Smart Girls Read Romance -- so do the bestselling and award-winning Authors who write this blog.
Join them as they dish about Books, Romance, Love, and Life.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Dinner And So Much More by Kara O'Neal

My first historical romance series had to have a central family. I adored the Little House books and the TV series as a child, and I wanted to write books that told tales of people from the same family and town.

Writing a book is hard. Getting the words onto the paper in ways that will enthrall readers is a labor of love, let me tell you. And according to my reviews, I have been successful with some things and not so successful with others.

The one compliment I consistently receive is how easily I weave family interactions into the story. I'm told that they seem effortless and very real.

If this is true, there's only one reason I can do that. And it all comes from experience, from the people who raised me...

And she was someone I most desperately admired. And by she, I mean my grandma. She gave us dinner and so much more...

Mashed potatoes.
Pot roast.
And jelly.

There was always jelly on her table. There were always white mounds of creamy and buttery potatoes. Her potatoes melted in your mouth like ice cream. It was glorious…

She had figurines all over her house and sofa pillows with flowers on them. She had two china cabinets filled with dishes and no dishwasher.

She played Scrabble and Skip-Bo and kept Blue Bell in the freezer. (If you aren’t from Texas, Blue Bell is the best ice cream in the country.)

She is a third generation Texan, born to migrant workers, and picked cotton throughout her childhood. She has no more than a third grade education, but has more wisdom than most PhDs.

She is my grandma.

She married Grandpa at 17 and had four children. She lived her life to take care of her family and followed Grandpa’s orders without argument.

Some disapproved of her choice to play the role of servant.

But she was married for 54 years and her husband held her hand until the day he died.

We should all be so lucky…

I owe her and many other family member so much. They have given me good times, wonderful advice and sweet memories. I will cherish every moment I spend with my family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

No Two Days In the Garden Are The Same

(Spring blooming old English rose)

'Flowers really do intoxicate me.' ~Vita Sackville-West

The garden, in its magical wonder, constantly and continuously changes. So quickly the hours flow into days, then weeks, and months. Seasons pass. From the first cheery crocus spangling the dreary February landscape to the cherished chrysanthemums hailing a brilliant autumn, a succession of flowers take center stage to enchant, then fade, their time spent. If I've planned correctly, new blooms will appear in their place, and I won't have gaps. A short while ago, the roses were magnificent, and I reveled in their silken blossoms, white and peachy-pink petals fluttering to the ground like snowflakes in the breeze. Now that first long-awaited flush is past and only a few plants are left in bloom. The roses will revive for another riotous color fest, but the despised Japanese beetles are arriving and will plague the plants and me for weeks to come. Any gardener not suffering this scourge should rejoice daily. 

(Climbing Ballerina Rose)

During the dratted beetle season, I look to the lilies for glory, and they do not disappoint. The oriental lilies scent the garden with sweet perfume and tree lilies stretch to amazing heights. I'm lily mad and forever planting new bulbs. They're rather like Easter eggs, in that I hide them and await discovery, particularly as I often forget what kind I planted and where they were tucked. Plus, one of the online bulb companies sent me potluck instead of what I thought I'd ordered. Adds to the surprise, I suppose. I really must pay more attention to who sent what if I want to complain, but I know I didn't order knee-high yellow lilies. Not that they aren't pretty, but not what I intended. A whole lot like life. 

I do what I usually do, forge ahead and try again. 

(Forever Susan Lily)

I did nothing but comfort my plants, till now their small green cheeks are covered with smiles. ~Emily Dickinson, 1865

(Gaillardia with bee on it)

(Bee balm with bumble bee)

The bees are summer-busy every sunny afternoon... ~Hal Borland

(Cream Veranda Rose)

(Fragrant Tree Lily)

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers, where I can walk undisturbed... ~Walt Whitman

(Oriental Lily)

Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden. ~Robert Brault,

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Free Book! And Other Things That Spark Joy

It has been a week! I needed some distractions, and wound up rearranging my library (I have four shelves, don't judge me that I call it my library!). I wound up finding some books I had forgotten that I own! So basically I spent the week re-reading some old favorites. 

I rearranged my books in my room, and the keepers shelf in my "library," even added some new ones to the keeper shelves. I know that this may not sound like fun for everyone, but sitting on the floor amongst a pile of all my books and reading was seriously the highlight of my week. 

It made me realize that this week I need more joy, more time to read old favorites, and find some new favorites. And I'm probably not the only one who feels that way.

So, here's your next new favorite ;) My short story Dreams of the Past. I made it a free for a 24 hour promotion, but I'm leaving my book free for the rest of the week, just because we all need something happy right now.


click here: Amazon | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Smashwords | Goodreads

Dreams of the Past

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2022


 Judy Ann Davis

"Now that your eyes are open, make the sun jealous with your burning passion to start the day. Make the sun jealous or stay in bed.” – Malak El Halabi ~ Poet and  Consumer Behavior Expert 

What a way to start the day--with a burning passion! 

But what about the end of it?  Have you ever felt you’ve accomplished anything? Even when we do things according to a well thought-out schedule, do we take any time to do the things we want or like??                                                                   

I’m learning that variation in our daily or evening schedules is a healthy and a rewarding way to change the pace of the day. Chores don’t have to be done on the same day every week. Laundry can wait a day. Dinner doesn’t have to be a strict time every day. We’re allowed to unwind, be more alert, center ourselves, and enjoy life instead of frantically keeping pace with it. 

I’m now taking some respite with my writing as well. I’m taking time to ponder the last 20,000 words I need to finish my novel, and I’ve decided not to let my Type A personality poke, push, or guilt me.

Instead, I’ve been reading an old book called “The Plot Thickens,” a series of short stories by best-selling mystery and crime writers Mary Higgins Clark, Janet Evanovich, and Ann Rule, to name a few of the authors. It’s refreshing and enjoyable to read the
short, compact, mystery stories in one sitting.

I’m playing music. I’ve made a batch of cookies. I met with card club friends. I’m taking time for myself. I’m breaking my routine, and I’m feeling cheerful as I embrace that much-needed passion to start my summer days.

So tell me—how are your days evolving? Are you making the sun jealous with your burning passion?   

Visit My Amazon Author Page for all my books.  



Saturday, June 18, 2022

There It Begins by Liz Flaherty

I was thinking about how I start a book. I know, I know--I've been writing them for several decades now and I should have the beginning part down pat. Well, I do, sort of. It's the middle that gives me trouble. It sags every time and I have to run around propping it up like stilts under a waterside house. But I'll talk about that later.

I'm a little less than halfway through my work-in-progress right now and I really need to concentrate on that (the stilts, you know), but we went to a play the other night in Warsaw, Indiana, which is the county seat of Kosciusko County, Indiana. Going up State Road 15, there are a lot of directional signs that point you to Carr Lake, Diamond Lake, Palestine. From other roads you can access Beaver Dam, Yellow Creek, Winona, Center, Webster...all in all, there are over 100 lakes in Kosciusko county. 

A hundred lakes. Wow.

And I thought of an exhausted woman driving up to a cottage on one of those lakes and not even wanting to get out of the car. That's just how tired she is. She has to go to the bathroom and she's starving half to death and she hasn't washed her hair since...since when? She doesn't quite remember. And here she is at a tiny lake without a name yet. 

The lake needs a name. So does she. And they have a story to tell. They're just not letting me in on it yet. 

At home, I tore used sheets out of the front of a notebook and scrawled New Story - Women's Fiction - 2022 on the inside cover. 

And there it begins...

There's a lake at Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, too, the home of my Second Chances Series from Magnolia Blossom Publishing. I hope you'll give A Year of Firsts and Reinventing Riley a try. They are dear to my heart. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

7 Wonderful Facts About Love by Joan Reeves

June was once the month for weddings just as wonderfully aromatic orange blossoms once signified weddings.

Things have changed, but Love hasn't changed.

Here are 7 Wonderful Facts About Love. Use some of them to counter arguments—like the one where men say it's unnatural to be monogamous.

1. In the animal kingdom, monogamous relationships exist. Some of our animal friends who mate for life are swans, albatrosses, black vultures, gibbons, wolves, and even termites. 

2. Studies reveal that it only takes about 4 minutes for a man or woman to decide he/she likes the other. Rather than what one says or how one looks, it has more to do with body language, sound of the voice, and pheromones.

3. Snuggling together or cuddling releases natural painkillers.

4. Believe it or not, looking at a photograph of the one you love also releases natural painkillers.

5. When 2 lovers gaze into each other's eyes, their heartbeats synchronize.

6. Expressing gratitude toward the one you love creates an immediate increase in your happiness.

7. Last, but not least for authors, thinking of love and sex enhances creativity followed by concrete thinking. 

I guess Love is one reason romance novels are so popular! Right? Love may not make the world go round, but it's what makes the trip worthwhile. If the hot weather is getting you down, grab a few romance novels and read inside where it's cool.

If you're looking for a good book this weekend, try Foolishly Yours, for something a little different that's a Kindle Unlimited free read.

Samantha Ruiz is Quadracial and proud of her four ethnicities: African, Cherokee, Hispanic, and White. Filling that out on standardized forms was fun. Not! 

She led a charmed life until two life-changing events happened. First, she got engaged. Second, she resigned her commission as an Army officer to become a Warrant Officer, a military cop, and attracted the attention of an officer at her new post. Both events ended badly.

With her Army career over and wounded by the bitter breakup with her fiancé, Sam moves to Last Chance Beach to care for her grandmother. She’s made a new life for herself as a police officer and is content, if not happy—until Grayson Crawford moves into her Granny's beach rental.

Sam takes an instant dislike to the rude, insensitive beast of a man. What’s worse, the man seems to turn up everywhere she goes. To her horror, she finds herself attracted to the blue-eyed, blond-haired surfer who seems content to drift through life.

She's never dated unsuitable men, and Grayson could be the poster boy for unsuitable. So why does he take her breath away?

Have a wonderful June!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Keeping Good Company by Bea Tifton

My parents and I recently combined households. I'd lived alone for more than 25 years, including during the Pandemic lockdown. I've got to confess that I've developed some odd habits; singing snatches of songs at the top of my voice, eating two cheese sticks and a handful of barbeque flavored potato chips for dinner, and talking to myself. A lot. 

The first time I got caught, my father walked into the kitchen. He looked around, then when he realized I was alone he looked a little nonplussed, and I was embarrassed. I’ve talked to myself in my car and gotten strange looks. One jerk even made the crazy sign, twirling his finger in circles.  When I had a mask on, it was harder for people to catch me out in stores, but now, well…

I need to be clear. I am not walking around constantly mumbling to myself and shaking my fists. I don't ask and answer myself. I've long outgrown my imaginary friends. I'm fully aware that I am talking to myself. Sometimes, I just need to talk through something, especially if I'm confused or working through a particularly thorny problem.

Should I be worried about this little idiosyncrasy? The Cleveland Clinic assures their online readers that talking to yourself is perfectly all right. Talking out loud can even improve focus.  In the article, “Why Do People Talk to Themselves?” Web MD writes, "Most people talk to themselves regularly. This may happen when thinking through ideas, when debating decisions, or when in need of a pep talk."

Honestly, since I talk to myself when I am thinking, I wonder what people who never talk to themselves are doing. Is it just crickets chirping inside their brains? Do they not have any issues or news big enough that they need to go through it out loud? 

Many of the columns I read as background for my blog post wrote about talking to yourself as giving yourself pep talks or using affirmations. Those don't ever work for me. I just feel too silly looking in the mirror and saying, "I'm good enough, and doggone it, people like me." But debating whether I should go ahead and get bananas now or wait, well, that's an issue worthy of a chat. 

I've also heard and read that since the Pandemic more people are talking to themselves than every before, so it may happen to you yet. Just make sure someone isn't going to come walking into the room when you're doing it. 


Photo Credits from Pexels:
Moose Photos: "Woman Wearing Pink Top"
Andrea Piacquadio: "Woman in Gray Tank Top"
Andrea Piacquadio: "Photo of Woman Looking at the Mirror"
SHVETS production: "Bananas in Eco Bag"
Polina Tankilevitch: "A Woman in White Knit Sweater Covering Her Face: 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Yarn- to Dye for~Sherri Easley

Like most of you, my eyes and mind are constantly in search of beautiful things.

A while back, I did a story about my obsession with Harris Tweed, but today, I want to tell you about my new obsession: Hand Dyed Yarn.

The word yarn comes from Middle English, from the Old English gearn, akin to Old High German 's garn, "yarn", Dutch 's "garen", Italian 's chordē, "string", and Sanskrit 's hira, "band". 

The idea of dyeing yarn dates back to Neolithic times, over 5000 years ago on the continent of Asia. China has been using dyes sourced from plants, minerals, and insects for at least this far back in time.

My mother talked about dying muslin fabric with tea or plants when she was growing up and since much of what I write is historical, this fascinates me even more. 

My friend Maureen, right here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, showed me how she dyes her yarn, and it is as much an art as it is a craft.  

The process begins by importing only the finest yarn from the UK- as her base. Perhaps this is why I love her yarn so much? It reminds me of my tweed.

Maureen carries many blends of yarn, including yarn with cotton or silk.

A skein, or hank or yarn, is a large length that has been loosely wound into a ring and then twisted into a figure of eight. These hanks are immersed in dye pans.

Maureen uses a combination of primary and custom blended dyes. Each batch created is unique and blueprints and recipes must be created so she can replicate the pattern and design for future orders.

After dying and rinsing, she dries the yarn in a huge oven. 

You would think that was the end of the process, but then comes the time-consuming part of twisting, tying and labeling.

Besides being eye candy, her yarn is petal soft for wearability


If you love handmade beauty, check her out at her website

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Travel, Garden, Books: June is a fun month! #CAC22

 We're Headed to Bellingham, WA!

Yep, to Chanticleer Authors Conference CAC22

by Jacquie Rogers

One of my favorite conferences is hosted by Chanticleer Book Reviews and is an excellent multi-genre conference for new and experienced authors.  I've been going since the very first one, partly because Kiffer Brown (owner of Chanticleer) is such a hoot, and partly because of the wonderful author friends I've made there.
We ladies must hide our jowls.
This is what happens when book people are unsupervised at a bar.

COVID kind of knocked the socks off #CAC20 and #CAC21, but they prevailed and managed to hold virtual conferences on Zoom.  But what a, it's really hard to hug your friends on Zoom.  Anyway, this year they're having an IRL (In Real Life) conference, and they're back at Hotel Bellwether at Squalicum Harbor, Bellingham, Washington.  I'm presenting three workshops with my buddy Diane Garland, owner of Your WorldKeeper.  So Mr R and I will hop into the car and pull our little Casita to Puget Sound, where we'll be celebrating family birthdays, visiting friends, and doing a few errands before and after going on up to Bham.

But first, we're selling books at the Owyhee Outpost Days in Murphy, Idaho.  I noticed that Murphy has grown from 47 people to nearly triple digits--so you might not have heard of it, but hey, it's the county seat of Owyhee County.  And there's even a parking meter in front of the courthouse.

**NOTE: This is the only parking meter in the county and there are no stoplights, thank heavens.

Owyhee Outpost Days is a ton of fun.  You can see Lost Arts from days gone by, take in the museum (which is truly excellent), grab some corndogs or gourmet chocolate--or even homemade pie!  The kids have pony rides and wagon rides, and the adults can ride on a John Deere B.  We don't usually have a lot of authors there but I hope a few show up.

The forecast is for rain both days.  Bah Humbug!

Next week, we're visiting the Owyhee Dam in Malheur County, Oregon.  Why is it so interesting?  Because if you go to Hoover Dam, you'll be told over and over and over that Hoover Dam was the first dam where they used refrigeration to cure concrete.  Not so.  Owyhee Dam was the prototype.

We'll be camping in Tillie the Tank, our Casita, from Tuesday to Thursday and our friends will be coming up for a cookout on Wednesday, so should be a lot of fun.

In the middle of all that, we'll be gardening.  So far we have all the herbs and veggies planted, although one of my cantaloupe looks pretty pathetic, so might have to replace it.  Mr R has the irrigation all set up.  We have 16 4'x4' raised beds, 5 1'x4' raised beds, and 3 stock tanks, all full of herbs and vegetables.  Then there are probably two dozen flower pots/planters, all with watering systems, so you can see the poor guy has been working his hiney off.  My daughter, best known on TikTok as Hurricane Mercedes, will be house/garden/Walter sitting.   Sorry, no current photos.

Speaking of Hurricane Mercedes, she has close to 50,000 followers on TikTok, and they're avid fans.  I mean avid.  Her goal is to spread awareness of neurofibromatosis and she's doing a mighty fine job.  As a matter of fact, the Children's Tumor Foundation asked her, as an influencer, to help publicize the Make NF Visible Telethon on May 17th, which she did.  The local NF group had a watch party, and Mercedes got a standing O when her videos were featured four different times!  What a star.  Well, she wanted to be a movie star when she was little, so I guess this is close to it.

From left to right:
Me, Mercedes, and my sis-in-law Mary

 That's about enough yammering from me for one month.  I have to get busy on the presentations, and continue working on my book.  Lots to do!  I hope you're happy, healthy, and have a room jammed full of unread books to keep you traveling, at least in your mind. 

Much Love!

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.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Fried Squash Blossoms by Stephanie Suesan Smith

In the South, the four food groups are grease, starch, chocolate, and sugar.  If you can eat it, you can probably find a recipe to fry it!

Squash have tons of flowers.  The male flowers come first, then the female flowers with the baby squash at the base.  Pick some, but not all, of the male squash blossoms off your squash plants one morning.  Carefully bring them home.

Fried Squash Blossoms

  • squash blossoms
  • canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ranch style dressing
  1. Very gently, remove the flower parts from the inside of the flower, leaving only the petals.  Leave about 1/4-1/2 inch stem on the outside of the flower.
  2. Again very gently, wash the flower, inside and out.
  3. Set the flower face down on a paper towel to drain.
  4. Put 2-3 inches of cooking oil in a 10-12 inch skillet.
  5. Heat oil until it is shimmering, but not smoking.
  6. Dip a blossom in the egg mixture.  Shake off excess.
  7. Roll flower in flour.  Make sure you coat both the inside and outside of the flower.
  8. Place flower in grease.
  9. Cook until crisp, turning as necessary to cook the entire blossom.
  10. Remove from the oil and set on paper towels to drain.
  11. Dip the cooked flower in ranch dressing and enjoy.
Caroline Clemmons will be back next month.  Her new book Samantha is out today.