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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How To Get The Most Out Of a Conference by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. I know I did. Nothing like barbeque and auto racing to make my weekend shine.

But on to other things. I recently registered for the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference sponsored by the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. It's held in Atlanta in early October and is my drop dead favorite conference. Great people, great workshops, and lots of networking opportunities. In the past ten or so years, conferences have fallen by the wayside. Not nearly as many as there used to be. They're expensive to put on and to attend. So if you are looking for a conference and haven't tried M & M, I urge you to give it a whirl.

As I was filling out my registration form, my mind slipped back to my first conference. It was in 2003--or maybe 2004--in Jacksonville, Florida. I had no idea what to do or expect. I walked into the hotel lobby and took a deep breath. The desk clerk was busy and the line to check in long--all women--so I assumed they were writers here for the conference. I looked around and recognized no one. Talk about intimidated! I was rubbing shoulders with editors, agents, and published authors. And here I was--a total newbie to the business. I didn't even know how to pitch my story to an editor or agent. But I came away from that conference with a whole lot of enthusiasm to do the job right.

So, I decided that this month, I'll try to guide those of you who may be new to the industry through your first experience.

First of all, select your conference wisely. If you're going to shell out all those bucks to attend, then look at the keynote speaker, the guest speaker, the editors and agents in attendance, and above all, the workshops presented. Do research on the editors and agents. Do you write what they are seeking in a story? Find what you think is a good match and make a pitch appointment or two. The same goes for workshops. Do you want to know more about the craft? Are there presentations that align with your level of experience? Perhaps you need guidance with characterization or plot. But don't forget those discussions regarding marketing and promotion.

Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to strangers. And the best place to do this is the bar. I'm serious. More networking goes on in bars over a glass of wine than anywhere else during the conference. Even if I know some of the people sitting at a table, I gravitate toward a table where I know no one, ask politely if I can join them, and introduce myself. Most people welcome you because they've been there, done that, too. Pass out business cards, tell them what sub-genre you write. Discuss which workshops you'll be attending and do they have any recommendations?

Attend as many panel discussions as possible. These can give you good insight into the trends of the industry. Participants can include editors, agents, bestselling authors, and publishers. The end of the session is usually open to questions. Have a question? Don't be afraid to ask it. If this is your first conference, you need to know the answers so why not get them from the sources closest to the action. And those on the panel will be happy to oblige.

Now, let's go back to the bar for a moment. You walk in and see an editor or agent sitting there. This is no time to be shy. Ask advice that helps you to understand the process of writing, but under no circumstance pitch your story unless asked! Editors and agents have listened to pitches all day and are having that glass of wine to relax.

Make no mistake, conferences can be exhausting. Be sure to take time to decompress. I always try to disappear to my room for an hour or so to watch TV, read, or go over notes I've taken. If there are no evening activities scheduled, find a group and have dinner outside of the hotel. Talk about business if you want, but I found it just as rewarding to discuss family, travel, and discovering mutual friends made at other conferences.

So, your first conference is over. You're on your way home filled with new ideas, hopes that the editor or agent who requested your manuscript will call with good news soon--trust me, visions of the bestseller list will flash before your eyes--and the feeling you've accomplished something worthwhile.

One last suggestion. Don't forget to maintain those contacts you've made via social media. Like, comment, and make suggestions on postings.

Now get out there and investigate which conference will do the most for you, make new friends, and keep your fingers crossed. That bestseller list might not be a fantasy!

Hope I've been helpful. See you next month.


Monday, May 28, 2018

The Restoration of Our Farm Pond

To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment. ~Jane Austen

Our pond, originally dug in the early 1950’s, has given people and wildlife much happiness through the years. But over time it had filled with silt and could no longer support fish. The herons were lucky to nab a minnow. As the soil level raised, weeds appeared. Eventually, they would have taken over. Since my grandson, Ian, badly wanted to fish, and all of us wanted to see the pond saved and not disappear entirely, we had no choice other than to start over. This meant eradicating what we had, a tough move that elicited groans from me.

October before last, we undertook the draining of our much-loved waterhole. Storms and muskrats had already punched holes in the dam that should have been made of clay but was of softer loam; it didn’t require enormous effort for son Cory to make a much bigger gap in it. We sadly watched the water diminish. Disgruntled geese waded in the dwindling puddle until that, too, was gone. Months followed with no sight or sound of pond life, no photographs of sunsets reflected on the water's surface…no ice skating for two winters… 
Drought settled in. During the long dry spell, our one comfort was the thought that the sooner the muddy bottom dried up, the sooner we would be able to bring in the big equipment and get to work. 
Eventually, that day finally came, and stretched into weeks, then months. Late this past fall and winter, the pond was dug and reshaped, and the new dam packed with clay. Rows of soil from the bottom lined our meadow like trenches in World War One. Cory and 'team pond restore' laid the overflow pipe, built a deck, and did all the work in readiness for a break in the dry weather. We waited and waited. The pond was like an empty crater on the moon, and just as uninhabitable. I despaired of it ever being full again. 
We got some much-needed moisture in March and April, about the time forest fires were breaking out, but the bulk of the rains have only recently come. Some rain fell in torrents, with the biggest storm hitting yesterday. At long last, our pond is brimming. Great is our excitement

(Grandson kayaking)

Daughter Elise, the grandkids, and I have planted a lot of trees and bushes on the banks. Our goal is to bring back the wildlife. Birdsong resounds from the meadow and surrounding trees during tranquil walks around the pond. It’s incredibly peaceful there. We are planning further plantings, but for now, we’re savoring the fruits of our labor. It's a magical realm.

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." ~John Muir (1838–1914)

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright." ~Henry David Thoreau

"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. "~e.e. cummings

"The poetry of the earth is never dead." ~John Keats

"After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood." ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

(Goose flapping his wings behind newly planted tree)

 (Grandson Owen kayaking)

(Red Wing Blackbird)

(Cory is building benches for the dock)

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Seventy is the NEW fifty by Vonnie Davis

Only a woman who's about to turn 70 would make such a statement. Right? So, guess who hits the big seven-oh tomorrow? That would be me, but it'll be a young 70, you understand. Or so I tell myself as I look at the wrinkles and crepy skin in the mirror. Or the white hair peeking through the auburn--I'm due for another dye job obviously.

It's the candles on the cake that worry me. By the time someone is trying to light candle number 69 and 70, candles 1 and 2 will have melted into the icing. My smart-alecky son told me not to worry; he'd bring over the flame thrower and blast them all at once. I still haven't figured out how I allowed him to live until ages 45.

My Calvin used to tease me that I lied about my age for so long, I had no clue how old I was. This will be my first birthday without him. It's been a long five-weeks since his passing. Most of which I don't remember. I've found grief can put you into a strange fog.

Take handbags for example.

How was that for a change in topic? Stay with me now.

During the past month, I've ordered 3 handbags online. I must have. They showed up at my door every few days and as I opened each box, I've wondered at my sanity. Why would I order a gray purse for summer? Or a hand-painted bag when I already have 2 on the shelf of my closet. One painted with roses and the other with butterflies. This new one is turquoise with water lilies. And I scratch my head every time I look at it. But, ladies, the silver and black snakeskin handbag is the one that completely baffles me. What in God's name was I thinking? I don't even like snakes, what would make me think I'd like to carry one made of their skin? It is distinctive, though.

I refuse to blame it on old age. After all, 70 is the new 50. Watch me as I show you. Once I find all of me again. Next month I'll talk more about my books and what I'm working on. I plan to be back to writing in earnest by then. Right now, my creativity is all dried up. My muse is heart-broken. And my mojo has jo-joed right on out of here. I'll get it back, though. Women only get better with age. More determined. More feisty.

Every one, have a great Memorial Day weekend. If you're traveling, be safe.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rainy Days in May

                                              by Judy Ann Davis

Living in Pennsylvania is always a treat when spring rolls around. This year was exceptional because we had a late spring with endless days of rain. As glossy raindrops drum against my dining room window again, I think of the farmers’ axiom, “Rain in May, a barn full of hay.”

Our flowering crab tree in bloom
In such a busy world, I’m thinking the Almighty sends down the rain to allow us time to slow down and take a breath. Rainy days are for dawdling. This is the time when we can enjoy our second cup of coffee, or we can peruse that tall stack of magazines or paperwork we’ve labeled, to be read.  We can listen to a favorite song, read a good book, and finish an art project or indoor chore that’s been bugging us for months. It’s also a great time to write without the guilt that outside tasks are awaiting us.

I often say I’m glad that humans can’t control the weather, because it reminds me who’s really in charge. It also teaches us to embrace the unpredictable, to be flexible, and to welcome change in our lives. For those who like to plan or follow a daily routine, inclement days remind us that deviations from our conventional days can be enjoyable… and maybe, just maybe, there might be a rainbow as an added bonus.

What do you like to do on a rainy day? 

"Four White Roses" in digital is on sale for $0.99 only until May 31sr. It's a romance and mystery with a touch of paranormal. "Can a wily old ghost help two fractured hearts find love again?"

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

6 Ways to Celebrate the Approach of Summer

I’m always so excited when the weather gets warmer and summer arrives. Here’s 6 ways to get ready for summer:

1.  Check out your local farmer’s market for the best and freshest seasonal produce. Go one step further and add a salad to your meals several times a week.

2.  Too hot to cook? Consider a summer picnic including olives, fruits, nuts, cheeses fruit  and hard-boiled eggs.

3.  Get grilling! Everything tastes better, including chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and vegetables.

4.  Go for a walk every day and enjoy the outdoors.

5.  Turn off the TV. Instead, bike, hike and check out new trails in your area. Pack a healthy lunch and plan to spend the day exploring.

6.  Bring your favorite paperback or ebook to your local park and enjoy a restful afternoon.

How do you plan to celebrate summer? Please leave your comments below.

If you love house flipping and home decorating, my newest sweet romance, 1-800-CUPID, is for you!

A house flipper looking for quick profit. A survivor with a dream. Can two broken hearts find a place to call home?

When a Miami investor calls in search of prime property flip prospects, North Carolina real estate broker Candee Contando expects to meet a balding, steely-eyed land shark. Turns out the first customer she’s had in months is a hot prospect in more ways than one.

Except his gaze has fallen on her dream house, a dilapidated Victorian she just bid her last penny on in hopes of creating a safe place for disadvantaged children—like the girl she used to be.

Teddy Winchester is adept at negotiating life’s curves, but Candee’s curves stop him in his tracks. She’s a warm spark in the emptiness he’s felt since his brother died, leaving him with a beloved nephew to raise.

Attraction glows in Candee’s eyes as well, but there’s also wistfulness as she points out all the reasons an old, tumbledown Victorian doesn’t fit into his tried-and-true house-flipping plan. Yet the more he looks at the house—and at her—he begins to think some things are worth the risk.

Now if only he can convince her that building a new life often starts with tearing down some walls…

When the heart flips, there’s no telling where the walls will fall.
Pick up your copy of 1-800-CUPID 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. Follow her on bookbub.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Competing For A Cowboy -- Sibling Rivalry

Laurean Brooks

Hello out there, fans of Smart Girls Read Romance blog. I've given considerable thought to what to post this month and finally settled on a topic.  Because it's May, and my favorite TV cowboy will celebrate his birthday on May 30th,  I decided to devote this blog post to him.

Since heart-throb Clint Walker, better known as Cheyenne, arrived on the screen in 1963, my heart has never been quite the same. My sister Jewell and I fought over this handsome, lanky, and muscular cowboy. Every fall, Jewell and I watched for the premieres of new TV Westerns. We would watch the first shows then decide who got to claim which cowboy. We divvied them up equally. This method worked out well with Bonanza, The Virginian, and the other Westerns.

Until . . .Cheyenne Bodie trotted in on a stallion, flashing his crooked grin right at me (Jewell insists he was grinning at her). Alas, our carefully made-up rules flew out the window. One look at this cowboy brought out the competitive spirit in two normally agreeable sisters. Neither of us gave in. When I yelled, “He's mine, I saw him first!” she would yell back, “No, I saw him first!” (Not.)

After weeks of debate that did nothing to settle the matter, we knew the only option was to share Cheyenne. At night, after everyone was in bed, we lay awake in our twin beds and took turns imagining scenarios then relating them, about life in the mid-1800s and our respective courtship with Cheyenne Bodie. Usually, we incorporated silly scenes that sent us both into hysterics.

The trouble was, Mama was a light sleeper. If her bedroom had been anywhere but across the hall, our giggles wouldn't have awakened her. But, with our luck, that's exactly what happened.

She'd yell from her bed, “If you girls don't quieten down and go to sleep, I'm coming in there. And you are NOT going to like it!”

I hate to admit this, but a couple of times she did march across the hall. When she stood over us, between our beds,  pointing her finger at us, we pretended to be fast asleep. It saved us, but my heart beat so loud I was sure she heard it. After, “Okay, this is your last warning!” she swept out of our room and back to hers. Out of sheer terror, we shut our mouths and willed ourselves to fall asleep.

Clint Walker will turn ninety this month. I can't believe how fast the time has flown. I still have the glossy picture of him (from his fan club) in a billfold I carried through junior high. It's even autographed, “Best Wishes.” And for what it's worth, Jewell does NOT have his picture.

Eat your heart out, Sis.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please leave a comment and tell us who your favorite heart-throb was. Some of us were born decades later, so we will have varying ideas on which guys made the list. Still, 'm sure our blog readers would love to compare our crushes with theirs.


If you enjoy a romance with multi-faceted characters who get themselves into  humorous situations, along with an intriguing plot, BENEATH A MACON MOON is the story for you. 

Click on link below.

Beneath A Macon Moon by [Brooks, Laurean]
When Jaela Andrews learns distressing news, she packs her bags and heads to Macon. But if she thinks she will find solitude and a quiet place to rethink her life in the Victorian home, she is wrong. 

Enter Eric Larsen, the Handyman, who is renovating Jaela's refuge. Sparks fly over the noisy tools. And who could guess the hilarious situations they fall into? You will laugh, you will cry.

Can a rich girl fall find common ground with a simple carpenter? The chemistry and attraction are strong, but is their mutual love enough to make it work?

Friday, May 18, 2018

See What's New!

Happy Spring!
I wanted to share with you something I've recently acquired for my writing. A portable, adjustable aluminum laptop desk/stand/table. I like to move around to different areas of the house when I write, sort of to keep things interesting, I guess. This portable desk helps me do just that. Oh, and I love my pink/purple laptop, too. We call her Pinky.

Here's a blurb and cover for the current book I'm writing a new Western Historical Romance called ADA AND THE TEXAS CAVALRYMAN, Brides of the Texas Code Series, Book 5 and will release mid-July in a ten author anthology, Under a Mulberry Moon.. It is set in 1900, in Brady City, Texas, in the Hill Country a few months before the 1900 Hurricane hit Galveston.


Donal 'Mac' McTiernan is on what he hopes to be his last mission for the U.S. Army. He's tracked the deserters to Brady City, Texas where he decides to operate under cover until he's ready to make his move and arrest the two men. Mac had planned to go home to Dallas and live out his life. He hadn't planned on encountering the green-eyed, red-headed woman who would completely turn his life upside down.

Ada Weathered has only two weeks to pay the mortgage on her land left to her by her father. She is working at the school and cafe to earn the money but won't make enough by the deadline. Will the handsome stranger, fresh off the trail, be the answer to her prayers?

See you next month!
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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Anniversary to Me and my Hubby! by Paty Jager

Today is my-our anniversary. My hubby and I tied the knot on this day, a Saturday, 39 years ago.  It's hard to believe we've been together that long! It seems like yesterday when we met at an Under 21 Club.

I was 19 at the time and a friend, younger than me, insisted I had to go with her to the club. We went and I had pimply faced 15 and 16 year-olds asking me to dance. I was 19 had a year of college under my belt, and scanned everyone who came through the door.

There he was! A tall, broad-shoulder young man who shaved and had curly hair walked in the door. I have never been one to walk up to anyone and start a conversation, but that night, I did. I asked him to dance. We did and he followed me back to the table where my friend and I were sitting. He said, he was supposed to come with friends and they all bailed on him at the last minute. We talked and discovered we a quite a bit in common. Though I didn't like his name. He said he was Albert and it didn't fit. I asked what his middle name was and he said Albert. His first name was Gerrit. I said I liked that better and that's what I have called him ever since and he has started going by his first name.

Backstory here: His parents came to the U.S. from The Netherlands in the 50's. They lived in a Dutch community until moving to Oregon. My hubby grew up speaking only Dutch until he was enrolled in school, at which time the teachers put on his report card for 2 years, please speak English at home.

Back to the name- when his mother enrolled him in school and when she said "Gerrit" they thought it sounded like carrot. He didn't want to be called carrot so they used his middle name Albert which sounded close to the same. And we now know if someone calls and asks for Albert they are someone who went to school with him because after he met me he goes by his first name.

I became side-tracked again! Anyway, he offered to take me home. We walked out to the parking lot and he
Cruise on our 30th Anniversary
had a flat black 1957 International. We had to both get in the passenger door because the driver's side didn't unlock from the outside. There was blue angel hair hanging from the roof and the outside was covered in cow manure. He worked at a feed lot when he wasn't driving a semi.

We went back to the duplex I shared with a friend. She wasn't home and he came in to "talk" some more. He became handsy and I told him to leave.  He left.  I didn't have a phone number and didn't know how to contact him. I figured after throwing him out, I'd never see him. Three nights later there was a knock on the door. It was Gerrit. He asked if I wanted to go to a movie. He told me if I hadn't of been a good girl, which he considered wife material, he wouldn't have come back. He'd liked a lot about me, but wouldn't have wanted someone loose for a wife.

It wasn't long before we were talking long term commitment. But his mother told him he couldn't marry until he was 21. He turned that in April and we married in May. He is a momma's boy!

Three children and now 10 grandchildren we are pretty happy with our union and having fun as we play in the alfalfa and take short trips to places we've always wanted to see.

Because it's my anniversary- I feel like giving something away!  How about one of my books? Comment about how you met your significant other, or a date gone right and your name will go in the drawing for your pick of my books.

Don't forget the Wild Deadwood Tales Anthology is now available and all proceeds go to the Western Sports Foundation.

Rodeos and romance, Old West adventure, and even a few ghostly tales. Deadwood's wild past and exciting present come alive in seventeen original short stories written by USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors to benefit the Western Sports Foundation. Contributing authors: E.E. Elisabeth BurkeZoe BlakePaty Norman JagerTeresa KeeferMegan KellySylvia McDanielAmanda McIntyrePeggy McKenzieAngi MorganNancy NaigleJacqui NelsonTerri OsburnGinger RingMaggie RyanLizbeth SelvigTina Susedik and A.C. Wilson
Proceeds from this limited edition collection go to benefit the Western Sports Foundation, an organization providing critical assistance to athletes competing in Western lifestyle sports. Whether they need help recuperating from an injury or planning for the future, WSF is there for them.
Here are the links to the book:

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 32 novels, 6 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters.This is what readers have to say about the Silver Dollar Saloon series: “Paty Jager brings her characters to life, right off the pages of her book. You will laugh, cry, be sad and get angry right along with the characters.

You can find me at these places. Paty's Posse is my western romance newsletter. 

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