Gayle Hello! Thanks so much to the Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills for inviting me to be with you today. I’m Gayle Callen, author of historical romances (and also Emma Cane, author of contemporary romances—I get around). My newest historical, SURRENDER TO THE EARL, just came out this month. It’s about Robert, who needs to find redemption because of mistakes made during the war where men were killed, and Audrey, the blind widow of his fellow soldier, who accepts his offer of any kind of assistance—as long as he helps her escape her family who’s keeping her in seclusion. Whew, a mouthful!

But I’d rather talk to you today about our kids, the grownup kind that drift into their own lives and drift so easily away from ours. Oh, we talk/text on the phone, but when you only see them a couple times a year because they live so far away, it can be tough. The kids are having fun; it’s wonderful to see them blossom in their lives, but…I miss them. So here’s an idea to stay close: competition brackets. Yes, you heard me, just like the NCAA March Madness SURRENDER TO THE EARL but not basketball (unless it’s basketball season, of course). I’m talking about a friendly competition over reality shows, the competitive kind: Survivor, Amazing Race, Iron Chef or whatever. This was my oldest daughter’s
brilliant idea, and boy do we have fun! It’s amazing how much you can enjoy a show when you’ve tossed $5 into a pot and you have a competitor you’re rooting for.

The show we compete over? The Bachelor/Bachelorette. My daughter has created a one-page form, with blocks for each week of the season, leading all the way up to the finals. We watched the first episode together (and in person, this year, which made it even more special), and then we spend the week filling out our brackets, due before the second show. Yes, you have to figure out the eventual winner, all from watching the first show. I’m not kidding, at one point we spent an hour or two slow-motioning through, especially the previews of the whole season, just so we could figure out which guys ReturnViscountBookshelf Desiree kissed, to see if we sensed chemistry. Turns out, she kissed them all, so it wasn’t so much of an indicator…

Here’s the fun part. Monday night rolls around, and we start texting, and even phone calling as we watch the show. There is moaning and gasping and gleeful bragging about who’s winning (this week, it’s me!). But really? I get to connect with my kids over something silly and fun and competitive. And in between, we talk about their lives and their friends and we stay close. I think that’s worth everything.

So let’s talk about ideas to stay close to our kids! How do you do it? One lucky commenter is going to win the first book of my trilogy, RETURN OF THE VISCOUNT, which came out last year. Not that you have to read the books in order, I swear… ;)