Author Archives: Joan Foley Baier

About Joan Foley Baier

I'm a mom, a grandmother, a published writer, and am blessed with many special friends. I love to read, am compelled to write, and keep in close touch with my family and friends. I'm also a speedy typist! :-)


For some reason, in my shower this morning, I began to think of the word ‘detritus.’ I had just used it in a story I’m in the process of writing and I began to wonder if I use the word in all my stories. Truth be told, I really love the word.

I have several favorite words. Lovely, fantastic, wonderful… I use them a lot in my day-to-day conversations, so they are probably favorites of mine. There are also a couple four-letter-words I use—sometimes often, depending on what kind of day I’m having. I don’t know if that qualifies those words as favorites or not. Since I’m a sweet little old lady, I’ll say that they are not favorites, but rather something like anomalies. Frequently used anomalies.

But, getting back to detritus… It’s just so much fun to say the word.  For instance, you could say, ‘The yard was littered with junk and trash.’ (How gross!) OR:  ‘The yard was littered with detritus.’ Here’s another pair:  ‘The old yearbook was filled with yellowed, crumbling pages.’ OR:  ‘The old yearbook was filled with the detritus of yesterdays.’ (Ahhhh. Now isn’t that a picture?)

I’m so disappointed when I think of all those years I missed saying, “Honey, would you take out the detritus, please?” Just watching/listening to his reaction would have been better than an I Love Lucy show.

And how about renaming our DPW organizations to Detritus Pick-up Workers? Can’t you just picture their backs straighter, their heads held higher, their trucks less squeakier? (Now, there’s an oxymoron—another good word for perhaps another day.) (And yes, I know the descriptive phrase should be “less squeaky,” but I didn’t want to break the “-er” pattern. Poetic license. ‘Nuff said.)

Now I must go do my laundry while I walk the elongated circle of my basement for half an hour’s exercise and avoid any notice of the detritus lurking in the corners.


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Interview with Author Brittany Touris

Allow me to introduce Brittany Touris, author of the debut novel, “Stars Melt to Milk,” available in hard copy and electronic at, and the Kindle version at IBookstore.

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stars melt to milk

JB: Good Morning, Brittany. Another busy day scheduled today?

BT: Of course. I worked my part time job this morning and am taking care of some other work right now. There’s always more to do!

JB: I’ve read some really great reviews of your book on Amazon. How do they make you feel?

BT: It’s always great to get good reviews. I especially appreciate honest reviews. Ones that can point out the books strengths and weaknesses. Getting feedback is the best way to improve and reach my readers. But of course seeing that people enjoyed the book is always nice.

JB: How has this book changed your life? Or has it not changed it at all?

BT: In a practical way, not much has changed. I still have a lot of work to do before I see my writing changing my life in concrete ways. But I have felt a shift in my mindset. Now that I have a novel published, I’ve felt more of a pull towards being a fiction writer. Before I was mostly known as a “social justice blogger” to people—it’s how I thought of myself too! Now I feel more like a novelist who also blogs about social justice issues.

JB: I really admire how you dedicate your full day, every day, to your writing. Almost every writer I know has a problem with setting aside time just for writing. How do you manage that and still maintain creativity?

BT: A lot of writers set a certain word count goal for the day, others get on a routine schedule, others set a certain amount of time. They’re strict with themselves. I don’t do any of that—although I’ve tried all of it. I write when I’m inspired and give myself general tasks to complete. There really aren’t any tricks to dedicating yourself to something, you just have to tell yourself to do it.

JB: You’re scheduled to present at Rochester’s Fringe Festival later this month. Tell us about that.

BT: I’m going to be giving a talk at the Rochester Fringe Festival on September 23rd at 7pm at MuCCC.  (Multi-use Community Cultural Center, 142 Atlantic Ave., Rochester, 14607) It’s free and will last about a half hour. I’ll also be selling and signing my book. Here’s a brief description of the program:

Young Rochester-born author Brittany Touris chronicles the struggle and allure of being a local artist. Through her own tales, as well as those of other artists in the community, she shares some insights and oddities about “making it” with an unconventional career in this city.

JB:       What is the Fringe Festival, anyway?

BT:      The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival is one of the many Fringe Festivals worldwide. Since its start in 2012, it’s attracted more than 30,000 attendees. Its focus is on the arts—all kinds of arts. You’ll see a lot of eccentric and creative pieces. It’s truly inspiring and I’m incredibly excited to have a part in it this year.

JB:      In your novel, Stars Melt to Milk, you have two, three really, characters who are struggling with the reality of Life and all its demands, rewards and punishments, the third character in a peripheral sense. Do you have a favorite among them? If so, why?

BT:      It depends on what you mean by favorite. Janis is definitely the character to admire. She’s strong and passionate and never gives up. I relate to her artistic inclinations and the way she views life. So I definitely love Janis.

Ray was always a really interesting character to me. He was the one man in the book who was as kind-hearted and passionate as Janis, but he was just a kid. I like to think sometimes about what he’d be like in five or ten years. Maybe we’ll see him in a possible sequel? I just feel like there’s so much to explore with his character that I haven’t yet.

Charlie, however, was my favorite to write. Despite most people liking Janis better, I genuinely think I did a better job writing Charlie. He stirs more of an emotional response in readers from what I’ve noticed—even if it is negative. A lot of times while writing I found myself bursting out in laughter at something Charlie did or said. It’s all just so … Charlie. I think I’ll look back in years to come and really appreciate what I did with Charlie’s character.

JB:       I’ve heard you say that you’re beginning to work on another novel. Is it a sequel to Stars Melt to Milk? Or…?

BT:      I haven’t started work on a sequel for Stars Melt to Milk, although I’d love to some day.

I’ve actually begun work on a series, titled The Gold Dust Odyssey. I suppose I’d have to place it in the adventure category, but that’s debatable. It’s about a young woman, exploring a series of fictional realms, taking a philosophical lesson from each place.

JB:       There’s no doubt in my mind that the writing/reading world will hear more about Brittany Touris. How and where can we keep in touch with you and your progress?

BT:      You can get updates via email by subscribing to my blog on Also like me on Facebook (Brittany Touris), follow me on Twitter (@oshitbritt), and follow me on Tumblr ( Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel too! I’m trying to hit that 1,000 subscriber mark by the end of the year.

JB:       Thanks so much, Brittany, for your thoughts on the creative process that so many of us call writing and for letting us peek into your writing persona.

BT:      It was my pleasure!

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Last Saturday, I went to Camp Good Days and Happy Times on Keuka Lake to give Reiki (pronounced RAY-kee) to women cancer patients and survivors. Every year, I look forward to this experience because I come away so enriched, so energized, and so grateful.

Yes, I worry about how I’ll manage with the standing so long. My back can handle walking much better than standing, or even strolling. So standing for several hours was a concern for me. Certainly, it wasn’t such a concern that I avoided going. I’d done it before and I knew I could do it again. Which I did—no problem.

How true! Reikiing is completely absorbing, both by the practitioner and the receiver. For those who aren’t familiar with Reiki, it is a spiritually guided life energy. The name is Japanese and translates to Rei, God, and ki, life energy. It is the disruption in the flow of Ki that is the main cause of illness. So Reiki restores balance in our bodies.

William Lee Rand, in his book, “Reiki, The Healing Touch,” states “Reiki… is a Japanese form of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” This isn’t a fly-by-night system that is here and soon will be gone. The practice has been going on for over a hundred years, successfully, I might add.

For me, Reiki is a steadying activity. If Life throws me a curve ball, I do self-Reiki and throw that ball back into the stands. It still amazes me—after practicing it for about a year—that as soon as I start a Reiki session, the palms of my hands tingle. Then the heat flows from them. It calms me; it energizes me; it fills me with love and gratitude.

Above, I mentioned giving Reiki at Camp Good Days. How blessed I am to be able to participate in that very caring and worthwhile program. The women I attended are so brave, so appreciative, so cheerful in the face of often a dark prognosis. I swear the Reiki I gave them bounced right back on me. But then, giving Reiki is also receiving it, so it doesn’t really “bounce back,” it includes the therapist. It radiates the treatment in a restorative circle of healing energy.

So last Saturday, once again, showed me the strength and faith of people who are truly suffering and made me aware of my many blessings. It also left me feeling full—of gratitude, of well-being, and of positive energy.


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Two Spaces After a Period: Why You Should Never, Ever Do It–From “Slate Technology”

This article, by Farhad Manjoo, is so good, I just had to share it.

Space Invaders

Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.

By Farhad Manjoo

Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

And yet people who use two spaces are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste.*  You’d expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you’d be wrong; every third email I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for “Dear Farhad,” my occasional tech-advice column, I’ve removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I’ve received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two-spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).

What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space “rule.” Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.

Typographers, that’s who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago, some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren’t for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine’s shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

Type professionals can get amusingly—if justifiably—overworked about spaces. “Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong,” Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studio, once wrote. “When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay,” she told me. “I talk about ‘type crimes’ often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It’s a pure sign of amateur typography.” “A space signals a pause,” says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography. “If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don’t want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow.”

This readability argument is debatable. Typographers can point to no studies or any other evidence proving that single spaces improve readability. When you press them on it, they tend to cite their aesthetic sensibilities. As Jury says, “It’s so bloody ugly.”

But I actually think aesthetics are the best argument in favor of one space over two. One space is simpler, cleaner, and more visually pleasing. (It also requires less work, which isn’t nothing.) A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.

Is this arbitrary? Sure it is. But so are a lot of our conventions for writing. It’s arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %. We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience. Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that’s how we should do it.

Besides, the argument in favor of two spaces isn’t any less arbitrary. Samantha Jacobs, a reading and journalism teacher at Norwood High School in Norwood, Colo., told me that she requires her students to use two spaces after a period instead of one, even though she acknowledges that style manuals no longer favor that approach. Why? Because that’s what she’s used to. “Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned,” she wrote me in an email glutted with extra spaces.

Several other teachers gave me the same explanation for pushing two spaces on their students. But if you think about it, that’s a pretty backward approach: The only reason today’s teachers learned to use two spaces is because their teachers were in the grip of old-school technology. We would never accept teachers pushing other outmoded ideas on kids because that’s what was popular back when they were in school. The same should go for typing. So, kids, if your teachers force you to use two spaces, send them a link to this article. Use this as your subject line: “If you type two spaces after a period, you’re doing it wrong.”


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More on Showing vs Telling

By Joan Foley Baier

 Since my recent presentation on Showing and Telling to our writing group, LCRW, I’ve become more aware of both modes of writing, not only as I work on my stories, but also in reading others’ novels.

I just finished an epic page-turner, Only Time Will Tell, by Jeffrey Archer. It ended with such a dynamic cliff-hanger/introduction to the sequel that I plan another trip to the library today to pick up The Sins of the Father. Archer writes best-sellers and I’m green with envy of his authorial finesse and expertise.

That being said, I noticed that, as I read parts of the novel, especially toward the end of the story, he was “telling.” (I think I noticed more of it at the end of the story, but I recall some throughout.) This was done as a summary of events and/or to give information that provided an explanation of impending actions. I re-read one such segment and have arrived at this realization:

Telling plays an important part in a story, a fact I supported in my presentation at LCRW’s meeting. As I read through a telling portion of Archer’s novel, I found it easily readable, not at all dull or boring, and actually a very credible explanation of how the protagonist arrived and performed at the next scene. The lesson reinforced here is that telling provides a necessary introduction to, or explanation of a character’s action that follows. The telling supports that action, makes it more believable or acceptable. It does not detract from the action by showing, by becoming action in and of itself.

The more you read, the more this concept will become clear to you. Telling is important to your story—to a degree. If you rely on telling most of the time, the reader will soon begin yawning and put the book down. Telling sets the stage; showing is the play.



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From Newsletter


Copied and pasted with the permission of editor Hope C. Clark

~EDITOR’S THOUGHTS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Read newsletter online at:
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I’ve attended many conferences, as attendee and presenter. My
favorites were smaller in attendance. Recently I’ve attended
several small conferences and events. I just got back from
The Business of Writing Summit in Louisville, Kentucky. Founded
by Larry and Peggy DeKay, the event hones in on business aspects
of writing, not the how-to-write stuff. (Check out Peggy DeKay’s

In The Shy Writer Reborn, I counsel writers on identifying what
size and manner of event suits their personalities. My personal
preference is the under-100 level. Get much larger and you struggle
to make a connection with the audience.

As an instructor, I’m competing with much bigger names, which means
I don’t get to connect with as many writers. I network with way
more people at an under-100 conference than one with 200 to 400
attendees, where everyone is busy running here and there, fighting
to hear the best speakers, pitch a book, ask a burning question.
The exchange between speaker and attendee is diluted. I’d prefer
to leave a conference remembering the attendees, not a sea of faces.

At a smaller conference, I can afford to delve into deeper
conversation and come to know people, instructors and attendees
alike. For instance, in Kentucky, I came to know:

1) Victorine Liese – A New York Times Bestselling novelist who
achieved her status with a self-published book. She spoke about
how to take your self-publishing to a new level.

2) Michelle Hummel – A social media expert who analyzed my web
site and participation on social media and gave me great advice.

3) Daniel J. Lewis – An award-winning podcaster who has convinced
me that podcasting is a ball and a new tool I need to add to
my reportoire. He made me realize I was already equipped to

4) Sheri L. Wright – A Pushcart Prize and Kentucky Poet Laureate
nominee and the author of six books of poetry who also had a
great active Kickstarter project I donated to.

5) Amy Collins – A huge book marketer and distributor who threw
so much material at me in forty minutes I got writer’s cramp.
Here was a person who knew how to get good self-published books
into the stores.

I was able to chat with these people at my leisure over two days
when they or I weren’t speaking, an impossibility at a larger

New writers should strongly consider dipping their toes into
conferences with a small one, where you can readily ask questions
and learn at a slower pace. More seasoned writers can make a
deeper impact. But shy writers can take their time, feel less
intimidated, and absorb material at a small conference, where
everyone knows everyone before the day is done.



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by | August 26, 2013 · 4:05 pm


Time n. 1. The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. (The Oxford College Dictionary.) Through the years (another measurement of time), a myriad of sayings have developed to give us excuses for our lack of accomplishment. Time passes, it marches on, it waits for no one, it flies, it is served, it can be done (as in doing time)…

I wonder who on earth invented time, anyway. Can you imagine living with someone who did? Someone who went on to measure light years, for Pete’s sake? (What a measuring stick that must have been!) There are several different calendars used among us humans to divide time incrementally, which means there were several very strange people out there many years ago, probably doing nothing but long division.

Picture a woman, bent from years of slaving over hot rocks, calling to her husband, “Come for lunch, Dear.” And he responds from his prone position in the bearskin hammock, “I am busy, Woman, making days, weeks and years. Besides, it is not time for lunch. The sun is not yet in position.”

When it comes to meals, I need no measurement of time, no clock, no sun, no fire department’s siren. My stomach tells me, loud and clear, when it’s time (that word again) to eat.

There are other reminders and markers of time, but these require calendars, I suppose: important personal events (weddings, births, deaths) as well as national holidays.

Time is elusive. It is literally here today and gone tomorrow. Although we can’t see it, it, with its strength and power, is impervious to any kind of intervention. No one can stop it. And that’s the dilemma.

All this is by way of saying, Boy! Have I been completely negligent in writing my blog! And it isn’t just my blog. My writing—period—has suffered as I’ve been rushing hither, thither and yon to musical events, babysitting, graduations, dinners out, weddings… The list is almost as endless as time. So, it’s time’s fault!  But I’m back in the saddle. Back at my computer, back with my dictionary and thesaurus, and back with my novel on the screen in front of me.

Now, there’s one place where time stands still.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Genius

Yesterday, Paul and I went for a guided tour of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. It’s on Jewett Parkway in Buffalo and was originally designed and built by Wright for the Darwin Martin family. The docent, forget his first name Simeone, was excellent and included in the tour a video and brief history of Darwin Martin, who himself was a most remarkable man.


But, as we were guided through the first floor of the house, the pergola, and the carriage house (our limit because we only purchased the one-hour tour), Simeone regaled us with explanations of Wright’s philosophy in designing structures. The finished product is one breath-taking example after another.

To say that the house has character is an understatement. It certainly has depthof character. Closer. Wright’s use of light, space, precious woods, cut and stained glass, color, and innovation is brilliant. The outdoors and Nature are as much parts of his design as are utility and geometry. He didn’t miss a single opportunity to delight the viewer and please his customer. Although he did run over budget—as in three times over—and I’m sure that did not please the customer!

That house is on 18 acres of property, if I remember correctly, and includes another house (for Martin’s sister’s family) and a beautiful house built especially for the gardener and his family. These buildings, too, enjoy Wright’s design genius.

But, once I recovered from the awe of it all, I thought how he had used all the elements we should incorporate when we write a novel. We should use Nature, light and color for our settings. We should use nuances and subtlety in developing our characters. We should use the intricacies of art, the threat of shadows, the awkwardness of angles, the sexuality of curves as we weave our characters through the plot, through their universe and that of our novel.

And, like Wright, we should be true to our philosophy, the philosophy inherent in the particular novel on which we’re working. Just as Wright was insistent that every minute detail of his design was executed perfectly, we should demand that our grammar and punctuation are flawless, our characters are developed thoroughly, our scenes are descriptive, electric, and include conflict, the themes running through the story are consistent with the philosophy and, of course, there is a satisfying conclusion.

Then, and only then, the only thing left is the reader’s enjoyment. And for us to say, Good job. Done well.

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Brilliant Corners Reading

Just went to a play reading last night at Geva’s Next Stage. It’s part of a program, Hornet’s Nest and New Works and another program, Plays in Progress, in which Geva brings unpublished theater works to the public for its reactions and feedback.

Last night’s production was “Brilliant Corners,” written beautifully by Andrew Rosendorf. The play had only four characters, played/read by actors Daryll Heysham, Sebastian Beacon, Davida Bloom, and Reyna de Courcy.

The story line was about a dysfunctional family and how each of their lives played out automatically in a hari kari nosedive despite each member’s concerns and futile attempts to avoid disaster. Well, the mother avoided even avoiding.

But the intriguing part for me was the author’s concept of having photo snapshots projected (on a screen, I assume) to transition the story, to fill in the action, or to fast forward the plot. Of course, we didn’t see that last night, because this was just a reading. But the narrator described the photos and how the white borders would drift in and overtake the image or the black in the photo would take over. Or the images would just flash and disappear.

For me, it was a brilliant tack of writing. I’m sure it’s been done before, but, even as the actors stood or sat reading their lines and the narrator described the action, I could see those photographs, those snapshots in time. It’s the perfect show vs tell example.

So, not only did I have a very enjoyable evening, seeing a memorable play with outstanding actors reading the dialogue, I received reinforcement in the usefulness, actually in the power, of show vs tell in my writing.

That leaves me with only one thing to do: go back to my keyboard.

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My Book’s Released!

Yes. It’s true. My latest work, a novella entitled Roar of Revenge, was released this morning by Soul Mate Publishing. It’s available only in e-book format right now, but will be in print at a future, yet unnamed date.

So what does it feel like to have a book published? Sleep-disturbing comes to mind first. Late last night, I saw that it was actually released then. Big mistake! Not that it was released, but that I saw it just before bedtime. Of course, it was impossible to come down from that Cloud to sleep. Questions ran through my mind:  Will it sell? Will people like it? Will it get good reviews?

And these intermingled with a to-do list:  Put it on facebook. Write about it on my blog. Tell people! Let’s see, emails, phone calls… the whole marketing blitz. And in today’s world, the author is as responsible for marketing as much as the editor/publisher is.roarofrevenge2_850 (2)

I’ve done the first two on the list. On my FB page, one of my adult sons commented, “WOW! That’s my Mommy. .. Not the elephant… the Roar.” Hmmmm. Me? Roar??

This isn’t the first time I’ve had something published, but it’s been a couple years or more. I’d forgotten the thrill and excitement. Actually, I didn’t think I’d be so “giddyish” about it. After all, the experience is not new to me. But here I am, overjoyed, exhilarated, and downright thrilled.

So where can you get this author’s gem? On your computer, Kindle, Nook, or whatever electronic gizmo you function on (okay, on which you function), go to one of these sites:,,, or KOBO. It would be wonderful if you then wrote a review—on whichever site you purchased the book. All that takes is a few words. I know Santa will be very good to you if you do all the above.

He’s already been good to me!


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