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Old Story, Old Thoughts

Grief has been on my mind a bit lately. I supposed that’s semi-normal for me, for the sorts of things I write, for the sort of life I’ve lived. You can’t avoid it when your grandfather is a funeral director – death is just a part of life. Sometimes, words get said and they aren’t exactly meant the way that they’re said. I think some people forget that words have power and sometimes the edges are sharper than they should be.

Instead of going on some little (or not so little) ramble about grief and the shape of it, the edges of it. I’m not going to go on at length about whether or not there is a wrong way to grieve (spoiler: there isn’t. Though I will say that avoidance is not dealing with it). Grief takes many shapes, many plateaus, and many forms. Grief isn’t always about death either. And I’ve already rambled more than I’d intended. No more rambling from me.

Instead, I’m going to put up an old story of mine that this train of thought always makes me think of. I was sitting waiting on an ultrasound for my youngest child and the story bloomed from there. It appeared in Flashquake in 2010 or 11, something like that. A long ass time ago but I still like it. Hopefully, you do too.


The Woman Next to Me is Dying

Sarah Wagner

Disinfectant does little to mask the scents of sickness and death, the inescapable odor that hovers beyond the reach of even the most thorough of cleanings. My nose rebels against the bleached vomit scent, threatening to make my stomach riot. I am at odds with these surroundings, carrying new life into this sick place.

The waiting room is bursting with people in line for their Rorschach images, their internal inkblots. Mine will show a beating heart, tiny fingers and toes, but the others in this room are not waiting for something so delicate or sweet. They’ve come to see the true breadth of what ails them, the lumps and bumps of scary things, lurking in the dark things.

The woman next to me is holding hands with her third round of chemo. As long as there is any offer of hope, she will be fighting. I admire her more than I have words for. What great strength must she possess in those frail, irradiated bones to face mortality with such hope.

She wears her baldness uncovered, a badge of honor, a crested buckler against death. She’s a fighter, deftly deflecting each coup de grace thrust in her direction. She won’t go quietly. Next to her, I’m a novice. I hope when the duel is mine, I am as strong as her, my will as sharp.

I am not here to parry, but to bring the next student into the world. I am waiting to hear that locomotive heart, to feel him moving beneath my skin, squirming against his prison. Anxious to begin his training.

He’s going to come out bald, like the woman next to me, and I hope he’s a fighter like her. I pray that my boy has the same strength to face life, the same steel will. I pray that the woman next to me finds her answer, finds remission in her IV bag, victory in hand.


I know it’s not exactly grief in the most obvious way, but for me, hope and grief spend a lot of time holding hands. The woman was more an amalgamation of people in that room and I knew none of them and I have no idea what happened to any of them. I prefer to think that each of them won the wars they were fighting.



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Writing Wednesday – Rules

As a kid, rules were stupid. As a parent, rules are necessary. As a writer, it’s both. Knowing when they’re malleable and when they aren’t is the tricky part. Some rules will vary by publisher or style guide and that is completely unavoidable (though it would be really great if we could come to an actual standard). Some rules are grammar rules or structure rules and those are harder to ignore and get away with ignoring but not actually impossible.

During the initial writing, the zero draft stage, I pay zero attention to the rules. Any rules. I don’t care where commas go or what my margins are or which way we’re typing numbers, I just want the story, start to finish. It doesn’t have to follow a rule of logic or even a linear timeline, it just has to get out. I’m big on fixing when it’s finished which really means that you’re not likely to ever see a proper serial-type story from me.

Of all the rules of writing I’ve ever read, only one is, to me, non-negotiable. If you want to be a writer, you should first be a reader. Consume as much as possible, as varied as possible. Read works from other times, other cultures, other genres than your preferred.

Some rules are case by case basis at best. Maybe working in silence is great for you but it would drive me absolutely mad. Maybe outlining is the “approved” method but that, too, would drive me bats. There are several like this that aren’t really rules but foundation issues. Some people need to write within a set of physical parameters or have a set routine they follow to get from point a to point b, it doesn’t always work for everyone and that’s not terrible.

The rest of the rules are pretty malleable, provided you understand why they’re there. Some rules say limit your adjectives. Some say to never use absolute words like never or always. It’s good to keep in mind these rules so the story doesn’t get bogged down but I couldn’t get through a story without breaking them. I do agree with the 3 exclamation points per 100k words though (even if I’m fairly certain I’ve ignored that one too).

I have my own personal rules but that’s come after reading a hundred rules lists by a hundred different writers (and no two are alike) and spending the last 20 years or so figuring out what works for me and what bad habits I’ve developed. I have to watch the number of times I use the word “just” in a story. I have to watch for passive voice. I do tend to get a little adjective heavy and I hate the word “said.” I honestly have to force myself to use “said” and shake up my general speaking pattern so it’s not all homogenous and formulaic. I love balance and aesthetic and mood but I know I have to watch how much of that goes into a story. And I have to watch my sentence fragments. I love a good punchy fragment a little too much. I also tend towards unnecessary words and try to, in the last edits before submission, cut my word count by 10% to tighten up the story.

It takes time to find your rules, to know what you do too much, what you need to shake up to make the work exciting not just for you but for your readers. I’ve never met a writer who knows their weaknesses right from the beginning (I certainly didn’t!) but maybe it happens. Knowing your weaknesses and habits leads to better crafting, better, more thoughtful word choices and sentence structures. All of that leads to a better reading experience too.

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Writer Wednesday: Sherell Cummings

Today, I’m going to bring you a little bit about a fellow Boroughs author who has a brand new book out! Personally, it looks like a fun read.

You Always Have Me by Sherell Cummings



High school junior Kale Montgomery is stuck with a father who hates her, a mother who left her, and a town that pities her. Getting out of this life seems impossible, and yet she knows staying is the fastest way to rot [or lose] her soul.

When Wyatt McCade, her childhood best friend who’s now grown into a chiseled and devastatingly handsome twenty-one-year-old, comes back into town, Kale dares to hope again. Hope for a future with love, happiness, and endless possibilities.

Embarking on a cross-country road trip, Kale and Wyatt discover life apart from each other was never much of a life at all. They’re ready for their happy ending. But, what’s love that isn’t tested? When a secret about Wyatt is revealed that could change their entire future, Kale’s forced to find out if hope is her savior, or if it’s actually the most dangerous thing of all.

Barnes And Noble

Boroughs Publishing Group




Sherell Cummings

Sherell Cummings is an IT Technician whose mind is consumed with what to write next. She and her fiancé, Jude, and their two children live on the island of Trinidad and Tobago and when she’s not reading or trying to find time to write, she’s at work doing the regular nine to five.

Find her and follow her on all the sites:



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Updates All Around

Set up at the Italian Festival!

I had another craft fair this past weekend and I sold a few more books which is always nice and met some very interesting people. I have to admit, I am enjoying the craft fairs more than I thought I would, even with all the other issues I’ve got going on right now. Which are much more plentiful than I’d like, for sure.

I have another craft fair coming up on August 12th also and that should be both busy and fun. I honestly never thought I’d be looking forward to events like this – it’s been a very long time since I was comfortable peopling this much so I guess I’m getting somewhere after all these years. I’m not ready for Steel City or Parsec just yet but maybe soon! (ish)

Fabric sculpture Ragamuffin is up at Nesting Dragon.

I put up a bunch of new stuff over at Nesting Dragon – I’m really enjoying the fabric sculptures. I think the Nazgul and Shadow are my favorites (Shadow is all mine and not for sale lol) but I’m branching out a bit and I’ve got some ideas… Hopefully, I’ll manage to get one done before the Peach Festival and see how it plays.

On the health front, this month has been one long round of why do I hurt. It started with the left knee, when through the feet (with cellulitis of all things), through the ankles, the other knee, and then the wrists and hands. I’ve had x-rays, blood work,  more ibuprofen than I’ve taken in my entire life leading up to this (maybe an exaggeration…), and a whole lot of questions. The only thing I know for sure is that I have some arthritis in one knee, stupid tiny veins, and a predilection for bruising. I had yet another appointment today with the orthopedic guy and I walked out with some probably nots, a script for more bloodwork, and a referral for yet another guy. It’s really a frustrating process and I’m not actually getting solid answers, just suggestions. But we think fibromyalgia is ruled out at least so that’s something. Now I have to visit a rheumatologist and we’ll play another round of a million questions. Honestly, rheumatoid arthritis would make sense with everything but I’m not calling it until a doctor does. As of now, it’s just one possible answer. The words don’t matter so much as having a plan of attack. That’s what’s bothering me the most – not having a solid plan of attack beyond try to weigh less. In the mean time, I’m just muddling through and playing with speech to text software because typing a lot hurts (I’ve split this post into three sittings as it is).

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