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Archive for September, 2022

September into October (Contest)
Friday, September 30th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Mary Preston!

I had a guest lined up today, but I can’t find her content. So, I’m hoping I can still get that and post it either later today or tomorrow. In the meantime, I may as well do my end-of-month wrap-up. You do know that these are mostly for me—my way of stating out loud, to the world, what I accomplished and what I plan to do. It keeps me honest about my productivity, which has been slipping of late. Not sure why.

I went to the doctor yesterday and discovered I have high blood pressure. For years, my blood pressure was low, then normal—and now? I have to make changes. My dd insisted on accompanying me, because she knows I tend to blow off medical concerns. She says changes will be made! Gah. I have to cut out salt, and there’s a list of foods to avoid and incorporate. I’m so excited. *yawn*

Anyways, onto my wrap-up!


Here’s what I accomplished…


  1. I began work on a story that comes out in my sister, Elle James’s Brotherhood Protectors world next month! I had hoped to finish it by the end of the month, but I’ll be writing up until the date I have to turn it in. She’s going to kill me.
  2. I completed 3 editing projects for other authors in September.


  1. I fell off the Weight Watcher’s wagon again. At least, I’m maintaining my loss. 🙁
  2. As for physical activity, I swam every single day (until the Art Festival), and while I spent two days baking in the sun, the pool turned green. So, no more swimming. I’m usually the kind who swims until the water’s so cool I’m gasping.
  3. I went to the doctor to find out why I feel like shit and found out I have high blood pressure.


  1. I met with the local art guild and the humanities council. Yes, I mingled with real people. I’m on two boards now. I’m not sure why I raised my hand, but I guess it gets me out of the house.
  2. I participated in the Festival of the Arts and sold enough to pay for my tent and supplies for next year! Woot!
  3. I worked on pieces all the way up until the festival.
  4. Here are a few of my September pieces…


Guarding Hannah Hard Knox

For work-related, I plan:

  1. To complete Guarding Hannah! It will release October 11 come hell or high water!
  2. To write Hard Knox, my first We Are Dead Horse story! I hope to have it in time for my pre-order release of October 25, but that is looking extremely iffy. I will try.
  3. To complete 5 editing projects in October! And therein lies my problem with items 1 & 2 on this list.

For health related, I plan:

  1. To return to counting those points for my Weight Watchers diet (I hate that word) and hopefully shed at least 5 pounds, remembering, as always: Slow is good!
  2. To review my diet plan to reduce salt, processed food, and incorporate foods good for blood pressure (spinach, broccoli, bananas, red wine).
  3. To replace swimming with walking.
  4. To begin some low-impact aerobics. I’ll re-dedicate myself to doing more housework, too, because my art room is a disaster after the show. I have to find room for everything!

For happiness-related, I plan: 

  1. To begin one of the many already paid-for online art classes I’ve wanted to do.
  2. To begin working on the crafts projects I want to sell in the local Christmas arts and crafts sale in December.
  3. To blog about art (on my Emerald Casket site) just to keep myself honest!


Comment on anything you’ve read in this post. Tell me what you’re doing to make yourself happier and healthier. Tell me what you plan to read…

Like I said, comment on anything for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

Susan Arden: Passion or Obsession?
Thursday, September 29th, 2022

I appreciate the opportunity to talk about romance and jumped on Delilah Devin’s invitation to guest post.

As an author, I love to toy with dark ideas in the realm of romance. It’s rooted in the characters I create. Their wounds. Their goals. Their desires. The black hole in their soul that will either be a wasteland or the road to salvation. In writing fiction, it’s fun to translate those into symbols scattered throughout the story. Touchstones. Images we give readers. There’s no better visual than Darth Vader. And the words of Yoda: Anger, fear, aggression. The dark are they.

In romance, our main characters obviously are in love or soon will be. In erotic romance, sex is a powerful vehicle and lust is the driver. How far do we take-send-deliver the character with the most at stake?

That’s a gray area.

Tapping into our emotions ~ How dark can dark go?

It depends. When it involves fictional love and not just sex, we have to start with someone in need. I write alpha male characters and they’re hungry. They have a zest and zeal for life, starting in childhood, then it explodes in adulthood, usually in a skillset and a career. Someone we’d peg as passion-infused… or obsessed?

But to feel what a character feels, we need a common language to go deep. And sometimes, we aren’t sure why some terms are a turn-on… or a turnoff.

Passion and obsession by definition:

passion (n.) In Middle English “…an ailment, disease, affliction…” also “an emotion, desire, inclination, feeling; desire to sin considered as an affliction…” (mid-13c.). The specific meaning “…intense or vehement emotion or desire…”

obsession (n.) 1510s, “…action of besieging…” (Later (c. 1600), “…hostile action of an evil spirit…” …(like possession but without the spirit actually inhabiting the body). Psychological sense “idea or image that intrudes on the mind of a person against his will” is from 1901.

[From] obsess: Of evil spirits, “to haunt,” from 1530s.

—Online Etymology Dictionary

We use ‘passion’ to describe extreme emotions, while ‘obsession’ was once equated to being haunted, or nearly possessed.

Between passion and obsession lies the demarcation of what is acceptable. Who doesn’t want to feel passionate about something? What about obsessed?

If by obsessed, do we mean they’ve gone over the edge? But have they?

Crossing the line~

While writing romance, a fictional mirror of reality, I’ve played with taking a character to the very edge of obsession. In Her Forever Cowboy, Stephen McLemore, an explosives engineer, walked away from crossing the line with Jillian. Eight years prior, he was in college and she was in high school. In the backyard of her parents’ home, which was about to be sold, they shared a stolen kiss. Jillian’s parents recently died. In a moment of offering Jillian consolation and comfort, Stephen crossed the line. At that moment he realized he wanted more, much more. A taste of Jillian left this man with an open wound. An ache. A consuming hunger.

Instead of consummating a budding romance, the hero walked away. But did he? This is a story about a man who refused to cross the ultimate line into darkness, but remained rooted in the heroine’s life in ways that clearly bordered on obsessive. And it isn’t until the very end of the story that the reader and Jillian become aware of how much. For some, the story could be taken as too much. What the hero did was unacceptable. For others, it’s the sign of unrequited love. A chance to be the wind beneath another person’s wings by giving them opportunities they might not have had. And that question plagues the hero. Did he alter the heroine’s life for the better and will she forgive him?

Why do we love to hate our obsessions?

So, in writing this type of hyped existence, I skate a fine line in Her Forever Cowboy. In order to give Stephen McLemore the opportunity to heal, he has to admit he has a problem. He does, up to a point. It’s up to the reader to decide from the get-go. Is Stephen wrong in doing the things he does, given the circumstances? Wrong because all obsessive behavior is too much? Or can a human being actually circumvent free will?

We connect with romance heroes and heroines because they’re flawed. They come to terms with their complex nature and are willing to change for the sake of love. In Her Forever Cowboy, I pushed boundaries to the max. Subplots involve family dynamics, drug and alcohol addiction, money and the things people do to maintain face, how far over the edge will friends and family go to preserve the status quo, loyalty, compassion and forgiveness.

In writing dark romance, it’s always a dance of weaving love, lust, shining moments, darkness in the soul, sickness, obsessions, addictions, redemption, pain, and selflessness. Both as reader and writer, it’s like boarding the ultimate emotional roller coaster. To love dark romance, we adore the steep rise and sharp drop.

Whether it’s life and fictional romance, it’s why we do what we do again, and again, and again.

Hope to see you on the dark side. It’s so much fun to be bad!

Do you agree? What’s something you’re passionate or obsessed about, or straddle the line? What would it be like to not have this deep feeling?


Thank you so much for allowing me to stir the pot on dark romance and give you a taste to the backstory of Stephen McLemore. Take care and happy romance trails.

About the Writer

Susan Arden is a best-selling author of romance novels. She lives just south of Nashville and when she isn’t writing, she owns and runs a cut flower farm. Susan is releasing four new novels in 2023. Stay tuned!

Her Forever Cowboy link:

Favorite Romance Settings Word Search! (Contest)
Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Amy Fendley!

Here we go again, word-puzzle players!

This week’s theme is favorite romance story settings. I’ve written stories set in most of the places listed here. Not every location is listed because I was trying to keep it to ten!

Solve the puzzle then tell me about your favorite settings for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

Flashback: Breaking Leather (Contest + Open Contests)
Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

UPDATE: The winners are…everyone!

Depending on how long you’ve been reading me, you might not be aware of my naughty cowboy ménage series, Lone Star Lovers. All my sexiest fantasies are rolled up in those stories. Two cowboys, three cowboys, four… All that attention concentrated on one lucky girl… Heck, it’s not really fair, and there must be something in the water in Two Mule, Texas because there’s a whole lotta sharin’ goin’ on. 🙂

Comment for a chance to win your choice of
one of my Lone Star Lovers books! 

Breaking Leather

Three cowboys…

One for remembrance…one for healing…and one to steal her heart forever…

Chrissi Page has tried to find one man who heats her bed the way the Kinzie brothers did one shameful night years ago. She’s failed miserably, leaving her with no choice but to bank that inner fire—and keep a lid on her inner bad girl.

Way back when, she’d been weak, unable to choose between three cowboys who appealed to her in very different ways. After they’d each tried to win her for their own, they’d confronted her, demanding she choose. Confusion and anger had boiled over into a passion so wild, that to this day, she’s still trying to live it down.

Since that night, Ezra, Cade, and Joshua have individually sewn their wild oats with pretty much the entire available female population of Two Mule, Texas. Yet nothing and no other woman has ever erased the attraction they still feel for Chrissi. When she’s stranded on the road near their ranch, it’s their last chance to turn their mutual obsession into an unusual proposition…

Read an Excerpt from Breaking Leather

Chrissi Page raised her cell phone in the air, staring at the screen. No bars. Not even a hint of one skinny, green nub. “Oh, come on,” she moaned as her radiator hissed behind her. “Damn, damn, damn.”

She’d been tempted to ignore the CHECK ENGINE light when it first appeared, wanting to take the chance she could limp back into Two Mule. However, the steam seeping from under the hood had pretty much killed that hope.

Today was not the day for her car to break down. Not so far from town. Not so close to their ranch. Any minute now one of the Kinzie brothers might happen by.

They’d stop because they’d never leave a woman stranded.

They might not let her go because of their shared past.

And she didn’t know if she had the strength anymore to fight fate or her own inexplicable needs.

Macy Pettigrew, her best friend and boss, had sent her to the Dunstan house to make sure the owners had followed her suggestions to increase the house’s curb appeal. Never mind that there wasn’t a curb. Not really even a road—more of a caliche-covered goat trail that meandered up a steep hillside, rutted from runoff during recent summer storms.

Something must have happened to her car on the run up that hill. She’d heard the rocks pinging against her undercarriage but had been too busy thinking about Ms. Dunstan’s handsome neighbors. She’d been afraid she’d pass them or that they might stop in to see old Lettie Dunstan, the widow selling off her roughhewn, century-old home.

Chrissi had forced a smile on her face, looked at the potted plants the old woman had placed in pretty window boxes and admired the paint she’d used to spruce up the weathered door and window frames. The junk the old woman’s husband had accumulated, and that she hadn’t had the heart to part with after his passing, was gone from the front lawn. And lo and behold, grass was beginning to grow to fill in the brown patches where engines and tires had lain.

Macy would be pleased. They had a potential buyer. One who’d relayed an offer via email, which had checked out with the mortgage lender. Details Macy had been eager to handle herself, leaving the showings to Chrissi.

Chrissi heard a powerful engine rev. She slowly lowered her arm and glanced nervously over her shoulder. A metallic sage pickup truck pulled off the road behind her, and her stomach dropped to her toes. She’d known the moment her CHECK ENGINE light had shone that this was going to happen.

And good Lord, it had to be Ezra Kinzie. His dark gaze narrowed on her through the windshield, the intensity of it feeling like the hissing heat of a brand against her skin.

He opened his door and stepped down, slamming it with a decisive shove. Everything Ezra did was deliberate. He never wavered once a decision was made.

Long ago, he’d decided he wasn’t going to fight his brothers for her. If she wasn’t going to decide among them, then she’d have to take them all.

And, Lord help her, she had.

She’d never gotten over that night, had never been able to push it to the farthest corner of her mind when she lay down to sleep. Just the memory of it made her hot, cold, _wet_…

And horribly ashamed. Anyone could have seen them beneath the bleachers at the homecoming game. Gossip hadn’t followed, but that didn’t make her any less self-conscious when she strode down the sidewalk on Main Street.

Someone might know. Someone might tell. The thought of that sordid night being revealed left her feeling nauseated. Her life had been circumspect ever since, her love life nonexistent.

They’d left her scarred. Unable to move on.

Not because they’d harmed her physically, but because she hadn’t been able to shake off the terrible attraction that tempted her every single day since that fateful night.

Boots crunched on the gravel at the side of the road. The brim of Ezra’s straw cowboy hat left his ice-blue eyes in shadow.

She straightened away from her car and squared her shoulders.

“Havin’ trouble, Chrissi?”

“It just showed up,” she said under her breath, determined not to let him see how flustered she felt.

One side of his mouth quirked up. He glanced up at the sky, squinting against the bright Texas sun before leveling that devastating stare on her again.

Her belly clenched, and she fought hard not to give him any clues about how he still affected her. Just the rumble of his deep voice always made her think of crisp, cool sheets and hot, slick skin.

Her glance flicked over his body-hugging dark tee, noted his well-developed chest, the bulge of his biceps, his taut abdomen. She started to sweat. “Will you call a tow truck for me when you get home?”

A frown dug a deep crease between his dark brows. “Get in my truck, Chrissi. I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road.”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere with you, Ezra Kinzie,” she said tightly.

A muscle rippled alongside his jaw. “I’m just offerin’ you a place to wait out of the sun. And a cool drink. Nothin’ more.”

His features were stern, his jaw rigid, but the heat blazing from his eyes mesmerized her, made her want to sway toward him. The intensity of that unblinking stare made her wish he’d take the decision right out of her hands. She’d never willingly take that first step. Her days of following his commands were over.

Chrissi swallowed hard and broke from his glance, looking down the road and praying someone else would appear over the crest of the hill. She needed rescuing from the deep emotions roiling inside her—from the temptation his large, hard frame embodied. However, only the shimmer of heat waves rose off the black tar.

A trickle of moisture dripped between her breasts, gliding along one curve—and just like that, her imagination replaced the slide of that hot little bead with the tip of his tongue. She turned away from him and dragged in a couple of deep breaths, trying to stiffen her resolve, but the only things hardening were the tips of her breasts. She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her chin, then turned to aim a glare at the one man who had the power to make her knees quiver.

So many memories swamped her as she stared into his handsome, rugged face. So many regrets sat like soured milk in her gut. He’d been “the one” until she’d succumbed to a dark sensual greed.

Too bad she couldn’t turn back the clock about seven years. She’d make damn sure she’d never let him take her hand and pull her into the shadows.

Ezra barely suppressed the urge to step closer and crowd her tall, lithe body against her car. He’d love nothing better than to snug his dick between her legs while he licked that trickle of sweat tracking down her chest, and then follow the curve of her sweet, round breast.

But he and his brothers had planned this abduction down to the last detail. No time now to let a hard-on get in the way. “I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road. It’s a hundred damn degrees out here, sweetheart. Get in the truck.”

“Don’t call me sweetheart,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

It did his ego good to know she wasn’t unaffected. This was the closest they’d stood in seven years. Since he’d kissed her before letting her head to the girls’ restroom to clean up after he and his brothers had her.

A sordid little chapter he was determined to remedy. If he could get her ass inside his truck.

However, Chrissi, stubborn as ever, jutted her chin high and crossed her arms over her chest. Did she know she was plumping up her breasts, drawing his gaze to the creamy tops? Her clothing stuck to the sweat coating her skin. Her light blouse skimmed close to her narrow waist. Her dark blue trousers pulled tightly as she braced apart her legs. Did she know how well they cupped her mound?

Just that hint of a cleft was enough to add a spike of steel to his already raging erection.

“Maybe you’d let me use your cell phone?” she ground out.

Ezra let a hint of a smile curve the corners of his mouth. One thing he’d learned over the years was the value of patience. He’d waited a long time to be where he was, standing in front of the one woman who had the power to make his knees buckle. The one woman he’d gladly share if that was the only way he could have her.

“Chrissi, don’t you think we’ve waited long enough?” he asked quietly.

Her breath caught, lifting her chest. “I’ve waited long enough for you to act the gentleman and do what I asked. I’ll walk back to town.” She dropped her arms, reached through her car window for her purse, then straightened.

She’d have to stride around him, and he guessed she was girding herself to do just that. Her gaze didn’t rise above his shoulder. She sucked in a deep breath and gave him a wide berth as she brushed past.

Ezra let her go, easing a hip against her red Mustang and watching her walk away—on three-inch heels that stuck to the hot tar, making a sticky sound with each step she took. She made it only about ten feet past the end of his truck before she slowed.

Her shoulders fell, her head turned to the side, but not quite far enough for her to meet his gaze. “You’re not gonna let me go, are you?” she asked softly.

Her profile, so pure and pretty, stirred a suffocating desire inside him. He steeled himself to pretend a strength he was far from feeling. So many hopes rode on the next few minutes.

“I’m just givin’ you a few moments to make up your mind, sweetheart. I have every confidence you’ll do the smart thing.”

“Just a ride to your place to make a call?”

“And a cool drink. Whatever else happens will be up to you. I’ve always let you make your own choices. Even when you were dead wrong. Even when it was killin’ me.”

And even though she still hadn’t moved, he straightened away from her car and walked to the passenger door of his truck. He opened the door and waited.

Chrissi turned her head toward the road, and Ezra held his breath, praying another vehicle wouldn’t come along, praying he’d have the strength to do what had to be done, no matter how much she might beg him to end it later.

When she faced him, he couldn’t read her expression. Her mouth was firmed into a thin line. Her chin tilted. Her brown eyes raked him up and down, and she stepped out, her body moving fluidly, hips swaying. Not a conscious invitation, but he knew if he touched her between her legs right this minute, she’d be wet.

He fought a smile of satisfaction as she walked toward him and stepped up into his cab.

Open Contests

  1. Favorite Romance Subgenres Word Search! (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  2. Michal Scott: Where There’s a Will There’s a Way — Josephine Napoleon Leary (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  3. Saturday Puzzle Contest! Theme: My favorite hot beverage! — Win a FREE book!
  4. Deb Robinson: New Beginnings (FREE Book) — Get your FREE in KU book!
Pictures from the Art Festival!
Monday, September 26th, 2022

Friday and Saturday, I was part of the local art festival! The city board did well with the setup. The tents were lovely and provided shade. They had portable airconditioners pointed down the rows of tents to try to offset the heat. But the heat… It was killer this weekend. 88 degrees on Friday. 97 on Saturday. And we were there from 10:30 to 7:00 both days. I wilted.

Can you see how flushed I was? Both nights, I came home, showered in cold water, drank a sh*t-ton of water (see the bottles next to me?), and I was in pretty good shape compared to some of the more elderly artists who had to close early or limit their hours to prevent heat stroke. I guess all those years in the Texas Army National Guard trained me how to survive—don’t move around too much, keep out of the sun, and drink, drink, drink.

There were so many intrepid art enthusiasts who came. Maybe they were there for the live graffiti artist painting a mural, or staying for the food trucks and live bands, but they strolled through the tents. I can’t imagine how much more foot traffic we might have had if the festival had been held in October. But still, it was fun. And something to trade “war stories” about. 🙂

My dd was there, popping in, or having one of the girls keep me company so they could run for iced drinks or food, or just to make sure I wasn’t fainting from the heat. LOL

She was also responsible for setting me up, bringing in some fall decor to spruce up my tent.

My favorite piece was the first sold.

The postcards and bookmarks were very popular.

I sold those blue pumpkin earrings very quickly, too. See the wooden box? I found it at a flea market. It was yellow and very dirty. My dd painted and distressed it, then used chalk paint on the front so we could use chalk to write in our pricing on the little items. Cool, right?

And paintings were sold. I still have many, many items to bring to December’s craft fair and to post on Etsy. I have to get photos ready and then open up my Etsy shop. I made a ton of bookmarks and still have some left, so I will be thinking about how to gift them away… (Psst… Susan…)

But I still “feel” like a real artist. I’m glad I did it, but next year, if they schedule it for September again, I might not be there. Unless the forecast is for actual fall weather.

Deb Robinson: New Beginnings (FREE Book)
Sunday, September 25th, 2022

I’ve never been much of a gardener, but this week I’ve felt the urge to get out into nature. It’s early spring here in Melbourne, Australia, and every year like clockwork, I feel the need to grow things. Warm sunshine and the idea of new beginnings fill me with hope and renewed energy. But more on that later.

My husband and I chose seedlings we thought we’d be safe with. Lettuce, tomatoes, chili, chives, basil, and oregano. We’ve had an abundance of parsley from last year’s crop, so we hold hope that we’re not completely hopeless.

Amongst the rows of plants, I drift towards the plethora of colour. Fragrant roses and sunny daisies tempt me, but I had something else in mind. I’ve discovered a love for dahlias. They’re pretty to look at and I couldn’t stop myself from picking out these two beauties.

Sincerity Rose

Tropical Punch

I mentioned new beginnings. At this time of year, I find myself reflecting on the past and pondering the future. I’m proud of the two novels I’ve written during the past year, and I look forward to another productive year ahead.

Now that I’m recovering from much needed sinus surgery, I’m drawing a line against the past few months of health issues and looking towards better days.

I know this period of reflection and hope definitely has something to do with my birthday. Yes, today I am a year older but I’m treating the day like any other Sunday. Although we may splurge on getting some takeout delivered. Who doesn’t love deliveries of any kind? And who doesn’t love a FREEBIE?

Cop Hero
High school sweethearts
Feisty female
Second chance of love
Sweet with a touch of naughty
Sweet and spicy
Intro to the Browne brothers’
Browne brothers’ banter


Book 1 The Cop is available with Amazon and KU

Kane Browne is a sexy as sin cop who is used to accommodating everyone else’s needs before his own.
Cue Jess Frost, the gorgeous woman with a sharp tongue and eyes like the ocean.

From their first roadside interaction, sparks fly but an illness has robbed Jess of her self-confidence and Kane needs to convince her he’s worth taking a chance on.


Book 2 The Athlete is FREE today and tomorrow on ebook Amazon and KU

‘Dane was easy. All he wanted, was to play footy.’

Recently, ‘The Great Dane’ Browne has been questioning whether he can return to the elite level of Australian Rules Football and more importantly, whether he wants to.

Katelyn Jennings has never really made peace with the breakup with her high school sweetheart and for good reason. Working as a nurse in the rural town of Kingston Creek, a chance encounter will put her heart and her life through the ultimate test.

They’re about to discover whether you can move on from your first love. And for Dane, it’s about discovering who he really is AWAY from the game.


Follow Deb Robinson on her official Facebook page
Follow on Twitter @DRobinsonbooks
Follow on Instagram @debrobinsonbooks

Saturday Puzzle Contest! Theme: My favorite hot beverage!
Saturday, September 24th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Pat Bohn!

I’m running around, grabbing more art off the walls to throw up in my tent at the Arkadelphia Festival of the Arts. Everything went well yesterday despite the heat (a high of 88 degrees!), and today’s supposed to hit a scorching 97 degrees! Gah. I drank so much water yesterday and was limp in my seat for the afternoon, but I sold some art! Whee!

So, quickly, here’s the Saturday contest! I’ll be back at my desk tomorrow, catching up contest winners, trying to get a handle on my workload for the following week. I’m just a little bit stressed about how I’m going to catch up!

For a chance to win your choice of download from among my backlist of books, solve the puzzle then share what your favorite hot beverage is.  Have fun!