Archive for the Category » A Writer’s Take…… «

Interview with Rick Lenz, Broadway & Film Actor, Playwright, Turned Author

Cactus Flower circa 1969, Rick with Goldie Hawn & Walter Matthau

TS. Rick Lenz is a graduate of the University of Michigan, past member of the Actor’s Studio, and active member in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a veteran Broadway, television, and film actor who first came to national attention when he repeated his Broadway role in Cactus Flower,

the film version. He went on to appear in a long list of movies and TV shows. As a writer, his plays have been produced Off-Broadway, on PBS television and in regional theatres across the country. His memoir North of Hollywood was called “masterful” by Writer’s Digest, while his first novel, The Alexandrite was named “one of the best books of the year” by Kirkus Reviews. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

RL. I write anywhere I can: in my office on my computer. I write in doctors’ offices on a legal pad and also in the car when my wife Linda is driving. I write on my laptop in bed, or in the backyard on nice days, which most of them are in southern California. I write at the dining room table or, actually, anywhere I can do so without being rude to someone.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

RL. I honestly have no rituals or quirks about writing; I just do it whenever the muse is kind enough to land on my shoulder. My wife suggests I not answer this question in regard to anything else in my life.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

RL. I used to be tall, dark, and more or less handsome. Now, I am not quite so tall and I’m gray, and a bit funny looking.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

RL. I really don’t. I usually meditate in the morning, have coffee then start writing. On the other hand, if I’m going through a period of insomnia, I may write all night—I may do it in bed or sitting in my favorite chair in the living room.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

RL. Write a paragraph or two and see if that doesn’t get you going.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

RL. All of my characters are born when they have to be for the story. Most of my characters—when things are going well—are based on people I have known at sometime during my long life. There are a lot of characters, more than I’ll ever be able to use, lolling about in my brain.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

RL. I’m not sure. I liked the idea of writing when I was a kid. Later, when I became a theater actor and director, I saw the usefulness of writing too. So I was about 21 or 22 when I first started writing short plays.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Rick’s granddaughter

RL. Sometimes an idea for a character suggests the situation. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Maybe what I’m saying, probably I am, is that they really show up about the same time.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?  Join Us for Part 2 of this Intriguing Interview ~~ Feb…. 23rd

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and other books by Rick 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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How To Write a Play, The Arc

What is a story arc, you ask.  The dictionary defines a story arc as ‘(in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme’. Story arcs are the overall shape of rising and falling tension or emotion in a story. This rise and fall is created via plot and character development.

A strong storytelling arc follows this principle. It shows rise and fall, cause and effect, in a way that makes sense. An example is from one of my stage plays, Women Outside the Walls. Right before intermission, my antagonist, Charlie (an inmate) took the entire visiting room hostage, with a knife. Who wouldn’t want to come back (after intermission) to see what happens next? 

It is my belief that the story’s arc, in a stage play, should happen right before the intermission. More people than you can guess will leave at the intermission. So my theory is to ‘hook’ them and make your audience want to come back in and sit down.

 

A whole should have a beginning, middle and an end… A well constructed plot … must neither begin nor end at haphazard.’ Aristotle

 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Book Review ~~ A Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Review

Everything you want when you sit down and open the cover of a new book. Friendship, hardship, love, heartbreak, history and finally…hope.  Rhys Bowen’s writing never disappoints whether I am reading her Royal Spyness series or her Molly Murphy series or her stand alone fiction (all excellent). 

Just a hint of the story as I do not write spoilers. Emily Bryce  is a debutante who never had a ‘come out’ as World War I rages in Europe. She is stuck in time, in place, with nothing worthwhile to do except follow her society-ladder-climbing mother around.  The opportunity to join the Women’s Land Army  and become a ‘land girl’ frees her from her stifling existence and her mother.  And this is where her adventures begin. 

I was a little put off by the title of this book as I read along. There isn’t one victory garden (in the traditional sense of the term) in the entire book.  But then I realized Bowen’s ‘victory garden’ were all the gardens in the story combined making it ultimately The Victory Garden. Sneaky Devil!   I highly recommend this book. 

Available: February 12th
Did you miss my Interview with this author?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Guest Blogger, Adam Durnham, on Writing

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills by Adam Durnham

Creative pieces are usually meant to entertain, but since readers often want more than mere entertainment, they expect literary pieces to challenge the mind and tickle the imagination. For some, writing or reading literary pieces could also be a form of art therapy.
Though these standards are quite simple, they may put more pressure on writers. The more advanced readers are, the higher the standards they set for the authors’ literary pieces.
Here are four tips that can help people improve their creative writing skills:
Do not underestimate your readers’ ability to understand and imagine
Leave room for your readers to imagine the back story, the motivation of the characters, and the exposition (the elements that explain the story). You don’t have to reveal all of these in graphic detail all at once. You can give clues or foreshadow some events in the story, but be careful about revealing every element at the start of the piece. Let your readers use their imaginations and formulate theories.
Identify the key points of your story, specifically taking note of the following:
i. What is the main goal of your protagonist? Try to create a protagonist who is interesting or unique in some way.
ii. What are the relevant actions your protagonist takes towards the completion of his or her goal? The protagonist of the story could make conscious decisions that drive and direct the entirety of the story.
iii. What are some unexpected outcomes of the protagonist’s decision(s)?
iv. What are some details related to the literary piece’s setting, tone, and dialogue that can help you reveal the story to the readers?
v. What is the climax of the story?
vi. Will readers find any morals from the story?
vii. How will the story end?
Pay attention to character development
To create realistic, multifaceted characters, it is important to understand and describe characters. To help you develop your characters, consider examining one or more of the following details:
● Name
● Age
● Appearance
● Family and relationships
● Ethnicity
● Drinking habits
● Likes and dislikes
● Strengths and faults
● Illnesses
● Hobbies
● Pets
● Phobias
● Religion
● Job
● Residence
● Sleep patterns
● Nervous gestures
● Secrets
● Memories
● Temperament

Including such details can make it easier to define your characters. They can help you mold your characters, build storylines, and create dialogue. You might want to consider

● Appearance: Create a visual understanding for your readers so that they can vividly imagine what the characters look like.
● Action: Instead of simply listing adjectives to define characters, describe the characters’ actions to tell your readers what the characters do and what they’re like.
● Speech: Don’t kill the story’s momentum by explaining the plot in great detail. Instead, try to reveal the plot through your characters and their dialogue.
● Thought: Show your readers how your characters think. Show them the characters’ hopes, fears, and memories.
Create a great plot
A story plot tells us what happens in the story. Writers establish situations, identify the story’s turning points, and determine the fate of each character.
Plots are the sequence of events arranged by the writer that reveal the story’s emotional, thematic, and dramatic significance. To create a great plot, it is important to understand the following elements of the story:
● Hook: The stirring or gripping problem or event that catches readers’ attention.
● Conflict: A clash between characters and their internal selves, or between different characters, or even between characters and external forces.
● Exposition: The back story or background information about the characters and how this background information relates to the rest of the story.
● Complication: A problem or set of challenges that the characters face that make it difficult to accomplish their goals.
● Transition: Dialogue, symbols, or images that link one part of the story to another.
● Flashback: Something that occurs in the past, before the current events of the story.
● Climax: The peak of the story.
● Denouement: The story’s falling action or the release of the action that occurs after the climax.
● Resolution: The solution of the external or internal conflict.

Writing can be challenging if you don’t know the techniques. It can be a form of art or art therapy if you come to master it. Techniques and tips can help you build the literary skill you need. Practicing them can give you the experience to produce creative, well-crafted work.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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What the Critics are Saying…

 ~~  A Review ~~

Book #9 in the World of Murder series is, as its predecessors, inspired by real life events which add an extra dimension of authenticity to the story line. It opens with the dilemma of Penny, who is experiencing an independent life after being buried in childcare and being a wife for eighteen years. A special arrangement has been made with husband Tony that preserves the semblance of their twenty-year relationship while allowing her more freedom; but when she meets Lyle at a bar, things change not because he loves her, but because he, too, plans to entrap her.

Investigators O’Roarke, Garcia and Sneed, come to investigate a murder where Penny is the victim. Could Penny’s husband, who loves her, be the perp? As the homicide detective team uncovers a myriad of perps, mishaps, and convoluted triads of circumstance, readers receive a vivid and fast-paced investigative story that offers more suspects than answers and keeps the action taut with a guessing game that holds no obvious answers and many possibilities.

As a love relationship and a special arrangement morphs into shootings, a cunning perp, and boys who inadvertently become part of a bigger picture they’d never planned, Triad of Murder excels in a romp through juvenile involvements and adult activities that challenges investigators and a community alike.

Stella, Jack, Phoebe, and friendships gone awry intersect over a murder that will keep readers involved in police procedurals and family relationships right to the end.

While mystery fans and prior readers of the series will find this a compelling addition, true crime enthusiasts should also place Triad of Murder (and the entire series, for that matter) on their reading radars: the reality-based events and action are exquisitely detailed and the story is hard to put down.
~~ Donovan’s Bookshelf

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with Author, Molly Gloss (part 2)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MG. Yes, absolutely. The best part of writing is “getting lost” in the story you’re telling. My own words can (pathetically) make me cry, or make my heart race from the stress I’ve put my character under. But then I do have to pull away and look at it objectively, cooly, so I can revise, revise, revise.

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

MG. I have three previous novels returning to print, soon—Outside the Gates (Jan), Wild Life (Feb), and The Dazzle of Day (Mar) from Saga Press/Simon & Schuster. And in July from the same press, my first collection of short stories, titled UNFORESEEN. Sixteen stories, including three written just for this collection.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

MG. I had written bits and pieces of things while my son was little, but had never finished anything. Then, when he started kindergarten and I had big unclaimed blocks of time, I buckled down and wrote a whole novel. It wasn’t very good, but I learned a lot by writing it…and I also learned that I wanted to keep on writing. That was 1980. My husband and I had earlier agreed that I’d return to the workforce after our son was in first grade, but now we agreed that I should give “this writing thing” a serious try. And I never looked back.

Q. How long after that were you published?

MG. My first short story was published in 1981, and several more in the following years. My first novel—Outside the Gates, a fantasy marketed as young-adult—in 1986.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

A. Never! People will always want to hold a book in their hands, turn the pages, feel the paper, leaf back to reread favorite passages, leap ahead to read the last paragraph! The e-book craze has already peaked, and paper book sales are holding steady. Don’t worry, books will always be with us. But any way you choose to read—e-book, paper book, or audio book—is fine by me. I listen to a lot of audio books, myself, because I have a daily 30-40 minute commute each way to my horses. Is an audio-book “reading”? Yes, of course it is!

Q. What makes a writer great?

MG.  Huh. I may not have an answer for that question. What does “great” mean? Best-selling? Admitted to the “canon” by literary gate-keepers? In print more than 100 years? (Think how few writers are still being read, who were popular in 1918?) There are books and writers I have not loved, though everyone is calling them great, and I have loved books that disappeared quickly without anyone else seeming to notice, and loved writers who fell out of print and were forgotten. (This has happened especially to women writers.) So I think “greatness” would be defined differently by every reader and every generation. As perhaps it should be.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

MG. Slow, difficult, daily grind. Revision, worry, uncertainty, more revision, groping and mucking through the middle, then skating to the end in a joyous rush, or inching up to it in an agony of doubt, feeling fragile as you hand it off to a couple of trusted readers, and later, holding a hardbound copy in your hand, a mix of elation and disbelief. Oh, and then all the new worries, will anyone read it? will anyone like it? will it sell, will it be reviewed, will it stay in print? and will I ever write again? Ah, the bittersweet writing life.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

MG. Long road trips back to Texas when I was a young teen, reading cowboy novels in the back seat of the car, absolutely imprinted on me and is the reason I’ve so often written about the history, mythology and culture of the ranching west.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

MG. I write poetry, does that count? And I’ve written one fanfiction for the television series Person of Interest. (I have ideas for more.) My novels and stories range from historical/western fiction to science fiction/fantasy, though to my mind these are all on the same spectrum. (That’s for another essay.) I love a good, well-written detective novel, so maybe someday I’ll try one?

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

MG. Life is so short. Tell your friends and family you love them, every time you see them. And get over your reluctance to hug, even if you grew up in a family of non-huggers.

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Review: Cocktails with a Dead Man by Joe Albanese

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingFive out of five quills ~~~  A Review reviews, authors, writing

 

 

Cocktails with a Dead Man  (a book of poetry) is honest, hard hitting,  marvelous and humorously clever.

With other poems in this book, the laughs are nonexistent. Albanese’s writing reflects situations (Anniversary Dinner) too painful to face head on. Love torn asunder. (We Need To Talk) Loss and heartbreak we mortals think we cannot survive. A nice mix of  despair and irony; my perfect cup of tea.  Later in the book is a poem about our dreams of fame as writers. What writers will ‘settle for’ so we can continue to write. (Moonlight Serenade)

If Albanese keeps writing poetry, we just might have another Charles Bukowski on our hands.  This reviewer certainly hopes so. 

Writers will smile and groan as I did, when reading Sensory Adaptation. When the writing  stalls (‘writer’s block’ are words not allowed in this household) and the page remains blank this excerpt of poetry rings with all the frustration and truth we writers feel at times.

Sensory Adaptation ©

Tick-tock, tick-tock
The page is still blank
Writing at the dining room
table
I hear the clock in the family
room to my left
Tick-tock, tick-tock
I hear the clock in the living
room to my right
I hear the clock in the family
room to my left, ticking
at opposing half-seconds
Tick-tick, tock-tock
Tick-tick, tock-tock
120 per minute
30 minutes
3,600 ticks
All I see is white
The cursor blinks
Tick-blink-tick
Tock-blink-tock…

Joe told me, “I allow myself to write shit, then come back and rewrite slightly less shit. Repeat until not shit.” In my opinion, he doesn’t publish work that still contains shit, only distilled…wonderful…poetry.
 
I am looking forward to interviewing Joe soon.
To Purchase 
Release date, January 15th
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  MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Book Review ~ The Best of Us by Robyn Carr

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5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Review

 

Robyn Carr writes with a casual flaire that makes the reader feel like they’re sitting in a comfy chair, by a crackling fire, wearing warm socks.

I am a huge fan of the Sullivan’s Crossing series and this latest contribution is a winner. At least three love stories are woven together like a fine tapestry in The Best of Us. Catching up to what’s been happening to the recurring characters in her stories is like running into some good friends  you haven’t seen in a while. While a new character drives the whole story when she meets and falls for Rob Shandon, the pub owner.

And the writing is without a misstep. A perfect blend of encounters, conflicts, reunions and  happy endings. Bubbling along like a happy creek, you hardly know you’ve finished the book and are left wanting the next in the series….right now!

Released January 8th so get your copy now!

Did you miss my Interview with Robyn? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Interview with author, Molly Gloss

TS. Molly likes to brag (just a little) that on her mother’s side, she’s fourth generation Oregonian, from German immigrants. On her father’s side she’s fourth-generation Texan, as her great grandmother  was the first white child born in Irion County, Texas. She is widowed with one son and was recently blessed with a new grandson!  She says, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how magical this would be?! Oh, right, they did tell me, I just wasn’t listening!” She’s been writing full-time since  1980. “I’m a slow writer, but I’ve managed to eke out six novels and about 20 short stories.” She currently lives in Portland, Ore. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

Writing….

MG. I like to be comfortable. I wrote The Jump-Off Creek in longhand while sitting in my favorite overstuffed chair. When desktop computers became the thing, I wrote while sitting at a desk, but I never loved it, and now I write on a laptop, sitting on the living room sofa with my feet propped up on an ottoman and the laptop literally in my lap.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MG. Nope. I open the file I’m working on, reread the last few pages, and go to work wrestling with the next sentence. But I do have to have my favorite Roget’s Thesaurus close to hand. And also The American Thesaurus of Slang. Good for finding just the right period-perfect term for historical fiction.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MG. I have never lived on the “dry side” of the West where many of my novels and stories are set. I grew up on the “wet side” and live here still, in a suburban townhouse at the edge of Portland.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

MG. I try to write from post-breakfast to pre-dinner, with a short break for lunch, but that schedule can vary greatly now that I live alone and have no children or husband or dog to contend with. Now sometimes I surprise myself by writing late at night. But it’s a sad irony that I do have more trouble sticking to a set schedule now that I have more time to write. When I had a family at home and had to keep up the housework, the grocery shopping, the gardening, making meals, etc, I was more disciplined about squeezing my writing into the available time. Now I’ve become a procrastinator!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MG. Speaking of which! I’m not the best person to give this advice, as I’ve become a terrible procrastinator myself, horribly addicted to the lure of the internet. I had to go away to a place without wifi in order to finish my last novel. Perhaps that’s my advice? Disconnect from wifi!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MG. More often than not, a new character arises out of research for a previous novel. In researching for The Jump-Off Creek, which is a novel about a single woman homesteader, I came upon Teresa Jordan’s book of oral histories, COWGIRLS: WOMEN OF THE AMERICAN WEST, and there for the first time heard about young girls traveling the countryside breaking horses during the nineteen-tens, and my character Martha Lessen in THE HEARTS OF HORSES arose out of that research. And then while I was researching the history of horse training for that novel, I fell into a cache of material about how horses were trained (and misused) in the Western movies of the 1930s, and that was the beginning of my character Bud Frazer, a Hollywood stunt rider in FALLING FROM HORSES.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

MG. I’ve always wanted to write. I was a voracious reader and I think I’ve often been driven by a desire to write the story I couldn’t find on the library shelves.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MG.They are intertwined. The character doesn’t exist for me until I know what sort of situation they are in. And the situation doesn’t mean anything to me unless I can see how it impacts a particular person.

Don’t miss Part two of this Interview on January 25th
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss. February:  Patrick Canning and March: Poet, Joe Albanese
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New Journal for Your Baby & You

   My Baby & Me ~~~  A Journal for new Mommies and Moms-to-be

 

This journal is for you, Mother-to-Be. To write your thoughts and your feelings for your unborn child. Maybe write a few letters to your baby.

Pregnant women and new mothers inspired this author to create a journal just for them. To record their thoughts and dreams. What they first thought when they found out they were pregnant. What they experienced when they first felt their baby move. What the mother thought when she held her baby for the first time. There are wonderful quotes about pregnancy and motherhood on each page. There are pages where the mother can write letters to her unborn child. Two hundred-fifty+ lined blank pages just for you, Mom.

Great Gift idea!!

Available at all Book stores and online

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and February:  Patrick Canning.
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