Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The 100th Anniversary of Mother’s Day by Denise Devine

One hundred years ago, Anna Jarvis created the special event we know as Mother’s Day. That’s right—Hallmark Cards did not invent this holiday, but they have certainly helped to keep it alive. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday and by the 1920s, Hallmark and other companies began to produce Mother’s Day cards.
Ironically, Anna Jarvis, didn’t have a husband or children, but she came up with the idea from a remark her mother made about how it would be nice to honor all mothers with a memorial. Flowers, candy and breakfast at a local restaurant after church, however, wasn’t Anna’s idea of a mother’s day tribute. She felt that a white carnation should signify honoring a mother’s love. She didn’t approve of how the holiday became such a commercial cash cow for retailers, and felt that mothers deserved better gifts than store-bought items.
Hmm….I like gift cards, myself.

 The last time we took my mom, Lois, out for Mother’s Day we arranged it as a girls-only social event. She had a blast. About ten of us took her to a fancy buffet at a country club and spent a couple hours doing what girls do—chatting, gossiping and laughing. Little did we know that this was the last time we’d celebrate with her as she died a couple weeks later. I’ll always be grateful that her last Mother’s Day was a memorable one. This picture of her is at approximately age 18.
While writing this piece, my daughter called and asked what I wanted to do for my Mother’s Day celebration. I’m thinking that breakfast and a trip to the garden center to look at perennials for my yard would make my day. And maybe a white carnation.
What about you? What plans are you making for your mom on Mother’s Day? If she’s not with you any more, like mine, tell us your fondest memories of her.

Denise Devine has had a passion for books since the second grade when she discovered Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wrote her first book, a mystery, at age thirteen and has been writing ever since. She's been a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) since 1991 and has won or placed in numerous writing contests. Her latest book is a contemporary inspirational titled “This Time Forever” and is available in both digital and print formats.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Honeymoons by Aileen Fish

Remember when newlyweds all wanted to go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoons? By the time I got married, Hawaii was the place to go. With my daughters' generation, it seems a cruise was ideal.

The trend I see is water, but also a bit of the exotic. With a cruise, there is also the idea of escape and being pampered. It's probably the best choice for being alone together, too. But so is camping in the wilderness.

Fodor's Travel site lists the twelve best honeymoon destinations for 2014 and all of the locations feature water. The surprising choice is Croatia, where you get the beauty of the Mediterranean without the crowds. (Unless everyone reads their blog!)

If you could have a first or second honeymoon anywhere in the world, where would you go? My pick would be a private island just for two!

Aileen Fish writes sweet contemporary and sweet Regency romance. You can find her on Facebook, and keep up with new releases on her website.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Following in the Footsteps of a Heroine by Shaleen Kapil

Recently, I went to England for a girls getaway weekend. We followed the footsteps of Jane Austen, our favorite author, to places she lived and used as settings in her books. Actually, it turns out we mostly just followed our favorite heroine, Anne Elliot, from Persuasion, since we went to Bath and Lyme Regis but didn’t quite make it to Jane Austen’s home in Chawton.

It was wonderful to visit England in the spring, looking at all the daffodils and tulips. I didn’t even mind that our seaside romp to the seaside village of Lyme Regis was cold, rainy, and foggy. I still got to take pictures standing on the steps of the Cobb, the jetty, made famous in the BBC movie version.

In Bath, we visited the Jane Austen Centre where all of the tour guides dressed in period costumes. Then, we had tea at the Pump Room where our favorite heroine would have taken the waters from the hot spring and socialized. Lastly, we walked by the Royal Crescent where Anne Elliot and her hero, Captain Wentworth, speak of their love for each other.

Have you ever followed the footsteps of a book’s characters? If not, whose footsteps would you like to follow?

Shaleen is completing the final drafts of her own modern take of her favorite novel and Austen couple. Until her book publishes, you can find her writing about her other love of yoga and health at HaveMatWillTri

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Makes a Favorite Heroine Today? by Christine Bush

When I first began writing sweet romance,  my heroines were  very young, just embarking on life and love.  The truth is, I was very young, just embarking on life myself. (Yes, it was a LONG time ago.  My first novel was published in 1978!) 

But also, it was the “industry standard”, and what was expected by my editor and publisher at that time.  Heroines fit a certain parameter, so to speak.  The love and excitement was just as real, but  the characters had lived a lot less life.  Back in those early days of my novel writing, heroines had certain expected careers, which included teaching, nursing, or family responsibilities. Not too much more, way back when.

Our books are so different today.  Often heroines are quite a bit older. Often they have experienced many things in life, including failed relationships and successful career building.  I love this.  I love that contemporary romance can follow the parallels of contemporary real life women.  I love that our character development can be rich and deep, from emotions and motives, to conflict and challenges. And career passion is vital and meaningful.

 When I think of my favorite books by my favorite authors, just about every imaginable career has been represented.  I’ve read about heroines who were rodeo riders, government officials, surgeons, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and pilots.  I’ve read stories with heroines into clowning, cupcake baking, and corporate real estate sales.  And I’ve also read a few recent stories with memorable characters who were teachers and nurses.  There are no limits today.  Like our readers, our heroines can explore just about every possible career.  There is something affirming and inspiring about that to me.

This career development aspect has also led to broadening the age range of our heroines. While some are still young, there are many others who find love and their life path in a much later decade.  This too, parallels the lives of women today.  As I age, I find more and more joy in this.  Love can come at any stage in life, and our books reflect that. 

Personality,I like variety. I like to read about heroines in all different occupations and passions.  I like to read about heroines of all ages.  How about you?  Do your favorite heroines reflect a preferred age or occupation? What makes a good book for you today?

Christine Bush is the award winning author of many books and novellas of sweet romance and light mystery. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working with clients as a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, or teaching Psychology at a local college.  She lives with her family and two crazy cats in northeastern Pennsylvania, and loves to hear from readers and aspiring writers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Drama Queen by Kristin Wallace

I was a drama (and band geek) growing up. I loved to act or sing. Most people who knew me as a child would probably not have pegged me as someone who would get up on stage in front of a bunch of strangers. I was extremely shy. For me walking into a room filled with people I didn’t know was akin to torture. But somehow putting words in my mouth, whether from a play or song, didn’t bother me. Maybe in some weird way having a character to “hide” behind made it seem like it wasn’t really me up there.

I remember distinctly the first time I auditioned for something. It was a church musical (which was set in the distant future of 2001, lol). I was probably 7 or 8. For the audition I had to sing a solo. When it was my turn everyone was very gentle with me. I guess maybe they were afraid I would freak out or faint or something, LOL. I said I was all right and started to sing. I’m pretty sure jaws dropped all around the room, because as it turned out I had a good voice. I was actually pretty surprised, too. I did get the part. I did plays and musicals throughout Junior and High and even majored in Theatre at Florida State University. I didn’t end up taking off for New York or Hollywood, but I still sing in my church choir and worship team and for a few years I was part of a Community Theatre Group. We did plays such as Beauty and the Beast, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie and Harvey.

I still have such fond memories of being in all those shows. The rehearsals, hanging out with the other cast members, the live performances. There is nothing quite like that feeling of breathing life into words on paper. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would end up setting one of books around a play. In Acting Up, a disgraced Hollywood diva ends up directing a high school musical. It was such a fun concept, and I really enjoyed creating the characters who play the cast members of the fictional show. I even wrote some lyrics, which is harder than it seems, lol

So readers were any of you ever involved in plays or did you play an instrument? What are your favorite memories?

About Kristin Wallace

Kristin writes inspirational romance and women’s fiction filled with love, laughter and a leap of faith. When she’s not writing her next novel, Kristin works as an advertising copywriter. She also enjoys singing in her church choir and worship team and playing flute in a community orchestra. Kristin is the author of the Covington Falls Chronicles, the Amazon Best-Selling series set in a fictional Southern town filled with memorable, lively characters. Book one (MARRY ME) debuted in October 2013 and the second book (ACTING UP) releases April 22. Also look for book three (IMAGINE THAT) on July 1.

Connect with Kristin: Website Facebook Twitter Amazon

Friday, April 18, 2014

Does Love Come From the Heart or the Brain?

I knew my husband was The One the very night I met him. In fact, I remember telling my best friend, "I'm going to marry him." She looked at me as if I'd lost my mind and reminded me that I had known him a total of three hours. I was as surprised by my proclamation as she was hearing it. Oh, I should probably reveal that I was fifteen years old at the time. Crazy, I know, and I am happy to report that he and I have been together for thirty-nine years, married for thirty-six.

How did I know so emphatically that I was in love? I have often wondered. Love is an amazing, almost magical, human emotion. For me, love arrived like a flash of heat lightning on a summer evening. That's called love at first sight. For others, love comes more slowly, like the changing of seasons. No matter how or when it strikes, love has been bringing people together from the beginning of human existence.

So how does love work? Does the emotion start in the heart or the head?

I'm not talking about mere physical attraction. That's lust—a completely different topic. I'm talking about the mutual emotion between two people that urges them to form a lasting bond, which compels them to build a life together.

Some people might say love starts as a chemical reaction sparked by synaptic connections in the brain. It might sound unromantic, but science has proven that pheromones are involved, as well as visual responses, neurotransmissions of dopamine and serotonin, and releases of hormones, just to name a few ways the subconscious influences who makes us fall head over heels.

Despite all the scientific jargon, I like to think my heart had something to do with my love connection. Yes, the night I met my husband all those years ago, he made me feel attractive. The look in his blue eyes told me he thought I was pretty. The undivided attention he showered on me showed that he found me interesting, and he made me think. The smile on his lips and the warmth of his hand in mine as we talked made me feel desired. But there was much more to it than that. He stirred my curiosity, my compassion. He was kind and considerate. In the three hours we sat together, he proved that he was very intelligent, he made me laugh, and he made me feel safe in a way no one else ever had. In other words, he touched my heart, and he continues to pull at my heartstrings every single day.

So what do you think? Does love come from the heart, or from the brain?  


USA TODAY Bestselling Author Donna Fasano has written over 30 romance and women's fiction novels. Connect with her on like at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter. She loves to hear from readers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy Springtime! by Roxanne Rustand

After a long, hard winter here in the Midwest, the arrival of spring has been eagerly anticipated.    The sense of new beginnings is upon us!
The snow and ice are finally gone, the grass is starting to turn green, the crocuses and tulips add a cheery, colorful note.  And Easter  is just a few days away.

In thinking about the glorious re-awakening in nature every spring, I found myself thinking about the elements of romance that draw me back, again and again.

I love to read about characters who must struggle through hard times, great challenges--and also overcome emotional damage from the  past that has kept them from enjoying a full and abundant life of love.

New beginnings--a re-awakening to the joy of life, when finding that one perfect person--is a story that never grows old for me.

What about you--what are the elements that you love most?

Do you have an all-time favorite novel on your keeper shelf, that you go back to re-read?

Roxanne Rustand is the author of thirty traditionally published novels with Harlequin, for the Superromance, Everlasting, Heartwarming, Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense lines, and now has two indie-published sweet romances available--Comeback Cowboy and Summer at Briar Lake.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter by Mona Risk

We know that Easter must always occur on a Sunday and that Easter Sunday is a holy day for Christians. Many Christians view Easter Sunday as a day of new birth—the resurrection of Jesus Christ being the foundation of the Christian faith.

The councel of Nicea—the fist oecumenical held in Anatolia, modern Turkey—set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the spring equinox

But why the paschal full moon? Because that was the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, and the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) occurred on the Passover. Therefore, Easter was the Sunday after Passover.

While Western Christians use the Gregorian calendar (the calendar that's used throughout the West today, in both the secular and religious worlds) to calculate the date of Easter, the Eastern Orthodox continue to use the older Julian calendar. This year, 2014 Easter occurs on the same day for Western and Easter Christians—as it was in 2010 when I visited the Holy Land. Our organized tour flew to Jordan.

After a short visit of the capital of Jordan, Amman, and a day spent to visit the ancient town of Petra, where the movie Indiana Jones was filmed, we drove to Israel.

After a lunch stop in Jericho where the aroma of the many orange and citrus trees wafted around us, we spent a few hours at the Dead Sea that is not bigger than a lake and padded in its muddy water, a water claimed to have therapeutically properties.

I bought several rejuvenating facial cream jars—that didn’t erase a single line from my face.

We arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The city was incredibly crowded with a large number of Jews coming to celebrate the Passover and many groups of pilgrims traveling to attend the Holy Week in Jerusalem.

During the Passover —Holy Week for us—the hotel did not serve bread, milk or eggs in its restaurant as is the Jewish custom, and the elevators were programmed to stop at every floor as the Orthodox Jews could not operate a machine.

We visited Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity with the Grotto where Jesus was born and the Shepherds Field where the Star appeared to the shepherds. The next day we drove though the verdant hills of Israel to Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of the Visitation, and had a lunch of fish at the Lake Tiberias (also called Sea of Galilee) where Christ accomplished several miracles.

On Holy Friday, we saw several groups of pilgrims trudging through the Via Dolorosa with big crosses on their backs. This narrow passage is now cluttered with small colorful shops.

We spent several hours in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest site in all of Christendom. Twice as large as the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, it was built in 326 AC by Emperor Constantine at the site where the three crosses were found, damaged, neglected, and turned into a Moslem school for years, and then renovated in 1959.

The walk through the Via Dolorosa where Christ suffered his Walk of the Cross and the celebration of Easter in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were the highlights of our trip. But we didn't encounter our Western traditions of coloring eggs and egg hunt for the children.

The word Easter has its roots in "Eastre," which was the name of the Teutonic goddess of spring. Eastre was originally a pagan festival that celebrated the beginning of Spring. The festival focused on fertility, and utilized the egg and the rabbit as symbols of the celebration. Early Christians adopted the pagan festival of Eastre as a time to celebrate the risen Christ, rather than the goddess of Spring.

So what your traditions for Easter or Passover, or simply your family traditions?

About the Author: Mona traveled to more than fifty countries on business or vacation. Eventually she left a scientific career to share with readers the many stories brewing in her head. She writes contemporary romances, sweet or not so sweet, with suspense elements or medical themes. Sprinkled with a good dose of humor, her stories are set in the fascinating places she visited, from exotic Belarus, and historical France, to the beaches of Greece, the monuments of Egypt and the mysterious Islands of Seychelles--or more simply in Ohio, Florida, Boston and Washington, DC. Her titles garnered many awards. A winner of Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors, Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite, Epic Award Finalist, first-place wins in Enchanted Quill, Launching a Star, and Wallflower. Find Mona on Facebook, or Twitter, or visit her website.

Holiday Babies Series3 bestsellers novels, about holidays, twin babies and humor.

Friday, April 11, 2014

While Making Other Plans by Patricia Knoll

You know that quote that says, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans’?  Well, I think that’s pretty accurate.  For the past couple of years I’ve been involved with the Tucson Festival of Books, a wonderful event that takes place every year in March on the University of Arizona campus.  It involves hundreds of authors, dozens of vendors of all types and more than one hundred thousand visitors to the event.  It’s exciting, fun, and exhausting. 

As soon as my involvement in the festival was over, my plan was to finish revisions on a book, send it to a friend who is also a copy editor, then get started on the next book.

Life had other ideas.

Spring arrived with its irresistible need to plant things, clean out things, organize things – paint the guest room! -- so the book got put off for a while.  Then a friend needed me to watch her three young children for a few days and life has become even more interesting.  Since I raised four children of my own, I know what a challenge it can be, but I think I’d forgotten how much fun it could be, too. I’ve laughed every day that they’ve been at my house, many times a day.  Something is happening every minute.  We can’t walk through the house without stepping on Legos or Hot Wheels cars.  The children are a girl, ten, and boys who are eight and almost four.  The little girl is very smart, takes good care of her brothers, and understandably becomes exasperated with them at times.  The boys play well together until they both want the same Lego.  The little one is convinced my bathroom is haunted, or maybe the ghosts are under the bed.  He tells lengthy stories about cows or whales or space guy ninjas, or whatever else pops into his mind, and keeps us all in stitches.

These three will definitely show up in a book someday, maybe even the one that I’m going to start as soon as their mother picks them up – and I emerge from the deep coma I plan to fall into.

Plans change, life happens, and the surprises never end.  Excuse me while I go check under the bed for ghosts.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Give 'em what they want

A blog post from a fellow Sweet Romance Reads author a few weeks back got me thinking about romance and how while we think it’s a great genre, not everyone does. It’s a great irony that some of the folk who work with romance, often don’t like it one bit. Case in point – libraries. A few years back I was researching reader’s advisory and category romance for my masters degree and it was an eye opener.

One of the themes running through the research was a dilemma going back to the early days of romance and it’s still around. Do you give your library users what they want or do you try and “educate” them to read so called “better” fiction? I discovered a lot in my research.

That at one time some libraries actually refused to have romance novels in their collections – as recently as the 1970s. One librarian I interviewed actually said to me she felt sorry for the writers and the readers. (Yep, I had to ask her to repeat it, I couldn’t believe what she was saying.) Other librarians had no idea who local authors were, even though their books were in the collections, were well borrowed, and were even set in the same city.

In your public library you’ll generally find the library manager will have strong ideas on the best way to place romance. Do you put the romances on their own shelves so readers can find them easily? Or do you shelve them in with the general fiction so your romance reader might pick up some ‘better’ books as well. The implication being that romance readers won’t read anything other than romance. My local libraries have the romance separated out but at a library I used to work at, they were interspersed with the fiction. I can see pros for both – it’s good to read widely, after all – but my preference? To have the romances in their own shelves.

What about you? If you’re a library user, what is your preference for shelving romance novels? (And check out my staged "library" pic in my lounge, above, featuring a fellow Sweet Romance Readers author. I even alphabetised for the camera!)

Joanne Hill’s new book “Return to Frazier Bay” is a sweet romance set in the South Island of New Zealand. It is available now on pre-order exclusively to the iBooksStore. It will be released on May 3rd. You can follow Jo on Twitter at @joanneauthor and also like her Facebook page.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Recipe for Love (Soup)

I have no idea why this is called Love Soup, but it sounds good to me. We still have a few cold days coming before summer hits, so I might just brown some ground beef and throw this all in the slow cooker.

  • 1 lb ground beef or stew meat
  • 1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried split peas
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 1/2 cup uncooked macaroni
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1/2 cup long-grain brown rice
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 12 cups water

  • In large kettle, brown ground beef, or stew meat cut into bite-size pieces, and chopped onion in a little olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the macaroni to the kettle with the water. Let come to a boil and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni and simmer 15 minutes more. Serve with your favorite bread or rolls.

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Time For a Detox? by Helen Scott Taylor

    I don't know about you, but winter always gets me down. The dark dreary evenings and cold weather do not nourish my soul.
    Normally about this time of year I start to feel much better with the brighter evenings, spring bulbs popping up in the grass, blossom on the trees and the birds starting to nest. This year things haven't gone as usual—this year I'm still feeling weary, lacking in energy and short on enthusiasm. I wake up tired often with a headache.
    My poor health has even started to affect my writing. With a muzzy head the ideas aren't flowing like they normally do. When that happens it's time to take action. Searching for a way to feel better I came across Carol Vorderman's 28-day detox diet. (She is a British Television personality, so you might not have heard of her, but I'm sure there are many similar detox books available.) I'm not sure if this diet is the answer for me, but from the positive accounts I've read of people who've tried detoxing, it sounds promising.
    The claims of success include better sleep, increased energy, waking early full of enthusiasm for the day, sharper mind and better memory. (And I so badly need the last!) Oh and shedding those extra pounds—always a welcome benefit.
    So on Monday I started a detox diet. It's too early to say if it is having the desired effect, but in case any of you would like to try a 28-day, Spring detox, here are the basics.

    What to Eat
    Fresh Fruit & Vegetables & Salad
    Nuts & Seeds
    Fruit Juice & Herbal Teas
    Oats/Brown Rice/Millet
    Non Dairy Milk Alternatives
    Non-Wheat Bread, Pasta or Crispbreads

    What to Avoid
    Tea & Coffee
    Wheat & anything containing gluten
    Artificial Sweeteners and Food Additives
    The recommendation is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day to help flush out the liver.
    For breakfast I've had strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, chopped nuts, seeds and soya yogurt. This is delicious!
    For lunch I have made soup from fresh vegetables. The soup has been tasty, but the preparation time is eating into my day. I also had a blender disaster the first time I made tomato soup. I took about twenty minutes to clean off the walls and cupboards. I won't make that mistake again!
    For dinner I have so far prepared two meals that I normally make with meat, Peanut Chicken and Cottage Pie, but I used tofu and quorn as meat substitutes. The dishes worked remarkably well without meat. I can see myself using a lot less meat once my twenty-eight day detox is over.
    It is too early to know if I feel any different, but I am hopeful that eating natural fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water will cleanse my system, give me back my lost energy and fire up my stalled brain to work on my stories.
    I'd love to hear if you have tried a detox diet. If so, how did you get on?

    Helen lives in South West England near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful, long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie a Shih Tzu and a burmilla cat. Helen's latest book is the sixth in her Army Doctor's series, The Army Doctor's Honeymoon Baby. Find Helen on FaceBook and Twitter, or visit her website.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2014

    Keeping Up with Sweet Romance Reads Authors

    From time to time, we like to remind readers where you can find the authors of Sweet Romance Reads, and how to stay on top of our news. To start with, on the blog here, you can find the current month's new releases on our New Releases page. This years releases and those for 2014 are also available in the menu at the top of each page.

    Follow us on Facebook and watch for discussions, an occasional giveaway, and out Thursday Sweet Deals, which can also be found on the News page here on the blog.

    Love Twitter? Follow @sweetromancerds and the hashtag #sweetromance for our latest updates. (Note: others also use the hashtag, so not everything shared there is from us.)

    On Goodreads, join our group to find discussions about the books we love to read.

    Are you a reviewer who posts reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and the popular ebookstores? Check out our Sweet Team and consider joining.

    And if you are just plain ol' too busy to keep hitting all the different websites or social media apps, consider following our blog by email. The link is as the top of the right sidebar. Each time we post, it will be sent to your inbox. What could be easier?