Thursday, February 25, 2021

Black History Month, 2021

February, 2021, will be remembered during Black History Month for years to come. This is not a political post but the result of President Biden’s promise to have a cabinet that “looks like America.”

Kamala Harris, first and foremost is his choice for VP. Not only is she African American, she’s Southeast Asian American.

Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary, making the Nigerian-born the first Black person to ever serve in that role.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, the first Black to hold that position.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Kirsten Clarke, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division.

Ashley Etienne, Kamala Harris’ Chief Communications Director.

Tina Flournoy, Vice President’s Chief Of Staff.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, Housing and Urban Development.

Joelle Gamble, National Economic Council.

Shuwanza Goff, Deputy Director Of The White House Office Of Legislative Affairs.

Jamie Harrison, DNC Chair.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Deputy Press Secretary.

Brenda Mallory, Council on Environmental Quality Chairperson.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Co-Chair of Biden’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Michael Regan, EPA.

Susan Rice, White House Domestic Policy Council Director.

Cedric Richmond, senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, which is not a cabinet position.

Cecilia Rouse, Council of Economic Advisors chairperson.

Symone Sanders, Vice President’s spokesperson.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN Ambassador.

Other names who have made their mark since last year:

Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, helped Georgia flip blue.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, Georgia Senator


Thanks to NewsOne for the information.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Writers Gotta Read, Right? — Black History Month

February is Black History month, and, whoops, we are already well into the month (which is short to begin with). So let’s get busy and list some lists and read some books!

Photo by Alyssa Sieb

You might want to explore the Brookline Library site for other Black-History-Month themed lists, including Biography and Memoir, and Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Speaking of the latter... 

If you have any favorite authors or books you’d like to give a shout-out to (Stacey Abrams/Selena Montgomery, anyone??), please do so in the comments below. Wishing you all good books to read and plenty of time to read them through February and beyond! 

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

New Release and Memoir Writing

If this were a normal year, no pandemic and no restrictions on gatherings, I'd have a party to celebrate the recent release of a new nonfiction book, The Many Faces of Grief: Stories of Love, Loss, and Hope From a Hospital Chaplain. 


In a celebration here in my home office, I'm drinking hot chocolate, with a little something extra for added warmth. As I write this, it is 25 degrees here in Texas. Way colder than a normal February day this far from the snow belt. 

And I may add a cookie or two to my extravagant solitary celebration. :-)

Still, it is important to mark these accomplishments, even if we can't do that in style for the time being. 

This current release is taken from a blog I wrote prior to the release of my first hardcover novel, One Small Victory. This was back when blogging was still fairly new, but my publisher, Five Star Cengage, thought it would be good to build some advance interest in the novel via a regular blog. 

Since blogging is so much like writing newspaper columns, something I'd already done for years, it wasn't hard to decide to give it a try. It was also great that I already had a number of stories from one of the columns that I could use throughout the year of writing the blog. 

Grief is one of the elements of the story of One Small Victory, so it seemed natural to use it, and my years of hospital ministry, as the main focus of the blog, which I called The Many Faces of Grief. In the novel, which has been updated and recently re-released by Next Chapter Publishing, Jenny, the central character, loses a son to an automobile accident in the opening of the book. 

Kind of a downer, I know, but what she did with her grief is inspiring. She forced her way onto a drug task force and helped to take down the main drug supplier in her small town. The story was inspired by a real woman who had done just that, and I was amazed at her strength and courage.

Just as I've been amazed at the strength and courage of so many of the patients I ministered to in the hospital and through hospice. 

Stories of stalwart people, like those in my book, give us hope that maybe we can be as strong when faced with our own adversities, and that is the take-away I hope readers get from The Many Faces of Grief. It is about so much more than just grief, with moments of awe and delight and even bits of humor.

In compiling the stories from the old blog and columns into this latest book, I had the opportunity to reflect on my growth as a person from the earliest foray into ministry, to the final years of being a Hospice Chaplain. That was a helpful reflection that ultimately became the last few chapters of the book, chronicling my own journey of loss and grief and hope. Some of the material in those chapters was taken from my journal, and as with any memoir, one has to decide how much to share and how much to keep private.

Which leads me to my first question for you who are reading this. If you're a writer, have you thought about writing a memoir? Do you know what deep secrets you'd be willing to put out there?

One of the things I've learned in taking some classes on memoir writing, as well as reading some excellent blog posts, we don't have to share everything. The main thing to remember about writing a memoir is that it is not telling your life story like an autobiography. Memoir has a theme, and what is written should illustrate that theme. 

Here's a good blogpost on How to Write a Memoir from Brooke Warner at The Write Life. Brooke includes great examples to illustrate the points she makes about how to be effective at this rather challenging type of writing.

This from Jerry Jenkins: How to Write a Powerful Memoir in 5 Easy Steps, covers some of the same points as the one from Warner, but also has more material worth knowing. 

Now, my final question to my fellow scribes. How have you been celebrating new releases and other milestones during this time of COVID and lockdowns? If you have tips, please do share. In the meantime, I'm going to go get another cookie.

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright, and also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Path to Publication with Rita Woods, Author of Remembrance

Today, I have the joy of interviewing not only an amazing writer, but someone I call friend. Dr. Rita Woods is the author of Remembrance which was released in January 2020 by Forge Books.

What is Remembrance about?

Spanning three centuries, Remembrance is the story of four women connected both by their individual powers and tragedy. They are linked across the centuries through Mother Abigail, a voodoo priestess who uses her powers to create Remembrance, a parallel universe that is a stop on the Underground Railroad.

As one of your critique partners,  I know the story started out as a young adult paranormal fantasy. Mother Abigail created Remembrance as a safe space for slaves and Winter was in training to replace her. When you met Joanna Volpe at the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana in 2009, she asked for pages and the journey began. During the years between then and the sale of the book in 2018, the story changed. Were you happy with the changes?

I struggled with their requests at first. Not all of the suggestions were problematic. Many of the questions surrounding the story regarding arc, character development, etc. required some deep diving into areas that initially had not seemed central to the story. In the back and forth (which was quite a bit) the story continued to evolve. There is also the element of being a debut author and not feeling confident to question some things. Early on, acquisition editors wanted to know more about the adult characters. Then they asked for a contemporary character. So the character Gaelle was added. The story went from young adult fantasy to Black & African American Historical Fiction and Black & African American Women's Fiction. I feel more confident now about standing up for a story and saying no if I think a change will hurt it.

How did the acquisition process work and how does the advance payment work?

Remembrance went through several rounds of submissions before it found a home at Forge Books.

The first half of the advance is paid upon delivery of finished manuscript. The second half is paid when final edits are completed and approved. You have to earn back your advance before you earn royalties, which Remembrance has done. I received my first royalty check with my first advance for the second book. I received a five figure advance, but still work as a full-time physician.

After the book is submitted, the editor sends notes, usually one to five pages of suggestions and issues. My editor is all about motivation. Why does this happen? Why does the character do that? Then the pages are returned for thoughts. Next are extensive line edits.These are painful. Every character and locale is given a sheet to track continuity, arc, etc. In Remembrance, the level of detail included notations that streets have a period after them and avenues do not and discussions as to what exact year St. Louis Cathedral became a cathedral and stopped being referred to as a church and what the exact GPS coordinates of the Atchaflaya Basin were relative to Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Final copy edits and ARCs are then done and approved. The second advance check is cut. We are now in the process of interviewing voice actors for the audible version of Remembrance. Not all authors have this much input into the audible version and cover design but this was both contractual and a function of the collaborative team at Forge.

What was it like once the book was released? What is expected of you as an author? 

I really enjoyed traveling around the country for live events. I thrived on hearing from readers about the way the book inspired them and what they took from it. Every reader is unique and comes to a story with a different viewpoint. I would fly to destinations once or twice a week, often fielding texts about the next book. I still attend events and interviews a couple of times a week, occasionally twice in a day. Speaker fees run $50 to $1000 for a first time author. When the shutdown happened, everything went to Zoom. Then Zoom conferences started getting hacked and we had to switch to Comcast. I miss the audiences. I have been interviewed by well-known writers such as Veronica Roth, TJ Klune, Hank Phillipi Ryan, and Joshilyn Jackson.You are expected to continually post on social media. There is also the expectation that you will write multiple essays (I think I ended up writing close to a dozen) for inclusion in different magazines and papers, blog posts, even a short story, prior to launch. So it has been really exciting, but also very busy.

Remembrance earned you an additional two book deal. How is that going? 

Before you finish the first book, they are asking for pages for the next book and the process starts all over again. The next book to be released is titled The Last Dreamwalkers and is due to be published in Spring of 2022. The first draft of the third book, which is still in the concept phase, is due May of 2022. 

How did the pandemic affect you? 

There were days when I wondered, "Why does this matter?" I know people are looking to art and literature for comfort and escape but when the whole world feels like it is on fire, you ask yourself, "What is the point?" I have editors with goals for me to hit, though. So I persist. 

Any final words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

I read somewhere recently: Writing is art. Publishing is a business. And I think that is the truest way to capture it. If you want to write then write. It is incredibly important to find a tribe. People who will give you support, honest feedback and keep you on task. Writers are some of the most generous people I have ever met. But writing is hard work. 

Thank you for the gift of your work and a glimpse inside the life of a traditionally published author.

I thoroughly enjoyed Remembrance and highly recommend it. I can't wait to read her second book, The Last Dreamwalkers. I critiqued some of the first draft and can't wait to see it realized in print. Rita is, in my humble opinion, one of the best wordsmiths of our age. Even her first drafts are magical. Members of the Ladyscribes are lucky to have found one another. Having a supportive and knowledgeable critique group is invaluable.

To learn more about Remembrance and author Dr. Rita Woods, the writing life, and how a book is born, check out these reviews and interviews: 

Interview: Rita Woods, author of Remembrance

Interview with The Debutant Ball 

Washington Independence Review

Meet The Author Sip and Flip Bookclub

Interview with Carly Heath  

You can pick up a copy of Remembrance at

Publisher : Forge Books; 1st Edition (January 21, 2020) Language : English Hardcover : 416 pages ISBN-10 : 1250298458 ISBN-13 : 978-1250298454


Barnes & Noble



Apple Books

You can follow Dr. Woods on:


Rita Woods is a Board Certified Internist, currently serving as Medical Director of a Wellness Center that serves one of the largest trade unions in the nation. A former bodybuilder, she lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, sons, perfect granddaughter, and four cats.

When she is not busy working or writing Dr. Woods spends time with her family or at the Homer Glen library where she serves on the Board of Trustees.


Interviewed by Diana Hurwitz who is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

2021 Workshops and Conferences Status and Dates TBA


Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop, writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company. Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

Unfortunately with the pandemic, many in person events have been cancelled. Some have been replaced with virtual events, podcasts, or online classes and lectures.

Virtual events allow for a wider audience and lower costs since attendance does not require travel and lodging. The following list is of conferences with their status to be determined.

The Agile Writer Conference, Richmond, Virginia. The 2020 event was virtual. Check site for updates regarding 2021.

Alaska Writers Guild Conference. Check site for updated information on the 2021 event.

Annual Digital Author and Indie Publishing Writers Conference in Van Nuys, CA check site for plans for 2021.

Bear River Writers' ConferenceBoyne City, Michigan. Postponed the 2020 conference until 2021. Visit site for updates.

BookCon in Midtown Manhattan, check their site for updates regarding the 2021 events.

7th Annual Broadleaf Writers Conference visit site for updates on future conferences.

Castle Rock Writers' Conference, Castle Rock, Colorado.  The 2020 event was a one day virtual conference. Visit site for updates about 2021.

Central Coast Writers Conference, San Luis Obispo, California check site for plans for a virtual 2021 conference.

Chicago North RWA Spring Fling Conference. Visit their website for dates and status for 2021.

Columbus State Community College Writers Conference in Columbus, Ohio was cancelled in 2020. Check site for updates regarding 2021.

Clockwork Alchemy Steampunk Conference, Hyatt Regency SFO, Burlingame, CA Dates and status to be announced.

Deadly Ink in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey was cancelled for 2020. Visit the site for updates about 2021.

Erma Bombeck Writers' WorkshopUniversity of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio Recordings (and bonus Q&A sessions with keynoters) from the 2020 virtual workshop will be available through the end of 2021.

Fishtrap Summer Weekend, Wallowa Lake Lodge, Joseph, Oregon. The 2020 conference was virtual. Check site for plans for 2021.

February, March, and April 2021 Fishtrap Writing Workshops at the Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph, Oregon will be held online via Zoom. Recordings of workshops may be made available to registered students.

Get Away to Write Retreat, New Smyrna Beach, FL Dates have not yet been released.

Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference, Los Angeles, California. The 2020 conference was virtual. Check site for plans for the 2021 conference.

Hampton Roads Writers holds events throughout the year. Check their site for schedule and details.

Highlights Foundation holds classes and virtual workshops. Visit their site for details.

History Writers of America Conference in Colonial Williamsburg, VA has not yet announced plans for the 2021 event.

INd'Scribe Con and Book Festival, Peoria, Illinois. The 2020 conference was virtual. Check the site for plans for 2021.

Juniper Institute for Young Writers, Amherst, Massachusetts. Event is for high school students finishing grades 9, 10, or 11. 2020's virtual conference was held in December. Plans for 2021 are for a virtual conference with dates to be announced.

Kenyon Review Young Writers WorkshopKenyon College, Gambier, Ohio Visit the site for online reservations for events.

The National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, New York. Check site for dates and status for 2021.

Midwest Writers Workshop, Muncie, Indiana. Check site for updates about the 2021 event.

Mississippi Writers Conference was cancelled for 2020. Check site for updates for 2021.

New York State Summer Writers Institute, Skidmore College, New York Applications for New York State Summer Writers Institute will become available in early 2021. We expect to announce more details about the program at that time. Until then, we will continue to plan with the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff as our top priority.

North Carolina Writers Conference holds multiple events each year. Check site for dates and status for 2021.

North Coast Redwoods Writers' Conference in Crescent City, CA. Check site for dates and status for 2021.

Northern Woodlands Conference in Corinth, Vermont. Check the site for status and updates for 2021.

Odyssey Fantasy Writing WorkshopSaint Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire. The 2020 workshop was online. No mention of plans for 2021 yet. Odyssey offers other online resources such as classes, webinars, critiques, podcasts, etc.
33rd Annual Pennwriters Conference, Lancaster, PA dates and status to be announced.

PNWA Annual Writer's Conference was held virtually in 2020. Check the site for status and updates for 2021.

Pittsburgh Writing Workshop, in Pittsburgh, PA. Check site for updates and status for 2021.

Ridgefield Writers Conference was virtual in 2020. Check their site for updates and status for 2021.

Rochester Writers Conference was virtual in 2020. Check their site for updates and status for 2021.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Workshop, Denver, Colorado Plans for 2021 to be announced.

Romance Writers of America, San Francisco, California. Check site for plans for the summer 2021 event.

Sanibel Writers Conference was held virtually for 2020. Check site for plans for 2021.

Santa Barbara Writers ConferenceSanta Barbara, California was cancelled in 2020. Check site for updates for the status of 2021.

Sewanee Writers’ ConferenceUniversity of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. The 2020 conference was replaced with online opportunities. Check site for plans for 2021.

Sirenland Writer's Conference. Check site for updates and status.

Slice Literary Writers Conference is a virtual event tentatively scheduled for September 2021. Check site for status and updates.

Stonecrest Writers Conference at the University of Southern Maine has not announced plans for an event in 2021 yet. Check site for updates and status.

Summer Writing Program at The Capitalocene Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado has not finalized plans for 2021. Check their site for updates.

Tennessee Mountain Writers annual conference in Oakridge, Tennessee to be determined for 2021.

The Writer’s Digest Annual ConferenceNew York, NY. The 2020 conference was virtual in November 2020. Check site for plans for the 2021 conference.

Writers Police Academy, Murdercon, Raleigh, N.C. The 2020 conference went virtual. Check site for plans for 2021.

RETURNING IN 2022/2023

April 7 - 10, 2022 Left Coast Crime, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

2022 San Francisco Writers Conference in San Francisco, California will return in 2022. Check their site for online classes and podcasts.

2022 Murder in the Magic City, Homewood Library, Birmingham, Alabama is cancelled for 2021 and hopes to resume in 2022.

May 6 - 7, 2022, Lakefly Writing Contests and Conference at he Oshkosh Convention Center in Wisconsin is tentatively scheduled for 2022. Check site for updates.

2022 Historical Romance Retreat, Riverside, California. Plans are to resume the conference in 2022.

2023 Highlights Writing Making Magic Writing and Refining Fantastical and Otherworldly Stories Milanville, PA Registration is full for 2022. Check with the site for 2023.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Quarantine Tapes--Good Listening for Black History Month and Pandemic Woes

“The Quarantine Tapes: A week-day program from Onassis LA and dublab. Hosted by Paul Holdengräber, the series chronicles shifting paradigms in the age of social distancing. Each day, Paul calls a guest for a brief discussion about how they are experiencing the global pandemic.”

In January, I stumbled on a podcast series called The Quarantine Tapes, hosted by Paul Holdengraber, while looking up books written by Walter Mosley. Somewhere in the search results, Mosley’s interview of Paul Coates on The Quarantine Tapes popped up, so I had to listen. It’s a wonderful unscripted discussion that wanders from the pandemic to defining hope and compassion with a side trip to Coates history with the Black Panthers. Coates declared that one must have at least a little hope to go forward. In these days of concern about the virus and vaccines, about the future of our country and the political divide, I wholeheartedly agree. Without hope, we fall. 

The available podcasts are those with guest hosts that had previously been the subject of Holdengraber interviews. Walter Mosley has written over sixty books (so far), including the Easy Rawlins mystery series. In 2019, Elements of Fiction was published by Grove Press. His newest Easy Rawlins novel is a February 2021 release titled Blood Grove. He’s an entertaining interviewer as well. You can keep up-to-date on this author’s activities and books on Facebook

Author Paul Coates spent a few years working with the Black Panthers and later became the founding member and chair of the National Association of Black Book Publishers. He also founded Black Classic Press which has a long list of books of interest for those studying Black history.

I wanted to sample another podcast and selected the Eddie Glaude interview of Natasha Trethewey who served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States 2012-2014. She is the author of the highly acclaimed 2020 release, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir. Trethewey’s mother was murdered in Atlanta when Trethewey was nineteen years old.

Eddie Glaude is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor African-American Studies at Princeton University. His most recent book is Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.

Both podcasts pointed out books to grow my reading list once again. I highly recommend these two interviews. Access to more of the podcasts is available via Apple and subscription. This series of episodes is also available free via Audible.

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.