Saturday, February 28, 2015

Relaxation Techniques - by Magdalena Scott

We have had an interesting couple of days in our usually serene corner of the world.

Sure, the weather has been cold, and there's ice and snow, but we live in an apartment and work at home, meaning if we don't want to go out, we don't.

And since we have the dandy insulated pop-ins I made last month for our big windows, we've saved energy and reduced our electric bill while still being cozy.

"What then could be the problem in this idyllic world?" you ask, "besides the fact that it is inhabited by a soft-hearted woman and a high-strung cat?"

Our downhill slide began with the shredding truck. Attila, my Kitten from Heck, freaked out when he heard the grinding sound. This surprised me, because we live in a noisy neighborhood--the kind of noisy neighborhood that is only quiet on Sunday morning. So I was taken off guard by his anxiety, and even more that it Lasted. All. Day.

We're talking about six hours or so of crying and pacing. Nothing helped, and I tried everything I could think of. Finally early in the evening, he settled down and rested. I expected him to sleep well, and he did. Instead of walking across me from time to time, he lay in one spot against my leg all night. I woke up before he did.

Today, mid-morning he got that round-eyed, freaked-out look again, and when I checked out the window, the garbage truck was just pulling away. Pace, cry, rub, pace, cry...

Fortunately he needed his annual shots, so we went to the vet. Nothing seemed physically wrong with him, and the vet told me about a plug-in diffuser of cat pheromones that might calm him down. Without asking the cost, I bought the thing. Amazing results so far, though we're only talking about a couple of hours' use. And no shredding or garbage trucks have been near as far as I know. (I don't hear these things any more--just part of living on a busy street.)

It is interesting timing that last night I took my first yoga class. Thank goodness for it, because it erased a lot of stress. (There was even more stress this week--the people kind--but no need to discuss that here.) I was so relaxed after the class, that once I sat in my big recliner, I wasn't sure I could get up again. Good stuff.

I sure hope Attila and I can stay on track. I didn't intend to write about him this month, but yet again he shoved himself into the center of the universe. He's talented that way. So what do you think-- I stick with the yoga? I'm starting to think of it as a self-defense class.


Magdalena Scott writes small town sweet romance novels. Learn about her books, read her blog, subscribe to her newsletter and connect on social media by visiting her website:

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Friday, February 27, 2015

My Kids Inspire Me by Susan R. Hughes

“Write what you know,” says the old adage. Well, I’m not an expert on very many things, so I can’t stick to this rule. That’s where research comes in. One thing I do know about from my own life is kids. I have three of them, all girls. I suppose it’s no coincidence that many of my novels feature little girls of various ages, when I’m surrounded by them in real life.

Raising kids is much harder than I imagined (would any of us take it on if we knew how exhausting it would be?). Sometimes I have to take a step back to appreciate how privileged I am to be their mom. There’s nothing like hearing someone tell me they love me “more than the whole universe,” or just watching them blossom as individuals while they discover the world around them.

Then there are the amusing little gems they come up with: one of my twins, at age four, told me quite earnestly that “Grown-ups can’t eat or they’ll grow bigger and bigger into a dragon and break the house.” The other twin tried a strawberry smoothie for the first time, grinned at the taste, and told me, “It’s making my heart go big.” I love those moments.

When I wrote my first romance, Divided Hearts, my oldest daughter was a toddler, and I used her as the model for baby Hannah in the story. For Kiss the Bridesmaid a few years later, I borrowed heavily from my twins for the character of four-year-old Lily. In a few years, maybe I won’t remember just what it’s like having little girls around. I’m looking forward to having more time for writing when they are older and more self-sufficient, but I have a feeling I’ll miss those bursts of unrestrained affection and joy that tend to get reined in as we age.

My oldest daughter is now ten. She’s still a little girl, but gradually moving toward becoming a teen (and already working on the attitude). She still likes it when I read books to her, but no longer wants tucking in at night and hardly ever runs to me for spontaneous hugs (I have to chase her down for a cuddle). She challenges me with more sophisticated questions and observations. I just hope I’m up to guiding her through the upcoming stage in life when so many girls suffer a plummet in self-esteem. All I can tell her is that I’ve been there and came out the other side.

The sweet romance I’m working on now features a single mom with an eleven-year-old daughter. Here I go again.

Susan R. Hughes writes contemporary and historical novels set mainly in Canada. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Visit her website at

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane by Ginny Baird

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of traveling to New Orleans with my husband. It was my first time visiting the city, and I loved every minute of our trip. Something that made it special was that my husband had lived there years before. Back when he was a fledgling professor at Tulane, he discovered many local haunts and native eateries that are still there today. What fun it was to have him as my tour guide, as I indulged in Cajun cooking and experienced the joy of my first piping hot beignet!

The day we took the streetcar from our hotel in the French Quarter to the university, it poured. But it wasn’t just rain streaming from the sky. One large tree on campus was raining Mardi Gras beads! We snapped this shot on our way to the student store where I purchased a pair of rain boots. Then we slogged off on further adventures, enjoying red beans and rice at the diner that used to be my husband’s favorite lunch retreat.

There’s something very special about exploring a loved one’s past in this manner. It provides insight into who they are now by better understanding the things they did then. A few years ago, when we visited our daughter studying in Spain (where I’d spent my junior college year), I was able to play tour guide for my husband by sharing a unique glimpse of my history. 

Have you and your partner had similar experiences in taking each other on trips down your own personal memory lanes? Let us hear about them here!

~ * ~ 

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Ginny Baird writes contemporary romance novels and novellas. Her latest sweet romance release is The Calendar Brides, available at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and KoboWant to keep up with news from Sweet Romance Reads authors?
Sign up for the SRR newsletter today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Garden Visitors

I love walking around our garden, but I have to admit I'm not the one who does the work out there. It's my husband who mows the lawn, trims the hedges and trees and does all the other things like digging ponds—because he loves it. Come rain or shine, he is out in the garden at the weekend and on most of his days off. (The rest of the time he's at the golf course!)

We met at college where we both studied Botany and Zoology and we've always been interested in wildlife and nature. During the early years we were together, before the kids came along, we'd spend many hours out bird watching. I only knew the names of the most common birds before I met my husband, but I soon learned to recognize most British birds.

We both still love seeing the wildlife in our garden and my husband has done all he can to make the garden wildlife friendly. He's created a woodland in one corner where we often hear the cawing of Jays, and we have an owl box that is regularly used by Tawny Owls.

There are lots of bushes with berries and plants with seed heads around the garden for Goldfinches and Bullfinches.

He built a pond with a little island and duck house that is used every year by Mallard Ducks, so we're treated to the sight of fluffy ducklings trailing around after their mother.

We have two bird feeling stations offering peanuts, sunflower seeds, fat balls, grain and sometimes appropriate leftovers. Here we see many different small birds including Robins, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Green Finches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Sparrows . My favorite is the cute Long Tailed Tit.

Unfortunately for the small birds, the bird feeders also attract Sparrowhawks, although they aren't interested in the grain or peanuts. They want to eat the birds! They swoop through the garden like jet fighters and snatch Sparrows or Blue Tits or other small birds out of the air. I hate it when this happens, but I guess this is the way of nature and the Sparrowhawk has to eat too.

We also have Pheasants in the garden, although these aren't wild birds. They are bred and released on a nearby shooting estate. We love when they find our garden and take refuge from the guns! Unfortunately, Pheasants are really bad at raising their babies and although they often have large broods of chicks, the poor babies last only a few days before a fox finds them.

We also have badgers, foxes and rabbits that regularly pass through our garden, but we don't often see them as they are nocturnal.

What sort of wildlife do you have in your back yard or garden?

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 and a burmilla cat. Helen has one of her Army Doctor stories in the Hearts & Kisses boxed set. (This set includes both sweet and steamy books.) Find Helen on FaceBook and Twitter, or visit her website.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

36 Questions to Fall in Love by Milou Koenings

Is it possible to marry just anyone? Maybe, if you ask the right questions.

question mark of hearts
A friend of mine who is a marital therapist claims that any two mentally healthy people with just a bit of physical attraction can have a successful marriage as long as they have two things: respect and generosity.

I found the idea cold and unromantic. But I've been mulling it over a long time and when I read about Mandy Lee Catron's essay in The New Yorker (and then read the essay itself and many more about it), it seemed to confirm my friend's assessment.

For those who haven't yet heard about it, Catron's essay was entitled "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This."

Her essay struck a chord - aren't we all looking for love or looking to keep the flame of our love shining bright? The essay went viral, spawned a slew of YouTube videos, both endorsing and mocking it, at least half-a-dozen apps, and even a few humorous spoofs.

The essay was inspired by research done in the 1990s by Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at SUNY at Stonybrook. His study looked at whether intimacy could be accelerated between random strangers by having them discuss 36 questions and then stare into each other's eyes for four minutes.

Catron and a friend decided to try it. And yes, they did fall in love.

The obvious flaw in this proof that the 36 questions work is that Catron and her beloved were friends to start off with and if they were willing to give the experiment a shot, they clearly were already open to the possibility of falling in love with each other. The millions of people who devoured the essay and are busily downloading the apps seem willing to put that point aside in the hope that asking the right questions will magically produce Prince or Princess Charming.

There's logic to the questions, though. They start out innocuous enough and progressively get more intimate, asking people to reveal things about themselves and their lives that they may never even have considered. In the process, both parties make themselves increasingly vulnerable.

Isn't that the process of any good romance novel? We start out with protagonists who, because of whatever life has thrown at them, have reasons not to make themselves vulnerable. Through letting their defenses go, and risking the vulnerability of intimacy, they give themselves over to love.

One reason we all love romance novels so much is probably partly because no matter what the details of the stories are, the process of falling in love is universal, in fiction and in life.

Want to give a go at the 36 questions that lead to love? You can bet we did!

You'll find them here.

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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Painting Stories

I majored in art in college and have been very involved in art all my life. As a child and teenager, I wrote poems and stories, but my grandmother was a talented oil painter and my mom was the best paper doll maker ever, so it was natural for me to move more fully into creative art and do less writing. Over the years as the pendulum has swung, I have done more writing and spent less time painting, but the truth is they are actually very similar activities.
To begin an oil painting the artist assembles the stretcher bars, staples the canvas to the bars, and prepares the canvas with primer. She then gathers the objects to be painted. The assembly and setup for a painting are very much like researching a story idea and setting up your files and data in the software you use for writing. With the sticks of vine charcoal the artist lightly sketches the basic painting structure onto the canvas. This is much like the planning or outlining of the plot. With the right brushes and paints at hand, the artist builds the painting. She begins with translucent washes, then gradually builds in color, shape and shadow layer by layer, until finally there is a picture story. With each layer the artist’s vision becomes clearer and stronger, just as drafts and editing strengthen a story. The painting may be a still life, or a portrait, or landscape, or even abstract, but when it’s done it’s complete unto itself. Finally, it gets a layer of varnish to protect and seal the product, declaring it ready for the world. For the story, it is now a book and gets a cover. Here are some of my paintings. They each feel like a story to me.

The development of the painting by layers into a final, cohesive product, feels the same whether I’m painting a picture or writing a book. It’s about the craft from start to finish. Ultimately, the painting is hung on the wall in hopes of tempting viewers to look closer, perhaps even to be moved emotionally. A book is placed on a shelf or an ebook retailer site, for the same reasons. The nice thing about a book is that the reader can curl up with it or an ereader on a cold winter day, or bask on a beach in the warm sun, and enjoy the story. I don’t recommend doing that with an oil painting.
Are there paintings that you recall? Images that have stuck with you over the years? The same is true of books and stories. What in those stories spoke to you? The books may seem to be different, but my guess is that if boiled down to their essence, the books you particularly remember have similar themes. I tend to read and write about trust, faith and truth. And that’s where, in my opinion, paintings and books differ. We may be moved by a work of art, have questions raised, and may even divine a story within it, but it won’t touch us inside, won’t stir us emotionally to the same degree that the written word can. You can enjoy a painting and be moved by it, but you probably won’t need to keep a box of tissues handy while you observe and appreciate it.
Art and other creative themes show up in my books, especially in A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER. I hope you'll take a look.

BIO: Grace Greene writes novels of Love, Mystery and Suspense with a Dash of Southern Gothic. She is also the author of the Emerald Isle, NC books, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS - romance with inspiration. Please visit her website and sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Homemade Dog Biscuits by Raine English

I began cooking for my dogs years ago when one of them developed stomach issues. That also happened to be around the time all those pet food recalls began. And believe it or not, they’re still an issue. Just last week there was one, and the week before that too. I’ve spent hours in the kitchen baking chickens, boiling sweet potatoes, and making rice. Most people aren’t willing to go to that extreme, but there is something you can do to help keep your pet safe. A lot of the recalls involve dog treats. Instead of buying them, try making them yourself. A favorite of mine is peanut butter dog biscuits. They’re quick and easy. Just follow the recipe below for a healthy treat your dog will love.

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits  
Makes about 3 dozen biscuits

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix well. In another bowl, microwave the peanut butter for a few seconds to soften it, whisk in the milk, then slowly stir in the flour and baking powder. Flatten the dough to about ½-inch thickness and cut into 1 ½-inch squares.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then turn over biscuits and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store in a covered container.


USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Raine English writes sweet small-town romance, paranormal, and Gothic romantic suspense. She’s a Daphne de Maurier Award winner and a Golden Heart finalist. Her books have made the Top 100 Bestseller lists at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To learn more about Raine, visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Passion in Our Stories

By Margaret Daley

Why should you be passionate about what you write? People tell you when you start writing you need to write about what you know--or if not you'd better do a lot of research to familiarize yourself with the subject. I agree, but I would take it a step further. You need to be passionate about what you write. If you want your readers to care, you need to care--enough to convey that to your readers.

That sounds simple, but it isn't always that way. But when you are passionate about your characters and plot, it comes across in your story.  It helps you to keep focused on what you want to write. It's a goal and motivation all wrapped up in one. What do I mean? When I was writing my series called A Town Called Hope (His Holiday Family, Love Inspired, December 2011), I wanted to pay tribute to the men and women who help others recover from a disaster--in this case a hurricane. I grew up as a teenager in Biloxi, Mississippi, which has been hit with several major hurricanes since the time I lived there. I've seen my hometown go through a lot over the years. I've seen neighbors helping neighbors, people work long hours to rebuild their town, making sacrifices for others. After Katrina I began toying with an idea, which I finally wrote in my new series. I wanted to honor towns like Biloxi for fighting to rebuild--not to let the hurricane win. This is what drove my stories. It gave me focus when coming up with my characters and plot.  It also gave me the theme for my series: how out of tragedy comes hope.

In another story I've written, Saving Hope, the story is about trying to stop child trafficking. This subject is dear to my heart. When I did my research, I became even more focused on wanting to convey the danger to young teens (some children) of being trapped in a situation they can't get out of. This helped me keep my story centered around what I was passionate about, protecting our young people.

So when you are thinking about your next book, consider some of these things:
1. What do you care about--you get passionate about?
2. How can you take that and weave it into a story that you are excited about?
3. Can I condense my passion down into a single sentence that will drive my story, keep me focused?
4. How can I craft characters who are as passionate as I am?
5. How can I take that passion about the subject and develop a plot to match it?

Bio: 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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winter Walks by Alicia Street

We’ve had our share of snow in the northeastern US this year, and I really like it. Walking in the snow is great for musing over elements in the current novel I’m writing or else savoring one I’ve just read. Cold crisp air never fails to sharpen my senses, wake up my brain cells, and refresh my computered-out eyes.

I also love seeing the way pets act in the snow. They have a good time outside as long as they have a nice home to come back to, just like people. But when I think of the strays out there braving the harsh elements, it breaks my heart. I’m grateful for the local rescue groups and also national ones like the Animal Rescue Site where you can help feed and rescue strays with a simple click.

 On one winter walk, I found a stray cat I named Wallace. He was only a swollen-bellied kitten then, but he is now eighteen years old. And he doesn’t much like going out in the cold anymore. At this point in his life, he’d rather do most of his thinking while napping on a sofa pillow.
Do you like walking in the snow? 


Have you signed up for the Sweet Romance Reads newsletter yet? It comes out three times a year, Valentine's Day, Summer and the December holiday issue.
Each issue features sweet romance flash fiction, delightful stories that will warm your heart. It also includes giveaways from our authors and news about their latest releases.
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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 websiteFacebook or Twitter.

Happy Valentine's Day

"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart." Helen Keller.

"There is no remedy for love but to love more." David Henry Thoreau

"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." Mother Teresa

"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love." Albert Einstein
" People may not remember exactly what you did, or what said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." Maya Angelou
"Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I really need it." Swedish Proverb 
"Take away love and our earth is a tomb." Robert Browning

"Love means nothing in tennis, but it's everything in life." Unknown author

"Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart." Unknown author

"Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness." Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do you have a favorite quote about love?

Merrillee Whren is the winner of the 2003Golden Heart Award presented by Romance Writers of American. She is married to her own personal hero, her husband of  thirty-five plus years, and has two grown daughters. Her latest book, Second Chance Reunion, is available at all major book retailers. You can find the buy links at her website. Connect with her on her Facebook page.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Recipes of Love: A Cookbook by the Sweet Romance Reads Authors

Are you being treated to a night out for Valentine's Day, or do you prefer a night in? For that matter, do you need ideas for what to cook for just the two of you? You'll enjoy the cookbook we've released filled with recipes inspired by our books.

In Recipes of Love, sixteen authors from Sweet Romance Reads have included favorite romantic dishes to set the scene for a perfect intimate meal at home--just for two. Meat, fish and vegetarian suggestions are included, and many recipes are quick and easy to prepare. Recipes of Love contains something for everyone to enjoy this Valentine's Day.

Also included are excerpts from the stories that inspired our recipes, so you can relax and read while you cook! Contributing Authors:

Lyn Cote - Awarding-winning author of over 40 contemporary and historical inspirational romances.
Melinda Curtis - Award-winning, USA Today bestseller and author of both sweet and steamier contemporary romance.
Margaret Daley - USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of romantic suspense and contemporary romances.
Denise Devine - USA Today bestselling author of romantic comedy and inspirational romance.
Raine English - USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of sweet contemporary romance.
Donna Fasano - USA Today bestselling author who has written over 30 romance and women's fiction novels.
Aileen Fish - USA Today bestselling author of sweet contemporary and Regency romance.
Grace Greene - USA Today bestselling author of sweet contemporary romance, suspense and women's fiction.
Shanna Hatfield - Hopeless romantic and bestselling author of sweet contemporary and historical romance.
Milou Koenings - Author of sweet contemporary romance.
Karen Rock - Award-winning author of Young Adult and Adult contemporary romance.
Roxanne Rustand - Award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of over 35 sweet and inspirational romance and romantic suspense novels.
Magdalena Scott - USA Today bestselling author of sweet romance in small town settings.
Alicia Street - USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and historical romance.
Helen Scott Taylor - USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of sweet contemporary romance.
Merrillee Whren - Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance.


Have you signed up for our newsletter yet? It comes out three times a year, Valentine's Day, Summer and the December holiday issue.

Each issue features sweet romance flash fiction, delightful stories that will warm your heart. It also includes giveaways from our authors and news about their latest releases.

Don't miss another issue. Scroll down the right side of our blog and enter your email address under Mailing List.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Little Mood Music by Shanna Hatfield

Call it a personality quirk or flaw, but I associate almost everything with music. From books to people to special occasions, in my head, they all have at least one song, some an entire soundtrack.

Valentine's Day is no exception.

Blame my love for some of these oldies but goodies on being born to middle-aged parents who went to high school in the 1940s.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy those wonderful, sweet, romantic songs, too!
One of my all-time favorite Valentine songs is from the movie Holiday Inn. You gotta love Bing Crosby crooning "Be Careful, It's My Heart."

In fact, I loved the song so much, I incorporated it into my book, The Cowboy's New Heart. In a fun Valentine scene, weathered rancher Hart Hammond sings it to his date, effectively melting her heart.
 My sister was a huge Elvis Presley fan. As in - she had ever record he ever made and knew the words to every single song.

It's hard not to get a little swoony over Elvis. Especially when he sings "Can't Help Falling In Love."

And while we're on the topic of Elvis, I can't leave out "Are you Lonesome Tonight?"
What's Valentine's Day without a little smooth romance from Nat King Cole?


 Make it "Unforgettable."

 "Chances Are"  if you play this oldie from Johnny Mathis you might find yourself humming along.


  I can't leave out Frank Sinatra's "My Funny Valentine."

And here are a few songs that aren't quite as old, yet still ooze romance...

Anne Murray's "Could I Have This Dance." is another great yet often overlooked love song.

"Valentine" from Martina McBride makes me ridiculously sappy.

 For reasons I can't begin to explain this song is always, always on my favorite love song list...

John Michael Montgomery's "I Love the Way You Love Me" melts me into a puddle every time I hear it.

What's your favorite Valentine or love song?

 Have you signed up for the Sweet Romance Newsletter? Click here to sign up! 

 This Valentine's Day, tempt your sweetheart with a delicious meal. In Recipes of Love, sixteen authors from Sweet Romance Reads have included favorite romantic dishes to set the scene for a perfect intimate meal at home--just for two. Meat, fish and vegetarian suggestions are included, and many recipes are quick and easy to prepare. Recipes of Love contains something for everyone to enjoy this Valentine's Day.
The ebook is only 99 cents and you can find it at all these great online retailers:


A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a bestselling author of sweet romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.
  Find Shanna’s books at:
Follow her online at: