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Thursday, January 26, 2023

In Case of a Rainy Day by Laura Hunsaker

 You know those gloomy days where it's rainy cold, and all you can think is, "I want to be home by my fireplace with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa?" Well, lately I've had some days like that. My state is getting some gloomy days, lately, and with California being hit again, I have a feeling I'm about to have some more. I wanted to break out my "in case of emergency" book. My, "rainy day" book, if you will.

Am I the only one who has these?

I've had a few over the years, and one thing they have in common is that they are typically by one of my favorite authors, they are usually intense and emotional, and they usually are towards the end of the series. I recall having a Karen Marie Moning Fever book, an Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels book, and even a Sarah MacLean book.

A week ago, Ilona Andrews released a new book, and I'm about halfway through it and I stopped. I don't want it to end. If I finish the book, that means it's over. The series is over, the book is over, and I won't get to live in that world anymore. Which is all so silly, since it's not like the book ceases to exist once I've finished it. Re-reads are a thing! But tell that to my brain!

I wanted nothing more last week than to sit in my favorite spot and read my book, and yet since I didn't get the chance, with you know, work, and kids, and life interfering and all, my goal today was to finish the book. But if it doesn't happen, I'm okay with that since I'm basically procrastinating my book. However, I have another rainy day book as a backup in case I tear through this one too quickly and need another amazing book I'm sure to love.

So how about you? Am I the only one who does this? Or do you have a "break glass in case of emergency" book you're saving for a rainy day. A day you can devote all your time and energy to and not have to worry about life interrupting?

If you need one, feel free to pick up Dreams of the Past, one of my shorter novellas with nothing but guaranteed happily ever afters! 



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…

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY - January 27th

by Judy Ann Davis

It’s January 2023, and everyone is setting goals or making resolutions for the new year. 

I have decided to make just one: to try to eat less sweets. I discovered—well, not just recently discovered—I’m addicted to sweets and especially chocolate. I love all kinds of chocolate: milk, dark, white, semi-sweet, bitter sweet. And I’m not fussy whether they are in eatable or drinkable forms. I like candy, cakes, cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, hot chocolate and chocolate syrups. 

Chocolate come from cacao trees. These trees are relatively short, only growing to be about 15-25 feet tall. It takes about 5 years for a cacao tree to grow mature and start producing cacao pods. The beans grow in football-shaped pods on the trunk of the tree and from larger branches.

Chocolate has been part of American society for about 252 years. In America, chocolate was consumed primarily as a beverage until the 1830s or 40s. Chocolate cakes, as we think of them today, did not exist.

Imagine my surprise when I found out January 27th is National Chocolate Cake Day in the United States, a nonofficial holiday to commemorate this delicious treat. 

A popular Philadelphia cookbook author, Eliza Leslie, published the earliest chocolate cake recipe in 1847 in The Lady’s Receipt Book. The first boxed cake mix was created by a company called O. Duff and Sons in the late 1920s. Betty Crocker released their first dry cake mixes in 1947.

Since then, cake has its own category and is featured in recipes around the world. Who hasn’t heard of German chocolate or Black Forest cake? Chocolate fudge or molten lava cake? Texas sheet cake or chocolate truffle cake? There are even cakelike brownie recipes. 

Cocoa contains both healthy and unhealthy forms of dietary fat, and contains minerals important for human health, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium. Some studies have found that regular chocolate consumption is associated with lower blood pressure, decreased stress levels, and increased alertness.   

And thus, because chocolate can be healthy was exactly why I modified my resolution not to give up all sweets, just to eat less of them. Hey, who am I kidding? A red box of deluxe chocolates sitting on my counter (a Christmas present from my son) is calling out to me this very moment. Maybe just a small piece wouldn’t hurt, would it?

Happy New Year! 

                             VISIT MY AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE FOR ALL MY BOOKS 

 

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Today I am sharing a video excerpt from my book 
TWO SPIRIT

This is the Nez Perce legend of how people came to be.
I added a drawing because drawing was my first love.

For more legend check out TWO SPIRIT

Homeless and uncertain, Rose resorts to deception to aid in her destiny.

In the spirit of the movie Connie and Carla, I bring you this tale of deception and humor.


Five Wounds watched with pity as the people on the wagon train he guided ignored the plea for help from the independent Rose Baker. He had heard the women gossip about her masculine ways and watched as men snubbed her. With disgust for the so-called Christians, he grabbed a shovel to risk his life and bury her parents. Confused about her true nature, when Rose dawned her dead father's clothes out of convenience, Five Wounds explained how his tribe gave honor and respect to two-spirited people.


Inadvertently, he had given Rose the lifeline for which she was searching. Deception would not have been her first choice, but if it meant she could oversee her own destiny, Rose was willing to leave behind the white man's ignorance and act the part of a two-spirit. Her plot was working, and the Nez Perce tribe accepted her for whom she pretended to be. Everything might have been perfect if Rose was not now in love with Five Wounds. Will the deception that saved her now destroy her happiness forever?


 

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Lucky Writer by Liz Flaherty

I was thinking tonight about how lucky I've been as a writer. I opened this blog up on my laptop and found the greatest gift of all--the blank page. I didn't have any ideas about what to write, but I wasn't too upset about that because that blank page is just the most wonderful challenge. 
 
There has always been a blank page. 

I remember knowing I needed my own space to write. I knew it because I read it in RWR, the professional journal of RWA, and Writer's Digest, and probably The Writer, too, although I didn't read it as often. So I found or made spaces. At the dining room table, in the room I shared with the ironing board, in the half-full room of a kid gone to college. When I retired, my husband and sons built me a room in the detached garage that has been the greatest gift of retirement. Because they were right, those articles that said you need a dedicated space.
 
I've always had a dedicated space. 

When I started, the internet was still in its gestational period, and living in the country, I didn't make friends with it until it was at least a toddler. So I had a ton of reference books and a good shelf to keep them on. Although they were usually on my desk or stacked beside it. You needed good reference books or else you needed to work in the library all the time. Most of us didn't have laptops right away, nor were there computers for public use at the time, so working at the library didn't make a lot of sense. I wrote my only historical romance by borrowing research materials over and over and over, though. A friend photocopied everything she needed, because she couldn't take the books home. 

Regardless of the manner in which I got them, I always had reference and research materials. 

Since the beginning, I've enjoyed the company of other writers, whether it was in RWA, on scheduled retreats, or on mailing lists. They were and remain some of the best friends I've ever had. We laugh, we complain, and we share. We confide, we drink, we cry, and we share some more. 

I've always had writer friends.

I remember in the early years of being published, I yearned to be asked to take part in an anthology. Or a boxed set. Eventually, I was, and most of the experiences have been so much fun. As a person who writes short anyway, novellas are extra fun. Being part of the Christmas Town series earned me the "USA Today Bestselling Author" notation on the front of every book I've written.

I was so lucky to be asked. 

In the beginning, I thought if I could sell just one book, it would be like getting a job. My first book would go so well that I'd never again have to fight the battle of rejection letters, where I'd run on light feet up the mountain of hope from a personal reply and just as quickly sink into the depths of despair over a form letter saying my work didn't fit the publisher's needs. 

That wasn't how it worked. That's never been how it worked. I wrote this woe is me soliloquy in September of 2020, one of the many times that serious thoughts of quitting fell onto that blank page. 

So, what's lucky about that?

The fact that I never did quit. 

I sighed a lot. Oh, a lot. And I think I probably cried a few times, too, alone in my dedicated space. Because while I didn't necessarily want to be Nora Roberts, I'd have loved to have been able to make a living writing. 

I never have, but we went to Ireland. We go out to dinner. My friend Nan Reinhardt and I go on writing trips. Most years, I earn more than I spend. But not always. Especially now, when the bulk of promotion costs come out of the writer's pocket even in traditional publishing. Many days it is, I admit, harder to hang onto my "Lucky Writer" hat. 

But I'm still here in my dedicated space with the blank page in front of me. The internet, although it still slows down and occasionally quits altogether here in the cornfields, is the best reference tool imaginable. It's also a way to be in constant touch with other writers. I start each day knowing I get to write. 

Every Single Day. Oh, yes, I am the luckiest of writers. 




Monday, January 16, 2023

Hunt for Happiness by Joan Reeves #SmartGirlsReadRomance

I'm not a wise philosopher, but one thing I've observed in life is that most people spend a great deal of time in the pursuit of happiness.

French philosopher and writers, Denis Diderot, said, "There is only one passion, the passion for happiness."

When you get right down to it, what is happiness?

Dictionaries define it as "an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment."

However one may define happiness, this state of being usually involves satisfaction with life and involves positive emotions that make one "feel good."

WHY DO WE HUNT FOR HAPPINESS?

Good question. The short answer is it's part of the human condition. The longer answer is because one feels a lack of something in life. Far too often, that lack translates into lack of love—humans want to be loved and to give love.

Romance novels are built upon this basic need for love and happiness. The pursuit of happiness and love is the basic plot that drives the romance genre.

Sure, there are other plot elements, motivations,  and emotions involved, but beneath all of that is the basic need for love and happiness.

Perhaps happiness is as basic and fundamental as  Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin de Francueil— better known by her pen name George Sand—once said.

"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved."

NEW BOOK ON THE HORIZON

Of course my obsession with the hunt for happiness has to do with a new book that I'll publish in the next few months. In the meantime, I took a look at all the books I've written and realized 

In each book, the heroine is searching for something she lacks. In EVERY LITTLE LIE, Elizabeth searched for the reason her mother didn't love her. A lack that affected every aspect of her life and made her feel inferior and wary of relationships and love.

BLURB

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn a lesson. Usually the hard way. 

Elizabeth Stoneham knew this lesson was going to be another hard one. 

Using the mindlessness of passion to banish the pain of the past is a temporary solution.

The problem with this is that a woman can become ensnared if she’s not careful.

Review from EbookLuver: "Joan Reeves has written a true page-turner of women's fiction - 
intense, emotional and shocking with the lies...and more shocking with the truths."

Abraham Lincoln is often quoted for what he said about happiness: "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Epicetus said, "There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will." Is that another way to espress what Lincoln said?

I've always thought Lincoln's words held a hint of resignation or perhaps acceptance of the status quo whereas what Epicetus said suggests we not worry over anything out of our control.

At least that's my 2¢. What do you think about the way to happiness as expressed by Lincoln and centuries before by Epicetus?


Joan participates in Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for websites to earn advertising fees by linking to products on Amazon which means she may earn a small commission if you buy her book using the embedded link.


Do you subscribe to Joan's Free Newsletter, I LOVE READING? Subscribers receive exclusive content, free and bargain books, and information about Joan's new releases. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Relaxing like Grandma by Cathy Shouse


      I need to relax more, apparently. My kids, now in their twenties, will say this if they don't like my thoughts on a subject: relax. That might be code for “mind your own business.” But it isn’t bad advice. They aren't the only ones, either. It seems the message to relax is everywhere.

 

     Honestly, I do tend to worry about things. Slowing down and breathing could be good. Sometimes I feel my to-do list is endless, and that will get me feeling pressured. So then I might write in “relax” at the end of my tasks, and never reach it. I’m also not sure what qualifies as relaxing.

 

      I must not be alone. It seems like everyone is selling something to help. Given human nature, it only makes sense there is a price tag for relaxation techniques. You can get an app for it, a software program to run on your phone. One app is actually named “Calm.” 

 

     A few years ago, I sampled a free meditation program that came emailed to me every morning. I enjoyed it some mornings and other days, it went onto my list and got skipped. When they wanted to start charging, I stopped. 

 

     Recently, I’ve realized my grandma had the right idea for relaxing. Doing nothing really isn’t the answer, not for me anyway. Spending more time on my phone on an app won’t do it either. It’s doing some type of hand work that I find satisfying. 

 

     When I was a little girl, Grandma taught me to crochet. I enjoyed the feel of yarn between my fingers and looping it around the hook. To start with, I made the world’s longest chain. It went on and on. I could have jumped rope with it. 

 

     Then I advanced to more stitches. I especially remember her telling me to hold the yarn loosely, just enough to control it and make it go where I wanted it to go. When I held on too tightly, I couldn’t carry the stitches through. Or if the stitches did get completed, I had trouble placing the needle back into the finished loop to do the next round. The tension had to be just right, and handled with a light touch. But if I let the yarn become too slack, that didn’t work either. 

 

     As I think about it, crocheting could be a metaphor for life. It’s symbolic for having a well-planned day and enough to do.  But packing too much in, not leaving wiggle room for something spontaneous, or maybe a sick “child” to tend or a friend needing an errand run, that makes for a tense time. A day or two might be okay to feel overwhelmed, maybe a month. But it’s no way to live long-term, even though many of us are doing just that. 

 

     Grandma and I spent many hours on various types of hand work, more than crochet, in which I moved on to granny squares. She would do her house work or maybe cook, or do canning. I can see her clothesline full of drying laundry out her window, in my mind’s eye. Yet she always came back around to see how I was doing. Those were good times, and just thinking of them is a wonderful mini escape. 

 

     Next I crocheted delicate Christmas stars and snowflakes that looked almost like lace, starched them, and hung them on the tree. Eventually, I discovered patterns for stuffed animals and tackled those. 

 





     Grandma and Mom helped me with supplies and instruction to do cross stitch embroidery on enough stamped quilt squares to make three baby quilts. They worked to piece them together and Grandma hand quilted them into finished blankets. I learned to do crewel embroidery and made a quote that was framed.

 

     Fast forward to today and In my quest to relax, I reverted to my childhood. Lately, I picked up a ball of yarn, given to me by my aunt, who is my grandma’s daughter and didn’t fall too far from the pin cushion (the women in the family sew, too, but that skill skipped my generation). I didn’t go out and buy yarn or some fancy pattern, as I might have done in the past, and possibly not finished. (Here’s looking at you, the fancy baby hat that looked like a puppy.) I want to be careful that I don’t get overly ambitious and defeat my purpose. I’m starting with a dishcloth and haven’t gotten too far. But it’s been satisfying. 

 

     I’m enjoying the familiar texture of the yarn, and following the basic pattern as it starts to take shape. The stitches are a bit rusty in my mind so I’m getting a refresher by looking at beginner instructions online. This process has me more relaxed than I have been in a while. That’s what matters. I believe that’s something my grandma would approve of, too. 

 

     Oh, and this form of relaxing appears in my upcoming book in my series, Her Billionaire Cowboy’s Triplets: Christmas in Fair Creek. My character, Kristin, has some struggles in her life and she's working with a special crochet project, and will meet one of the handsome Galloway sons, Leo. 

 

 




     Cathy Shouse writes inspirational cowboy romances. Her Fair Creek series, set in Indiana, features the Galloway brothers of Galloway Sons Farm. Much like the characters in her stories, Cathy once lived on a farm in “small town” Indiana, where she first fell in love with cowboys while visiting the rodeo every summer. To sign up for her newsletter in return for a free copy of her novella, Her Billionaire Cowboy’s Twin Heirs: Christmas in Fair Creek visit http://cathyshouse.com/


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Whoa, Slow Down, People by Bea Tifton

 

A brief disclaimer: First of all, this post isn’t to minimize the way many people struggle with mental health issues now that our entire world has changed. I hope anyone who does gets help immediately. I’m not minimizing the people we lost, the things that will never be the same again.

March of 2020:  The whole world shut down. And we waited. And waited. We cleaned out our hall closets and our junk drawers. We baked banana bread. And more banana bread. We read books and marveled at how enriching and vital that is. We went outside. People spent time with their kids. Some people marveled at how much more relaxed they were and how happy their kids were. No longer scurrying from one activity to another without really taking time to enjoy each one.


 








Yes, it was stressful. I lost friends and family, too. My wonderful, gregarious, and restless neighbor fretted about not being able to spend time with crowds of people. But, surely you remember how many people vowed to spend more time doing the things they loved. People took a deep breath. They reevaluated their worship of busyness. Workaholics vowed to spend less time working and more time living. Parents promised not to overschedule their kids. The Danish term hyggae was batted about. Hyggae is a feeling of contentment and coziness. It’s about spending time with family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere.  



Then the world reopened.  We could go places again, restaurants, stores, sporting events. Adults went back to work. Kids went back to school. And suddenly, everyone was busy. They had to catch up. They had things to DO. And calendars filled up. Where does the time go?



I have great friends. I’m more of a “has many friendly acquaintances and a few, very close friends” kind of person. And I work at home, so I know my reality is different than most of the people I know. But my friends overall are so BUSY. Committee meetings, kids’ extracurricular activities, STUFF. I have a few dear friends who mean a lot to me. I know they value our friendship. But they’re so busy, I never see them. I swear it wasn’t like that as much before the pandemic. We try to schedule getting together, but they end up having to cancel. There’s just so much to DO. What. Happened?

I think that in some ways, people are seeking to restore what we previously had. The new normal is scary. Covid isn’t going away. And people struggling with mental health issues is at an all time high. I’m not minimizing the physical and psychological damage Covid created, believe me. Perhaps filling our lives with meetings and events is an attempt to feel that the world is back together, after watching it fall apart for two years. I miss my friends, but I understand in many ways.

Still, I’m surprised at how many people I know overscheduled after so many vowed to incorporate more leisure activities and free time into their lives. I’m not talking about the necessity of having a job and a career. Some people did drop out completely, and that’s not healthy, either. But the balance isn’t there. Certain populations in our society went right back to the endless meetings, the legion of afterschool classes and organizations our children attend. Maybe, just maybe, it would be good to pare down the extras, the busyness again. To breathe. To experience hyggae.

Are you busier than ever after the lockdown? Leave a comment below. You’ve got time. Really. (And thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it. Now take a deep breath and go do one thing you truly enjoy just for the thing’s sake. Just for a little while.)



 

 

 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Stars at Night~ Sherri Easley

 I had two very short weeks off at Christmas from my corporate day job as a strategic investment analyst and vowed to finish the book I started three years ago. I thought I was close a few times and rewrote the entire story line twice, but finally pushed it through.

Unlike most of you, I am not a natural writer. A storyteller? eh….maybe? I guess that remains to be seen. Although I am creative, my vocabulary and writing skills are lacking. I guess it’s a good thing my degree is in mathematics.

As Caroline Clemmons’ Hero told me on the first one when I told him it took me 40 years to write, “you might want to speed that up a bit.”

Well, Hero, I have reduced my time to three years with an improvement of 92.5% over the previous book. That’s a pretty good start.

This is only my second novel, but I have about 20 covers waiting for books to be written. Ideas are not my problem…

While I will probably never reach the level of success as most of you, nor will I ever get to do this full time, there is something extremely rewarding in being able to say “I published a book”.

Here is an excerpt from Stars at Night- It is a continuation of my first book, A Love to Call My Own, and picks up when the sister, Emma, hears a terrible secret about herself and leaves town on a Grayhound bus in 1942, rural Texas.  

***

 

Leaving her small East Texas town for the city had been a long-time dream of both her and her sister, Grace. Most nights, they sat together on the on the front porch of their ramshackle home, looking at the stars and dreaming of a better life and prosperity. A life, they knew, that could not be found in the bramble and woods and would not be attained by merely gazing at the heavens and wishing.

Their dreams required action, but with leaving, courage was in short supply. Mama would always need help with the babies and housework, and there would never be enough money.

Papa discouraged them as well by filling them with doubt and fear of the great unknown. “It’s a wild and savage place out there in the city. People will rob and kill you for a nickel.”

Today, though, the excuses evaporated into the hot autumn wind, and Emma found her courage. She never imagined the catalyst for leaving would be her overhearing a long-held family secret. A secret about her and so shocking that, even now, it was hurtful and hard to understand.

Emma had never been outside of Texas and knew nothing about Ohio, but any place was better than the wilds of White Oak bottom. She opened the tapestry bag borrowed from her aunt, Nora, and looked once again at the yellow slip of crumpled paper with the address for Uncle Teddy’s sister, Bernice.

Scooting back in her seat, she reflected. One hundred dollars, a guitar, and the clothes on my back to start a new life. The life I always dreamed of.

She pulled out the two paper sacks her aunt had packed and inventoried the contents. There was a sandwich and apple in one, and the other was full of homemade peanut butter cookies. Feeling a rush of emotions, she folded the tops back down to save them for later.

Emma stretched, then relaxed into her seat and exhaled deeply as she rested her forehead on the cool glass of her open window. Farmhouses and wooded landscape whizzed by as she stared out into the world. Shutting her eyes, she replayed the events that brought her to this point and wondered where fate would take her.

                                                                            ***

If you made it this far, I would love to know how you got better and improved your writing skills. I have taken a few online classes which have helped me with character and story development, but not necessarily with the skill of writing. I do not have a lot of time to read, but I listen to about 12 Audible books a month, in an attempt to increase my vocabulary and improve style. 

Any feedback is appreciated ;) Happy New Year!



Monday, January 2, 2023

MY FIRST SNOW ADVENTURE

 By Caroline Clemmons

Happy New Year! Optimist that I am, I predict 2023 will outshine 2021 and 2022. Here’s hoping for health and happiness—and I wouldn’t mind a bit of prosperity thrown in for good measure.



The first time I saw snow I was five years old, so I remember a lot of details. At the time, we lived in the San Joaquin Valley of Southern California. For some reason, our extended family took a one-day excursion to go snow skiing and sledding in the Sequoia redwoods.

Person walking in Redwoods


I’m surprised we went with them. Most of the family members were very athletic. I was a sickly child and my mom was super overprotective. Doctors had told my parents there was no way I could survive many more years, and my mom was determined to prove them wrong. As you can tell, she won.

At the time, I was disappointed Mom wouldn’t let me ride the sled down the long, steep slope with the “big kids” and some of the adults. I was probably whining, because a lady named Lois Reed said she would take me sledding. Lois said we would stay off to the side and wouldn’t go far or too fast.





Surprisingly, Lois convinced my mom to let me go (which probably means my dad interceded on my behalf). I recall being so excited. We climbed on a small sled and off we went—not to the side but into the forest and headed for a huge drop off. At the last moment, Lois managed to turn the sled ninety degrees, but still into trees. Seconds before we crashed into a giant redwood, the sled flipped over and we fell off. I landed on Lois, so I was fine. Poor Lois landed on a pile of huge pine cones. Ouch! Mom rushed to help her stand. Lois admitted she had never actually steered a sled before, but had thought it looked easy enough. I was happy and didn’t care that we’d overturned. Not only had I seen snow, but I’d ridden a sled for an adventure.

What’s something you remember doing as a first?