Smart Girls Read Romance

Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog. Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

REVIEW OF OF JACQUIE ROGERS' SLEIGHT OF HEART

By Caroline Clemmons

SLEIGHT OF HEART is the first of the High Stakes Heroes series by Jacquie Rogers. If you have read her Hearts of Owyhee series, you already know what a fun, fast-paced western historical romance Ms Rogers writes. In fact, Jacquie Rogers is one of my favorite authors, and the 1880’s are my favorite historical period in the Old West.



Lexie and Helen are in exile, so to speak, because Helen committed a social faux pas and embarrassed her parents and friends. Since she can’t be sent from Washington DC alone, Lexie has to put aside her dream to become a math professor to accompany Helen to a Colorado mine in which the family owns a share. The young women have to remain there until Helen’s blunder becomes old news. They’ve been in Silverton, Colorado a year and the mine barely makes enough money to pay the miners and expenses.

The story opens with Alexandra “Lexie” Campbell shooting at Burke O’Shaughnessy. But her anger is misdirected. She mistakes Burke for his younger brother Patrick, who has Lexie’s sister Helen in the family way and has taken the sisters’ five thousand dollars to buy mining equipment. Lexie believes Patrick is a con man and the money Helen gave him is lost.

Lexie and Burke take the train to look for Patrick. Actually, Lexie forces Burke onto the train. The tables soon turn, however. Lexie has an extraordinary mind for numbers—including cards. Burke is a gambler, the son of riverboat gamblers who trained him well. Ms Rogers’ excellent writing blends in historical details with a fast paced romance. In addition to a really good story, she throws in subtle humor and suspense filled with twists and subplots that all tie up in a happily ever after.

I highly recommend SLEIGHT OF HEART to anyone who enjoys western historical romance with a dash of suspense and humor. I give this book a ♥♥♥♥♥ rating.



Don’t miss her Hearts of Owyhee series: MUCH ADO ABOUT MARSHALS, MUCH ADO ABOUT MADAMS, MUCH ADO ABOUT MAVERICKS, MUCH ADO ABOUT MINERS. She is also contributing to the Western Fictioneers anthologies, including HELL ON THE PRAIRIE, and Prairie Rose Publishing anthologies


She is also in the duet with me titled MAIL-ORDER TANGLE.

Check all of her books on Amazon.

Find out more about her and her books at www.jacquierogers.com and http://jacquierogers.blogspot.com She also contributes to the this Smart Girls Read Romance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Is More Romantic than Spring and Flowers?

Takes a lot of romance to beat a soft April day in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, scented with blossoms. Many of our best loved flowers bloom in spring. Perhaps because they come after a long, cold winter, and are nature's reward. Or God's. Either way, I thought you might enjoy seeing some images my talented daughter Elise took of our garden(s) this past week. I say gardens, plural, because we have many beds. Beyond the yard and gardens, we gaze down to the green meadow surrounding the pond like a gem from the Emerald Isles. And up above the glistening grass and green rye fields, are the wooded hills. Tender new leaves flushed with rose blend in with the many shades of green coloring the trees. Beyond the hills are the Allegheny Mountains. On a clear day, we can see the ridges tinged in green rising in the distance. Spring comes later in the mountains, but it comes in all its wealth and beauty. But back to the farm.

Below are some lovely quotes to accompany these images, with insightful commentary.

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden." ~Ruth Stout

I totally agree with Ruth Stout, and have her gardening book. A real treasure.




"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ~Anne Bradstreet

Amen, Anne Bradstreet. 

"Our spring has come at last with the soft laughter of April suns and shadow of April showers." ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

What a beautiful romantic thing to write.




"The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven -
All’s right with the world!"

~Robert Browning


Robert Browning is quite the optimist, which one can better aspire to be if one spends a great deal of time in a garden. The world has run mad, but love still shines brightly. And he was deeply in love with the talented poet who became his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

"And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"


I do love the English Romantic Poets. Now, we must have some Keats.

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." ~John Keats


Why did Keats value quiet breathing? Because he died young of consumption. But he knew love, and was in love with a wonderful woman. He also deeply loved nature and flowers.




"Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment." ~Ellis Peters

This is so true. I never weary of the delights of spring.


"The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze."
~Julian Grenfell


I can't say it any better than this.




Flowers in order are bleeding heart, tulips in front of the old red barn, Virginia bluebells, violets arranged in an old bottle we found on the farm that turned lavender in the kitchen window, cherry blossoms, and a bouquet of lilac beside the large potted geraniums on our sunspace. Elise made the arrangements and took all of the images herself.

For more on me, please visit my blog at:  https://bethtrissel.wordpress.com/


FACT LEADS TO FICTION AGAIN

By Caroline Clemmons

Readers may not realize that the more books an author has written, the more difficult finding a fresh story idea/twist becomes. Which is why in my work in progress, my ranch hand hero, Finn O’Neill, goes undercover in a lignite coal mine to earn money to buy his own ranch. This required research into coal mining in 1885 Central Texas—fascinating in some areas and not so much in others.

I was aware of the large coal mine at Thurber in Erath County of North Central Texas and nearby smaller mines in Palo Pinto County. Thurber’s location is too far from this hero’s home base. With research, I found the perfect place, the town of Coal Mine, Texas southwest of San Antonio. In my story, the town is called Lignite after the type of coal mined there. Also in my story, someone is causing deadly “accidents” at the mine and the owner wants to determine who is guilty. For this, he hires my hero, Finn O’Neill.

Finn O'Neill, hero of
O'NEILL'S TEXAS BRIDE
The beauty of changing the name of the town in fiction is that the town has whatever buildings I choose and/or need for the story. Instead of Lytle, in my book the next town is Spencer for the same reason. That’s one of the fun things about writing historical fiction. The author gets to build the setting and only has to be true to the period in customs and dress. I love making up my stories and their settings and I hope you enjoy reading them!

The actual town of Coal Mine was on U.S. Highway 81 and the Missouri Pacific line in southeastern Medina County. Coal mines, worked by as many as 500 people at a time, precipitated the growth of mining camps in the 1880s. In 1881 the International-Great Northern Railroad built a rail line from Austin to Laredo that passed through Lytle southwest of San Antonio.

Coal Miners
The community of Coal Mine developed on this line a mile southwest of Lytle and just north of the mining camps. The high-grade lignite produced at the mines was sold to the railroads until the advent of oil-burning locomotives. In 1888 Coal Mine consisted of a store, a bandstand, a main plaza, a dance hall, a Catholic church, and at least two schools. Hmmm, in my story, Lignite has a store, both a Catholic and a Protestant church, and one two-room school where the heroine Stella Grace Clayton and her sister Nettie Sue Clayton teach.

Stella Grace Clayton, heroine
Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, is a soft brown combustible sedimentary rock that is formed from naturally compressed peat. It is considered the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content. It is used almost exclusively as a fuel for steam-electric power generation, but is also mined for its germanium content in China.

Lignite has a high content of volatile matter which makes it easier to convert into gas and liquid petroleum products than higher ranking coals. Unfortunately its high moisture content and susceptibility to spontaneous combustion can cause problems in transportation and storage. The efficient processes that remove latent moisture locked within the structure of brown coal will relegate the risk of spontaneous combustion to the same level as black coal, will transform the calorific value of brown coal to a black coal equivalent fuel while significantly reducing the emissions profile of 'densified' brown coal to a level similar to or better than most black coals.

Lignite can be separated into two types. The first is xyloid lignite or fossil wood and the second form is the compact lignite or perfect lignite. Although xyloid lignite may sometimes have the tenacity and the appearance of ordinary wood it can be seen that the combustible woody tissue has experienced a great modification. Dark black lignite, or jet, is where the term 'jet black' originates.

Ho hum, that part was kind of boring, but I am compelled to inflict the knowledge on you. By the 1940s my model for Lignite, Coal Mine, consisted of a Catholic church and several dwellings, situated mostly north of the railroad tracks. Lytle annexed Coal Mine in 1969, and there were about 100 people living at the Coal Mine site in 1983.



Caroline Clemmons writes western historical and contemporary romances. Her latest release is WINTER BRIDE. The book containing Lignite, Texas is O’NEILL’S TEXAS BRIDE, and will be released mid-May 2015. You can keep up with Caroline’s releases by signing up for her newsletter. Her books are listed on her website at www.carolineclemmons.com and on her Amazon Author Page.   

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Fatten Them Up," She Said -- by Vonnie Davis

Conversations with my editors often include what things are trending now. For example, in choosing my next series, one in particular gave me a list of what subjects are trending, or popular--Harley Clubs, Tattoo Parlors, Small Town Romances, School Reunions and, thanks to the popularity of the "American Sniper" movie, wounded warrior series.

In our last chat, she told me to start making my heroines BBW.

"BBW? Do you mean like Big, Beautiful Women?"

"Yes, it's what's trending now."

"Oh, how wonderful that we're showing bigger women deserve love too."

"Yes. Fatten them up to a size sixteen."

I nearly choked on my chocolate. Sixteen? I haven't been a size sixteen since before I got pregnant with my youngest child over forty years ago. I confess to being a few sizes beyond that now...and I'd give up chocolate for three days to be a size sixteen again. Trending, or not.

Of course this all reinforces authors' complaints that publishers want fresh voices who write the "same old, same old" types of stories. You know, write the same topic, but differently.

Also trending now are bear-shifters. Lucky for me, my editor just edited my third bear-shifter book. She's asked for two more. Just "fatten up" my heroines.

 
A Highlander's Obsession, Book One Highlander's Beloved Series http://amzn.com/B00ILX9WC0
A Highlander's Passion, Book Two Highlander's Beloved Series http://amzn.com/B00N6PD78S
Bearing It All, Book Three Highlander's Beloved Series - (Releases October 8th) http://amzn.com/B00TCI2A5E

Friday, April 24, 2015

AND THE BATTLE CONTINUES

By Brenda Daniels

My long standing battle with technology continues. You would think by now, I'd learn. This May, I plan to travel to Scotland. The last time I traveled to Europe was 2006 so I figured a few things had changed.

I knew I needed to contact my credit card company and bank. The well know, world wide credit card company uses a robo response system. I tell the perky recorded voice I am traveling out of the country. She/It asks me which country I am visiting. I say, Gt. Britain. She/It says, Did you say Greece? I respond, No, Scotland. She/It responds, did you say Iceland? By now, I'm irritated. I yell into the phone, England!  Now, She/It gets pissy and says She/It doesn't understand me.

Taking a deep breath, I beg for a real person. After a long pause, beeps and boops, another perky female voice asks if she can be of help.  I tell her what is going on and, presto, she has the problem fixed. Then I ask if I can get a card with a chip, since most of Europe and Great Britain have been using it for years. Well, yes, but I have to cancel another card their company had sent in tandem with the one I was using. I never asked for the thing and had cut it up long ago. An hour later, I was assured a new, chipped card would be in the mail within twenty-four hours. That was four days ago and no card, yet.

Don't even ask me about my new iPhone or what my bank plans on charging for any foreign transaction fees.

I'm going to need a vacation after just preparing for one.

The machines are taking over the world.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marketing as an Issue


While as a writer, I might like to think my issues are all about creating good stories, exciting characters, and finding inspiration for unique romantic plots, the reality is what I write has to fit a market-- if I want to sell. Before ePublishing, when I wrote, I didn't think  about a market; since then, my learning curve regarding it has been steadily ginned up.

Lately, a subject of interest has been length of book. Except for novellas, my books have ranged from 80,000-130,000 words. 80,000 words used to be considered the minimum length for the romance genre. Often, romances I would buy were considerably longer. Recently, however, when I have purchased novels by other romance authors, their lengths were less—sometimes much less.

Books have defining labels based on genre, of course, but also length: novel writing help (a novel is over 50,000 words; novella 20,000 to 50,000 words; novelette under 20,000 but over 7500; and short story anything under 7500). Some argue anything that isn’t a novel is a short story.

So, in the nitty-gritty world of marketing, if making a living is a consideration, a novel of 50,000-60,000 words generally will sell for the same price as one over 120,000. Many writers could create two shorter novels in the same time they would have produced the long one-- maybe more than two, since longer books have considerably more complexities for plots and characters. 

Marketing experts used to claim that bringing out a new eBook every three months kept your list active, benefiting your rankings. Now they are saying, if the writer can do it, once a month is better. Clearly, shorter books offer writers important benefits with the main drawback not having the satisfaction found in developing more complex stories.
 
How does the reader fit into this? If many of the best selling romances are becoming shorter, perhaps the readers are why. People today are running on tight schedules and have to fight for time to read. Where the world seems to be spinning faster, shorter books have their pluses.

For myself, a novella tempts me to read, where I’d hesitate to start a longer story. I can settle back for an hour or two, move into another world, enjoy the interaction of the characters, arrive at a satisfying conclusion, and still have time to get my work done. Time considerations are also a plus with anthologies, like Rawhide 'n Roses, made up of short stories or sometimes novellas.

I frankly like this freedom. When I begin writing a new book, I don't have to arrive at any set count. The story is finished when it's finished. Novellas were part of that shift as before eBooks, novellas, other than in an anthology, weren't encouraged by publishing houses. The Wild West of ePublishing changed a lot of things. Story length is one of them.

When I wrote three paranormal romances (When Fates Conspire, The Dark of the Moon, and Storm in the Canyon), set in contemporary Montana, I wanted each to be a complete love story and stay at novella length. Then, because my novellas leave out most of the heat, I expanded each into a hotter, three-part, anthology, titled Diablo Canyon Trilogy (enabling a paperback). Having the three novellas still available had its own complications, but that’s another story.

Links to Rain Trueax books: 

Cover for Diablo Canyon by Charlene Raddon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Princess & Smart Phones

By Sandra Nachlinger

My friend Nan and I shared a table, waiting for our lunch orders to be delivered, when I asked her a favor. “Will you let me play with your smart phone?” I explained that I’ve been drafting a scene in my latest work-in-progress where the heroine (Ruth Ann) has been given a smart phone. Now Ruth Ann is in a fix and desperately needs to call a number that’s been preprogrammed into the phone by the person who gave it to her. But she has never used a smart phone before! To write this scene, I needed details to be able to accurately portray how the phone worked.

(As writers and friends of writers know, when a story is rattling around in a writer’s head, it’s there all the time—even when lunching with a friend—and bits and pieces of plot may surface without warning.)

In case you haven't guessed, let me admit the truth right now. I do not have a smart phone. My cell phone has a cover that flips over its screen, and its “smartness” is limited. I’m a dinosaur, aren’t I? Yes, there’s a camera function, but so far I’ve only managed to take a picture of my foot and another shot of the steering wheel of my car, both achieved while trying to increase the volume of the ringtone. The coolest phone I ever had was pink plastic, had a rotary dial, and was marketed as “Princess.”



Nan smiled, turned off her phone, and set it on the table in front of me. “Go for it.”

“Are you sure I won’t mess it up?” I asked. After reassuring me that everything would be fine, she leaned back to watch. I took a deep breath and tried to put myself into the mind of my character, a retired small-town schoolteacher - someone who had a flip phone just like mine - someone who was under stress. 

Here’s my draft of the scene.

Only one button disturbed the shiny surface—a little square. Ruth Ann took a deep breath, stilled her shaking hands enough to push the button, and watched the screen come to life. Aha! The display read “7:30 p.m.” and a message instructed her to slide to unlock. She ran her finger across the glass the way she’d seen her nephew do. More than a dozen tiny icons filled the screen.
Thank heavens!
She squinted at the fine print underneath each picture—Messages, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Videos, Maps—but not one of them showed the familiar Rolodex she expected. Where could the list of phone numbers be? Frantic, Ruth Ann tapped several pictures on the device’s glowing screen, each display more confusing than the last, each one leading somewhere unknown, until she finally gave up.
Oh, why didn’t I ask for more detailed instructions on how to use this frickin’ thing?
           Frustrated and angry at herself, she shoved the phone back into her purse.

Nan led me through the icons on her smart phone (easier than I’d expected) and confessed that she hadn’t thought about how much research a writer has to do. 

I nodded. “You’ve got to get the details right. Somebody will know if you mess up, and then they won’t trust anything else you write.”

I understand that screens vary from phone to phone and people set up their phones in their own unique ways, but I have to ask … did I get it right?


Sandra Nachlinger is the author of Bluebonnets for Elly (a sweet romance) and co-author with Sandra Allen of I.O.U. Sex (a spicy Baby Boomer romance).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Carra Walks Dallas by Carra Copelin

Wait, what? Excuse me while I reread that title. Yep, it says Carra Walks Dallas. I guess it's official then. I truly have lost my mind. This is what happens when one goes to have drinks and a nice evening and doesn't know when to stop talking. Lol

 Seriously, though, on Mother's Day, May 10, 2015, I will conduct a walking tour of Downtown Dallas along with Kathryn Falk for the RT Booklovers Convention. We'll visit the Red Museum, which used to be the Red Courthouse. 

Old Red Courthouse now The Red Museum
Some sites inside the museum are:

Beautiful wrought iron examples




























From the museum, we'll go to the JFK Memorial, a place for quiet and reflection.



John F. Kennedy Memorial

Next on the tour is the replica of the john Neely Bryan cabin.
















After lunch we'll visit the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza

Sixth Floor Museum
In late March, my daughter and her husband traveled with me to Dallas to map out the tour. I was surprised to find out the walk is doable even for me, who spends most of my waking hours in my chair at the computer or in front of the TV. What I'm hoping for is pleasant, cool, sunny weather. Is that too much, I ask?

If you think you'd like to accompany us on this walking tour, follow the links for all info. We'd love to see you there and at the RT Booklovers Convention.

https://www.rtconvention.com/event/downtown-dallas-jfk-history-walking-tour-cost-50

http://www.rtbookreviews.com/public/pdf/rt15walkingtour.pdf

Carra



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Serious Bout of Spring Fever by Joan Reeves

Anyone remember spring cleaning?

My mom used to go into serious domestic overdrive when spring arrived. She gave new meaning to the phrase spring cleaning.

Curtains would be taken down and cleaned. Wax would be stripped from floors. Walls would be washed. Oh, my. The list of cleaning tasks that she thought necessary just because the season changed was formidable.

Me? I'm the opposite. When spring comes, I want to work in the garden, pick flowers, and stare up at the blue sky and fluffy clouds from the comfort of a lounge chair on my back deck.

Spring Break & Other Spring Anomalies

I think spring break must have been invented for people like me. Spring is my favorite season. Just smell that sweet aroma of pollinating flowers and trees! Ahchoo! Uh, oh. That's something else that was invented for people like me. Flonase.®

Spring cleaning, spring allergies, spring break, oh, and spring fever. Spring fever has become the namesake for many things including college festivals, triathlons, mixed drinks, perfume, several movies, poems, and books. The spring equinox has figured in human history for thousands of years from pagan rituals to college pagan rituals known as spring break.

Sap Rises

When days grow longer and warmer, primitive people obviously felt a need to celebrate surviving another winter. The sap rose, in more ways than horticultural, if you get my drift.

Human instinct doesn't seem to have changed much since caveman hunted T-Rex. Even today, we look forward to similar pursuits that involve shedding winter wools and slipping on tee shirts, shorts, and sandals.

Spring Fever

My grandfather always said spring fever is when "a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love." I looked up spring fever in the dictionary. It defined spring fever as "a feeling of languor or yearning brought on by the coming of spring."

Hey, I'm a romance author. I write about yearning all the time. In my novels, a man and a woman yearn for each other—often against their better judgment. That's what creates the push-pull in a relationship that can be quite funny.

In my latest book, Cinderella Blue, I read a review for it that talked about that push-pull and how delightful it was. I like to write that kind of thing.

By the way, by this date, I was supposed to have increased the price of Cinderella Blue to $3.99, but this feeling of languor came over me, and the resulting laziness prevented me from doing so. To paraphrase Miss Scarlett, "Tomorrow is another day—I'll do it then."

Cinderella Blue: available at Kindle * All Romance Ebooks * Kobo * ibooks * Nook * Smashwords.

Do you remember spring cleaning or do you indulge in it yourself? Leave a comment with your email address to be entered to win an Audio Book from Audible.com. Giveaway open until 04/22/2015. Open to anyone who has not won a prize from me in the last 90 days. Winner chosen by random draw on or before 04/25/2015.

(Bestselling romance author Joan Reeves lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Her books, available as ebooks and audiobooks, all have the underlying theme that is her motto: "It's never too late to live happily ever after." Find Joan online: Blog * Website | Subscribe to WordPlay, her mailing list for readers, or Writing Hacks, her free NL for writers.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Meanness of Malware.....

For the past week, I have been battling malicious advertising on my computer. It completely disabled my ability to navigate any retail sites like Amazon and others. It even attacked my own web site, www.annajeffrey.com, which isn't a retail site.

Finding the source of this malware and getting rid of it has cost me 4 full days of precious time day and night, plus money I paid to an IT buy to clean up my computer. The IT guy, because he was a friend and former co-worker, probably let me off light on the money.

For the people who do this, I don't know what they expect to accomplish. It certainly doesn't inspire me to buy something. In fact, I made a list of every vendor whose site was included in this unwanted advertising and I will never frequent their sites, much less buy anything from them. In fairness, I should say the vendors might not even know their sites are included in this advertising.

One of the most maddening things about this is trying to figure out who you complain to. And as far as I can tell, there is no one. But I will tell you here, if you ever see a flash ad from sites like app.pckeeper .com, e-fixpro .com, staticwebdom .com, softwaare .net or warmportrait .com, GET RID OF IT ASAP!

In the middle of all of this, I've been winding up my steamy novella, MIRANDA'S MAN. It's going to an editor this week. Here's the cover again. If my computer doesn't get attacked again, I'm planning a June release date.


Following is the blurb. Looking forward to reading what you think.


Miranda March wears beauty and success like a mask to conceal her emotional vulnerability. A successful small businesswoman, she might appear to be in control of her universe, but ever in the back of her mind and the one thing that can yank the rug out from under her at any moment is her mother who suffers from mental illness.

Enter handsome, sensual Harvey (Tack) Tackett, a friend of a friend, in town overnight on business. The instant they meet, Miranda feels a connection that stirs her to break one of the rules she lives by—no foolish flings with men passing in the night. After she succumbs to his seduction and a night of passionate lovemaking unlike she’s ever known, profound emotions emerge. She believes the feeling is mutual. She and Tack could have a future together. But he leaves town without so much as a call and she hears no more from him. She’s angry at him and at herself. She knew better.

She struggles to overcome her disappointment. Meanwhile, her mother has abandoned her medications and sunk into a depression that calls for immediate attention. Miranda rushes to deal with the situation and sees that she has no choice but to move Mom in to live with her. Her life will never be the same.

Then, from out of the blue, Tack reappears and wants to pursue a relationship. But it’s too late. Miranda is committed to her familial duty to her mother. Trying to have a romantic relationship with him or any man would be as hard as mixing oil and water. She has already tried and failed at that. Can she solve the conundrum and find a happy-ever-after with Tack?