Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog.
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Monday, November 30, 2020


By Caroline Clemmons

Non-writer friends often ask me how I think up all the stuff in my books. What really happens is our crazy brains conjure all these characters and situations. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. And we’re not really insane, either. Well, most of us aren’t. I’m not naming names, but there are a few people on my Probably Certifiable List.

And there are those (lazy?) people who say, “I’ll feed you ideas, you write the book, and we’ll split the royalties.” Uh, no. Not happening. The idea is the easy part. In fact, I have more than I can list. Writing a cohesive book with a credible story line is the hard part.

Then comes the hard part. Some parts of writing become easier with each book. One part that does not is making basic plots fresh, giving a tried and true idea a new twist. People argue over how many basic plots there are. The number varies from nine to twenty-seven. Supposedly, any book is a variation of one of those basic plots. And the more books and author has written, the harder that new variation becomes. Yeah, bummer.

How to make feisty, spunky heroines differ from those in past books? How different is one handsome cowboy from another?  How many ways can Tab A insert into Slot B? You get the idea, right?

Hero and I used to joke about a favorite author who repeated her basic plots. We would say, “This one is plot A.” Or plot B. The city and names varied, but little else. At the time, we had no notion of the difficulty of a fresh plot. And , hey, she sold a gazillion books and still sells even though she’s passed away. Not bad, right?

The main problem I encounter is that life keeps slapping me upside the head. Literally, if you count the last fall I had. You know the usual: dental appointments, doctor visits (or your prescriptions won’t be refilled), and all the errands necessary to function. Plus, the complex world we’re in with this pandemic forcing changes in our behavior.

Many people think that if you work from home, you can stop and do this or that because, after all, you don’t have a “real” job. Sigh. This is why Debbie Macomber said she decided to have an office away from her home, by the way. If we stop writing, we lose our concentration, our “groove”, and have to reread the last portion we wrote to bet back into the zone.  Fortunately, Hero understands this.

I try to vary settings and events so that my books appear fresh, even though they are always in my style and voice. With the exception of one novella set in Georgia, they’re always set primarily in the West and they always end happily. They’re the same, but different. Each main character has a journey, both external and internal. The same, but different.

I’m sure you’ve heard that writers are either writing or thinking about writing. It’s true. We can’t help ourselves.  For the next few days, I’m thinking about writing. And decorating for Christmas. Have you put up your tree yet?  

Speaking of plots (sneaky segue), I have a book release coming soon and hope you have preordered my upcoming book, MEG, Angel Creek Christmas Brides book 20, releasing December 18. You can get it here:

Be safe, be happy, keep reading!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Return of the Wolfe by Nancy Fraser

 Today on Smart Girls we have a special treat. My friend Nancy Fraser is joining us as a special guest to talk about her book, Return of the Wolfe. 

About the Book

Ever since she was a teenager, Sarah Tremayne wanted one thing and one thing only—to be a park ranger at Big Bear National Park in Bear Lake, Wisconsin. Her dream was always to work along side her ranger brother, Brent, and be the first brother-sister team in department history.

Matthew Wolfe is also a ranger and Brent’s best friend. He tolerated Sarah when she was a gangly teen following him around the park like a lost puppy. However, as Sarah blossomed so did his desire.

Just as they’re exploring their mutual attraction, a tragic accident pulls them apart.

Four years have passed and Matthew is returning to Big Bear as the man in charge. Will he and Sarah be able to mend their ragged fences and rediscover what they once had? Or, will Sarah’s pain and anger force her away from Big Bear, and Matt, forever?

Excerpt #1:

The wolf was back!

The very thought nearly drove Sarah Tremayne to her knees. Although she'd known for some time this day was inevitable, still she couldn't help but wish she were anywhere else in the world other than Big Bear Park, Bear Lake, Wisconsin.

She stood off to the side, watching quietly as the rest of the staff assembled for morning report. Ann Marie waved and Sarah returned the friendly gesture half-heartedly. Dave offered a tentative smile and she recognized it as the moral support he meant it to be. At five minutes to eight they took their seats.

Cal Spencer came in first. Taking his place at the front of the office, he surveyed the group. The door opened again, and Sarah's gaze lifted.

Bob. She breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for even the smallest moment's reprieve.

“As you are all aware," Cal began, his deep voice echoing through the silent room, "today is the beginning of my last month as Head Ranger here at Big Bear. My main duties from this point on will be to advise and support my replacement. The Department of Parks has hand-picked Big Bear's new Head Ranger and, though I know it might be difficult for some, I expect each and every one of you to show him the same loyalty you've always shown me."

Cal's gaze met hers and he smiled knowingly. "I realize there are some of you who don't agree with the Department's choice but the decision has been made. Like it or not,  we must all abide by it. As always, you are free to apply for a posting elsewhere. I suggest, if you have any reservations at all about working with the man, you seriously consider that option."

The door opened again and Sarah closed her eyes. There was no need to open them. She could feel his presence in the small, people-packed room. Her senses tingled and her heart beat a wild staccato rhythm inside her chest. The shuffling of feet told her Cal had relinquished his spot of authority to the man who would be his replacement.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen." He sounded the same. Strong. Commanding.

Unable to deny the lure of his deep, masculine voice, Sarah opened her eyes.

Excerpt #2:

Matt wanted to touch her, shake her, make her understand. He wanted to protest, to yell, to demand she stay and talk to him, but he knew he lacked the inner strength necessary to carry out the actions; to upset her even more.

"Yes, Ranger Tremayne," he said finally, "you're excused."

She nodded. "Thank you." She took two steps toward the door and then turned back. "Sir?"

His gaze lifted to hers. "Yes, Sarah?"

"I submitted a transfer request day before yesterday. I'd appreciate it if you could attend to it as soon as possible."

He studied her expression, hoping to see some emotion, some signal that would tell him she wasn't serious. Instead, he saw only anger and pain. Her hands were still clenched at her sides, her lips still pursed tightly no doubt in an effort to arrest the telltale trembling. Her pulse fluttered erratically beneath the smooth line of her throat. With each heartbeat he imagined her tears came closer to falling with nothing more than her hatred keeping them in check.

A searing flash of remorse jolted his body centered directly around his heart. His response to her request was slow in coming, drawn out by the magnitude of his pain. "If that's what you want, Sarah."

He watched her carefully, hoping for some show of regret, some possible sign of forgiveness. She only nodded and moved through the door and into the hallway.out the

How could he possibly make up for all the pain he had caused her? Would Sarah ever trust and care for him again?

Or, was returning to Big Bear the biggest mistake of his life?

About the Author

NANCY FRASERJumping Across Romance Genres with Gleeful Abandon—is an Amazon Top 100 and Award-Winning author who can’t seem to decide which romance genre suits her best. So, she writes them all.

Like most authors, Nancy began writing at an early age, usually on the walls and with crayons or, heaven forbid, permanent markers. Her love of writing often made her the English teacher’s pet which, of course, resulted in a whole lot of teasing. Still, it was worth it.

Published in multiple genres, Nancy currently writes for two publishers, and has recently thrown her hat into the self-publishing ring. She has published over thirty-five books in full-length, novella, and short format.

When not writing (which is almost never), Nancy dotes on her five wonderful grandchildren and looks forward to traveling and reading when time permits. Nancy lives in Atlantic Canada where she enjoys the relaxed pace and colorful people.

Where to Find Nancy



Twitter: @nfraserauthor


Amazon Author Page:





Purchase Links





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Jigsaw Puzzle:

Jigsaw Planet

Monday, November 23, 2020

WE NEED A LITTLE HUMOR - A Salute to Mark Twain

by Judy Ann Davis

One of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. Best known as a novelist, lecturer, and entrepreneur, he has also been called the “greatest humorist of the United States.” He is one of my favorite authors because of his wit and humor.

Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Clemens. Although the exact origins of the name are unknown, it is worth noting that Clemens operated riverboats, and mark twain is a nautical term for water found to be two fathoms, twelve feet, deep which equates to mark (measure) twain (two).

We had the pleasure of taking an American Queen riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans a few years ago. My husband and I learned a lot about Southern culture and Mark Twain while on board. Some of my favorite Mark Twain sayings are:    

        If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

        Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

        A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.

        The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.                   

        Let us endeavor to live so that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry.

 In my romantic mystery, “ADELENE ~ The Violinist,” Book 2 in the Musical Christmas Series, which recently won "first place" in the Contemporary Short Category of the International Digital Awards (IDA), sponsored by the Oklahoma Romance Writers, there is reference to Mark Twain. 

I don’t want to ruin the mystery for you, so here is the blurb:

A joyful novella to brighten your day!

Adelene Almanza, an accomplished violinist and Spanish teacher, has only one Christmas wish—to buy an old decrepit schoolhouse and create a teen and literacy center in her small hometown of Bluestone Bluff, New York.

When she tries to attend the sale of the building, she is injured and must rely on her old boyfriend and owner of a construction company, Clay Ciaffonni, to help purchase the building and help with the renovations. But money is tight, and a demolition and salvage company is pressuring her to give up and sell.

Despite an act of vandalism, mounting costs, and a stray puppy, the couple pushes forward to restore the structure to its natural beauty. Will they discover the long-forgotten secrets of the old schoolhouse, hidden away in its boarded-up attic? And will the sparks of love ignite a second time for Adelene and Clay?  


Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! 

If you are not able to celebrate with your family this year, as we are not able, we should still give thanks our family members are safe, our table is plentiful in these uncertain times, and our Creator will bless us as we move forward to the year’s end…and toward a new, more hopeful, one in 2021.   

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 by Rain Trueax

Even in the best of times, holidays can be difficult to write about, even one as positive as Thanksgiving which celebrates giving as well as gratitude. It is a time of harvest, a recognition of what our harvest has been. It is celebrated at a different time in Canada and not by the same name other places, but almost everyone has a celebration of the harvest. 

 Most of us, the elders among us anyway, grew up when we had a very nice story to go along with Thanksgiving. It was the Pilgrims and the Native Americans coming together to share a meal. It was celebrated off and on from our nation's beginning. It became a permanent holiday on June 28, 1870, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the Holidays Act. On January 6, 1885, an act by Congress made Thanksgiving, and other federal holidays, a paid holiday for all federal workers. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and an act of Congress, the date was firmed up to permanently be the fourth Thursday in November. 

And so it went happily along for many years. Not so much this year where where all the mythologies surrounding it are being questioned and where we are told not to gather with family and friends due to Covid 19. Where does that leave people in a year where so much turmoil has been part of daily life. 

We can still make this a time of thanksgiving, looking at our own lives and what can we change or make different for the coming year. We can appreciate our own harvest..  

By being grateful and stopping to think about what we have in our lives for which to be grateful, we are dwelling on the positive. When we think what we wish to draw to ourselves, we enhance that power. What is getting our attention is often what will grow-- positive or negative. This year with the economic uncertainty worldwide, it's harder than usual for many who are suffering with job losses, turmoil in the cities, health problems, financial as well as environmental concerns. How can we not ask where are we heading? 

If even the experts don't know, it's not hard to understand how this could be a difficult Thanksgiving. It is hard to be positive when we have no idea why any of this is happening. 

My Thanksgiving will not be with family-- disappointing but reality. I am though thinking about the year ahead and entering a bit of a hunker down and be ready for whatever comes mood. I know it's not good to spend less, as that costs jobs, but how can one not think that this holiday season should have some personal control as to spending? How can one not wonder what is coming? 

Are we heading for a full depression? What about global warming, the thousand pound gorilla in this unstable situation? When we can't even agree about wearing masks, what will happen with the vaccine is available. We will have a new President of which half the country is thrilled and half feeling cheated. Emotionally, it's a tough time

So my personal goals for the coming year are to be grateful for what I have, make the most of whatever opportunities come my way, be frugal, watch what is happening around me, and hope that 2021 is going to be better for us all.


(The petroglyph from Moab, Utah is a reminder of how people have always tried to understand their environment, their world, tried to make the most of their situation. There is a strong sense of power in this place. I have been there twice. The rock is called birthing rock. The mythology is that perhaps women went there when they wanted to become pregnant or were going to have a baby since the figure is birthing something but what is it? Perhaps the symbolism goes beyond pregnancy to what most of us desire to birth-- a better world for all.)

Friday, November 20, 2020

RASINS IN THE DRESSING. (To have or to hold)--by Laurean Brooks

My dad acquired the love of cooking while in his late forties after the captain of the riverboat Waterways Marine, made him interim cook. The official cook was recuperating from a broken leg, and Daddy volunteered for the job.

When the cooking bug bit him, he never looked back. He had a flair for concocting unusual dishes. I still cringe at the visual of turtle, baked raccoon, and opossum, Daddy set before us. All these were probably tasty, but my stomach tied in knots at the thought of putting these meats in my mouth. Even though, to spare my dad’s feelings, I would often force myself to sample a little.

He claimed that turtle tasted like seven kinds of meat. I Googled while writing this and discovered he was right. When I didn’t recognize the turtle dish he set on the table, I asked, “Daddy, what kind of meat is that?”

“Chicken,” came his quick reply.

My six siblings asked the same question about the unknown dish, and all received a different answer. From chicken to beef, to pork, to shrimp, veal, fish, or goat. Anything to get us to try the turtle. Some of my siblings did try it. Some managed to swallow with a poker face. Others gagged.

Our mother was a traditional cook. The tried and true recipes were the only ones she used. And those were the ones she learned from her mother and grandmother. Now that you know our dad's penchant for creating unusual dishes and Mama’s insistence on the tried and true, you will better understand the Thanksgiving feud that occurred one year. 

Daddy thought he was helping Mama with Thanksgiving dinner one year, when he stirred together the ingredients for his unique dressing. Every ingredient was the same as Mama's—except one. Daddy added a cup of raisins to the mix. 

He explained that he'd found the dressing recipe in a gourmet cookbook. Mama was not happy about the addition and decided to make her usual cornbread dressing, which was always moist and delicious.

Our parents rarely argued. When they weren’t happy, they’d just give one another the cold shoulder. But you could slice the tension with a knife when Mama set her dressing on the table and announced, “Your daddy's dressing is sitting on the stove. It has raisins in it,” she huffed, “Whoever heard of such?” 

Daddy explained again that he'd followed a genuine recipe from his special cookbook. His argument didn't phase Mama, who never used a recipe for anything. Caught between a rock and a hard place, my siblings made no comment. We kept our heads down and exchanged furtive upward glances around the table. 

We didn't want to upset Mama any more than she was, but we didn't want to hurt Daddy's feelings, either. I don't remember what Johnny, Ralph, Jewell, Paul, Emily, or Stanley did, but I sampled a little of both dressings. I didn't score any brownie points with Mama that Thanksgiving Day. The raisin dressing wasn’t bad, but I didn’t voice my thoughts.

We endured the meal in silence, except for sentences like, "Pass the rolls," or "Scoop me up some mashed banana pudding, please." 

I don't remember the fate of Daddy’s raisin dressing, but I suspect by day three, our dogs had their bellies full of raisins.

Have you ever experienced a squabble at a Thanksgiving gathering? It cane at at time when we should have been thanking the Lord for our many blessings. Family, health, prosperity and freedom. 

Share your experiences.


  When Jenny Largent hops a train north to Chicago, she hasn't a clue what she's in for.  First, a handsome thief runs away with her carry-on bag.  Just when she thinks her troubles are over, he shows up at her aunt's church raising money for a so-called mission. Jenny figures Austin is pocketing the money and tries to convince her aunt. Her aunt doesn't buy it. Jenny joins the mission trip to prove Austin is a thief.

But soon, Jenny's feelings for Austin morph into love. Will she report him when she spies him taking money from the mission strongbox? 

A sweet romance loaded with humor, interesting characters, and an interesting plot--with a dash of Depression Era history thrown in.