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Monday, July 29, 2019

Guest Blog by Bobbi Smith, Queen of Western Romance

Hi everybody!
Today I thought it would be fun to blog about my favorite books—and there are quite a few of them. Below I’ll tell you about a few of my all-time favorites.
I have loved reading my whole life. There’s nothing more enjoyable than losing yourself in a wonderful story. When I was a kid, our family made weekly trips to the library, and summer vacation was definitely reading time. The book that stands out to me from my childhood was Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children. I was fascinated by this story of how four brave orphans survived. It pleases me that the series this book began is still popular today. Not bad for a book published in 1924! Some of my grandchildren have read it, too.
It was during my college years that I read some of my first “adult” novels. Racy books weren’t readily available back then. Harold Robbins’ The Carpetbaggers was one I clearly remember. And Gone with the Wind will forever be on my all-time favorites list. I’ve never had so much fun learning history. Margaret Mitchell certainly gave us a woman ahead of her times in the strong-willed, determined Scarlett O’Hara.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, I read my first actual “romance.” I still remember taking it up to the counter at the bookstore. I asked the cashier if was any good and she went wild, raving about how wonderful it was. And boy was she was right! I truly believe The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss led the way in establishing the enormously successful historical romance market. Though I had a toddler at the time, I stayed up until three in the morning to finish it. I also remember thinking to myself, I could write one of these. . . .
(It took a while, but a few years later I finished my first handwritten, then typed, manuscript. I was very blessed to sell that novel, my first romance, Rapture’s Rage, to a publisher. I have to say, it will always be my very favorite of all the books I’ve written. There’s nothing like the first.)
Lately, I’ve been reading contemporary romances. Julie Garwood is one fabulous writer and so is Suzanne Brockman. I also love Julia Quinn, Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh, to name a few.
What are your all-time favorite novels? It’ll be great to hear from you.

All my best,
Bobbi Smith

Captive Pride:
 When Cecelia Demorest discovers that arrogant Lord Noah Kincade will be a guest in her father’s home, she plots to promise him her charms and then double-cross him, diverting his black market weapons to the Colonial cause. But when his soft lips caress her throat, she throbs with desire and when his muscular form presses hard against her, she is awash with feelings she cannot deny. Before she surrenders to ecstasy, she vows to find a way to get what she wants and humiliate him in the process.

Notorious womanizer and gun runner Lord Noah Kincade gazes at ravishing Cecelia Demorest with ardent lust. When he gets her alone and tastes her luscious lips, he is on the verge of taking her then and there…until he discovers she bears a torch for the patriot cause. He realizes this clever girl has set out to sabotage him and he will get his revenge. Cecelia heats his blood beyond boiling and it’s far too late for him to stop. He’ll have his arms deal and the girl as well.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Conflict in Writng by Janice Seagraves

Conflict in writing
By Janice Seagraves

Most writers know that to have an interesting story which draws the reader in, you must have conflict.
Conflict = story.
One way to have conflict is to make your main character an underdog.
Why an underdog?
Because people love to root for an underdog.
Example: Remember Charlie Brown, trying every year to kick that football? Didn’t you root for him, even though you knew Lucy would pull that ball away each and every time, he tried to kick it?
That’s conflict.
Let’s face it, no one wants to root for Ken and Barbie who live an idyllic life in the suburbs. 
In my short story, Cowgirls Don’t Cry, I have my heroine, Gwen have a bad day:
Cowgirls Don’t Cry:
Arthur helped Gwen into her jacket and sniffed her hair, getting a lungful of cherry blossom from her shampoo. “Your jacket does nothing for that sexy dress.”
She slipped her arms into the sleeves. “Sorry, but it’s all I have.”
He settled the coat on her shoulders. “I’ll have to buy you another one.”
“It never ends, does it?” Mr. Ortega shook his head before stepping through the doorway.
Gwen flipped her dark hair out of the coat and glowered after him. “Client of yours?”
“Yes. What are you feeling?”
“His disdain for women is like a throb in a bad tooth.”
A chill flowed up his spine. “What else?”
Gwen met his gaze. “Whatever he’s done, he’s guilty as hell.”
That left him stunned, but he had no reason to doubt her. Understanding emotions was Gwen’s talent. Feeling eyes on him his gaze met those of the secretary, Mrs. Blackstone.
Mrs. Blackstone tittered. “You got a clairvoyant there?”
“If you really must know, I’m empathic.” Gwen toss her purse over her shoulder.
“Do you see ghosts, too?”
Gwen must be upset to share that bit of information. She was usually close-mouthed about her abilities.
“You’re good at reading people, then?”
“You can say that.”
“Maybe we should hire you for a lie detector.” The secretary laughed.
“Whatever.” Gwen rolled her eyes and darted out the door.
He grabbed his overcoat and briefcase then followed his fiancée. “Gwen, wait up.”
She stopped by a white, king cab truck and was in the process of digging out keys from her purse. “I don’t appreciate being laughed at.”
“I know.” He jogged the last few steps to her, still putting on his overcoat. “We should have discussed what you were getting from my client when we got outside.”
“You are representing him.” She clicked her key fob. The truck’s interior lights came on and the door clicked. The truck had the name ‘Clarkson Ranch’ on the door in dark-blue letters.
He stared. “When did you get a new truck?”
“Steve gave it to me today.” Her smile was equal parts sadness and pride.
“It’s official?”
“Yes, he saw his lawyer about his living trust and it’s a done deal. I’m officially my stepdad’s heir. He even introduced me to the hired hands. I also had to quit my waitress job and drop out of college.”
He took in her sad expression and hugged her. “I’m sorry. I know how much school meant to you.”
“I wanted so much to become a professional artist.” She shook her head. “I’ll never get the chance now.”
Another way to have conflict in a romance is to have newly divorced Ken, (Barbie ran off with G.I. Joe), have a miserable day—conflict.
Example: Say Ken’s Porsche breaks down on the way to work and he has to have it towed. As he waits impatiently for the tow truck driver, he’s mentally marking off all the things that went wrong that week (conflict). Just after he’s comes to the conclusion that he is alone and unloved the tow truck driver arrives. But a pretty woman steps out. It’s P.J. The baggy coveralls can’t hide her full figure and the grease smudges on her cheeks can’t cover up her lovely face or her Malibu tan.  Maybe P.J.’s father or uncle owns the business, or maybe she owns it herself.  Or maybe she’s not a tow truck driver, but a pick-up service for a car rental agency.
So, Ken thanks his lucky star that he’s spotted this beauty, but when he asks P.J. out she turns him down—flat.
Why? Conflict.  
No conflict—no story.
In Cowgirls Don’t Cry, I have Arthur’s father getting overly involved in his grown children’s lives.
Why? Conflict.
Cowgirls Don’t Cry excerpt:
His father, Ector Castel, had his back to him as he spoke to his sister. “I think you should marry Roger Clemens.”
Arthur frowned. Clemens is the senior partner at my law firm. The guy is way too old for Melissa.
Melissa crossed her arms and glowered at their father. “No, Dad. He’s white-haired and wrinkly. I have no desire to be saddled with a senile old man.”
“Your makeup business is not producing enough of an income. You’re pretty enough to be a second wife for someone of means. And Roger will provide well for you.”
“That’s a no, Dad. I’m not going to be a trophy wife.” When her gaze swept in Arthur and Gwen’s direction, Melissa’s sour expression changed into a grin. “Arthur, Gwen. You’re here.”
“Had to stay a little late today because of a meeting with a client,” Arthur said by way of a greeting.
“Now, that’s what I like to hear. My boy is going places.” His father slapped him on the back.
Gwen raised an eyebrow. She didn’t understand their relationship, so he let it go. If it came up later, he’d explain then.
“Dude.” Will, his little brother, walked over and offered his knuckles in greeting.
Arthur did a fist bump with him.
His stepmother Stephanie leaned into the kitchen. “Our guests have arrived. You can serve the meal now.”
The family took seats around the table. Soon one of the female servants brought out a huge bowl of salad and started to serve everyone.
“Son, you have something to announce?” Ector took his seat at the head of the table, and Stephanie sat next to him. “I know it’s too early to be offered a partnership. You’re still a junior associate at your firm.”
“Yeah.” Arthur hated how his father always rushed his plans. He waited until the wine and sparkling cider were served and took his fiancée’s hand. “Gwen and I are getting married.”
“How wonderful.” Melissa clapped her hands. “You two make a perfect couple.”
“That’s great!” Will grinned. “Welcome to the family, Gwen.”
Stephanie, as usual, said nothing and looked toward Ector.
Ector Castel grimaced. “Are you sure about this, son?”
Whatever your conflict is, you’ve got to either keep it going or bring in some new conflict. New conflict is great, especially if you overlay it with the old conflict.
Example: Charlie Brown gets depressed about not kicking the football and visit Lucy at her psychiatrist’s help booth to tell her all his troubles. Then she basically calls him a loser.
Why? For additional conflict.
Lucy is the antagonist; her job is to cause conflict.
Back to Ken. He’s finally got P.J. to go on a date with him. All’s great in Ken’s life, right?  But what if her business partner doesn’t like Ken and tells him so right to his face?
Why? For additional conflict. That partner is the antagonist for Ken’s story. He’ll keep poor Ken on his toes for the rest of the story.
In Cowgirls Don’t Cry, I have Arthur’s father disapproving of his choice in brides.
Cowgirl’s Don’t Cry excerpt:
“Gwen is still a poor college student.” His father slammed his fist down on the table. “She has nothing to offer you.”
“You’re wrong.” Arthur turned toward his fiancée. “Tell him.”
Gwen had flinched at Ector’s show of anger and, being empathic, probably felt it, too. She stared down a moment at her untouched salad. “As of today, I’ve withdrawn from college and quit my job. I’m officially Steven Clarkson’s supervisor at his ranch. He’s teaching me how to manage a huge estate, so when I inherit it I can run it.”
“It’s a million-dollar property, Father.”
“Um, no.” Gwen glanced over to him. “It’s been recently reevaluated for his living trust. It’s actually worth four million.”
“So, you see, Father, Gwen is worth four million dollars. Isn’t that something to offer?”
“Where are you going to live once you marry?” Ector’s voice took on a sarcastic tone. “At the farm or the condo?”
“Steve has already given me a three-bedroom, two-bath house on the ranch.” Gwen cleared her throat. “It’s being updated.”
“Updated?” Ector echoed. “You mean renovated?”
Gwen nodded. “With hardwood floors, granite counter tops, new cabinets, and a larger master bedroom with a bath that’s connected to it.”
“That’s called an ensuite,” Melissa said in a low voice.
“Um, yeah.” Gwen nodded. “My mom has really good taste and she’s picking out the furnishings.”
“I’m sure you think so.” Ector switched his stern gaze to his son. “Steven Clarkson is a healthy fifty-year-old. He probably has another twenty years in him at least. Are you willing to wait that long, or longer, until her inheritance comes in? No, Arthur, she isn’t for you. You need a wealthy woman, or one who will help you politically. Not a child with more dreams than brains.”
See, conflict. Now, hopefully, you feel for my heroine and hero and want to know what happens next and will want to read on.
I hope this helps you with your own writing.
Hot Fun in the Summer Time, our summer antho, releases 25 June.
The weather is heating up, but it’s not just the sun and the sand which will keep you hot.
This summer anthology brought to you by the authors of Romance Books 4 Us will bring temperatures to your eReader that will set unheard of heat records, scorching the tips of
your fingers as you turn the pages.
Sultry temperatures.
Passionate couples.
Unbelievable desire.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Finally Friday

Good morning, RB4U people!

I am a smidge later than I'd planned to post, but I have been really thinking about the way I write and the reason I write.

I'm the first to say that I have a ton of ideas and can start/rough plot a story faster than average. I tend to plow through the first 15-20K of a full manuscript (60-80K) with ease.

Then, the 'oh shits' set in.

Oh, shit. How can I have used up all the good plot points already?

Oh, shit. Why did I do that? 

Oh, shit. I've strayed from the plan. What now?

I've been working on a duology about a woman named Calla. The first book is a series of vignettes which shows the progress of her sexuality. The second book is her HEA story. My head is stuck in the minutiae. I can't seem to move forward. I wouldn't exactly call it 'writer's block', because I'm fine writing other things and exploring other stories.

I guess I have a fear of screwing this one up--that's what my daughters think, anyway. And my son tells me I'm a perfectionist, so I should just let it go and get the first draft on paper--and then fix it later. How did my spawn get so smart?

Anyway, I'm super glad we've reached the weekend. Time for some self-care and relaxation.

In the comments, sound off about how you get out of writing stagnation and/or fear of failure  OR  what you're doing for self-care this weekend. I--with the help of select a winner for their choice of manuscript beta read or a swag pack. Closes Friday, August 2, 2019. Giveaway not affiliated with RB4U or any other entity.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

History of Tequila

Today, July 24, is National Tequila Day. Sounds fun, right? Back in the day, I drank my share of tequila, with salt and lemon. As a nod to my younger days, I thought I’d research the history of tequila.

Tequila is the name for a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara, Mexico. The red volcanic soil in the surrounding region is particularly well-suited to the growing of the blue agave plant. (Wikipedia)

Mezcal wine, tequila’s grandparent, was first produced only a few decades after the Spaniards came to the New World in 1521. Agave played a much larger role than the source of an alcoholic drink. Its leaves were used for a hemp-like fiber to make mats, clothing, rope and paper. It was also the source of the nutrient and vitamin-rich brew, pulque. (Source: Los Cabos Magazine)

The distillation of pulque into something stronger may have originated by the Conquistadors as early as the 1520s. You’re familiar with Cuervo Tequila. Jose Antonio Cuervo was the first licensed manufacturer of tequila. In 1758, the King of Spain gave Cuervo the rights to cultivate a parcel of land in Mexico. Today, Cuervo is the largest manufacturer of tequila in the world. (Source: Los Cabos Magazine)
Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Planting, tending, and harvesting the agave plant remains a manual effort, largely unchanged by modern farm machinery and relying on centuries-old know-how.
The men who harvest it, the jimadores [ximaˈðoɾes], have intimate knowledge of how the plants should be cultivated, passed down from generation to generation. (Wikipedia)

"Tequila worm" misconception

A young agave plant
Another interesting error is an urban legend related to a worm. The worm-in-the-bottle myth is old and tired. The truth has been broadcast and expounded for years by the cognoscenti of tequila, in newspapers, magazines and on the internet. Yes, it’s true, some American-bottled brands put one in their bottle to impress the gringos and boost sales, but it was a marketing ploy developed in the 1940s, not a Mexican tradition.

Sometimes however, there is a worm, properly a butterfly caterpillar, in some types of 
mezcal. You may also get a small bag of worm salt and chile powder tied to a mezcal bottle. There are two types of worms in mezcal: the red, gusano rojo—considered superior because it lives in the root and heart of the maguey—and the less-prized white or gold gusano de oro, which lives on the leaves. The red gusano turns pale in the mezcal, the gold turns ashen-gray. Both larvae are commonly eaten as food and are sold in Zapotec markets.

Yes, you’re supposed to eat the worm in mezcal. Don’t worry: it’s quite well pickled and free of pesticides (they’re often raised just for use in mezcal, cooked and pickled in alcohol for a year). But dispel any idea it has any magical or psychotropic properties, that it’s an aphrodisiac or the key to an "unseen world." It’s merely protein and alcohol—but it’s very rich in imagery. Note: Yuck.
In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt. Outside Mexico, a single shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda and is sometimes referred to as "training wheels", "lick-sip-suck", or "lick-shoot-suck" (referring to the way in which the combination of ingredients is imbibed). The drinkers moisten the back of their hands below the index finger (usually by licking) and pour on the salt. Then the salt is licked off the hand, the tequila is drunk, and the fruit slice is quickly bitten. Groups of drinkers often do this simultaneously. (Wikipedia)
Note: I always thought you used lemon. That’s what we did in bars in the summer of 1971 at the Jersey Shore. Good times.

Now that you know all the important facts about tequila, go out and celebrate National Tequila Day.

While drinking your tequila, settle down with a sizzling, fun romance.


A Groom for Christmas (Love On a Dare Book 1)
Only 99 cents for a very limited time.

Fun holiday read.

A GROOM FOR CHRISTMAS is a new twist on the classic Hallmark Christmas movie full of family, humor, love, and a little bit of redemption.

Family pressure just might make her do something crazy...

When a young woman hires her hometown’s former bad boy to be her pretend fiancé for the holidays, she finds she can’t wrap up her feelings as easily as a Christmas gift.

New York jewelry designer Graceann Palmer has two days to find a fiancé to bring home to Pennsylvania for the holidays so her matchmaking mama will quit fixing her up with jerks. The Falcon, a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad former high school crush, helped her out once before. Maybe he'll do it again.

Jake Falco, man of many mysteries, is back in town on a mission—one the people of Spirit Lake most likely won't appreciate. When Graceann presents him with her crazy scheme, it gives him something he's always wanted—a chance to get to know Graceann. It also gives him the perfect opportunity to add fuel to his project of revenge. 

But as Jake and Graceann grow closer, their engagement-of-convenience begins to feel like the real deal—until Jake’s secrets are revealed. 

Can a relationship that began with lies and secrets bloom like a rare Christmas rose into happily-ever-after?

2013 Snow Globes Award Contest Finalist
Winner! 2014 New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf Award
2014 Readers' Choice Nominee, Best Couple, Love Romances Cafe
2014 RomCon Awards Finalist

There’s no tequila in A Groom for Christmas, but the sequel, Wedded on a Dare (Love On a Dare Book 2) is out, and I have scene where the heroine and hero are drinking tequila. Let’s hear it for tequila!

Here’s what some Amazon reviewers have said about A Groom for Christmas.
…“The story grabbed me in the beginning and kept me interested to the end. I urge you to read Jake and Graceann's story.”

…”A fun warm sweet romance that will have you laugh and see that you can't judge a person by who they were for you may miss something wonderful.”

A trip to Vegas...
A gorgeous man...
A beautiful woman...
What could go wrong?

When a struggling actress takes a role as the glamorous temporary wife of a wealthy playboy, she finds love doesn’t always come on cue.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Book That Made Me A Romance Reader

I cannot remember a time when books weren't a part of my life. If you are anything like me, you love books.

Different moments in my life can be defined by different genres. Little Women, Sweet Valley High when I was a pre-teen. The Age of Innocence when I was a teenager along with Pride and Prejudice and other classics. In my late teens and early twenties, it was all about mysteries.

Then in my mid-twenties, a friend lent me a romance novel, Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens. I had read romance before but none started my obsession like Devil did. He tempted and I fell.

I devoured that book when I should have been doing my homework. I stayed up all night long reading and falling in love not just with Devil but romance. I closed that book, more than wanting more books--I needed more romance books.

Some people say they read romance to escape and I wanted that too but it was something more that I searched for. I was searching for passion. At that point in my life, I was empty and numb. I had lost the optimism that had always been a part of me.

Romance novels gave that back to me. Each novel was like a balm that helped heal me. I couldn't get enough. I would save every extra dime and buy books. My Friday night outing was heading to Borders or Barnes and Nobles to get more books. My to-be-read pile grew just a little higher than my already-read pile.  I was a romance reader, fan, and devotee and will always be.

What about you? What book made you a romance reader?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Families, Politics, Religion and Strange Bedfellows...and Romance

Before you get your hackles up, I'm not here to announce my views on the world's two testiest subjects...politics or religion. At least not in specifics. But when asked some time back, what themes, other than specifically romance, seemed to crop up in my books, the answer was family--the ones we make as well as the ones we are born with.

I am one of 30 grandchildren on my father's side. 14 or 15 on my mother's, depending on count. I have more first cousins than you can swing a cat at. I also had two brothers, but they were quite a bit older and I don't really remember living with them. I had a good relationship with my parents, and I have wonderful in-laws. I am genuinely lucky when it comes to family.

Going away to college was something of a culture shock. I made friends, but I'm really not that good at social skills--something your older cousins don't tell you. It took me a while to find my tribe. Once I did, life changed. Many of those people are still friends today.

Being a nerd, it turned out, wasn't trendy in the 80s. But with my new friends, it was just who we were. Still are. Still am. I married another nerd. Thank goodness. I don't think we'd have survived this long (34 years last month) if we didn't connect on the fundamental level we do. But this isn't about being nerdy either.

Not everyone is born into an easy going, loving family. My sons both fell for women with far more complex family backgrounds. They are learning, though, that when they're with us, they're just family. Loved, teased, called out if needed, but always there for back up. THAT is the feature that finds itself at the heart of most of my novels, novellas and stories. That family is what you make it. You might disagree on big things, like religion or politics, or on little things like Pepsi or Coke. (How I got a child who prefers Pepsi is beyond my ken.) You might fall for someone, or be chosen family of some one who is utterly different on the surface--you might look like stange bedfellows. But if the bond is there, if these are people you can call at 4 pm to bail you out or pick you up from and airport, then maybe you've found your chosen family. 

Romance books are inherently about love, specifically the love between a couple or trio. But there are so many more kinds of love that make your life happy ever after. And those are important too.

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