My favorite dilettante has a new volume of “memoirs” coming soon.  Who cares if her stories are fact or fiction?  They are always decisively entertaining.

Helena Cover Boa 4Cover art by Hastywords

COMING SPRING 2015 — official date TBA

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two is the second collection of reminiscences, following Helena Hann-Basquiat, a self-proclaimed dilettante who will try anything just to say that she has, and her twenty-something niece, who she has dubbed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia.

Speaking of Arcadia, this volume delves into Helena’s childhood, as she revisits what she calls the Arcadia of the mind — that place that keeps us trapped and holds us back from our potential. Some of her most personal stories are included here, interspersed with hilarious stories of misadventure. It’s not a novel, really, and it’s not a memoir, by the strictest definition. But most of what follows, as they say, is true. Sort of. Almost. From a certain point of view.

Discover Helena’s tales for the first time or all over again, with new notes and annotations for the culturally impaired — or for those who just need to know what the hell was going through her mind at the time!

Helena is going to be running a crowdfunding/pre-order campaign at Pubslush, a community focused solely on indie writers, and has set up a profile there to launch Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two.

For more information, and to follow the progress, Become a Fan at

If you just can’t wait and you want a taste of Helena’s writing, follow her blog:

If you just can’t get enough Helena, or you want updates on further goings on, release dates and miscellaneous mayhem, follow Helena on Twitter @hhbasquiat


What you need to know (aka Helena’s biography):

The 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 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 populous 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.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at or or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

My Inner B*tch: For Some Writers, Success Is Not Enough

Sometimes I wait too long to write and then the thoughts, or the threads weaving together an essay, deteriorate from being left out in the rain.  Nothing I write comes out of whole cloth, and weaving is long, laborious, sometimes tedious work.  I know because for several years I literally wove cloth on a 36-inch 4-harness Harrisville loom.  I made a few things, but eventually I sold the loom to a friend and haven’t woven anything since.  Sometimes I feel that way about writing:  that I want to sell my tools to a friend and move on.  Writing is such hard work.  Which leads me to a bit of a diatribe.  Thus spake my inner bitch:

I envy writers like Jennifer Weiner who can “produce at a deadline pace.”

Jennifer Weiner

She has published, what, eleven books in 13 years?  And yet she roars with indignation at the publishing industry for being condescending toward female writers.  Ya think, Jennifer?  Please tell me what industry in this world is not condescending toward women.  Just where is it do women no longer struggle to be taken as seriously and treated as equally as men?  I came of age during the height of the women’s movement.  When I was 12, I was a radical feminist, reading about rape in marriage and desperate to break free from a world that thought I deserved no better than to live in a single-wide with crying children and a husband who drank and beat me.

Maybe that’s why women people like Weiner annoy me so much.  According to a New Yorker article (thanks, Kevin, for mentioning the article otherwise I never would have unearthed the issue from the stack of books and magazines next to my bed), her debut novel is in its 57th printing.  She has a writing “closet” that “may be bigger than some of the apartments occupied by struggling writers in Brooklyn.”  She has a summer home in Cape Cod.  She has a personal shopper, someone who reminds her to pack underwear.  She has been “outspoken about female writers whom she considers unsisterly.”  And that is where she totally loses me.  I may forgive her for wanting more when she already has more than many other writers (male as well as female) even dream of having.  But the infighting that she appears to relish seems to serve no purpose other than to advance her own agenda:  promotion of Jennifer Weiner.

I don’t begrudge Weiner’s writing style, her “commercial novels.”  As Rebecca Mead notes, however, “literary criticism, at its best, seeks to elucidate the complex, not to catalogue the familiar.”  That’s not to say that all commercial novels are unworthy of literary criticism.  The Chief Inspector Gamache series written by Louise Penny, in my humble opinion, is worthy of literary attention.

English: Louise Penny

English: Louise Penny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, there is a cataloguing of the familiar in her series.  They are police procedural novels and as such a particular pace and certain tropes are expected.  Plot presumedly drives the stories forward; yet, I keep reading Penny’s novels for the characters and the settings.  I read them because the people within her novels are complicated and their lives are complicated and the settings (modern Quebec, a quaint village, the near fatal freeze of winter, the life-draining heat of summer) intertwine with their lives to make things even more complicated.  I come away from these novels still feeling thoughtful, still pondering the fine line between love and hate, good and evil, the demons within and the demons without.  Because Penny’s novels are categorized as a particular genre (mystery, crime fiction, whatever), she may never get the accolades that Weiner claims is often denied writers who are female.

But I don’t hear Penny complaining.  In fact, if you friend her on Facebook (, you’ll find that Penny seems to be quite content with her writer’s life.  She is about as prolific as Weiner, having produced nine novels in as many years.  Her tenth is due out in August 2014.  But in contrast to Weiner, one gets the feeling Penny is still pinching herself to see if her success is just a dream. One gets the sense that she feels lucky, the kind of lucky that many artists describe as “being in the right place at the right time.”  Yes, I’m admiring Penny for her humility.  Perhaps I’ll be criticized for that.

Can I still consider myself a feminist if I choose not to take up arms like Jennifer Weiner and damn the literary critics for looking down their noses at commercial novels because you know they only do that if those novels are written by women?  No, wait, Stephen King has had the same complaint for years.

Stephen King

Cover of Stephen King

Maybe I just don’t get it.  Maybe I have a stronger class consciousness than a gender consciousness.  After all, I feel unequally uneasy at a women-only dinner party as I do at a fancy restaurant where I have to pretend I know which fork to use when.  I grew up among a lot of women.  Cousins, sisters, aunts, mother.  I’ve known from an early age that women aren’t always “sisterly” toward each other.  Before I learned to play the part of a middle-class female, I was often condescended to by other women.  I was consider stupid, slow because I was, in their presence, a fish out of water.

Eventually I married well, learned to appreciate fine wine, and appropriated the manners and preferences of my middle-class friends.  For a while anyway.  I’m still married well, but now I openly enjoy good cheap wine and most of those middle-class friends have moved on, no doubt because they found me to be a bore.  I feel no great loss there.  The complaint of wanting more, More, MORE from those who already have plenty bore me.

I’ll give this much to Jennifer Weiner.  At a book signing event, “[s]he took time to talk to everyone.”  She appreciates her readers.  She knows without them she would be nothing.  If she chooses to write for them and if they happen to prefer her stories to those by, say, Doris Lessing, then so be it.  More power to her.  I hope she continues to be successful and to make her readers happy.  I might hope she won’t consider this blog post “unsisterly” of me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’ve misplaced my inner Pollyanna.

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Throw away the rules that bind.

Looking for a place for your poetry, stories, essays, photography to be published both online and on paper? Jayde-Ashe of The Paperbook Collective has loosened up her guidelines a bit (much like me loosening up the waistline on my clothes … so much more comfortable :)). One highlight is she will now take submissions of work that has already been published, say on your blog or another website. This is great news for those of us who have published poems or stories on our blog and then been told that those works of art are not acceptable for submissions to other venues. So go to The Paperbook Collective, check out the revised guidelines and SUBMIT 🙂

The Paperbook Blog

It’s Friday afternoon, and I am elbow deep in Issue Eight of The Paperbook Collective. I should probably be nose deep in a glass of wine, but there is none in the house. That I can find anyway…

So I’m feeling a bit crazy, a little bit wild, slightly Mad Hatter-esque. And a thought just struck me.

Let’s throw out the rule book for good.

I had grand intentions when I first begun The Paperbook Collective. I thought it would be released promptly on the 1st of each month, it would include specific types of content, submissions would end on a specific date and it would all be very professional and proper.

But let’s be honest. Professional and proper? That’s not really my style.

So here are the ‘guidelines’ I created at the start of this journey:


  1. All work must be original and unpublished. This means it cannot…

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Top Ten Things Not To Do When Trying to Get Published

Here is the Fifteenth installment of Ten Top Lists of What Not to Do by Marie Ann Bailey of 1WriteWay at and John W. Howell of Fiction Favorites at These lists are simu-published on our blogs each Monday. We hope you enjoy.

random house

10.  When trying to get published, do not send a query letter to a publisher with the opening phrase “You probably have never heard of me, but that will change.” The publisher will no doubt get a big laugh and your query will get a direct pitch into the trashcan with the words, “Want to bet,” on the publisher’s lips.

9.  When trying to get published, do not use cute gimmicks in your query letter to get the publisher’s attention. They will not appreciate whatever it is that you send along with the letter and could just charge you for the clean-up later. This includes: glitter hearts, artificial snow, two tickets to the Bruins hockey game, a six pack of beer, sand from your beach story, or anything else not on paper.

8.  When trying to get published, do not think a personal phone call to the publisher will make a difference. You will only risk sounding like an idiot even though you have thoroughly rehearsed your pitch. If you should by chance get someone to talk, being able to find your query letter to give you the feedback you demand may get you put on hold permanently.

7.  When trying to get published, do not, under any circumstances, show up at the publisher’s place of business in person. The publisher will be extremely embarrassed since they will have no idea what to do with you. Your query just might get placed in your back pocket as you are shown the exit into the alley.

6.  When trying to get published, do not tell the publisher in your query letter that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. The only thing that may be a once in a lifetime opportunity is the one second it takes for the publisher to pitch your query into the wastebasket with the words, “I’ll take that chance,” on the publisher’s lips.

5.  When trying to get published, do not try to build rapport with the publisher with words like, “If I were in your shoes I would be looking for a talented writer and by golly I just happen to know one.” The publisher will have a nice laugh at your expense and will probably use your query in the next seminar on How Not to Query. Of course he will be paid an enormous fee and you will get…well…nothing.

4.  When trying to get published, do not send a query letter before you have your fiction manuscript finished. Unless you are Stephen King, there is not a publisher in business today who will jump at the chance to publish your story if it is in the concept stage. Describing in detail what might be will probably get you a response of what actually is happening, a flat “no.”

3.  When trying to get published, do not assume you have only writing in mind. The publisher will want you to carry most of the marketing work on your shoulders. Your query letter should stay away from self-descriptive words and phrases like: artist, literary principles, clean hands, introvert, higher calling, too good for others, filthy capitalism, save trees activist, reclusive researcher, and only want to write.

2.  When trying to get published, do not admit you are only in this for the money even if you are. There may be a time when the publisher contacts you as a result of your query. This is not the time to start pressing the publisher for a compact timetable because you need the money. Like banks do not lend money to people who need it, publishers know there is little money for authors and will pass on you for another more motivated by non-monetary reasons.

1.  When trying to get published, do not give up. There are a million potential reasons to keep sending queries and who knows, your manuscript just might be the next million copy seller.

Not Too Old to Have a Debut Novel

Check out this article from The New York Times.
Not too old to have a debut novel

Book Review: Twelve Days–The Beginning by Jade Reyner

In exchange for an honest review, Ms. Reyner provided me with a copy of her debut novel, Twelve Days–The Beginning.  My intent in reviewing her book was mainly to provide feedback regarding a particular chapter that she had softened out of concern that detailed content might be too brutal.  So I read her novel in the space of two days (including the wee hours of one morning) and provided her with the following review.  Ms. Reyner gave a kind review of my review so I’ve since posted it on Goodreads and Amazon, and now here:

Twelve Days – The Beginning is an emotional whirlwind of a novel.  At first, Elise Grayson seems to have it all:  great marriage, great job, great friends, great looks.  But author Jade Reyner doesn’t take long to start peeling back the layers of deception in Elise’s life, as she tries and fails to keep her secrets.  First, her best friend and favorite “eye candy,” Cole Andrews, sees through all her lies; ironically, he is the one she confides in, not her best girlfriends who are left in the dark until the truth refuses to be hidden.  Then Elise meets Vaughn Granger, a tall, dark, and handsome, and highly sexed man who serves as Elise’s boss.  Initially she fights her attraction to him, and initially I wanted her to because I was afraid he would be no better than her husband, that he would be just another man to dominate and control Elise.

But Granger is different and he shows Elise what it means and how it feels to be truly loved and worshiped.  Although married for ten years, Elise has had limited sexual experience.  Granger not only opens a new sensual and sexual world for her, but Elise also experiences a sexual awakening, the kind of awakening that, at least in our dreams, can only happen with someone who truly, truly loves us.  The sex scenes are explicit but not gratuitous:  there’s a context for every touch, every kiss, every caress.  The same is true of the physical and sexual violence that occurs: the detail provides a searing look at Elise’s reality and an unforgiving portrayal of the monster that is her husband.

I did find myself frequently arguing with the characters–usually Elise–as I read along, a good sign that I was hooked, that I was invested in their exploits and decisions.  Admittedly, Elise and her sermons on the sanctity of marriage and her stubbornness often drove me up the wall.  She makes some, what I can only call, stupid decisions, but  she makes them because she really thinks she is doing the right thing.  I’ve worked with survivors of domestic violence, and it never ceased to amaze me how desperately some of the women I worked with wanted to believe that only if they acted rationally, then all would be OK.  They needed to believe that their lives were not the nightmare that everyone else told them it was.  I see Elise going through this, wanting to believe that there still some rational part of her husband that she could reason with.  So, while I was sometimes angry with her, I also understood her need, her desire that everything turn out OK.

Of course, in real life, things don’t turn out quite OK and the novel has a hell of a cliffhanger.  Fortunately, Ms. Reyner provides her readers with a taste of the sequel, Twelve Days – The Future, and we can at least be assured that there is indeed a future for Elise and a future for us as Ms. Reyner’s readers.

Self-doubt, self-publishing, and other selfish writer-isms

Self-doubt, self-publishing, and other selfish writer-isms.  This blog post by Eric John Baker is worth a read not just for the post itself, but also for the comments.  The debate of traditional vs self-publishing is still raging, only now I think with more nuance.  Not only is it easier to produce hard copies of our novels, poems, and stories, but there are also more venues for selling your work than there were just a few years ago (think:  Amazon, Smashwords).  Writers aren’t stuck with the old vanity presses that took your $$$ and gave you a printout with a cardboard cover in return.  Each route has its downside, though, and deciding which way to go is tricky.  Getting picked up by a traditional publisher can take years, even with an agent.  Sending out submissions can be time-consuming, costly (postal fees), and deflating (as when the number of rejections you get equal the number of submissions you’ve sent).  Self-publishing might be less expensive (relative to postal fees of submissions) and quicker, but then who is going to market your book, who is going to make it sell?  Then again, even in traditional publishing, writers are expected to go on book tours.  They might have help with their itineraries, perhaps some of their travel expenses are reimbursed.  But they are the ones selling their books, they are the ones doing the hawking.  Getting published by a traditional press might give a writer a bit more “legitimacy,” but the writer still has to put as much if not more work into the process, especially post-publication when the book is suppose to sell and make the publisher a lot of money.

I suspect that eventually I will self-publish.  I’m not a patient person generally, and I’m getting less patient as I get older.  I am easily dismayed by rejection letters (especially form letters).  And I’m an introvert, a shy, sensitive introvert.  Not the person you want to send on a book tour.  I won’t give up entirely on traditional publishing.  I can still keep submitting and hope that the rejection letters eventually become more personalized.  But given the short time-frame I have before me, the best I can hope for is to bring a novel or collection of short stories to a point where it is ready for prime-time (meaning I will employ a professional editor) and then self-publish and, in my own quiet way, spread the news and hope for the best.  And the best might be the two or three total strangers who pay to read my book.  And that will be okay.

The Fight for Digital Publishing Rights

Despite the disparaging of e-books as cold, hard, unfriendly sources of reading, traditional publishers apparently think there’s money to be made through publishing in “electronic book publishing formats.”  The authors may be long-dead, but their publishers are in a tussle with their estates over who owns whose rights.  In the case of William Styron’s books, Random House expects to “continue to publish the Styron books we own in all formats, including e-books.”  (Click here for the full story.)  Hmmm … the Styron books they own?  OK, I understand that traditional publishers invest capital and even some sweat equity in an author’s work, but just who wrote Styron’s books?  Could they maybe express it differently … say, they expect to publish to the books that they bought rights to?  I know I probably sound like I’m splitting hairs, but wouldn’t any author wince to hear a publisher say that he “owns” the author’s books?

Self-publishing field continues to grow

Another website has opened up, to give self-published authors more visibility:  Read the article here in the Christian Science Monitor. describes itself as being “For self-published and print-on-demand books and the readers who love them.”  Founder Amy Holman Edelman proposes to do for self-published books what Sundance has done for independent films.  For an annual fee of $149, will “promote, market and sell your book” on its website, if they deem your book to have met “certain standards of quality, both in terms of basic spelling and grammatical errors and content. All books must be well written and offer something of value to our customers.”  Be sure to always read the fine print when $$ is involved.  From the Terms of Service:

2. Annual Fees and Costs. a. The fee for inclusion on the website is $149.00 per year, regardless of the number of books that each author features on the IR site. The fee for submitting the first book is included in the annual fee, however, there will be a submission fee of $25 for each book after the first. b. This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE. is a business and as such should charge fees, and it should reserve its right to reject books that don’t meet its standards.  Yes, that makes it sound more like traditional publishing with all its gatekeepers, but holds the promise of access to good writing, regardless of the author’s name recognition.

Join the Self-Publishing Hall of Fame

Now here’s website designed to inspire even the most morally depressed (and unpublished) writer:  The Self-Publishing Hall of Fame by John Kremer.  John reminds us that many writers (current and past) who now enjoy publication through traditional publishers had at one time or another self-published.  This is not to say that their road to success necessarily came straight from self-publication, but, at least, if you choose to self-publish, you will be in great company. 

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