Monday, February 26, 2024

Celebrate Galentines Day!

Valentine's Day is all about Cupid, hearts and flowers, and romantic love. Since this was my first February 14th without my sweetheart who died last April, I decided I did not want to spend it alone. I have gal pals who are also without their partners, and I knew they probably didn't want to spend the evening alone either. 

Taking a clue from an old TV show, I invited a group of ladies to join me for a Galentines party. On the evening of Feb. 14, a good group gathered at my home.

Wanting to do it up right (this was self-preservation, after all), I sent formal invitations in the mail. As the time drew near, I bought flowers and balloons, set the table with a dark red tablecloth and the china inherited from my late mother-in-law, and decorated with abandon. My home looked party-ready when the doorbell began to ring at 5:30.

Dinner was potluck. I cooked the basics and others brought side dishes and homemade rolls. The food was delicious and we enjoyed complimenting one another's cooking and sharing recipes.

The real fun began after dinner. I brought out a bowl filled with carefully folded paper slips, each containing a question or prompt. As the bowl arrived, each of us would draw out a slip, read and respond to the prompt. 

They were getting-to-know-you questions such as "tell us about your education, formal or through life experience" or "describe a funny, sweet, or embarrassing first kiss." We learned about favorite movies, songs, and actors, discovered secrets about one another's families, and laughed. So much! 

The party broke up early, since none of us are party animals and we all had things to do on Feb. 15, but we have talked about it often in the time since. We just may decide to make Galentines Day an annual event. For other ladies without partners but with gal-pals, I highly recommend giving it a try.

LEAP AHEAD: Remember that big project you resolved to get done this year? We have an extra day this year. This Thursday is a great day to leap forward, so let's jump in and get that project going. Or not. But let's do enjoy this extra day. "This is the day which the LORD hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118).

A SIDE NOTE:  This is my mother's birthday. Happy Heavenly Birthday greetings to Anonna Hubbard. Love you, Mama! 

Susan Aylworth is the author of 25 published novels including two small-town sweet romance series set in and near the Navajo Nation and in the Sierra Nevada foothills. as well as five books in the Christmas Town series. Susan lives near Utah's Rocky Mountains. Watch for more books coming this summer and fall in both the Rainbow Rock and Christmas Town series. Contact her at her website: susanaylworthauthor.com,  or via susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com, also @SusanAylworth. Susan loves travel, music, her large and scattered family, perfect raspberry jam, and hearing from readers. 


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mochi making in A DANGEROUS STAGE by Camy Tang


Can you guess what this is? This is mochi and manju (bottom right) from Shuei-Do, a shop in San Jose Japantown that specializes in these Japanese sweets.

Mochi is a rice cake made with sweet rice that’s been pounded into this sticky, slightly chewy texture. It can be a plain dumpling (my mom adds it to soup for New Year’s) or it can be filled with a variety of things like sweet red bean paste (azuki or adzuki), sweet white bean paste, and even peanut butter or fresh strawberries.

My family would always have a mochi-making session before New Year’s so Grandma would have mochi for the traditional mochi soup. After she passed away, my mom took up the mantle and this past December I helped her make mochi for the mochi soup.

Update: I found this video I’d made years ago of my grandma and my mom making mochi for New Year’s!



Even though my grandma usually only ever made mochi in late December, there are some families who make sweet mochi (for snacks or desserts) throughout the year just like Shuei-Do and other mochi shops. So in a scene in A Dangerous Stage where Tessa is visiting Mrs. Akaogi, I have her making mochi.

Mrs. Akaogi is making mochi filled with sweet red bean paste, or azuki beans. (It’s also spelled adzuki beans but I’ve only ever seen it spelled azuki in Hawaii, which is an interesting cultural note that has no doubt added infinite value to your life. ;) So Mrs. Akaogi’s mochi balls would probably look similar to the one in the top left in the picture. That mochi actually has white bean paste rather than red bean paste—a mochi filled with red bean paste would look a little darker.

Captain Caffeine does not care for mochi—the sticky texture isn’t his favorite—but I grew up on this stuff and love it! It kind of fills the same role for Japanese children as chocolate chip cookies do for American children—it’s a sweet treat. However, mochi is a bit of a pain to make and most people don’t make it that often.

So now when you read that scene in A Dangerous Stage, you’ll know exactly what Tessa is raving about!

Tessa Lancaster worked for her uncle in the Japanese mafia until she was sent to prison for a murder she didn't commit. Now, after finding God behind bars, she takes odd jobs as a bodyguard to keep her distance from the family business.

In A Dangerous Stage, the second book in Camy Tang's Protection for Hire series, Tessa gets caught up in the web of lies surrounding a shady singing competition. Hired by one of the contestants, she works with Charles Britton—the lawyer who sent her to prison—to discover the dark figures manipulating the contest from behind the scenes.

Tessa's abilities will be tested like never before as she's forced to balance the safety of her client's family and her deepening relationship with Charles. In the midst of the chaos, she holds on to her faith to keep her safe and bring down the shadowy organization.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The first American Novel by Janice Lynn

Did you know that what's widely considered the first American novel was printed in Boston on January 21, 1789? That's 239 years ago. The Power of Sympathy by William H. Brown isn't something I'd typically pick up to read. Honestly, it sounds like something I'd avoid reading as I like happy endings and this one isn't in my opinion. I haven't actually read it, but I am familiar with the plot and ending. Still, I am appreciative of what that first book started as I do love to read and am so grateful to have so many wonderful options.


Interestingly, The Bay Psalm Book is also described as the first book prublished in America and was also printed in Masschusetts. It came out in 1640 and a copy recently
sold for over $14 million. So, I've tried to discern why they both get credit for being the first book in America and it seems that The Bay Psalm Book was printed in 1640, making it truly the first book printed in the US and The Power of Sympathy is the first published book that was also written in the US. At least, that's the way I interpret what I can't find.

The reality of it is that regardless of my thoughts on those specific books I am very grateful to both for paving the way to something I'm passionate about---BOOKS! Lots and lots of books. We've come a long way!

So, it's not the first novel written in America, nor is it the first published novel in America, but Breaking the Nurse's No-Dating Rule is my latest published novel. Unlike The Power of Sympathy, I promise that there's a happily ever after at the end.

Available January 23, 2024 or pre-order now from your favorite book retailer. 

Amazon 

Barnes & Noble

Harlequin

USA Today, Wall Street Journal, & Publishers Weekly Bestselling author JANICE LYNN lives in Tennessee with her Prince Charming and their princes and princesses, her vivid imagination, an adorable Maltese named Halo who's the true royalty of the house, and bunches of unnamed dust bunnies that moved in after Janice started her writing career. In addition to writing romance, Janice is a nurse practitioner, a quilter, a military mama, and an avid supporter of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. www.janicelynn.com  The WRAPPED UP IN CHRISTMAS books are available at AMAZON Barnes & Noble WALMART & many other place where you buy books. WRAPPED UP IN CHRISTMAS LOVE is coming Christmas 2024.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Baking and Reconnecting with Friends and Family by Merri



February has more than one sweet holiday. We all know about Valentine's Day—February is also National Bake For Family Fun Month

This month-long celebration is all about more than baking tasty treats; it's about the wonderful connections we build while working together in the heart of our homes.


Baking is a fantastic way to bond with family. In the realm of sweet romance, it can also create a backdrop for heartwarming connections between characters.

Imagine a cozy kitchen in Montana. Our main character, Annie, a widow and single mother, is reconnecting with her childhood friend Noah. As the evening grows late and hunger strikes, Annie suggests whipping up a batch of biscuits and gravy.

As Annie and Noah roll dough and reminisce about old times, the kitchen fills with laughter, shared stories, and heartfelt conversations. Suddenly, the bridge between the past and the future doesn't seem so intimidating.

Through the simple act of baking together, Annie and Noah rediscover the warmth of their friendship and the depth of their connection. It's about more than the biscuits baking in the oven; it's about the bonds they're reigniting, one conversation and one sprinkle of flour at a time.

 While this scene was from a story I've written to show the characters reconnecting, it also serves as a reminder that amidst life's changes, the comfort of familiar company and cherished traditions can anchor us. 

As we celebrate baking this month, be it with bread, cookies, or any of the other sweet treats we love to enjoy, let's remember that it's about having fun with the food we create and the connections we nurture along the way. 

I’ll end this month's blog with a sample of Annie and Noah's heartwarming story.  Here's an excerpt from For A Visit

*****


Annie smiled at the change from the Noah she remembered. When they were in high school, he’d tell Jesse and Annie every detail of his dates. There were still a couple of women she couldn’t look in the eye because of some things Noah shared.

"What about you? Have you dated since Jesse?" He paused as though searching for the correct word, then said, “Left?”

Three years had passed since Jesse died. He died doing what he loved, riding the quad. So while she was sad for herself, Annie always thought if it was his time to go, that was the best way for it to happen. “No, I didn’t have it in me to see anyone else.” She admitted. “And J.R. keeps me busy.”

“Jesse said that would happen.” A wrinkle formed in the middle of Noah’s brow. 

“What?” Annie had no idea Jesse and Noah talked about her. Although it made sense. Jesse had survived cancer in his twenties. After facing death, he approached life differently. Sometimes when they lay in bed, he’d ask her what she’d do without him. Annie always said she didn’t want to think about life without him. Now she was living it. If he were to come back and ask how she was doing, Annie would have said that she was right. Life without him was too hard. 

“You’re too young to stop living.” Just as Noah said it, the timer signaling that the biscuits were finished baking went off. 

The sound startled Annie into moving. She pulled the oven mitts out of the drawer and opened the door. After the initial wave of heat passed, Annie inhaled the aroma of warm biscuits, and her mouth watered. She set them on the counter and said, “I need to get your biscuit recipe.” 


“Some things are best kept secret,” Noah’s eyes sparkled. “Besides, if I don’t tell, you’ll invite me back.” 

Annie wished it were true. That he’d stick around to make biscuits whenever she had a taste for them, but she said nothing because it would be too harsh to remind Noah that he was only in town for a visit.

Link to Buy For A Visit 

|Amazon |  Apple | Kobo|

***

This is where the excerpt ends. To keep the conversation going, I’d like to ask: Do you have a favorite sweet romance novel or movie that features baking or cooking as a central theme? Share in the comments. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Growing Old Together by Merrillee Whren


For the most part romances are about young love. There are some books out there with older heroes and heroines, but they are in the minority. I know my books all feature heroes and heroines in their twenties and thirties. I do have a couple of older secondary characters that have a romance. In my book, Hometown Promise, the hero's grandfather finds a new love.
Today my husband and I have been married 48 years. Two more years to 50. And yes, we were married on Valentine's Day. That's us in the photo above. We've had our ups and downs, but through it all our love has grown. Every year we get a little grayer and have a few more wrinkles, but that doesn't matter. We still enjoy each other's company and share a lot of laughs. We enjoy traveling together and seeing new things. We love to hike and see the beauty of God's creation all around us. Our granddaughters bring us joy, and it is wonderful to see our grown daughters as successful adults.

Each time I start a new book, I remember those early days of young love. I know those fictional characters will somehow work out their differences and find true love. I'm glad I found mine and that the thrill of young love has become a treasured love through the years.

Do you ever read romances with older characters?

Merrillee Whren is the winner of the 2003 Golden Heart Award presented by Romance Writers of American. She is married to her own personal hero, her husband of forty-plus years, and has two grown daughters. Connect with her on her Facebook page and sign up for her newsletter


 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Unconventional Love: A Fresh Perspective on Valentine's Day by Josie Riviera

Valentine's Day, traditionally a celebration of romantic love, often focuses on couples exchanging chocolates, flowers, and heartfelt cards. But this year, let's redefine the narrative and celebrate love in all its forms—romantic, platonic, and self-love. Whether you're in a relationship or happily single, Valentine's Day can be a day of joy, connection, and appreciation for the diverse expressions of love.


1. Self-Love Affair: Begin the day by indulging in acts of self-love. Treat yourself to a spa day, a favorite meal, or a quiet moment with a good book. Embrace the concept that self-love is the foundation for all other relationships.

2. Galentine's Day Extravaganza: Celebrate the love and camaraderie of friendship with a Galentine's Day gathering. Whether it's a virtual brunch or a cozy movie night, cherish the platonic bonds that bring laughter, support, and understanding into your life.

3. Love Letters to the Universe: Engage in a reflective exercise by writing love letters to the aspects of your life that bring you joy and fulfillment. Express gratitude for your passions, achievements, and the people who have shaped your journey.

4. Random Acts of Kindness: Spread love beyond your inner circle by performing random acts of kindness. Send a thoughtful message, share a compliment, or perform a small gesture that brightens someone else's day. Love has a ripple effect, and your actions can create a positive chain.

5. Cultural Exploration of Love: Explore different cultural perspectives on love by diving into literature, films, or traditions from around the world. Gain insights into how diverse societies express and celebrate love in their own unique ways.

6. Nourish Your Passions: Rediscover and nourish your passions. Whether it's art, music, writing, or any creative pursuit, spend time engaging in activities that fuel your soul and remind you of the unique love you have for your interests.

7. Virtual Connection: For those in long-distance relationships or separated from loved ones, embrace virtual connection. Plan a virtual dinner date, play online games together, or simply share stories to bridge the physical gap and strengthen emotional bonds.

8. Nature's Love Affair: Connect with nature by taking a walk, enjoying a picnic, or simply basking in the beauty of the outdoors. Nature has a way of grounding us and reminding us of the simple yet profound essence of love.

9. Mindful Meditation: Cap off the day with mindful meditation. Reflect on the various forms of love in your life, cultivating a sense of inner peace and gratitude for the interconnectedness of all relationships.

This Valentine's Day, let's break free from the conventional and embrace a celebration of love that knows no boundaries. Whether you're celebrating romantic love, the love of friendship, or the love you have for yourself, let this day be a unique expression of all the love in your life.


What's better than FREE? Grab your FREE ebook copy of my sweet, Valentine romance,

A Chocolate-Box Valentine, today! Available in ebook, paperback, large print paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.




Josie Riviera is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary, historical, and inspirational romances that read like Hallmark movies. She lives in the Charlotte, NC, area with her wonderfully support husband. They share their home with an adorable Shih Tzu, who constantly needs grooming, and live in an old house forever needing renovation.


Sign up for her newsletter and get a FREE ebook on her website: josieriviera.com




Friday, February 9, 2024

Location! Location! Location! by Christine Bush

 


Location, location, location!

 When you find a book you enjoy, how important is the location of the novel to you?

I have written book set in many places, some that I have visited and found fascinating, some I have lived in, a few (historicals) that I have researched and imagined. I love a variety of locations.

 My newest book “Curtain Call” is set in a place very close to my heart.  It’s a sweet romantic mystery, the second in my new series “Strawberry Manor Mysteries”.  The first is titled “Swan Song.”

 


The setting is the little town of “New Hope, Pennsylvania”, a famous artist and theater colony in Bucks County, nestled along the beautiful Delaware River.
  It’s my hometown!


Many years have passed since I darted through the streets and shops of New Hope, and much has changed.
  New shops have replaced some of the old.  Restaurants have blossomed in old mansions and churches that were once homes and houses of prayer.  Tourism is a mainstay now. Housing developments have exploded on the outskirts of town on land that was once active farm land.  Some things are very different.



But much remains the same.  I had a lot of fun incorporating those real places into my story, as well as using my imagination to add details that are fictional.  “Strawberry Manor,” the delightful bed and breakfast established by my heroine, Charley McAdams, is imaginary. It sits north of town along the river. 

 


The amazing and historic “Bucks County Playhouse” is real.  It sits in the center of town, and has been bringing entertainment, laughter, and talent to the area since 1939.  I had the joy of working there as a teenager.  I was an usher (I loved this as I got to see all the shows free!), worked in the concession stand, and occasionally assisted with set painting and assistance.

 



It was a time of amazing experiences, like chatting with a very young Liza Minelli who was starring in “Time Out for Ginger,” and sneaking her off set to get an ice cream cone from the famous “Gerenser’s Ice Cream” in town.  Many, many famous actors graced the stage there (and still do!).

 


It was natural to weave the theater influence of the town into my stories.  The characters are all fictional.  So are the crimes that (of course) get solved in my mysteries.  But I wanted to incorporate the essence of that unique little artistic community that meant so much to me growing up. 

 How about you?  Do you like settings that remind you of your past experiences?  Or maybe they inspire you to go to new destinations.  I’d love to hear!

 Here’s the first two books of the “Strawberry Manor Mysteries” series.  I hope you enjoy them!

Love,      Christine

 


 Swan Song: Bush, Christine: 9798424148651: Amazon.com: Books

 

   


Curtain Call: Bush, Christine: 9798869805867: Amazon.com: Books

 

  

Christine Bush is a USA Today Bestselling author of romance, romantic mystery, and suspense.  She can be found living in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania with her husband and 2 lazy cats, and spending time with her 14 grandchildren.   When she’s not writing, she’s teaching Psychology at a local college, and working with clients in her private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist. She loves to hear from readers and writers!

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christine-Bush-Author/213919128638762

http://www.amazon.com/Christine-Bush/e/B001KHSLRG/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1392688497&sr=1-2-ent