Roppongi, Tokyo, on New Year's Eve

Roppongi, Tokyo, on New Year's Eve
Among other things, I am writing a detective series that takes place in Tokyo. The first novel, "Be Careful What You Ask For," centers on a much-admired Tokyo police inspector being forced to confront his ties to a crime family while investigating a murder in Roppongi.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oh joy, oh rapture

So I put the manuscript down for a couple of weeks and used my writing/editing time to learn more about social media. I learned just enough to learn that I need to learn more. But the truth is, the two weeks away from the book was the best thing. Old ideas fell away, fresh ideas seemed worth considering, and I saw for myself holes that needed filling that I would not have seen otherwise. The worst thing: the line editing I've been doing this past week. I am an editor by trade and I love what I do but man, editing large manuscripts, especially of your own work, is a dreadful experience. But it's all a part of the journey, isn't it?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A favorite from a favorite

I have been reading C. Hope Clark's FundsforWriters blog for some time, and it never disappoints.

You can find her at

I recommend subscribing to her newsletter.

What follows is from Vol. 12 Issue 21 / May 25, 2012 and it is so good: learn how to write first.

These are her ideas, and I am fulling attributing this to her.

I am paraphrasing what she said here:

Skip writing the book. Learn the craft. Hope suggests starting with magazines first. Magazines, or newspapers. The main thing Hope emphasizes is:

1) Learning how to write tight, chose words
2) Learning to stick to what the editor needs
3) Learning how to write faster
4) Learning how to research and "cull what's useful"
And if you do this, accept rejection, persevere, you will
5) Earn money
6) Earn clips


I have been working in journalism my entire professional career, and I can tell you, she's right on the money. Writing is a craft that must be learned and doing the spade work is the only way to go. Every good newspaper writer worth their salt that I know has gone through all six steps. Many excellent writers of today, far too many to name, learned their craft slogging through copy. Newspapers or magainzes, it does not matter. What one learns is invaluable, especially working with editors and copy editors, discovering what really works and what gets cut, and most importantly, how to earn a reputation as a 'writer' and 'someone worth reading.'

My journey through writing is the transition I'm making from being a daily purveyor of news and information to a writer of fiction that others will want to read. But that's for another post. For now, good luck and keep writing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's been a busy week in Blogville

Here's a sampling of the blog entries I've bookmarked and want to share:

Chuck Wendig's Things Writers Should Stop Doing Now

From Writer's Relief Staff: 11 Mistakes Writers Make

From Writer's Digest: Do I Need an Agent?

Lawrence Block's A Few Works for Writers

My journey through the writing life includes stops like this. It's a great ride!

Friday, May 18, 2012

What she said...

I have spent the past week deep in the waters of social media, flinging aside my water wings and learning how to swim. There are so many excellent posts for the likes of me, a writer shifting gears and embracing the fact that I must go find an audience.
Ashley Barron's excellent Tweets have helped my focus, and one blog in particular
sums up the new mindset I'm adjusting to.

Can't wait to learn more, share more, and continue the journey.
Come join me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Detective novel continued

Thanks everyone for reading the first few scenes of my detective novel. A few more scenes continue here


     Kato’s misgivings were on target: Endo was sent to Azabu station to spy on Inspector Shig Sato.
     The head of the department’s organized crime control bureau, Superintendent Tatsuo Tanaka, picked Endo from the new crop of detectives specifically for the job, telling Endo that the legendary Inspector Sato was a dirty cop who had many shading dealings with yakuza kingpins, like Ses Fujimori, head of the Black Diamond syndicate, and that Sato had obstructed justice many times in order to help his yakuza friends. Endo listened intently, sensible of the fact someone as senior as Tanaka had selected him for a special assignment.
     “So far, Sato has never been caught,” Tanaka said, sipping tea, as relaxed in his home as Endo was nervous, sitting before Tanaka, listening, barely moving.
     “I want to get Sato,” Tanaka said. “Before he retires.”
     Endo nodded. “Yes, sir.”
     “Just go about your duties as you normally would,” Tanaka said as he studied the young man’s face. “Be a member of the team. Do your job. Just keep a sharp eye out for anything that can link Sato to the criminals. Keep me posted.”
     Endo was honest enough to admit he was ambitious, and being on Tanaka’s good side could mean more plum assignments, resulting in a much more rewarding career with the department than his previous career path, one centered around a police box in a forgotten neighborhood. If his career meant secretly spying on Inspector Shig Sato, then that was all right with him.
     Once inside the Down Low jazz club, Sato and Abe followed Endo through a maze of corridors and into the main room. Endo walked at a steady clip, trying to submerge his excitement, working so close to his quarry while investigating his first murder. Sato could sense the young man’s excitement.
     Abe was in no hurry to go anywhere. He hated going into clubs: foul air, the stench of sochu, whiskey, beer, perfume, sweat. And they were all the same, once the customers left and were fully lit. The club’s gaudy wallpaper, mismatched tables, paper cups with red candles and tiny black chairs all seemed haphazard, quite the afterthought. The air was thick and stale and the policemen sweat through their summer uniforms as they stood guard among the tired, bored customers still seated, waiting to be excused. Near the bar two other officers kept an eye on the staff, a bartender and three waitresses, all of them silently weeping and consoling each other.
     As Sato watched Endo take up a spot near the bar, he wondered if the young man was thinking like a policeman, where maintaining order was important, or if he was keeping an eye out for clues. He listened carefully when he asked Endo what happened in the club that night.
     And like a student reciting an answer, Endo replied: “Upon arrival, the uniforms had the staff and customers separated. After surveying the room, Kato and I canvassed the customers as potential witnesses.”
     Sato grunted. “We have everything we need from the customers? Names, addresses, phone numbers?”
     “Yes. Kato and I interviewed them first. Not the staff.”
     “What about the GIs?”
     Endo pointed to two men sitting low in chairs behind the two dozen customers: two men, their hair was impossibly short, the larger one with skin the color of mocha, the other with skin the color what Sato thought of as beer bottle brown. He guessed from the haircuts that they were American Marines. He saw that they knew they were being watched, their eyes shifting left and right, then down at the table. It was hard for Sato to recall two men looking so miserable. “These two have names?”
     Endo looked at his notes. “Johnson and Ballard.”
     “Okay. We can leave them for now. Now what did the customers have to say?”
     ”Everyone said they were here by ten for the first set and the second set had already started when the waitress came in screaming that the victim was hurt.”
     “What about the musicians? There was music tonight, no?”
     “They were on the stage or in the club all evening. They didn’t leave the building. Several witnesses vouched for that. And we have their information, too. So Kato let them go.”
     “Anybody running the place still here? An owner? A manager?”
     Endo pointed to a small, twitchy man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, rhythmically drumming his fingers together as he rolled his shoulders and jerked his neck from left to right, stretching it from the confines of his blood red shirt; hair in a pony tail, a suit that could have been leather, the man had an unctuousness Sato associated with the worst type of street tout. Sato sensed he had seen the twitchy man before.
     “Nao Nakamura,” the man said with a bow. Sato noticed too that he didn’t look too bright, but had a dangerous, desperate air, and judging from his skeletal thinness and haggard features, was some type of drug addict.
     Sato asked him, “Where were you?”
     “When all this commotion was happening,” Sato said.
     Like a chameleon sensing danger, Nakamura shifted from startled surprise to unctuous smoothness. “Why, I was sitting with customers. We have guests I like to look after personally,” an insincere grin splitting his face.
     “Oh, nothing like that,” the manager smiled through his lie.
     The customers’ shuffling restlessness was becoming a distraction, so Sato asked Nakamura, “Is there another way out of here besides the front and the alley?”
     The little man looked down as if he was deciding between a truth and a lie; he rolled his shoulders and jerked his chin, and without looking up again said, “The very back, behind the kitchen. Kinda out of the way,” as if revealing a prized secret.
     Sato saw Nakamura was the kind of man who knew all the exits. He gestured to Abe, who had been in a room behind the bar nosing around. “Take the customers, except for the GIs, and follow Nakamura. Make sure there are no reporters, no cameramen, no one lurking about. I don’t know why we haven’t seen any reporters yet but I don’t want to deal with them at this point. I don’t want anyone doing any talking. And make sure Nakamura comes back. Take Endo with you. Make sure those GIs stay where they are.”
     For a moment, Abe was uncharacteristically thoughtful. “Funny, I didn’t see any reporters out back.”
     Sato grunted. “Those alleys are hard to find, I guess.” Sato had no respect for any reporter’s ability to find anything not close enough to bump into.
     “I don’t like this.” Abe’s typical nonchalance was not suited for disharmony.
     Sato only said, “I just want to get those people out of here before they find this dive. I don’t want them saying anything to the press to foul things up.”
     While the customers gathered their things, relieved to make their escape, they made their out of the club with Nakamura leading the way and Abe needlessly making sure no stragglers were left behind.
     Sato turned his attention to the staff. “What happened here tonight?”
    The bartender, Michiko Hayashi, was the oldest of the four and a mother hen of sorts, prodding the young waitresses to keep their mind on their work. She sighed as if exhaling her whole life before saying, “Kimi broke up with her GI boyfriend tonight. Her parents hated him, and hated her seeing him. Her seeing a black foreigner, I mean. She told me he was coming tonight, and she was going to tell him she was breaking up with him.”
      “Was she serious about this GI?”
     “Yes. She really loved him.”
     “What was his name?”
     “Charlie … Feathersomething … an odd name.
     “So what happened tonight? Did they talk? Did they fight?” 
     Hayashi shrugged. “She went on break … ” but said nothing more. 
     “What happened?”
      “She came back from her break all upset. She looked miserable. I felt so bad for her.”
     “Did she look like she was hurt in any way? Smacked around?”
     “No,” Hayashi shook her head, thoughtfully. “She looked sad.”
     Sato grunted, silently jotting his notes.
     A tiny waitress, Yoko Mori, piped up. “I heard something.”
     “What?” Sato asked, kindly.
     She swallowed hard, then proclaimed, “I was in the back for a moment,” before a final sob slipped out, and when she raised her face, a geyser of words burst: “I heard Kimi and her boyfriend in the back. Kimi was saying ‘No, Charlie, no … I don’t want to … I don’t want to …’” and then the tiny woman cringed, feeling all the eyes on her. She barely whispered, “That’s what happened,” her voice inaudible as she sank into a nearby chair.
    Sato walked over to her, and very gently asked, “What else did she say?
    “No, Charlie …” she managed to get out.
    “Was she assaulted by this man?”
    “I don’t know!” she wailed before dashing to the dark hallways, the sound of a door slamming punctuating the still air. The two waitresses chased after her. Hayashi answered Sato’s quizzical glance: “Restroom.”
     Sato saw that none of them wanted to believe their friend had been assaulted by her boyfriend, but what else could ‘No, Charlie, no,’ mean? “Did anyone see Kimi after this?”
     “Yes, I did,” Hayashi said, vacantly. “Kimi looked miserable after her break. She seemed quiet. Then at midnight she disappeared. Again.”
     Sato could tell staff was just on the verge of becoming worthless as witnesses. He decided he would have to wait until later to get anything else that would be useful. Besides, he had to find this missing GI, and fast.
     Sato told Hayashi to tell the waitresses it was all right to leave, but to be ready in case he needed some more information. Hayashi nodded, and went to find the others.
     As Abe, Endo and Nakamura made their way back into the main room, Sato asked Abe, “Any reporters?”
     “None that I saw.”
     Endo shook his head no.
     As Sato began to turn his attention to the Americans, Nakamura approached him. “Inspector? I am sure that GI had something to do with this,” he whispered, low and conspiratorial. “He was here only to go after that poor girl. I know the others will stick up for him, but that GI was trouble. I’ve seen him get violent many times, and I’ve had to throw him out.”
     Sato’s dismissed the idea of Nakamura passing as a bouncer with an amused grunt. “What’s your address and phone number again, in case I have to talk to you some more?” Nakamura wisely repeated what he had told Endo. It was an address Sato recognized; an alley teeming with the worst kind of petty criminals.
     “This better not be a lie.”
     Nakamura didn’t blink. “You can find me there, or here, anytime, inspector,” he said, bowing.
     “Okay then. Make sure I can find you.”
     Sato watched Nakamura bow, then head for the back exit. Distrustful of the little man, deep inside he knew somehow the case could rest on what Nakamura knew. He did not like it. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Plodding through my journey

On the Women's Fiction Writers site Laura Drake writes about plodding along to publication.

"I’m not smart. No, really. I had to work hard in school to get decent grades. I don’t think well on my feet. I’m a bit of a klutz, physically and socially. If you believe in ‘old souls,’ I’m not one of them. I learn by jumping in and flailing about, making mistakes until the right path presents itself.  I’m not being self-depreciating – I have assets. I just had to find what they were as I went along.
My biggest asset? I’m a plodder. I know, it’s not sexy. But that’s okay, because it works."
How true. Writing poetry during my teen years then short stories in my 20s as the Navy took me places unimaginable only a few years before, all the while learning the craft of journalism and newspapering in order to earn a living. It's all about plodding along.
It's what I call a journey. Only I skipped the motorcycles.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Read a bit of "Be Careful What You Ask For"

Here's the first few scenes of my detective novel "Be Careful What You Ask For." All comments welcome!

Chapter One

        The police inspector knelt over the dead waitress’s body, gently tilting her young, battered face as her hair, dusty with debris, fell at odd angles. Sticky crimson blood had oozed out of her nose, ears and mouth and one eye stared into the night while the other was a swollen bloody mass. Her legs were oddly twisted beneath her, but the sleeveless black silk blouse and short black skirt she wore didn’t look disturbed. Nothing lay beside her.
        He spent several minutes probing a purple cheek, split open, bruised and disfigured, finding very little bone still intact.
        The inspector turned his head toward the voice and was blinded by the crime scene lights that made the body seem like a broken mannequin. Shading his eyes, he peered at his partner, Detective Ken Abe, and stepped out of the light, careful not to disturb anything.
         Abe had been watching Sato for a full five minutes, puffing on a cigarette, watching his old friend at work.
        “She was surprised, then frightened, then beaten, left for dead,” Sato said, giving voice to this thoughts as he crossed over to Abe, wiping his hands on a handkerchief.
        Abe nodded. He had known Sato for over 20 years. He knew how his friend’s mind worked, unhurried, always direct and to the point. And most times, he did not disagree, like now. 
        Sato said, "I think she came out here expecting something or someone."
        Abe nodded. It seemed that way to him, too.
        "I don’t think she’s been dead for very long, perhaps less than an hour,” Sato continued. “Wasn’t she discovered shortly after midnight?"
        Abe nodded.
        “Do we know who placed the call?”
        “Another waitress,” Abe said, crushing out the cigarette. He took the call, but knew few details. “She’s inside with Kato and Endo.”
        Sato’s guttural “huh” sounded like a dismissive grunt, but it was nothing of the sort. Abe knew Sato was envisioning the crime, assimilating the facts into some sense of order.
        Sato then walked over to the medical examiner, who took the cue and rapidly launched into his assessment: “It looks like somebody struck her across the face, so hard it snapped her head back against that concrete wall. Caused internal brain hemorrhaging.” The doctor hated making a definite statement at a crime scene, but he knew Sato needed to hear something. “She slumped to the ground, and that was it.”
     “No one moved her, touched her in any way?”
     “No!” If it had been anyone other than Sato, the doctor would have been insulted.
     “Any signs of rape?”
    “I don’t know.” The doctor hesitated, scratching his ear. “Maybe. Her panties don’t look like they’ve been disturbed, but there’s nothing strange about the thighs or buttocks. No strange marks or bruises. I don’t know for sure. Like I said, it looks like she just dropped. Some kind of smack in the face, her head hits the wall, probably got a fractured skull. Probably burst something in her brain. We’ll know more later.”
        Abe watched his old partner closely. He knew Sato always performed his duty well, but this time he saw none of the steely resolve he had always admired when the case was fresh, when there were clues to uncover. Abe thought he saw pain. He wondered if it had to do with Sato’s wife, Miki, bedridden all these months. Maybe it had something to do with his retirement, only weeks away.
        But Abe decided he must have been seeing things when Sato’s expression seemed to harden before his eyes. He watched him turn to look at the young woman once more.
        “She was pretty,” Abe said.
        Sato nodded. “What was she doing in a dark alley so late at night?” Sato asked. “What could have happened that would lead to this?
        Abe thought for a moment. “This club has a lot of foreigners come to listen to music. College girl looking to meet foreigners, have an adventure.”
        Sato rubbed his chin. “Adventure.”
     “And she probably liked the excitement of Roppongi.”
     “Huh,” Sato grunted. “Lots of people. Lots of different types of people.”
     Abe considered that. “Waitress work isn’t easy. It had to be something.”
     “Maybe she had a boyfriend. Maybe a jealous boyfriend.
        “Maybe a secret admirer.”
        “Yes, maybe.”
        As far as the uniform police at the scene were concerned, the best thing the poor girl could have hoped for was that Inspector Shig Sato would lead the investigation. Everyone was pleased that the inspector returned to Azabu station for his last month on the force, even the chief, old Wada, and he hated everything.
    A cheerful gray sergeant noticed the rookie next to him watching Sato so he whispered, “Lucky girl. She got Sato.”
     The rookie could only manage an awestruck “Sato.”
     The sergeant whispered, “I’d want him hunting down my killer.”
     The rookie could only nod.
     “Sato can talk a confession out of anyone,” the sergeant said. “And watch this, kid. Abe can smell dog shit at fifty yards and tell you the breed and what the dog had to eat that day. If there are any clues here, they’ll find them.”
     “His sense of smell?” The rookie had never heard of such a thing.
     The sergeant nodded: “People say Abe was hit in the head with a baseball when he was a kid. Hit some nerve. I don’t know. But he’s got a nose on him.”
     The rookie couldn’t help noticing Sato looked cool and commanding in a dark suit, white shirt, plain tie, his face fixed in intense concentration. But Detective Abe: he saw a rotund, affable middle-aged man who looked more like a cheerful bum than a detective, a bum who slept in his clothes and didn’t care if he had broken shoe laces haphazardly knotted together and mismatched socks.
        “This man was Sato’s partner?” The rookie tried to take it all in as he watched Abe bend over and then crouch down, the palm of his hand lightly caressing the pavement like a mother stroking her baby.
     Sato saw the sergeant and came over. “We have a name for this poor kid?”
     “Yamada, Kimi. Waseda student, 22 years old, works here three or four nights a week,” the cheerful old sergeant said. “The other detectives are with the staff inside.”
      Sato turned his attention to Abe, now on his hands and knees, inspecting the cracked asphalt, the gravel, the rubbish laid out before him, his nose inches from the ground. Finding the minutest detail was Abe’s forte and Sato knew Abe could be relied on to discover something no one else would spot. It was a pleasure to watch him work.
        The crime scene team, the medical staff, the police officers, all were transfixed on Abe’s search for some unseen object, mesmerized by his darting glances, his studying one thing, then another. A sigh punctuated the silence. Then a cough. Then Sato absentmindedly began whistling softly to himself.
     Finally Abe stood. “This is no good. Someone’s been walking all over the tracks.”
     “What tracks?” the crime scene leader cried, horrified the scene was tainted.
     Abe ignored him. “Two men, pretty average, I’d say; one wearing leather-soled shoes and the other in sneakers, both on motorbikes. Stand off to the side, I want to see where the bike tracks go.”
     Abe then leaned over and stared at the pavement for a long minute.
     “Ah-ha. Two different directions. Odd.”
     Like Sato, the crime scene crew had seen this time after time with Abe. It was always something amazing. Sato only grunted, pleased for his friend, and scribbled in his notebook.
     “Watch out for the vomit,” Abe told the crime scene leader.
        “Oh …” the man moaned, quickly stepping away. But there was Abe, on his hands and knees, nose inches away from the splatter. He sniffed. He sniffed again.
     The sergeant whispered, “I heard he can tell which brand of beer is in a pool of vomit.”
     The youngster stifled a laugh.
     “It’s a useful trick,” Sato said glancing at the young officer, a small smile on his face. “I depend on Abe knowing the difference between Kirin and Asahi.”
     “Yes, sir,” was all the kid could say.
     Abe slowly got back on his feet and said, “Hamburgers. French fries. Recently consumed. Mos burgers, I’m sure. I think what happened is one of the guys had something to eat, a little later were here, them and the girl, and he was surprised and shocked maybe, but anyhow, one of them threw up on the spot. A reaction of some sort. Like he saw the violence and it made him sick.”
     “Inspector?” an unseen voice called out.
    Sato turned and watched Detective Hisoka Endo emerge from a door ten feet from where Kimi Yamada lay dead. Sato had met Endo only a few hours before, when their shift began, and so far saw Endo for what he seemed to be: a small, handsome, polite young police officer with the kind of bearing and self-assuredness most young up-and-comers would kill for. He dressed well, too well for a young detective, but compared to his contemporaries, his appearance was downright conservative.
        “The customers are getting restless,” Detective Mo Kato said as he appeared from behind Endo and
walked out into the alley. “How long are we going to hold them? We’re finished with them. Most of them said they didn’t see anything.”
        “Got anything?”
        Kato pulled out his notes: “Well, there are two American GIs in there. There were three, but one of them left around 10 or 10:30. He was the dead girl’s boyfriend.”
        Kato stopped chewing in his toothpick, his only reaction to Sato asking, “One of them is missing? He’s not here?”
        “That’s what they said,” came Kato’s casual reply. “No one really noticed. The band was playing. The waitresses were busy. The two other GIs watched the show. Nobody had anything to say until that girl was found.”    
        Sato grunted. “No one says they know anything, and this GI is on the loose,” and the words burned into Sato’s mind. No matter what clues Abe saw in the alley, Sato knew he had to find that GI.
        “Who is still in there?”
        Kato stopped chewing again: “Everyone. The customers. The staff. The GIs.” Kato knew Sato wasn’t going to skip interrogating the people in the club. Sato knew it too and what helped him decide what was next was the fact he had known Kato for years and trusted him. The man’s easy nonchalance his an intense, almost predatory instinct to hunt down criminals, and the man was friends with most of the medical people. This helped Sato decide to take the time necessary to gather clues while the crime scene is fresh; interview witnesses before they start forgetting things.
        “Kato, go with the medical people,” Sato decided. “And keep in touch with headquarters. When they want to start issuing press releases, make sure they don’t screw up. I don’t want the media to start jumping to conclusions and ruining this case.”
        Kato nodded and kept chewing on his toothpick. So he had to wait for the medical people and crime scene team to finish their tasks. His was a benign kind of patience. He believed waiting was a part of investigating. Asking someone to hurry only caused mistakes, as far as Kato was concerned. He leaned his tall, heavy body against a long, dirty concrete wall, unconcerned about any dust and soot, and chewed on his toothpick as he silently watched the crime scene people finish their tasks. He watched the medical team prepare the body of the young woman for removal. He watched Sato and Abe go into the club. Then he watched as the girl was taken away. Only then did Kato stir, to follow the teams to their vehicles.
        His mind wasn’t on the girl anymore, but on Endo. It wasn’t that he was unhappy that there was a rookie on the team, but that it was the inspector’s first night back at Azabu, and Endo just shows up. Kato did not believe in coincidences. He could not put a name to his misgivings, but then, he was happy Sato was back. Kato decided to focus on that.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shed load

In common usage among my peers, to shed load means to get rid of something. In British usage I've learned that it means a large amount. In some technical fields it means to ration power. All three definitions seem to be in the back of my mind today. Over the past few years, after reaching a noteworthy age, things that once held my interest have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps not so much fallen by the wayside but do not hold my interest they same way as before. What remains is my interest in writing, the pursuit of writing, devoting my free hours to it in a way that did not hold my interest at an earlier age. I read something within the past few days that has been the partner to shedding load, a phrase that goes something like this: "Rewriting is found to be an excuse for not going on." John Steinbeck said that.
The vast majority of my time these past four years have been devoted to rewriting. For many years I used rewriting as an excuse for not going on, laying aside a project for years  as other things held my interest more than the effort of putting pen to paper and saying something.
As the years passed, I shed load, and now what is left is rewriting. And rewriting some more.

Stay tuned for Chapter One of my detective novel.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Writing groups and and tidbits from others

My writing group has met three times and already I believe it was one of the single most important decisions I made to further my journey on the road to getting published. The people I meet with are fine young writers who have a lot of talent and they too are searching for direction as they create worlds I know others will want to read.
I gathered this tidbit from one of the other writing groups I belong to, this one a community on the Writers Digest website where members can post things for feedback and such.
Diane Carlisle posted 'the six Cs' she learned at the Tallahassee Writers Association conference and shares them here:

I am so glad I have these groups to learn from, to offer feedback and constructive criticism too, and to propel me further into the mysterious world of writing and publishing.