Smart Girls Read Romance

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Monday, September 24, 2018

It's Salsa Time!

by Judy Ann Davis
It's salsa time--and I don't mean the dance. 
Tomatoes are ripening faster 
than gardeners can pick and eat them. 
This is an ideal time to make salsa!

Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable, especially during the summer when they are fresh off the vine. I love to eat them in salads, marinated in oil and vinegar with mozzarella cheese, or just sliced with a little salt.

So what do we know about this very prominent vegetable called the tomato which comes in all sizes from small cherry varieties to plants bearing large yellow, red, or pink fruit?

We know they are a staple ingredient for many dishes from pizza to spaghetti to salsa, and they have a high acidic content that makes them a favorite for canning.  

Native to South America and Central America, our jolly red tomato has been around since Cortez discovered them growing in Montezuma’s gardens in 1519. He brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but were not eaten. The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, and it was thought to be poisonous by the Europeans. (Special note: the leaves of the tomato are considered poisonous.)

Not so ironically, Italy was the first to embrace the pomi d’ora, meaning yellow apples. They are incorporated in many Italian dishes and sauces. France later referred to them as pommes d’amour or love apples and believed they had aphrodisiac properties.

But much credit should go to Joseph Campbell in the United States, who made tomatoes popular with his famous condensed tomato soup--and the Campbell soup label became a household name and brand nationwide.

Here is one of my favorite salsa recipes. Enjoy!

  • 4 cups chopped peeled fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt - optional
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped find - optional
In a bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well. Let stand for about 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Yield: 3-1/2 cups. You can substitute lime juice instead of vinegar.
~ **** ~

I'm thrilled to announce that FOUR WHITE ROSES was a finalist in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Awards with winners to be announced this fall: It was also a finalist in the Book Excellence Awards earlier this year.

Amazon Author Page: 
Twitter ID:  JudyAnnDavis4 
Blog Link: “A Writer’s Revelations” ~
Goodreads Author Page:
Yahoo Groups: and and 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sneak Peek-1st Chapter Excerpt- Sweet Peppermint Kisses

Hi Everyone,
I’m so excited to be part of Sweet Christmas Kisses 5!

Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 brings you contemporary romances that celebrate the joy of the season around the world, including snowy Maine and the sun-kissed skies of Florida, the mountains of Colorado to small-town Illinois and Virginia, New York to San Francisco, and even the glittering lights of Paris and the old-world charm of Florence. The Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 bundle features all-new, standalone novellas that will make you smile and warm your heart with the Christmas spirit.

 Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Chapter One of my contribution, Sweet Peppermint Kisses:


Chiara Johnson sat on a chair near the chrome table in her kitchen, inhaling the enticing scents of vanilla and almond wafting from the oven as her cookies baked. Sighing, she peered around her modest apartment. Although she categorized the first day of December as the beginning of the holiday season, it didn’t feel much like Christmas.
“Sugar cookies,” her mother had always said, “were the answer to all life’s problems.”
Well, maybe they were.
Nostalgic images of baking with her mother and sister brought misty tears. These pangs of nostalgia erupted at the oddest moments, although in December, homesickness was justifiable.
Of course, she would volunteer at the women’s center. Chiara believed in giving back, especially to an organization that had indirectly affected her. Adeline, one of her co-workers, had been homeless for a while until she secured a job. The shelter had enabled her to get back on her feet.
Besides, Chiara thought, volunteering gave her a sense of purpose.
It was just … well, … she hadn’t imagined herself still living in Turning Point, Virginia after three years.
Sure, she’d made friends. Adeline had even launched a book club that met in town every Friday evening, and the women were a delight to be around. However, with Chiara’s work schedule, she had attended only a couple times.
She turned the volume louder on her cell phone as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” the 1943 version sung by Bing Crosby, came on. One of her favorite holiday tunes, she sang along to the last few bars: “If only in my dreams.”
Dabbing the tears from her eyes, she stood to check on the sugar cookies.
Her cellphone rang and she answered, recognizing the incoming caller’s ID.
“Hi, Emma,” she said as she settled back in her chair.
“Are you sure you can’t move home by Christmas?” her younger sister asked.
“You read my email? Yes, I’m positive.” Chiara cradled the phone to her ear. “I accepted a full-time job for December to help pay off my last tuition bill.”
“Couldn’t someone else in your nursing agency work instead of you?”
Emma was a typical nine-year-old girl. She had a lot to say about every subject, couldn’t see any side of the story except hers, and regarded Chiara as the world’s best sister.
Chiara smiled. It was wonderful to feel adored.
“Everyone else in the agency either has a significant other or children or both,” she replied. “And they all had holiday plans. I didn’t, and I was available. Plus, the agency was scrambling to fill the position on such short notice.”
“Mom and Dad said you’re an awesome nurse. They say you genuinely care about people.”
“Thank goodness parents put us on a pedestal, right?” Chiara laughed. “Between classes and other expenses, I’ve worked hard to make ends meet. Right now this job is necessary.”
Wasn’t that the understatement of the year?
Obviously, she couldn’t ask her parents for money. Due to the recent economic downturn, they struggled financially. The Midwest had been hit particularly hard.
However, Chiara was determined to succeed. She’d studied hard to earn her RN degree at a high-quality Virginia university and planned on securing a stable, well-paying position.
“So, you start your new job right away?” Emma asked. She was chewing on something, presumably a fruit snack. The little girl ate fruit snacks endlessly.
“Monday is my first day, and it’s a live-in position above a garage, so I’ll be saving rent money,” Chiara said. “My client is a woman recuperating from a fall and a concussion.”
“Did she trip or something?”
Chiara went to the sink to run water into the mixing bowls. “She was riding a horse. The woman lives on a horse ranch.”
“Horses? Lucky you! I want a brown and black pony for Christmas.”
“Umm, horses are way too big for my liking and can be extremely dangerous. Also, it’s not my ranch, and I won’t be riding any horses.”
“Maybe Santa will bring me a horse from the ranch. Tell him.”
“I’ll be staying in a guest apartment over the garage, and I probably won’t run into Santa.”
Chiara wondered if the over-the-garage apartment would be an improvement over her current home. The bland beige walls in the galley kitchen screamed for a colorful face-lift, and the bland vinyl flooring was outdated. A dose of Christmas decorations should have been on her to-do list. Unfortunately, between her classes and home-nursing appointments, she was beyond exhausted.
“Doesn’t Santa come to Virginia?” Emma asked.
“I’m sure he does, although I’ve never seen Santa ride a horse.”
Emma paused. “Do you think you’ll see one of his elves?”
“You never know.”
“Well, one of his elves riding a horse is almost as good as the real Santa.”
“I agree.”
“Just in case, I’ll tell Santa I want a pony when I see him at the mall.”
Chiara chuckled. “You do that.” Homesickness welled again. She blew out a breath and kept her voice light. “I’ll Skype all of you on Christmas Day, okay?”
She envisioned her parents and Emma attending the festival of lights exhibition in Kansas City. Oh, how her family delighted in the festivities, marking off the four Sundays before Christmas on the Advent calendar, skating every weekend on the city’s outdoor rink. Emma would be the first one on the ice, gliding fearlessly, not afraid to fall.
Her chest squeezed. Family togetherness was the most significant part of the holidays, and she’d once again miss those days with the people she treasured most.
As she listened to Emma’s excitement about the cool Harry Potter book she was reading, Chiara opened the oven to an eruption of heat. According to the recipe, the cookies were done. According to her eyes, they weren’t. However, the last time she baked cookies, she had burned them until they were unrecognizable.
To be prudent, she removed the raw-looking cookies from the oven and set the trays on the stove. Hopefully, they didn’t taste the way they looked.
“Are you still there? Did you hear what I said?” Emma asked.
“Yes. I’m overjoyed you’re liking the Harry Potter books.” Chiara nodded into the phone. “I’m baking sugar cookies for my agency’s holiday party and had to take them out of the oven.”
“Remember how we try out different recipes for our gingerbread houses?” Emma giggled. “And how they always collapse?”
“We’ll experiment with another recipe this year, an easier one.” Chiara bit into a cookie before realizing it was burning her tongue. Gingerly, she chewed, swallowed, then groped for a glass of water. “Royal icing will stick the pieces together like cement.”
“When? If you’re not here, we won’t be able to build a gingerbread house.”
“I’ll be home by New Year’s Eve. This nursing gig is only for December.”
If she lasted that long. The last wealthy family she’d worked for had treated her poorly. She remembered them well—five people residing in the same home, each settled into their separate spaces and hardly conversing with one another, disregarding her as nothing better than invisible hired help. Defensive, she’d managed her job professionally and kept to herself.
What gave some people the right to be so dismissive to others just because they had money?
She pushed away the memory and finished the cookie. It had hardened already and tasted delicious even without icing and sprinkles.
“Promise?” Emma was asking.
“And if you see Santa at the horse ranch—”
“I’ll mention your pony request.” Chiara glanced at the clock. “I should get ready for my agency’s Christmas party, so we’ll talk soon. I love you.”
“I love you too and I’m giving you a cyber cuddle.”
This was Christmas, Chiara wanted to say. She needed more than a cuddle. She needed to be with people she cherished.
“Be good and tell Mom and Dad I send my love.” She returned Emma’s blown kisses and then ended the call.
That squeeze in her chest again, an ache of loneliness. Lips pressed tight, she moved to the counter where her laptop sat and switched her computer on. Quickly, she scrolled through the job listings on the nursing agency’s website.
There it was. Her one-month gig.
Home Nurse. Temporary live-in position assisting a woman with self-care, companionship and everyday tasks. Immediate opening.
The agency’s report stated the patient was recovering from a concussion and broken ankle after missing a vault in a high-stakes horse competition.
Just like Kevin.
Despite her efforts to never think about him, her mind brought up an image of her ex-boyfriend. Of course, his concussion and broken wrist hadn’t been the result of a horse show. It had been the result of a bar fight.
Why, why, why were his violent tendencies so clear in hindsight? Fortunately, he’d never hit her. But if only she’d had that knowledge beforehand, had understood that a man’s online dating profile didn’t necessarily reveal who the man really was. Despite her parents’ reservations, she had left home and relocated to Virginia to be near him. A few months after their relationship began, she realized he wasn’t the guy for her and broke it off.
Although she longed for all things Kansas, by that point she’d enrolled in a nursing degree program and had secured a full-time job.
So here she was, three years later. Overdrawn on her bank account, in a town she didn’t consider home, not so much as a hint of a boyfriend, and celebrating Christmas by herself.
Focus on the future, not the past, her favorite pastor had once preached, and bring your views on life into context. A home was more than a building, more than a place. A home was where she was a participant, not a consumer who followed from the sidelines.
As she contemplated this, a message popped into her inbox:
“Miss Johnson, a change in plans. My sister has a late morning doctor’s appointment. Please report for your position on Monday afternoon after lunch.”
“Is four o’clock okay?” she quickly typed. “It would be better for me and give me more time to pack my things.”
She pressed send, then felt her body freeze in place.
Since when did a person who’d just gotten a job tell her employer what hour was best to meet?
An immediate reply appeared.
“Make it five. The front gate will open when you drive up. Thanks. Vance Thatcher.”
Sometimes the best gifts are hiding right under your heart.

Pre-order your ebook copy of Sweet Christmas Kisses 5 today. Only $.99!

Josie Riviera is a USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary, inspirational, and historical sweet romances that read like Hallmark movies. She lives in the Charlotte, NC, area with her wonderfully supportive husband. They share their home with an adorable shih tzu, who constantly needs grooming, and live in an old house forever needing renovations.
Follow Josie on Bookbub and “like” her Author Facebook page.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

September in Tennessee by Laurean Brooks

What does September mean to you? In northwest Tennessee, it means cooler evenings. Because I live in the country, I open the windows at night and enjoy a refreshing breeze. I lie in bed, listen to the tree frogs, and let the air waft in to induce a restful night's sleep. The crisp mornings are perfect for sipping French Vanilla coffee on the porch and enjoying my quiet time with the Creator, then planning my day.

But for a lot of folks in my area, the week of Labor Day means celebrating the return of the Soybean Festival in Martin, Tennessee.  This year's entertainment included such stars as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Sesame Street Live, and a tribute (Let's Hang On), to Frankie Valli. 

The Soybean Festival Pageant is held a couple of weeks before the other events begin. We are so proud of the pretty young ladies in our area who participate and give their all.

The Cancer Crash Car Bash is an interesting concept. For a small fee, a participant can pick up a sledgehammer and slam it into a designated car to show what she would like to do to a disease that claims so many lives. This is well worth watching, and the money raised goes to Relay For Life. Looks like fun, doesn't it?

This takes us to the Barbecue cook-off contest where grillers go Hog-wild and Pig-crazy. The best part is we the people get to enjoy the fruits of the contestants' labors. Yum!

The Soybean Festival provides many more activities, too numerous to mention. Vendors set up on Lindell Street to sell their wares. And the carnival is only a block away, for the kids and big Kids at Heart. 

What more could you ask for? So, if you blog fans are ever near Martin, Tennessee the first week in September, be sure to come to the Soybean Festival. You will be glad you did. Then scoot into one of our local restaurants and enjoy our kind of Southern Hospitality. We'll treat you so many different ways, you are bound to like one of them. 


JONQUILS IN THE SNOW by Laurean Brooks

(A short story to read while in the waiting room)

Miranda's fiance broke off their engagement two days before the wedding. Imagine the humiliation! She's been angry two years.

But when the tree serviceman shows up in her yard following a devastating ice storm, she's instantly attracted to him. But pain hides in the depths of his honey-colored eyes. When Miranda asks personal questions, he pulls back. 

Brady lost his wife Celia in a tragic accident three years ago. A part of him can't let her go, although Miranda threatens to work her way into his heart. Until he can release his deceased wife,  he cannot give his heart to another woman.

Could a cluster of Jonquils bursting through the February snow bring hope to Miranda and Brady?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


By Caroline Clemmons

Carra Copelin is up against a deadline, so I’m filling in for her today.

Many of us work from home—not just authors and stay-at-home moms or dads. Thanks to the access via computer, many companies are allowing workers to use their home as their office for at least part of the workweek. For me as a writer, this is wonderful.

Working from home is great

Working from my small home office allows me the freedom to choose my hours, although I try to maintain a schedule. I don’t have to buy expensive office clothes or commute. No parking problems, auto depreciation, or fuel costs either.

One of the only bad things about this situation is the lack of human contact. Sure, my sweet Hero keeps me company, but some authors are single. Every human needs the contact of other humans—even introverts like me. Online friends are beneficial, but we need face-to-face interaction.

Talking Face-to-face can't be replaced

Those who test for this sort of thing report that contact with other people creates endorphins that elevate our mood. What’s more, the effect of this rise in mood lasts for up to three days. In other words, getting together with friends is better than an antidepressant. (NO, I’m not telling you to stop your medication!)

For people like me, leaving home is difficult. But I had a lovely experience last weekend from attending a small conference, Western Fictioneers, who met in Oklahoma City. The workshops were helpful from a practical aspect. Meeting people and chatting was helpful from the endorphin increase.

How did this happen? I ended up on a panel. From left to right you
have me, Jacquie Rogers (standing), James Reasoner,
and Robert Vardeman.

So, if you are isolated, make arrangements to meet friends for lunch or just get together for a chat and a cup of coffee or a soft drink. You’ll be dosing yourself with the good kind of medicine that will help you the rest of the week.

Everyone needs a hug occasionally.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

10 Blogging Tips by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

Today, I thought I'd share a few tips about blogs and blogging and give a link to a new Christmas sampler book. (Look for it at the end.)

Most of us--authors and readers alike--have a personal blog and sometimes a group blog.

When blogs first became popular, I ghost blogged for clients--most of whom I cannot name--and I maintained 2 personal blogs at the same time.

When I finally gave up my ghost blogging gig and 1 of my personal blogs, I began participating in group blogs.

Today, I'm in 3 group blogs, I guest blog sometimes, and I still maintain my long-running blog SlingWords.

I've written and published SlingWords since 2005 so I know a little about how to make it easy and enjoyable rather than sheer drudgery.

How To Have More Fun

Often, it's difficult to keep a blog going--unless you have a good plan. Here are some tips to help you keep a blog going and to have more fun while you do it.

1. Write about something you love.

Too many bloggers don't have a clear focus for their blogging efforts. You should be able to sum up in 1 sentence what your blog is about. (Does that 1 sentence synopsis sound familiar?)

My blog SlingWords is about reading, writing, watching (movies, TV, pop culture), reviewing (books and other written works, movies, TV, and pop culture), and sharing (stuff I have learned). So what is your blog or your post about? Answer that question. It will help you write post after post after post.

2. Blog consistently.

I always tell those who start a blog that they need to blog on a regular basis. If you only want to do it once a week or 3 days a week or every other day, then post that notice on your blog.

Readers want new content so if they like your blog, they'll return on the day you offer new content. The more you can blog, the greater your audience will grow.

For years, I blogged every day. I still have that as a goal, but there are things that have kept me in recent years from achieving that goal.

Things like family medical problems and deadlines to name a couple. However, in 13 years, on my own blog, I have written well over 3,000 posts.

3. If you're an author, proofread.

I make a distinction between authors who blog and "civilians" who blog.

Personally, I think everyone should proofread, but there are many bloggers who don't, and they make no apologies for it. However, I think if you're an author, you should show that you are proficient with professional writing skills.

Readers may tend to think you're a hack if your post is full of errors. They may also think your books may be poorly written. Never give a reader a reason to avoid buying your book.

4. Learn how to write for those who read online.

Online reading is different from reading a printed book or even an ebook. Reading online tires the eyes so make it easy for your viewers.

(a) Have a light-colored background and crisp black print.
(b) Use a sans serif font for your posts.
(c) Online Readers scroll vertically, down the text, looking for data points so break the text up with sub-headings that are in bold.
(d) Keep paragraphs short. Big blocks of text get skimmed and/or ignored.

5. Use illustrations to break up the text.

A good graphic can emphasize a point or just hold the reader's attention.

6. Reply to comments on your post.

Readers like to be acknowledged so engage with them.

7. Avoid placing irritants on your blog.

Monetized pop-up links are annoying. Constant pop-ups of "subscribe now" are annoying, and so are animated gifs in the sidebars that bounce, flash, etc.

8. Write in an easy conversational style.

Write as if you were talking to the reader or writing a personal letter--remember those?--to a friend.

Don't lecture, preach, or anything off-putting. Be casual and friendly.

9. Never have music start when your blog opens.

Music is one of the things that always makes the most hated list. Music taste is subjective so keep it silent and peaceful on the blog.

10. Share the love.

Point your readers to other blogs. If you found a great article on another blog, talk it about it on your blog and give the link to it. Readers love to find great information so be a resource for them.

But, Wait, There's More

These are just a few suggestions. There are dozens and dozens more. I could probably come up with at least 100 suggestions, but some are technical stuff you probably wouldn't be interested in unless you want to become a "pro" blogger.

Parting Gift

By the way, I have a free sampler book for readers. Book Bites 11 contains the first chapter of each book that will be in the Love, Christmas 2: Holiday Movies You Love Romance Collection.

Sprinkle a little Christmas magic into your life with 26 ALL-NEW, never before released romances. Each title - exclusive to this set - is inspired by a favorite holiday movie, spun into a fantastic love story by a NY Times, USA Today, and/or award-winning, bestselling author and delivered to you in this wonderful collection full of cheer for the coming season.

Love, Christmas 2 is only 99cents, only at Amazon. However, you'll find Book Bites 11 at these ebook sellers: Amazon Kindle * KOBO * B&N.

Joan Reeves lives her Happily Ever After with her Hero, her husband, in a book-cluttered home in Texas.

Visit Joan online at any of these locations: Amazon Author Page * BookBub Author Page * Facebook Fan Page * Twitter * YouTube * Joan's Website.

Be the first to know about Giveaways, Bargains, and New Books, sign up for Joan's Mailing List.