There are craft Books, and then there are books that teach you how to write . . .

I have read literally hundreds of writing craft books over the last five years. Some have been very informative, some have been a complete waste of time and money. Many tout a particular “plan,” whether it be some kind of outlining or storyboarding or an in-detail explanation of the story arc and three act structure.

As I said, most of them have been utterly useless to me.

Now, Donald Maass, who is an accomplished fiction author in his own right, as well as being a literary agent, has written a number of craft books. His most famous, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” is considered a sort of “bible” in the industry, right alongside Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I enjoyed Maass’ book, but can’t really say I picked it up to refer to it again once I’d finished it.

There’s even an accompanying workbook, by the way, which I never used. Bottom line is this: I can’t write “out of a box,” or by following a “recipe.”

Yup, you guessed it. I’m a classic pantser. If I try to outline, use some sort of pattern or rubric, my creativity yawns and dozes off. On the flip side, if I do it “my way,” I start off like gangbusters, then fizzle 1/3 or 1/2 of the way in. I’ve got at least a dozen wannbe novels sitting, gathering virtual dust, on my hard drive (and backed up, of course!)

So I want to learn to do it better. What’s the answer? Well, I found one book that is working for me.

Donald Maass wrote another book (back in 2016, why I just came across it now, I have no idea) called “The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface.” I originally borrowed the ebook from my library loan system. Read it cover to cover in three evenings.

Then I went back on Amazon and bought it in paperback. Now, page markers in hand, I’m reading it again.

This is a treasure trove. It’s not a recipe. It’s not an explanation of how to create outlines or cover your walls with sticky notes. It’s not a plotting method. This book explains why some books reach into a reader’s chest and grab hold of their hearts, and other’s don’t.

At the end of each section, Mr. Maass has a list of “suggestions” for looking at your own work and testing it out on the emotion scale. Wow. What a revelation. I wanted the book in paperback because this, folks, will become MY “bible” for my writing process.

Thank you, Mr. Maass, for sharing what you’ve learned in your very impressive career. I feel like I’ve found a pot of gold.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments

PLOTTR: Is It Right for You? by CiCi Cordelia

As Cheryl and I have been upping our CiCi Cordelia game, we find ourselves on the lookout for new tools and ways to improve our creativity. Especially since we have decided to continue writing in the nineteenth-century Western Historical world of Little Creede, Colorado, stronger plotting methods are vital. All the research, setting detail and descriptions, recurring characters . . . everything needs an easy-access place to be stored. We started out by creating a series bible that’s helped us keep it together, and each book benefitted from outlines.

But now, we need more. And we found more, in the program PLOTTR.

Plottr – Apps on Google Play

It’s the coolest thing. The program gives a writer places for everything from timelines, character arcs (including character images for inspiration), and per-chapter storage, to color-coded tags for dialogue and scene-setting. All your info can be archived individually by book, so it’s ideal for cross-referencing a series like ours. We found we can actually write the chapters right in PLOTTR if we want to. Easy and fun, and endlessly inspiring especially for us. It took quite a load of anxiety off us as well, because now we have everything stored in one place and we don’t have to worry anymore about losing important notes as we continue on.

PLOTTR Example!

Cost is definitely affordable: $25 to buy the program, and after a year you have the choice of just keeping the version you have or purchasing a yearly membership for updates. The program we purchased for $25 really does have all we need without having to do the yearly thing, and it’s ours to keep. PLOTTR also has a Facebook page where they regularly offer video instruction on how to set it up and the best ways to take advantage of its features. An additional nice feature: it can be shared on up to three computers which made it easy for Cheryl and me to each have it. So, that $25 fee stretched to cover us both.

I’m all for finding ways to improve creativity. The easier the process, the more the creative juices can flow, because now all you have to worry about is getting it down rather than adding in the stress of making your existing platform work for you. Writing can be draining enough, without all that other stuff. ::grin::

If you would like to check it out further, here’s a link:

Happy Writing! And have a wonderful weekend!

Posted in Char's Thoughts, Cheryl's Corner, CiCi Cordelia, Historical Romance, Inspiration, Motivation, Networking, Perserverance, Settings, Soul Mate Publishing, Time Management, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What did our ancestors look like?

Have you ever wondered what people looked like in the past?

Reconstructing the face of a person from skeletal remains is used in police procedures, developing from laborious handmade clay models into computer generated 3D images. Both techniques rely on having a fairly complete skull, and extrapolating known facial parameters such as musculature.

But what if there is only a few teeth or a fingerbone? Scientists have recently reconstructed what a Denisovan (people who lived in Siberia some 400,000 years ago and related to Neanderthals) might have looked like.

Using DNA, they used gene methylation, a chemical identifier that indicates if a gene has been turned on (expressed) or off. They then looked at modern humans, and which genes (turned on or off) affect physical traits. They then compared results using chimpanzees and had an 80% success rate in predicting features.

There are some remarkably interesting archaeological results when skeletons, particularly mass graves, are excavated. A mass grave burial is a snapshot in time, providing details on the variability of a population. I read recently of the horrible and painful deformities from syphilis, a mass burial near a church due to plague, and also of a slave burial, where the bones had multiple poorly healed fractures, and problems caused by persistent heavy lifting.

In science fiction, the idea of reassembling of a body via a transporter beam is common in Star Trek. I also read a story where a future historical researcher was reanimating long dead people for research. The issue of bringing a creature or person from the past is an area where science fact and fiction are now not very distant. Perhaps we are now one step closer to being able to bring a person to life from the past. A good idea, or doomed to a Jurassic Park size failure?

For more detail read the article from Cosmos

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. Her latest release -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.

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Posted in Soul Mate Publishing, Word-Crafting With Cindy | 1 Comment

Letting Go to Receive More

By Jeanine Englert

Letting go is a strange and unusual concept to many, especially if you’ve held a shame, a guilt, or a disappointment close to you for any length of time. If you’ve carried and clutched it with you for decades, like I and my Lovely Digits characters Lucy and John have, letting it go feels like a loss or a death almost. For what do you fill that blinding empty space with?

The answer: whatever you want.

Perhaps a new joy or hobby. Or maybe a new love, new people, or new experiences. The idea is that when you loosen your grip on whatever it is you’ve been carrying for so long that’s pained you, you realize you have an open, empty palm ready for some new part of yourself to fill or bloom into. It’s as if you are pruning your own life. You’re releasing yourself from the dead weight of the past and allowing some new facet of yourself to emerge and come to life.

It’s only taken me most of my adult life to realize it and begin to do it. Notice, I said begin. It’s taken me years to start the process. Some people may be able to let go in one opening of their hand. For me, it’s been a nail biting one finger at a time process, and you know what? I still haven’t fully let go yet. But, I’m getting there, and I’ve let some of the dead weight fall away and drift off in the wind.

Lucy & John Learn How to Let Go a Bit Painfully at First

For my characters in Lovely Digits, Lucy and John are tethered together and then torn apart by a wound they never believed they could let go. Both experienced a heady loss, and it was only by letting go of the past that they were able to imagine another future for themselves that allowed for happiness and love.

So, if you are struggling with a deep wound: some shame, guilt, or disappointment of the past, I challenge you to open your hand and look at it. Is this what you want to continue to carry with you in lieu of other opportunities you may not have even imagined possible for yourself? If not, let go of it, one finger at a time. See how it feels. Then, see what new things begin to bloom in your life, and enjoy that beauty.

You deserve it.

Jeanine Englert is a 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

Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery and the 2020 Maggie Award for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.

Where you can find me:






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A Happy Book Birthday To The Widow’s Walk!

The Widow’s Walk is celebrating its sixth birthday!

During the late summer, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a contract renewal from Debbie Gilbert of Soulmate who is both my publisher and editor. Debbie heard my pitch at a Connecticut Romance Writers chapter event in 2013 and accepted the manuscript which was published November 11, 2014. And I’m honored that she still believes enough in it to keep it on the Soulmate Publishing list.

It’s hard to believe so much time has passed, but I still absolutely love the cover which was done by Christine Caughie.

The Widow’s Walk was my first long fiction publication, followed by Breakwater Beach in 2016 and Storm Watch in 2017. And even though The Widow’s Walk was published first, it wound up being the second book in the series.

Many of my beta readers loved the dual timeline stories of Elizabeth and Edward and Liz and Mike, but wanted more about how they met and fell in love. So Breakwater Beach was born, and became book one in the series.

I hadn’t intended to write two novels, let alone three, but while sitting on the real Breakwater Beach one summer morning, a fisherman was sitting in his grounded boat waited patiently for the tide to come in. (For privacy reasons, I waited until he was out of sight to snap the image)

He reminded me of Mike, and the character Sandra intruded and insisted I write Storm Watch. Her character was more fully developed, but she is still insisting on Book Four, which is in progress.

And the first paragraphs of Storm Watch turned out to be set on Breakwater Beach, featuring Mike and Sandra setting up the ominous story line. Here’s a teaser revealing the more about Sandra Kensington, the main character in Book Four, which will also be a dual timeline, dual life novel.

The boat teeter-tottered on its keel as Mike climbed aboard and settled into a seat. Reassured by the glimmering water rippling in to release him from bondage, he readied his fishing gear. Chants of “ohmmmmm” from morning beach yoga carried in the breeze. At least that was connection with living spirits, as opposed to the dead, stale vestiges of lives ended too soon who were unable to give up and let go.

 A woman out for an early morning walk grew larger and larger. Her broad brimmed hat dipped so low over her eyes he couldn’t see her face, though her skinny legs, matchstick arms, and pigeon chest were unmistakable once she’d emerged from the glare. That, the jangling earrings and the purple and pink broomstick skirt hitched up and secured with a silver belt.

“Good morning, Mike.” Always oppositional, Sandra was headed out when everyone was on their way back.

“Where’re you going, Sandra? Tide’s coming in.”

She flipped up the floppy brim and grinned. “I’m headed over to check on Harley.”

The Whaler rocked in the surf. “Should be ready to roll in about twenty minutes. I’ll give you a ride over.”

Sandra didn’t break stride. “That’s okay. I’ll be sitting on the beach with the old buzzard before you even pull up anchor.”

They were both oddballs: He, wearing a Red Sox cap, a scruffy beard, a black tee shirt showing a bit of belly, while sitting like a bum in a beached boat. Sandra, like an escapee from a Harry Potter novel, headed over to check on a ninety-six year old hermit who lived on a dune that was cut off from the mainland at high tide.

They were Cape Codders, lifers who’d weathered many bad storms. She had to know he planned to empty and secure his traps, get the Whaler to Paine’s Creek on the high tide, and out of the water in the event even one of those storms took the predicted track. Just like he knew she was trying to get Harley to safety.

If those hurricanes were as strong as predicted, all of them and their tragic past lives legacies would be broken apart and buried in the mud like a bunch of poor, old crabs.

Posted in Calling On Carole!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Plan for A Kids’ Halloween Party by Susan Hanniford Crowley

Due to the pandemic, my grandchildren cannot go to their usual Trunk & Treat or the huge store to store treating they do in a set of village shops. It’s not considered safe. Our area is experiencing a Covid-19 spike.

So this is what I’ve devised with my oldest daughter Cera. The party is scheduled for the afternoon of Halloween with the raindate of the next day. They have been asked to bring their own bucket for collecting treats and wear masks.

  1. The children we are having the party for are ages 1, 2, 5, and 8. This party will happen on my front lawn. Masks will be worn.
  2. They will be welcomed and given a funny pseudo scary speech by The Sphinx (that’s me).
  3. They go on a scavenger hunt for treat bags that are hidden behind the faux grave stones in my yard. Before starting the hunt, each child is asked a question by The Sphinx. (Sample question: How old are you?) Moms can help. Each bag has a first letter from their first name so they get the treat bag with the age appropriate treats.
  4. Before going to the next grave stone, they have to answer the next question. The process continues for each grave stone.
  5. The above drags out the games, so they don’t all run around and end up done in less than five minutes.
  6. Next they play Bowling for Treats.  I am using a cheap plastic small child bowing set. Prizes will include fruit roll ups, animal crackers, and stuffed animals.
  7.  We may add another game – it’s undecided.
  8.  Next they each go to the Fortune Teller’s table and receive a good fortune and a treat.
  9. Then we go to the large table and find a treat bag with our name on it that has some toys. We have juice boxes, pizza, and cupcakes.
  10. The party is over. All together we are thinking anywhere from an hour or two, and everyone leaves before it gets dark.

All the best for a fun Halloween party!

Susan Hanniford Crowley, Author of Vampire Princess of New York
Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing, Susan's Snippets! | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Yorkies and Fall by DeAnn Smallwood

The Yorkies and I are entering the fall season with mixed feelings. They are trying to figure out why its so cold when they go out in the early morning to do their jobs. I can almost hear them asking, especially the puppy, Peyton, “What happened?” I’m wondering that myself. One minute it was in the triple digits and the next in the sixty and seventy degree temps. If I’m not careful, fall can be depressing as I grimly anticipate the cold winds, freezing temperatures and snow. I check out the snow shovel to make sure it’s in prime condition and bought more blue tarps to cover anything that might have to be left out of the garage. (I mentioned in my last blog about finding books at a yard sale for .25 apiece. Well, the sale was on again so I bought even more and stored them in the garage. Ergo no room for minor things like rototillers, lawn equipment, etc.)

Yet I have to admit a sense of relief as I wind up my last water hose, blow out the irrigation system and pull the last vine in the garden. I’ve loaded the pickup with potato vines, tomato vines, cucumber vines and trimmed roses and shrubs. Ready to go to the compost yard. Then I run the rototiller over the garden plot to leave it ready for next year’s planting. All of a sudden my work load has shrunk and I have to admit it sure feels good. No more watering, mowing, weeding, picking, and canning.

Another point in fall’s favor is delicious apples. Crunchy, cold, crisp delicious apples. Red and yellow ready for picking. Great for snacks and I use them in apple pies because we like ours sweeter. Another favorite…caramel apples. Gosh I haven’t made them for a long time. I even found an old recipe for cinnamon coated apples. Might dip a few in that great smelling mixture.

Along with fall are the pungent scents we inhale only this time of the year: Fallow ground turned and ready for planting. Fallen leaves. Pumpkin. Spices. Gingerbread. Turkey and dressing. I find myself baking more and filling our house with these familiar odors. I just made up a batch of my cocoa mix ready for those cold winter nights. Chili and cornbread shows up on our menu more and more often.

So all in all, the Yorkie kids and I are grateful for this special season even if the temperature has changed. I’m especially grateful for Stormy our little old lady Yorkie. She’s developed an enlarged heart valve. She’s been so scary sick. Every day we have her is a gift. This will probably be her last fall so it’s especially heartwarming to see her little nose twitch as she smells the fall air and then takes her place back on her pillow to help mom write.

For a fun fall treat, buy yourself a mum plant and put it where you can enjoy it’s beautiful fall color. It’ll help you welcome in this delightful lull before the snow flies. I bought two that our local grocery store offered. One a vibrant purple and the other is a golden yellow. They both came in little bushel baskets. Each Yorkie had to give them a sniff over and all three pronounced them official greeters of fall.

So tie a scarf around your neck and take an early morning walk. Smell the air and crunch a few leaves beneath your feet. Look at the changing colors and say a big “Hello” to fall.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments



Want to escape from bad romance?

In my previous five blogs, we discussed how to escape from bad romance in the real world and how that related to my writing. Part 1 (April 29, 2020), Part 2 (June 24, 2020), Part 3 (July 22, 2020), Part 4 (August 19, 2020), Part 5 (September 16, 2020).  I thought perhaps the success my characters experienced could translate into the real world. (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.)

To be clear, I’m talking about actual romance and I’m sharing an amazing discovery I made constructing a novel.

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 real-world romance?

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 in my recently published romantic comedy PASS THE KRYPTONITE was my understanding of not one character but both romantic characters.

This suggested that the success of real-world romance depends on my understanding of myself and my partner.

Changing your thoughts isn’t enough to change your romantic reality. Understand yourself, change your thoughts, and empathize with your partner who is doing the same thing.

Remember, partners worthy of your romantic attention want the same thing you want. So, you have to understand—what do you want?

If you want an emotional risk taker and you’re sitting across the table from someone who clearly isn’t an emotional risk taker, and yet you persist, what can you expect other than the same results you’ve already had?

Empathizing with a guy doesn’t fall under the category of a universal rule. It doesn’t mean talking to him about sports—or listening to him talk about it. Maybe sports play a huge role in both your lives. That’s fine.

But empathy isn’t for sports. Empathy is for emotions.

What emotions is this guy feeling, and to what does he apply them? Maybe the only thing he applies them to is sports.

Doesn’t seem likely.

Maybe the only thing he’ll let you know he applies them to is sports. That means he’s not an emotional risk taker.

The emotional risk taker has to show you what he applies his emotions to so you have the chance to empathize . . . just as you have to show him where your emotions lie.

It’s exceedingly difficult to empathize with someone who isn’t an emotional risk taker since that person doesn’t show you their feelings. Much of the frustration of “How do I empathize with a guy?” has nothing to do with your well-honed empathic abilities. It has everything to do with his unwillingness and inability to give you/share with you the feelings he has that you can empathize with.

Look for the emotional risk taker. All of a sudden, your empathic skills—that perhaps you were beginning to doubt—will soar.

Romance is simply the most wonderful phenomenon—ever. Don’t just read about it.

Find an emotional risk taker.

Take a risk!

Pass the Kryptonite is a young adult romantic comedy by third-time author, Raz Steel, released by Soul Mate Publishing, April 29, 2020. It’s not what you think. There might be a few references to “Superman” but the story has nothing to do with the DC universe.

Willow Bolden, a nineteen year old psychology major, is on track to finish college so she and her BFF can attend grad school together and open their own clinic. And Willow loves her fiancé. She’s just not “in love” with him anymore. If only she could figure out how to tell him.

However, the “minor” fiancé problem pales in comparison to the brazen flirt hitting on her in cyber space. A zealous dancer hitting on her in Central Park. And a world-class psychology professor blocking graduation whom she’d like to hit.

She hates one. She’s never met two. And she’s analyzing all three. She has a roommate who loves to stir the pot, a cat who pretends to be a dog, and a dog who sings with a horse. Willow’s mother calls daily, her almost-ex-fiancé refuses to give-up, and she finds herself in a predictable rut.

But Willow is full of surprises!

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Excuse Me, Where is the Restroom?

Decades ago—and I do mean decades—I wrote local histories for publishers like Windsor, Donning, American Historical Press, and Arcadia. The nice people in their publicity departments arranged for me to appear at book signings at places like county fairs, Costco, Barnes and Noble, and other bookshops that are no longer around.

When I began writing, most of the books were about nearby places and I drove to the signings. When I moved five hundred miles away, I had to fly in, rent a car, and drive to the bookstore. There, I’d park in a remote part of the lot and change into author clothes. That usually meant wiggling into pantyhose in the front seat of the car, quickly squeezing into my suit skirt, and sometimes pulling a tee shirt off and a sweater on, hoping no one strolled by in front of the windshield and called the cops for indecent exposure.

Inside the store, I was greeted warmly and placed at a table right by the front door with a stack of books. I didn’t have to bring them with me because most were large-format coffee-table picture books and were impossible to carry around. Then I was abandoned. Customers sometimes knew why I was there, but most nervously walked around me.

I learned to smile at the people walking in who thought I was A) the official greeter; B) purveyor of directions C) the checkout line. The most common question was “Can you direct me to the restroom?”

When I was through, the chair and table would be removed, I’d autograph a few books (if requested by store personnel), slap a little gold sticker on them that said “autographed copy” and head back to the car where I’d furtively change back into airplane clothes and head for home.

I now write fiction and in-person book signings are rare, even before Covid. But I have to admit they’re lots more fun.

My favorite one was at a winery in Healdsburg, California. Thirteen authors sat in a room with our books in front of us, various items of swag, and big smiles. Those attending bought a ticket to attend.

Questions were “what are your books about” or “how long have you been writing” or “what is your opinion of Pushkin and Chekhov.” Fortunately, I minored in Russian Studies so I could answer the last one. People drifted in all afternoon, sipping wine, munching on dainty desserts, and buying books. One woman left with two bags full.

Sure, they got free stuff. They got bookmarks and magnets and paper fans. At my table, I gave away plastic wine corks, pencils with my book names on them, and candy kisses. The best part? I talked to so many people I was hoarse by the end of the event.

Most “author parties” now are on-line, but they’re still fun. And the best part? No one asks the location of the restroom.

Check out my books–just the fiction ones–at Happy reading.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments

Closet Moods

I started a project today, which means I’m procrastinating on another project (or two). Although I have homework due and a looming mid-term, plus those goals I set in my last blog, I just couldn’t stand one more day of a messy closet. After all, it’s Fall—even though my air conditioner has been running non-stop because of the near-100 degree temps—and Fall means time to clean.

Yes, I know, the term is spring cleaning, but work with me.

Isn’t it true that one must take an inventory of their fall and winter clothing? Try things on to see what still fits? Purge items over ten-years-old? If I do find things that just no longer work for me, is it not best to get them donated now before the cold weather sets in?

And considering this coming week I’ll be out and about to get a flu shot, to vote, and to see the dentist, I’ll have a perfect opportunity to swing by my local donation center for a drop off. Given all this information, I say today’s closet cleaning was the perfect use of my time.

To be honest, the project revealed something about myself that I didn’t realize. The spring/summer side of the closet was full of colorful prints and florals with a few solids thrown in the mix. The fall/winter side had dreary grays, dull blues, and loads of blacks, with only two prints standing out from the line of solids. My clothes presented mood.

Now that the hours of daylight are diminishing, I won’t have the sunshine to boost me. And it seems that over the years, I’ve created a closet palette that won’t help me weather the cold, gray days of the coming months, either. So, I have a new mission—change the mood of the clothes in my closet to year-round, happy and energetic. I don’t need two heather gray, long-sleeve t-shirts. A black top is a black top, no matter what the difference in patterning is. It’s time to turn seventy-five percent of my fall/winter inventory into colorful and cheerful pieces. Which means my one-day project has now turned into a multi-year venture, because I can’t afford to buy new clothes to replace what has taken me a decade to accumulate.

One of these days, I’ll learn not to procrastinate. The things I do instead of what I should do, those that seem like good ideas, always turn into more work than I originally thought.

I should have done my homework.

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