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Monday, May 30, 2022

This Life by Kara O'Neal

At night, when I pray, I start by thanking God for all the good things in my life. 

He's blessed me so many times over -- my family is in good health, we have what we need, my children are happy, my husband and I have stable jobs, we have wonderful friends...

But over the last several years, I've also thanked Him for the peace He has given us. And that would not have been possible if others hadn't made the ultimate sacrifice. There are even soldiers out there right now keeping us safe. Even the Ukrainian men and women who are fighting daily are doing it for more than just their own kin.

And here I sit, peaceful, writing this post to share with y'all.

I'm glad we have this day where we can remember and honor those who have fallen. It grounds us, makes us acknowledge that there are things more important than the next television series or Marvel movie. (Although, my cousin who is a veteran would scold me and say, "Kara, we fight for your ability to enjoy your life without fear. So enjoy it and don't feel guilty.")

He's right. I know it.

So...yes. I will spend time with my family. We will play cards, and we will eat good food and be silly together. And we will give thanks to the soldiers.

And....I will make Apple Butter today! (For those of you who don't know, it's a kind of jelly.)

Now, it's not apple pie -- and I do make a glorious apple pie -- but it's the next best thing. Apple Butter is a staple in my father's family. My grandpa loved it and always had butter and jelly on the table at EVERY meal. 

So, today I will be up to my elbows in apple peelings, sugar, maple syrup and a few other ingredients. And I will be singing this lovely poem I made up many, many, many years ago...

Oh, apple butter. 
Oh, how I love you.
Your apple cinnamony sweetness gives happiness so true.

The way you melt with peanut butter is so fine,
I cannot wait until you get in that mouth of mine.

When I see you sittin' on my grandma's table,
my stomach growls and is unstable.

Until I can spread you on a biscuit so fluffy,
my temperament is terrible and I'm a little huffy.

Oh, apple butter.
Oh, how I love you.

Thank you for the sweetness that always rings true.

Visit Kara O'Neal at

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Peace in My May Garden

(Heirloom Iris my mother-in-law, Nana, planted, also the purple kind below.)

If ever there was a need to nurture a place of quiet contemplation, inspiration, beauty, and food for the spirit as well as the body, it's now. All these benefits, and more, reside in the garden. For me, it's my bit of earth on our farm. For you, it's whatever form your garden may take. Whether you grow flowers and vegetables in a few pots on your patio, or a plant-filled balcony, in window boxes, raised beds, on a rooftop, or an actual plot, alone or in community, having a garden is vital. Especially in these uncertain times. You don't have to be a 'prepper' to see the wisdom of food gathering and the value of gardening. Growing plants nourishes both body and soul. I'm sounding my back to the earth call a little louder than usual because it's important.

I need to take my own advice when it comes to food growing. My challenge is that I prefer to focus on my flowers rather than vegetables and fruits. Both are essential, though obviously healthy home-grown produce doesn't take the form of roses (normally). Now readers will trot out the recipes for rose hips. I know. You can prepare edible concoctions from some roses.

I've got to put more effort into the food end of my garden. I'm trying. I dragged myself out yesterday evening before heavy rain came to plant more tomatoes and get some peppers in. Think I will do more with containers this year. Daughter Elise helped me put in two large, raised beds. I like them. I'll keep you posted on how container gardening works for me. Hot dry summer is a challenge, but now it's May, that gladsome time of year.

(Carefree Beauty rose growing in my bed along the road--for decades)

If you don't garden yourself, it's good to 'know a guy' who does. We're fortunate to have produce stands in our area that sell fruits and vegetables. Do you? It's not like the family are dependent on my produce, but having our own fresh picked tomatoes is desirable. 

Good heavens. We're getting slammed with another storm, a real gully washer and windy. My poor garden. I stake and tie everything, but it won't all hold. I'd say the drought is broken.

Yep. And now we're under a flood watch. That's valley weather for you.

(I grew the foxgloves from seed. *All parts poisonous. A beloved flower of the fairies.)

(Foxglove with Lady's Mantle)

(My mother-in-law planted these heirloom poppies that come back each year, and the yellow iris below with foxglove and my bunny statue. Every garden needs one.)

(Foxgloves in my Secret Garden)

When overwhelmed and stressed and unable to think,
I go out and garden, it's cheaper than a shrink.
~Author unknown

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Summer Vacation Has Begun! by Laura Hunsaker

 I work in an elementary school and yesterday was our last day of school. Can I tell you how excited I am to have some down time? Oh wait, no I decided to work Summer School. I kid, I kid. It's actually really fun to work summer school where I am. That doesn't mean it isn't stressful closing out the year, cleaning classrooms out, and all that good stuff. But I did have to laugh that one of my student's parents gave me an end of the year gift...a bottle of pre-mixed margaritas.

This was hilarious and funny and seriously the best gift for your teacher friends ;)

But it really makes me want to sit on a beach and drink fruity drinks out of coconuts. So...I'm instead in my backyard with a margarita and editing a book, pretending I'm somewhere tropical. But this pretty much sums up my summer plans-beach, writing, enjoying a drink or two. How about you? It's summer vacation, do you have any vacations planned? 

And if you'd like a beach read, my book Dreams of the Past takes place in Last Chance Beach, and it's a low-angst and happy story.

She needs rest, he needs relaxation…

Jenny Travers wants a fresh start. Leaving the nightmares of her past behind her, she heads to Last Chance Beach. Renting the Sea Glass Cottage sounds peaceful and relaxing, which is exactly what she needs.

What she doesn’t need is a man.

Lieutenant Commander Scott Gordon was injured by an IED on his last mission, and while his leg has healed, it’ll never be strong enough to stay on his SEAL team. Renting the Sea Glass Cottage sounds like the perfect place to figure out how he’s going to handle his new normal.

He never expected to find a woman in his bed.

A mix-up at the rental agency means Jenny and Scott are both renting the small cottage. Sharing a space with a stranger should be hard, yet they both feel more at peace than they have in months.

Will their summer romance last, or is the magic of Sea Glass Cottage all they’ll have…

*This short story was previously published in the Last Chance Beach: Summer's End box set. It has an updated cover, some new content, and is available at all ebook retailers instead of just through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, May 23, 2022

ASPARAGUE AND WINE - Nothing Can Go Wrong!

                                              by Judy Ann Davis

I am pleased that I have May 24th and 25th to blog this month on Smart Girls Read Romance. May 24th is National Asparagus Day…and May 25th is National WINE day! Now, give me a good steak, or grilled salmon, or a pulled pork dish with asparagus and wine, and I’m in seventh heaven.

From everything I could find about asparagus, it has been used as a vegetable for not only eating, but also for its medicinal properties as a diuretic and as a purported aphrodisiac. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C. It was known in Syria, Iberia, and to the Greeks and Romans who ate it fresh or dried it for winter use. My neighbor raises a variety of asparagus every spring and generously gives me a taste. Many people will tell you a person either loves asparagus or hates it. Which one are you?                                                                       

Now the idea of a national wine day is something everyone can get behind. There are over 10,000 varieties of different grape wines in the world that fit into the classifications of red, white, rose, sparkling, or dessert wines.  Since I’m a fan of Mexican food, I’m a fan of sangria which uses red wine and fruit juices. For a simple glass without any embellishments, I tend to like white wines. If you are an enthusiast of wine, what are your choices?

In celebration of the month that brings us flowers, I think I’ll finish this blog post, and the other household and writing chores, and wander over to the kitchen this evening where the wine is stored. What’s better than finding a comfortable chair, a good book, and a delicious glass of wine to end the day?



Amazon Link

Do you like humor and mystery combined? Under Starry Skies is the stand-alone intriguing sequel to my very first western, mystery, and romance, Red Fox Woman. Set in 1875 in the West, it’s a fast-paced read with a quiet rancher, determined schoolmarm, and wily Indian who wants to learn to read.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Ever After by Liz Flaherty

I'm in the "ever after" part of life. There are things I know that I wish I didn't, scars on my heart I wish could have been avoided, and grief that is so pervasive it's as if it's become an organ of its own. I have trouble writing romance because of those things I know. Those things I feel. The grief that swells and takes so much energy with it.

I'm a little bewildered by it all. And overwhelmed. And tired. Oh, yeah, tired...

But I'm sitting here this morning, my favorite time of day, keeping company with the sun as it makes its appearance. And I'm thinking, listening to birdsong and watching the oriole gorging on the sections of an orange on the little table I can see from the office window. Thinking, you know, is a huge part of the actual act of writing. 

Dinah, the heroine in Book Three of the Second Chances series, is younger than me by a good many years, but she's at a place where you gather those scars and learn some of those things. So is Zach, the hero. They've been married, divorced, raised kids, known debt, bought houses. They've lost people they loved and picked themselves up when they fell. Again and again. 

The conflict is...hmmm...neither of them wants to give up their total independence. Zach has been an employer most of his adult life, while Dinah has waited tables. They don't need each other. I'm not certain when it became important to me that the protagonists in a story come together out of love and want but not need, but it did. 

But there's a hiccup, too, another little piece of conflict. Just as she's learning to live in a house without her triplets, he's getting custody of his younger son, and...well, that's as far as I am, but I'm pretty sure I can help them find their way to ever after. Will I reach the part, as I would have as a younger writer, where they need each other? Probably not. Love and want and desire are fine, but not need. They are adults. 

The happily part? That's up to them. Just as in our own lives, we have to find happiness ourselves. So when I think about the ever afters the people in my books have, I clutter them with things they don't want to know, scars, and grief. Because that's how they survive. As Jake says in Reinventing Riley, "...that's how we love."

What I have done here is brainstormed and I so appreciate you being part of it. Thank you for any input you may have and for listening if you don't have. Dinah, Zach, and I will muddle through. I'm in the middle now, where it gets saggy...


Coming on May 25, Reinventing Riley, Book Two in Second Chances. It's not up for pre-order, but I'll stick the link in when I have it. I hope you journey back to Fallen Soldier with me.

Liz Flaherty

Monday, May 16, 2022

May Brings Complications, Not Flowers

Yes, overcoming challenges is what I've been doing since the beginning of 2022.

Life is complicated and frustrating sometimes, isn't it?

That's what I've been dealing with plus writing a book about blogging.

Just Since May 1

Our younger daughter had surgery. Everything was going well for a few days then 4 days later she ended up in the ER due to a fever. She's fine now, but I was worried for a while.

It wasn't enough that our daughter had surgery, my big strong husband developed a hernia a few days later after loading and unloading heavy landscape rocks he'd brought from the ranch to start landscaping our yard in town.

Less than a week later, a week ago today in fact, he was in surgery having the hernia repaired. So I've been playing post-op nurse for the entire month and trying to finish my book on blogging tips.

My brain is completely overloaded with content for my blogging book so I'll tell you about it then go to bed since I have to get up at 3 in the morning to give Darling Hubby his pain med.

Blog Ops: Be a Better Blogger

I've been a blogger since the century turned. My book of blogging tips is designed to help you blog easily and learn to love the activity instead of dreading it.

Blog Ops publishes June 5, and costs only 99¢. It's available for pre-order now.

Here's the quick blurb.

For more than 17 years, Joan Reeves, a NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, has been blogging as a ghost blogger, a member of group blogs, and the writer and publisher of her own blog, SlingWords

Now, she's sharing concise, specific tips to help you not only be a better blogger but also to enjoy blogging rather than looking at it as a tedious task. The book will give you many ideas for content so you're not constantly wondering, "What do I blog about?"

If you have an old blog that needs rescuing, BLOG OPS will show you how to breathe life into it. If you started a blog and don't know how to keep it going when the initial excitement wanes, BLOG OPS will give you a strategy to keep it fresh and vibrant.

In case you think blogging is dead, think again. It's alive and well and paying rewards to those who utilize it smartly.

Now I'll grab a quick nap while I can.

Have a wonderful May!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Remebering Helen ~Sherri Easley


Here we are again… another month and I and my crazy life are both still a hot mess. I desperately need a vacation.

Rather than bore you with details, I thought this was a great time to talk about my Mom.

This is not a romanticized version, but about Helen, the person.

I don’t think I visualized my mother as a person until after she passed and I talked with two of my other siblings. If the other 4 of my brothers and sisters told their story of growing up, you would think we were talking about 5 different people. After all, we were spread across twenty years. My oldest sister grew up with teenage Helen and I got pre-menopausal Helen.

I wish I had talked to her more and asked for the details of her life. We tend to not talk about personal things with our parents. Some things I know, like she grew up very poor, in the bottomlands of East Texas as the child of an alcoholic and her family struggled. Sometimes her behaviors reflected the trauma she endured growing up, and that was hard for me to understand as a child.

She was the oldest of several children. I wished I had asked her about her feelings when two of her baby siblings passed shortly after birth, about her miscarriage, and about how she met my dad.

She witnessed more pain and sorrow in her life than any one person should have to endure. In that era, life was raw, and life was real.

She married my dad when she was 15. He was 24. They eloped to a small country church. I saw a photo of them once on their wedding day and she commented about how young she was wearing bobby socks with her Mary Janes.

My oldest sister was born a year later, and then three years after that, my other sister. Dad went off to war and there’s a story about how my mom went out to the East coast on the train all alone, barely twenty and with two young children, to see my dad.

When he returned from the war, they bought a farm and had the last three of their 5 children. This was before birth control, and the last two of us were “accidents” which happened a lot back then. I often felt like by the time she had me, she was tired of raising kids and I really could not blame her for that.

She told stories of how family planning really happened prior to birth control, and sometimes the sad and tragic endings. Mom was empathetic and a chronic worrier. Unlike many people born in the 20’s, she was very progressive and supported women’s rights and policies for the less fortunate.

Every two weeks, when dad got paid, we drove fifty miles to Texarkana and my Mom would shop for hours– going up every single aisle in Kmart and if lucky, caught a few blue light specials.

She was an original environmentalist, saving every butter tub and cookie tin and loved garage and estate sales. Even today, when I look at the knickknacks I inherited from her, I don’t truly know if it was a family heirloom or a garage sale find.

When she was in her mid-forties, she received her GED by mail and got her driver’s license.

She loved her neighbors and to visit and was very nosy. She might indulge in a bit of gossip, and possibly even take a peek in your medicine cabinet and had this habit of staring at people in public who were different.

She was what we called back then, a homemaker. Today we call them SAHM, or stay at home moms. Later in her life, she worked part time as a substitute cook. For all the years she lived with my dad, she woke early and cooked him a full, hot breakfast every single day.

After my dad passed, she began a new chapter in her life. After being a dedicated wife for all those years, she took every opportunity to travel. She flew to Maine and California and never turned down a road trip with her kids. She even learned how to use Facebook in her late seventies.

Helen was smart, funny, brave, and a woman before her time. 

If she had any regrets in her life, she never mentioned or dwelled on them. 

From my mother, I inherited her looks, my sewing abilities, my “can do anything” attitude, and her chronic depression. 

The biggest thing she taught me is that we are all flawed heroines of our own story, and regardless, or maybe because of her upbringing, she loved deeply and made the best of her life. 

I asked her once to tell me about the good old days and she smiled as she told me, “I am living them right now”

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Planting Seeds: Books, Veggies, & NF Awareness #EndNF by Jacquie Rogers


 Planting Season and NF Awareness

This is a busy time of year for those of us in the northern hemisphere with gardens.  Add in the fact that life goes on, planting season or not, there's just not much free time these days.  First, the pretty things.

I do love spring flowers.  The daffodils are already gone and the tulips got pretty beat up by the rainstorm a few days ago, but here are a few flowers:

I just love lilacs.  We have a huge bush (even after giving it a butch haircut last year) right by the patio door.  It has multiple blooms and the scent is absolutely wonderful.

We're having a short water season here just like in all the western states.  Our irrigation water is nearly a month late and according to the projections the district will have to shut it off two months early.  Luckily, we've had more rain than usual so the lawn is relatively green.

 Yep, needs water, but does look a lot better after the first mowing.

May is NF Awareness Month, so we have a lot going on there.  My daughter Mercedes is doing a bang-up job of educating and supporting others on TikTok.  As of this writing she has 36,000+ followers and her videos are very popular with her fans.  

This shows the progression of Neurofibromatosis Type 1 in Mercedes.
She wasn't diagnosed until she was 19 years old.

This month the national organization, Children's Tumor Foundation, is hosting some really cool events including popular entertainers and personalities.  Be sure to sign up!  It's all online and free.  Can't beat that.  Here's a link to Mercedes's blog, HurricaneReads, and where Liam Hamer of Early Midlife Crisis in England interviewed her on Spotify.

As for my latest manuscript in progress, well, I had a cute video to embed here but apparently you can only embed from YouTube and this one's in TikTok, but you can see it here.

Also, I'm planning my summer readers' event, Much Ado About the Hearts of Owyhee.  Whew!  Long title for sure, but most of the people think my Hearts of Owyhee series is called the Much Ado series.  So I threw in the towel and combined them. LOL.  A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  This year, we aren't going to Silver City.  I'm hoping to have it right here in the valley (SW Idaho), hopefully in Marsing.  I should hear in the next few days from my contacts so I'll be able to tell you where and when.  But we're gearing up for a fabulous time!!!

Until next month, Happy Reading!

If you're on TikTok, friend me!  My handle is @jacquierogersbooks.  
You can get videos of Honey Beaulieu and Sassy's latest updates there.  And goofy videos of her scribe.  Heck, we even do a few cooking videos.

Monday, May 2, 2022


By Caroline Clemmons

Isn’t spring wonderful? I love the bright flowers, greening lawns, and budding trees. Spring is second only to Fall for my favorite season. In spite of the sneezing, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat, we are adding plants. We’d love for our yard to look like Beth Trissel’s (who wouldn’t?).

Armed with lists and visions of Beth Trissel’s luxuriant garden, we sally forth to the plant shop. With our trowels raised, we vow we will have the prettiest flowerbeds in the neighborhood. We expect great things.

Forgotten are the failures of the past. Forgotten are the blisters, aching back, and sore limbs. We collect rose bushes, petunias, geraniums, zinnias, decorative grasses, and seeds.

We forgot one other thing—there’s about zero to three inches of soil over limestone in most of our property. Occasional pockets of soil host trees--like those of the neighbor whose trees shade our raised garden beds.. Nevertheless, we won’t be defeated so easily.

We have neither the time nor skill to add more raised flower beds in sunny areas. We gather planters for our plants. We’ll have a potted plant garden. (Potted plants should not be confused with pot plants.)

We scour nurseries and garden shops and gasp at prices. We move on to yard sales, thrift stores, and the Next Door online column. It matters not that our planters don’t match. We are victorious!  

Stay safe and keep reading!