First of all, I need to apologize! On April 29, in Part 1 of this blog, I had mentioned that Part 2 would appear May 27. It didn’t, and that’s why I’m apologizing. I had also mentioned, I was new to blogging, and well, honestly, I forgot to post! I’m sorry. Here is Part 2:

Want to escape from bad romance? Perhaps I can help. I’m not referring to books! I’m talking about actual romance. We began this discussion in Part 1. Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to share an amazing discovery I made through writing. (I’m Raz Steel—my degree is in Philosophy, I’ve been writing most of my life, and teaching writing for more than ten years.)

Storytelling is a tool. As a professional writer, it’s a tool of habit for me. Applied one way, it entertains an audience. But what if I could show you how storytelling applied another way could break you out of a pattern of failing romance?

And you don’t have to be a writer to use this tool. You don’t have to write at all. My process could be just as effective for a non-writer. In Part 1, I suggested that what allowed me to create the perfect story-romance was my understanding of not one character, but both romantic characters. Couldn’t that translate into a real-world experience?

What if the success of real-world romance depends on my understanding of myself and my partner?

What if changing your thoughts isn’t enough to change your romantic reality? What if you need to understand yourself, change your thoughts, and empathize with your partner?

The characters in PASS THE KRYPTONITE strive to understand themselves. They recognize foibles and unchanging patterns that leave them predictable and boring.

The characters don’t want to be predictable or boring. So, just as we do, they work to change.

They change their thoughts. But that still doesn’t deliver the romance they want. That romance isn’t available to them until she is able to empathize with him and he’s able to empathize with her.

Most romance writers and readers are women. If you’re a woman reading this essay, you probably already have a firm grasp on who you are, what you want, and why you want it. You already know about change your thoughts, change your reality.

What’s missing is, “How the hell do I empathize with a guy?”

I have a different perspective. I am a guy. It was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to empathize with a woman. But so rewarding!

For me, marriage failed. For one of the characters in PTK, romance failed. That character wallowed in self-pity and the pain of having someone reach down their throat, rip out their heart, throw it on the ground, and then stomp on it.

Mirrored my feelings precisely.

My character escaped. Why couldn’t I? How did my character manage it?

By understanding the only way to achieve the intimate relationship they wanted was to open themselves up again to that same kind of vulnerability.

Another PTK character’s engagement failed. They had reached down someone’s throat. Not deliberately trying to hurt anyone. Sometimes, relationships just don’t work out. That character empathized with their ex-partner though.

I realized . . . my characters are emotional risk takers!

(Part 3 of ESCAPE FROM BAD ROMANCE will appear on July 22)

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In the market for hope

Cover of Secret Courtship by Jaycee JarvisI had a new book come out this month which is always a fun event as an author, though this is not the easiest time for a celebration. I’m a firm believer in the power of story and that my books make a positive difference in this world, even if they only provide a moment of much needed escape from reality.

Still it is doubly weird to be sending a book I’ve affectionately called “the plague book” out into the world in the middle of a pandemic. The illness in Secret Courtship is more like a cholera outbreak than the worldwide event we have going on now, and it is a subplot in a story, not a central theme. I can only hope that readers are inspired and encouraged by the way Ulric and Ophelia pull together to help their stricken community.

Because that’s what romance novels are all about. Love and family and community in all its forms.  Sometimes romance novels get derided as being predictable, because of the assurance that love triumphs in a happy ending. I like to think instead, that romance novels are reliable, in a way the real world often isn’t. Tragedy can strike any of us, often without rhyme or reason. Asking for our fiction, for our escape, to offer something better–to offer meaning and hope–is not an unreasonable expectation.

I struggle sometimes with the balance between being a fantasy author and a romance author, and the different expectations for both. When the chips are down, though, I always err on the side of romance, on the side of hope and HEAS. And all the fantasy world-building I do is just to support those central themes.

If you are looking to be swept away into a world where good people can make a difference, and happy endings are guaranteed, I hope you’ll give my books a try. Because right now the world certainly needs more hope and love.

Even if you aren’t reading my books, I hope you are reading romance! What is on your kindle or nightstand right now?

RT_JL_027Jaycee 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:

Posted in Chatter-Time With Jaycee!, Fantasy Romance, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Dessert Dinner

Over the past few months, I’ve extended my socially-distanced circle to my closest friends and have spent Saturday evenings at their house. We talk, drink wine, eat popcorn, and watch shows. A few weeks ago, I got the honor of picking the next series, and when I saw the latest season of The Great British Bake Off, I insisted we watch it.

Oh, the looks I got from my friends! But, they stuck to their promise of my choice. Charging their glasses, they settled in for an hour of boredom with the consolation of a good wine.

They got hooked. The techniques and creations fascinated them, as well as a completely new vocabulary. The search functions on their cell phones got a workout. Above all else, they couldn’t believe how nice the contestants were to each other. We watched the second show, and every weekend during dinner, we talked about the episodes in anticipation of what we’d later see.

Last Saturday, we realized the final approached, and felt a certain sadness to be saying goodbye to these home bakers from across the Atlantic that we’d grown attached to. Not only that, we were going to miss the feel-good atmosphere of that competition, where opponents helped each other with last minute preparations and hugged their goodbyes with evident sincerity. How would we cope without our Bake Off?

We launched a plan, a way to say farewell and honor the spirit we’d observed. Each of us would bake something, and after contemplating our options, we decided each would bake two somethings. Then the concept evolved to having a Dessert Dinner, and the menu included: orange cake, coconut cream pie, cream puffs, cherry clafoutis, chocolate caramel macarons, and banana cream pie.

All day Saturday, there were flurries of texts about certain ingredients, methods, and baking times, all in the spirit of cooperation we’d witnessed on the show. My friends took the time they’d witnessed and paid attention to presentation when setting the dinner table (although we did decide to add a platter of fruit to try and make it seem a little healthy). We all ate a small portion of each dessert, and could appreciate the efforts of the judges when they had a dozen bakes to taste, claiming we were too stuffed to try the last one of six but powering through it anyways. After declaring all the dishes wonderful, which they truly were, we watched the semifinal and final episodes despite our sugar highs and lows, ending the evening satisfied that the best baker had won because all the contestants were so happy about it.

The whole multi-week experience had brought us a sense of joy, and we didn’t want to let it go. We decided two things before the final credits finished rolling on the screen. First, the Dessert Dinner would become an annual tradition, to be held the Saturday evening before Father’s Day. And second, with no dissention, we’d start watching another season next Saturday.

I have a feeling another Dessert Dinner will happen sooner than planned.

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May you live in interesting times

Earlier this week my company chose to honor the day known as Juneteenth by giving our American employees the day off. The truth is that until recently I didn’t know what the day meant. Growing up in Massachusetts many decades ago I had little exposure to what the day meant, and didn’t learn about it in my history classes. Or, to be fair, if I did, I didn’t pay attention. My father would sometimes refer to it to the point where I got his birthday and Juneteenth mixed up, thinking they were on the same day. (Spoiler alert: his birthday is two days earlier.) I didn’t know what the day meant, or the history behind it. I am glad to say that I know now.

I have learned much over the last months, about this and about so many other things. It is a tumultuous time in history but that also gives me an opportunity to grow and learn. That is what I intend to do as 2020 continues. Not halfway through the year it is safe to say that I cannot recall a year like this, not even in 2001 and the horrific events of 9/11. Hard to think that was almost twenty years ago. All I can do is learn and grow, and continue to evolve. I am grateful for my friends, online or otherwise, who have posted relevant facts and articles to help me to understand their truth, their past and make me face uncomfortable realities that are outside of my day-to-day. Thank you.

The best stories are ones where the characters are not the same as when the story started. Each character has an arc, a journey, and solves whatever puzzle, big or small, that is set in front of them. It seems so obvious in stories, less so when it’s your life, your personal trajectory. Yet it truly is no different. 2020 is a momentous year but from that can come great things. If the first six months were world changing, let’s see what the next six months hold.

In Soul Mate news, my second Universe Chronicles book Tracking Shadows took third place in the Maine Romance Writer’s Strut your Stuff Awards in the Reader’s Choice. Thank you to all who voted! My third Universe Chronicles book Storming Time will be released on August 19th. I like to think of my superpowered people and the secret agency they work for—and find love—as a little escape from reality. I hope that you are looking forward to book three as much as I am looking forward to seeing it in the world.

Stay safe, everyone, and hope that you are thriving in this difficult time.

Maine award

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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Marisa’s Musings

Marisa’s Musings

“Winning doesn’t always mean being first. Winning means you’re doing better than you’ve done before.” Wise words from Bonnie Blair, one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history.

That quote found its way into my feed this week and it has continued to be in my thoughts as I considered the meaning of “winning.”

It’s safe to assume we all want to be winners. A trophy, a plaque, a certificate, heartfelt congratulations, especially a gold medal, can make a winning moment more memorable. It also provides validation, a sense of accomplishment, even honor.

When my book, “The Secret of Skye Isle,” was nominated last month for a RONE Award, I was over the moon. A few weeks later, the book made it into the finals. Getting recognized in the competitive publication industry was a defining moment. An acknowledgment that will always be a part of my writing journey.

Did I win the award? It’s still a mystery. I have until October to bask in the glow of being a finalist. Whether or not I receive the cool trophy at the awards ceremony can’t alter what came before. A loss shouldn’t put a damper on what was accomplished and a win can only make the journey sweeter.

It’s important to celebrate the small victories in your life. If you’re a published author, yours may look a lot like mine:

  1. Completing a manuscript. Winning!!!!
  2. Letting at least one person read your manuscript, other than your mother.
  3. Submitting your work for publication consideration. (The dreaded query letter)
  4. Getting an agent and editor to request your work. (And dealing with rejections)
  5. Securing a contract with a publisher.
  6. Seeing your name on a book cover for the first time and you didn’t photo shop it.
  7. Having your book released on Amazon.
  8. Receiving your first five star review and ignoring any bad ones.
  9. Autographing your first book in print with impressive looking script.
  10. Cashing your first royalty check.

Winning can be a series of small victories that add up to something big for you to celebrate now and forever. And remember it’s not about besting someone else, it’s about being your best.

Marisa has a three book series available on Amazon with SMP: The Ladies of Lore Series

Facebook cover for Biz Page All Three Books + author photo

Visit her on any of these platforms and let her know about your path to publication.

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The Danger of  Isolation and “The Other.”

The Danger of  Isolation and “The Other.”


Life has been pretty bleak since March.  The whole world has lived in isolation with only those nearest and dearest.  This experience has proved positive and negative. Luckily, I love my hubby; our time together has proved valuable and rewarding. We engaged in more cooking, cleaning, and gardening while we quarantined.  The negative aspect of all of this has been less time with other friends and family.  The festivals, church services, weddings, sporting events, and family gatherings have been on hold. People the world over have lived in isolation from everyone except those in their own households. I used this time of isolation from the outside world (except for my ever-loving) to write and lose myself in a firestorm of creativity, but the isolation from others still took a toll. The news contained images most of us hoped never to see—the dead in body bags lining the hallways of hospitals. The death toll mounted and continues to spiral.


When we thought the news couldn’t grow more depressing, George Floyd was murdered in front of the world.  The brutality of Floyd’s death ignited protests around the globe and calls for reform.  Many of us engaged in conversations on social media and in our households on the insidious effects of racism in our society. The brutal mindset that brought about George Floyd’s death is not new; prejudice against others because of their race, religion, ethnicity or even political leanings has plagued the planet since antiquity.  Wars erupt because of such bigotry.  Many societies as well as individuals protect themselves by creating an invisible circle that encloses them and those like them; those outside the circle are the “Others.” Anyone belonging to the “Other” race, religion, ethnic group, or political affiliation existed in a cloud of suspicion.  We have a “bias” toward people outside of our sphere, and bias is nothing new.  A bias in favor of our own cultural experience is inevitable; however, when that bias develops into bullying, discrimination, and outright hatred, conflict arises and too often people die. Too often we choose to isolate ourselves from others, fearful of our differences rather than embracing of them.


As a writer of historical fiction, I see the effects of labeling another group “The Other.” Two of my novels, Love at War and The Progeny, are set in WWII. A destructive war was fought because a monster decided he could bully the world into submission; Hitler labeled various groups of people, “The Other.” The Jewish population suffered most cruelly at his hands, but he also condemned Gypsies, gay people, and many disabled human beings as well.  People in authority, such as Hitler, scapegoat others to maintain their own power and their own control over the populations they hope to dominate. In my novels, many characters answer the call to eliminate the kind of ethnic and religious hatred that plunged their generation into war.  In my novel From Ice Wagon to Club House, my characters rise up to defend Ireland against a dominating and bullying regime that labeled them inferior for centuries.


This tendency to bully and abuse power still exists today. That’s why people like George Floyd die at the hands of others.  That’s why we still have genocide and “ethnic cleansing.” That’s why we still have people making war for land-grab. Historians often seek to remind us of the past to prevent injustice. In many ways, fiction writers also do this when we re-create those time periods, bringing them to life through vivid description and character development.


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A Midriff Bulge or a Sagging Middle?

One of the things I’ve noticed as a writer is the phenomenon known as the what-the-hell-is-supposed-to-happen-next syndrome, otherwise known as the missing, or the over-congested, or the oh-so-boring middle. I’ve only written 10 books, but I’ve read at least a couple thousand over the last five years, and what I’ve discovered is that I’m not alone in dealing with this. In a 90,000 word book, this issue gradually begins to seep in around 35k to 40k in my word count. If I’m reading when this happens, I usually skip to the last three chapters of the book, read them quickly, and call it good. And although I sometimes wish I could do that as an author, merely write the beginning and the ending of my now 50k word book, it doesn’t exactly work that way. Oh, what to do!

In the past I would merely add a character, or produce an intriguing subplot, or have somebody suddenly get hit in the head by an errant Frisbee, but all that did was complicate the story, forcing the reader to sail off into an unwarranted cul-de-sac or sea of confusion.  And once I did that, writing the ending seemed pointless.

Now I realize that the only real cure for this syndrome is to strengthen the conflict within, between, and surrounding the protagonist and antagonist of the story. Without conflict there truly is no arc or shape to the story. And whether it’s a romance, a mystery, or a book of literary fiction, an over-arching shape is necessary to avoid a non-descript middle.

Another device I use has to do with plot structure. Merely asking myself the question: what’s the worst thing that could happen? opens up my imagination, causing it to soar. In my first SMP novel, Love’s Harvest, the hero and heroine are working against all odds to restore the family’s run-down winery to its former glory—a deathbed promise the heroine made to her dying husband. In contrast, the woman’s brother-in-law sees the winery as nothing more than a money drain and instead wants to convert the property into high-end luxury condos. I sustained this tug-of-war for about as long as I could, and when I at last asked the above question, the only answer I could come up with was to burn it all down. My characters were now forced to either rise to the occasion or be destroyed by it. 

You’ll have to read the novel to find out what happens. But I’ll tell you this much . . . no more midriff bulge or sagging middle!


Born and raised near the Puget Sound in Washington State, Gwen Overland and her family now live in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Prior to that Gwen lived in Los Angeles and had careers in directing, acting, and singing while performing at the piano. After years in academia, writing one research article followed by another, Gwen turned her talents toward writing fiction and found she happily could not stop. Love’s Harvest and Free My Heart, two novels from her Salmon Run Series, have been published by Soul Mate; she is currently working on the third Salmon Run novel, Waiting for You. Her self-published, romantic comedy/mystery series, The Millicent Winthrop Novels, is available in both English and German.  In addition, Gwen also has two published non-fiction books on the work she does in conjunction with her business, Expressive Voice Dynamics: Soul of Voice and Soul of My Voice.  When she’s not reading, writing, or playing with her two black pugs, Buster Keaton and Emmett Kelly, Gwen works in the theatre, or assists psychotherapy clients in discovering more joy and meaning in their lives. 

Keep up with Gwen by following her on Twitter @gwenoverland; Gwen Overland Author on Facebook; @GwenOverland on Instagram, or at and  


Posted in Author, Books, Contemporary Romance, Gallivanting With Gwen!, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing, Writing career | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Romancing the Heart By Author Susan Hanniford Crowley

Photo Courtesy by Finn-E on Unsplash

I believe that those that write and/or read romance novels nourish their hearts every day.

Love doesn’t always have to be with a special person. It could be a love of cooking. The ultimate gardener tends plants and flowers with love. I know a loving heart that is a foster mom for cats and kittens waiting for a home. It is the love of a family or the love of friends.

It is in the heart every time we do something we care deeply about. It’s in the heart of the nurse or the artist. It is in the heart of the person carefully putting soup on the shelf in the supermarket and in the hearts of people handing out masks.

Every time we do an act of love no matter what it is, even if we think the act to be small, we nourish our hearts with a strength that endures. It isn’t always seen by others but we don’t do it for that reason. We do it for a bigger purpose. Love endures through time, even beyond our individual time. It is the ripple on the water that keeps spreading out.

The wonderful thing about love is that it is limitless in expression and boundless in its reach. Sometimes you find it in the most unexpected places. People remember. I’ve heard family stories and always it is a story about caring and love. Perhaps that is why I write paranormal family sagas.

We are experiencing a hard time on our planet. Love will help us survive and remember. Love begins with loving yourself. Take care of yourself. Be kind to others. They need it. Be safe, because you are important!

My novel Vampire Princess of New York is available at

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




Posted in Author, Creativity, Fantasy Romance, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Susan's Snippets! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yorkies and Flowers by DeAnn Smallwood

My special boy Yorkie, Eli, loves flowers. Well, maybe not all flowers. Zinnia’s are his favorite. I didn’t realize this until one day, a couple summers ago, I was sitting on my patio and Eli ran over and stood in front of me, demanding my attention. He went through a series of sounds, running to the edge of the patio and back to me. Finally, I realized he wanted me to follow him. He took me out to the garden where I have a row of zinnias planted. There was an expectant look on his face accompanied by more talking, (yes, he does talk) and then he reached forward and mouthed a zinnia. Aha! Message received. I loudly began exclaiming how beautiful the flower was and thanked him over and over for sharing this with me. Since that summer, Eli continues to take me to admire the flowers with him. In early spring before any have bloomed, I’m taken to enjoy a green bush or tree.

Curious over his preference for zinnias, I looked up their meaning. They are thoughts of absent friends. That touched me deeply. I immediately thought of our special girl, Jesse, that left us several years ago. Eli was brought into our home to help with our missing her. Now I love Zinnias even more and make sure I plant them every year.

Flowers have a language all their own. If you hand someone a bouquet with your right hand it means, “Yes”. Your left hand means, “No”. Handed upside down their meaning becomes the opposite of what is usually conveyed.

Here’s a short flower vocabulary. There’s a meaning for every flower ranging from A-Z.

Begonia: Beware, dark thoughts. Great to know for mystery writers. Angelica: Inspiration. I’m getting a bouquet right away as my writing has slowed because of Virus worry. Clematis: Mental beauty. I need this too. Aster: Love. We all need this. That’s why I write romances. Sweet Basil: good wishes. Yep! Pink Carnation: I’ll never forget you. This is for all of us that have lost a loved one be it human or animal. Bluebells: Kindness. This world needs lots of this. Peonies: Bashfulness. Bachelor Button: single blessedness.

So I’m handing you, my faithful readers, a bouquet given by my right hand. This is the message: Sweet Basil. I have no Begonias only Asters. Hopefully this projects my Clematis. I feel Bachelor Button for all of you. Please know Pink Carnation. As you can see I’m not Peonies when expressing my feelings. Please enjoy as I’ve taxed my wee brain for Angelica.

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Goodbye to an old friend and giving another pup a second chance.

I’m teary eyed writing this post, but Tallulah now walks without effort beside her canine buddies in heaven. You can see by her stance that she’s reached a point of discomfort, and our veterinarian agreed we’d made the right decision to euthanize her before untreatable pain made her life miserable. We adopted her after she’d turned three, and I miss my shadow of eleven years. I live with three great men and realized long ago that a doggy by my side completed my perfect life. Tallulah filled that gap with quiet, loving, loyal companionship.

Tallulah will forever be in our hearts, and she’d agree that all dogs deserve a loving family providing care and comfort.

Covid 19 brought challenges to finding a new furry member of our family. I passed the word and signed on with no less than eight rescue organizations, but in the end, a blast from the past came through. We hosted many kid sleepovers and a parent knew a woman with rescue connections. She got word that Maggie was being surrendered and could come directly to us on a foster-first basis. At 4.5 months, she’d had no shots and little training. Maggie is a quick learner and a joy to have in our lives. The woman who began our successful search wrote in a letter to the rescue, “If I died, this is the family I’d want to take my dog.” I consider that the ultimate compliment.

Mr. Spock’s devotion helped ease the transition. We’re doing our best to make him not feel displaced. So far, the only issue is if he’s moving and Maggie spots him. She’s not exhibited predator aggression, so I hope in my next post I can show them as buddies.

Threats forced her to flee Seattle. Honor binds him to Montana. A second chance at love tethers them together.

If you enjoy smoldering romance, mercenary villains, and rescued animals, you’ll love escaping again to Emma Springs, Montana.







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