Unexpected Gifts May Be Right Around the Corner

By Jeanine Englert

Every year, I always receive unexpected gifts. Not the wrapped, shiny, commercial kind of gifts, but offerings of things that I could never imagine coming into my life. Every January, I pray to have any open heart to receive those gifts, as they often involve uncertainty, risk, and tiptoeing through a bit of fear.

On February 1st of this year, my husband and I lost one of the most amazing unexpected gifts we’d ever had: our sweet American Eskimo mix, Chloe, to intestinal cancer. She was a rescue, and one that literally followed my husband and our other beloved pup Maggie home from a run on April Fool’s Day back in 2011. She was covered in mud, had a bark collar on, and was dragging a rope behind her, one she’d chewed her way through to be free.

Chloe Sleeping Next to My Husband on the Couch

Fearing she’d be hit by a car, my husband brought her home, gave her a bath, and called the number on Chloe’s tags to let her owners know he’d found her. The man was angry at her running away again, but begrudgingly came to pick her up. When my husband made an offhanded comment to the man about how sweet she was and if she ever needed a new home she had one with us, the man didn’t hesitate and left her with us that night. All he took back was the bark collar. He left Chloe with us and drove away. I was so shocked, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

I have to admit, I was hesitant to get attached to her. I feared the man would change his mind and come back, and I was also heart-sore. I’d lost a sweet dog that could have been Chloe’s sister 8 months prior after having her for over 13 years. I didn’t know if I could love Chloe with my whole heart when she reminded me so much of the dog I’d lost. But, I didn’t know Chloe: she was impossible not to love with your whole heart.

The first few months she was shy with us as she’d never been allowed to live indoors, and she’d never been given treats or toys from what we could tell. The poor girl didn’t bark at all for years after wearing a bark collar for the first year and a half of her life. She’d “snap” her teeth together to show her excitement or get our attention. The more she came out of her shell, the more joy she exuded. She jumped and twirled in the air, hunted little creatures in the yard with her sister Maggie, and never met a stranger. She was always smiling. And her yawns. . . they were the sweetest noises you could ever hear.

So, even though we lost one of our treasures this year, it’s a reminder to always have an open heart. You never know what unexpected gifts may come your way.

Drop a comment if you’d like to share an unexpected gift that came your way in the past or even this year. I’d love to hear from you!

Jeanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist and Daphne du Maurier Award winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.

When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.

Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.

Where you can find me:

Website: www.jeaninewrites.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JeanineWrites

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46222432-lovely-digits

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeanineWrites

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jeanine-englert?list=about

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Falling Off the Pyramid

My whole life, I was a mountain-climber. Not literally, you understand, but metaphorically. On both sides of my life, professional and creative, I’m always looking up. Looking for the next level, the next goal, the next ladder rung that would hoist me one step farther toward “self-actualization.”

What the hell is that? You’ll have to ask old Abraham—not the Biblical one. I’m talking about psychologist Abraham Maslow, who in the mid-20th C., defined what he called the “hierarchy of needs.”

9464598_m

Apparently, “self-actualization” is a fancy term for achieving one’s full potential in life. For me, that meant being the best in my field, working in a pathology research lab. It also meant being the best damn author in the world, churning out three 100K-word novels a year, good ones my readers would love.

I’d almost made it. Until July 19th, 2019, when I fell. Not only did I fall literally, severely fracturing my right arm. I also fell off of Maslow’s pyramid.

Suddenly, instead of successful project outcomes in the lab, instead of enjoying the esteem that comes from being the best in your profession, instead of planning the next big book signing for my freshly minted new release . . . I was flat on my back, in horrific pain. I’d gone from Level Five on the pyramid down to Level Two—one I was clinging to desperately with one hand.

My left hand. My non-dominant hand.

Since that fateful day my life has been a roller coaster ride through hell. If anyone has ever broken a large bone, you already know what physical pain I’ve been through. And I’m no spring chicken. As a woman with osteoporosis, at age 62, I’ve come to accept the fact that my arm will never be the same. This was, at least for my professional life, a career-ending injury.

What has been worse, in recent months, is the psychological pain.

Worry is like cancer—and I speak from experience, because I’ve lived through that as well (at least, so far). Anyone who has dealt with “the system” of worker’s compensation and long-term disability insurance knows it’s a sadistic form of GI boot camp. They push you to the limit and beyond, testing your stamina, your patience, and your sanity. The whole time I’m teetering on the edge of Maslow’s Level Two, worrying about my income, maintaining my health insurance, keeping the family budget afloat. Paying the freaking mortgage.

One of my (now-ex) coworkers mentioned, “It must be nice to have all that time to write.” Ha. Yeah. Try it, first of all, left-handed. I can’t even use a computer mouse with my right hand. And voice to text? It’s okay for emails and blog posts, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, at least for writing fiction.

My writer’s muse wasn’t having it. She’s either gotten her passport and left the country, or she (or he) is waiting for me on Level Five.

Just as I was struggling up off of Level Two, reasonably sure my income needs would be met (if not barely) by the various resources available to me, I took another boot to the chin. Those “Love & Belonging” needs, the sense of connection I so desperately needed from Level Three? No go. After sustaining an injury at work, on their premises, due to their negligence, my employer terminated my position. Poof. Done. Gone. The job title doesn’t even exist in their database any longer.

The income I was bringing into the company per month averaged just slightly lower than what they were paying me–per year.

When the cow could no longer give milk, she was sent to slaughter.

cow-1805362_1280

Legal help? Good luck with that. I hired a good attorney. The state I live in is less than supportive of the employee in a situation like this. They are all about protecting the employer.

That pinnacle—Level Five—seems farther and farther away all the time. Obscured now by clouds of worry.

Breathe, they tell me. Meditate and try to stay centered. Have patience—and faith—this will all work out.

I always sucked at meditation. Not good with patience, either. Faith? I’ve been trying harder with that. And have I mentioned the pain?

So have I been sitting around, popping pills, getting fat, and crying into my bowl of ice cream? No. I’ve taken this opportunity to regroup. Re-examine my writing—and my reasons for writing—so when the times comes (and it will) I can re-enter life with a whole new set of authorial skills.

I love the library. Since I obviously cannot afford to buy books, they are my greatest resource. I also did manage to squeak out ten bucks a month to join Kindle Unlimited (I know, I know, as an author it’s our worst enemy. Right now I need to use it to my advantage).

A few titles I’ve particularly enjoyed of late:

Writing Begins with The Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice by Laraine Herring

From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Butler and Burroway

Story Craft by Jack Hart

What I’ve learned from these books and others is a fact I didn’t realize until now: there is little difference between writing fiction and writing nonfiction—good writing, narratives that will touch the hearts of your readers, comes from the “white-hot” center of you.

Good narrative, fiction or non, comes down to the ability to tell the reader a story.

The mechanics are important, yes. One must study the craft, each in its own genre. But in order to rise above the crowd, in order to communicate with words that resonate emotionally with the reader, it must come from the “white-hot center”—the things in life that mean the most to you. Those are the subjects you will be able to write about most passionately.

I’m building a ladder (albeit single-handedly) to get me to Level Three, then Level Four, and eventually, back to Level Five. I am building my ladder with books. I recommend that you, wherever you are in your writing journey, endeavor to do the same thing.

bookshelf-1082309_1280(1)

 

 

Posted in Cavorting With Claire!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Decluttering all the things

Was it a new year – new you? Or have all the crazy fruitcake fuelled ambitions of the new year fizzled into naught? Never fear, there is still more time to do all the things!

Decluttering

Decluttering is a project that can loom large or small. From a single drawer to an entire house and garage, it can be seen that things expand to fill the space available – if you let them.

It can be an emotional process. Things that you collect on holidays, presents, books – all these things grow into your very soul, binding you to them with ties that are far stronger than their monetary value. This bond is invisible to outsiders, where the attachment to a cracked vase is out of all proportion to its value.

But we all know the saying habits are at first cobwebs, then cables. So too is the accumulation of things, and their burden on the heart and mind. Not for nothing has Marie Kondo taken the world by storm – the freedom that less possessions brings is worth the task of decluttering.

While this may not appeal to some, the hard facts are that you cannot take it with you – leading to the harder fact that someone else will have to deal with it all. Having had to clean out several houses after relatives had passed, I know it can be a dirty, exhausting job, full of guilt, loss, frustration and attachment. The precious, the worthless, the dusty, the family heirloom – all may well end up in a dumpster. To others, a pile of stuff even with family associations is a big dirty job. By the end of it, even the memory of the person is tarnished.

So make it a habit to keep the clutter down. Day by day it can be done. Throw out rubbish or things that are broken. Follow the one thing in, two things out policy. Buy less, do more. Spend money on experiences, on travel, charity donations and time with friends and family, not tethered to material things. If you have loved an object too long and too well, maybe it is time someone else also has a chance to enjoy it.

About Cindy

Cindy Tomamichel is a multi genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure romance set in Roman Britain.

Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building.

Contact Cindy on

Website: http://www.cindytomamichel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyTomamichelAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CindyTomamichel

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel

Newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/AdventureNews

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing, Word-Crafting With Cindy | Tagged , | 4 Comments

We All Need Friends

Everybody needs a writing buddy. Some have two legs, others have four. But writing is a lonely business and it’s nice to have someone nearby, either virtually or in person, to help or provide encouragement.

When I first started writing I had an awesome critique partner. We met every Friday morning to go over our latest works in progress. That meant I always had something ready, whether one chapter, or two, by Thursday night because we critiqued using track changes on the computer, or we printed out the pages and marked them up with a pencil. Her name was Sharon Hamilton who today is a New York Times best-selling author. If you haven’t read her steamy Navy SEALs books, you’re missing out.

Occasionally I went to the local Starbucks to write and sometimes ran into another prolific best-selling author, hard at work, earphones on. I knew her as Nyree. You know her as Bella Andre. Gracious and kind, she always asked how my work was going. It usually made my day.

When writing at home I had another kind of supporter, one who meowed and climbed on my lap when I was at my desk, pushing keys with his paw before I gently set him on the floor and “fixed” what shouldn’t be there. His name was Bubba, a cat I inherited from my daughter (a rescuer of many felines). This cat lived to be twenty-one and I still miss him.

A lot of my friends have family dogs who sit loyally by while they work. When I visit my son and daughter-in-law my grand-dog, Jackson, sits by my feet while I type away on the keyboard. Every so often he looks up so I’ll reach down and scratch his ears. He’s a lab-golden mix and is very good at giving encouragement.

I now write on my living room couch on a laptop and my companion is a Siamese named Ralph. He reclines behind my head, keeping my neck warm while I write. When I get up for coffee or a snack, he follows, making sure I come back to finish my morning assignment.

Friends are important, no matter if you read, write, or work at home or outside the home. The friends can be on-line, many miles away, or just down the street at a coffee shop.

Or they can be curled next to you at your feet or on the couch or wherever you work, their soft fur helping to relieve stress and letting you know you aren’t alone.

Do any of you have a special friend who helps you through your day?

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 6 Comments

Withdrawal, But Not Retreat

It’s been a long writing journey that I’ve chronicled here over the last year or so. Its been almost fifteen years since I started creative writing in earnest. During that time a lot has changed in the world, in my personal and family life, and in my writing life. It has been a journey indeed.

For all that time, creative writing has been an escape from a demanding job, raising three children, caring for aging relatives. Now I am about to  make a third major job change (the one that pays the bills).

It seemed I would never complete Storm Watch, the third book in the Unfinished Business Series, but I did. And I started the fourth. That is now in limbo while I detoured to non fiction writing–and out of the blue–a contemporary Western romance/women’s fiction heavily based on current events.

In order to survive the increasing distraction of the socio political landscape, and raising teenagers in a social media induced frenzy I’ve been forced to limit my own social media involvement and and the interaction I’ve enjoyed with other writers at my CTRWA chapter meetings and events, as well as on my many online writers’s groups where I lurk but rarely have the energy to participate. Forgotten, but not gone.

So here is a report from the battlefield. My daughter will be going to college next year.  I will be alone with my husband and my cat. I can’t wait. The first six months of a new job are a challenge, but I’ve done this before.

I have kept writing nonfiction.  And the contemporary Western romance/women’s fiction, I’ve been blogging about here is within a few chapters of being finished. I credit blogs like this which kept me accountable to have something to report, as well as keeping me engaged. And Laurie Sanders, who is the best developmental editor in the world. And the 100 Words a Day for 100 Days Challenge , which was extended an additional thirty because I often wrote nothing but just as often pushed myself to do 100 words a day and often exceeded that.

How the job change will play into all this is not clear, but this book will be finished and the Book Four of the Unfinished Business Series will be commenced by the end of Summer 2020.

Hold me to my word, please.

Posted in Calling On Carole!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wanna Get Away? by Rebecca Heflin

Copy of Copy of UntitledWe writers spend a lot of time locked in our writing caves, sipping coffee and eavesdropping in coffee shops, or wherever our preferred writing locale is. But sometimes we just want to get away—for a day, a weekend, a week, or, if we’re lucky enough, a month.

After finishing my tenth book, I needed a break, and spending time in nature replenishes my well. Here in North Central Florida, state parks, nature reserves, rivers, springs, and lakes surround us, all within easy driving distance. And yet, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve only been to a handful.

This past weekend, Hubby and I did mark one off our list—O’Leno State Park. There are two fascinating aspects of this particular park:

  1. It was one of the parks developed in the 1930’s by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps; and
  2. The Santa Fe River disappears underground before emerging again three miles away.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and the most popular. A voluntary public relief program during the Great Depression for young unemployed, unmarried men, the CCC employed some 3 million young men. Under the program, they received shelter, clothing, food, and a wage. O’Leno State Park, one of Florida’s first state parks, features an information center all about the corps.

North Central Florida is known for its karst landscape, which features underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. I’m sure you’ve seen news stories about sinkholes swallowing cars and homes. Yep, that’s Florida. The Santa Fe River runs through this karst region for about 75 miles across North Central Florida. Three miles of that is underground. I’ve canoed and kayaked the river many times, and I grew up swimming, boating, and skiing in its headwaters—Lake Santa Fe, but I’d never seen what’s called the “River Sink.”

Along the 4-mile hike to the River Sink we passed smaller “sinks” where the ground over

IMG_5803

River Sink

the underground river gave way, revealing the dark waters of the river below. Near the end of our hike, Hubby and I finally came upon the River Sink where the slow-moving tannic Santa Fe drops underground. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw was definitely not it. The river just appears to end, a little like a neighborhood street with cul-de-sac. The sign near the sink said 900 million gallons of water flow into the sink every day!

Currently, the water level in the river is low due to lack of rain in the area, however, when the water level is high, the water swirls in a counter clockwise direction. The higher the water levels, the faster the swirl. During times of flooding, like following Hurricane Irma in 2017 when the river hit record flood levels, the underground system cannot hold all of the water, and the river again flows over land along the ancient riverbed. #FascinatingFlorida

IMG_5795

Suspension Bridge over the Santa Fe River

Next on the local bucket list is River Rise State Park, where the Santa Fe River once again emerges above ground.

What do you like to do when you need a break from your writing?

Posted in According to Rebecca, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , | 6 Comments

A Super Revelation

Please forgive my late posting. A few weeks ago, when I realized that my post would come the day after the Super Bowl, I decided that I’d write about the best part of that event—the commercials. You know, look at the ones that caused the gut-busting laughs, appreciate the dialogue full of double meaning and how the combinations of action, music, words, and celebrity cameos all fit together to give a 30-second punch of entertainment.

Folks, I tried last night, I really did, but for once in many years, at least to me, the game held my attention more than any of the commercials. It seems this year the focus was on sentimentality, which from a writer’s perspective isn’t such a bad thing. It takes careful crafting of words to touch someone’s heart within a matter of seconds. Pinpointing on matters that everyone can relate to is something we all try to strive for when we write. And while I can appreciate the meaning behind those commercials, it clashed too much with the simmering excitement of the game.

Basically, I wanted the silly, gregarious ads to keep my emotions in-line with what was happening on the gridiron. Sadly, the creative minds behind the commercials didn’t deliver for me. Perhaps they did for you, and if so, great. But when in this morning’s conversations with friends I had a hard time remembering gags and one-liners and basically any commercial, it seems that there’s been an odd shift in the universe. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, though. After all, the main event is a game.

And I do need to confess one thing: I really did analyze the commercials from the viewpoint of writer’s craft. I’ve never done that before, so maybe that’s a sign I’m growing into this new career of mine. Now that’s monumental!

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 4 Comments