Comfort Zone

In times of hardship we all long for comfort – favourite carb loaded foods, soft blankets, and warm drinks and a book. Until a year or so ago, most of us perhaps thought these things would never end – that comfort would always be at our fingertips. But they are not. The world of late has become scarier – or we have become more aware of the precarious nature of our comfort zone.

But is our comfort zone also well, just perhaps a little boring and confined? Don’t we escape into books to test out another’s discomfort zone? To boldly go where we fear to actually go ourselves? For a few hours we can thrill with the discomforts of a heroine in the past managing her personal hygiene while sharing side glances with a muscly barbarian. Or travel the stars and meet exotic aliens and ignore the coldness of space just beyond the walls of the starship.

We can test ourselves with real life examples. Bear Grylls apparently does early morning runs in the rain, rolling in mud puddles to toughen himself up. (I say apparently since there is absolutely no way I will witness early morning runs!) (unless it’s Jason Momoa). Take a trip to Antarctica with Scott, and marvel at the toughness of surviving on penguin sandwiches and then travelling for months to rescue his crew. (Southern is an epic read). Watch recreated history for how people lived on a farm in 16th Wales with Ruth Goodman.

The human mind and body go better with a challenge. A good one can be hard to find – will you jump out of an aeroplane or try a new to you food? Sometimes it is easy to fob it off with excuses, that we are too old, its too expensive or silly. We can dive back into our books and live another’s life, yearning secretly to do the same. Slump back once again into our Walter Mitty dreams of adventure.

But if this last year has taught us anything, it is that life is precious and can be snatched away. One day it will be too late for you to skydive, to tell someone you love them, to adopt another cat, to smile at a stranger, or to take the path less travelled.

So be brave – go beast mode today and do one little act that you secretly want to do – or even one that scares you. Go do that thing. Your comfort zone will still be there, waiting to welcome you back.

About Cindy

Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure 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. The Organized Author provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready. Or pick up a copy of the free 30 Organizing Tips for Writers.

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Parking Meters: A Twenty Year Flashback to 9/12/2001

9/12/01. The stench of burning jet fuel, plastic, paper, and human beings wafted over the NYC. Every rear car window and front door sported an American flag poster, as did fences around schools, churches, security grates on storefronts.

Everyone waited patiently in security checkpoint lines at the bridges and tunnels. No bosses said a word if you were late for work. No horns, no reckless driving-there wasn’t anyplace that seemed important enough to hurry to anymore.

The sounds of commercial jets had been replaced by F-16’s flying over the City at regular intervals. The wail of sirens sent people into fits of tears, and there was always someone, often a stranger, there to comfort them, help them.

Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the main drag, led by exhausted police officers and firefighters. We lined the sidewalks, waving flags, burning our fingers, holding hands, singing God Bless America.

I didn’t think to record it. I was too busy comforting a bereft friend and my kids, barely restraining my own emotions after the horror of the previous day.

A whole block of parking meters was adorned with votives, flames dancing in the warm breeze. While the fires raged downtown and frantic rescue efforts were underway, candle wax dripped over glass and metal onto the concrete sidewalks while viewfinders flashed “time expired.”

The feeling of comfort those flickering points of light in the darkness inspired in me, and no doubt many others. My most fervent wish is that the twenty year anniversary of the attacks will rekindle the peace and tolerance that the United States is so in need of after endless natural and manmade disasters and seemingly endless strife.

Before the old-fashioned parking meters disappeared, to be replaced by muni-meter boxes that issue tickets for your car window, I immortalized a few as a reminder.

9/11/2021: Twenty years later, the big empty pit at Ground Zero has been replaced by reflecting pools which channel tinkling water down 50 feet to where the foundations of Towers One and Two once stood.

I sobbed while listening the names being read. My heart still races when I hear a siren in the night, a low flying jet screams over my house, or a helicopter hovers with beacons flashing, looking for someone or something.

I will never forget that routine morning at work in a hospital, donating blood and waiting for the casualties that never came. The images were the most horrible I ever experienced, making me wonder how people in Israel, Gaza, and other war-ravaged nations survive.

I will never forget the unimaginable loss, The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the lowly parking meter, forever linked in my memory.


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How Low Are Your Energy Pennies?

By Jeanine Englert

One of the greatest author finds of 2021 for me has been discovering Becca Syme (, her books, and Quitcast podcasts. The second greatest find for me has been and their podcasts.

And my biggest takeaway was this: That my energy is finite.

Let me say that again: your energy is finite. How you use it matters. Thinking about how you use it also matters. Perhaps you already knew that. While I think I also knew that deep down, I didn’t KNOW it in the way that I should. Nor did I really think about how much my energy and how I chose to use it mattered during this pandemic.

It does.

Listening to’s latest podcast by Becca Syme on “Empathy, Energy Pennies, and Expectations” and how the pandemic impacts us all, especially writers, and “I’m Tired, Becca” from the Quitcast podcasts reminded me of three important things: it’s okay that I’m really tired, I can turn off the world, and that all I can control is my response to the stress in my life.

In a nutshell, I felt very seen and quite relieved. I might have even cried a little. Okay, I did.

Teaching in person as well as hybrid last year was the most stressful year of my 23 year career in education. Coupled with a parent in the hospital during the pandemic as well as the constant uncertainty about well, everything, my emotional and physical health took a huge hit. Huge. It took me most of the summer to just stop vibrating with stress, and I started this school year without the full well of energy I usually have.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

Knowing my Gallup CliftonStrengths (I highly recommend the expense as I’ve learned a huge amount about myself as a writer as well as a person by taking this test), and how the pandemic and stress impacts me because of those strengths gave me a huge aha moment. My energy pennies (a way to think of the energy you have each day) were being depleted not in a 1:1 ratio of task completion to energy usage, but in more of a 1:4 ratio. It took me four times the normal amount of energy to do the same task.

I didn’t have to be a math genius to realize that I had been expending more energy pennies than I had for way too long and that my body had literally crashed because of it. So, now my goal is to make those small choices to aid in small progress, to turn off the world when I need to, and to help rebuild by health and wellness one step at a time until I feel healthier, stronger, and more full of those energy pennies.

If you are like me and need to reboot yourself and your energy this year, check out these podcasts and their messages. And, give yourself the kindness and grace you give everyone else.

Jeanine Englert is a double VIVIAN ® FINALIST, Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion Award Winner, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.

When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website

Where you can find me:







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Labor Day Reflections

It’s the unofficial end of summer, or I prefer, the beginning of autumn – my favorite season. Due to the blazing hot spells this summer in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve noticed trees prematurely turning color.

My motivation to write isn’t strong today, and honestly, I’d rather be aboard Lance, following Danger again out in Rosie’s Meadow, pictured above. Problem is, I have a book calling for attention. Deadly Formula, or Broke and Broken, needs work. Introducing a feline character modeled after my clever cat, Spock, has helped. Let me know what you think of the back cover copy-at least I finished that!

Wedding day plans implode for event coordinator Tanna Carlisle’s own nuptials, catapulting her away from a perfectionist fiancé in Florida. She lands squarely on her butt in the middle of a Seattle street with a fractured leg and an opinion that men stink worse than a three-day old crab puff. She’s determined to reject the assistance of the handsome Italian scientist taking responsibility for the car accident, until reality hits that she’s broke, broken, and beyond desperate. While her break mends, taking the temporary clerical job to assist the inventor on the nationwide rollout of his fracture healing serum won’t really kill her. Or will it?

Scientist Lorenzo Lando created BoneGlu to combat pain. Administering a dose to Tanna aids the recovery from her broken leg, but her emotional hurt strikes deep into his compassionate soul. He’s determined to garner the trust of the alluring American utilizing every molecule of Tuscan charm he can muster. Problem is, someone’s threatening him to turn over the BoneGlu formula by staging accidents. While mutual attraction builds between Tanna and Lorenzo, so does his concern for their lives as scare tactics turn deadly.

If you love slow-burning chemistry, fast action, fearless felines, and relentless villains, then dive into another story on a winding path to Emma Springs, Montana.

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It’s fall in our neck of the woods. The trees are thinking about changing colors and the rain we received yesterday had a cold, wintry feel to it. We live in Colorado so we can expect snow in October. My niece lives in Vail Co and sent me a picture of the first snow capping the tall mountains. Of course, she was ecstatic, expecting an early ski season. But for me, this time of year is canning season. Yep, the season of picking veges, fruit, washing jars, and spending hours stirring, tasting, and marveling.

I pry myself from my computer and giving a rueful look at my last typed pages of tender historical love, march with a determined step to my garden and kitchen. The Yorkies raise their puzzled faces from their pillows in the window next to the computer and watch me leave the room. Mom is usually good for a lot longer. In fact, their day evolves around my writing and my few forced breaks to acknowledge my husband and the demands of my home.

In the spring its easy to over plant. Of course I need five tomato plants. Absolutely I have to plant more rows of potatoes. Include sweet potatoes this year? Why not? Let’s not forget banana peppers and bell peppers. Oh, yes, a few jalapeno and let’s try anaheim peppers for something different. I swear there was a bounce in my step when I ran the rototiller over an even bigger patch for my cucumbers. More dill pickles to can come fall.

Aww, the joy of canning. The tired legs. The aching back. The ouch of hot jelly syrup on your arm. as you stir the bubbling mixture. The waiting to hear lids pop as they seal on the cooling jars. The angst when a jar doesn’t seal. To us canners this is the music that fills our souls while we put food away for the winter. I may not sound it, but I love canning. My grandmother canned as well as my mother. Fall to me was bushes of peaches, tomatoes, pears, and more waiting for busy hands. There is a sense of fulfillment that is hard to describe when you take a tired step back and see the rows of processed jars cooling on the counter. I’m old fashioned. I prefer canning to freezing. Of course, you need a cool place to store all the jars. I’ve had cellars, large dirt potato cellars, and store rooms to keep my canning. Now I utilize my insulated garage and a large refrigerator to keep my jars of canning, jelly and jam cool.

As I’m writing this, I glance over the sleeping Yorkies and out the window to my garden. I blink and look closer. Yep, the potato vines are definitely yellowing and dying. I have two rows ready to be dug, washed and stored. Delicious new potatoes. Soooo tasty I try to not mind digging them. I also try to maintain my disposition when I don’t put my shovel in deep enough and cut through a potato. All in a day’s work. I look past the potatoes and see purple clusters of the concord grapes hanging from the vine. Grape jelly just waiting to be made.

But before I start the fall jobs, I’m stealing another hour or so and write more pages on my new book: ONE BROTHER RETURNS. If you’ve read ONE MAN TO HEAL, you’ve met the brothers Dev, Ted, and Dev’s love, Charity. You’ll know why Ted quietly rode away, vowing to run from his broken heart. Running from the cruel manipulations of a woman he thought loved him. Running until he realizes home is where he belongs-where he’ll find the happiness he seeks. Home is where he’ll bring his adopted son to…well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Hopefully, I’ll finish this tender story in the next couple months and you can read all about Ted, baby Will, and Ted’s finding his one true love in the most unexpected place-home.

Meanwhile, I’ve got peaches ready to wash and fill waiting jars. Of course, I’m stealing several to make peach cobbler. I can’t be expected to can everything. Fresh peach cobbler topped with ice cream. Perfect end to a perfect day.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things (Real Life Edition)

Usually, I use my blog spot to talk about my favorite tropes, scenes, and themes in romance. However, this time is going to be different. On Monday, I lost my grandmother. It wasn’t unexpected, but it still hit me hard. Today, I want to share with you what an awesome lady she was and put in my two cents of opinion about keeping close with people you care about.

My grandmother was 93 when she passed. She lived through the Depression, which expressed itself through an impressive talent for making leftovers into brand new dishes. However, there weren’t often leftovers in her house. She married a gentle giant of a man (6’5″) and they had six kids who all had enormous appetites. It was a running joke that you grabbed what you wanted at her table on your first serving or you might not get any of it. It was a further running joke that Grandma would make sure you ate at least two servings or else she would be certain you were sick because you clearly “didn’t have an appetite.” There are two steak houses in Calgary which no longer allow members of my family to do their 96 oz “eat it all and its free” challenge because we’ve done it too many times.

At one of those steak houses, we had a boisterous family gathering (because we don’t know how to have any other kind). My uncles had ordered their usual massive steaks and sides and the waiter came to my Grandma, who was a petite lady. His jaw dropped when she declared that she wasn’t “too hungry” and would only have the 16 oz. Rare. He attempted to talk her out of it and she fixed him with her very best “bless your heart, child” glare and told him that she knew damn well what she wanted and moreover, she would never waste food by ordering more than she wanted to eat. Then she patted him on the arm and said that she was grateful he was checking up on her and she knew he was just doing his job but she’d be fine and he should go about his business. We were all laughing at his flummoxed expression, but he pulled it together and delivered a great steak.

My grandmother was also notorious for making friends wherever she went. She loved people and was fascinated by their stories. When she met someone, she wanted to know all about them and would remember details about trips, jobs, kids, etc., years after the initial meeting. It made her a favorite at the hospital where she worked as a nurse. Everyone knew to “ask Fran” since it was way faster than looking anything up, even after they got computers.

I’ve always had trouble with being brave enough to converse with strangers but she gave me the advice that has seen me through many conferences. “People like being noticed. Asking them about themselves lets them feel important and special. Just listen without judging and you’ll learn more than you could have ever imagined.” She was absolutely right.

In recent years, her prodigious memory began to dissolve into the mists of dementia. She couldn’t recognize her children or grandchildren (or great-grandchildren), but she could tell story after story about her childhood. Some of my fondest memories with her were when she would tell me the family stories, like the one where her grandfather rescued people from a hotel fire by scaling the building, or about the arguments about changing the family name when we emigrated to Canada, or how she and her sisters married brothers and raised their kids together as much as possible. I heard stories about how my dad used to get my uncle in trouble (and vice versa), what it was like moving to Germany in the 1960’s, and the challenges of dealing with doctors who thought they knew more about the hospital and its patients than her.

She was a dual income family before that was common. She worked nights while my grandfather worked days. The key to success was napping while the kids were at school. Despite the hectic schedule, all of her kids agree that she always had time for them, no matter how big or small the issue was. Once all of her kids were grown and she and my grandfather had retired, they got an RV and spent several years touring North American, going as the whim directed them (which was usually aimed at seeing her grandchildren).

She always had dogs. She said they kept her young by ensuring she got out for a walk daily. Not to mention that she could meet the most interesting people with a dog at her side. Her last dog passed almost fifteen years ago and she reluctantly decided not to get another since she couldn’t be sure that she would outlive her pet. She always loved her animals and took great pride in their care.

When she moved into a long term care home, a new side of Grandma appeared. Now that she wasn’t responsible for cleaning and cooking for herself, she was more carefree. Her memory had already gone, but that didn’t stop her from introducing herself daily to the staff and asking them about their lives. It also didn’t stop her from wheeling herself down the hallways to raid other residents’ rooms for chocolate and candy. Turns out that Grandma had a sweet tooth and a criminal mind. Who knew?

She was the first person to believe in me as a person and a writer. She always made me feel that I could do anything and while she didn’t read my books (too much sex, in her opinion), she would hand-sell them to anyone she came across.

I’m going to miss her a lot. I’m glad that I made the effort to spend time with her while she was with us. And I know that she’s arrived on the other side with her memory restored and is probably giving the afterlife a once over, just to see what might be needing her help. She’s probably catching up her siblings and my grandfather on what’s happened since they passed over, and then they’ll go grab a perfectly done steak and visit with the locals.

Rest in peace, Grandma. You made this world a little brighter with every day you were here.

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Writers Are Readers, Too

August is a great month for reading, with all kinds of events aimed at romance readers in particular. I hope you found a panel or bookstore event to support for Romance Bookstore Day. I certainly enjoyed the event from the audience side!

Like most authors, I’m an avid reader, though I was a late bloomer when it came to reading. As a child my own imagination was strong enough that I never saw the point in reading picture books, when I could tell myself a story based on the images that was much more compelling. It wasn’t until my mom started reading chapter books to me that I really understood the power of the written word. At that point I was hooked, and I’ve been a voracious reader ever since.

There are summer reading programs offered by many libraries (yes, even for adults!) which can be a lot of fun. I like the year long reader challenges on sites like Goodreads and StoryGraph. I often blow past my modest goals, since I’m the type who likes to meet my target. This year I’ve had a personal challenge to review a book a week on BookBub and other sites. I know how much reviews mean to authors, so I try to give back and let my favorite authors know that I really appreciate their work.

I also find reading important for me as a writer. I like to know what other authors are doing to stretch genre boundaries and to have a feel for what other books are out there. I also enjoy exploring all the worlds offered between the pages of a good book. I love to travel, and haven’t done much of that lately, so I’ve enjoyed reading even more, especially books with unique settings that let me feel like I’ve totally stepped away from the real world for a spell.

What about you? What do you look for in a good read? Do you set any reading goals for the year?

Jaycee 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. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.

Learn more about her around the web:

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Writing Through Stress… Winding Down

Well, summer is close to over and the year is winding down. That’s fine by me. It’s been so stinking hot this summer. This week is pretty bad all by itself. Thank the stars for air conditioning! I love fall, as I know many of us do. I’m not super into the pumpkin spice thing, but I do love me some pumpkin spice coffee creamer. Ha!

The crappy side of things is that a few weeks ago we lost our dear kitty girl. She was twenty and lived a good long life. She had the most beautiful blue eyes and soft calico fur. She was the chillest cat. She’d often just come and sit beside me. She didn’t want me to pet her. She just wanted to be there. She also didn’t meow. Ever. She made this “murf” sound that I will forever miss.

She’d been slowing down. A lot. But she was healthy. Her poor old legs made her slow and cautious. She didn’t jump up on stuff anymore. But she was still doing well for a gal her age. She failed quickly though. She was hiding constantly and only came out to get her nightly treat. On Monday, sometime during the day, she positioned herself on the end of the couch. She let us pet her and she ate a little, but she didn’t move. (Yes, we gave her food on the couch.) When we got home Tuesday, she “murfed” at me, purring when I sat with her and scratched her ears. She looked at me with those big blue eyes, faded now, and I knew it was time to let her go.

It was rough. I know she had a great life and she was greatly loved. I miss her. We took her to the vet office where our daughter works and she helped with the process. It broke my heart to watch her do her job with tears streaming down her face. She held her until she slipped away and then helped her dad with the burial. She doesn’t ever remember not having her kitty around. They were buddies and she would spoil the cat with bits of lunchmeat and cheese and let her sleep with her.

I can’t say it’s quiet in my house now. She wasn’t a loud kitty, plus we have three other cats. But it is quieter. Her presence is missing and we can feel that. We’ll always feel it, I know.

That’s all I have!


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Imposter Syndrome: What is it?

Today I’m talking about “imposter syndrome.” It might be a tad dry and you probably won’t like it so you can delete this post right now.

That, my friends, is “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter syndrome is when you make excuses in your head in advance why something isn’t good enough, why you aren’t good enough, why you’re going to fail anyway so why try. We’ve all done it. Some of us still do.

Before a big test I always psyched myself up to lower my expectations. “I didn’t study enough. The teacher won’t like my answers. I’m probably not going to get a good grade.”
Secretly I hoped I’d do well, but didn’t want to be disappointed, so I trained myself not to expect the best. If I did do well, it was a bonus.

I’ve done this before job interviews, peer presentations, projects I’ve volunteered for, speeches, and now book releases. It’s ingrained in my personality like smiling without showing my teeth and parting my hair always on one side. In my case I think it comes from not wanting to fail. If I don’t expect to succeed, then I won’t fail. Twisted, I know.

The syndrome thrives among writers. According to Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on the subject, it is more common to women who are more likely to understate their qualifications and experience and who tend to internalize failures. But men suffer from it, as well.

Even if we do become successful, those of us who suffer from this syndrome tend to minimize the accomplishment. Dr. Young gave an example of a young Oscar winner who clutched her statuette and said she was sure it was a mistake, they would announce momentarily that someone else was the winner, instead.

How does this affect writers? We write our books, but don’t send them out to agents and editors, afraid of the rejection (which we expect). We procrastinate to miss deadlines. We never start or we never finish. We engage in self- sabotage.

When we are successful, it is emotionally unclear to us how we got here. Our biggest internal fear is that we’ll be exposed. Deep down we feel like a fraud.

What is the result? It is harder to be successful, we experience feelings of failure, we accomplish less and our self-esteem plummets.

So what do we do about this? Next time I blog, I’ll talk about “the cure.” (Unless you’ve decided not to follow, of course.)

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On Exploring Creativity

It is never too late to explore creativity and launch second, third, and fourth acts in life. Here are three strategies that have helped me on my writing journey:

Listen to the God (or Goddess) nudges in your life.

If we choose to stay open, we will receive messages from the universe. And I’m not referring only to angels, butterflies, and other winged messengers. There are clues in our lives that point to what will bring us joy. My first nudge came from a friend, who suggested I send a travel essay to a local newspaper. I listened and watched as the newspaper featured my essay and pictures in a two-page spread. When I attended readings and workshops within a 60-mile radius, I learned about local and regional opportunities for budding writers.

I have acquired the habit of reading notices on bulletin boards and the Events sections in newspapers. Anything that catches my interest is worth pursuing. I also find inspiration on social media, in particular, Twitter and Pinterest. In November of 2012, I noticed a tweet from Soul Mate Publishing on my Twitter feed. I took action and sent a query letter. Senior Editor Debby Gilbert responded and offered me a contract for Between Land and Sea on January 31, 2013.

Listen to Your Inner Critic

I realize this is contrary to all the advice that’s out there. But there is something to be gained by analyzing the selected thoughts of our inner critics and taking action.

How can you distinguish those selected thoughts?

Very simply, take note of all sentences that start with “Someone should…”

Here are some examples:

“Someone should write a letter to the editor about that issue. It’s bugging me.”

“Someone should organize an arts festival that showcases the talents of boomer artists, artisans, musicians, and writers in our county.”

“Someone should put her name forward for an executive position on that board.”

“Someone should design and create clothes that fit and flatter women over fifty.”

“Someone should write a cookbook filled with nutritious, easy-to-prepare recipes for older singles and couples on budgets.”

“Someone should run for mayor.”

Once you have identified your favorite “Someone should,” it’s time to…

Take action…any action!

Entering the political arena, assuming an executive role in a non-profit, organizing an arts festival, writing a novel…these are all goals that can be accomplished but probably not within the immediate future. Why not set small, move-the-needle steps for the season in which you are in. These small steps will lead to larger ones, and subsequent steps will always be within your grasp.

You could start by attending an information meeting, offering to help with an established arts festival, signing up for an online course, joining a local writing group, or listening to a webinar. Don’t worry if certain steps don’t work out. Keep moving forward and course-correct along the way.

Where to find Joanne…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

Posted in Inspiration, Soul Mate Publishing, What's Up With Joanne!, Writing | 7 Comments