Marisa Makes Memories

dancing-stars-disney-nightThe Disney Factor! Even if you’ve never been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you know what I’m talking about. The ultimate delight that rushes through you when you hear a song like “When you Wish Upon a Star” or the laughter of Mickey Mouse or see Tinkerbell’s fairy dust splashed across your television or smartphone screen.

I was witness to those three moments this week when I watched Disney-Night on “Dancing with the Stars.”  The network airing the dance competition is ABC, owned by Disney, so it wasn’t a surprise to find the music and characters used liberally throughout the show.

The stars from sports, film and television, matched with their professional partners in Disney-themed character wear, performed their best passo doble, promenade or pirouette on the dance floor, much to my delight.

Of course, memories of my favorite childhood movies based on popular stories like 143115_8339Pinocchio, Snow White and Cinderella were brought back to life as the contestants vied for a “Ten from Len.”

But at the same time, newer stories like Frozen and Moana, also brought me to squeals of giddy glee.

Perhaps it’s because Disney movies are filled with memorable, almost archetypal characters and we writers can borrow from their legacy of success.

Even if Disney didn’t pen the original story, they’ve enhanced our memories and joy of seeing the characters brought to life in literature’s favorite fables.

Certainly, writers must strive for a delicate balance between realism and fiction. We want readers to suspend disbelief, but we don’t want our characters to be caricatures. With that in mind though, let them be your inspiration.

Consider the disposition of the heroin in Alice in Wonderland when she said, “I give Alice-in-Wonderland-Disney-Artmyself good advice, but I seldom follow it.”  What kind of plot line would suit a character with that attitude? Perhaps, a tumble down a rabbit’s hole brings Alice into a world beyond the looking glass where she meets a mad hatter and fights the queen of hearts? Your spin, a US engineering grad student volunteers for a mission trip to Mexico to help build houses for the underprivileged, but gets kidnapped by a group of drug dealers and has to pretend she’s British, while using her skills as a drone pilot to help her escape.

You get the idea.

Yes, dashing heroes like Price Charming, with the complexity of an antihero like the Beast, can help you create a complex leading man in your story readers will root for.

And don’t forget the villain. Even a character like Cinderella’s evil step-mother can be inspiration for your next manuscript.

Disney_Magic_logo.svgYes, a little Disney Magic goes a long way and may help inspire you when you are writing your next story. In romance, we want to deliver the happy ever after, just like our favorite Disney movies.


Marisa Dillon

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The Bookworm Chronicles

Book 2 of the thrilling Tip of the Spear series by Belle Ami
Belle Ami
Series: Tip of the Spear Book 2
Genre: Romance, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Hartwood Publishing
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
A Mossad agent will do anything to rescue his kidnapped wife and to stop a terrorist plot to blow up a nuclear facility.
Vengeance is a sexy thriller teeming with romantic suspense. A well-researched tale, scary in its possibility, packed with excitement, it will leave you breathlessly turning pages.
Layla Wallace Hassani is living her dream, curating a major art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. She has it all, a fabulous career, the perfect marriage and the perfect child. She’s madly in love with her husband Cyrus Hassani, a Mossad agent, and lives in Tel Aviv with their four-year-old daughter Cerise. Her life takes a disastrous…

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A WhirlWind Fall!


Autumn certainly has blown into my life with a whoosh this year! We left on September 30th for a two-week vacation in Florida from our home in Massachusetts. One week in Tampa, and the other lying on the beach in St. Augustine certainly gave me plenty of time to revive my faltering muse.

IMG_1530Our rental car was upgraded to a convertible Mustang, which neither my husband, nor my daughter or grandson complained about.

We encountered some pretty interesting moments at Potter’s Wax Museum in St. Augustine, and I got sore and tired just watching my son on his waveboard. And yes, I missed a few spots with the sunscreen (ouch!)


But the fun didn’t end there. We flew back on Friday, Oct. 13th—I believe in the paranormal, but I’m not particularly superstitious—so we could drive another few hours north to the Fall in Love with New England Author/Reader Conference. This is the second year for this fabulous event, hosted by author Ashlyn Chase, along with her amazing conference board. This year was even better than last. We had a blast, learned a lot, and gained new friends and readers alike.IMG_1652

If there’s one thing I can recommend highly to my fellow Soulies, it’s this: find a cohort. Find a group of writers who do what you do, and understand your goals and challenges. I have definitely found this with the group that I joined forces with this weekend.



Claire Gem writes contemporary romance, romantic women’s fiction, & supernatural suspense. Check out her work at her Website or at her Amazon Author Page.


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Transatlantic Cruising

Pluto greeting on Disney Magic

Minnie and the Chipmunks

A long time ago, we tried out cruising on a cruise to nowhere for a weekend. A great way to get your feet wet, pardon the pun, on an ocean liner. There’s a wide range of entertainment, kids’ clubs, spacious staterooms and more! Adults-only spaces · Something for everyone · Broadway style shows, dancing, latest movies, fitness center, personal trainer, spa and lots and lots and lots of food.

First sunrise on Disney Magic, what a greeting!

Me in the porthole

A short time ago we tried a Disney cruise to somewhere, for eleven days. Ya gotta love Disney with the characters and no casino or smoke. Believe it or not, we were busy all the time. We had to find the time to swim and relax.

We hung at the ‘adults only’ section with our own pool, and a place to do some writing. The kids didn’t mind us adults though when we watched Disney movies on their huge screen in their pool area.

Nightly monkey made from towels

Between the rock, almost blown away, son Paul Ingis!

Holding on for dear life, me and Tom. It was a mite windy

Sailing into the sunset-through the Straits of Gibraltar

This ship did port days, one in Cadiz, another in Lisbon where we took a side trip to beautiful Sintra and charming Cascais, then a stop in the Azores, where Paul and Joanne hailed a taxi and took a side adventure. We would have gone to St. John’s in Newfoundland, but the Captain didn’t go  because going north was the same direction as the hurricane, so we headed west for New York.

Highlight of that first Sunday was standing and holding onto each other, up on the top deck, in a fifty mile an hour wind, going through the Straits of Gibraltar at sunset. Behold nature’s beauty.

The fitness center and Olivia, the personal trainer, were tops, as were the people in the spa. Laurabeth Fitzpatrick, an esthetician was fun to talk with. I didn’t get a facial, but enjoyed discussing skin care and explained BeautyCounter’s philosophy. Lots of people took advantage of the convenience of the spa, they offered a full range of face and body care, including sauna and beauty salon. I didn’t do any of that, but I did do the fitness center exercise and elliptical. Imagine exercising in an all glass facility overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

NY sunset

Our servers rotated with us for a different dining room experience each night. Animation Palette, Luminaries, and Carioca’s dining rooms and the buffet dining room, Cabana’s. The last night we dined in their famous upscale Palo dining room on the 10th deck, while we were docked in NY. So we got to see the gorgeous New York sunset and we can say we had a great Italian meal in an excellent restaurant on the Hudson River.

That’s us in Luminaires DR






Most important crew members. Lucio & Carolina, our excellent servers.

Cascais, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Paul&Joanne in Animation Palette


Mickey pop, our fav dessert

Time to go home, on our way to debark




Indigo Sky for the reader who enjoys historical romance! @AmazonKindle Indigo Sky available on Amazon buy link:
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Marketing a Series: When to Move One

When I finished Breakwater Beach,  I never intended to write a sequel, never mind two. But Mike and Liz weren’t letting go of their lease on life, and the story premise for The Widow’s Walk popped into my head. It took about another year for me to get the second one done, about fifteen months later Storm Watch was complete.

I’ve been on the marketing bandwagon for the Unfinished Business series for three years, and since these books were in the same world, branding was consistent and I could spend time marketing and writing without too much effort. But though there are stirring of a possible fourth book, it is time for me to move on to other projects–my urban fantasy series in particular.

The current wisdom is for writers to keep going on a series, because one book helps sell the others. It has taken several months to pull myself out of a Cape Cod ghost mentality and reacquaint myself with two Latino witches battling the dhampirs and werewolves who’ve have taken control of The Bronx. A quick re read of the first book, jump started writing on the second, but it’s slow and I haven’t been able to get the “fever” needed to make real progress. The research for the Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams series is very involved, and not nearly as pleasant and as sitting on a Cape Cod beach where the worst that can happen to me is a sunburn.

I can’t blame in all on the time spent marketing the Unfinished Business series, but the blogging and social media events keep pulling me away from writing every day. I don’t have a lot of time when I get home from the day job, and with the little time I do have I’d  rather curl up with someone else’s book. There is still Audible to investigate and execute for Unfinished Business–plus some calls for a film adaptation that will require cutting out some words–and all the sex scenes. I just got my print copies of Storm Watch–and have a holiday book signing at Barnes and Noble in early December to prepare for. Then there is Romance Writers Gone Wild in mid November. Oh my.

I’m exhausted and need time off, but the marketing bug has infected me and getting rid of it has proven impossible. The result is gridlock, with nothing new getting done. My best hope in NaNoWriMo, but that’s only a month away and I’m not sure I can get my head facing the South Bronx.  I’d love to know how other authors juggle writing different series. And when to say enough is enough, get off the social media, put on the headphones, and write with a new playlist dancing in my head.



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Story Questions


courtesy of Wikimedia


A while back, my husband and writing partner, the D of C.D. Hersh,  built me a new cabinet pantry. We spent the better part of an afternoon talking about the size and construction of the pantry to make sure it was exactly like I wanted it. Afterwards, he went to Home Depot to get the lumber.

While holding the front door open so he could carry the lumber in I noticed the first piece was shorter than I thought it should be. When I commented, he answered as he went back out the door saying, “Didn’t you want it counter height?”

No, I thought as I closed the door behind him. I don’t. Didn’t he remember what we’d discussed? I peeked through the side window curtain anxiously wondering what he’d bring in next.

The next piece was short, too, and I became concerned. He laid the second piece on the floor next to the first and my angst jumped. They were definitely the wrong size. Had he cut all the pieces wrong? I awaited the next piece, hoping it wasn’t going to be short, too.

The third piece came in and I gave a sigh of relief. It looked like the right length. Then fourth and final piece came in and I could envision the size of the cabinet we had discussed.

“You scared me,” I said. “I thought you’d cut it wrong.”

He laughed and replied, “The other two pieces are the top and the bottom.”

My husband had purposely led me on, leaving me with a new question each time he brought in a piece of lumber.

As writers it is our job to lead our readers on, posing new story questions that will make them want to turn the pages. Each scene and each chapter should leave your reader with new questions about the plot you are constructing, the reasons your characters are acting and reacting, and how they are going to resolve their conflicts.

For example, in The Wizard of Oz, the over arching story question is will Dorothy ever get home? But along her journey in Oz a number of other questions pop up like:

  • What is going happen to her because her house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her?
  • Are the characters she meets along the way going to be friends or foes?
  • How do Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man figure in the story?
  • Will the Cowardly Lion sleep forever in the poppy field because his companions couldn’t carry him out in time?
  • Who is the Wizard …really?
  • How will the Wizard grant their wishes? Or can he even do that?
  • Will the Wicked Witch of the West get Dorothy before Dorothy and her companions get the witch, and thus secure Dorothy’s way home, a heart for Tin Man, a brain for Scarecrow, and courage for The Cowardly Lion?
  • When the Wizard’s hot air balloon leaves without Dorothy is she going to be stuck in Oz forever?

Each one of these questions moves the story forward, posing new problems that the characters must solve in order to reach their final goals—going home, getting a heart, a brain, and courage. A story with only one question is a simple story that will not hold readers’ interest for 300 or more pages. Baum answers his story questions fairly quickly after he has posed them, but it’s not necessary, nor desirable to do so, in today’s stories. We want our readers to keep turning those pages to find those answers.

But beware one thing—the questions you pose must be answered before the book ends. There is nothing more frustrating to a reader than to finish a book and discover you, the writer, have left out an important answer to a burning question you posed.

I forgave my husband his little joke, but only because he got the pieces right. Make sure you do the same thing for your readers.


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The Write Word with Wareeze

Secondary Characters

Hello again, friends and readers. Thanks for sharing your precious time with me today. In past SMP blog posts, I discussed, creating worlds, building a scene, plus introducing characters. The hero, the heroine, and the villain have all been examined. Today, I’d like to mention the secondary characters and the role each one plays.

The main function of a secondary character is to support the main character—hero, heroine, even the villain—in speech, in actions, and to reveal the story plot.

This supporting character gives the main character someone with which to discuss the situation. The hero/heroine could converse with the wall or even the dog, but another character can contribute to the dialogue. Bow wow may be comforting, but the conversation is lacking interaction to reveal the story plot. It’s scary when the villain talks to the wall, or utters his insane speech to an animal. That calls for shivers down the spine.

The supporting characters do much more than carry on a conversation with the hero/heroine or villain. Interaction with the supporting character often reveals information about the hero/heroine or villain. Information about the goals of the main characters is often revealed as well. Through the supporting characters, important information concerning the story line can be shown rather than told to the reader. Information about the scene, about the flaws and fears of the hero/heroine or even the villain, can be reveal with actions between a secondary character and the main character. The story could not survive without secondary characters.

An Example from: A Lady’s Vanishing Choices 




Bethany gave a weak smile but quickly sobered and dropped her gaze to her hands. Why is this so difficult? This is Maggie, after all. She rubbed her fingers along the braiding on the arm of the upholstered chair, the texture rough against her hand while she tried to gather her courage. She swallowed and, after moment, mumbled, “I must talk to someone or I shall go insane. I’ve been so terrified.”

“Tell ol’ Maggie.”

She couldn’t refrain from glancing over her shoulder. “What would you say if I ran across a murderer?”

“What?” Maggie roared. Her expressive brows rose to the ceiling and her eyes rounded in astonishment. “You saw a killing?”

Bethany pressed the back of one trembling hand over her mouth. “No. I observed a man digging a grave. I think it was a grave or a pit, but I saw the body. At least, it may have been a body. What else could he have been burying in the woods?”

She could still hear the sounds of digging and recalled the bundle large enough to contain a corpse lying beside the grave. Her shoulders bunched, and she dropped her head into her hands. “I think that’s what I witnessed. What am I going to do?”

“Don’t take on so.” One plump arm slid around Bethany’s shoulders. “Tell me all about it then. We shall see what’s what.”

Caught up in her distress, Bethany had been unaware of Maggie’s movements until that comforting arm wrapped around her. She wanted nothing more than to snuggle against her, but that would solve nothing.

“Do you recall when I ran away from Birdelwood Manor all those years ago? I was only ten. I didn’t want to belong to Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Arthur, so I left.”

Maggie nodded. “Course I do. We was all relieved when the vicar found you. ‘Tis a wonder you was found, them woods being so thick and the lane without a body on it in years. The hand of God was in it.”

“At the time, I didn’t want to be found, but I’m grateful now the vicar didn’t abandon the search.” Bethany scrunched her shoulders, half expecting censure, and forced out words that condemned her in her own eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to glance at Maggie. “I took the gig without permission and drove over to that very spot.”

After a full minute, Maggie said, “I do declare, you was much more reckless than usual. I suspect someone drove you to it.”

Always supportive, Maggie’s attitude brought a measure of guilt to Bethany. “Aunt Gertrude started ringing a peel over me again. I could stand no more, and I escaped for a few hours. I drove around for a while, out of charity with everything and everyone.”

“Natural you would want to seek a little quiet. Set yourself straight and the like.”

Bethany patted Maggie’s arm. “Thanks for understanding. I pulled up near the place where the vicar located me. I looked back on that day and shuddered. I only ran away because I missed my mum and papa so much. I didn’t speak, couldn’t speak, for months afterwards. Aunt Gertrude announced, to everyone who would listen, I was unstable, had a delicate mind and such. Now that refrain is uttered over and over again. People look at me with distrust and doubt.”

Maggie sank into her chair again and sat on the edge with her hands gripped in her lap. “Go on. The story is ‘bout to trip off your tongue.”

“A sound gradually drew my attention. I heard someone digging. It is such a lonely place I began to wonder at the cause.” She began to shake so badly she could hardly remain upright in the chair. “I peered from behind the bushes and discovered a man digging a grave, or at least a deep pit.”

Maggie lost some of her warm glow. “How dreadful for you.” She plopped against the back of her chair and sat in silence for several protracted minutes. “To be sure, ‘tis enough to give a body a real fright.”

“Uncle Arthur has always suggested that I have an irritation of the nerve.” Bethany gave a shaky laugh. “I do now.”

“Course you do, love. Anybody would what seen such.” Maggie’s words held reassurance and her face cleared. “You should go tell the new Lord Lieutenant of the county…that lord, the earl.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Tell Lord Rivton. That’s what will solve it.”


The heroine witnessed someone burying a body. No need to tell the reader of the action. The dialogue with the supporting character reveals the situation. Several facts are shared with the reader such as Maggie is her dear friend. Bethany grew up under the guardianship of an uncaring aunt and uncle.

Another Example from An Enduring Love

An Enduring Love #1 copy


Three months later after the demise of his father, Lord Rhys Sudduth, Earl of Blakenshire strode into the building housing the diplomatic corps and made his way to his chief’s office. As he paced down the hall, his mind whirled searching for the reason Sir Gerald Williams had called for this face to face consultation. He’d been so caught up in the aftermath of his father’s death and all that entailed, he had neglected his other duties.

Perhaps the meeting had to do with his most troubling concern, Rebecca. His letters to her had all been returned, unopened and Rhys had requested permission to return to Latvia. He must collect his wife. Apprehension licked along his nerves, sending agitation through his entire body and he drew a sharp breath. She must have run into some sort of trouble and needed his help. Still, the returned letters had been unopened and he clenched his fist against what that might mean. Feasibly, Sir Williams would grant his request and his spirits brightened. He straightened his shoulders and hurried forward.

Sir Williams’ secretary ushered Rhys into the inner office. The chief glanced up and laid his papers aside. Motioning to a chair across the desk from him, he invited, “Welcome, Sudduth. Sit,”

Rhys dropped into the seat indicated and gazed at the chief. Troubled by the stern expression on Sir Williams’ face, he drew a deep breath and waited.

The chief met his gaze without speaking for a long moment. “I received an answer to your request to return to Latvia. I’m afraid the Latvian authorities refused to allow you back into the country.”

“For what possible reason?” Stunned, Rhys inched to the edge of his seat.

Sir Williams cleared his throat. “Seems the powers that be, didn’t like it when you married a Latvian citizen without permission.”

“But I had her mother’s permission when I married her.” Rhys clinched his teeth. “Her mother is a British citizen.”

“That’s as may be, but it’s your wife’s citizenship that is in question. Born and raised in that country and with a Latvian father makes the matter clear so to speak.”

“This is insane,” Rhys grumbled. “Rebecca is my wife. I’ll slip into the country as a private citizen. That way our government can’t be held responsible.”

Silence descended on the room and crackled with tension. Sir Williams frowned down at his fingernails and grimaced. “There’s more. It saddens me to inform you that both your wife and mother-in-law are deceased.”

“What?” Rhys couldn’t have heard properly. Rebecca couldn’t be dead. Not his beautiful wife, so young, so vibrant and so innocent. For a moment, everything in the room faded. He shook his head.

“The death certificates were sent with a denial of your request.”

“No! There must be some mistake. I must go to Latvia and locate my wife. Perhaps her mother did perish and some official thought it was my Rebecca.” Putting a hand to his chest to still the rapid beating of his heart, he inhaled deeply. “She can’t be dead.”

“I’ve made inquiries. Double checked as it were. There is no mistake. Rebecca and her mother both are certainly deceased,” Sir Williams said in a voice filled with sympathy.

Rhys rose to his feet, his jaw working. He refused to accept her death, but what if it was true? How could he go on with his wife’s remains buried in a foreign county? He needed to visit her grave, to pray over her and perhaps even talk to her when things overwhelmed him. Rhys needed to see her burial box at least to know this was real and not merely a nightmare. Rebecca must be returned to England or he would go mad. “Then I must be allowed to recover her body.”

“Not possible. I’ve tried to retrieve the bodies, but without success.”

“I can’t accept that as final. Somehow, I must claim her remains.”

Sir Williams gained his feet and straightened. “You have other obligations. Your siblings and your mother need you more than ever since your father’s death.” He came around the desk and placed his hand on Rhys’ shoulder. “Don’t throw your life away on a useless undertaking. A casket full of bones will profit you nothing. Sorrow has you in its grip, but be the sensible fellow I know you to be and accept what can’t be changed.”

Rhys glanced down at his hand where a tear had dripped and his shoulders began to shake. The chief turned and strode to the door.

“I’ll be in the other room,” Sir Williams said.

Rhys fell into the chair, folded his arms beneath his head on the desk and sobbed. None of this is true. His chest squeezed and he fought for breath. Finally, he mopped his face and walked out of the office, out of the building and out of the life he’d inhabited, into a future of a desolate existence filled with sorrow. The whole world had darkened while he’d been inside the building and he didn’t expect it to lighten ever again.

Waking, slumped in a chair in his library, he couldn’t remember arriving home. All he could recall was the devastating news that his Rebecca was dead. He clutched his head in both hands to keep his skull intact. The image of Rebecca standing on the dock with tears in her eyes, brought such pain, he rejected the picture with every ounce of his being. Instantly, the ache lessened and he sighed.

Rhys ran his hand over his face only to discover his whiskers rough against his hand. How many days had it been since he’d shaved? He recalled not eating and being unable to sleep, but all else was a blank.

Without knocking, his mother burst into the room sending waves of discomfort through his pounding head. Rhys winced, groaned under his breath and with a lift of his brows he questioned, “Mother?”

“It’s about time you came to your senses. You’ve been in and out of it for a week. You will always carry grief in your heart, but your family needs you.” Mary covered her face with her hands. “I lost my partner, my rock and my love when your father died, so I know. I need you.”

“Forgive me for being selfish.”

“Not selfish. Overcome with sadness, but we must accept and move on with life. You sit there brooding and wallowing in sorrow while all about you falls apart. I can’t manage on my own,” she cried. “So pull yourself together. Get busy. Work always helps.” Her voice dwindled to nothing.

“You are right, Mother.” Rhys shoved his whiskey bottle into a cabinet and straightened his shoulders. Following on his mother’s heels, he headed to his room. It was time to take up the burdens of life again. At that moment, he decided to bury his love for Rebecca deep in his heart and in the far recesses of his mind. He never intended to drag his memories or love for her forth again. That was the only way he could cope.


This supporting character helped him through what he thought was the aftermath of his wife’s death. So helper, encourager can be added to the list of uses for a secondary character. This passage also shows the workings behind the scene, the government, his commitment, and his decision to put the pain behind him. By the way, she isn’t dead, thus the story when she arrives in England.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look behind the pages of two of my novels. To read more about me and my writing, visit my website:

Respectfully Yours,

Wareeze Woodson

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