Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Palenque Archeological Site and Why I Won't Go There Again

Bruce and I never made it to Guatemala's Tikal, the largest Maya ruins in Central America. We were determined not to miss Palenque in Mexico, considered to be a very large and important site in Chiapas, Mexico, and although not as large as Tikal, comparable to it.


We had visited other Maya ruins in both Guatemala and Chiapas. All the sites we'd been to before had been peaceful, tranquil settings, where I wanted to just sit and bask in the feelings of these ancient cities. We supposed we'd have a similar experience upon visiting Palenque, although on a grander and more glorious scale, making us really excited about the trip.



How surprised I was to find that Palenque was the opposite. No sooner did I step foot on the land than I had a compelling desire to leave. But we had traveled many miles to get here. My restless emotional state seemed silly. Nonetheless, I couldn't relax. I started walking and just kept going as fast as I could through the park, hardly stopping to look at the buildings.



People were climbing steps and wandering through the palaces on top of the structures. All I could do was follow the pathways around and through the site, giving just a quick glance around. Bruce wanted to go slowly and take photos, while I wanted to walk far and fast as quickly as possible. We agreed to meet at a central location in an hour and a half, at 11 am.

He took all the photos while I felt the frantic urge to just get away.



After thirty minutes I was done, wishing we'd set up our meeting time for earlier. I walked around the edge of the park to kill another thirty minutes, then wandered toward our meeting place hoping I'd run into Bruce.



At last I saw him with his ever present backpack and cowboy hat making his way down the stairs of one of the structures. I walked across the grassy area towards him, thinking how nice it was that we'd found each other ahead of schedule. I visualized the two of us running across the field in a joyous reunion.

On the contrary, Bruce plopped down heavily on the bottom step of the edifice. I couldn't bring myself to go to the structures I'd been avoiding for the past hour and sat down on a stump in the field. We were within shouting distance of each other so we conversed in loud voices.

"Are you ready to go?" I hollered.

"Almost, just need to rest a bit. I'm really tired," he said back in barely a whisper.

"What? I can't hear you."

He repeated himself loud enough for me to hear. A young couple walking hand in hand nearby must have thought we were crazy. Why were we shouting? Why not just sit together? What was wrong with us?

Always sensitive to what people were thinking about me, I forced myself to get up and go sit next to him. He told me how tired he was, how heavy his nearly empty backpack felt on his shoulders, how he had to rest a bit, then he'd be ready to leave.

Finally, we got out of there. Later, we reflected on our varied experiences. He had felt this strange, unbearable exhaustion and heaviness after exploring the structures, especially the tunnel pictured below. I'd felt an inexplicable need to get away. There were several other strange occurrences that I won't go into.
Picture of darkness 
In the end, our conclusion was that bad things must have happened in this area those many centuries ago.

Anyone who wants to know more about Palenque can easily find information online. What I'm sharing is not ancient history but personal history, how the two of us felt very negative vibes coming from this place. A place I never want to visit ever again.

Has this sort of thing ever happened to you, where you felt terribly uncomfortable in an environment for no sensible reason?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Remodeling & Modernizing a Website

The WiDo Publishing website is getting a remodel! I'm as excited as if it were my house. The designer asked me to send her links of sites I like What a super fun little task!

I LOVE looking at publishing and author websites. It's like an obsession of mine. My favorite designs are sleek and streamlined, without clutter, without a lot of movement and easy to navigate. The WiDo website hasn't had any significant change for years. It's due for a facelift.

Still, I'm nervous. I don't want to lose the tone and temperament of it, since it clearly represents what our company is about. So many of our authors have mentioned the WiDo website as a motivating force in submitting to us.

“After viewing their website, I discovered they had an approach to books that very much matched my own – books that tell good stories!" --Ruth Fox

 "WiDo had a large number of women authors in their list. I felt from reading the website that WiDo editors would 'get' this collection, which is a deeply personal book.” --Patty Somlo

“My book is too special to me to be looked at like a product. WiDo takes a personal approach to its books and that really appeals to me." --Melissa Palmer

"When I read the WiDo mission statement, I felt as if the editors were reading my mind, so I knew I had to submit." --Donelle Dreese

“As I browsed in the fiction section of a local bookstore, I picked up a book published by a company called WiDo. I remember admiring the beautiful cover. I searched WiDo’s website, and read editor Karen Jones Gowen’s article, ‘A New Renaissance in Literature.’ Karen’s philosophy matches my own thoughts. She even mentioned William Tyndale, a hero of mine." --Carol Pratt Bradley

“I did my research and narrowed my short list down to two small publishers with beautiful, amazing books and authors who loved to work with them. " --C.R. Asay

“I have studied literally hundreds of publisher websites over the years, and since submission via email is now the norm, the state of the website is of crucial importance for writers looking to submit. So, when I found the WiDo website, not only was it a pleasure exploring its different components, but I was impressed with the straightforward, unfussy submissions guidelines.” --Rebecca Lloyd

Reading these quotes along with those of other excellent authors who submit based on their positive impressions from our website, and one can understand why I feel nervous about changing it. 

But it feels like the time is right. I'm excited to see what the designer comes up with!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Creative Pause

I don't believe in "writer's block." Although of course there are days when one's creativity is in full swing and others when it seems to disappear, when the writing doesn't go well for whatever reason.

I like to think of those periods as a pause in creativity. No block. Nothing I can't change when I'm good and ready, just a slight pause.

There's plenty to do when it happens, things that are part of a writer's work. Update the website. Read articles about the publishing business. Stay involved on social media. Organize files. Read books!

One nice thing about a creative pause is feeling like a normal person instead of a slave to whatever book is after you, pushing itself to get written. You can relax and enjoy life instead of agonizing over every "wasted" moment not spent writing.

Writer's block has negative connotations. The creative pause is rather nice. It can be a welcome respite from the intense productivity that comes when creativity is in its fullness with its prodding, pushing, unrelentless attack on your time, talents and energy.

No need to dread the creative pause, is what I tell myself. Welcome and embrace it, enjoy it, make the most of it. Like all good things, it will come to an end in its own good time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Memoir Review: ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces

…At age nineteen, Dorit Sasson, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was trying to make the status quo work as a college student―until she realized that if she didn’t distance herself from her neurotic, worrywart of a mother, she would become just like her.

This book caught my interest. I'm reviewing ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER as part of the WOW blog tour.

Paperback:  337 pages
Genre:  Memoir
Publisher:  She Writes Press (June 14, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1631520350
ISBN-13: 978-1631520358
Amazon Link: click here


Book Summary:
At age nineteen, Dorit Sasson, a dual American-Israeli citizen, was trying to make the status quo work as a college student―until she realized that if she didn’t distance herself from her neurotic, worrywart of a mother, she would become just like her.

Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces is Sasson’s story of how she dropped out of college and volunteered for the Israel Defense Forces in an effort to change her life―and how, in stepping out of her comfort zone and into a war zone, she discovered courage and faith she didn’t know she was capable of.

My review of ACCIDENTAL SOLDIER

Dorit's relationship with her mother is the motivating force for her decision to join the Israel Defense Forces, although her father's influence was a strong part of it as well. Her Israeli-born father, divorced from her mother and remarried, realizes if Dorit doesn't do something to break the unhealthy psychological ties with her mother, she may turn out just like her.

The mother in Dorit's story is a minor character in some ways, yet looms huge throughout the book due to her influence on Dorit. The mother is actually fascinating, one of those kinds of people you can't imagine functions in real life, yet you want to know every detail. If Dorit ever writes a memoir about her mother's life, that would be one not to miss.


Once Dorit is in Israel, my favorite parts of the book were her descriptions about the country and people. I found it interesting how she felt safe there, like the whole country had her back. And the citizens love their IDF, feeling like this strong group of committed soldiers has their back. 


Altogether, this memoir has a fascinating dynamic, going from the dysfunctional family life Dorit experiences in New York City, to kibbutz life as an eighteen-year-old, and at last breaking into a strong independent adult as a member of the IDF. 

About the Author:  Dorit Sasson writes for a wide range of print and online publications, including The Huffington Post and The Writer, and speaks at conferences, libraries, and community centers. She is the author of the a featured chapter in Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, the latest installment of that best-selling series, and. She is the host of the global radio show "Giving Voice to Your Courageous Story." She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children.



Find Dorit Sasson Online:


Twitter:  @VoicetoStory



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How It Used to Be for Women Writers

I went through a spell of reading books that were highly acclaimed back in the 1950s and 1960s. They were ones I had missed reading since in the 1950s I was a kid reading Nancy Drew and Beverly Cleary.

In the Sixties when I was in high school, my favorite books were Les Miserables, Great Expectations and David Copperfield. I loved my classics and had no interest in the current fiction of the day back then.

I won't name the books or writers I read during my recent catch-up phase. They were all extremely well-regarded, prize-winning novels by famous literary people.

And I could barely stomach them, giving me much fodder to reflect on how much the literary culture has changed since those days of the 1950s through the 1970s. And thank heavens for that.

As managing editor at WiDo, I can say unequivocally that if any one of those prize-winning novels had come to us as a submission, we'd have turned it down flat. They were that bad.

Hardly any story, themes that made no sense, unlikable characters. No heart, no soul. Yet these books and their famous authors were such a big deal back then.

In fifty plus years, the world of books is completely different. To me, that's a very good thing. I'm so thankful I got busy with marriage and children and didn't try to have a career in those days as a novelist. I'd have been shot down so bad I may have never recovered.

Women writers didn't fare too well in that era except in the romance genre. The literary giants were largely all men.

Women with literary aspirations instead would often attach themselves to literary men--college professors, published poets, playwrights and novelists--and the women would write their poetry, essays and stories, maybe teach and maybe get published in little literary magazines or win an award now and then.

What I did was write children's stories and sell them to magazines for kids. Not exactly literary aspirations but it kept me in the game.

Joyce Carol Oates was different. She is one of my heroes and favorite writers of all time. I'm not sure how much her books made though, compared to men writers of the same era. She continued working throughout her career as a college professor rather than going full time as a writer. Either she loved to teach or she needed the financial security it provided, who can say.

JK Rowling, still using her initials since the publisher didn't figure the book would sell if people thought the author was a woman, changed all that. She gave women writers a voice.

Every woman writing and publishing today owes a debt of gratitude to JK Rowling. She opened up the era of publishers actually believing women could write outside of the romance genre and do it very, very well.

On the heels of the Harry Potter phenomenon came the Kindle revolution, further giving women an outlet for their work via self-publishing. The Kindle revolution along with POD publishing also provided the means for many small publishers like WiDo to remain profitable.

Many of these small publishers have overwhelmingly embraced female authors, and given older women a chance as well. One of WiDo's bestselling books is In the Mirror: A Memoir of Shattered Secrets by Ann Carbine Best, published when Ann was 72.

Now books written by women rule the bestseller lists. For those of us my age who clearly remember the way it used to be, this is pretty awesome.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Addicted to Netflix

Every evening after a long day of whatever I get all excited for one thing: the next 2 hours of Netflix. So much to choose from! No commercials! English or Spanish? Comedy or Drama? Film or TV series? British or US or novella from Spain?

Forget reading a book. My eyes are strained from looking at words much of the day. I want my stories mainlined into my brain via Netflix.

Image result for king edward viii and wallis simpson
Last night we watched W.E., the movie about the "romance of the century" between King Edward and Wallis Simpson. It inspired us to research further into this tale and see if it really was a romance. What was the real story behind the story?

See how my Netflix addiction adds to my body of knowledge of history and the world?

Then we end our evening with something soothing, like Animal Fight Club, where we can see a variety of animals battling to the death with their opponents of the same species, usually over food or mating rights.

What interesting things have you been watching on Netflix lately? Any suggestions???


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wall Art of Comitan

Comitan is a great walking city. There are wide sidewalks stretching off into interesting places, and often hordes of other people around strolling, shopping, visiting. My husband and I have been all over town and not once felt anything but safe. He takes his camera when he goes and especially enjoys taking pictures of the wall art that's everywhere.

I thought I'd post a few of my favorites. This leopard is the winner, followed by the snake. The leopard is regal and majestic, the snake just cute and friendly.



It's amazing to me how an artist can paint on such a large canvas as a wall, with great detail that one has to move far away to appreciate. How do they do it? And when do they do it? I've never seen anyone painting the walls, then one day it's done.


I'm glad the authorities don't go around arresting or fining anyone, or painting over their work. The artists don't get anything for their creations except the joy of doing it for public display. For the joy it gives them and gives those who see it as they go around town.


The scene below is painted on a wall in a children's park. It's so sweet and charming, illustrating the culture of an earlier time.


Ending with another depiction of an earlier era, the Aztec culture. We lived among the Mayan culture in Guatemala. Mexico is land of the Aztecs. They are much friendlier these days, thank goodness. And the food is amazing.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Our Guatemala Experience

I'm currently working on a book about our Guatemala experience. We sold everything we had, moved to Guatemala and stayed there two years. Right now we live in Mexico, and yet Guatemala is fresh on my mind. I can't write fast enough. There's so much that happened to us, so much to write about.

I published a blog post on my website, an excerpt from the book, here. They say writing a memoir is painful. I certainly felt that with my self-help memoir, as I wrote about on my last post

I'm not feeling that kind of pain with this new project. Mostly just an urgency to get it all down before the memories fade away.





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

End of That Misery, Moving On

I can’t tell you how excited I am that today, launch day, ends the journey with my latest book, the self-help memoir Slim Within: 4 Rules of Eating 4 Permanent Weight Loss. There will be a blog tour coming later, and the usual marketing efforts here and there, but the creative part is done.

There are some books I've written that are difficult to let go of. This wasn’t one of them. Writing it and revisiting my past issues with weight and food and dieting was extremely painful.

These problems had been solved--all in the distant past--things I barely give a thought to anymore. Yet in order to write about them, I had to dig it all up. I was surprised by my emotional reaction to this process.

Still, I’m very proud of Slim Within, that I stuck it out and wrote the book. I'd like it to be a success but even if it isn’t one bit, writing it was something I really wanted and needed to do. I’m glad I wrote it and glad I’m done! 


For more information, go here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Expecting the Unexpected?

Two things happened to me today that were completely unexpected. Well, three if you count my husband washing all the dishes while I was out. And it's not even my birthday!



Then there was a letter WiDo's submission editor sent to me, concerning her rewrite and resubmit request to a prospective author. Although he seemed very eager to publish with WiDo, his manuscript had a few major flaws that needed correcting. We've learned it's better to ask for these corrections up front before offering a contract.

Most writers are wonderful to work with in editing but some will get stubborn when it comes to changing their masterpiece.



This particular writer's email disagreed with everything suggested and clearly stated he was not interested in a rewrite and resubmit. This is his right and choice, of course, but it's always unexpected when it happens. Usually a writer will take editorial advice and work to improve the manuscript to get another chance at a contract. Most writers are happy to get suggestions from an editor outlining the strengths and weaknesses of their submission.

His negative response was unexpected. It wasn't just negative, but highly emotional, including chastising our editor for getting the spelling wrong on one of his characters' names. A real prima donna, that one was.


The other unexpected occurrence was while I'm sitting in my "study", which is a bed in front of a second-story window. A man walks right past the window. Well, hello there!

Turns out we have these very narrow balconies outside the windows and the landlord likes to send men up there now and then to clean or paint. Unexpected!

We can never really expect the unexpected, can we? Because if we do then it's no longer unexpected. Has anything unexpected happened to you lately?