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Category: Fiction

What I’m Currently Reading

Starting a writing career involves a lot of sitting down and well…writing, but one must also keep the well fully stocked with new images and new ideas.  I do this in a few ways – movies and TV shows (because I’m visual like that), listening to music (because music feeds my soul in a way that other things do not), and reading books.  Here are a few of the books I’ve either just finished or are currently reading in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories.  Note about the non-fiction though, these are writing related or personal development type books, not the non-fiction books my husband likes to read, which are usually about a founding father or a war of some sort.  


I just finished two amazing books recently.  Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Order of Omega by Kirsten Martin. Both are YA books but one is a coming of age story and the other is sci-fi/fantasy.  Julie Murphy’s book is becoming a movie soon (with NEW Dolly Parton music!!!) and Kirsten Martin’s book is the 2nd in a Trilogy called The Alpha Drive.  I actually just started the 3rd book (Restitution) the other night.  Dumplin’ was traditionally published, while The Alpha Drive trilogy is being self-published.  I follow both authors on various social media channels and, actually, Kristen’s YouTube channel has been an amazing help to me during my own writing and publishing journey over the last few months.  

Lately, I’ve been trying to read more indie published books, especially other YA (Young Adult) books but Dumplin’ caught my eye (and I believe was in a BookBub special) because of the mostly black cover. The only thing in the very middle is a plus-sized girl in a red dress and big blonde hair (this is small and in cartoon form) and I was like – who is this character?  Since the next step after finalizing revisions of my own novel is choosing and working with a cover designer, I’ve been paying more attention to covers.

I recommend both of these books – and I would highly recommend reading Dumplin’ before seeing the movie.  If you like sci-fi/fantasy books then The Alpha Drive is a fast-paced trilogy with a complex protagonist who is trying her hardest to save her friends and family from an evil organization.   I have quite the long list of To Be Read under this section – most are already on my Kindle, but if something pops up in my inbox (I get a lot of author’s newsletters) or in a BookBub special I’ll most likely add it to the pile.  


I just finished Prosperity for Writers (along with the workbook) by Honoree Corder and I’m currently knee deep in Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.  Prosperity for Writers was very eye-opening in terms of mindset, which I talked about a few weeks back, and how I view money and the process of making money, spending money, and the whole myth of the starving artist.  This tied in quite nicely with Write. Publish. Repeat as the authors of this book are also of the mindset that writers can make money, in fact, can make good money, as long as they are producing quality products (books) and lots of them.  I’m barely 1/3 of the way through and it can be quite overwhelming because they give you a ton of info so I put it down quite often and read other things and then come back to absorb some more.

I consider my writing a career, a new career sure (and very young) but I am trying to think of this like a business and myself a businesswoman.  This is not easy for me, it doesn’t come naturally so reading these books are helpful, but they are also filled with new decisions, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. I’ll be honest, I get burnt out or down on myself so I like having a few different books in slightly different categories to bounce around in. So, in that vein, I also have quite a big To Be Read pile under this category as I have books about publishing, marketing, and some health&wellness type self-help books too.

Do any of these sound interesting to you?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you use an eReader or tablet to read on or do you like what I call Dead Tree Books? (I call them that because I personally detest the REAL book label – I read a real book, even if it wasn’t printed on paper and I’m currently writing a real book even if my readers read it on an eDevice of some sort – a small pet peeve of mine!)  Do you like self-help type non-fiction or more of the civil war/Benjamin Franklin biopics type non-fiction? Let me know what you’re currently reading and give me some ideas for my ever-growing reading list.  Thanks!

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Bad Poetry 2: Electric Boogaloo

It’s round two of Bad Poetry! The last time I did this (read that here) I got a few family and friends asking me, “These were great…they weren’t bad, why did you call it that?” Here’s the reason: I don’t know what I’m doing, really. I studied some poetry in High School and College – how to read it, how to act it out, how to think about it as a reader and performer, but never how to write it. I wasn’t an English major in college and then when I did start writing, it was always novels or articles – never poetry. But it’s fun to play around with words and types of poetry (like Haiku!) and imagery in a different way. This is why I label it Bad Poetry…not because they suck (although they might) but because I have no idea if they can even all be called poetry. I’m just having fun, so enjoy!

The System is Down, Yo

Internet is out
No Netflix, Hulu, YouTube
What to do for fun?

An Ode to Staples

Notebooks and pens and highlighters galore.
Colored pencils, markers, crayons and more.
Aisles and aisles of envelopes, binders, paper, and ink.
Music above, rain outside, lights that glow an odd shade of pink.
I make my choices, carefully picking supplies.
And ring them all up and head out with my prize. 


My mind never stops, the words are swirling and the voices are drowning out my own thoughts. Happiness is always just a bit out of reach. I stretch, I strain, but I can’t seem to grab it for very long. I brush it with my fingertips, linger in the warm sunny delight of it, but then just as quick it’s gone again. Slammed into darkness, surrounded by ugly horrible images. Pictures that I don’t want to see. Things I don’t want to think about. Facts that I don’t even believe anymore. I am better than this. I try again. Stretch further, strain more, try to grab it one last time. Maybe this time it will stay.

I fall on my face. Splat! Straight down in murky water, dirt, and debris. I sit up and look around. I start feeling sorry for myself. I decide to just sit here and live, in this ditch or hole that I’ve somehow created for myself. It feels comfy…until it doesn’t. Until I start to get antsy and angry. Mad at myself, mad at the world. Mad at everyone that looks happy.

I try smiling. I try singing. But nothing works for long. I finally try talking. I talk and talk and talk and cry and scream and somehow the clouds part and the sun appears, and I see it. Happiness floating toward me. I hold out my hands and it lands softly. I throw it around me like a blanket. I feel warm and light. It won’t always be this easy, but for now…right now. It is.

Growing Up

Going to school and riding the bus, you seem so big.

Helping me pack your snack and getting dressed, you seem so big.
Homework and reading, you seem so big.

But then, at night, before bed when you crawl into my lap and put your head in the space between my soft body and warm arms, you look up at me and all I see is my baby. My little 8 lb 3 oz newborn who would look up me while feeding and I smile. 

You might be growing up, but you’re still little to me. 

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Character Creation 1-2-3: A Tarot Exploration

I wanted to play around with another couple of exercises from Tarot for Writers by Corinne Kenner. I call this Character Creation 1-2-3 and it’s from the section of the book on simple tarot spreads. I’m using a one card spread to give me an overall view of the character, a two card spread to give me their best and worst qualities, and then a three card spread to give me the past, present, and future for my character. 

This is just part one though, next week I want to do another exercise using tarot cards to help me create a three-act structure using 5-6 cards. Then I’m going to use all of this info (and maybe a few more cards to create the other cast of characters I’ll need) to write another short story, with Leo – my character from below – as my main guy!  If the three act structure exercise gives me a huge story, I might just write part of the story – I’ll keep you posted on that as we go. 

If you have the book, Tarot for Writers, these exercises start on page 23. I love using my tarot cards to help come up with characters, plot ideas, location ideas, and overall story ideas because they are so rich in theme, character, elements, and symbolism that you can get all sorts of ideas from each card. 

One Card Spread 

8 of Cups 
A young man, turning his back on his present. Alone at night, the full moon watching over him as he walks away from everything. He seems to be certain of his past, as he does not look behind him to see what he’s leaving behind. He knows what lies ahead, both good and bad, and he’s certain he is on the right path for him. I see a senior in high school who has decided to leave the sports world behind to pursue an academic career. Going off to college without his old friends, and maybe without his parent’s support, as he leaves behind one life for the beginnings of another. The fact that the cups are arranged so neatly, but one is missing tells me this young man feels a void in his life that he’s hoping his new path will fill.

Two Card Spread 

Best Quality – King of Cups: Thoughtful, kind, intelligent. Interested in science and the arts. Good and honest young man.

Worst Quality – Ace of Pentacles: Lost in the clouds, sort of an absent-minded professor type. Can be easily distracted by shiny things, or the newest tech. Has so many interests, it’s hard to keep track of what the newest “thing” actually is for him at any given time.

Three Card Spread 

Past – 4 of Pentacles
Present – Ace of Wands
Future – The Chariot

Once upon a time, Leo had everything that makes a high school dude popular – good looks, money, material things, sports acumen, and the perfect girlfriend but he was missing something in his life. He wanted a change, something that spoke to his intelligence and multi-interests with science and art. He applied to a prestigious college, where he hoped to study philosophy and world religions, but this idea upset many people in his life. He leaves for school in a few weeks and although he has lost people along the way, he knows that the path he is on is the right one for him. He sees himself a winner, a hero, someone that will change the world for the better – for all people. He will be a champion of human rights and help those less fortunate than him. 

So, I have a basic idea of who this guy is, what he wants for his future and what might keep him from attaining his overall goal – the shiny object syndrome, he might have trouble sticking with something for very long, even college or a higher pursuit. I’m going to flip through the Tarot for Writers book and pick some more fun writing exercises to help me with my antagonist and other characters, and – of course – the main three act structure of my story. I’ll be back with part two in a few weeks. 

If you saw these cards, how would you interpret them?  What kind of character would you have created?  If you have a deck of Tarot cards, do you use them for creativity purposes?  Divination?  Guidance?  I’d love to know. 

Behind The Scenes: Modern Art and The Art of Lying

Today I’d like to share with you another look Behind the Scenes of The Art of Lying and talk about my love for Modern Art and how it influenced my main character, Rachel.

  Rachel is a young artist on the verge of a big break and her own gallery show.  I love visiting museums and art galleries and our apartment will have plenty of art on its walls once we get fully moved in (it’s only been, like, a year – whatever).  My love for the art world, especially modern art, is one of the biggest reasons Rachel spoke to me.  When she appeared in my brain – because, for some odd reason, most of my stories start with the main character first – I knew she was an artist immediately.  It was the thing that identified her so clearly, her whole persona.  It’s what made me so excited to start this novel, and what has kept me working on her and it for years.  (YEARS, people!)

My three favorite modern artists are Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and Alexander Calder. Besides being dubbed Modern Art, they all have one thing in common – bright, bold colors. I’m not a beige person, my favorite color is red followed closely by blue, yellow, and green – bright, bold colors is seriously my thing. Rachel is also not a beige person.  She wears black a lot, sure, but her art is all about color.  She describes her art as being in the Pop Style, like Andy Warhol, but because of my passion for clean lines, bold colors, and movement in art, she definitely has touches of those in her paintings as well.

Rachel meets another artist, a smaller character named Cassandra, who also would consider herself a modern artist but her pieces are very different – she makes modern day quilts. Bright, bold colored fabric is used to make faces and landscapes of the New York City skyline.  She blends the traditional art of quilting with her love of modern day art techniques to pen a love story of the people and city that surround her.  I loved being able to create two very different characters and styles of art to explore in this novel.  

Exploring my passions, like painting and art in general, is one of my favorite things about writing.  I love modern art, I can write about it.  I love the circus and the world of performers, I can write about it (hint hint).  I love families and how they work together (or not), how they solve problems (or not), and how they communicate (or not) within crisis so that’s what I write about.  They say write about what you know, but I say write about what you love.   Just because I myself can’t paint or sculpt or quilt doesn’t mean I can’t read and write about it.  

Who is your favorite artist?  Do you like the old masters? Classics? Sculpture?  And if you are a writer, do you put your passions and hobbies into your stories? Do you write what you know or what you love?
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A Journey through “Tarot for Writers” – Part 2 the Story

NOTE:  This is the short story I finally wrote based on the tarot cards I pulled during this post HERE – A Journey through “Tarot for Writers” – Part 1 the Exercises.  I enjoyed this process, sorry it took so long to actually finish it and get it posted.  If you enjoyed these two posts, let me know.  I can do more of these exercises from the book or I can show you how I’m using the cards in my actual writing projects.  Enjoy!

The Hanged Man
By Jennifer Gregson

“So, Mr., uh…” she flipped the folder open, using her long red fingernail to scan down the page, “Fundi.”

“Yes,” he said, coming fully into her office and shutting the door behind him.

“Please, have a seat, we need to chat.”

Eli sat down, adjusting his shirt, noticing that he had buttoned the bottom two buttons wrong and that’s why he was having issues all morning.  

“Mr. Fundi, HR will be here any minute.  Do you know why?”

He looked at his boss and then down at the floor.  Yes, he knew why but, he couldn’t say a word, he had promised.

“Don’t look at the floor, look at me,” she said, standing straight up in front of him.  Her gray wool suit and beige silk camisole, both very expensive, showed very little creasing.  He wondered if she had sat at all that day.   She was known to walk the hallways while thinking and talking to her assistant, Carol, who tried to keep up with her.  

“Elijah, I’m very disappointed in you.  You were well liked, well respected around here.  I never suspected you would steal from us.”

“What? No, I never. I didn’t,” he stammered.  He flexed his fingers.  Now what? He couldn’t turn on his friend.  Not now, not after what he told him last night. But they think he did this? Was he going to be fired?  Is that why HR was on its way?  To escort him out of the building with a box of his belongings in his hands?

“Well, you had access to the Harris Toy Company’s file.  You had access to all of the information.  Information that their competitors now have, and are using against them.  Using to create their own campaign.  Harris is ruined and they’re blaming us.”

Eli looked down again, this time at his fingers.  He started ticking off the reasons he’s keeping this secret.  AJ’s girlfriend just told him she was pregnant.  AJ’s mom is still very sick and needs to be moved to a better nursing home.  AJ has a record.  This will be three strikes.  AJ will go to jail.  That’s a definite.  Did he want his friend to suffer? His friend’s family?

“Mr. Fundi what are you doing? Are you mumbling to yourself?  Are you trying to confess?”

“No, ma’am.  Ms. Fields, I’m not.  I am very sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

“Yes.  I made a huge mistake.  I let my mouth talk when it shouldn’t have.  I talked while drinking with my buddies and someone heard me.”  It seemed like a plausible enough lie, but that’s not what happened at all.  AJ sold that information, on purpose, for a boatload of cash.  

“I know you’re lying to me,” she said, sitting on the edge of the desk, her skirt hiking just slightly above her knee.

“No, I made a mistake.”

“Well, that’s definitely true. But that’s not what happened.  We know money exchanged hands.  We know it was a calculated issue.  We know ‘someone’ did this on purpose.”

Eli looked right up into her eyes.  He was always so nervous around her.  Patricia Fields – so polished, poised, and powerful.  And beautiful.  Her eyes were the prettiest blue he had ever seen, but they were sad.  Cloudy.  Too much coffee, not enough sleep.

Patricia looked back at him.  A lost puppy, that’s what she always thought about him.  But, not in this moment, he looked strong.  He looked like a grown up.  Ready to take on the day and the world.  He was definitely covering up for someone.  They would figure it out, with or without his help.  HR was coming and he would be escorted from the building.  She couldn’t help him from that without him talking.

As he walked back to his desk with HR and security, he hung his head, so as not to make eye contact with anyone.  He didn’t want his coworkers looking at him with shame in their eyes.   He boxed up the few things he kept at his desk, and followed the security guard and HR manager out the door, another security guard directly behind them.  At the front door, they collected his badge and handed him a letter.  Sealed.  He tossed it on the top of the box and walked toward his car in the parking lot.

After placing the box carefully in his car, he sat in the front seat and wondered aloud.   “What now, idiot?” 

A knock on the window made him jump.  AJ, looking nervous and damp, was looking in.   Eli didn’t want to talk to him. Not now, and especially not here.  I mean, was he the biggest moron ever?  He had to know they were watching him, didn’t he?

After a few, very long, seconds, Eli rolled down his window and just said, “Not now.  Meet me at the bar tonight, 6 pm, and you better….I lied for you, man.  Now go back to work.”

Eli nursed the beer he was drinking and checked his watch for the fifteenth time.  5:59 pm He glanced at the door, but still no AJ.  He better show up.  Alone.

6:03 pm, AJ stumbled into the bar, looking like he already had a few, but where?  He only got off work a little while ago.   AJ flopped down across from Eli.

“You are my hero!” he said, motioning to the bartender.

“For what?  Getting my ass fired?  Saving your ass from jail?”

“Well, yeah…that is a true friend.  Who got you that job anyways?  Me.  I saved you, you saved me.”

“But you cost me that job.  A job I was good at.  A job I was starting to really like. Now what?  I can’t get another paralegal job because of this so I’m back at square one.  Worse.  Because I have bills too and I need another job fast.”

“I can help with that.  I have more information. Good information and I need a go-between.”

“Are you insane?  Or just stupid?  You went to college right?  We were there together, right?”

“Yes, and I finished.”

“My father….” Eli trailed off.  He grabbed his beer and finished it, “If you really cared about me, AJ, if we were really friends you’d do the right thing.  You’d come forward, on your own and clear my name.”

“I can’t do that. The baby, my Mom. She’s not herself, and you know that.”

“Yes, and I have a mother too.”

“Not one with Alzheimer’s. I go visit her, she thinks I’m Dad or her older brother.”

“I get that.  You have problems.  Dude, I understand, but you know what?  I did my duty, I protected my friend.  You thanked me.  Great.”  Eli stood up, grabbed a ten from his wallet and threw it on the table.  “Beers on me, see you around. Maybe.”

AJ didn’t try to stop him.  Eli walked out into the early evening cool air and headed to his car.

The next day Eli realized he had nowhere to go and piles of laundry so he took them over to his Mom’s house to talk.

“Okay, so why are you here on a weekday?  What happened?”

Eli took a deep breath, “I got fired.”

“What?”  his Mom sat down next to him on the couch.

Without meaning to, Eli opened his mouth and the entire truth poured out of him.

“I did it to save my friend and now I feel like the biggest idiot in the world.  I thought I was doing the right thing, in the moment, but now I’m not so sure. I think I just ruined my life.”

Eli’s mom looked at him with a mixture of pride and sadness.

“What?” he asked her.

“I’m proud of you, but I have never liked that AJ boy, he got you into so much trouble in college and it just keeps happening.  Is there anything you can do?  Can you go back to your boss and confess?”

“I could, sure.  AJ is an idiot, but he’s my idiot.  I wish I could talk to him, make him understand, make him see the right thing, you know?  But he’s so caught up in his own, um, stuff to see that he’s throwing away 10 years of friendship.  I’m out.  I’m done.”

“Honey, you are old enough to say shit in this house.”

Eli smiled.

“Eli, you need to start thinking about you.  You and your happiness.  When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself if your life was making you happy?  That job was good, it was good money, but did it make you happy?  Has anything since the accident made you happy?”

Ugh, she had to go there.  He was a mechanic, a damn good one, until…the accident.  A small leak, gas most likely, caused his garage to blow up.  He was in the office doing paperwork when it happened, which saved his life, but after that, he couldn’t walk into another garage. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is what the doctor’s called it.  Scared was what he called it.  He couldn’t work for months.  AJ got him out of his funk and got him the job at the law firm. 

“No.”  The only thing Eli could say.  Nothing had made him happy in a long time.  But, seeing his boss every day made him smile.  She was so confident and sure of herself.  She was amazing.  Watching her think and work, watching her win at all costs was such a, well, turn on, I guess.  He didn’t want to think about her in that way, but she was stunning.

“Son, you need to stop worrying about everyone else.  You worry about me too much and you worry about your friends too much. Who worries about you?”

“You do.”

“Besides me,” she said with a smile, “Your friend is only thinking of himself.  You like working with your hands, right? So, maybe there’s something there – I mean, there are other jobs besides a mechanic that allows you to work with your hands.”

“So, what are you telling me to do Mom?”

“I’m not. That’s the thing.  You have to figure this out all by yourself.  The only thing I’m telling you, stop worrying about me.  Stop worrying about AJ.  Just think about you, for once.”

His mom got up to put his laundry in the dryer.  Eli stared out the window. He knew he needed to do the right thing, even if it got AJ fired, even if he got him in trouble because AJ was acting like an idiot.  He thought he was being a good friend, but AJ was just going to make more deals, more mistakes and get himself fired….or worse.  He was going to throw away his life, then what would happen to his child and his mother? 

Once he got home, he pulled out a piece of paper and hand wrote a note to his ex-boss asking if it would be improper or illegal to meet out of the office for coffee, that he had some information, something that would help her figure things out.  He put her address on it and a stamp and put it in the mailbox.  That was it.  It was going out and there was nothing else to do now but wait.  

His leg wouldn’t stay still.  It had been three days since the letter went out before she called.  He had started wondering if she was going to just ignore the letter, ignore him.  He had sent the letter and then started creating a file of sorts, with information, but no outright names.  He wanted her to have the clues, but not the answer.  
“I don’t have time for games, Mr. Fundi,” she said as she chugged the hot coffee, steam rising up to meet her face.

“I know, but, I need to make things right.  I  just can’t tell you what’s going on, though I do have a folder with enough information that you should be able to know exactly who it is without me having to name names.  And there’s more than one name involved.  The fallout won’t be pretty.”

“Selling information goes up higher than just a paralegal?”

“Yes, the said paralegal in question had help. A lawyer dropped the file by accident, on purpose and they’re splitting the money.”

“What?  Are you positive?”  She looked up at him, he nodded.  “Why tell me now? Why didn’t you confess this the other day in my office?”

“Because I am an idiot.  I thought I was being a good friend, but I was wrong.”

He handed the folder to her and motioned for the waitress.  After ordering a slice of pie he sat back and watched her read the file.  She was wearing a dark red skirt and black sweater, it was casual Friday in the office.

“You can’t be serious?  He’s on his way to making partner…are you sure?” She looked up from the file,  “Why are you smiling?”

“You’re so smart.  I’m probably too stupid for thinking that information was going to be harder to gleam.”

“No, it’s just that I started looking into things myself.  You knew two other paralegals so we started there.  I just didn’t think to look any higher.   You’re sure?  100% sure?”

“Yes, ma’am. I didn’t want to believe it either, but apparently your ‘on his way to make partner’ lawyer has a gambling problem.”


They sat for a few minutes in silence while the waitress set Eli’s pie down and refilled the coffee mugs.  Eli took a bite and looked over at this smart woman trying to figure things out.

“You want to walk?”

“What?” she asked, clearly lost in her mind.

“In the office, I’ve never seen you sit this long.”

“I sit in court all day so when I get a chance to stand and move around, I do.”

“I’ve seen you come up with brilliant things while walking around the office.”

“How long did you work for us?”

“8 months.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. I liked working there, but to be honest, I wasn’t happy there.”

She looked down at her coffee and stirred the cream in with a spoon.

“You were a hard worker though.”

“I always work hard, ma’am”

“Ugh, enough with the ma’am shit, okay.  Call me Patricia.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why?  You don’t work for me anymore. I’ll call you….”

“Elijah or Eli.”

“Eli, I like that.”

They sat in silence again for a while.  Eli finished his pie and drank his coffee.

“What are you going to do with that information?” he asked her.

“I don’t know.  I know we need to take care of this, of both of them…but I’m wondering, have others done this?  Is it the first time?  And how do I get more proof?”

“I can’t help you with how many others, but…you have a big case coming up, correct?”


“And some of the information you have is critical and confidential to a certain large pharmaceutical company, correct?”

“Yes, and that lawyer is helping me.  He asked to help me.  I just thought it was because of him making partner, he wanted to look good for the higher ups, but….you’re saying….no, I still have a hard time believing this.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.  But it’s not just my paralegal friend.  Yes, he is in it and he might have started it, I’m not sure.  All I know is my friend and your lawyer both have money issues and need cash fast.  This is a way to do that.”

“But they have to know we’re looking into things, right?  I mean, after firing you, we’ll be on high alert.”

“Do they?  Or do they think they got away with it?  People get cocky. They slip up, make mistakes.”

She closed the folder and put the notes in her bag.  She finished her coffee and sat back.  She looked at me for a really long time, before a smile crept across her lips.

“What?” Eli asked.

“You are smart.  Too smart for your own good I think.”

“That’s what my Mother says.”  Eli smiled too.

“What can I do to help you?  You didn’t deserve to be fired.  I can help you find another job, talk to someone, let them know the inside scoop, as it were.”

“No, I’m done with the legal field.  I miss working with my hands.  I used to be a mechanic.”

She smiled even wider. 

“What?” he asked. 

“I can’t picture you in dirty coveralls, covered in oil.”  

He laughed and looked down at his khakis and a button up shirt, “Well, that was me and I liked it and I was really good at it, but…well, it’s difficult right now to do that work.  My past…it’s just….well, I’m actually going tomorrow to talk to a construction firm about a job opportunity.”

“Construction.  I think you’ll be good at that.  I have a feeling you’ll be the boss soon.”

“I don’t aspire to anything that big, but…maybe I should huh?”

She threw down $50 and got ready to leave.

“Don’t you want to wait for your change?”

“No, give her everything.  I come in here a lot and I know she just lost her husband, and they have two kids.”

He smiled at her.

“What?” she asked.

“You are very different out of the office…” he wanted to go on but stopped himself. He knew she’d never say yes.

“Can I contact you again, for more, information if need be?” she asked.

“Of course, you have my phone number.”

She smiled.  He smiled.  She walked out and he watched her.  Maybe he didn’t do the right thing right away, but he felt good.  He was going to lose his friend, that was a guarantee.  But growing up sometimes meant leaving people behind. 

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Behind The Scenes: Locations in The Art of Lying

I thought I would start a new series here on the blog called Behind the Scenes.  I’m finishing up my final round of revisions on my current novel, The Art of Lying, and I will be sending it to an editor before self-publishing later this year.  I thought it might be fun to do this Behind the Scenes look at my book and how I’ve been writing and revising it.  Today I wanted to start with Locations.  My book is set in Manhattan, mostly, with some scenes in New Jersey.  When I started this book, I was living in Manhattan so I don’t have a ton of personal pictures to add, but I will add some links to the NYC parks department pictures, Wikipedia, and my own personal Pinterest folder for the book. 

Moving on Up

My main character and her family live on the Upper East Side in a fancy high-rise apartment building.  I lived for many years among those buildings and looked online for a few different types of floor plans before drawing my own – see below for the one I sketched of the apartment.  I adored the UES, Park Avenue with its median parks, and the historic feel to the area with the older buildings and store fronts.  I thought my main character’s Mom would have chosen the UES as the area to move from NJ once they had some wealth, ala The Jeffersons from the 70s sitcom.  When you’re moving on up, you move to East Side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky…..sorry, I was totally singing there, but I’m done now.


Below 14th Street

My main character, Rachel, is an up and coming modern artist with her own gallery show, new money, and a funky artist loft in Downtown Manhattan.  See below for the quick sketch I made of her loft setup.  Her favorite park in the city is Union Square Park.  This park is always bustling with activity from families, shoppers, tourists, and the like.  It has a weekly farmers market that has a ton of stalls and a very active community and neighborhood surrounding it.  Rachel goes on a first date with a young man in the book which I based on an actual restaurant that my husband took me to for our second date (after we saw one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies).  It has diners, bookstores, subway access, and many coffee shops around the area.

The Big Apple

So, Rachel has her artist loft in downtown and she lives uptown, so she spends some time either walking around or on the 4-5-6 subway trains.  This was my old train system that I basically spent my whole commute on so I didn’t need much help here either.  She’s addicted to coffee and right now, Starbucks is the name of the game (I mean, there are at least two spots in the city I can think of that have competing Starbucks either right across the street from each other or down the block from each other) so she does go there quite a bit, or have coffee in her hand from there. Manhattan, where I lived for 10 years, always felt like home and it seemed the perfect place to set my novel.  

Bridge and Tunnel

Rachel and her family came from a small town in New Jersey, but she’s only there two times to visit her Grandfather, so I spent more time on research for the one scene where she visits an old familiar family haunt, Wildwoods Amusement Park. I’ve never personally been there, but I have been to various Six Flags and Disney parks so I understand the basic theme park concept.  I did use their website and pictures found online for layouts and a few ride names. 


Pinterest has been amazing in terms of finding images and maps to use for this project.  If you click here you will be taken to my The Art of Lying board which has images of artist lofts, Union Sq Park, and other images that help me with my novel, including some celebrities that I chose to “cast” and help me “act” out my characters.  It will give you a bit of an idea about what my book and the characters are all like and some ideas about Rachel’s flavor of modern art.  I used this amazing site for everything and will be doing it again on my next big project (hint: it’s set in the circus). 
What else would you like to know about me and my writing process?  I have plans to talk about the music I write to, my favorite Modern Artists and how they inspired me (and Rachel), and possibly my writing space setup (which is still a mess, even though we moved practically nine months ago).  What else would you like to know more about?  Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.  Thanks! 

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A Journey through “Tarot for Writers” – Part 1 the Exercises

So, I just picked up Tarot For Writers by Corrine Kenner from the library (amazon link) and I already love it – seriously, it’s going on the To Buy list. 
I got Tarot cards this past Christmas and started learning all about the cards and how they were organized, Major vs. Minor Arcana and the different suits – Wands, Pentacles, Swords, and Cups. I started pulling cards in the morning and journaling. I started doing simple 3 card spreads for various questions I was thinking about in my life. This book though, takes the tarot cards and my creative life, to a whole new level.
The book is divided into three parts. Part one is about how the cards are organized and how to read them (simply and quickly). Part two is the writing exercises dealing with character, plot, settings, descriptions, and beating writer’s block. Part three is a guide to the cards with keywords, writing prompts, and things to think about for each card in a standard deck.
For fun, I thought I would go through two of the exercises – Character Creation and a 3-card spread for Beginning, Middle, and End. I’ll show you the cards I pull, what I write for each answer, and any other insights that come up. Then I will take what I write during these two exercises and I’ll compose a short story (1000-1500 words) and post that in a few days.  Okay, it sounds like fun to me. Lol  
Exercise 1: Character Creation (page 40 in the book)
Use the cards to answer the following questions. You can pull as many as you like to determine the answers. Note, I’m going to pull one card per question and I’m going to create a protagonist and an antagonist. If I need any further characters after doing Exercise 2 (the plot portion) then I’ll go back and do that on my own. Also…I named the characters after I pulled the cards, but put it at the top for easier ID.
PROTAGONIST – Elijah, goes by Eli
1. Is your character a man or a woman?
Card – Four of Swords
Notes – Man
2. How old is your character?
Card – Seven of Wands
Notes – 27 years old
3. What does your character look like?
Card – Ten of Cups
Notes – Medium height, brown hair, brown eyes, likes colorful clothing – oranges, blues, reds
4. What does your character do for a living?
Card – Ten of Swords
Notes – He was just fired, over a suspicion of wrong doing – the company he had just started working for says he stole proprietary information, he didn’t do it but he knows who did – but wouldn’t snitch
5. How does your character spend his or her free time?
Card – The Hanged Man
Notes – Carpentry, using his hands building things – it’s his passion
6. Does your character have a spouse, children, or a pet?
Card – Five of Wands
Notes – No, but he has a very tight-knit group of guys that have been friends since grade school
7. What are your character’s hopes and dreams?
Card – Two of Cups
Notes – A loving relationship, marriage even. Security and companionship.
8. What does your character fear most?
Card – Queen of Pentacles
Notes – Disappointing his mother and lack of money, he grew up poor and his Mom worked two jobs to make sure he got what he needed throughout his childhood. 
ANTAGONIST – Pansy was her given name but she changed it to Patricia to sound more lawyer-like
1. Is your character a man or a woman?
Card – Queen of Wands
Notes – Woman
2. How old is your character?
Card – Four of Cups
Notes –  40s-50s
3. What does your character look like?
Card –  Six of Cups
Notes – Younger than her years suggest, most people assume she’s 30 but she’s pushing 50. Bright colors look good on her, pale skin, blonde hair.
4. What does your character do for a living?
Card – Ace of Swords
Notes – Lawyer, Eli’s old boss, the one who accused him of stealing
5. How does your character spend his or her free time?
Card – The Chariot
Notes –  She secretly loves car races, like the Indy 500 and Nascar. She always wanted to be a race car driver, but her father wouldn’t hear of it – it was too dangerous for his only child. She was smart and her father knew she could go places with an education and a career.
6. Does your character have a spouse, children, or a pet?
Card – Ace of Cups
Notes –  Had. Past tense, now divorced. He slipped through her fingers. She was working all the time and they were too young to really appreciate what they had. He has since remarried and has children with his new wife.
7. What are your character’s hopes and dreams?
Card –  Knight of Cups
Notes –  State Supreme Court Justice…for now
8. What does your character fear most?
Card –  Two of Swords
Notes – Dying alone, never feeling love again – having to choose between love and her career again
Exercise 2 – Beginning, Middle, and End (page 69 in the book)
Just lay a card for the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Note, I laid all three as if in a regular 3-card spread with Beginning on the Left, Middle in the middle, and Ending on the Right – as shown below in the picture. Also, I used what I had gathered from the above Character creation exercise…meaning, this is the beginning, middle, and end of their story – not just a random plot. Okay, then here we go.
Card – The Devil
Notes – The day Eli gets fired. We see him being grilled by his boss, Patricia about the stolen information and although he didn’t do the deed, he knows who did and he won’t budge. She uses all of her lawyer tricks on him, thinking since he’s just a lowly paralegal he’ll crack. Although she’s pissed off that he won’t tell her what she needs, she’s oddly attracted to his reserve. Eli confronts his friend, the one that got him the job, the one who is actually stealing information and begs him to come forward for his own sake.
Card – Judgement
Notes – Eli can’t convince his friend and starts to pull away from his group of friends. While visiting his mother he accidentally lets it slip that he lost his job and why. His Mom is both proud and saddened by his actions, and gives him some advice: do what’s right for his friend. Tell the truth. But will Eli just give up 20 years of friendship that fast, even when he feels betrayed?  Will he have to think outside the box and come up with a different alternative to help himself and his friend and his ex-boss out?
Card – Page of Cups
Notes – Our young hero has decided and with it has totally turned his whole world upside down. He is on his own for the first time in forever and must learn to fend for himself. He must decide what’s best for him and him alone without worrying about his Mom or his friends. He has to realize that his needs are just as important and how he feels about himself needs to come first. He talks to his ex-boss, Patricia – gives her just enough information to figure out the pieces for herself and decides to look into carpentry type jobs instead of corporate money-making opportunities.

Final notes from me….in all honesty, this was fun but I’m nervous. This is not something I would normally write about – which is some ways is exactly what I need, but in other ways I feel completely out of my element. I hope I haven’t given myself too much information for a short story. Right now, I have a lot of interesting ideas about how to proceed and how to write this story.  I’m going to jump in, like the Fool card might do, and just start – shitty first draft and then clean up a bit before I post. Part 2 coming soon!!!
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Quick Fix: Misery Loves Company

by: Jennifer Gregson
lipstick on blue napkin
The door clicked behind him as I picked up the pace, trying to catch up.  The heavy metal door was harder to open than I thought it would be.  Once inside, I noticed music playing – it wasn’t loud.  The lights weren’t that dim either, but it was definitely some kind of party.  A few people were even trying to dance.  They had on very strange outfits.  Leather boots, masks, capes with various letters emblazoned in bold colors.  My eyes scanned the room, searching.
I spun around, “Mom?”
She grabbed my jacket, pulled me into an empty side room, and shut the door behind her.
“Why are you here?”
“I….received an invitation?”  
Mom took a deep breath and sighed, “I was afraid of that. Were you followed?”
“I don’t think so.”
She nodded, “Good, good.”  She studied me for quite a while, a smile played on her face, “So what are your powers?”
“Mom, are you drunk?”
“On any drugs?”
“Stop playing, Diana.  If you were invited, then you must have shown some signs.  Can you fly? See through walls? Lift heavy objects?”
“I’m not Wonder Woman.”
“Duh! She wouldn’t be here anyways, she’s too big.  Don’t be scared, you are among your people.  What powers have you noticed?”
“I lied.  There was no invitation.  I followed a boy.  I followed a tall, dark haired boy wearing all black and a long leather jacket into this…well, I guess you would call it a party.  Sorry.”
“That was Misery.  He’s no boy.”
“He’s not?  He looked around 17.”
“Wrong, he’s older…a lot older.  He is a 300 plus year old alien who is trying to destroy the Earth.”
My mouth dropped open.  I was going to need some serious help with Mom’s intervention.  She was obviously high on something.
“I can’t believe he would just walk in here…so casually.  Did you see where he went?”
“No, I opened the door behind him, but all I saw were those weirdos out there dressed in Halloween costumes.  Then you grabbed me and pulled me in here.”
For the first time I really got a good look at my mom. She was dressed just like the others.  Red knee high boots.  Dark green tights under a  lighter green skirt and a matching short-sleeve sweater.  A frilly cream colored CG were embroidered on her chest in yarn.
“CG?” I asked.
“Christmas Girl.  I can make it snow.  And talk to reindeer.”
“Of course.”
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“I told you, I followed a boy, who’s apparently an alien.”
“I mean, why are you out at night?”
“Oh,” I looked around the small room.  Shelves with various cleaning bottles lined the concrete wall, “I was hanging with Lou. We were chilling in the park, no biggie, and then I saw that cutie.”
“Lou? Of course.  That girl is nothing but trouble.”
“Mom, you’re on something, you’re dressed like a deranged winter cheerleader, and you think Lou is the problem here?”
“Fine.  Not now, but you are grounded.  Go home and stay home.”
Mom opened the door, she looked both ways, and then took off.  I tried to follow her, but she was moving too quickly.  We turned a corner, I dodged super heroes left and right.  I was attempting to avoid one stubby guy in a neon yellow leotard when I slipped on someone else’s cape and went down, hard, with a loud thud. 
“Now then,” a voice bellowed, “since I have everyone’s attention, you’ll do exactly what I say or Snow Babe here gets it.”
I struggled to get up and that’s when I saw him.  Dashing, with a big toothy grin on his face, holding a gun…on my Mom!
“This is my favorite part. You are all under my control.  If I want you guys to jump, you won’t even have to ask how high.  If I want you to rob every bank in town, kill every last person you love, or just…get me a latte, you will.”
“Stop!” I said, standing up.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Christmas Girl’s daughter.”
“Diana, don’t….you’re normal, you can’t stop him.”
“Why aren’t you frozen,” he asked.
I looked around the sad room.  Everyone, and by everyone I mean like 15 people at most, were totally at a stand still.  Stuck in various party actions.  
“Good question.”
“You think you can stop me? That’s funny.  Little girl, you have no idea who you’re messing with.”
His voice was smooth like silk.  I started to feel – different.  His voice sounded like it was coming from inside my head.
“I have all the so-called heroes in one room.  Taking over this city won’t be hard.”
His eyes were the blackest I’d ever seen.  And hypnotic.  As he kept talking, I started walking.  Closer and closer.  Soon, I was inches from his pale face.
“Hi baby,” he said.  I could smell the sweet scent of his cologne. Hear his breath, rapid and heavy, “Why aren’t you afraid of me?”
We looked deep into each other’s eyes.  I felt drowsy and light headed all at the same time.  He pushed Mom away and tried to grab me, but I grabbed him first and kissed him – hard.
After a few minutes, I finally pulled away and sighed.
Misery dropped his gun, clutched his throat, and fell over.  Sputtering for air…his eyes bugging out and starting to turn a pale gray color.  He was quickly seized by two large women wearing matching gold and silver dresses.
“That was incredible,” they gushed in perfect unison.
I was confused. My lips felt numb. My breath felt heavy in my lungs.  My eyes watered.  Mom grabbed me in a big bear hug.  Snow, just a few light flakes, started falling around us.  Super heroes gathered around us, chanting, “She has the poison kiss!  She has the poison kiss!”
“They said you were coming,” Mom said with tears rolling down her cheeks, “but I never thought it would be you.  You…poison kiss!”
“A poison kiss, huh?  Well, that definitely explains my love life.”  I turned to Mom, “but I’m not wearing a cape.  Never.  Ever.” 
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Quick Fix: The Man of My Dreams

By: Jennifer Gregson
Dear Diary,

Killing someone is harder than it looks. I should have used a gun. My old bow and arrow worked, but it was messy.

See, a few years ago, an old witch cursed me. She cackled when she did it too. She claimed my dreams would come true, and I naively thought that was a good thing. Dad’s new girlfriend moved in yesterday. I dreamt about that affair a year ago. Mom and Tony, her tennis instructor, are somewhere in Mexico on vacation. That one was just last month. And if last week’s dream is any indication, Richie is about to piss off some very important mobsters.

The worst thing happened two nights ago. I dreamt I was murdered. And no one cared. I’m not sure which upsets me more actually.

I went and tried to reason with the old woman, but she blames me for Natasha’s death. We were best friends. She’d been drinking that night, but so had I. I should have called a cab, I should have called someone, but I didn’t. I walked away with a broken wrist, her granddaughter didn’t walk away at all.

So, trying to talk to her didn’t go well. In fact, she spit on my feet, yelled at me in Russian or something, and closed the door in my face. I knew that I had to act fast.

I wrote down everything I could remember from my dream. I saw a middle-aged man. Brown hair, mustache, shabby ill-fitting suit. I had no idea what his beef was with me exactly, and I had no time to figure that out. We were in an alleyway that looked very familiar.

Figuring out the where was crucial. I racked my brain until it finally came to me – right behind the high school. I graduated this past May so there was no reason for me to be there, but that was the alleyway, make no mistake.

I grabbed the bow and arrows and ran to the school. Half way there I worried that I was walking into a trap – would it be better to avoid the school all together? Or would that cause events to shift, cause this man to kill me somewhere else? No, I kept going.

Nighttime came fast. I didn’t have to wait too long for the man of my dreams to arrive. Honestly, I don’t remember firing off the arrow. I saw his gun and I shot. Years of archery paid off, he clutched his chest and fell over. Actually, strike what I wrote earlier, killing someone isn’t that hard at all. I just wish the detective had believed me when I went in to confess, but I guess pretty blonde girls can get away with anything in this town. I wonder what I’ll dream about tonight? I wonder why that guy wanted to kill me? I wonder if that cute detective is single?

P.S. – I should really tell Richie to lay off the ponies.

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Quick Fix: Because You Loved Me

By:  Jennifer Gregson

“I should have dumped your ink a long time ago,” Sylvia said as she tried to open the fountain pen.

“You can’t, I won’t let you.”

The pen wrestled out of her hand and started scribbling something on the nearby pad of paper. Sylvia stood, stunned that the pen could somehow write on it’s own.


“I’m more powerful, because you loved me.”

She watched as the pen’s scribblings came together to form a tiger. She grabbed her book bag and bolted for the door. She slammed it shut just as a loud roar came from the other side.

“I guess you don’t love me back, huh?”

She fumbled in her bag for the little booklet that came with the pen. Sylvia scanned the instructions about how to fill it and how to clean it. She was just about to wad the whole thing up in disgust when she saw the small print on the very last page.

This pen is magic, use at your own risk. To reverse the magic, please empty the pen, put it back into the original black case, and say these words three times: Fountain Mountain Poo.
“Fountain Mountain Poo?” Sylvia said out loud.

“Doesn’t work as long as I’m full of ink,” the pen sang from the other side of the door.

She dug around her bag to see if the case was in there, but she remembered it was sitting on her desk which was inside her room with the tiger. All she had on her was a sketch book, a few colored pencils, and a large eraser with the words, can be used on ink, written on its side.

Perfect! Now, all she had to do was open the door and maybe she could erase the tiger and whatever else the stupid pen was thinking up, before….well, she wasn’t quite sure what would happen if she was eaten by a pen drawn tiger actually.

With the large eraser in front of her, she pushed open the door. The tiger leapt for her, but she quickly slashed at its mouth, erasing all but one sharp fang. Sylvia erased the tiger part by part, but before it was completely erased, its left paw swung at her and knocked the eraser to the floor. She dropped to her knees, picked up the eraser, swiveled, and finished off the beast leaving nothing but disjoined black lines all over the floor.

“Look what you did,” the pen shouted. It started to draw again. “Try this on for size.

“Is that… a clown?” she asked.

The pen laughed. Sylvia dropped the eraser. When she bent over to pick it up she noticed blood. Her blood. The tiger must have snagged her right hand, blood was dripping everywhere. She squeezed it and swallowed. Clowns scared her, no, terrified her, and this one was no exception. The pen had made him tall and menacing. No time to be scared, she thought. Sylvia grabbed the eraser with her left hand and lunged forward. She took out the clown in four slashes.

The pen was still laughing, so she grabbed the case and jumped across the room. She picked up the pen, threw open the ink well and dumped it. She then shoved the pen into the case and snapped it shut.

“Fountain Mountain Poo. Fountain Mountain Poo. Fountain Mountain Poo.”

The laughing finally stopped.

Later that evening, after she had cleaned up her room, bandaged her hand, and finished her homework, Sylvia was reading in bed.


“Yes?” she asked, looking around her room.

“Fill me back up, please. You know you want to.”

And that’s how Sylvia’s fountain pen got buried behind her Mom’s prized rose bushes.

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