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Sunday, October 30, 2022

My Favorite "True Love's Kiss" Moments by Kara O'Neal

One of my favorite moments in a story is when the hero or heroine kisses his or her true love and the curse breaks. It's such a wonderful thought, that love is strong enough to cure any ill.

For me, it's more than a thought, though. It's a belief. Love has the ability to soothe any villain, comfort the grieving, and liberate the oppressed.

And, of course, I have a few favorite true love moments....

1) When Emma Swan kisses Henry, her son, and wakes him from the sleeping curse in Once Upon A Time.

2) When Prince Philip kisses Sleeping Beauty and wakes her from the sleeping curse.

3) When Wesley and Buttercup kiss at the end of The Princess Bride.

4) When Emma Swan and Captain Killian "Hook" Jones triumph in the ultimate true love test in Once Upon A Time.

And last....

5) When Stephen Dawson kisses Constance Forrester for the first time in The Editor's Kisses. (Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this. Because this is from one of my books!)

Yes, #5 is one of my own, and while there isn't anything literally magical about it, it does wake up Stephen and he's able to unchain himself from the toxic control another woman had over him. It was absolutely beautiful how it worked out, and even though you can't see it happen, you can read it...

Scene: The parlor of the Talbut home

Problem #1: An embarrassing parlor game – being locked in a broom closet with a member of the opposite sex

Problem #2: Stephen and Constance are in a fake courtship – Stephen is trying to make someone jealous and Constance gets to be a reporter for his paper

And now...a beautiful "true love's kiss" moment...

Madeline’s spinning of Constance was a little rough, but Stephen held his tongue. When their hostess let go, Constance fumbled for a moment before Stephen raised himself up and yanked her into his lap.

The shouts of excitement and delight that went around the room nearly deafened him. People playfully called out “cheater”, but Stephen didn’t care, especially when Constance whisked off her mask and looked immensely relieved to see he’d successfully caught her.

They headed to the closet without fuss. Constance almost looked as if she was dying to climb inside. She probably wanted to get the farce over with.

Once they were squeezed into the confining space, with their chests pressed together in a way Stephen had only fantasized about, she said, “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done—”

He covered her mouth with his hand, having dislodged it from his side. Then he leaned near her ear. “They might be able to hear us,” he whispered.

She flinched.

He lowered his arm, and she let out a slow breath. He wished he could see her face. For more reasons than to satisfy his worry she was all right.

He did everything he could to ignore the touch of her body along his front. He tried not to remember how she looked, how her eyes lit up, how her expression sharpened when she was interested in something. Why had he watched her all night?

But he knew. He knew very well. She was captivating. Intriguing. And so damned lovely.

Why was he having feelings for her? Wasn’t his love for Madeline strong enough to withstand attraction for another woman? But if it was, he would be in the closet with his hostess and not the lady he pretended to the world held his fancy.

He had to kiss her. He had to discover if this attachment was real. Besides, if he didn’t kiss her, everyone would wonder why. And for some strange reason, he needed every fellow out there to understand Constance Forrester was his. He closed his eyes and realized his attitude was no better than a caveman’s. But the need to possess and brand raced through him without pause, and he couldn’t fathom how to check it. Except to kiss her and get her out of his system once and for all.

“Constance,” he uttered. “I’m gonna kiss you.”

She flinched again.

“I won’t hurt you, I swear it. But if I don’t kiss you…they’ll all question us and our…attachment.” He was an ass. He was using their agreement to coax her into acquiescence, and while he knew it, and was ashamed of it, he continued. “It will only be for a second. I’ll just brush my lips with yours.”

In the darkness, he felt her slight nod against his chin. His heart pounded at her quiet surrender.

When she pulled back as far as the space would allow and lifted her head to his, heat slashed through him. He’d never needed a kiss as much as he needed hers.

Madeline had kissed him. Once. Behind the schoolhouse when they were sixteen. And that moment hadn’t caused nearly the anticipation this one did.

He lowered his head and swallowed her gasp. It wasn’t a brush, even though he only set his lips on hers. It was a fire. A shot of whiskey that whipped through him and pooled in his gut. He deepened the connection, and she let him, sighing and sinking into him despite already being as close to him as he could get her.

He melted. He needed to move to the ground and cover her, press her down and make her his. He used his tongue, tasting her. She capitulated instantly and opened her mouth under his. He took what she allowed without hesitation as his free hand came up to grip her waist.

The damn closet was too small. His left hand was wedged between her side and the slender door. But though he couldn’t get his arms around her, he didn’t stop the kiss. It went on and on, stealing his breath, tightening his chest and making him doubt everything he’d ever known about his heart.

Rapid footsteps had him surging backward, and he knocked his head on the wall.

The door flew open, and cool air blasted his cheeks. He and Constance fell out of the space, their limbs tangling as they tried to right themselves.

Peals of laughter rung around them as Stephen reached out a hand to balance her. She latched on as if she didn’t want to let go, and his muscles vibrated with hope she had enjoyed the moment as he had.

It had taken less than a few seconds for him to realize kissing her had been the wrong thing to do. But also the most right, most perfect, most sound judgement he’d ever made in his life.

As those who’d crowded around the entrance to the kitchen went roaring with laughter back into the parlor, he gazed at Constance. And his world tilted.

Her flushed cheeks and bright eyes made his heart constrict with an emotion he was too afraid to name at the moment. But he knew what it was. He knew.

How in the devil had it happened? Was he a fool? A fickle man?

He swallowed. “Do you want to leave?”

And before his eyes, he witnessed a transformation that set his blood on fire. Determination changed her expression, and she lifted her chin.

“Certainly not. I’m quite all right, I assure you.” She gave a shake to her skirts. “We’ve a job to do, Stephen Dawson, and I’ll not let you down.”

She exited the kitchen with a swirl of satin, and he followed with less sure steps. She wouldn’t let him down, he knew it. But he feared he might disappoint her, for if she knew the direction of his thoughts, she would never forgive him. Constance Forrester had no time for any man. She had plans. Plans that didn’t include caring for the heart of the newspaper editor.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Inspiration from the Past

Cooler fall days are the perfect time for inside activities. I've planted spring bulbs, as I do each fall, plus several new roses, and tidied the Memorial Garden. The vegetable garden is another matter. Maybe winter will eliminate the weeds, or the gardening elves. Meanwhile, I've turned my attention to my crammed shelves, bookcases, and wardrobes...

(Valentines from 1902)

My family saves letters, journals, photographs, scrapbooks, all kinds of memorabilia, from the people who went before us and I'm the recipient of much of this bounty. I'm not even sure what all I've been entrusted with, so am taking stock. One of my favorite finds is a scrapbook, circa 1902-1904, that belonged to my great Aunt Emily, whom I know of but never met in life. She died long before my birth. Dad gave me her scrapbook years ago, but I'd rather forgotten about it until my recent find.

Young Emily filled the now dilapidated pages with magazine clippings, pictures, Valentine and Christmas cards, and keepsakes valuable to a teenage girl at the turn of the 20th century. The scrapbook itself is beyond saving, so I cut out the best of the images she'd pasted in. Emily grew up the cherished daughter (one of three younger sisters and a brother) to loving parents, with a good, comfortable life, her father being a banker. One of the items in her scrapbook is her dance card from what may have been her debutante ball. A tiny pencil hangs at its side to enter the names of the gentlemen requesting a dance. No young men are listed, which puzzled me, as Emily was an attractive, vivacious girl, who boasted in a letter to her papa about daring to ride 'astride' when other genteel ladies rode side saddle, so it's not because she wasn't admired.

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(Aunt Emily's dance card)
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Christmas cards (shown above) were different in that era. The Valentine's cards are more familiar. Tastes have changed over the decades, but romantic love isn't out of favor, not entirely anyway, and definitely not with me.

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(An assortment of cards and events)

(Valentine Verse)

After immersing myself in Emily's scrapbook, and remembering what Dad told me about her, I feel closer to this distant aunt. Dad said when Emily died it was partly the doctor's fault because he didn't appreciate the seriousness of her condition (kidney disease). She's reported to have said, "I told you I was sick," towards the end. I don't know if Emily could have been saved in that era, before antibiotics, if the doctor had been aware of her deteriorating health, but maybe he would have tried harder. Dad said Emily had developed the reputation of being a hypochondriac, which made the medical community downplay her complaints. I wonder if she truly was a hypochondriac or whether she was discounted as women often were in the past and still are today.

After Emily's death, she was laid out in the formal parlor in the family homeplace where friends and family paid their final respects. Dad remembers his grandfather, Emily's father, seated by her side, begging her to wake up because she appeared to only be sleeping. Dad said how cruel he thought it was that Emily had been made to look so lifelike in death. His grandfather kept Emily's picture on his bedside stand and kissed it every night. He never got over the untimely death of his beloved daughter. So sad.

I don't have Emily's picture as an adult and hope one turns up, but I found this lovely Edwardian lady in her scrapbook. Maybe Emily looked much like her.

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I'm touched and inspired by Emily. Dad once told me the years of his youth, and those of his parents' generation, were a gracious time to live, if you could stay alive. There were many illnesses and injuries to carry you off in that era which we have treatments for now. I should add, and if you had money, always a plus.

Even with the risks of that era, I deeply appreciate the graciousness and civility my Virginia ancestors enjoyed. Maybe I'll pack some antibiotic and travel back, as I do in my time travel romances.

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A rose for Emily

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

When Books Make You Hungry by Laura Hunsaker

 Have you ever read a book that made you hungry? I was reading one the other day and by the end of the scene I wanted minestrone and a glass of wine. It was kind of a fitting scene since at work we are having a soup and salad potluck this week, and I shall be bringing lentil minestrone (all the dessert slots were empty and it's a soup and salad potluck).

[here's the recipe I'll be using. I substitute spinach for kale though, since no one in my family likes kale]

There are two authors I can think of off-hand whose books always make me crave whatever it is the characters are eating. Both write in such a different style than I do, that I think describing the meal to the point the food is so detailed you make the reader hungry is usually only seen in certain genres. I just don't know if I can pause the scene where a serial killer is after someone long enough to describe the meal. Then again, words are literally my job, and I like to think I'm pretty good with them, so maybe I could absolutely pull it off!

I'm going to have to ponder this. I wonder if readers are reading and thinking, "What did the characters eat for lunch?" Or even "Have the characters eaten lunch?" I think if I'm reading an action scene, I might not worry about it, but then again, don't they need the calories if they're on the run? I mean, if I'm running for my life, am I thinking about food at all? Or am I thinking that I can't run another step if I don't get a decent supper? Or are we picturing a villain chasing them while the main characters try to scarf down some fast food like this poor chap:

As I said, I don't typically describe the foods in my books to the extent that I think I would make anyone hungry. It's not really relevant to my story, but I'm wondering if maybe at least once per book I should really go all in on a meal for my poor hungry characters! 

I have a new Romantic Suspense coming out in a couple of months called DANGEROUS PAST, and while there is no eating on the run, there is lots of romance. I look forward to sharing it with you all once I get a firm date! In the mean time, are you a reader who enjoys that in a book? Are you a writer who adds that in? And what do you bring to a potluck? Any recipe ideas are welcome ;)

And you can start my Fatal Instincts series with DARK PAST, available now:

Amazon  |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo   Google Play Books  |  Smashwords

The small town was supposed to be safe...

Kate Landry is tired of running. Thinking she's safe, she settles in the small logging town of Chester, California to manage a cafe. She may be keeping a low profile, but she's hoping to return to a normal life.
When FBI agent Kyle Donovan visits to Chester to stay with a friend, and to recover from his latest case, he never expects to meet sexy barista Kate.

But someone is following Kate...

Kyle worries he brought trouble to her door, while Kate worries her dark past is coming after her.
With danger lurking around every corner, her safe haven isn't as safe as she'd thought. Kate will finally have to trust someone enough to tell him her secrets. Secrets that may just get them killed...

Sunday, October 23, 2022

NATIONAL FOOD DAY - October 24th

 by Judy Ann Davis

When October inches into Central Pennsylvania, she brings with her frosty mornings and the brilliant hues of autumn. The golds, reds, and oranges of the maples, oaks, birches, and sumac cover our hillsides. 

October 24th has been annually proclaimed as National Food Day focusing on healthy and nutritious foods. For me, it's the month when my favorite foods appear--those warm and cozy dishes like soups, roasts, puddings, and favorite drinks like cider and hot chocolate. 

Growing up, I always looked forward to October meals on the farm. My parents were from immigrant Polish parents, and my mother was an exceptional cook and baker. She made traditional dishes such as stuffed cabbage rolls (golumpki), beet soup (borscht), and dumplings stuffed with cheese or  mashed potatoes (pierogies).

The other day I found some fall mushrooms popping up in our yard. It reminded me of my childhood days when my mom and dad would set off on a foggy morning into the woods to collect them. Mushroom hunting is an old Polish tradition handed down when the first Polish immigrants came to America and brought their knowledge with them. These gilled fungi are hunted in both the spring and fall. One of my favorite dishes to this day is steak served with fried mushrooms and onions.

Apple cake (szarlotka) and cheesecake (sernik) are the most frequently served sweets in Polish homes. For those who love sweets, here is a easy fall favorite of mine, passed down by my mother.


6 TBSP butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
6 cups diced apples
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream margarine, sugar, and eggs.
Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture.
Stir in diced apples, nuts, and vanilla. 
Pour in greased pan.
Bake: 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

 JUNE - The Pianist

Book 1 in the Musical Christmas Series 
Now on Sale for $0.99 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

What I did for summer vacation.

 Ever wonder what mountain folks do for fun. Well, become mountain men of course. 

All of the outfits you see in these pictures I made myself, beadwork and all. Tanning and breaking the hides, plus all the other crafts I have done in my life, has caused permanent nerve damage in my hands. I wouldn't have changed a thing. I have always expressed myself in the arts. It was a fair trade off.

The week starts with setting up your primitive encampment. I made the teepee myself out of goat hides. I love the whole premise of Rendezvous, but making the equipment is my favorite activity. Oh, I made our chairs also.

Once we set up camp, we gather with the other members and give thanks to God and Country.

That is when the fun begins. Pull out the black powder and get out on the trail. It is loud, it is long, and it is the most fun you will ever have in the mountains.

But it doesn't end there. Next comes the hawk and knife throw. Even the little ones get in on this, after the craft-making tent activities, and their slingshot shoot.

And last but not least, we move on to the Longbow range. Where we get bruised arms and shoot stuffed animals.

After all the fun, you win some awesome prizes, (that is me winning the rifle)

and if the kids are really lucky someone brings a candy cannon. 

Rendezvous is one of my favorite things to do. If you have one in your area, I highly recommend checking them out.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Bars of Sunlight by Liz Flaherty

The morning sun lies in golden bars across the dry beanfields, some already combined and some still waiting. On the nearly leafless cottonwood tree, squirrels chase each other up the narrow limbs and leap impossible distances across the blue-sky background to reach another fork of the tree. 

The cottonwood is one of my favorite trees here on our three and a half acres. It has been hit by lightning, attacked by the wind, and beaten mercilessly by woodpeckers. When we moved here 45 years ago, it was probably about 12 feet high. Now it reaches for the clouds with scarred and aged arms. Kind of like my husband and me. 

I remember rolling my eyes when my mother would wax rhapsodic about the views from the windows of the country house where I grew up. Now it's me who does it on nearly a daily basis. Sunrises and sunsets are two of my favorite things--harbingers of hope for both the day ahead and a better tomorrow. 

I have grown too contented. 

It makes writing hard because, while I was never particularly good at creating conflict in stories, I'm even worse now. Too often, when I read, I'm the one rolling my eyes at the conflicts in stories. I'm thinking, Have a conversation, for heaven's sake! or If she hasn't gotten over it in the 20 years since it happened, she's not likely to because of how his jeans fit, is she? or Compromise! Ever heard of it?

When I finished Book 3 of the Second Chances series a couple of weeks ago, I found myself out of contract but not ready to quit. So now I'm officially writing women's fiction, which I've done before and loved. I have a setting I love, a heroine who sounds suspiciously like a younger me, and a dog named Chloe. Off in the distance in the bars of sunlight, there's a man, too.

Last month on this blog, I wrote, "I'm so excited," about the story I was dreaming about. I'm on Chapter 4 now, and I'm still excited. There are cottonwood trees and squirrels around Harper Loch, bars of sunlight on the water, and scars and age lending depth to Maggie North's story. 

Although there may be a problem with conflict...

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Top 10 Romance Tropes for 2022 by Joan Reeves

Yesterday on my personal blog SlingWords, I gave a list of the Romance Tropes, or themes you may choose to say, that have been so popular in the last few years.

Stop by there and you can see what was super popular prior to 2022.

Giveaway Alert: Details at the end of this post.

Today, I'd like to give you a list of the most popular romance tropes this year. Some on the list are the same as the list I gave yesterday, but are ranked differently.

For instance, on yesterday's list, the #1 most popular according to research I did, was The Fake Romance. That's on this list too, but not in the #1 spot. So here in order of popularity, as near as I can figure out, here are the...

Top Romance Tropes for 2022.

1. Friends To Lovers
This has increased in popularity, moving up to the #1 spot. These are romances that feature a couple who have always been friends, but the guy or the girl is secretly in love with the other. Afraid to ruin their friendship by making a move, they love silently until something propels them to try for more.

2. Enemies To Lovers
The reverse of this is in the #1 spot. Authors have found that readers also love enemies who discover they're not so far apart in thinking and who find they're really attracted to each other.

3. Fake Romance
This can be fake dating, romance, engagement, or even a fake marriage. Faking together makes the attraction sizzle and the heart grow fonder.

4. Forced Proximity
On my previous list, I actually broke this out into 2 tropes: Snowed In and Stranded Together Somewhere because there were so many romantic stories that featured the couple snowed in and cut off from the rest of the world. However, for this list, I'm just lumping those two things together for any story that forces the couple to be closeted together for whatever reason.

4a. Workplace Romance
In today's world, most people spend more time at work together than they do waking hours away from work. It's natural for singles to navigate to each other and find love, but it sure can complicate the work life when there are so many restrictions—legal and other pitfalls—against acting on mutual desire.

Conflict of many different types is ineveitable. 

In the workplace, this trope usually has the boss and underling in the starring roles.

But equals who share an office or cubicle or work in adjoining cubicles  also may share the same trials, challenges, and triumphs—and desire.

My romantic comedy Nobody's Cinderella is a Workplace Romance. So is Cinderella Blue, the second book in this San Antone Duet, with the workplace being the cop shop aka police station.

4b. Roommates
This was a separate category on my new trope lists that I found, but I think it could legitimately fall under Forced Proximity because roommates share the same kitchen, entertainment area, and maybe even the same bathroom. They're together from the time they get home from work until they go to bed at night—until maybe the forced proximity pushes them toward each other. Living with someone, albeit platonicly in the beginning, creates plenty of conflict for the hero and heroine as well as romantic possibilities.

5. Love Triangle
I think this has been popular since the dawn of time, but the vampire book/series Twilight really threw gasoline on the fire. A heroine or hero who must choose between two likely mates. The key is to make both choices appealing, but only 1 really fits perfectly. Great conflict.  

6. Single Parent
Yes, the single parent romance is huge, and it's finally on the top romance tropes list. This is just what it says. Single moms and dads need love too.

7. Opposites Attract / Different Worlds / Different Backgrounds 
We all know this trope. He's a city slicker; she's a country girl. She's a rich heiress; he's the gardener's son. He's from Mars or another planet; she's from Venus or Earth or wherever. Yes, science fiction mines this trope too. So does paranormal—he's a shapeshifter; she's human.

My contemporary romance Foolishly Yours mines this trope. She's part Cherokee, Hispanic, White, and African American. He's a blond-haired, blue-eyed hunk. She's a cop. He's a surfer bum. She's from an over-achieving family. He's a wanderer looking for the perfect wave.

7a. Grouchy Curmudgeons / Pollyanna Sunshine
Yes, Mr. Grumpy or Little Miss Sunshine is now listed as an actual trope, but they're really just another version of Opposites Attract. He's the brooding cranky hero. She's the patient optimistic heroine. Or maybe they have reversed those roles.

8. Hidden Identity
I think this is a spinoff from the caper or heist trope and the spy/espionage trope. This trope is all about the lies or secrets one or both characters may hide. Yes, the hero or heroine can be a spy, but maybe he's in Witness Protection, or maybe she's hiding from a stalker. 

9. Best Friend's Brother or Sister
Hello, teen world! Longing for your best friend's big brother or big sister is something we may all have done when we were kids. People may not outgrow that feeling though, and that's the premise behind this trope. The heroine has always been in love with her brother's best friend or her BFF's big brother. Or vice versa. Yearning and longing and knowing nothing can be done about it is a hallmark of this trope.

10. Celebrity Romance
I was actually surprised to find celebrity romance on a top of the heap list.

Long ago when I was traditionally published, my editor said never to write a story with a celebrity as the main character because they were never believable.

Indie self-publishing has turned that edict on its ear. I've read a bunch of celebrity romances in the past year. One might even say the billionaire romance gave birth to this trope. One might also consider this another version of Opposites Attract / Different Worlds, but it's becoming so popular that I put it in its own category. These can be fun and exciting. My Romantic Comedy, Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones, is a Celebrity Romance because Jane is Morgan's high school crush. He was the high school nerd, now he's a billionaire with a stretch limo, an entourage, and a Hollywood starlet who comes to his high school reunion to party with him.

Giveaway Question: What's Your Favorite Trope? 

In Comments, tell me your favorite trope—the kind of book you just can't get enough of. Leave your  answer to that question along with your email address written out. I'll select one winner by random draw from the qualified comments to receive an ebook copy of Foolishly Yours.