Friday, December 29, 2017

I Recommend Where We Go by Melissa Volker

Before Christmas I received a message from author and Wordsmith Melissa Volker to expect a package in the mail. I had no idea what she was sending me. Therefore, I was thoroughly surprised and delighted to receive a package from Amazon inside of which was Melissa's new book of stories and essays on writing- Where We Go.

Being a fan of hers, I dived right into the book. On the following morning after receiving it, I was eating breakfast before work and reading and wound up with tears tumbling down my cheeks as I got halfway into Muse and had to leave for work or risk being late. I felt that story viscerally as well as cerebrally because it expressed feelings I understood perfectly well, even though I am not a musician. If I substitute the keyboard/computer for the piano, a manuscript I am dissatisfied is easy to blame the machine for the failure rather than myself. How many times have we passed the blame for our own failings?

I couldn't get home fast enough to finish the story and read the rest of the book. The essays and writings on writing are especially insightful. All writers find that they share at least some of the experiences, habits, frustrations, approaches, etc. of other authors, but writing still remains a process unique to the individual author because while we share some things in common, we are also unique individuals with differing experiences and perceptions.

Kelly and I often find startling similarities in what we write, but yet we each have our own take on things. We used to take a first sentence and run with it for twenty minutes, like a writing sprint and then swap pages and read what we each wrote. It was always a revelation to find those similarities and the different approaches we each took.

Reading another authors musings on the craft of writing can help you to not feel so alone in the creative world of putting words down on a blank page. To read of another authors triumphs and less than spectacular attempts helps ground you. Writing doesn't come easy. It has to be worked at, fine tuned, tinkered with, and sometimes totally scrapped and started over before it all clicks.

Sitting down with Melissa Volker's Where We Go and a favorite beverage and snack, you'll feel as if you have her right there in the room with you, or perhaps sitting across the kitchen table from you, sharing and swapping stories and ideas about writing. She'll move you and make you feel as if you're spending quality time with a friend.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. The stories at the beginning of the book are well crafted. Every word is like a stepping stone forward into the story. The pieces on writing are personal and mind expanding. Melissa demonstrates the craft of writing in this book.

I don't know whether to slide Where We Go into the bookcase among her other books or frame it and hang it on the wall because it is an example of the art of writing, and doing it well.

Bravo, Melissa!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Muse

How I write-where it comes from-the experience of creating and writing...a piece of prose about my muse...

MY MUSE by Susan Buffum

My muse lies sprawled on a chaise, drunk as a lord and giddy, unable to get up.  The yellow sun glares down on his head making his longish, wind-blown hair look shot through with fiery highlights so that he seems like a bright, liquid flame in a brazier. 

     I scowl at him like a thunderhead from the chilly shadows of my den, seethe at his wasted brilliance while the keyboard lies stiff and cold beneath my cramped fingers.  The blind eye of the screen remains black, stares vacantly into the untidy corner where cobwebs as transparent as lies, yet as strong as good intentions, form nets in which to catch stray thoughts.  They seem to drip dewy venom into the carpet for today all my thoughts are poisoned with despair and disgust.

     Crumpling yet another sheet of paper in my impotent fist, I long for him to turn his wayward attention back to me.  But he is a fickle flame who follows his own whims.  I cannot force him to come back inside, to be sober and diligent.  I cannot make him come to me with feminine wiles. It rankles me that I must subjugate myself, lie prone and plead—make myself so utterly vulnerable, so terribly exposed.  But, only then will he deign to return to me bearing the gifts I yearn.  How cruel he can be, yet how generous, too.

     He speaks to me in French and Italian, the languages of my ancestry.  His French is like silk; sibilant and sly.  His Italian is alluring and embracing.  His words are like knowing winks or inside jokes. Sometimes I understand him, sometimes I don’t and must simply trust.  Blind faith.

     I disparage him, it’s true, for I am resentful when he plays the fool and goes off on caprices.  I cannot help but feel abandoned.  I rely on him like a drug.  I crave the rush.  I am so useless on my own, so unproductive and dull.

     He has no qualms about burning the midnight oil.  There is no shame in him when he slips into my bed and whispers in my ear, his voice a caress that stirs me, awakens me.  He comes and goes as he pleases, and I rejoice at his every return as though some small part of me always doubts his reliability and I’ve been fearful of ever having him with me again.

     However, it’s these times when I know he’s near, when he’s abstracted and playing games, that he frustrates me most.  I can feel him like a breeze tickling my mind here and there.  He is like a shower of sparks that cannot quite ignite a fire.  He is sporadic drizzle that fails to saturate the soil.  He is a drop of oil dissipating on the sea, leaving a gloss but no real substance—spread too thin.

     He is gorgeous when he is in full vigor!  His voice resonates. He hits all his marks!  His words flow like sparkling water, seamless!  He radiates in recitation, is relentless.  He has always been that way, always been one to spin a story complete, weave a whole tale start to finish.  His arrogance is astonishing, and he is unabashed!
     I almost worship him, almost adore him.  He is my oldest companion, my truest friend.  So, I should be able to forgive him his lapses, his sojourns, his absences, and disappearances.  He always returns to me.  I cannot believe he is ever with another.  We are a pair, a duo, a partnership.  We are mutually reliant, and always, just so, shall we be.

Was It Murder?

The newly fallen Christmas Day snow made undetected travel impossible. Follow the trail!

The previous day, when the woodland floor appeared as if November had overstayed her welcome with the browns and grays of fallen leaves, neatly stacked piles of severed tree limbs and rotting logs, and bare branches in full winter retrenchment, they made their appearance. The aged shades of an autumn long passed, muted by the gloom of the lowering and thickening clouds of December, provided near perfect cover for the trot along the tree line, at first tentative, wary and alert but eventually inquisitive and finally restive. He actually lay down in the brittle oak leaves, appearing to be just another neighborhood dog, except for the sharply pointed ears, fully extended and frequently shifting from side to side, filtering the sounds of suburbia.

After the brief respite, he stood, stretched his legs and continued along the tree line to the clump of trees and underbrush, mounds of lawn clippings and old, abandoned fence posts embedded with rusted wire that marked the four corners of the adjoining, adjacent properties. Somewhere beneath the detritus of the woodland floor lies a city sanctioned property marker but it didn’t matter. The sights, sounds and smells of the woods were of utmost importance to him. To our surprise, the second one moved in along the same tree line, with similar tentativeness. Stop, look, listen, smell. Trot along. Repeat. An intentional pair we thought; no territorial squabbles or aggressive posturing. They meandered northeast, along the ancient wire fence that ran perpendicular to the tree line, and into the next yard, noses to the ground one second, heads raised with ears at full attention the next. Gone.

We greeted Christmas Day with strong coffee while lounging about the living room, shaking off sleep and taking in the sights of the newly minted winter wonderland just outside the front door. The snow fell fast and heavy, the hot coffee feeling like a loyal guardian against the frosty replacement for yesterday’s autumn tableau.

Gifts were exchanged and opened, another pot of freshly ground, hot coffee eagerly consumed. My wife headed to the shower while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes.

“I saw him walking through the backyard,” she exclaimed with a glint of glee in her eye and a voice that projected triumph, or maybe vengeance; retribution? “He had a fat ball of grey in his mouth!” Fat ball of grey, a tail and a thick coat of fur; a squirrel. The squirrel? The one that chased away the birds from our hanging feeder, violating our deck with urine and feces? That squirrel?

By mid-morning the steady snowfall had tapered off to intermittent flurries, so clean up began. Fire up the snow machine to clear the driveway, shovel off the walkways, rake the roof above the gutters to avoid costly and very inconvenient ice dams, clean up the deck. The deck, the feeder … the squirrel!

The freshly fallen, nearly undisturbed snow made undetected travel impossible. I followed the trail. Small foot prints. Larger prints, wider gait. I traced the impressions in the snow, so orderly and direct I immediately thought of railroad tracks, efficient and effective, economical. The trail of precise foot prints led me deeper and deeper into the woods before ending in a chaotic disturbance in the snow. Blood. Drops of blood, streaks of blood, swishes of blood, a small arc of blood.

The fox got that squirrel. Was it murder?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

January Meeting

The January Meeting will be on Saturday, the 20th at Blue Umbrella Books, 2 Main Street, Westfield, MA at 3PM. Bring a favorite piece of your own writing to share, if you'd like. Looking forward to see as many of you as can make it to the meeting! If there is inclement weather the meeting will be postponed.

Monday, December 25, 2017

New Laptop

My incredible daughter gifted me a new Dell laptop for Christmas. I am incredibly grateful to her because my HP Stream was driving me crazy with every Microsoft Update sucking up more and more of its limited memory, leaving me more and more frustrated as I could do less and less with it. Now I have no issues with memory! John set it up for me today. I have been having to use my old Dell netbook to post on the blog because the HP Stream didn't have enough memory to open it. I am a happy girl tonight! Thank you, Kelly Buffum, for relieving a huge stressor in my life!

I will be posting the next meeting date in January soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2017

In Memory of Giuseppe Giucastro

It is with sadness that I write this post tonight.
   We have lost a WhipCity Wordsmith. Giuseppe Giucastro, author of Another Face of God: Joseph the Dreamer, and beloved husband of Wordsmith Judith Foard-Giucastro, passed away at home surrounded by his family on Thursday, December 21st. Giuseppe was born in Buccheri, Sicily and moved to the USA in 1960. He joined the Wordsmiths, with wife Judith, in September 2017. From the very brief time we knew him we will remember him as an esteemed member of the WhipCity Wordsmiths, a wonderful author, and a warm and kind man. We extend our deepest sympathy to Judith at this sorrowful time.

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.