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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Death of a Chapter and New Beginnings by Suzanne Rossi

Hi everyone.

I normally try to keep my blog posts upbeat, but today that isn't going to happen. I'm angry and sad. You see, as of September 1st, my RWA chapter, River City Romance Writers, disbanded. Our chapter number was #23. That's right--23--which means it had been around for a lot of years. For the past year, we tried to keep things going, but to no avail.

I've been a member since 2008. Even though I lived in Florida, I knew that eventually I would return to the city I called home. We have family here and there was always something about the Memphis vibe that appealed to us. We moved back in September of 2016.

Long distance membership can put you at a disadvantage regarding personalities and the month to month workings of the meetings. Our chapter information loop was taken down about four years ago, so any negative news often didn't filter down to me.

I should have known something was wrong when our once highly esteemed contest, Duel on the Delta, folded in 2015. The explanation was it was too hard to find judges. This I believed. I always volunteered to judge. It was my way of giving to the chapter because I couldn't attend meetings. That last year, I had sixteen entries to judge covering numerous sub-genres.

I could tell by the rosters I received that our numbers were steadily declining. Part of the blame lies with the board of directors. I've been a member of several chapters and have seen both good and bad leadership from micro-managing to weak follow-through on fellow board members. RCRW's main problem was a couple of board members who went rogue. I later learned (from numerous sources) the two of them made decisions and implemented policies without notifying other board members or the general membership. Nobody brought them to task about it. One of those decisions was to tell RWA the chapter was disbanding. They took it upon themselves to do this with no input from anyone else. When they returned from Nationals in 2016, they informed the rest of the chapter of their actions. That's when the you-know-what hit the fan. Finally, someone was calling them to accountability, but the damage was done. The toxic personalities had spilled over to include a cold-shoulder to guests. Valued long time members quit, no longer willing to put up with the drama. The two rogues disappeared shortly afterward.

I was asked to fill out the board in 2017 as Secretary, and again in 2018 as President-elect. I agreed, but knew it was hopeless. Oh, we tried. We spent what little money remained in the treasury to bring in well-known speakers. People would come to hear what they had to say, but no one joined. The poison had spread via word of mouth.

I also place a lot of blame on the shoulders of RWA. The rules regarding how long a person can sit on a chapter board and the insistence that board members be PRO or PAN just don't have the best interests of small chapters at heart. Sometimes the most enthusiastic leaders come from the ranks of beginning writers. Many of our members, including past RWA President, Patricia Potter, loyally attend the national meeting, but when they brought up the subject during the general session get together, they were brushed off like so many flies at a picnic.

So, we reluctantly made the decision as a group to put an end to our suffering. We had twelve members left, but due to RWA's ridiculous rules had no one who met their criteria to fill a complete board of directors. We turned in the proper paperwork and sent off what remained in the bank to RWA, which ticked me off no end. It was only a couple hundred dollars, but why should they get it? It was our dues. I'm sorry now we didn't blow it on one terrific farewell dinner for the final twelve.

But as with many things, there is a bright side to this. We aren't giving up. We simply formed a new group, Writing in the Bluff (Memphis is known as the Bluff City). We will eventually have a new board and collect dues for bringing in out of town speakers. But the biggest weight off our shoulders is that we will no longer be required to follow the rules and regulations of a national organization that obviously didn't care about us. Our first official meeting will be in November when Deb Dixon (one of RCRW's founding mothers) will give a presentation on deep POV.

We can do this. We will survive.

Suzanne Rossi

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kitten in the House -- Author at Work

See the laptop. See the kitten. See the challenge. I'm writing. Sort of. Sparky McGee wants to play. Kitty Peaches and Cream are napping with a do not disturb label. Even Puppy Cooper is snoozing. Our older dog, Jilly, idly lifts her head and Kitty Pavel hides. So I'm it. That's me in the pink shirt with the laptop and this is who I see when I glance down. I took a lot of pics to get one where he wasn't a busy blur. He's so funny.

I can't really blame all my writing challenges on Sparky McGee, though. The H&H in my current work --an older YA paranormal time travel romance-- have had their hand on the doorknob for weeks. I've left them standing on the porch of the mystery house while I try to plot out who will answer their knock. Everything hinges on who and what lies on the other side of that door. I have researched various time periods--exhaustively--because I'm not even sure what era we are in yet. And I've schemed different ways this story can go, but I can't make up my mind. It seems to boil down to that inner leading. Sometimes, I just have to open the door and walk through. Only then, will I discover what awaits my characters. Only then, will I know how the story goes. And this is the whole problem with me and plotting. I can only scheme so much. The rest I have to learn. I think I know how this story will go but invariably the characters chart a different course. Fear not, I am prepared. Research helps me jump here or there.

What of you? Plotter or panster?  Or a combination of both, like me?

Back to Sparky McGee, he has moved on to cruising the bookshelves, furniture, etc, and attacking anything that moves which includes my toes. A thing doesn't even have to wiggle for him to pounce. He's on the prowl.

"I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat." ~Author unknown

"There is no more intrepid explorer than a kitten." ~Jules Champfleury

"Kittens believe that all nature is occupied with their diversion." ~F.A. Paradis de Moncrif

"Who would believe such pleasure from a wee ball o' fur?"~Irish Saying

Sparky McGee below when he's my contented writing buddy in sleepy mode.

Kittens happen. Thank heavens.

For more on my work, visit my Amazon author page at:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Midnight and Magnolias and Mug Shots by Vonnie Davis

This coming weekend I'm flying to Boston to see my grandson at MIT. I've never been to the top university so I'm eager for Ryan's campus tour. He's been texting me every couple days to  tell me how excited he is for my 3-day visit. He's a junior majoring in computer technology and programming and minoring in music technology. I'm thrilled he's decided to stay on and get his Masters.  He already has two job offers lined up. One from the cyber security section of the National Security Agency. He's been working for them for two years. Fulltime during the summer and 20 hours a week when he's at MIT.

My son Mike, grandson Ryan, and daughter-in-law Tins at Ryan's return to campus a month ago.

The following weekend I'm flying to Atlanta to attend the Midnight and Magnolia Conference. Writers in all phases of their careers, agents, editors, and experts in the field of engaging readers will be there. I'll also get to meet my Critique Partner and I can't wait to hug her.

I've never attended a regional convention before. I have gone to one RWA convention in NYC--an experience I partially inserted into a book I soon hope to finish.

 In attendance will also be a photographer who, for a fee, will take eight professional  head shots.

For an additional fee, they will do your hair and make-up. But, alas, I am too cheap for the fru-frau.  So cheap in fact that I've been using pictures my son (see above) took five years ago.

I don't photograph well. My eyes squint when I smile and as I've aged, the squinting is more pronounced. My double chin has dropped at disarming proportions as have my boobs. But we don't need to go there. The next time I post, I'll share the best of the head shots. I may have to keep using photos by Mike Shubert.

Visit my website at WWW.VONNIEDAVIS.COM

Monday, September 24, 2018

It's Salsa Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is one of my favorite salsa recipes. Enjoy!

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

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

Amazon Author Page: 
Twitter ID:  JudyAnnDavis4 
Blog Link: “A Writer’s Revelations” ~
Goodreads Author Page:
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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Sneak Peek-1st Chapter Excerpt- Sweet Peppermint Kisses

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

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

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


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

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

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