Cajun Men Cook by Pepper Phillips

In Lousiana, the men like to cook. They enjoy it. They call their male friends and they get together for a ‘supper’.  Wives and girlfriends are not invited.

I for one, enjoy it. Because I can eat a breakfast for dinner, or whatever else I want. Normally, the husband doesn’t consider breakfast a proper dinner menu so I never fix it. I tried it when we were first married, but not when he let me know that it wasn’t ‘proper’ in his mind. It’s a small thing and not worth arguing about.

So, he’s invited to a ‘supper’ several times a month with different friends of his. It’s their chance to socialize, drink beer and generally harass each other.

What do they eat? Usually it’s game of some sort. A duck gumbo, an eutouffe, fried frog legs, well, most anything fried could be on the menu.  My hubby likes to fix Pork and Turnip Stew. I personally don’t like it, so if he fixes it somewhere else, it’s fine with me!  LOL

Every man who cooks knows how to make a roux and they do it in a cast iron skillet. From scratch. They do have an easy way to make a roux, and some men will use that method. Here’s the directions/recipe for roux.

Dutch Oven

A lot of men collect cast iron cookware, from skillets to huge Dutch ovens. They like to keep the pans ‘seasoned’ and are very careful with cleaning them. You don’t want rust to form on your cast iron cookware. We have several, including a griddle and a cornbread one that looks like ears of corn. A lot of people will use a plain skillet to cook their cornbread. One good thing about using cast iron, is that it will add iron to your system which you need. Plus, with the proper care they will last you a lifetime.

cornbread pan

There is a cookbook called, “Cajun Men Cook” which I’m giving all my grandsons this year. Very tradition Louisiana recipes are included, in fact, I own a copy as the recipes are delicious.  (There are some really inexpensive copies on Amazon. For some reason you can’t see a Sample, but it’s an excellent cookbook, however there are no pictures. I have several hundred cookbooks in my collection and will use this one. This is by the Beaver Club of Lafayette.)

Cajun Men Cook

Where do they cook these ‘suppers’?

A lot of men have outdoor kitchens in their back yards. A separate building with stove, refrigerator, table, chairs, loungers, a large TV. Their own ‘man cave’ though they don’t call them that.  Some have camps in the woods that host the events. Wherever it is held, it’s good food, good friends and good conversation.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” is a Cajun expression meaning “Let the good times roll!”

Pepper Phillips Boggy Bayou Series is set in Louisiana.

“Pepper Phillips clearly understands the customs, cuisine and conversation of the Deep South, with the first novella in her Boggy Bayou series. Naomi’s Heart portrays the developing romance of an older couple, who prove that age has nothing to do with love. Ms. Phillips’ obvious knowledge of Southern culture is highly entertaining and informative, and along with her endearing and well-developed characters, leave the reader reluctant to leave the world she’s created.”


Staying positive is half the battle. Many issues are overcome when you kick negativity to the side, or better yet, behind. Way behind.

Yes, Get Thee Behind Me Negativity.

We all have negative thoughts, I certainly do. But, I don’t wallow in bad things that happen for long. That’s the time I pull up my pants and take the bull by the horn. I know, I know, that’s a cliché, but it’s true.

As life and its struggles take a dip into a valley, I step back and assess the circumstances and actions needed to correct and deal with the issue at hand. When isn’t that the case? When I know I there isn’t anything I can do about the situation. Maybe the situation surrounds me, but doesn’t directly involve me. Mostly, I try to do what I can to help, but I step back at some point and realize I can’t fix every issue that hits me in the gut. All problems that hem me in aren’t my babies.

Negativity is harmful to health, and I don’t need outside issues bringing me down. None of us do.

There isn’t a roller-coaster effect to correcting issues without planning and action, if you aren’t actively involved.

Such is the case with my character in CHRISTMAS at APPLE LAKE. I wanted to create a character that had lived too long under someone else’s control and finally came to realize she’d lived in another’s shadow. Now she’s ready to break the mold, but finds her children want to continue where their father left off.

When Gage meets Matt, her entire thought process takes a life changing turn for the better. She’s ready to live. Really live.

Does Gage come into her own, or will she allow her girls to send Mom back into the plastic mold where they want her to remain?

Gage Lander’s husband, Ken, dies in a freak accident. She and Ken had just argued and Ken storms out of the house in a blind rage. He’d been drinking and his car had rammed a telephone pole. Now, her girls blame her for their father’s death. They throw his death in her face; if they hadn’t argued, he’d still be alive and at home where he belonged.

Gage knows that isn’t true.

She believes in a higher being. She believes we are on this earth for a reason and it’s the same in death. We leave this world when our time here has ended, not before.

Gage fights to help her girls understand death and how to deal with their grief. But as in real life, that’s a long time coming. Gage realizes it’s hard to absorb death, much less understanding why, especially when the girls  oppose her on every level.

Here’s a short excerpt.


If Gage had known, Ken, her husband, would die, she’d have planned for it. No one ever said happiness was forever. Least of all Gage. She knew all about forever. It wasn’t.

Her life was upside down now and righting it was up to her. No one could do it for her.
But how was she going to go about it? Certainly her girls had their own idea of how she would get back on track. No, maybe that was an understatement. They wanted her to become a shadow of them. To live the way they wanted her to. Well…that wasn’t going to happen. She’d had enough control.

A shadow of what she knew would keep her from being what she wanted to be. What she knew she could be. What she wanted was to overcome her situation without being under someone else’s thumb, even her girls. Maybe, especially her girls. As much as she loved them, and as much as they loved her, relying on them wasn’t fair to either of her girls, whether they realized it or not. And, they didn’t. At least now. Gage prayed both girls would come to appreciate she’d have to make her own way.

Ken hadn’t wanted her to work after they’d married, and since they both wanted children right away, Gage hadn’t argued, but felt blessed to have a husband take care of her and the children that blessed their home.

Now, being taken care of had blown up in her face.

Ken had been the decision maker for the biggest part of their marriage. She’d had enough of control during her marriage. Control she hadn’t wanted or needed, but she’d allowed her husband to make most of the decisions without a thought of what may happen if he wasn’t around.

And now that day had come. She wasn’t ready, but life wouldn’t be put off.
Ken hadn’t been abusive, he just liked things to go smoothly and Gage had gone along. Still the marriage had been mostly good. She’d learned to adjust. Adjustments now would be a test. A test she was ready to meet head-on once she realized control was a form of abuse.

Gage lay in the king sized bed, flipped back the sheet and stared up at the ceiling. Her mind’s eye followed the swirls embedded in paint, paint she and Ken had applied together. For twenty-two years she’d shared the bed with Ken and now that he was gone, the bed was lonely and empty.

Ken had been a good man but had no knack for finances. But, it wasn’t entirely his fault the house was mortgaged to the hilt, and the credit cards maxed out. The medical bills had stacked up and now it was up to her to do something about them.

But what? She had no job, nor any skills other than organizing the house as one would a business over the years. You’d think she’d welcome her children coming in and taking over. To make everything easier. To remove the burden of paying stacks of bills she had no way of paying. But paying her out of debt wasn’t their responsibility. Gage wouldn’t be part of putting them put in a position that would put a strain on their lives.

Gage wanted more for her children. More for herself. More than to simply exist. She’d existed long enough without their help and to burden her children financially wasn’t in her plans.

So, the time had come to get up off her duff and do something about being head over heels in debt, to find a way to do what she had to do. By herself.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share? Please do if you can. We’d love to read your excerpt.

Thanks for joining us and reading!

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You can find links on my website for all My Books

What’s in a Name Anyway? By Stephanie Queen


Myren, my chauffeur, will tell you names aren’t important, but I disagree (he isn’t particularly fond of his name, so it’s a sour grapes thing with him and probably why he goes by some other crazy nickname which I can’t remember). That’s my big problem with names: I have trouble remembering them. I seem to have an impenetrable block. You would think my biggest headache is when I’m in a room full of new people trying to keep track of names, but no. At least then I have faces to go by.

No, my biggest name-headache is when I have a book full of characters. I have trouble remembering their names. Heck, I have trouble coming up with their names. I start using place markers, like Mr. X (thus the Name That Character Contest) and when there’s yet another character introduced I have to call them Mr. Y. You get the picture. I’ve gone through quite a bit of the alphabet while writing a book this way before I throw up my hands and give into the need to come up with the actual names.

Once I give into the challenge of coming up with character names,  I create a cheat sheet  of course. Then I go on line and browse names. They have to be good ones, meaningful and appropriate. At least that’s what I look for from my contest entries. The names I choose may be a bit more random. I have two rules.

  • Rule one: I must be able to pronounce the name.
  • Rule two: I can’t use the same first letter twice. (the exception here is if I ever write a book with more than 26 characters needing names. Then I probably will name one of them Mr. X.)

But I love memorable character names, the ones that fit and that you couldn’t imagine being anything else. One of my favorites is Jack Reacher, the main character in Lee Child’s thriller series. Love that name—suits the character. Few syllables. Uncomplicated. Blunt. Another character name I love is Scarlet O’Hara. Fiery and sexy. Earthy and unconventional.

What are your favorite character names that work?

NOTE: I’m officially inviting you to enter my Name That Character Contest to name the current Mr. X occupying the story world of my work-in-progress, Beachcomber Investigations. It’s available for pre-order now.

Here’s the blurb for Beachcomber Investigations:CoverBeachcomberInvBook1

Ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise is desperate to recruit Shana George away from Scotland Yard to partner with him in his new venture, Beachcomber Investigations. She has impressive skills and if he’s honest, he needs her to keep him grounded. But most of all, Dane wants to keep Shana on the island of Martha’s Vineyard because he can’t get past his insane longing for her.

Shana’s boss David Young forces her to decide on the spot when he assigns an important case to Beachcomber Investigations. She chooses to partner with Dane, going with her gut–or more accurately her heart–rather than her brains. They may be good partners in crime-fighting, but they are all wrong for each other in every other way possible. He’s soulless and lost and likely has more wounds from his past than the bullet and knife scars scorching his body. But she’s crazy. About him.

Their big assignment is to protect Dane’s old special ops buddy, Acer. They need to find whoever paid a sniper to take a shot at Acer–before the sniper takes another shot and doesn’t miss.

Dane and Shana need to be on top of their game to keep Acer alive, and not on top of each other. But each of them is secretly worried whether that’s possible–and worried about what will happen if it’s not.

Pre-Order at Amazon

10 Rainy Day Pleasures by Joan Reeves

Romeo and Judy Anne by Joan Reeves, color cover

Judy Anne’s love affair may be the biggest scandal her little Texas town has ever seen.

August has been hotter than usual here on the Texas Gulf Coast with many triple-digit temperature days. Many counties in Texas are now in drought conditions again and burn bans abound.

So it was with surprise and anticipation when we awoke to rain. The temperature has dropped to 78 degrees Fahrenheit–a welcome change from the 101 it was yesterday when we took a day-trip to San Antonio.

I was sitting on the couch, watching Showrunners, a documentary on Netflix, and staring out the window at the rain showering my roses when I thought how pleasant a rainy day can be. In fact, I thought of several things that are great for rainy days but not so good on other days.

10 Rainy Day Pleasures

1. Make soup. Hot weather isn’t conducive to making or eating soup. Give me a rainy day, and I’m in the mood for a pot of vegetable soup using vegetables from the garden (usually courtesy of my sister-in-law) or from a nearby farmer’s market. To go with the soup, I make a skillet of cornbread. From scratch naturally. We had this for lunch, and it was delicious.

2. Clean out a closet. I don’t know why, but rainy weather is my favorite time to clean out closets and cupboards.

3. Watch TV. I truly love laying on the couch in front of the television. There’s just something so decadent about doing this in the middle of the day.

4. Take a nap. The sound of gentle rain on the roof is the perfect background music for a nap.

5. Listen to music. Really listening without doing anything else. A cup of tea or a glass of wine isn’t required, but it’s nice accompaniment to good music.

6. Converse. Life is so busy that it’s easy to get out of the habit of having real conversations. Even when we get together with friends and family, it’s often in a noisy restaurant. Take a rainy day to have a real conversation.

7. Visit a museum. In the summer, most people are busy with outdoor activities. The rare rainy day is a good time to take part in indoor activities.

8. Go for a walk. If it’s not thundering and lightning and the rain is gentle rather than a downpour, put on rain boots and a slicker, grab an umbrella, and go for a walk. It’s really a lot of fun.

9. Go to the movies. When was the last time you went to a theater and saw a good movie? Call a friend and head to the local cineplex. Watching a film on the big screen and nibbling on popcorn is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

10. Read a good book. I love to curl up with a good book on a rainy day. May I recommend one of mine? Romeo and Judy Anne has a great scene set in a rain storm.

Romeo and Judy Anne is available at Amazon and these other ebook sellers: All Romance Ebooks * iBooks * Kobo * Nook.


What do you think about rainy days? Is there anything you do just on rainy days? Leave a comment with your email address and be entered to win an audio book edition of Romeo and Judy Anne.

Post Script

(Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Visit her Amazon Author Page and sign up for her Wordplay, her email mailing list.)

Scotland 2015

IMG_3438I’m typing this blog from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. As I’m looking at my computer screen, it’s 2:23a.m. back home, and undoubtedly fifteen to twenty degrees warmer. Right now, I’m not missing that heat at all.

The first bit—and the last bit—of my time here has been and will be spent on the mainland; a curious phrase for what is itself an island, but the people here have a different definition of Isle than Webster or American Heritage.

IMG_0699The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are phenomenal. Definitely worth a trip in their own right. Edinburgh—sister city to Chicago—is my favorite city so far. The museums are free. The pub life has an energy all its own. The visible history everywhere reminds me of our common need to congregate, celebrate, defend ourselves, nurture our culture…and yes, it’s a great place just to sit and have a pint, or two. All of that without mentioning the monolithic 1300 year old castle reaching for the sky from an imposing volcanic rock hillside. The thing that first tugged at my heartstrings and solidified my life-long love of this place stems from my first visit when I was fifteen years old: The Cemetery for Soldier Dogs. Such a small thing in retrospect, but there you have it. A teenager falls in love and can’t stop voyaging (north of a dozen times) to see what she holds dear.

DSCN0281Glasgow is a vibrant city filled with art and a distinctly urban vibe. It’s the happening place if you’re young and energetic and making a name for yourself in the world. Glasgow used to be viewed as an industrial city, dirty, filled with factory workers and the businesses that support them, with just enough danger lurking around its edges to make those seeking adventure salivate. Arguably it’s still all of that, sans the dirty, and so much more. It’s still filled with industry, but the art and culture and diversity here make it a growing and special place all its own.

I spend days in cities.

I spend weeks in the Isles.

There’s something about Islanders, their fiercely independent natures, pragmatic approach to everyday life, and their unlimited joy of the land and their tie to it, that moves me and rekindles my appreciation for hard work, hard play and gratitude for everything wonderful.

IMG_1978Orkney is my favorite of the Isles I’ve visited so far, although I’ve yet to see Lewis and Harris. My plan is to visit the Outer Hebrides this weekend. I love Orkney’s neolithic sites the way I love black licorice, it’s a strong flavor that appeals to the few and I can eat it daily—sometimes in copious amounts. My daughter has been working on the archeological dig on the Ness of Brodgar this summer so we got to see more than we otherwise would have. I’ll be blogging about Orkney in general and the dig in particular in greater detail in the upcoming months. I will say, that I’ve been looking for a small cottage or a piece of property on Orkney rather diligently. I’m liking Skye, I liked Iona and Mull, but for me, Orkney is where it’s at.

2015-08-13 06.45.40It’s said that on any of the Scottish Isles you can experience all four seasons in one day. I’ve found that to be partially true. Most days here—and it’s supposed to be summer here—we’ve experienced what would be late spring and early autumn in Wisconsin as well as a smattering of Wisconsin in early June. It’s been cool, wet, pleasant and downright gorgeous here, all in the space of a day.

That’s one reason why I love the Islanders. They prepare for anything, brace against the worst of it, and by the time the sun comes out again, they’ve let the bad go and embrace the light.

Not a bad way to live, I’m think’n.

Certainly not a bad way to write romance.

IMG_3431Signing off for now from Skye and the humorous sounds of baying sheep…Slainte!


My Summer Road Trip

A couple of weeks ago, our family of five embarked on a road trip from our home in Ottawa to the east coast of Canada (the map at the bottom shows our approximate route). It was our first long-distance trip with our three girls, ages 10 and 6, and we were keen to show them the ocean and hopefully create special lifelong memories.

After a two-day drive across Quebec and New Brunswick, we stopped at my in-laws’ cottage near St. John, staying three nights. We took day trips in the area, exploring the picturesque Bay of Fundy with its rocky beaches, seaside caves and breathtaking shoreline vistas, and swam briefly in the St. John River (before a rainstorm drove us out of the water). In and around St. John, we visited the local zoo, the New Brunswick Museum, and the famous Reversing Falls.

IMG_0579Next we headed to Nova Scotia, stopping along the way at Hopewell Rocks, where at low tide you can walk on the ocean floor among rock formations sculpted by tidal erosion. This was something I’d wanted to do for years. It was our last day of sunshine before the weather turned gray and drizzly.


On our first day in Nova Scotia, we visited the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove and its iconic lighthouse, and enjoyed a fresh seafood meal at the nearby restaurant. Later, we drove up the coast to Halifax and spent an hour exploring the wharf. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to do anything else in the city.


The next day, we drove to Annapolis Royal and toured Port-Royal, an impressive replica of the French settlement built there in 1605 and destroyed by the English is 1613. In a wigwam just outside the settlement, a Mi’kmaq woman taught the kids to play drums and sing a traditional Mi’kmaq song. She gave them each a hand-painted rock to take home.


On our last day in Nova Scotia, we drove to the beach at Lawrencetown, and although it was too cold for swimming, we waded in to let the ocean waves surge over our feet. Then it was time to start the three-day drive home.


Travelling with young kids wasn’t easy. While my husband and I were exhausted every night, the kids were too keyed up to go to sleep, and consequently they were difficult to rouse in the morning. We had to stop frequently for food and bathroom breaks, or to stretch our legs, or whenever they spotted an ice cream sign. I don’t want to see another McDonald’s for a good long while. But we all enjoyed the trip and the kids won’t ever forget all the new things they saw.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 11.18.53 AM

Getting In The Mood – Jill James

christmas bellsHow do you get in the mood to write a Christmas novella in the middle of August? In my case it takes apple cinnamon air freshener, Celtic Christmas on the Pandora radio, and lots of imagining snowy winter days in the middle of sweltering summer days. Thinking of comfy sweaters and cuddling on the couch while my sweaty legs are sticking to my leather office chair. Picturing dreamy Christmas trees and pine decorations with the scent of a barbecue grill wafting through the open window.

The Authors of Main Street are doing another boxed set and I’m writing an original, never published before novella for the set. Mine is titled Waking Up For Christmas. It will be sweeter than my usual stories. It reminds me of when I first started writing romance and it was very much on the tamer side. I wanted a story that dug into ‘how’ and ‘why’ we fall in love. A kind of reminiscing of the joy and angst of falling.

What is that precise moment when a buzz goes off in your head and you realize you just might be falling, that this is ‘the one’? And what does it take to fall out of love. Is it one thing or a lifetime of things? Do you wake up one day and realize you aren’t in love anymore or do you wake up and face that you haven’t been in love for a while?

And the most important question of all; what would you do to get the love back?

What would you do for love?

Jill James, writer of romance, hopeless romantic