Lone Star Writing Competition Deadline Nears

Writers, get your entries ready. There's only a couple of weeks left to enter the 27th Annual Lone Star Writing Competition is now open, and it's a reputable writing contest you don't want to miss.

Sponsored by the Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America Chapter, this prestigious writing contest has opened the doors to publication for a lot of writers.


Fee: $25

Deadline: June 4, 2017

What to Send: First 5000 words. Electronic entries, only.

Eligibility: Open to all writers – published and unpublished in any category. However, the entry must never have been published in any format (digital or print), and may not be under contract until the announcement of the winning entries on October 6th. Open to RWA and non-RWA members.

Categories: Contemporary Series, Fantasy-Futuristic-Paranormal, Historical-Regency, Inspirational Romance, Romantic Suspense, Single Title, Young Adult. Each category, except the Single Title is open for Novella or Novel length works.

For Full Information, click here or contact Contest Coordinator, Erica Thompson.

Takeaway Truth

Someone will win. Maybe it will be you so enter today.

Thought to Guide You This Week

Most people worry. A lot. In fact, I'd venture to say an unreasonable lot.

I read once that 90 per cent of what you worry about never comes to pass.

Unreasonable fears and worries suck the life out of you because you expend a ton of emotional and mental energy.

Wouldn't it be better to expend energy by taking action rather than passive worrying?

Worried about losing a job? Really apply yourself at work. Worried about your book not selling? Expend energy writing another book or promoting the one that has you worried.

Worried about your kids? Spend more time with them playing, talking, building bonds.

Takeaway Truth

You can either expend your energy worrying or expend your energy tackling the problem. Far better to be a warrior, not a worrier.

Saturday Recipe Share: Kicked Up Mac and Cheese

Who doesn't love Mac and Cheese? Did you know you can make this American favorite in a slow cooker?

This recipe is easy and will feed a large family. Add a good salad, a nice green vegetable, and some rustic bread, and you have a family-pleasing meal.

My version of this family-friendly comfort food is a combination of the Mac and Cheese my Mom made. She always used real cheese and eggs beaten with the milk. She made the most delicious Mac and Cheese ever.

I added poblano peppers for a unique flavor that pairs well with the cheesy concoction.

Kicked Up Mac and Cheese
  • 6 cups of cooked macaroni or any pasta shape you like
  • 2 tablespoons of a light salad oil
  • 1 13-ounce can of Pet Milk (or other evaporated milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  •  1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced, roasted and peeled poblano peppers (If you like to sweat, use 1-2 jalapeno peppers instead. (Read below for how to roast peppers.)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs beaten well
  • Prepare the peppers in advance. If you don't want to add peppers, just eliminate them.
  • Prepare the slow cooker by lightly buttering the stoneware crock or the slow cooker pan or spray the crock/pan with Pam or a similar product..
  • Place the cooked pasta in the cooker and drizzle the oil over it. Toss to cover well.
  • Mix the evaporated milk, 1 1/2 cups of milk, melted butter, and beaten eggs.
  • Pour over the pasta and mix well..
  • Sprinkle the onion and poblano peppers over the mixture and stir to mix.
  • Add the shredded cheese and mix well. Cover with the lid and cook on LOW, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
Directions to Roast Any Pepper

Roasting makes it easy to remove the thin "skin" on peppers. It also brings out the flavor of the peppers. You can use these roasting methods for any pepper. Do a bunch and store the excess in the fridge for up to a week.

Poblano is a mild chili pepper with a delightful flavor. When dried, this pepper is called ancho or chile ancho. It's often used to make chile rellenos, and cream of poblano soup is out of this world.

You can roast the peppers under an oven broiler, in a hot oven, or directly over a gas flame.

Under a broiler, just place on a baking sheet and roast until the tops are blackened. Turn over to do both sides. This takes about 5 minutes.

In the oven, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes at 500F. degrees. Turn as needed. When they're blackened, they're done.

To roast chilies over an open gas flame, just lay the chili over the open flame. Tongs makes it easy to turn when using this method. Roast until blackened on all sides.

Let the roasted peppers cool then use a paper towel to rub off the skin or exterior membrane.

Takeaway Truth

I think you'll like this dish. I know my family does.

Father's Day Essay Contest

Back in March, I posted about an essay contest for Mother's Day. Erika Lawson of Shame Kills was kind enough to update me on the contest.

To refresh your memory, Shame Kills is an organization dedicated to reducing the stigma associated with addiction in communities nationwide.

They say: "Shame Kills loves the addict but hates the disease. The more we talk about addiction and bring it out of the shadows, the better chance we have of saving those who suffer."

Erika thanked me and all the bloggers who called attention to their 2017 “My Mother, My Hero” Mother’s Day Essay Contest.

She said: "We didn’t know what kind of response to expect with our competition, but we were totally blown away. Not only did we get some amazing essays, but we had an incredible number of submissions, and part of that has to come from visibility on sites like yours; we can’t thank you enough for sharing our contest information."

To see the winners of their Mother’s Day Essay Contest, and read their essays, click here.

When I Think of My Dad

Their Mother's Day contest was so successful--140 entries--that they've decided to do a Father's Day Contest.

In 250 words or less, use the starting phrase “When I think of my dad,” and say what your father means to you and how he has made your life better. What has he done to lift you up and keep you on the right track? How has he influenced you? How has he helped you stay on the path towards healing?

Visit the Father's Day Contest Page.

Takeaway Truth

If this contest appeals to you, flex your writing muscles and make a submission.

Review: Romance on the High Seas Box Set

As a kid, I loved the old pirate movies on TV. Movies like Captain Blood with Errol Flynn, The Black Swan with Tyrone Power, and so many others.

I was thrilled when Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise became a huge hit. Now I’ve discovered a new romance genre to read: pirate romance.

If you like romances with swashbuckling heroes and saucy heroines, matey, hie thee to Amazon and purchase Romance on the High Seas.

In The Pirate's Debt by Katherine Bone, Basil Halford seeks redemption for the sins of his father. At odds with the law and honorable men, he owes a favor to the man who “rescued” him. He takes on the quest to find and return a young runaway, but the runaway turns out to be a young woman with an over-developed imagination who fancies herself in love with Basil. In seeking redemption, the reader is gratified that Basil finds more than he knew he wanted.

Dead Man's Kiss by Jennifer Bray-Weber opens with an explosive bar fight. Valeryn, captain of the Rissa, ends up in jail, his ship seized, and a threatened death sentence. Offered a deal, he agrees to escort Catalina, the alcalde’s niece, to a remote island and bring her back safely. Catalina is more than he bargained for. The two together generate enough heat to make the Caribbean boil! This book has lots of action, and it’s well-plotted with believable characters and emotional depth.

The Black Morass by Barbara Devlin is a quest for redemption. Captain Jean Marc Cavalier rescues Maddie, a shipwreck survivor, who proceeds to complicate his life, arousing his desire along with his long-buried conscience. A nice “woman in jeopardy” mystery rounds out this tale.

Pirate Heiress by Chloe Flowers is about a treasure hunt inspired by a letter from the famous Irish woman pirate Anne Bonny. A family thinks to recover their losses with Anne Bonny’s treasure, but they need a ship--Conal O’Brien’s ship. Stevie, a would-be lady pirate, takes Conal hostage. They set sail for Jamaica on a voyage fraught with disasters, not the least of which is the desire that rises between Conal and Stevie. Likable secondary characters nicely round out the story.

My Lady Pirate by Danelle Harmon features Maeve, a pirate queen, who sees visions. Her latest one kicks off an adventure that turns her life upside down. Maeve doesn’t believe in love nor does she trust it, but that doesn’t stop her from falling for a pirate named Gray–except he’s not really a pirate but an admiral in the British Navy. Maeve and Gray have to figure out if love is enough to overcome their differences.

Captivated by the Captain by Amanda Mariel has Prudence, victim of pirates, and Jasper, a pirate captain, in forced companionship. She hates pirates because they killed those she loved, but Jasper isn’t your average pirate. He has scruples, and Prudence tests them all. If you like “lovers from two different worlds,” you’ll enjoy this.

Carried Away by Kamery Solomon has time travel as part of the story. Throw in some of history’s most compelling conspiracy theories, and you have a a nice mashup of speculative fiction and pirate romance. It’s not immediately apparent that this is Tristan and Samantha’s romance because this is part of a series. It tries to tie this to past books and also foreshadow the next book. You may have a quibble with the ending because there's not a solid romantic ending with the heroine and hero, but a hook ending for the next book.

Takeaway Truth

All in all, this is a satisfying romance box set that should appeal to those who love Regency romance and the Master and Commander set of books from that same era.

So grab it, me hearties, for some weekend reading fun.

Writers Must Possess Certain Skills

Writers who sell know that more is required than inspiration to create a compelling story.

A writer must possess certain learned skills. If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must respect the craftsmanship involved in becoming a selling writer and learn those narrative skills.

What Are These Skills?

Jack E. Bickham, author of many novels and nonfiction books on writing, said: “A story is the formed record of a character testing conflict, told from a point of view.”

Formed Record

Mr. Bickham taught that a formed record means an author controls the material. There is a formal structure. There is a consciousness of narrative principles. Classical ideas of dramatic architecture are followed. In other words, great stories just don’t happen.


A character is not just a person. In fiction, a character is a creation of many things. A character is an exaggeration of a real-life person in some respects. A character is much easier to understand than a human being, because their “tags” and traits, their attitudes, internal and external wants and needs, their conflicts are played on the stage of our minds.

Often, it’s much easier to understand what makes a created character tick than to understand why your spouse gets depressed if you blow off your anniversary to play golf. Or it should be easier. That’s the author’s job: make the character understandable by the reader and make the reader want to know the character.


Conflict is the driving force of fiction. Conflict is struggle. It is a fight that plays on stage for the reader.

Yes, sometimes conflict is a character at war with himself, but this isn’t enough. There has to be an external conflict driving the external plot and reflecting the internal struggle.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing adversity with conflict. Adversity is just bad luck, not conflict.

Point of View

Point of view, is what makes the story someone’s story. Viewpoint is necessary to fiction, because a reader wants and needs to identify with someone. The reader wants to cheer for someone and relate to the story.

Viewpoint is a carefully wielded skill by the writer.

A writer must make careful decisions about what kind of viewpoint to use, whose viewpoint to use, and how to use that viewpoint to not only relate the events of the story but also reveal character to the reader.

Takeaway Truth

If you are just starting out, your writer’s tool box probably has lots of empty space.

Add these skills as quickly as possibly, and you’ll be on your way to writing salable fiction.

Review: Tuscan Wedding

Recently, Darling Hubby and I watched Tuscan Wedding.

This Dutch romantic comedy was so delightful we forgot we hardly realized we were reading dialogue rather than listening to it.

The movie is about the owners of a Tuscan villa  which specializes in weddings. From simple to complicated, the weddings always come with their share of oddball family members.

Initially released in 2014, Tuscan Wedding, directed by Johan Nijenhuis, produced by Klaas de Jong, and with an appealing soundtrack with music composed by André Rieu and Ronald Schilperoort, has made its way to Netflix.

My Opinion

The cast is excellent, in particular Jan Kooijman as Jeroen, the divorce attorney/ladies' man who never "sees" a woman more than 3 times, and Sophie van Oers as Sanne, who lives her happily ever after vicariously through the weddings she performs at the villa.

Sanne is divorced and reluctant to yield to the attraction she feels for Jeroen, but good intentions fall by the wayside as desire wins out.

Just when you think the movie will fade out into a happily ever after ending, Sanne proclaims that she doesn't want to be a three-timer.

The movie is full of twists and surprises--some amusing and some poignant. Sanne and Jeroen seem destined to unrequited love. You'll have to watch the movie to see how everything works out. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to watch it again.

Unfortunately, the BluRay edition of this movie from the Netherlands is Region A/B/C so unless you have a BluRay player capable of multiple regions, you won't be able to view it. You can find it on Netflix for now. If you'd like to see the trailer, visit YouTube

Takeaway Truth

The characters and their stories are by turns farcical, touching, humorous, and emotional. The scenery is gorgeous. The acting is solid. The soundtrack is good. Beyond all that, the emotion and story has universal appeal.