Is this what normal looks like?

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first in person reader event in two years–my first time showing off the complete Hands of Destin series with all four books on display. It was really a rush to see them all lined up like that and realize that even with the struggles of the last few years, I’ve accomplished a lot!

The book fair was part of the Chicago-North Spring Fling Writers Conference, which meant I got to navigate airports and shuttles and restaurants during my trip. All things I am completely out of practice with!

I had a good time at the conference and book fair. It was really wonderful to talk to writer friends I hadn’t seen in years and also make some new connections. It was also the most socializing I’ve done since 2019, and there was a constant dance of when and where to mask to minimize my risk of bringing any germs back to my family, while also needing to eat. Even before covid, conference crud was a thing I tended to be susceptible to, so in some ways it was nice to be able to wear a mask in large group settings and not be the only one.

I’m not sure we’ll ever get back to exactly the way things used to be, and I’m okay with that, especially because some areas have gotten even better. The Spring Fling was a hybrid event with all the speeches and workshops, and even pitches, available online for those who couldn’t come in person for whatever reason. Even as an in-person attendee, this is a treat since it means I can check out all the workshops I missed. I really hope that kind of flexibility becomes the norm and we don’t lose some of the valuable tools we gained from the last couple of difficult years.

What about you? Are there any changes from the last couple of years that you hope stick around? Are you traveling or venturing into crowds yet, or still sticking close to home?

Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.

Learn more about her around the web:

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Work habits – how has it been?

When we first started working from home, I had very definite uses for the two plus hours I saved every day by not having to commute. (Living in Los Angeles will do that!)  For about the first eight months, I divided the morning hour into half for additional writing and half for house stuff. I overhauled a shower stall in that time frame, organized closets, rearranged furniture and did a whole lot of things that I never had time for being away from home twelve hours a day.

Two years in, I’m proud to say that I kept up the writing part of that change, but the house stuff…not so much. Nowadays it’s mostly general house cleaning that fills whatever time I devote to it in the morning, and not the large-scale projects I embarked on in the beginning. But hey, at least the stories are getting written!

I didn’t want to not have a plan. I learned a long time ago that I operate best with a bit of structure and didn’t want to waste those hours that were just handed to me. The truth is that I put in more time at work – since I don’t have to drive and risk the crazy L.A. traffic, I can get on earlier with reliable frequency. I can take those early morning calls when they come (and they do come). There’s a world of difference between getting a call at 10 AM on a Saturday and rolling over to my dining room instead of having to get in my car and drive twelve miles.

As for my writing, I ramped up my game. That half hour I used to spend doing morning projects is now in a different sort of project – whatever my latest story is. So, it’s not a waste of that time, just a different focus than it was before. If I didn’t keep that in my sights, I was likely to toss myself onto the sofa and enjoy early morning streaming. Bad Claire, bad!

What about you? What did you change or not change over the last two years? Is life back to normal or is it still in pandemic mode in some form?

Have a great day!

Claire Davon

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Procrastination or Process?

By Jeanine Englert

I don’t know if you are like me, but on occasion, especially with my writing, I find that I get sucked into a black void of procrastination with my current manuscripts. I fall into a cycle of waves of frantic writing when a book is coming due versus times of fallowness, where I don’t write for weeks on end.

It still panics me every time I do it, as I am currently panicking now over a book due later this summer, but the panic isn’t as intense as it used to be. This is mostly due to two things:

First, I am a Becca Syme fan and after reading many of her books and listening to her podcasts, I know I NEED the times of what appears to be fallowness to process and work through my book in my head and subconscious in order to be able to put it on the page later.

Secondly, my writing process isn’t a neat, linear line, but a messy out of order piece of art that will get organized when my brain allows me to do that. Forcing myself to write never works, nor does emotionally or mentally flogging myself for my procrastination since that IS part of my messy process. My stories never come to me in order or even one at a time. They never have and as I work on my tenth book, I imagine they never will.

So, as I face my procrastination. . . my process. . . once again, I take a deep breath and remember this is what I NEED to do, not necessarily what I choose to. If you are like me and procrastination is a part of your process, don’t torture yourself over it. It is YOUR process. And if you haven’t read a Becca Syme book or listened to her podcast (Becca Syme – YouTube) you should. Your process should be celebrated no matter how neat, chaotic, or unusual it might be. It is what makes you the writer you are and the books you create special.

You ARE an artist. Celebrate and embrace your beautiful palette of color, which for us as writers, is our process of creating stories and characters from thin air.

Care to share a part of your writing process? Feel free to drop a comment below!

Jeanine Englert’s love affair with mysteries and romance began with Nancy Drew, Murder She Wrote, and her Grandmother’s bookshelves full of romance novels. She is a VIVIAN® and Golden Heart® Finalist as well as a Silver Falchion, Maggie, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romance and mystery.

Her Scottish Highland historical and historical romantic suspense novels revolve around characters seeking self-acceptance and redemption. 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 rescue pups, as well as mysteries and romance with other readers. Visit her website at

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Sunday was Mother’s Day. I always think about my mother on Mother’s Day, but this year is especially poignant. Since my mother’s death, my husband and I have rented her house. We have made changes and/or renovated after each tenant departed. Let’s just say that the last tenants didn’t take care of the property; we had to renovate and repair substantially. Initially, this destruction of so much property angered and appalled me, but the renovations have resulted in a flood of memories that have reminded me of the love we shared. I’m reminded of her standing in the kitchen, smothering sweet potatoes in cinnamon, marshmallows, and brown sugar. I’m reminded of her mixing potatoes, mayonnaise, pickles, celery, etc. into her wonderful potato salad. Perhaps I was happiest when the young man working on the renovations told me his wife thought she saw my mother in the house. My husband scoffed at the idea, but the young man’s words filled me with an inexplicable peace. I truly believe that my mother is happy we are renovating her house and making it a home for others who will one day make their own memories in it. 

            I’ve been inspired to pull out old photos and remember all the people now gone once so dear.  It was old photos and letters that inspired me to write historical fiction. I wanted to tell the stories of their generation. My father inspired the character of Jude Mooney even though I embellished his story somewhat (not that much—my father was a handsome rogue). My mother’s generation inspired my WWII novels, and I realized as I wrote how similar my mother is to many of my characters. My heroines sacrifice and have courage. They suffer loss but continue to love. My mother was so like the women I create. I feel her loss every Mother’s Day, but I know she is watching out for me and happy that I’m making her house a home again. 

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Heroine Fix – You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

Originally, I’d planned to write a post about Wanda Maximof today (the Scarlet Witch), since she is going to be a major character in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and because I think she’s pretty cool as well as being a good example of how to write a character that rides the line between villainy and heroism. However, events this week got me thinking in another direction, specifically about anger and how it is portrayed with female characters.

When we’re first being introduced to stories, most of the heroines are gentle, kind, and compassionate toward others. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White are all paragons of demure virtue. They are wonderful characters whom I love but they also enforce a very rigid idea of femininity. One where good girls don’t cause trouble.

Meg Murray was the first angry heroine that I recall. Reading A Wrinkle In Time felt like an eye-opening experience for me. She was awkward and keenly aware of the injustices around her. I read the book fully expecting that the moral of the story would be her learning to be kind and gracious and therefore winning the day and earning her place by changing who she was.

Only she didn’t.

“Hold tight to your anger, little Meg.” That was the advice given to Meg before the final confrontation. Her anger was a vital part of saving those she cared about. (Side note: this is also my major frustration with the Disney movie of A Wrinkle In Time because they had Meg save the world by “being less negative” which completely undercut the crucial message of the original story.)

It was the first time I could recall ever seeing feminine anger portrayed as valuable. Heroes could get wrathful or howl against the world, but heroines sang their songs and persuaded others to take up their cause.

And the thing is: anger is valuable. It’s one of the major universal emotions (happiness, anger, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and contempt). As a society, we’re wary of anger but it’s often conflated with disgust and/or contempt. And we shouldn’t dismiss such concern entirely because when anger is paired with disgust/contempt, then the likelihood of violence increases since the target of the anger is then viewed as subhuman and unworthy of existence. However, on it’s own, anger is our natural reaction to something being wrong, to our expectations being broken. It energizes us to take action to correct the issue. As Wolverine put it “Grief pulls you down. Anger gets you moving.”

In The Wheel of Time series, Nynaeve is one of the most powerful wielders of Power to ever live. But she can only access her magical gift when she is angry. Her anger lets her overcome her own fears and socialized limits and she can then accomplish literal miracles. When she confronted about it and told that she must remain serene at all times, she challenges it. There are situations where being calm would be inappropriate. In her opinion, if we see an injustice, we should be angry and that anger should prompt us to take action.

Anger lets us know when something is wrong. When angry, we need to be careful that our anger isn’t being manipulated or that we’ve been aimed at an inappropriate target or goal. But being angry isn’t a character flaw for women. And, in my opinion, we should be reflecting that more in our fictional counterparts.

Jessica Jones is an angry superhero. So is Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. Jessica broods and sulks like any of the classic male antiheroes. Jennifer is a lawyer who transforms into a big green rage machine when she gets angry. Neither of them apologize for being angry and they use their anger to stop villains from hurting others.

And most importantly, their anger doesn’t make them unlikeable. Just like Meg and Nynaeve, they can be powerful voices for those who find they can’t always be serene in the face of the bad things in the world. We aren’t wrong just because we dropped a curse word or used a harsh tone.

Being angry doesn’t mean being unworthy of an HEA.

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Beltane Bonfires Are Burning! By Guest Blogger Janina Grey

The fires will be burning this weekend and next as people throughout the northern hemisphere celebrate the reawakening of the Earth with the fertility festival of Beltane.

May Day, dancing around a May Pole, jumping the fire,  burning bonfires through the night, weaving floral wreaths to wear upon your head—all these traditions are revisited with the celebration of springtime fertility festival Beltane. While many celebrate May 1 as Beltane, the astronomical event actually takes place a few days later, marking the mid-point between the Vernal Equinox (first day of Spring) and the Summer Solstice. This year, Beltane falls on May 5, but many celebrate the weekend before or after for convenience.

My first May Day festival was celebrated when I was in kindergarten, attending P.S. 16 in the Bronx. And although I don’t have photographs of my dancing the May Pole, I do have pictures commemorating the event, which in itself is weird, as I have no other pictures of my time at P.S. 16. (I’m second from the right, back row.) I guess I was always destined to be Pagan, even as a young Catholic!

As an adult, I started celebrating the fertility festival of Beltane in 2005, after finding my Pagan tribe of like-minded like-spirited witches. Every Beltane since (well, prior to the pandemic) we’ve come together to celebrate warmer weather, the union of the God and Goddess, and life in general. We end up dancing the May Pole and drumming around the fire throughout the night.

In my most recent release, LIFE IS FOR LIVING, Barefoot Dan, a lovable down to earth bachelor, and Lilac Locks (Jayde, a divorcee who’d died her hair purple to celebrate her recently acquired freedom) had met previously at a Beltane celebration. Drumming around the fire led to a wild and amazing one night stand filled with passion.

LIFE IS FOR LIVING begins four years later, when the two run into one another at a café. Fate continues to cross their paths, and the two old flames have to decide whether it’s worth the risk of possibly being singed if they dare to rekindle the sparks.

LIFE IS FOR LIVING, Book 2 of the Earth and Sky series, provides a very realistic look at what it’s like to be a modern-day witch, without all the bells and whistles (and demons and mayhem) that Hollywood associates with the lifestyle.

You can meet Barefoot Dan in Book 1 of the Earth and Sky Series, LOVE IN THE FOREST, or pick up his very own story in LIFE IS FOR LIVING (Book 2 of the Earth and Sky Series) by heading over to

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I was literally dancing a jig when I saw my first of the summer hummingbird. He (or she I can’t tell) flew to my feeder, drank for a few seconds and flew off. I had just hung the feeder. I was sure it was too early, but hoped to lure the scouts I’ve been told come early and let others know where the feeders are. Not sure if this is true, but I’m taking no chances. I live in Colorado and it’s still getting down in the 30’s at night so I’m always afraid of being too early. I’ve learned though that hummingbirds will drink cold nectar even when it nears freezing temperature.

The Yorkies totally ignore these tiny birds and in turn the hummers ignore them. These little guys measure 7.5 -13cm. They are the smallest bird in the world and are lighter than a dime. (Drat! All I want to do is lose 20 pounds and I’d be happy. I don’t aspire to unrealistic weight.) Their babies are the size of a plump raisin. They can fly at a speed of 61mph and live 3-5 years. And what a memory. They remember migration routes and every flower they have visited and how long to wait between visits so flowers can generate more nectar. They come back to the same feeder each year. I’m embarrassed to admit they even recognize humans and who stocks their feeders to keep their bellies full. Why I’m embarrassed is because I have trouble recognizing people if they aren’t in a setting where they usually are. Thus the clerk that always checks out my groceries, and with whom I have had many short conversations with, will not be recognized by me if she’s not standing at her cash register station. She’ll be somewhat familiar but remember her name and where I know her from–HA! My Yorkies remember their friends and don’t hesitate to wiggle and bark when a person they recognize stops to pat and visit with them. Yes, I have to admit, they are smarter than their proud owner and mom.

I’ve had hummingbirds fly to my face and chirp. Come to find out they are curious or investigating a situation. They are very inquisitive. They have specific chirps to warn of potential threats, or to defend their territory to feed. Boy can they fight. And I think I have a temper.

The male hummingbird is a very chauvinistic fellow. He doesn’t mate for life and won’t help the female in any way to build the nest or care for babies. He mates then mates again with the next female in his territory. Casanova!

If I had the courage to get a tattoo, and I don’t, I’d get a small hummingbird on my ankle. The hummingbird tattoo is a symbol for love of life, joy of life, strength, energy and ability to cope with difficulties. I do have a love for life and for my fur babies, but my energy is getting less each year. Love my naps with my Yorkie babies curled up beside me. They help me cope with difficulties for sure. I’ve also heard the tattoo is a symbol of sexual energy, but we won’t go there. As my granddaughter would say, “Mimi, TMI. (Too Much Information)

Welcome spring, welcome hummingbirds, and welcome full feeders to attract them.

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Write what you know

I generally dislike the advice ‘write what you know’ since it conjures up images of creative writing classes writing about having coffee and writing or similar boring literary scenes. Where is the space for flights of fancy, of flying rainbow pooping unicorns or space battles in the year 3121? Do sentient cats get a look in, or cybernetic dogs, or… Well, you get the picture.

However, on a small scale it does have merit. An experience that you have can be slotted into any sort of novel. I remember reading ‘Murder in Mesopotamia’ by Agatha Christie and marvelling at the depth of detail that perfectly described the daily life of an archaeologist. Of course, she knew – she married one and spent time on digs. This time she no doubt mined for her novels ‘Death on the Nile’ and “They came to Bagdad’.

For myself, I have worked underground as a geologist, so I have a romance book with a female geologist and an archaeologist which uses some of this career. (Rocky Road to Love). But I also have an unpublished scifi set on an underground mining planet full of predatory mutants and lethal female mercenaries. Totally different books, but they both use my personal experiences as a mine geologist.

Or it might be a person you met. Not necessarily someone you hate and kill off in a gory fashion, but a habit, a look or an actor. For one of my SMP Druids Portal books, I relaxed watching (way too often) Aquaman movie trailers, and so my hero looked a lot like Jason Momoa, and I had to retrofit a grandson to be physically bigger, and add in a joke about an unknown giant in their ancestry, as he was bigger than his parents. Another book I was writing and went to a music gig at a pub, and the character walked across the room and into my novel and acquired a name from a song. It was a magical moment.

So you can write what you know, but not verbatim, obviously. How far can your imagination twist your own experiences? Quite a distance! Otherwise, my novels would feature a crazy cat lady and her love of cardigans, rather than action adventures in time and space.

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. The 30 Organizing Tips for Writers provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready. Or pick up a copy of the free Romance Short Stories.

Contact Cindy on







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Ursa’s Joy

Maggie, the Shepherd, arrived at our home in June of 2020. Ursa, the abandoned Cattle Dog, would’ve been coyote bait at the time. The rescue’s owner needed to leave a leash on her for a month in order to catch her. After three months and a foster stint, she’d barely learned to trust.

Flash forward to September of 2020. Energetic, seven-month-old Maggie needed a buddy. When I phoned our rescue contact, she hesitated. Ursa remained shy, but as our Tallulah had been anxious at first, she let us have a trial run with Ursa. It’s been eighteen months, many belly rubs and doggy bones, but now Ursa greets every morning with unbridled joy. I let her outside and she does a couple down dog poses, then rolls with delight. In my mind, she’s welcoming in a great new day in a loving, safe home.

Ursa finally has soft eyes. She trusts us and we appreciate her. She now plays tug-of-war with the neighbors 110# Bernese Mountain dog puppy. She still skitters when something drops on the floor, but I can sit on the couch and read the paper next to her. I hope your spring is filled with love, joy, and trust in a great future!

Posted in Simply Stated By Sally!, Soul Mate Publishing | 2 Comments

Tiara Tea by Susan Hanniford Crowley

Tiaras! Do you have one? Do you wear it? 

I’m wearing one. Here’s me in the tiara I wore at a Tiara Tea with some of my gal pals.

There are lots of myths about who can and when to wear a tiara!

Myth #1: Tiaras and crowns are only worn by royalty!
Answer: Not true! Tiara wearing for special events became popular in the 19th century and continues to grow in popularity.

Myth #2 Tiaras can only be worn by married women or brides!
Answer: Not true again! Tiaras can be worn by any young woman or older woman for special events. Royals have been wearing them in their teen years. Some royals who have never married, still wear them.

Myth #3 Tiaras are so expensive that they are out of the reach of most people.
Answer: Not necessarily! You can get lovely-looking tiaras that are made of inexpensive metal and glass stones. If you want to spend the bucks, you can go into a jeweler’s and say you want to buy one. (You’ve made their day! And no, my tiara is not one of the expensive ones.)

Where do you wear a tiara?

Traditionally, you wear a tiara to special/fancy dress events late in the afternoon but preferably in the evening. You often wear them to black tie or white tie events.

I’m all for making new traditions. Why not have a fancy dress event at other times! A Tiara Luncheon! A Tiara Tea!!!

Secret: I found everything at the Tiara Tea tasted even better! Smiles!

Susan Hanniford Crowley, Author of Vampire Princess of New York
Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance

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