By Rote with Ryan– Lessons on story depth learned from a painting

Recently I was at a house, looking at a painting on the wall. It was a wooded scene with lots of trees, created to look like an autumn forest. What really caught my eye wasn’t the trees, but a tan smear cutting through the middle of the canvas. Beginning wider in the middle, or front, of the picture, it wound around the trees and narrowed at the back of the canvas. Except there was no front and back as this was a flat canvas.

How did a single ribbon of contrasting tan paint make the whole picture of trees look like a forest with a dirt trail leading away? That is the mystery of art. And it got me to thinking about how that pertains to writing.

art autumn autumn leaves beautiful

Photo by Vali S. on

Adding depth to characters is like an artist adding depth to a painting. A few subtle but deliberate strokes of the brush make all the difference. It takes a flat drawing and makes it look like a real thing. In the same way, writers need to make understated, but important suggestions to make flat, one-dimensional characters into real people the readers will care about. They do this by adding backstory, quirks, habits, words they tend to use, foods they tend to prefer, clothing they favor, etc.

person holding black typewriter

Photo by on

Those subtle, but significant, details make the people come alive. From one dimension, they spring into real, robust, three dimensions. And readers become interested in them. That is a writer’s goal.

It works for the good characters and the bad ones.


Ryan Jo Summers is the author of six Soul Mate Publishing novels and a contributor to one holiday anthology.  She released two self-published books; one women’s fiction/military and one non-fiction. She has also released other fiction books through various publishers.






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In Praise of Quotes

In my late teens, I started a quote collection. I would underline sentences (and sometimes entire paragraphs) in books and jot down inspiring thoughts from other print media. I would then copy these words of wisdom into a journal. When I joined Pinterest, I set aside a page—Words I Love— where I recopied these words of wisdom. To date, I have accumulated over 400 quotes.

Maintaining a personal collection of quotes has helped me immensely. Here are some of the benefits I have discovered:

  • Quotes have the power to transform moods. While books and movies can accomplish the same goal, quotes do it faster. I don’t have to invest hours of my time to experience the same effects. Whenever I need a quick jolt of inspiration, I click on my Pinterest page or visit one of many twitter hashtags devoted to quotes, among them #Quoteoftheday, #Inspirationalquotes, and #quotes.
  • Quotes have introduced me to new authors, poets, and other creatives. After hearing Oprah and other celebrities quote from Maya Angelou’s poems, I picked up several of Maya’s books. My favorite poems include Phenomenal Woman, Still I Rise, and Amazing Peace.
  • Quotes provide excellent starting points for essays and articles. During my Toastmaster years, I would start my speeches with an appropriate quote. A seasoned toastmaster advised me to memorize quotes and weave them into the Table Topics segments of each meeting. Being able to quote from past (and present) wisdom supports and enhances all forms of communication. Or to quote W. Somerset Maugham: “The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute to wit.”
  • Quote collections can help friends and future generations. If a friend is experiencing a difficult season, a tweet or text of daily encouragement in the form of a quote can uplift them. Children and grandchildren can learn more about you by reading your favorite quotes. Consider passing on your collection.
  • Quotes provide different perspectives. In addition to validating my feelings, quotes gently steer me in new directions. One quote that continues to resonate with me is the following from best-selling author and speaker Brené Brown: “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.”

Here are six more favorite quotes:

“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor, and style.” Maya Angelou

“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Coco Chanel

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” Margaret Shepard

“Every great comeback first requires a setback. What you’re going through is a season of your life, not the end of your life.” Pastor Rick Warren

“Meet limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.” Marianne Wiliamson

Do you have a favorite quote? Please share in the comments.


Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

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Superheroes and superpowers

Hi, all!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Claire Davon and my series The Universe Chronicles is being released by Soul Mate Publishing. The first book, Shifting Auras, came out last July and the next one, titled Tracking Shadows, is scheduled for later this year. The series takes place within a secret government agency that gathers people with powers like telekinesis and psychic ability. Think of it like the X-Men meets romance.

I have read fantasy and science fiction all my life, and writing a superpower/romance series came naturally to me. The beginning of the book that became Shifting Auras started way back in 2011 and was just a small sliver of a remembered dream. Seven years later the story, in vastly different form, saw the light of day. The elements that remained, namely the drunk roommate and Maya’s psychic abilities, morphed into something I did not expect.

While writing the series I investigate and study many different types of superhuman abilities. It’s amazing how many online resources there are dedicated to superpowers. Some of them are familiar and some obscure. I like to use both.

My research got me to thinking—if I had an ability, what would it be? Would it be like Ian, the hero in the first book, who has telekinesis? Imagine the convenience. Don’t feel like getting up to get a soda? Just float one over from the fridge. The remote dropped behind the sofa? Solved! Or would it be like Maya, our sensitive? She can detect thoughts and emotions, as well as see auras, which could be useful if you want to know what your significant other is thinking. Honestly, I’ve never been sure that that’s a good idea. A lot of society is driven by small white lies and to always know what someone is thinking seems like it could be more trouble than its worth. Imagine if everything that goes through our brain went, unfiltered, to someone else? Yikes!

As a mischievous kid I used to think invisibility was the best. I imagined slipping from place to place and going into all those forbidden areas I wasn’t supposed to be in. Bank vaults. Malls after hours. I could hide from chores and ride elevators without anyone knowing I was there. Picture the conversations I could overhear, all unsuspecting. Or…I could go to Fort Knox and check it out. Okay so maybe I am still a mischief maker at heart because that still sounds pretty cool to me. I would just want to see the gold and see how it all works, honest! That’s part of what makes Quillan Hardis, the hero in Tracking Shadows, so fascinating to me. He gets to turn invisible! Oh to have that ability, just for one day…

If anyone wants to comment about their favorite superpower in the comments, I’d love to hear it. If you want to reach out to me on social media, I can be found at the following links. If you’re interested in Shifting Auras, and how I turned these abilities into romance, the book can be found exclusively on Amazon at the following link:

I hope that all of your dreams are full of wonder (and handsome men who rock your world, with or without superpowers).





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Reading Romance is an Act of Revolution

I see you over there in the corner of the coffee shop, snuggled up in the leather chair with your latte and your book. You look up and make eye contact with me over the pages and hastily lower it so I can’t see the front cover. Your face flushes red- with guilt, I assume.
You weren’t quick enough, though, and I’ve glimpsed two people intertwined on the cover. It’s a romance.

I smile and go back to editing the romance novel I’m working on.
You see, I think romance novels can change the world.
I was at a luncheon this past fall and historical romance author Beverly Jenkins gave a beautiful keynote speech to a ballroom full of romance writers. Her main thesis: writing romance in today’s climate of uncertainty is an act of revolution.

I believe she’s right.

There are quite a few aspects of our society that profit off us by focusing on those things that we can change to make ourselves happy. Our home, our weight, the way we dress or the jobs we have, we’re constantly encouraged to seek the next level of ‘better.’
Now, I’m not saying that we all shouldn’t seek to improve ourselves or seek meaning. Not at all.

I’m saying that in a world where society demands we change to suit it, happiness found between the covers of a romance novel can be an act of revolution. Being swept away by a story that takes you just as you are and delivers a lively cast of characters you get lost in is nothing to be ashamed of.

Romance novels are stories about love.

And love has been the impetus to a lot of revolutions over the span of human history.

Romances put a woman’s perspective front and center. It puts her ideas, dreams, and hopes as a main character, and then has the audacity to give her a happily ever after.

This Valentine’s Day, you’ll see I’m not the only person writing about how reading romance is a revolutionary act, and it delights me.

How many times have you cancelled plans to finish a great romance? How have you planned an evening of activity for the kids so you can get some between-the-cover time? Have you ever felt guilty for reading romance, for giving ‘bodice rippers’ an ounce of your time or hard-earned dollars?

You don’t have to feel bad. The heroines between the pages of those books exist to give you joy, and I hereby give you permission to feel that joy.

I glance up from my computer to see that once again, you’ve raised your book until it’s hovering right on front of your face, your latte forgotten as you devour the words on the page instead. I can make out the cover clearly now and it’s from one of my favorite authors; a Fantasy Romance.

Exactly what I write.

You glance up again as you turn the page. I point at the book, smile, and give you a thumbs up. You beam and mouth ‘I know! So good!’ You sit up, more confident and relaxed now, and reach for a bite of your chocolate pastry.

I return to crafting my contribution to the movement’s manifesto.

Vive la Rèvolution.


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That Guy From Queens

Where do stories come from? They come from us. The first part of this post is mostly true. The second part, well, it might be. One never knows, does one?

I pass him every day on my morning commute, that newspaper guy on the corner of Queens and Woodhaven Boulevards. He stands in the middle of the two left lanes directing traffic, waving us on and calling out warnings to the tailgaters: “Take it easy now, I don’t want no accidents on my corner. Let the lady in, buddy, she gotta merge! You head on in, honey, I gotcha.”

He’s ageless, probably wiry based on his prominent cheekbones and sharp chin. Hard to tell with the baggy clothes he wears, a black T-shirt in summer and a black hoodie in winter. He wears a wool skull cap even in August heat and adds a thick, ratty scarf in December. His deep set eyes, disproportionately large, dart across the lanes and lock in on the drivers passing by. I imagine him snapping mental pictures of faces and license plates…Click. Click. Click.

He wears a canvas apron with deep pockets full of rolled up newspapers. Do people even read papers anymore? Why should we, with all the news we want right under our fingers? Even so, I bought one once, just to be nice. Or maybe it was out of curiosity, to get a closer look at him. Like most bloggers, I’m always on the alert for the quirky human interest story.

“How much?” I asked as I rolled the window down.

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “Same as it always is, lady. A dollar.” As if I bought a paper every day and should know this. I scooped up some change from the cup holder and held it out. Close up, he was not a handsome man. A week’s stubble of an indistinct color couldn’t soften those jutting cheek and jawbones, and his too-large brown eyes had a haunted look. “Talk to me,” they plead. Pathetic. But then he grinned, his face all crinkles. Still unattractive, but infectious. I had to smile back. He handed me the paper. “Here ya go, sweetheart. Have a nice day. And hey, love the new haircut!”

That was weird. I tossed the paper on the passenger seat until the red light, then glanced at the headline. “Same old,” I thought. “Nothing changes much.” It was a long light, so I brought it closer to read the small print. It was a week old. I wrote about it that night in my blog, that guy in Queens who scams people with week-old papers. An hour later, I got a comment. Unusual, since I have a following of like eight people, so I jumped on it. Somebody actually saw me! Here’s what it said:

Hey, I’m that guy from Queens. No, really, that’s my name, my online persona. I like keeping it on the down low as far as my personal deets are concerned, so that’s the only name you’ll see. “That guy from Queens” serves me just fine, more than fine. Last month I logged 50,000 followers who get their kicks from reading about themselves on my blog. They respond to my posts like I’m their most trusted friend. Recent comment, unedited: “You get me, guy from Queens. It’s like you know what I’m thinking, like you can see into my soul.”

I wish. But no, I can’t see into their souls. Every day I get up at 3:30 a.m. and make it out to my corner by 5:00. I watch for them. I know what cars they drive. I know their license plate numbers. I know who downsized from an SUV to a used Corolla last month, and I guessed why. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or a psychic either. She was crying. She used to be a passenger, but now she’s driving solo. The rest I made up. And judging from the feedback I get every day, the stuff I make up is true for 72% of my total hits. The rest of them just like reading about people who are worse off than they are.

I know who got laid off and why, who got a promotion, who got engaged, who got divorced, who was bereaved. “Listen,” I write. “I see you at your most buoyant, singing ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ at the top of your lungs. Off-key. I see you weeping with all the windows closed, thinking no one can hear. I see an open, half-empty box of Dunkin’ Donuts on your passenger seat, and you’re chewing. I see you picking your nose.” I tell them the truth about themselves. And they hear me. They really hear me.

Every morning from 5 to 9 without fail I stand at my corner and watch. My people. Now at least one of them knows that the newspapers are just a prop. (Thanks for the dollar, sweetheart.) And every day from 10 a.m. ’til whenever I’m done, I sit at my laptop and tell their stories. Maybe one day I’ll tell them mine, but for now I’m just that guy from Queens. And I get you, all of you. I really get you.

That’s all I got. Nice description of me, by the way. Unflattering, but accurate. I like honesty. Hey, check out my blog. If you like me, I’ll like you back. Looks like you could use a few more followers.


Nancy Massand’s debut novel, The Circle Unbroken, is set for release in September 2019. You can check out her blog at She feels honored to be numbered among the authors at SMP.

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Beating Writers Block Part Three: Take a Class

I’ve made progress on my latest WIP, a Contemporary Western Romance. But it’s not the kind I have been able to make in the past. The novel is plotted and outlined, at least as much as a panster can plot and outline. It’s a collection of scene sketches, some of which were scribbled on scraps of paper in the middle of the night, or dictated into my phone while driving or hiding in an empty exam room when a sudden flash of inspiration hit, all stuffed into an interoffice envelope for safekeeping.

There are many personal challenges that command my attention–family matters and business travel for disaster relief work, both of which require time and focus that steals my energy and imagination. I am deep into nonfiction writing, including research abstracts and articles involving life and death-so my characters have had to wait for a while.

I had the opportunity to sign up for an online Master Class on Fiction Writing, which can be done in 20 minute segments. It’s bookmarked, but not yet opened. But I also committed to a weekend  Gothic Fiction writing class with my writing group for eight ten minute sessions. I’ve only been able to complete six, but I’ve actually got an outline and a plot for another book in the Unfinished Business series. So much so, I woke up with the opening scenes in my head. Of course, it’s not for the Contemporary Western, but telling Sandra’s story was an idea I’d had since her curtain call in Storm Watch. And I’m excited about both. The weeklong winter break coming up may just give me the time to work on both–if I can block out the rest of the noise.






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Late to the party – as told with emojis!

I don’t like being late- ever 🤦🏻‍♀️🕰. But two back-to-back sinus infections might do that to you! So please allow me to give you a heartfelt 😩🙏🏼apology that my blog post is a few days late! ❤️

On a brighter note☀️ not convoluted with tissues and cough😷, I’m SO EXCITED to be returning to the SMP blog🔥!

I released my first book, The Féria, in 2012 with Soul Mate Publishing under my pen name, Julía Bade. Since then, it has been a whirlwind 🌪of writing and deleting and revising and publishing 👩🏻‍💻.

I also began writing #kidlit🎈and have two indie picture books and two middle grade novels I’m working on with my agent all the while, working on my romance novels 🔥.

My latest novel with SMP is titled, The Baby Symphony🤰🏻🤱🏻🍼🎼. It’s a book about loss and love. My couple keeps experiencing miscarriages and eventually splits up because of the emotional turmoil and the guilt my main character, Emilia, feels. Of course, there’s a happily ever after, but I am saving the Baby Symphony Post for next time! But I will briefly say, do be ready for laugh-out-loud humor😂, great depths of emotion😞☹️😒😭😍, and wild plot twists🌪😳.

I’ll leave you with this thought. In romance, we write about the greatest of love affairs 💋Appropriately, writing is certainly an affair of the heart💌. It hurts at times, forcing you to get back up again after a string of rejections and uncertainty. But writing brings joy, too. There is beauty in plotting, power in writing the words: The End👩🏻‍💻, and then there is the adrenaline rush when your future agent sends you that email asking for a phone call with you 👸🏻.

So why should our readers know this 🤷🏻‍♀️? Well, because it’s for them💟. Every single emotion- the ups and downs🎢, the joy 🎉and pain💔, the flaws and rejection, the long hours and success, it’s all poured out into our work which we write with great hope that our readers will love 🙏🏼. Every word is soaked in a passion 🔥 that only other writers can understand, and we package it all up 💝, and we give our baby to the world 🤱🏻, waving goodbye like proud parents🙋🏻‍♀️, joyful tears welling in our eyes on release day.

So thank you to my readers. I am your biggest fan. ❤️

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