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.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

For the First Time In Forever!

I felt like writing. Picture Princess Anna in the movie Frozen, when the castle finally hosts a lavish gala, and there's people and she can party. Whee! That was me last night, partying with my characters. Granted, we were fighting a dragon, but I was right there with the gang. Mostly this winter, I've been down, literally, figuratively, and physically, lying on the couch, watching Netflix, Amazon instant videos, whatever I'd dvr'd... And eating chocolate. Trust me, sometimes there just isn't enough chocolate to inspire anything except a bellyache. And I've had plenty of those. I'd scroll through the feed of my busy beaver Facebook friends, who are writing thousands of words a day and zapping out books and sigh. Then roll over and surf for another video. Writing was a fleeting endeavor. A longed for and dimming dream. Depression sucks the life from you. As does writer's block.

Not last night! By golly.

So, this morning, my somewhat annoyed hubby, who couldn't decided whether or not to leave the light on for me, asked what on earth had kept me up so late.

Writing, at long last, for the first time in forever!

And I reminded him that he often comes to bed so late I wonder if I should send out a search party. He looked a bit sheepish, upon reflection. Not being cursed with the writing bug, he has no comprehension of the fickleness of the muse or the need for a smidgen of energy to summon inspiration, and the incalculability of when it might strike. Creativity and its requirements are intangible and difficult to define for muggles. Only other authors and artists understand. Consequently, we are termed slightly mad by the rest of the world. To give my DH his due, he has borne with me tirelessly for the most part. And we have agreed he is to leave the light on.

So, for those of you who at times struggle as I do to regain the muse, take hope. The ephemeral being will wing back in its own time.

Meanwhile, if you want me to recommend movies and TV shows, I've got a list.

Before last night, I had no idea what to post today and felt more like Eeyore than Anna. As fond as I am of Eeyore, I'd rather be slightly more upbeat. My WIP is a YA fantasy romance that I am enjoying writing, when the muse obliges me. I just got stuck.

I'm back!

***For more on me, visit my blog One Writer's Way at:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Neither Rain nor Snow nor Sleet nor Hail Can Keep Romance From Happening.

You can blame some of this nasty weather on me. Go ahead. I've got broad shoulders to match my broad hips, so I can take it. We've gotten over eight inches of snow here in Lynchburg, Virginia, which is a year's worth for us -- and then some. We rarely dig out our winter coats because our weather is usually fairly mild. Our trees are ice-covered, branches hanging low, so I'm grateful every time the heat pump comes on. Many are without power.

A HIGHLANDER'S HEART starts just before a blizzard hits the Scottish Highlands and it hasn't stopped snowing there -- or here -- since. And, believe me, I'm writing as fast as I can to get us out of this weather mess!

Ronan, the last of the three Matheson brothers to be featured in my "Highland Beloved Series"...the solitary man, the peacekeeper of the family, the determined bachelor...has gone to his little log cabin in the rocky, upper Highlands for some peace and quiet. As a bear-shifter, it'll be just him and his bear, he privately calls Brother Bear. His family, you see, all live together and run a Lodge out of their ancient castle. The poor man just needs solitude from time to time. He looks forward to his jaunts to his cabin. He needs some peace and quiet.

This trip, though, it doesn't happen. He made the mistake of telling a witch he didn't have the time to hunt for a woman, that he was too busy taking care of things at the Lodge and she'd have to drop from the sky to get his attention. Now, shouldn't a man know better than to say things like that?

Men don't always think before they speak, you know what I mean?

Here's the opening of the book I'm trying like crazy to finish so we get a break in the weather, because having these two alone in a cabin for the first half of the book, without them killing each other, was a challenge. Especially when Ronan's trying to hide he's a shifter and his bear sneaks out when Ronan is sleeping and creates mayhem.

To Ronan Matheson, this was home. Quiet seclusion. No meals served by the clock. No strange boarders to be gracious to in his own home. No tours through the ancient castle-turned-lodge to explain the clan’s history. This was his space…his and his internal bear’s. Three hours away from his family’s lodge, this small cabin he’d built in the rocky, pine dense mountains of the upper Scottish Highlands was theirs.
Arriving at the retreat was always a hurried routine to get the generator running, firewood brought in, and the supplies unloaded from his truck. Then he’d strip, shift, and lumber outside so his bear could run through the trees and brush. He inhaled the mountain air as a bear, detecting every animal within hundreds of yards. Leaves and pine needles rustled, and he supposed a pine martin was creating a nest for the night. Dusk would approach soon.
An almost silent, strange-shaped black aircraft circled low overhead, which snagged his attention. A faint whooshing sound followed. His bear stopped and tilted his head, seeking the direction of the unfamiliar noise. At first, he suspected something…a tree, perhaps…had fallen across the stream, blocking the natural flow of water and creating the strange racket but, nay. This was different and growing louder.
He stood on his hind legs to get a better view.
“Oh, shit! Oh, holy shit! Ohhh, blessed mother of Prada, holy effing shit!” A strange human shrieked.
He jerked his head skyward at a person plummeting toward him, tied to a billowing red parachute.
Nay, buddy, ye take care of the intruder. Roar yer furry arse off.
The bear roared and waved his upper legs in a threatening manner.
The trespasser yanked like crazy on the ropes as if they’d swerve him in a different direction. It didna matter. He crashed into the bear with a powerful combination of weight and the force of his speed, his knees ramming the beast’s shoulders to the ground. The sudden impact knocked the wind out of the bear as both he and the person from the sky fought to push away the silky fabric. Fer a few fear-filled minutes, the two made eye contact and the dark-lashed person screamed so loudly, the bear’s chin rose and he glanced over his head at the forest behind them, searching for a quick retreat from the infernal racket.
The skinny human’s heart beat like a frightened rabbit. Both the person’s skin and hair had an odor of wild strawberries. Its arms wouldna be still as it fought to escape the bear’s hold. And its persistent high-pitched screeching made the animal’s ears ring.
Finally, the person stopped screaming. “A b-b-bear! I’ve landed on a wild and wicked bear! Don't tell me I’ve escaped the CIA only to become a bear’s dinner.” The person reached between them and unclicked the belt holding the parachute apparatus before slipping his arms free, tossing more of the red silk over the bear’s head and rolled away from the parachute.
Ronan’s bear fought to work his way from under the soft batch of fabric and, with one eye exposed, lay still to watch his adversary scramble toward a tree and stand.
The human was a woman.
A frantic woman with arms that waved as she grumbled.
“A bear! A freakin’, smelly, hairy bear. Survival classes never taught me proper procedure for landing from a jump with my crotch under a bear’s chin. Damn incompetent instructors. Hell, they claimed they were preparing us for anything and everything we’d encounter.” She slipped off her backpack. “Calm down.” Both of her opened hands made a pushing down motion. “Calm down. I’ve read several survival guides. I know what to do. I can handle this. I can.
“Do not run from a bear. Make yourself a large target and yell to scare the bear away. Bears are easily frightened unless it’s mating season.
“Oh, wouldn’t it be just my freaking luck to fall on a horny bear? Oh, hell and shit.” She stood on her toes, her arms outstretched and her hands poised like claws. “Roar! Growl! Snarl! Hiss! Run, you hairy bastard!” She bellowed like Colleen, Ronan’s niece, when she was throwing a tantrum.
Even with his bear at the forefront of their dual persona, Ronan turned over and laughed. Laughed like he hadna in years. Me God, what a gutsy woman. Funny and plucky at the same time. Although her crotch did smell nice. Bloody hell, he’d been over two months without a member of the weaker sex.
I think I like this one. She’s ours.
Before Ronan could tell his bear what he thought of his foolish idea, the female stomped over and poked the bear in the arse with the toe of her boot. “Are you laughing at me? What kind of bear laughs?”
Book One: A HIGHLANDER'S OBSESSION is now available wherever eBooks are sold. 
Book Two: A HIGHLANDER'S PASSION releases on April 7th & is available for pre-order
Book Three: A HIGHLANDER'S HEART releases October 8th & currently resides in my laptop, rent free, I might add. Random House Loveswept is my publisher.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


By Brenda Daniels

I've been enjoying a PBS show called Genealogy Roadshow. They travel all over the United States talking to various people who come to them with questions about their family history. Usually there is one relative who mysteriously disappeared or a family legend that sounds too fantastic to believe.

One family discovered an ancestor who was a ship captain and privateer in the early 1800's. He had skirmishes with the French and lost a ship to them. Having his ship stolen apparently made him mad enough to seek permission from the American government to become what was technically, a pirate. Essentially, the U. S. government granted him permission to act as a privateer. Any ship deemed an enemy could be attacked and their cargo seized. He was, apparently, a very successful one.

I personally have a great-great grandfather who was last seen leading some horses down a road. He disappeared, never to be heard from or found again. Our family periodically dreams up theories of what happened to him. I suspect he just decided to create a new life in another state. One theory has him stealing the horses and falling in with bad company.

There are so many stories in our own histories. Characters truly amazing and waiting for a writer to come along and bring them to life.

Have you based a character on an ancestor? Have you used an event from your family history as a plot in a story?

Sometimes, the best plot is the one buried deep in your family's story.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Non-traditional Heroine

Although old women can be heroines in many genres, mostly you don’t find them in romances. To use an old woman, as a romance heroine, requires thinking what makes ‘it’ a romance and what being old means.

 April 2014-- 70 yo

Romances are love stories (i.e. sexual connections, whether consummated in the story or not). Right there you run into the first problem regarding old women in a romance. Many people, especially in the United States, are uncomfortable imagining old folks having sex. They might believe that they do the deed but don’t want to read or see it in a movie—and frankly this prejudice can even go so far down as to couples in their fifties.

Tradition is, I believe, what makes an old person unacceptable as a romance heroine, who is supposed to be young, often gorgeous. Although they can be scarred, handicapped, fat, skinny, bespectacled, or plain of feature, they are not old because that, of course, would take passion from the romance. Old people simply aren’t sexy enough for believable passion.

 November 2008-- 65 yo

It’s an easy trap to fall into-- visualizing what an elderly women looks like. That is, until you realize Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch, and Helen Mirren (to name only a few) fall into that bracket. Some would argue they have surgery to stay sexy looking. To counter that argument, I went through my photos for those of my husband and me in our early 60s (no surgery and no photoshop).

The next two photos I had taken on the same day. I was sixty-four. To make a point back then, I went down to our creek with my hair up and a shawl, for a photo of the old woman. This is a woman, who has no interest in being seen as sexy. She’s ready for the next stage of her life, which might mean raising grandchildren, traveling, or fulfilling a lifelong goal that earlier was not possible. Being sexy isn’t on her bucket list.

That day, I went right back up to the house, dropped the shawl and let my hair down to pose for photos that showed the other side of what is possible. A woman, when she is old, can be what she wants. She might want to write romance heroines but has zero desire to be one (put me in that category today). That doesn’t mean she couldn’t.

Besides the fact that an old woman can still be sexy looking, she offers something that makes her of value as a heroine in a romance-- she is a crone. We all know the first meaning of crone—not exactly romance heroine material. The second meaning though is a woman in the third cycle of life. She’s been a maiden, a mother, and now is the crone-- a woman of experience, judgment, and wisdom-- goddess level.

Rose’s Gift offers all the elements of a romance-- passion, conflict, and resolution. Rose is a good example of life stages. She had a happy long term marriage although with no children of her own. In Tucson Moon, she is a housekeeper, cook and second mother to the heroine. In Arizona Dawn, she is a depressed widow, who that book’s young heroine helps to come out of her fog.

It's now 1900. Change is in the air—some of which Rose has resisted. Her pleasures involve a cozy home, comfortable routines, friends, and family. At almost sixty-one, the last thing she expects is to have an interest in a man. She’s operating with her culture’s stereotypes of being old; until, along comes someone who blasts her out of her comfortable pattern and reminds her that she is still very much a sexual woman.

The man is not one who would usually find himself a hero into the typical romance. While he is virile and strong, capable of hard work, he’s not young or traditionally handsome. But he’s confident in himself. He’s a provider and protector. He was a strong secondary character in two of my earlier books, Arizona Sunset and Tucson Moon. He’s the kind of man, who speaks his mind and goes after what he wants—and what he wants is Rose. When he looks at her with that look in his eyes, it changes Rose’s life path.

 photo of my husband in his early sixties

It is my opinion that senior romances don’t have to be sweet stories about two people finding a friendship as elders. They can be every bit as passionate, filled with the joy but also the angst, as such relationships are for younger people. Maybe more so, as the old know they have fewer years ahead. They can’t afford to waste time. They also bring with them the wisdom of experience.

The stereotype claims the old are set in their ways and can’t change. Just because something is said-- doesn’t make it so. Some also say life is a cycle, but I think it’s a spiral. Seasons come and go; but when they return, we are in a new place.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Gypsy, Sparky, and Kiwi

Do you give nicknames to inanimate objects? I do, and so do some of my friends. For example…


One of my favorite electronic aides is Gypsy – my GPS. Gypsy has taken me to downtown Seattle, all over King and Pierce Counties, and around the Pacific Northwest. She took a flight with me to visit a friend in Texas last year, and she helped the two of us navigate the roads from Pottsboro to Athens and back. Though she sometimes spends quite a bit of time communing with satellites and recalculating before offering advice, not once has Gypsy led me astray.


How did author Laurel-Rain Snow choose the name “Sparky” for her e-reader? She says, “I got to thinking of kindling (Kindle) and igniting things…hence, Sparky.” Clever! I haven’t named my Kindle yet, but considering how often it hides from me, I’m thinking Nessie might be a good moniker, after the elusive Loch Ness Monster.


Seems like many people name their cars, don’t they? There’s Kiwi—a lime green VW Beetle my friend (and co-author) Sandra Allen bought for her daughter. The little car’s shape and color inspired its name. One of my neighbors—a minister—drives the Godzilla of SUVs. When we hear its throaty roar, my husband says, “There goes the Holy Hummer.” And in my book Bluebonnets for Elly, Granny Macauley has a nickname for her tricked-out golf cart.

      Elly parked Granny's golf cart near the door of the Stop 'N Shop and grabbed a fabric tote from the orange-colored bin behind the seat. Granny had hot-glued yellow fringe around the bin's edges and added a big glittery M on the back--M for Marge Macauley. An orange vinyl canopy covered the cart's top. That, too, had a trim of yellow fringe dangling from its edges, inspiring Granny to call the vehicle "My Little Surrey." To Elly, the two-person cart resembled a miniature Cotton Bowl Parade float.

I love names (and words), so if you have nicknames for inanimate objects in your life, please share them! Your comments are always appreciated.

Sandra Nachlinger is the author of Bluebonnets for Elly and co-author with Sandra Allen of I.O.U. Sex 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Language of Flowers

Good Morning,
I'm writing this post in hopes of boosting your morale, especially for our north and east neighbors. They are in the midst of one of the worst winters ever. The blizzards they're experiencing, I'm sure make them feel like they'll never see the sun again, much less spring flowers. So, I thought I'd bring the meaning of flowers to y'all in hopes of brightening your day.

In Victorian times, each flower had a meaning and bouquets were given with much thought given to the recipient. This was first brought to my attention in the movie, The Age of Innocence. Daniel Day Lewis's character gave Michelle Pfieffer's character flowers specific to how he felt about her. In, Kate and Leopold, Hugh Jackman taught Kate's brother how to show his feelings with flowers. In previous years, I remember an ad that appeared in magazines that said, Say It With Flowers. Ah, romance!   

Popular Flowers & Their Meanings
• ASTER Symbol of Love, Daintiness
• AZALEA Moderation, temperance, fragile passion, your blush has won me (Chinese Symbol of Womanhood)
• CALLA LILY Magnificent beauty
• CARNATION (GENERAL) Fascination, Woman Love
• CHRYSANTHEMUM (General) You're a wonderful friend, Cheerfulness and rest.
• DAISY Innocence, Loyal Love, I'll Never Tell, Purity
• HYDRANGEA Thank You for Understanding, Frigidity, Heartlessness
• IRIS Fleurdelis, Emblem of France, Your Friendship Means so Much to Me, Faith, Hope, Wisdom and Valor, My Compliments
• LILY (WHITE) Virginity, Purity, Majesty, It's Heavenly to be with You, I'm Walking on Air
• LILY (yellow) Coquetry, falsehood, flirtation
• ORCHID Love, Beauty, refinement, Beautiful Lady, Chinese Symbol for many children
• ROSE (pink) Perfect Happiness, Please believe me
• ROSE (orange) Fascination
• ROSE (red) Love, I Love You
• SUNFLOWER (large) You are splendid
• TULIP (general) Perfect lover, Flower emblem of Holland

Hope this was fun and enlightening. I sure learned something about sending flowers. Thank you Mr. Lewis and Mr. Jackman!
Hugs to everyone,

Monday, February 16, 2015

3 Keys To Cancer Survival by Joan Reeves

Has cancer touched your life? It has mine. Just about everyone in my husband's family has died from a form of cancer.

Today, I want to talk to you about something that might help save your life or the life of someone you love. Please read and share.


I posted this on my own blog last week as I waited for my brother-in-law's surgery to be completed. I think this information is so important, that I'm copying my post here.

My brother-in-law survived his second cancer surgery which took almost 9 hours--9 hours of waiting in agony and prayer for the outcome.

Lessons to Take to Heart

I want to tell you his story because there are 3 important lessons to learn from the nightmare he has lived since January 2014. He fought bravely in a battle that began 2 days after he retired when he went to see the doctor for a problem that had plagued him all year. That day changed his life because he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Esophageal Cancer.

Before cancer, he was a big strong man who loved life. After a year of fighting, he's lost a hundred pounds and is weak, but his spirit remains strong.

The Cancer Treatment Journey

First, he had radiation and months of chemo. Then came the surgery. They literally removed his esophagus and part of his stomach. Then they "pulled" his stomach up to create a new esophagus. He spent a long time in ICU afterwards. Nothing by mouth since the day before the surgery until weeks after it when they did a swallow test. It should be called a "leak" test because that's what they were looking for: to see if everything patched together held up. He passed.

To his dismay, his oncologist told him he'd have to have another 6 months of chemo. By the time he went back for his final oncology appointment, he was weak but excited that the ordeal would be over.

Except it wasn't. The CT scan showed something on his 11th vertebra. The MRI the next day revealed a new cancer. A tumor had grown inside the 11th vertebra and destroyed it. He'd been complaining to his wife about his sides hurting. The doctor told him he had been living with the equivalent of a broken back.

The biopsy was this past Saturday. After getting the results, the doctor and his team created a surgery plan. That's what was happening as I wrote this post. The tumor was removed along with anything left of the vertebra which the doctor described as "jelly." They also removed the last rib in back on the right side. He's been in ICU since he left the operating room last Thursday. Next will come more chemo. He can have no more radiation. He's reached the lifetime limit for it.

All of this brings me to the point of today's post.

3 Things To Know That May Save Your Life

1. Listen to your body.

When something is wrong with your body, it gives you hints. Sometimes they're subtle. Sometimes they scream. If something is "off" or feels out of the ordinary, and this something continues more than a couple of weeks, pay attention. Your body is trying to send you a message.

Do you know the early warning signs that may signal cancer? There are many variations of this list, but basically, they are:
  • New lumps or growths on your skin
  • A sore or bruise that does not heal
  • A mole that changes in shape, size or colour or bleeds in unusual circumstances
  • An ongoing cough or hoarseness that last longer than three weeks
  • Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
  • A change in bowel or bladder habits for no good reason
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
  • Blood anywhere it normally shouldn't be – urine, bowel, spitting.
My brother-in-law had developed difficulty in swallowing. He waited several months before mentioning it to his doctor. Then his doctor gave him the easy answer rather than sending him to a gastroenterologist.

Most recently, the left and right sides of his back around his waist started aching. He didn't say anything to his oncologist because he thought it was just that he was so tired and had been in bed for so long. Also, he had fallen several times because he was weak. That ache started 3 months ago.

2. If you think something is wrong, talk to a doctor who specializes in that party of the body.

My brother-in-law talked to his family doctor about it. The general practitioner said, "Oh, that's nothing. We can fix that with diet and acid-reflux medication."

There's a reason the phrase "second opinion" was created. Do not hesitate to seek another opinion. Especially if you feel any iota of concern.

When we think something is wrong, we just want someone to assure us that it's not. That's the easy answer we all want. BUT, with cancer, you want the hard answer--the one that comes from a specialist who deals with problems associated with your particular issue, not a general practitioner who probably isn't familiar with subtle warning signs various cancers create.

3. When you know you'll be facing surgery/chemo/radiation, assemble your own team that will help you survive. Just as the surgeon assembles his team, you do the same--finding people who can come and keep the patient company during the week--especially at meal times. This is especially true if the patient is a man because men don't reach out for support the way women do.

When the patient is finally home after surgery, he or she needs someone there on a regular basis who will push the patient to eat even if they say they're not hungry or everything tastes bad. The team member must speak hope and optimism and healing and give the patient a vision of the future that will surely be achieved.

A team member should also listen carefully to the survivor. If he's complaining about something several times, then there's something there that must be addressed. Unfortunately, when you're around someone who is going through an ordeal involving pain and serious medical treatment, it gets too easy to turn a deaf ear to what seems to be chronic aches and pains. You need to really listen and sort through what's being said. 

Chemo, radiation, and surgery are the most debilitating events anyone will ever go through. They affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Some people think it takes a village to raise a child, but I know it takes a village to survive cancer treatment.

Donation Smarts
Take care of your health. Donate to cancer research. Charity Watch rates charities to see where the money actually goes. Click Cancer to find the best organizations that use your money for research, not expense accounts, salaries, etc.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

Today is a perfect day to read a romance novel. Or two.

I now have 2 books in Amazon’s new subscription service, Kindle Unlimited.

For those of you who have not subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, it’s a service on the order of Oyster or ScribD, or Netflix for books as some have described it. For a flat monthly fee, you can join and read an unlimited number of books every month.

THE CALLISTER BOOKS is a 3-book bundle with stories set in a small fictitious town in Idaho. I emphasize the word “fictitious” because though there is no such town as Callister, readers have told me they know right where it is. The stories in the bundle are THE LOVE OF A COWBOY, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER and THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN.

A recent Amazon reviewer who gave it a 5-star review said this: "Each one [of these stories] was filled with so much heart that I couldn't put them down."


SWEET WATER is an award-winning book I wrote for the West Texas Series. It’s classified a “western,” but why I don’t know, other than the fact that it’s set in far West Texas. Neither the heroine nor the hero is a cowgirl or cowboy. 

Here’s a short blurb:
“Terry Ledger, wealthy developer of upscale sub-divisions and builder of high-end homes, is used to his projects changing peoples’ lives. Little did he know that his purchase of the tiny West Texas town of Agua Dulce and his association with its quirky citizens would be a life-changing event for himself. ….. Marisa Rutherford, the ostensible mayor of Agua Dulce, manager of the only cafe, flea market and tourist trap and nurturer of her dying mother, never expected to have to protect the town’s odd population from an outsider like Terry and his plans. Nor did she expect to find the man of her dreams in the instigator of so much trouble. Can she reconcile her heartfelt feelings for him with the loyalty she feels for Agua Dulce’s citizens?”
So if you’re a subscriber to KU, you can take advantage of these 2 reads. If you aren’t and want to read them, the regular price of THE CALLISTER BOOKS bundle is $6.99 at Amazon and SWEET WATER is $2.99. 
Have a love-filled day, everyone. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tarnished Remains by Paty Jager #cozymystery

What would you do if you were digging in the dirt and came up with a boot still attached to a skeleton?

That's how the second Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Tarnished Remains starts. Potter Shandra Higheagle is on her mountain digging in a pocket of clay she uses for her pottery. She pushes the shovel in the clay and comes up with a boot and bones.

Before I started writing this series I visited a potter who uses natural clay that he cleans and purifies before using it in his wares. I gave my amateur sleuth this same trait and put her on a mountain in Idaho where she makes her vases that are sold as art. The other unique thing I gave her was her ancestry. She is half Nez Perce but was kept from her Native American roots after her father died in a rodeo accident.

Tarnish Remains released on February10th.

Shandra Higheagle is digging up clay for her renowned pottery when she scoops up a boot attached to a skeleton. She calls in Weippe County detective Ryan Greer.  The body is decades old and discovered to be Shandra’s employee’s old flame
Ryan immediately pegs Shandra’s employee for the murderer, but Shandra knows in her heart that the woman everyone calls Crazy Lil couldn’t have killed anyone, let alone a man she loved.

Digging up the woman’s past takes them down a road of greed, miscommunication, and deceit.  Will they be able to prove Crazy Lil innocent before the true murderer strikes again? 

Writing into the Sunset

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


By Guest Author Gretchen Craig

Hello, Smart Girls Read Romance readers. My son says he can’t see why anyone would write a book without wizards in it – I wonder why anyone would write a book without romance in it. So my newest book  EVERMORE, certainly has a romance, or two depending on how you define romance. One romance ends in happily ever after, but another one doesn’t, and with no happy-ever-after, is it a “romance”?

Rather than give you the polished blog for EVERMORE, let me give you a bigger slice of what the story is about, and then I’ll share the first few pages of the novel.

Nicolette Chamard is a free woman of mixed-blood living in New Orleans when the conquering Yanks parade into town. The citizens are riled and hostile, but Nicolette is thrilled – these soldiers will free every enslaved soul in Louisiana.  Her rich, slave-owning, white half-brother surveys the same parade and sees the end of all his privilege, ease, and wealth. And among the Yanks entering their beloved city is Captain Finnian McKee, a book seller from Boston who finds himself bewildered by the intricacies of race and color in New Orleans.

Nicolette (she looks just like Halley Berry) wants to help the Union win the war even though collaboration with the enemy will be dangerous. She becomes a telegrapher in Captain McKee’s signal office, and with her light skin and fine manners, poor Finn McKee (who looks like the young Tom Selleck) does not understand that underneath, according to the culture of Louisiana, Nicolette is a Negress. They fall in love in spite of not understanding one another fully, and … Won’t tell you the rest of that story-line yet.

Then there’s Alistair, another rich slave-owning planter, who loves Nicolette dearly. But he will never marry her – it would mean ruin for himself, his mother, and his little sister’s chance of marrying well. He will make her his beloved mistress with a committed heart, but that is not enough for Nicolette. I found myself a little in love with Alistair myself in spite of his not being hero-worthy, and maybe you’ll wish him well, too. Remember Scarlett O’Hara’s crush on Ashley Wilkes? I picture Ashley when I’m writing about Alistair.

Marcel, Nicolette’s half-brother, has a much loved mistress who is of mixed blood. (I think Marcel looks a lot like the young Sean Connery, my all-time heart-throb.) They have two boys together, and Marcel is devoted to his little family. Still he must marry a white woman and have a legitimate family as well. Note the “must.” It seemed like a legitimate “must” to Marcel’s class. So he marries a flaxen-haired belle who is madly in love with him. How on earth can we resolve this? I love Marcel, for all his arrogance and conceit, but really – how can he expect this to end well?

There’s more, of course. It’s a fairly big book, but here you have all the elements for broken hearts, healed hearts, and happy-ever-afters.

Here are the first pages of  EVERMORE.

Chapter One

May 1862

Nicolette squeezed through the crowd to see the conquering Yanks march up Canal Street. The citizens of New Orleans slung insults and worse at the soldiers, but Nicolette was elated. These soldiers were going to free every enslaved soul in the South. In an unguarded moment, she forgot herself. Her lips curved and she pressed her hands to her heart.
Without warning, fingers gripped her shoulder, the thumb digging under her collar bone. A filthy man with a red face and glaring eyes loomed over her, his mouth twisted in fury.
“You wipe that smirk off your face, missy, you know what’s good for you.”
Icy fear shot up her spine. If he denounced her as a Yankee sympathizer, the crowd would stomp her into the ground. She wrenched free and plunged into the mob. At the edge of the throng, she gripped a light post and told herself to breathe, just breathe.
She’d been careless, letting her feelings show. She knew better. No matter that she was free or that her skin was light, the requisite tignon she wore on her head identified her as a woman of color. And a colored woman in New Orleans better know her place.
Her pulse slowing, Nicolette threaded her way through the fringe of onlookers. Here, where she didn’t have to steel herself against the dreaded touching and bumping, she relaxed her hands and shoulders.
Across from Presswood Mercantile, she looked to see if Marcel had come to witness the Yankees claim his city. He leaned against the balcony railing far above the rabble, his steady gaze on the liberators. Invaders, her half-brother would call them, overturning the life of ease and privilege he enjoyed as a rich white planter.
She resisted raising her hand to him. He would not welcome the familiarity in front of Miss Presswood, his flaxen-haired fiancé. No matter that they shared a deep affection, and no matter that Nicolette’s gray eyes were lighter than his brown ones, her brother lived his life on a different plane. Marcel’s mother had been Bertrand Chamard’s wife. Nicolette’s mother had been a slave on the neighboring plantation.
On a balcony above the hubbub, Marcel gripped the iron railing with white knuckles. His nose twitched at the smell of unwashed soldiers in damp, sweat-soaked wool rising above the street. He had anticipated the day Union troops would enter his beloved city, but the impact was no less painful for having foreseen it.
A Confederate through and through, Marcel Chamard took a keen interest in the Yankee formations. They were neat enough, though their uniforms were worn and sometimes more gray than blue. He excused them their lack of polish. He even excused them the side they’d chosen. At least these men had rallied to their cause. Too many Southern gentlemen yet lingered in the comforts of home. Though he did not yet wear the uniform himself, Marcel was no malingerer.
Deborah Ann took his arm and murmured, “Marcel.” He glanced at his fiancé  and saw the warning on her face. They were amid their enemies. He unfisted his hands and unclenched his jaw.
Marcel spied his little sister down below. Though Nicolette wore an ordinary blue day-dress and a matching tignon, the required cloth folded and tied in intricate fashion over her black hair, she was a bright blue bird among the crows and sparrows of the crowd. Marcel had never wondered that his father fell in love with Nicolette’s beautiful mother. His sister, too, was beautiful. But, as she had been cossetted and adored all her life, she was naïve in her understanding of slavery in the South. No doubt Nicolette believed the Yanks would free the slaves before breakfast and turn the South into some sort of fairy-tale Eden by tomorrow noontime.
No doubt he’d done his part in spoiling her, but no one could deny she was an exceptional girl. Sang like an angel, with just enough of the devil in her to seduce an entire audience. And with her coloring, he thought for the hundredth time, Nicolette could pass for white, if she wanted to. But she chose not to. No, Nicolette knew nothing of politics or the real issues of the war.
When Deborah Ann stepped closer to him and wrapped her arm in his, he patted her hand absently. His attention was still on Nicolette as she made her way through the thinning crowd. So very careful she was not to brush up against anyone. She thought no one knew how she shrank from being touched, but he had watched her withdraw after the …incident. He hardly let himself think of it in more detail than that. It roiled him and threw him into a rage if he dwelled on what Adam Johnston had done to his baby sister, leaving her unconscious, bleeding and bruised.
Deborah Ann tugged at his arm. Marcel blinked the image away. He took one more look over his shoulder, annoyed with Nicolette for being out again with no protector. What good was the slave he’d given her if she left him at home?

Chapter Two

The maître d’ led Finn and his friend Hursh into the gas-lit supper club where silver gleamed and roses scented every table. A white-jacketed waiter offered them menus. Finn waved him off. Dining here would cost them each a week’s wages. Instead he held up two fingers. “Whiskey.”
Finn looked around the room at the other patrons who’d come to take a night’s pleasure in the midst of war. The gleam of brass buttons revealed that about half the diners were men in the uniform of the U. S. Army, Federal officers like himself. The other half were wealthy planters who had decided it was in their best interest to co-exist with the occupying Yanks. Practical men, Finn had to admit.
Amid the fanfare of a drum roll from the stage, the master of ceremonies strode on stage and announced with great fervor, “Mademoiselle Nicolette Chamard!” The white-tie elements of the audience burst into enthusiastic applause.
A young woman entered from stage right, slowly, demurely, with her eyes cast down. Her gown was ice blue, and she wore the get-up on her head that so many women in New Orleans favored, some sort of turban.
The girl began singing a capello, her voice sweet and pitch-perfect, but thin, as if she’d used all her breath just getting on stage. Finn figured she’d been applauded for her looks, not her talent. And looks she had, if you liked a perfect heart-shaped face. Her skin was creamy, not that fish-belly white the young ladies of Boston bragged about. And that lower lip! He leaned forward, his elbows on the table.
The mademoiselle was the picture of innocence, her eyes on the far distance, her hands holding a huge magnolia blossom. Winsomely sweet, she sang her story.

A pretty little maid so neat and gay
To the mill she went one day.

Finn took advantage of sitting in the dark to stare at her bosom mounding nicely above her neckline. He paid little attention to the lyrics, no doubt another insipid ballad about love and loss.

Now I think I will make my best way home.
If my mother ask me why I’ve been so long,

The vision in blue suddenly gave her audience a broad wink and a saucy smile. Her voice took on power and depth and an insinuating tone as she finished with --

I’ll say I’ve been ground by a score or more
But I’ve never been ground so well before.

Finn, caught unawares, guffawed. Hursh slapped the table. The room erupted in laughter.
Then she assumed a mask of hauteur as she seated herself at the piano. She played a tinkling trill in the high register, and then she pounded out a few chords in the lower keys with dramatic, body-swaying expression. Suddenly, as if she’d had a thought, she paused with her chin high in the air, her hands poised over the keys.
“I play piano just like Frederic Chopin, you know,” she said in a confiding tone.
The men in the audience, and they were nearly all men, chuckled, waiting for it.
“With two hands.”
Without waiting for the laughter to die down, Mademoiselle Nicolette launched into a Wagnerian aria in a soaring soprano. When she came to the high note, she stood on tiptoe to reach it, immediately returning to the keyboard and the breathtaking slide down to the alto range, her audience calling out and clapping.
Finn’s eyes never left her. He gazed, not at her bosom, at least not entirely, but at her face, for she’d dropped the innocent-miss mask altogether now. Her eyes sparkled, her face glowed. The regal elegance she projected, and then the humor ranging from sly to clownish – she was a chimera, shifting easily from mock-serious to mock-bawdy, from demure to knowing. Her voice flew like a hummingbird soaring and diving.
She was incandescent.
He was smitten.
Applause rolled through the room as Mademoiselle Chamard took her bows.
From Finn’s personal experience, it had been true, what they said about show people: women of the stage were likely to be generous with their favors. He fervently hoped it were true in New Orleans, too.
“I’ll square with you later,” he said, and bolted, leaving Hursh to pay for the drinks. He wanted to get backstage before the other swains got there.
He found the side door into the performers’ area and closed it firmly in the face of a young gentleman following him. He grabbed a nearby chair and wedged it under the knob. He didn’t need competition from some rich bloke in top hat and cane.
Here the banjo and flute from the next act barely penetrated. A gas light overhead hissed and dimly caught the gleam of blue silk as Mademoiselle Nicolette strode down the hallway toward the brighter dressing area.
She turned. He couldn’t see her face with the light behind her. He came closer and stood in the doorway with her. He stood too close, he knew he did, but he wanted to inhale her intoxicating perfume. He wanted to inhale her.
Up close, she was even more beautiful. Her gray eyes seemed to see through to the back of his head. The heavy scent of the magnolia blossom in her hand made him dizzy, and he swallowed hard.
She backed away from him, bumping into the doorjamb.
No welcoming smile? Finn hesitated, puzzled. In Boston, he’d often gone backstage to congratulate Coleen after a performance, and if he were the first admirer to reach her dressing room, he left the theater a happy man.
Well, what had he expected? That she would invite a stranger into her dressing room, let him tear her clothes off and make passionate love to her all night? Well, yes. He’d been carried away with the image of himself and this astonishing, spirited woman in a sweaty tangle of sheets. Unfair, of course. She was not a fantasy. Still, was there not even a hint of flirtation about her?
He leaned forward, trying to read those astonishing gray eyes. Her pupils widened, and she raised a hand as if to protect herself.
He straightened. He’d blundered, obviously. Yet he was here now. He had to say something.
“I enjoyed your performance, mademoiselle.”
The hand at her bodice fisted on a flounce of lace. “Merci.” She glanced toward the door where he’d wedged the chair.
Could this be the same woman, fearless and bold on stage, shrinking from him here in the hallway? Did he detect a faint trembling in her shoulders?
Good God, the woman was afraid of him.
Finn stepped back. “Pardon me, mademoiselle. I have alarmed you.”
She did not deny it. She was alone, and he was too close. He’d made her feel trapped with the chair under the door knob. He felt like a cad. Heat flushed from his throat to his scalp.
“I do apologize.” He bowed, his eyes on her hemline. “Good night to you, Miss Chamard.”
Nicolette pressed her hand over her heart, watching le Américain retreat down the hallway, his boots loud on the naked boards. His accent was foreign to her, but his voice had been smooth and soothing, like soft butter on a scorched finger. He’d meant her no harm.
His essence lingered, a heady, masculine scent. She breathed, drawing him into her lungs. In spite of the touch of panic, she’d taken in the thick brows and curling dark hair, the lustrous mustache framing a generous lower lip.
He’d been so tall, looming over her. And he’d surprised her. That’s what had unsettled her. If she’d been prepared, if Pierre had been with her, or Maman, she could have smiled and played the coquette. That’s what he wanted, to see the coquette. Not a spiritless gray shadow.
She sat at her dressing table and leaned her forehead against her fist. How long was she going to be like this? A cowardly, timid mouse!
Disgusted with herself, she twisted the lid off the cold cream jar and scoured the make-up off her face. He must have thought she was a ninny. She’d managed, what, one word?
Surrounded by the pale cream, her eyes glowed darkly. She dropped her hand, staring into the mirror. She was not a shadow. She was not a mouse. She still had a spine, she just had to stiffen it and get over that awful moment when Adam Johnston had taken her confidence from her. And she would, she was sure she would. Eventually.
She scraped her chair back. To hell with back stage Lotharios.
Nicolette changed her shoes and joined Cleo and Pierre in the other dressing room. They would go home together and have a late supper in the kitchen. Then she would go to bed and forget all about the officer with the dark brown eyes.
Kind eyes, she remembered, when he saw she was afraid.

At the moment, EVERMORE, the third book in The Plantation Series, Stories of Slavery and Deliverance, is an e-book and available in paperback. Click here to buy EVERMORE in digital format. 

Gretchen Craig, Author

Gretchen Craig's lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Having lived in diverse climates and terrains, Gretchen infuses her novels with a strong sense of place. THE PLANTATION SERIES brings to the reader the smell of Louisiana's bayous and of New Orleans' gumbo. CRIMSON SKY evokes the lives of people living under a searing sun among the stark beauty of mesas and canyons. THEENA'S LANDING summons the sweltering humidity of the Florida Everglades, the flash of scarlet ibis, and the terror of being stranded in a hurricane. For lovers of the short story, COLOR OF THE ROSE is an award winning collection exploring the characters and issues that comprise ALWAYS AND FOREVER. BAYOU STORIES is a dark look at troubled slows looking for solace in the lonely bayous of Louisiana. The third collection, LOOKIN' FOR LUV, is written just to make you smile. To be published in the fall of 2014: Gretchen's first non-historical novel, THE BARGAIN is about two evil women who blight every life they touch until they finally turn on each other. In Gretchen's usual habit of thorough research, these two characters exemplify the psychopathic profile, creating mayhem and heartbreak without feeling a thing. To be published in 2015: TANSY, a novel of early Louisiana, tells the story of a free woman of color who is born into the system of plaçage in New Orleans. She is destined to become a rich white Creole planter's mistress, but she learns that she can shape her own destiny into something far richer and more fulfilling. DESTINY, a novel of the great slave rebellion of 1811. Based on factual accounts, the story begins and ends with Charles Deslondes who leads a double life as loyal slave and secret conspirator as he inspires the slaves to seize their own destiny. Visit her website at


Sunday, February 8, 2015


By Mary Adair

Show, don’t tell. Ever heard that? How ‘bout, Show, with a “tell”?

Definition:…Tweeked only a little to fit my point J

A tell in poker(a novel) is a detectable change in a player's (character’s) behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player's(character’s) assessment of his hand (state of mind). A player (reader) gains an advantage (a deeper understanding and interest) if he observes and understands the meaning of another player's (character’s) tell, particularly if the tell is unconscious and reliable.

Like most authors, even before I seriously started writing, I loved to read. I didn’t realize it then, but the one most engaging aspect of the story was how I could get to know my favorite character. I liked being able to recognize that little ‘tell’ that clued me in on what he felt or was thinking or what he might do before the characters in the story figured it out. As I realized the small nuances of the author’s skill in showing the story I became more and more intrigued by the art and wanted to try my own hand at story telling.

Here are a couple of example from one of my favorite authors.

From BRAZOS BRIDE  by Caroline Clemmons
Zach rubbed his chin while he thought it over, slapped Joel on the back. "Hate to interrupt this much fun, but it couldn't hurt to cover Micah’s back. Some of his good neighbors might take him being alone as a gift." He leaned his shovel near Micah’s and mounted his horse.

From GABE KINCAID by Caroline Clemons
“My, what a hotbed of crime we circus folk are. Did Zara talk?”

“Not a word.” He [Gabe Kincaid] screwed up his face and tugged at his ear. “Well, none that I can use in mixed company. Matter of fact, I learned a few new curse words. Ben’s [the sheriff] determined to keep at her until he gets sentences that don’t insult his parentage or suggest movement impossible for the human body.”

Sometime, especially if you want to add a little mystery or a bit of humor, you have to build on the ‘tell’. In my story, Passion’s Price, I have a character,William Montgomery, aka, Willy, who, though he tries to present himself with a devil-may-care personality, is actually quite high strung. This is evidenced by his pulling Boading Balls from his pocket and twirling them nervously within his hand, causing an irritating clanking noise at the most inopportune times... 

Excerpts from Passion’s Price

William’s annoying habit tells on him.

Lady Gaylord took the opening to jump in. "We wanted to speak to you about Dawn."
"Yes," Lady Montgomery took up when the other stopped to take a breath. And so the discussion continued as it always did with these two; one starting and the other finishing the thought, leaving Raven with no recourse but to glance from one to the other.
"She is becoming quite popular, dear." Lady Montgomery watched several young men vie for a dance with Dawn.
"We know you are making arrangements to send her home, but she deserves a proper coming out," Lady Gaylord added.
"It would be a shame to send her home so soon," Lady Montgomery finished. "Her father has promised us for years that he would allow her a visit as soon as she was old enough. James knows what good care we have taken of you. This is the perfect time."
"Yes, of course. Just look at her. And to think she arrived just in time to attend this ball in honor of your birthday." Lady Gaylord placed a plump hand to her bosom and sighed.
William no longer pretended indifference to his grandmothers as the Baoding Balls slid more rapidly within his palm, the chiming increasing with his agitation.
"Yes, you must allow her to stay longer, at least until the Golden Lady returns."
"She will occupy a room upstairs. It will remain hers for as long as she likes."
"She likes the room." Lady Gaylord nodded and added, "And she and Sara get along well."
"Yes, they did. Sara can be her personal maid while she is here. I think they will both like that very much."
"Yes, I agree."
Lady Montgomery patted Raven's arm. "And, of course, your room is always ready any time you want to visit, same as Willie's."
Out of habit, William softly choked out, "Don't call me that, Gran."
Lady Gaylord laid her hand over William's. "Put those annoying balls away, dear. They are only going to get you into trouble." 
William blinked in confusion, but did as he was told.
Much later, that little nervous trait causes William a lot of pain.
Lady Montgomery said, "Oh, it's those horrid chiming balls of Willie's. I had just told him they would get him in trouble. Victoria and I have told him time and again to stop playing with the infernal things. He refused to listen and see where it's landed him."
Her confused rambling gave Raven a chance to compose himself, though the content of her jumbled speech distracted him. He walked slowly around the two on the floor and retrieved a mug from the cupboard.
"I don't understand." He looked down at William. "Maybe you should explain."
William looked up at him. "What Gran said is true. Dawn charged in here and kicked my Baoding Balls right out of my hand. I'm not sure how I got here. Um, you'll be glad to hear the Golden Lady is in port."

"Tell the truth." Dawn pressed the blade against William's throat. "Your chiming balls just told on you."

"What's all this talk about balls?" Lady Gaylord said as she entered from the garden, her arms laden with freshly cut flowers.

Buy links for PASSION'S PRICE: