Uncertainty in a Time of Plague

Uncertain Times:


Around the world, we find ourselves in uncertain times.  COVID-19 has created a dangerous and brave new world of sorts.  I live in Louisiana, hurricane country.  We are familiar with nature playing dirty tricks on us and turning our lives upside down; however, when a hurricane strikes, we’ve always had the option of evacuating to another state where life is normal as we see it in this 21st century.  COVID-19 has changed all that. There is nowhere to which we can escape; however, we can escape to the corner in our homes that is our sacred space, embark on walks around the neighborhood, and hibernate within the hobby or vocation we love.


I am a teacher and a writer, and I’m still teaching even though my students are not in a physical building.  I post info, enter grades, and email parents.  As a writer, I have entered three different worlds with three different manuscripts. My husband shakes his head. To him, I’m creating my own stress, but the writing keeps me from stress. Writing and researching fiction also helps me put the COVID-19 epidemic into perspective.  Generations before us suffered other illnesses: influenza, polio, plague.  They went to war, lost their lives, and lost or made their fortunes.


My historical fiction especially has shown me this reality.  In Love at War, those young people now called “the greatest generation” answered the call of their country to defeat a bully. Young men and women responded to the call to do their part.  In From Ice Wagon to Club House, many in my country lived in poverty. They suffered through the Depression and Prohibition.  In Ireland, they fought to be free of tyranny. The Progeny, the sequel to Ice Wagon, also recounts the struggles that “greatest generation faced” as they confronted a powerful enemy.


The pain and uncertainty—the heartache—we are experiencing is terrible and frightening.  I have many family members and friends who are on the front line as healthcare workers; I know the sacrifice of our healthcare professionals, grocery workers, first responders, delivery people, and mail carriers. These are frightening times, but we will persevere.  We will mourn those lost and celebrate those left when we finally come together.  Perhaps we will form another “great generation.”









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Even a loner like me has gotten antsy these last few weeks in quarantine. I’ve spent my time doing a lot of reading, and researching, and thinking. I’ve also come to question my future path on this journey called “author.” It’s not been so much a question of “when will I be able to complete my book or start another?” It’s more like “am I really writing in the right genre?”

The reviews on my six novels are mostly good. There are similar comments however, even in the 4-star and 5-star reviews, that turn up again and again. They circle back to that very question. Comments like, “. . . great story, but lags a bit at times.” These “lags” are places where I’ve tried to deepen characterization, give more description, or illustrate the story theme more clearly. My readers, however, don’t see it that way. They are romance readers, and it’s just not what they are looking for in a romance novel.

I don’t tend to write fast-paced plots. The bottom line is this: if I try to “speed up” my stories, they won’t be my stories any longer. And I will admit, perhaps because of my more mature outlook (a nice way of saying “I’m older”), my perspective on love and relationships is different now. I also wouldn’t lose any sleep at night if I never had to write another graphic sex scene.

Is a change in order? Should I shift my focus away from the romance genre and direct it more towards one that embraces my chosen writing style? Wow, that sounds like a momentous decision. But the more I read, and the more I research, the more I’m coming to believe it’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

What are my choices? Ah, a ponderous question. What are the differences between “genre” fiction (which is where romance of all flavors fits), literary, and “commercial” fiction?

According to Writer’s Digest, literary fiction is paced more slowly than genre or commercial fiction. Well, that would solve the “lags a bit” problem, wouldn’t it? This type of story is also more character-centric and is based on a timeless theme, but rarely has a happy ending. Examples are books by Toni Morrison and John Updike. Also, consider the movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” based on the novel by Robert James Waller.

I have tried—I really have—to read purely literary works. For me (and this is my personal opinion), they are better than chamomile tea at bedtime. And I’m sorry, but I’m a sucker for happy endings.


Commercial fiction is more plot-based, faster paced, with less characterization and higher stakes. Think Stephen King, Dan Brown, and James Patterson. My problem with these, although there are several works by all of these authors that I absolutely love, is that I can’t write that way. I’m not interested in solving the murder, police procedure, apocalyptic plot-lines, or stories with lots of blood and gore.

We get enough of that in real life.

So what’s an author to do? Where do some of my favorite authors’ work fit in? Books by Simone St. James (a two-time RITA award winner, I know, but her books aren’t classic romances), Jodi Picoult, and Susanna Kearsley? These, I’m told, are labeled as “upmarket fiction.” Definition? From this Reedsy blog: “Upmarket fiction addresses complex themes with prose that is more straightforward and accessible (than literary, I’m assuming), and may or may not include elements and tropes from a number of genres.”

Ah, this sounds closer to what I write. What I want to write.

While whiling away the hours in my cozy cage, I sprung for yet another Masterclass, this one by Neil Gaiman. I’ve not read much by Gaiman, nor was I a particular fan of his work. But I gotta tell you, he’s one hell of a teacher. I got more out of this class than I ever expected. Most of all, I was inspired.

So. A new start. I’ve done my research. I have a direction now, and I think I’ve finally pinned down the “universal theme” for my stories. This was difficult to define, since what I write are ghost stories based on history—what could possibly be considered “universal” about that?

The light bulb moment came from these words of William Faulkner:

“The past is never dead. It is not even past . . . It is a part of every man, every woman, and every moment. All of his and her ancestry, background, is all a part of himself and herself at any moment.”

There it is—I have William Faulkner’s permission. Now I can write my ghost stories based on real history with the chance they will resound with a wider audience.

Where will I go from here? I will climb on the magic carpet of imagination, hang on tight, and see where it takes me.





Posted in Cavorting With Claire!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Give Me an Island and a Good Book

In these current Interesting Times, do you ever feel like you’re living on a desert island? You’re stranded with the people you washed ashore with, supplies only come in on the occasional wave, and one day looks just like the last one? Yep. Desert island. Good place to read, no?

I’ve taken to searching for desert island humor to keep me smiling. Unfortunately, most of them are either copyright protected or inappropriate for this family space. Well, maybe just one that appears to be free to use:

It has me thinking however, how much I love islands, and how many I have visited. When our children were small, we often visited the Lake Erie Islands. Of those, Put-in-Bay is as much known for drunken boaters as it is the Perry Memorial (aka the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. memorial). We tended to prefer the car-free bicycle heaven of Kelly’s Island which boasted bed and breakfasts, quarries, a winery, and the best fried perch you ever ate. My impression is that it has become encrusted with nightlife. It is a memory best left where it is.

Ocracoke Light

Other island memories include dip netting off the pier on Ocracoke Island and coming up with little sponges, crabs, and other creatures—all returned under the supervision of National Park rangers, of course. They were older when we finally made it to Florida, but Christmas on Sanibel Island stands out in memory.

Sentosa Island, Straights of Singapore in the background

Beloved and I managed England, Ireland, and New Zealand, islands all but big enough that you could forget when you were inland. Not so Singapore. It may be densely populated but all growth is up. While there, we visited Sentosa, the tiny island that is part of Singapore and stood at the southernmost tip of Asia watching shipping through the Singapore straits while wiggling our feet in the sand and watching children enjoy the pools and beaches.

Sunset, Ten PM on Ornkey


Most dramatic of all, however, is probably Orkney, accessible from the top of Scotland by boat, a collection of jewels in the North Sea. If you go in June the days stretch far into what should be night and the light is magical. So are the standing stones and Neolithic ruins.

So islands—they aren’t so bad, even if I currently feel like I’m stuck on one. I’ve loved them long, and I’ve loved them well. Now hand me a good book.

I am Caroline Warfield, teller of stories and lover of islands who lives in the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania where I write Regency and Victorian novels, sometimes set in places I’ve visited. You might even find one set in Regency Orkney if you look!


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Watching Out The Office Window Yorkies and DeAnn Smallwood

Good morning. I’m in my office with my seat planted firmly on a chair, hands poised over the keyboard of my computer. All is well because on my right, looking out the window are my three Yorkies. They are lined up in a row, little butts facing me, all eyes ahead, checking out the window and beyond. I have discussed today’s blog with them and it is unanimous they don’t want me to write about C19 and the crisis. I agree. It is too beautiful a day to weigh it down with worrisome thoughts. Not that I’m not following all recommendations, I am. Not that I’m not concerned, I am. But it is sunny outside and summer is around the corner.

Out my window the Yorkie kids and I see my garden waiting to be planted. So far I have planted two rows of potatoes. Because, in addition to the three Yorkies, we rescued a beautiful Siberian husky that can easily clear the four foot garden fence, I have placed tall sticks up and down the two rows. (Whew, that was a big run-on sentence!) I hope she won’t step on the area between the sticks where there is planting, but it’s a long-shot. However, on the bright side, I have got plenty of sticks coming up.

My wonderful daughter is coming today. Because my husband and I are still being cautious, she will be going to the garden center to get my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumber plants, maybe a few flowers. The Yorkies are delighted. They are tired of looking at the sticks and bare ground.

Beyond the garden, the sunshine, and the sticks, we see the trees with their new bright green summer leaves. As we enjoy their promise of life, I can’t help remembering a poem I learned years ago. I won’t quote it in its entirety, but it’s about not ever seeing a poem as lovely as a tree. A tree that wears a nest of robins in her hair. Beautiful verses. It’s by Joyce Kilmer. So the kids and I draw from the trees and seeing them from our window.

The next thing we see out our window is a round metal tub we keep full of water for the birds. During the freezing winter months, I keep a heating element in it. The birds love it. The Yorkies growl menacing at the blackbirds when they descend on the tub. They perch all around the rim and wait their turn not to drink (they do that too) but to bathe. Winter and summer. Freezing temperatures or not the dunk and splash with water flying everywhere. I get goosebumps watching them when its so cold outside. They don’t seem to mind. When they get through and fly off, the tub is half empty. Another guest at the tub is our precious robin. The Yorkies don’t growl when he comes. He’s well mannered, waits his turn, then his head bobs up and down, sipping and enjoying a long drink. He and his wife have a nest high up in my apple tree.

One of the best things the Yorkie kids and I see out the magic window is two lawn chairs sitting on our patio, with a table between them. They are waiting for my husband and I to come outside, cups of coffee in hand, and sit there in the sunshine, talking and enjoying the moment. The three kids run around the yard intent on doing Yorkie things and every now and then come for pats and praise for the sticks they drag up on the patio and chew. Life is good!!

So the view from my office window is a breath of life and hope especially during these times. But now my eyes leave the window and I focus on the computer screen and my book…my writing…my passion. I am working on my latest book in the Chesterfield Colorado setting…ONE BROTHER RETURNS. I hope to finish it in the next month or so if the Yorkies let me and don’t divert my attention back to the view from my office window.

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Marisa on Marketing

Entertainment has been transformed. Gone are the live slick Hollywood produced programs with multiple cameras, spectacular stage lighting effects, synthesized sound equipment, and performers with a team of stylists behind the scenes. What we are witnessing today is a generous outpouring of raw talent and the goal to make a human connection.

I’m sure you’ve witnessed this either on television or in social media events in recent days. Many of the world’s most dynamic global citizens are sharing their gifts and their homes with us during these uncertain times.

I marveled at Elton John’s performance in his backyard at a shiny black grand piano sandwiched in between a kid’s makeshift basketball court and a recycling container during a recent live program. I’ve seen John Legend’s GRAMMYs on display, Oprah’s kitchen, Deepak Chopra’s balcony view, Ellen’s backyard, Garth Brook’s home music studio, Tim McGraw’s pool, Paul McCarty’s den, and Jimmy Kimmel’s kitchen.

Each time these well-known personalities have opened the door to their home, we get a unique glimpse into their lives where we’ve found they too are stuck at home trying to make sense of what’s going on in the world and manage the best they can. As if celebrities would be exempt?

Musicians separated but collaborating from their homes has been another amazing entertainment accomplishment during this Pandemic crisis. The live stream entertainment special this past weekend, One World: Together at Home, helped raise funds for the World Health Organization and set the new standard. The show stopper was a remote collaboration featuring Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Andrea Bocelli, John Legend and Lang Lang perform performing, “The Prayer.” It was breathtaking and relevant. As of today, the YouTube clip of the performance has hit 6,360,368 views.Global Citizen Group

As a professional marketer in the media business, I am trained to look for trends and ways to better communicate. While many of us are feeling isolated, I hope these bright spots of human connection through our media platforms and electronic devices, continue to feed us help us feel both human and connected.

Here's to being together until we can be together again. (1)

Marisa Dillon has three historical romance books with Soul Mate Publishing with the Ladies of Lore Series.

Follow her on these platforms:






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And Time Stood Still

One month ago, I was struggling to finish my contemporary Western romance. The demands and pressure of my full time job as a midwife, taking care of the house, the pets, troubleshooting issues with my teenage and young adult children, my husband and my elderly mother are a lot to juggle. I’m overwhelmed by just reading the last sentence.

Creative writing has always been my outlet and I love escaping into my characters’ world. In the last week of normalcy, I  had a research paper to edit and finalize, and that was certainly not an escape.

The novel should have been finished by now. I make most of my deadlines, but sometimes they impose themselves on me.

One month ago, the theoretical threat of COVID-19 became real overnight. I woke up hearing that there was a cluster in New Rochelle, which is very close to New York City. The Metro North commuter rail connects Westchester County with the NYC subway system. I knew what was coming.

The hospital started ramping up the precautions, but we were already very low on critical supplies such as masks and gowns. It was a blur after the first containment zone led to social distancing, and then a full scale pandemic with a shutdown of the city that never sleeps. I wondered (and hoped) if the bad cough, cold and terrible backache I had two weeks before, after riding the subway for a week of trainings, might have been a COVID infection.

One month ago, time stood still. One day blurs into the next. I’m used to intense situations and census surges. But working outside my normal scope of practice and making due in life threatening conditions, combined with the arduous task of looking out for oneself, co-workers, family members on top of the normal stressors has caused deep emotional and physical exhaustion. I don’t remember which day it is, only if it’s a day to work or a day off.

I’ve become accustomed to, and thankful for PAUSE, New York State’s social distancing mandate. There is no commuter traffic, which allows me  extra minutes of sleep. When I’m self isolating at home, there are no distractions, appointments, gatherings, or events.

There is a low level, ever present fear, that I tame by escaping into fiction. The novel is very close to being finished. It was already heavily based on current events, and now, I have the plot for the second book in the series.


Posted in Calling On Carole!, Soul Mate Publishing | 6 Comments

Guest Post: RONE Madness! by Char Chaffin

It’s that time of year again!

InD’tale Magazine’s 2020 RONE (Reward Of Novel Excellence) Awards has begun its initial nomination process. Books released in 2019 and then reviewed by the amazing InD’tale crew, with a rating of 4.5 or higher, are nominated for the finalist round. Each category will have anywhere from four to seven finalists depending on the category itself.

In the past, many Soul Mate authors have been nominated, many have become finalists, and then won this prestigious award. The contest process is intense and a bit of a nail-biter, as those nominated Soulies can attest to.

Initial voting began this week, and I thought it a good idea to use my guest post today as a platform for everyone to see who’s up from Soul Mate Publishing, not only this week but in the coming weeks, as nominees work through the first round. Your votes would be much appreciated, as we root for our fellow nominated Soulies.

Here is the link to the voting page at InD’tale: https://indtale.com/2020-rone-awards

And here are our SMP-released Soulie nominees, by voting week:

WEEK ONE (April 13 – April 19) CATEGORIES: Paranormal/Short, Contemporary/Sweet, and Audiobooks

Please don’t forget to jump on this week as it closes soon!

Matching Bloodlines – Deborah Garland (Paranormal/Short)

Ponytails and Promises – Annette Bower (Contemporary/Sweet)

WEEK TWO (April 20 – April 26) CATEGORIES: Historical/Regency, Young Adult, and Cops/Jocks/Cowboys

Her Midnight SinSofie Darling (Historical/Regency)

WEEK THREE (April 27 – May 3) CATEGORIES: Historical/Victorian – 20th Century, Romantic Comedy, and Time Travel/Science Fiction

The Innocent WifeCiCi Cordelia (Historical/Victorian – 20th Century)

Lessie: Brides of New HopeJo-Ann Roberts (Historical/Victorian – 20th Century)

Babies at CoconutsBeth Carter (Romantic Comedy)

WEEK FOUR (May 4 – May 10) CATEGORIES: Historical/Ancient – 18th Century, Fantasy, and Contemporary/Steamy

The Secret of Skye IsleMarisa Dillon (Historical/Ancient – 18th Century)

Amber RuinSuzanne M Sabol (Fantasy)

WEEK FIVE (May 11 – May 17) CATEGORIES: Suspense/Thriller, Novella, and Mystery

Lovely Digits – Jeanine Englert (Mystery)

WEEK SIX (May 18 – May 24) CATEGORIES: Paranormal/Long, Historical/Novella, and Anthology

Vermilion LiesL.D. Rose (Paranormal/Long)


And there you have it! Soulies and their SMP-released books represented in almost every category (SO fab!!). Voting is ongoing until May 24, so find your faves and give them a well-deserved boost by logging in to InD’tale’s 2020 RONE site when their category week opens up for votes.

On behalf of our nominated Soulies, THANK YOU!




Posted in Char's Thoughts, CiCi Cordelia | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments