Monday, February 29, 2016

Research: A Writer's Rodeo by Karen Rock

One of the best aspects of writing novels is the chance to research. I love learning about new places and people and I recently had that opportunity while penning my March 2016 Harlequin Heartwarming release HIS KIND OF COWGIRL.

Since I decided to set the story in Texas (where I've only been to once before), and create a heroine that lived on a prize bull ranch (my uncle's a dairy farmer... so not the same thing at all) and a hero who is a professional bull-rider (I've only seen rodeo on TV), I knew I had my work cut out for me! What would I have done without the kindness of strangers- who became friends?

I always begin with an internet search and by typing in key words. For HIS KIND OF COWGIRL, I searched with the terms "Prize Bull Ranch" and "Texas" and found the V8 ranch in Wharton, Texas. I used the "contact us" link on the website to reach out to the owners, Rachel and Brandon Cutrer who are the latest trustees of an operation that's been in their family for generations. 

Rach wrote back the same day and agreed to chat with me. I learned so much, from the breed of bulls and cattle they raise: Brahman, to the daily tasks of running a professional bull ranch, information that informed my story-telling and lent the novel authenticity. One particular scene, in which my heroine goes to the Houston Livestock Show to compete with her three-year-old bull, Guardian, is one of my favorites in the story and couldn't have been possible if not for Rach's help. 

Her only request? Would I send her grandma a copy of HIS KIND OF COWGIRL when it came out. Happy to say that copies are in the mail as I type!

As for the bull-riding aspect of the book, I google-searched "Bull-riding" "PBR" and found Sheri Smith, agent to Mike Lee, a national bull-riding champion. Sheri graciously worked with me a great deal to ensure my characterization of Tanner Hayes, a champion who overcomes obstacles to achieve his dreams, was grounded in reality. She also put me in touch with Brandon Bates, a former bull-rider and now an announcer for the Elite PBR tour. He was so helpful that, in addition to phone chats and email exchanges, he offered to read scenes in which Tanner rode a bull. His first comment about one scene was: This gal's from the north, isn't she? Yep...LOL. The hard work paid off, though, and I'm proud how Tanner's scenes turned out because of Brandon and Sheri's stamp of approval.

Through the course of our discussions, I learned about a wonderful charity that Sheri, a Navy veteran has founded: Warriors And Rodeo. WAR provides rodeo gear, via donations and sponsorship to military, EMS, firefighters, law enforcement and other professionals that protect and serve our country who are interested in the rodeo/western lifestyle. Whether it be vests, helmets, chaps, boots, spurs, hats, ropes, clothing or other items--WAR gives back to those who are willing to give it all. I'm proud to have become a sponsor and hope you'll check out this very worthy cause at . Thanks!
*Read HIS KIND OF GIRL'S Prologue and Chapter One on Wattpad- click HERE

Sunday, February 28, 2016

What's your theme song? ~ by Magdalena Scott

Sometimes I don't get as much done as I think I should in a day's time, and lately I've wondered if it would help to have my own theme song.

Back in a sad part of my life I had a theme song without even realizing it. Every time I listened to it The Story by Brandi Carlile, sang along with it, even hummed the daggone thing, I would cry. At the time perhaps that's just what I needed. But not anymore. 

Now I need something upbeat and encouraging. Something that gets my feet tapping, my vocal chords limbered up, and my fingers typing.

I've been watching my DVDs of Murder, She Wrote. Do you remember that 12-season-long TV series about a small town woman who was a famous mystery writer, and solved a murder mystery every single week? Man, Jessica Fletcher had friends and relatives everywhere, didn't she? It must have been frightening to know her, because there was little doubt that eventually you'd be involved in a murder--as victim, accused, or bystander.

But I digress. The point I was headed toward is that Jessica Fletcher had an awesome theme song. No lyrics to my knowledge, but the music is very catchy. If you want to give it a quick listen on YouTube, click here.

For the time being, even though I'm no Jessica Fletcher, and am completely in awe of the great Angela Lansbury who played the character, I'm using that music as my theme song.  

FYI, I started each day with Shambala by Three Dog Night for a few months. So as you can see, I am open-minded about this.

Do you have a theme song? Something that you sing or hum or whistle to get you going in the morning, or to cheer you when you're having a yucky day? I'd love to hear about it. And while you're at it, could you hum a few bars?

Magdalena Scott is a USA Today Bestselling Author of small town sweet romance and women's fiction. Learn about her books, read her blog, subscribe to her newsletter, and connect on social media by visiting her website:

Her newest release is Book Four in the Serendipity, Indiana series: THE BLANK BOOK. Paperback is coming soon. The ebook version is available here:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Author Pat Simmons Introduces Herself

I’m New to the Sweet Romance Reads Family 
by Pat Simmons
I’m excited to be part of a group of die-heart romantics. We get to make fairytales come true with every book we write. Who wouldn’t want a happy ending? My name is Pat Simmons, and I’m the author of almost 30 Christian romance titles. I’ve won awards and hit bestsellers lists, but one of my favorite passions is researching my roots. I’m a self-proclaimed genealogy sleuth and once I find ancestors, I cast them as characters in my contemporary Guilty Jamieson Legacy series. That series is rich with African American/American history, strong family ties, handsome hunks and happy endings, a perfect blend in my inspirational stories.
I love to hear about people’s family history, and I’m always in awe at the discoveries on Finding Your Roots with Henry Lewis Gates, Jr., on PBS. In addition to that show, my husband has me hooked on Castle (that shouldn’t be a surprise) and Marvel’s Agent Carter; my favorite Monday night must-see Supergirl. Then, whenever it airs, Undercover Boss—see happy endings, well most of the time.
Below are my great-grandfather, great-great grandfather and great-great-great grandmother: William Wilkerson; John Adams Wilkinson; and Lucy Richardson Douthet Wilkinson
Oh, the stories I’ve uncovered and can tell. You got a minute?

My upcoming release is a novella, part of the Love at the Crossroads series

What are the qualities you look for in a mate? For Monica Wyatt, a praying man wasn’t at the top of her list until she needed one.
Unlike firefighters who run into danger, instincts tell businessman Tyson Graham to head the other way as fast as he can when he meets a certain damsel in distress.
Monica is a smart, independent, professional and unemployed. She doesn’t make a good first impression, and when she formally meets Tyson, he doesn’t want her to forget it. Miss Wyatt might possess the outwardly beauty and the brains on paper, but Tyson doesn’t trust her working for his company. Yet, something keeps pulling him into her firestorm during her panic attacks.
What Tyson doesn’t understand about her panic attacks makes him seek God for answers. But in order for him to get a prayer through, Tyson has some housekeeping issues of his own to address. Join the wait list for the March release.

Pat Simmons holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked in various positions in traditional radio, television, and print media for more than twenty years, and recently celebrated her 11th year anniversary with the RT Booklovers Convention.  She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatic husband of thirty-plus years into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and daughter.
Her November 2015 release, THE CONFESSION, has been nominated for the Best Inspirational Romance by the Romance Slam Jam committee. The winner will be announced in April.
Read more about Pat, her genealogy, and the other series at where you can get a free download by signing up for her monthly newsletter. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn; or by contacting her at authorpatsimmons(at)gmail(dot)com

So are you interested in family history? Have you researched anything about your genealogy?
PS-Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter. Look on the upper right. Each new subscriber receives a short story collection, "A Bouquet of Romance."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

For the Love of Romance

For the past five years something has been missing in my life, but what? My career is going in the right direction, I have the love of family, my kids are happy and healthy, yet I still didn’t feel fulfilled. An emotional connection to something was missing. It wasn’t until I was required to read books for a competition that I realized what I needed to feel completely fulfilled…books.

I’m happy to say that I’ve read four novels in four weeks. Although I can’t keep that pace, I will give myself the gift of reading this year. In honor of this promise to myself, I thought I’d share a few books I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m not going to include any of the well-known books, because, well, you already know them.

Five books you might want to try (Not in any specific order):
  1. Summer Kisses by Melinda Curtis
  2. Summer’s Song by Lindi Peterson
  3. Beach Rental by Grace Green
  4. Her Hometown Reporter by KD Fleming
  5. A House full of Hope by Missy Tippens 

I’d love to know some of your favorites. J


Ciara Knight is a USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author who writes 'A Little Edge and A Lot of Heart' that span the heat scales. Her popular sweet romance series, Sweetwater County (rated PG), is a small town romance full of family trials, friendly competition, and community love.

I'm excited to share my new release, In All My Wishes, available now at: AmazoniBooksB&NKobo 

At the age of fifteen, Anna Baker was ripped from her childhood home, and her one true love, vowing to return the minute she graduated high school. 

Professor Liam Harrow once believed his childhood sweetheart would return home to him, but during college he faced reality and hardened his heart to love. 

When Historic Hall faces demolition, both Anna and Liam search for options to save their childhood memories, but when secrets unravel and the truth of Anna’s childhood departure is revealed, it could corrupt their memories, risk their present, and destroy their future. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

What is it about a love story? by Julie Jarnagin

If you're reading this blog, it's probably because you love reading romance. Over the years, I've had people question why I choose to write romance. One person encouraged me to kill off the hero or the heroine halfway through the book. Someone else told me I need to come up with the next Harry Potter (Ha! Wouldn't that be nice!). But right now, my heart belongs to writing romance. Here are a few reasons why I love writing love stories.

* It's fascinating to me how two very different people with completely different backgrounds, fears, personalities...everything...fall in love. What is it about them that draws them together? How do they overcome all the things that pull them apart?

* There's a romance genre for everyone. When some people think about romance novels, they think of one kind of book--usually a regency paperback with Fabio on the front cover. That's just one kind of romance. There's contemporary romance, inspirational romance, paranormal romance, urban, western, suspense...the list goes on. And there are heat levels for everyone. Here at Sweet Romance Reads, we celebrate that romance doesn't have to mean a book is R-rated. There are romance novels for all different tastes.

* I get to focus on the relationship first and foremost. There are definitely non-romance books with a strong romantic thread and romance books with an action-filled plot, but with romance novels, the story focuses on the relationship between the two main characters--and that's my favorite part.

* I love a happy-ever-after. Some people enjoy a mysterious ending where they don't know exactly what happens. Some people love it when something dark and surprising happens at the end. I'm all for twists and surprises, but I want a satisfying ending where I leave the book with a happy sigh, and that's what romance gives me.

Why do you read romance? 

Paige Morgan’s career is in shambles. What kind of wedding planner gets left at the altar? So when a job planning parties on a ranch in rural Texas comes her way, she jumps at it. So what if the cowboy who runs the place isn’t happy she’s there?
Rancher Nick Reid risked his heart once… and lost. Who needs love? He’s got a great life on the family ranch—so long as Paige Morgan and her city ideas don’t ruin it all. If only his family didn’t need her help to save their livelihood. And if only he wasn’t so darned drawn to the woman. But no sooner does Nick start to believe in love again, than a socialite shows up looking for Paige. Asking her to plan an elaborate wedding. Back in the city.
Both Paige and Nick need a second chance at love. But what will it cost them to take it?

USA Today Best Selling author Julie Jarnagin writes sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. www.JulieJarnagin.comSign up for her newsletter to be the first to learn about new releases and free books:

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

On Arguments, Romance and a Tribute by Milou Koenings

An obituary may seem misplaced in a blog about writing romance, but it in this case, I don't think it is.   

bridge over river and house
Bear with me for a minute.   

You see, we romance writers spend a long time coming up with arguments.  

Our characters have fights.   

Big, whopping ones.   

The more passionate, the better. 
And then, of course, they make up.

Sometimes, it's another, outside force that keeps our hero and heroine apart, but many times, it's a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, or downright conflicting interests.  

The higher the stakes, the more opposite their interests, then the more the sparks fly and the more satisfying that happy ever after resolution.

If we look at the real world around us though, it seems a rare thing these days, for people to have seriously conflicting interests or hold opposite views on an issue, and yet still respect or even come to love each other.   

Too often, people are quick to write others off entirely. How often we hear things like, "If you think that, well then you must be a horrible, evil person! I won't even speak with you!"

Is it not possible for people to disagree and yet still love each other? 

I like to think that's what our romance novels are there for - to prove it is.

That's where the obituary comes in, and not because I'm burying the possibility.  

It's because I want to pay tribute to the man who most taught me the extent to which it is indeed possible.

This week, my college friend Mary Clare unexpectedly lost her father.  He was on vacation, went to sleep at night and didn't wake up in the morning. 

Perhaps the news hit me so hard because my sister and I have spent the past few weeks coping with having our own father in and out of ICU. But perhaps it was also because, aside from my own father, Mary Clare's dad was probably one of the biggest influences in my life. 

Outwardly, the influences are obvious: I followed into his profession. I attended the graduate school where he'd been a teacher. The professors there ceaselessly picked on me, starting class with questions like, "So, Ms. Koenings, what would Mary Clare's dad have said about this case?"  The result was that I approached my entire pre-romance-author career with the attitude of "How would Mary Clare's dad handle this?" My first job offer was from the same firm where he had begun his career.

That's just the external stuff.  The bigger stuff is that her dad was an amazing human being. He was kind, he was funny, he was humble.  He was so charming that even the people who were determined to hate him would meet him and leave totally enamored of him. 

Why would people be determined to hate him?  Well, he was a lawyer and then a judge.  Lawyers deal in conflict.  Arguments are their bread and butter.  Lawyers make enemies. Fighting with others is their profession.  Some of the fights judges see, romance authors would be hard pressed to come up with even in our wildest dreams.

Many people take it personally. He never did. Some of his best friends were lawyers who were almost always on "the other" side. They pretty much never agreed on anything - and yet he had the biggest capacity for friendship. He respected people and didn't hold their arguments or beliefs against them as people.

People's arguments and views may be valid, or not. You can argue against them, or not; they may change, or not – but they aren't what make people. A person's opinion on one issue isn't what makes her good or kind, what makes her love her kids, or enjoy punk rock instead of Mozart, or choose pistachio ice cream over brownies. 

He once said of a very good friend, "She's a nice person, what's not to like?" - this about a woman who disagreed with almost every value he'd spent his professional life fighting for!

No matter how differently we view the world, chances are we have a lot more in common on which to build bridges than we think we do. And certainly, we're all worthy of being treated with respect, kindness and good humor.

Those of us who were fortunate to be influenced by Mary Clare's dad are better people for it and the world is a better place for the family and friends he leaves behind. 

So back to the romance bit of this post: If the world were really full of people like this, it should be no surprise for two people with wildly conflicting interests to fall madly in love, right?  

If anything, that just adds a little spice to the love story...

Milou Koenings is a USA Today best-selling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.  

Her Green Pines sweet romances, Reclaiming Home and Sweet Blizzard are available on Amazon and
You can find her on her website,, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The sweetest and most encouraging romance I know

Today, I'd like to introduce you to the sweetest and most encouraging romance that I know. The author is L.M. Montgomery, who's best known for her Anne of Green Gables series. My favorite book of her, however, is called The Blue Castle.
This books starts on a dismal note: "Valancy wakened early, in the lifeless, hopeless hour just preceding dawn. She had not slept very well. One does not sleep well, sometimes, when one is twenty-nine on the morrow, and unmarried, in a community and connection where the unmarried are simply those who have failed to get a man."

When Valancy learns that she's seriously ill, she decides to make a drastic change in her life, a change that will bring her the happiness she craves, and this is told in such a charming way that I have read this book so many times that I can't count it anymore. It all starts with one quote: "Despair is a free man -- hope is a slave." When Valancy realizes that, she decides to do exactly as she likes for the short time that still remains for her. I rooted for her as she finally stood up for herself and answered back to all her dreadful relations who were so unkind and thoughtless.

However, the thing I love most about Valancy is her craving for anything that's beautiful. She herself isn't, not in the eyes of society, but she wished she was - oh, how she wishes for beauty, not only for herself, but also in her surroundings. Ugliness around her makes her soul shrivel, and this is a feeling I understand so well that Valancy and I became one as she slowly unfolded her petals and became a strong and - indeed- beautiful woman.

If you feel the need for a little pick-up, the need for courage to be just as you are, then I can only recommend this book to you. Let me know if you also have feel-good books, books that you turn to when you're in need of comfort and a hug.

Beate Boeker
USA Today bestselling author
Mischief & Humor from Page 1

Friday, February 19, 2016

Plotting A Change

Change. It’s both around us and inside us. I don’t like change. I work hard to get my life, and the elements of my life, all arranged and workable, and then life happens and shakes it up. Some people love change. I am not one of them. Even so, I’m smart enough to know that fighting to keep the status quo makes no sense. Why assume that change is less desirable than the present state? That’s illogical. And frankly, sometimes the present ain’t so hot.

In works of fiction, the story navigates along the plot points and pivots on the turning points until it reaches the climax. In fiction, the story opens at a critical point in the character’s life – the inciting incident – and as the story flows along, the character grows and changes.

I insist upon a happy ending in my fictional stories and want the same in the story I live.

Heroines have flaws, sometimes whopping big ones. They must also have, or learn, courage and integrity. As stories turn on plot points, the characters become who they were meant to be. When it works, there are happy endings for everyone – except the villains, of course

It’s unreasonable to expect every story to have a happy ending in the real world. Maybe "happy enough" is the best that practical, realistic people can hope for. We all know that what we think we want – what we think will provide the happiest ending – is often the wrong thing entirely. So, with that in mind, consider this: enjoy the story as you are reading it (enjoy the journey as you live it), laugh and cry as appropriate, and always hope for a happy ending, but remember that our life story, unlike the fictional story, doesn’t end when the last page is turned. 
In the face of change, keep hoping and moving forward. Know that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity, and it’s a rare day that doesn’t have something worthwhile to offer. Don’t wait for the happy ending – try to make your own happy ending anew each and every day.
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Grace Greene writes stories with love, suspense and inspiration. Her Emerald Isle, NC books include her debut novel, BEACH RENTAL, and the sequel, BEACH WINDS, which each received a 4.5 star Top Pick rating from Romantic Times (RT Book Reviews). "It's always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach.”
Grace also writes the Virginia Country Roads series. KINCAID'S HOPE, A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER, CUB CREEK, and LEAVING CUB CREEK share a common theme of mystery and suspense - along a Virginia Country Road.  
Grace lives in central Virginia. Contact Grace via her website, and while you're there, please sign up for her newsletter!
Twitter: @Grace_Greene
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