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To Write or Not to Write….more Dialogue…more Description?

(Some posts deserve another airing. Thought I’d share this again from July, 2013)
Most of the authors that I have interviewed are avid readers like myself.  We seem to all agree that is what makes us better writers.   I was reading Caroline Leavitt’s,  ‘Is This Tomorrow’  and it struck me how very different our writing styles are.  Caroline writes pages of beautiful, meaningful description with a few lines of dialogue.  Much like Edna Ferber did.

My fiction has tons of dialogue (probably as a result of my being a playwright) and just enough description to set the time, location and who my characters are.  I have to repeatedly check myself to make certain that I am giving my readers enough description.

Why am I telling you about this?  I need to be sure that you realize that there is no WRONG way.  If you tend to write in story telling form, a narrative, that’s great!  If, like me, you write a lot of dialogue and let that method tell the reader what your characters are doing, what the weather is like, who just showed up at the house, who she/he is in love with, who died, (well, you get the idea).  That’s okay too.

Aspire to write better every day….but don’t worry about your ‘style’, if it turns out that an author you really respect writes differently than you do.  It’s a DIFFERENT style but that doesn’t mean that your writing style is wrong.  Or that their writing is right.  It’s just about style, and what we feel comfortable writing.

If you are more a descriptive writer be certain that you keep your paragraphs short.  Don’t ramble on and on in one paragraph.  The eye of the reader needs a rest.  


 And double, triple check your grammar!   

Available Now!

Want To Publish Your Book?

NEWLY RELEASED!      I’ve just finished some final editing on my latest “How To…” book and it is now available on and all other book outlets.

I’ve tried to create a handbook that will lead the writer, step-by-step through the self-publishing world.  Topics such as picking the right size for your book to advice on choosing a title. Manuscript formatting tips to  recommending self-publishing programs. From royalties to creating a dynamic cover for your book. And much, much more.  

This book is available at your favorite book store and on-line. 








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Nora Roberts Land by Ava Miles ~~ Book Review

2 out of 5 stars     ~~   Book Review

I ordered more books by this author (hope it was not a mistake) based on the first one I had read. This offering Nora Roberts Land ruined a pretty good story.  The author kept referring to book titles by Nora Roberts and the protagonists of each story. It became very distracting, very quickly.  It smacked of: ‘See how clever I am to know all these titles and their heroes?‘  

I first suspected that this was an indie published book because the formatting was all wonky.  That’s the first clue that an author self publishes. That’s not a bad thing but the author should do their very best at formatting.  The ‘justify’ margin selection would have solved many of the wonky right margins found in this book. It was obvious to me that she had used the ‘left’ margin key. Very distracting. 

The characters were a little shallow. The plot was okay but with the many references to Nora Roberts’ characters it came across as CORNY. 
The sex scenes were lascivious rather than salacious or  scintillating. 

I never finished this book. An unheard-of thing for me.  I usually stick to the bitter end. 

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    August: Veronica Henry, October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews
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The Jenny Colgan Month ~~ Author Extraordinaire!

TS. Jenny Colgan, a Scottish lass, has a unique voice as a writer….quirky, fresh and bright. She left university in the 90s and started working for the NHS in administration, whilst always loving comedy and working on ‘funny things’- cartooning, a bit of stand up (horrible and very nerve-wracking); sketch writings and so on. She went on to write my first novel, Amanda’s Wedding, as a comedy novel and she was surprised when it got published. She’s gone on to write around 35 novels…she says she’s lost count. 

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.

JC. I work in coffee shops, or I did before the pandemic. I like the white noise, the sense of life happening all around you; I like that you can’t stay there too long or it’s rude, and I like that they bring you a sandwich. In fact I’m just about to head off to my nearest one, which has a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle and lets me take my dog in.

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.)

JC. No I think that kind of thing can be very dangerous for writers, and certainly is for wannabe writers. You end up living in an isolation box, driven mad by the noise of your own fridge. Instead, be a soldier about it and learn how to work anywhere, the way they learn to go to sleep on command.  Aeroplanes are good places to work, trains are terrific.

Once when the children were little I took them to see Chicken Run in an otherwise empty cinema. I snuck up to the back row and worked on a manuscript there. It had rather more chickens in it than my agent was expecting, but otherwise it worked absolutely fine. If I turn up ten minutes to pick up the kids from school, I can get 500 words in if I have to. Momentum is very important to novelists, so clear anything that can hold you up, like thinking you need a special notebook or whatever.

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

All written by Jenny

JC. I find writing quite easy, but I find playing the piano very difficult. I probably spend about as much time playing piano and worrying about it as I do thinking about my books.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

JC. Sometimes I like to sketch my characters to get a view for what they look like and what they’re doing. If I’m a bit stuck, I’ll start drawing. I also keep a file of pictures from actors, people in the news who look a bit like my characters in my head. Otherwise it’s straight to the keyboard, wordcount at the ready. I’ll write 2,500 in a sitting or 3000 divided into two sittings depending on where I am with deadlines.

Perfect son, perfect dog

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

JC. Yeah, about 11.30am I like to start. So I have time in the morning to drink coffee, read the internet, get the kids to school, walk the dogs and take some exercise, shower, practice my scales. I’ll work till about 2 ish depending on how the word count is going.



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

Join us, May 14th,  for Part 2 of this wonderful Interview

Watch for my reviews!

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What Does It Look Like?…..From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

write, create, writing, authors, blogRecently a fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  

My first novel, Women Outside the Walls began as a full length play.  I used my play script my book outline/treatment.  As the scenario was so current (because it was a play), I found that flashbacks were a great way to flesh out each woman’s story and it served me well.

It took me a year and four months to write it, format it and edit it. That equals 72,000 words.

I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper. I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering ‘D’ is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations).   I had 8 pages of a new play, about Winston Churchill, written and  had to stop to do research. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.


And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.   This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me.   

(Originally published January, 2013.)


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Interview with Sci-fi Author, Lee Matthew Goldberg

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in many other publications.  He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

LMG. When the weather is nice, I normally write at a tree in Central Park. I’ve written all my books there. It helps me to be in fresh air and around nature, especially living in NYC. So, usually I’m there from April through November. My dream work space would be having my own backyard or even a terrace to write. If we’re already fantasizing, a terrace overlooking Central Park would be pretty great. I’ll have to sell a lot more books to get that, though.

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.)

LMG. Not really. I try to put away my phone so I won’t be distracted. And I write best when I’m in nature. All I need is my laptop. Sometimes I listen to music, but not as much as I used to. Living in New York, the energy of the city really inspires me, but I also need the quiet of nature. I’ll sit on the grass, take off my socks and shoes, and usually spend most afternoons writing that way.

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

LMG. I love to travel. It helps inspire me. This past year has been difficult without traveling, so I’ve had to find inspiration in other ways. Oftentimes, I work travel into my writing. A book I was working on took place in the jungles of the Amazon so I traveled there once for research. It helped immensely because it would’ve been very hard to write about the jungle without experiencing it firsthand: the sounds, the smells, the feel. It would’ve come off phony to me. Part of another one of my books took place in Morocco, so I went there as well.

Release date: March 16th

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

LMG. Sometimes I outline first, but usually on the computer too. Once I have a chapter outline set up, I begin. Although, the book has likely marinated in my head for a while by then. It could be in my head for years before I start writing. With very early ideas I used to jot them down in a notepad, or sometimes I would even call my voicemail if I was out and had a great idea. Now I use the Notepad app, which makes it so much easier to jot down ideas.

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

LMG. I’m best in the afternoons, so 1pm – 5pm is my ideal writing time. I’ll edit what I wrote the day before in the mornings and sometimes at night. Again, since I work outside a lot it’s usually the best time to catch the light.

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

LMG. Set a work schedule that works for you. Try to find inspiration. Don’t force it too much if it’s not there. Resist your phone and going online. Find a space that you can be the most productive. Also, it’s important to find people in your life that can give you honest feedback. Early on in my career before I was really published, it meant so much to have friends and other writers give notes. Sometimes people you know who are just good readers can give the best advice. My parents were always very supportive in my writing growing up so I had them read drafts of early works.

Join us for Part II of this insightful Interview

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig,
January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg
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How To Format a Novel

The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. Something with poor readability probably won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for the reader’s first impression, interior design can’t be overlooked.

Here are 12 tips on how your self-published novel should appear.  I have recently come across a few new authors who have published new fiction and their book ended up looking very amateurish and hard to read. 

Tip #1. Beginning Pages. The important pages such as title page, dedication, and tags extracted from reviews of the book, should be assigned an ‘odd‘ numbered page. The less important content, such as Copyright Notice, a list of the author’s other books and Acknowledgements should appear on’ even‘ numbered pages.  Not to worry if you have a ‘blank’ page on the left (even numbered) opposite the title page, for example. Once your book is built, it will look normal.

Sample. Title Page: (text centered and nicely spaced on page). 

                                            Angel of Murder  (minimum of 20 pt. font)

                                               (4-5 spaces between)


                                               by   (10 pt. font)

                                       Trisha Sugarek      (12 pt. font)


        Book #4 in the World of Murder series (12 pt. font)

Tip #2. Many new authors (as I spoke of above) have neglected to have a ‘Copyright Notice’ page. This is what it looks like. It is very important as it puts all plagiarists on notice that this content is owned by you, the author.  Note: If you quote anyone in your book you should give them a line of credit.
Sample:  (Text should be centered on the page). 
                                         Notice (double space)
Copyright (c) 2020 Trisha Sugarek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Author. Printed in the United States of America. For information contact author at The Library of Congress has catalogued the soft cover edition of this book as follows: Sugarek, Trisha, The Writer’s Journal/Trisha Sugarek – This is a journal/handbook. The suggestions and tips are solely the opinion of the author. The quotes were taken from various publications and the author takes no responsibility for the accuracy.

                                    Made in the USA ISBN-13: 9798669379384

                                    Poetry and ink drawings by Trisha Sugarek

                                   Cover and Layout Design by David White

                  To view all of the author’s fiction and play scripts go to:

Tip #3.  Layout of first few pages:  A quick way to see what I am describing is to pick up any novel by a known, published author and see the layout of the first few pages. For the most part Publishers use the same order and layout. ‘Acknowledgements’ (odd numbered page) can be placed in the front pages or at the end, in the back.  This is a list of people or organizations that have assisted you.

Sample: (centered text)


My friend and beta reader, Doug Johnson, whose insights, feedback and encouragement made this a better story.
My wonderful narrator/producer, Daniel Dorse, who helps me take these stories to Audio Books.
The Chatham County Coroner’s office.
And the many police and crime scene experts who share their time and knowledge so generously with me while writing this series.

Tip #4. Each chapter should be on an odd numbered page. The word ‘Chapter‘ can be used, however I’ve noticed that more and more authors are just using the number of the chapter or spelling out the number (One, Two, Three, etc). Placement is arbitrary;  I like to space down 5-7 spaces.  I use a 16-18 size font, and it should be centered. I often times use a different font style for chapter headings. Text should follow after a double space, when beginning new paragraphs.  Paragraphs shouldn’t be too long. 8,10, maximum of 12 lines is when you should begin a new paragraph. I’ve seen authors go up to as many as 22. Of course, content and a natural break also dictates a new paragraph.

Tip #5: Your contact information should never appear on the interior except if you are submitting it to a agent, publisher, etc. (That’s a whole different subject; submitting your ms.)  You can list your website address and/or your email address.

Tip #6:  Pages should be numbered and numbering should begin with the first chapter page. Pages preceding this should not be numbered. Page numbers can be created automatically by using your header or footer feature. Your name, as author, should be on each even numbered page and the title of the book should be on odd numbered pages, in the header. 

Tip #7: Separation between sentences: Single space. For submission, read their guidelines; they require 1.5 to double spaced (for easier reading) but never single spaced.

Tip #8: Indentation of paragraphs: You can set this up using:  Home, the ‘Paragraph’ tab; the arrow to the right:   will open the menu. Alignment: Justified. Do not choose ‘left’ or ‘right’ but rather, Choose ‘Special’. Set it at ‘First line‘ 0.3 or 0.5.  Click on ‘Set As Default’ and then ‘This Document only?’  Yes.

Tip #9: When to Start a New Chapter:  Simply put a new chapter is usually begun when the physical location has changed or when the POV (point of view) has changed. Almost never start a new chapter between sentences between the same characters. It breaks the flow of the story and interrupts the reader’s concentration.  I recently read a new author’s self published book that 323 pages and 111 chapters. ONE HUNDRED-ELEVEN chapters! 

Tip #10: Word count:  A full length novel is 80,000 words and up.  A novella or cozy is approximately 37 to 40,000.  A short story is about 5,000-10,000 words. 

Tip #11: If your page arrangement causes you to have a blank odd numbered page that seems awkward:  Put another title page on it.  I just finished reading a Robert B. Parker mystery where they use 3 title pages before I got to the first chapter. So as you can see, there is no hard and fast rule.  

Tip #12:  Use 12 point,  New Times Roman as the font. Single space the entire chapter. There are no double spacing between paragraphs.-


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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

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 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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A Slice of Time….How to Write a Ten Minute Play

I always see the script (for a 10 minute play) as a slice of time. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was a slice of time before the event that prompted me writing the play. ‘Parkland Requiem’ was during  the event, that is the massacre that happened at Parkland’s high school. We all know what happened immediately after the shooting and not much before the shooting other than it was a normal day of  families getting ready for the day and hopeful young people hurrying off to school. 

For me, the writer, it’s like walking into a room where people are having a conversation (without you) and you are plunged into the story from there.

None of the rules of writing change when writing a ten minute play, just because it’s short. You must still have a beginning, an arc, and an ending(of sorts). You have to introduce the characters through dialogue quickly and concisely. You must attract the empathy of the audience with record speed. Remember, you only have ten minutes.

How do I know when I have ten minutes? Here’s some tips: The typical rule is a page equals one minute.  If a page is heavy with blocking, (movement) it will usually go longer than a minute. If you have a page that is solid with dialogue and movement you can rely on the 1 page = 1 minute. And leave lots of white space; an actor will need some space to write in blocking, from the director, and notes while in rehearsal. 

Check out my many “Motivational Moments for Writers” in past posts. 
Want to try your hand at writing a ten minute play? This journal is a great place to start. 
Want to see more of my ten minute plays? Click here 

Do you need help Formatting a Novel? 

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Improve Your Creative Writing Skills

Adam Durnham shares his article on improving creative writing skills with us. 

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills
by Contributing Writer, 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 backstory, 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 backstory 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.

Did you miss my post on how to Format a Novel?

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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