Dragged Off Course

ChopperI released a new novel on April 1st of this year and was fired up and well into another. My goal is to turn out three novels this year . . .

Then, tragedy struck.

Our ten-year-old Boston Terrier, Chopper, fell off my daughter’s bed this past Saturday morning. He was experiencing a seizure. Although he recovered somewhat, he remained wobbly and confused . . .

He was still eating and drinking, all bodily functions normal (with support to keep him upright). But after he showed no real improvement, we took him to an Emergency clinic on Monday morning (why does this stuff always happen on a holiday weekend???). The vet found that his ears were inflamed and nasty. We hoped it was an inner ear infection and put him on antibiotics.

They warned us it could be something much, much more serious.

Sadly, less than 36 hours later, our little boy died peacefully in his sleep at my husband’s feet, in the same place he’d always loved to sleep since he was a pup. He most likely succumbed to a brain tumor.

Creative muses aren’t big on big emotionally taxing events like this. Mine is a freaking wimp. Even though I write ghost stories, and truly believe in an existence beyond this one, my muse flew the coop. She’s gone, the bitch. Kaput. Sayonara. I haven’t been able to write a word since the weekend.

So, pardon me, Soulies, if this is a short, sad, and not-so-enlightening blog post today. I came home from work yesterday to the task of laying our beloved furbaby to rest in our backyard. My grief is one thing, but my husband’s grief is excruciating.

I still work, and my husband is retired – home alone all day long. Chopper was his baby. His buddy. His bestie. His grief is all-consuming.

He swears “no more pets.” We all know better. So, I’m on the lookout for a potential Chopper II. Mini Boston Terrier, male. Has to come home to us at 8-9 weeks, like Chopper did. So he can bond with his new daddy.

Maybe after I heal the hole in our hearts with a new pup, my muse will consider returning . . .

I can only hope.


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What’s in the Garden?

Palais de Versailles

Sunlight filled the palace’s cavity, shimmereing on the decorative gold moldings. A distant sound, barely perceptible, echoed. Marie Antoinette, in her flimsy nightdress, caught her breath. What could that be? The sound came again.

Secret column

She looked around, she saw no one, nothing, but for her reflection. Tall mirrors, short mirrors, wide mirrors, all framed in glittering gold. Her widened eyes caught the light as she turned to the sound. The sound of a muffled laugh. She bit her lip. But there was no one there. She called, “Hallo, hallo . . .” She walked toward the sound. It bounced off all the hard surfaces, mirror, wood, moldings, it got louder. She clasped her hands over her ears, but the sound boomed like she had an ear trumpet. Her nightdress caught at the bottom of the column, she fell forward and stumbled then gathered herself up, her heart pounding too many beats.

There it was, the laugh, coming from the column. She put her ear to it. Nothing. She swallowed her fear and slid her hand over the column’s edges. There it was again, that muffled laugh. Bang, a door smashed open right in front of Marie’s face. “Yikes.” Out popped her husband, a small jeweled box in his hand, he in his night dress, void of his powdered wig, lean of build, just the right size to squeeze into the boxy column.

She gasped, her hand over her heart, “Oh Louis, I will whip you for this.” He stuck out his hand and grabbed hers. He pulled her to him, so close their lips almost touched.

“My sweet wife, how could you be so crass? Might my peace offering dissuade you?”

She pulled away from his hold and held out her hand for the jeweled box.

He placed it in her palm and she looked inside. A fresh chocolate from Paris. “Yes, I can be dissuaded.”

“But wait my darling, can you save the delicacy for later?”

“If I must . . .”

His gaze lingered on her lush lips. “Marie, did you remember this day? It is the yearly celebration of our marriage. Will you permit me to take you to our garden? Something unexpected waits for you there.”

Marie glanced with apprehension at Louis. Her mouth was dry. “What would you like to have then, Louis?”

He tilted his head to one side and offered a smile that reached his eyes. “I would like to have you say yes.”

“This one time Louis, I will be what it is you like.”

When they got to the garden, four puppies jumped and greeted Maria. “Is this my anniversary present, Louis?”

“It is my darling, are you pleased?”

Marie wrapped one arm around Louis, and with her other arm, she held one of the pups. Her eyes glistened and as a tear escaped, she kissed her husband and whispered thank you in his ear.

Corgi puppies

Princess and her puppies


A brief history of Versailles from Wikipedia:

The Palace of Versailles or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles.

When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.

A work of art


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Swoon Worthy Romance

Every writer wants to improve their craft – to make the words sing, to pierce the heart of a reader with poetry that will live with them forever… umm, moving on. So I imagine every writer is also a reader of books that offer tips to improve writing. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting with a an earth shattering idea, or a veteran with an Amazon page so full you need the scroll button. There is a how-to book for every stage. But there are so many how to write books, and most will offer advice that worked for them but you know it doesn’t work for you, or it tells you something you know is just wrong, or mentions that you are not a real writer until you have written a million words.

Sigh. Pass the chocolate.

However, I recently found a book written for romance writers, and found it of great use. It also has glowing reviews, so I am not the only one who liked it. It is:

“How to Write a Swoon-Worthy Sweet Romance Novel” by Victorine E. Lieske. (Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07BT526JC/)

How does it differ? Well, the author is a best seller of contemporary clean romance. The structure of the book is also quite different – she takes one of her successful books, and basically dissects it bit by bit, explaining what and why she did as she goes through the scenes.

What were the best parts? I wrote three pages of notes, but the main features were:

  • The ten stages of intimacy – and relating them to word count and relationship development. She discusses the difference between physical and emotional intimacy, and how to use them.
  • The plot basics – adhesion, or pushing the characters together externally, while internal issues push them apart. She really analyses the romance genre and plot basics, and it is easy to pick up writing tips that you can start using immediately.
  • She also provides a great list of romance plot tropes at the end. This may seem counter productive – every novel should be new and fresh right? But using tropes provides an easy marketing tool (think blurb one liners), and also places your book right into a ready market of readers who like that storyline. Different tropes can be combined to change it up, such as rich and poor with celebrity, which is the plot of her book example.

I found this to be a refreshingly written and useful book. My current work is a contemporary romance set in the Australian outback, which is a big change from my normal historical fantasy and scifi! As a result of the advice, I have started using body language instead of head hopping, which was a major problem in my writing. The intimacy levels and emotional reveals are also great for pacing the action – I moved a rather raunchy dream sequence to later in the book, where it sits much better.

So I recommend this book, and would love to hear if anyone else has found it useful.

About Cindy

Cindy Tomamichel is a first time SMP author, with her novel Druid’s Portal the first in a series of time travel romance set in Roman Britain.

Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building. Her Instagram account is devoted to tranquil scenes of nature and flowers.

Contact Cindy on

Website: http://www.cindytomamichel.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CindyTomamichelAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CindyTomamichel

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16194822.Cindy_Tomamichel

Pinterest:  https://au.pinterest.com/cindytomamichel/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cindytomamichel/

Amazon: https://amazon.com/author/cindytomamichel

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments

New Uses for Old Books

I’m a book fan. The hold-in-my-hand, smell-the-musty page, pile-on-the-nightstand kind of book. I find bookstores dangerous because I can’t pull myself away without buying several new titles.

My conundrum—what do I do with all my leftover books? Yes, I’ve given away favorite reads to friends, family and coworkers. I’ve handed others over to second-hand bookstores. But sometimes I can’t find anyone interested in adopting my old books, nor do I always have the time or desire to drive into town to dump off another load of books for recycling.

I’ve used vintage books recently in decor set ups I designed for clients and realized there must be additional ways to repurpose my closetful of old books. Because I would never, ever throw a book in the trash. Eeek!

I’ve listed a few ideas below (use the internet for detailed instructions and tutorials).

  1. Cut out the middle section of a book and use to stash keepsakes, coins, etc.
  2. Create a book tree by arranging books in a circle and building upward.
  3. Construct a unique book lamp (or side table) by drilling holes in the center of books and sliding over the lamp post or table spindle.
  4. Craft a garland, mobile or wreath by reusing pages from old books.
  5. Frame a favorite chapter or verse from a novel or book of poetry. Place it on your mantel or nightstand, or consider giving as an inspirational gift to a friend.
  6. Use individual pages as wrapping paper for small gifts.
  7. Cover old trunks or a headboard with pages and then cover with a clear lacquer.
  8. Inviting a fellow book-lover over for dinner? Create some nifty placemats by arranging pages on a thin sheet of plastic and laminating.
  9. Display memorable pages in frames and arrange on the wall along with a gallery of mementoes and family photos.
  10. Put your crafty side to work by constructing paper lanterns from book pages, and securing them in place with paper mâche. Insert LED tea lights and place on your patio.

Have fun recycling and re-using your books and feel free to share any additional ideas as I’d love to try them!

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The Goddess Speaks, or, Why I Write – Elle Hill


Not a goddess per se, but close enough.

As writers, we sometimes feel like gods. Not just of our make-believe worlds — where we decide on the parameters of existence and, if our characters and situations comply (as gods everywhere can attest, subjects don’t always do as they’re told), of the ebb and flow of action and feeling – but of this world we all inhabit. And isn’t that part of the seduction of writing? By decoding our worlds into paragraphs, sentences, words, and punctuation, we define the boundaries, decide how to interpret events, choose what matters and what doesn’t.

Our lived worlds aren’t neat or tidy. Single emotions are vast enough to inspire countless paintings, poems, and essays, and that’s just one component of our lives. Approximately 80 billion things are happening every single second. Living in this world and deciding how to navigate its vast complexities is difficult and often frustrating. From the time we’re children, we have to learn what to recognize and ignore, value and not, touch or look or eat. And all the while we categorize and catalog, trying to tear into understandable, bite-sized chunks a world that lives and breathes and moves in glorious four-dimensionality.

Like a painter who captures a scene – emotionally, realistically, abstractly, multiply – we writers choose our frames for each literary moment. Similar to our painter, who decides which colors represent the reality, we choose our vocabulary, our words. And also like our painter, we exclude so much more than we include, and what we choose to frame and describe says just as much about us and our audience as it does the moment we are ostensibly describing. We decide what to mention and what not, what words will classify the messiness of each second into something we not only can understand but relate to. I am in awe of the grand power of words, how these lines and circles and bars can translate the chaos of one breathable moment into something that we all agree to pretend adequately represents a knowable reality.

In short, we writers transform the tangible into the intangible and, in so doing, play god in deciding which of the 80 billion sights, sounds, tastes, events, and feelings to use to paint our verbal picture. And what power resides therein! What power in telling ourselves and our audiences how to make sense of the vastness of being, both in our fictional and our lived worlds.

It’s good to be a god.

Posted in Author, Excerpts from Elle! | 8 Comments

The Unintended Consequences of Divorce

I thought I’d have a little fun today. So many serious things to contend with. I decided to whip up a little recipe for laughter. Is there anything funnier than life?

All of us have experienced the devastation (sometimes joy) of a friend’s divorce.  We’ve watched with vicarious amazement as demonstrative, profound, undying love suddenly transforms into the hissing, vituperative viper, of disdain and hatred.  People are mutable, particularly within the emotional realm of who did what and to whom.  They say, “know thy enemies”, but I contend it is far better to “choose thy partners well”.  For many people the happiest day of life is not when they got married, but when their divorce was final.  Battle-scarred they emerge from the divorce arena wary, but wiser (one hopes).  Only time and distance can blur the lines that were drawn in the sand when two titans clash.

One of my friends several years back lived through her personal slice-of-Hell divorce that left her financially comfortable and free as a newborn Monarch butterfly of its cocoon.  She embraced her new-found identity swearing never to dip even a painted toenail in the unchartered waters of a new relationship. Even dating was taboo as she had become the world’s biggest proponent since Greta Garbo of “I vant to be alone.”  I listened to her propound in rhapsodic flights of fancy the sanctity of inner peace and the contentment of “no strings attached”.  Naturally, after many months of self-imposed isolation and endless lunches with “the girls” the thrill, as they say, wore off.  Standing at the kitchen counter in pajamas devouring leftover lasagna and brain deadened by the inane reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (she would have been better off watching First Blood), was perhaps not the surest path to nirvana. The revelation that heaven was not to be found at the bottom of a burnt lasagna pan, or that Forest Gump’s cliché “life is (definitely not) a box of chocolates” was for her an earthshaking moment of truth. What to do?  What to do?

So, let the fun begin… my femme fatale friend was off and running.  Naturally, being an avid listener and never one to lack an opinion, I became the joyful recipient of the tales of courtship that did or mostly didn’t ensue.  First, there were the “ghosts of boyfriend’s past”.  What a mistake that was, like trying to resurrect the dead, or fending off mad, hungry, I got you now, Zombies. Some things are better left in the hazy mists of memory, youth, and drink, rather than exposed to the harsh realities of cognizance and the elevated intolerance levels of an emancipated divorcee.

Next came the blind first date with a lawyer, recovering alcoholic, and self-congratulating member of AA, who confessed to being overcome with “love at first sight” feelings, fell off the wagon at their first dinner and got tanked. With fervent ardor, he repeatedly proposed marriage in such an assertive loud voice that half of a restaurant was perched on the edges of their seats eavesdropping as my friend slunk ever lower in her seat. All of us have experienced that particular wish at some point in our lives,  she was wishing she was capable of dematerialization.  In other words, “Quick, Scotty, beam me out of here!”

Never one to be flustered for too long, my girlfriend returned to her copacetic demeanor and marched forward, which led her to my particular favorite close encounter. Picture Skybox, Lakers game, fun, food, fix-up, friends and entertainment. Sounds good to me. We’ll just call this one “The Texter”.  Game over, she goes home (alone), and goes to bed thinking happy thoughts of sugar-plum fairies, and of future good times with “The Texter”.  The next day her “blind date” forwards her a strange text message from some guy she has never seen before. She sees a photo of a handsome, smiling black man, with the words, “Sorry I missed the game. It sounds like we had a Hell-of-a lot of fun last night. Maybe we can go to a game together some other time?”  What, you might sensibly ask is this all about? It seems our date, “The Texter”, in his anxiousness to communicate with his new love interest (my girlfriend), with fingers flying (I suspect reading glasses nowhere in sight), texted what a good time he had last night. Unfortunately, he misspoke, I mean miss-thumbed and reached a black homosexual gentleman, who immediately texted him back at midnight. Said, Cupid struck gentleman, was most eager to arrange a future date. Our “Texter”, now in a frenzy, responded with a text that he must have made a mistake and that the gentleman was not the intended recipient. It seems the texting recipient could not let it rest, as Cupid’s arrow had apparently struck his heart causing him to fall in love. He decided to take matters in hand and phoned to press his suit. I guess, after a long conversation in the middle of the night, the two men worked it out. Perhaps, even arranged a future tryst. At least our “Texter” had a wonderful sense of humor and shared the comedic situation. Otherwise, we would have missed this particularly titillating tale and the laughter it delivered. I’m certain there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this?

All good stories should have a happy ending, and far be it from this writer to diverge from that time-honored practice. Once more our heroine embarked on that enigmatic phenomenon known as the “blind date”.  This time sparks were flying, pheromones were filling the air, and the stage was set for seduction. The wine flowed, little bites were shared, and with effusive gushing, remarked upon with favor. When a cake arrived with sparklers twinkling brightly, it seemed only natural to partake in it. Our Romeo, thinking that their friends who had arranged the date, must have sent a cake to celebrate their meeting, immediately picked up his fork (they say muscles have memory) and began to feed his Juliet.  The perfect spell could only be broken by a voice from a neighboring table, uttering in astonishment, “Oh, look it’s their anniversary too!”

It seems they were eating someone else’s anniversary cake. Oh, the embarrassment.  What to do?  What to do?  Rather than confess the error of their ways (do not judge them), they decided “mum’s the word”, and continued to eat the cake feigning innocence.  The waiters, knowing the error of their ways, but loathe to confess, ran to the kitchen in a frenzy to procure another cake. Meanwhile, that same voice of a wife wondering where her cake was and why it was taking so long,

affection board broken broken hearted

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

continued to comment on what a coincidence it was that two tables next to each other were celebrating their anniversary.  The winds of fate, at least for one evening, had conspired to transform our romantic divorcees into one more happily married couple…?

To be continued…

Posted in Belle's Best Bytes, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Writing Through Stress – Part Two

I hoped I’d have better news for you since the last time I posted. I mean, it’s been nearly two months.

Sadly, that’s not the case.

Still with the multi-family living situation. And to add to that, they are making me a grandma again at the end of the year. Which is all kinds of YAY! But at the same time, we all need our separate spaces. We know this. They know this. It’s not like they’re not trying, but…

Youngest graduates in two weeks, which is also a huge YAY, but these days leading up to it are full of stress and questions and things to be done. Plus… college stuff. Financial aid, paperwork, orientations…. (broken down cars, senior trips that take out the bank, graduation gifts)

Nothing has changed on the job front, except to say…well.. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been and that’s something. Don’t get me wrong, I love my day job. I love my coworkers. I’d love it even more if I could stay home to write full time again. Not much else has changed in my daily situation either, but it is what it is.

I was doing well with writing until about a month ago. I had been keeping up with my writing group’s 50/50 challenge (at least fifty words a day for fifty days) and I was feeling great about it.

And then, my mother-in-law passed away right before Mother’s Day. She was an awesome woman and someone I will always consider myself blessed to have known. I know a lot of people don’t get along or care for their inlaws, but I have never been in that category. She was always an ear to listen, the voice of reason, and the most loving grandmother. I feel blessed to have been by her side when she died. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

I haven’t written a word since.

What I need to explain is that my mother-in-law’s passing pretty much coincided with my mom’s death and when my dad began to fail the year prior. May is always a tough month for me.


My goal this weekend is to put words on the page. I’m at camp (technically at my sister’s since we decided not to put the camper up this weekend due to rain), and this is the most healing and relaxing place I know (besides the beach, but that’s another story). I have missed writing so very much. Writing is what I need and want to do. So. I will.

So yes, I will begin writing through the stress again and it will be awesome.

I hope to have a more positive post for you next time. But, just know, whatever trial you are facing, you are not alone.




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