Guest Post by Gaby Triana, Author of Wake The Hollow! Top 5 Haunted Hotels in Florida!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today we are lucky enough to have as our guest, Gaby Triana! Besides being a friend, Gaby is a great writer and super crazy about Halloween, a fact that will be clearly evident when you read her new book, Wake the Hollow, which takes place in, you guessed it…Sleepy Hollow! And hey, this is really your lucky day, since it’s already out now from Entangled Teen! Go out and buy your copy TODAY! (Seriously, that plug was seamless! I’m so impressed with myself!)


And while we’re on the subject of scary things, Gaby is here to tell you about the top five haunted hotels in Florida! Well, Gaby isn’t scary, the hotels are and…never mind.

Take it away, Gaby!

Top 5 Most Haunted Hotels in Florida

By Gaby Triana
Ever since reading The Shining by Stephen King as a supernaturally curious 10-year-old, I’ve been fascinated by haunted hotels. So much that my first completed manuscript ever was Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost, a middle grade novel set at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables when it was closed and abandoned in the mid-80’s. I’ve always felt, “The more beautiful the hotel, the creepier.” Something about aging, structural beauties harboring the energies of long-forgotten souls in their carpeted hallways has always felt disquieting yet compelling to me.

Though most haunted hotels on TV shows seem to be located in New York or California or old cowboy towns, Florida has its share of spooky guest quarters. Just check them out on TripAdvisor, and the guests themselves will tell you! Those who survived anyway. *creepy grin*

Here are the Top 5:

  1. Marrero’s Guest Mansion, Key West: Built in 1889 by famous Cuban cigar producer, Francisco Marrero, this mansion is an elegant Victorian home turned modern-day bed-and-breakfast. Marrero built the home to lure his true love, Enriquetta, to Key West, but when Marrero passed away due to suspicious circumstances, his first wife came around claiming ownership of the property, rendering Enriquetta and their eight children homeless. Shh-yeah. Enriquetta said she’d always be there in spirit, so, true to her word, she’s there. In spirit. I’m not even kidding. Crying babies at night (it’s an adults-only establishment) and doors locking and opening by themselves. Guests claim to see her ghostly spirit wandering what used to be her bedroom, Room 18. Nighty-nite!


  1. Hollywood Beach Resort, Hollywood Beach: Not to poo-poo on the poor Hollywood Beach Resort, but it used to be a nice place back in 1926 when it served as stomping grounds for Al Capone, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a bevy of other rich and famous who’s-who. Nowadays, it’s exchanged ownership several times and still struggles to maintain a decent rating on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and the like. But definitely mark this place as one of the most haunted hotels in Florida, especially the 7th floor, where ghostly apparitions and orbs have been spotted disappearing through the doors, and disembodied voices call out to guests. DING! DING! Checking out, please!


  1. Loew’s Don CeSar Hotel, St. Pete Beach: Another 1920s playground for the rich and famous, this tropical getaway, nicknamed “The Pink Palace,” was inspired by a love story – a common theme among many haunted hotels. Thomas Rowe had the place built for his young Spanish opera-singing love, Lucinda, whose parents didn’t allow her to marry him. Long after a loveless marriage, he learned of her passing then built a tribute to her, replicating a fountain by which they used to secretly meet in London. During WWII, the Pink Palace (like another hotel on our list) was used as a VA hospital, and to this day, guests still see the ghost of a 1940s nurse wandering the halls. Thomas Rowe himself, decked out in suit, hat, and cane, walks the beach, and it’s even said that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig roam the grounds in search of a spring training game. Take me out of this ballgame!



  1. Casa Monica Hotel, St. Augustine: As the oldest city in the U.S., St. Augustine has its fair share of ghostly activity. At Casa Monica Hotel, the staff tries to pretend like nothing is out of the ordinary, but guests and locals know better. Tons of paranormal activity have been reported at this gorgeous establishment built in 1888, everything from the sound of children running up and down the halls late at night when nobody is there, to ghostly people standing around Room 411, to a woman in white captured in photos. Oh, you want more? Okay. A child’s handprint keeps reappearing in one mirror, despite the hundred of times it’s been cleaned, a radio turns on and off by itself on the 1st floor, housekeepers will not clean certain rooms, and the ghost of a gentleman in white has been seen walking through the hotel then disappearing. Add guests reports of icy winds and cold spots, and you won’t ever need to visit the Haunted Mansion in Disney World for your spooky fix. Just head over to Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine. Oh, who’m I kidding? The Haunted Mansion is still my favorite spot in all of Florida!



5.  Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables: I left the best for last. One, because it’s in Miami, and I’m from Miami, and two, because it’s my favorite and I wrote this guest post, so I can if I want to…nyeah. The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, was built in 1926, because developer of Coral Gables, George Merrick, wanted to attract the country’s rich and famous to the area back when Miami was still a 3-dog town. This gorgeous, 400-room, Mediterranean-style hotel still boasts a championship golf course, the East Coast’s largest swimming pool, and a glamorous past. The Biltmore used to host fashion shows, beauty pageants, and swimming classes by Johnny Weissmuller, back before he became Tarzan on the big screen. During WWII, the hotel became a VA hospital, the beautiful travertine floors were covered with government-issue linoleum, and its windows were sealed with concrete. In 1973, the hotel closed down and was abandoned for 10 years during which time the author of this blog post and other trespassing children and teenagers would visit the grounds to witness ghostly lights in the windows as viewed from the golf course. Famous ghosts of the hotel include gangster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh, the spirit of a young woman who fell to her death trying to save her baby from plummeting off a balcony, soldiers wearing hospital gowns standing in guest rooms, a transparent couple dancing in one of the ballrooms, and sometimes…pretty women are taken past their floors on the elevator, given access to the higher-level suites past the 13th floor by some unseen, smitten spirit. Besides being haunted, the 5-star hotel has an amazing Sunday brunch, gorgeous statues of Greek gods and goddesses surrounding the pool, and a killer, luxurious lobby, caged birds and all.


Well, that’s it! I hope you liked my tour of Florida’s most haunted hotels! I’m still trying to book stays in each and every location, but they won’t let me in with my EVP audio recorder, magnetic field detectors, or team of paranormal investigators. Oh, well. Guess I’ll have to stay as a guest instead. Happy Haunted Hotel Season!



Thanks again to Gaby Triana! I’m happy to say that I did stay at one of these, the Don Cesar. Unfortunately, no ghosts, but there were lots of relatives, which can sometimes be even scarier.

Anyway, if anyone else is interested in doing a guest post, please feel free to contact me and in the meantime, let me hear if any of you have ever stayed in a haunted hotel!

Books We Read in Secret

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

Faran: My parents were very open-minded, so there weren’t too many books I wasn’t allowed to read. pet-semataryHowever, I had an older brother who was protective of his things, and he had quite the Stephen King collection. One night, I swiped a copy of Pet Sematary and read it under my covers. I was only twelve at the time, and it scared the crap out of me. But I couldn’t put the book down and stayed up all night reading. We had these creaky wooden steps that led to the bedrooms. Every time I heard a creak, I thought it was either my brother, or little Gage coming up the steps with a knife. Both with harmful intentions. I guess that’s my penance for taking something that wasn’t mine.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: One evening while babysitting for a work associate of my mother, I came across The Insiders. insiders-novel-i-read-in-secretSex, rape, lesbian sex. It scared me so much that I went and got a butter knife from the kitchen and jammed it in the door casing thinking I was protecting myself and the sleeping kids as I devoured the kind of book that would never enter my parents’ house. I was so engrossed in the book, I didn’t hear the homeowners pull in the driveway. As they opened the front door, the butter knife bent in half and came flying toward me. I dropped the book on the floor as I leapt from my seat, red-faced while I tried to explain myself. They never asked me back.

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The book I read in secret was Forever… by Judy Blume. foreverGirls at my junior high school were passing it around for the sex scenes (remember Ralph?), but I wanted to read the whole story. And yet, I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading it, so I only read it at home, in my room, where I knew no one would “catch” me. I thought I had to read it in secret because it was somehow shameful, but my adult self can see how much that book helped me. It didn’t glamorize teenage sex. It didn’t promote it. In fact, it did the opposite because the girl in the story who thinks her love with her boyfriend is “forever” ends up moving on from that relationship. That opened my eyes, and thanks to Judy Blume, I grew up with a realistic idea of teenage “love.”

Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: On the subject of a book I hid or read in secret? Sorry, Tuesday readers, I got nothing. Big stinking goose egg. I have been known to read everything from John Steinbeck (one of my faves) to Calvin and Hobbs books to Archie comics to Douglas Adams (for the hubs) to  Harold Robins and Danielle Steele and Alice Hoffman and David Guterson. Stephen King was followed by Mary Higgins Clark. If people don’t get my eclectic style, no big. Although once one of our neighbors in Maryland called my mother and told her I was taking out steamy and inappropriate books. Her response: she gave the caller a polite beating down and then when she hung up she told me, “Never let anyone tell you what to read or what to think.” Mom was the best.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Here I go ruining this week’s post, but I didn’t really read any books in secret when I was growing up. I read The Godfather in fifth grade. I have no idea where I even got a copy, but I can picture it. It was a paperback. I think the book had the phrase “bun in the oven” which I thought was very funny. I also remember that a lot of times, I didn’t understand a lot of what the sexual references were in the books I read. I just kept reading. I was lucky that my parents let me make those choices for myself. As I grew, so did my taste in books.

Jonathan: This week, I’m going to be a party pooper, but the truth is, as a kid, I never really had books that I read in secret and as an adult, who cares what I read? My parents were very permissive with what I read. I don’t recall ever having to hide anything. They were very happy I was reading, so they never put restrictions on me. Maybe, it was just a fact that the books that I got weren’t threatening to them, but I never had to feel like I had to hide them or read in secret. I, many times, read books which were listed above the suggested age for me. So, as far as secret books go, this week I don’t have any. Now, if we were talking about movies we watched in secret, then that’s a whole different matter…

It seems we’re pretty transparent here at the Tuesdays. Is there a book that you’ve read in secret? We’d love to hear from you.


Habits of Successful Writers

In order to improve upon my craft of writing, I’ve been studying the habits of successful writers. butt-in-chair-for-writing

I’ve looked at some of my favorite books, started an on-line class and thought about changes I’ve made and would like to make. Here are some of the habits I strive for on a daily basis.


Stephen King is a huge proponent of reading. I always have a book on my bedside table and a stack of others I’d like to read. I started reading more after going through Stephen King’s book On Writing.



Here’s what he says: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true.”


Write Shorter

I’ve learned to write shorter. When I started out I wrote long paragraphs, like I’d seen in old favorite novels. I’ve switched to shorter paragraphs, with a few sentences. I find it helps with pacing and looks better on the page. I’ve shortened my sentences to make every word count. I’ve learned to use shorter words too. I had a tendency to want to show creativity in my vocabulary but I found that when I did, The Tuesdays would tell me my lovely, fluffy word was slowing the pace. Now I stick more to basics. Numbers are an exception to my self-imposed shorter rule.  Unless it’s a really big number, or the year someone is born, I almost always write it out.


I do my best to follow the advice posted here by Copyblogger regarding first drafts.






















Our mentor, Joyce Sweeney got us all in the routine of using proper punctuation.  Joyce believes if your sentence is read wrong you lose the meaning you are trying to convey to the reader. She stressed knowing the difference between a hyphen, a dash and an M-dash.  I must say I’ve struggled using comas with an identifier.  I try to use a comma when the identifier is describing a unique person or thing: My daughter, Christine, is awesome. (I have just one daughter.) I wouldn’t use a comma if it wasn’t unique: My daughter Christine is awesome. (If I had more than one daughter.) Punctuation can be tricky at times. While you’re reading you can see how it’s done.

That’s some of what I work on in my quest to be a great writer. What about you?

Media Monday Interview with Jeff Strand

Welcome Tuesday readers, I’ve got such a treat for you today, you are not going to want to miss this. It’s an interview with Jeff Strand, one of the hardest working writers I know. Jeff and I first met in the Sourcebooks booth at ALA 2016. I could tell he was full of stories, I mean chock full, I mean so completely stuffed with stories that you just wanted to open him up and make him spill his guts on the floor. OK. That would be very dramatic and also very messy. So instead I asked him to talk with us today. At the end of the interview you can tell me if I made the right decision.

Meet Jeff:jeff-strand

Jeff Strand is a four-time nominee (and zero-time winner) of the Bram Stoker Award.

His novels are usually classified as horror, but they’re really all over the place, from comedies to thrillers to drama to, yes, even a fairy tale.

His book STALKING YOU NOW is being made into the feature film MINDY HAS TO DIE.

Because he doesn’t do cold weather anymore, he lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and cat.

SR: I’m not even really sure where to start. I’ve read tons of interviews on you and I feel incapable of capturing your brilliance (snark) or that of your interviewers. So let’s just stick to the facts and I’ve got to say they are preeetty impressive: 4 Bram Stoker nominations, a movie adaptation of one of your books, short stories in notable anthologies, and just recently, have a book mentioned on Cultured Vulture’s List of 13 Halloween Books You Should Read (If You Dare) and tons of appearances at writing conferences and panels. How do you do it all? And what’s your favorite part of this business?

JS: Ultimately, it comes down to the scientific formula of “Writing = Butt in chair.” I like to joke around and call myself a lazy slacker, and I’m far from immune to the distractions of the Internet, but ultimately, writing IS my job, and I treat it like one. So I pretty much get out of bed and get to work.

My favorite part of the business is going to conventions, where I get to see my writer friends and feel like a semi-celebrity for a weekend, before returning to my life of obscurity.

SR: I love the conventions and conferences also! I feel like a real writer when I’m there. So let’s talk about your latest release, Cyclops Road.


Evan Portin is at a sad, scary place in his life. While taking a long walk to compose himself and figure out where to go from here, he encounters a young woman being mugged in a park.

When he tries to intervene, he discovers that she doesn’t need his help. At all.

Her name is Harriett. She is very, very good at defending herself. Everything she owns is in a large backpack. She’s never seen a cell phone. She’s never been in a car. She’s never really ventured into the outside world.

And she says she’s traveling across the country to slay a Cyclops.
She’s crazy, right? Evan is not in the habit of hanging out with delusional women he’s just met. On the other  hand, it can’t hurt to offer her a ride out of town. And maybe this insane journey is exactly what he needs…

SR: Can you tell us specifically what made Cyclops Road the story you wanted to tell?

JS: Many of my book ideas go through a long gestation period before I start writing them, and it’s also not uncommon for me to write a few chapters and then take part of that concept and turn it into something else. Cyclops Road was sort of a reworking of a barely-started project called The Dragonslayers Five. I took the germ of that idea, changed the dragon to a Cyclops, and also changed…well, basically everything. The story appealed to me because it covered so much territory: it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s action-packed, it’s scary, and it’s got a great big mystery at its core. Of course, that made it officially a “cross-genre” novel, which creates its own set of problems…

SR: As an author, we all worry about how to get our books into the hands of our readers. I feel like you’ve sort of nailed that. Can you tell us about the brainstorming that goes into your titles and your covers in general and then especially as it relates to Cyclops Road.

JS: The titles come from a lot of time spent looking through a thesaurus, by which I mean using I keep plugging in words related to plot or theme until something sparks an idea. Then I’ll go to Amazon, discover that a dozen other books have already used that title, and try again. Sometimes the marketing team takes over and comes up with their own title, as with I Have a Bad Feeling About This, Stranger Things Have Happened, and Wolf Hunt. Cyclops Road was originally called The Odyssey of Harriett, but I decided to go with something that had a “darker” tone, and I’d also already reached my limit of people saying “Ozzie & Harriett? Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck!”

I’m not good with cover ideas. My upcoming novella An Apocalypse of Our Own

an-apocalypse-of-their-ownhas the exact cover image I suggested (a guy in a Hazmat suit holding a heart-shaped box of chocolates) but much of the time my involvement is minimal or non-existent. For my young adult novels, I’m not even consulted. I’m a “hybrid” author, so I self-publish as well as work with traditional publishers, and my wife Lynne Hansen does all of my self-pubbed covers. For those, I’ll describe the tone I’m looking for, but pretty much all of the ideas come from her. And in fact the title Cyclops Road was her suggestion, because it tied in with her cover concept.

SR:At the beginning of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever you tell your readers that there are no real zombies in the book but you ask them to go on this journey with you anyway. (Which they happily do). Do you want to tell the Tuesday Writers’ readers if there is an actual Cyclops in Cyclops Road? Or is that one of those read to find out sort of questions?

JS: It’s very much a “If you want to know if there’s a real Cyclops, read the book!” situation. When I came up with the basic premise, I worked out two completely different paths it could take in the final chapters. I was excited about both of them, but I committed to one of the paths very early in the process. Obviously, the novel doesn’t end with the characters saying, “Oh well, no Cyclops here,” shrugging, and returning home.

And, yeah, with The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever I wanted to make it clear that this was NOT a book where kids making a zombie movie are suddenly forced to use their expertise to fight off a real horde of the living dead. My (ex)-agent wanted it to have a real zombie attack, but that was never part of the concept.

SR:Can you give our readers a piece of writing advice?

JS: Writing is like sports, musical instruments, or pretty much anything else: it takes practice. It’s totally fine if the first book you write is complete garbage. It’s fine if the first TEN books you write are complete garbage. Just keep writing. I’m a huge fan of self-publishing, but the “trunk novel” should still play a valuable role in your development as a writer.

SR: Road trip books are some of my favorite kinds of books. What is your favorite road trip book of all time other than Cyclops Road?

JS: It would be unspeakably tacky of me to say my other road trip novel, Kumquat, so I won’t. Does Stephen King’s The Stand count? If it doesn’t, then I’ll say The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. I probably missed my actual favorite, and I’ll have to call you in the midde of the night to issue a correction.

SR: Of course The Stand counts as a road trip novel!  I’ve never read the Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and now I have to! You are very active in the horror and film community. Can you tell us a little about how that relates to your #authorlife.

JS: A lot of it is just social. You hang out with people who share similar interests! I’d been attending, for example, The Halloween Horror Picture Show in Tampa as a fan for well over a decade before a short film I wrote, “Gave Up The Ghost,” played there. But at the same time, networking is a major part of this business. A couple of my highest-profile anthology appearances came from the editor saying “Jeff! Author XXX missed his deadline and I need a story ASAP! Can you help me out?” The actual writing should always be the top priority, but authors should definitely become part of their writing community, whether by joining groups, going to conventions, or whatever.

SR: One of the things that impresses me about you is how hard you work and how prolific a writer you are. Can you share some of your writing process?

JS: I don’t like to work from an outline (though sometimes it’s required) but I like to know some key plot points ahead of time, and have at least a vague idea of how it’s going to end. The suggestion of “Just get the first draft done, then worry about revising it later” is a good one, but it’s most definitely NOT how I work. I revise constantly as I go, so much so that by the time I’m done with my first draft, it’s almost the final draft. Then it’s off to about four or five beta readers for their savage feedback, and then off to the editor, after which I start the process all over again.

SR: Here’s the question everyone wants to know….on your website you say you live with your wife and cat. Why not dogs? Are you anti-dog? Or simply pro-cat. Please defend.

My book Kutter takes a hardcore pro-dog stance, and my support for pugs taking over the world is a matter of public record. That said, cats are self-cleaning and you can leave them if you’re gone for a couple of days. I am in favor of all pets, except for tarantulas and uncaged lions.

SR: I know asking a person’s number may seem indelicate, but can you tell me how many books and stories you’ve had published to date?

JS: Twenty-three novels, eight novellas, two short story collections, two collaborative novels, and over a hundred short stories.

SR: Slacker! Not. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. 

That’s it for today’s feature!  Comment below to critique my interviewing style or to send some love to Jeff!


Armed teen? Not a surprise, and that’s what’s scary

By Faran Fagen

Freestyle Friday

As a writer for children, it hits me hard when terrible news about kids fills the media.
So when I heard the news Monday that a teen was arrested for bringing a gun to a neighboring school, Coral Springs High, my heart sank as it does with the news of any school violence.
That night I kept waiting on CNN for the story. They had tons of stuff about Clinton and Trump, but nothing about how this teen brought a gun to school, and his friend, who’d written a 7-page manifesto detailing a plan for a school shooting.
After scanning CNN for a hour, I gave up and found the story on the local stations.
My stomach knotted as it hit me. This was not national news. We’ve become so accustomed to violence in schools that a teen bringing a gun to school is just not as big a deal as a kid opening fire and hurting people.
According to a 2015 article in The Washington Times, and several other mediums, since the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, there have been 142 school shootings in the United States. That means there has been an average of almost one school shooting per week.
So how do we stop this senseless violence? If there was an answer, we’d have prevented such a bloody decade.
Fingers have pointed at violent video games and movies, mental illness, gangs, terrorism plots, cyberbullying, revenge, sparse gun control and social media gone wrong. To name a few.
I don’t claim to know the answer. But I know this – every attacker in every shooting shares the fact they felt alone or alienated somehow. Shunned, ignored, humiliated, bullied, isolated.
The Coral Springs High teen with the manifesto wrote extensively about wanting a girlfriend, wanting love and having a crush on a girl in school.
The two killers in the Columbine shootings of 1999 were constantly harassed and bullied, and one of them wrote in his journal about his hatred for the human race. The day of the shooting, one of the boys wore a shirt with the word “Wrath” written in red.
Another shooting occurred in 2007 that killed 32 people on Virginia Tech’s campus. Picked on by other students at a young age, the shooter was described by his college professors as a troubled loner.
The shooter of the Newtown massacre was describe in various articles as friendless and isolated.
All these horrific acts ended with the suicide of the shooters. Some contained heroes like Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, who hid students in a closet and died trying to shield them from bullets.
Every time a shooting happens, I look at pictures of the slain and that knot tightens in in my stomach.
When Columbine happened, we were shocked. We couldn’t believe what happened. Two teenage boys committed this heinous act.
But now, we take news of teen violence in stride.
We’re not surprised when a local teen brings a gun to school. Or when his friend writes that he “wants to be the worst school shooter in America.”
It doesn’t even merit a mention on the national news. And why should it? It’s becoming more and more common.
And that’s really a shame.


Themed Thursday: Our Favorite Series

What’s your favorite series of all time? We’d love to hear from you.


Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: My favorite series when I was a kid, hands down, was C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I was transfixed by each of the books and read them over and over as a kid. They had me so convinced that all lions were like Aslan and wouldn’t harm me that to this day my children have to keep me from getting out of our car at Lion Country Safari! Little things still get to me. The lamppost. “Aslan is on the move.” The other worlds found in the different pools. I’ve reread The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe with kids at school recently and they felt the magic as well. These books are timeless and beautiful and so completely perfect.

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

Faran: There are so many series I love. In order to choose, I went with my top book-movie combo, The Lord of the Rings. lordoftheringsThe movie series is easily my favorite and the book series is up there. I remember reading it at sleep-away camp (I know, what a nerd, right?) The storytelling is unbelievable in any setting. And the awesomeness of the world building is unmatched. The depth and strength of the characters pull you right in. But my favorite aspect of this series is the message that someone small with a big heart full of courage can make a difference in the world by trying to do the right thing.

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: My favorite book series of all time is Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. gameofthronesI know people have been complaining that the next book in the series is taking forever, but I’m happy to wait another few years as long as it’s as rich and meaty as the others—and I have no reason to doubt that it will be. This is a series where, just before the newest book comes out, I’ll happily reread the last book…and enjoy it even more the second time. Did I mention that George R. R. Martin is brilliant? As a reader, I adore him, and as a writer, I’m in awe of him.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I love the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker. silentnightThe first was The Godwulf Manuscript in 1973. I didn’t discover Parker until sometime in the ’80s. It was so delicious to scour libraries to read all of the old novels while waiting for new ones. Sadly, Parker passed away in 2010. Someone else is writing the novels now, but it was especially touching that his literary agent, Helen Brann, finished the novel he was working on when he died. It was called – Silent Night.

Jonathan: This week we are talking about our favorite series. CYOA_5_Mayacover_map.inddI actually had a couple of them which I was deciding between. One was the Narnia series, but Stacie Ramey threatened me and said she was using it and vowed to “make me suffer” if I used that too. I know I should stand up to bullying, but I was scared, so I decided to use the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. That was one of the first series I ever got into and was engrossed in.  My parents bought me one every time we went to the bookstore, and I tore through them until I finished all of the original series. Dozens of endings in every book and needing to go back retrace to get to different endings. And by the way, I’m still fascinated by The Mystery of the Maya!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The series I wait for is The Blacklist, the-blacklist-series-i-lovein which former government agent and fugitive Raymond “Red” Reddington has surrendered to the FBI. He’s made them an offer they can’t refuse. On the mysterious condition that he work only with recent Quantico graduate Liz Keen, he agrees to help put away criminals from a list that he compiled, which includes politicians, mobsters, spies, and international terrorists. As the two pursue their quarry, Red forces the rookie profiler to think like a criminal to see the bigger picture. I think James Spader plays the unpredictable creepy character of Red to perfection. I’m amazed at the credible twists that the writers continually come up with. I can’t wait for the next episode.

Winnie-the-Pooh’s birthday beats Wrap-It-Up-Wednesday

The Tuesday writers didn’t meet this week to honor Yom Kippur, but

I am celebrating the 90th birthday of Winnie-the-Pooh all week Winnie-the-Pooh-90th-birthday

not just Friday, his actual birthday.





Pooh’s birthday is such a big deal that Disney did a book with him and

Queen Elizabeth for her 90th birthday.

Winnie-the-Pooh was named after a black bear called Winnie,

after my home town of Winnipeg and, get this –

Winnie was a GIRL!


Here’s scoop:Winnie-the-bear-Canadian-army-mascot

During the first World War, troops from Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) were being transported to eastern Canada, on their way to Europe. When the train stopped at White River, Ontario, lieutenant  Harry Colebourn paid $20 for a small female black bear cub tied to a string from a hunter who had killed its mother. He named her ‘Winnipeg’, after his hometown of Winnipeg, or ‘Winnie’ for short.

Here’s a shot of Winnie in Colebourn’s lap when she was tiny.

Winnie-the-bear-inspired-AA MilneWinnie became the mascot of the Brigade and went to England with the unit where both the unit and Winnie underwent some training. In December of 1919 the Brigade was posted to the battlefields of France, Colebourn took Winnie to the London Zoo.

Winnie the bear became a big attraction, capturing the hearts of many visitors to the Zoo, among them A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin Milne. It was Christopher who added “Pooh” to Winnie’s name. He got the name from his pet swan named Pooh. Christopher had been given a stuffed bear on his first birthday which he first dubbed Edward Bear, but soon changed the name to “Winnie-the-Pooh” after the playful Winnie at the London Zoo.

It’s said that Christopher was allowed to play in Winnie’s compound because she was so gentle and he even had a birthday party in her pen.

Winnie-the-bear-AA Milne-inspiration-Pooh's-90th-birthday

In his first edition in 1926, A.A. Milne mentioned that his stories were about this bear and his son as well as his son’s
stuffed animals. Winnie lived a long, full life in the zoo. She died on May 12, 1934 when she was 20 years old. She was so loved that the London Newspaper ran her obituary. There are statues of Winnie on the grounds of the London zoo and in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park.

Who would have thought that the rescue of an orphaned bear would lead to one of the most endearing characters of all time.

Happy 90th birthday, Winnie-the-Pooh!

Tuesday Tirade If a Tree Falls in the Woods…(aka what if no one’s listening?)

Hello to all the Tuesday readers out there. I apologize for what’s about to happen. I’m about to go rogue and do a big rant. But then again I think most of you will be okay with what I’m about to lay down.

I am sick of the decline of audience etiquette. You know?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a chorus concert at the Wellington High School led by Bradford Chase, who aside from being a friend of mine, happens to be a ridiculously talented and incredibly gifted musician, conductor, and leader. If you’ve never been to one of his concerts, I’m sorry for you. Because he puts together one fine night of music every single time. I mean, he brings it. And you never know what he’s going to throw at you. In the past he’s had an ensemble chorus (forgive me if I’m using the wrong terms here) do a few movements of Rutter’s Gloria. I’m not kidding. Another time it was a few movements of Carmina. He’s had his kids sing with Journey. I’m still not kidding. Students have conducted. They’ve stretched. They’ve donned beach gear in the middle of the concert and danced to Too Hot to Salsa. So has he. They’ve put together acapella groups. He’s built this amazing program to include a men’s chorus that boasts over 50 guys, not to mention two woman’s choruses, a symphonic chorus, and a chamber choir.  The dude is the Big Pappi of music. True story.

So when you go to his concerts, guess what you should do? You should listen. And be inspired. And be blown away, not by him, but by his students, because once the concert starts, he gets out of the way and lets the kids shine. It is an incredible experience to watch them. Trust me. You are witnessing true beauty when these amazing young people find that deep part of themselves that only art can touch. When these kids step on stage you should be awed.

Here’s what you don’t do. You don’t play on your phone to order really ugly man jeans. Nope. Not acceptable. You don’t hold your phone to record your little darling’s song. It’s not that you don’t deserve to record this video that you probably will never really watch, it’s that you owe it to yourself and the audience members sitting behind  you to immerse yourself in the show. When you record something, you don’t experience it. You distance yourself and you miss the most vital part of the event. Being there.


Art exists to elevate us. Sports can be art. Music can be art. Cooking can be art. Acting or writing or playing the spoons can be art. You know what’s not art? Playing Candy Crush on a big assed iPad. What’s wrong with people? You interrupt everyone else’s enjoyment AND you rob yourself of the opportunity to be swept away.

How many times do you experience that in your life? I’m sure not enough. When these kids take the stage, even if they aren’t your kids for this particular song, you are still witnessing something incredible. You are seeing hours and hours of hard work refining and perfecting techniques. You are seeing collaborative work on a level adults may never reach. This is a real life example  of the sum of the whole being equal to way more than the parts. Your heart and mind are elevated when you see kids do their best at anything.

How can we as writers expect people to recognize our artistic souls when adults can’t get off their phones long enough to see what’s right in front of them. The kids in the audience, the ones we say are never off their phones or gaming devices? They were amazing. They were cheering and chanting and rumpusing for their friends as each group took and left the stage. They got it.


Tonight the concert started with a meditation, Lumes, that included the middle school and high school choruses combined. The kids surrounded the audience and chanted and it was so ethereal that I was breathless.

At one point the elementary school kids sang. They were so great that halfway through their rendition of Fight Song the audience couldn’t hold back and cheered like they were the Beatles.

It was a beautiful night for those of us who recognized what we were witnessing. Kids aspiring to be great. I felt lucky to be part of it.

You may be asking how this rant relates to writing or writing tips, or what my mission for today’s post was supposed to be. So here is my tip for you. Be present. Experience. Participate. At the Florida SCBWI mid year conference, Jonathan Mayberry talked to us about creating stories that leave room for the reader to engage. The same has to be true for other forms of art, doesn’t it?

As artists we put ourselves out there. We recognize moments. We report stories. We immerse ourselves in the divine and the wretched. But I am asking you whether you write, or don’t write, whether you read or don’t read, whether you buy my books or not, can you please put your phone down and experience beauty when it’s served up? If you can’t not check your Facebook status or Tweet about what you ate for dinner when a stage full of ardent performers are giving it their all, I’m pretty sure you’re not my reader anyway.

I will be back next Monday for Tuesday Writers, hopefully less scold-y and more on track. Until then have an art filled week and allow yourself to be surrounded by joy. Can I get an amen?

Interview with Ruth Lehrer, Debut Author of Being Fishkill!

Hello Tuesdays!

Today, I’m pleased to be joined by my fellow Swanky Seventeens member, Ruth Lehrer, whose debut, Being Fishkill, is scheduled to come out Fall of 2017 from Candlewick Press.



JR: Hi, Ruth and thanks for joining us today! Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Being Fishkill and the impetus behind writing it?

RL: The blurb reads: When Fishkill Carmel, born to a family of abuse and neglect, meets the eccentric, fearless optimist, Duck-Duck Farina, her life begins to change. But is it changing too much? Fishkill had forged an impenetrable, don’t-mess-with-me identity to fight off poverty and bullies. If she lets that down how will she deal with the hard times ahead?

I think of it as a story about friendship and what defines and sustains a “family.”

I got the first seed for the book several years ago when my partner and I ended up driving from western Massachusetts to Queens, NY every weekend to see her parents. Up and down the Taconic Parkway for months, passing the FISHKILL/CARMEL exit sign each time. “Doesn’t that sound like girl’s name?” I said. And so it began.


JR: I read on your site, that you made books in braille, which I find fascinating. How did you get into that?

RL: Yes, a long time ago I worked as a Library of Congress Certified Braille Transcriber. We transcribed print books into Braille. The field was just starting to computerize transcription so we were partly doing it by hand on a Perkins Braille typewriter, and partly on the computer with a Braille printer. That job helped me understand about the privilege that people who are able to read print have, to pick up any book any time and read it. Since then I’ve been very conscious of the accessibility or lack there of of literature, websites, magazines etc. There’s a lot of talk in the book community about “diversity” but not a lot about accessibility. They should be interconnected.



JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?

RL: I wrote and started querying another novel before BEING FISHKILL. I learned a lot, both from writing it and researching agents. I stopped querying that book because I knew that Being Fishkill was going to be much much better. I sent Fishkill around for maybe six months before I found my great agent, Victoria Marini. It took a bit of searching but we eventually had two offers, one of which was Candlewick Press. During this period, I also had a poetry chapbook published by Headmistress Press, a small lesbian press in Seattle. The poetry world is much different (and much quicker) than the fiction world. Although it took years to write all of the poems in that collection, it took about six months from sending it around, becoming a semi-finalist in a Headmistresses chapbook contest, to publication.


JR: What’s your writing process like?

RL: It really varies. At times I write every day. At times I only write in groups. At times, I have to fool myself into writing at all, making notes in my phone. Sometimes they are lists or poems, and other times they are little scenes.



JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?

RL: I have to pick one? Not sure I can do that. I’m a great fan of Ann Patchett and Barbara Kingsolver. My most recent love is Kathleen Glasgow’s book GIRL IN PIECES.


JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

RL: I have something between a brown thumb and a green thumb. Plants grow, but not all of them. I try very hard, but only a certain number of flowers bloom.


Today, there are companies that offer to send dead flowers to ex-lovers. The meaning is obvious, but a hundred years ago, the message was much more subtle.

JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?

RL: It depends on the piece. For BEING FISHKILL I researched a reasonable amount, things like the foster care system, and how many Yodels come in a package. My WIP is incredibly research heavy. I didn’t exactly realize what I was getting myself into.


Love Yodels, though nothing beats Ring Dings!


JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?

RL: I’ve been in various writing groups at various times. I think the folks who advanced my writing the most was the group at Flying Object (of blessed memory) in both poetry and fiction. All the writers there were smart dedicated artists and were great role models.

 critique 2

JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

RL: I think we should all write what we need to/have to/want to write. Don’t worry about the market, don’t worry about what people say will sell or won’t sell.


JR: What are you working on next?

RL: The book I’m working on now is big and complicated and about two sisters who live in a rural town with a CANDY FACTORY.



JR: Is there anything else that you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?

RL: I’m on Twitter as @duckduckf and my Facebook author page is  Come say hi! I have a non-existent newsletter that will eventually become existent and you can sign up for that on my website:


Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays? And I’m begging you, absolutely begging you to please pick me.

Oh come come, I don’t play favorites.

JR: Sigh…okay, never mind. Let’s just delete that comment. At least it wasn’t Faran.


Learn to Write

Hurricane Mathew is not exactly making this a fun Friday for everyone up and down the coast of Florida. He is bearing down on us starting in the early morning hours. I’ve pre-posted this because with hurricane Wilma we had no power for a couple of weeks. I hope everyone stays safe through the storm.

It’s a process learning to write a novel. The best step in that process is working with a critique group but writers_critique_group

learning the craft of writing includes many more resources. Aside from conferences and writing coaches, there are a number of good books as well as articles from places like Writers Digest that are available.


My greatest challenge in fiction writing has been in plot and structure. I’ve purchase a few good books to help me out along the way. Writing the Breakout Novel by literary agent, Donald Maass is one of those books.




It starts out talking about premise. He defines premise as a feeling, belief or image that has enough power to propel the story for hundreds of pages. Maass says there are four facets of great novels and asks his readers to think of three unforgettable novels. He demonstrates how the principles apply.


  • Readers are whisked into a captivating realm world full of details that are unknown and convincing.
  • There are unforgettable characters that act, speak and think in ways that we cannot or dare not, saying things we wish we had. These characters grow and change in ways we dream about doing. They feel the emotions we feel.
  • The events of the story create unusual, dramatic and meaningful change in the characters.
  • The story has an outlook that changes a reader’s perspective. It has a message, a new way of seeing the world.


Maass covers setting, plot and theme. He says premise has to be plausible, original and have emotional appeal. He pulls all of his concepts together with a workbook of the same title.



This workbook has helped me immensely in weaving plot lines together and fleshing out characters.  I highly recommend both of these as tools for your writing process.

If the power is out for a prolonged period, a workbook can help you continue with your craft.