The Best of The Goose’s Quill 2016

As 2016 winds to a close, I take a look back and see what Goose’s Quill posts resonated with my readers the most. I often get surprised! Here are the top 20 of the year:

  1. Productivity and Expectations
  1. A Clean-Out Vacation
  1. Summer Slump: Is it September Yet?
  1. Gans Family Reunion 2016: Blood is Thicker than Water
  1. Beta Readers: A Vital Part of the Process
  1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  1. The Best of the Goose’s Quill 2015
  1. Research and Citations: Save Time, Get it Right from the Start
  1. The Dread Synopsis
  1. Book Launch! But What to Read?
  1. Critique Groups: A Resource Worth Having
  1. Book Fair Magic: Casting a Reading Spell
  1. Evolution of a Speaker: From Wrecked to Relaxed
  1. A Successful, Grateful Book Launch for The Witch of Zal
  1. My First Author Panel: The Student Becomes the Teacher
  1. Learning to Excel: Spreadsheets and Writing
  1. How To Cope With Book Launch Anxiety
  1. My Biggest Takeaway: 2016 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference
  1. Musings on Grief and Comfort

And my #1 read post of 2016:

  1. The Witch of Zal Book Trailer

Thank you everyone for reading The Goose’s Quill! Have a safe and Happy New Year, and I will see you in 2017!

The Goose's Quill logo




Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian OrchestraSometimes among the frenzy of the season, it’s good to take a break and relax a little. So last weekend my husband and I went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We managed to pick the only day so far that we have had ice and snow to go to the show, but we arrived in good time.

While the seats in the Wells Fargo Center were a squeeze even for my small frame, they were in a good position. My husband would have liked to be closer to the stage, but once the show started I felt that being as far back as we were gave us the best vantage point for all the special effects.

Most people are familiar with a few of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s songs—most likely the Wizards in Winter, which many people use in their fancy Christmas light displays. Their music is energetic, rocking, and enthusiastic. Their stage show is mind-blowing, with psychedelic lasers, flashing strobes, a huge screen with quick-cut montages, and pyrotechnics.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Trans-Siberian Orchestra Trans-Siberian Orchestra




So needless to say, I had a panic attack.

After spending the first 20 minutes of the show with my eyes closed to block the sensory overload, the worst of the panic ebbed and I could relax enough to actually watch (most) of the rest of the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Their first act consisted mostly of a themed story, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, tying all the songs together. The story itself was simple, but it served its purpose to frame the music admirably. The second act had their older hits, rounding out the night with a mix of ballads, jazz, and rock.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Audience lighting up a ballad

Trans-Siberian Orchestra





The lead band member said they had been together for 20 years. I would love to see what their early shows were like. Neither technology nor budget would have allowed for the early shows to be anything like they are now. A video on the evolution of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra would be fascinating.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

When the lights came up, a haze filled the building. For one moment of blurred reality, it seemed the haze had made its way outside, for a dense fog filled the warming midnight air.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The music was wonderful and the show amazing. I am so glad we got to see this dazzling Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas show.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Merry Christmas, everyone! Have a happy, peaceful holiday season.



Holiday Book Con 2016

This past weekend I wrapped up my 2016 book event schedule. My last event was a Holiday Book Con in Ocean Grove, NJ. For a first time event, I thought it went well.

The Jersey Shore Arts Center, a magnificent old building with tons of character, housed the Holiday Book Con. Our hosts, the Jersey Shore Writers, set up chairs, tables, a gift wrapping station, and a dessert table in the holiday be-decked hall.


About 20 authors attended the event. I knew a few, such as Marie C. Collins, Laura J. Kaighn, and J.R. Bale, but most I had never met before. We spent some time going to the podium and giving a short pitch of our work, then we broke for food. After that, the Open Mic commenced. I took the reindeer by the horns and signed up to do my very first public Open Mic!


I managed not to have a panic attack, which I consider a Christmas miracle. To my surprise, I even enjoyed my reading! Sharing my work aloud with a crowd was fun. Who knew?

While the Holiday Book Con did not draw the public crowd the hosts had hoped for, this was their first year. I thought the day worthwhile—listening to the readings, hearing the stories of how other authors got where they are, trading information, and simply being festive together with other creative minds. As a result, I will do it again next year if they hold it.

So now to take a break from the running around, lugging boxes, getting up too early, and listening to my friendly GPS as I drive.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays to all my friends! Wishing you peace and goodness in this holiday season—and all year round.

Table setup at the Holiday Book Con




Year-End Reflections: Looking back to move forward

I know that we still have a few weeks until the end of 2016, but I’m in a reflective mood. Thanksgiving was a time to reflect on the many good things in my life. My upcoming birthday is a time to see where I am and where I’m going. Christmas is always a time of joy and hope. And eventually the New Year will be here. So my year-end reflections linger for quite a long time.

Thanksgiving was hectic this year, with a compressed travel time, but the holiday did hold some quiet moments—and a great deal to be thankful for. My family means the world to me, and the fact that we are all healthy, safe, and content in our lives is a blessing.

Witch of Zal year-end reflectionsOn my “book birthday” I looked at where I started with my book, The Witch of Zal, and where I stood after a year. I needed to assess the way I spent my time and energy in marketing the book to see what worked, what didn’t, and where I could improve. So it is with my real birthday—I need to assess what I have done through the past year, and what I need to change or tweak to get me closer to the goals I have for my life.

Christmas has long been my favorite time of year. The idealist in me has always responded to the “peace on earth, goodwill to men” mantra of the season. I’m all for anything that makes people actively think about how they treat other people, and encourages generosity and inclusion. With the recent election leaving so many people reeling and frightened for themselves or people they love, I need the healing power of Christmas to help me get back to believing in the inherent goodness of people.

Christmas decorations also brings back a lot of memories in my year-end reflections. So many of my ornaments are sentimental as well as beautiful. The Little Drummer Boy commemorating the year I played said character while having a high fever and dealing with a similarly ill cast:

Little Drummer Boy ornament year-end reflections

An Egyptian-themed ball that I bought for my best friend, who died before we exchanged presents:

Egyptian ornament year-end reflections

Many horse and unicorn ornaments, because, well, horses and unicorns!

Unicorn ornament year-end reflections

New family ornaments for my wedding and my daughter’s birth:

Family ornament year-end reflections

I don’t need an angel to show me that I have had a pretty wonderful life.

Then comes New Year, that time of year is intimately associated with resolutions. No resolutions for me, but I do create goals for the year—both personal and business. For instance, I have new plans for marketing my book. Also, I need to push outside my personal comfort zone to continue to expand my career.

So this past week I have indulged in some year-end reflections. Overall, I’m happy with where I am, and looking forward to the road ahead. I’m a little nervous, because life stories always have unexpected plot twists, but I hope I can rise to meet any challenges I face.

Does the end of the year make you thoughtful, or is it just another time of year for you?

Christmas tree year-end reflections






My First Author Panel: The Student Becomes the Teacher

I’ve been on the marketing road for a year now, but my first author panel happened yesterday. The panel was part of a Founder’s Week celebration at my high school Mount Saint Joseph Academy. Five alumnae authors took the stage to talk to the girls about the writing life.

MSJA Author PanelMy fellow authors were Jane Kelly (class of 1966), Elizabeth Barker (1974), Louise Pisano Simone (1977), and (via Zoom—kinda like Skype) Cat Zakrzewski (2011). Louise and I met as we wandered the halls together trying to find our pre-panel coffee and donuts. Once we found the others, we traded stories of what the school had been like when we went there.

The students (all girls) were enthusiastic and eager. Each author spoke a little about how we came to be writers, and we all had very different stories. This illustrated that no writer’s journey is the same, and comparing your journey to others’ only leads to frustration.

Our different paths (and our age spread) also gave many perspectives on the business of publishing, although I did warn the girls that anything we told them today would likely be out of date in six months, that’s how fast publishing is changing!

The students had a chance to ask us questions, including one about how to handle rejection. The other authors spoke about the opportunities of self-publishing or hybrid publishing, and using rejection to motivate you to reach higher. I used my experience as a reader for agent Marie Lamba to explain that rejection is usually not personal. It’s not a statement about you, or even about your work, it is more often a business decision that has nothing to do with you personally. So we all stressed to not allow doubt to creep in and to keep going—persistence does pay off.

MSJA Author Panel

Kerry Gans, Elizabeth Barker, Louise Pisano Simone, and Jane Kelly (missing: Cat Zakrzewski)

After the author panel, the girls came up and speak to us if they chose. I have to say that 1) their uniforms now are much nicer than the ones we had, and 2) so many of the girls reminded me of me and my friends at that age. They had questions for me about fan fiction (which I mentioned that I had written when I was at the Mount), about process, and about how to make a re-envisioned story like The Witch of Zal your own. (That last was from a young lady who liked to write fractured fairy tales.) Great questions, although I prefaced most answers with, “This is my way, but it may not be your best way.”

The high point of the event for me was when the fractured-fairy-tale student first approached me. She had this huge grin and said, “I read your book with my little sister! I loved it, and when I saw your name on the list here I couldn’t believe it!” As the first reader I have ever met who I didn’t know personally, she is now my favorite fan!

After the event, I snuck backstage (I had been a theater geek in high school). I found to my surprise that the initials my friend and I had painted on the wall with glow paint were still there, along with a poem written on the back of a dressing room door written by another classmate.

My initials backstage at the author panel at MSJAPoem on the door at MSJA author panel

The whole morning was a great time from start to finish. I am so grateful that my first author panel was in a place that still feels like home.

Where was your first author panel, and what was your experience?



Thankful for One Year as a Published Author

Thankful for one year of The Witch of ZalMy debut novel, The Witch of Zal, launched November 4, 2015, so I have been doing this published-author thing for a little over a year now. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the many people who have helped me make the transition, and for the many experiences that have helped me grow as an author and a person in the past year.

First, I am thankful to all the people who helped me improve my craft over the years, and who supported me through the writer’s journey, such as J. Thomas Ross, Nancy Keim Comley, Gwen Huber, Matt Q. McGovern, Bob Drumm, Lois Steinberg, Kathryn Craft, Jonathan Maberry, Don Lafferty, Jim Kempner, Jeff Pero, Keith Strunk, Donna Galanti, and all the others who have supported me in hundreds of small ways.

Second, I am thankful for those who gave me business advice and guidance, such as Jonathan Maberry, Donna Galanti, Marie Lamba, Uwe Stender, my publisher Charles Day and his editor Mary Harris, various people I have chatted with at author events, and pretty much everyone at the Writers’ Coffeehouses who bring perspective and their own experiences to the table every month.

Third (maybe this should be first, LOL) I am thankful for my family. My parents for encouraging me all my life, my brother for not killing me when we were kids, my husband for putting up with my living in a dream world, and my daughter for believing I am an artist even when I don’t feel like one. Also, for my extended family and life-long friends for supporting and encouraging me through this long, strange journey.

Thankful for summer campFinally, I am thankful for challenges. Yes, challenges. Because as an introvert with anxiety disorder, being a published author is a smorgasbord of panic-inducing moments. Book launch. Speeches. Group author events. Traveling to places unknown. Summer camp workshops—with real live actual kids. So many kids. Author panels. Talking to strangers. Lots and lots of talking to strangers. However, I have faced these challenges so far and conquered the fear. I have stepped out of my comfort zone and stretched myself as a person.

I am thankful for this first year as a published author—and to all the many people who have helped get me here. Writing is the effort of a single person, but publishing takes a community. I am so thankful that all of you are mine.

Thankful for book launch

Happy Thanksgiving!





November: Full Speed Ahead

NJASL November conferenceIt’s hard for me to believe that we are already more than halfway through November. For all that October seemed to take forever to get through, November has flown—and the last few weeks are going to move at high speed for me.

This week I have back-to-back book gigs. The first is the New Jersey Association of School Librarians fall conference on Friday. I have a fondness for the NJASL conference—my very first book event when my book got published last year! I look forward to meeting many awesome librarians and chatting with them about books in Authors’ Alley.

The next day, Saturday, I travel to Elkins Park in Pennsylvania for a multi-author children’s book event. I have never been to Open Book bookstore before, but with 20+ authors expected, with readings and a panel, it sounds exciting. My first ever panel—eek! Hopefully I will not trip over my own tongue. Come on down and join the fun!

Then we have Thanksgiving, which is always a whirlwind in and of itself. Traveling, family visits, stuffing ourselves until we need to wear sweatpants…By the time everything is over, I need a vacation to recover from the holiday!

I will not get said vacation, though, because on November 30th I will again venture into Pennsylvania—this time at my high school alma mater as part of an Author’s Panel. Five of us (all female, all alumnae) will talk to the girls about how we got where we are and what it’s like being a female author today. I don’t know who the other authors are or what they write, but I am eager to find out.

Oh, and I am trying to get materials together to start querying one of my novels.

So that’s my November in a nutshell. How’s yours shaping up?

NJASL signing in November 2015




The Dread Synopsis

I am in the process of gathering materials together to query my middle grade historical adventure The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I have a decent query, the manuscript is properly formatted, and I am working on the final piece—the dread synopsis.

The synopsis is notoriously difficult for most writers (there are some odd ducks that actually enjoy it!), and we procrastinate over it as long as possible. It is no wonder we find it hard. It’s a monumental task to take a 56,000 word novel and explain it in about 1,000 words—especially while attempting to infuse it with voice and emotion.

I took some advice from a few blogs on how to get started on the query. First, I wrote one sentence summarizing each chapter, then I turned that list into better-written paragraphs. Next, I polished it, choosing more powerful verbs, adding more emotional language. To my immense relief, the synopsis came in just at 3 double-spaced pages—my target length!

To double-check that I had not missed anything important, I used a technique taught by Kathryn Craft at a recent Philadelphia Writers Conference. By using her advice, I found that I had missed a structural element—the dark moment—and added it in. I also made sure I had enough emotional language and words that showed why this story is relevant to today’s audience.

So now I have a synopsis I am happy with. Yay! Next, however, I have to condense that to one single-spaced synopsis, and then even further to a paragraph. Can I do it? Can I synopsize my synopsis?

We will find out.

Do you have any tips for working on the dread synopsis (of any length)?

Musings on Grief and Comfort

“Words fail me.” This saying has proven true several times in my life, usually when confronted with an extreme emotion—particularly grief.

Grief is Universal

Grief is a primal and universal emotion—it has existed for all of mankind’s history, in every corner of the Earth. Some cultures still invoke grief rituals involving keening or wailing or rending of garments, and sometimes I think these are the truest demonstrations of an emotion that comes from our deepest selves and predates our use of words.

Yet we do use words to express grief. It may seem strange that as a writer I find words oddly fragile in the face of this emotion. We say things like “I’m sorry for your loss” and “My condolences”,  and we mean them with all of our being. They are only a pale reflection of what we want to express, yet we understand them to speak much more than the flimsy words convey, and accept the true depth of feeling behind the words.

Grieving is Specific

While grief itself is universal, the process of grieving is specific to the individual. Some people grieve openly and loudly; some crawl away and sob in the dark. Some throw themselves deeper into living; others withdraw from life. Some need to talk their grief away; others hold it deep inside. Some need the comfort of people around them; others need quiet to find peace. Some recover from grief quickly; others wrestle for many years. There is no one right way to grieve—each person must make the journey through grief in their own way.

Comfort is also found in places unique to the individual. Some find it in the arms of others, while some find it in the solitude of nature. Some find it in the bustle of life, while others find it in the stillness of home. Some find it in religion, others in memories of loved ones, still others in music or art. I know in times of grief I take comfort in a frenzy of organizing and cleaning, a metaphorical attempt to regain a sense of control and make sense of my inner turmoil.

Grief is for the Living

One truism of grief is that funerals are not for the dead—they are for the living. We cannot truly mourn the deceased. After all, we would not mourn their life—since we loved them—yet we also cannot mourn their death, either. Almost everyone, whether you believe in an afterlife or believe there is nothing after death, will agree that the departed person is beyond the reach of pain, suffering, and the other cares of this world. So we gather not to mourn them, but to mourn the light that no longer shines in our life, to seek ways to fill the hole where our loved one used to be. Grief is for the living, and funeral services are where those of us left behind begin to find comfort and healing.

I saw many expressions of both grief and comfort this past week at a relative’s funeral, but there is one that has etched itself indelibly on my soul.

After the funeral service, we adjourned to a rural mountain cemetery, one of those places where the sky meets the earth and heaven seems but a step away from where you stand. We gathered around the grave as generations of mourners had done before us on that peaceful hill. The preacher began to sing. I don’t remember the words, but they are irrelevant, for just as grief is from a time before words, so is comfort.

The preacher’s strong, raspy voice rolled across the cemetery, washing grief away and flinging it defiantly to the sky and the hills. And the mountains caught our grief and echoed comfort back to us, as the ancient earth assured us that the deepest stab of grief is temporary, while the powerful bond of our love is eternal.

A place where grief finds peace




River Reads 2016

event-flyerOn Sunday, October 23rd, I participated in the inaugural River Reads author festival. The brainchild of Brandi Megan Granett, with assistance from Marie C. Collins, the 46-author event happened at Prallsville Mills in Stockton, NJ.

The venue buzzed with energy from the moment we set up. The upstairs housed the children’s authors, and we had a great deal of fun decorating and dressing up. The downstairs held the adult authors, who were a bit more sedate but enjoyed visiting us upstairs to chat and filch our candy.

Prallsville Mills

Prallsville Mills

For a first-time event, we had a good customer turnout. Traffic was steady most of the day, peaking between 2-4 in the afternoon. Because of the beautiful weather outside, we also drew in plenty of people who had been hiking or biking on the tow path that runs behind the mill.

Riverside at River Reads

My lunch spot

The Delaware River behind River Reads

The Delaware River






Author readings ran downstairs (we could hear the applause wafting up the staircase to us), and later in the day, when we had more children in the customer crowd, several readings happened in the upstairs reading area as well.

River Reads upstairs reading spot

Upstairs reading area

The event ran without a hitch, the weather cooperated, and I got to spend the day sharing a table with Jack Hillman, whose chain mail was quite the hit with the customers. I also got to catch up with author friends I hadn’t seen in some time: Donna Galanti, Keith Strunk, Kit Grindstaff, Al Lohn, Kathryn Craft, Phil Giunta, and Kelly Simmons.


Kit Grindstaff & Donna Galanti at River Reads

Kit Grindstaff & Donna Galanti






I had a spooky enjoyable time at the first-ever River Reads festival, and I hope they make it an annual event.

Author Kerry Gans at River Reads

My next event will be November 5th at Open Book bookstore in Elkins Park, PA.









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