Going on Record & Giving Thanks

Today, in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims would probably be shocked to see how this celebration has changed -- and I don't just mean the massive quantity and variety of food served on the average American dining table.

The Dining Table

Just about everyone wants a formal dining table big enough for family and friends to gather. Ironically, this dining table, heavily promoted by furniture stores beginning in October, is rarely used on a day to day basis. It resides in splendor in the formal dining room -- a room that is totally wasted in most homes. Another concept that would shock early settlers who lived crowded into one-room cabins.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for: plenty to eat, creature comforts, the ability to pretty much chart our own path through life without too much interference from government.

We take all that for granted, and for the fact that we can do that we should give thanks because that's one of the hallmarks, I suppose, of living in a free society.

Giving Thanks

Today, as on every Thanksgiving, I want to go on record and give thanks to:
  •  my family and friends -- I love you all dearly
  • my readers -- I appreciate each and every single one of you
  • my online community who supports and help me when I need assistance
  • the Declaration of Independence that gives me the right to pursue my own happiness
  • the armed forces of this country who make it possible to live free
  • all who volunteer and try to make the world a better place
Takeaway Truth

Thank you. May you all be richly blessed.

Cake Day: Mom's Rum Cake

Maybe it's the approaching holidays, but I'm in the mood to bake. Or maybe it's because it's Friday, Cake Day in the Reeves household.

On the first day of 2013, I decided I wanted to do something special each week for the family. Like many authors, my family sometimes gets short shrift when it comes to special meals and fancy desserts. It seems I'm always trying to finish a book or working on some writing project. We writers get stuck in the fictional worlds we create. It's easy to take our families' support for granted.

Life Is Short; Eat Dessert First

So I decided to start doing something special for them once a week. The plus is that I'd be focused on something creative but different from my writing which is my job. I remembered how my mom made a cake about once a week, and how excited we kids would be when we came home from school and smelled the unmistakable aroma of baking. Mouthwatering didn't begin to describe her cakes. They were wonderful.

I decided that Friday would be Cake Day, and I'd try my best to make something special each Friday. After all, life is short. Eat dessert first. Sadly, this is too true. I decided to stop working so darn hard and enjoy life more as well as make it more enjoyable for my family.

I've tweeted about my Friday being Cake Day several times, but I've never shared the recipes. Today as I thumbed through my mom's collection of recipes, written on index cards, I choked up just seeing her beautiful handwriting. I've shared some of her recipes in family Christmas letters, but I decided to start sharing them with you too. (The picture above is not the cake I'm making in a bit, but the rum cake looks like this.)

The Story About Rum Cake

This cake always struck me as rather funny because my Mom did not drink alcohol at all. I remember one time when a cousin came to visit, and he had a six-pack of beer he wanted to put in the refrigerator. My mom told him in no uncertain terms that she didn't condone drinking "liquor" in any form.

Like many good Southern Baptists and Methodists however, cooking with liquor was perfectly acceptable. She never saw the humor in this, but I often laughed when I saw some of her concoctions like the fruitcake so soaked in brandy that it posed a fire hazard. Admittedly, most of her cooking with liquor held no trace of alcohol which was volatilized by the heat.

Anyway, back to the recipe, which, by the way, uses a cake mix so it's super easy.

Mom's Rum Cake

Cake Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1 box yellow cake mix
1 4-ounce package Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup dark rum

Cake Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Sprinkle nuts evenly in bottom of prepared bundt pan. (I spray mine with Pam or Baker's Joy.)
3. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil, and rum.
4. Blend the ingredients then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.
5. Pour mixture over the nuts in the bundt pan.
6. Bake at 325 degrees for 60 minutes.
7. Turn out onto a cake rack and cool for 15 minutes.
8. Invert onto serving plate.
9. Glaze while the cake is still warm. (Glaze recipe follows.)

Rum Cake Glaze

Glaze Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze Procedure

1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, and water, stirring until butter and sugar are melted.
2. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly so sugar does not scorch.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the rum.
4. Return to the flame and boil again for a couple of minutes until the alcohol is volatilized leaving the flavor only.

Takeaway Truth

Make something special for your family today. Mom's Rum Cake may be perfect. Bon appetit.

Write Rules

Better take notes on today's blog post because you will be tested on this material -- every single day of your writing life.

9 Write Rules

1. You must write -- not just talk about it, not just think about it, not just dream about it.

2. You must write consistently -- not just when The Muse inspires you, not just when your house is clean, not just when everything in Life is running smoothly.

3. You must strive to improve -- practice indeed makes perfect, or at least better.

4. You must put your work out there in the marketplace -- nothing ventured, nothing gained.

5. You must persist when rejected or when your books just don't catch fire and sell like hotcakes -- because eventually everyone is rejected or puts a book out that is a total flop.

6. You must believe in yourself -- even when no one else does. Especially when no one else does.

7. You must remember why you began writing in the first place -- because you love putting words together.

8. You must accept that luck is a part of this business and that you may never get lucky, but you can still succeed anyway. Maybe you won't hit the NYT Bestseller list, but you can produce income and supplement your family budget and maybe even support yourself.

9. You must remember why you write -- because it is what you do; because you can't not write; because the writing is itself a reward; because you are a write.

Takeaway Truth

Write hard. Live free.

Is Fishing a Sport?

My husband loves to fish. He's been looking forward to cooler weather so he can try his luck at the five lakes here in our small Hill Country community. A handyman who comes to our rescue when we have problems told Larry that the lakes were stocked with crappie which is Larry's favorite.


The correct way to pronounce the name of this sport fish? Make the first syllable rhyme with crop -- not crap. *LOL* When my book Just One Look (A Romantic Comedy) was originally print published, the copy editor stuck a note on the page proofs asking me what fish I meant in the scene between the characters who were fishing.

Then when the book became an audio book, the narrator pronounced the fish as crappie (crap). I'm so glad I listened to every word when proofing those audio files! I guess the crappie are the Rodney Dangerfield's of the fishing world -- they get no respect.

A crappie is actually a variety of sunfish. The name (also spelled croppie or crappé), comes from the Canadian French crapet, which refers to many varieties of sunfish.

Back to my Original Question

Okay, is fishing a sport? Or is it just an excuse for a guy to sit in the sun, drink beer, shush his wife every time she starts to speak, and do little except hold a fishing rod?

I've fished a lot because my parents liked to fish. I hardly ever caught one of the wily creatures. I did catch pretty bad sunburns, a fishhook in my thumb, my shirt on a bramble bush, and a bad case of dislike for fishing.

Takeaway Truth

I believe in the laissez faire philosophy of marriage. I allow my husband to do anything he wants to do as long as it (1) isn't immoral (2) isn't illegal (3) doesn't break the bank (4) doesn't force me to participate if I don't want to. As in fishing.

How To Write a Book Review

The formal book review with its formal parameters:

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Name; 1st edition (date)
ISBN: number
Book Size: Format, i.e., Trade Paperback
The Review

seems to have gone the way of daily milk delivery, newspaper subscriptions, and the dinosaur.

Now we have reader reviews. Many of them are thoughtful, helpful. Many of them are like snarky cocktail party chatter.

Many readers never post a review. I think there are many reasons why they shun the review process. Here are a few that might apply:
  • they liked the book but they are aware of the nastiness that some reader reviewers heap on those with dissenting opinions
  • they did not like the book but the author has a huge following and they're afraid loyal supporters will subject them to some of the same nastiness
  • they don't want to hurt the author's feelings
  • they don't know what to say
  • they're concerned that they don't have the writing skills necessary to write a review.
I'm sure there are many other reasons, but I think the above are the most obvious. At least, I get emails from readers who love my books, but they never post a review even when I ask them to leave a few sentences about their reading experience.

So this post is for the average book loving reader:
  • who is new to the review process
  • who may not know what to say
  • who is wary of attacks from readers with different views
  • who don't see why they should take time to do this.
(This post repeats every 6-8 months to help those who are just venturing into review territory. Feel free to pass this link on to others.)

What To Say

1. Don't worry about summarizing the book. There's already a product description on the book's webpage. If you feel you must give a synopsis, use the gist of the Product Description from the book's webpage.

2. In an online review to be posted on the book's webpage, you just need to say how you felt about the book and why.

If you liked the book, say so. Then say why.

For example, if you were posting a review of Gone With The Wind, you might say: I liked this novel because it's set on a plantation in Georgia as the North and South are on the brink of war, and I love books set during the Civil War. Or, you might say, The heroine of this book is Scarlett O'Hara, a spoiled, head-strong young woman, and I like the kind of conflict created by women like that. Or, you might say, I like to read anything that is historically based and well-researched.

If you didn't like the book, say so. Then explain why.

Using the above example, you might say, I didn't care for this book because I just don't care for books set in the Civil War. Or, you might say, I didn't like this book because I thought the character was self-absorbed and arrogant. I prefer to read books where the heroine is a likable woman.

3. Never include “spoilers,” elements of the book that are to be surprises, in a review.

4. Give your opinion of the book as it is written, not how you think it should have been written.

5. Do not allow your personal prejudices or attitudes about the author, the premise of the book, the theme of the book, the manner in which it was published, or anything else not related to the writing to intrude in your review.

If you normally don't read romance, but you got a free romance novel, and you didn't like it because it was sexy or whatever, then don't review it. A review should not reflect your personal prejudices.

Please don't ever make personal remarks about the author, i.e. anyone would have to be a moron to write a book like this. Or, the author must be a pervert to write about kinky sex.

6. Summarize your thoughts about the book and feel free to make recommendations such as, if you like southern humor, you'll love this book.

7. Always be respectful of the author and his time and effort. This doesn't mean suppress your true opinion. It does mean to present your opinion in a respectful, professional manner as if you were talking in person to the author.

To paraphrase what Danielle Steele once said about reviews: "Writing a book, getting it published, and getting bad reviews is like making a beautiful cake and someone comes along and sits on it." So be diplomatic and kind in your review if you did not like the book. The author did not set out to write a bad book, but sometimes all the elements just don't come together.

Take The High Road & Ignore Those Traveling The Low Road

If you post reviews, and someone makes a comment on it, for instance, This person is an idiot if he thinks this is a good book. (Or a bad book.) Don't answer back. You are not required to defend your opinion or to answer any detractors. You have the right to your opinion and to state it publicly. For every person who disagrees with you, there is one who agrees.

Simply ignore any negative comments. A fight can't start without 2 combatants.

Why Post Reviews

Believe it or not, writers try to learn from their reviews. If a thoughtful review mentions something the author is doing particularly well, she'll do more of it. If it mentions something she failed at, she'll try to improve. Good reviews boost an author during the long process of writing another book. Bad reviews may bring her down, but if they contain some insight, then they too are valuable.

Be responsible. Be objective. Be polite.

I think a lot of the acid-tinged reviews I see wouldn't be posted if someone had to say all that to the author's face and/or would have to sign their real name to the review.

Takeaway Truth

Please keep in mind that no one ever sets out to write a bad book. If you see a book in print, then you can bet the author spent long hours working on that book. Authors know that not everyone will like their "baby," but they expect literary criticism to be handled in an objective, friendly way.

6 Steps to Your Personalized Amazon Author URL

Lately, I've explained to several new authors how to do create their Amazon Author Page with a personalized URL, for instance, https://www.amazon.com/author/joanreeves instead of http://www.amazon.com/Joan-Reeves/e/B001K8CIEW/.

If you are an indie author publishing with Amazon, here's how to get your Amazon Author page URL with your name, not just a string of letters and numbers.

(This article is one that I will reprint at least twice a year to help new authors with basic information.)

6 Steps to Your Personalized Amazon Author URL

1. Read all the steps first--very important.

2. Sign into Author Central.

3. Click the Profile tab

4. When that opens, look to the right where your picture appears. Above your picture is a hot link that says ADD LINK.

5. Click add link.

6. A small window will open showing the suggested link. If it's not what you want, you can change it BUT whatever you put in can not be changed again so make sure you know what you want in case the one suggested by Amazon isn't your name and your name is not available. Be prepared. Make a short list of all the variations you might use for your name, i.e., YourNameAuthor, YourNameWriter, AuthorYourName, etc.

That's all there is to it! You'll get an email from Amazon showing the new URL. Actually, the original URL is still it, the new URL just re-directs to the actual URL. With a personalized URL, it's easier to use it on promotion materials and to give out to readers.

Example: my Amazon URL was -- http://www.amazon.com/Joan-Reeves/e/B001K8CIEW

Now, it's -- https://www.amazon.com/author/joanreeves

Takeaway Truth

Always try to get your author pages branded with your name.

Video: How To Handle Negative Comments

If you upload any kind of content to the internet, you will get negative feedback. It's a given. Whether it's negative comments to a blog post, a video you uploaded to YouTube, an app you are selling, or a book you published, get ready for the onslaught.

Sure, you'll probably get good comments or reviews, but you'll get bad too. In fact, it seems that the more successful you become, the worse the negative comments can be.

Vi Hart, also known as Victoria Hart, is "a self-described Recreational Mathemusician who is most known for her mathematical videos on YouTube."

Taking On Dissenters, Naysayers, and Trolls

Several months ago, Vi took on the negative universe in Vi Hart's Guide to Comments. Embed this video or the link somewhere so you can access it the next time you're feeling miserable about a bad review, negative comment, or blatant personal insult.

In large part, how one responds to online negativity depends on feelings of self-worth. Most people who are felled emotionally by bad reviews and comments have to work harder than others to shake it off. Often a boost helps restore equilibrium. Think of this video as that boost.

Takeaway Truth

If you're part of the online world, grow a thick skin. This video is a good start.

Deleted Facebook Posts Are Zombies

Some Facebook users who have been on since they were younger and much less discreet are trying to remedy their sometimes ill-advised posts, especially pictures. Who wants a potential employer to read the drunken ramblings of a frat boy gone wild or a spurned girlfriend looking for revenge against the guy who did her wrong?

Many users who are real-world bound -- or those who regret a lapse in judgment or privacy -- often start deleting old posts and pictures, following the protocol as set forth by Facebook. Aren't they surprised when those posts reappear like zombies that won't die?

Take Heed

Back in the summer, Digital Trends blogged about this after several had complained about their deleted posts reappearing no matter how many times the content was deleted. DT cited Facebook’s Terms and Conditions in explaining why the deleted content kept getting restored, often at the front of the news feed:

“When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer,” the Terms and Conditions page states. “However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”

So even if you've deleted it, the content is still there. It only goes away if it’s permanently deleted. Again, anything once posted is never actually deleted it seems. Deleting it just stores it on a backup drive. In truth, true deletion occurs only if you delete your account and never try to access it again.

Takeaway Truth

A good rule to follow for the young and the not-so-young? Never post anything you wouldn't want your parents -- or your children -- to see on the front page of the local newspaper.

Reclaim My Heart by Donna Fasano

My friend Donna Fasano is celebrating the re-launch of her romance Reclaim My Heart, no published by Montlake. The edition from Montlake launches today and Donna will be appearing on several blogs. Click to Follow Donna's Tour.

 photo DFRerelBanner_zpscb177693.jpg

Donna has a few words to say about becoming a Montlake Author so here she is.
On becoming a Montlake Author:
Let me tell you about my wonderful publishing experience! I have to back up a little bit… to this past spring. I self-published a romance titled Reclaim My Heart. The book received great reviews immediately, and it sold well from the beginning. Very well. In fact, during the first week of August I was enjoying a mug of coffee while perusing the USA Today Bestseller's List (my usual Thursday morning routine), and I nearly choked when I saw that Reclaim My Heart was sitting at #123 on the list. A couple of days later I was contacted by an editor from Montlake. She told me she'd read one of my books months before and had been keeping an eye on me. She said she'd read Reclaim My Heart and loved it. Now, what author doesn't love to hear that? She made an offer I couldn't refuse.

The Montlake editor and the design team loved the cover that was on the indie version of the book; however, Amazon had trouble licensing the rights to the image. So we searched for weeks before finding the picture that's on the current cover. I love it! And I hope my readers do, too.

I'm happy to be writing romance novels for Montlake. I feel wanted and appreciated, and it can't get much better than that in the publishing industry!

Reclaim My Heart by Donna Fasano Cover photo 91D5bs609NL_SL1500__zpsbe57f93f.jpg
Title: Reclaim My Heart
Author: Donna Fasano
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Pages: 282
Formats: Paperback, eBook, AudioCD
ISBN: 978-1477817988
Purchase Now: Paperback § eBook § AudioCD

About The Book :

Sixteen years ago, Tyne Whitlock cut all ties to her past and left town under the shameful shadow of a teenage pregnancy. Now her fifteen-year-old son is in trouble with the law, and she is desperate for help. But reaching out to high-powered attorney Lucas Silver Hawk will tear open the heart-wrenching past in ways Tyne never imagined.

Forced to return to the Delaware Indian community where Lucas was raised, Tyne and Lucas are tempted by the heated passion that consumed them as teens. Tyne rediscovers all the reasons she found this man irresistible, but there are scandalous secrets waiting to be revealed, disgraceful choices made in the past that cannot be denied. Love is a powerful force that could heal them both—if the truth doesn't rip them apart.

Reclaim My Heart, Excerpt

From Chapter Two"Please, Lucas."
He couldn't dismiss the tone of those two small words, nor could he ignore the magnitude of emotion clouding her expression. He had no choice but to relent.
"Sit down," he murmured. He closed the door of his office and then returned to perch himself on the corner of his desk. He steeled himself before asking, "What's on your mind?"
She seemed to shrink a little as a thousand thoughts ran though her head. Seconds passed, and still she didn't speak.
Lucas witnessed the phenomenon almost on a daily basis. The people who wound up in his office often felt as if they were carrying the world on their shoulders. He knew her anxiety would eventually discharge, and from the looks of it, he wouldn't have to wait long.
Finally, she pressed her hand to her chest. "I can't breathe."
"Relax. Do you want some water?"
She shook her head, a lock of her long, platinum hair falling over her forearm. "No. I need to get this out. I promised you I'd hurry."
He couldn't keep his brows from arching a fraction. She hadn't kept her promises in the past. Why would he expect her to now?
Tyne ran her tongue along her full bottom lip, hesitated another moment, then blurted, "I need a lawyer."
Lucas closed his eyes and stifled a sigh. He could have guessed as much, of course. He'd worked hard to get himself into the privileged position of being able to pick and choose his clients. The last person he wanted to represent was Tyne Whitlock.
"A good lawyer, Lucas."
Common sense told him Tyne wasn't attempting to flatter him. She was speaking purely out of desperation.
"Look, Tyne—" Something made him stop. He sighed, and then he stood, taking his time rounding his desk and sitting down. The leather-upholstered arms of the chair were cool and smooth under his fingertips.
"I know some of the best attorneys in the city." He plucked a pen from the cup on his desktop. "And many of them owe me a favor or two." He reached into his inside jacket pocket, pulled out one of the business cards he always kept handy, and turned it over, poised to write. "Let me give you some names and numbers—"
"I don't want just any attorney." Her chin lifted. "I want you. Why else would I have come here?"
His gaze lowered to the small white card in his hand. With much deliberation, he set down the pen and the card, and then he looked her directly in the eyes.
Every muscle in her body appeared board-stiff.
"Listen to me—" he kept his tone calm "—when people find themselves in trouble with the law, or victimized, or wrongfully sued, or unjustly accused, they tend to get lost in a strange, I don't know, franticness. A recklessness that they almost always regret. Believe me when I tell you that no situation is hopeless, and circumstances are rarely as desperate as they might be perceived. Whatever trouble you're in, don't let panic and fear haze your thinking."
"You don't understand."
"I think I do," he rushed to assure her. "I see it every day. Honest, hardworking people finding themselves in dire straits. And this unfamiliar territory throws them. They grasp at help from the first source that comes to mind."
"Just like that old adage warning that only a fool acts as his own lawyer, it's also foolish to choose an attorney in haste. You and I have a past, Tyne, and even though all of that took place years and years ago, the fact remains that we have a history. I don't believe I would be the best person to represent you in a court of law. You need someone who'll be totally unbiased. Let me give you some names. I'll make some calls for you myself—"
"Stop!" She lifted her hands and scooted to the edge of the seat. "You don't understand. And I can't make you understand if you won't shut up for a minute."
His eyebrows arched and the frustration in her statement had him leaning back a bit.
She frowned. "I'm sorry. Really, I am. I had to stew all day yesterday." She fisted her hands in her lap. "I didn't expect to reach anyone on a Sunday, but do you know that your firm doesn't offer an emergency number on the answering machine?" She exhaled with force. "I'm a nervous wreck just being here. Seeing you. But all that aside, I shouldn't have snapped at you. Please accept my apology."
He didn't react, didn't move. He just waited for her to continue.
"The thing is… what you need to know…"
Once again, she grew terribly cautious, and Lucas found that extremely curious. What the hell was it she found so hard to tell him? What kind of trouble was she in?
She blanched, but then her spine straightened. "I'm not the one who needs a lawyer. I want to hire you, yes. But I'm not the one needing representation. It's my son who's in trouble." A nerve at the corner of her eye ticked, but her gaze never veered from his as she added, "Our son, Lucas."

About Donna Fasano

Donna Fasano is a three time winner of the HOLT Medallion, a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award winner for Best Single Title, a Desert Rose Golden Quill Award finalist, and a Golden Heart finalist. Her books have sold over 3.6 million copies worldwide and have been published in nearly two dozen languages. Her books have made the Kindle Top 100 Paid List numerous times, climbing as high as #17.

What others are saying about Donna’s books:
“…complex, funny, and realistic…” ~Wilmington News Journal

“Excellent!” ~Bookreview.com

“Could not help myself from reading excerpts to my husband and friends. This book is well written, the characters are real, everyday folks. It is very easy to identify with them. Donna Fasano is a talented author.” ~Elizabeth M. Caldwell on Amazon

“…a fast paced riotous look at family life today. Donna Fasano is right on target!”
~Donna Zapf, SingleTitles.com

Honoroing Veterans

Today we honor all Veterans who have served our country. Personally, I'm honoring my dad today. This is one of my favorite photographs of my dad who landed at Normandy on D-Day.

This photo was taken in 1944 at a nightclub in Paris. He loved Europe and spoke a smattering of French and German.

Takeaway Truth

Thank you to my father and all the members of the Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw called them. Thank you to all active duty military and veterans for your service.

Veteran's Day

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. Like most families in the United States, I have relatives who served this country.

My dad landed at Normandy on D-Day. He survived, but so many didn't. My dad injured his back in France when he carried a wounded friend for more than a mile. He saved his friend's life, but Dad had a painful reminder the rest of his life of that event.

My dad rarely spoke of his military service because the memories were so painful. He was in pitched battles, and he saw horrors in Europe. No matter how many times he tried to shove those memories into a dark corner of his mind, he was never successful. He was haunted by what he'd seen.

Men -- and now women -- who fight as soldiers are marked, one way or another, by their experience in war.

Texas Congressman Solomon Ortiz wrote: "From the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge, to the mountains of Afghanistan and the deserts of Iraq, our soldiers have courageously answered when called, gone where ordered, and defended our nation with honor."

Takeaway Truth

To all veterans and active duty personnel: Thank you for your service and your sacrifices.

Notable Videos This Week

I'm sharing some videos I saw this week because it's Saturday and time to kick back and have some fun. You see, I'm a video junky. I like creating them. See the image at left? That's one of my videos that you'll find on YouTube.

I have 7 videos available, and I intend to create more -- funny videos like the one above as well as book trailers, book reviews, writing tips, and more.

I started producing videos because I love watching them. Who needs TV when there's YouTube and Vimeo, etc.? Here are a few videos I saw this week that are worth viewing.

Jane Austen's Mafia

Short, succinct, and funny -- this one sneaks up on you and whacks you in the funny bone. It hasn't had many views, but I think it's worth passing around.

Fly Through 17th Century London

Visually and audibly appealing, this video was an entry in the Off the Map competition, a student competition involving the British Library, the technology of Crytek’s CryENGINE® and the cultural platform of GameCity. Entry was by invitation only to a select group of undergraduate students. Teams of students in the UK were invited "to be inspired by a specially curated set of maps, each one hand-picked for the Off the Map challenge by experts at the British Library." The participants were asked to surprise and challenge viewers and to take them somewhere new -- somewhere off the map.

Strange Tudor Laws

Horrible Histories took on the Tudors and some of the weird laws passed under Elizabeth I. Ah, funny, but true.

Wolverine Gets Fired

Okay, this one is just plain funny. An assessment of the practicality of Wolverine's "gifts."

Revenge of the Bridesmaids

If you've got an hour or so and want to see a funny movie, check out Revenge of the Bridesmaids. If you've ever been trapped in an ugly bridesmaid dress, you'll appreciate this movie. The opening scene is hysterical! If you've only got a few minutes, watch the opening booking scene.

Takeaway Truth

One could truthfully say that our culture is a visual one now since so many choose visual content to keep them informed, educated, and entertained. What do you think about this?

Meet Main Street Author Kristy Tate

Today, I have another of the Authors of Main Street who have a box set, Christmas on Main Street, available for the holidays, at a bargain price that won't wreck your budget.

Today's spotlight is shining on talented Romance Author Kristy Tate. Her books have been described this way: "Mary Stewart fans will love Kristy Tate's romantic stories laced with humor, mystery and a hint of magic."

Good morning, Kristy. Welcome to SlingWords. Please tell us more about your book A Light in the Christmas Café.

An almost perfect evening can be easily ruined by a profession of love. Moonlight streaming through the windows, the café’s comforting aromas, a nearly overflowing dining room, delicious food, poetry… and Claude. Deirdre knows she has to stop him, but she doesn’t know how. In Lake Vista, a small resort town tucked in the California foothills, Deirdre finds that there are more questions than answers. And Claude is the least of her problems!

Joan: What inspired you to write this particular holiday story?

Kristy: The holidays are always a time for reflection on the direction of our lives and who we chose to share them with.

Joan: What is your favorite holiday memory?

Kristy: When I was child, I would go with my parents to chop down a Christmas tree on property that we owned. It was always chilly, beautiful (the Pacific Northwest is always beautiful) and we were completely alone in a remote forest. My dad would chop down the tree and we would bring it home in the back of his truck. My mom and I would drink hot cocoa while my dad trimmed the tree to fit the stand.

Joan: Just about everyone has a holiday horror story. What's the worst Christmas you ever spent?

Kristy: My mother died in September when I was fifteen. I lived alone with my dad. We tried going to a holiday family gathering but had to leave after a few minutes—both of us in tears. That holiday was definitely my bleakest.

Joan: What's the title of your next individual book?

Kristy: My teen time travel romance, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent is now available on Smashwords. I will release it on Amazon in a few weeks.

Visit Kristy Tate Online

Website: http://kristystories.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KristyTateNovelist?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kristyswords

Takeaway Truth

Stretch your holiday budget. Buy Christmas on Main Street and receive 11 romances ranging from sweet to spicy at a bargain price.

Meet Main Street Author Mona Risk

Today, I'm featuring another of the Authors of Main Street who have a box set, Christmas on Main Street, available for the holidays, at a bargain price that won't wreck your budget.

Today's spotlight is shining on talented Contemporary Romance author Mona Risk and her book in the box set, Christmas Wedding Muddle. With a Mona Risk novel, you get to go: "Around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with passion."

Good morning, Mona! Welcome to SlingWords. Please tell us more about your book.

Christmas Wedding Muddle

The perfect fiancé is a cheater and the fabulous Christmas wedding is off. When a desperate Julia enters Tony's mother's travel agency, the dedicated psychiatrist is there to pick up the pieces. Sparks fly between them, and Tony is willing to put his life on hold for Julia. Nothing goes according to plan, but the would-be honeymoon cruise may fulfill their secret dreams.

Joan: What inspired you to write this particular holiday story?

Mona: We were cruising in the North Atlantic toward Iceland, and I got sick, I mean really sick with bronchitis from day one. Luckily, I’d brought the right medicines with me, and I was determined to have a good time and relax. Since I couldn’t brave the cold wind and low temperatures, I spent a lot of time indoors and visited the beautiful ship thoroughly. The idea of setting a romance story on a ship started while I strolled through the long corridors and climbed to the various decks. I wrote the whole first draft during the cruise. It was ideal for research.

Joan: What is your favorite holiday memory?

Mona: When my children were growing up, we had wonderful Christmas reunions at my parents’ house. My mother cooked and baked for two weeks for no less than fifty people, children and grandchildren, sisters, brothers, in-laws, and a few good friends. My parents’ house was not big, but cozy and warm and so full of love and laughter. The children played and sledded on the snowy hill behind the backyard. The adults played cards and cracked jokes. Oh yes it was a beautiful time that I try to reproduce now for my children and grandchildren.

Joan: Just about everyone has a holiday horror story. What's the worst Christmas you ever spent?

Mona: The Christmas after my father’s death. He died in November, and he had already planned to have the same celebration. He didn’t make it. But the whole family wanted to be with my mother. She was still wearing her black mourning clothes and spent the whole time crying and remembering. We did our best to cheer her up, but we knew it would never be the same as before.

Joan: What's the title of your next individual book?

Mona: An Unusual Christmas. The story is set in Belarus where I used to travel for business to refurbish laboratories in a different life.

Visit Mona Online

Mona invites you to check out her other Christmas books, including a box set:

Her Christmas Cruise

An Unusual Christmas

Christmas Here And There (Box Set of 3 Christmas Books)

Takeaway Truth

Stretch your holiday budget. Buy Christmas on Main Street and receive 11 romances ranging from sweet to spicy at a bargain price.

Judge A Book By Its Cover

Do you judge a book by its cover? Of course you do! We all do. If you're an author, now's your chance to brag about your cover art because the annual Judge A Book By Its Cover Contest -- informally known as JABBIC -- is now open.

This prestigious contest sponsored by Houston Bay Area Romance Writers of America Chapter 30 celebrates the best in book cover art. The contest is open to self-published books as well as traditionally published books. Read on for the requirements.


Books published during the calendar year 2013 by traditional publishing houses, ePublishers, Print-on-Demand publishers, or self-published.


Booksellers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. All decisions of the judges are final.

  • Single title/Mainstream
  • Contemporary Series
  • Historical
  • Inspirational
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal
  • Sexiest cover
  • Young Adult

Midnight, January 15, 2014. (This means you must have uploaded your cover via the entry process by that time.)

Entry Fee

$15.00 USD. Fees are payable via PayPal or by check as directed during the entry process. (Credit cards will not be directly accepted by Houston Bay Area. You may use credit cards with PayPal, however.) One (1) entry fee per cover. You may enter as often as you like, but remember 1 fee per cover.

Entry Content
  • Front covers only which will be submitted electronically.
  • Cover art should be in JPG, GIF, or PNG format. No PDF files.
  • You may enter as many different covers as you wish, but each cover entered requires 1 entry fee.
  • Each cover may be entered in only one category.
  • If you know the actual artist's name, you can submit it with your entry. If you don't know the artist's name, you can simply leave that field blank.

Each winner in each category will be asked to submit a high-resolution image file for inclusion in the RWR ad which is the prize for winning.

Grand Prize

A full-page color ad in the April Romance Writers Report featuring the winners in all six categories.

To Enter JABBIC, just visit the Entry Page and follow the instructions.The entry process is easy, and the instructions on the page are clear.

Takeaway Truth

This contest has been around for many years and is respected in the publishing industry. The entry fee is small, and the honor of winning is large. Enter today.

Meet Main Street Author Pepper Phillips

This week I'm featuring the Authors of Main Street who have a box set, Christmas on Main Street, available for the holidays, at a bargain price that won't wreck your budget.

Each day I'll feature one of the eleven authors of Christmas on Main Street.

Today's spotlight is shining on talented Pepper Phillips who writes Southern sass with a touch of heart.

Good morning, Pepper. Welcome to SlingWords. Please tell us more about your book, The Christmas Gift.

The Christmas Gift

When an opportunity to make money presents itself, eleven-year-old George faces the biggest decision of his life. Will he become a thief like his father, or will he discover the fact that giving, rather than receiving, is the best gift of all?

Joan: What inspired you to write this particular holiday story?

Pepper: There is always one story that calls out to you, and this is my Dad’s story. I believe that every child out there should get at least one present for Christmas.

Joan: What is your favorite holiday memory?

Pepper: One year I was pressed into playing Santa Claus at a nursing home, and as I ho’ho’ around the room, giving out candy canes, there was a three-year-old girl standing on a table who was watching me come in her direction. The awe in her face was absolutely beautiful, and I thought to myself, don’t mess this up! It reminded me that there is belief out there. To her, I was Santa.

Joan: Just about everyone has a holiday horror story. What's the worst Christmas you ever spent?

Pepper: My Dad died a week before Christmas. I think that was the worst. He was walking his dog and had a massive heart attack. When he was found, his dog was sitting by his side. My small grandson said, “I wish I had a dog like that.” Which always defines his death to me. To have a loyal loving companion with you when you die can’t be all that bad.

Joan: What's the title of your next individual book?

Pepper: *LOL* I wish I knew. There are two in the editing process, and whichever one makes it out of the gate first, will be it.

Visit Pepper Phillips Online

Website: http://pepper.phillips.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-Phillips-Fan-Page/294743243912344
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pepper_Phillips

Takeaway Truth

Stretch your holiday budget. Buy Christmas on Main Street and receive 11 romances ranging from sweet to spicy at a bargain price.

Review: The Most Unsuitable Courtship by Caroline Clemmons

The late Zane Grey's novels of the American West are still some of the most popular books published. So are the western novels of Louis L'amour. Perhaps this is because a lot of western novel readers don't realize that there are contemporary authors writing in the genre.

One of these is Caroline Clemmons, and she knows this genre. In fact, I'd say she loves the genre because she does the western, the only true American literature genre, justice with her latest novel.

The Most Unsuitable Courtship
is more than just another western novel. It's a well-plotted action thriller that's full of romance and passion and peopled by very likable characters.

Blurb It

Federal Marshal Storm Kincaid is on the trail of a lawless band of men who take pleasure in the violence they unleash on innocent settlers in 1888 Texas. Rena Dmitriev is a Bavarian immigrant who has know little besides violence in her life. Married to a much older man who offered her protection and a chance to escape the violence in their homeland, she expects the worst when these ruthless murderers ride onto their small homestead.

Warned by her husband Abram, she is able to reach the hiding place her wise husband had prepared in advance, just in case life wasn't as peaceful in this new country as they hoped.

Rena's world is ripped apart when she watches the men kill Abram, steal their valuables, kill their animals, and burn their home. She is still in shock, still hiding, when Marshal Kincaid rides into her life.

For the first time, Rena is determined to get vengeance on the men who took everything from her, leaving her completely alone in the world. In the past, she never could have fought back, but the death of kindhearted Abram who had saved her, makes her vow to chase them down and make them pay. Unfortunately, Marshal Kincaid is not in the vengeance business. He's sworn to uphold law and order and bring the men to justice as prescribed by law.

When the Marshal rides on, Rena rides with him, determined, despite what Storm Kincaid says, to get her own form of justice. As Rena and Storm travel together and learn more of each other, they gain respect for each other and the experiences that have shaped them. Storm is an honorable man, and he's determined to talk Rena out of her revenge. Rena, despite her growing emotional attachment to Storm, is just as determined to carry through her plans. With every ravaged homestead they pass, her vow strengthens.

As they journey, they rescue three children whose parents were killed by the marauders. Their growing attachment to the orphans and their inability to find a family willing to adopt all three create an unexpected problem for Rena and Storm.

My Opinion

This western novel has the sensibilities of contemporary culture in that there is a lot of non-stop action, and the curtain isn't drawn when the romance heats up. The passion between Storm and Rena is believable and well-developed.

Just when you think everything has worked out, clever author Clemmons throws another monkey wrench into the possible peace and tranquility. This is a page turner that will keep you guessing.

Takeaway Truth

Definitely two thumbs up for The Most Unsuitable Courtship. Grab a copy today.

Say It Isn't So! Daylight Saving Ends

I just hate it when Daylight Saving Time ends. Now, if you work outside the home, you'll get up and leave home, in the dark. Eight hours later, you'll leave work and come home, in the dark. That sounds like a vampire's perfect day: perpetual night.

Work At Homers Feel It Too

I'm lucky because my office is in the home, but I have a hard time prying myself from the warm, comfy bed and getting to my office when it looks as if it's still nighttime.

Why did Ben Franklin think this was a good idea? I've got to the point where I wish it would just stay one way or the other. I can remember older relatives who never bothered to change their clocks. They went to bed when it was dark and arose when the sun came up. Maybe they had the right idea.

Save An Hour/Lose An Hour

Oh, well. I guess Victor Borge was probably right when he said: "I don't mind going back to daylight saving time. With inflation, the hour will be the only thing I've saved all year."

Takeaway Truth

If you didn't set your clocks back last night, then you're an hour early today. Use that hour wisely because you'll lose it in the spring when we spring forward an hour. Whatever.

Meet Main Street Author Carol DeVaney

This week I'm featuring the Authors of Main Street who have a box set, Christmas on Main Street, at a bargain price that won't wreck your budget. The box set should be available on or about Nov. 1.

Each day I'm featuring one of the eleven authors of Christmas on Main Street. Today's spotlight is shining on talented Contemporary Romantic Comedy author Carol DeVaney. Carol writes books with the premise: It’s Love and the little things that matter.

Good morning, Carol. Welcome to SlingWords. Please tell us more about your book, A Smoky Mountain Christmas.

A Smoky Mountain Christmas

Think Sandra Bullock meets country hunk. A woman out of her element. City gal meets country hunk. Tina Cole and Hank Gordon find themselves stranded together in a Smoky Mountain snowstorm, three days before Christmas. Falling in love definitely isn't part of either of their plans.

Joan: What inspired you to write this particular holiday story?

Carol: A friend of mine and myself used the same one-liner to write a paragraph. After I wrote almost a page, Sandra Bullock popped into my head. I remembered some of her movies, and how she portrayed the characters. I also used The Smoky Mountains because of my love of that area. The story took off from there. A comical, fun story to share.

Joan: What is your favorite holiday memory?

Carol: Holidays when our house is filled with love, family and friends. One of my favorite Christmases was when my six-year-old granddaughter taught her baby brother how to pass out gifts and wait until Mom or Dad said it was okay to begin opening gifts.

Joan: Just about everyone has a holiday horror story. What's the worst Christmas you ever spent?

Carol: 2004. The first Christmas spent after we lost our eight-year-old granddaughter, Emaleigh Grace, to Wilm’s Kidney Cancer.

Joan: What's the title of your next individual book?

Carol: A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding

Visit Carol DeVaney Online

Website: http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/
Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/6p3f2n6
Barnes&Noble Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/6lsz5xz

Takeaway Truth

Stretch your holiday budget. Buy Christmas on Main Street and receive 11 romances ranging from sweet to spicy at a bargain price.

Meet Main Street Author Stephanie Queen

This week I'm featuring the Authors of Main Street who have a Box Set, Christmas on Main Street, which should be available on or about Nov. 1, at a bargain price that won't wreck your budget.

Each day I'll feature one of the eleven authors of Christmas on Main Street.

Today's spotlight is shining on talented Contemporary Romance author Stephanie Queen. Stephanie writes books with a Zing of excitement--zap of wit--long lasting zip of feel good.

Good morning, Stephanie. Welcome to SlingWords. Let's have a cup of coffee while you tell us more about your book Small Town Glamour Girl Christmas.

Small Town Glamour Girl Christmas

Julie is a small town girl at heart -- who happens to be a dead-ringer for Audrey Hepburn. When family finances force a decision, will she sell herself out to be a glamour girl or will she sell herself to the newest millionaire in town?

Joan: What inspired you to write this particular holiday story?

Stephanie: I'm a fan of Audrey Hepburn, small town glamour and Christmas -- the story rolls it all into one very warm and inviting experience -- with a little zing of excitement.

Joan: What is your favorite holiday memory?

Stephanie: So many cherished times, but in keeping with the small town main street theme, one year a group of friends all went out on the Holiday House tour in our small country town. We traveled from house to house, imbibed in treats, chatted in front of roaring fireplaces, took pictures, sang carols and laughed merrily all day long.

Joan: Just about everyone has a holiday horror story. What's the worst Christmas you ever spent?

Stephanie: No. If there was one, I can't recall it.

Joan: What's the title of your next individual book?

Stephanie: The Romantics, Book 3 of the Scotland Yard Exchange Program Series, to be released in November.

Visit Stephanie Queen Online

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephanie-Queen/198484900209330
Website: www.StephanieQueen.com
Authors of Main Street: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorsofMainStreet

Takeaway Truth

Stretch your holiday budget. Buy Christmas on Main Street and receive 11 romances ranging from sweet to spicy at a bargain price.