Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thrift Store Shopping - by Denise Devine

I’ve always loved craft sales, city-wide garage sales, antique hunting in small towns and thrift store bargain hunting. However, back in the day when I worked full-time, I just never had much time to spend shopping. Actually, I still don’t! I’m retired now and I spend much of my time writing, but
Merino Wool Sweater and
August Silk Turtleneck
every other Tuesday I clean my daughter’s house (yes—because I’m a nice mom) and when I’m done, I take a run over to the “Savers” thrift store in her neighborhood. It just so happens that Tuesday is Senior Day—which means I get a forty percent discount. I bought this sweater and turtleneck combo for about $10, both very high quality.

Even so, I don’t buy a lot of stuff just because it’s on discount. I’m of the opinion that if you don’t need it, you don’t buy it, no matter how cheap it is. It’s not a bargain if you can’t use it. That said, I furnished my dad’s cabin (I inherited it a couple years ago) completely by bargain hunting at Savers. Some of the items I bought were Pfaltzgraff dinnerware, Corningware and a complete set of Visions Cookware (one piece at a time) at unbelievable prices.

I rarely ever buy clothes because I already have more than I need (don’t we all), but my weakness is
I'm a shoe girl!
shoes, especially good quality ones. Here is a picture of three pairs I recently bought, Easy Spirit, Skechers and Dansko, all between $5-$10 each.

All-in-all, I’ve learned to be selective and extremely disciplined. I only buy high-quality items at rock-bottom prices. It’s a great way to save tons of money and, hey, it’s fun!
Do you like bargain shopping or antique hunting? What type of items do you look for?

Denise Devine writes romantic comedy and inspirational romance. She is currently working on two series, Counting Your Blessings (holiday romantic comedy) and Forever Yours (inspirational romance). In her spare time, she loves to sew book bags and give them away to her readers. You can find all her books and more information about her at

Words to Melt Your Heart- by Karen Rock

Recently, my college freshman daughter and I shared a giggle when she told me about a fellow student who’d taken her order for a smoothie, asked her, “How you doing?” then proceeded to stare at her for a minute straight. Was he flirting or trying to get arrested? Either way- ack! There seems to be some miscommunication in what’s needed to be said to win a woman’s heart. With Valentine’s Day looming, I thought it’d be fun to share some of my favorite, romantic lines from books or movies as inspiration for writers and would-be Romeos hoping to find love:

"It seems right now that all I've ever done in my life is making my way here to you."-- The Bridges of Madison County

"I'm going to stop right now. Except that I would give anything if you were two people, so that I could call up the one who's my friend and tell her about the one that I like so much!"--Broadcast News  

"…I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do, and…how you say what you mean, and how you almost always mean something that's all about being straight and good. I think most people miss that about you, and I watch them, wondering how they can watch you bring their food, and clear their tables and never get that they just met the greatest woman alive. And the fact that I get it makes me feel good, about me."-- As Good As It Gets

"…You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you."--The Last of the Mohicans
"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle in your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."-- When Harry Met Sally

"It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together... and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home... only to no home I'd ever known... I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like... magic.-- Sleepless in Seattle

"The best love is the kind that weakens the soul, that makes us reach for more, that plants fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. And that's what you've given me. That's what I hope to give to you forever." — The Notebook

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”—The Fault in Our Stars

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”—Moulin Rouge

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."--Love Story  

"You are the answer to every prayer I've offered. You are a song, a dream, a whisper, and I don't know how I could have lived without you for as long as I have." — The Notebook

"I held her close to me with my eyes closed, wondering if anything in my life had ever been this perfect and knowing at the same time that it hadn't. I was in love, and the feeling was even more wonderful than I ever imagined it could be." — A Walk to Remember

“You make me want to be a better man.”— As Good as it Gets
"You... complete me."--Jerry Maguire
I hope you enjoyed the quotes and they melted your heart! What are your favorite romantic lines? It’d be great if you’d share them in the comments section. The world needs more beautiful words J

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Interior Decorator is Named Attila ~ by Magdalena Scott

I don't know if you have met him before, but this is Attila, the Kitten from Heck. Please do not let the sun's glare fool you: THAT IS NOT A HALO.

Along with our beloved dog, Spot, who is now deceased, Attila and I moved into this studio apartment in 2012. At that time I had a very clear vision of what the apartment would look like. Our family had gone through lots of events, including a massive downsize. I knew exactly which pieces of furniture to keep, and where each would be located in the 425-ish square feet of our new abode. Smart, huh?

Since then, I have made a few changes--most of them at the insistence of my resident interior decorator, Attila.

He decided that my big picture of Audrey Hepburn (wearing huge sunglasses, looking at jewelry in"Breakfast at Tiffany's") must not be displayed on the chest of drawers, on the pretty wrought iron stand which I'd purchased specifically for that purpose. No, that big picture needed to be elsewhere. His original idea was that it, and the stand, should be on the floor, but we compromised and I hung it on the wall, on a picture rail.

Attila is very picky about what can be set on the chest of drawers. Two small books that need to be returned to their owners are allowed, but a display of a dozen or so books that I own is not allowed. Inappropriate items are nudged to the floor. If I'm lucky, I catch him in mid-project, and move the offending items before they go tumbling down. So far, a photo of my son and daughter-in-law in college grad regalia is allowed. Attila really likes my son and daughter-in-law in person, and I think that's why he leaves the photo there. (I wish there was a way to make him understand that the Audrey picture was a gift from them, but I digress...)

I donated several books to the library last week, and hope they will find more serene homes. Not every cat helps his mom obey her intention to not acquire more than storage allows. (Ebooks shall remain a secret between you and me, okay?)

In our apartment there is no table and no desk. Incoming mail, newspaper, receipts, and hastily scribbled story notes land on the 5-foot-long bar which multitasks as dining table, desk, board game play area. Attila is quite clear about the fact that these items must be dealt with by me in a timely manner, or he will intervene. Down to the floor go the offending items.

Attila is so helpful to me by his unflagging enforcement of the minimalist vision I had for the apartment. Even last night he insisted that I get the dishes washed, dried, and put away, and all the notes and mail dealt with before I was allowed to go to bed. When I woke up this morning, one of my five gratitude items was that the "kitchen" area was clutter-free.

Yep, the place is neat and tidy, thanks to him. Except of course for his cat tree and 8' x 3' portion of the floor which he claims as his lair, spreading toys and tissue paper around as boundary markers. Now, to me it looks messy--and I won't post a photo because you might think so too. But I'm sure that through his eyes, that area is always perfect. There is a set of teeth ready to convince any who disagree.

Lucky me to have found such a talented kitten at the shelter, when all I was looking for was a cuddly, purring fur ball. I guess life has a way of giving you what you need instead of what you think you need. How's that for looking on the bright side?

Magdalena Scott writes sweet romance in small town settings. She is a contributing author to the Ladies of Legend, Tennessee series which is now up to 30 titles. She also is writing a new series, set in Serendipity, Indiana. Learn more about Magdalena at her website:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Take a Chance! by Ginny Baird

Seven years ago this month, I took a chance and ran off to the sheriff to get married. After tirelessly caring for everyone else, I finally decided to grab some happiness for myself. Things couldn’t have worked out more wonderfully. If I had to make the same choice today, I’d take that leap again – without a doubt.
January is such a great month for new beginnings. It’s also a time to challenge ourselves by thinking of taking chances. It doesn’t have to be now or next month even, but I’m hoping that sometime during this year, we’ll all take a chance by doing something special for ourselves. When you’re in the role of mother, caretaker, partner or helpmate, it can be hard to focus on anything other than giving. Though it’s important to recall that we often have more to give when we’ve stepped back and taken a little for ourselves.

When considering New Year’s goals, don’t neglect to think of yourself.  If you’ve always wanted to paint, sign up for a class. If you’ve yearned for a session at a spa, book one and make it happen! If you’d like just one day to yourself to shop, have lunch, or see a movie, explain to your family that this is what you need to help revitalize you. Then, rinse, lather, repeat… as often as needed throughout the year to keep your batteries charged and help maintain a healthy outlook that balances self-care with caring for others. For when we give to ourselves, we increase the wealth of what we can contribute by being happier, and more deeply enriched, people.

So, what will it be? What will you take a chance on in 2015? If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or hoped to learn, you know what they say… There’s no time like the present!

~ * ~

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Ginny Baird writes short contemporary romance and romantic comedy. Her latest release is The Calendar Brides, a story in which twelve granddaughters plan to send their dear grandma back to Italy to reunite with her long-lost love. Find The Calendar Brides online at iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Walk in the English Countryside

My husband and I love to take long country walks at the weekend, and today was no exception. We decided to walk a circuit through the fields and woodland near our house.

We were lucky to have a beautiful day with blue skies and sunny weather, even if the wind was rather cold. A bonus was that my son was at home this weekend so he came with us.

I thought it would be a lovely idea to take photos of the walk and post them to the blog. My idea didn't start well when I realized I'd forgotten my phone! Luckily my son had his so I used that. Unfortunately his phone ran out of power just as we approached the lovely historic manor house hotel I wanted to photograph!

Once we arrived home, I had fun transferring the photos across—a simple matter you might think. I managed eventually by texting the photos from my son's phone to my own. I'm very impressed with my lovely new Macbook that shows me the photos on my iPhone, cutting out the step where I would have had to upload the photos from my phone to my computer.

Anyway, this is our walk through the Devon countryside (or the first part of it before the phone ran out of battery) in photos.

My husband, son (Peter who made the Sweet Christmas Kisses book cover) and Izzy.

Our house is in the valley to the right of this picture hidden behind some trees.
Me and Peter wrapped up against the cold.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Branching out with the kids

Recently, in my day job as a librarian, I decided to do some blog posts on kids fiction for one of the blogs I contribute to. This particular one is about family history, and given that the library runs a holiday reading programme, I decided to read some of the titles taken from one of the brochures on young adult family history novels. It seemed like a fun thing to do - plus we needed new and hopefully exciting content for the blog. Much as we work in family history, there are only so many posts about shipping lists and tracking down dead relatives one can do.

I just discovered a whole bunch of new authors.
I don't read much kids literature - I don't work with teens beyond the odd school visit to our research centre - but wow, I just loved reading these books. It turns out there is some pretty neat teen fiction being published, and while we all love our sweet romance, I imagine most of us also read outside the genre, whether it be fantasy, science fiction, crime or more literary fiction. Teen novels aren't something I'd considered beyond the odd, random book I'd occasionally read. Interestingly, adults reading teen books created some controversy last year in an op-ed piece, following the success of YA books being turned into movies. True, it probably isn't good for any adult to just read YA - but variety is surely a good thing.
The books I read for the blog were smart and funny, with amazing characters and plots and were just so well written. Teen fiction? As they say... who knew...
Are there any other genres you're tried - and discovered to your surprise, you really quite liked?

Joanne's latest book is Dating Daisy, a romantic comedy set in New Zealand. You can follow Jo on Twitter and check out the website at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Happy Paper Anniversary!

It's my anniversary!

It was a year ago that I wrote my first blog post for Sweet Romance Reads.

paper stars
I was so thrilled to have joined this wonderful group of authors of sweet romance. I felt like I'd finally found "my tribe," as they say! I am even more thrilled and grateful a whole year later.

Tradition would say it's our paper anniversary.

Back in September, I attended a 50th anniversary party, which I wrote about on this blog in Be Kind: A 50-Years-and-Counting Love Story. Silver, gold, diamond - they mark the biggies, the major mileposts of a long journey together.

But a first anniversary in a relationship is a pretty important event, too, I think. It marks a year of laying down foundations of trust and friendship, of learning the little things about each other that knit the fabric of a couple's love, of making memories that will keep their relationship warm when life out there gets cold.

The custom of associating certain items or materials to each anniversary seems pretty recent. Apparently, the Romans marked only the 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries. In 1922, Emily Post listed only eight "important" anniversaries deserving of recognition - the first was one of them. According to Wikipedia, the National Retail Jewelers Association came up with a list assigning materials and gemstones to each anniversary in 1937, as a marketing ploy. Not surprisingly, they didn’t recommend giving your beloved paper jewelry for a first anniversary - they were pushing mother-of-pearl.

So why does tradition declare that paper is the right symbol for a first anniversary? Debrett's, Emily Post, Wikipedia and the Chicago Public Library (which publishes the "official" anniversary gift list) all concur that paper it is. Yet, there seems to be no reason given. One can assume it was because paper was cheap. It's also fragile. Maybe that's why.

But paper is also incredibly versatile. It can be made from different kinds of fibers - wood, cotton, hemp or other materials. It can be any color. It can be thick or see-through-thin, smooth or bumpy. It can, indeed, be made into wonderful jewelry, folded into delicate origami cranes or used to build a house. Paper fills the covers of books and holds the stories of humankind.

Paper, like a new marriage, can be turned into almost anything you can imagine.

Every author knows that a blank sheet of it can be at once the most terrifying way to face your fears and the beginning of the most extraordinary journey.

As a writer, I hope to fill many pages of paper this year (of the virtual as well as the actual variety) and to bring you more sweet romances to read.

But first, I want to say thank you to my fellow Sweet Romance Reads authors for a wonderful first year together, filled with precious support and friendship that has helped us launch and share many pages of delightful reading into the world. It's been an honor and a privilege. And lots of fun.

Happy Anniversary! 

Reclaiming Home by Milou Koenings
Milou 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 novel, Reclaiming Home, A Green Pines Romance, is available at Amazon

You can find her on her website,, on Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hidden Cameras by Angela Benson

A word to the wise. . . If you get mail from Citations Processing Center, it's not a good thing.  I know because I was the unlucky recipient of mail from them.  Guess what it was?  You're right, it was a traffic citation.  Specially, it was a Notice of Determination from the Automated Red Light Enforcement Program.  Apparently, my car was photographed and video-recorded while entering an intersection when the traffic signal was red.  And the fine is a whopping $135!!!!

I haven't paid the fine yet because I'm thinking of contesting the citation.  The good thing is that they (whoever they are) give you access to the photographs and video-recordings on which the citation is based.  From looking at the video, I think the light changed from yellow to red just as my car entered the intersection. I think this means I should not have been ticketed.  I'm going to have my husband take a look at the video with me to make sure I'm assessing it correctly.  If he agrees, then I'm going to contest the fine.  You can also take a look and let me know what you think.

An interesting thing about citations from these automated programs is that the fines are civil fines, so they don't count against your driver's license or your car insurance.  You pay the money and it's over and done, or should be. 

There is an upside to my citation though.  It's gotten me to thinking about possible stories involving hidden cameras.  There's something eerie about the idea of a camera tracking your movements, even if it's a traffic camera.  In my story the person with the hidden camera could be a stalker, a private detective, a corporate spy, a worried spouse or a concerned parent.  The possibilities are endless.  As soon as I finish the book I'm working on now, The Summer of Me, I'm going to spend some more time on my hidden camera idea.

Now it's your turn.  Have you been ticketed by any of these automated programs?  I hope not, but you have please share your misery.  On a fun note, have you read any books that involve hidden cameras?  If so, I'd love to hear about them.  If not, do you think you'd enjoy reading such a story?

Angela Benson is the author of 14 novels and two novellas.  In Awakening Mercy, the first book in her Genesis House series, CeCe Williams meets her Mr. Right when she's completing court-mandated community service due to unpaid parking tickets!  Of course, there's more to CeCe than her parking tickets.  She's a busy single mother who's wary of falling in love again given how it turned out for her the first time.  Her Mr. Right, Nate Richardson, is recovering from a divorce he didn't want and has his own reservations about committed relationships. Can the two of them let go of the pain of the past and build a life together or will secrets from CeCe’s past destroy any hope they have for a future?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Same Old Story ~ New and Different Each Time

The experts say there are only a set number of plots. The number varies depending upon which fiction writing expert is giving the information, but the number is tiny compared to the stories that have been told over the centuries and the countless stories being produced now. Whether it’s a Cinderella story or marriage of convenience or action-adventure, etc., experts say each story is just a retooling and retelling of the same basic plots. If that’s true, then all stories should be redundant and boring, right? Yet readers keep reading. And writers keep trying.

On top of my china cabinet is a dish once held by my great-great-grandmother. It isn’t fine china and it isn’t in mint condition. It was well-used and shows it. I hold the dish in my hands and think about the generations of hands that held it before me—before it became a family treasure—back when a woman’s loving hands set it on the table filled with food to feed her hard-working family. The dish would’ve been passed around the table for each family member to take a portion and pass it on. Then later, she stood at the kitchen sink to wash this same dish with the detergent bubbles tickling her arms. She probably rinsed the dish and handed it to someone—a daughter, a mother, a husband—perhaps with a smile, maybe a casual remark, to dry it before putting it back into its place in the cabinet.

So I hold the dish in my hands and wonder about those people and their lives, and the experiences of love, joy, sorrow, and anger that passed through those lives even as the dish was passed from hand to hand, from generation to generation. There is an undeniable similarity in the beats of our lives, past and present, but the same basic plots? Yes, perhaps, except that it’s new to the person who experiences it. When love strikes or heartbreak follows, it’s new and unique to that person.

Each person whose hands held the dish before me had a story. It was a story retold over and over, and the reader may consciously or subconsciously respond to the common chord, but it was HER story, HER heart, HER life. Each time it was lived, it was lived anew for the first time, every time.

As it should be with the stories we write.

As a reader, what kind of stories do you like best?


Grace Greene is a USA Today Bestselling Author of sweet romance, romantic suspense, and women's fiction. She writes two series: Emerald Isle, NC Stories, and Virginia Country Roads. Please visit her at and sign up for her newsletter.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beating the Winter Blahs by Raine English

Now that the holidays are over and all the decorations are put away, the thought of the long winter ahead can be pretty depressing. Especially living in New England, where in addition to the freezing cold, many days are just gray and dreary. It makes me long for summer. So what to do?

Brighten up the house. I start with my office, since that’s where I spend most of my time. I like to fill it with candles and fresh flowers. You can purchase bouquets inexpensively from your local grocery store.

Enjoy a cup of herbal tea.

Instead of a shower, take a long, hot bath and fill the tub with great-smelling salts or bubble bath, and you’ll feel the stress fade away.

Simmer a pot of water filled with cinnamon sticks. The scent will fill the house and lift your spirits.

Listen to your favorite upbeat music.

Think spring and have a light dessert of sherbet or sorbet.

On a sunny day, take a walk and really soak up those rays.

These are just a few ways to beat the winter blahs. There are many more. What are some that work for you?


USA Today bestselling author Raine English writes sweet small-town romances. She lives in New England with her family and her French bulldog, Bailey. For information on her books, visit her website at

Friday, January 16, 2015

Taking Risks By Margaret Daley

Sometimes playing it safe doesn’t get us where we want to go. Take for an example, falling in love (something romance authors write about all the time) can be a big risk. Can you imagine a world where a couple doesn’t take that risk and fall in love? I would be out of a job. There would be no romances. I’d hate a world without love stories.

The act of writing a book is a risk. An author is putting part of herself on the page for people to read—to like or not. I never thought I had such a risky life until I started thinking about this.

Risks are everywhere in our life, often coupled with decisions we are faced with throughout the day. So how do we navigate through all these decisions and risk choices we are faced with. 1) A strong faith—belief system that has formed and grown over the years you have matured into an adult. 2) A plan for your life to help you keep yourself focused and on course. The risks develop when we stray from our plan/purpose. Then we find ourselves in a rocky place. We’re not sure of our footing and often find ourselves falling. 3) Reassessment periodically—we need to be willing to change when it is needed. Life is full of changes, but we have to be careful the change fits in with what we think our plan is.

An example of reassessing and changing is the current publishing industry of traditional and self publishing. In the past few years how an author gets her book published has altered. Or rather, now there are more choices for each person, but the writer has to decide, which is best for her and be willing to learn and reassess if it isn’t working.

Risk is part of life. Change is too. But don’t be afraid of either one. They can be good for you—like a new love or a writing career through the self-publishing route.

Margaret Daley, a USA Today’s Bestselling author of over ninety books (five million sold worldwide), has been married for over forty years and is a firm believer in romance and love. When she isn’t traveling, she’s writing love stories, often with a suspense thread and corralling her three cats that think they rule her household. To find out more about Margaret visit her website at

Check out Margaret’s book at and read about my latest stories: To Save Her Child, Deadly Holiday, The Yuletide Rescue and Her Hometown Hero

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Needing Reading by Alicia Street

When Americans are polled on their favorite hobbies, you know what usually comes out on top?

You guessed it. 


Of course everybody reads for school, work, research or just to figure out how to install the latest whatever-it-is they just bought. But when it comes to reading for ourselves, it is usually fiction we choose.

Being lucky enough to have older siblings and parents who loved books, I was one of those strange kids who started reading before I hit kindergarten. Growing up, I found as many friends in the pages of novels as I did among my neighbors and schoolmates. So, of course I am now a total fiction addict who goes into withdrawal if I get stuck waiting in a dentist’s office without a book or my e-reader.

I think the act of a reader and author sharing a fictional world that is created solely out of words is a magical thing. I used to worry that this was escapism or, at the very least, guilty pleasure. But those of you who share my obsession can relax. According to a couple recent studies, reading fiction not only helps you develop better social skills, but it can also make you superior at interacting in business situations. 

So, go ahead and load up your e-reader with a vengeance.  :)  I know I'm going to use these long, cozy winter nights to dig into my TBR pile. How about you? 


Alicia Street is a USA Today bestselling author and a Daphne du Maurier award-winner. She often writes in collaboration with her husband, Roy, and is grateful to have the kind of marriage that proves romance novel love really exists.  
You can connect with Alicia at her website or visit her on Facebook or Twitter.