De-Stress with Humor

According to one study, adults laugh—on average—seventeen times a day. Pre-school children, on the other hand, can laugh up to 300 times a day.

That discrepancy becomes even more pronounced at this time of the year. With less than three weeks to go before Christmas, many of us are scrambling to buy gifts, finish decorating, plan and prepare that special meal, and a host of other activities on a never-ending To-Do list.

I find small doses of humor effective during these busy times. Here are seven of my favorite jokes. Feel free to share with friends and colleagues.A Scottish mother visits her son in his New York City apartment and asks, “How do you find the Americans, Rodney?”

“Mother,” says Rodney, “they’re such noisy people. One neighbor won’t stop banging against the wall while the other screams all night long.”

“Oh, Rodney! How do you put up with them?”

“What can I do? I just lie in bed quietly, playing my bagpipes.”A woman came up behind her husband while he was enjoying his morning coffee, and slapped him on the back of his head. “I found a piece of paper in your pant’s pocket with a woman’s name written on it. You better have an explanation.”

“Calm down, honey” said the man. “Remember last week when I was at the dog track? That was the name of the dog I bet on.”

The next morning, his wife smacked him again.

“What was that for?” asked the angry husband.

“Your dog called last night” she said.A man turned to his seatmate on a flight and asks, “Does the airline charge you extra for sitting next to good-looking men?”

“Yes,” she says. “But I wasn’t willing to pay.”A woman is sitting on the sofa with her husband. She says, “I love you.”

He asks, “Is that you or the wine talking?”

She replies, “It’s me…talking to the wine.”After correcting a set of class papers, the teacher remarked to a particular student, “I just can’t understand how one person can make so many mistakes on his work.”

The student thought for a bit and then said, “It wasn’t just one person. My dad helped with the assignment.”Two little boys were best friends at church, but they both had a reputation for getting into trouble. One Sunday, one of the boys was sick and stayed home. The other boy went to church and was twice as bad as normal.

After church, the pastor grabbed him and asked in an angry voice, “Where’s God?”

The little boy was frightened and didn’t know what to say.

The pastor continued, “I want you to go home and think about it. I don’t want you to come back until you can tell me where God is.”

The boy went home and called his sick friend on the telephone. “Guess what,” he said. “They’ve lost God, and they’re trying to blame that one on us, too.”A woman invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to her six-year-old daughter and asked her to say the blessing.

“I don’t know what to say,” the daughter replied.

“Just say what you hear Mommy say.”

The daughter bowed her head. “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?”

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

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Writing Through Stress…and The Holidays

I can’t believe we’re at the end of the year already!

It’s a wonderful time, but also a super stressful time, as I’m sure you’re well aware. It doesn’t matter what or how you celebrate, or even if you don’t, there’s a ton of stress. A lot of it comes from outside – expectations from other people, employers, family. But most of it is expectation we put on ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not setting a standard for yourself, you end up doing it anyway (or maybe that’s just me?).

It’s hard to find writing time and mojo during the holidays. There are so many more obligations – between holiday parties, shopping, decorating, and the rest. I mean, even if you don’t celebrate, you still have to deal with the crowds and the constant barrage of holiday hoopla just going to the grocery store.

This year, I am pushing to get as much writing time as possible. Writing has always been a sanity saver for me and now that I’ve remembered that, I’m not letting go.

Some things have changed since my last post…

My super stressful day job is no more. I am now employed in a low-stress, laid back, and cool place. I previously worked there many years ago and the people I worked with before are still there, which is awesome.

It’s only been a few weeks, but I am learning my new job and learning to relax a little. I knew it was going to be a process. You don’t go from the stress and insanity I had for years to a more laid back vibe without some internal issues. I’m getting there though.

The really cool thing is that I went to a author/reader event the day after handing in my notice. While there and while talking to a friend I could feel the writing blockages I’d been struggling with start to fade. I was writing. I was. But it was garbage. My story had no purpose, no plot, the characters were cardboard, and I had no idea what was going to happen. During that weekend, we managed to brainstorm and now I have a cohesive and awesome framework. Direct result of making the decision to move on.

Don’t get me wrong, leaving my old job was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I love those people, the industry, and what I did, but it came down to a question of what do I really want? I want to be an author. I don’t mind working a day job, but there has to be something left in my brain by the end of the day and there just wasn’t and it was getting worse. I wasn’t seeking a new job. This one just kind of came to me (actually I found out about it while we were on vacation) and I knew it was time to move.

So…new chapter for me. The writing is coming easier (and it makes sense now) and I am feeling so much better on the whole, so there’s that.

Bring on 2020! I’m ready!

Have a safe, peaceful, joyous, and amazing holiday season! Best of writing to you!



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Where did 2019 go?

Every January I look at the year ahead and think how much time there is in this fresh new year and then every December I think “where did the year go?” Here we are in the closing month of the second decade of the 2000s and I am thinking that once again. I can’t believe 2019 came and went so fast!

This was another great year for me in the Soul Mate family. The second Universe Chronicles book, Tracking Shadows, was released in September and continues the story of the superpowered people in the governmental agency known as Universe. This time it is the head of the Richmond office, Quillan Hardis, who has to protect a shadow manipulator when she wants to defect from the rival agency and join Universe. Of course nothing is that simple in the world of Universe and soon they find themselves on the run, from enemies…and from their hearts. I am working on edits for book #3 and I hope that you are enjoying this series as much as I am enjoying writing it for Soul Mate.

This is a perfect time of year to reflect back over the year. All in all, I had a good year. I have so much to be grateful for. Every small challenge that I face is just that – small – in the grand scheme of things. I am quite fortunate to be able to do this thing that I love, and also a full time job at the same time. It is truly the best of both worlds. I am also grateful to the people I have gotten to know in the last few years, both face-to-face and in the virtual world, who have made this writing journey special. I wouldn’t be able to continue without all of you!

There were years when I didn’t write, even though I said I was a writer. I would procrastinate because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I kept up my membership to Romance Writers of America, but I wasn’t actively writing. I would look at meetings for my local chapter, Los Angeles Romance Authors, and figure that nobody there would want to meet me because they were all serious writers and I couldn’t get it together. One day I just woke up and said “choose something, and start.” That was going on six years now, and I’ve never looked back. Shortly after I self-published my first book, I joined LARA in 2014. I found, to my surprise, that many of them faced those same fears of self-doubt that I did. Who knew? They were all serious writers, just as I was, but many had the same doubts and insecurities. From that point forward, I didn’t look back. This year will be my fifth year of Board service for Los Angeles Romance Authors, the last two as President.  I still face those same insecurities and doubts, the mornings when I wake up thinking “why bother, who wants to read my stuff anyway” are fewer, but they are still there. I just don’t let them rule me as I once did.

To all of you who read this space, thank you for being a part of this journey. I am expecting great things from each and every one of us in the new year and I hope that some of you will share your voyage with me. I would love to hear from all of you!

Have a happy holiday season and best wishes for a great 2020!

Claire Davon

Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits. Her novels can be found in the paranormal romance and contemporary romance sections, while her short stories run the gamut. If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine. Claire can be found at:

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What's Your Core Story?

By Jeanine Englert

I still remember when a person first asked me this years ago: “What’s your core story?” What? I remember blinking back at them full of the wild panic of knowing I had no idea what they meant and being painfully aware that I should know. I had a masters degree in writing. Why didn’t I know what a core story was?

It wasn’t until I listened to a 2017 Romance Writers of America workshop recording by Jayne Ann Krentz that I understood what a core story was. She explained how your core story was the same natural center or core you know by heart and write in each story without even really realizing it. It took me about seven manuscripts before I finally figured out my core story, that common thread that keeps being retold, in each book I write. It’s the thread that exists in the WIPs I’m writing even now. All of my stories revolve around themes of redemption and self-acceptance and that is my core story. Why? After some soul searching, I realized it’s because it is what I struggle with the most myself. And I always have. I just didn’t have a name for it.

Jayne Krentz’s Workshop from the 2017 Conference Recordings About Core Story

Even now when I think of the books, movies, and television shows I’ve been most drawn to, many of the heroes and heroines fall into those core story buckets as well. Now that I’m working on books eight, nine, and ten (I have envy for those writers who can write just one book at a time), I’m still writing around that same core story. And with every book, I find myself learning more about how my characters and how they (and I) can continue to work on gaining self-acceptance and personal redemption.

 If you haven’t realized your core story, I challenge you to do so. It’s a great way to know the story you could tell in any world you create. Discovering your core story feels like putting your bare toes in warm sand and wiggling them around. You feel safer, stronger, and more settled into the very words you write.

 So, take a minute and look at your body of work? What core story do you create time and time again?

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

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.

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The Beginning of the End

NaNoWriMo is coming to an end as I write my last SMP Author Blog post of 2019. But this year, I didn’t participate. Instead, I continued with my Happy 100s Facebook Group, and to date, I’ve logged 20,653 words on my work in progress since November 1! It’s also my first contemporary romance/women’s fiction novel. I hope to have the first draft done by mid winter 2020!

I find this laid back group, with minimal internal communications and no pressure other than to write 100 words per day, has enabled me do more than any year I did particpate in NaNo. Most often, I’ve been able to write more because once I get going, the creative instinct kicks in. We’re also able to count editing (at a reduced word count) in our totals, which is great since re reading what I wrote last helps me get into the mood to go further.

I have also found that I needed to limit my participation in other online writing groups because the distraction increases my procrastination and eats up the limited time I have to write due to work, family, and other commitments. So I apologize if I haven’t been active, but rest assured I am very well.

If you’re read my past blogs, you know I’ve been battling writer’s block for more than a year so the fact that my creative instincts have returned is a huge victory, no matter what the word count. And I’ve even got a start on my next project, which will be the fourth book in the Unfinished Business series.

So I wish you all happy writing and reading in the new year and look forward to sharing more good news!


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How My Writing Has Evolved Over The Last Decade


As I was doing my self-edits for Book 3, I was really struck by how my writing process has evolved over the last ten years, when I first was getting serious about writing. I wanted to spend a moment to consider these changes, especially since we are about to trip into a new decade.

When I was in my writing program in college, “pantsing” was the most acceptable way to write a story. Most of my classmates dove into a blank computer screen with no plan, no real idea what was going to come out. So I did the same. At most, I carried the seed of an image in my mind. But I often tripped my way through a story, figuring it out as I went along.

When I wrote my very first book (A YA sci-fi/dystopian Frankenstein retelling), I tried to write the same way as I did in college. No real plan, just a seed of an idea and the open blank page before me. My dystopian quickly stalled out at chapter 3, when my main character (in the middle of an apocalypse, mind you) sat to watch the sun set by a burbling brook and ate chocolate chip cookies.

Yeah. Gag.

I quickly realized that “pantsing” was not going to work for me.

My solution was to start researching how to plot. I found a method that intrigued me as it dove into how to develop character arcs as well as plot, which was good for a beginner writer. Meanwhile, I learned and learned and learned everything I possibly could about craft. I restarted my Frankenstein book and finished.

Honestly, I don’t think the book was all that bad. I mean, the voice wasn’t great at all. But it wasn’t terrible for a beginner. I even managed to write a dual POV (which is pretty hard for a first-timer).

Fast forward past another project, to when I started writing WHEN PLANETS FALL. I still stuck to my found method, but I started to not need every single step. The process became more intuitive for me. Even after finishing the book, I could tell something wasn’t quite right about it, but I managed to sell it anyway.

After checking with my editor, I realized my gut was right. I still had to do some heavy revising and added 20k. I got better at working in multi-POV and balancing plot and character arcs and felt that first true joy of seeing how a book can become bigger than you intended it. That feeling is like drinking magic.

Book 2 was a mess. I drafted it before Book 1 sold, and basically had to start from scratch because the story was no longer working. But that’s the thing–I could feel that the story wasn’t going to work. I began to learn to trust my intuition. I outlined and plotted far more than I ever had before, but still left room for surprises along the way. I also had more revisions than I ever had before to try to find my way out of the mess. No way was I gonna do that again!

Book 3 I did something completely different. I spent months on an outline. And then I created a skeleton draft. It was 20k when I was done, but I had enough of the story to work out a lot of the problems ahead of time. Most of my moments of intuition came here, as I reworked and reworked the plot on a mini scale.

Drafting was more boring than usual, since I managed to take out the most surprises, but went faster than I ever had before. I still have yet to receive my editor feedback, but so far I feel really good about the draft.

I know that in the future I’ll spend way more time planning and outlining than I have in the past. It works way better for me and allows me to carry more complicated stories with less major overall.

It’s been fascinating to see how I’ve slowly moved from pantsing to planning so much as to have a mini book before I officially draft. Not only that, but I’ve grown in trusting my intuition and to trust my own story.

This wasn’t a process that evolved over night. It’s been 7 completely drafted projects and 2 half-drafted projects, spread over 8 years. (A solid decade if you include college and all those projects).

Who knows how much my craft will evolve in another decade!

How about you? How have you seen your writing evolve over the last decade?

abby-j-reed-headshot-smilingABOUT ABBY:
Abby J. Reed writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels that ask what if.She has a degree in English Writing and is drawn to characters with physical limitations due to her own neurological disorder called Chronic Migraine. Her second novel, WHEN DREAMERS FALL, will be published May 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing.

Abby lives in Colorado with her husband and two fluffy pups. If her hands aren’t on the keyboard, they are stained purple and blue with paint. Find her online at

When Dreamers Fall ebook cover 505x825

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Antagonists: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This blog post is for the writers in the group, but readers, too, can relate because it is about one element that appears in most books: the antagonist. I recently attended a seminar called Writing on the Dark Side. The importance of the antagonist—just part of the presentation— is what I want to share.

First, let’s give the word antagonist a simple definition: an antagonist is someone who makes the hero change. In a romance novel, an antagonist might simply be the heroine. But my favorite antagonists are darker, often the hero’s opposite, so let’s look at those.

An anti-hero is someone who does bad things for good reasons. He may or may not be redeemable, but we often want to root for him because we may agree with what he’s doing. Anti-heroes are morally ambiguous and they generally have a wound in their background that has made them the way they are. As writers, we must remember to include backstory for the anti-hero so readers can decide if he’s a good guy or not.

Next is the villain, someone who wants to “do in” the hero even if it means putting other people in peril. We generally want to see the villain defeated. Villains have goals, are motivated, and don’t want people to stand in their way. They don’t give up. The more things that get in the villain’s way, the more they want to reach their goal.

The third is a monster and monsters are—well—just monsters. Bad to the bone and probably ugly. Monsters are menacing and hard to relate to. Monsters pose threats and people are scared of things they can’t relate to or understand. Battling monsters is bloody, violent, and usually ends with destruction.

Sometimes the hero is his own antagonist. He has an inner demon that must be overcome to make him whole. Sometimes these inner demons bring the hero to the edge of disaster, but he fights them and in doing so, he changes.

Writing a good anti-hero is crucial to any story. It brings conflict, tension, and change. If you want your hero to grow, you need an antagonist to help him get there, whether he is an anti-hero, villain, or monster.

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