Friday, April 30, 2021

Remembering Firsts by Eden Monroe

I can see it from here, the place where it all began, and I’d love it if you’d come with me on this small step back in time. Destination? My very first novel, Dare to Inherit. No really, it’ll be fun. There are even cats involved, on a minor level.

Before we set off let me very briefly explain how the idea was hatched for this novel in the first place. I’d taken a distance ed course in creative writing, and for the second part of those studies I could either compile a selection of short stories, or create a novel. I chose to do the latter and was excited to get started. I knew the story I wanted to tell, but as is so often the case, it’s getting started that sometimes presents the greatest challenge. It’s like the first step on a thousand-mile journey because that’s what the distance will feel like by the time you’ve finished. Words, ideas, plots, bouncing around in your head like demented grasshoppers in a ripe cornfield, and it doesn’t relax until you organize your plan of attack and start moving in the right direction. If not the corn will be gone, and so will your ideas, lost in the mists of time.

So where to start? At the beginning, with that first sentence, because there are plenty more right behind that one, anxious to be recorded, and so off I went

 And now for the where this novel actually began. We won’t be going far, just up to the haymow. Say what!

Ahhh, I remember it well, it was a late September day, sunny but refreshingly cool, a most welcome relief from the baking heat of a country August; a day of coral, crimson and honey-gold trees set aflame against a cloudless sapphire sky. It was a day filled with exciting possibilities and promise; ideas inspired by a glorious autumn in full bloom. It was a great day to write.

As the vagaries of imagination go, I chose a most unusual but inviting retreat to start my novel. That’s right, the hushed sanctuary of a haymow, ripe with sweet smelling summer hay. Equipped with my faded black camp chair, notebook and pen, I was all set. But I wasn’t alone, because besides one very persistent house/barn fly that kept everything real, spring kittens, now gangly patchwork teenagers, taking a break from mock-battle cavorting, watched warily with their parents from atop nearby bales, ready for flight in a nanosecond.

None of them came near, that privilege was reserved only for mealtimes, but they rarely looked away from the woman held captive in their gaze; the intruder in their midst. A novelist!  In their haymow! Eventually they became bored, tucked limbs and napped, periodically peering suspiciously through fuzzy eye slits to make sure I hadn’t decided to come any closer while they dozed. I hadn’t, because one sudden move and they’d scatter like crows, the camaraderie of the moment lost.

 While they slept, I swatted ineffectually at the fly but no matter, I had started down a thrilling new path, armed with the exhilarating notion that I could one day become a published novelist as I continued to let my imagination play outside of the box. The novelist within had been set free in a tsunami of creative flow as my hand raced over each page trying to keep pace with what I could imagine, enjoying the rush of being swallowed up in the fascinating world storytelling.


That haymow chapter would eventually become a full-length manuscript honed to a much more streamlined product, revisited, refined and lovingly enlarged upon to complete my course and over time, become Dare to Inherit, my debut novel released by Books We Love. It was a wonderful experience when it made that all-important leap from the proverbial hatbox where it landed after the course, to a published book.

Finally, the sisters: Jocelyn, Chloe and Willow, were set in motion for real, facing off against their newly deceased adversary, Aunt Feenia, who, despite her untimely demise, still means business. But she can’t hurt them anymore … or can she?


May 5 - May 8

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Walpurgis Nacht



Walpurgisnacht is said to be named after an early Christian woman (Saint Walpurga, 710-779) who was missionary to the Black Forest German pagans. Like most saint's stories, I take it with a grain of salt. 

More likely, Walpurga was a wise women or, perhaps even a female divinity of place. If you can't at first get rid of those old gods and their generosity with a good time, the early Christians soon found that these local holidays were easily co-opted. Taking over a night of bonfire and dancing is not too hard, but you have to discourage (first with threats and then by fire) the far older fertility rites of liberated sex in the woods. (Imagine! Women running wild!) Among the English, you'll family names of Robinson or Green or Grove are common, and are often said to have had their origins in babies born after a spring fling in the forest. 

This is one of the stories within Roan Rose, whose heroine is born into the just such a peasant community.

For humble farm folk, the older traditions often quietly continued. After all, the New Religion allows you to repent whatever indiscretions you've committed during the night at the next morning's Saint's Day Mass! Alcohol, a good party and warm weather are stimulants to the young who, in all ages, are universally singing "Born to Wild" after any big celebration with the opposite sex present.

This Walpurgisnacht, or Hexennacht, ("witches night,") falls midway between the summer solstice and the equinox and were therefore once commonly named "Cross Quarter" Days. Like Samhain (Halloween/Hallow's Eve) May Eve is considered another "time between" when the "veil between the worlds" is thin. So, besides a party--if you were inclined to celebrate--you might have a picnic or leave food for the spirits of place, or "bring in the May" by decorating your home with flowers and greens just as my mother showed me long ago. These quieter alternatives to that blow-out bonfire are more in order where I live and to the state of my elder body. However, from sundown on April 30th until sunrise on May 1st, the old rule, bar the caveat "'an you harm none" was: Do what you will!  

While researching the habits of 18th Century Vienna, I learned that there, Saint Brigitte was the proper Lady to celebrate on May 1st. The similar name indicates that she may be a form of Brigid, the ancient Celtic triple goddess of artistic creation, rebirth and renewal. In my reading I learned that so many tried to leave the city for picnics and flower picking in the surrounding fields and woods on that day, that there were, by the late 1770's, traffic jams. Once, I read, the Emperor Joseph himself could not get out of town on one particularly carriage-clogged May Day because he did not drive out sufficiently early in the day.  

In My Mozart, the teen heroine has a name day on April 29th. She attends a fateful party in the Vienna Woods with the louche fellow players from her new workplace, a Volksoper, where she dreams of the blazing kiss of Orpheus.




In Zauberkraft Black, the hero, a little drunk and sorry for himself, stumbles upon just such a party among his tenants the first night of his homecoming from the Napoleonic Wars. He finds a great deal more is going on there than simply drinking and getting lost in the new green woods with a willing farm girl.  How little, this gentleman will find, he has known his own peasants!


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It's probably pretty clear by now that I love this holiday and still keep it with flowers, new loaves of bread, and a of wine. On Saturday too I will pick up a few more native plants from a local Conservancy group--all very formal this year because of Covid--and bring them home to my yard. (Please grow, My New Darlings!)

  Welcoming spring and giving thanks for the seasons while whispering a few prayers for a bountiful harvest can't, at any time or place, be a bad thing. These days, Mother Earth is in need of all the good vibes we can send to her.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Key to Your Heroine--is Hidden in Your Closet? by Connie Vines

 Research is my middle name.

I plan family vacations to include possible ‘future book settings’, ‘historical events’, ‘regional foods’—well, you know where I’m going with this.

In the past, research often required hours spent at the public library using the card catalog, or reading microfiche.  Oh, how the Internet has simplified my life.

However, breathing life into your heroine, and bringing your story to life, are all elements that writers spend hours and hours perfecting.

Sensory details, setting, motivation, and that ‘something’ which is the spark of each and every story is often elusive.  Sometimes, just sometimes, the pieces of your fictional universe fall neatly, and unexpectedly, into place.

This is what happened to me.

While sorting through my closet, I discovered a treasure of carefully-packed-away-items.  Being the eldest daughter, I’ve acquired the family photos, was blessed with the oral histories of grandparents and one great-grandmother, as well as that of and other relatives.  I carefully placed the items on my bed.  I stroking a silk scarf belonging to my maternal grandmother. I focused on the blending of colors and the threads of silver catching the light. This was when I knew I was experiencing an 'important moment' in her life.  A snap-shot of who she was, who she wanted to be—a time before she was my grandmother. Before she was married. Before she had a child of her own.

She was a young woman.

Had she gone shopping with her sister or her mother to purchase this scarf?  Or had she ridden the EL, after work, to a department store in downtown Chicago?  

Was she going to a dance? 

To dinner?

Or, to the theater?

Her mother, Marie, was raised on a farm in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia (before it became the Czech Republic). As an adult she moved to Prague, working as a secretary until she married her husband, They had 6 children, my grandmother was the youngest.

In 1898, the family (minus my grandmother, who was born in the United States) boarded a ship and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to Ellis Island and before settling in Chicago, Ill . 

My grandmother in the 1920s working at A.B. Dick.
Which later became Xerox.  She became their 1st female supervisor and held
 that position until she retired.

I located pieces of her jewelry, the scarf still smelled faintly of her perfume (or was it simply my memory of her fragrance?), necklaces, earrings, broaches, and bracelets. There was a beaded evening bag.  I recalled a photo taken when she and her sister worked as extras in the motion pictures of the 1920 and 1930s.  They stayed with their older brother (musician, Tony Lada of the Louisiana Five) in San Monica, California.  

Tony (Anton) Lada's band was the first band to tour Europe. He preformed at the Troubadour. He was one of the founding members of SAG .  There were so many stories about Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, and many more. . . 

I was certain I had it in a box, perhaps a few of the pictures had already been scanned to my computer.

The wax music cylinders were all damaged in a flood but I had some sheet music and one '78 record. 

Louisiana Five/youtube link

These are the steps that help me discover my heroine and my hero.  

This is why my characters become living, breathing people to me and to my readers—step by step; their stories are revealed to me as snapshots of pieces of their lives. 

Gritty Old Chicago?  

The glorious film sets when talking pictures were cutting edge? Or the days of silent movies.

Rudolph Valentino was all the rage (Catch his silent movies on YouTube—he really was was a hottie!)

There are so many wonderful stories in passed down through a family oral history.

The relative who immigrated from Sicily.  

I also have my great-great-grandmother’s butter churn from the 1800s— when made the journey from Tennessee via a covered wagon (the Scottish branch of the family tree) but that’s another story.

So, what treasure do you have hiding in your closet?

What stories have your ancestors passed down to you?

What story is waiting to be told?

Thank you for stopping by to read my blog posting.

My current release, "Gumbo Ya Ya" is set in New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou. My husband's family is from Louisiana. New Orleans and The French Quarter are wonderful cities. 

Remember, my novels always, always include delicious recipes. And Gumbo Ya Ya, not only has gumbo recipes; but old time pass-down-family recipes, too!

Happy Reading!


Click on the Book Cover for BUY LINKS

This link takes you to my BWL author page. Just click on the book cover for the buy link!

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Warrior Women Part 2 –The Dark and Middle Ages - by Vijaya Schartz

Queen Boadicea or Boudicca of Roman Britain

Early on, Boudicca was publicly flogged by the Roman occupants for claiming her father’s crown and lands, and treated like a slave despite her rank. Then she was forced to watch the rape and torture of her two daughters, who were about 12 years old.

An ancient historian tells us that this Celtic queen of the Iceni “possessed greater intelligence than often belongs to women.” She is represented with waist-length, flaming red hair, wearing a gold torque and colorful clothing.

With a piercing gaze and a harsh voice, she rallied the Celtic tribes into an army of 100,000 and killed 80,000 Roman soldiers with superior armament. With her daughters, she led the charge on her light chariot, carrying flaming torches, like raging Furies.

Decimated at first, the Romans eventually received more reinforcements, the Celts lost and were exterminated. Boudicca, who survived the last battle, escaped, only to kill herself with poisonous hemlock. She refused to be paraded in Rome as a vanquished enemy.

Norse mythology - Valkyries and shieldmaidens

Norse legends speak of Valkyries, heavenly shieldmaidens, who flew over the battlefield and collected the souls of brave warriors slain in battle. So, for a long time, history assumed the stories of Viking Warrior Women to be legend as well.

A Viking grave from the tenth Century in Birka revealed weapons, gaming equipment, and two horses. Assumed to be that of a powerful Viking warrior, the skeleton suggested the person was female. Recently, a DNA analysis confirmed the powerful warrior was indeed a woman.

In truth, the Vikings counted many shieldmaidens in their ranks. Many were mentioned throughout history. Now, we know they were real.

One of the most famous Viking warrior women is Lagertha, wife of Ragnar, portrayed prominently in the History Channel series Vikings.

Japan’s Samurai women

Since the 12th century, many women of the Samurai class learned how to handle the sword and the naginata primarily to defend themselves and their homes. In the event that their castle was overrun by enemy warriors, the women were expected to fight to the end and die with honor, weapons in hand.

The Onna Bugeisha were female Samurai trained to protect entire villages and communities, not only the family property. If a Samurai had no son, he reserved the right to train his daughters as full-time onna bugeisha.

Rather than sitting at home waiting for the fight to come to them, some young women with exceptional fighting skills rode out to war with the men. They behaved like Samurai. They had the strength to fight with two swords. They could enlist in the army of a daimyo and fight side by side with male Samurai. They wore the attire and the hairstyles commonly worn by the men of the army.

An example of such an onna-bugeisha is Tomoe Gozen. Of course, like many warrior women of her time, official history labeled her more of a legend than a real person. But nowadays, we know better…

Joan of Arc - Medieval Warrior maiden – 1412-1431

As France was losing at home against the English during the 100-year war, this teenage peasant girl, a maiden, managed to convince the heir to the throne of France to give her control of his flailing armies. Among the chaos of war, she secured and attended his coronation.

As a keen strategist, Joan of Arc won many battles for the king of France. She didn’t hesitate to reprimand prestigious knights for swearing, behaving indecently, skipping Mass, or dismissing her battle plans. Personal attacks by the English, who called her rude names and joked that she should return home to her cows, upset her greatly.

Joan of Arc wore weapons and armor and brandished a standard as she led her men to battle. But it is said she never killed anyone. She was wounded at least twice, taking an arrow to the shoulder during her famed Orléans campaign and a crossbow bolt to the thigh during her failed attempt to liberate Paris.

Betrayed and delivered to the English, she was imprisoned. After she made a solemn promise never to wear men’s clothes again, they stole her woman’s clothes, forcing her to dress like a man. With the complicity of a French Bishop, they condemned her for that crime. They also condemned her for cutting her hair like a man, hearing voices, and being convinced she was following the will of God. She was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. She was 19 years old.

In my writings, I like to portray warrior women. Here is my medieval maiden in the Celtic legends Curse of the Lost Isle series. Damsel of the Hawk is a standalone in the series. Find it on Amazon HERE Find it at BWL Publishing HERE

1204 AD - Meliora, the legendary damsel of Hawk Castle, grants gold and wishes on Mount Ararat, but must forever remain chaste. When Spartak, a Kipchak warrior gravely wounded in Constantinople, requests sanctuary, she breaks the rule to save his life. The fierce, warrior prince stirs in her forbidden passions. Captivated, Spartak will not bow to superstition. Despite tribal opposition, he wants her as his queen. Should Meliora renounce true love, or embrace it and trigger the sinister curse... and the wrath of the Goddess? Meanwhile, a thwarted knight and his greedy band of Crusaders have vowed to steal her Pagan gold and burn her at the stake...

Happy Reading

Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
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Monday, April 26, 2021

Darcy—Matthew or Colin? Tricia McGill

Find this and all my books here on my BWL page

I have recently viewed the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice once again and of course could not avoid comparing the portrayal of Darcy as done by Matthew Macfadyen with Colin Firth’s version in the 1995 TV series. Much as I like Matthew as an actor, Colin will always remain my favourite and favourite to many others it seems. To me Matthew’s portrayal was much too severe for my liking, even though we all know that was how he was meant to play it, he came across as just plain bad tempered to me. There were many times when I wanted to shake a smile out of him. We all know that Darcy and Jane had their many differences and it is most likely that my annoyance with Matthew came from knowing of course that he would come round in the end and succumb to the wit and charm of Elizabeth, splendidly portrayed by Keira Knightly in this version. But even then he didn’t seem too enchanted to me. 

I have to admit that from all the characters, my favourite will always be Mr. Bennett, portrayed in this version by Donald Sutherland. His humorous patience with his twittering wife whose abiding aim in life is to marry her daughters off to wealthy gentlemen and his witty comments on all that is going on around him in that hectic household are outstanding. Above all, despite his seeming detachment, his love for his daughters shines through and steals the show. How times have changed. Although there are many differences between 1830 and now, there will always be mothers who are set on finding the best partners for their daughters. And always mothers who are disappointed with the choices made.

Another of my favourite characters is Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte who does not view life through tinted lenses. Realistically she sees that she is never likely to win the affections of a handsome gent who will sweep her off her feet for she is no beauty, although not plain, and knows that she will have to be satisfied with second best. To Elizabeth’s dismay, she accepts that a marriage with the pompous and idiotic Mr. Collins will bring her a house that she can call her own. It is a blessing that she does find contentment in this house. But isn’t this so true to life even these days when many are forced to accept second best matches. 

I wonder what Jane would think of her book being played out in so many different ways on the screen. Most authors desire to see their work made into a movie or TV series, I know I do, and are forever disappointed. Perhaps she is up yonder somewhere enjoying the fame. I do hope so. 

Tricia McGill Web Page

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Heavenly Hostas by A.M. Westerling

Hostas are some of my favourite perennials as they’re showy, easy to grow and like shaded spots. My hosta garden is on the south side of the house beneath an ornamental crab apple and they really seem to love it there. Which reinforces my mantra to find the plants that like the space you have – it makes you look like a gardening genius! Here's my shade garden during July a few years ago. I planted sweet woodruff and cranesbill geranium along with the hostas.

These plants are native to Korea, Japan and China where they are found in moist woodlands, along stream banks and rivers, and open grasslands. They’re also known as Plantain Lily, Funkia and Corfu Lily. Their known use as a garden plant, food, medicinal herb and a source of aromatics goes back to the Han Dynasty. A Chinese legend has it that a goddess dropped her hairpin from which grew the beautiful hosta and often the decorative part of a woman’s hairpin is made from jade shaped similarly to the unopened flower.

The first hostas appeared on the European continent in the 1780s and at that time were grown under glass for its tropical attributes.

They’re hardy and long lived and although I have mine in a bed, they also do well in containers and rock gardens. They come in a variety of sizes, colors and textures and usually have a spread and height of between 1 and 3 feet. While they’re mostly known for their lovely foliage, the plants also produce lovely spikes of flowers in shades of pink, white, light blue and lavender. Hummingbirds and bees really love hosta flowers. You can see the hosta flowers in behind the pink geraniums:

Hostas do best in dappled or deep shade because of their large leaves but they can take the heat of full sun if they’re kept in moist, fertile soil. Snails, slugs, rabbits and deer like hostas so keep an eye out for those pests.

Plant potted hostas any time but probably best in the spring. Put them at the same soil level as in the pot and water until the soil is moist. I use 20 20 20 fertilizer after planting and also when new growth comes in the spring. My hosta bed has automatic sprinklers so they get a shower every morning around 5 am which keeps the soil nice and moist. You can pinch the flower stalks to encourage new growth however I never bother. Maybe that’s something I should try this year!

It’s best to transplant and divide in the early spring when the leaves just start to poke through the crown. They don’t usually need dividing, however, because they will simply grow less quickly if they have less space. They are slow growers and may take two to four years to reach their full size. Below you can see the hostas poking up through the petals of the ornamental crab, in late May, and below that, the hostas in late July.

Young hosta leaves are edible, with a flavor similar to lettuce and asparagus. In Japan, they’re known as urui and are boiled, fried in tempura or eaten raw. If you want to try this, boil them for about 20 seconds until the leaves are bright green. They’re sometimes included in salads to add texture more than flavor. The flowers are said to have anticancer properties and are also edible with a peppery flavor. The essential oils obtained from the leaves are used in perfume.


It’s likely that the gardens at Harrington House contained these lovely plants!  Find Sophie's Choice, Book 1, and Leah's Surrender, Book 2 of the Ladies of Harrington House series HERE.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Rules, Rules, Rules by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

Rules, Rules, Rules.

Ever since I began writing I have been told how to do it. There are rules on how to begin the story, what to have in the story, how to end the story. So I have listed some of the rules I have found and not necessarily followed.

Here are a few Don’ts.

Don’t assume there is any single path or playbook writers need to follow.

Don’t try to write like your favorite writer. 

Don’t worry about whether you should outline or not, whether you should write what you know, whether you should edit as you go along or at the end.

Don’t ever get complacent about the basics: good spelling, healthy mechanics, sound grammar.

Don’t ever write to satisfy a market trend or make a quick buck. By the time such a book is ready to go, the trend will likely have passed.

Don't try to follow some set plot formula.

Don't put in a lot of fluffy, unimportant stuff that the reader is going to skip.

Don’t ever assume it will be easy.

Don’t ever stop reading.

Don’t be afraid to give up … on your present manuscript. Sometimes, a story just doesn’t work. But, don’t ever give up writing. Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s what we have to do.

Here are some Do's.

Do grab the reader's attention at the beginning by establishing the protagonist, the setting, and the mood.

Do have everything in a story caused by the action or event that precedes it.

Do have the story about a person who wants something but cannot get it.

Do have a vulnerable character, the right setting, and meaningful choices. Tension is at the heart of story and unmet desire is at the heart of tension.

Do create more and more tension as the story continues by having setbacks, crises, and antagonism. You won't have a story until something goes wrong.

Do have the protagonist making a discovery that will change his life by the end of the story.

Do the writing first then worry about inserting breaks and chapters.

Here are some rules on the personal side.

Don’t spend your time waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher. Get to work on your next book or idea while you’re querying.

Don’t get mad at someone for the feedback they give you. No piece of writing is perfect.

Don’t forget to get out once in a while and enjoy the other parts of your life.

Here are a few dubious rules, which I have seen broken in many best sellers.

Don't open your book with weather.

Don’t have a prologue.

Don’t use any other word other than said to carry dialogue. (I personally find it very boring to read said all the time. How does the reader know if the character is angry if he says 'said' instead of 'shouted'? "Get out of here." can be said softly, said through clenched teeth, said angrily, shouted). You need to show emotion.

Don’t use an adverb to modify the word said. (see last statement) Keep exclamation points to a minimum. (Again see above).

Avoid detailed description of characters, settings and objects.

And now some quotes about writing from famous writers.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”—Philip Roth

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”—Virginia Woolf

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”—Elmore Leonard

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”—Larry L. King

“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”—Doris Lessing

“Style means the right word. The rest matters little.”—Jules Renard

“Style is to forget all styles.”—Jules Renard

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”—Tom Clancy

“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.”—Leslie Gordon Barnard

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”—Leigh Brackett, WD

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”—Joyce Carol Oates

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”—Stephen King

“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”—George Singleton

“When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”—Margaret Laurence

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”—Mark Twain 

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”—R.L. Stine  

“Beware of advice—even this.”—Carl Sandburg

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