Monday, May 30, 2016

Beautiful Flowers to Attract Bees, Butterflies and Hummingbirds by Denise Devine

My Flower Garden
As you probably know, bee and butterfly populations are in serious decline. This is not good news! Did you know that in 1997 there were more than 1 billion Monarch butterflies, but now there are only about 57 million? The rapid decline is due to pesticides, loss of habitat, and milkweed, which is the main diet of caterpillars.

Bees are dying in record numbers—putting our food supply seriously at risk—and it’s mostly due to toxic pesticides called “neonicotinoids.” These nasty chemicals are used in nursery plants and they’re systemic, which means that the poison goes up through the plant into the pollen and nectar and kills the bees. PLEASE, only buy plants that aren’t chemically treated!

Make your yard an area where bees and butterflies can survive. Plant wildflowers native to your state, plant milkweed and don’t use chemicals!

Echinacea (Coneflowers)
Some bee-friendly flowers…
Spring Blooms - Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula and wild lilac
Summer - bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta
Fall - zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod

Some butterfly-friendly flowers…
Aster, bee balm, cornflower, daylily, hollyhock, lavender, lilac, milkweed, phlox, purple coneflower, snapdragon, zinnia

Ten top flowers for hummingbirds…
Bee balm, cardinal flower, zinnia, salvia, bleeding hearts, butterfly bush, trumpet flower, lupine, columbine, petunia

Cardinal Flower
The All of the pictures in this post are from my own backyard. If you'd like more information on how you can do your part to help save the bees and butterflies by creating a friendly habitat for them, here are a few very good resources:

American Meadows for wildflower seeds

The Xerces Society for information on bees, butterflies and dragonflies

The Honeybee Conservancy for planting a bee garden

 ~     ~     ~

Denise Devine is a USA TODAY bestselling author who has writes sweet romantic comedy and inspirational romance. She is currently writing two series, Forever Yours (Inspirational) and Counting Your Blessings (Christmas romantic comedy). You can visit her at

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Picnic! Magdalena Scott

Last weekend after church, we had a simple picnic at a lake outside town. It was a warm, sunny day, and we were fortunate to score a shelter house on a hill overlooking the lake. Evidently previous picnickers had satisfied the geese, because they didn't pester us.

And only one bug--a sweat bee that checked us out and moved on.

I love alfresco dining, whether a home-packed picnic or sidewalk table at a city restaurant.

It's Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and lots of people will have picnics and cookouts in their backyards or parks.

What about you? Do you like to dine outdoors? Picnic, cookout, or restaurant? Are you grilling anything yummy this weekend? (I keep thinking about Raine English's recipe a few days ago, for grilled shrimp. Yum!)

USA Today Bestselling Author Magdalena Scott writes sweet romance and women's fiction with small town settings. Visit her website here:

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Billionaires, Millionaires and other fantasy men

Don't get me wrong. In real life, I love brainy men who I can have a conversation with far more than a big muscular guy. My own husband is into Medical Physics. If you don't know what that is, I didn't either when I met him.

Yet in romance novels, my fall back stories to read when I want to unwind are always these men who can take their woman anywhere and do anything with. Money is no longer an object.

So I don't understand my obsession with the rich guys, except to say romance novels are about fantasy. And one day I would like to be swept off on a helicopter myself and flown somewhere incredibly romantic.

And in the billionaire romance novels I read, the guy is essentially prince charming. Once in a while he's rough around the edges but the love of a heroine always pulls him out of his former bad attitude. In the end the two get to live happy-ever-after and not worry about the little things like 'the mortgage' or 'car payment.'

Perhaps it's psychological on my part why these stories draw me in and not stories of firemen. I don't quite know what that says about me, but either way I hope other romance readers agree. Billionaires are HOT in romance novels (they don't look like Bill Gates) and we don't have to be ashamed of this.

Author Bio:

Victoria Pinder grew up in Irish Catholic Boston before moving to the Miami sun. She’s worked in engineering, then became a lawyer. But after passing the bar and practicing very little, she realized that she hated the practice of law. During all this time, she always wrote stories to entertain herself or calm down. When she sat down to see what skill she had that matched what she enjoyed doing, writing became so obvious.  She is bold, and brainy like her characters. Her website is 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love and Lemonade: Summer's Here by Milou Koenings

Almost summer - but not quite.  In our neck of the woods, summer has official arrived only when the cafes start to serve crushed-mint lemonade.   On a sweltering day last week, I stopped at my bakery café during an errands run, throat parched, clothes soaked through thanks to stratospheric temperatures, and asked the waitress for one.  

mint lemonade
She looked at me askance. "It's not summer yet!" A shake of the head. Subtext: How could you even think of asking? Right...

Meanwhile, I waited for summer.

It came yesterday. Unofficially.  Ushered in by my daughter.

This young woman is newly married.  (She got married last summer - during official summer, that is, the kind with lots of crushed-mint lemonade.)  And having moved out, she is developing newly acquired culinary skills.  This is the one child whom I could never teach how to boil an egg, who never displayed the slightest interest in anything remotely connected to cooking, and whose one reluctant, now-legendary, experiment with baking ended up – no joke – with chocolate-chip salt "crackers" rather than the intended cookies.  

"How will you ever feed yourself when you move out?" I used to moan. 

"I'll learn when I have to!" she'd grumble, her head buried in a book.

But now that she's moved out into her own apartment, she's suddenly discovered a latent culinary-whiz streak none of us suspected.  Since the week after the wedding, I've been the lucky recipient of a daily feed of Pinterest-worthy photographs of what she's making for lunch or dinner.  

With the innocence of those who don't know better, she launches fearlessly into any recipe that catches her fancy, regardless of complications or challenges.  Gorgeously colorful salads, spicy kebabs, mouth-wateringly beautiful meatballs, roast chickens of every variety, lasagna to make you drop everything and rush over across town to beg for some...  

Someone who didn't know would think she's studying to be a chef, not a scientist.

When she stopped by for a few minutes yesterday, she casually handed me a covered plate. "I brought you something," she said, as if it was no big deal.  I caught the impish glimmer in her eye before lifting the cover.   Still warm from the oven, chocolate chip cookies.  

She started to laugh.  "You can eat them this time," she assured me. "Honest!"

Then she dug into her satchel. "Oh, and this..." She pulled out a still-frosty bottle in which swirled an emerald-green potion. 

"Mint lemonade?"

She grinned.  "Yup."

So we took a mother-daughter vacation. 

We sat on the porch swing, shared warm cookies and toasted each other with chilled, crushed-mint lemonade.

It might only be May, but summer's here.

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 TwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Guess My Age

We’ve all heard phrase “The new this or the new that,” such as “Orange is the new black.” I’m in trouble on that one, because orange washes me out. Then there is “Fifty is the new forty” I’m a winner—literally.

Late last month, The Confession, one of my indie books won the 2016 EMMA AWARDS for Best Inspirational Romance. Yes! My story proved Sandra Nicholson and Raimond Mayfield, both in their mid-50s, are the new forties. Yes!  Heroes and heroines in their 50s are sexy.
When I was a teenager, I remember an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bills, I met through a Junior Achievement program.
Mr. Bills was handsome, cool, and could turn heads, gray hair and all. He had a swagger every young guy wanted to duplicate. Mrs. Bills wasn’t slacking either. She was classy, fashionably dressed, including hair and makeup, and if she wasn’t strutting on the arm of her husband, they were holding hands. When I saw this picture of this cool couple on Pinterest, I thought about the Bills.
Of course, as a teenager, I thought they were old, but they didn’t know it. Now, I realize they were not confined to the ages on their birth certificates. They were trailblazers in that they acted and dressed how they thought of themselves. When you see a good-looking couple, do you ever wonder about their ages?
Baby boomers today are changing careers in mid-life, getting married or remarried, and for certain celebrities like Janet Jackson, they are having a baby at fifty. No comment on that one. Basically, people in their fifties are eating healthier, exercising, and I guess managing stress that they could get away with hiding their ages.
Why not be sexy in your mid-50s? As a way of introduction, my hero, Raimond, approaches Sandra while she is dining out and says, “Excuse me, you are one incredibly beautiful woman.” Now, who wouldn’t blush with that compliment?
Oh, by the way, did you really think I wanted you to guess my age? Nah, I’m talking about characters. When you’re reading a romance, how important is the age of the hero and heroine?

Until next month,


2016 EMMA Award Winner: Best Inspirational Romance of the Year 
Fashion consultant Sandra Nicholson catches the eye of pretty boy Raimond Mayfield whose priorities have evolved over the years to include God first, followed by his business and restoring broken relationships. As the pair get to know each other, they learn they have a lot in common—if only their adult children don’t stand in the way of their happiness and their past secrets don’t come back to haunt them. Download a copy today and see why fifty is the new sexy. Click here.


She is the multi-published author of dozens of Christian titles, including the #1 Amazon best seller in God’s Word category A Christian Christmas. Her award-winning titles include Talk to Me, ranked #14 of Top Books in 2008 that Changed Lives by Black Pearls Magazine. She is a three-time recipient of the Romance Slam Jam Emma Rodgers Award for Best Inspirational Romance for Still Guilty (2010), Crowning Glory (2011), and The Confession (2016).
In addition to researching her roots and sewing, she has been a featured speaker and workshop presenter at various venues across the country.
Pat has converted her sofa-strapped sports fanatic husband into an amateur travel agent, untrained bodyguard, GPS-guided chauffeur, and administrative assistant who is constantly on probation. They have a son and a daughter.

Readers may learn more about Pat and her books by visiting, and signing up for her monthly newsletter, or connecting with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or LinkedIn; or by contacting her at authorpatsimmons@gmail.

Monday, May 23, 2016

DIY Life Projects

Do it yourself (DIY) projects around the home can be fun but challenging at times. DIY ‘life projects’ can be cathartic and dangerous. Many women change their hair, their makeup, their clothes when they want some sort of life change. I knock down walls. Yes, I see the symbolism in this story. J

In the past, we’ve always had tons of family visit at Christmas. Every room would be filled in our house and it would be bursting at the seams, leaving my mother-in-law to sleep in the basement office/guest room. I always felt bad that my mother-in-law would stay in the basement, but she loved it down there. It was quiet and she would stay up late and sleep in past all our little munchkins, so the basement worked well for her. 

Unfortunately, life has changed and my house is no longer filled with my husband’s family at Christmas. A few years ago my brother and sister-in-law started a family, so traveling became more difficult for them. Also, my mother-in-law passed suddenly.

For a long time, I kept my office as if my mother-in-law would still come and visit, but I found myself working anywhere in the house except my office. One day, I took apart the bed and moved it to another room, then I bought a nice glass desk and placed it in there.

It worked for a while and I enjoyed the space, but as my career progressed so did the amount of stuff I needed to store. There is no closet in the room, so that means everything sits in boxes. Each time I needed a specific promo item, or giveaway, I’d have to dig through all the boxes to find it. Unfortunately, that always created a mess. Eventually, I found myself using my office less for working and more for storage.

With summer coming my husband told me I’d have to go back to working in my office, or I’d never get anything done. The only way the kids understand that mommy is writing is if she is in her office behind a closed door. Not that even a closed door would stop my minions, but it helps a little. ;)
I told my husband there wasn’t enough room, but if we knocked down the wall between my office and the other room we could make one big space, turning it into a mother-in-law suite which would help resale.

On Sunday after church, my husband stopped at Home Depot and bought a few things then went home and started knocking down the wall. When he was done he looked around and said, “Wait a second, your office is bigger than mine now.” He smiled at me, set his hammer down, and hugged me. “Good thing I love you so much.”

In retrospect, I think the transformation of my office had more to do with new beginnings and organizing my life than actual space. Sometimes I think moving on is difficult and we need to DIY our life sometimes.

Now, all I need is a professional organizer to figure out how to put everything in my nice large office. J

The first book of my sweet, small town romance series, In All My Wishes, is only $0.99 this month! Click here to snag your copy!

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.

Do you want more information about the authors at Sweet Romance Reads? Sign up for our newsletter! Scroll down the right side of our blog and enter your email address under Newsletter Signup. Also, join us at Sweet Romance Reads Cafe to chat with our authors. We love to hear from you!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

5 Tips for Staying Energized by Julie Jarnagin

Watching my kids run around, I dream of having some of their energy. Where do they get it? Imagine what we could do as adults if we could borrow just a little of their youthful energy? Well, we may not be able to go non-stop like a two-year-old, but there are a few ways we can have more energy.

1. Drink more water: Research shows that the majority of us are dehydrated. Not getting enough water can cause fatigue, foggy memory, irritability, and anxiety. After you finish your morning coffee (because I would never suggest you give up coffee), switch to water. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated.

2. Take a walk: Most of us know we need more exercise, but I think we sometimes underestimate how far a little activity can go for our health. Walking increases circulation and oxygen supply, which gives us more energy.

3. Get more sleep: This one seems obvious, but still, we seem to try to function on far too little sleep. We think watching that television show or looking at Facebook instead of going right to bed will relax us, but instead it robs us of energy and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Also, make sure your bedroom is a good environment for sleeping. A dark room will help you get more rest.

4. Invest in positive relationships: Some relationships drain us, while others give us more energy. Take a look at who you spend your time with and how they affect your energy. If coffee with a good friend leaves you encouraged, try to schedule them more often. If a phone call with a difficult person constantly drains your energy, do your best to limit them.

5. Spend time doing something you love: Whether it's reading, crafting, baking, writing, painting...anything, recognize the activities you love to get lost in and make time for those activities in your life. Nothing is more energizing than following your passion.

What do you do to stay energized?

My latest release - The Wedding Barn 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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Friday, May 20, 2016

Three weddings and some bodies

My favorite book of the month: Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews
by Beate Boeker

You will know by now that my preferred books combine romance, mystery, and humor. Well, this book has it all, and I was delighted when I found out that it's the first in a loooong series.

The unlikely heroine Meg is a very matter-of-fact ironworker by profession. However, her mother prefers to tell her friends that Meg is a potter because that suits better to her notion of what a Southern lady should be like . . . and this is another attraction of the book: Meg's crazy family. I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this cozy mystery that is all about three different weddings, scheduled during a blistering summer, and all organized by poor Meg.

Here's a small excerpt with two funny little sentences that I just love because they show Meg's character in such a great way.

Of course, being friendly and hospitable to Michael was going to get a lot easier once I mastered the tendency to drool every time I saw him. I stumbled downstairs (…) and found him sitting in our kitchen. (… I) responded to Micheal's heart-stopping smile with as friendly a nod as I could manage before noon. I joined them and listened to Mother chatter about chintz for a while as I sipped my coffee and waited for it to take effect.
Meg!“ Mother said sharply. I started, spilling some of my coffee. Apparently, I'd nodded off while sitting upright.

I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did (and do, every time I re-read it!). Let me know if you've heard of Donna Andrews and the Meg Langslow mystery series before!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Summer Plans

Do you have a trip planned for this summer? Memorial Day weekend is just ahead. My wedding anniversary is coming up in June. Father’s Day is shortly thereafter. Then the Fourth of July… Official holidays, personal celebrations, or a getaway – maybe you have a special go-to place like a mountain cabin or a beach house, or do you like to see new places and fresh faces when you get away? 

My husband and I have been talking about getting away. Several times over the past year we’ve discussed and planned, but stopped short of actually booking a trip. Life, I guess. Family obligations that can’t be accounted for within a schedule like my mom in a memory care unit, or job obligations, or – you name it – there’s always something ready to hold you back from taking off on adventure. 

We planned to take a trip to the UK in May but didn’t go through with it. We’ve looked at cruises, not really caring where it sails, but only wanting to be on the ship and watch the ocean go by. We’ve considered short, more local trips to the shore or to the mountains, but each time I pull my Go-For-It finger back from the keyboard. Not yet. 

So when? Will it be when this current book project is finished? There’ll be another to write. As for family – there’s no guarantee of health and stability on any given day or week regardless of age or condition, so timing may be a gamble, but waiting is a sure way to never get away. Or do you just enjoy the planning more than the actual trip? Many do.
What holds you back? Whether it’s from traveling or doing something else you’ve dreamed of? What keeps you anchored in the planning stage, never to take off and do it? Where would you go if you had the chance to travel without restriction?


Grace Greene writes women's fiction and contemporary romance with suspense. A Virginia native, Grace has family ties to North Carolina. She writes books set in both locations.
The Emerald Isle books, BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS, are set in North Carolina where "It's always a good time for a love story and a trip to the beach."
Or travel down Virginia Country Roads in KINCAID'S HOPE, A STRANGER IN WYNNEDOWER, and CUB CREEK and "Take a trip to love, mystery and suspense." Her newest release, LEAVING CUB CREEK, is the sequel to CUB CREEK.
BEACH RENTAL, her debut novel, won the Booksellers Best contest in both the Traditional and Best First Book categories. BEACH RENTAL and BEACH WINDS were each awarded 4.5 stars, Top Pick by RT Book Reviews magazine. KINCAID'S HOPE received a 4 star review from that same magazine.

Grace lives in central Virginia. Stay current with Grace's releases and appearances at and sign up for her newsletter. Grace loves to hear from readers.

You'll also find Grace here:
Twitter: @Grace_Greene
Amazon's Author Central: