Sunday, January 17, 2021

The things you learn about your characters... (recipe included)

One of the fun things I like about being a writer is learning things about my characters as my stories unfold. Some authors know ahead of time everything about their characters before they ever start a new story. I'd like to give them a high-five. I'm in the group of writers, however, that doesn't nail all the quirks, habits, flaws, likes and dislikes, etc. right away. I have the basics down pat, but I can't seem to know them 100% until certain things happen within their adventure. I have been surprised more times than not by the things I've discovered along the way. A good example is Danna, the main female character in book number 2 of my Coffee and Dessert Series, that is currently underway. I knew ahead of time that she was going to be quirky and eccentric, I just didn't know to what length. I have to tell you, she's made me laugh and shake my head a few times, and I can't wait to share her personality with you when the story is finished. I'm hoping it will be sometime in the first quarter of this year. 

Anyway, here are some things that make Danna, Danna. She's fearless in most things, loves colorful clothes, hats, and purses, and she can't seem to live without cheese and anything made with pumpkin.

In one of the scenes, she talking to her cat about men, while she's making pumpkin-chocolate chip-pecan snack cake. 

Here's the recipe:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray 9" x 13" glass baking dish with cooking spray. 

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

7 and 1/2 ounces of pumpkin puree

1/2 cup of oil (you can substitute 1/2 c. applesauce for the oil)

1/3 cup of water

2 eggs, beaten

1 and 3/4 cup flour 

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of baking soda

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1 and 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

You can also add dried cranberries, a 1/2 cup or more

(This is not an original recipe. I found it online about 10 years ago and modified it to my taste.)

This is what the finished product looks like...

Now that I've made this cake and given you some insight into Danna, it's time to get back to writing.

Have a great day!

~ Jan



Friday, January 15, 2021

How to Stay Motivated during this Pandemic by Jude Haste

Jude Haste is here with a great post about staying motivated during this pandemic.

~ * ~

Let me introduce myself; Jude Haste born in London, UK and I write comedy quick reads for those living fast-paced lives! I write in a chatty and informal style to engage my adult audience. Thank you, Jan Romes, for letting me be a guest on your blog.

During this pandemic, I have become acutely aware of why others state that your Mental Health is just as important as your Physical Health. In the UK we are now in Lockdown 3, morale is low and the hospitals are overflowing. Children are being schooled at home. Life feels upside down.

For a comedy writer trying to be creative during this period has been a struggle with too many distractions going on around me. But having faced lows in my life before, I feel equipped as I know that I have to stay motivated or negative thoughts will threaten to overwhelm me.

In my case, if I am not writing, I read or take an online course. Escapism that comes from fiction books allows you some time-out. Your thoughts are engaged in worlds of others for a short time and then you can come back to the reality of your own world, refreshed.

Responding to the pain that exists around all of us, we need to restore some faith in ourselves to handle the challenges we face. A healthy mindset and communication are essential to help reduce our anxieties when we face problems in our lives.

In the fictional quick reads I write, characters have to overcome adversities. The pandemic is an adversity for all of us. Mental Health Awareness is something that we all need to be tuned in to. When we eventually come out of this devastating situation we will need to heal. Kindness matters. Empathy matters.

I understand that our mindset is key to getting us through.

I was inspired to write Toxic when my mindset was in a negative place. Through writing the story, I was able to highlight the issue that was affecting me - workplace bullying. The first draft of all my stories tends to be a saddle up and ride off into the sunset affair, with my chapter titles being plot points. It is a mental health journey in itself writing the book, not even I know the ending, except that I want it to be satisfying which includes having a feel-good factor.

I write comedies because humour is essential in our lives. It feels good to laugh and that gives you mental strength to keep going. 

We all face problems and issues in our lives. It is how we react to them that ultimately decides their outcome on our mental health and to take responsibility for it. Motivation is the key that drives you forward. Your mindset, therefore, needs to be in good shape.

I wrote Don't Shout it Out because my colleagues and I were feeling very demotivated in our roles as high school teachers. This profession has changed dramatically over the years. Schools are meant to be creative spaces not databases. I became a teacher to inspire young people to be creative as creativity in itself helps you to express yourself, which is therapeutic. Expressing yourself helps your mindset and anxiety levels, allowing you to cope with the battles you come across in your journey. The ultimate goal is peace of mind. We are all in this together. 

I feel very privileged that I was able to be creative. It was therapeutic and the issues I touched on were challenging. One of the hurdles I had to overcome was, in order to write a realistic scene with a bullying boss in it, I, as the writer had to become that bullying boss. I had to write his dialogue and describe his mannerisms, take on his mindset.

This experience did leave me exhausted and reminded me that those with the loudest voice do not not necessarily win the argument. The shouting and aggressive actions, body language, I described, in the character of the Boss, would make most people tune out not in. It left me with a headache! Shouting and having the loudest voice is not a sign of strength.

Why is highlighting bullying an important issue? The answer is simple. It affects your mindset both in and out of the workplace, impacting those around you. The boss is a leader, meant to inspire and empower you. To be told you have to deal with colleagues in a clinical manner or else, was at odds with my mindset, which is why I felt the need to tackle this issue. Bullying does not end on the playground.

During this pandemic, I am trying to keep a healthy mindset because others are dependent on me. A decade ago, it was fashionable to hold a positive mindset, but I have noticed over the years that people are manipulating the positive mindset theory to promote their own ideas, push through their own agendas, to the detriment of fostering open, critical debate.

The rhetoric is, 'I feel positive hence positive things will come my way, so be like me and you can have what I have.' Personally, I do not want a golden toilet, just a clean one that flushes will suffice. This mantra has become distorted/hijacked even for some in power, to mean "It's my way or the highway," and "Shape up or ship-out," as mentioned in my novella Jaywalker.    

Feeling good about yourself is vital, but it also includes allowing yourself to be a critical thinker, which is equally important as it also encompasses the needs of those around you -- including the planet, which currently is screaming out to us to let it breathe, to stop the pollution.

Motivation does not mean "put yourself first" to me. It is about looking after my mental health so I am fit to look after others. I wear a face mask to show I care for others during the pandemic, as well as reflecting not to take the simple things in life for granted. 

To end, I wish everyone safe travels on their own mindset journey. Give yourself a break if you aren't feeling positive. Right now, who can? But stay motivated. The pandemic has meant we have had to reflect. Life is about the journey. My mindset will dictate how I respond to the challenges I encounter.

Do your daily walk, with your headphones on, listening to music. Read fiction daily at home, to energize your thought process and keep up your healthy mindset. Your legacy to your children is the memories they will hold of you from the mindset they develop in life. Being motivated drives us all forward.

We are all being productive in our own households by staying motivated! 

We can do this.

You can check out Jude and her awesome books at:

A note from Jan...

I met Jude on Twitter. She's sweet, supportive, and funny. I've read and enjoyed two of her books so far and I look forward to reading even more of her work.  

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Get to Shauntae Spaulding

Today I welcome children's author, Shauntae Spaulding to my blog.


From Shauntae...

At the start of 2020, I had no idea that I would be an author. It never occurred to me that God would lead me in this direction. I mean, when I was younger I wrote poems and short stories but it never dawned on me to pursue it professionally. I've always enjoyed writing and when I started, it would be hard for me to stop. As I got older though, writing became a distant memory.

It wasn't until May 2019 that my family got an unexpected shock. My stepfather of 33 years, passed away. I had just seen him a month prior and he was fine. Needless to say, the grief I felt was tremendous but one thing I thought of the most was his granddaughter he left behind. She was everything to him and at the tender age of three, would she still remember him?

That's when God placed in my heart to start writing again. The idea of publishing a book for her to remember him by was my new focus. While at work, I started to write. Within an hour, my book, My Time With Papa was written. It's a lovely read about a little girl using her imagination to remember him, by doing various activities they enjoyed doing while he was alive. Since the story was based on my family, I wanted to highlight the things my stepfather loved to do and if given the opportunity, would've done with his granddaughter.

After finding the courage, I found a publisher and the rest is history! Since then, I have completed five more books that I'm excited to get published and share with the world. God has ignited something in me that has rejuvenated my spirit and allowed me to express myself in a way I never thought I would publicly. I'm using the gifts He has given me, to share my testimony and spread the Good News.

Even in this devastating tragedy of losing my stepfather, God has turned it around for my good. I don't know where this will lead, but I do know that I trust Him in all things and I will continue to write what He has placed in my heart. ♥

Thank you for reading and I hope you follow me on my website and social media. (Click on the links listed below)

Shauntae's Website





About the author...

Shauntae is a single mother who resides in the sunny San Fernando Valley. She is a writer who enjoys encouraging and uplifting people to be the best they can be! She believes in not giving up on your dreams and experiencing life to the fullest. She lives by not wasting time waiting on someone else. If you want to do something, do it!

Her faith is the biggest and most important thing in her life and she is excited to share her life with the world.

She enjoys taking long walks, working out and watching a ton of movies. She loves to have a good time with friends and family and put a smile on everyone's faces.

From Jan...

Thank you for being here today, Shauntae. You're a positive presence on Twitter where we met. I look forward to reading your book and your blog posts.  

** Speaking of her blog posts... Folks, if you get a chance check out her post titled, THE DOOR.  

The Door (

#childrensbooks #booksbyShauntae


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Get to know... Authors: CALEB AND LINDA PIRTLE

Today I wanted to surprise authors Caleb Pirtle III and Linda Pirtle with a post especially for them. They are two incredibly talented writers, who like most of us have worked other jobs before settling into writing novels full time.  

Caleb was a newspaper-reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served for ten years as the travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. 

Linda taught the art of writing and understanding literature for years at three high schools and also Business Communications at Navarro College. 

Caleb and Linda each have wonderfully different writing styles. Both pen suspense, whodunits, thrillers, and mysteries. 

Can you imagine the conversations they probably have at the dinner table? I'm guessing they talk about crime scenes, guns, suspects, and a ton of what-ifs. Oh to be a fly on the wall, just one night while they're enjoying dinner.

Caleb has written more than 80 books, (I need to type that again because it's mind-blowing. He's written more than "80" books) including noir thrillers, but also some nonfiction. His talent doesn't stop there. He's  also penned 2 teleplays:  (1) Gambler V - Playing for Keeps, a miniseries staring Kenny Rogers, Loni Anderson, Dixie Carter, and Mariska Hartigay.  (2) The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius.

He also has a screenplay to his credit, for one motion picture, Hot Wire

Here's just one of Caleb's many books: 

Linda's stories are cozy mysteries. Her series is titled, The Games We Play, which focuses on how people bent on evil can ruin an innocent, fun game -- The Mah Jongg Murders, Deadly Dominoes, Tarot Terrors, and the most recent in the series: 

Linda has served as an editor for other author's books as well. She's helped Caleb create Venture Galleries, a book publishing company. Together they have - a literary website devoted to connecting readers with today's growing population of authors throughout the world. 

Caleb and Linda are sweet, helpful Texans and incredible word nerds, who've told many stories with their books, teleplays, and screen plays. 

I want to finish this post by saying you should check out all that they have to offer. In my opinion, the best place to start is with their Amazon Author Pages.

Caleb -- On Amazon

Linda -- On Amazon

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Year of Tears

I'm no poet, but today I was inspired to write my thoughts about 2020 and I wanted to share my scribblings. 


Dark and difficult, 2020 has been rough

Hearts broken, our feelings are raw

The chaos has not ceased,  

And the road remains tough. 

A virus invaded like a giant claw

Until it hurt, no one saw.

It pillaged and plundered,

Many took a hit. 

A horrible blunder,

Families have been split.

A terror specific, yet not the only one

Other heartaches also stole the sun.

Cancer, heart disease, accidents and more

We've lost plenty,

And it's rattled our very core.

A trying time filled with fear,

Lives shattered.

Our eyes have leaked a billion tears 

When the madness finally clears,

One thing will stand firm and true, 

The love we showed, is all that mattered.  

2020 Copyright

Jan Romes



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Book Spotlight: The Sum of our Sorrows by Lisette Brodey

I recently read a new release by author Lisette Brodey, The Sum of our Sorrows. It was an incredible book in so many ways. As the title suggests, it was an emotional read.

Before I share my review for this story, here is the blurb:

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world -- but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble? Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it solves?

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined. It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one's spirit.

Now for my review:

Grief is a powerful emotion that grips your heart and won't let go. When you add adult responsibility to a teenage girl that has just lost her mother, that's where Lily's story begins. With no time to process her pain, Lily is thrown into the role of 'mum' in all ways to her two younger siblings and she's expected to do all the cleaning, cooking, etc., plus console her sisters through 'their' pain. Lily takes charge, but she verbally and mentally fights the responsibility since she will soon graduate and had plans to attend fashion design school in L.A. Life is horrendous as she tries to move forward. Anything that could happen, did. Thank goodness for her mum's best friend, Kady who understands and listens to Lily. Tragedies continue to pile up though and Lily has had enough. That's where this story takes a sharp turn. Without giving too much away, something wonderful happens for Lily, yet it's not the end of her troubles. You'll have to read this amazing book to find out all that she has to face. The author put her characters through the emotional ringer; everything from mind-numbing loss to extreme joy - and everything in between. This story is so well-written that when Lily was torn between loyalty to her family and wanting to break out on her own, I felt those same emotions. I also experienced joy when it finally came. As the story evolved, all of the characters' strengths and flaws were revealed, not just Lily's. There are some recurring themes in this story, but one powerful one jumped out at me from the beginning - how life can change in a blink and the only thing you can do is follow your gut to survive. Sometimes you make the right decisions due to the change, but sometimes you don't. All you can do is try your best and hope it's enough.

** You can find The Sum of our Sorrows on Amazon. It's available in e-book and paperback, and can be read for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. 

Check out Lisette Brodey at:



Amazon Author Page

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Like that barn...

On a lonely stretch of asphalt, I walked, past weathered barns and emerging crops. My thoughts and mood were a muddled mess today as I struggled to make sense of a virus that was a sneak attack on the world. With a large sigh, I determined there wasn't any way to emotionally come to grips with that horrible monster. I gritted my teeth and shoved it out of my mind.

Taking a deep breath, I was determined not to allow negative thoughts to take me over. As if that was some kind of challenge, mental pictures of the civil unrest shaking our nation tried to do exactly that. 

I wanted to shout, "No!" Instead, I wondered aloud, "How will I survive all this chaos?" My hand instantly went to my wrist and to the cross on my bracelet. A sudden calm came over me. I glanced back at the second barn I'd passed and received a powerful message from above. Like that barn, I was strong. Like that barn, I'd weathered more than a few storms. Like that barn, I was a bit broken, but I'd get through this and probably so much more.

Things may change because of the turbulent times, but I know I'm like that barn and I'll remain standing.