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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Why I Wrote Katie's Gamble by Kara O'Neal

I’m excited to introduce y’all to the first book in my Gamblers and Gunslingers series – KATIE’S GAMBLE.

This series was born while I was writing MAGGIE’S SONG, which is book thirteen in my Texas Brides series.

You see, I do this thing where I fall in love with secondary characters. I can’t help it. Once a picture forms in my mind, a story usually follows. And then I just have to write it. Even if the character is a villain.

During MAGGIE’S SONG, I met Rowdy Denton. Gambler. Gunslinger. Collector of debts. And he had no give in him.

But somehow I felt that underneath the harshness beat a heart of gold. And I had to find out why.

And that’s how KATIE’S GAMBLE came to be.

Rowdy Denton meets Katie McCord, the sister of his boss, notorious gambler and unfeeling rogue, Johnny McCord. Rowdy ends up having to protect Katie, and while he does his level best not to fall for her, he loses the battle.

I adored giving Rowdy his happy ending, looking through the walls he tried to erect and saving him from being a villain forever. He gets a family. And everything else he could ever want. It’s just so beautiful that I dare you not to cry at the end!


Katie McCord bears much weight on her shoulders–single-handedly running her family’s business, McCord’s Confectionery, and caring for her three younger siblings. And her little shop is in trouble, which forces her to seek help from her brother, Johnny McCord, a notorious gambler living in New Orleans, or lose everything.

 Rowdy Denton might be a gambler working for Johnny McCord, but one look at Katie’s sweet innocence tugs at the ache and guilt in his heart. For his peace of mind, he’s determined to get her out of the opulent hotel and brothel kept by her brother and back to the little town in Texas where she belongs—far away from Rowdy.

 When Johnny refuses to sell his share to Katie, he sends Rowdy to her hometown to cause her further trouble. But, instead, Rowdy finds himself working as her hired hand and helping her keep everything together.

 Katie knows Rowdy has another purpose for being in Echols. He works for her brother, after all, and is a gambler himself. So, why is he helping her? When she discovers the answer to her question, she races back to New Orleans, prepared to make the biggest gamble of her life.


Katie McCord paced the space in front of one of the settees, her hands on her hips. Perhaps she could find Johnny herself. She eyed the corridor on the opposite side of the lobby and tried to gather her courage.

While the possible consequences of her hunt played through her mind, a man in a long, black coat, dark green brocade vest, and black trousers entered. He removed his gambler’s hat, and his coat stretched with the movement, revealing the gun belt riding low along his hips.

His dark brown hair fell over his forehead as he paused a moment in the center of the rug to dust off his hat.

He had a strong jaw, broad shoulders, and had to be over six feet. He wore a serious expression, instead of the jovial, eager one the other patrons exuded. An energy rolled off of him, as if nothing ever missed his notice, as if he were aware of his entire surroundings, though he hadn’t even assessed the space.

She lowered her arms and bit her lip. She’d made the wrong choice, coming here. A letter might have sufficed, as Mr. Cummings had suggested. She had no idea how to handle the environment in which she had placed herself.

The man looked up, his gaze going directly to her.

She held herself still, afraid to move should any twitch make him want to approach her.

Slowly, he let his eyes travel the length of her, and when his attention returned to her face, his expression was unreadable. But somehow she knew her presence irritated him.

He turned away and sauntered to the desk. He spoke in low tones to the lobby attendant, and Katie saw the newcomer’s shoulders tense at the attendant’s answers to his questions. He then glanced over at her, and his eyes narrowed.

After saying a few more words to the attendant, the man turned on a heel and strode toward her.

Frightened, she backed up, and her legs bumped into the edge of the settee.

“Miss McCord?” he asked, his voice hard and gruff.

“Y-Yes. I’m Katie McCord.”

He jerked his head at the doors. “You need to go.”

She gulped and curled her hands into fists. “I need to speak with my brother.”

The fellow shook his head. “No. And this is not a place for a lady like you. You need to go before it’s too late.”

Was he concerned about her safety? If so, then the best thing would be for him to let her see Johnny. “I would like nothing more than to leave, sir, but I can’t until I talk with my brother.”

A muscle twitched in his jaw. “That’s not gonna happen. Best to give up.”

The thought of what she might lose if she left here without Johnny’s half of the confectionery drew her up. She lifted her chin. “I can’t afford to. Do you know where he is?”

He didn’t reply, only watched her with a hard glint.

“Please, take me to him. I can’t stress the importance enough.”

That muscle jumped again. “I’m sure you have your reasons, but McCord won’t see you.”

His flat statement punched her in the stomach, and she felt panic rising within her. “He can’t ignore me. Please.”

Something flashed behind the rigid light in his eyes, but it disappeared so quickly that she had no time to determine what it was. “Miss McCord, I suggest you leave before the evening crowd arrives. Find yourself a safer hotel or return to your home.”

Anger flared. “My home is in Texas. It was once Johnny’s, and he has been neglectful. I’m here to discuss personal matters with him so that I can continue providing for myself and our siblings.”

The gambler, and probably gunslinger, rolled his tongue against the inside of his cheek as he studied her in silence.

After a few, quiet moments, during which she refused to fidget, he finally said, “He won’t listen, won’t care. It’s best that you just go and find an alternate way to take care of your kin.” His gaze swept over her once more. “Get married. That ought to do it.”

She let out a frustrated exhale. “You have no idea what you’re talking about, and I demand that you take me to my brother or send him out here to me.”

One corner of his mouth quirked. “Finding your backbone, huh?”

She set her jaw, sensing if she said more, she’d only end up giving him a laugh.

He shook his head. “The McCord temper might run in your veins, but this is no place for a woman like you. Heed me and go home.” With that, he turned around and strode toward the hall on the opposite side of the lobby.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Happy New Year by Bea Tifton

I'm filling in for Beth Trissel.  

For years I taught elementary school. Even though the test preparation pressure was mounting, I still tried to work cultural lessons into our curriculum. When I was a fourth grade teacher, one of my brightest and kindest students was also my shyest. So when I was teaching the kids about Chinese New Year, I was pleasantly surprised when she raised her hand and asked me if I wanted to know how to wish everyone a happy new year in (Cantonese) Chinese. We dutifully practiced saying, “Gong hei fat choy” until she was reasonably satisfied with our pronunciation and she seemed to be so happy to make a contribution.  

Teaching second grade in another district took an adjustment, but the children were so sweet and willing to please. I handed out  fortune  cookies at the  end of my lesson and watched the kids, many of whom had never had a fortune cookie, excitedly read their fortunes to each other and munch on the tasty, crunchy cookies. I noticed my quirkiest kid was just sitting there quietly with a puzzled look on his face and that he wasn’t participating in the melee. 

Suspecting I knew the answer, I said, “What happened to your fortune, sweetheart?” 

He pondered my question for a moment, then shrugged. “I think I ate it.” 

Chinese New Year is once again almost upon us. ` The first day is February 1, but people are making preparations now. Cleaning the house is important, putting aside old things, saying goodbye to the old year, and welcoming the new one. After the last couple of years I like that idea.

Most people buy new clothes, even if they don't need a new outfit. The house should be decorated with lucky red. Children are given red envelopes full of money. The celebration includes a large extended family dinner. In the traditional celebrations, married women venture to their parents' home for a reunion visit. Friends and neighbors visit one another during the two week celebrations, with younger people calling on older ones and bringing fresh oranges. The holiday ends with a festival featuring dragon dances and fireworks.

2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Tigers are competitive, generous, brave, and confident. Christopher Lloyd, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Leonardo di Caprio, and Lady Gaga are tigers. So clean your house, get some new duds, plan your menu, and practice saying, "Gong hei fat choy." Just remember not to eat your fortune.

Photo Credits:

Fortune Cookie: Pablo Jimenez

Woman Wearing Read: Tun

Dragon Dance: Vladislav Vasnetsov

Tiger: Free Piks

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

We've Still Got It! by Laura Hunsaker

The other day at work, one of my coworkers told me that there was a super hot guy out front asking for me. When I get up to the office of my school, I go up to the counter there and all I can think is that this guy looks good in that shirt. I'm talking, GOOD.

You guys.


It was my husband. *facepalm*

He swung by the school to grab my keys so he could get my tires rotated and wash my car. You guys. I checked out my own husband.

I have been married almost 20 years and I didn't recognize my own husband in a'd think I'd at least recognize his shirt!

Sooo...kinda made me want to read any romance about married couples/second chances. Give me all your recs please! Any sub genre; PNR, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary, Historical, your own if you’re an author...I don’t care, but I need this now!

And if you're in the mood for some sexy Happily Ever Afters, stop by my website for a list of my books!

Monday, January 24, 2022


by Judy Ann Davis 

Sparkling snow. Glistening icicles. Frigid temperatures. It’s January and winter. And it’s National Soup Month. What I like most about the winter season is the amazing soups you can make to eat hot and which keep you warm on chilly days. In most cases, they are healthy. Many have lower calories than other foods, and they fill you up.

I have so many favorites. My husband is the connoisseur of soup-making—all of them from scratch. My favorite one is his ham and potato soup, but his chicken and rice, with lots of  carrots added, is another winner. Our local supermarket here in Florida has a “soup counter,” where you can purchase at least six different already-made, piping hot selections. I dive right in and grab a small tub of the clam chowder served on Fridays. (Now this one may not fit the low-calorie chart.)                                                          

Growing up on a farm, we have all kinds of soups: beef noddle, red cabbage soup (Borscht), chicken noodle, vegetable, cream of potato, etc. They weren’t fancy like the present Campbell’s hearty, no-water-added varieties such as “Chicken and Sausage Gumbo” which I purchase every trip to the store. I hate to admit it, but anything with the word gumbo has me hooked.

What is your favorite winter soup? Do you like a broth or cream base to it?

Below is my recipe for potato soup. It takes a little longer to make, but it’s worth the effort!


1 (one) lb. bacon, fried and chopped in small pieces—save ¼ cup bacon grease in pan for frying other vegetables. Save some chopped bacon for topping as well.

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

Approx. eight (8) Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

       —russet, red, and others will also work

4 cups chicken broth—enough to cover the potatoes

3 TBSP butter

¼ cup flour

1 cup of heavy cream (I use whole milk)

Salt and Pepper to taste

*two (2) cloves minced (Optional)

*tarragon or cilantro (Optional)

*shredded cheese or bacon crumbles for topping, if desired


Fry bacon in a large frying pan until done and remove from pan. Chop into small pieces.. Drain off bacon grease, about 1/4 cup. Cook celery and onion in the reserved bacon drippings for five minutes until soft. (Here is where you can add minced garlic, if you want it.)

Add your cubed potatoes and toss to coat—sauté 3-5 minutes. Toss in bacon to pan and pour enough chicken stock to cover potatoes. Cover and simmer until tender.


Melt butter and whisk in flour, cooking and stirring over heat for a few minutes. Once rue is made, whisk in cream (or milk) and cook again, stirring until thickened. Stir cream/milk mixture into the potato mixture. Take about a half-cup of soup and puree it, returning it to the pan. Use more puree for a thicker soup.

Top with additional bacon bits or shredded cheese.    Serve piping hot. Serves eight (8)

Saturday, January 22, 2022


 by Rain Trueax

 2021 was a tough year for me and from what I can tell, 2022 is heading down the same road. We are still trying to maintain two properties and using a vacation trailer to travel between them. It might sound like fun, but it's not. It's trying to satisfy too many things. I have been thinking a lot about how to make my life better, even discussed anxiety with the doctor in September when I had my physical. He gave me a prescription to try (I call it fairy dust) but so far can't see that it's done much. So I am making some physical changes and one is to discontinue being in this blog.

There are multiple reasons to do that but mostly it's because I don't feel I have much if anything to offer here, certainly nothing positive. I am not writing romances right now (hope to eventually) but with our transit issues, it just hasn't worked for a year. It's not a writing block but a lack of feeling I have anything to offer that wouldn't repeat what I'd done.

To add to the writing, I've had issues with low blood sugar-- something I never expected to have but when my blood sugar dips, my energy is gone and in ways I never expected. To prevent that, I have to eat differently (that in addition to the nightshade problem). 

I turned 78 in '21 but that was okay with me. I don't have a fixation on hiding my age or wanting to be younger. I just want to do the best I can with where I am and would love to get rid of my high anxiety levels. Time will tell on that.

So I wish the readers and writers here all the best. It's good that some of you still have things to share. Maybe I will again one day. I do have a blog and it's suffering too with my issues. It's not like I want to write about all that is wrong. Photo below is from before we took down the artificial Christmas tree on Epiphany. I really enjoyed it and that next year it'll be back.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sighs and Stepping Stones by Liz Flaherty

I wrote this post for the Romance Gems blog several years back. I hope you don't mind a re-run. 

Sometimes the goofiest things will give you something to start with. My friend Nan Reinhardt and her husband sold the house they lived in for 35 years. The whole process was...interesting. In the same way having a colonoscopy is interesting. So, anyway, we were talking one morning when one more obstacle was out of the path. I said something about "big sigh," as in relief, and she said it was too soon for that. I said--get prepared for something profound here; it doesn't happen to me very often-- "Every stepping stone deserves its own sigh."

When it comes to books, I don't write fast--ever--anymore. Yesterday I had 600words and called it good. A few days back, I think I had 26. Occasionally I'll get five-to-seven pages in a day and just burst with pride in myself. As someone who used to have 50-page weekends when I worked full time at the day job, this slowing down was hard to accept. I have wondered (and whined about) if it's time to put my novelist shingle in mothballs and stick to my beloved column and blogging.

Like all stepping stones, the ones in a writing career are hard and have a lot of distance between them. They have sharp corners, slick spots, and you stand a good chance of tumbling off into the water when you're only halfway across.

So you stick on Band-Aids, you take care on the slick spots, and you climb back out of the water and keep on walking. You're careful on your journey for a while then. You might try writing to market, to trends, to make your lyrics match the tunes of certain publishers. You skip around between sub-genres, although your heart usually leads you back to the one it lays the greatest claim to. You obsess over covers. Over reviews. Over promotion, promotion, promotion.

But then the day comes when you start that wondering-and-whining thing I mentioned up there. You've written 26 words in too many hours and they're not even particularly good ones. If, like me, you're a person who's always been proud of being productive, it's excruciating to realize that sometimes you're just...not.

I still wonder if it's time, but with the wondering comes a realization.

The thought of not writing books anymore makes me unhappy.

So I've given up being careful on the steps, no longer worried about splashes or sharp edges. Someone doesn't like protagonists in their 40s? Too bad for them. I'm not crazy about my cover? It's okay--I'll like the next one. People are tired of small-town stories? I'm not. My writing's too erotic, too sweet, my prose too purple or too terse, my POV stiffly pure or a little sloppy? Get over it and find another author, but thanks for trying one of my books.

Of course, there's a gasper, too, even in the middle of my hear-me-roar treatise on freedom: I don't have a contract right this minute and I'm a mostly-trad author who doesn't care to go mostly-indie. I'm afraid I'll never publish another book. However, if I'm honest about it, it's exactly like when I get to that spot in the middle of a manuscript where I know I'll never be able to finish the book. It happens every time. (Added in 2022: I DO have a contract now, with Magnolia Blossom Publishing, and am happy for it. However, that does nothing to change the fears in this paragraph, so I left it.)

More stones in the path. Occasionally, I think I can see the other side, but I'll never get there. There are a bunch of old sayings about journeys and destinations, but we all know writing is all journey. We know that, while finishing the books and having them published are wonderful things, it's the writing that counts. It's what makes us happy. One stone, one step, one sigh at a time.

Life's Too Short for White Walls will be an April 20 release from The Wild Rose Press. No preorder yet, but there are some free copies still available on Booksprout. (Jonesing for reviews--that's what we do!)

Monday, January 17, 2022

No Place Like Home by @JoanReeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

Since the beginning of 2022, I feel as if I've been pushing a boulder up a mountain.

I apologize for missing my December 16 blogging date and yesterday, my January 16 date. Many of the places I've been don't have internet so I'm woefully behind on so much that it's overwhelming.

I've been away from home more than I've been at home. My dear sister-in-law who is more like a sister than an inlaw has undergone 2 surgeries since December 10.

She's been fighting to recovery, and I've been at her side, fighting to encourage her and to keep her spirits up. 

It's tough to see someone you love in such dire circumstances especially when each day seems to bring more decline.

She's being transported from the hospital back to a rehab facility today. I'm hopeful that she'll be able to make some progress with rehabilitation this time.

I arrived home this afternoon. After a visit with my friendly chiropractor tomorrow to get the kinks out, I should feel better. I'll be going back to my sis-in-law in a couple of weeks unless I'm needed sooner.

In the Meantime

I had scheduled several posts for my personal blog, SlingWords, before leaving, but I ran out of time before getting to a post for Smart Girls.

This year, I tried something new with Kindle Vella, "Short Stories to Read, One Short Episode at a Time."

If you haven't tried a Kindle Vella, you should. While gone, I entertained myself by reading many of the Vellas published because the first 3 episodes of every Vella is free.

My Kindle Vella is Stone Angel, a  long romance novel—a paranormal romantic thriller. Remember, the first 3 episodes are free.

(In the case of my story, an episode is a chapter in the book.) 

After the first 3 episodes, the others must be purchased. Amazon sets the price for each episode based on the length of the episode. The author has no input into pricing.

About Stone Angel

Who holds the secret of Time? The time of birth? The time of death? 
The time of things yet to unfold?

Once Aurelea was the beloved wife of a Creole aristocrat until he was killed, and she was deceived and imprisoned.

Now, grain by grain, sand sifts through the hourglass, and second by second, Aurelea's hope for survival fades. Tonight may be her last on this mortal plane. Or does Destiny have other plans for her?

Give Kindle Vella a try. If you read Stone Angel, let me know what you think. I'll be publishing a new episode each week. I hope to be at home more in February.

Take care and be safe. Happy reading!

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Whoa Oh, Where Does the Time Go by Bea Tifton


The  cliche goes that “Time flies when you’re having fun,” but I’ve got news for you, Dear Reader; time flies even when you’re not. 

Lately my life has changed dramatically in a wonderful, crazy way as my parents and I have combined our households. New routine, new responsibilities, same old 24 hours in the day. How do I get it all done? 

I’m a former librarian. Once a librarian, always a librarian. So my first instinct as I realized I  wasn’t getting much done was to research. The Internet has a plethora of articles about time management, and I’ve concentrated my new focus into eight things. 

-Have a plan. This tip is really the most important.  Sometimes it’s great to be spontaneous, but if you want to be productive and you have to get things done, make a list of goals the night before, then let it go. Choose realistic goals and limit the list to several important tasks, prioritized, so it’s not so long that you’ll never be able to finish it. I read once that it’s good to do the least appealing task first so that you won’t procrastinate. Figure out your most productive time. I am not an early bird and my best time is mid afternoon, so that is a good time for the hardest task. 

-Assign a realistic time limit to each task. That’s my weakness. I tend to underestimate and then my list is blown to bits by the end of the day. It makes for a hectic, frustrating day. Put buffer time in between. You need to take brain breaks and restroom breaks, for example. 

-Put things on your calendar. Most cell phones have one or go old school and write it down on a paper one. We do both in my family and have a family calendar posted so no one double books. My cell phone will send a notification to me 30 minutes before any appointments I have. 

-Stop being a perfectionist. Quality work is the goal. Perfection is unattainable. Stop beating

yourself up and let go at a certain point. That goes back to setting realistic goals. Procrastinators are often perfectionists who are so afraid the result won't be perfect that they are reluctant to try.

- Learn to say no. I’m a nurturer and a fixer. Learning to say no is so hard for me, but I’m learning. It’s about setting healthy boundaries.

-Quit multitasking. It’s a myth. It doesn’t really work. Research supports this conclusion. We tell ourselves we can do three things at once, but actually, that means none of the things get done well and we end up feeling frazzled and undone ourselves. 

-Don’t check Facebook and email constantly. You may have to take these things off your cell phone. I have a friend who is obsessively checking her work email 24/7. Then she gets frustrated and resentful when her other tasks don’t get done. And often, when she’s not at work, she can’t do anything about the problem, anyway, and spends time worrying and stewing until the next day. If she tracked her time, I think she’d be so surprised at how much time she spends checking. Tell yourself you will check two or three times a day, briefly, and then put these times in your list of daily goals. 

-Take breaks. I mentioned this one earlier, but it’s important.  I often schedule things back to back with no breaks or time buffers. I race from one thing to another, feeling flustered and unfocused. If one thing happens to run long or gets rescheduled, my goals go down like a row of dominoes. At the end of the day, even if I’ve accomplished everything, I am mentally and physically exhausted. Research is showing that brain breaks and even power naps are helpful for our physical and mental well being. 

Above all,  schedule time to play. Time to visit with friends and loved ones. Lunch with friends, evenings out. The things that make our lives meaningful and fill up our hearts.  And realize that you will never, never, get everything done. But as the chestnut goes, no one ever says, “I wish I had worked more,” at the end of their lives. These tips may not work for everyone. I’m sharing what I think will work for me. And, of course, I will always schedule time for our blog visits. 

Have a wonderful month and remember to breathe. You don't even have to write that down

on your to do list.

Photo Credits: 

Clock: Oladimeji Ajegbile

Plan: Polina Kovaleva

Calendar: Bich Tran

I Can Do Anything: Polina Kovaleva

Woman Checking Phone: Edmond Dantes

Dominoes: Mikado

Group of Friends Eating: Cottonbro

Dandelion: Artem Beliakin