Oranges for Halloween?

The hubby picked the first ripe satsuma oranges yesterday.  We’ll be having tree-ripen oranges for awhile.

Knowing I had to write a blog the day before Halloween, I thought I would have some fun.

halloween oranges


This is the result…and what fun it was to do.  This would be an amazing way for small kids to decorate ‘pumpkins‘ without knives and the mess.  You can get a ton of ideas from Google images.

Many years ago, I did do a real pumpkin with a small boy opening the door, it was amazing and heartbreaking when it finally was useless.

I usually buy pumpkins after Halloween so I can make pumpkin pies later on.  One of the kids love pumpkin pie and I won’t pass up a piece either!

I do wonder what the dh will say when he comes home and glances at the fruit bowl.  LOL

My book, Unconditionally, is FREE at Amazon through Friday, November 1st.  Grab your copy.

Unconditionally 72dpi

Racing with Deadlines by Stephanie Queen

STGGC_COVER-Final-Final-900 Even though Myren, my chauffeur, bet against me–he had a pool going among all his chauffeur pals down the street corner apparently–I did it!  I won the race with my Deadline!  After 35 days during which I threw the gym out the window, ate like I was 12 years old again keeping all those wonderful-god-bless-their-souls junk food companies in business, slept like an insomniac and turned into a hermit, I completed my latest novel–on time!

If I were a man, I’d now have an unshaven beard, rumpled shirt, an ashtray filled with cigar butts and an empty bottle of Jack Daniels on my desk. As it is, I have owl eyes, a rumpled bathrobe, scary halloween-witch hair, a wastebasket filled with candy wrappers and an empty Fritos bag on my desk.  Decidedly behind in the pursuit of the glamorous writer image.

But at least my pink divan is intact and Myren insists on driving me to a decent restaurant tonight–after he approves of my clean-up. He’s barricaded the doors until I ‘get myself together for pity’s sake’. He doesn’t want me to reflect poorly on his reputation with all his street-corner chauffeur pals.

I offered to buy him a pair of dark glasses and a fake mustache.

But I digress as usual.  A Small Town Glamour Girl Christmas is a minor miracle for me, my own Christmas miracle if you will. Not that the story has anything to do with Christmas miracles, because it doesn’t. The story is a romance mixed with small town warmth vs. big city glamour drama and a little bit of coming-of-age, and a dash of other man/other woman conflict.  Now I know you have no idea what the heck the story is about based on that description, but I bet you’re dying to know. It’ll be available on Halloween–when all us shopaholics conscientious shoppers start our Christmas shopping–the new official start of the holiday season!

When do you all start your holiday season frenzy of decorating, shopping and celebrating with everyone you know and also complete strangers?

North and South


Florida Romance Writers Super Saturday, sitting on a panel, next to Heather Graham.

No, I am not talking about the Civil War, although I used to enjoy romance novels set during that period, particularly those of Heather Graham, my favorite historical author twenty years ago.


South is where I live, close to the Ocean, my favorite view.

North is where I used to live most of my life and where I raised my children. Another time another life. How I managed to juggle work, children, their activities, my gym, cooking, cleaning, and on occasions taking classes to advance my career– with a husband who traveled fifty percent of the time and was absent during all our emergencies– is beyond me. I was young and energetic.

Last week, I was back North to visit my grandchildren. They are making it a tradition to invite before Halloween to admire their costumes, enjoy their decorations, and watch the foliage. It was a delightful week with delightful children. They kept me busy and I was so happy to be useful.


Other than the above, the highlights of my trip included a visit to the gym and another to karate.
Lying down with each child before they slept was my favorite time. I felt like a mom again.


Of course, there was no time to read email, write a new scene, edit a manuscript, or promote a book. Forget it. The previous were replaced with preparing chocolate milk and pancake for breakfast, walking to the bus stop, playing monopoly, supervising homework. Although I was flabbergasted by how these kids do their math, I mean additions and multiplications, on a laptop. And they trained me on how to use my iPad. Oh God, I feel so old and so out-of-it when I remember we had to memorize multiplication tables!

Amazing how the best joys are the simple ones. How a child’s smile is all I needed to be happy.

What are your greatest joys in life?

Christmas Wedding Muddle  Box Set
If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world with stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with passion.

Try my latest Christmas ebook, a hilarious and sweet romance, set on a cruise to Spain and Italy.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Writing is one of the hardest and the greatest roller-coaster rides I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a blessing or a curse! Regardless, since writing is in my blood, I can’t not write. So as other authors do, I try to make it as stress-free as possible keeping up with my storyline.
Most times I take an idea and run with it, then try to make sense of pages I’ve written by the seat-of-my-pants. I discovered a few years ago that when life steps up to the plate, I needed more than my memory to actually finish a manuscript. I have written short stories straight through, edited and sent them off to a publisher. My first and a few other short stories were accepted with light editing. Like many authors submitted manuscripts, my others were rejected.
A novel isn’t that easy. There’s too much in the mixture. For me at least. If I know the scene, I can pop it out fairly quickly. That’s the fun part, when the words fill pages without too much blood, sweat and tears. That doesn’t happen too often.
Once an idea forms, I let it perk while my mind accepts characters and plot they’ve drilled inside my head.
I use 4X6 cards to jot down chapter information. Projected Title, Chapter, POV, Characters, Setting, Scene Goal, Scene Conflict, Scene Disaster, Sequel Ending Goal. Once the story begins to come together, I also fill in temporary chapter #’s at the top and page #’s at the very bottom. That way it’s easy to find in the manuscript, if I’ve updated at that point. Updating the cards is painstakingly time-consuming, but crucial if I’m to maintain the story’s organization. At any rate the page #’s and other pertinent information gives an approximate area so I don’t need to search forever to find a certain scene in the manuscript.
Not everything comes at once of course, but the card structure is movable and I can throw away cards at will and begin again when the story begins to jell. You can also play What If with the cards. Throw them down on the floor or table and mix them up. See if a scene will become more powerful elsewhere. Sometimes that procedure works, other times the cards are carefully put back in order. I also have a Whiteboard, but haven’t used it in a while. If you don’t have one, check it out to see if it would work for you.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is – When You Know Your Story – writing becomes easier. Of course I’m talking about the first draft. Simply getting it down. Editing is an entire other basket of eggs. 🙂
What’s your favorite way to write? Could you share what you do to make your writing easier?

A Smoky Mountain Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.
My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.
You can find links on my website, here.

Counting My Blessings by Susan R. Hughes

canadianthanksgivingLast Monday was Thanksgiving here in Canada. Time to count my blessings—which I should really do more often than once a year. I spend far too much time bemoaning the things I don’t have and forget to be thankful for what I have.

1)      Family – not just the husband and kids but my parents, sister, in-laws and extended family. They are extremely supportive and generous. Not a bad apple among them.

2)      Health – I’ve been lucky not to have many problems so far. May it continue!

3)      Friends – I don’t have a large group of friends, but the ones I have are the best I’ve ever had. Loyal and caring, fun and tolerant of my quirks!

4)      Living in a prosperous country – my standard of living is modest; my dreams of European vacations and a brand-new kitchen are beyond reach at the moment. But let’s face it, I’m better off than most people in the world. My own ancestors would’ve worked a lot harder than I do for a lot less. Most of us take our modern comforts for granted.

5)      The opportunity to express myself through writing – I complain about slow sales and those occasional unflattering reviews, but really, diving into publishing has been an awesome experience. Beyond the thrill of having my work read and enjoyed by complete strangers, I’ve been able to connect with other authors who understand the ups and downs of the business. The occasional glowing reviews make it all worthwhile.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians, and may my American friends have many blessings to count for their Thanksgiving next month.

Writing For Love by Joan Reeves

Do you write for love? Not love of publication, love of fame, or love AoMSX 800x500of royalties, but love of writing itself. Choosing one word over another. Putting words together in a certain way that it perfectly expresses the vision in your brain.

Years ago I heard a University of Houston Literature professor, who was a published poet, say that only poets write for the love of writing. His reasoning was that poets never make any money from writing so they do it strictly because they love stringing words together.

I disagreed with him then, and I disagree now because I know many writers who have written hundreds of thousands of words and have never been published yet they still keep writing. They submitted to publishers countless times and were rejected each time — not because their writing isn’t worthy of publication.

Reasoned Rejection? Hmmm

What many people in the general public don’t realize is that authors get rejected all the time. Rejection is no stranger to authors who are already published and writers who aren’t published but who are well-versed in the necessary skills to write a publishable book.

Writers don’t get published because of myriad reasons, and most of those reasons are subjective. Perhaps the publisher just bought a manuscript with that premise or that same setting. Maybe the editor doesn’t think the marketing hook is high concept enough or the editor’s personal opinion is that no one could ever be caught in the situation that’s in the opening scene of the book.

Maybe the publisher has an author who already writes that type of book, and they don’t see a need for another author writing it. Maybe the industry is downsizing because of the rise of indie publishing. Maybe the editor disdains women like the heroine of your book. Or, maybe the hero’s name is Brian, and the editor just split from her significant other who is also named Brian. The “maybe’s” go on forever.

Sometimes, good writing just never lands on the right editor or agent’s desk. By right, I mean the person who “gets” the story. Do writers give up? Some do. Some don’t. In the beginning, writers who have just begun to fight are motivated. They outline another book and start writing. Why? Because they can’t not write. They love writing.

Writing For Love Makes One Persist

All those writers who were summarily rejected are now free to embrace indie publishing and the technology of ebook readers that allow their work to find an audience. All those authors who wrote, and kept writing, for the love of writing, and who once buried rejected manuscripts in the bottom of a file drawer now have a chance to place their work – their words – in front of readers.

The smart indie authors have their manuscripts edited, proofread, and adorned with professional cover art and then published as ebooks, print books, audio books, or all three!

Readers find the books they want to read without big publicity machines to guide them, and they can get them at a bargain too. Most indie ebooks are priced less than five dollars making them an impulse buy for most readers. Who bats an eye at paying $3.99 for an ebook when a Venti Cappuccino costs more than that, as does a snack at a food court. A movie ticket costs much more than that. Plus, you can re-read the ebook as many times as you wish.

Post Script

An ebook is a great value and a lot of entertainment for such a small investment. Try one today. I’d love it if you’d try one of mine, or grab the Christmas on Main Street Box Set coming to a cyber bookstore near you very soon.

(If you like Romance and Sex — and Romance and Humor — in your novels, try a book by Joan Reeves. Joan’s books are available at most ebook sellers, with audio editions available at Audible and iTunes. Look for print editions in late 2013. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers, and Wordplay, a free subscription newsletter for readers. Visit SlingWords, Joan’s Blog, or her Website. Follow Joan on Twitter: @JoanReeves)

FB it’s not just for Trolls

Sometimes blogging is easy. Sometimes, most times even, it’s fun. Sometimes, I scratch my head wondering what I have to share that would make anyone’s life more enjoyable in my morning blog and like procrastinators and semi-mad people everywhere, I look to FB or other social media for inspiration.


This morning I did just that and got smacked in the head with something obvious ~ I love my job. Not every aspect of it and not every day, but for the most part I get to spend time loving what I do. So, I thought in my most thoughtful FB scrolling way, most people probably love how they spend part of their day, if it’s not their job, it’s a hobby or passion or their family that bring that, I’m-so-lucky-to-have-this-in-my-life feeling.

While I was trolling FB feeling sorry for myself about another aspect of my life and how it’s hurting me, I posted. Mostly without thought, one of those things that just happens when an image pops up and I think it’s the Universe speaking, and it occurred to me, I have a lot to be happy about and I should get on with that and let my grouching go.

My post had to do with research I’m doing on my current work in progress set in Alba (Scotland) around 900 AD. FB, oddly enough, has often been a jumping in point for various aspects of my research which also involves Druidic lore, Celtic myth and spirituality, as well as scientific knowledge~the magic of its time.


Some people may be groaning with boredom at the thought. This just gets me jazzed.

So jazzed in fact, that it’s tempting to spend half my day researching. Some days that’s just what I do. Invariably only small threads of that research makes it into my books, and yet I get to visit exotic locations, imagine myself in different times, living a rich but foreign life. And when time and finances allow, I get to visit the places I write about. That makes this life choice exhilarating and meaningful.


Two of my FB friends posted this morning on their research. One posted about a baby elephant’s relationship with her human caregiver. The other about the research she was doing on MS and finding a cure. It’s amazing to me how much we learn about the different aspects of life as authors and how much that knowledge can lead to differing  perspectives, personal growth, and change. Knowledge often leads to activism and even when it doesn’t, a change of perspective, if only momentary, is healthy. I’ve always had a great respect for authors, artists, song writers and story-tellers of all genres and inclinations, because they are able to evoke empathy and a sense of connection than spans disparate groups and communities.


Just like FB has the potential to do.

It may seem that those moments trolling are spent in frivolous abandon. If they are, so what? Frivolity can often lead to productivity given enough imagination. And, connecting with people you may have very little in common with on the surface in a way that celebrates what we have in common on a basic level is time well spent.

This, I think, is a skill and a gift. I hope I can become skilled enough to connect with readers of all sorts on a very human level and I’m thankful I get to work at it every day.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, a hobby, or for recreation. It doesn’t matter if it seems boring to those around you. If it’s meaningful to you and brings you joy or otherwise enhances your life, it’s good. If it helps you connect with others, even better.


I now have the Life is Good mantra: ‘Do what you like, like what you do’ running through my head. What do you like to do? Do you post about it on FB or other social media? How does what you do enhance your life? Do you chose to share that with others around you? Is it easier to share it with strangers online than with friends you see daily/weekly/often? Can’t wait to hear about what you like/love and how you share it with the world.

Happy Wednesday!

How One Writer Writes

pen head
Ever wonder how writers write? I do and I am a writer. I’ll share what I do and hope that some of you out there will share what you do.

I have a quirky writing process. Drafting the first fifty to a hundred pages is, for me, the honeymoon stage. I’m introducing new characters, falling in love with the hero, and creating worlds. At about page 100 when I start the second act I get out the note-cards and begin outlining because that’s when things get complicated. I’ll start at the beginning and give each scene a note-card with a sentence or two of the key purposes of that scene. If the scene doesn’t propel the plot in some important way, it needs to go.

Looking forward, I create note-cards for all the future scenes. I jot down settings, the beginning and ending emotions of each scene, making sure that the settings and emotions are varied from scene to scene and yet coordinated or opposed (i.e. an angry debate at a child’s birthday party or a gentle first kiss in the middle of a storm.) I bore easily so it’s important to me that each scene carries its own dynamic and yet unique energy. For example, I find some action movies tiring because the pace never varies from overdrive. I love Monty Python because I can’t second guess what will happen next. Unfortunately, I’m not Monty Python zany so I rely on my note-cards after page 100 and let them carry me through the first draft.

On my second read-through, I don’t edit or tinker, I simply read and put one of these @ and a note to myself in red when I hit a spot that needs tweaking. On the third pass-through I search out the @s and try and resolve what wasn’t working. I start serious editing and rewriting on my fourth reading. Then I give it to beta-readers and start another project.

About a month later, I return to my book, consider my beta’s comments and address them (or not) give it another read through before sending it to my editor. By this time, I’m sick of the thing and generally honeymooning with my new work in progress. When I get it back from the editor, I’ll buckle down to edit, but I’ll continue with my new project. Because I love drafting and hate editing, I like having simultaneous projects.

I try to write 2000 words a day. Sometimes this will take me two hours, and sometimes it will take m u c h   l o n g e r. Recently I started what I call a writer’s widget. You can find it on my blog, I like it because it holds my feet to the fire, and also because as I write, I find myself looking for that “favorite sentence.” It would be great if I wrote so many awesome sentences that it would be hard to choose just one. I’m not there yet, but I think the widget is helping.

What about you? What keeps you motivated? Any widgets?

widget to look like this:



 10/9  10-3  2000  blog posts -my own and  Why did Emory need to be the world’s babysitter, Dudley Do-right, doing whatever he could to save mankind from Satan’s grasp?



2000 words

Swap chapters with M&B

10 10 7-8, 9-9:48 1700 blog post, Losing Penny The heart and liver would be up to Emory. Dog groomer write at library
3000 words
10 11 10:45- 1:45 2690 “He tried to kiss me.” Petra took a deep breath and tried to calm her racing heart. “I might have over reacted.” Monday’s goals
volunteer at employment center, 2000


The seasons, or lack thereof – Jill James

autumn leaves 3Okay, maybe not no seasons, but definitely not the standard four the rest of the country gets. Where I live in Northern California; 90 minutes east of San Francisco and 90 minutes southeast of Sacramento we have micro-climates. The temperature can change from mile to mile. When I was a kid we would leave home in shorts, t-shirts, and it was 90 degrees. We would drive 60 miles west to Berkeley to visit my dad and it would be foggy, cold, and 60 degrees.

I’ve always said that we have two seasons here; wet and cold/hot and dry. I’ve been to the South and the Midwest in this country (US) and the heat is like breathing in a swamp. Here in NorCal it is like breathing in a furnace.

Recently, the ladies of Authors of Main Street have talked about Fall in their neck of the woods. Here where I live, it is chilly in the morning, like 68-70 LOL and it heats up to maybe 80 by the peak of the day (2-4pm.) Ahhhh, Autumn!! 🙂

This month is my return to busy writing. I’m releasing a Christmas short story alone and with the group in a boxed set and I will finish Love in the Time of Zombies by Halloween! That book has been hanging around my neck like the albatross for way too long.

Hope it is nice Fall weather in your part of the world.  Jill

The Chill of an Early Fall

Yes, I’ve been listening to George Strait lately. But that song title fits Texas right now. This is what we call State Fair weather. Chilly mornings that require a sweater or sweatshirt, warm afternoons where you can be comfortable in shorts, cool evenings that will put you back in jeans or sweats. You almost have to carry a change of clothes with you if you’ll be out all day.

We Texans live for State Fair weather. After something like 50 days of temps in the high nineties to low hundreds, we’re ready for the chill. But not winter. Not yet.

Speaking of the State Fair, it’s going on right now. If you’ve never been to the State Fair of Texas, you’ve missed a treat. Like everything else in Texas, we do it up big. We have a permanent Fair Park that is open year round, with museums, the aquarium, music hall, and Science Place, but for two weeks in September, the park comes alive with rides, food (fried EVERYTHING, from Twinkies to peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches and the famous State Fair Corny Dog), music, car shows, quilts, crafts, animals, rodeos, and the Texas-OU football game.

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And then there’s Big Tex. He’s an icon in Texas. Last year, the day after we visited the fair, he caught on fire and burned up. But he’s back this year, newly redesigned but close to the original.


You can walk yourself silly, eat until you pop, or shop until you drop. You can spend a little or a lot. You can learn about all kinds of things, or just ride the rides from open to close. It’s a magical place for young children, and can be an exhausting one for adults. But it’s definitely an experience not to be missed.

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I’ve been going to the State Fair since I was ten years old. (We won’t discuss how old I am now, but I was 9 when JFK was assassinated).  Hubby and I had our second date at the fair. I was there two days before my second child was born (with a twenty-one-month-old in tow.) I went just before I had cancer surgery. I’ve been there with my parents, my children, and my grandchildren.

Is there a special place or event that holds great memories for you, or a tradition for your family? Is there something you especially love about fall?