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Thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, For Your Fiction Mss.

Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, for your Fiction Manuscript, has caught my eye.

Especially tip #6:

6. Readers are readers. They are good at reading. They are also post-film, and are used to swift cuts. They will fill in quite a lot. At any point, are you telling/filling in too much? The author needs to walk through the moves in his/her head – like practicing a dance or a military exercise – so that no actual tactical mistakes are made – the character doesn’t go out the door before he’s put his pants on, unless intended — but then the planning steps, the connect-the-dots steps, are pruned out so that what the reader gets is a graceful, fluid execution. We hope.

This is true on most levels these days with the advent of movies and technology. The reader knows more than you give them credit for. Teach them, but don’t bog down the book with unnecessary extraneous verbiage.

Also, Tip #7:

7. Dialogue. How do people actually talk? Too much for prose fiction, as it turns out. Dialogue in a novel should: give the illusion of real speech; indicate character; not tell us stuff we can assume or don’t need to know, unless the point is that the character is boring; advance the plot; be funny if intended; not sound too wooden. Look at contractions: it’s, he’s, shouldn’t. Look at use of “that”—in speech, we rarely put it in. ‘The tree I saw,” not “The tree that I saw.”

This tip ties into tip #6 for me. If you dumb it down, the reader will get bored. SHOW, don’t TELL. Advance the story. Make the character pop in the reader’s mind. Too much dialogue and the reader gets bored and skips along. You don’t want the important piece of information that you are hoping to impart in that particular scene buried to the point where the reader misses it.

All ten tips are definitely worth looking at and reading. .. and taking to heart in your writing.

Check out all ten tips at Margaret Atwood’s Ten Editing Tips, for Your Fiction Mss.

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State of America’s Libraries: top ten most challenged books in 2014

The American Library Association released its report on the “State of America’s Libraries” last week.

The report includes a list of “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2014.” The ALA bases the list on complaints filed with libraries and schools. 

The top 10 list is as follows, with the reasons given by those who would like to see the books removed from shelves:

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons given: Anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sexually explicit, violence. 

2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons given: Gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. 

3. And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons given: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint. 

4. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons given: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. 

5. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons given: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

6. Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons given: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

7. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons given: Offensive language, violence.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons given: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit. 

9. A Stolen Life: A Memoir, Jaycee Dugard
Reasons given: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit.

10. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reason given: Sexually explicit.

Data from the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom shows that attempts to remove books by authors of color are disproportionately challenged.

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Language and Grammar In the News… Week of March 15, 2015 – “TED Talks”

Sorry all… it was a rough week here (I was sick for half of it), so I’m a day behind sharing with you my finds for this week’s Language and Grammar In the News.

This week, I’m going to introduce you to TED Talks.  If you already know about them, great! There’s so much out there to watch and listen and learn.  Hope these are new and fresh for you.

If you haven’t heard of TED Talks? They started out being focused around Technology, Entertainment, and Design (“TED”), TED Talks are 18-minute presentations that today covers a diverse range of topics in 100 languages.

Why TED Talks? Today starts the TED2015: Truth & Dare event in Vancouver. Thinkers, dreamers and mavericks come to talk about our world — and what’s coming next.
Full Coverage of what’s happening
Watch it Live (purchase required)

Here are five of the TED Talks in the archives I have found interesting.  I’ve put the time (in minutes) you need next to the title.

One in particular is on Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer.  I use this tool all the time in my editing, and have a draft post about the Viewer coming up in my “Editorial Tool Kit” series I’m putting together.

•What we learned from 5 million books 14:08
Have you played with Google Labs’ Ngram Viewer? It’s an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.)

Stuck for ideas? Play a game.

•Play this game to come up with original ideas 5:40
Shimpei Takahashi always dreamed of designing toys. But when he started work as a toy developer, he found that the pressure to use data as a starting point for design quashed his creativity. In this short, funny talk, Takahashi describes how he got his ideas flowing again, and shares a simple game anyone can play to generate new ideas. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

There’s even TED Talks for the kids. There is a TEDYouth section.  This one encourages the kids to come up with new words.

•Go ahead, make up new words! 6:52
In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another.

The world is a big place, and not all of our freedoms are found as easily across the globe.  Reading is one of those freedoms.

•For these women, reading is a daring act 5:05
In some parts of the world, half of the women lack basic reading and writing skills. The reasons vary, but in many cases, literacy isn’t valued by fathers, husbands, even mothers. Photographer and TED Fellow Laura Boushnak traveled to countries including Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia to highlight brave women — schoolgirls, political activists, 60-year-old moms — who are fighting the statistics.

I was a history major in undergraduate school, and following the path and patterns of history is still fascinating to me.

•The mathematics of history 4:26
What can mathematics say about history? According to TED Fellow Jean-Baptiste Michel, quite a lot. From changes to language to the deadliness of wars, he shows how digitized history is just starting to reveal deep underlying patterns.

There’s a whole world out there that you can find, if you have the time (18 minutes or less!) and the inclination. There might be some local TEDx events you can go to in your hometown.  TED Talks is a great way to expand your horizons. It truly is Ideas worth spreading.

Remember, if you find anything that catches your eye, and want to share, tell me! Send an email to: BookDoctorDara.

Have a good week, and remember, Keep Learning!


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Cover Reveal for ONE HUNDRED THIRTY STARS by Shelley Sly

I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of the latest middle grade fiction novel by Shelley Sly.  If you remember, I had a hand in her previous middle grade fiction novel, Wishing for Washington.

I have nothing to do with this new one coming out, except for sharing the great cover by Steven Novak, of Novak Illustration, and the blurb.  If your kids like video games and a strong female protagonist, this is for you!

If you visit Shelley’s blog, Stories in the Ordinary, be sure to tell her I sent you…

And now, without further adieu, here is the cover and the blurb.

Eleven-year-old Kelly “Birdie” Knotts has the perfect summer vacation planned: she’s finally going to visit her dad, Arthur. Birdie hardly knows him, but she has high hopes that he’ll be the one family member who understands her.

Too bad her vacation is nothing like she imagined it would be.

Arthur’s plans for their father-daughter visit revolve around a video game convention, where he dresses head-to-toe in costume and makes a boisterous scene every chance he gets. When he isn’t shouting gleefully in the hallways, he’s belting out off-pitch tunes in the karaoke room. Birdie’s new plan? Hide under a rock for life.

It’s impossible for Birdie to get to know Arthur when he insists that he’s a video game character. And if he doesn’t step up and start acting like a dad, it might be game over.

Good Luck Shelley!

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Happy National Grammar Day

Language, be it remember’d, is not an abstract construction of the learn’d, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea. It impermeates all, the Past as well as the Present, and is the grandest triumph of the human intellect.

–  “Slang In America” in his Prose Works (1892)
by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

In honor of tomorrow’s National Grammar Day 2015, I give to you a few of my favorite grammar pieces.  Read them at your own risk…

When Your Punctuation Says it All! – Living in an 140 character world. [Comic by Ron Barrett]

Prepare yourself for National Grammar Day – The awesome John McIntyre, of the Baltimore Sun gives us words of wisdom.  (You Don’t Say)

Grammar Definition

And for some fun, check out the entries in the National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest.

Some of my Grammar “Issues”:

  • Their, They’re, There

    Use there when referring to a place.  Also use there with “to be” verbs.
    Use their to show possession.
    Remember they’re is the contraction of “they” and “are”.

  • Affect and Effect

    I remember this by using Edgar Allan Poe’s “RAVEN”.

    Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun

    Give it a try!

  • Less vs. Fewer

    I cringe in the grocery store when the sign says 10 items or less. It is 10 items or FEWER.

    Quick way to remember: Less is for things you don’t count. Fewer is for those things you do count.  Of course , there are exceptions… (that is for another post)

  • Who versus Whom?

    Grammar Girl (one of my favorites!) gives a great quick and dirty tip to remember Who or Whom.  Here it is :

    Like “whom,” the pronoun “him” ends with “m.” When you’re trying to decide whether to use “who” or “whom,” ask yourself if the answer to the question would be “he” or “him.”

    What are your Grammar Pet Peeves?

Finally, celebrate National Grammar Day with the Grammartini, created by National Grammar Day Founder, Martha Brockenbrough.

Martha Brockenbrough’s grammartini recipe:

2 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 green olive
Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.
Stir for 30 seconds.
Strain into a martini glass.

See you next time, and please remember to Pause before you Punctuate.



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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Dear Dr. Seuss (or Theodor Seuss Geisel),

You have always been a part of my life.

I read your books to my kids when they were little.

I always learned something important from all your writing. I wanted to say thank you. And what better day, than today, on your Birthday!

It is really hard to pick my favorite books, but I will give it a try:

  1. Green Eggs and Ham
  2. The Cat in the Hat
  3. Horton Hears a Who!
  4. The Sneeches ( and their ‘stars on thars’)
  5. The Lorax
  6. Bartholomew and the Oobleck*  (Oobleck recipe to follow)
  7. One fish two fish red fish blue fish
  8. Oh, the things you can think!
  9. Your Favorite Seuss
  10. Horton Hatches the Egg

What’s yours?


*Oobleck recipe


  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5-2 cups cornstarch
  • a few drops of food coloring – optional 


  1. Pour water into a small bowl.
  2. Begin adding cornstarch to the water. You can stir with a spoon at first, but you’ll need to use your hand soon as the mixture thickens.
  3. Once you’ve added the initial 1.5 cups of cornstarch, add the remaining amount a little at a time. You may not need it all.
  4. You are looking for a consistency that is liquid and solid all at the same time.
    If you find you’ve added too much cornstarch, add a little more water to thin it out.

I have heard a Who! and I have hopped on Pop.  Here are some Seussian quotes that I like, how about you?

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent!”

Thanks for the laughter, the lessons, and the fun,  Dr.Seuss.  Happy Birthday.

A loyal and long-time fan,

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Making Order out of Chaos

Rule 17: Omit needless words
— Strunk & White “The Elements of Style”

I see editing as a collaborative process.  I want to understand what my client wants.

The most important tip I can offer you, is, COMMUNICATE

Let me know what you are looking for. If you don’t think we are on the same page, email, Skype, call, or text.  Sending images or notes are a great way for me to see what you are trying to accomplish.  It is my desire to fix your manuscript to your vision, I don’t want you to feel as though at the end, it is not your book.

I can tiptoe through your book very quietly  or as be as loud as a jackhammer as I go through your manuscript. I can go light and just do basic spelling, proofreading, and light on the commentary.

On the other hand, I can make suggestions about rhythm, tighten the text, change the transitions.  I can take total sections out, and either move them where they fit more linearly, or delete them all together.

TIP #2: If you are not sure, ASK QUESTIONS.

Don’t be shy. Don’t be hesitant.  Don’t think “she knows best, she’s the editor”.  No, I don’t always.  I have a different view of what you wrote because I am impartial and away from it.  I see it from various angles and perspectives that you may not have thought of when you were writing.

I bring my experience to the table to help get your vision just right for your manuscript.

I find that it is much smoother to work together as we go along, and fix the things that you have concerns about.

I like to send parts of the edited manuscript back to you as I finish them, so you can read them and make notes and ideas about what you like and don’t like.  It works so much better, I find, when we can fix what you are unsure about before we reach “THE END” of the manuscript.

Plus, if you ask now, you might find the answer I give you will send you off a different point to explore.

However, if you are the type that finds emails from your editor every other day or so to be too stressful, tell me. I will make this work for you.  If you want a status update, I’ll be happy to send you one.

If you want to discuss various things that have come to you the previous night or in the early morning over coffee and the paper, feel free to send me a note, text, or find me on my social media pages.  I’m here for you.  (Yes, I know I’ve said that idea before.  Even though I have said “repetitive” in your manuscript commentary, some ideas bear repeating).

Maybe your idea will spark something that has been gathering steam in my head and I’m stuck on how to get it into position for you.

Dialogue between editor and writer is critical.

I can’t stress this enough.  I want to know your thought process. Why you put that scene there. Tell me if it is tied to an important family memory, I will make a note to NOT fix it.

Editors don’t automatically fix EVERYTHING, even though we want to.  We understand when you say, “Please don’t mess with Grandma’s recipe. It’s not spelled correctly but that’s how she wrote it and I want to save it for posterity that way.” But, we don’t know that unless… (See TIP #1: COMMUNICATE)


Don’t let your first response always be “NO”.  I understand this is your blood, sweat, and tears.  I know how hard it is to turn it over to someone who will tear it apart and critique (not criticize) what you have worked so hard on, for so long. One of my favorite editorial cartoons, by the wonderful Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who can be found at shows this so well…
obsessive compulsive editor group
Listen to your editor’s reasoning on why she moved the paragraph.  You will find lots of commentary in the track changes bubbles from me, from ” I really like how this flows” to one or more of my editing jargon beginnings of sentences giving you a clue that I’m about to suggest something :

” Perhaps…”,

“Would it make sense to…”,

“How do you feel about…”

A friend, in an editing group I belong to posted this and it just resonates with me. Thought I’d share:

 “As editors, besides being wordsmiths, we’re also project planners, communications facilitators, time keepers, and task masters. We create order from chaos.” 

Hope you come back for more later, as I am off to create order…



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Weird up your story with fold-ins and cut-ups

What a fascinating idea. I am off to research cut-ups and fold-ins by William S. Burroughs.

Great (book) expectations

Inject a dose of the weird and wonderful into your stories with fold-ins Inject a dose of the weird and wonderful into your stories with fold-ins and cut-ups

It was on Twitter where I first heard the terms ‘fold-ins’ and ‘cut-ups’ – a method of working used by William S. Burroughs.

I was intrigued. Actually, I was desperate. Bored by my own work, it’d become difficult to motivate myself to sit down and work on stories I’d already started. (New work was fine! I’m one of those writers who finds it hard to finish things.)

After a spot of Google research, I found a few brief descriptions of the technique used by Burroughs. Although the technique seemed better suited for poetry, I decided to give it a go with prose.

Before I explain how to use cut-ups and fold-ins in your own work, following are a few words of advice about using the technique in your prose fiction.

When to use fold-ins and…

View original post 921 more words

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Call for submissions… “Katrina Plus Ten” – an anthology

Elysian Fields Press LLC, of Metairie, Louisiana, is seeking submissions of prose, poetry, and artwork for its forthcoming anthology, Katrina Plus Ten, which has an anticipated publication date of August 29, 2015.

Katrina Plus Ten will feature entertaining and thought-provoking stories, essays, verse, and illustrations that recall the experiences of New Orleanians in the days leading up to the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, and the six months after that landfall.

Publisher Edward Branley welcomes poems of one to five pages in length. In short fiction, he will review short stories under 5K words. For nonfiction, essays, profiles of Katrina survivors, and other stories, 2500 words or less.

Payment will be based on pages published. Katrina Plus Ten is expected to be 100 pages in length. Writers/artists will be paid $20 per published page, and 1% of the writers’ share of profits per published page.

Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2015.

Send submissions to

Questions? Contact the publisher at

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Pick Your Poison : A Faery Tale Therapy Anthology… Coming THIS WEEK

Pick Your Poison: A Faery Tale Therapy Anthologyfaery tale back cover- by cleve sylcox

Enter Our World of Faery Tale Therapy…
The Doctor will See You Now

The latest anthology I edited, coming this week.

SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY: Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the characters in fairy tales— But did you ever wonder what happened when the story ended and you closed the book? Come along and in this new anthology, you’ll find your favorite and some new favorite faerytale characters on the psychiatrists couch as they work through their trauma.

This is 18+, not for kids. Some of this material is very grown up in nature.

Curl up and read about : Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Big Bad Wolf, The Wolf from Red Riding Hood, Baba Yaga, Goldilocks, Snow White, The Gingerbread Man, Rapunzel, The Kings’ Man from Humpty Dumpty, The Dish & Spoon, Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Dorothy from Oz, including the Wicked Witch from Oz, All the Jacks (be nimble, beanstalk, hanging with Jill), Sandman, Old Mother Hubbard, Alice from Wonderland, The Princess and the Pea, and the tale told from the Pea’s perspective, the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, and what about all those beastly bridegrooms that get dumped at the altar ?

A special thanks to all the authors:

Twelve Step Tales, a poem,  by Carina Bissett
Mother of Fairy Tales by Kerry E.B. Black
Zuri by Joi Miner
Heel Toe by D.K. Cassidy
Cindy’s Deep Hidden Trauma by Joanne Eskreis
Iced by Michelle Boske
Snow White and the Psychologist by Cleve Sylcox
Old Sleepman by Kerry E.B. Black
The Prince, the Queen, the King and the Pea by T.D. Harvey
A Pea’s Lot in Life by T.D. Harvey
Glutton for Punishment by Rebekah Dodson
Unhinged by Matt Lovell
Red’s Wolf by Desiree L. Scott
Blow Your House Down by Michael Mill
The Tragedy at the Castle by C.H. Kelly
Off the Wall by Debbie Manber Kupfer
Benjamin Hubbard by Jason Derr
Hey Diddle Diddle by Debbie Manber Kupfer
Baba Yaga No More by Laura K. Cowan
Oz by Shannon McLoud
Chatterpillar by Matt Lovell
We’re All Mad Down Here by Rebekah Dodson
Beastly Bridegrooms Anonymous by Carina Bissett
To Hell with Cinderella, a poem, by Joi Miner

Do you need a holiday gift ? ALL proceeds go to benefit The Izzy Foundation.


The Izzy Foundation provides services and support to those families with children who have debilitating diseases.  The Foundation hopes to help families live, love, laugh and play.  The Izzy Foundation is a nonprofit organization [501(c)(3)] based in Providence, RI.

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Free this week : Hot Blooded by Kendall Grey

Kendall Grey Hot Blooded

Hey Everybody…

Check out my friend Kendall Grey’s latest, Hot Blooded.  It’s free for three days this week! – November 10 – 12, 2014.


When an accident claims her mother’s life, Keahilani Alana must take charge of her family or risk losing what little they have. With an underage brother to care for and no education, she has few options. The door to a heavenly hellish opportunity opens when she stumbles upon a valuable secret her mother left behind on the slopes of an extinct volcano—a legacy that tempts the family with riches beyond their wildest dreams. But the secret is much bigger and more sinister than they realize. As reality unravels and exposes eerie truths about the siblings that should have remained deep under the mountain, Keahilani must either resist the call of her blood or risk being consumed by its darkness.

Blake Murphy is an assassin working to infiltrate a new Hawaiian cartel. His investigation reveals that Keahilani, the sexy surfing instructor he pegged as an informant, is much closer to the drug ring than he thought. Passion ignites between them in the bedroom, but their ironclad ties to opposing interests pit them against each other everywhere else.

I want it… How do I get it?

You can find it at Amazon US :

And if you’re in the UK :

Thanks so much!


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A Full Irish Holiday

Happy to introduce you to Full Irish, the collaboration novel by Pete Morin and Susanne O’Leary. I got a sneak peek at this and have to tell you, you don’t want to miss this! The characters are so well written, you feel like you’re sitting in the pub listening to them over a Jamesons, and the settings make you want to travel.

Pete Morin

It looks like this Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season is going to be Full Irish.Full Irish Cover MEDIUM WEB

This political suspense novel marks the return of Paul and Shannon Forté, several years after they had moved to Carmel following Paul’s acquittal on corruption charges. It also introduces Finola McGee, the brassy political editor of the Irish Telegraph, Dublin’s second biggest paper.

McGee is on a mission to find the murderer of an honest politician and close friend. Forté is hired in Boston to dig up dirt on a conniving Irish competitor.

When the two collide at a famous County Kerry castle and discover their mutual interests, the ensuing game plan is more Pink Panther than Hercule Poirot. In a sometimes madcap, sometimes dark adventure, Shannon lands a blow against lecherous politicians, McGee shows off her pole dancing prowess, an Anglo-Irish butler turns double-agent, and the zygomatic bone take disproportionate abuse.

But can the trio unravel…

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Crawling out from under the editing desk…

snoopy-autumn-dancesnoopy comic copyright charles schultz and peanuts.

Happy Fall! 

Wow, where did the summer go? I spent part of it chained to the desk, and part of it spending time with the family.

If you are wondering why the blog has been rather stale, then check out the latest on the “Coming Soon” page, and I’ve also updated my Bookshelf with the latest books that have been published.

Please visit all the marvelous authors I’ve been working with, they all have wonderful things to tell you!

I can also let you in on a few secrets:  I’m putting some finishing touches on two books, one is a Faery Tale Therapy Anthology for charity (The Izzy Foundation) done with the same crowd who did Shades of Fear.

Pick Your Poison: A Faery Tale Therapy AnthologyAlso, new author, Stance Bingham will bring you into the world of 1940s Mississippi Delta, in Repeat Offender, an inside look at the prison system.  The cover is being finalized, otherwise I would be sure to give you a sneak peek. – I can tell you that the fabulous Nelson Blanton of Stylehouse Productions took the cover photograph, it’s sure to draw you into the story!

Hoping you will get to see the second novella from my client Jason Derr shortly, his Spirit Animals is a wonderful read. If you enjoyed The Life and Remembrances of Martha Toole and his Boston 395, you shouldn’t miss this one.

And… I have another something up my sleeve, that is very hush hush. I promise to reveal all when I am able to.

Until Next Time,