ChuckWagon Poetry

A warm welcome to all of you reading my very first Tea with Tessa blog! When I discovered my date to blog was February 8th, I nearly keeled over, wondering how I could possibly compete with (a) a government shutdown; (b) the first day of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While February is proving to be a busy month, there’s something else going on, and it’s huge!  The Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas! During the last week in February, cowboy poets gather in this lovely west Texas town to recite poems they’ve written, and in many cases, entertain you with country music.  For those of you who remember Roy Rogers and The Songs of the Pioneers, you will feel as though you’ve gone back in time when you hear some of these groups perform. If you’re a fan of tasty coffee and homemade biscuits, you’ll need to drop by the ChuckWagon and eat breakfast at Poet’s Grove!

Coffee over campfire 4Alpine mural

In 2009 I attended my first Cowboy Poetry Gathering and was hooked. I’d made the decision to begin writing several years earlier but couldn’t settle on a setting for what would become my Dreamcatchers series. As a teacher, I was well aware that some students are what we term “experiential learners”- in other words, they need to experience something instead of just reading about it. Diagnosing myself as one of those types of learners, I packed up my car, and took a road trip to Alpine, Texas with two of my very adventuresome friends.

As the three of us interacted with the townspeople of Alpine, we discovered that Bonanza star, Dan Blocker,  once attended Sul Ross University- the college where this event takes place. Alpine boasts of this well-known actor, and his picture is on a mural in the center of town. We ate at Penny’s Diner, listening to the locals share stories of their adventures on the outskirts of town. One guy laughed himself into oblivion telling us about a pig getting out of the truck during a delivery, forcing passengers to abandon the vehicle and chase down the prodigal hog. While my friends and I (city slickers from Dallas) listened to these adventures, it reminded us that rural life is often a simpler way of living; one where people look out for each other, going so far as to assist a friend whose pig got loose. You kinda hafta like someone to chase down their pig! If that little piggy was going to market, I don’t want to know about that.

Tessa's Office (2)Tessa's Cowboy Quilt (2)

So…what does a writer do when her brain is swirling with rural cowboy life where everyone saunters around with perfectly creased bluejeans, plaid shirts, cowboy boots and spurs? She rushes home to create an authentic setting for her books; a setting which includes that lit up, beautiful west Texas sky packed with stars; characters who take up for one another when tragedy strikes; and a plethora of memories that forever changes her outlook on life. And she totally remodels her office to capture memories of the cowboys she left behind.

Thanks for allowing me to stroll down memory lane and share the cowboy poetry experience. A huge thank you to SoulMate for publishing the first in the series, Last Chance Texas. The second in the series, Stars Over Texas will be released in April of 2018. Storms Over Texas will be released in the fall of 2018. To purchase copies of the book pictured below, go to
and search for it under “western fiction.”

American portrait of a young woman farmer Indian Summer

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Nurturing Our Book Babies

Crafting an entertaining romance is a lot like carrying and birthing a child. You plot and plan and practice. Before you know it, a fledgling manuscript is incubating in your head and, hopefully, on your computer screen.

Book Baby 2

You outline and schedule and ingest facts and watch your book baby develop.

You feed it with words, phrases, full paragraphs, and brilliant dialogue.

Somewhere, along the way, it takes on a life of its own. Just when you think it’s perfect, it gives you a swift kick to remind you something’s been forgotten.

chocolate pop 2You review everything you’ve done, wondering where you went wrong. The voices inside your head make you second guess yourself. Do I really want to do this? Is it too late to change my mind and start over? Can’t I just have a chocolate popsicle and go to bed? (Okay, maybe that was my way of dealing with both pregnancy and book edits.)

You do your best to get a good night’s sleep but you end up tossing and turning, never quite getting comfortable because that nagging little love scene keeps poking you and begging for revision.

Still you plot along. You rethink, revise, and polish, all the while waiting for that little bundle of words to fully develop.

23 Eye of the PharaohYour publisher showers you with a hard-earned contract. The cover artist creates a beautiful outfit for your book baby to wear in public. Your editor keeps reminding you … nobody gets it right the first time … let’s keep plugging away.

Before you know it, final galleys await your attention and you’re quickly closing in on the birth of your masterpiece. Just one more read-through!

Finally! Your book birthday has arrived and your baby is out in the world. The pains, and there have been many, were all worth it.

Friends and family rush to take a peek. Hopefully, a few strangers also want to enjoy the fruits of your labor and write complimentary missives about your brilliant nurturing skills.

You share your good fortune across social media, offering up excerpts, blurbs, and purchase links for everyone to see. The congratulations of your peers and kudos from your readers ring in your head like a pitch-perfect bell.

You can relax, kick back with a glass of wine, and say “I did it”! For a few days at least. Maybe, if you’re lucky, a week. Just enough time to rid your head of all those pesky research details you ingested during the gestation process.

siblingsThen, it’s back to the drawing board. Because readers can get impatient. And, as all authors know, your precious book baby will soon be clamoring for a sibling and you’ll be back at it again!

Until my next turn on the blog, keep the ideas flowing and the chocolate popsicles close at hand!


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Registration opens today for the RWA National Conference!

The Romance Writers of America® National Conference is an annual gathering of not only romance writers but of everyone involved in the magic of making books and engaging readers, from agents and editors to librarians and book bloggers. The conference is a wonderful chance for writers to network both professionally and personally. Some of my greatest writer friendships and opportunities have been found through RWA and the conference.

This year Nationals will be in the lovely city of Denver Colorado from July 18th through the 21st. I can hardly wait!RWA2018Logo

The days of the conference are packed with workshops, panels and publisher sponsored book signings, as well as special events and parties. As a fantasy romance author, I love going to the paranormal themed party and meeting other SFF geeks. No matter what you write, or where you are in your journey, there really is something for everyone at Nationals. There is even a special luncheon just for librarians.

In addition to all that the conference features two large events of note.

The first is a gala award ceremony to present the annual RITA

photo by Tom Smarch Photography

® Awards. These awards are kind of like the Grammys for romance novels, and the whole event is livestreamed so that even those who can’t attend can tune in. RWA also honors excellent unpublished works through the Golden Heart® contest. I was lucky enough to be a finalist in 2016 and it was quite a thrill to recognized that way.

The second key event is the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing.


photo by Tom Smarch Photography

Over 300 authors sign books with all the proceeds going to literacy organizations. This event is open to the public and usually draws quite a crowd celebrating the power of romance. I really enjoy this event, because before I was a writer, I was a reader and I still have my fangirl moments when I get the chance to meet a favorite author.

Just thinking about it all makes me excited to attend!

Will you be heading to Denver this summer? Or do you have a favorite writer or reader conference to recommend to me?

About Jaycee:JL_006

Jaycee Jarvis is a Golden Heart® finalist who writes lush fantasy novels with plenty of heart and magic. Her debut novel, TAXING COURTSHIP, is set to release in June 2018 by Soul Mate Publishing.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals. To learn more about Jaycee or her books, check out her website or other social media.



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Where do you story ideas come from?

This is, without a doubt, the most frequently asked question I get from readers, friends—even family! The answer? Many places.


Since I write romantic suspense—with ghosts in the mix—I’m always looking for news of supernatural events. I’m not just talking about movies and TV series. I have Google alerts set up for terms like “ghost sighting,” “hauntings,” and the like. There is also a wonderful website I discovered called Mysterious Universe that posts articles daily on a plethora of the unusual, from the bizarre to ancient mysteries to, yes, ghosts and hauntings. I’ve gleaned lots of information from this interesting site.

halloween-2691540_640My husband, who reads the local paper, keeps his eye out for any unusual article he thinks might interest me. Just this morning he handed me the February 2 edition of The Yankee Express. Under the heading, Tales from Beyond, there was an article about a haunted house right here in the state where I live—Massachusetts. Apparently, the young nanny to the original owners of what is called The Victorian in Gardner, MA died young, but her spirit never left. The ghost of a young woman in a long white gown wanders the home and has been seen by many. Other eerie events, such as doors slamming, foul odors, or even a lion’s roar that actually shakes the house have been reported.


A true haunting? Or Hollywood? Either way, reading articles such as these fuel my imagination for the next supernatural suspense.

The strangest way story ideas come to me, though, are through my dreams. Several months ago I was in the middle of working on my last work-in-progress when a completely different set of characters, in a different situation, played out in my head while I slept. I got up at 4 a.m. and typed out notes. Now, three months later, I have begun what will be my next book, Sirens of Salt.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you. How’s that for suspense?


So now I throw the question back at you, my fellow Soulies: where do your story ideas come from? What inspires you to create a particular set of characters facing a particular situation? I’d love to hear from you in comments!


Claire Gem is a multi-awarding author of five novels in the genres of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, & supernatural suspense. Her debut novel, PHANTOM TRACES, is available from SoulMate Publishing. Find out more about Claire at her Amazon Author Page,


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Hello from a new SMP author!

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be a member of the Soul Mate family! My name is Patti F. Smith and I live in the best city on earth—Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not coincidentally, my forthcoming book (August) is set here so you will get to “meet” the city, too!


Isn’t it lovely? Just a small section of our downtown at night!

I will tell you a little about myself—please tell me about yourself in the comments! I’d love to meet future readers!

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and went to a small, liberal arts college called Adrian College where I majored in Political Science and Communications. After graduating from University of Wisconsin Law School, I practiced legal aid for about eight years. During that time, I worked primarily with low income clients on family law matters. On a whim I began teaching political science as an adjunct at our local community college; it was there that I fell in love with teaching. For the past 12 years, I have been a special education teacher for students with visual impairments, learning disabilities, and now on the autism spectrum.

Ann Arbor Downtown Scene

Typical summer day in downtown!

In the past three years, I have had two local history books published. One is called Images of America: Downtown Ann Arbor and is available from The History Press or Amazon. The second is about our local food co-op and is available from the store. Next year, Forgotten Ann Arbor will be published by The History Press. In the meantime, I write or have written for many local publications such as the Ann Arbor Observer, The Ann, Concentrate/Metromode, the library’s Pulp arts blog, and Mittenbrew (craft beer is another passion of mine!). I serve on a variety of boards and groups in Ann Arbor, including as the board administrator of our food co-op, our Recreation Advisory Committee, and our Public Art Commission. I am also a volunteer with the A2 Ethics Bowl, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Storytellers Guild. I also organize a feminist spoken word night called HERsay and a night of readings by local authors called Grown Folks Reading.

My husband and I are very involved in our local condo community, one of the first planned communities in the area! We are so lucky to live in a wonderful community with wonderful neighbors.

me and ken

That’s me and Ken Anderson on our way to the Women’s March last year! Isn’t he cute?!

Wow, I’ve said more than I intended! Tell me about you!

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How To Find Joy In Your Writing After Deadline Burnout

Hi Everyone!

My name is Abby J. Reed. This is my first time posting at the SMP blog and I’m so happy to be here!

Here’s a couple quick things about me: My first book with SMP called WHEN PLANETS FALL debuted last year (for those who love darker Sci-Fi YA with a touch of romance). I love to paint, everything from watercolor portraits to abstract mixed media landscapes. I have two doodles, more children than pets, so if you’re a doodle fan, I’m your girl.

I also have a neurological disorder called Chronic/Status Migraine, which has heavily influenced my writing. So, if you wanna talk about disability, art, or migraines, hit me up! (I’m currently way more active on Instagram and email than anywhere else.)

Alright, lets dive in.


Having a book published last year with SMP taught me one major thing—editing is not the same as creating. Reshaping a sandcastle under a deadline is vastly different than building a brand new one for the fun of it.

Normally when I work on a project, I spend months dreaming and thinking about it. A good month researching, a couple weeks plotting and letting it grow. By the time I sit down to draft new words, I have a solid outline and good idea of where it’s headed. I let it sit, maybe work on line edits on another project, then come back to the draft to do a round of editing.

This way of writing means I definitely don’t create new words every day. And it worked . . . until I had deadlines and a debut published and signed for the series and, well, BURNOUT. We all know what creating is like what you’re burned out, fried, dead.

I needed to bring some life back into my writing life as I work on the sequel to WHEN PLANETS FALL. I needed to have the joy of pure creation again. So this year, I decided to change up my writing process to bring back some life. Not on my contracted series. But on a completely random, different project that’s not even in the same genre.

So what’s different?

No outline, no research, just jumping straight in. New words. Every day. Sometimes, after my contracted SMP work, I’ll write 250 words. Sometimes literally 1. Sometimes 900. Some days I’ll jump to a future fiction project that I had an idea for and just want to capture it. Whatever. It all counts.

All new words. No pressure.

And it’s so so freeing.


I don’t count these words as my official “word count” or “writing time” because it’s free creation time. No boundaries. No rules. I love being able to wake up and think “what do I feel like saying today?” and not having any pressure.

Will it shake up to be anything? Eh. I dunno. I don’t even know what this project is about yet. Maybe it’ll morph into three different projects entirely!

But I honestly don’t care.

I’m creating again. Really, truly creating. I love it. I’ve got joy again. It’s like I stuck my brain straight into an outlet and fried the listlessness away.

So far, I’ve done this new-word-thing every single day in 2018. What’s more fun, when I look back each week, the word count is slowly rising. I’m opening up a piggy bank I unconsciously dumped change into and finding a free hundred bucks.

This new joy has carried me through the harder bits of revising book 2, and I plan to continue this until I turn book 2 in. Then we’ll see what I need next 🙂

What about you? Have ever changed up your writing process to reenergize yourself?

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 debut novel, WHEN PLANETS FALL published in April 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing.

WHEN PLANETS FALLAbby 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

Posted in Absolutely Abby!, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing, Young Adult Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Marisa Makes Memories

A change of scenery can do a writer good. Better than a vacation, a pilgrimage and an immersion into a new culture can spark creativity and sharpen the senses.

flower peacefulThis was the case for me this month when I traveled to the southwestern coast of India. My journey took me 8000 miles and half way around the world to the state of Kerala, along one of the ancient trade routes boarding the Arabian Sea, where I visited ancient Hindu temples seeking to improve my state of consciousness. To find my Zen.

Because an author’s primary goal is to immerse the reader into the story, the ability to transport them into our scenes via our descriptive prose is paramount to reader satisfaction. The more realistic the writing, the


Lagon Boat at Sunset

better the reader experience. That’s why I was excited to start my “Eat, Pray, Love” bucket travel list with a trip to India that would add spice to my life and my writing.

As a young girl, traveling abroad started at age four with a transatlantic voyage to visit my Norwegian grandparents. This was the beginning of a love for adventure, planted in my psyche at an early age. That seed was nurtured and grew throughout my primary years as I was able to travel through much of Europe before I graduated college.

But then marriage and children quickly followed, where most of my adventures came from reading stories from my favorite romance authors and then when I became a writer, through my own vivid imagination. So when an opportunity to take a pilgrimage to India this January was made possible after overcoming many obstacles, I was ready to have my passport stamped once again and to see the world through a new lens.


StreetMy passage to India was life changing in the most positive of ways. Wiping out some bad karma and leaving behind old wounds, were keys to reincarnating myself back in the US as a more enlightened writer.  With a new three book series in the works, one framed in mid-nineteenth century India, I am so fortunate to have tactical experiences to draw from as I write.

Of course, travel to foreign lands can be prohibitive for so many reasons, but if the universe aligns in the right way and you have a chance to take the road less traveled as a writer or a reader, I highly recommend it.

Cindy and Marisa in Sarees           Namaste!


Marisa Dillon’s new release, The Golden Rose of Scotland, is book II in the Ladies of Lore Series from Soul Mate Publishing.  You can connect with Marisa through these channels:



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