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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Been A Long Couple of Months by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

First of all, I must apologize for not posting last month. I contracted what I can only describe as "The Crud" Thanksgiving weekend. I don't often get sick, but when I do, it's usually a doozy. This was no exception--sore throat, fever, coughing, and a constant runny nose. YUCK! It hung on for almost three weeks. Since I'm a sharing person, I passed "The Crud" along to my husband, who didn't speak to me for days. It wasn't until sometime in early December that I realized I'd forgotten to blog. Prior to that, I submitted a manuscript to my editor only to find out she's quitting as of the first of the year. My story, A Taste of Death--book three of The Snoop Group series, is now with my new editor. I've got my fingers crossed that all goes well.

December is one of those months I both hate and love. Here in the Memphis area, it's inevitably damp, chilly, and, if the wind is blowing, raw. Makes for interesting Christmas shopping. I hate battling crowds and have come to rely on the Internet more and more. However, sometimes you just have to suck it up and throw yourself into the mob.

I have seven grandchildren between the ages of twenty and three. The two oldest I can bribe with cold, hard cash. The rest are a challenge. Four boys and a girl--all under twelve. My ideas for gifts revert back to when my sons were that age, and those ideas are now out of touch with today's tech world. I had no clue what to get my granddaughter. At nine, she's beginning to come out of that "kiddie" stage and look toward more sophisticated gifts.

At a loss, I decided to avoid the mall. Instead, I went to Hobby Lobby. I don't do much in the line of crafts anymore, but decided maybe the kids might get a kick out of something there. I also had a list of secondary stores nearby. Lo and behold, I spent two-and-a-half hours in the Lobby. I was transported back to my childhood. As an only child, I had to rely on my imagination to amuse myself. Often, that included crafty things. So, I figured why not go for it? I managed to buy just about all I needed in one store. I only made one other stop for an educational toy for the youngest.

I can safely say, I made a wise decision. The kids were expecting the usual boring clothes, but they seemed enthused about painting dinosaurs, weaving pot holders/placemats, and putting together small models. Watching their faces as they opened gifts is the part I love about December no matter how cold, windy or wet it may be.

As an added bonus this year, my oldest son is traveling from Northern Illinois to come visit over New Year's. It'll only be a few days, but I look forward to it. He'll be here soon, and we'll get to have Christmas all over again as he opens his gifts.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas/Hanukkah and will enjoy a prosperous 2018.

See you all next month--I promise. LOL


Thursday, December 28, 2017

'Tis the Season for Rosemary

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but I love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. The fragrance is said to stimulate memory so I sniff it frequently and carry  sprigs with me. I have a potted plant growing in my sun space that I've kept going for several years. It stays outdoors in summer (pictured), but our Shenandoah Valley winters are too cold for it to survive. I added a trailing variety this year that is abloom with tiny blue flowers out in my sunspace. Very cheery.

Rosemary, known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, appears in that immoral verse by Shakespeare. My fascination with herbs plays a role in many of my stories, particularly my ghostly murder mystery romance novel Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter. I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did. My new paranormal time travel romance, Somewhere My Lady, with flavors of Somewhere My Love, was released this summer. Somewhere My Lady is book one in my Somewhere in Time series.
A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve is a wonderful source of herbal lore as well as practical information on the medicinal uses and growing requirements for a host of plants. I have volumes one and two of Ms. Grieve’s work and can easily lose myself in their pages. She refers to her herbal as modern, and in comparison to the ancient herbalists it is, but A Modern Herbal is charmingly quaint and published in the early 20th century.
Regarding Rosemary, she says,
The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.
At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves (fourth wife of Henry the Eighth and one of two who outlived him) wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year‘s gift…
In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’
The Treasury of Botany says:
‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’ (Meanie heads.)
Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.”—HERRICK.
Rosemary Christmas TreeRosemary Christmas Trees
Although an herb, rosemary is often shaped into lovely miniature Christmas trees. The plant is well suited for this purpose as its essential oils produce a scent similar to pine trees and it has a natural evergreen shape and needle-like leaves.
If you purchase a rosemary plant whether as a Christmas tree or for your indoor herb garden, remember it needs good light and moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry before re-watering to avoid root rot. The most common cause of death for potted rosemary is over watering. In spring transfer your rosemary to a clay pot. The clay will help wick excess water out of the soil. Fertilize monthly to maintain health. To this advice I add that you can also kill them by allowing the plant to dry out, so don’t do that either.
Because rosemary is native to the hot, dry hills of the Mediterranean, growing it indoors can be a problem. You may find you get more dense vigorous growth if it is kept outside during most of the year. Trim the plant periodically to preserve the Christmas tree shape. 


Is he real or is he a ghost?

Lorna Randolph is hired for the summer at Harrison Hall in Virginia, where Revolutionary-War reenactors provide guided tours of the elegant old home. She doesn't expect to receive a note and a kiss from a handsome young man who then vanishes into mist.

Harrison Hall itself has plans for Lorna - and for Hart Harrison, her momentary suitor and its 18th century heir. Past and present are bound by pledges of love, and modern science melds with old skills and history as Harrison Hall takes Lorna and Hart through time in a race to solve a mystery and save Hart's life before the Midsummer Ball.

"Somewhere My Lady is a fun supernatural romance that will have you slipping in and out of the past and future as if you were a spirit yourself.'' ~Colleen Chesbro at Colleen's Book Reviews

"Quite simply, one of the best paranormal, time slip stories I've ever had the pleasure to read." ~Elaine at Splashes Into Books

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A POLISH CHRISTMAS EVE - Wigilia – The Vigil

by Judy Ann Davis

For people of Polish ancestry, Christmas Eve is a special night. It is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. It’s call Wigilia (vee-GELL-yah) which means, “vigil,” or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus.

As dusk approaches, the mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers called oplatki (Oh-PWAHT-kee) on a fine china or silver plate. In modern times, straw and evergreens are assembled on a serving platter and covered with a white napkin. The oplatki is then placed on the napkin.

An extra place is set of any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed. (The extra place is also set in hopes that Christ will dine with the family.)

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the “breaking of the oplatki.”

The eldest family member takes the wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatki with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Wesolych Swiat! - Merry Christmas!
Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection. (In America, Polish families often enclose oplatki in their Christmas cards.)

In some regions of Poland, at the end of the supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman (very often the parish priest in disguise), accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Typical food dishes on Christmas Eve include borscht, mushroom dishes, herring, white fish, meatless cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, pierogis, poppy seed rolls, spice cake, fruit, chocolates, tangerines, and cognac, liqueurs, and vodka made into a variety of drinks.

[Information taken from “About Food – Polish Christmas Recipes and Traditions” - by Barbara Rolek, Eastern European Food Expert.]

                               Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

(For more information about my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page:

Friday, December 22, 2017

An Excerpt Plus A Bonus Holiday Recipe

By Josie Riviera

One of the last chapters in my sweet romance novella, A Portuguese Christmas, explores Christmas Eve traditions in Portugal.

Krystal, the heroine, is a professional surfer. Adolfo, the hero, is a Portuguese olive farmer.
Veronica, Krystal’s cousin, married a Portuguese man and resides in Portugal. Aunt Edite is their elderly aunt and a professional artist.

Here's the excerpt:

Krystal layered boiled, sliced potatoes onto the boiled and shredded salted cod. In another baking dish, she added sautéed onions, black olives and hard-boiled eggs. “My first Christmas Eve supper in Portugal,” she declared.

Veronica smiled. “Your first of many Consoadas.” She wiped her hands on her frilly green apron adorned with mistletoe and then tended to flash-boiling an array of shellfish, including crab, clams, and pink shrimp. She arranged the seafood on a white ceramic serving platter to serve warm in their shells. “How’s this?”

“Looks delicious,” Krystal said. “Truly, I’ve never seen so much food.”
The women paraded into Veronica’s expansive dining room. The shiny mahogany table fairly groaned beneath an assortment of hazelnuts, olives and garden-fresh collard greens drizzled in olive oil.

Krystal peeked at her reflection in the hallway mirror as she passed. She’d fussed with her appearance, wearing her hair in a side-swept chignon and donning a candy-apple-red crepe shift she’d purchased in Peniche, along with black kitten heels.

Aunt Edite placed a silver candelabrum, lit with a half dozen red and green candles, in the center of the table. “Consoada literally translated means ‘to comfort.’ Traditionally, we abstain from meat dishes on Christmas Eve because Advent is our ‘little lent’ and we fast and repent the days before Christmas.”

“Until Christmas Day,” Adolfo added, “when pork and roasted lamb are served.”

And, my dear Portuguese friend, Edite, shares her holiday recipe for a dried cod dish. Enjoy!

A Portuguese Christmas is available on Amazon, as well as all e-retailers. Order your copy today!

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.

 May the good will of this special holiday season bring you peace, hope and joy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


by Laurean Brooks

I was 11 years old the year a 12-inch snow fell five days before Christmas. It shut down everything in our rural town, Palmersville, Tennessee—including schools, two grocery stores and, of all things, the bus lines.

Daddy worked in Memphis, 120 miles away, on a riverboat. The snow was as deep there as it was at home. He worked four weeks and was off three. It was time for Daddy to come home, but he was stuck in Memphis. To get home, he needed to take the Greyhound to a town 20 miles away. Mama always picked him up at the station. We lived on a farm, fed livestock, cut firewood. Mama kept everything running with the help of her six kids.

Daddy loved Christmas and wanted to be involved in buying presents, stuffing our stockings with fruit and candy for his brood of seven. The day before Christmas we spent cracking walnuts and peeling tangerines to go into his famous fruitcake.

Daddy got a kick out of playing Santa Claus after everyone went to bed on Christmas Eve. My sister and I would beg our older brothers to let us sleep in their room. It was closest to the living room. That way, we might sneak a peek and catch Santa. But Daddy was sharper than us. He waited until we were sound asleep to slip everything under the tree.

On Christmas Eve this year, five kids ages 3 through 15, either paced the living room or peered through the window, hoping for a miracle that would bring Daddy home. Our oldest brother was in Vietnam.

Even without the snow, Daddy wouldn't leave Memphis. You see, his mother, our grandmother, lay in a hospital with pneumonia, and was not expected to recover. Between worrying about Grandma and wanting our daddy to come home for Christmas, we were a solemn brood.

Mama was the epitome of honesty, even when the truth was brutal. Early on Christmas morning, the black dial phone rang. She hurried to answer it. “Long distance? What?” After she hung up, her face grew solemn. She called her brood together and made us sit down. Then she said, “Your grandmother just passed away.”

We didn't know Grandma well. She had lived near Memphis. It was a chore to cram five or six young'uns and two adults into the old Ford Fairlane, to make the annual trip. Two of the younger ones had to sit on someone's lap. And the car usually had bald tires or something mechanically wrong with it. So we mostly drove it short distances.

As we watched, Mama cleared her throat, “One more thing; there aren't any presents for you kids. I had planned on Christmas shopping after your daddy came home. But the snow has iced over the roads, so... When your daddy does return, I don't want any of you mentioning presents. Not one word. This is a hard time for him. He will be grieving over losing his mother.”

I ran to my room to cry where no one could see me. No Daddy, no presents, no special Christmas dinner—and now we had lost our grandmother. On Christmas Day.

Early that afternoon, our old dog barked. My brother Ralph ran to the window to look out. “There's a bright yellow car coming down our driveway, real slow. I can't see it now. Wait, there it is, coming up the hill!”

It slid to a stop in our yard. The Taxi door flew open and out jumped Daddy. He turned around and grabbed two large paper bags from the back seat. Both were crammed full. We flew out the door to greet him. One bag held a turkey with all the fixings, and the other bag—well, Daddyadmonished, “Don't be so nosy.”

He paid the taxi driver, then we slogged through the snow and inside the house. Daddy handed Mama the grocery sack then held the mystery sack high enough that we couldn't see inside. He reached in and started pulling out presents. “Let's see...this one's for Ralph, this one's for Jewell, this one's for Laurie. And here's one for Paul, and another for Ruthie.”

I remember saying, “Daddy, we thought we weren't going to have Christmas because you couldn't get home.”

We each received two or three gifts. They were not expensive gifts, but they were interesting ones. We could tell Daddy had put a lot of thought into his shopping. No matter, knowing he had taken time to remember us, made our day. The two gifts I still remember were a box of scented dusting powder and a green, plastic pencil box. When you rolled the dial on the edge, the name of a country showed through a slot on the right side, and its capital showed through the slot on the left side. The little box taught me the capital cities of 50 countries. I still remember most of them.

When I reflect on past Christmases from childhood, I consider this one the most special. We will never know the effort it took our father to swallow his own grief in order to bring Christmas joy to his children. That's pretty special, don't you think?

NOT WHAT HE ORDERED is available in print and ebook at  "Josh Kramer thinks his aunt ordered house help. But Aunt Em ordered a bride for him? So...who is this young woman?"

Monday, December 18, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho! The time is drawing closer for the man in the red suit to make his appearance. We have the cookie makin's for Christmas Eve, the carrots are ready to put out for Rudolph and his crew, and we've made Sparkle oats for the reindeer so they have more power to finish out the night.

Our family will be here with us to set everything out for Santa in front of the fireplace, where we will be chimney-ready for our visitor.

For an added bonus, here is the recipe for Sparkle Oats

One cup of dry rolled oats
Sprinkle any color glitter (we like the multi-color) to your eye's satisfaction.
Mix all ingredients well and place into a bowl for reindeer. FYI the reindeer are messy eaters. We've found sparkle oats all over our front porch along with the green tops from the carrots. <grin>

I also want to share the links to a few of my friends books out this winter season. Happy Reading!

Kit Morgan:

Cindy Caldwell:

Caroline Clemmons:

Wishing all y'all the very best Christmas ever and a blessed New Year,

Carra and family

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Happy Christmas Means Happy Cruising

I thought I'd have lots of time to get a post written for my day here on Smart Girls Read Romance, but, alas, I didn't.

Instead, my husband is standing behind me saying, "Wrap it up." The house sitters have arrived so I've got to leave.

I'll be cruising the Caribbean with my Darling Hubby when you read this. We're celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.

So instead of a post, I'll remind you that you can get one of my Holiday romances free. It's actually free at most ebook sellers.

LuvU4Ever, A Moment in Time Romance

A Moment in Time is all it takes for Love to be revealed.

LuvU4Ever. That's what was engraved on the gold heart David gave Noelle when he proposed. David and Noelle have been married 10 years.

He promised to love her forever? So what happened?

"I told you never to call me at home."

Can nine little words destroy love?

This year as Christmas approaches, Noelle faces the biggest decision of her life. Will she choose payback? Will she choose love? Or will she just walk away?

LuvU4Ever is the first in this series. Two more stories will be published before the end of the year.

Joan Reeves is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Sassy, Sexy Contemporary Romance. Her books are available in audio, ebook, and print. All of her books have the same underlying theme: It's never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Visit Joan online: Blog * Website and Follow Her on  Facebook * Twitter * YouTube * Amazon Author Page * BookBub Author Page.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


When you read, are you able to envision the characters? Do you like reading a book where the author has clearly defined a character's appearance. Does it distract you if characters, especially main characters, are left out there sort of dangling so that you have to make them up yourself?

 I can tell you that for me, a character's appearance and mannerisms just might be the hardest part of the whole book. It isn't rocket science, but it's tedious and my OCD kicks in and makes it harder than it needs to be. No doubt every author has his or her own method for constructing a character.  I've tried holding a character in my head as I write, but then after about 50 pages, I start to forget the eye color, the hair color, the height, body type, etc, etc.

The hero's appearance is especially important in romance novels. A long time ago, in one of the early conversations I had with one of my editors, she said to me, "Don't forget that romance novels are fantasies." ..... I've never forgotten her telling me that. I added it to the lore I collect for building a successful romance "hero."

So in an effort to make the whole process easier and more efficient, I started searching for heroes in celebrities of which there are copious pictures. Once I found the images of the hero and heroine in pictures of real people, my job became a lot easier.  .....  As a side note, I should add that *all* of my heroes are good-looking, alpha and heroic. All of my heroines are beautiful. After all, if I'm creating a fantasy, isn't that how it should be?

Adam Rodriguez.
The process is not always instant. For example, I searched for days for an image I wanted to imagine as Troy Rattigan in THE HORSEMAN. Troy's mother is half Hispanic with thick black hair and deep brown eyes. His father is blond, tall and lean and Scots-Irish. I started looking for a celebrity whose appearance might be the result of that mix.

Then I started thinking about the personality I was creating for this character. He's a friendly, fun-loving guy, so that attitude had to reflect in his appearance. Believe it or not, it wasn't that easy to find. I ended up with the actor, Adam Rodriguez. What do you think? Is he a hero you can envision in a romance novel?

The heroine, Samantha Karol, was almost impossible. I ended up buying a picture of her. She's small, with a bushel of thick black hair that hangs past her waist (of which, she's very proud). She has intriguing blue-green eyes that look at you directly and full, cherry-red lips. I have a friend who has blue-green eyes and as long as I've known her, the color of her eyes is so riveting, they're distracting when we talk. I can never tell what she's thinking.

I thought that intense characteristic would be fitting for a woman who had grown up an orphan with a no-nonsense toughness about her. She's a survivor. I don't know this model's name, but she came the closest. Can you picture Troy being so attracted to her he can't keep from falling in love?

These are the stars in THE HORSEMAN. Does their appearance make you want to read the book? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Christmas Gift of Sorts by Paty Jager

The past twelve months I have had a new, fun experience with being in a box set. I've been in several over the years, but this is the first time that I've found success and enjoyed the whole process.

I think the first thing that makes this fun, is I've been writing new novellas in a new series that go in each box set. It's in a genre, contemporary western romance, that I had success in early in my career but then dropped writing in this genre. I've found getting back into this genre and using what I've learned about writing series I'm having a wonderful time being in these box sets.

The second thing I like is that there are only 6 authors per box set and we all write the western lifestyle and actually know the difference between the withers and the flank on a horse and Angus and Hereford cattle.

Third there is a core group in each box set with a couple of new to the group authors. And the two people who head them up keep us moving forward with contracts, stories, covers, and promotion. It's a well-oiled system that works.

The best part of this is for the readers. The box sets are at Amazon for $0.99 or Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

For the writer, we only have the box set exclusive at Amazon for 6 months and we can put the books in wide distribution or make our own box set out of the stories.

The still in pre-order but soon to release Dec. 15th, Cowboy Charmed box set has book 2 of my Tumbling Creek Ranch series, Love Me Anyway.

Melanie Trask ran away from an abusive husband and is hiding at a remote dude ranch. When she and the ranch owner can no longer deny their feelings, he offers to help her divorce her husband. But she has one more secret she hasn’t revealed…

Brett Wallis has fallen hard for the quiet, competent woman who landed at his ranch when he was making it into a dude ranch. But will he be able to choose between Melanie or the ranch when he discovers the truth behind her secrecy?

Cowboy Charmed
Fall in love with six incredible tales of men who know how to treat a woman...

Stephanie Berget - Sugar Pine Cowboy
Marlene Clegg discovers that rekindling a lost love is the hardest task of all. Especially when she’s burned every bridge on her journey to find riches and fame

Allison Merritt - Cowboy Kind of Trouble
A wreck stole his bull riding career, but one special woman can give him something greater--love.

Danita Cahill -  Cowboy, Convince Me
A cowboy shattered Shay's heart and her dreams. Does she dare trust another?

RaeAnne Hadley -  Double Numbers
They were the inseparable ones, practically from birth. Jathan, Valerie and Hudson did everything together, ranging from homework to horse roping to mischief making.
As an adult, Valerie yearns for making a name for herself in the roping industry and finding happiness with the only man she’s ever loved. Can she get Hudson to see her as a woman or will she always be a little girl in his eyes?

Paty Jager - Love Me Anyway
Melanie Trask is hiding at a remote dude ranch. When she and the ranch owner can no longer deny their feelings, he offers to help her divorce her abusive husband. But she has one more secret she hasn’t revealed…

D’Ann Lindun - Branded
Cordero Ybarra holds his secrets close, refusing to open up about the night racial prejudice almost killed him. Aspen O’Hare refuses to trust Cord—or any man—because she’s been abandoned one too many times. Can Cord and Aspen see through the pain to find love?

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

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