August Online Workshops to energize your writing and your health



My flagship online workshop is based on my book Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity. The awesome writers at Orange County Romance Writers of America chapter are hosting Writer Wellness 100% online August 10-September 4, 2020. Registration is open and anyone can take the course. There are twelve lessons posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with ongoing discussion throughout the month.


August 3-28, 2020 I’m leading the online workshop Reflective Writing: A Journal Workshop for Writers. This course leads participants through different kinds of journal keeping as well as a look at how some famous published authors utilized their journals in life and work. The workshop host is Romance Writers of America San Diego chapter. Registration is open and anyone can take the course. Lessons are posted three times per week with ongoing discussion throughout the month.


I hope to see next month in an online workshop!


Be well, write well!

All good things,





Writers, Have You Heard About the Occupation Thesaurus?

Hi everyone! Today I have something fun to share…a special chance to win some help with your writing bills. Awesome, right?

Some of you may know Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers. Well, today they are releasing a new book, and I’m part of their street team. I’m handing the blog over to them so they can tell you about their Writer’s Showcase event, new book, and a great freebie to check out. Read on!

Certain details can reveal a lot about a character, such as their goals, desires, and backstory wounds. But did you know there’s another detail that can tie your character’s arc to the plot, provide intense, multi-layered conflict, AND shorten the “get to know the character” curve for readers?

It’s true. Your character’s occupation is a GOLD MINE of storytelling potential.

Think about it: how much time do you spend on the job? Does it fulfill you or frustrate you? Can you separate work from home? Is it causing you challenges, creating obstacles…or bringing you joy and helping you live your truth?

Just like us, most characters will have a job, and the work they do will impact their life. The ups and downs can serve us well in the story.

Maybe you haven’t thought much about jobs in the past and how they act as a window into your character’s personality, interests, and skills. It’s okay, you aren’t alone. The good news is that The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. (Here’s one of the job profiles we cover in this book: FIREFIGHTER.)


To celebrate the release of a new book, Writers Helping Writers has a giveaway happening July 20th & July 23rd. You can win some great prizes, including gift certificates that can be spent on writing services within our Writer’s Showcase. Stop by to enter!

Resource Alert: A List of Additional Jobs Profiles For Your Characters

Some of the amazing writers in our community have put together additional career profiles for you, based on jobs they have done in the past. What a great way to get accurate information so you can better describe the roles and responsibilities that go with a specific job, right? To access this list, GO HERE.

Happy writing to all!

Be well, write well!

All good things,


Reflective Writing and Springboards


My backgrounds are in journalism, creative writing, and education. I am or have been a teacher of dance, yoga, meditation, writing, health, history, and theatre. When I homeschooled my beautiful daughters for 18 years, I even dabbled in teaching science and math!

Regardless of the subject or setting, I ask students to pause on a regular basis and actively reflect on what they have learned. That reflection usually requires

  • writing about the experience of learning
  • examining how the learning fits into the current state of things for a student
  • how the newly acquired knowledge can be used in the future

This written self-exploration is what constitutes reflective writing over basic journal keeping. All forms of journal writing have value in my opinion. We are going to address journaling from this perspective to help you as a writer clarify your thoughts about life and work.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing differs very little from other terms such as journaling, expressive writing, and creative journaling. What it does offer is a perspective on the practice of keeping a journal that defines the action as a way to collect, dissect, and reflect on a vast array of things. Everything from daily life to business documentation to emotional venting is fair game to go into a journal, but the sense of being more responsive to the writing and the events qualify journal entries to be considered reflective.

If you’re already a fan or regular practitioner of journaling, you will understand when journal therapy teacher Kathleen Adams says,

“There’s a friend at the end of your pen which you can use to help you solve personal or business problems, get to know all the different parts of yourself, explore your creativity, heal your relationships, develop your intuition…and much more. (13)

Essentially, reflective writing differs from basic journal writing because the writer writes about an experience, writes about any feelings, emotions, or ideas attached to the experience, then moves beyond the original experience to learn more and repeat the reflective writing practice.

What Are Journal Springboards?

What if you’re new to the idea of journaling, have reservations, or don’t know where to start? That’s where the “Springboards” journaling technique comes in handy. It’s the practice of responding in writing to a prompt, an unfinished sentence, a question, a “what if” statement, and it is a wonderful tool to keep the pen moving across the page or the fingers punching the keyboard.

How Do Springboards Help Writers Journal?

“What should I write about?” (a springboard in its own right,) isn’t a problem where springboards are present. They are easy to answer and easy to create. Simply write about whatever pops into your head in response to a springboard.

Let’s Ink About It Journal Activity

Choose a springboard prompt from the list and journal about it for at least 250 words or as long as you like. Do this as many times as you wish. Once a day for a week is a great way to establish a journaling habit. Simply pick a springboard, copy it into your journal and write free form without stopping. Remember to keep building on ideas as they pop up for you, and keep a lid on the inner critic!

There are three things I want to accomplish (today, this week, this year, etc.) are…


Right now, I’m feeling…


What I value most in my relationship with ___ is…


I’m proud of myself for…


Today was a (great, lousy, hectic, etc.) day because…


What I really want from ____ is…


I need to set better boundaries in the ___ area of my life because ___, and this is how I’m going to do it and why.


The best part about being me is…


The worst part about being me is…


If I could meet someone I haven’t seen in a while, it would be ___ and I would tell them…


I remember…


(Adams 78)

Upcoming Online Workshop: Writer Wellness

I hope you’ll join me in June for an online workshop on Writer Wellness hosted by the Yosemite Romance Writers. It’s open to everyone and the cost is very reasonable in my opinion!

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~JEH

Adams, Kathleen. Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth. Grand Central Publishing, 1990.

Journaling: The Soul of Writer Wellness


“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~Socrates, philosopher

Writer Wellness is the term I coined several years ago to identify my personal lifestyle plan. Writers in my critique group wanted to know my secret to raising a family, working part-time, homeschooling two children, publishing regularly, and staying healthy. I stepped back and observed my daily activities. Based on what I learned and my training as a dancer and hatha yoga teacher, I offered to teach those writers how to devise their own personalized program that included journaling, exercise, relaxation, eating right, and creative play.

The workshop meetings evolved into the publication of my book Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity by WigWam Publishing in 2003. A second edition was released in 2011 by Bob Mayer’s Cool Gus Publishing, and a third edition is coming soon from Headline Books, Inc. From there, I created a course that I have taught online and at conferences since 1998.


“The Many Joys of Journal Writing”

Journaling and writers share a long and important history. From the personal journals of Gustave Flaubert that read like a laundry list of how to view life to the story bibles many writers create to keep themselves organized throughout the writing process, writers have always had and always will have numerous reasons to keep a journal. A journal can serve writers of all genres in many different ways, chief among them as a place to collect and hash out story ideas.

It isn’t a waste of valuable writing time to scribble in a journal in advance of working on one’s novel. In the words of author James Brown:

What matters is how journaling can help the writer come up with ideas, kind of a warm-up to a bigger process. The next step is building on those ideas, discarding some and fleshing out others, developing characters and motives, and arranging the scenes in a logical, meaningful sequence with a firm sense of a beginning, middle, and end. Whether you write your thoughts down in a journal or try to store them all in your head, which I don’t recommend, story begins when you begin to dream and brainstorm about people and their problems. (Raab 6)

Then there is the fascinating practice of documenting not only one’s life, but the progress of a book. Two books by John Steinbeck that fundamentally changed the way I look at myself as a writer and a human include Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath. Reading these helped me understand how keeping a journal alongside writing a novel can serve several purposes.

One use for a journal is a place to cleanse the palate, so to speak, before turning to the blank page of the work in progress. Reading snippets about Steinbeck’s faithfully recorded personal life reinforced my feelings on using a journal as a “dumping ground” to clear a writer’s head prior to working on a current project. All too often personal issues can make their way into our creative work and many times that isn’t the appropriate venue for hashing out our problems.

Steinbeck wrote a page or two each morning about his life, thoughts, and sometimes current events in order to “warm-up his writing arm.” He also used the journal pages to organize his thoughts about what to write. For example, one day’s journal describes his plans for writing:

May 9, Wednesday: It is time I think for the book to pause for discussion. It has not done that for a long time. I think that is the way I will do it. That way-first a kind of possible analysis and then quick narrative right to the end, explain it first and then do it. (79)

Steinbeck is just one example of a writer who uses journal writing to stay focused on the creative project at hand. Sue Grafton, prolific mystery author (“A” Is for Alibi) believes that the writing process is a constant back and forth between the right and left-brain hemispheres. She keeps a daily log of her writing progress and says:

This notebook (usually four times longer than the novel itself) is like a letter to myself, detailing every idea that occurs to me as I proceed. Some ideas I incorporate, some I modify, many I discard. The journal is a record of my imagination at work, from the first spark of inspiration to the final manuscript. (Raab 9)

Similar to Steinbeck, Grafton starts each writing day with logging the date into her journal followed by what’s going on in her life then a note about ideas she has for the book she’s writing. She ‘talks to herself’ about where the story could go and explores the writer’s question “What if?” In the privacy and safety of a “for my eyes only” journal, Grafton claims that this collection of meandering thoughts helps her jumpstart the creative juices and before she knows it, she’s writing new pages (Raab 11).

The many joys of keeping a journal for writers is a lengthy list. These three writers demonstrate how valuable a tool this is for brainstorming, whining, organizing, formalizing, clarifying, reflecting, and much more.

Upcoming Online Workshop: Writer Wellness

I hope you’ll join me in June for an online workshop hosted by the Yosemite Romance Writers where I’ll spend the month covering and sharing information and activities related to journaling, exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and creative play. The workshop is open to members and nonmembers.

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~JEH

Raab, Diana M., ed. Writers and Their Notebooks. The University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

Steinbeck, John. Journal of A Novel: The East of Eden Letters. Penguin Books, 1969.


Revisiting Radway for a Renewing Perspective on the Future of Romance Fiction


Writing in The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction, Fred Botting’s piece “Bestselling Fiction: Machinery, Economy, Excess” reminds me that there are two sides to a coin, and I understand that an individual can realistically only see one physical side at a time. When Botting invokes Janis A. Radway’s assertion that women read romantic fiction because of “…an underlying dissatisfaction” (164), I remember that the Radway study is one good source for understanding not only an academic perspective on the topic of why women read romance but for some of the history of my favorite genre.

Revisiting my copy of Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature by Radway, I was rewarded with a refreshing look at a historical perspective on the popularity of romantic fiction through the lens of how the publishing industry developed in America. Radway provides a thorough yet succinct review of books as a commercial commodity leading me, the reader, from the first printing press at Cambridge (America) in 1639 to how newspapers created a national hunger for serialized stories to the explosion of gothic romance novels in the early 1970s and how that set the stage for the contemporary world of publishing and reading romance.

What Radway reemphasized for me was the cold, hard truth that publishing is a business whose goal is to trade a relative product for the consumer’s money on a repetitive, reliable, and consistent basis. And that the romance novel industry led the way with particular publishers (i.e., Avon, Harlequin, etc.) intentionally seeking out emotionally stimulating content and consciously creating then delivering a targeted advertising campaign to a particular customer base: women. This foundational market took the bait, so to speak, beginning in the 1960s and have been the bedrock of the romance novel buying population ever since.

Radway’s chapter “The Institutional Matrix: Publishing Romantic Fiction” on the history of paperback publishing juxtaposed with the rise of romance reading actually allowed me to understand what Botting expressed in Cambridge Companion Chapter 9 about bestsellers and how the pulp novel industry led to the current state of affairs in popular genre fiction publishing.

Simply put, Radway’s history of publishing chapter (written several years before Botting in Cambridge Companion) culminates with claims that American women did and do devour large numbers of romance novels in order to repeat a specific type of reading experience, but that it isn’t sufficient to say that this is the only explanation for the popularity of the genre and the historically high sales. She makes it clear to me when she states, “The romance’s popularity must be tied closely to these important historical changes in the book publishing industry as a whole” (45).

Whether this ‘reading romance repetition habit’ is due to “an underlying dissatisfaction” with women’s position in the patriarchy as Radway and others propose, there is no definitive conclusion for me to glean except to say that the reading experience can’t be discounted and nor can the direct relationship to the industry at large.

In my opinion, the Cambridge Companion writers echo Radway. Botting ends with external forces-alteration, novelty, and desire-contributing to the production of bestsellers. Another contributor to CC, Erin Smith, wraps up her thoughts in a similar fashion by indicating that production, marketing, and consumption are king. Radway reiterates her accounting of romance novels as a point of consumerism by, what I see as a precursor of Botting and Smith, by claiming, “Commodities like mass-produced literary texts are selected, purchased, constructed, and used by real people with previously existing needs, desires, intentions, and interpretive strategies” (221).

They all agree that bestsellerism is mostly about marketing to consumer desire.

It’s evident to me from these three perspectives that the business of publishing is an important side of the coin. As a genre writer, I must keep a keen eye on it, but that I must also approach my work as marketable merchandise that will slake the buyer’s thirst but will also create a craving (dare I say addiction?) in the reader to return to take sip after sip after sip.

I believe my soon-to-be-released historical romance novel has the potential to quench readers’ thirst for unique historical settings and because I have two characters whose stories I plan to expand on for sequels, the possibility exists for repeat buyers. I’ve done a considerable amount of specific research on the American frontier in the late 1700s, but not everything I learned appears in the first book of the series. I have research and plot ideas in reserve to write at least two more books set in the same time period.

Considering that Radway and Botting point out as imperative the importance of marketing a novel to create long term reader relationships, the challenge for me will be finding historical events and or commemorations to “hook” my stories on to show a publisher that there is valid potential for interest in my themes and stories today and in the future.

All good things,


Works Cited

Botting, Fred. “Bestselling Fiction: Machinery, Economy, Excess.” The Cambridge Companion to Popular Literature, edited by David Glover and Scott McCracken, Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 159-174.

Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

Female agency is old news if you know where to look (historical romance)


I don’t remember when I read my first romance novel, but I do remember writing my first play in which a romance figured prominently. I wrote a western about a young woman whose father had been killed by bandits, and the local town banker offered to marry her to “save the ranch.” Keep in mind, I was ten-years-old. What my heroine didn’t know was that the banker had paid the bandits to kill her father so the bank could foreclose on the very prosperous ranch.

A young cowboy traveling through town happened to witness the murder and told the heroine, then helped her prove to the sheriff what the unscrupulous banker had done. The cowboy was also the son of a wealthy mine owner from another town and had the money to save the ranch and marry the girl. The hero saved the day then.

In my current work-in-progress, things have changed. My heroine makes her own path, her own choices, and meets her own destiny with a handsome, strong, yet flawed hero at her side who meets and conquers his own demons along the way. They simultaneously prove to each other that they are worthy of the other’s respect and love by owning up to their mistakes, their past, and making conscious decisions to be different in the future in exchange for the love of the other. I don’t feel like this is a radical departure from the halls of historical romance.

Kaye Mitchell writing in The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction pokes me in tender places with her statement, “If mass-market romance fiction of the Mills and Boon/Harlequin variety has, in the last couple of decades, become more forward-looking and complex in its depiction of educated and ambitious heroines and its inclusion of more explicit sexual material, it has perhaps had to evolve in order to compete with its more ‘respectable’ offshoot, chick lit” (134). I don’t understand where the ‘respectable’ notion comes into play for chick-lit implying that educated, ambitious, and sexy heroines of past romance fiction aren’t respectable. There are hundreds of ‘educated and ambitious heroines’ in novels published well before Bridget or Samantha ever dreamed of meeting/marrying Mr. Right.

As a historical romance, my novel falls in between the rancher’s daughter and Bridget Jones because it has a female protagonist with a goal and a plan, but unlike the rancher’s daughter and Bridget, my heroine takes all the responsibility upon herself to make her dreams a reality. My wip recalls the early heroines of romance authors Connie Mason and Barbara Cartland while proposing that women have had dreams and goals since the beginning of time.

My heroine doesn’t believe (or comprehend) that she is dependent on men to realize her desires. What interferes is the environment. She is thrust into a harsh situation where it becomes obvious that she must become part of a team to survive the elements. This is where she evolves as a human being when she comes face to face with people and lifestyles different from what she is accustomed to. She adapts and finds a new inner strength that she didn’t know she had.

Mitchell disappoints me when the only time she mentions female empowerment is with, “In addition, although affirmative readings of these memoirs tend to highlight the emphasis on female pleasure and (sexual) agency, that is an emphasis that is often undermined by the content of the texts themselves” (136). Mitchell does a disservice to female agency through the ages by leaving out the fact that there is more to being a woman today and throughout history than place tab ‘A’ into slot ‘B’.

In my story, the heroine knows pleasure, intimacy, and personal satisfaction by applying what she has learned in her education and knows in her heart to help others prosper and live up to their potential thereby bolstering her own worth as an individual. Proving that it is not a flaw to be, in Mitchell’s terms, “gendered, desiring individuals in the world.” That definition is exactly how and why we complement each other.

All good things,




Mitchell, Kaye. “Gender and Sexuality in Popular Fiction.” Glover, David and Scott McCracken, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 122-140.


Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Orchard Park, NY: Broadview Press Ltd., 2001.

Fear takes longer to experience in the human brain


I’ve been rereading The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction, edited by David Glover and Scott McCracken. I can’t explain why except that the current upheaval in publishing is making me ask questions about the history of the business. In Chapter Six “”Reading time: popular fiction and the everyday,” editor McCracken makes some important points about what happens to readers when they read. Knowing more about reading and how a reader’s experience might affect my writing is definitely a question worth asking. McCracken provided me with a variety of diving boards from which to jump into my own head or other texts. I am drawn to this sentiment from Chapter Six:

The thriller thus allows for different forms of attention, which rely on a comprehensive knowledge of what to expect from the genre, a knowledge culled not just from written fiction, but also from film and television. Yet despite the familiarity of the structure, like the popular song, the successful thriller has to have a ‘hook’, an intriguing element of originality, which draws the reader in (Cambridge 112).

McCracken’s “forms of attention” triggered my curiosity about how I could understand his meaning and apply it to writing romance. While McCracken focuses on thriller novels for this thought, he is really talking about the tension and pacing of a novel. Romance has a sub-genre of romantic suspense, but all romance fiction has some degree of tension derived from the question “will they or won’t they?” The suspense of not knowing the answer and vicariously living the struggles the heroine and hero endure on the way to resolving the question is the same as “will the detective figure this out?”

McCracken emphasizes his premise with three primary examples that thriller novels can/do focus on different forms of attention, and I wondered what that meant in terms of how the brain deals with time (which underlies McCracken’s chapter) during different kinds of stress/excitement/worry/etc. Why does one form of attention in a thriller appeal to readers more than others?

I found a kernel of an answer in  The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity written by Stefan Klein who says:

The way we judge the length of an interval of time depends not only on the gauge the brain uses to estimate the elapsed time but also on the degree of our focus. If consciousness is occupied with other matters at the same time, we underestimate the time that has passed; if we are hyperalert—for example while watching an act of violence in a film—the seconds expand (62-63).

My interpretation of this is if a reader (or viewer) is thoroughly absorbed by a scene, paying more focused attention, the time will feel longer to them. The less engaging the writing or the acting, time will seem to pass more quickly for the reader/viewer because the brain is susceptible to distraction. It’s the difference between quickly scanning the pages of a magazine (distracted focus) and examining every detail of one particular page for several minutes (deep attention.)

Klein claims that during intense action it is the “sense of dread that makes the scene seem agonizingly long—like waiting in the dentist’s chair in view of the drill” (63) that captures the reader’s brain and holds them spellbound.

Therefore, my writing needs to include more showing and less telling to increase the reader’s vicarious experience with the action, and this will have positive effects on the degree of tension and pacing in my story.

All good things,



Klein, Stefan. The Secret Pulse of Time: Making Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2007.

McCracken, Scott. “Reading Time: Popular Fiction and the Everyday.” The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. Ed. David Glover and Scott McCracken. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 86-102. Print.

“What is middlebrow?”

On the airplane coming home from a humanities conference recently, the woman sitting next to me was reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (2016) by Diana Gabaldon. Intermittently, she put down the novel and picked up the knitting in her lap. Her progress told me that she was making a baby sweater.

Gray hair, traveling alone, reading an 1152-page historical novel, and knitting represents one end of the spectrum of readers who enjoy historical romance. The other end of the spectrum stated in a 2013 SquareSpace study of romance fiction statistics maintains: minimum age 30, college-educated, minimum income $55,000/year (Static).

I asked my seatmate if she’d read Gabaldon’s other books in the series.

“Every one of them,” she replied emphatically.

I remarked on the average page count of a Gabaldon work to which she answered, “I’ve read a couple of them twice.”

Before deplaning, I wanted to know why.


Not the historical accuracy, not the cable television series, and not being part of a community, but the draw of the character. Just when I thought surveys and social media were gospel when it comes to understanding readership, I bump into Nana.

I stopped to think, not only about my potential readership but the impression of my beta hero, whose quiet nature may make him appear too passive to survive frontier life, let alone the prejudice and ostracism guaranteed for him following ten years as a captive of the Delaware Indian tribe during the American Revolution.

Would this woman on the plane, obviously intellectually, physically, emotionally, and financially capable of appreciating historical romance fiction, be attracted to my hero?

More important (well, maybe) to this conversation is how high or not is her brow?

The literary term ‘middlebrow’ rubs me the wrong way. Reminds me of a relative’s unibrow curse. I’m familiar with the condescending attitude the terminology implies as also noted by author Nicola Humble in “The reader of popular fiction”:

“The concept of the middlebrow is a notoriously vexed one. ‘Middlebrow’ has always been a dirty word. Since it’s coinage in the late 1920s [there’s some discrepancy about this date] it has been applied, almost always disparagingly, to the sort of cultural products thought to be too easy, insular and smug” (Cambridge 92).

Briefly, ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’ are outgrowths of the questionable science phrenology presented in 1796 by German physician Franz Joseph Gall. He claimed that bumps on the head were directly related to “organs” in the brain that he associated with a range of functions such as someone’s propensity to love or tell secrets.

This pseudoscience was short-lived by the 1840’s across Europe and America. Those that will bastardize picked up on phrenology and claimed that having a high forehead indicated intelligence and a short forehead pointed to less mental capacities. I was unable to find anything pointing directly to Gall proposing these stereotypes. I’m not defending the concept, but the father of phrenology didn’t intentionally mean for it to be used as a class, racial, or intellectual divisor (Manual of Phrenology 83). But it has been and obviously continues.

Do I think the baby boomer grandmother would appreciate my historical romance? I do. There is a 2013 survey by author M.K. Tod that supports this here. P.S. Note in the report where baby boomers say they primarily learn about new books.

All good things,



Humble, Nicola. “The Reader of Popular Fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to Popular Fiction. Ed. David Glover and Scott McCracken. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. 86-102.

Manual of phrenology : being an analytical summary of the system of Doctor Gall, on the faculties of man and the functions of the brain : translated from the 4th French ed. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835.

“Romance Fiction Statistics.” Static1, SquareSpace, 24 Jan. 2019,

“10 Facts on Boomer Readers.” Inside Historical Fiction, 24 Jan. 2019,


“Write what you know”

CURSIVE INK kelly-sikkema-399338

I read, write, and study historical romance. My most recent completed manuscript is 470 pages long and currently designated as “historical fiction with romantic elements.” The distinction is because the couple in the story doesn’t meet (meet-cute) by page five of the novel. This is kind of a burr under the saddle for me because I believe that historical romance readers, no matter how experienced, want and appreciate the world-building and character motivations at the start of a book regardless of how long it takes for the two main characters to eventually collide.

However, the contemporary industry standard of the heroine and hero appearing within the first five pages is applied across the sub-genre board. So, I’m presently stuck with the label of “historical fiction with romantic elements” because a lot has to happen to Molly, Romney, and America before they find each other and start their journey together. I hope that makes sense. At first, I was dismayed by the nomenclature, but I’ve embraced it now because it’s not that big of a deal…until I go agent and publisher shopping. Since I don’t have time to pursue that part of the process yet, I’ve decided not to angst over it. Spoiler alert: Molly and Romney end up together.


The book is my response to “write what you know” and to fill a void in historical romance offerings. Frontier America, specifically the Northwest Territory, was a rough era and not viewed by some publishers and readers as romantic enough to be a popular setting or time period. I live and work in the belly of this particular beast, aka The Mid-Ohio Valley, and the research is literally at my fingertips. My house is near the Ohio River where my characters almost drown. I work on the campus of a local college whose library has one of the most extensive Special Collections of pioneer history in the country. There are actual pioneer cabins preserved and on display in a local museum that I drive by every day on the way to work.

However convenient, it hasn’t been easy, but I don’t read, write, and study historical romance because it’s easy. I do it because I’m fascinated with the human project. I’m in total awe of women who cooked without an electric stove or wiped up spills without paper towels or any number of other modern civilities we live by today that were non-existent in early America.

They must have been really strong-willed people driven by something that helped them survive seriously difficult situations so that you and I can be doing this amazing thing (having a meeting of the minds via technology) right now. I think the “something” that propelled and motivated them was love, and I respect the hell out of the men and women who paved the way for me in spite of the mistakes they made. I read, write, and study historical romance out of respect for the past, curiosity about humanity, and the love of words. Most of all, I want to believe that love conquers all. So, don’t burst my bubble, okay?

I’ve gone overboard with telling you a “little” about my project. Now, you understand why my manuscript is so long.

I’m more concerned about the condition of the publishing industry lately than the length of my manuscript. We live in the “United States of Amazon,” and it’s their prowess and whims that have me wondering constantly how to really connect with readers. Publishing is the EASY part thanks to Amazon (and others) literally giving birth and providing respectability to the self-publishing concept, but I worry about getting the message out to pull readers into my books. More on this later.

All good things,



Jokes Only Writers Can Love

THE LAST BOOKSTORE riley-mccullough-152713

Jokes Only Writers Can Love

Some days it’s funnier to be a writer than others. And writers are famous for thinking something is funny when other people don’t see the humor. For instance, we get a giggle out of misspelled words on business signs. We think running out of ink while printing off a query letter is paramount to disaster, and we think the telephone is a torture device meant to keep us from ever having a thought without interruption. And psychoanalyst is another word for the jealous critique partner. So on those days, it’s convenient to have a writerly joke to lighten the mood.


Three guys are sitting at a bar-

Guy#1 “Yeah, I make about $75,000.00 a year after taxes.”

Guy#2 “What do you do for a living?”

#1 “I’m a stockbroker. How much do you make?”

#2 “I should clear $60,000.00 this year.”

#1 “What do you do?”

#2 “I’m an architect.”

They turn to the third guy sitting quietly, staring into his beer.

#2 “Hey, how much do you make a year?”

#3 “Gee, ummm, I guess about $13,000.00.”

#1 “Oh, yeah? What kind of stories do you write?”


A screenwriter comes home to find his house burned to the ground and his wife in the yard sobbing.

“What happened, honey?” the man asked.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she said while crying.”I was cooking and the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in seconds. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out. Poor Fluffy is…”

“Wait. Wait. Back up a minute,” the screenwriter says. “My agent called?”


A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row on row of writers chained to their desks working in a steamy sweatshop while being whipped with thorny lashes.

“Oh, my,” said the writer. “Let’s see heaven now.”

In heaven she saw row on row of writers chained to their desks working in a steamy sweatshop while being whipped with thorny lashes.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “This is as bad as hell.”

“Oh, no it’s not,” said a booming voice. “Here your work gets published.”


How many romance writers does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one: “He grasped the round, cool shape of the tantalizing bulb between his fingers and squeezed ever so gently then expertly guided the tip into the waiting socket. He felt the connection and slowly began a mind-blowing twist of the bulb until it settled into the perfect place. And they both knew the satisfaction of ……

Well, you get the idea.


Personally, my idea of Hell is being someplace without paper and something to write with or having both and my hands are tied!

Have a writer giggle to share that’s suitable for mixed genres and ages?

Be well, write well.




There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Relaxation/meditation, creative play, fitness and exercise, journaling, and nutrition.

Joy E. Held is the author of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity, a college educator, blogger, and yoga/meditation teacher. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Romance Writers Report, Dance Teacher Now, Yoga Journal, and Woman Engineer Magazine.

Photo: K. Held

Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

Copyright 2018, Joy E. Held