Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Fan, A Friend

I met Doty after Tom Deady's author event at Blue Umbrella a couple of months ago. We'd both parked in the lot behind the shop and she stopped to talk to me as we were walking to our cars. I gave her a copy of Miss Peculiar's Ghost Stories, and maybe a copy of Out. We chatted about books and authors a bit then she gave me her phone number after we agreed to get together for coffee one day.

Since then, Doty and I have met for coffee several times and have gotten to know one another better. She likes horror, which is a genre I don't usually write in. I am more supernatural/paranormal. She came to the ArtWorks sponsored Artist & Author event during Pumpkinfest, met Kelly and bought a copy of our co-authored anthology Disturbing. She came to Shop Small Saturday at Blue Umbrella and bought a Christmas book. She doesn't like everything I write, but she is supportive of me as an author. During NaNo month she asked about my Nano novel, the werewolf novel, and offered me some advice which I took. She gave me a couple of ideas. She may like what I'm writing at any given moment, but she gives me things to think about that I don't get from my family and closest friends. She has a different outlook, novel ideas. I value our Sunday get togethers over coffee because of the fresh perspective I get.

She surprised me by gifting me a book last Sunday. She had gone to an author book fair in CT where Shawn Flynn had been with his The Kitty book. She bought me a copy of One of Windsor The Untold Story of America's First Witch Hanging by Beth M. Caruso. It's a book right up my alley. Her gifting me the book reminded me that I have a 2/3 finished novel about witches in New Hampshire waiting to be finished. Sometimes I put things aside and forget about them until something sparks a memory. Now I have the werewolf novel to polish up and the witch novel to finish.

I'm happy to have a follower who has become a friend. I feel local authors should be more accessible than big brand name authors. They have publicists. We, for the most part, do not. They earn decent money. We do not. We have to work hard to make book sales because we're basically unknown. We don't have a publishing house backing us and blowing their trumpets to call attention to our work. We have to do it all ourselves and it can be an overwhelming chore. The perks are meeting people like Doty.

Of course with every acquaintance one makes as an author we should be cautious. I would not invite someone to my home. I meet people in public places. I would not go to someone's home. I do not reveal much personal information. Books, authors, and general info is fine. I ask for her opinions and thoughts on books and what she likes and why. It's an opportunity to get into the mind of a reader and fan. And she gets to probe the psyche of a writer/author and maybe satisfy her curiosity about what makes a writer tick.

A lot can be learned from one on one meet and greets. So, if a fan/follower bravely asks if you'd like to have coffee one day, don't summarily dismiss the invitation. Consider it. It you get no bad vibes from the person, chance a meeting over coffee in a public place. Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone has an ear into which to pour that story. Doty makes me laugh, makes me see myself and my work in a different light, makes me cry (we both got a little teary eyed the last time we met, but we also laughed)...she opens a window into her world, and I give her glimpses through my own window into my world. She's bought some of my books...she's a part of my circle.

I probably will not ever write a horror novel, will just stick to ghost stories, but she likes some of those stories that she's read. She likes Stephen King, Tom Deady, Joe Hill, and other masters of the horror genre. I'm not in their league. I'm not in their genre. I dabble on the periphery of horror sometimes, but am squeamish about sticking my toe into it. I like what I write, and she accepts that.

So- a fan, a follower can become a friend at times. I pick and choose carefully from those who approach me. Sometimes you find a treasure.

Beta Reading

Hey Mike, things are going to quiet down after Ghost Stories LIVE! on the 16th, so I will get around to reading what you've sent. Andrew has also sent me something he's been working on to read. November was all about NaNo, but I will most likely wait to start proofreading and editing my NaNo novel until January- I'm not all that thrilled with it. I need to develop things a little more deeply. I also need to get my annual holiday story written. This month is already slipping by too quickly!! But, I will happily read what you're working on!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I have a new story that I have been working with. It is called The Staff of Death. I wanted to know if anyone might be interested in being a beta reader for it and give me some feedback on it. I would appreciate any feedback you can give me on it.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kelly go to utube type in: Magic Stripper deck" you will find multiple video showing you how to use these most versitle cards

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Notes from November Meeting

There were many of you unable to attend due to other obligations, health issues, etc, but six of us met at Blue Umbrella. We were joined by Mike Veto who has been NaNo-writing on Friday nights at Blue Umbrella Books with Kelly, other area NaNoWriMo's, and me. I met Mike, who told his first real life ghost story this past October during Ghost Stories LIVE! Also joining us was Eileen Chapman, a librarian at the West Springfield Library who also writes. Both Mike and Eileen were made members of the WhipCity Wordsmiths during the meeting. Kelly, Lynnmarie, Lindsay, Geri, Joyce Collins, and I were present with a call-in from Mike Walsh from VT.

Glen wanted me to pass the word that his Contemporary Women Mystery Writers program was rescheduled to Saturday, December 2nd at 1PM at Blue Umbrella Books. If you have a chance, attend! This will be the third of his author events that I will be attending. Glen also has 4 new books out. I've read three of them so far, The Accident, The Open Window, and The Eye of Mumbai. I have the fourth in my chair-side pile of to-reads- A Body in My Office, the first Charles Bentley Mystery. Glen's author events are always packed full of information and insight. Always an A-plus presentation!

Sandy Sessler's author event for The Legacy of Aidan McManus at the Agawam Public Library on the 20th at 7PM was also announced.

I'm using a book Kelly received as a gift from Bethany- 52 Pep Talks for Writer's by the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, Grant Faulkner. We touched on creativity, daily writing, where ideas come from, and making your writing the best it can be by using a variety of tools. I had with me my Oxford Dictionary/Thesaurus and my small, quick to grab Oxford Thesaurus that I use when writing. I also had my Character Naming Book that also is well-used. I got that from the Writer's Digest store years ago. Despite its bright pink and dark blue cover, it is the book that is most frequently lost in our house because both Kelly and I use it and never remember where we left it last! I also brought The Emotions Thesaurus which helps a writer find better ways of expressing a character's emotional state. I also had The Nightmare Dictionary, Self-Editing for Writer's, Grammar 101, and a few other writing resource books with me. Lindsay uses various internet sites to find names for her characters, and the right words to use in her work.

We talked about where story ideas come from. A lot of ideas come to Mike Veto in dreams. Geri draws on real life experiences and shared the story of an heirloom cooking spoon and how she and her mother and grandmother all have their own interpretations of kosher and religion. My head is always full of voices- characters wanting to tell their stories through me. I also mentioned how the clock tower at the end of the sister bridges inspired my current NaNo novel.

Ideas can come from hearing a snippet of conversation while waiting in line at the grocery store, or between people passing by on the we interpret these things, how they spark ideas in our brains...these are the seeds that stories grow from.

The basic message was, be the best writer you can be. Utilize the tools available to writer's. Ask for a beta reader because every writer needs an unbiased pair of eyes to catch mistakes we are blind to in our own work. Find inspiration everywhere. Look. Listen. Feel. Taste. Touch. Write as often as you can to hone your skill. And always have a good support network you can share your highs and lows with!

I had a pile of my books with me as giveaways- these were proof copies, and original versions and some one of a kind cover versions. Christmases Past originally had a red cover with the tree, but the back cover text was too difficult to read, so I changed it to the current blue. Everyone took some books home to enjoy during the holidays and coming winter months. I may bring others to the January meeting. I have an accumulation since doing all the revisions earlier this year.

The meeting ended with an agreement that we would see one another again in January, weather and clear roads permitting! A January date has not been chosen yet- I have to look at the calendar and plan a date when those who work and have been unable to make a meeting are able to attend.

So, Happy Thanksgiving Wordsmiths- I'm thankful to have so many wonderful members in this group!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! And a Joyful, Healthy, and Productive New Year to you all!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hi guys hope you all have a great meeting. Im at home with some kind of bug! Feeling yucky and wanting to sleep. All is well with my wife shes feeling better than me right now. Hope to make the next meeting. Scribner away today

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lean in!

Lean in! Sheryl Sandberg popularized this expression as the title of her 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, encouraging women to embrace challenge and risk in the workplace. Lean into it, she advised. It has become a business buzz phrase, challenging the ever popular “thinking outside the box” mantra as the most quoted business motto. Who hasn’t been challenged to think outside the box?

What if you have never explored the inside of the box? Suppose leaning in meant leaning inward, exploring inner self and traveling avenues of self-care? These questions represent my version of leaning in … introspection, rumination and self –examination.

I have been missing in action from the WhipCity Wordsmiths for some time now because I have let life run me ragged. I have over extended myself to serve others, which I love to do, but I’ve forgotten to serve myself too! I have allowed my physical, emotional and psychological foundation to crumble at the edges, obscuring my outlook on the world. So, I’ve taken some time to lean in, to self-access and closely examine my priorities and goals in life, an immersion in self-care.

This immersion inside the box has yielded some remarkable insights and opportunities. I have decided to step away from my role as President and board member of the Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum. The Friends group is a great organization that supports a wonderful institution but took up an inordinate amount of my personal time.

I have decided to deepen my yoga practice, expand my immersion into the arts and culture in Westfield, express myself more freely and openly through writing and explore more engaging, inspiring and rewarding employment. I will seek ways to improve my health through more consistent exercise and life style changes in my relationship with food and nutrition. I will spend more time in nature and explore all she has to offer.
I will breathe. I will observe my thinking rather than react to it … thoughts are not facts after all! Thoughts are a river of emotions and feelings best observed rather than a source of inspiration for evocative reaction.

I will allow myself to be inspired. I will allow my inner child to express himself more often, to inspire a playfulness that is often lost in the hectic pace of a demanding, encroaching and suffocating digital world. I will explore self-confidence and self-awareness. I will consider what is most important to me. I will not be selfish, egocentric or self-obsessed but I will give my needs equal consideration.
I will lean in.   

Beta Reading

I have done some beta reading for Wordsmith Melissa Volker and Wordsmith Mike Walsh in the past few weeks. I enjoy reading what other authors and writers are working on. It entertains my always busy mind, opens windows in my own imagination, and allows me to see how I might be able to better my own writing. There is value in beta reading for other writers in that you are a sounding board for their work and can point out weak spots, brilliant places, where something is not working, continuity issues...things a writer might have developed a blind spot for in proofreading their own work. It saves a writer a lot of time and effort to clean it all up before submitting it rather than the bitter disappointment and discouragement of rejection for flaws. I know I am always missing obvious things in my own work that my live-in proofreader/editor is always catching- I swear gremlins live in my keyboard and tamper with Microsoft Word on a regular basis, or maybe they live in my own head? I don't know which, but it's frustrating and annoying to have someone point out obvious errors when you think the piece is perfect. Beta readers are honest, sometimes brutally so, but you need that as a writer, someone whom you trust to find the flaws, or just provided valuable feedback like, "Hey, this works! This is great stuff!"

So, if an author asks for a beta reader, do step up and offer to read their work and provide them feedback. You'll get an advance glimpse into their newest work and an opportunity to hone your own proofreading, editor, and reviewer skills. Don't be harsh, be helpful!

I sent a ghost story to Sandy and Melissa and both of them pointed out things I needed to fix- they both found different things. Many eyes see many things. I am appreciative of their very quick responses. I was actually remedying the issues as Sandy was listing them and Melissa was suggesting them. Within an hour I had a much better story with their invaluable assistance!

I know there are trust issues with letting your unpublished work pass into the hands of another person, but if that person is trusted and reliable, then you should seek their opinion, feedback and council. We all have those blind spots when it comes to reviewing our own writing. Don't be afraid or intimidated to ask for fresh eyes. They will make you look your best when you submit a story for publication!

November Meeting

Just a reminder that the November meeting of the WhipCity Wordsmiths will be held at 3PM on Saturday, November 18th, at Blue Umbrella Books. At the last meeting the Wordsmiths donated a brand new 6 foot table to Blue Umbrella, so combined with the table they have more of us should have seating around the tables. Bring a notepad and a pen for a writing prompt during the meeting.

October was a crazy busy month, and as some of you are aware, this is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month- 50,000 words in 30 days. Kelly is the Western MA region Municipal Liaison this year after being leaderless last year, she stepped up to the plate and has been hosting a pre-NaNo informational meeting, a kickoff party in Hadley, and a number of local write-ins in Westfield. She and I have met some interesting writers and have gotten a lot of writing done, writing new novels, doing our part to push the region's word count bar graph higher each day, as well as our own personal word count graphs. She's on par to finish. I write like a madwoman when I get going so let's just say I'm writing my A game as usual and leave it at that.

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as can make it to this meeting on the 18th.

There is no December meeting- we'll be taking a holiday break and resuming in January with a schedule I hope will accommodate members who have been unable to attend due to their work schedules. Watch you email or the blog for the January meeting date!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNo Day 1

November 1st has certainly arrived quickly! Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo- so I just wanted to say to everyone who is participating this year- you've started your creative engine, the green flag was waved at 12:00:01 AM this morning. You're on the track with tens of thousands of other writers around the globe. Start laying down the words, authors! Good Luck! Let's get some novels written this month!

My NaNo novel will be The Clockmaker's Son. He just happens to be a lycanthrope due to an unfortunate and terrifying camping incident during the summer between the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. The novel was inspired, earlier this year, when I had my first sight of the mechanical clock tower open at the end of the twin bridges in Westfield at high noon. The intricate mechanical clocks Julian Rand (J. Rand) Beresford builds are far more detailed and the figures move. I don't usually write dark novels- even if bad stuff is going on in them, there's always humor and romance to play against the darkness; but taking a shot at something darker this time...working outside my comfort zone.

So, NaNo authors! Write on! (And if in Westfield, stop by a write-in. Again, there will be write-ins at Blue Umbrella on Friday nights 6-8PM, and one at the Dunkin Donuts at the four way intersection at the end of East Mountain Road and North Road (Route 202) and County Road in the northeast corner of Westfield near Hampton Ponds on Sunday, November 5th from 9AM-11AM.

Ready! Set! Write!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NaNoWriMo Time!

National Novel Writing Month begins November 1st! This year Wordsmith Kelly Buffum is the Municipal Liaison for Western MA which includes Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties. This is a large territory to be responsible for, but she's held an informational meeting at Blue Umbrella Books on Friday, October 20th, and is posting regularly on the Nano website in the western MA regional posts and on facebook page Western MA NaNo- look for the teal background with crossed pens.

The Nano kickoff party is October 29th from 4PM-6PM at Panera Bread in Hadley MA on route 9 in the WalMart, Barnes & Noble plaza.

This is Kelly's 7th NaNoWriMo and Susan's 6th.

Kelly will be holding write-ins on Friday evenings from 6-8 through the month of November at Blue Umbrella Books. There is a write in scheduled at Dunkin Donuts on the corner of Rte. 202 (North Road) and Country Road in Westfield (at the Ponds) November 5th from 9AM-11AM. Check the calendar on the NaNo website for additional write in dates and times.

If you're writing a novel this November- good luck!

Notes From October 21 Meeting

The meeting immediately followed Susan's author event for her new contemporary vampire romance novel, Out.

There were four WhipCity Wordsmiths and one Wordsmith recommended author who signed up for the Artworks of Westfield, Inc, Art&Authors show that coattailed onto PumpkinFest on October 14th. Susan and Kelly Buffum, Sandy Sessler, and Sonia Ellis were the Wordsmiths who were selling books and talking to the public during the event. Wordsmith Shawn Flynn was unable to attend but recommended CT author, Connie Bombaci, who brought along her deaf Dalmatian service dog, Judea, who was a hit with young and old. The Wordsmiths had a raffle table to raise money so that they could donate a brand new 6 foot folding table to Blue Umbrella Books to increase the number of members who will now be able to sit around two tables rather than one. Susan bought the table and delivered it to Blue Umbrella on the 21st of October. Connie was made an honorary Wordsmith.The event was well-attended, books received a lot of exposure and many were sold.

We have another new member, poet and blogger Erin Joy Seibert of Amherst. Erin has a book of poetry published titled A Field Guide to Falling, published under the pseudonym Em Jollie.

Glen Ebisch was unable to attend but asked that the group be advised that his author event scheduled for October 28th at Blue Umbrella has been rescheduled to December 2nd at 1PM. Glen will be speaking on Contemporary Women Mystery Writers. Please attend- he is a terrific speaker and exceptionally knowledgeable! I've been to two of his author events and enjoyed both!

Joyce Collins was unable to attend but sent her best regards. She hopes to see everyone in November.

A fan fiction writer, whose name escapes me at the moment, also attended part of the meeting,

Joyce Fetteroll joined us for this meeting. Kelly and I met her two years ago during NaNoWriMo and met with her at Dunkin Donuts at Little River Plaza to do nanowriting. She attended Kelly's NaNo informational meeting on Friday evening and came to the Wordsmiths meeting to check us out.

Susan and Kelly have put out a jointly authored anthology of mostly ghost and supernatural stories titled Disturbing.

Mike Walsh is asking for a beta reader for a friend's work if anyone is interested in taking on a project. You can contact Mike at

It's time to think about holiday book sales if you have books to sell! Christmas is already out in the big box stores! Craft and vendor fairs are a good place to promote your books. Shop small is November 28th, the Saturday following Black Friday! Support your local small businesses-and stop into Blue Umbrella Books if able to say hello and maybe buy a book to help support the book store.

Sandy Sessler will be the Agawam Public Library on November 20th at 7PM to discuss her novel The Legacy of Aidan McManus, If you haven't been to one of Sandy's book discussions at Blue Umbrella or elsewhere, this would be a great time to go! Plenty of parking!

Susan, Kelly and Melissa Volker will be on Bob Plasse's local radio program Tuesday morning, the 24th at 7AM. Tune into WSKB radio, 89.5 FM broadcast from Westfield State University.

Ghost Stories LIVE! with Russell Atwood and cast members Susan and Kelly Buffum, and Melissa Volker will be reading new and classic ghost stories at Blue Umbrella Books on Saturday, October 28th from 6PM-8PM, with open mic following should anyone care to relate their own paranormal experiences. Always spooky fun!

Thank you to Susan, Kelly, Russell, Sandy, Shawn, Lynnmarie, Joyce F., Lindsay, Andrew, Geri and Sue for attending.

The date has been set for Artworks of Westfield, Inc's Articulture event. This will be the third annual event and will be held on Saturday April 28th, 2018. Susan is in charge of booking authors for this event which will be at the Church of Atonement this coming April. Artists and Authors will be located at the church, and musicians will be at The Westfield Women's Club so we'll have plenty of space. Unsure how many author tables there will be, but the past two years there have been 6. I'm going to push for 8 this coming year-we'll see what happens. But if interested, let me know as soon as you can so I can reserve your table space. Artworks does ask 10% of sales. The still new non-profit org has a lot of enthusiasm and they are strong supporters of all the arts in the community.

Our writing prompt this month was to look over the period elements table and find one that represents you the closest, write some notes and then during the meeting write how the chosen element fit you...not a simple task, but everyone jumped right in and wrote some good stuff- some of it thought provoking, some of it humorous. I chose samarium and my sister Lynnmarie, completely unbeknownst to me, chose cobalt. Samarium and cobalt together form a powerful magnet! Weird stuff like that always happens between us. Go figure.

Melissa was unfortunately suffering an upper respiratory infection so wasn't available to talk.VP Shawn Flynn was present this month and asked to talk about his experience with multiple author appearances for his book The Kitty Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him at Barnes & Noble stores. Shawn spoke about his experience with B&N, Then he discussed how if you buy your own ISBN number from Bowker, and created your own publishing label, then publish your book through someplace like IngramSpark then big box bookstores are more willing to sell your book because it is available through the book channels big retailers use to stock their stores. Shawn explained all the footwork involved in doing this and making his book look as professionally published as possible by studying big brand publisher's books- basically doing his homework before putting out the second self-published edition of The Kitty.

Self publishing can be very daunting and often not very rewarding, but listening to Shawn and jotting down notes on his tips, a little rosy glow appeared on the horizon. This topic can be discussed again later on.

Geri Johnson was able to join us this month and Shawn was able to give her some advice about an alternate way to put out a second edition of her book about a young female racer.

The six foot folding table was presented to Russell Atwood from the WhipCity Wordsmiths for being such generous hosts of our meetings. Combined with the six foot table they already have we'll have double the space for our next meeting!

The meeting broke up about 4:15 or so as some people had other obligations, others had to go to work, and I was just plain tired from doing too much with RA...

A final note, Josepha Vass has emailed me letting me know he is disappointed that I schedule meetings on the Saturdays he has to work. Unfortunately, I check the book store calendar and grab open spots...however, he has sent me his work schedule and I will do my best to accommodate him so he can attend at least every other meeting. If anyone else has schedule conflicts, sent me an email at so when start looking at 2018 dates I'll be able to plan some so everyone who wants to can attend as many meetings as they're able to.

The next meeting is Saturday, November 18th at 3PM-5PM at Blue Umbrella Books. There is no December meeting due to December being such a  busy time for people with holiday shopping and preparations, company, parties, etc. If anyone wants to get together informally, let me know and we can meet at a coffee shop or something just to sip and chat.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October Meeting

Our October meeting is Saturday, the 21st at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA.
A few Wordsmiths have contacted me to let me know they will be unable to attend. A few others who were unable to attend last time will be there this time.

Melissa Volker has come down with a virus so her discussion is postponed, Here's hoping she will be feeling better soon! I work in a medical office and we've been seeing a lot of upper respiratory virus lately. Thankfully it passes in a week or so- rest, fluids...and lots of good books to curl up with!

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as can make it!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

National Novel Writing Month

Hi all.

I know some of you expressed interest in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) at last month's meeting. That said, I wanted to let you know I'm hosting an info session on Friday (20th) to talk about NaNoWriMo and answer any questions you might have. It'll be at 6 o'clock at Blue Umbrella Books. Or you can catch me after the meeting on the 21st.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In Which I Gush

I just want to take a minute this evening to thank the WhipCity Wordsmiths who are a cohesive, collaborating, cooperative, competent, group of writers, authors and others who jump right in with both feet to promote the literary arts in this community (and surrounding communities, too, when called upon!)

When Artworks of Westfield, Inc. opted to sponsor an event during the upcoming PumpkinFest I was called upon to book the authors for the Art & Authors portion of the plan. As soon as I put the word out that we were looking for authors I had responses- all Wordsmith members. When Shawn Flynn realized he was already booked elsewhere on the 14th he contacted me and recommended an author acquaintance of his who readily agreed to take his place when I emailed her. We had five authors, originally, and then Geri Johnson expressed interest and we had room so she was onboard as well.

To get that kind of enthusiastic response on fairly short notice- and to have so much solid talent signed on is nothing short of amazing. I am incredibly thankful to our authors who will be with Kelly and me on the 14th, and also thankful to the authors who expressed regrets at being unable to attend because they too were previously booked elsewhere. The support and camaraderie of this group is beyond belief!

So, please excuse me for gushing this evening when I say "Thank you so much!" to all of our authors for putting their hearts and souls not only into their writing but into volunteering, making themselves available, jumping onto the bandwagon,...for everything you do in addition to having taken WhipCity Wordsmiths as a group and making it your own.

Also, a special thank you to author Melissa Volker who is always there when I need her. Our late night messages back and forth always cheer me up. She has gone above and beyond for the Wordsmiths by volunteering to speak at our next meeting. And for stepping up to fill a gap in the Ghost Stories LIVE! permanent cast and agreeing to read on October 28th despite a previous engagement in eastern MA that day that she will have to leave early from. I owe her so much for all she does I'll be in her debt for the rest of my natural life!

Bill Westerlind has also been terrific, masterminding the events that Artworks of Westfield, Inc. will be sponsoring during PumpkinFest allowing me a walk-through of the Old Town Hall to preview the author space, for his enthusiasm and support of local authors and everyone else involved in this event. His quick responses to texts, messages, and emails have been most helpful.

I also should thank Andrew Curran for sending me his book and other writings which I am thoroughly enjoying. He has so much energy and talent!

Considering we've only just come together for the first time as a group this past month, we're already making things happen- and I'm grateful to each and every one of you for being the totally amazing, creative, I go again! You're the best and the highest praise I can give you is to say I am proud to call each and every one of you a WhipCity Wordsmith!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Writing Again

After spending most of this year revamping the interior text layout of ALL my previous books, and updating the covers to make the books look much more polished and professionally published, and then creating 7 smaller volumes of Christmas stories (3 stand alone novellas- The Winter Solstice Ball, A Major Production and The Red Velvet Suit and 4 small collections by type of story- Family, Inspirational, Past and Present- Christmas With the Family, Christmas Inspirations, Christmases Past and Christmases Present), and then doing two stand alone novellas for Halloween- The Girl With the Ivy Tattoo and The Magic of Cross and Crowe, plus totally redoing a 9-12 year-old age group chapter book (Isabel's Initiation) and another novel geared toward new adults (The Unwilling Witch) that had previously been published under a pseudonym, also both suitable for Halloween, I am finally buckling down and getting back to writing new stuff. I think I've basically written only some ghost stories this year and put together some story anthologies of already written material. Oh, and then I put together the mother/daughter creepy story anthology Disturbing also which is a collection of fourteen of my ghost and horror stories, and five of Kelly's ghost and supernatural/paranormal stories. This should be available at Pumpkin Fest on the 14th also.

Well, I did finish writing the second novella in Bending Birches, but it was mostly written so that really shouldn't count as something new since it took less than a weekend to complete.

The sequel to Black Knight, White Rook has been percolating in my brain pan for a little while now. On Sunday, the first of October, my favorite month, I began writing it. I've averaged about 5,100 words a day (yeah, that includes working 8-5 at my regular job, coming home, eating dinner, and then writing until 11:30PM the past two nights.) I'm satisfied with the direction the book is going. Already a lot has happened. The characters are about a year and a half older than they were in the last book. Romney and Ivy have a fourteen month old daughter. Ezra's about to start kindergarten. And a group of disgruntled black arts practitioners in Castleton has begun a reign of terror on the Black King and his White Queen and their family (and friends).In the first and second books Ivy has grown into her destined role as Queen, and she continues to grow and evolve in this book. But we'll also see more of Romney as King because he is furious about his family being endangered by this group. He's grown up among these people and now he's crossing swords with them. He has always thought of them as friends, but they are now his enemies. It's not an easy job being king, as he's finding out in this book.

I have a Nano novel to write starting November 1st, so I hope to get this one written before the end of the month! October is busy with an author appearance at Pumpkin Fest on the 14th, an author event for the official launch of Out on October 21st followed by the next meeting of the writer's group WhipCity Wordsmiths when the author event is over. I need to write a new ghost story this month for Ghst Stories LIVE! which will be held on October 28th. I'm also helping put together a second Ghost Stories LIVE! anthology in time for that event.

Busy bee me!

Oh, a few months ago I was driving through town and saw our infamous mechanical clock tower open at high noon (I believe I wrote about that previously.) The clock tower inspired a novel idea by the time I pulled into my driveway less than fifteen minutes later. Well, I made several false starts on that novel, but beginning on November 1st, I will finally be writing that werewolf (lycanthrope, actually) novel as my NaNo novel. Let's see if I can write The Clockmaker's Son in 30 days or less!! I love a good writing challenge!!

It feels so good to be writing again!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

October is Almost Here!

By the end of this coming weekend October will be upon us!
There has definitely been a shift in the air today. Last night I walked out of a meeting at 8:30PM into 82 degrees humid heat! Ugh! Tonight, there's a crisp coolness to the air and a breeze with an 18 degree drop in the temperature compared to last night! The still green leaves on the oaks are rustling as I type this with the kitchen windows open, but I had to close the door as it was too cold sitting here with the breeze coming through the door.

October 14th is the Fall Family Festival/Pumpkin Fest event downtown. I want to thank the Wordsmiths who contacted me about table space for this event in the old Town Hall- Kelly, Sandy, Geri, and Sonia. We'll also have Connie Bombaci from CT with us (courtesy of Shawn Flynn who suggested her in his stead as he was already engaged on the 14th for another event.

For this event, Kelly and I collaborated and created a co-authored book of tales that we titled Disturbing. I've been self publishing Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales and Ghost Stories since 2015. My stories have Miss Peculiar's byline. Kelly has chosen to call herself Miss Spectyr (her choice of spelling). It was fun picking stories, many of them unpublished, for this volume which features the eerie eyes of our linden tree in the front yard gazing back at the reader from the cover. Had to hunt through a gazillion photos on the computer to find this shot- it's creepy...and disturbing!

On October 21st I'll be at Blue Umbrella at 2PM to discuss my somewhat different vampire novel, Out. In Central Europe, vampires have been being outed (involuntarily and then voluntarily) over an eight year or so span. A man whom Irina has had a crush on since childhood has come out as a vampire- but that hasn't swayed how she feels about him any, despite her father being a member of the anti-vampire group the Silver Sword Society. Irina works for Dimitra Chernova, a late night talk show hostess who has a reputation for provoking her guests and putting them on the spot. That's about all I will say here about the book except that it's a romance, a social commentary on intolerance toward certain groups, and a smidge of horror.

Immediately after the author event at Blue Umbrella will be the WhipCity Wordsmith's October meeting. Melissa Volker will be leading a talk on how authors need to engage their audience at read-ins and author events to increase interest in the book and make more sales. I probably could use her advice prior to the meeting, but I'll do my best- and then learn some more from her afterwards for the next event!! Be sure to bring your periodic table element notes so you can write during the meeting!

On October 24th, Kelly, Melissa, and I will be on Bob Plasse's Tuesday morning radio program on WSKB 89.5FM broadcast from Ely Hall at Westfield State University. I have no clue what we'll be talking about but I'm sure some of it will be about books!! If Kathleen Palmer is thrown into the mix it ought to be a crazy morning! I've known Bob since my 13 years working behind the counter at Conner's, Inc at 34 Elm Street.

October 28th is the next edition of Ghost Stories LIVE! at Blue Umbrella, a recurring ghost story telling/performance art event hosted by Russell Atwood and Pugsley, the Fiendish Ghost. This will mark the one year anniversary at Blue Umbrella for this event. I've been fortunate enough to be a cast member since last October. I enjoy writing new ghost stories to read. Russell put together an anthology last year, and I'm hopeful there will be a second anthology this year! Kelly and Melissa have also participated in Ghost Stories LIVE! for which they've also written and read new ghost stories. It's a great event, gaining in popularity.

What else is happening in October? It's the perfect time of year for cemetery crawls (Kelly and I are taphophiles who like to photograph old cemeteries), visiting haunted houses to chase ghosts, dancing with witches, chasing werewolves across the fog-shrouded moors, hunting vampires, and so forth. Whatever it is that you like to do in the fall...even if it's jump into a humongous pile of crisp, brightly colored leaves, and then go back inside to toast your toes before a crackling fire while sipping apple cider or hot chocolate- well, enjoy!

Flawed Periodic Table

Unfortunately I failed to scrutinize the periodic table attached to your homework assignment (preparing for the October writing at the meeting). I just chose a nicely tinted version. Kelly was looking at it last night and realized that it's flawed. However, it's just an example. If you go online and Google Periodic Table there are plenty of them out there to help you choose and element and come up with reasons why you and that element are a close match.

If you didn't receive your advance paperwork for October's writing assignment in the meeting it will be coming via snail mail shortly with the next newsletter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September 23rd Meeting Notes

Today was the inaugural meeting of the WhipCity Wordsmiths, a group for writers/authors. The meeting was held at 3PM at Blue Umbrella Books in downtown Westfield, an indie bookshop that hosts author events, pop-up shops, and meetings regularly. They are a strong supporter of the arts in Westfield and we're lucky to have Blue Umbrella in our community!

The meeting began with a long distance phone call from Wordsmith/author Mike Walsh from the Northeast Kingdom (northern VT). Mike called to wish me luck with launching the group and to show his support for his fellow Wordsmiths. It was incredibly thoughtful of him to call...and we'll work hard to find a way to connect him via Skype or facebook live or whatever means we can at the October meeting.

Susan moderated the inaugural meeting, reviewing the statement of purpose/mission and welcoming the 16 people in attendance today. A half dozen or so more had contacted Susan or Kelly prior to the meeting to express regrets for not being able to attend- and that is fine. That's what this blog is for, to keep us connected when we can't be together in person.

After reviewing the expectations and other general information, like how the WhipCity Wordsmiths have a valuable resource we can tap into in the non-profit group Artworks of Westfield, Inc. (a group that supports all the arts and culture in Westfield) and a brief discussion about the upcoming Fall Family Festival/Pumpkin Festival (where authors have an opportunity to promote their books and do readings) we went around the table introducing ourselves and giving brief biographies as to who we are and what we've done or hope to accomplish in the field of writing.

We discussed how no one should feel inadequate because they haven't published anything or haven't even really written anything yet. This group is for writers at all levels and is a source that can be tapped for feedback, help, support, encouragement, coping with writer's block, dealing with feelings of frustration and self doubt, for bolstering self confidence, for finding the writer within and channeling it outward into print. Melissa spoke up and told the group that no one should begin a sentence with, "I don't know if this is any good or not," or "I'm not sure I did this right..." There is no right or wrong, there may be good and bad, but put it out there anyway. You cannot move forward as a writer if you take hesitant steps.

Writing is a craft. Very few can pick up a pen and write beautiful and profound things instantly. It's a skill that is honed over time. You have to have the desire to write within you. If you have that desire burning within you then you need to let it out. It may scorch and burn the paper at first, but from the ashes of those first written words there will arise a phoenix in its own good time.

And that is where the support of people who have that same burning passion comes into play. Writing is a rather solitary art form. Most of the time very few people see an article, a chapbook of poetry, a novel, an anthology, a song lyric being written and developed- they only see the finished product, and even then they have to commit to reading the words before they can experience the art of the written word employed in its creation. It's very different from watching an artist paint a picture. It's different from watching a sculptor chisel a form from a block of marble, or a metal sculptor weld pieces of metal together into a new form. The literary arts require a reader to commit to reading a book and react to it cerebrally and viscerally. We'll touch upon how to draw the reader into your work at a future meeting.

Favorite words were brought to the meeting, written on an index card, or written on a card at the meeting if the member was new (there were three new members who joined this afternoon, and one that had joined this morning). The cards were folded and put into Kelly's deadman's hat, jumbled up and then passed around. Wordsmiths were given 5 minutes to write whatever they wanted, including their selected word from the hat in whatever way they wanted.

We went around the table and read what we had written. It was interesting and amazing to hear what can be done in five minutes with a word drawn from a hat. It shouldn't have been so surprising since we have a group loaded with talent, but still, you never know what will come out of a writing prompt! Well done!

Melissa Volker talked a bit about author readings and will expand upon the topic of how to amp up an author reading at the next meeting. She will be next month's moderator.

Ironically the next WhipCity Wordsmiths meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 21st at 3PM, one hour after my author event for the launch of Out, my new vampire novel. But, Melissa has already planted a seed in my brain, so this reading should be better than previous ones.

Sandy Sessler contributed a box of MaMa Cakes mini cupcakes as refreshment at the meeting which was much appreciated! Yummy X 10!!!

Russell Atwood filled us in on Pumpkin Fest, what's happening at Blue Umbrella that day, the next Ghost Stories LIVE! event on Saturday, October 28th in the evening. Russell is also working on a new Ghost Stories LIVE! anthology with new ghost stories contributed by Melissa Violker, Justin Baillargeon, Kelly Buffum, and Susan Buffum.

Glen Ebisch will be doing a talk on current women mystery writers at 2PM at Blue Umbrella Books on October 28th. I was at his history of the mystery genre and really learned a lot! If you're able to attend, please do so!

The meeting concluded with some socializing. Some members had to leave, but other stayed and chatted, catching up on what's new.

Overall, the meeting was well attended, and everyone participated and offered something, which is how the group is supposed to work.

Members in attendance today were Susan Buffum, Kelly Buffum, Patty Wright, Sandy Sessler, Joyce Collins, Judith Foard-Giucastro, Guiseppe Giucastro, Lynnmarie May, Melissa Volker and Lex Volker, Lindsay Stenico, Andrew Curran, Glen Ebisch, Susan Foley, Richard Rubin, and Russell Atwood.

New members today include Patty Wright, Richard Rubin, Susan Foley, Judith Foard-Giucastro and her husband Guiseppe Giucastro.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Wordsmith member Wayne Weatherwax's wife Sally who will be undergoing another surgery and recovery and rehab. We wish her all the best.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Meeting Reminder

I am the Queen of the Auxillary Brain- the "brain" being little pieces of paper habitually residing in my pockets with reminders of things I mustn't forget.

There was a sticky note in my pocket when I got home from work this afternoon to remind me to post a reminder about Saturday's first official meeting of the WhipCity Wordsmiths. I am both excited and nervous. I'm not much of a public speaker. I'm a writer. The outline of the meeting I mailed out looks intimidating, but looks can be deceiving. I breeze through things pretty fast, and am not immune to constant interruptions (I work like that every day!). Anyway, I had the note to remind everyone about the meeting at 3PM at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA on Saturday, September 23rd, in my pocket. Too bad I didn't write myself another note not to forget my phone that was charging in the smaller kitchen at work- I went home without it. John (my husband) gave me a lift and on the way we encountered photographer Danny Nason snapping some pics of gorgeous mums at Pignatare's Farm stand on East Mountain Road- where we've been buying our fresh veggies every summer since we moved here in 1989 (from the haunted house in West Side.) So, grabbed my phone and charger, came home and...

...had a brainstorm! I figured it was time for a mother/daughter anthology to happen. I had started putting some ghost stories together, and Kelly has been writing some for Ghost Stories LIVE!. So, together, we've put together an anthology of our ghost and other weird and disturbing stories. I am Miss Peculiar, and she is Miss Spectyr, but we haven't quite agreed on a title for the collection yet, but hope to have it available at the October 14th Fall Family Festival and Pumpkin Carving Event where she and I will be among the local authors offering books for sale, and maybe doing some readings in the former Carson Center/Old Town Hall opposite the green. Judith "Sandy" Sessler and Sonia Ellis, two more of Westfield's fabulous authors will also be at this event with their books. We also are lucky to have CT author Connie Bombaci and her therapy dog, Judea. Connie has a book about her previous dog and talk about what she and Judea do as well as her book. She's an acquaintance of Shawn Flynn's. Shawn graciously connected us so I could offer her a chance to come to Westfield for this event.

Want to know a few curious and interesting facts? Three of the WhipCity Wordsmiths live in the same neighborhood on the same street! Two sets of Wordsmiths are mother and daughter. Two Wordsmiths are sisters. Four Wordsmiths are involved or have been involved with Ghost Stories LIVE!, a recurring event at Blue Umbrella Books that will next take place on October 28th. Four Wordsmiths are members of Artworks of Westfield, Inc. One Wordsmith is President of Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum. One Wordsmith has just started college at another Wordsmith's alma mater. All together, members of WhipCity Wordsmiths have written over 100 books!

I'm sure I could come up with even more facts, but it's getting late- the tree frogs are singing their lullaby with a cricket chorus as backup, with the occasional trill of a mockingbird and the rhythmic hooting of a great horned owl. The greenwood at night is alive with the sounds of natural music!

What was my point here? Oh, right! See you all (as many of you as can make it), plus visitors, observers, and maybe a drop-in author- who knows- on Saturday!

Hey! Don't forget to bring your favorite word on the card that was in your last newsletter mailing! (Bring your imagination too, tuck it in your back pocket on your way out the door!)

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Got your attention? Hi all. I have been out of the loop for a few weeks working on so many different projects ... life is fun but man oh man it can be fast!

Anyway, I am settling back into a routine of tempered normalcy. For some background about me for the folks new to the group and for the rest of the folks who don't know much about me, I serve as the President of the Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum (that's a library!). Did you know the Athenaeum is NOT a public library? Well, it is public in access of course but it is not entirely publicly funded. The city does provide some funding but the library is not a city department ... confusing yes? An endowment provides a large chunk of the operating budget. The Friends group raises funds to support the many FREE programs and services offered by the Athenaeum. No Friends? No Museum Pass Program, no Rosetta Stone Language program, no Children's & Adult Summer Reading programs, no Adobe Creative Cloud SaaS program, no books for the Boys & Girls Reading Clubs ... you get the message. The Friends recently contributed $40,000 to the library renovation project. The group is very important to the health of the Athenaeum and I feel very strongly about the importance of libraries so ... I contribute lots of time and energy.

I am also involved in the ArtWorks of Westfield Inc. organization. We want to bring more arts and culture to the city. We are young and steadily finding our way. There is so much artistic talent in and around this city ... you are all examples of the mountains of creativity in the area. ArtWorks is a work in progress that will be a smashing success (think Easthampton City Arts) once we ramp up and gain some operational traction. Good things happening in Westfield.

I work full time as a business development analyst and manage an investment portfolio that one day will allow me to retire and focus on the fun stuff in life.

Back to FAKE NEWS! The Friends of the Westfield Athenaeum group is sponsoring a special speaking engagement called Sniffing Out Fake News! on Thursday September 28th at 6:30pm in the Lang Auditorium at the Athenaeum. Dr. Kyle Moody, Assistant Professor in Communications Media, Fitchburg State University is the featured speaker. He has been doing these talks for several months in eastern and central MA, mostly at public libraries.

Admission is FREE, thanks to The Friends, but seating is limited so registration is recommended. If I don't see you at our inaugural WhipCity Wordsmith gathering, perhaps I'll see you at Sniffing Out Fake News!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Revisions Can Be Daunting, but They're Necessary

In late May 2015, I self-published my 2014 Nano novel, Medea, which was an extended version of a Halloween story I'd written for Kelly when she was in middle school. Since she had grown up and was graduated from college and already in the work force by 2014, I grew the story up to her new age level- so it went from middle grades/high school level to young adult/new adult/adult level.

Of course I'd known nothing about self publishing when I tackled the project. CreateSpace offered two free copies of your Nano novel in 2014, and extended the deadline of the offer to the end of May 2015. For years my family had been pressuring me to publish something. So, I jumped onto CreateSpace and created the novel- and it totally sucked the first time around. To be honest, even with Kelly's help, it wasn't much better the second time around after cover color revisions so the reader could actually see my name (I hadn't realized I had color options for backgrounds and fonts-duh!) Kelly had put headers in and page numbers, but the interior was sloppy- the text not justified so it was all over the place down the sides of the pages. The spacing was too close, the chapter headers were bold and size 14 which was acceptable, but started at the top of the page, which according to Writer's Digest judges is a no-no. Chapters must start about halfway down the page- or so I was told when my self-published novel submissions were critiqued. I did a lot of things wrong, but the judges enjoyed the stories-and that year (2015) that was all that mattered to me, that W.D. judges liked the stories. I could fix all the cover issues and interior layout issues they found fault with- but I would have thrown in the towel if they'd hated the stories!

Medea was published under a pseudonym. It's languished in the background for two and a third years. All my other books- both novels and story collections- have all gotten more interesting covers with text you can see and read easily and some have new images on the covers because now I am taking some of my own photographs and using them instead of using stock images CreateSpace offers. All of these books have also had interior layout revisions- and believe me, I've studied a lot of book interiors to figure out what looks best. I was also chastised for not having an author photo by W.D.- I was like, who the hell wants to look at me? They're supposed to read the story, but evidently readers have some curiosity about what the author looks like. I took a hundred selfies and use the one I like best- so I will be eternally fifty-seven- end of story there.

I have grown in leaps and bounds as a self-published author. Whereas it used to take me days to put a book together, now it takes me at most, two hours, depending on how pokey the CreateSpace website is on any particular day. I have the entire interior text file ready to upload, the back cover text written, and the image I want to use chosen. I simply plug it all in in the correct places, and then fiddle with the background, box, and font colors until I'm happy and the book looks appealing to me, like something I would snag off the shelf and dive into.

The most tedious part of the whole process remains the revisions. Ugh! I have some editing and proofreading help still living at home in Kelly, but I tackled the Medea mess on my own. It took four days to slog through the currently 195 page book. At 55,000+ words it just makes it to the novel classification level. Flipping through the book I grabbed as my proofreading/editing copy, the pages are literally awash in blue Flair markings and scribbles. When doing a revision I want to do it right the first time through and not have to go back to fix things like continuity errors, grammar goof ups, and punctuation issues (always a thorn in my side!)

I thought everything was fine when I uploaded the file for the revised book in June of 2015. WRONG! I have been through the self-publishing self-educational mill and I'll be recycling all earlier versions of the book. It's going to be self-published under my real name and have a new title when it's finally finished. Victoria Bell is no more. She's retired from writing. I'm carrying on.

The big lessons I've learned is that no matter how many times you've read your story, manuscript, novel, etc. you need to step back, put it aside, and then read it again because there are imps at work screwing with your hard work. Your eyes get tired. Your brain sees what you think you wrote, not what you actually did write. Read your work with fresh eyes and a rested brain and be prepared to groan and roll your eyes a hundred thousand times. Have a pen in hand with a full ink reservoir. Suck it up and get the revisions done. You'll be a better person for doing it- and a much better writer, too.

Envision yourself as a writing warrior. The blue pen is your sword. Wield it judiciously, not foolishly. Misspelled words, grammar errors, punctuation issues, continuity mix-ups- these are your enemies who will challenge your power as a writer. Strike them down with the Sword of Revision! The words remaining on the battlefield are your story, your victory. Your name on the cover is your banner- you are the champion of what you have written. You can be proud of your win.

No one likes going into battle with their own manuscript, but if you can't afford an editor and or proofreader, it's a necessary fight because if your book doesn't look good, it reflects negatively on you because it's your name on the cover and no one else's.

When you're done, high fives to you all around! (That's where the camaraderie of your writing peers comes in because your friends and family who do not write will never understand what it is like to be a writer, but other writers will completely understand and support you.)

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's WhipCity Wordsmiths Launch Month!

Well- here it is four days into September, and nineteen days until group launch day! I'm both excited and nervous as I never in a gazillion years thought I'd be starting a writer's group. We have a great group of writers and authors with a wide variety of experience and backgrounds. It ought to make for interesting meetings!

I'm looking forward to the 23rd of September. If anyone reading this post is interested in becoming a member, please feel free to attend the meeting and complete your membership application then. People interested in joining, but who are on the fence about it, are also welcome to come and observe, and participate if you decide this group is for you.

 If you're looking for a structured group that writes to prompts and then sits around critiquing one another's work...well, there will be just a little bit of that going on. If that's all you want to do, there are plenty of groups like that in the area because western MA is rich in writers and always has been. We'll do some writing, but we'll also do some mentoring, and have discussions about publishing- traditional routes and self publishing, agents- whether or not you need one, how to improve your manuscript so it looks as professional and polished as possible before you self publish or send it off for consideration, thinking outside the box, and a whole lot more. There will also be a chance to socialize with other writers and authors for mutual support and camaraderie. You can hook up with a beta reader who will give you feedback on your work before you proceed to self publish it or send it off into the publishing world. We'll share info about upcoming events where authors have a chance to showcase their work and meet and greet the public. We'll note any upcoming contests that might be worth entering also. Exposure is a keyword not only for well known authors but especially for local authors.

 WhipCity Wordsmiths is much more than a sit around the table and write to prompts group. We're a network of people with a passion for writing and the written word in all its myriad forms. All members are expected to participate and bring something to the table at meetings. It's a member driven group- not a follow the leader group. You are each a unique, talented person with something to offer, windows to throw open in the minds of your fellow writers. We will all grow in our craft like beautiful flowers blooming and blossoming in the fertile soil of our collective imaginations!

Not only are we Wordsmiths, but we are local writers and authors who support local authors and writers at all levels in their craft.

We are the flint that will spark ideas and ignite creative fires!

See you on the 23rd of September at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA at 3PM.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August Musings as the Month Winds Down

I haven't posted much here and I apologize. I've been working on several projects I needed to get done- a little tweaking to Bending Birches and Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs. I wasn't happy with my first choice of fonts for the covers, so I pulled the books and changed the fonts to something easier to read. I also cleaned up a few things in the interior copy- I despise autocorrect! It does not know what word I want so it just changes my words on a whim or caprice. When you want the word confirm and it changes it to conform- uh, NO! Fixed it along with a few commas and missed or extra words- the usual stuff that gets past the review process. Now I'm more satisfied with those two books. Out went through four proof copies, multiple revisions and readings before I finally let it go out into the world...and I'm a little sick of reading it right now, so if anyone has the black cover version with the deep purple roses and smaller font (not all capitals) that is not the fourth proof copy, let me know if you find any errors!

Next, I want to thank Glen Ebisch who sent me his newest book, The Open Window, to read (and I will review it also) this week. I started reading it the other night and said, "Oh, my God! It's a fictionalized Westfield! It's my alma mater (WSU, where I majored in criminal justice and minored in English, graduating in 1980!) Weird coincidence! And- HOLY MOLY! One of my best friends at work is the twin sister of our Chief of Police's wife- so when I read about the Chief in the novel, I can't help but think of our real Chief! I know it's all fiction, but it's shaping up to be a fun read for me with its often just on the edge of familiar setting!

I did three beta reads this month. Two manuscripts went back to the authors with scribbles, comments and a few emojis over because I can't read anything and not mark pages up- my home library is full of big publisher brand novels that I've marked up the interiors of as I've read them. I'm not always right, of course- I am not a professional editor...I just have habits developed over years of fiddling around with my own stuff and now Kelly's I hope no one takes my OCDism seriously! What it ultimately boils down to is I LOVE to read what authors are writing, and I really thoroughly enjoyed all three books I was given the opportunity to beta read- I think they're wonderful, and in one instance, downright magical! I'm excited to know that all three books are in various stages of being published!

My current project is to finish my edits in Mike Brenner's trolley story collection so he can self-publish his book before the end of September. I have about 50 pages to go, so should get that done and the file sent back to him this weekend so he can add his copyright info, dedication, and author bio. Kelly is working on getting him just the kind of photo he wants for the front cover at the trolley museum.

Meanwhile, I have the August Wordsmiths newsletter to write and send out. It will have the September 23rd meeting agenda included. It looks intimidating- but it's totally not! There will be instructions in the newsletter what to bring. Kelly and I will be providing each member a folder, a white lined 8.5x11" pad, and a pen. Inside the folder will be something you'll need for the October meeting, which may take place on October 21st right after my author appearance for Out at Blue Umbrella. I need to firm that probability up first though. But I will be discussing Out at the bookstore on October 21st at 2PM-3PM and talking a little about vampire legend and lore and reading from the book. You can bring your fangs, but no biting!

Finally, does anyone have any idea how we can connect with long distance members at the upcoming meeting? I am woefully non-technical. I don't have a hi-tech phone. A member in VT would like to be "present" at the meeting- any ideas how we can do that? Thought I'd throw that out now so there's time to brainstorm.

The newsletter will be going out at the end of next week- probably on Friday the 1st.

Welcome Joseph Vass!

Just a word of welcome to Joseph Vass one of our newest members. Please check out his member info on the members page to learn more about him. Happy to have him in the group and we're looking forward to meeting him!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome Andrew!

I'd just like to welcome Andrew Curran to WhipCity Wordsmiths. Andrew is our newest member and we're looking forward to meeting him!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Accident by Glen Ebisch

I received local author Glen Ebisch's email newsletter a couple of weeks ago in which he offered three free copies of one of his new books to the first three people who contacted him. I contacted him to invite him to become a WhipCity Wordsmith, which he did do. He filled out his application and emailed it back. And he sent copies of The Accident signed and personalized to Kelly and me. Kelly has taken hers with her on his current road trip out to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State. It's quiet here without her across the table from me every night, so I've been doing some reading. She took Sean Sweeney's Model Agent with her also, a book I've been reading, so I grabbed The Accident.

I didn't intent to stay up late last night but I had to finish the book. Yes, it's a page turner! Mystery/suspense with well drawn characters, red herrings, plot twists, a coastal Maine setting I felt entirely familiar with. Glen has written a taut novel with some psychological shadows playing through the background. I tend to ramble on, so will just say that I really enjoyed this book and absolutely couldn't put it down last night until I had reached the end. 5 stars and a snap! Highly recommended.

Once again, I reiterate- many of us are local authors. I am an avid supporter of local authors and have quite a collection of fantastic books written by them in my bookcase, and hope to add more. As I read the books I always try to post a review, because reviews matter to local authors. So, please, if you read a book by a local author, and there's a site, such as Amazon or goodreads where you can go to post a review, please take a few minutes and leave a review- even if it's just a couple of words- like Great book! Or, this author has a knack with characterization. Whatever you want to say- please say it and make the author's day.

Now I'm off to go post a review of The Accident for Glen...and I hope to add more of his books to my local author shelf in the near future!

Bravo! Well done! My heart is still pounding!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Conversation With Mike Walsh This Morning

This is an excerpt from a series of messages exchanged with Vermont author and former Westfield resident, Mike Walsh this morning-

Mike: Just sitting here remembering something that happened a couple of years ago. I was at a family gathering. The father of a fellow author was there. Their child had written six books and was proud of what they had done. The father looked at me and said, "She has tried this writing thing. She didn't do well with it, so it is time for her to move on to something else." I was flabbergasted with his comment. It is bad that most people feel that way. Namely, if you haven't made a lot of money at writing it is not worth doing it. I have never talked to the person about this. That author knows that she has done well in creating all of those stories and that is all that matters. This issue is something that all new authors have to learn to overcome. I was going to post this on the website but thought better of it. I don't want to discourage anyone. The fact that less than 5% of our population writes is important. Less than half of that number writes more than one book because of the superficial success measurements society puts on all of us. To write is to bare our souls to the world. It takes courage and commitment.

Susan: You should put this on the blog. Yes, it can be discouraging, but it's something authors have to deal with, and that is why groups in which authors support and promote one another's work is important. It keeps us from feeling so alone and hopeless in the world.

Here are some additional thoughts I've had since this morning.

I am the mother of an author. I have written for my daughter for her entire life. The greatest gift she's ever given me is her sitting down and writing stories for me. She began writing stories in first grade. They were better than the average first grader's work, which was pointed out to me by her teacher during a parent teacher conference. I had begun writing around that time myself, so I didn't think much of Kelly's ability to plot and write a story at that age. Her work wasn't always perfect. There is no writer living or dead who has ever sat down and written the perfect, flawless piece.

What I never did was say, oh, what are you wasting your time for? I encouraged her, supported her, and as she grew up we have grown together as writers and authors. She has self published two books. I am terribly proud of her. I would never dream of telling her it's time to try something else. She is a writer. It is in her blood and DNA. To squelch that would be akin to stepping on a pretty bug because it serves no visible purpose. EVERYTHING has a purpose. Musicians play the music that threads and resonated through their souls. Poets, authors, playwrights, screenwriters, blog authors....anyone who writes cannot NOT write. It is who they are.

Instead of discouraging creativity we should always make an effort to encourage it and nurture it. Most of the time creativity will not pay the bills, those boring routine but necessary jobs pay the rent and grocery bills and utilities. If a publisher gloms onto you and promotes the crap out of your work more power to you, but it's actually a very small percentage of authors who attain that lofty status. The rest of us labor away at what we love to do, pouring hearts and souls into our works and reaping extremely limited rewards, BUT, the greatest reward is following your dream and writing those books and getting them out there into the world.

And the best marketing tool is word of mouth. Who is better at promoting your work than you yourself? Your local author friends who also make author appearances. There are all kinds of writers in the world, and all kinds of readers. I always ask people who come to my table, what do you like to read. If it's not something I write, but it is something one of my author friends does write, I say, well, here's the name of a terrific author who writes books like that. I think you'll enjoy them. I may not have a sold a book, but I may have helped another author sell a book. I want to promote this idea of a network of authors and writers supporting one another and promoting one another's work.

And we should never discourage anyone with the guts to put pen to paper and write. I was a horrible writer when I first started writing. But I kept writing and my writing grew as I grew. I evolved and so did my ability to use words to evoke images and emotions. Never stifle the desire to write in anyone. Encourage, nurture, support, mentor, monitor and never forget, you were in that place once.

Another way to support other authors is to read their books and review them. You won't like every book, but always find something positive to say. If it's not your cup of tea, say, "Although this is not a genre I normally read I did find the authors ability to evoke images and emotions both poignant and provocative. If you like (insert genre here), then you're certain to enjoy this book." Keep it positive. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Keep it in mind that your author friend will return the favor.

Well...I was just supposed to post that piece Mike had written to me this morning...and as usual, sit me down at the computer and I'll write forever!

Opportunity for a Literary Event

On October 14th, potentially from noon to ?, there is a fall Family Festival Day with a pumpkin carving event happening in downtown Westfield. With this event there is an opportunity to hold a literary arts event, possibly in the former Carson Center Building across from the green beside the church. There would be a small room available for authors. I'm putting feelers out now to find out if there is any interest among the authors in our group in having a table at the event to showcase your work? I need to get a general idea of how many authors would be interested so space can be planned. Email me at, or comment here on the blog where I'll see it. I would need to know by the first week of September at the latest. The festival is family oriented with the big event being pumpkin carving and decorating on the green, possibly buskers (musicians) playing at various locations downtown, art & photography for sale in the former Carson Center.

Any opportunity to get your books and yourself out there in front of the public helps promote and market your work, and earn new fans! And it's also been fun chatting with other authors during lulls and keeping up with one another in a relaxed and fun setting!

Think about October 14th and let me know if you're available and interested so I can set something up.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Welcome To Joyce Collins!

A word of welcome to Joyce Collins who joined WhipCity Wordsmiths today. We're happy to have her as a member. Joyce is interested in writing for genealogical projects, and writing about her travels. She's also interested in writing memoirs. Welcome!

Inaugural Meeting Scheduled- September 23rd

While this group was founded by Susan and Kelly (mother/daughter Westfield authors) around the beginning of July and this blog was set up for members to post on, we have not yet had an inaugural meeting, or any other sort of meeting. However, that has not deterred 16 writers/authors/reviewers from joining fairly quickly once word got out.

Today I had an opportunity to visit with Russell Atwood at Blue Umbrella Books at 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA. During the course of discussing a number of topics I mentioned I needed to see the store's schedule so I could book a first meeting date and time. Tom Deady has an author event on September 9th. Kelly and I have a button show on the 16th, our local button club is hosting so we need to be present since we provide breakfast and dessert at lunch, and usually host the annual auction. September 23rd was free so I grabbed that date and chose 3PM since most people have eaten lunch by then and have accomplished the majority of their weekend errands. The store is open until 6PM so we're generously booked from 3PM-6PM which should give us plenty of time to start this group rolling. A general notice that persons interested in joining but undecided, and those who are curious and want to see what the group is all about has been posted. They have been invited to come and observe and join, if they'd like to.

I was going to try to do an initial casual get together this month, but Kelly's taking off for Illinois, New York State, Pennsylvania and who knows where else doing a transportation (railroad, trolley and antique/vintage cars) this month, so she'll be out of town for two weekends, and people are still on vacation and preparing for college, so we'll have an opportunity to get to know one another at the inaugural meeting. Snacks and beverages will be provided. All I ask is that you bring a notebook and a pen, your favorite word, and your enthusiasm.

If you could drop me an email by September 16th to let me know if you can make it I'd appreciate it as I'd like to give Jessica a ballpark number of people who can attend so she'll have enough seats for us set up.

If you are unable to attend don't worry- I'll send a Meeting Summary by email or snail mail, and post it here on the blog, as well, so everyone stays connected and up-to-date and no one feels left out.

Bring your ideas to the meeting. We'll do a couple of fun writing things at this first meeting, but also come prepared to meet and greet one another with a brief bio and a short summary of your work.

Looking forward to seeing you on September 23rd, 2017 at 3PM at Blue Umbrella Books in Westfield!

Welcome Geri Johnson

Just want to post a word of welcome here to new member Geri Johnson. We're happy to have you with us!

Friday, August 4, 2017

One Inquiry So Far

We've had one inquiry so far from a person interested in what the group is all about. Right now we stand at 15 members. Just wondering what the rest of you feel in regards to the number of members- enough? Room for 5 more? Bear in mind that not everyone will be able to attend meetings, and some live at a distance so will not be at meetings, but are present here on the blog.

I'd appreciate your thoughts in regards to membership number.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Press Release = Advertising in Westfield

I sent a press release to the Westfield News last night and received a response letting me know that there is such a plethora of press releases swamping their office that the groups press release may not be published for "quite some time", however, I could contact sales and PAY for an AD, if I wanted it to appear "sooner." Needless to say, I opted out of paying for a press release to appear as an ad. I am not advertising anything. The group collectively has zero dollars because we do not collect dues.

I did post the piece about our current membership drive on several social media sites for FREE and am happy to see members sharing the posts that I've put up on various sites they belong to. As always, we are very supportive of one another. I'll look around for other places where they accept press releases without charging for them.

Meanwhile, everywhere I go I am spreading the word. Anyone know anyone in the English departments at the high school or WSU? I'm sure that there are other students, like our Lindsay, who have talent and might be interested in joining a supportive group that will help them grow and chase their dreams.

Any other ideas?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Beta Reading X 3

I'm currently beta reading for Ron Taylor, a friend of member Mike Walsh's, Melissa Volker one of our esteemed members, and Mike Brenner, Kelly's friend who surprised us both by sitting down and writing 5 rather amazing, connected trolley museum stories with paranormal elements that we're helping him clean up for possible publication. Mike lives in Minnesota and is reluctant to join, thinking he's not good enough- we're trying to convince him otherwise and sent him an honorary membership card hoping it would spark him to join...he hasn't joined yet.

I'm also still plowing through the 4th proof copy of Out which I really want to submit to By Light Unseen Media in Pepperell, MA- they do high quality vampire material, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer stuff or campy rehashes of what everyone else is doing. My vampire novel is a little different from the ordinary, although it is also partly a romance novel with a bit of horror, which I do not normally write.

Since May 31st I have been working on and self-publishing four books while feeling as if I haven't been doing much of anything at all. I've also been writing a little in between- and still I don't feel as if I've made any progress anywhere. I an satisfied that I have mastered using my own photographs on the covers of the five most recent books, not stock photos from CreateSpace. Now that I know what I'm doing I can dig into the photo archives on our computer from the probably thousands of pictures we've taken over the years, and find something suitable for future covers. I may revamp older covers again in the near future. It depends on just how ambitious I get.

I don't usually take vacation time until October, my favorite month, but even then, I tend to spend quiet time writing when I'm not having to go to work every day.

What's everyone doing this summer?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Book Review .... Beartown by Fredrik Backman

I finished Beartown by Fredrik Backman early this morning ... my head is still buzzing! What an extraordinary read. I highly recommend it!

My review is on Goodreads

Summer Projects

I have an acre of beta reading to do for three authors, but after feeling lousy since May, I decided to just work quietly on a couple of projects on my to-do list and get them done and out of the way. Therefore, Bending Birches, a conjoined pair of novellas have been completed, and that book is now available. By conjoined, I mean that they go together. Bending Birches, the first novella from which the book's title derives, can probably be read independently, but Seventh Year Itch needs to follow Bending Birches for it to be completely placed in context and understood. This book is in the 5x8 format.

Yesterday, I extracted all the cat, kitten, puppy, and dog stories I'd written from previous story collections and combined them into one book titles Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs. There is one previously unpublished story called Franklin, which is actually a ghost cat story and also a little foray into fantasy. I had it all put together last night, and after a number of technological glitches with the main computer, my HP Stream, CreateSpace, and my phone I finally got the cover photo uploaded. The photo is one of my favorites of Revere and Riley Beans, our cats. I've begun using my own photographs on the covers of my books when possible. So, now I am living with two cats with huge egos because they are on the cover a book! (Just kidding!)

Today, I managed to read a number of chapters in one book for Ron. I am into the second longer story in Mike B.'s five connected stories. And I just glanced through Melissa's sequel to The Thirteenth Moon and hope to begin it soon.

Kelly and I took time before lunch today to watch Sandy Sessler's May 23rd interview on WSKB 89.5FM on Bob Plasse's WOW It's Tuesday radio program on facebook. She was great and they were funny together. Kelly and I will be on his program, with Melissa Volker, on October 24th. Those of you who know me know that I'm not much of a talker, and Kelly is even less a talker than I am, so I'm not exactly sure how that will go, but I hope they have some good music to fill the gaps!!

Hoping to get a press release into the About Town column of the Westfield News about the WhipCity Wordsmiths. They have been curiously uncooperative about publishing anything related to me in the past...which could be because I'm not one who has had a whole lot of free time to constantly be out there promoting my work. I work for a living and write as a hobby (prolifically, evidently). When Life, Death, Love, Cats & Dogs is released this week I will have 14 story collections, 13 novels, 1 young adult/new adult novel, and one young reader chapter book out there- a total of 29 books, with #30 already written and in the fourth proof copy stage as I think about submitting it to a publisher, something I've been reluctant to do in the past because I don't like giving up control of my work (trying to read mass market published books lately infuriates me because they are so riddled with a variety of errors that should have been caught before going to the presses!) I am far from perfect, but using CreateSpace allows me to pull my books and make the corrections I need to make, and they put it right back out there. I wouldn't be able to do that with a publisher...and I don't know if I want to grind my teeth down with annoyance and frustration if someone else publishes one of my books and I find errors in it. That's just the way I am-unrealistically a perfectionist. (I probably need therapy, but I also see a lot of comments about readers not liking finding grammar, verb tense, continuity and other errors in the books they read, so I don't think it's just me.)

Anyway-two little projects quietly accomplished in the past week, some beta reading done today...and now it's time to get ready for the work week ahead...I wish I could work two days a week and write/read five days a week. I'd be a lot happier!

Also did some brainstorming at the kitchen table last night about some things WhipCity Wordsmiths can do in the future...we'll discuss them at a meeting and on the blog once things get formally rolling.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Welcome to author Glen Ebisch

I received local author Glen Ebisch's newsletter about his three (yes, that's 3) new books the other day. I've been to two of Glen's author events at Blue Umbrella Books in the past and thoroughly enjoyed his presentation and book discussions. Kelly and I are fans with several of his books on our library shelves already.

I asked if he'd be interested in joining the group and was delighted when he accepted. He promptly returned his membership application- so Wordsmiths, let's warmly welcome him into the fold! He's an intelligent man, a terrific writer, and he's possibly even more prolific than I am! (Although, as a group as a whole- we have produced an impressive body of writing among us!)There's lots more I could say, but it'll be fun for all of us to get to know him better.

Another recent addition to our membership is Westfield author Sonia Ellis (who lives on my street-which makes three Westfield authors residing on the same street- how many cities or towns can boast about that?)

Anyway- check out the membership page and the Book Gallery. Kelly has added Glen's and Sonia's bios and will be adding Glen's many books to the gallery as soon as she gets decent images of them. She's set placeholders for as many as she could find so. We also need an image of Sonia's book, but that shouldn't be too difficult to obtain!

Welcome to WhipCity Wordsmiths!

July Newsletter & Membership List Mailed

This morning I mailed out a brief July newsletter and a membership list to all members I have mailing addresses for- watch your mailbox!

WOW ... Lots of New Posts!

It was great to see so many new posts today!

Thursday, July 27, 2017


  Recently I have working with a friend of mine that I served with in the Army on his first book. Sandy Sessler was kind enough to edit it for him. He was real appreciative of her assistance. \
  I expect the edits to be completed soon. Because of that I am looking for beta readers to give him honest feedback on the story. The story is about how he became a journalist working in Appalachia after getting his degree.
   If you are interested in doing this leave me a comment or contact me at

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Partial Novels

I close my eyes, trying to focus and organize my thoughts. It's like trying to control chaos with a whip that keeps lashing back at me in the maelstrom.

I was searching for the sequel to a novella I wrote a few years ago when I came across a bright yellow binder in a file box. I plucked it out, opened it and was stunned to find it was 145 pages of the first version of Black Knight, White Rook, the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen. I remember writing the beginning, with Ivy in her crafting room, her eye drawn by a flash of white outside beyond the greenhouse window. When she investigates she sees an albino crow attacking what looks to her, at first, like a fallen slender tree. Her grandfather is out in the yard playing with his three-year old grandson, Ivy and Romney's little boy, Ezra. In moments, the tree moves, lifts its head and she realizes with horror that it is a huge serpent that the white rook is attacking and attempting to blind as its feathers are not spattered with the snake's blood. Ivy's wand is not close at hand She realizes that by the time she invokes the retrieval spell to summon her wand to her hand, and then invokes the death spell it will be too late for Ezra.

The novel starts with a bang and continues rather relentlessly as Ivy's black witch sister returns with her evil black warlock husband in tow. They are power hungry and determined to destroy the fragile peace Romney and Ivy's union in the first novel has brought about between black and white arts practitioners.

I wrote 145 typewritten pages of this novel before I realized that it wasn't quite the story I had envisioned, and was much darker and heart wrenching than I wanted the second book to be, although the one that was written afterwards that is published is pretty dark and difficult to read. In the pages in the yellow binder, Ivy's grandfather is slain. I didn't want that to happen in book two. This second novel is more about the rift between Ivy and her older sister Holly and how evil has rushed in to fill the growing void between them. Holly and her husband have kidnapped Romney and Ivy's son in this version, as well as Ivy. Ivy has managed to escape, as she does in the published version, but Ezra is still in Holly and Trowbridge's clutches.

There is a lot of good writing in those 145 pages that no one will ever read, specially in regards to the depth of Romney and Ivy's love for one another. But, with every novel I write, I pack as much as I can in every page, so, although I feel satisfied with the Black Knight, White Rook version that was published, my heart aches because this one was also very good.

I have other novels that I have written several versions of. The first novel in the Talon supernatural grim reaper series, I wrote the book four times. It was originally a series of four stories I wrote for Kelly for Halloween. Then I wrote a novel version of the four stories. In third person. Then I rewrote it, still in third person. I didn't like it because I felt it should be told from Bryce's point of view, how she experiences what happens in her life. So I wrote it again, and then one final time in which I removed some material which was then included in book two in the series, and added some additional material in book one that shows more of Bryce and Dr. Talon's developing yet still very volatile relationship, and Bryce's trying to wrap her head around the fact that the grim reaper has been on the periphery of her life since childhood, and while he was a terrifying figure, her dawning realization that he is and always has been her protector. Then comes her awareness that the grim reaper and Dr. Giles Talon are one and the same. It all had to be presented in a certain way-so the fourth revision hit the mark. But the other three versions are still sitting in binders in the dining room- still good stories, but not quite the right story written in the right way.

There were also several versions of the first Archetypes novel. Also good stories, but not quite the way I wanted it to be.

I don't want to throw these novels and partial novels away- they were each a labor of love, but I'm not quite sure what to do with them. If you're a writer then you know how much of yourself you put into everything that you write. It would be like throwing out a part of myself. So, I feel compelled to keep them least for the time being!

Maybe, if I go back and read some more in this unpublished novel I will find the inspiration to pen the third novel in the series (one or two, or even maybe three times, until I get it just right!).

I did eventually find the sequel partial novella to Bending Birches that I had been looking for. I'm currently working on finishing that story, Seventh Year Itch. The two novellas will then be combined in one book in the near future. Then, maybe I'll get back to finishing The Lakeside Manor Investigation since Kelly is anxiously awaiting that sequel since I'll be writing a few of her characters from her novel Parapsychology into this novel. 

I was just thinking that I should have a bookshelf for only partially written novels- a place to call their own where I could revisit them...I really don't have the heart to let them go.