Reblog: Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Oscar Ceremony #MondayBlogs

If you’re a follower of my blog, you’re likely a writer with dreams of hitting it big.  Maybe even a screenplay worthy of an Oscar nomination.  If you are, then prepare yourself and read John Howell’s Top Ten Things Not to Do at the Oscar Ceremony.

Well Read? Or Not Well Read? #MondayBlogs

Elodea (RIP) posing on one of my smaller bookcases.

Elodea (RIP) posing on one of my smaller bookcases.

My husband and I have a lot of books.  Mine are mostly fiction; his are nonfiction (environment, politics, history).  I often think of my husband as better read than myself although he rarely reads fiction.  On the other hand, my girlfriend and I can dominate a social gathering with our discussion of our favorite fiction authors.  But, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really taken up with reading contemporary authors.  My journey has been odd but interesting.

When I was (much) younger and there was only the one-room library up the road for my summer reading adventures, I had only what that small room could offer.  I remember reading Hans Christian Anderson and being both drawn to and repulsed by his stories.  I also remember wanting to change the ending of his stories.  As I got older, I grabbed more of the hard-cover books because they made me feel like a grown-up.  Or I would sit in the magazine alcove and leaf through old issues of Vogue and Elle magazines.  In the last summer of my teens I read D.H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and  . . . Albert Speer.  I think I even tried to read The Gulag Archipelago.  I have a vivid memory of reclining on a lounge chair in my neighbor’s yard, sunbathing, while awkwardly holding open a very thick paperback copy of Solzhenitsyn’s book.

It was a strange summer.

And for the next 20 years as I drifted in and out of college classes and between degrees and jobs, I read the classics:  Shakespeare (totally lost on me when I was in high school), Dickens, Austen, Eliot (George and T.S.), the Brontes, Woolf, Forster, Ford, Donne, Pope, … there was a time when I could recite every author/poet/essayist that I read or was assigned to read.  I’ve since forgotten most of them.

After leaving college and applying myself to the work-a-day world, my reading shifted more to magazines:  The Nation, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic.  Periodicals from which I could read an essay or short fiction as my last mental exercise before going to bed.  [Note: I’ve been a magazine subscriber for over 30 years. While I was in college, however, those magazines often just piled up while I tried to finish the next day’s reading assignment.]

Since I’ve been seriously writing again (or writing seriously), I’ve started reading contemporary authors, as in authors who are still alive.  They’re not dead.  They might not be white.  And most of them are decidedly not male.  Joan Didion, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Penny, Elizabeth Wein, Robert Galbraith (sorry, he’s a she), Val McDermid, Joyce Carol Oates (I have a love-hate relationship with that woman). All my life I’ve leaned toward women authors, but that’s another blog post.

I have no doubt that many of you could spout off a list of books/authors you’ve read that is twice or ten times as long as mine.  My list isn’t exhaustive.  I would have to get up off my ass and go to my bookcases to remind myself the books I’ve read or intend to read.  I don’t feel like doing that right now.

I used to feel self-conscious about either my lack of “well” reading or my inability to remember everything I’ve read.  But then I read this essay in Harper’s by John CrowleyOn Not Being Well Read (sorry, you need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing.)  Mr. Crowley has a reading history not much different from mine, in that it wasn’t perfectly linear with an early and long immersion in classic literature.  He muses about the idea of being “well read” or “widely read” or “much read.”  He discusses a book I’ve never heard of, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, but notes that your interest in following the lessons of this book may have more to do with “your need for approval from yourself and others.”  Crowley has the opposite problem.  While he acknowledges that he has “surely forgotten more of the books [he’s] read than remembered,” he still remembers a lot and some of what he remembers is esoteric enough that he gives the “impression” [his italics] of being well read.  He also discusses the fact that not everyone reads every book in its entirety.  [Look for discussions on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and you get the idea that a great many more readers probably don’t finish as many books as we think they do.]

But what I really appreciated about Crowley’s essay is that in the end, it doesn’t matter.  Having books is it’s own joy.

“But now that I am in my eighth decade, my seventh of devoted reading, isn’t it perhaps time to correct my lacks, to make myself whole, as the legal phrase would have it? As I write, I have in view a lot of the books I would ask myself to take up; they’ve been there for years, they move with me from house to house.  Like many people who have a lot of books on shelves, I have had casual visitors ask if I’ve really read them all, in a tone that might suggest wonderment, or suspicion of pretense. And of course I haven’t read them all.  Many are there just because I haven’t read them: because I want, or once wanted, to read them, or at least consult them. They are books I’d like to have inside as well as outside.”

So you, dear Reader, how do you fare with the reading of books?  Do you consider yourself well read?  What does “well read” mean to you?  And, finally, for this is very true of me, do you have books on your shelves you haven’t read but that you keep just because?

WIP Blog Tour!

Many thanks to Luanne Castle at Writer Site for tagging me to participate in this special blog tour.  It comes at a good time for me because I’ve been wrestling working on my WIP, Clemency, A Novel.  Before you read my post (or after if you prefer), please do read Luanne’s post on her WIP: Luanne is working on a memoir, “excavating” her memory to “create a new story”:

My book is the story of an old family secret that infects the present and creates a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship–and the quest for answers that allows the father and daughter to learn and forgive.

Now, doesn’t whet your appetite for more from Luanne?  Indeed, it does mine.

But before I lose sight of my own purpose in participating, let me proceed with the rules and my contribution to the tour.

The work-in-progress blog tour rules (which we all know are made to be bent or broken):

  1.  Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.
  2.  Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work-in-progress.
  3.  Nominate some other writers to do the same.

Brief description of my novel:

Clemency is a story about Misty Daniels, a young girl (~18) in prison for allegedly killing her live-in boyfriend after he beat her up, causing her to miscarry.  Enter Sarah Mansfield, a newly minted attorney who believes in Misty’s innocence and wants to secure her freedom.  But not everyone believes that Misty is innocent.  Not even Misty.  And there are some people in Misty’s poor small town that want to see her stay in prison.  And they will do anything to make sure that happens.  Even if means someone has to die.

Only in her mid-twenties and alone in an unfamiliar southern city, Sarah finds her life on the line and with few people she can trust.  Her boss and mentor, Lucas Danforth, seems to know more than he lets on and brushes off Sarah’s concern for her and Misty’s safety.  Michael Daniels, Misty’s half-brother and a former Marine, is more interested in hindering Sarah’s investigations than helping her.  And the people of Oyster Point, led by Sheriff Cooley, harbor more than a general mistrust of strangers.  They are all hiding something, and Sarah suspects that what they are hiding is the key to Misty’s freedom. 

Status of my novel:

Still in that primordial stage that is particularly gross and sticky.

Excerpts from the first three chapers:


Misty Daniels cradled her small round belly as she collapsed onto the sticky linoleum floor. She huddled against the kitchen wall, her damp brown hair covering her tear-streaked face. Her mouth was frozen in a silent scream of pain, her eyes shut tight against the blood that dripped down from the cut on her forehead.

Chapter 1

This wasn’t quite what she had expected. The room was dusty with boxes of documents lining the short space of walls against the sloped ceiling. The desk reminded her of the big clunker her father had for the thirty years that he taught English. At the thought of her father, Sarah pulled a framed photo out of her gray Timbuktu messenger bag. She stroked the simple wood frame that bordered the last picture taken of her parents and her, at her graduation from the small private college where her father had taught.

Chapter 2

Sarah sat at the concrete beach table, watching Lucas through tortoise-shell Wayfarer sunglasses that she had found while hiking around Juniper Springs. Lucas read the note again, his lips curled in a slight smile. Someone had typed on the small piece of paper: “Let Misty rot in prison. Or you will go to hell.” Sarah had immediately called Lucas after opening the envelope, and he had gallantly rushed over to Tully House.

Now, time to announce the other participants in this tour.  I am so relieved happy that these wonderful writers have agreed to participate.

orl40223S.K. NICHOLSS’s debut, Red Clay and Roses, chronicles the trials and tribulations of a group of characters grappling with inequality in the Jim Crow South. It is set in 1950s-60s Georgia, and explores civil rights, interracial relations, and women’s issues. An avid regional crime fiction reader, Nicholls’ next project is a series of crime novels with colorful characters who take you on a fast-paced adventures through Florida.  You can find Nicholls on her blog where she also posts awesome photos of Florida, discusses writing and books, and shares updates on her many writing projects.


helena-h-bThe enigmatic HELENA HANN-BASQUIAT dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.
She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.
She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populace or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell – VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at or and

Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat

BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia!


Katie 33 0935 rs1KATIE SULLIVANWriter, mom, real-food foodie, reckless gardener and wannabe spy, Katie Sullivan is descended of pirates and revolutionaries, and a lover of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. Today, she lives in the American Midwest with her son, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). 

Katie’s first book, Changelings: Into the Mist, a young adult historical fantasy, is available in print and digital from AmazonShe can also be found writing with said character weekly at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.

Changelings: Into the Mist is now available! This historical fantasy, filled with pirates, magic and kings, is not to be missed. “It’s a love letter to Ireland.” ~ Helena Hann-Basquiat, Memoirs of a Dilettante.

“Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad” ~ Norm Papernick


J. S. COLLYER is a Science Fiction writer from Lancaster, England. Her first novel Zero was releJ S Collyerased by Dagda Publishing Aug 2014 and was listed in Northern Soul’s Magazine Best Reads of 2014. The sequel, Haven, is due out Oct 2015.

Zero is available in paperback or for Kindle through Amazon:

Find out more about her and her other titles and upcoming booksignings through any of her websites:

Reblog: Top Ten Things Not to Do on President’s Day

You may be wanting another holiday to celebrate but here are some good reasons not to celebrate President’s Day. Courtesy of John Howell over at Fiction Favorites. Enjoy 😉

Fiction Favorites

a presidents day

Today’s list has been created to provide a little satire surrounding President’s Day. (Happy President’s Day) This is a holiday that I have had a tough time getting my mind around. Other than getting a Monday off, I haven’t been able to see the significance of it all. Yes, Lincoln and Washington each have a birthday two days apart and this may be the only reason.  Of course, there have been forty-four presidents and most have made at least half of the population angry at one time or another. Let’s just say if a President were a member of the family their birthday would in a probability be forgotten. So I’m making the supposition President’s Day is an invention of mattress and car companies for an excuse to have a sale. Here is a tongue in cheek top ten things not to do on President’s Day.

Top Ten Things Not…

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Reblog: Top Ten Things Not to Do on Valentine’s Day

Get ready … The holiday that can make or break your romantic relationship will soon be upon us. Heed the wise words of John Howell.

Fiction Favorites

This list was put together and published today since next Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Although a little early, it just wouldn’t do to publish it next Monday which would be the 16th. Since most of America goes bonkers in trying to create the perfect Valentine experience, I thought it would be a good idea to list some things that just might cause the day to backfire. One thing to keep in mind, Valentine’s Day does not in itself become the measure of the value of a relationship. However, mess it up and there will be a definite discount on the relationship’s value for the foreseeable future.  So here is the list.  I hope you enjoy it.

a valentines day

Top Ten Things Not to Do on Valentine’s Day

10 On Valentine ’s Day, do not accept the phrase “We love each other and don’t have to show it on an obvious…

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Yes, I Have Regrets: Part 3 (Fini … Encore) #MondayBlogs

Here is an old post from May 26, 2013.  I’m reposting it because today, February 9th, is a very important date.  I do a kind “reckoning” whenever this day approaches, especially if it falls on a Monday.  I had planned to wallow in my darkest thoughts, until I chanced upon this poem by Belinda from  Read her poem, then come back here.

These lines in particular moved me to reassess February 9th:

I would have endured
Much more and far worse
I would have declined
Any opportunity to re-write

I won’t be having a dark day.  I won’t curl up with dark thoughts.  But I will share my story again because it does reflect the long, long journey I’ve been on.  It is part of who of I am and I’m finally accepting the “valuable gift wrapped” within.


“We all have our baggage, and I think the trick is not resisting it but accepting it, understanding that the worst experience has a valuable gift wrapped inside if you’re willing to receive it.”  -Jeanette Walls as quoted in “Mommy Nearest,”  The New York Times Magazine, May 26, 2013, pp. 18-21.

How odd, I thought, that I should come across this quote while considering another blog post on my many regrets.  As I’ve said in earlier posts, those events and deeds I feel obliged to regret are the ones I could have avoided, those decisions in which the “free will” I exercised should have / could have been different.  (You can find my earlier posts here and here.)  These range from the mundane (gaining weight) to, for this post, a fateful decision to go into work when I should have stayed home.  That last decision still haunts me even though it’s been 32 years, 3 months, 17 days, and 22.5 hours after the fact.

Even though that one fateful decision eventually led to getting a job in an office where I met my future husband, I take no comfort in it.  I tell my husband that we were fated to meet.  I find it hard to see the “valuable gift wrapped” in this particular baggage and so, I argue, it’s a decision that I regret.  I wonder, would you feel the same way if it had happened to you?

Here’s my story:

It was 1981.  I was 23 and living in a California town, nearly 3000 miles from my family home.  I was barely employed, at the time working a few hours a week as a janitor at a candle-making factory.  I had only an AA degree, no skills other than typing, and I had never worked in an office in my short life.  All I wanted to do was go back to college.  I was on the bus on my way to work, after having a disappointing interview with a financial officer at a local private women’s college.  She told me that I had made too much money the year before and they wouldn’t give me financial aid.  I didn’t want to go to work.  I felt depressed and wanted to be alone.  But now I needed money even more so I swallowed my tears and got off within a block of the factory.

I clocked in at 1:00 pm.  By 1:30 pm, I was hanging upside down in the shaft of a freight elevator.  Just a few minutes before, I had rolled a large trash bin onto the freight elevator and was going up to the third floor.  The factory has three floors and my routine was to go to the top floor and work my way down.  The freight elevator had gates on the floors but not on the elevator itself.  It’s like an open, wood and metal, free-standing platform that went up and down.  I had been facing the wall as the elevator went up, distracted by the accumulation of wax and dirt and grease on the wall.  I turned around and saw, as a floor came into view, a man coming out of the stairwell and onto the floor.  It was Ted.  Ted, who worked on the third floor.  Ted, who I only ever saw on the third floor.  I must be at the third floor, I thought.  But the elevator didn’t stop.  It kept moving up.  To my horror, it kept moving up.  I screamed Ted’s name.  I screamed “It won’t stop.”  I reached out and grabbed onto the gates that were affixed to the floor.  I pulled my body through the slowly narrowing gap.  I was nearly free when I felt something catch my right foot and then a burning sensation as my leg was pulled upwards.

I had to flip myself around as the elevator pulled me up and grab onto pipes that lined the bottom of the elevator platform.  I felt hands on me and then someone’s back pressed against mine.  I learned later that one of my favorite people at the factory–Martha Coyote–stood on a box and extended her torso out into space to keep me supported.  I tried to grab her, but panicked cries sent me back to the pipes.  Martha was being held in place and if I had grabbed her, I might have sent her falling down the shaft.

I was told to hang on, they were going to lower the elevator and pull me through.  I had to tell them when to stop, which happened to be the moment when the edge of the metal plate that hung from the platform hit my groin.  They carried me out and laid me down on the floor.  Over and over I said that I just wanted to go to sleep and that my leg burned and felt like it would burst.  They asked me where my purse was, and I said downstairs on the 2nd floor.  And Martha held my hands and I heard someone say that it was just superficial.  Firemen showed up and then the ambulance came and they put me on a stretcher.  When they said they had to take me on the elevator, I cried and begged them not to.

I would be in hospital for the next six weeks, undergoing three “debridement and irrigation” procedures (where they cleaned my right leg and removed more dead skin and muscle) and one 7-hour skin graft surgery.  After I had been there two weeks, my doctors informed me that they had come very close to amputating my leg.  The first complication was apparent lack of circulation.  By the time I arrived in surgery, my foot was alabaster white and ice cold.  By the end of that surgery, some color had crept into my toes so they decided to wait.  The next complication would have been infection.  My leg had been covered with a thick layer of hair, wax, dirt and grease.  It was a mess and everyone expected it to become infected.  But no one was in a hurry to amputate as long as I seemed OK.

I was young and I was willful: two key characteristics for a swift recovery.  My leg didn’t get infected and eventually I was able to move my foot.  I had the luxury of a private room and a long line of friends who frequently visited.  My mom and brother and aunt flew out to see me.  Eventually I got strong enough to move about and make my own bed by resting my leg on a chair or the bed and pivoting around the small room.  My nurses loved me.  For six weeks it was home.

Because I was working at the time, Worker’s Compensation insurance paid for EveryThing: hospital bills, outpatient physical therapy, and mental health counseling.  They even sent me to a training school to learn word processing and a job-search workshop.  They gave me a clothing allowance so I could be presentable at my interviews.  That private women’s college relented and offered me financial support if I enrolled as a part-time student.  And one year and one month later, I was gainfully employed as a word processing operator in an office where my future husband also worked.

But here’s the thing, the rub, the darkness that covers it all.  As I write this, my heart races, my blood gets hotter, my throat constricts.  When I remember that day, I relive the fear, the terror.  But worse than that is the memory, the knowledge of what really happened, the real decision that set it all into motion.  My second day in ICU, the owner of the factory came to visit.  She was, understandably, worried not just about me but also about how my accident might affect her business.  In an accident like this, who is at fault?  The factory owner, the freight elevator company, or me?  She felt compelled to tell me that it was me.  She presented as thinking that I already knew this, that I already knew that I had actually been at the 2nd floor when I saw Ted and panicked.  I hadn’t been at the 3rd floor.  The elevator had not been malfunctioning.  I had been malfunctioning.  I had said I left my purse downstairs, on the 2nd floor.  At the moment I said that, I was lying down on the 2nd floor, my purse only a few yards away.

From that moment, I lost trust in myself.  I could have died.  I could have had a worse injury.  Someone (Martha) could have died trying to save me.  And it was all my fault.

Isn’t the reason why I regret what happened because I still believe that it was my fault?  That in exercising my free will, I made a very bad decision and now have to pay for it the rest of my life.  Is there a “valuable gift wrapped” in this experience that I’ve yet to learn to receive?

If you’ve made it this far in my story, then thank you for staying with me and I will receive that valuable gift.

Reblog: Top Ten Things Not to Do With a Hangover

Go on over to John Howell’s blog and add your 2 cents about what not to do if you have a hangover … if you’ve ever had the misfortune to have one, that is 😉

Fiction Favorites

This list was inspired by years and years of attempting to burn my candle at both ends. This list could be much longer, but I had to make a cutoff somewhere. Also since this is the Monday after the Super Bowl maybe there is some advice you can use.  I hope you enjoy.

a hangover

Ten Things Not to Do with a Hangover

10 If you have a hangover, do not attempt to cover the fact by talking too much. If you do, you will have erased any doubt as to your condition. At worst, your mouth will run off and leave your sodden brain back in the pain pit and the brain will only catch up when it detects the words “will you please shut up.” Much too late I might add.

9 If you have a hangover, do not try to step out of your normal passive role at the…

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