Saturday, September 23, 2017

WhipCity Wordsmiths

Last December, I was approached by a member of Artworks of Westfield, Inc. and asked to consider starting a writer's group in my hometown. At the time a writer's group was already in existence and I wasn't inclined to step on the toes of the writer/author who was running that group because she was my friend. I declined.

In the spring, when the writer's group dissolved, I was approached again, and I still didn't want to do it because I work full time and write in my free time, plus I have health issues that sap my energy at I wasn't sure I could dedicate myself to a writer's group.

Then Kelly said she'd help, and we began discussing it. In May I agreed to start a group, but delayed the official start until September due to vacations, traveling, and school being out during the summer months. However, in June we launched the WhipCity Wordsmiths blog and began soliciting membership from writers and authors she and I have met at author events at Blue Umbrella Books, the Agawam Public Library's ReadLocal events, and the Southwick Public Library's recent author event. We garnered additional members from facebook postings on Westfield sites and our own facebook pages.

Membership grew quickly, and members stayed connected via the blog and monthly newsletters throughout the summer while anticipating the first group meeting in September.

That first meeting took place today and was well-attended. New members arrived and completed their membership forms. Several members sent text messages about being unable to attend, which was considerate of them.

The writers and authors who met today had varying levels of skill from beginner to impressive portfolio of accomplishments. Yet, every person brought energy and creativity to the table. Being the inaugural meeting it was a little dry with the let's get to know one another stuff and layout what we hope to accomplish, but then we got into our first prompt- with everyone having brought a favorite word that was put into a hat. We all drew a word from the hat and wrote for five minutes using the selected word in whatever we wrote about. One writer wrote a poem. Another turned her word into an anacronym, assigning each letter a new word and then using the word plus all the new words in the anacronym in her prose. Some pieces were thoughtful, thought evoking, humorous...everyone participated and read their piece. It was interesting to see what we all came up with in the allotted five minutes!

I was nervous when I arrived, caught off guard by a surprise phone call from an author friend in Vermont who just wanted to wish me luck and show his support, and astounded by the number of people who did show up. Overall, I was pleased with the group and all the Wordsmiths in attendance today.

I only began sharing my decades of writing with the public in June of 2015. Since then I have self-published 30 novels and story collections. At the beginning of 2017 I revised all the earlier books, giving the interiors a revamp to make them look more professionally published, and updating covers to amp them up as well from my original choices. I also began using my own photographs for covers. I self-published a few books this year, then revised the three Christmas story collections that I'd left until the end of summer to revise. Then I had an idea about creating smaller stocking stuffer sized holiday story books, so the three larger books were divided down into seven separate books with 3 independent novellas, and four small collections of past, present, inspirational, and family-related holiday stories. Then I pulled two novellas from the Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales volumes- The girl with the Ivy Tattoo and The Magic of Cross and Crowe and made small books from them for Halloween. Next I took Halloween Story which had been published under a pseudonym and revamped it completely into a 9-12 year old age group chapter book, and gave it a vintage postcard cover. After all that was finished I tackled Medea...the 2014 Nano novel that was the first book I self-published and the worst of the lot, even after a cover update and interior revision early on- it was still horrible. A small book with revised interior and new title and cover art called The Unwilling Witch was the result of this major revision and facelift. It is now self published under my own name just as Isabel's Initiation is.

Now, with all that preplanned work accomplished, I have time for a writer's group and for doing more author events.

I'm happy with the group, and with rotating moderators it lessens the burden on me to prepare for each group meeting. At some meetings I can attend as a member and let another member run the meeting. That works out well for all involved because it keeps the meetings fresh and interesting- we're all different. We all have something to offer so the group offers a perfect opportunity to discuss these things.

I'm glad this is working out and that I agreed to do this.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mother/Daughter Anthology in the Works

I was just sitting around tonight, kicking around project ideas and hit on a pretty good one. Kelly has been house hunting since January and will keep looking for the perfect house for her and her various collections, plus her library...but in the meantime she's still living here, so why not throw together a mother/daughter anthology of our ghost and other creepy/disturbing stories?

About three years ago now this coming October, she and I started writing a book together about demons and fallen angels, magicians and so forth, alternating writing chapters. We got maybe five chapters in, then it was my turn to write but we were home by then and it was back to work, and then it was November and we both were writing our NaNo novels. It never happened.

But, both of us have been writing ghost stories for Ghost Stories LIVE! and to amuse ourselves, and we both have other creepy stories that don't necessarily involve ghosts. So, tonight I began putting them together for a mother/daughter anthology. I have 4 books that begin with Miss Peculiar. I am Miss Peculiar- always have been that way, seeing the absurd and weird in every day life. Kelly inherited that trait evidently. So, for every two of my Miss Peculiar stories, there is one Miss Spectyr (that's her moniker) story. She needs to write one more and the book will be about done, other than a final edit and a cover and back cover text copy- simple enough as we've had lots of practice!

Hopefully, this co-authored, joint venture, anthology will be available for the October 14th Fall Family Festival and Pumpkin Carving Event in town where she and I will be among the authors offering literary fare with the artists in the Old Town hall opposite the green.

I also plan on having a 9-12 year old chapter book, Isabel's Initiation, at the event, plus two novellas, The Magic of Cross and Crowe and The Girl With the Ivy Tattoo, plus a novel, The Reluctant Witch (formerly called Medea and published under a pseudonym). I might have a few copies of Out, a vampire novel, and Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume I, Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I, and 13.\ Kelly will have copies of her novel, Parapsychology, and her novella, Teleport available, in addition to the as yet unnamed joint anthology if we get it all together in time!

After this October 14th event, I have an author event on October 21st at Blue Umbrella Books for the launch of Out, and then Ghost Stories LIVE! on October 28th, also at Blue Umbrella Books..Fingers crossed, there will be a Ghost Stories LIVE! Anthology II available at the event!

Then, after October comes NaNo Novel Writing month- so you know where I'll be- at my kitchen table every night and on weekends writing like a madwoman!This will be my 6th NaNoWriMo. The five NaNo novels I've written so far are all available on Amazon and Kindle: Talon:An Intimate Familiarity, The Fairlawn Investigation, Medea (which will now be known as The Unwilling Witch published under my own name starting in October), Life Skills, and Black Knight, White Rook.

There will be a lot going on downtown on October 14th, so if you're local or can make it to Westfield, MA- the event runs from noon until 7PM. Authors will be in the Old Town Hall from noon until 5PM or so- depending how foot traffic is through the building.

Check back for an update as the mother/daughter anthology nears completion and publication! It should certainly have a title by then!!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Preparing for the Holidays

I spent Labor Day weekend creating 5x8 versions of some Christmas novellas and story collections- using stories I've written over the past 20 years that are gathered ion three large volumes of holiday stories and cutting them down to three stand alone novellas (The Winter Solstice Ball, A Major Production, and The Red Velvet Suite, and four story collections by type of story- inspirational, Christmas past, Christmas Present, and Christmas with family.) I've been asked why I'm producing holiday books now. The answer is that I work full time and my extra activities calendar is getting pretty full, so I am not going to have any time until November to do anything, and by then it will be too late to start working on Christmas stuff, because these days, Christmas starts as soon as the Halloween leftovers are swept off the shelves. Thanksgiving is like a tattered ribbon caught in a holiday maelstrom of product promotions. I need to have my stocking stuffer sized books ready. So between working five days a week, and weekend schedules already booked through the end of October, I need to get stuff done ahead. That's why I dedicated the three day weekend to Christmas books.

Now I'm working on Halloween books for the October Fall Festival, my author event, and a Ghost Stories LIVE! event that will fill my October weekends. September is already booked with various things like a button show this weekend, writer's group the following weekend, and a family birthday.

November, if you haven't realized it yet, will be consumed by NaNoWriMo novel writing. There is no time for anything else in November.

I was never a scout, but the be prepared motto is one I've embraced throughout my entire life. My husband is a "wait and see" type person who seldom accomplishes anything and misses the boat on everything else (and never blames himself for anything that doesn't get done.) I can't be like that. I'm a get things done type of person. I've just always been that way.

I think I'm on track with all my myriad least I hope so!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Art Drop Day and Catching Up

Tuesday, September 5th is international Art Drop Day. It's basically been for artists, but this year in Westfield we're including literary artists because writing is an art form. An author creates a story, a setting, a cast of characters that through the use of words alone they bring to life in the reader's imagination in a vivid, realistic or fantastical manner that leads the reader on a journey into a world created solely out of words.

Kelly and I will be dropping off books at certain locations around town tomorrow and posting clues on social media as to the location of the books so they can go and be discovered.

It's a wonderful scavenger hunt type of event with beautiful gifts from artists and others who participate that are yours to take home and cherish.

My book is a prototype, one of a kind cover, copy of Black King Takes White Queen, my shortlisted for the OZMA Award 2016 fantasy novel set in a fictionalized rural northwest corner of Massachusetts where white arts and black arts practitioners have lived their separate lives for centuries. It is also a story about families and friends and the bonds they share. It is young Ivy Greenaway's coming of age story as she suddenly finds herself married to a black arts warlock who is now the King when his father is murdered and his sister also wants him dead. Ivy and Romney must find a way to unite the two very different groups of practitioners o fight the evil Rayna Sharpe has released in the world as she seeks to destroy her brother and claim the treasure hoard he protects for the sake of all practitioners both black and white, as her own.

Kelly will be placing her novel Teleport, a sci-fi thriller someplace in Westfield on her way to work tomorrow.

On the home front- Kelly and I cleaned up the interior file copy of her trolley motorman/writer friend's first book, a collection of five connected trolley ghost stories set at the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, CT that he wrote earlier this year. He's self-publishing his book this month and using a photo she shot in Ohio, I believe, on the cover. We knew he had a book in him all the while he was doubting his ability to sustain the stories beyond the first one. He did a great job...and not surprisingly, is planning his next book!

I beta read two other books in August and both are being published. Yea!

As for my own work- I haven't written anything new lately. I've been preparing for the launch of our (Kelly's and my) writer's group, WhipCity Wordsmiths which will be Saturday, September 23rd at 3PM at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA. We have a great group of writers and authors onboard so it should be interesting!

I self-published five books beginning at the end of July to clean up projects lying around on the dining room table. The Fairlawn Investigation and the Victoria Wayfarer Investigation are the first two novels in a paranormal ghost hunters series started back in 200?, and finally written in 2011 and 2013. It was way past time for them to be completed. Then Bending Birches was finished. It's two connected novellas set seven years apart and set at a fictionalized Mount Holyoke College, and also Amherst and Stockbridge, MA. Then I put together a collection of stories in which cats, kittens, dogs and puppies play a role, Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs. On my mother's side of the family there are distinct dog lovers and distinct cat lovers. We had both when I was growing up, and my sister has a dog and a number of cats. Recently one of my mother's cousins, a dog lover, took in a cat and now loves both. Lines are being blurred! These stories are for animal lovers who also like romance. There are even a ghost dog and a ghost cat story in the book! Finally, after lengthy debating and numerous proof copies and revisions, my vampire romance that is also about tolerance between different groups of people, has had a soft release. Out will be officially released at my author event October 21st at Blue Umbrella Books at 2PM.

This long Labor Day weekend I've been putting together holiday novellas for Christmas. I have been writing annual Christmas stories for family and friends since around 1997. The best of them have been collected in Yuletide Stories, Always Christmas in My Heart, and Together for the Holidays. The three Christmas stories volumes were put aside at the beginning of the year when I revised the interior copy layout and cleaned up minor grammar and punctuation issues in ALL my other novels and story collections. I left the holiday books for later in the year- and the time has arrived to clean them up so this has been accomplished over the past two weekends. Always Christmas in My Heart and Together for the Holidays received revised covers in the process. The cover of Yuletide Stories also received a little tweaking in the back cover copy but the rest of the cover is the same as it was.

The weekend I've been creating 5x8 inch stocking stuffer versions of holiday novellas and novelettes. The Winter Solstice Ball, The Red Velvet Suit, and A Major Production are all in the proof stage. I photographed the cover image for The Red Velvet Suit myself yesterday morning. I'm now trying to use some of my own photographs for covers (butterscotch-a collection of stories and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs have my photos on the covers.) I have maybe two more stocking stuffer size books to create- one of inspirational holiday stories, the other of family holiday stories.

Also, I have revamped a young reader chapter book for Halloween. The book was originally written using two lines of text I'd written when Kelly was in grade school. "I woke to the now familiar hollow rattle and racket that came clearly through the thin walls. Yes, definitely, it was Mother in the closet again, cleaning the bones." The bones being cleaned belong to four skeletons that are hung from hooks on the front porch of the Doorlin home every Halloween. Isabel Doorlin is a 12-year old, soon to be thirteen. This is the Halloween when she will be inducted into High Tor Coven where all her female ancestors have been esteemed witches through the centuries. Once initiated, Isabel returns home where mischief makers are frightened by a skeleton brought to life who chases them down the street, a less than friendly classmate Isabel has cast her spell upon who comes begging for her assistance in finding her lost little brother as it grows late, assistance from her phantom father, several visits from the local patrol officer, and a surprising discovery about her parents. Isabel's Initiation: A Halloween Story will be available for Halloween this year.  I also have a new adult novel that may be revamped in time for Halloween also.

I have begun working on an anthology of ghost stories with Russell Atwood who edited the first anthology last year. I have about six stories to review and prepare for publication while he works on interior artwork and images. We hope to have it available for the next Ghost Stories LIVE! event on October 28th at Blue Umbrella Books.

Finally, on August 12th I was nominated and voted in as a director of Artworks of Westfield, Inc. I'm excited to be a part of this non-profit group that helps promote cultural arts of all types in the city. They are a huge supporter of artists, photographers, visual media arts, multi-medium arts, literary arts, musicians and bands, etc. in Westfield, helping to organize, host or co-host, or support, and promote local cultural events in Westfield.

And I sit around in free moments thinking that I'm not accomplishing anything in my life!

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Catch-Up

I've been wicked busy this month doing three beta reads for author friends, and now editing up a book interior text copy version of one of those author's five connected stories so that everything is ready for this first time self publisher to upload his book and complete the design process when Kelly and I send the almost ready for publication file to him (he just needs to plug in his copyright info, dedication, and author bio!) I have 50 pages to go before putting the project back in his hands.

Meanwhile, I've been tweaking two of the five recently released books I self published. I wasn't happy with the cover fonts I chose (well, I liked them just fine, but they proved difficult to read ont he actually book covers front and back) so I pulled them, changed the fonts on both Bending Birches and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs, and also cleaned up a few minor issues I found in each book, plus the I don't have a clue how it happened spacing issue in the last ten or so pages of Bending Birches. There last section of the book never got justified! Very strange since I did the entire text at once...but, stuff happens. Stuff gets fixed. Both books were off the marketplace for just 24 hours or less.

Another project for me this August is finishing all the book revisions I began earlier this year. I have the three volumes of Christmas stories to revise the interior of (I published them before I knew how to justify the text.) As the holidays approach I want to get them done, looking their best, and also upload them as Kindle books like all the rest are. I also need to redo Halloween Story which was published under Victoria Bell, my pseudonym for young reader and young adult books, of which there are just two, Medea being the young adult/new adult novel. I might redo Medea also. I'm still thinking about that. First up, though, are the Christmas volumes. I have one re-edited and started the second this morning.

Also, I'm happy to announce here that Kelly is a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo this year. November will be a busy month for us with each of us writing a novel, and her hosting local write-ins, etc.

WhipCity Wordsmiths has its first meeting September 23rd here in town. I planned the meeting agenda the other day, have some materials stockpiled, and a fun writing assignment lined up for this inaugural meeting. The membership response has been more than I had hoped for- what an amazing group of people! Many of the group members are included in my dedication in Out to A League of Extraordinary Authors/Writers- all of them local authors I admire.

I've been catching up on some reading and posting a few book reviews this month also.

I also scheduled an author event for October 21st for Out, my vampire romance novel. I'll talk about the book, the journey involved in writing it, the four revisions, read from the book, and will either discuss vampires in literature, or vampire legend and lore- haven't decided yet. Last year when I did an author event for Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales I had a scavenger hunt for Miss Peculiar's Curiosities afterwards in the store that was fun. Everyone who attended went home with an armload of Halloween d├ęcor goodies and treats. Not sure what I'll do this year!

Meanwhile, Out is currently a goodreads giveaway. The giveaway is for seven signed first edition copies. The giveaway ends September 30th. It started August 22nd and has already drawn interest from over 150 people!

There's a hint of approaching autumn here in western MA this evening with acorns thudding down through the green leaves of the oaks into the lawn, and a distinct coolness in the air now that the sun has set. Perfect sleeping weather! Also the perfect weather for a cup of tea and to pay some attention to all these story ideas percolating in my brain. There's a Ghost Stories LIVE! event coming up October 28th- I had a scary idea pop into my head while at work this afternoon! I really need to develop this one. I don't usually write stuff that's too terrifying- but this idea has the potential to be more chilling than usual!

There are a dozen other story ideas circling around waiting for their chance to be fully heard. But first,  I need to get all these projects I've tackled this month done before I can go back to writing new stories and novels.

Time for tea! My toes are cold sitting here barefoot at the kitchen table with the back door open, crickets chirping, frogs croaking, and the occasional trill of a mockingbird disturbed by the ballgame on TV while trying to sleep in the rhododendron outside the open front window. (Or maybe it likes TV commercial jingles? I don't know!)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Next goodreads Giveaway Scheduled

Beginning August 22nd a goodreads Giveaway will begin for 7 signed first edition copies of my two-years in the writing/fine tuning of my contemporary vampire romance Out. I wrote the book and then realized that there were a lot of characters in it that needed some background and more definition, so I went back and wrote excerpts as if from various media sources about each vampire and inserted them in a sort of chronological order which also touches upon what was or is happening at the time in society as vampires are being outed, the publics reaction to "the monsters" in their midst (their perception of these vampires as monsters when in fact they have been living among the normal human populace for centuries), and a splash of horror that leads to change.

It's difficult to classify this novel because it is not your usual horror-laced or campy vampire tale. To understand what I mean, I guess you need to read it.

Out is currently available on and as a Kindle book in the Kindle store. I will be delivering a few copies to Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield, MA this Saturday sometime.

Look for the black book with the deep purple roses on the cover!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Keeping Busy

Most days I wake up feeling as if I haven't accomplished anything in my life. I go off to work five days a week wishing I had more time to write and promote my work and attend author events, but work and dealing with/coping with health issues often consume much of my time. I try to write a little bit every night, but sometimes household tasks and errands chew up a couple hours of evening time. Therefore, I often go to bed thinking about all the writing I want to do and feeling disappointed that there is not enough time in a day to accomplish it.

It's almost mid-August, so this morning I've been thinking about what I have accomplished so far this year. In February I published 13, a little volume of supernatural and psychologically disturbing stories I had planned on publishing the previous October, but it got set aside. I polished it up and got it out there and was happy with it. Simultaneously, I also finished the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen, Black Knight, White Rook and published that novel.

I did some beta reading for author friends as spring approached. Then I put together a collection of just ghost stories and published Niss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, Volume I in June, and also a group of contemporary stories called butterscotch-a collection of stories, also released in June.

Then in July I tackled a pair of ghost hunting novels that had been sitting in binders in a milk crate, woefully neglected since 2011 and 2013. They both underwent revisions and editing because I had written the second book two years before the first book in the series, so had to fix continuity issues so the books would flow together more seamlessly. The Fairlawn Investigation and The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation were released at the end of July and beginning of August.

And then I dug out Bending Birches, a novella I'd written in 2014 or 2015. It has a local setting, fictionalized (partially as there are some real western MA locations mentioned as well). There was a partial sequel set seven years later that took me some searching to locate because I couldn;t remember what its title was. Seventh Year Itch was finished and the two novellas were put into a volume called Bending Birches and published.

And then I'd been thinking about putting together stories in which cats, dogs, kittens and puppies played a role in romances. I gleaned a number of stories from previous published story collections and added one previously unpublished story with a ghost cat, and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs was released last week with a picture of Kelly's and my cats on the cover, no less!

Finally, I had a vampire novel written two years ago and was talking to a publishing companies self-publishing subsidiary when John lost his job. With 5/6 of our income gone I couldn't afford to pay their fee and just set the book aside, although I did write new sections and insert them into each chapter, and then did revisions to fix continuity issues. I left it alone for over a year, then began fixing it up some more, ordering a proof copy after each revision. Red, Green, Yellow print on black covers. Then I chose deep purple roses for the new and final cover...and ordered a fourth proof, while considering submitting it to a publisher in Pepperell MA that only publishes quality vampire fiction...until I read the disclaimer that authors are responsible for promoting their own work. Well, I already do that, so I decided to just release it on my own. I did the last major overhaul and Out was released this week.

Nine books in eight months. Viewed that way, I see that I have accomplished something- maybe too much something, but I guess my main issue is that this was all (except for Black Knight, White Rook, previously written material, of which I have a mountain of! I really haven't written much new material-although I've started a lycanthrope novel, two contemporary novels, and a few stories.

And I've been beta reading for three author friends- two beta reads completed, one BIG one to go!

So, I don't know why I feel I haven't done anything...I think it's just I set the bar too high for myself, and right now I am tired with summer dragging on with hot humid days and cool rainy weather alternating, which wreaks havoc on arthritis and mood in general. It's been draining energy wise.

At least I can read this and remind myself that I have been keeping busy- even when I don't feel that I've done much at all!