Monday, June 30, 2014

Memphis on My Mind by Angela Benson

My cousin and I recently spent a couple of fun days in Memphis.  My first visit to the city was back in the nineties when I spoke at the conference of the local romance writers group.  The publicist from Kensington Books, my publisher at the time, was also there.  I remember her because we went on the Graceland tour together. If you haven’t been to Graceland, the home of Elvis, you have to go.  Not only will you get to see his Grammy awards, you’ll also get to experience his room with the fur-covered walls!

On this last visit I was only in town for one night so I didn’t make it back to Graceland, but I did fall in love with the city all over again.  There’s just something about Memphis that calls to me.  First, Memphis is an old city with lots of charm, the perfect place for love and romance.  Second, Memphis is a clean city with wide streets.  I really like clean cities.
My cousin and I stayed at the Sleep Inn at Court Square, which turned out to be the perfect location. I really wasn’t expecting much from the hotel so I was pleasantly surprised.  We had a two-room suite on the second floor.  The suite had upscale furnishings, a living room, a bedroom, two bathrooms, two televisions, a microwave and a refrigerator. The décor was really appealing.  I will definitely be staying there again.  I’ve already told my husband that we have to go back.

The first thing my cousin and I did was take the short walk, about six blocks, from the hotel to the famous Beale Street.  There is a trolley stop right out back of the hotel but we wanted to walk.  Apparently, a lot of other folks like to walk as well because we were not alone in our trek.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Beale Street but my first thought was that it was short.   That turned out to be a good thing.  Unlike New Orleans where you have Bourbon Street in the midst of all the activity of the French Quarter, Beale Street is just a few blocks long.

Because my cousin wanted BBQ, we had dinner at the Blues City Café.  My cousin was able to get her BBQ, which she enjoyed, and I was able to get my veggies.  The turnips were delicious!

After dinner we explored the rest of Beale Street, which means we listened to some great music.  Our first stop was for a live set of R&B at a quaint little park nestled between the restaurants.  After getting our groove on for a while, we continued our exploration.  Our next stop was for a live jazz set in a larger park-like area a couple of blocks away.  All this free entertainment was a real treat!

Of course, a visit to Beale Street wouldn’t be complete without a stop to pick up some trinkets.  My cousin bought t-shirts and I took the picture of the Beale Street sign.  Even Beale Street sleeps!

Soon after, we made our way back to the hotel.  The next day we took in the Stax Museum of American Soul and the National Civil Rights Museum, two sites I strongly recommend.  I’ll have to tell you about those in another post or maybe you’ll read about them in one of my upcoming books.  I tend to set my stories in southern towns, so Memphis fits in nicely. 

So what do you think of Beale Street and Memphis? What are your favorite books set in Memphis?  

Angela Benson is the award winning and bestselling author of fourteen novels, two novellas and a non-fiction writing book.  Her most recent book is Delilah’s Daughters (Avon, 2014).  Her next book, The Summer of Me, will be released by Avon in early 2015.  While you’re waiting for Angela’s new title, be sure to check out her backlist recently released in eBook format.  Join Angela on the web at or

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poison Ivy - the Summertime Malady by Denise Devine Meinstad

What exactly is poison ivy? It’s a plant with shiny leaves in clusters of three and it tends to look droopy. Mature plants have pearl-like berries. The entire plant is cover with an oily resin called urushiol that causes the infection. The leaves, especially the new shoots, contain the most toxin. It can remain on clothing, shoes and tools for up to a year! Therefore, you must launder your garden gloves with your gardening clothes every time you use them. It can also be carried in the fur of your pets, so even if you take precautions, you could still contract it.

Do you spend a lot of time in the garden, at your lake cabin, playing softball or taking walks in wooded areas? If so, you’ve probably brushed up against poison ivy and didn’t know it until your skin started burning and itching. And most likely, by that time, you had unknowingly touched other areas on your body and infected them, too! So you rummage through your medicine cabinet for something to relieve the pain, but you can’t find anything.

Now what do you do? You can’t stop the itching until you get to the drugstore, but what if you can’t drop everything and go shopping? Here are some old-fashioned tips using items you might already have in your house:

    • Scrub the area immediately with ‘pumice’ soap, such as Lava. Keep a bar handy in a plastic bag. The soap will clean off any oil on the surface and under your nails so it doesn’t spread. This is important!!
    • Another effective soap that has been around forever is Fels-Naptha. Get it at Wal-Mart.
    • Try cleaning the area with a degreasing hand cleaner, the kind that mechanics use when working on cars. It’s available at any auto parts store.
    • Wet the infected area and rub in table salt.
    • Use an acne cream, like Proactive.
    • Rub the area with bleach. (Some people swear this works!)

After cleansing:
    • Sooth the area with Noxzema.
    • Make a paste of powdered alum and water and spread it on the infection.
    • Don’t cover the blisters with bandages. Allow them to dry out.

As I write this article I am battling with poison ivy between my toes and it has somehow spread to the back of one knee. This time I know where I got it. I was taking pictures of wild roses along a nearby roadside and I saw the plants there, but how it got between my toes is a mystery because I wore tennis shoes. I used the pumice soap and then applied a cream. So far, it’s working well.

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, including RWA’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished writers. Her newest release, This Time Forever, is an inspirational romance and is available at Amazon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Second Chances

I believe in second chances. In fact, I love second chances. A few months ago, Sweet Romance Reads writer Aileen Fish (whose historical romances I just adore!) wrote a post about how she prefers stories of new romance between strangers. I've been thinking about that for quite a while. 

There's definitely much to be said for not revisiting the past. Anyone who's ever had the urge to Google an old flame (don't tell me you've never done it!) must suspect some things are best left behind.

I'm all for appreciating what I've got right now, this moment, in front of me. Wondering what might have been, who I might be if ... and where the people from my past are now isn't really a pick me up. If anything, I've learned it is usually a sign that there's something in my present that I'm avoiding dealing with.

In fact, although the first book I ever published was a reunion romance, I don't even write them anymore. (At present, anyway.) Like I said, I do best when I focus on the now.

But if I think of the romances I've loved, the ones I read over and over again, the ones that stick with me and warm my heart, year after year, there's an obvious overrepresentation of second-chance, long-lost love stories. Remember Far Pavillions? Catch me as I swoon.

There are few things I love more than a real-life reunion story. Like that of my friend's mother who is getting married next month. She and her fiancé met in 1951. They went to the same school, the same summer camp, the same college. They studied related fields. They were active in similar volunteer programs. They dated. They married -- other people -- and even visited with their families and exchanged holiday cards. Then they lost touch in 1976.

Unbeknownst to each other, she moved from the East Coast to California. So did he. She got divorced. So did he. She changed careers and became a spiritual counselor. He changed careers and became a pastor. She moved to New Mexico. So did he.

Then in 2013, he looked her up on Facebook. (Yeah, I know ... trolling the past. I guess it doesn't always backfire ...)

It turned out they lived only miles apart. And now ten months later, they're finally engaged to be married. It only took them 63 years to get together. Some might mourn the decades they might have had with each other. But they prefer to look at the present and their future. They might not have forever past, but they've still got forever after.

Which is what matters.

I think the reason the story makes me so happy is that it shows that sometimes, things really can be corrected and made right. We're not perfect. Even in long lasting marriages, there's room for second chances at getting things right and occasionally rediscovering the person we first fell in love with.

So here's to second chances. Or however many of them we may need to craft our happily ever after!

What's your favorite second-chance novel? 

And you authors out there - have you written any recently? I'm always on the lookout for more to read! 

reclaimin home by milou koeningsMilou Koenings writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.

Her new release, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon. You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Surprise visit ~ by Magdalena Scott

Last week I received a phone call from one of my husband’s cousins. She and her hubby were in town, and wanted to get together for a little visit. This was a delightful surprise because (a) they live in California, and I had no idea they were in Indiana, (b) since becoming a widow, it’s a treat for me to still be included in such things, and (c) these people are so incredibly interesting!

Making sure they didn’t mind climbing a long staircase, and that they weren’t drastically allergic to cats, I directed them to my abode. My giant closet was—and still is--in a sad state of explosion, so I didn’t give them the entire tour of the place. They did, however, get the current complete tour of standing in the center of my studio apartment. Yes, the whole tour, including up and down the stairs, takes just a few minutes. (As an aside, I am happy to report that Attila was more pleasant than usual. Evidently he was having an off evening.) 

After the tour we went back down the stairs and walked a couple of blocks to one of the nearby restaurants where we had a long talk and delicious supper. 

What a wonderful visit! They have been several places this summer, learning lots of new things and becoming reacquainted with family they don’t see often. Talking with them made me feel the same way I feel when I read their Christmas letters: They have a full and happy life because they love learning, travel, and people. 

No matter where we are, it’s the reaching out and really taking time with others that matters, isn’t it? Which is why I spent a few minutes just now playing Ice Cube Hockey across the hardwood floor with Attila. I hope he’s keeping track of these life lessons!



Magdalena Scott writes sweet romance in small town settings. You can find her on her website, blog "Welcome to Magdalenaville," Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Those Gorgeous Superstars of Sport by Joanne Hill

I've noticed a lot of writers have got, frankly, a bit of a thing for sportsmen and it hit me that it would be entirely remiss if I did not - as the lone Kiwi here - take a moment to talk about New Zealand's national rugby team, the All Blacks.

The All Blacks are "it"  in New Zealand. We do have a national soccer team, a rugby league team, a cricket team and more - but our rugby team, the All Blacks, is 'it.' As a teenage girl you might dream of marrying an All Black; as a mother, of raising a son to play for them. As a romance writer, well, it's all perfect fodder for the creative mind.

In August last year the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference was held in Wellington and it just so happened that the hotel we were staying at on that exact weekend, our usual conference weekend, was the hotel the All Blacks - the whole team - were also staying at for a big game.  It just does not get any better than that.  Sadly the organising committee will, I suggest, never, ever, in the history of writers' conferences, be able to top that again. We even got media coverage because - let's face it - romance writers and All Blacks... That's a pretty provocative headline.

The best night was after our Awards Dinner when hundreds of fans congregated in the lobby bar to await the return of our winning team after their match against the Australians. The lobby was heaving with men and women waiting for the team, the air thick with excitement, and when the team arrived back, triumphant but exhausted, even though they didn't hang aroundthe lobby area it was a moment. A glorious moment.
Over the weekend many of my fellow conference-goers shared tales of All Black encounters - some were downright shameless.  One ran up to her favorite player and told him she loved him. Another one saw her favorite, Ma'a Nonu, and trailed after him calling his name.  I gather she sounded like a sheep as she tried to get his attention with "Ma'a, Ma'a." I think she may have told him she loved him, too, and he may have obliged with a hug. Yet another tried to get into her room with her swipe card when the door suddenly opened and standing there - so she claims -  shirtless, with six pack abs, was Dan Carter, one of our All Black superstars. She was on the wrong floor.

Back in 2011 New Zealand hosted the Rugby World Cup and for weeks we were abuzz with excitement. The ABs (as we call them) won, and there were a host of photos of the team holding the trophy, our glorious captain Ritchie McCaw, the relief of a sports mad country, the parades afterwards. But of all the photos, there was one that gripped the nation in an entirely different way.  It was of superstar player Sonny Bill Williams on the field. He'd ripped his shirt during a game and because of the hi-tech nature of the fabric, had to have help to remove it. The team doctor Deb Robinson obliged as men and women across New Zealand - across the world - could only gaze in wonder at the amazing physique of six-foot-three Sonny Bill and in envy at Dr Deb Robinson. (Here's a link to an article and a video - the video might not work in your part of the world but never fear - scroll down and you'll see the pic!)
So... (Clears throat) What is it about these men, our sporting heroes? What is it that sends women and - let's face it - men, grown-up heterosexual men into acting like school kids when they're around them? And just who are your current sporting heroes? Do share.

Joanne Hill is a New Zealander who never married an All Black and, even more disturbingly, discovered her children had no desire to play rugby.
Her latest book, a romantic comedy called Dating Daisy is part of a boxed set with six fellow Kiwi authors called "Second Chances"and will be released July 1 exclusive to the iBooks Store for just .99c

Friday, June 20, 2014

NASCAR for the Uninitiated by Aileen Fish

In recent months, a young Reddit fan happened to mention how well a driver named Josh Wise was doing for his under-sponsored single-car team owned by Phil Parsons Pacing. As he and other forum members got to talking, the question of “What if…” arose. The next thing they knew, they’d collected enough Dogecoin donations, the peer-to-peer currency created for Internet use, to sponsor Josh Wise for a race.

They didn’t stop there. Voting opened for the annual All-Star race opened, and they went to work voting Josh Wise into the race. Apparently, he won by a landslide, which is pretty major considering the usual fan favorites of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick were on the ballot.

All this Internet activity has brought new fans to NASCAR, so you or one of your loved ones might have begun watching races recently. You might not be feeling you understand all the rules, which is okay, because the rules change each year in small ways, leaving a lot of us scratching our heads or calling into radio shows to get answers. You probably recognize the basics: a field of up to 43 drivers competes on oval tracks or road courses to win the race. Unlike European auto racing, we only celebrate one winner, not the podium of three. In NASCAR terms, second place is “first loser”.

NASCAR has three major levels, plus a handful of regional ones, but most of the time if you hear someone talking about a race or a driver, they are referring to one in the Sprint Cup series, sponsored by Sprint. The second tier is currently the Nationwide Series, but sponsor Nationwide Insurance is stepping back next year, so we’ll be fumbling over the name for many months. Then there is my personal favorite – the Camping World Truck Series. Yes, that’s right, they race pickup trucks! How cool is that? Okay, I imagine it’s more cool to country-at-heart gals like me who think trucks are best. Given that these races are only televised on sports channels like SPEED and FoxSports1, it’s obviously not the fan favorite. But the racing is just as wild and dirty, the finishes often just as close as the upper tiers.

{Kenny Wallace gets fuel & tires at Gateway, 2006.}

Having three levels that often race on a single weekend leads to what they call “the sweep”. A single driver winning in all series on a weekend is said to have swept the weekend. You can sweep a two-race weekend, also, but it’s obviously not as hard to do. Kyle Busch has swept the most three-race weekends, having done so at nine different tracks.

In a similar vein, you have “the Double”, which refers to racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina on Memorial Day weekend. Since this involves racing an open-wheel Indycar and a stock car, not many drivers have been able to pull this off. A few drivers in recent years who came to NASCAR after driving open wheel cars, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti, gave it a shot, and this year Kurt Busch, who’s never raced in Indycar prior to the 500, did remarkably well for a rookie. The combined races cover 1100 miles, although crashes and engine failure have meant that only Tony Stewart has completed all 1100 miles on a single day.

You might have heard discussions of the Chase. A few years back, NASCAR bosses decided they needed a playoff system similar to ball and stick-and-ball sports, to build fan excitement at the end of the season. They developed a system where driver’s points would be adjusted for the final ten races in the season, giving only the top group a chance to possibly win the championship cup. This number has changed each year, causing fan confusion.

The current Chase will have sixteen drivers eligible to win the cup. Once the Chase begins, all drivers continue to race, but those sixteen will be regrouped in point standings, having two-thousand points plus five points for each win during the season. After the third race in the Chase, only twelve drivers are still eligible. After the sixth, it drops to eight drivers, then four are eligible in the final race for the Sprint Cup Championship.

That’s what’s new: four drivers go into the final race with a chance to win the championship. In past years, there has been either a sweep, where one driver was guaranteed to take the cup by entering the race, or one or two other drivers might have had a shot at it. This year, the highest finishing driver of those top four will win the championship.

There’s one more term you might hear during a race, the lucky dog. That’s the nickname for the first driver not on the lead lap at the time a caution flag is waved. That driver is given a lap back, or allowed to circle the field under the yellow flag and either be back on the lead lap or be one fewer lap down. Originally, drivers who were off pace would race each other to get to the line first to be allowed to earn that lap back. This led to some near-misses when they approached a crashed car or the safety crew attending to a crash. Now, the car positions are frozen when the caution comes out, and positions are determined by the transponders around the track, going to the last marked spot for each car. The driver who was the last to have been lapped, or re-lapped if he’s more than one car down, gets his lap back.

You might have noticed I said “he” gets his lap back. That’s the editorial he, as I’m sure you’re aware there are women racing in NASCAR these days. Danica Patrick is the only one with a fulltime ride in the Cup series at the moment, but Johanna Long, Maryeve Dufault, and Jennifer Jo Cobb are regulars in the Nationwide and Camping World series this year. For the record, Jennifer Jo currently is the highest ranked in points across female drivers in the three series, being thirteenth in the trucks.

There is so much more to say, but this is too long as it is. The best way to learn more is to go to and look around. The forums there will have a lot of answers. To stay on top of news, follow your favorite drivers on Twitter, or search #NASCAR. You can also follow the reporters and TV commentators, or fans like Alyssa Milano or the Orange Cone. Yes, that poor orange cone that marked the entrance to pit lane has its own Twitter account! And he’s really pretty funny. If you don’t care for watching racing but feel the need to support your guy, following someone like the Cone will make the race a lot more fun.

Do you enjoy watching auto racing, or have a significant other who does? Who’s your driver to root for? Have you attended a race in person? Having a driver to root for, or having experienced the excitement of an in-person race makes it all that much more fun.

Aileen Fish, author of The Bridgethorpe Brides series and the Small Town Sweethearts series, is an avid quilter and auto racing fan who finds there aren't enough hours in a day/week/lifetime to stay up with her "to do" list. There is always another quilt or story begging to steal away attention from the others. When she has a spare moment she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and their families, and her fairy princess granddaughter. Stay up to date with book releases at her website or on Facebook. Her latest release, Chasing Lord Mystery, is available at the main ebook sites.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Little Engine That Could.. A Story of Hope

by Christine Bush

One of my all time favorite children’s  stories is Wally Piper’s The Little Engine That Could.  I work a lot with children, and find it’s a great example of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
 Every time I share this story, I cheer for the little clown who won’t give up on the quest to get the toys over the mountain to the good little boys and girls on the other side.  He never gives up hope.  I think I can. I think I can.

Persevere.  Keep on truckin’.  Dare to do what you think you cannot do.  The power of positive thinking. Never give up. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (ew!). 
You get the idea.  It’s a good lesson.  But it’s not just a lesson for children.  It’s a good lesson for everyone who has a dream and a goal. It’s especially relevant for writers.

To me, it’s about the power of hope.  That hope keeps me chugging on toward my dreams.
It doesn’t matter how many books I have written. Each time I sit down and face the blank page, the new story, there is a mountain to climb.  Each time the plot takes a twist, or a character just won’t do or say what my original synopsis planned, it’s a challenge to get over that mountain.  Every time that my story gets stalled, because “life” gets in the way, that mountain can seem like Mount Everest.   My little writing engine can get off track with demands from the day job, family responsibility, health issues, or just life events.  I think I can. I think I can.
All of these challenges can seem like those negative engines who came by the little train travelers, and told them why they couldn’t get over the mountain.  I think I can. I think I can.

But the lesson I’ve learned is that there IS a way over the mountain, a way to fulfill our dreams and to tell our stories.  Our characters in our romances also exemplify this hope, overcoming their conflicts and differences and embracing love.
The trick is to keep trying until we find the way that works.  And to never give up hope.
What helps you get your “train” over the mountain?  How to you keep rooted in hope when it comes to your dreams?

Christine Bush is the award winning author of many books and novellas of sweet romance and light mystery. She also writes Middle Grade Fiction. 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, June 16, 2014

Making Old Things New by Merrillee Whren

To piggy back on a recent post by Aileen Fish and Melinda Curtis, I'm going to give you a peek at my remodeling project. Unlike Aileen and Melinda, I am not a do-it-yourself person when it comes to major renovations. A year ago, I was in the middle of this mess.
The photo shows my kitchen minus the cabinets, appliances and tile. We lived that way for over two months. Thankfully, my daughter lives nearby and had us over for dinner many nights. Below you can see parts of the original kitchen layout.
 We hired someone to paint the walls after we decided we didn't want to be up on tall ladders. Here is one area that was painted.
Next we had the same people who tore out the tile install the hardwood floors. Here is the work in progress.
Then the cabinetmakers installed the cabinets minus the doors. The doors were supposed to be installed after the granite counter tops to avoid having the granite installers scuff the doors. As it turned out, a miscommunication had them all there on the same day. Thankfully, the installation went forward without any problems. Below is a photo of the cabinets without doors.
Here is a final look at the kitchen.
Whether you do it yourself or hire it done. Remodeling isn't for the faint of heart. We not only remodeled the kitchen, but we did three bathrooms, too. We are now enjoying our new kitchen and baths. The do-it-yourself portion of this project, painting the laundry room, is still yet to be done. I have it scheduled for when I finish my current three-book contract. The writing comes before the painting.

In my latest book, A Place to Call Home, my heroine is in the middle of a remodeling project although her kitchen is already done. Have you engaged in a big remodeling project?

Merrillee Whren is an award-winning author who writes inspirational romance. She is the winner of the 2003 Golden Heart Award for best inspirational romance manuscript presented by Romance Writers of America. She has also been the recipient of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award and the Maggie Award for Excellence. She is married to her own personal hero and makes her home in the Arizona desert. When she’s not writing or working for her husband’s recruiting firm, she spends her free time playing tennis or walking while she does the plotting for her novels.

Friday, June 13, 2014

5 Secrets To Happiness by Donna Fasano

Okay, so maybe I don’t have any secrets to reveal, but you have to admit that, for a second there, you were REALLY excited when you read that title. Through the ages, many experts have tried to dissect and explain the psychology of happiness. What makes that almost impossible is the fact that each of us ‘get happy’ for different reasons. I practice what I call Donna’s Delightful Doctrine. (Okay, you caught me. I just made that up. But it sounds pretty fun, so I’m going with it.) Here are my 5 secrets to living a happy life.

Enjoy the one you’re with – Let’s face it, a big part of our happiness comes from the people around us. We feel happy when we’re loved and supported, and our happiness only grows when we express our love and support for others. Even though you might have been hurt in the past, don’t let that keep you from opening your heart. Seek out those people who are deserving of your time and attention, and cherish them. And when it comes to marriage, find someone worthy of your love and hang on tight.

Accept what you have – Most of the happy people I know feel blessed with the things they’ve acquired. They strive toward realistic goals. Unhappy people always seem to be hankering after something that’s completely out of their reach. I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream big; ambition is healthy. I’m just saying you shouldn’t compare yourself with anyone else. Enjoy your own achievements and successes.

Think positively – I have read that it takes more energy to frown than it does to laugh. It probably sounds silly and simplistic for me to tell you to adopt a glass-half-full attitude, but science has shown that happy people are optimistic people. Smile. Say something nice. Think something nice. Positive thinking is a natural defense mechanism against depression.

Enjoy what you do – Happy people do what they love and love what they do. For the last 25 years, I have had the pleasure of writing upbeat, happily-ever-after romance novels. We have to spend a huge chuck of our lives working for a living. The happiest and healthiest people find work that allows them to do something they enjoy.

Focus on today – Don’t dwell on mistakes or failures of the past, and don’t spend too much time fantasizing about tomorrow. Be fully present. Right here. Right now. Suck every drop of life out of this very moment by finding the purpose and meaning in…well, this very moment.

In the end, your level of happiness may come down to how you define that nebulous term. But I am absolutely ecstatic that I have a Pollyanna personality, and I suggest you do all that you can to adopt one for yourself. Choosing happiness is the way to go. You don’t have to take my word for it. Studies have shown that being happy will add more life to your years and more years to your life.

~ ~ ~ ~

Donna Fasano is a USA Today Bestselling Author whose books have sold nearly 4 million copies worldwide. Her latest book, PRAYER OF QUIET, is available at Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. Learn more about Donna by visiting her blog, and you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Prayer of Quiet is her first work of non-fiction.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Being the Heroes of Our Own Stories by Patricia Forsythe

            With Father’s Day coming up, I’m thinking about my dad, Raymond Forsythe, just as I was thinking about my mom last month before Mother’s Day.  He was born in rural Oklahoma in 1918, lost his father to the lingering effects of influenza a few years later, and grew up during the Depression.  Times were hard but, for him, they became even harder when his mother remarried, to a man who had very little interest in work of any kind, except that of running an illegal still, and whose only asset was his looks – there are some in the family who would argue whether he even had that attribute. 
            Although I don’t know much about what transpired to make my dad leave Oklahoma, I know that by the early 1930’s, he came to Arizona where his two older sisters lived with their husbands and he made the acquaintance of his newest brother-in-law, Harlon Green.  To the end of his life, my dad described Harlon as ‘the first good man I was ever around’.  Ironically, Harlon had also been raised by a worthless stepfather who drank, gambled, and couldn’t hold a job, but Harlon had decided at an early age that he wasn’t going to be like that.  He was going to be a good man and my dad followed his example.  They both succeeded.
            My dad was never without steady employment, and probably because he wasn’t well-educated, education was important to him.  Years before he met my mother, he bought a piece of land which he planned to sell when his kids were ready for college, and that’s exactly what he did.  He treated people well, was friendly, and a big tease.  He was quick and witty and made friends easily.
            So here is what I think.  I think people choose their path in life, that the old cliché is true - ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ but either way, it’s our choice.  People who choose to follow a good path are heroes of their own stories, and those who don’t are their own villains.  As a writer, I like to create characters who overcome obstacles and make their own decisions for the best because doing so makes them heroes – like my dad and my uncle.

Patricia Forsythe is the author of many romance novels, both print and ebooks and is always working on more.  Most of them take place in the quirky little town of Lucky Break, Arizona.  You can visit her at

Monday, June 9, 2014

In Honor of Fathers by Melinda Curtis

Father's Day is this weekend. Dads are special, aren't they? They usually know which tool to use for the job. They can usually start up that lawn mower with ease. And they happily sit eating sunflower seeds while watching kids play sports, helping build bird houses at scouts, telling kids not to poke their fingers in light sockets (which they, of course, immediately do). Dads deserve a day of honor.

When my kids were younger, they'd ask their dad what he wanted for Father's Day. You could bet it was one of two things - either a movie or a round of golf. Being the good mama I am, I made sure he taught all three kids how to golf (so they could go along and spend time together). Golf is one thing I never did learn, despite my many invitations to do so...ahem.

So, here comes Father's Day. Yep, it's that time of year again.

I've always wondered who decided this U.S. holiday should be in June. Why? Because summer is the time for gardening, for house maintenance, for driving to see my in-laws, and...OK, maybe those happen year round.  As a wife and mother (and being a practical wife and mother), I'd rather see Father's Day mid-winter.  Perhaps during Superbowl weekend or the first Sunday in January. Anytime when I'm not feeling as if there's a list of things to be done around the house. Weekends are only two days, people. Maybe Father's Day should be during the week. Wednesday works for me.

Now, it may sound as if I resent Mr. Curtis having his day in the sun. I don't. I just wish it came at my convenience. But I won't complain. I'll give my man his special day. Our kids are all away at college, so his celebration falls on me. I will give him all the honor he's due. It'll be his day. We can do anything he wants.

Hhmmm. What will it be this year, honey? Golf or the movies?

LOL. I hope you enjoyed my light take on Father's Day. I'd love to hear what special celebration you have planned in honor of the dads in your life.

Melinda Curtis writes the Harmony Valley series of sweet romances for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Brenda Novak says: “Season of Change has found a place on my keeper shelf”.  Melinda also writes hotter romances as Mel Curtis. Jayne Ann Krentz says of Blue Rules: “Sharp, sassy, modern version of a screwball comedy from Hollywood's Golden Age except a lot hotter.”  Melinda is married to her college sweetheart, and has three kids in college.  She follows the NFL because one young quarterback is from her hometown, and follows Duke basketball because Mr. Curtis has a man crush on Coach K.  Her latest release, Season of Change, is the 3rd book in her popular Harmony Valley series and features a dad and his twin girls.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Kicking Off a Colorful Summer with Shaleen Kapil

Last year, I marked the end of summer with a special day for my children: they could stay in their pajamas all day and watch as much TV and movies as they wanted. (This is big—screen time is extremely limited in my house.) It was such a hit, that we have decided to make it a yearly event (provided they keep up with chores, etc., during the summer).

Now, I decided to do something to mark the beginning of summer: tie-dye. We just finished tie dying shirts to wear this summer. What do you think of our first attempt?

I used the One-Step Tie Dye kits from the craft store. They were easy to use, but I’ve got a few tips that might help yours turn out better than mine!

1.     Use zip ties or make the rubber bands really, really tight. Our rubber bands kept breaking when we made them tight, so the ones that we ended up using were too loose to keep the colors from seeping underneath the rubber bands. Therefore, we had little white left on our shirts.
2.     Do not put purple and yellow close together. The result was muddy (aka UGLY)
3.     Make sure you rinse the shirts until the water runs clear before washing. My friend skipped this step, and the colors all ran.
4.     Use a cup of vinegar on the rinse cycle before you wash the shirts with soap. This will help set the colors and keep them bright.
5.     Buy some iron-on girly decals to dress them up! We did.

If you start your summer with tie-dye, I’d love to see the results!

Shaleen is getting ready to publish her first sweet romance and a series of chapter books for children. You can follow find her at her author site, Shaleen Kapil, or at her health blog, HaveMatWillTri.