Small Towns and Their Food by Pepper Phillips

One thing I’ve learned about small towns is that each one has their own history. My own little town is called ‘Boggy Bayou’ in my series. It was easier for me to use some place that I was familiar with. Settled in 1760, it’s an old town.

I didn’t realize until I did my hubby’s family tree that he was related to the first settlers of Louisiana. They migrated from the New Orleans area, northward until they finally settled in a very rich fertile farmland. Most anything will grow here. We’re still picking oranges off of our trees.

But each small town also has its food preferences. Living in Louisiana means eating well. Recipes are shared between families, in community cookbooks, at church functions, and social functions. There are still some items that I refuse to eat, such as blood sausage. Yuck. But the hubby loves it. I have assisted in helping make it, and I guess that’s one reason I won’t eat it. I have tried to make a modified hog’s head cheese, which is the tidbits of meat from the skull of the hog. I cheated and used pork meat not from the head. If you want to try it, here is a good recipe.

Then there are cracklings…oh, they are good. Part pork skin with fat and meat, it’s deep fried until it turns a dark brown and the fat is cooked out. Crunchy and delicious.

So, when I write my books set in Boggy Bayou, I try to include the food that we do eat on a regular basis. To me there is nothing worse than going to another town in the U.S. and have ‘Cajun Breakfast’ on the menu and there are hash browns offered. Hello…it better be grits if it’s Cajun. Hash browns are served in restaurant chains such as International House of Pancakes or Waffle House, but the local diners have grits.

When I went up to Washington State many years ago for my Granny’s funeral, my aunt took me to a ‘Sausage Feed’ the next day. I’d never heard of that, so was very interested. As a kid when I lived with my Granny, I remember the Flapjack Breakfast from a real chuck wagon on the Main Street, but never a sausage feed. What it was, was a sit-down dinner with browned sausage links, boiled potatoes, lots of different vegetable dishes served family style. As it was set in a high school, everyone sat with their group and strangers. It was quite interesting. But I wouldn’t use it in Boggy Bayou. It wouldn’t ring true.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my take on small towns and the food that they serve. I’m sure your small town has its favorite recipes as well, something I most likely have never tasted. Tell us about it.

I did create a wonderful recipe for White Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce that is to die for…men love it!  Even the grandson asked for the recipe. You can get it here: 

That recipe is featured in Naomi’s Heart…


Cooking and Writing – How Are They Alike?

The other day, a friend and I were discussing dinner. After I told her what I was preparing that night for dinner, she said, “You should think of writing a cookbook.”

Well, I laughed. When people ask for a recipe, it takes a while to measure ingredients as I prepare whatever dish they’ve asked for. Then, I hope and pray their dish turns out.

Most everything I cook is done naturally. I throw everything together without thought. I don’t do recipes well unless it’s a baked item. Exact ingredients and measuring is crucial to the outcome. Still substitutions, such as apple sauce for oil, a sugar substitute for sugar and in some instances, wheat flour for white flour works beautifully.

Since my husband is a heart patient and we’re both diabetic, preparation for any meal is quite a challenge. Oil, sugar, and starches are three of the most troublesome items to deal with. But I manage to work around all of it with a bit of switching ingredients.

Not all dishes turn out perfectly and usually require a couple of times, or more, to get it right. I keep at it until the dishes are palatable.

Cooking reminds me of writing. While we prepare our characters for inclusion into our stories, substitutions, changes must be made. There are times a name, age, location and other factors, simply don’t fit the storyline. That’s when we roll up our sleeves and adjust where needed.

While we’re at it, we add in emotion, scents, touch, feeling, etc. Those elements enhance characterization, and the storyline. As a reader, as well as a writer, a book filled with more than salt and pepper, holds my attention and keeps me turning pages.

So break out the spice jars! Enjoy cooking, writing and reading.

A Smoky Mountain Christmas Wedding – Book Two, coming soon.

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.You can find links on my website for all My Books.

Scents and Fragrances

Unusual Christmas Bestseller MAuthors often specify a fragrance to ground the reader in a scene. During love scenes, the hero inhales with pleasure the perfume of his leading lady, and the heroine swoons at the masculine scent of her hunk. Hmm, forgive the purple prose, please.

That fresh scent that puts a smile on your face every time you breathe it in reveals plenty about the type of person you are. According to Dr. Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Research Foundation in Chicago, “The area of the brain that’s used to process smells is actually part of the emotional center.”

What’s your favorite scent?

Lavender: You’re thoughtful.
It could be a subconscious desire for serenity that attracts 220px-Single_lavendar_flower02you to this perfumed scent. You need tranquility. Because of your reserved, kind nature, you prefer small gatherings and you know how to listen.





Coffee: You’re fun to be around. main-slider-january-2015-roasters-blend

The smell of coffee alone is enough to provide a boost of energy. If you love this aroma, your enthusiasm for life and willingness to dive into new experiences is infectious. Everyone loves your company.

Green grass: You’re so caring. The subtle scent of fresh green grass induces nostalgia. If you’re drawn to this scent, it’s likely because it brings back happy memories of childhood times You’re so warm people are drawn to you because you take their feelings into consideration.

Citrus: You’re outspoken. The sharp acidic scent of citrus can increase excitement. This lemon_tree_8appeals to your candid nature. You’re not afraid to share your opinions. Your friends love you because you bring elements of fun into their lives.

Lilac: You’re an optimist. The sweet scent of lilac appeals to the romantic in you. You’re emotional and you love passionately. Because you’re so sure things will work out, you’re Royal_Botanical_Gardens_Lilac_Celebrationalways open to new possibilities. You make people believe you can do anything.

So play the game and tell us which fragrance you prefer. And choose scents for your hero and heroine.



Announcing a new Valentine box on pre-order to be released on February 10, 2015.Final+Book+Cover

Hearts and Kisses: 12 Contemporary Valentine Novels and Novellas Boxed Set

Is romance in the male thriller dead?

I like to read. In fact, I’ll read just about anything that enhances my life in some way. As I’ve grown older, I don’t always finish what I start, but that’s because there are so many good books – fiction and non-fiction – available now.

Ulf Andersen Portraits - Robert Ludlum

I’ve loved male thrillers since I was a teenager. Ludlum, mostly then. John Sandford, James Lee Burke, and C.J. Box mostly now.


John Sanford’s, Virgil Flowers novels, are some of my favorites. They are easy to read, funny, and I like a bit of vicarious violence now and again. I can also finish them in a sitting or two; which is a tremendous plus.


Virgil Flowers is an interesting guy. He’s young-ish, smart, funny, and likes to fish when he needs to work out whodunnit, and why. Sandford’s books take place in Minnesota which is near and dear to my Wisconsinite heart, so that’s a plus as well.

Sanford describes Virgil, or more pointedly has a female character describe him, as a good looking, blond, surfer-esque dude, prone to wearing indie band t-shirts, cowboy boots, and jeans. He does not look like the cop he is, much less, like the uber-cop he turns out to be. He’s “sociable”. We know this because Sandford tells us so, well that and the fact that Virgil has been married three times in somewhat rapid succession – and one assumes, divorced three times nearly as quickly.

Now, though, he’s sworn off marriage.

Which brings me around to my point. Sex in male thrillers is a far different thing than it is in romance or in adventure literature. It doesn’t seem to mean much, not that it always has to, but once in a while a meaningful connection could be had.

I like Virgil Flowers.

I like the t-shirts and the boots and the fact that he rarely knows where his gun is. I like his ease with women. I don’t like that the depth of his romantic interludes reads like a high school jock getting off between quarters of a football game while patting himself on the back for his performance. He usually has sex in each novel – often several times in a row – but they are short, quick scenes where prowess is never in question, and neither is his heart. Not really. There’s no real opening up of himself. This I don’t get. That said, I’ll read every one of John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers novels with a smile, living in perpetual hope that at some point he’ll share his heart.


I’ve read most of the 19 “Reacher” novels, by Lee Child – even though he sold Tom Cruise the rights to portray his 6’-5” hero. Same thing. No divorces, but no real connection to anyone Reacher sleeps with either.

Ludlum had some romantic connections in his books. Sometimes even action spurring love. The new thrillers, though, those with a common serial lead, rarely do.


So that’s why I read them intermittently, after long stints of romantic fiction. I like the wit. I enjoy the smattering of violence and the plot twists. James Lee Burke, in particular, is a fantastic writer, as are all the others I’ve mentioned.

Still, I miss the romance. The closeness. Even the illusion that a strong male with sharp wits and an ascerbic tongue, chasing over-the-top bad guys, could manage to give his heart along the way.

How about you? Does romance play a pivotal role in your pleasure reading? Are there some male thriller writers who do romance well? Does giving your heart, even for the span of one novel, ruin the male thriller? I don’t think it does, so I’m actively reading in the hope that someone will fill the romance gap in this wonderfully fast-paced genre.

Happy Reading! May 2015 be filled with great reads and wonderful writing.


Those Totally Awesome 1980s

While working on a Christmas novel taking place in the 1980s, I’ve had fun delving into the era of my high school years. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but a lot has changed since then. I have many fond memories of the decade – the music, the fashions, the TV shows I regularly watched, and hanging out at shopping malls or going to the movies with my friends.


My sister, mom and me in about 1982. Note the state-of-the-art Polaroid camera.

In a time before cell phones, your only way of reaching someone when you were out was to find a pay phone, and when you got together with people you actually had to talk to them! The internet was beyond our imaginations; research required a trip to the library (using the card catalog to find books). I remember when automatic banking machines came out. I couldn’t believe it was possible to walk up to a machine on the corner and take out money! I saved my money to buy vinyl records and transferred them to cassettes for listening on the go with my Walkman. Rather than use up the batteries rewinding the cassettes, I’d slip a pen into one of the spools and spin the cassette around until it was rewound.

My favourite shows: Simon & Simon, Magnum PI, MacGyver, Greatest American Hero, The Dukes of Hazzard, Love Boat, Family Ties, Facts of Life, The Cosby Show … and too many others to list.

Moves: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tootsie, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ghostbusters

Music: Duran Duran, Crowded House, Glass Tiger, Adam Ant, Tears for Fears, Huey Lewis and the News, The Police, Michael Jackson, Wham, Prince, Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, Robert Palmer … and so many more.

Fashion: jean jacket with batwing sleeves, long blouses and sweaters worn over stirrup pants, acid-wash jeans (and a purse to match), boat shoes, chunky earrings, V-belts, and of course my hair in an enormous perm!

Do you have any special memories of the 1980s?

May I Have Your Autograph by Joan Reeves

LuvU4Ever by Joan ReevesA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I received the autograph book shown below as a birthday present from my mom. I can remember taking it with me everywhere I went.

I collected “autographs” from my teacher in second grade, our neighbors, my parents, my mom’s friends, and my brothers. I was particularly thrilled with the autographs from the teenage girls who lived near us. I thought those girls were so beautiful, and I wanted to look like them when I grew up.

Fast Forward

Little did I know that a few decades later, those girls’ autographs would inspire me as a writer. In fact, I hadn’t thought about the autograph book in years. When my mom passed in 2010, I had to clean out her house. I packed boxes of books and papers and took them home with me. I planned to go through them later— when I could manage notJoan's Childhood Autograph Book to cry.

Later turned out to be last year. We’d sold our home too fast and ended up having to store everything while we waited for remodeling to be completed on the Houston townhouse we’d bought. Christmas of 2014, we moved everything into the new house. A year ago, I began unpacking. That’s when I came across all of my childhood mementos including the autograph book.

Inspiration Strikes

One of the autographs that inspired me.

One of the autographs that inspired me.

When I read the autographs from those teenage girls, my imagination took over. Both had written sentiments like this:

2 Sweet2B4Gotten and Sweet4Ever

In my mind’s eye, I could see a couple of kids, desperately in love. A boy in a letter jacket, leaning against a locker, and drawing a heart on the back of his girlfriend’s hand. I imagined him writing, LuvU4Ever.

Story Wrote Itself

The autograph book from my childhood inspired not just 1 short story, but an entire series: A Moment in Time.

LuvU4Ever is the first romance short story in the series.

David and Noelle fell in love when they were eighteen. They promised to love each other forever. Now, it’s 10 years later, and Noelle is heartbroken because she thinks she’s lost David.

About LuvU4Ever

LuvU4Ever, that’s what David had engraved on the plain gold heart he gave Noelle when he proposed.

Can 9 little words destroy a Forever love?

I told you NEVER to call me at home.

Noelle faces the biggest decision of her life. Will she stay? Will she dish out some payback? Or will she just walk away?

I love this story and hope you’ll like it too. Want to watch the video book trailer? It’s getting a lot of views so it must be hitting some hot buttons. Here’s the link: (I’d be ecstatic if you’d click LIKE and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.)

LuvU4Ever, at These Ebook Sellers: All Romance eBooks * Amazon Kindle * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords.

Final Note

I didn’t think autograph books were still sold, but I was surprised to find several available on Amazon. Most have Disney characters on them, but I found a few autograph books that resemble the one I received long ago.

Post Script

Bestselling eBook author Joan Reeves makes her home in the Lone Star State with her hero, her husband. She lives the philosophy that is the premise of her romance novels: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.”

Visit Joan online: Blog * Website. Sign up for Joan’s free newsletter for readers or her free newsletter for writers.

New Year’s Resolutions vs Goals

I used to do the whole New Year’s resolutions thing, and I failed miserably. Invariably they involved losing weight, giving up bad habits, exercising more. I’d be good for maybe the first week, and then it would all fall by the wayside.

This year, I’m trying something new and so far it seems to be working. I’ve set goals for myself that don’t have to do with how I look or how I eat–though we’ve been working toward a healthier way of eating for the past couple of years. These goals involve what I hope to accomplish. They’re about writing, about getting organized, about getting my life together.

Writing–my goal this year is to write every day. Even when I don’t want to, even when the words don’t want to come, even when life interferes. I didn’t set a word goal, just the goal to write something. Every single day.

Getting organized–my goal is to do something every day. Accomplish something. Clean out a drawer, a closet, a box, a file. Get rid of some clutter. File receipts. Doesn’t really matter what, so long as I do something.

Getting my life together–this one is harder. I don’t know exactly what it is that is out of kilter, just that something is. So I’m exploring options. Education, a new job with insurance benefits, making moves toward a dream of getting an RV and traveling part of the year. I’ve sent out resumes, looked into online advanced degree programs, joined some full-time RV groups to glean ideas, and started a planning notebook. Maybe I won’t get my life together this year, but I will make progress.

A few other things I’ve done this year is cut back expenses to the bare bones. The only time I’ve left my house all month is to go to the grocery store, where I buy only what I need to fix the meals I’ve planned for the next two weeks. I shop the outside aisles, only venturing into the dangerous inner aisles when I need a specific item on my list. So far I’ve slashed the grocery bill in half by not aimlessly wandering the aisles. We haven’t spent a dime on eating out, haven’t wasted money on a movie, haven’t gone shopping for non-food items.

I know I can’t sustain this frugal existence for the whole year. I have a son getting married this year, I have to go visit my mom in Colorado because she’s at the point where she can’t come to us, and there are birthdays and grandkid events we’ll need to attend. But right now I still have the same gas in my tank that I started the year with, and I’m pretty happy about that.

I’ve passed up a great deal on two leather recliners because now is not the best time to spend money I don’t have to spend. I’ve passed up a great deal on flannel sheets because the ones we have are good enough. Not great, but enough for this season. I’ve passed up great deals on laptops because mine hasn’t quit yet. If it does, I’m in trouble, but I’m hoping it will get me through another year.

If I’d started this 40 years ago, we’d be in a lot better shape than we are now. Like they say, hindsight is 20-20, and I didn’t have the ability in my 20’s to look ahead and see what I would need when I was 60, what I would wish I’d done when I was younger. But what about you? If you’re under 40, start now and look ahead. Do what you can now to prepare for the days ahead when you won’t have the strength, the finances, the mental clarity to do the things you want to do. Get your life together while you can.

I think that’s one reason I tend to write heroines who know what they want and go after it. I never knew what I wanted as a teenager or young adult. I wandered through life aimlessly, like I used to do at the grocery store, and it’s cost me. I don’t want to be that way anymore, so I’m trying to live my life with purpose, making it happen rather than letting it happen.

My book sales started plummeting a couple of months ago, and for a while I let it happen, blaming the Amazon KU program, the lack of a new book release, etc. Then I decided to put Blame it on Texas up for free on Amazon. It’s the first book in the seven-book Lone Star Cowboys series. I was nervous, worried about losing the income from one of my biggest selling books. But I wasn’t going to let life happen anymore. If I wanted more sales, I had to make it happen.

It worked. My sales are back up to normal levels, I have 14 great new reviews and some new fans, and sales of subsequent books in the series are increasing every day.


Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Set Goals? How is it working out for you so far?