Maturing Your Darlings

I’m deep into final edits on Storm Watch.  schooner

Yes! The third book in the Unfinished Business series is scheduled for release on June 28. Right in time for beach season and my annual Novel Fun in the Summer Sun Tour.

Slaps cheeks. Now, back to the reality of being a writer. I believe that maturing as a writer made the completion of this series more difficult rather than easier, even though I know the world very well. And the characters are like family. In some cases, they are my family as the entire series is dedicated to the memory of my father, who died on June 18, 2011. Again, I digress, which gets back to those darlings again. The ones that commandeer you when writing and take you off on a tangent when the writer becomes the character instead of letting the character be herself.

I’m piggybacking onto…

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It’s Hard to Say Goodbye: To My Characters

schoonersailsI typed ‘The End’ on Storm Watch: Book Three in the Unfinished Business series a week ago. The gift of a late winter snowstorm, and an unexpected day off, allowed me to finish the final edits. Multiple challenges made this the hardest book of my writing career to complete. I didn’t have the melancholy many writers describe when they have to pull themselves out of the story–and their characters’ lives, even when it’s a happily ever after. Until I did the formatting, uploaded the manuscript, and sent it off to my editor.

I now have this big void in my head: no more flashes of inspiration on how to perfect a scene. No insights on how the friends that my characters have become over the last ten years react to the challenges they’re facing. No more anxiety about finishing the story-and what is likely to be the last book in…

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A Letter to My Teenage Daughters

susan ishmael

February 8, 2017

My dear girls,

img_1629 January 21, 2017, Women’s March, Lexington, Kentucky. I’m so proud these two young women are my daughters.

Last night in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Senator Elizabeth Warren to stop speaking as she was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King. The letter, written in 1986, denounced Jeff Sessions, the senator currently nominated to be the Attorney General of the United States, as unfit for a federal judgeship. When Warren didn’t stop speaking, McConnell pulled a move called “extraordinary” by the New York Times: he evoked a little-known rule to silence her. He said:

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Shut up and sit down. How many times have I heard that in my life? Unfortunately, more times than I can count.

In my anger and frustration, I spent a good amount of time this morning…

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Villains, Heros and Heroines

In 2005, the cold reality of violent domestic abuse portrayed in a film propelled me into writing fiction. Since then, I figured out that every villain has a wound and showing that wound incites some level of sympathy or, at least, understanding.  No one illustrates this better than Phillip Roth, whose characters are despicable but I still can’t put his books down (if I can summon the courage to pick them up). I’ve been making my way through Philippa Gregory’s historical novels about the the Kings and Queens of England and their courts. Her treatment of Katherine of Aragon, in particular, paints a very complex portrait of a villainess who, despite her devout religious beliefs, descended into a personal hell and brought as many along with her as she could.

Two of my urban fantasy short stories feature villains as protagonists, and they were very difficult to write. I make my…

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Spotlight/Interview: Carole Ann Moleti

I’m honored to be able to help the Order of the Eastern Star with their charity event at Barnes and Noble, Bayshore. If you would like to place an online order use event code 12048500 at from 12/7-12/2016.

the Romantic Fanatic


Carole Ann Moleti will be at:

Barnes & Noble

Gardiner Manor Mall

842 Sunruse Highway

Bay Shore, NY 11706

Wednesday, December 7th (7pm – 8pm)


What genre do you write?

I write fiction in the romance, paranormal and urban fantasy genres but have been known to dabble in horror, contemporary fiction and women’s fiction. I also write non-fiction, memoir, personal essays and op-ed that focuses on politics and women’s issues.

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and do you read the same genre as you write?

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. As a kid, my favorite thing to do was to pick six books (the maximum) out of the library, take them home, read, return, repeat. My grandmother gave me all her old romances, I loved science fiction and fantasy (Lord of the Rings Trilogy-yeah) and anything about horses. Then I got my…

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To Nano or Not to Nano?

I only have one more day to decide whether or not to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. I don’t write well to prompts and generally make good progress on my own. Plus, I write in so many different genres and forms I’m not always ready to dig deep into a novel.

Last year was an exception. I wanted to finish Storm Watch,  the third book in the Unfinished Business series, by summer 2016. I had three chapters written, I knew where I was going with the story, and the second book was about to be released. I was tied into the characters and the story. All of my marketing was focused on this series. I committed to write 50,000 words and made my goal. But I was wrecked. My marketing in advance of the holiday season was impaired.

While having a deadline helped me in that case…

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Ten Accounts Authors Should Follow on Twitter



Using the mute function to hide followers and friends who clog up your feed with what they are having for lunch and other useless information, as well as blocking those who are are abusive or create spam has helped me tame my Twitter feed. But who should you follow? Here are some recommended sites.

Ten Accounts  Authors should Follow On Twitter 


Shares grammar advice, fun facts about grammar, and links to relevant articles on the web. Engages with her followers. A fun account to follow.


The official account for the annual National Novel Writing Month. Useful for participants, especially in autumn before and during the writing marathon. Tweets information and inspiration.

@RayneHall – RAYNE HALL

Posts frequent #writetip tweets, as well as advice for indie publishing, NaNoWriMo and other topics of interest to writers. Also tweets funny writing cartoons and photos of her cute cat reading books. Answers followers’ questions about writing and publishing.

@Fairchild01 – THE EDITOR DEVIL

Posts #writetip tweets and links to interesting blog posts, with comments.

@NatRusso – NAT RUSSO

Post frequent #writetip tweets with succinct clarifications about common grammar and spelling issues, as well as about fiction plotting. Also some hilarious tongue-in-cheek #horriblewritetip tweets. Engages with followers.


Tweets tips on grammar, spelling and freelance writing, mostly in the form of links to blog posts. Little or no interaction with followers.

@AngelaAckerman – ANGELA ACKERMAN

Co-author of the bestselling Emotion Thesaurus and other invaluable resources for writers. Tweets links to posts about fiction writing and editing. Engages with followers.


Tweets links to articles that teach writing craft skills, of interest especially (but not only) to romance writers. Sometimes posts the same tweet repeatedly.

@WritersDigest – WRITERS DIGEST

Many of tweets and retweets with links to useful posts about the writing craft. Despite having lost a lot of credibility during the phase when it engaged in vanity publishing, Writer’s Digest has remained an authority on writing topics.

@AdviceToWriters – JON WINOKUR

Tweets quotes by famous writers about writing, and links to writing-related blog posts. Doesn’t interact.

Are you following any of these accounts on Twitter? Which other accounts do you recommend?


Farewell to Dr. Bert Bell, A Mentor and A Friend

I met Dr. Bertrand Bell in 1986 when I began my public health internship at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center–better known as Jacobi. His warmth, enthusiasm for his job as the director of ambulatory care services was inspiring. And his genuine interest in my career interests was equally so, given the numbers of students in all disciplines that clamored for his attention.

From Day 1, he insisted that Nancy DeVore, CNM, my direct supervisor, should get me “into all the top level meetings with the State” and “keep her in the loop on everything going on around here.” Bert, as he was known, had great affection and respect for the nurse-midwives who made up the majority of the professional staff in the Women’s Health Center that Nancy directed. He was also dedicated to the care of patients, not just patient care, and that focus guided everything he did.

On rounds, I once heard him say to someone who questioned why a patient had been admitted, “From what you’re telling me he is sick, and even though we’re not sure what he’s got, he’s sick enough to be admitted until we figure it out.”

I learned a lot by watching him keep the patient as the center of all his initiatives, his decisions, and all the battles–and there were a lot of them. He fought long and hard, but always with a smile, a big dose of compassion, and a tenacity that I will always remember and to this day strive to emulate.

Along with Dr. David Axelrod, who was the State Health Commissioner, Bert spearheaded the investigation into the death of Libby Zion. The Bell Commission was responsible for reducing the number of hours that resident physicians could work, trying to prevent mistakes born of fatigue from endangering patients and ruining medical careers. It was not popular, because hospitals needed more residents to cover their services–and that cost money that was hard to come by in a time when draconian cuts were being made to head off the astronomical rise in health care expenditures.

I was hired after my residency ended, but focused on clinical practice as a midwife instead of administration. I left Jacobi in 1991, pregnant with my first child, to take a job with better hours. Stepping off the fast track was a hard decision, but one I will never regret. Bert left Jacobi in 1991 as well, forced out because of what he had fought for–and for what he stood for: Patients above Profits.

The last time I saw Bert in his element was outside of his office, right across from the outpatient pharmacy and near the front entrance to the Jacobi Ambulatory Care Center. Right in the middle of it all. I remember that I was wearing a red maternity dress, looked like a tomato, and that he came running over to me.

“How are you doing? I heard you’re leaving us.” His smile was the same.

“Yes, but it’s still an affiliation position and I’ll be doing labor and delivery shifts here.” I recall glancing at the nondescript door to his office that had been adorned with a huge “Let’s Go Mets” sign the year they won the World Series-1986. The year I had started my residency. The year I graduated. The year I began my dream career. The one I was backing off on but would never give up.

“Good for you. Take care of yourself and your family. Regards to your husband.” Bert reached out and touched my belly, the look on his face intent, like the astute doctor he was, evaluating the patient I would soon be. “You look great. I’ve got to go.”

We hugged, the genuine kind that friends exchange when one is going off on an adventure. I don’t think he knew at that time his life was about to change as much as mine.

He disappeared into the crowd and headed off to a meeting. I had no idea it would be the last time we’d have an impromptu meeting in the halls at Jacobi.

He sent me a Sesame Street Play Gym with Bert and Ernie, as a baby gift. I know that was intentional. We danced at Nancy’s wedding a few years later, but I never again saw him in a crisp, buttoned up white coat trolling the halls to see what was going on. I sent him a copy of my memoir, Someday I’m Going to Write a Book: Diary of an Urban Missionary, to be sure he approved of the mention he got–as well as to let him know that I did return from not one, but three maternity leaves. That I indeed made good on my promise and intention to “do good things.”

The Mets lost the Wild Card game and were eliminated from World Series contention this week. This week, the world lost a great man, a great doctor, and a champion for patients’ rights and patient safety.

Bert took a big fall for his beliefs–and I know he never regretted it. Nancy’s career was just as star crossed. I’ve taken quite a few hard knocks myself. Bert never responded to my letters. I hope he at least read Someday I’m Going to Write a Book and saw that I put into practice everything the two of them taught me, and that I was still fighting for the patients. And that I’d learned, as Dr. Mark Legnini once said in the American Journal of Public Health, “Doing things right is not always the right thing to do.”

The picture in his  New York Times obituary was taken in 1991, and it is exactly how I want to remember Bert Bell–and myself sitting in the chair, next to Nancy, across from him.


Through A Writer’s Garden with Carole Ann Moleti

One of my hobbies is gardening–and I learned everything I know from my father.

Catherine Castle

Pond Memories

pondmemoriesenhanced Daddy’s Pond

My earliest memories are of gardening with my father. Our home was on the Bronx waterfront, with the beach as a backyard, so there wasn’t much space.

sailboat Daddy in the backyard

Daddy carved out a corner for a pear tree and another for a fishpond, complete with lilies, a turtle, and croaking frogs that found it on their own. We had a small vegetable garden and he planted roses for my mother. I once watched him dig trenches around the rose bushes and bury fish he’d caught off our dock as “fertilizer.” Thinking about it now grosses me out, but at the time I was transfixed.

ourpondenhanced Our Pond with some of Daddy’s statuary

I grew up helping him tend the outdoor spaces, as well as the indoor garden, with a miniature railway he created in a greenhouse that looked out over Long Island Sound. Storms took…

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