Nina Fosati

An Eagle and the Moon

This March has reminded me of the charter Ebenezer Scrooge. Miserly, unkempt, and petty but redeemable after a few dreams. Not that it’s easy to sleep in now, spring is everywhere and insistent that attention be paid.

Crocuses dot the lawn

Turkeys march

The sky is blue and the subtle colors of tree buds abound.

I’m drawn outside, but so much of life happens online these days. The fabulous Kim Chinquee put together a reading for members of Hot Pants – a private room on Zoetrope’s Virtual Studio. Besides me and Kim, Avital Gad-Cykman, Pia Ehrhardt, Liesl Jobson, Joan Wilking, Eric Bosse, Gail Siegel, and Lydia Copeland all read. The link is here, if you’re interested. And if you were there, like the incredible Nina Fosati was, I thank you!

Writing has paused while a flurry of queries were released into agent’s inboxes. I’ve had a request for a partial and a full and I’m waiting to hear back from more. Since waiting is annoying, I signed up to participate in Camp NaNo – anything to keep my fingers from hitting refresh, it seems.

My first Pfizer shot is scheduled for 6 April, and Husband’s second dose is on the 9 April. I’m looking forward to seeing some friends in real life soon. Until then, there are trails to walk and the moon to chase.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

February’s Bracing Ride

For a short month, this February was packed. Two Star Review, a favorite piece of flash written during the summer of Tara and Pete was published in Emerge Literary Journal. The Rains went live in Fictive Dream as part of Flash Fiction February. If you haven’t yet, check out both of these places; they print some seriously decent stories and poems. I am grateful to have my work included in them.

Also, randomly out of Taipei, I received an invitation to talk about characterization. Todd Sullivan contacted me because he came across My Song for Majabin. During an interview, which you can catch here, I read part of the story and answer some questions.

Barrelhouse held a virtual conference and I was there for it. Great experience all around and I produced new drafts I’m letting sit for a bit. Editing is never done, but until some of it gets caught up on, I’m not working on new things…which can be problematic. Attempting to write this post yesterday, I ended up with a micro, two flashes, and the outline of an essay.

I absolutely adore the problems I have, including the creepy hand icicle…it may not be my favorite thing, but it didn’t grab me, so I’m good.

There was a lot of snow. Too much time was spent dealing with doctors, insurance companies and that ilk. Okay, I did have a few pleasant exchanges with one doctor, but that was a friendly with XO Man. Another bit of happiness was a long overdue chat with Mary Akers and Gina Detwiler. (Happy early birthday Gina!) Other awesomeness was the sanity and comradeship I so delighted in during weekly Zooms with the talented Nina Fosati. Thank you SO much for your friendship, loveliness, and being a bright light!  

So, March is howling at the door with both a reading and a check in/write in scheduled. I’m off to hone pitches for Thursday’s PitMad and then edit some more. Thank you for stopping by and for the read! I appreciate it!

Living in a material world with this cat

This is the last day of the month and I’m just now starting this post.  It’s not been a particularly great month. There was bad news, and then some more.  Silly me for hoping 2021 would be any better than 2020.

Rolling my shoulders, taking a deep breath, I’ll state that I am grateful for Husband. New cat kept breaching the baby gate that was there to keep her out of the library where I read, write, Zoom and exercise.

Yes, I could – and did – shut the door, but in doing so, the temperature drops. The solution? French screen doors. (Proper knobs were chosen and installed yesterday but no photos were taken of those.)

 I’ve been doing a lot of rewriting of the latest novel’s opening pages in response to books I’ve been reading lately. I broke down and bought Save the Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody, but Creating Character Arcs by K. M. Weiland was more insightful and easier to grasp. In the mix are The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami D. Crowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders a book I’d suggest to any storyteller and Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham, which is quite male oriented. I’m applying for fellowships and grants so Bev Browning’s Grant Writing for Dummies was dusted off, and since I’ll be querying again soon, Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages and Michael Hauge’s Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds are within easy reach. Spoiler alert: a lot of them contain the same information, but I’ve found that when and how you hear it makes a difference. Huge thanks to the esteemed Nina Fosati for her immense help and insight. Thanks also to Michael Parzymieso for his fresh eyes on the revision.

Tomorrow is the start of a new month. I’m hoping for brighter days and new growth. We were gifted an Aero Garden and pods for Christmas, so if new writing doesn’t grow, basil and chives will. Knock on wood.

As ever, thank you for stopping by and for the read. You are awesome, warmhearted, and witty!  Cheers!

A Merry Good Time to Exhale

Christmas was the day I felt some of the pressure leave my shoulders. There was nothing I could do about packages not making it on time, I’d locally delivered all the holiday treats, I even let Husband make the bed with the sheets wrong and let it go instead of redoing it. Cards were sent, food prepped, and vaccine shots were starting for emergency personnel. Letting go of this year is a physical relief.

Not having anyone over this year meant I could put off any deep cleaning that otherwise would have gotten done. Before Christmas, I pulled all of the books from the L in the library with the bigger fiction and the physical/societal/spiritual/financial books. Those shelves were cleaned and readjusted. Nothing is where I can find it and I found a different TBR pile to mirror the one I have in other stacks upstairs.

Christmas morning was scrumptious with sausages, pancakes, and mimosas. Thank you again to Gina’s husband for his syrup. We finally finished the syrup our neighbor gave us and opened yours!

I want to give a shout out to everyone who sent us cards; they do mean a lot to receive. This is the door we place them on to admire. Once we take them down, I’ll be putting a poster I got for Christmas on there. Thank you Michael!

Husband made me this:

See, when I do Zoom, I had a stack of books to set the tablet on for the correct height. Now, I have this platform with a place for the keyboard, making it such an upgrade in ease – and let, face it, beauty.

I’m not a “New Year’s resolution” type of person, never have been, but this year is hitting differently.  Had she lived, my mom would have turned 71 today. It’s weird to consider this since she passed away in 1997 at 47. I’ve outlived her by a few years. So has my sister. I didn’t get as much written, edited, or published this year and I’m kind of pissed at myself about that. I don’t need assurances, this isn’t a plea for pity, it’s a public acknowledgement of my personal feelings. Next year, I may publish less. Or more. I don’t know, but I’m cobbling together a list of goals I would like accomplish but I can’t make myself call them resolutions…not yet.

I do want to express gratitude to everyone at SMOLDR, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Blink Ink, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, HAD, and Milk Candy Review for believing in my work and publishing me this year. Thank you. You all helped me survive this insane year. So did the amazing friendships I have with Nina Fosati, Chyo, my Husband, well, I could spend all day making this list and then nothing else would get done but yes, you are on the list…you know you are.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. And on a deeply personal note, I doubt there are birthdays in the afterwards, but I hope my mom is having a happy day wherever she is. I miss her.

Cats, Dogs, and Cleaning

This month wasn’t filled with as much new writing as I’d hoped. Dread was pervasive; who knew sore winners would turn out to be lousy losers? I’m so sick of that noise. Perhaps that’s why I’ve returned to re-watching Gilmore Girls and hunkering down for another round of edits on a novel and some flashes.

The day before the election, a flock of bluebirds appeared in the south lawn. They didn’t get close enough to photograph well, but I enjoyed the rare sighting.

We also had a surprise visit from a troupe of kittens. One splatted. This one is still around, but shy. Another was injured, but I was able to catch it. Once in my arms, it turned into a love bug. I kept it alive overnight and due to “foster” being checked instead of “foster to adopt” on the SPCA form, the tech who treated it now owns that cat instead of me. Lesson learned, there…

Thanksgiving: The Meal was not photographed. This is the table, that was the wine:

I wasn’t expecting to be nominated for anything this year, and I was fine. Nina Fosati was nominated for a Pushcart and a Best of the Net and I was thrilled to be close to a nominee but then, the amazing Cathy Ulrich at Milk Candy Review put “The Thinnest of Veneers” up for Best Microfictions. I was speechless, and so darn grateful.  

Husband has continued with the basement clean up.

You see this corner? I’ve never been in this corner. He hasn’t been in this corner in decades. And now, there are shelves…

Tomorrow, the last month of this long year begins. Kobie has a surgery scheduled.

I guess I forget to tell him. Well, now I have to talk him down. I never should have told him about my blog.

Right, well, thank you for stopping by and for the read! I appreciate you! Cheers!

It was Husband. In the basement. With a Broom.

Hello and happy face emojis to you! We’re less than a week away from November 3rd and that feels great. We’ve made it this far and I’m giddy that tomorrow will bring it closer to five days. Then four…I’m all for free speech, but MAYBE we can curb the running time on these barrages. Two or three months should be sufficient enough time for all the Rs to say the Ds will raise taxes and all the Ds to say the Rs will cut services since that’s all they ever say anyways. I’m also in favor of bringing back the equal time rule that Reagan abolished. I catch a bit of Canadian TV and I love the pot guy running for some office. I’ve forgotten when I saw him, but he represented a third (or 70th ) party candidate and I loved that he got as much airtime as the rest of the candidates.

But ENOUGH about politics! There are other things in the world like hard work and cajoling. It works miracles, I tell ya. For those in the know, the basement is a source of squalor where dead(But I can fix it!) engines, fans, and who knows what else go to live. That’s all fine and good BUT the gas shut off and now the water to the shed shut offs are and the “path” to them was nearing impossible. No more.

As you can see, actual floor can be seen.

The other improvements include the top step no longer tilting, the wooden “landing” at the bottom of the steps is now solid concrete, and the electric to the table saw is no longer in rusty conduit under a ton of sawdust.

It is weird but beautiful to be able to enter from the Bilco doors and walk up the stairs without tripping or contorting. Amen to small miracles.

I’ve been doing more reading than writing. I’m editing, too. I have decided to wait until 1 November to commit to NaNoWriMo. In reality, I’m committed to put in the effort until the 6th. I have a mammogram scheduled on the 5th and if that isn’t perfect, I reserve the right to stop writing. Also, I have no idea what I’ll be writing about yet which is giving me a bit of a panic.

On the 5th, I’ll have a tiny little flash appearing in Milk Candy Review. Cathy Ulrich is not just a fantastic editor, she writes amazing stories, too. Tonight, Nina Fosati will be reading as part of the Persephone’s Daughters series, but if you miss it, you can catch the podcast later. Go Nina!

Autumn has ramped up with cooler temperatures and the damp. I’m waiting for a dry day to tuck the bulbs into the dirt and tie up the fence. I’m also considering taking up deer hunting as an activity. Bambi’s hunger for my plants is driving me to violence. Or it’s the weather. Maybe the decisive politics is to blame. I suppose I should succumb to a regular yoga routine instead. Eh, I’ll save those decisions until the sixth, too.

In the meantime, know that I appreciate you stopping by for the read and enjoy those autumn colors!

Also, if you haven’t already done it, please VOTE!

July and Domestic Adjustments

This month, the fear of everything closing down again served as an impetus to get things done. We replaced our king-sized mattress with two extra-long twins and installed an air conditioner. Both were objectives we kept putting off and now that we’re both getting a good night’s sleep, we wonder why.

We put in another step on the walkway down to the south lawn. The Chipmunk of Doom was warned it was going to happen, but he doesn’t seem happy about it, does he?

Husband finished up the remaining drawer fronts in the kitchen.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

I believe this is a picture of the last bouquet I bought. Cheap flowers from grocery stores were one of the few things that kept me sane this spring. Now, it’s blooming season and these beauties greet me every time I walk out the door.

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The lilies take turns showing off their soothing brilliance.

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And the wildflowers in the far back are a delight. I brought this one in to identify and haven’t yet – but if you know what it is, please don’t hesitate to tell me at TLSherwood01@gmail.com

As ever, the garden is what it is and currently, it’s well weeded. The peas were wonderful and now the beans and squash are here.

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Inside, I made new cases and transferred the feathers from my pillows into them. It’s so nice to have plump and cushioning ones again. I’d used Husband’s sewing machine. In a flurry of texts, that to me still feel unreal, I’m the proud new owner of a Singer sewing machine in a cabinet. Many, many thanks to the marvelous XO Man for the amazing offer and gift.

It’s setup in the bedroom and when not in use it serves as a new writing spot and I’ve even used it to set up the tablet for a Zoom session with Gina and Mary.

Speaking of Mary, she sent a ticket for virtual Crab Con and I went to check out the platform she used. I stayed for the Baby Crab Cam and some interesting discussions as well as a video. It was fantastic! She also let me do a bit of ghostwriting. Thank you!

I managed to submit seventeen pieces this month and am thrilled to say my piece “The Thinnest of Veneers” will be published in Cathy Ulrich’s amazing Milk Candy Review later this year. It started from a prompt in Kim Chiquee’s Hot Pants Office. I’ve knocked out at least five rough drafts for new flashes and an essay. A few things happened that have given me fodder I plan to explore soon. It’s been a while since I’ve felt competent in my writing. (And as soon as I wrote that, I received a rejection. Ugh!)

The library reopened and so far I’ve read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and  The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. I’m catching up on stories in the New Yorker, too. I grew brave on a perfect day and visited with the spectacular Nina Fosati – outside and six feet apart. Not giving and getting hugs saddened me, BUT hopefully soon Covid will be in the past and we can all get back to whatever we choose to be a brighter and more humane normal. In the meanwhile, this creature tempts me to pet and to play, otherwise I’m sure I would have done even more this month.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. Remember, you are AMAZING and I probably miss you!

Fast. Hot. Slow. Wet Cement.

I took advantage of Kathy Fish’s generosity last week and joined in the Fast Flash Reunion Extravaganza on Zoetrope. It was a great time and I adored reading other people’s work and saying “hey” to many fabulous and talented writers such as Raima Larter, Todd Clay Stuart, Nan Wigington, Cezarija Abartis, Matthew J Robinson, Jayne Martin, Jolene McIlwain, Alex Reece Abbott, Jan Elman Stout, Karen Schauber Karen Jones, Chris Haven, Patience Mackarness, Melissa Saggerer, Amy Braziller, Mary Crawford, Gay Degani, Andrew Stancek, Tommy Dean, and Chelsea Stickle. Over the course of that weekend, I wrote one creepy/Stephen King-ish flash, another that has a lot to flesh out and then two I didn’t post because they decided they couldn’t be flashes at the time.

What I’ve noticed is a similar progression of “lessening” lately. After a recent absence from Hot Pants, the first flash I wrote was solid and earned a finalist slot in a contest. The next piece wasn’t as good – though it had good parts – and the stories since then have had no true endings.

This is a reflection of my life. The lack of “the end” to Covid is insane and driven me to apocalyptic theorizing. The political news has altered my mind. Case in point: Mattresses. Not only is it the usual “what size and softness.” No, this creative mind of mine rushes to the financial outlook – no, not everyone will be all right. Will we? What if they stop making mattresses? What if we wait for the riots in Hamburg and Orchard Park and grab one then? What if our mattress is the only one in the neighborhood without bed bugs? What if climate chaos turns us all into backstabbing-for-survival neighbors? What if we lose in that battle? I don’t want to be murdered for my mattress. Black people have been murdered for less. Black people have been killed for no reason. The wide spreading-about of “bad apples” in law enforcement is astounding. Until it isn’t. Then it’s sad and awful. What kind of white privileged person am I? I may get Covid and I might survive even though my life has no more worth than anyone else’s simply because I am white and live in a state that took the threat seriously. Then again, I might fall under the care of that worthless physician assistant in Springville and die because he’s a useless jackass idiot.

Ah, there’s nothing like way too much information for a whizzing bang to the head. Obviously I’ve had time to over think and let small things fester. I vote we proceed to the picture portion of this post…

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A few of you dear readers were sent a video clip of an Evening Primrose exploding into bloom. You would think this boring, but it is fascinating. The process takes a variety of time but you notice it in the day, the ones getting ready. They grow plumper, like nourishment is rushing up the stems. In the dusk, you come out and watch. And wait. Perfect interlude on early summer nights when you seek communion and there isn’t a campfire. But with Covid, who is there to commune to?

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The hummingbirds were ferociously hungry this spring. I’ve never filled the feeders so much, but I only hung two feeders instead of three. There are many fuchsias, though. One has cascaded down from the hanging pot and I have watched the birds visit each of those flowers before visiting the nearby feeder. Other times, they treat the blooms as their dessert.

What is beyond sweet is the promotion work done by The London Independent Story Prize. The gorgeous and generous highlighting of their winning artists is amazing and much appreciated. I’m also grateful to Nina Fosati and everyone in the Hamburg Writers’ Group for their help and many, many thanks to Kim Chinquee and the Hot Pantsers for theirs! Also wonderful is the promotion the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts does for its writers. My story is here with much gratitude to Randall Brown for including it in this year’s amazing group of stories. I am honored. Thank you!

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At 10 months, new cat sprawls about when not terrorizing the dog. I’ve had her out on a leash and harness. She is a skittish thing, afraid of everything. I ordered “The Tiny Tawny Kitten,” a little Golden Book written by Barbara Shook Hazen and read it to her. New cat doesn’t believe it was my favorite story as a kid.

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The reestablishment of the once railroad ties steps is slowly taking shape. We’ve been to the campfire area a few times. Letting it seed out last year seems to have worked, but now there is greenery up there to mow. The labyrinth and all paths leading to it are the best maintained. I’m not up to discussing the garden. I don’t want to talk about my mild inconveniences and minor tragedies. It doesn’t seem fair to mope. At least not online. I think there is so much more people agree on than not, but it’s so hard to get anyone to shut up long enough to see the obvious things. How is observable, data backed science something to debate? Opinions are not fact. Health emergencies aren’t about your rights…

Sorry/not sorry. I feel like it is something I need to say. If you’re reading this, please wear a mask.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of opinion, the moon looked sneaky one night. Actually, that sounds like a great first line. After I post this, I’ll go see if it works. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to a story with a happy end. One with Covid contained and my Facebook family and friends intact. One where I have an agent, a book deal, and can report being annoyed over faulty sock elastic and feeling dread over how to effectively transfer feathers without feeling guilty for having such belligerent nothingness on my mind.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I appreciate you!

The Chipmunk of Doom is Visiting and He Brought Me a Bout of Ennui

I’m slightly mad at the world. Yes, I know it does me no good. Yes. I know all sorts of “oughts” to remove thoughts but I’m still kind of pissed – not about the lock down – but the indefinite time it will remain. I miss going to my writer’s groups, but we’re doing Zoom and Skype. I’ve touched base with the usual suspects. Some people I don’t frequently deal with have sent messages. I’m not lacking connection or – knock on wood – anything like food, so I’m fine and should shut up, but not knowing the end date is maddening. Maybe it’s just me.

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I’ve been working on the new novel. I’m fairly certain about the end – not exactly – but I think it will be hopeful and life affirming so yes, you should speculate if aliens have abducted and changed me. I’ve shown the start to the amazing Nina Fosati and she thinks the voice is good, so I’ll continue. As most people know, I don’t talk about my books while I’m writing them, so that’s all I’ll say about it – that and thank God for Mary and Gina for pushing me through this writing biz as long as they have. I was truly afraid when Gina left for PA it would be the end of the group, but oddly, the lock down has revived it.

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Working with a wireless keyboard makes me wonder if there will ever be a gadget that would write down one’s thoughts – or better, dreams. I’ve heard people are having vivid dreams. I haven’t been. I can usually remember them fairly well and jot down a few lines about them but recently, I haven’t been doing that. Are there only so many dreams around? I know, what an invalid theory since I can’t begin to imagine how anyone could test for such a thing. This is what happens in quarantine, odd thoughts which end up getting typed out instead of forgotten.

It’s also led to Husband completing another part of the kitchen – the corner cabinet door.

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Every year there is a yearning in spring for change. Sitting on the couch in the mudroom, I’m imaging the furniture in different places. Tomorrow, I need to check in during different times of the day. What will work as the sun goes down might be annoying in full sun. I haven’t worked up the energy to move anything. There’s a chance I’ll change my mind about the arrangement of this room. The new pest – I mean pet – hinders a lot.

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We’re keeping her as an indoor cat, but she’s insistent on getting out. I don’t know how the last cat learned her moves, but this one is brash and adamant about its right to do whatever it wants. Dog thinks that, too but he’s smarter than this cat. He generally stays within bounds.

So, that’s what I’ve managed to write for this post. My birthday cake was delicious. If I’d not been in a locked down state, I would have shared it with you.

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Thanks for stopping by and for the read. I miss all of your faces.

Novel Critique Groups and Writing for an Audience of One

It’s been a NaNoWriMo type of November. I can tell because I have an extra 50,000 words added to my novel and next to no pictures taken during these past 30 days. It wasn’t all writing and no socializing though. When I went to vote, I ran into old friends. I had a chance to talk to Maureen Lee and Kimberly Moritz after the SGI school board meeting – conveniently held in Colden this month. Springville Journal’s esteemed Max Borsuk was there, too. Five out of five Friday nights saw me in the Comfort Zone for the Hamburg Writers’ Group plus Husband and I went to see the movie “Knives Out.” The first snow has fallen and occasionally, it’s a pretty thing to admire as long as shoveling isn’t involved.

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After a gap when Mary Akers, Gina Detwiler and I pursued other writing projects, we each had new work to share so we reconstituted our roving novel critique group meetings. First stop: My home. Why yes, it was fun cleaning the whole house in two days and make quiche and cauliflower nuggets and two types of sweets because I wasn’t sure either would turn out. Dog went to a new groomer before the meeting and was far too sexy for a photo session.

I know, it’s a cheat to take pictures when he’s sleeping, but isn’t that the cutest Thanksgiving bow-tie? Thank you everyone at Paw Spa!

Anyways, I want to say that I’m still surprised that every book I write ends up being written in a different way. Last time, it was a ton of flashes that expanded into a whole. This time it was a lot of wasted writing trying to find a proper beginning. Regardless, once I found it, a lot of the themes and ideas I wanted to explore fell into place.

On and off through October, I worked on the blurb and the first chapter. I searched thumb drives for the abandoned bits and plumped out a catchall file with those meanderings called LineAboutMarriage. I know, it’s not a snappy working title, but it is a little more descriptive than NewBook17.0

I had sent the semi-polished first chapter to the amazing Nina Fosati and Prisoner for their take. Each were happy with it. When I revised it a bit more and sent it to Gina and Mary with no introduction to what it was about, I received my first negative response. It was a kind assessment of how she couldn’t tell if it was a romance or a mystery or what. And that was okay. I had been working at “genre” the last two books after I sent the dark literary “Ellie’s Elephants” to twenty agents and didn’t get more than a few requests for partials. “Blue” and “Near Eden” – the genr-y books had requests for fulls, but again, no agent took them on. For this novel, I’d abandoned the genre slant and wrote it for me.

Lots of people I’ve met have self-published. Some are lovely and I enjoyed them. A few people I’ve shown my early novel attempts liked them. I could have put them on CreateSpace when that was a thing, but my goal has always been to have an agent who will help with the process. Ideally, I’d like to be published by a big house. Making the long (or short) list for first-book awards would be a pleasant surprise, too. If I had self-published, I wouldn’t be eligible to strive for a lot of the goals I set out to reach from a young age. At heart, I’m still the 12-year-old who read “Peyton Place,” saw Grace Meticulous on the back cover in front of a typewriter and wanted to BE her.

But I don’t write like Grace Metalious. Or Nora Roberts. Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison, or anyone else. I write like me and while I hope as I work through the rewrite of this crappy first draft, you and others will like it, in the end, the only thing I really want is for it to be a manuscript I want to read repeatedly and be happy to call mine. I’m writing for one person. It’s taken years to understand this oft-mentioned piece of advice

In the meantime, I appreciate you and the time it took to read this post. My new assistant is waiting patiently, so I must be off…

 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!