A Writer Remembers

by Pam Cable

Swarms of finches, wrens, and other tiny birds peck and hunt for food at feeders that hang outside my kitchen window. Even when I forget to fill the feeders, the birds arrive each morning, hoping to discover their next meal. These tiny birds never give up. They are constant, vigilant, driven. Despite the odds and possible dangers, the birds return every day.

Writers are like tiny birds. We beat our heads against one roadblock after another, writing against enormous odds, hoping and believing our next book will land in the laps of readers and on bestseller lists across the country. But even after decades into our career, we discover we must sometimes recall what made us write in the first place and the courage it took.

My granddaddy was a coal miner, but my father escaped the mines, went to college and moved his family to Ohio to work for the rubber companies. I spent every weekend as a child, traveling back to the West Virginia Mountains. My memories of my childhood run as deep as the Appalachian creeks and swimming holes I swam in as a child. My career as a writer was born in the dust laden coal towns of the early 60s.

For me, it is within sanctuaries of brick and mortar, places of clapboard and revival tents transcending time and space, that characters hang ripe and ready for picking.

From the primitive church services of mountain clans to the baptisms and sacraments of robed priests in great cathedrals and monasteries. From hardworking men and women who testify in the run-down churches of coal camps to the charismatic high-dollar high-tech evangelicals in televised mega-churches of today. Therein lie stories of unspeakable conflict, the forbidden, and often, the unexplained.

As a writer, it is my desire to transport a reader’s mind—but my deepest passion is to pierce a reader’s heart. The topic of faith, for me, has a way of doing that like nothing else.

My mother says I cut my teeth on the back of a church pew. I grew up in revival tents, tabernacles, and eventually in grand cathedrals with TV cameras rolling. In the early days, revivals were as exciting as the carnival coming to town and evangelists were royalty. I experienced a world from the sublime to the bizarre. It caused me to weave religion, spirituality, and the mysterious into my stories. Stories that hint to an ancient bridge where the real and the supernatural meet.

Many of my stories are based on truth, shreds of truth, people I’ve known, places I’ve been, and of course history plays a great part in some stories, like Coal Dust On My Feet; a love story set amidst the longest and most violent coal strike in the history of our country. It is truth and fiction.

Mother was a skilled storyteller without knowing it. All I wanted to do when I grew up was duplicate her life. I loved her southern accent and heritage and I felt neither imprisoned nor put off by it. But the most precious gift she gave me was a love for the written world, be it the word of God or of Mother Goose. Mom was my inspiration, and one day I picked up a pencil in the sixth grade and wrote my first story. I haven’t stopped since. The next forty years played into my storytelling, and after surviving life’s heartaches and hardships, it gave me plenty to write about.

A writer’s life is a solitary life. We hope we possess raw talent, unique originality, and gut emotional appeal. We raise the stakes on each and every page and hope, and pray, and believe that some day we’re blessed a bit of luck.

Is it worth the struggle? You bet it is. All you need, is the courage of a tiny bird.

Remember when you tackled that first story, essay, article, poem? That was courage. Courage is not confidence, nor the opposite of meekness. It’s feeling a measure of confidence, and then acting on those feelings. It’s a quality of spirit that enables you to face the moment, whatever comes, and keep going.

Courage allows you to see, hear, smell, and taste things as they really are. Courage makes you face facts, unfiltered by rosy daydreams. Courage frees you to be creative. It pushes you to prepare for the unknown without obsessing over it. To be open to what may come.

A writer can’t be open to new ideas if dazed and confused by fear. Courage enables you to be prepared and wide awake in every situation.

There were times in my youth I didn’t write because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t prepare for success because I was afraid it might happen. I didn’t look, really look, into my past because I was afraid of what I might find. As I grow older, I don’t give myself those options. Not anymore.

Fear is passive-aggressive. It’s the lazy writer’s excuse for not moving forward. It’s a great immobilizer, an avoidance technique. Fear puts the focus on what we might encounter, distracts us from what’s actually there. Courage empowers a writer to pay attention.

In the end, a writer can do without a lot of things. Remembering your journey is not one of them. Courage is the other.


Pam was born a Coal Miner’s granddaughter, and claims a tribe of wild Pentecostals and storytellers raised her. Her award-winning stories, articles, and essays have appeared in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers in several states. Pam’s passion and inspiration on overcoming life’s insurmountable obstacles is evident when she speaks and within the pages of her collection of short stories, Southern Fried Women, which was a finalist in Fiction and Literature-Short Story, Best Books of 2006 Book Awards, USABookNews.com, and a finalist for ForeWard Magazine’s Book of the Year 2006.

Pam has appeared on TV, Radio, and has been a keynote or guest speaker at regional and national writing groups, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Women’s Centers, Junior Leagues, and many churches throughout the South. Also, in 2006 Pam was invited by the First Lady of West Virginia and the First Lady of Mississippi to speak to the people of Charleston and Jackson.

A week prior to this blog submission, she signed with a New York Literary Agent for her new novel, THE SANCTUM. Neeley McPherson accidentally killed her parents on her fifth birthday. Thrown into the care of her scheming and alcoholic grandfather, she is raised by his elderly farmhand, Gideon, a black man, whom she grows to love. Neeley turns thirteen during the winter of 1959, and when Gideon is accused of stealing a watch and using a Whites Only restroom, she determines to break him out of jail.

The infamous Catfish Cole, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon of the Carolinas, pursues Neeley and Gideon in their courageous escape to the frozen Blue Ridge Mountains. After Gideon’s truck hits ice and careens down a steep slope, they travel on foot through a blizzard, and arrive at a farm of sorts—a wolf sanctuary where Neeley crosses the bridge between the real and the supernatural. It is here she discovers her grandfather’s deception, confronts the Klan, and uncovers the shocking secrets of the Cherokee family who befriends her. Giving sanctuary, the healing power of second chances, and overcoming prejudice entwine, leading Neeley to tragedy once again but also granting her the desire of her heart.

THE SANCTUM is about the divine meaning of family. It is a coming-of-age Southern tale dusted with a bit of magic, and set in a volatile time in America when the winds of change begin to blow.

You can listen to the audio from when Pam was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WVLZM3ds

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Author Spotlight: Michael A. Ventrella, Author–Not That Guy On The World’s Biggest Loser (Part 1)

by Tracey Morris (originally published at: http://writertracy.livejournal.com/197182.html)

Author Michael A. Ventrella used to think he had an unusual name. Then a man named Michael Ventrella won a reality TV show contest entitled The World’s Biggest Loser. Now, when people see his books, they often ask if he is that Michael Ventrella.

“Such is the price of fame,” Michael said.  But unlike his reality show namesake, Michael would like to be known as the author of the novels Arch Enemies and it’s sequel Axes of Evil, which are produced by Double Dragon Press.

The cover blurb for Axes of Evil reads:

One barbarian prophecy says the legendary hero Bishortu will unite the three warring tribes. Another tribe has a prophecy that directly contradicts this, and they want Bishortu dead. And a third tribe, which may or may not be comprised of werewolves, refuses to let anyone know what their prophecy says. Meanwhile, the Duke on whose land the barbarians sit wants them all gone.

In the middle of all of this is squire Terin Ostler, who has been mistakenly identified as the great Bishortu. Under the Duke’s orders to get rid of the barbarians, he heads to their lands without the slightest idea of what to do.

Along the way, he has to avoid crazed assassins, possessed werewolves, lovesick barbarian princesses, and confused goblins while attempting to figure out the meaning of the magical and mysterious Wretched Axes. Nobody said being a hero would be easy.

Michael said that he has been pleased with the favorable reviews that fellow authors have given to the book.

Jonathan Maberry says “THE AXES OF EVIL” is a taut nail-biter of a thriller.  Edgy, funny and dark.” Gregory Frost writes “Here Michael A. Ventrella takes up the mantle of Christopher Stasheff.  Terin’s exploits are as entertaining as those of Rod Gallowglass, and fans of THE WARLOCK IN SPITE OF HIMSELF will hugely enjoy THE AXES OF EVIL.” And Gail Z. Martin says“Humor, danger and a twisted tangle of unlikely prophecies make for a page-turning adventure.”

I recently had the chance to interview Michael via E-mail. What follows is the text of that interview.

Firstly, let us know how we can find you?

Look for the short guy with glasses and the coat covered in cat hair.

Do you have a website, twitter, facebook fan page, etc?

My web page is MichaelAVentrella.com.  It helps to have an unusual name, I thought, because I was able to grab the URL.  Now if you search my name you often find it associated with “world’s biggest loser.”

I’m  Mike Ventrella on Twitter (damn character limit), and Michael A. Ventrella on Facebook, GoodreadsBook Tour, and something called My Space.

I also have a blog where I discuss writing and interview published authors, editors, and agents.

I’m not that hard to find!

What is about to come out?

My strange Uncle Rupert.  And it’s about time, too.

I have a few projects in the fire.  First is a short story about pirates and magic (Arrr!) which will be a  sequel to “X Spots the Mark” from the collection RUM AND RUNESTONES.  This new story is called “Get Kraken!”

Second is a collection of short stories that I am editing which take place in the world of my two novels.  I have a number of excellent writers contributing, and I’m very excited about it.  (I have a story in it as well, which continues the adventures of the main characters from my books).  The collection will be called A BARD’S EYE VIEW and is due out early 2011.

Third is my new novel, which is about a vampire who runs for President.  It’s the West Wing meets the bat wing!

Any upcoming appearances we should know about?

I’ll be at various science fiction conventions here on the right coast;  you’ll find me as a guest at Philcon, Arisia, Lunacon, Albacon, and Ravencon every year, and sometimes others depending on my time.  There’s a schedule on my web page.

Tell us about you as a writer.

I like fun adventure stories with humor and danger.  I make no bones about being a writer of escapist literature.  All of my work tends to have unexpected plot twists, and I love hearing back from readers who say they were surprised!

I also hate clichés. I want people to act like they really would.  My characters argue, make mistakes, and don’t always do the right thing.

More importantly, they are not superheroes.  They’re just regular folk who have found themselves in an adventure.

Many fantasy novels, for instance, involve “the chosen one” who has powers no one else has.  By using The Force or the family’s Magic Sword of Noonah, they can save the day.  I don’t like those kinds of stories.  When Superman wins the day, it’s kind of expected, isn’t it?  To me, real heroes are everyday people who rise above their circumstances and solve the problems themselves.

ARCH ENEMIES and THE AXES OF EVIL involve a boy named Terin who is not the “chosen one” – the problem is that everyone thinks he is!  So they grab him and tell him he must save the day according to the prophecy.  He gets pulled into the adventure having no great skills or super powers and is in way over his head.  He ultimately is successful by being clever and brave, and to me, that’s more heroic than seeing the hero simply hit the bad guy with the sword until he dies.

Tell me a little bit about you as a person.

Back in the 1980s, I started a magazine about film animation called ANIMATO, and I’m still fairly well known as an animation historian.  I’ve been quoted in books and magazines such as ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

In the 90s, I founded the first nationwide fantasy medieval role-playing group (LARP) and now run The Alliance LARP, which has chapters all over the US and Canada.  My Rule Books and Players Guides can be found in gaming stores and on Amazon and places like that.

I’m a criminal defense attorney in my spare time.

Do you have any pets?

I wouldn’t be a proper fantasy author if I didn’t have cats, now, would I?  Four at the present:  Abigail, Einstein, Tess, and McGonigal.

Have they ever found their way into your work?

They’re like my editors.  If I leave a manuscript lying around, they rip it to shreds.  And I mean that literally.

What do you do to spark your creativity?

Well, it’s more of a matter of dealing with the spark.  It’s always there.  Writing, however, is work, and really there’s no other way around it than to sit at the computer, move McGonigal out of the way, and write.

Any advice out there for people who want to get started writing?

Lots, and that’s what my blog is all about.  Please visit!

The most important is to just keep writing, and finish what you start.  I talk to lots of people who want to be writers and so many of them have half-finished works.  Don’t polish what you have, finish it first!  No editor is willing to look at a half-finished book no matter how great it is.

What are your favorite books to read?  What are you currently reading?

I like the same thing I’m writing, of course.  I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, and mine have been favorably compared.  But I also read a lot of biographies, political books and history – and lots of magazines.  My bachelor’s is in Political Science so I have never lost an interest in it.

I wish I just had more time to read!  Between writing books and short stories, running a law office, and heading up a national LARP organization, I’m surprised I get any sleep at —  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

You can listen to the audio from when Michael was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WW8gCj6X

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Magical Words

by David Coe

The writers of the Magical Words blogsite (http://magicalwords.net) — David B. Coe, Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, C.E. Murphy, A.J. Hartley, and Stuart Jaffe — are pleased to announce the release of the first Magical Words book!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Magical Words (and why aren’t you?!) it is a site devoted to essays on the craft and business of writing. For three years, the authors of MW have written on a wide range of topics, from refining authorial voice to worldbuilding, from finding an agent to making sense of publishing contracts.

Now, with the release of How to Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion, the Magical Words crew have produced what bestselling author Orson Scott Card calls “the best idea for a writing book that I’ve ever seen . . . an extended conversation with writers who know what they’re talking about.” This is a compendium of some of the best posts from the Magical Words site — nearly a hundred in all — accompanied by questions and comments from the blog’s readers and responses from the authors.

How to Write Magical Words is published by Bella Rosa Books, and can now be ordered online at http://bellarosabooks.com/Magical_Words-pre-order.htm.

You can listen to the audio from when David was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WXxbV5b4

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Value of Anthologies

by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

You know…I hear an awful lot that the major publishers don’t do anthologies because there is no money in them. Well, if I’ve said before I’m saying it again, I’m not in this business for the money (saves on a lot of disappointment. For me, the value in anthologies is their promotional opportunity. In this age of the growing list of extinct genre magazines there are not as many ready sources for print publication of short stories. Okay…let me amend that, there weren’t as many ready sources for print publication of short stories. That is rapidly changing to the extent that even the major publishers are scrambling on to the anthologist’s wagon.

But back to why I’m doing this. From a promotional standpoint, for the amount of time it takes me to key a short story I have the opportunity to group my work (assuming it will be accepted) alongside a variety of other authors, each of which have their own dedicated fan base. That means all of my fans that pick up the book because I haven’t finished the next novel yet, and all of their fans that pick it up for their various reasons all get to read—I hope—my story.  Now, let’s ramp that up a bit. Let’s assume that at least one of those authors is a “name”. All of a sudden the scope of the exposure is exponentially increased.

Now, given that anthologies are these days generally themed in addition to all those theoretically amassed fans of specific authors, we also have all the fans of whatever particular genre or theme the anthology in question is targeting. For example, my story In the Runes was accepted for the anthology Rum and Runestones, a collection of pirate-and-magic stories. Pirates are very popular. So is magic…with the fantasy crowd, anyway. This means that a story that might have been hit-or-miss in a general fantasy anthology will be more likely to find its target audience because the readership already knows what to expect when they pick up the book.

So you see, anthologies hold quite a bit of benefit to those that write short fiction.

For me, however, there is even more to it. I am also an editor of anthologies, or in probably more accurate terms: an anthologist and packager of anthologies. The difference? I do all the work and simply turn in print-ready files to the publisher. The reason I embrace the stress and strain of this when I could be writing quietly in my own little world? I LOVE to create books from concept to completion. I get ideas…lots of ideas…and then I run with them! Anthologies let me do that a lot quicker because others have to do most of the writing. Currently I am senior editor of both the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies (Mundania Press) and the new Legends of a New Age anthology series (Dark Quest Books).

But the best reason of all for my particular insanity? I want to help those who are where I used to be; those just getting started, those not quite sure how to go about climbing that ladder to stand beside me. If I can help other aspiring authors get their start and avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered along the way, then I have done a good thing and I can be more than happy about all the effort I put into creating and promoting these anthologies.

If you would like to learn more about my novels or the anthologies I have been a part of, please visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.badassfaeries.com.


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She has edited the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, and No Longer Dreams, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, Space Pirates, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.badassfairies.com

You can listen to the audio from when Danielle was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WZW7hSbx

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain


Paraskevidekatriaphobia, the irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Derived from the Greek for Paraskevi (meaning Friday), dekatreis (meaning thirteen), and phobia (meaning fear).

(The fear of just the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia.)

The number 13 itself is feared. Many buildings omit the 13th floor, choosing instead to go from floor 12 to floor 14. The Munsters from the old TV series days lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, to be sure the producer’s play on the superstition.

Couple that along with the notion that Fridays are generally regarded as unlucky. Take Black Friday for instance, when in 1929 the stock market fell, leading to many an investor’s death from suicide and the collapse of the US economy. And, you have the fear of Friday the 13th.

Many people postpone trips, refuse to make important decisions, or otherwise react negatively to the date.

Even us paranormal investigators. We did an investigation last year on August 13th (a Friday) in hopes that we would have tremendous luck in gathering evidence. It proved to be one of the quieter investigations we have done. So yes, we too succomb to the bad luck of Friday the 13th and now plan our outings for another time.

What about you, did you change your habits this Friday?

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

(My apologies, the Paranormally Speaking segment is running behind from Friday due to illness in the family)

The Second Instance of a First

Last week, I spoke about firsts in my paranormal career and how they are few and far between. Well lo and behold, I have had another. I was performing a cleansing or spirit rescue and had almost finished the house. When I got to the last room, I felt a heaviness or uneasiness coming from the closet. I went over to start my procedure and actually got grabbed by the arm. I have been grabbed before, so this was not unusual. What was disturbing was that I got scratched. For the first time, I had a physical injury from an entity (albeit rather minor).  Undaunted, I continued my quest to cleanse this home, and put the fears of the homeowner to rest.

I succeeded in the end.  I shall chalk this up to a learning experience and revel in the knowledge that no matter how long you do something, you can always learn something new.

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A Great Project

by Chris Jackson

We did a great talk at Ron Russell Middle School in Portland, Oregon yesterday. I did a talk on writing, and we brainstormed on a short story project – they provided the ideas, characters, genre, plot and setting, and I get to write it! Awesome fun! I’ll be doing a Science/Fantasy/Horror/Humor story about a cemetery-space station orbiting Saturn where a genetically modified Sasquatch and a talking monkey find a magical tome that animates a dead veteran soldier, who then raises an army of undead and must be placated by being married to a kidnapped rock star.

Wow… this should be fun!

Update: This awesome project has been percolating in my mind for a few weeks, now, and it came to me that it could be expanded to other schools in other states. How about this: a whirlwind tour of the US, and ideas for short stories from schools in several cities. Write them all up and put together an anthology! Proceeds go back to the schools for their Lit programs.

You can listen to the audio from when Chris was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/WBhdhY3s

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Freebie Friday

Our guest blogger, Lori Handeland, is giving away magnets and bookmarks for joining her Full Moon Club at:


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Keeping the Fandom Flame in a Sci-Fi World

by Gail Z. Martin

What do you do when the fantastic becomes commonplace?

Back in the day, early in the 20th century, sci-fi had a lot of ground to cover. Rocket ships, ray guns, space travel, light-up gadgets—there was no limit to what could be imagined.

A funny thing happened on the way to the future. Reality caught up—and sometimes passed—sci-fi. Space shuttle launches became ho-hum. Middle school kids carry cell phones far more advanced that Uhura’s entire communication panel, let alone Kirk’s communicator and Bones’ tri-corder put together. Our cars not only talk to us, they plan out our route, dial our phones and can call for help if we get stuck. The Internet happened.

Personally, I think that the closer reality became to sci-fi, the harder it’s gotten for the genre to keep up. Maybe that’s why fantasy does so well—it’s easier to surprise us in the past than to predict a future more mind-boggling than the one in which we already live.
There’s a hidden benefit to this shift. Long ago, it was difficult for the average person to imagine a ray gun future because it was so vastly different from what someone living in a rural community in the pre-World War II world experienced, a world that for many people still lacked indoor plumbing and electricity. As sci-fi converged with the real world, it became mainstream.

One quick run through the programming on TV shows plenty of plots hinging on scientific thrills and wonders—as well as fantasy elements and the paranormal—that are on every network and channel, not just Syfy. Books that at one time would have been considered “fannish” become mega-bestsellers, like Harry Potter and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books. Role-playing games broke out of the basement thanks to video gaming and took over every living room in America. Thanks to Cartoon Network, anime elements are as accessible as sushi at your local supermarket.

How do you keep the fandom flame? In my opinion, fandom wins when it embraces this new crop of readers, gamers and movie-goers and includes programming to attract them. Instead of considering mass-media newcomers as second-class, value their perspective and create ways to draw them further into other elements of fandom by exposing them in positive ways. Put the “fun” back in “fan” and stop taking fandom quite so seriously. Realize that the passing of the torch is inevitable, and is best done with grace and humor.
Older fans often remember the sting of exclusion from the “mainstream” culture. Let’s make sure fandom shows a more welcoming face now that we have seen the future….and they are us.

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The Holy Terrors

We call her Gizmo for short.

by Crymsyn Hart

If my pets had voices they would say, “You’ve done enough writing for the day” after only five minutes on the keyboard. “Come out and play with us. Throw the ball so I can catch it. No throw the Frisbee so I can catch it.”

I can already hear them barking at me to get my attention and pull me away from the computer. And if it’s not my two dogs, then it’s the bird screeching at such an insane volume that even with music blaring, earplugs in, and me in the other room with the door closed, I can still hear him.

I love my pets very much, but they run the house. Now that I’m working from home, I get to spend my whole day snuggling with my black Lab, Morrigaine or fighting with my Border Collie/black Lab mix, Cadence. Both of them are my babies. Morrigaine makes a wonderful footstool as I recline on the love seat and she takes up the other cushion. While I do that, Cadence is jumping by my head so her two front paws land on my laptop and press a whole bunch of keys and gibberish appears on the screen. She has already victimized my laptop and my v, b, & n keys have been sacrificed to the writing gods. Luckily the sensors are still intact so I can still write.

If Cadence isn’t jumping on my keyboard, she accidentally steps on the power cord and with one wrong move pulls it out of the laptop therefore leaving me gasping for my lost words because I hadn’t pressed save in the last couple of minutes or ready to throw the laptop across the room because it needs a new battery. Once Cadence pulls the cord out and that doesn’t get my attention, she then pokes her wet nose into my arm. I think this is the worst of her actions to interrupt my writing day. Because she seems to do it right when

Lapdog, foot warmer, and great Frisbee catcher.

I’m in the zone. Of course, there’s nothing I can do except look longingly at the screen, and pray that my characters will talk to me once I’m done being the slave that my dogs have trained me to be.

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