Writing in an Obscure Subgenre

Did anyone see Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in that old Zorro movie? It had action, sizzle, humor, and a happy ending. The setting was California before hordes of fortune-seekers descended on the land and changed it forever, before it became a state, before…well, just about everything we know about the place known for wine, sunshine, tech, and high-priced real estate today.

The time period known as California’s halcyon days came after Mexico gained independence from Spain and took over governing the eight hundred “hidalgos” or aristocrats who owned most of the land. Spain had already taken much of it away from the Native-Americans, leaving hidalgos with acreages that spanned over 40,000 acres minimum, with some reaching the 100,000-acre mark.

In California’s culture it was a time of vast cattle ranches producing hides and tallow for trade with ships from many countries. Lifestyles of the rich and famous—hidalgo style—included a lot of parties called fiestas, gambling with horse-racing at the top of the list, day-long barbecues with dancing, and devotion to their religion, mainly Catholicism. Young girls married as early as 14 and were strictly chaperoned and had little if no choice in who they would wed. The word of the patriarch of the family was law to the extent he could punish those who didn’t obey.

Young boys had tutors and girls usually did not. Schools came with the Americans when they invaded and declared California part of the United States in 1846, starting a war with Mexico that lasted about two years.

Why do I write in this obscure subgenre known mostly by those aficionados of old Zorro films and tv shows? It was a fascinating time full of change and contradictions, a time that can be compared to feudalism in Europe where hundreds of retainers worked for the liege and all of those things necessary for living were made or grown right on the property.

The “romance of old California” today is reflected in restored missions and architectural styles that had roots in Spain. But I’m not the only one interested in these times. Successful producer Shonda Rhimes is going to bring us back to this place—probably mostly old Los Angeles—when she airs Pico and Sepulveda, a new series on Netflix late this year or early next, and frankly I can hardly wait.

I love this time period. My first book, “Shadow of the Fox,” is set mostly in what today is Orange County, and my next book “Return of the Fox” comes out May 27 and is set mainly in Los Angeles. Both are steamy historical romances, but there’s a lot of history in the background. Are they about that masked (and heavily trade-marked) character of old? Absolutely not, even though the family shares the same last name, kind of like Smith or Jones in the U.S.

Why—you ask—do I write in this place and time if few others do? Maybe it’s because I majored in history and I love genealogy. These are my people. I’m giving validation to my ancestors, to my great great grandmother born in 1845 in Los Angeles and to another branch of the family whose progenitor walked to California with wife and baby in the 1860s from the interior of Mexico.

My “bread and butter” books are my Regencies. But these, the books of my Mission Belles series, are the books of my heart.

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Send a note, spread cheer, take a breath.

Old-fashioned, written words bring a smile to my face. How about yours? I’m blessed with the luxury of a combined writing office and craft room. For special notes, I use my card making station, below. The calming lake view helps during stressful times.

There’s room for two to create, and I’ll welcome company again soon. Hunkering down to customize birthday cards with die cuts and rubber stamps provides a diversion on rainy, chilly Pacific Northwest days.

Here’s a few recent birthday cards I put together; for my son and two friends. The critters on this card are a decent likeness to our furry family.

When I first met my friend, Jean, her mantra was that she provided a home for unwanted shoes-and she wears stiletto heels with pizzazz. As my city’s in shelter-in-place mode, the scrap paper with the plate carrying birds seemed appropriate.

‘Auntie’ Jeanette became our beloved vanny- nanny. She proudly assumed the role of my co-pilot and a perfect care giver to my toddler boys while we all drove to sales calls at local food service accounts. We both enjoyed the income. It’s been twenty-five years of friendship.

Spock handles inventory control and I appreciate his cheerful presence. He sits beside me whether I’m doing cards or writing, which I’m interspersing with gardening.

My third book, The Targeted Pawn, released on March 18th, so I’m polishing completed manuscripts to offer my editor and writing the biography of a 96 year old friend.

Whatever helps your imagination to blossom, I hope you carve out a few moments for recharging.

Happy trails, Sally

That gorgeous chestnut is my gelding, Lance, who turns 30 on May 7th.
Posted in Books, Contemporary Romance, Creativity, Friends, Inspiration, Readers, Simply Stated By Sally!, Soul Mate Publishing, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

5 Secrets to A Happier Self Isolation By Author Susan Hanniford Crowley


Photo Courtesy by Photerrestrial on Unsplash

I put up a photo of one of my favorite flowers. The other two are wisteria and peonies. In Connecticut, lilacs bloom late in May, so it’s something to look forward to when the coronavirus has passed us by.

Secret 1:
Self -Satisfaction – Make a long list of all the things you would like to do in your home. Choose only one or two things each day. For example, binge-watching your favorite show or movie series.  You might start a project and have all the pieces but didn’t put it together yet. I have a bracelet kit to put together. I would only pick a project where I already have everything I need. The goal is not to leave the house to get things.

Secret 2:
Love – If you have a beloved with you, this is the time. People are already saying that there will be babies nine months from now.

If you are alone, write emails or letters to friends. I know I still have fancy paper in a drawer. I used to love sealing them with a floral sticker. I was heavily into letter writing at one time. Email can be fun with photos, gifs, and stickers.

Secret 3:
Growing – Some friends are making gardens and even those tiny herb gardens for the kitchen. Others are taking online classes. I was going to start up where I left off in French lessons with Duolingo.

Secret 4:
Connecting but Practicing Social Distance- Social Media is the perfect way to socialize from a distance. In case you haven’t noticed a ton of conventions and conferences have canceled due to coronavirus. I was supposed to go to HELIOsphere in Tarrytown, NY next weekend but it canceled. Sad me. I am a cross-genre author fitting nicely into paranormal romance as well as science fiction and fantasy. More fantasy. Well, so many science fiction and fantasy fans were upset with all the cancellations, that they created Concellation 2020. It is a Facebook Group you join. You can unjoin when it ends. We are not sure when it will end. Laughs. Here it is, if you’re interested:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/concellation/  Interesting note: With over 17 thousand people online, Concellation now surpasses the attendance of any science fiction and fantasy conference ever. They have everything a regular conference has.

With social media, you have the opportunity to connect with family and friends. I also do Facetime with family. Connecting with others is vitally important to emotional wellness.

Secret 5:
Create A Plan:  A lot of us who also had a day job, find being home so long baffling. Decide what to do each day.
This is only a Sample Plan:
-Walk in your driveway, on your property, or around the neighborhood if you can avoid other people. Remember to stay 6 feet away.
-Call for Deliveries needed.
-Pick something from your self-satisfaction list. Do one or two.
-Watch something fun if you can before bed. Spend time contemplating, meditating, in prayer, writing in a journal, or reading a book.
– Sweet dreams

*Try and limit how much news of the coronavirus you watch. It can get depressing. Right now, it is important to stay home to be safe.

**On going out only if you have to: I, personally, wear a mask and vinyl gloves if I must go to the bank drive-through, drug store drive-through, or in the supermarket. I am also immune suppressed. I wash my hands a ton. Please, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Have a happier self-isolation for a healthier you when all this is done.  God Bless You and Stay Safe, Please.

Susan Hanniford Crowley
Note about the author: Susan has been married for 41 years, is a wife, mother, grandmother, and cancer warrior.
Vampire Princess of New York





Posted in Author, Creativity, Fantasy Romance, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Susan's Snippets! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

GUEST POST! How to Get Over a Bad Book Review, by Rebecca Neely

Please welcome Rebecca Neely! Beckie’s excellent article on dealing with the emotion –often difficult–following a bad review is invaluable to not only new and debut authors but seasoned authors as well.

Beckie, thanks for sharing!

How to Get Over a Bad Book Review: Nine DOs and DON’Ts for Authors

By Rebecca E. Neely

It doesn’t matter if you’re a brand new author, an old hand, or somewhere in between, you’re going to get bad reviews, and sometimes, despite your best ‘rising above it’ efforts, they’re going to get you down in a big, bad way.

And that’s okay. Nobody said being an author was easy. Acknowledging that is half the battle. The other is practicing mindful self care by way of some do’s and don’ts, straight from the trenches.

As a freelancer for twenty years, as well as an author for the last five, I’m not a newbie, but far from an old hand. I recently received a bad review and it had me running for cover, retreating like a turtle in its shell. Here’s how I got out of my funk.

A punch to the gut!

I saw ‘it’ first thing that morning before I’d even had my coffee. A lukewarm review of my book right next to another author’s glowing review — in an industry publication, no less. Not only did she receive the highest rating that could be had (which she absolutely deserved because she’s awesome), our books were in the same genre, and we were from the same publishing house.

Talk about in my face compare and despair. That’s not normally how I roll — in fact I reject that kind of negative thinking— but that day, it seemed inescapable, like all the stars were aligning to rub it in my face. My feelings were a mash up of misery. I was defensive, angry, humiliated, embarrassed, jealous, and sad. I actually felt sick, almost like I’d taken a punch to the gut.

My editor to the rescue

Ugh. As a freelancer, I’d developed what I thought of as a thick skin and have learned to distance myself from my writing when necessary. The client gets what the client wants. That attitude of taking things in stride, of not taking things personally, has helped me time and again as a freelancer, and enormously as an author. And most of the time I do a pretty good job at ‘distance.’

Not this time. I stewed over the review for a day. Cried. Pouted. Felt like crap. Here I was, thinking I was an experienced writer and that I was immune to such things. But it really hit me where I live. Even had me questioning my ability, and I’m ashamed to say, wondering if I should quit.

Looking back, I think it might have been a combination of things, all coming down on me at once. There had been a lot of changes happening at my day job, my book hadn’t been selling as well as I’d liked, I was in between stories and felt adrift. All of those things, along with that bad review, conspired to deliver a one-two punch when I was at my most vulnerable.

Clearly, an intervention was in order. I reached out to my editor a day later. She let me complain, offered support like only a fellow writer can, and listened. She asked me to send her the review so she could read it. Then she told me to pick out the best parts of it — turns out there actually were some — and she would include it in the monthly newsletter. I am deeply grateful for her, and how she helped me turn that big negative into a positive.

And, she offered this pearl of wisdom — if all the reviews for a book are great, it can come off as fake hype. In other words, sometimes a negative review can actually help balance the scales, if you will. Who’d thunk it?

Nine DOs and DON’Ts

Do — Let yourself feel bad, guilt free. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done. Psychologist and author Guy Winch says, “The greatest damage rejection causes is usually self-inflicted. Just when our self-esteem is hurting most, we go and damage it even further.” In other words, we become our own worst critic. Kick ourselves when we’re down. Remember that you did your best, you gave it your all, and a bad review is one blip on the screen of your writing career — not its sum total.

Don’t — Suffer in silence. Reach out to your fellow writers. I find other writers get you in a way non-writers don’t. They’ve been where you are. They’ll commiserate. So, go ahead, whine, complain, cry — do whatever you need to do to purge yourself of that negativity. Then let it go.

Do — Remind yourself this is a tough business and that it’s okay to feel bad every once in a while. You’re human and it’s normal to feel emotional about a project in which you’ve invested so much of yourself and your time.

Do — Remember a bad review is one person’s opinion. The end.

Do — Remember there are scores of famous authors who were rejected repeatedly. They’ve been where you are. Walked a mile in your moccasins.

Do — Read and reread the good reviews you’ve received. Remind yourself of the people you’ve inspired, entertained, and delighted with your work. I once had a reviewer tell me she wasn’t a big fan of romance, and, trapped in an airport during an ice storm, read one of my books and was converted. Now, that’s what I consider high praise.

Don’t — Engage in any way with the reviewer and/or post anything about it at all on social media. It may be tempting to lash out when you’re in a dark place. Don’t. It will come back to haunt you. You’re a professional. Act like one.

Don’t — Make any split decisions, or any decisions at all, about your writing or your writing career. According to Winch, studies show that rejection actually lowers our IQ temporarily, making thinking clearly a challenge.

Do — Get back to work.

Join the club — and keep writing

Keep writing. It’s advice I’ve given and received. Writers write. In spite of bad reviews. In spite of a hundred other obstacles, they keep writing.

Know your book isn’t for everyone. Can’t be. Shouldn’t be. No problem. You’re creating. You’re doing. Take pride in the fact you, and your words, are unique. And while you’re at it, foster an attitude of abundance. There’s enough, more than enough, for everyone.

And when you get another bad review — and trust me, you will — you’ll recognize that cavern of self pity and depression from a mile away and walk wide around it. Who knows? It might even give you a good laugh.

Either way, your bad review(s), a.k.a. war story, grants you admission into the seasoned authors club. I hear a lot of cool, brave, and creative people hang out there. Wear your badge with pride.

And keep writing.

This article originally appeared on Medium at:


Rebecca E. Neely is a freelancer, author, and voracious reader. She’s the mother of an almost adult and loves hearing the trains whistle as they chug through her small Western PA town. Her latest novel is The Betrayer, Book 3 in the Crossing Realms paranormal romance series.

Find Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaNeely1.


Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-E-Neely/e/B00PIONVOA

Website: www.rebeccaneely.com

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PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Posted in Blogstopping For Beckie!, Creativity, Motivation, Networking, Paranormal Romance, Perserverance, Social Media, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing career | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love in the Time of COVID-19 by Rebecca Heflin

As more stay-at-home orders are issued, and warnings of extended social distancing and isolation, it could become difficult to spend so much one-on-one time with our significant others, that we begin to take them for granted, or worse, become irritated with them in the close quarters. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and trying to apply some of these suggestions to my own stay-at-home situation.

Taking clues from romance novels, sometimes the most romantic pleasures are the simplest.

PicnicDate Night at Home. Date night doesn’t have to mean an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant. With the days getting longer it can be something as simple as a picnic dinner in the backyard. Grab a blanket, pack a hamper, and head outdoors! Or curl up on the couch for a movie and a bowl of popcorn. Set aside time to spend together without the distractions of devices, social media, and most of all, the news.

Take a walk. If permitted under your location’s stay-at-home order, take a walk around your neighborhood, hand-in-hand. Enjoy the beautiful spring weather, fresh air, and each other’s company.

Take a drive. Put on your favorite tunes and take a drive. If you live in the city, head for the countryside. If you have nice open areas for walking, stop and visit. Experience the natural beauty that your locale offers.

Have breakfast in bed. With most of us working from home now, our morning commute is considerably shorter, providing more time in the morning for each other. Even if it’s only grabbing your yogurt and granola, pile up in bed and savor the quiet of the morning before the day’s obligations take over.

Prepare a meal together. Cooking is a sensual experience. The tastes, the smells, the textures. It is often difficult to find time to do anything other than throw a meal together and put it on the table. With the extra time on our hands, preparing a mindful meal is a good way to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Open a bottle of wine, sample the ingredients, talk about your favorite foods growing up. Maybe even dance around the kitchen if the mood strikes.

Enjoy a candlelit bath (for two). What’s more romantic than taking a bubble bathbubble bath together? Add some romantic music, maybe a bottle of bubbly . . . you never know where it might lead . . .

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure there are more. But one more thing to remember to do during this difficult time—love each other.

What are you and your significant other doing to stay not just physically connected, but emotionally connected?


Posted in According to Rebecca, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Marisa on Marketing

The right message, to the right person, at the right time.  Good marketing, good storytelling, and good messaging requires those three ingredients. Right now, it’s more important than ever to get out the right message, because our world is searching for meaningful communication.

As a professional marketer, my communications antenna is always on, tuned to critiquing mode. I’ll admit, I can’t turn it off and sometimes that feels like a curse. But I also believe this hard wiring in me, is a gift.

In the past few days, I’ve witnessed some great messaging. TV commercials, social media posts, emails, newsletters, which have sensitively addressed consumers concerns and have offered solutions or solace.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been offended or irritated by companies who’ve exhibited the exact opposite when their messages do not resonate and therefore, can’t be relevant.

No matter whether you are writing as a business professional or posting to your friends on social platforms, remember how critical it is right now to be a good communicator. When our emotions are running high, the future is uncertain, and no one has all the answers, miscommunication can lead to frustration and a host of other problems.

Be thoughtful, and think before you post or write. How can your message communicate the right information to someone who really needs it, right now.

During these difficult times, take solace in the words of these renowned and talented communicators:

_I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. (1) Dale Carnegie

Marisa Dillon is an author of three historical romance novels from Soul Mate Publishing: https://marisadillon.com/

Connect with Marisa on these social platforms:



Linked-in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mo-dillon-1a70b914/


Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 6 Comments

Celebrate St Patrick’s Day Introvert Style

hoan-vo-tv-9EmBJ1uk-unsplashA lot of the big celebrations and parades usually associated with St Paddy’s Day have been canceled, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the holiday–though please, please don’t go out to a crowded pub to do it!

I have a strong Irish heritage, so St Patrick’s Day has always been special to me and my family. Corned beef and cabbage was an annual treat growing up, and a tradition I’ve carried on myself. (Proving I’m a true Irish-American, since the meal is more popular in the USA than in Ireland!) Fortunately I picked up the corned beef on Thursday, so we’re ready for the meal without even leaving the house.

We’ll be eating corned beef in while counting our blessing today, and practicing social distancing.

If you want to join me in celebrating, while staying home, here is my favorite crock pot recipe:


  • Corned Beef Brisket, with season packet
  • 8 to 12 red potatoes (or other small waxy potatoes)–halved or left whole depending on size
  • about six chopped carrots– cut into generous 1inch chunks
  • 1 to 2 medium onions–quartered
  • Ginger Ale (12oz can)
  • Cabbage–cut into wedges
  • Optional: garlic, bay leaf


  1. Place onion, carrots and potatoes on the bottom of the crock pot. Add corned beef brisket and seasoning packet. Add optional garlic and bay leaf. Pour ginger ale around outside of brisket, add water until meat is just covered.
  2. Cook on low for 8 to 9 hours. (or 4 to 5 hours on high)
  3. Add cabbages wedges and cook for another hour (or 45mins on high)
  4. Cut meat across the grain to serve, and remove vegetables with a slotted spoon.

I like to serve the corned beef with a little bit of stone ground mustard, though that’s a total matter of taste.

And if you don’t feel like celebrating that’s okay too. These are strange and difficult times. I do hope you are doing some self care, whether that means a walk outside, stress baking or curling up with a good book. I think we could all be a little gentler with each other and ourselves these days.

What are you doing to stay safe and sane today?

headshot for websiteJaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.  When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018.

Learn more about her around the web:

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