julie Jarnagin is a multi-published author of inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

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