Sunday, January 29, 2017

Chatting with a Friend and it Gets Creepy!

Tonight my best friend in Connecticut called and we were on the phone for nearly an hour.

During the conversation, which tended to ramble as our phone talks frequently do, she hit upon the subject of funeral homes. She was a hair stylist and worked for ten years in a funeral home doing the hair and make-up for the deceased.

I remember years ago going to her house so she could cut and perm my hair. Occasionally I would pinch myself while sitting in her salon chair and she would ask, "What are you doing?" and I'd say, "Just checking to make sure I'm still alive, you are the hairdresser to the dead after all!" It was a running joke with us.

Tonight she told me the story of the little girl with the golden hair. The hairstylist would go in after hours after being called and told there was a body that needed hair and make-up done on it. There was a keypad lock on the door she entered by. She got the call to come in and do a child's hair, the child was in her casket already. So she goes. It's raining, thunder and lightning, the whole nine yards. It's after 11PM. She's the only living person in the funeral home.

She sets up her curling iron to give the little girl with the golden hair sausage curls. As she begins to work lightning is flashing outside the windows, thunder is booming and shaking the building. From the corner of her eye she sees movement, turns her head and sees the child's clasped hands coming unfolded! She got totally freaked out- couldn't get the little girl's hair done fast enough!

And then she got out of there like the grim reaper was chasing her!

When she mentioned this the next day to the funeral director he kind of chuckled and revealed that sometimes that happens, the hands they carefully fold once a body is in the casket can come unclasped.

She hadn't known this- and as of seven o'clock tonight I hadn't known this could happen, but now I do!

No names were used in the relating of her story from years ago. She said, "Go ahead and use that in a future story!"

I just might.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

On Supporting Small Local Business

I am giving a speech next Wednesday at the Women's Club here in town. Although I could sell my books after the program I have chosen to mention that my books are available for sale at the local indie bookstore in town. Blue Umbrella Books is my exclusive local bookseller. The store opened last summer and I have had author events there, participate in Ghost Stories LIVE! events every two months or so, attend multiple local author events and buy a lot of books. I also attend pop-up shop events there. Also, Artworks Westfield has been holding its monthly general meetings in the shop.I do everything in my power to support this small business because I am a member of this community

I ran down to Blue Umbrella this afternoon to check stock since I will be focusing on my NaNo novels that have been self-published, plus the recent OZMA Awards finalist novel. I told Jessica I am speaking next Wednesday and directing the ladies to the shop if they're interested in my books and want to purchase one. She seemed surprised that I would not sell them directly at the program and pocket the full amount. I said, "Well, that doesn't support your store, does it?" I then explained that I prefer to do it this way where we both earn a little money since I live here in town and she owns a business here in town. If everyone was just in it for themselves then businesses would be closing up again. Our downtown is undergoing a renaissance, a rebirth. Allowing her to keep a certain percentage of my book sales helps her bring in income so she can pay her bills and remain open. I feel every community should have a little bookstore like this where new and used books are sold and all sorts of interesting events are held in the open floor space that are designed and planned to draw people back downtown. It's a chance to experience that personal relationship between a shopkeeper and the community, something totally lacking in impersonal, convenient online shopping with your purchases dropped off at your doorstep. That sort of things kills small businesses.

I used to work in a store downtown and I loved meeting people, talking to them, listening to their stories, helping them find exactly what they needed, seeing them come back again and again. I learned their names. I knew the names of their kids and pets. I knew what they liked and didn't like. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of downtown and was sad to see so many businesses closing up. Then the store where I worked fell victim to big box stores and the convenience of online shopping. When a city's downtown dies, so does the heart of its community.

I am honored, excited, and thrilled to be a part of group of artists, literary artists, photographers, sculptors, mixed media artists, and other creative people who are motivated to bring art & culture back to Westfield as the downtown is reborn and revitalized.

If allowing a small business owner to retain 30% of my book sales helps her keep her store in business and gets my books out into the public, then I'm happy with that. If we don't give to our community then we get nothing back from it in return.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Down But Not Out

This has been a heck of a week so far. I saw the rheumatologist on Monday for an RA flare-up. Flares hit me in different locations each time. This one chose my left collarbone and my right hip. I'm on low dose prednisone, even though I'm allergic to it, it helps. I stay on it until I can't tolerate the allergy symptoms it causes and then I take a Benadryl and stop. Fun.

My husband interviewed for a job on Tuesday and was shot down this morning. I get stressed all over again each time he doesn't land a new job. It's been eleven months yesterday since MassMutual let him go in one of their job elimination deals. He is miserable and discouraged. Depressive by nature, he is no picnic to live with lately.

Also having a problem with pain in my jaw where my tooth was extracted in December. Pain is in my ear now.

And then this morning I woke up with sinus congestion, post nasal drip, a sore throat and some loss of hearing in my right ear due to sinus pressure...

There're a bunch of things going on I cannot discuss because they are work related- crazy things, demanding people, and a lot of frustrations.

I'm trying to write my speech for next Wednesday's appearance at the Westfield Women's Club where I am the after luncheon program speaker. I really don't know what to say about myself since to me I am just an ordinary person who happens to write a lot of material. I have always lived a quiet life, have no ego to speak of, and find it kind of painful to have to explain or talk about where my writing ability comes from. Truth is, I was evidently born with it since I never consciously made a decision to write. It's just something I've done since I could hold a pencil and string words together. It's how I entertained myself as a child. It's how I still entertain myself today. I find it pretty amazing that my books entertain other people, the ones who don't live inside my head! I'll figure it out and come up with something interesting to talk about. I am a writer, after all.

I also need to finish the final revisions to Black Knight, White Rook, complete the tweaks to Black King Takes White Queen, and continue on with, yup, you guessed it, White Bishop Amid the Pawns, which is the tentative title of the third book in the series. I wasn't going to do it, but the main plot line popped into my head last night while I was driving home from work and it was so unnerving in nature but so right I had to start writing the book after dinner.

This is the story of my life...amid all the chaos, the writing continues like a quiet stream through a dark forest. I like walking along the bank, trailing a stick in the water, stirring the characters and plot threads until it all gets woven together into a raft I can jump onto to journey down the stream into their world, far away from the stresses, woes, hassles, and disappointments that plague real life.

Heading down to the stream...I'll be back tomorrow in time for work.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Self Publishing & Revisions

The thing I like best right now about being a self-published author is my ability to make revisions fairly easily. I am doing a final revision of Black Knight, White Rook right now, even though the book is out in the marketplace. No matter how many times I read the manuscript through and thought it was as perfect as it could be, my daughter reads her roof copy and finds some more minor issues, like commas. Also, I just reread Black King Takes White Queen and realized I need to fix some comma issues and a couple run-on sentences in that book. Also, while reading this book again I noticed that Owen Cant's parrot was named Harry. In the sequel I accidentally named him Edgar which was Officer Thornton's dog whom Ivy had treated, and also the name of Ernie's stepfather. So I need to correct the parrot's name in the sequel.

In rereading Black King Takes White Queen I found a lot of subplots simmering beneath the surface of the main story that can be further explored. The character of Buck is really rather minor in book one. I don't even think he had any actual dialogue in the first book, he was mentioned as Roth Fremont's cousin, Roth and Buck were trapped in a cave with followers they had recruited to help Romney and Ivy in their war against Rayna. He shows up with Roth after a trip to Ebander Greenaway's nursery with pumpkins at Halloween, and is referred to maybe once post war as having lost his cousin in the fight.

In the sequel, although Ivy thinks of her son Ezra as the little black knight in the chess game of their life, as Kelly pointed out when she finished reading the novel that it is actually Buck Weaver who is the black knight who helps to keep his Queen safe when she journeys to Wales to save her husband, her marriage and ultimately their lives.

I have some grammar and comma issue to fix in both books, but overall I'm satisfied with the storyline. It's rather complex in the first book as a fairly large cast of characters is introduced and developed, and their history is laid out. I found myself laughing in some places, crying in others. And that's what I like about writing, being able to draw the reader into the world I've created, making them care about the characters.

I'm working on the last revisions of Black Knight, White Rook  this week, and then I'll tackle the comma, verb tense, and few run-on sentences I found in Black King Takes White Queen and get those remedied.

When you self publish you wear all the's a huge job trying to make your book as perfect as you want it to be...and even tougher when you think it's reached that point, let it go out there into the deep sea of published works and then find minor issues. Fortunately for me I can reel it in, fix those little issues and cast it back out there as many times as I need to until it's as perfect as I can make it.

The thing that really annoys me with the novels I buy are all the issues not caught by professional proofreaders and editors. I read books with a pen in hand fixing the issues I come across, like missing words, commas missing, and even occasionally larger issues, like a character's name being wrong in the middle of the book! I can pull my book and fix these sort of things whereas authors who work with big publishers have to just cringe and bear it. There are a couple books I've just thrown aside because they were just so bad- badly written, badly edited and full of grammar, punctuation, verb tense and other errors that should have been caught. I realize some authors specify no changes to be made...but really, if you're an author and you're putting your work out there for the public to enjoy, wouldn't you want to put the best book you can write on the shelf?

I'm grateful for the editing and proofreading assistance I get from  my daughter, who also writes. However, I should really learn to be more patient with the process before putting a book out. Although I may think it's as perfect as can be, I am always finding little things I can make better once they're out there.

Once I'm finished with the final revisions of Black Knight, White Rook I'll pull Black King Takes White Queen and put the final polish on that novel, although when I finished reading it through again last night I was satisfied and happy with the story that it told (and know why my co-workers began hounding me for a sequel as soon as they were through reading it!) Seven people were given what amounts to Advance Readers Copies last week...I'm anxiously awaiting their feedback.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pressure Cooker

2017 really got off to a great start in many ways. I self published the finally edited 13, and then self published the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen which has been anxiously awaited by readers who wanted more of Romney and Ivy's story. I also learned that Black King Takes White Queen was chosen as a finalist in the OZMA Awards. I also met with Russell Atwood and agreed to consult with him on a book project he has planned. I've also been busy preparing my speech for my appearance at the Women's Club luncheon on February 1st as their guest speaker, discussing how I became a writer and talking about my books. I've also written a little ghost story called Drink Your Wine, Darling in preparation for February 11th's Ghost Story LIVE! Boo! My Valentine event at Blue Umbrella Books here in Westfield, MA. Finally, I've been working through final edits on a vampire novel I wrote well over a year ago that's been cooling its heels on the dining room table when life events early in 2016 ground my plans to work with a major publisher's self-publishing division in getting that project rolling to a halt.

It may all look glossy and good on the surface, but there have been some serious stresses beneath that surface. I have been having some health issues that are concerning me. My 95-year old father-in-law has been hospitalized again today for confusion and mental status decline, failure to thrive. This is the third time he's been hospitalized since Christmas. My husband continues to ride the rollercoaster called Job Search in the wake of last year's job elimination from MassMutual, where they let people go as carelessly and recklessly as dropping pennies they don't want anymore into the gutter. It's had some serious repercussions in our life including the loss of 5/6 of our total income. I was working for basically my own mad money to support my hobbies and the things I like to do, and now we're living on that money, which has erased all the simple little pleasures in my life and added a huge heap of stress. My job has become humongous with more elderly patients requiring VNA services, more psych patients requiring home services, more prior authorizations as insurances change and people insurance jump from one plan to another, an increase in demand for durable medical equipment-it's relentless and sometimes gets overwhelming when I have so much else on my mind. And now Kelly is on the hunt for a home of her own, which is not a bad thing as she's an adult and ready to spread her wings and leave the nest. It's just having to deal with her father who can be very negative about everything putting a damper on her enthusiasm- having to be the buffer between them so I can help keep her on track with her goals for this year. Both of them can be procrastinators to the Nth degree. I am the fire that has to constantly be lit beneath their butts to get them to get things accomplished. It's draining when I'm already feeling drained.

Some days I feel like I live in a pressure cooker. I need a release valve.

Hoping things go well with my father-in-law whom I love dearly, but also realize that his life is winding down and we're getting closer to that time when we're going to lose him. January 31st will mark the one year anniversary of the loss of John's mother, which was the first bad thing to happen to us in 2016.

Will have to wait and see what develops in 2017, and just keep grabbing the frayed bits of my life and holding them together through these trials that are testing us on multiple levels.

I need to write a new book.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Feel Good Moments

I have very few actual feel good moments in my life, but the past two days have had several as I've begun handing out ADR copies of Black Knight, White Rook to my reliable readers who always get copies of any new book first. Smiles all around and big hugs...I like that! So far everyone is excited to have the sequel to Black King Takes White Queen in hand, especially now that the first book is a finalist in the 2016 OZMA Awards competition.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Articulture 2017 in Westfield, MA

Looks like I'm onboard for the committee to get Articulture 2017 Westfield, MA from an idea kicked around at the conference table to a reality in April of 2017.

I enjoyed being one of the literary artists/authors at last year's show. Hoping my energy level is high for the next few months as we mobilize and get this show rolling!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Black King Takes White Queen an OZMA Awards Finalist

Last year, on the spur of the moment, I entered Black King Takes White Queen in the Chanticleer Review's OZMA Awards for  Fantasy, Magic, Steampunk, Fairytale, Swords & Sorcery Fiction Book Awards 2016 contest. I had an email today from Chanticleer with an update on contest finalists, so I opened it...and found my book third on the list of finalists now in competition for the Short List to compete for first place category book award winners and the Grand Prize Award for Best Fantasy Fiction.!

Evidently the first 60 pages were enough to capture the judges' attention!

Having just started self publishing my novels and story collections I didn't expect to even make the finalists list! This was a really sweet surprise!

Friday, January 13, 2017

4 People Got 13 Today

4 Lucky co-workers were gifted brand spanking new first edition signed copies of 13 today- a perk for working with a medical secretary who also happens to be an author.

I like seeing the smiles when I hand someone a book I've written and know they will read it an enjoy it.

That's where the satisfaction comes into play.

Tomorrow three more people will get copies of the book, and I'll put a few for sale in the local bookstore.

Trickling it out into the public in advance of it's October 2017 official launch date, just to get a little feedback.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Black Knight, White Rook Update

Finished the edits and interior design on this novel (2016 NaNo Novel, sequel to Black King Takes White Queen) last night. Altered the cover design a little so it didn't so closely mimic the first book. Basically changed the font color and the background color (slightly) to distinguish it from the first book in the series.

Approved the interior copy and cover design this morning. The book should be available on in a couple of days.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Titles By Author Page Updted

Thank you to Kelly for updating the Title By Author Page this past weekend. I appreciate it!!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

13 Available

My new collection of haunting, supernatural, and somewhat disturbing stories is now available on The title of the book is simply the number 13. It will not have an official launch until October 2017, but I thought I'd let people know here because there should be a few perks to reading this blog!

I don't know if I wrote it here or someplace else, but this was originally going to be Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume IV, but then I changed my mind and gave it a new title, a new image ont he cover- a luna moth.

Black Knight, White Rook Proof

The mailman delivered a nice surprise today, the two proof copies of Black Knight, White Rook. I'm anxious to get to work on reading through the print copy to see what else needs to be fixed before I give the final thumbs up on this project.

This morning while John ran out to get cat litter and cat food for the boys I accompanied Kelly to her bank to talk about getting her pre-qualified for a mortgage so she can begin house hunting. It was a far simpler process than I thought it would be, a brief meeting with a man at a desk, then he made a phone call, handed the phone to Kelly and ten minutes later the man in the bank was printing out her pre-qualified letter. The amount the bank is willing to lend her was more than we'd imagined it would be- a nice surprise. Now she can get her realtor to work searching for a suitable house for her. It's a bittersweet time in my life. We sort of got a taste of the empty nest when she was away at college for four years, but she was home during vacations and the summer then. After college she ventured out for three months to central MA to work, then landed the better job in CT near the airport and moved home to save money, pay off her student loans and prepare for this moment in her life. I'll miss her and simultaneously not miss her. I will not miss her collections that are cluttering my house. I can hardly wait to see them displayed in her own home since they're basically all packed in boxes in he cellar at this time. I'm happy for her and hope she'll find the perfect home for herself and her future adopted rescue cat or kitten since I can't let her take Revere with her. He and Riley Beans are a bonded duo. I don't think Riley would adopt well to a new cat in his house, or Rever would adopt to being a single cat after always having a feline companion.

Also in the mail today I got my copy of author Russell Atwood's reprint of his PI novel East of A. I have a hardcover copy from 1997. It's a fantastic book, gritty, sardonically humorous, a little sarcastic- I loved it! Russell lives here in town (moved back here from NYC). I met him last October at Blue Umbrella Books when he invited me to read one of my ghost stories at the October 29th Ghost Stories LIVE! event he was hosting. I agreed. It was fun, so participated again December 17th for the Ghost Stories LIVE! Yuletide event. There will be another around Valentine's Day. I will be participating again with another new story. Anyway, I'll have Russell personalize the book on January 14th with his autograph when he holds his official 20th Anniversary East of A reprint event at Blue Umbrella Books here in town. The book is available on

Will be starting the final proofread of my book beginning tonight.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

13 is Done!

Since the start of the New Year I've been ticking off items on my To Do List. This morning I approved the final proof of a new volume of haunting, suspenseful and somewhat disturbing tales titled 13. 13 should be available by the end of the week from Amazon.

13 was originally going to be Miss Peculiar's Haunting Tales, Volume IV but I decided there were enough Miss Peculiar books out there at the moment so I didn't need to be adding a fourth one at this time. I have some more stories that can be collected into a fourth volume at a later time. But I wanted to get this little collection out there.

13's official launch date will be October 2017, but it's soft launch begins this month since this one was early complete in October 2016 and one of the six projects on my To Do List for 2017. My NaNo novel Black Knight, White Rook has also come closer to completion with the ordering of print proof copies. As soon as that little bit of final tinkering is done I'll make that book available, most likely later this month.

That leaves four manuscripts, two complete and two incomplete but almost finished sitting on the dining room table...and though my New Year's resolution was to get some more of these projects done a new story has been forming in my head that might need to be written before I jump into the next already in progress project.

It's just satisfying to know that it's only 4 days into the new year and I am moving forward, getting things done. 2016 was a sluggish year for me with so much negative happening in my personal life. I'm hoping to be more productive and focused this year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Update on Black Knight, White Rook

I squeaked it in under the wire as the end of 2016 rapidly approached. Black Knight, White Rook, has reached the final proof stage where I order proofs of the book and toss one to Kelly while going through the other with a fine tooth comb myself.

Meanwhile, today was spent working my way through the proof copy of 13, the latest book of supernatural, haunting, and stories to leave you feeling unsettled and disturbed. It's official launch date will be toward Halloween 2017, but it will be available on Amazon sooner than that, as early as this month.

I am ticking things off my To Do List and it's only the first day of the new year!