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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reviews--A Love-Hate Relationship by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

I hope all of those who observe Easter had a lovely holiday. I know I did.

Today, I'd like to discuss reviews. Authors can often live or die by reviews. We cheer and fist pump when those four or five star ratings come in--that's the love part--and jump back in bed pulling the sheet over our heads if they aren't so nice. It's the three star ones that are hard to judge--not great, but not in the "really sucks" category either. Somehow, just being considered average doesn't cut it. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, "You can please some of the readers all the time, and all of the readers some of the time, but you can't please all the readers all the time."

I've noticed that reviews from legitimate (read professional) reviewers are harder to come by these days. With the explosion of indy authors, it's tough getting noticed anymore. Review sites are overwhelmed with authors wanting recognition for their endeavors. I don't blame them. So, we turn to Amazon and Goodreads to find solace.

Maybe I'm just stupid, but I never learned how to properly use Goodreads. I'm over there; however, I can't seem to find the reviews. My pages look curiously naked. And half the time I can't login because I forgot either my user name or password or both. So, I tend to avoid going there. That's the hate relationship. As you can see, I need serious help with this.

That leaves Amazon. Amazon has changed publishing forever. Yep, the Kindle turned both publishers' and readers' worlds upside down. It opened an avenue for writers to circumvent the usual publishing process, and have their book available to millions of readers. It was easy and anybody could do it. That was the problem, anybody did. And in those early years, every Tom, Dick, or Harry could leave a review whether they bought the book or not, which meant all relatives and friends could give the new novel a five star rating without having read it. This policy led to serious problems. Sad to say, there are some people out there who just love to make other people feel bad--so they trash the work and the author. Luckily, Amazon changed that. Now, in order to leave a review, the reader must have bought the book from Amazon.

I've been lucky. My reviews have been between three and five stars. As far as I know, I've never received a really lousy one. Which brings me to another thought. A bad review makes an author cringe, and the first thought is to defend what we have written--to explain the why to the reviewer. Not a good move.

A case in point that is now infamous. An indy author (whose name I can't recall) published a book (whose title I don't remember either) through Amazon. This was prior to the policy change, so she garnered ten or twelve five star reviews, many from people with the same last name as hers. For whatever reason, she decided to send it to a legitimate reviewer. It came back with two stars and a constructive critique regarding plot, grammar, spelling, and characters. The author was not pleased and shot back a scathing denunciation of the reviewer. This elicited responses, some abrasive, some not, from the review site's fans. The rhetoric escalated until the author finally told one (and more) people to "the 'f' word off." Unfortunately, one of the people she told this to turned out to be an editor. Oops. The reviewer cut off the comments, but by now so many authors and readers were outraged, they went straight to Amazon. Her rating dropped from five stars to one in less than twenty-four hours. It might not have been nice, but it's the kind of thing that could happen, which is--IMHO--why Amazon changed the policy.

The moral of this is--if you must respond to a bad review do it with dignity and grace. A simple, "So sorry you didn't care for my latest release. Perhaps my next book, Happily Ever After, will be more to your taste. Thank you for taking the time to read my story." Or words to that effect. Remember, the toes you step on today might be the rear end you have to kiss tomorrow.

I didn't blog in February, so I need to say that my latest book, "The Assassin" was released on February 22. It and all my books are available from and from Below is a blurb and the cover.

When high-powered Memphis defense attorney, Ross Patterson, is murdered, his estranged wife, Priscilla, and his step-daughter, Hilary, are two of the prime suspects. Hilary teams up with sexy Private investigator, Colin Blackwood, to find the real killer. Their search brings them in contact with some of Ross's sleazier clients. The more they discover, the more they realize Ross was less than ethical in his practice. As the suspect list grows, so does the danger. Yet, through it all, Hilary and Colin find time for each other. Can they and their newfound love survive?

Hope you all have a wonderful day and I'll see you again next month. Oh, and by the way, if you buy and read a book, don't forget to leave a review.

Suzanne Rossi

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Love and Lore of Violets

Simple violets are among the most romantic and beloved flowers. Ours will soon be in bloom. It seems a fitting time of year for an excerpt from my herbal, Plants for A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles.
“Who are the violets now
That strew the lap of the new-come spring?” ~ Shakespeare: Richard II
Violet (Viola Odorata). Part Used: Flowers (dried). The leaves and whole plant (fresh).
Sweet violets grow at the edge of forests and clearings and can be detected by their scent. Sometimes they appear as unwanted guests in yards and gardens, but we like violets and encourage them here. Violets have a long history reaching deep into the misty past. There are over two hundred species in the world; five are native to Great Britain. Sweet violets are usually dark purple, but may be white. The flowers are full of honey and appealing to bees, but usually bloom before bees are really out from as early as late February into April.
Viola OdorataViolets imbue liquids with their color and fragrance and make a divine perfume. A medicinal syrup of violets is given as a laxative considered mild enough for children, and for a variety of other ailments. Old herbalists recommended the syrup for ague (acute fever), inflammation of the eyes, insomnia, pleurisy, jaundice, and many other illnesses. They had great faith in its healing attributes. Among other components, violets contain salicylic acid which is used to make aspirin.
As with primroses, violets have been associated with death, particularly of the young. This is referred to by the poets, including Shakespeare in Hamlet. Ancient Britons used violet flowers as a cosmetic, and in a Celtic poem they are recommended to be employed steeped in goats’ milk to increase female beauty. In the Anglo-Saxon translation of the Herbarium of Apuleius (tenth century), the herb V. purpureum is recommended ‘for new wounds and eke for old’ and for ‘hardness of the maw.’ In Macer’s Herbal (tenth century) the Violet is among the many herbs which were considered powerful against ‘wykked sperytis.’  (A Modern Herbal)
Gar Flower Web Blue Violet
Askham’s Herbal Violet Recipe for Insomnia“For the that may not slepe for sickness seeth this herb in water and at even let him soke well hys feete in the water to the ancles, wha he goeth to bed, bind of this herbe to his temples.”
spray of beautiful dark blue violets
To Make Syrup of Violets: Tale 1 lb. of Sweet Violet flowers freshly picked, add 2 ½ pints of boiling water, infuse these for twenty-four hours in a glazed china vessel, then pour off the liquid and strain it gently through muslin; afterwards add double its weight of the finest loaf sugar and make it into a syrup, but without letting it boil. (A Modern Herbal)
“Viola Odorata is an ancient heirloom, which the Greeks used in love potions, and beloved by our grandmothers and their grandmothers because of its sweet perfume, delicate purple to deep bluish purple flower and heart-shaped leaves.” ~ Quote from Cherry Gal, an interesting website that sells heirloom violet seeds, amongst other offerings.
violet"I know a bank, where the wild thyme blows Where ox-lips, and the nodding violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine." ~ William Shakespeare
"Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you." ~Edward Payson Rod
"You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet." ~Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964
Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles is available in kindle and print at Amazon:
An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

In the Time Crunch by Vonnie Davis

I’m pushing toward the deadline for book two of my wounded warrior series, Black Eagle Ops. Turn in date for HERS TO HEAL is April 8th.  I won’t mention how many more words I have to write to meet contractual demands. The thought only gives me more wrinkles; and I’ve got enough already.

These books are a little different for me. They're stretching my comfort zone, which is good. A writer has to keep growing. So, I'm trying a few new things and digging deeper into emotions.

How do you feel about Prologues? My former agent hated them and wouldn’t contract a book that had one. I enjoy them if they’re brief and bring a historical or mystical edge to the story. Author David Morell writes the best prologues, bringing in past historical events that have direct influence on todays' events.
I’m using the same prologue for all three books of the series, except for the final line. Here it is:
In the Hill Country of Texas, a community developed around an old Apache legend about “Wounded Warrior Falls.” Myth or truth, the story has been handed down, generation to generation, that the rocks in Warrior Falls carry magical healing powers. Wounded Apaches would stand or be carried beneath the waterfall for the healing-infused water to pour over them.
Over time, the small town Warrior Falls has grown to a population nearing six-thousand. Its few streets boast quaint shops, restaurants, and supply stores kept afloat by the townsfolk and nearby ranchers. Many of these businesses are owned and operated by salt of the earth, often quirky people who love their community just the way it is. That’s why the deep secret of Warrior Falls is so closely guarded.
Until a team of present-day wounded warriors slowly trickle into town…
This is Reece “Steelhead” Browning’s story.
Do you enjoy prologues? Or do you like background information dribbled into the story. This is my first time at doing this, so I’m understandably nervous. 
Not as nervous as I am about meeting my deadline though. Okay, who moved my chocolate?


Thursday, March 24, 2016


By Brenda Daniels

Every story needs a good villain.  Snow White would be boring without the wicked stepmother/witch. She would just be another annoying goody two shoes waiting for her prince to come and marry her. Blah!

Some villains are as memorable as the hero or heroine of a story. Inspector Clouseau without the Pink Panther? Robin Hood without the Sheriff of Nottingham?  Even light romances (think Harlequin) have a jealous, rich ex-girlfriend of the fabulously wealthy hero who manages to cause trouble.

I won't go into the darker bad guys. Really, Jack the Ripper was just plain evil and  never got the punishment he deserved. For some stories, you just can't write a satisfying conclusion. Reality can be harsh.

I enjoy fictional villains who will be caught and brought to justice. My current story has two nasty men who are bent on greed and murder. For a while, I had them hiding out on a mountain top in the dead of winter. I was at a stand still. Never, ever set a historical in Colorado in the winter. After weeks of being stuck on what to do with the nefarious baddies, I realized I could stick them anywhere. So, off to a remote mining camp they went to create mayhem and wait for the snow melt

Occasionally, you run across an over-the-top villain who makes you laugh or even feel sorry for him. The  Coyote will never out smart the Road Runner, but it's a lot of fun watching his futile attempts I particularly like a new TV program called Lucifer. Yes, that Lucifer. He's delightfully self centered, pushing people to do the wrong thing and completely baffled when he fails. He's taken a vacation from Hell and God is not pleased. How innovative! Oh, he also has a therapist.

Writers need good bad guys. They actually make your story more interesting. Personally, I'm too timid to do anything against the law. You have to admire a good villain. They don't care.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bound for the Hills

For me, writing a series has been interesting in that it doesn't always begin with my knowing there will be one. Bound for the Hills is a good example. I knew there would be three Taggert books only when I wrote Echoes from the Past. When I wrote the first Arizona Historical Romance, I had no idea there'd even be two. Each grew out of secondary characters whose story interested me.

At just over 110,000 words, this book ended up considerably longer than I had in mind also, but that's the way writing goes. The story is where Cole Taggert finds his own love and nearly loses his life. It will not be the last of the Arizona historicals but the next will be next fall probably and follows a secondary character from this book-- of course ;).

Blurb for Bound for the Hills:
Needing new inspiration, answers to a mystery, and healing from the death of her father, English professor, Wilhelmina Butler heads for the high country of Arizona and a small log cabin. In the Mazatzals, Willy hopes to write the great American novel, something she can be proud of unlike the very successful dime novels she has been publishing under a pseudonym. The lake cabin will give her all she could dream and a lot more.

Asked by his worried sister-in-law, Holly, to check on her college friend, Cole Taggert assumes her friend is a naive idiot to head into the wilderness with little idea how to survive its dangers. Then he sees her swimming in the lake, and Willy’s life isn’t the only one about to get redirected.

Bound for the Hills travels from the Mazatzals to Tucson and explores not only the land but the human heart. It brings together the Taggert brothers as they face a deadly enemy, and their women work to build the kind of life where their children can grow up safer than their fathers did.
Spicy with some violence and strong language, Bound for the Hills is the seventh Arizona historical, a love story for the third Taggert brother.

Available at Amazon on sale until April 1:
All other sites:
Paperback when CreateSpace gets it ready later this week

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Love Your Characters ... But Not Too Much

By Sandra Nachlinger

Elly is such a sweet person. She has been living with her grandmother, helping her recover from an ankle injury, doing what she can to get the older woman back on her feet. She has also organized Granny’s mobile home and helped sell her unwanted items online. Elly is kind, considerate, and caring, and I’ve grown to love her as if she were my own child. But… when it comes to writing her story, that just won’t do. I have to force myself to be mean to her—get her into trouble and mess up her life. Otherwise, there’s no story!

Elly comes to small-town Shannon Ridge, Texas, with some drama already. Her fiancĂ© has ditched her for a woman he just met, and she can no longer live in the Dallas apartment they shared. She’s also having a hard time finding a job as an interior designer. That’s when Granny asks for Elly’s help in her recovery and offers to share her home. But that’s not enough to keep readers interested. Although I hated to do it to someone I liked so much, I had to make her life more difficult.

Sunset Acres Retirement Village, the location of Granny’s mobile home, has rules. No loud music after ten o’clock, paint color on the homes must meet the approval of the homeowners’ association board, and so on. The rule that affects Elly and Granny, however, states that visitors under the age of fifty-five may stay in the community for only one month. No exceptions. Elly has already surpassed that limit so she has to sneak around and stay out of sight. However, she meets and becomes attracted to Derek, the neighborhood’s landscaper, even though she is not interested in getting involved with another man. He’s a good guy who helps out the senior citizen residents of the trailer park and keeps the landscaping looking nice. He’s the kind of guy you want your daughter to date. So, of course, I had to screw up his life. I gave him an ex-wife who had disappeared many years before under questionable circumstances. Then his past comes back to haunt him.

Those problems didn’t seem to be enough, however, so I added a few more, even though I hated to do that to my characters. But since I enjoy stories that make me smile, I also sprinkled humor throughout. That made me feel a little bit better about being so cruel.

A writing teacher once told our class: The writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them. Writers have to follow that advice, even when it’s hard to make our “babies” suffer. Even when we’re writing romance. I hope Elly and Derek will forgive me for all the rocks I've thrown at them!

I’ve just re-released BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY in paperback and ebook formats, making a few changes since it was originally published by my now-defunct publisher. You’ll find this sweet Texas romance (with all my meanness) here: Bluebonnets for Elly

Friday, March 18, 2016


Authors give away business cards, bookmarks, key chains, rack cards, etc., to draw readers in to buy their books. We all love it, clamor for it, and yes covet it. I know always have.

Years ago, when I started collecting, authors gave away the standard bookmarks and cards that were copies of the front and back of their books. If one was lucky, the author would autograph the item. Through the years I collected a couple hundred. The picture to the right is a very small sampling of my stash. A few that I really liked I laminated and hung on the wall around my desk for inspiration.

Other examples of swag from years past are post cards, book plates, a paper fan with author info printed on it, and more bookmarks.

A writer friend once gave me a puzzle for my birthday with the latest cover model heart throb. I met him once at a Romantic Times Convention. I'm sure he fanned the flames of many fantasies.

So many authors attend conferences, conventions, and book signings. I've done a few of them myself. They're informative, a way for authors to connect with other authors and readers, and they are loads of fun. I'll share a few pics from the Romantic Times Convention held in Dallas, Texas last May 2015. In Attendance were Hebby Roman, Caroline Clemmons, Hildie McQueen, Kirsten Osbourne and readers.

Pioneer Hearts lunch at Romantic Times Convention 2015.

Pioneer Hearts lunch at RT 2015 Dallas, Tx 2015

Here are a few snaps from the book signing, meet and greet from the same week, last May.

Me - Hellooooo!

Author, Kit Morgan

Author, E.E.Burke

As you can see, the tables, in fact the entire room is filled with swag. Much money is spent to promote our books. Does it work? We sincerely hope so. At any rate here we are again getting ready to attend conventions. The RT Convention is coming up next month in Las Vegas. YAY! But wait - I need swag! Yikes!!! I have business cards, bookmarks, hand fans with my name and contact info. There are magnets with the cover of a book, postcards . . . I hope it's enough. Nerve wracking, butit will be fun. I'll have pics. See you next month.


Oh, and by the way, I have a newly updated website. My designer, Cissie Patterson and I would love for you to visit. Let us know what you think and , if you would, sign up for my newsletter while you're there. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


By Caroline Clemmons, filling in for Joan Reeves, whose daughter is having surgery today.

Sure and ‘tis one o’ my favorite holidays—Saint Patrick’s Day. And why is that, you may ask? No gifts to buy, no decorations except the green wreath on our door, and ‘tis a simple day to observe. So, join me in honoring Ireland—everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!

Greet someone by saying, “Top o’ the morning to you.”
Your friend should answer, “And the rest o’ the day to yourself.”

"St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic."~~By Adrienne Cook.~~
"Ireland is rich in literature that understands a soul's yearnings, and dancing that understands a happy heart."~~By Margaret Jackson.~~
"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."~~By Alex Levine.~~
"Maybe it's bred in the bone, but the sound of pipes is a little bit of heaven to some of us."
~~By Nancy O'Keeefe.~~
"In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs."
~~By Sir John Pentland Mahaffy.~~
"There is no language like the Irish for soothing and quieting."~~By John Millington Synge.~~

Irish Sayings
A man that can't laugh at himself should be given a mirror.
A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig.
Morning is the time to pity the sober. The way they're feeling then is the best they're going to feel all day.
You can lead the horse to the well, but you can't make him drink.
Better the coldness of a friend than the sweetness of an enemy.
Be nice to them on the way up. You might meet them all on the way down.
If a man fools me once, shame on him. If he fools me twice, shame on me.
Let your anger set the sun and not rise again with it

Irish Toasts

May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
Slow to make enemies,
Quick to make friends,
But rich or poor, quick or slow,
may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

Cliffs of Moher
May the face of every good news
and the back of every bad news be towards us.

May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at you back,
the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again may God hold you in the hallow of his hand.

Blue Building is the B&B where Maureen O'Hara
stayed during the filming of "The Quiet Man"

May the roof above us never fall in
and may we friends gathered below never fall out.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
and may trouble avoid you wherever you go
Blarney Castle
St. Patrick was a gentlemen who through strategy and stealth 
drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toast to his health,
But not too many toastings less you lose yourself
And forget the good St. Patrick and see all those snakes again.

May you have warm words on a cold evening,
a full moon on a dark night
and the road downhill
all the way to your door

A jaunty cart in Killarney

May the good saints protect you,
and bless you each day,
and may trouble ignore you,
each step of the way

Those things I warmly wish for you-
Someone to love,
Some work to do,
A bit O' sun,
A bit O' cheer,
and a guardian angel always near
Thatched cottages in Adare

Health and life to you,
The mate of your choice to you,
Land without rent to you,
and death in Eirinn

Stone fences

May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load
May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road
May you taste the sweet pleasures that fortune are bestowed
And may all your friends remember all the favors you are owed

May you always have these blessings--
A soft breeze when the summer comes
A warm fireside in winter
And always--the warm soft smile of a friend

Connemara stone fences


As lovely as Eirinn's rolling Hills
Fair as its lakes and streams
Joyful as it laughter,
Bright as all its dreams,
Lucky as its people,
Happy as its leprechauns too,
May that be how each and everyday,
Will always be for you

And if you enjoy a touch of Ireland, let me tell you about my FREE book, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE.