Welcome to a very special Touched By Words ~ the journey of a writer January 2018 Blog.  This month I am tickled pink and honored to have two-time Emmy nominee, Master Mariner and op-ed columnist and Facebook friend Andrew Giles Buckley as my guest writer. Andrew and I have been chatting on FB, enjoying one another’s posts, humor, commentary by a variety of folks who have found the peace of mind to stay away from volatile topics these days, but stick to important issues, laugh, support and simply enjoy one another’s company. I was introduced to Andrew by fellow writer Serena Jewell. She knew I had fallen in love with Chatham MA last year and how important it became in finishing my first book. Andrew was kind enough to explain the significance of ‘the breach’ at the lighthouse and where to find information on the area. I look forward to his photographs, stories, and videos of the area, it takes me right back to one of the most beautiful places on the East Coast. So, bundle up, grab a cup of piping hot Cumberland Farms Mocha-Coffee (Andrew’s coffee of choice when reporting live daily from the Chatham Lighthouse!) and enjoy the read.


by Andrew Giles Buckley

A long stretch of light gray cloudy glass ran up the narrow inlet, thick and heavy. In the mild – as much as one should ever expect in early January, especially following a two week stretch of solidly-below 20-degree temperatures – air, the cool breeze from the southeast carried moisture.

Rain had been forecast for later, and on top of the still-frozen ground, created the danger of flooding. My gravel driveway had begun to thaw rapidly, to a point, and my foot moved upon a surface that felt like walnuts scattered upon cold brownie batter.

What was near 50 today and tomorrow would then become 24 degrees by the end of the day. Caught just wrong, it could be a flash-freeze creating endless swathes of black ice by the evening.

But that was tomorrow’s peril. What held my attention this morning was the state of Rock Harbor. I’d come here from my physical therapy appointment to heal my back injury-du-jour. Slippery surfaces were in my awareness, and now I was looking at a massive one.

A single sheet – no – a single layer of ice extended from the dock at the fish market down the channel to the end of the jetty and beyond, out into the bay. It was broken only by a thin line marking the pilings that runs parallel to the channel. There, another, narrower slab lay parallel, solid to the bulkhead.

Where I had once walked with friends, watching Sofie run along the docks below the parking lot, there was nothing. Nothing but the ice, brutal and blank in the gray sky it reflected glassily.

Certainly, I’ve seen ice before. Growing up on the Oyster Pond, I would wait and watch to see if it would freeze over in the winter. One very unusual Christmas, we managed to get snow the night before. I woke to find the salt water overnight covered by a blanket of snow. It may have been that winter when my father brought an ax and an eel pole and took me out onto the pond. The ice was a foot thick. And I still was amazed that by simply sticking the long pole into the mud, in the first hole, we snagged an eel.

There were winters when it never froze. That’s been my measure of how hard a winter it is. Did the OP freeze? And secondly, for how long? Three years ago, during the Winter From Hell, it stayed frozen throughMarch. But then, all the harbors froze and no one could get out to go clamming or quahogging. What we had this past NewYear’s was a mini-version of that, lest we forget.

The sudden warm-up and the rain had come to sweep and polish the surface of Rock Harbor. No snow remained. A thin layer of fresh water, being less dense than salt water, floated on top. I once tripped going up the main staircase at the StateHouse. Marble is very hard when applied directly to the knee. That’s what this harbor ice reminded me of. Beautiful, cold, indifferently dangerous.

This winter was forecast to be more mild than usual. It doesn’t feel so, but

February could bring daffodils for all we know now. This mis-projection by NOAA does not undercut their expertise as much as it does raise the increasing erratic nature of weather. While the eastern third of NorthAmerica was extremely cold for an extended period, the rest of the world was hitting record highs. Asphalt was melting

in Australia. It is not unconnected – the cold that would normally be in the rest of the world, and especially in the Arctic, got pushed down to us. The political ramifications when the center of world and economic policymaking is getting the exact opposite climate as the rest of the world is troubling.

If you don’t think politicians won’t make decisions based on what’s out the window you’ve never been to a ski resort in northernNew Hampshire in March. What if an unanticipated effect of climate change means we here get our own bubble of climate the polar opposite of everyone else on the planet?

It certainly won’t change sea level rise. That is happening. Tides on the shore are higher than when I was a kid, on regular basis. The flooding we saw in the Little Beach area of Chatham was bound to happen, but no one thought this soon.

Maybe during a tropical hurricane, not followed by ice floes.

With the decimation of our barrier beach system, now flattened and scattered to the south and west, we’re exposed like never before to the Atlantic. Summer and winter. All the time. This is the New Normal.

These are the facts. The water is higher and getting higher. We’re going to feel that. Even if it’s colder here, it is hotter everywhere else. Whether we choose to believe it makes no matter to the ocean that covers most of this planet. It will come for us, the shore dwellers, indifferently.

If not with blistering heat, then solidly in ice.

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A Conscious Change in Perspective

“For those who feel helpless in the face of insurmountable suffering, we are still in the early years of the 21st century. There is time for us to create a better, happier world, but we can’t sit back and expect a miracle. We each have actions we must take, by living our lives meaningfully and in service to our fellow human beings — helping others whenever we can and making every effort to do them no harm”. ~ Dalai Lama

I was so looking forward to 2017. It was to be an amazing year.  The hopes and dreams and big plans were to be fulfilling, uplifting, and exciting, but such was not the case.

What 2017 brought was a shock, health issues, wide-spread aggression, lies, and taciturnity.

Our leadership changed, and deception seemed to creep in behind it. A conflict of interest making decisions that would help themselves and those in high financial playing fields, a chosen few. Those like me were not selected or included in the game, we were not even allowed a ticket to watch, we were told to get over it and basically get out of the way before we got run over.

“Oh hell, never mind, we’re going to run you over anyway because we can.”

That is how I felt, and I’m sure others did too. We began to keep our views and ideas to ourselves, rather than risk being attacked for even having an opinion or mocked because we refused to accept this form of insanity.

Friendships were shattered, family members fought with each other, having morals all of sudden became dirty and laughable.

I’d given this last blog for 2017 as much thought as possible between trying to understand how condemning the news is not a terrible thing. How banning people from entering our country is deflecting from the American terrorists killing our own people. Or that we are now living in more fear with the threat of a nuclear war than ever before in history, oh, and celebrating Christmas. Wow.

2017 will go down in the record books for sure, but what was positive about it?

How can a writer share their thoughts or raise questions to be considered and do so in a positive light, when we seem to be surrounded by prickly darkness?

We write.

We continue to put ourselves out there, unashamed and bold.

We follow the example of the formidable and fearless #MeToo.

We listen and hear instead of assuming and squashing a point of view before attempting to understand the position.

It is only by persevering can we keep our values strong and our morals sound. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer or not, but do what you feel good about. What you are proud you can accomplish or find the simple joys doing. It is those simple joys that can gather together and form a solid foundation in your life, that no one can topple. If you once loved to draw, dig out that sketchbook, or treat yourself to another. If you love to read, make time for just one chapter a day/night. You’ll be surprised how many books you finish in a year. Expand your mind yes, but give it a break too. Go for a walk, I know that may sound ridiculously simple. But it is in those simple actions many positive things can happen. It frees your mind and soul, it gives you a chance to ponder or daydream, it gives your dog great happiness, it strengthens your heart and will help you sleep better. It fights disease without side effects!

We may not be able to control every aspect of life, but we can control ourselves, and by doing so, we go from fragile to resilient.

When your mind is at ease, everything around you is easier to cope with, by consciously adjusting your responses gives you the ability to go with the flow which is a lot less stressful. I think more than ever this is vitally important, to be mindful and actively pursue mindfulness, for our souls and our sanity.

Such is not the case can transform into such IS the case.

These easy steps can take our power back. You may not like how things are going right now, how leadership is leading or failing to lead, you may not agree with any policies or are striving to change and upgrade policies, but you can make a positive difference, starting with yourself.

Can you imagine if we ALL choose to do this?

So it is with a bright and happy smile I bid 2017 goodbye and good riddance. Let’s send it off with a bang and a ball drop and start fresh, doing what brings us simple pleasures, makes us smile, encourages us to feel good right into and throughout the New Year. In any case, I think this is a resolution we can keep and enjoy success, no matter what the next year brings.


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I know there’s always something to be grateful for, but …

I know, there is always something to be thankful for. We ALL need to give pause and think about that not just on Thanksgiving day, but every other day too. But to be honest, it doesn’t give me much comfort to think, well somebody has it worse off than I do. Yes, that is true. Far too many will go without a meal today. Like they did yesterday and will tomorrow. Too many will suffer from horrible loneliness, that no one should have to endure. Too many will never know the warmth at a Thanksgiving table or the quality of food to be savored and enjoyed. Too many haven’t the opportunity to share conversation, really listen and hear what is being said and perhaps even more importantly respected and appreciated for their views and ideas.

On this day too many will not even consider differences of opinions and thoughts as a rich and vibrant way to experience life. Too many will argue and fuss, ridicule and judge, hurt and walk away in pain.

Of course, there are many who are gathering today, served on fancy gold chargers, layers of fine silverware and crystal goblets, by those who may not have family or maybe missing their families. Some of those servants will be appreciated, valued and compensated. Some will not. So there are many who are in a financial position to have much more than we do. And that is just the way it is, it always has been, it might always be.

So maybe, instead of thinking about why we are grateful because it could very well be worse. Maybe instead of thinking of those who have so very much. We should try very hard to be grateful we simply have this moment, at this table. I am thankful to have wonderful new friends – we were so glad they journeyed here to share Thanksgiving with us. We are thankful for friends who have woven their lives with ours – making it stronger, and we are grateful for a family that stands by no matter the situation or circumstance – all of which holds a lot of love.

It IS the love and bonding and joy and laughter I am the most thankful for.

I hope each of you had a Thanksgiving Day, and every day you can grateful, for more than a turkey and trimmings, for more than one moment.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace


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Reality and This Writer’s Life

Sometimes, no matter what you want, or how passionate you feel about it, life has other plans for you. If you’re smart, you’ll listen and learn the lessons.

Last month I shared my acceptance with Writer’s Relief. It has been a whirlwind of a cycle so far. A cycle is a three month period where your query is created, synopsis polished and the ‘package’ you send to each of approximately 25 literary agents at a time provided; is developed for each agent, and please know, when I say EACH literary agent – I actually mean it.

The Reality is it is not what you want, or what you think should be submitted. It is what is requested be sent and in what order and how much if anything of what you’ve written. This can be anywhere from the first three pages, to the first three chapters to the first fifty chapters or just a one-page query – copy and pasted in the body of an email and nothing more. Not one more word.

The Writer would love to have you curl up with a fresh cup of coffee, or rich glass of wine, as you delve into the life of my characters, my plot, my tale. I want you to enjoy, squirm, cheer and weep when the story is over. Yet the reality is, a literary agent does not have the time to do that. Perhaps for the King’s, the Paterson’s, and the Grisham’s – but not for you or me. It’s nothing personal – it’s just business.

I’ve learned a great deal in this first cycle of the business of being taken seriously as a writer. What is expected of me? What is the reality of this writers life? The next cycle begins tomorrow. Another batch of agents, another stack of email rejections, or ‘we’ll let you know in a month or two or three.’ It is indeed difficult, but, you do have options – you can withdraw your submission for any number of reasons. The agent will not ask you why, or beg you to send them something more. Nope. They might even be relieved to have one less package to read. But this is where you decide – do I give up? Do I give in? Do I stop learning or do I give myself a day or two to really think, is this my passion? No matter what? Yes. No matter what we continue, by pen and paper, or keyboard and screen. You carefully look at what reality is telling you to do – and you press send. Take a breath. Do it again, and again and see where this journey takes you, who it introduces you to and watch to see the kind of person and writer you become.

Oh, and if you’re hoping that the word Relief actually relieves the writer? Well, yes and no – it depends on the quality of work you produce as a writer and the work you are willing to do or paid to have done (for example, writing your own query letter, or having it written for you). Are you proud of what you’ve created? Have you done everything you can to make it the best writing you can? Not just edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, but also looked at comments from your Beta group, given copies of your manuscript to family and friends and really listened to their views and opinions? Have you gone as far out on that limb as you can? Can you go a little further? Yes. Yes, you can. If you dare.

The Writer and the Reality of being a Writer are so very unique to each and every person who has wanted to put pen to page. But the business of publishing is vastly different. It is a business, and just like any other business you want to go into – research it, understand it and surround yourself with people smarter than you are to succeed in it. Keep writing. Keep creating and keep moving forward on this journey. The Reality is, at the end of the day – it begins and ends with you.  How sturdy is that limb?


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Is This Really Happening?!

It is still hard for me to believe it has been four years since I boarded a plane at LaGuardia and travel to Whitefish, Montana alone. Not knowing a soul, relying on a stranger to meet me at a hotel, and drive into the mountains to a writing retreat.

Haven writing retreat, what was I doing there? Could I truly make a dream, a wish, a fantasy of becoming a writer a reality? That was a life-changing journey, in more ways than building confidence as a writer. It opened up possibilities at a time when everything was shut, locked and chained. But it also showed me the path was not going to be easy, and if I was going to do this, I had to do the work. And there lies the answers.

If you cannot help but put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard – you are a writer. If you journal, scribble, enjoy the feel of creating sentences that extend to paragraphs and ultimately fill up a page or two or three hundred – you are a writer. If you sculpt stories, laugh as you write memories, or dampen the parchment with tears – yet you keep at it, keep pouring words in script, print or New Times Roman – you are a writer. You may not be a published author – but you are a writer.

Embrace that fact – because some days that may be all you can hold on to, as you work to become the best writer you can be – and then, the learning begins.

You see I am still climbing, learning, falling, correcting, and reaching the next plateau. Right along side a million others who are also climbing, struggling, collapsing with exhaustion only to get up and start ascending again, and again. The art of writing is a solitary journey in and of itself, but you are definitely not alone.

If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for – and learning to write well is work. But let me say this – if you are happy when you write, if you get a chill when you see what you’ve created, if others enjoy reading your work, or if you keep every word private – that’s just fine. Do not feel you must follow everyone else to be fulfilled. You are enough. In this four-year personal decision, I’ve learned a lot, from a lot of people, and the most important thing is there is a lot more left to learn. Practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice does. As anyone who is trying to learn the proper form to shoot a free throw.

If you’ve walked with me on any part of this journey of mine to become a writer – you know I was accepted by Writers Relief. After all the work I have done, the reading the practice and drafts of query letters, synopsis and bio’s – seeing a professional carve the details – understand the process to publication and know after all is said and done, there are still no guarantees, but you keep at it, because you can’t stop – that is where I am. I can’t stop. I’ve come too far to let it float away into what could have been. I’ve watched this story grow and unfold, and I know there is something special there. I have had Beta-readers of all different ages, nationalities, and cultures read my novel, Northeast of 80 from cover to cover. Two readers immediately asked me for the next book! You can’t get a better compliment than that. I know it’s a small slice of humanity, but I could not have come this far without their support and encouragement. They all want to see these separate pages bound into a book, something to hold and dive into and share and put on a shelf with pride because they know they each had a part in making this come true.

This September Writers Relief is working hard, they are an extraordinary group of amazing people who are there whenever I have a problem or question. They are supportive, honest and make me feel I am in exactly the place I am supposed to be. Soon the query letters will be sent – and the hardest part of the process begins. Waiting. Yet I know this is all part of the journey too. Anyone who has gone hiking or simply went for a walk know, the best part is stopping to sit and enjoy the view.

I can’t wait to see it!

I can’t wait for YOU to read it!!

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What’s Different About This Month?

When I began to consider what I wanted or needed to write about this month, I realized how very different this month is compared to thirty days ago. Last month I wrote a piece about going to writing retreats and the different options you have. It was also the month that I had become a little down about not hearing from literary agents I sent query letters to. Oh, it wasn’t because I received rejections, that I could handle and anticipated, maybe looked forward to because I knew I was in the belly of the beast working to be recognized. No, it was worse, it was not hearing anything. Not a peep. No acceptance or rejections. Last month I found myself in limbo.

This month, my feet found the earth and I am walking forward once again. I knew this journey of a writer, creating a story, then taking that story, developing the characters and weaving a murder mystery together was a long shot. Then diving into the publication world and everything that means was like attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail in a season, or at least a weeks worth of climbing up to Mount Washington (that one I did, and it kicked my butt) or attempt the Pacific Crest Trail as in the book “Wild” (it still amazes me Cheryl Strayed hiked that trail alone). No one can really tell you what you’re going to feel and experience. You must do it yourself. Earn every blister, feel parched to the point of pain, exhausted or so wet you can do nothing but sit and shiver till the storm passes.

Since the beginning of this blog in 2013 – I’ve hiked with the writer in mind. I’ve invested in myself. Challenged myself. Loved it and hated it, sometimes at the same time, and although supported and loved, the journey was mine and mine alone. Until this month.

This month I took a chance and put myself a little further out there, never daring to hope someone would reach back, but reach back they did. They grabbed my hand firmly and lifted me up into the air for a moment, before firmly planting my feet on the ground of what I now needed to work on right now. After listening to their direction, reading the vast amount of materials and resources they laid out in front of me. I could see why no one had accepted or rejected me. What I had prepared was not anywhere near what was needed to entice the beast to take a taste. In just the last two weeks I’ve learned more about the publication process and requirements (query, synopsis, format) than in the last two years! It has been a lot of work, but more importantly a lot of growth and understanding and ‘ah-ha’ moments.

Is it still scary? Hell yes! But I’m not alone on this part of the trail anymore. I have a guide who points out beautiful views, cautions when the terrain is slick or uneven, she even laughs and celebrates with me, as we get to know one another on this journey.

Are there any guarantees I will get a six figure book deal? Ha! Seriously? I mean it would be nice, more than nice, amazing, but that was never really the focus. This has taken a lot of effort, sacrifice, and tears, but it has all been worth it. Meeting all the people I have, learning from some outstanding writers and authors. Having opportunities open up and stay open is crazy amazing.

So, this month, which is slipping away quickly into the next season, has repositioned me. Refreshed me. Shown me there is so much more to come, so get ready, prepared, gather what you need, cause the journey isn’t over yet!

Note: My sincere thanks to Writers Relief who accepted me as a client. I am humbled and grateful and still running around in little circles of joy! To Jen, my liaison and WR contact extraordinaire. For your knowledge, gentle reassurance, cheerleading, guidance, wit, humor and patience! I don’t know how long the ride will last, but I’m going to enjoy every minute.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

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Do You Really Need To Spend Money on a Writing Retreats to Write?

Are you a writer? Then yes, yes you can, IF you want to. But the amount you spend is up to you, and I’m not just talking about the money. The amount of time is important, is it for an evening, a day, two days, a week or more? Most people think of ‘retreat’ as more than an evening. Perhaps a long weekend is envisioned, or a trip to the Matterhorn to be inspired by the view to write! But it doesn’t have to be. You can gain a lot in a few hours if you have the right mind set, and unfortunately I know several people who spent a month’s salary on a hyped up event and walked away disappointed and unfulfilled.

There is a LOT to think about when you are deciding to attend a writing retreat. That being said, please allow me to reassure you – you have options and choices and a wealth of information to ponder – and every bit of it should be a joy and not a headache. The amount of effort is important too – will this be a financial hardship? Will it involve more than the actual retreat, is there airfare, hotel accommodations, and a car rental to consider?

If you are getting stressed out in this kind of decision making, take a breath and walk away, but deciding if you want to attend a retreat is easier than you think. There are a multitude of them on the web to be sure, but you might be surprised to find many of them locally too. If you’ve followed Touched By Words, you know I’ve shared retreats I’ve attended myself, as well as support in my local library as well as in my favorite Harley Davidson classroom. (See – you might be surprised where you find writers!)

Okay – so what is my point?  My point is you do not need to stress out about retreats. You can create a simple, lovely space to write. If you enjoy being outside – by all means – go outside! If it’s raining, find a quiet spot in your apartment, house or room, light a candle, choose music if you’d like, or wrap yourself in silence and a cozy blanket. You can pick up a notebook from the grocery store, or colorful pens at the office supply store- it’s your choice YOU are in control. Place a small bouquet of flowers or a single blossom or a lush plant near by– yes it can be to inspire or simply be a place to rest your eyes from the page. You do not need a bucket full of money to spend on a writing, or you can plan to attend one, save up and do your homework, read reviews, take a chance and explore what is out there. I did and I’ll always treasure the experience. Yet remember what you are ultimately doing, why you want to go, what you hope to gain, the point is to write! Write what you want, when you want, or when you can. Get it on the page stop planning to get it on the page and do it, work on it, nurture it, plow through it, do what it takes to get it out of your head and onto the paper. Of course, you can change it, add to it, erase it, but write it!

I know people who go to writing retreats and never write again. Really? Why are you going? Is it to begin? To meet others who write? To have your work critiqued? To share an idea? To get ideas? To finish your book, poem, essay, etc? Those are wonderful reasons! Or maybe you have no idea what you want and hope the retreat shows you a path. Then all I would say is to choose carefully and dive in to what the experience can offer.

There are lots and lots of reasons to write, and you can do it anywhere you wish and spend as much or as little money as you wish – but it comes down to the written word. Putting thought to page – to record what is burning inside you to get out. I do not want you to think you need something out side of you to accomplish. It’s, inside of you –  your experience, your word choice, your story -it is all yours!

Now – go write!

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