What is Love? – Elle Hill

how know love
There I was, innocently scrolling through my Facebook feed, when a black and white meme ensnared me. “How do you know you love someone?” it asked in deceptively casual font.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit my academic brain jumped in before my romantic nature could yawn itself into coherence. I started pondering chemicals that produce a flush of affection and mimic addiction. Something a little like this head-over-heels-romantic ditty.

Yeah, nerds got game.

I actually kind of tackled this topic in my Sociology of Family class a few weeks ago, when we discussed the social nature of intimacy. According to sociologists Hammond, Cheney, and Pearsey, a truly reciprocal love emerges from mutual vulnerability. Only when a couple (romantic or not) develops trust through mutual disclosure, vulnerability, and support, our sociologists say, can love blossom.

And everyone’s favorite psychologist, Maslow, posits we love others according to how much they fill the psychological gaps left from our childhood. In other words, our love partners are the concrete that smooths over our emotional potholes. This gives the classic line from Jerry Maguire – “You complete me” – a whole new meaning.

By then, of course, my romantic self had awakened with its trademark dewy sigh. Surely I should write something about the brush of fingers through hair, about the comfort and safety of burying your face in your partner’s shoulder, about the feel of their breath in your mouth, about how meeting someone you love allows not for a merger of two into one but an expansion of each into a bigger, better, more rounded version of self.

But, you know, I am me, both nerdy academic and starry-eyed romantic. In the end, I wrote something true to who I am: 

For me, love is valuing the well-being of the other, feeling affectionately for them, and being willing to act in their best interest. Love to me is the abstract term for the concrete enactment of compassion, empathy, and kindness. I love my students, my family, my spouse, my furkids, my coworkers. Loving almost seems to flow naturally from social interaction. Liking, though? Liking is way tougher.

In my latest, as yet unnamed, novel, my two love interests, Marin and Jack, have a conversation that perfectly reflects this philosophy:

“Marin, you love everyone,” Jack pointed out.
Marin nodded. Once she’d swallowed, she said, “I love humanity. I love people. But if you’re asking me if I’d have sex or build a relationship with just anyone, no, I wouldn’t. I love everyone, no matter their actions. I hurt for them and celebrate them. But I don’t want a romantic relationship with everyone, or just anyone. I have to like them, too. Love is easy; liking takes work and time.”   
Jack glanced across the room at Kaitlyn before meeting Marin’s eyes. “I like you,” Jack said quietly.
Marin’s smile outshone the brightest Arizona afternoon. “I like you, too, Jack.”

How do you define love?

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How Thick Does an Author’s Skin Need to Be

Every now and then, you wake up to what you think will be a good day. For an author, that would probably be a steamy mug of coffee, a quiet space to work in, and a full day in which to lose yourself in your characters and story. There you sit, with your fingers poised over the keyboard of your computer, ready to work on your latest and greatest work in progress. A smile graces your lips and you think, today I know exactly where I am going with this chapter. You’ve spent the night wrestling with twists, turns, and character revelations, and settled upon your course of action. And then (drum roll), and then you decide to peek at your reviews on Goodreads. What a bad idea that can be! You look, you squint, your heart skips a couple of beats, and you feel your stomach sink. There it is, impossible to deny, that dreaded one or two-star review. You feel sick, not only from the standpoint of your ego but because you allow the review to get under your skin. That one or two-star review can literally rip your guts out and reduce you into a babbling idiot. You vanish, poof, and all that remains of the confident author are your insecurities and self-doubts. Forget brilliant prose and those dreams of readers clamoring to read your efforts. Even if you simultaneously receive a five-star review, it is the one or two star that casts its pall squelching your creativity. You’re back in grade school or high school, and that class bully or bitchy girl has singled you out to bear the brunt of their own frustrations and inadequacies.

You ask yourself the question that begs for an answer, why is it that the person who hates your efforts is the one that feels the necessity to expound the most? Even, when they might not have finished your book. They take pen or computer, pounding the keyboard, and rant and rave until it’s a wonder that they just don’t explode from their hypertensive efforts. It’s almost as if every inequity known to man has somehow been conveyed in the pages of your book. Please, just take a breath, it’s a novel; not everything conforms to your sensibilities. There isn’t always a happy ending, not for you, not for me, and certainly not in a book.

It’s times like these that an author would do well to grow a thick skin, perhaps something like that of a rhinoceros, or better yet a porcupine. Something that protects from the barbs, and sharpened teeth of a mad, frothing at the mouth, rabid reader. It’s funny the difference in people. I would never take the time to write a long, laborious scathing review. It would never occur to me. If a book is that bad I just move on, usually without a peep. I don’t hate the author or wish he or she ill will. Besides, my time is far too precious. I’d much prefer writing about the books that have moved me, informed me, opened doors for me, entertained me. Ah, but that’s what differentiates us, that is the difference between vanilla and chocolate. After all, that is all a review really is, one person’s opinion, and very often that person holds no special degree in literary criticism, do they?

I am reminded of what Kurt Vonnegut thought about the matter: “As for literary criticism in general; I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae, or a banana split.”

Now that I got that off my chest, it’s back to the computer and writing! But I must say a banana split does sound tempting.

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Belle Ami, Book Blurbs & Da Vinci by Stacy Hoff

Nights of Passion

Hello Passionate Readers! Today I have a treat for you—author Belle Ami!

Thank you Stacy Hoff and Nights of Passion for hosting me on your wonderful blog.

One of the hardest things for a writer to do is the dreaded blurb. How does one condense several hundred pages into a few paragraphs? How to capture the essence of a complicated story, your labor of love, and compel the reader to make that purchase? The “dreaded” blurb has the power to make or break a book. If you get it wrong, if you don’t capture the reader’s attention you’re toast.


The pressure is immense, and there can be no avoidance of the task, no getting around it, and no easy way out. In many ways writing the book is easier than writing the blurb. In the actual manuscript, there’s room for error, a bit slow here, a bit underwritten…

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Good Morning Soulies!

March 19 was officially the last day of winter. And March 20 was the beginning of Spring!

spring color WWT

Or so the calendar says….

I am not entirely convinced. The reason for my uncertainty is simple.

The weather.

I don’t know where everyone else lives but as a resident of Arkansas, I am continually surprised every morning I wake up. One day it will be warm and sunny, a nice 70+ degrees.


And the next, we are facing freezing rain and the chance of snow.


Shorts one day, heavy coats the next. It is enough to make your head spin. It does mine anyway.

Tall Teenage Girl With Hands In Pocket Wearing Short And T Shirt Clipart                                      arrow                        coat

And yet, despite the changes in weather, the grass is beginning to go from brown and drab to bright and green. Trees are starting to bud out and flowers are blooming.


My husband and one of our daughters even planted a garden.



Corn, squash, okra, and cucumbers.


Of course that was before the TONS of rain we received and the cold snap which followed. One that will most likely kill everything they planted. But I guess they jumped the gun.

Should have known better. We live in Arkansas after all. LOL!

Oh well, off to buy more seeds… Or at least they will when it warms up. And stays warm. Not sure when that will be but I can’t wait for it.

I am beyond ready for sunny days, light breezes, picnics in the park, playing baseball, riding bikes, and soaking up the sun.

So until then, I will take the days as they come. Warm, cold, dry, rainy. Whatever it brings I will embrace it, knowing that with each passing day, we are one more day closer to that sweet special time when the birds are singing and life seems to start anew.

Thanks for stopping by to read my post. I hope the weather is better where you are.

Be sure to check out the other posts by the amazing Soulmate authors!



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Rabbit Holes by Cari Davis

Once a month, I get together with a group of local writers to talk shop over coffee. It’s a great group of people of various backgrounds, various writing experience, and various genres. We exchange our knowledge of the craft, encourage each other through difficulties and challenges, and celebrate our triumphs. Mostly, we reaffirm that we’re not as crazy as our friends and families think . . . we’re writers!

Recently, one of my fellow writers asked me about researching for a story and how to know when enough is enough. Hmm. Is there ever library.jpgreally enough? I mean, I’m the kid that spent hours and hours roaming my local library looking up all sorts of information, getting lost in the rabbit hole of research just for fun. When I couldn’t go to the library, I’d scavenge through my parents’ encyclopedia set (this was before a thing called the internet came around). I am now known among family and friends as the Google Queen. I’m not sure I’m at all qualified to answer my friend’s question. Lol!

But most writers, whether they love research or hate it, find it necessary at some point during the writing process. Keeping it focused, organized, and under your control is key to not getting lost in it. So, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.

Tip# 1 –

rabbitRecognize that going down the rabbit hole of research can be an important part of the plotting process. I always allow at least some time to get caught up in a maze of research before I start writing a novel. (For the record, I’m part plotter and part pantser). You can find all sorts of fun and interesting things to include that you may never have known existed. You might also discover information that will ultimately become a foundation for your story.

For example, as I was developing the story idea of Fool’s Gold, I knew it would be set during the California Gold Rush. Everything I had ever learned about this time period involved wagon trains heading west over the untamed land that would eventually become the United States. However, my heroine wouldn’t be going to California. She needed to return from California to Louisiana. In researching the overland trails, I learned about the route through the Isthmus of Panama. Sending my characters on this path, set the stage for the rest of the plot to unfold.

Tip# 2 –

Don’t allow research to become your excuse to procrastinate. If you’re writing a historical romance set in Elizabethan London, you probably don’t need to be researching the Prohibition in the United States. If you’re writing a contemporary western romance, you probably don’t need to be researching the ancient culture of the Huns. Things like this tend to be a red flag that you’re procrastinating . . . not researching. If you find yourself looking up things that have nothing to do with your story . . . stop! Slowly, step away from the internet and don’t look back.

Tip# 3 –

Once you start writing, try not to stop for research. I know, sometimes, it’s unavoidable. One of the writers in the above mentioned group, has a scene where a pressure cooker explodes. The amount of damage that explosion would cause and whether or not it could blow out the windows affects how her story moves forward. This would be a time a writer should probably stop and find the answers. Usually, though, you can make a quick notation . . . highlight the section, add a comment in the margins, or use some other mark on the manuscript to allow you to come back to it, and then just keep writing. You don’t necessarily need to interrupt your muse to find out what kind of buttons would be on the hero’s overcoat or if the tree outside the heroine’s window should be an oak or a spruce.

Tip# 4 –

When you do go back to research the areas you marked, be efficient about it. Make a list of everything you need to look up. Decide how important it is to the overall story, keeping in mind that sometimes small things enrich a story in large ways. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the tree is an oak or a spruce, but adding that detail rather than just mentioning a generic tree definitely adds to the picture you’re painting in the readers mind.

Tip# 5 –

Don’t be afraid to contact an expert. It’s often the quickest way to get the most accurate information. Before I decided to write historicals, I had a romantic suspense percolating in my mind. It involved a missing persons case, but the only knowledge I had of police investigating a missing person came from movies, TV shows, and novels. So, I called the local police department. I explained who I was and why I was calling. Within a few hours, I received a call back from a detective who was very helpful and willing to answer all of my questions. I’ve also contacted museums, libraries, and university professors, and I have never once encountered an expert reluctant to talk to me.

Do you have any research tips or advice?

You can find Cari Davis at any of the links below:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Google+

Fool's Gold #16 Final 400x600

Fool’s Gold ~ Forged Hearts Book One

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, and Happy April Fools’ Day!!

I’m not one much for practical jokes on April Fools’ Day, but I think prank food that fools the eyes (but not the taste buds) is pretty clever! My favs are:

crispy treats and fruit roll-up “sushi”, mashed potato “vanilla ice cream” and gravy “caramel sauce” sundae, grilled cheese made from pound cake “bread” and melted chocolate “cheese”, and a baked potato shaped out of chocolate ice cream, covered in cocoa powder, topped with whipped cream “sour cream”, green sprinkle “chives”, yellow sprinkle “grated cheddar cheese”, and a melted Starburst “pad of butter”.

And here’s one for Easter – change out the chocolate eggs for grapes and re-wrap them in the foil. It’ll make for a healthy Easter egg hunt!

Have fun today with food that’s not what it seems. And if you’d like to read a romance with a twist of mistaken identity, you’ll enjoy Perfectly Honest. It’s the first book in the Perfectly Series and a fun romantic comedy about two doctors and a little white lie that spirals out of control.


Perfectly Honest (The Perfectly Series, Book 1)

You never know where your words will take you…

When Mikaela Finn agreed to be Sam’s ‘fiancée’ for a weekend, she probably should have told him that she’s a doctor. Sam O’Brien, aka ‘Dr. Eye Candy’, is trying to shed his playboy reputation and convince a small town hospital that he’s ready to settle down. But when his ‘fiancée’ helps deliver a baby in the middle of the meet and greet, it’s a bit of a shock. If he’d known the whole truth, he might have done things a little differently because somehow his ‘fiancée’ ends up stealing his job and his heart. Not exactly the change he wanted.

Linda O’Connor started writing a few years ago when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at the local home décor store. It turns out she loves writing romantic comedies and has a few more stories to tell. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic (well, even when she is writing she’s a physician, and it shows up in her stories 😀 ). She hangs out at www.lindaoconnor.net.

Laugh every day. Love every minute.

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Amazon Author Page |   Newsletter

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Writing Through Stress

Howdy, folks!

It’s my first time posting on here. I started thinking about what to post about the day I signed up, and up until a few minutes ago, I still had nothing. (and I just realized I totally missed my first scheduled day like an idiot. I thought it was the week after) Then, as I was waiting for my dog to do her business – which was really just an excuse to take a break from chaos – I had an epiphany.


We all have it to varying degrees. I feel like I am drowning in it. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Currently, I have an intensive day job that frequently leaves me feeling like my brain has been sucked out of my head by trolls (like a slurpy). I’m on the computer, with no less than three huge computer screens, for over eight hours a day. Add to that, our oldest, his wife, and our five-year old grandson are currently living here and have been since the beginning of the year. We raised four kids, but, trust me, becoming a co-parent, instead of a grandparent is rough. Also, loud piano “playing” that sometimes starts at 6am… (We need to get rid of that thing – the piano, not the grandkid) Our youngest is in her senior year of high school and we’re working on college visits, prom,  and the like. I’m the administrator for my dad’s estate – coordinating things with my four other siblings and the attorney. That’s just the highlights – trust me. If I made a complete list, you’d either roll your eyes and say I’m making it up, or you’d send the men in white coats over here. But the extent of my stress is not what I came here talk about.

What I came here to talk about is writing through the stress.

I’m trying. Some days are better than others – obviously, because that’s how life works. I’ve been struggling with this for a while now. A few years, to be honest, starting with the death of both of my parents one after the other (within ten months of each other) and then all of the fun stuff that happens after sudden and traumatic grief. And don’t forget the subsequent cleaning out of the family home – 55+ years of memories and things…mostly things.

Anyway. Here are a few things that have really helped me to focus and actually write.

  1. Journaling – taking a few minutes to write out my thoughts and stress helps to clear my head and allows me to release negative emotions and things I don’t want creeping onto the writing page. Yes, I actually write my journal by hand on purpose. It helps me to separate.
  2. Headphones – See the piano reference above. Plus, when they are in my ears, it’s a clear sign that I am working and people are less inclined to think they need to talk to me about things they don’t really need to talk to me about.
  3. Setting aside the same time each night to write. Routine helps a bunch. Knowing that at X-o’clock it will be writing time not only teaches the other people living here that I take my writing seriously and I’m not available to them, it also holds me accountable to myself.
  4. Staying in contact with my writing friends. They help keep me focused, bolster me, and offer a support you don’t get from anyone but other authors. Going to my RWA chapter meeting every month and then lunch gets me back in the right head space and motivates me.
  5. Walking. A walk does wonders to release stress. And walking with That Man gives us a chance to reconnect and gives me a chance to bounce weird story ideas off of him. He loves that. He really does. I’m not kidding.
  6. Changing locations – if things are too loud, or there’s too much going on in my normal writing space I will move instead of bagging the word count. Mostly, I just go to our room and shut the door. To add to that, the option for going away from the house to write is also there, but usually I don’t. Most places wouldn’t appreciate my hot pink sweatpants and fluffy slippers at nine at night. Though if I were ever home during the day, I would put jeans on and go if I felt I needed to.
  7. Sleep. I consistently fail at this. I either go to bed too late, can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep. I’m trying to adjust my schedule so I get better sleep, so stay tuned for that.
  8. Taking quality time away from everything. A coming up weekend away with my husband (in which I will write), even a night out with him, painting night with friends, even a quick trip to my sister’s to pick up something. The break and change of scenery are necessary to help refill the well.

I’m no expert at all. Life sometimes comes at us like a volcano in a hurricane. I’m sure there are a ton more things that could be on the list, but these are the things I actively use (except the sleep thing) to get the words on the page and focus on doing what I love.

Which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

So what helps you get through your life stress and put words on the page?





Posted in Soul Mate Publishing, The Heart of Victoria Smith | Tagged | 4 Comments