Summerfield’s Angel Notes—chapter 1

Are you a proud nerd like I am? Does the word research send pleasant little tingles down your spine? Have you considered tattooing a footnote on your foot? If so, this post is for you.

Summerfield’s Angel is set in New York City in 1888, which means I joyfully engaged in a lot of background research as I wrote it. Here are some notes to accompany the story—they provide a little background information on some of the details. You absolutely don’t need to read these notes to understand and enjoy the story. But if you can’t get enough of the details, these are for you. To avoid spoilers, I’d recommend reading the story before turning to the notes.

Page numbers refer to the page in the PDF and print versions.

1—New York City was bigger than Alby Boyle remembered, and noisier. I didn’t realize it until well after I’d written this opening sentence, but I was echoing the rhythm of the final line of one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems, which was written in roughly the same era in which this story takes place.

1—nowhere near the killing temperatures that had changed his life the previous year. The winters of 1886-87 and 1887-88 were extremely harsh in much of North America. In the Great Plains states, one terrible blizzard killed 90% of the cattle on open ranges, bankrupting ranchers and changing the way ranching and farming were done. This article describes that blizzard and its aftermath, as does this one. I’ve taken a bit of artistic license and moved that disaster to 1888, which is the year New York City suffered an awful blizzard. I’ll discuss that in notes for Chapter 4.

1—Alby hunched his shoulders inside his duster and tipped the brim of his Stetson downward. The John B. Stetson Company was founded in 1865. Their famous hat, the Boss of the Plains, was intended to meet the needs of the people who lived and worked in the challenging conditions of the West. That hat became such standard wear for cowboys that it became the quintessential cowboy hat. It’s still manufactured by the Stetson company and retains most of its original styling.

2—It was covered in tiny electric lights, glittering ribbons, and colored glass baubles. Electric Christmas lights were invented by Thomas Edison in 1880, but I’ve jumped the gun a bit in my story since they weren’t widely in use until the early 20th century. Before then, people generally used candles–which of course created a real danger of fire. Incidentally, I’ve always loved those bubble lights, which weren’t invented until the 1920s. Turns out the original kind were pretty dangerous, though.

2—a pair of horses trotted by just an arm’s reach away, pulling a trolley down the tracks. Before motor vehicles were invented, NYC had a variety of forms of transportation. One of these was the trolley: an enclosed wagon pulled down rails by one or two horses. The rails reduced friction, helping the horses pull more weight at a faster rate. The first of NYC’s trolleys began running in 1832; they were eventually replaced by cable cars and electric streetcars. The final horse trolley in NYC stopped running in 1917. Here’s a bit of good trivia. The Brooklyn Dodgers were originally the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, so called because people had to dodge the electric trolleys on their way to the games. Here are a few more details.

4—“Can you point me in the direction of Baxter Street?” Baxter Street was part of Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood, which may be one of the country’s most famous slums. It persisted as a slum for most of the 19th century. Emancipated African Americans lived there early on, as did large numbers of Irish immigrants. It was notorious for squalid tenements, violent crime, gangs, and disease. It would have been a very difficult place to live during Alby’s childhood. Here are a few websites with photos and more info: and  and photo by Jacob Riis was taken on Baxter Street the year Summerfield’s Angel takes place. More on Jacob Riis in Chapter 4.

5—a wooden building with clapboards in disarray and a roof in danger of imminent collapse. This is the photo that inspired my description of the saloon.

6—he could see the church spire rising two blocks away on Mott Street. Alby is looking at the spire of the Church of the Transfiguration, which still stands.

6—It had been a sprawling wooden building, three stories high, with a roofline that swooped and bowed at dizzying angles. This photo inspired my description of Alby’s childhood home.

7—Irish immigrants had been landing in this neighborhood for generations. Although some Irish people immigrated to New York prior to the American Revolution, the biggest numbers came after the Great Famine in 1845. Irish people constituted a large portion of the population of cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. Almost all of them were poor and uneducated when they arrived, and they faced discrimination and harsh living and working conditions.These websites provide more info: and and .

Comments? Questions? Thoughts? Additional links? Are you finding these useful and interesting? Please comment!

And stay tuned for additional notes!

Links to the entire set of notes







Give twice this year

I think we’re officially in the holiday season now, right? So I’d like to remind you of a way you can give a little extra this year. I donate all the royalties from my self-published books to Doctors Without Borders. This includes all formats–ebooks, print, and audio. So you can buy any of the books for someone as a gift and give double! Or maybe give yourself a holiday treat. Here are all the books that will result in a donation:

Thank you for helping me support this wonderful cause!

Bonus flash fic!

Recently, the wonderful OKW from Boy Meets Boy Reviews gave me some photo prompts for flash fics. I was supposed to pick one, but I loved them so much that I chose two. The first fic started off BMBR’s anniversary celebration and the second one will come later this month.

Here’s the link to the first one. As it turned out, though, that photo spoke to me–so much that I wrote a second, unrelated, fic too! So take a look at the photo, read the first story, and then come back here to read the second.


That Type of F’d

Wyatt had fucked himself. Again.

Not in a fun way, as when he spent a little quality Me Time with porn, toys, and extra batteries.

This was definitely fucking himself in a not-fun way. As in hooking up with a sexy scumbag, taking him home, and not noticing that the scumbag pocketed Wyatt’s spare house key. As in going to work in the morning, spending nine long hours in meetings, and returning home to find the scumbag had emptied the apartment. Furniture. Appliances. Electronics. Decor. Clothing. As in having to explain dumb life choices to Officer Alexis Villa, handsome and sympathetic but offering little hope for the return of Wyatt’s belongings.

As in waking up in the morning and discovering he’d somehow torn his only remaining pair of pants—and finding that the scumbag had finished all the milk.

That type of fucked.

“At least I have one good thing.” And that one good thing was Trumbo, the little yellow pup he’d adopted from the shelter to console himself the last time he’d fucked up his life. Trumbo now danced eagerly by the front door.

Wyatt groaned. The scumbag had taken the leash.

But because Trumbo would wait only so long, Wyatt walked to the bedroom closet and gazed into its maw. The only things left were the shoes he’d worn to work the previous day, a wadded-up tie the scumbag had overlooked, and a silver-sequined evening gown from Wyatt’s days working as a drag queen to pay his way through college.

He slipped the dress on, did a quick assessment in the mirror, and nodded. Even without a wig, makeup, and sparkly five-inch heels, it worked. “I can still rock this.”

Trumbo yipped in agreement.

With head high, billfold in hand, and Trumbo tucked under his arm, Wyatt left the apartment to buy milk.

At the nearby bodega, the clerk didn’t bat an eye at Wyatt’s attire. He petted Trumbo and listened with sympathy to Wyatt’s tale of woe. “That sucks, man. You gonna be okay?”

Wyatt sighed. “Yeah. Material goods are replaceable.”

“Sure, but I mean here and here.” The clerk tapped his own head and heart. “You’re a good guy. You’ll find something great when you least expect it.”

Wyatt was unconvinced, but the kind words comforted him.

Outside, he let Trumbo visit his favorite tree. He’d already anointed it on their way to the store but always liked a follow-up visit. Wyatt scooped him up again and continued walking. He had phone calls to make: to the office for a sick day and to the insurance company to file a claim, and maybe he could get a couple of outfits delivered by the afternoon.

“That’s fancy for seven in the morning.”

Wyatt started to scowl at the grinning man who blocked his way. But then he recognized Officer Alexis—gorgeous in uniform and equally handsome now in a T-shirt and running shorts.

Wyatt found himself smiling back. “People should celebrate surviving personal disasters. Formal wear’s the only way to go.”

“Good choice. It looks great on you.” The heat in Alexis’s gaze suggested that wasn’t false praise.

Wyatt decided to take a small risk, because why the fuck not? “Exercise gear is a good look on you.”

“Celebrating my own disaster survival. The divorce from my schmuck ex-husband was final last week.”

“Mazel tov.”

Alexis’s laughter rumbled warm and deep. “Tell you what. Let’s drop off that milk at your place and then discuss additional celebrations over a cup of coffee. Zia, the barista at that café up the street, makes a mean cup of joe. It’s a great morning to sit outside and enjoy the weather.”

“This is all I have to wear.” Wyatt gestured at his dress.

“Then I’m gonna have the best-dressed coffee date in the city.”

Wyatt’s heart skipped happily as he, Officer Alexis Villa, and Trumbo hurried toward the apartment. Maybe Wyatt hadn’t fucked himself after all. Maybe this time he’d accidentally done everything right.

Cover reveal! Summerfield’s Angel

After the hard winter of 1888 ended Alby Boyle’s work as a Nebraska ranch hand, he returned to New York City in search of his long-lost family. His mother and brothers are nowhere to be found, however, and after Alby’s years of absence, Five Corners no longer feels like home. His prospects seem as dim as the nighttime alleys.

When Alby pauses to admire an angel ornament in a department store window’s Christmas display, he meets Xeno Varnham-Summerfield. Wealthy, handsome, and enthusiastic, Xeno brings Alby some temporary cheer. But for Alby to achieve his dreams of love and a real home, well, that may take a bit of holiday magic.

Preorder now:



Available in print and ebook versions December 2. All my royalties from this book go to Doctors Without Borders!

To celebrate the cover reveal, there’s a giveaway at Joyfully Jay.

And don’t forget the other books in the Christmas Angel series! You can read them in any order. And here’s the fullest of cover reveals for today:

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Love Bytes

Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Joyfully Jay

The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Bayou Book Junkie

Christmas Homecoming – L.A. Witt – Diverse Reader

A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – My Fiction Nook

Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – MM Good Book Reviews

Christmas Prince – RJ Scott – The Novel Approach

J. Scott Coatsworth’s The Rising Tide

The Rising Tide

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out: “The Rising Tide.”

Earth is dead.

Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever, a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind.

Control the AI, control the people.

Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide.

Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history.

Series Blurb: Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

DSP Publications | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Scott is giving away two prizes with this tour – a $25 Amazon gift card, and a signed copy of “The Stark Divide,” book one in the series (US winner only for the paperback). For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Rising Tide Meme

Eddy Tremayne rode his horse, Cassiopeia, along the edge of the pastures that were the last official human habitations before the Anatov Mountains. Several ranchers along the Verge—the zone between the ranches and the foothills—had reported losses of sheep and cattle in the last few weeks.

As the elected sheriff of First District, which ran from Micavery and the South Pole to the mountains, it was Eddy’s responsibility to find out what was going on.

He had his crossbow strapped to his back and his long knife in a leather sheath at his waist. He’d been carrying them for long enough now—three years?—that they had started to feel natural, but the first time he’d worn the crossbow, he’d felt like a poor man’s Robin Hood.

He doubted he’d need them out here, but sheriffs were supposed to be armed.

He’d checked with Lex in the world mind via the South Pole terminal, but she’d reported nothing amiss. In the last few years, she had begun to deploy biodrones to keep an eye on the far-flung parts of the world, but they provided less than optimal coverage. One flyover of this part of the Verge had shown a peaceful flock of thirty sheep. The next showed eight.

The rancher, a former neurosurgeon from New Zealand named Gia Rand, waited for him on the top of a grassy hill. The grass and trees shone with bioluminescent light, and the afternoon sky lit the surrounding countryside with a golden glow. The spindle—the aggregation of energy and glowing pollen that stretched from pole to pole—sparkled in the middle of the sky.

The rancher pulled on her gray braid, staring angrily at something in the valley below. “Took you long enough to get here.”

“Sorry. The train was out of service again.” Technology was slowly failing them, and they had yet to come up with good replacements.

She snorted. “One helluva spaceship we have here.”

He grinned. “Preaching to the choir.” Forever didn’t have the manufacturing base yet to support anything close to the technology its inhabitants had grown used to on Earth. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you asked him. With technology came new and better ways to kill. He’d seen it often enough in the NAU Marines. “What did you find?”

“Look.” Her voice was almost a growl.

Eddy looked down where she was pointing. “Oh shit.” Her missing sheep were no longer missing. They had been slaughtered.

He urged Cassiopeia down the hillside to the rocky clearing. A small stream trickled down out of the mountains there. He counted ten carcasses, as near as he could tell from the skulls left behind. Someone had sheared a couple of them and given up. It looked like they had skinned and cut the rest up for meat, the skin and bones and extra bits discarded.

Gia rode down the hillside behind him.

“Didn’t you report twelve sheep missing?”

She nodded. “Bastards took the two lambs. Probably for breeding.”

“That actually might help us.”

“How’s that?”

He dismounted to take a closer look at the crime scene. “They’ll have to pasture them somewhere. May make it easier to track them down.”

“Maybe so.” She dismounted and joined him. “This was brutal work. Look here.” She picked up a bone. “Whatever cut this was sharp but uneven. It left scratch marks across the bone.”

“So not a metal knife.”

“I don’t think so. Maybe a stone knife?”

He laughed harshly. “Are we back to caveman days, then?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question.

She was silent for a moment, staring at the mountains. “Do you think they live up there?”

“Who?” He followed her gaze. Their highest peaks were wreathed in wisps of cloud.

“The Ghosts.”

The Ghosts had been a persistent myth on Forever since their abrupt departure from Earth. Some of the refugees had vanished right after the Collapse, and every now and then something would end up missing. Clothes off a line, food stocks, and the like.

People talked. The rumors had taken on a life of their own, and now whenever something went missing, people whispered, “It’s the Ghosts.”

Eddy didn’t believe in ghosts. He personally knew at least one refugee who had disappeared, his shipmate Davian. He guessed there must be others, though the record keeping from that time had been slipshod at best. He shrugged and looked at the sky. “Who knows?” It was likely to rain in the next day or so. Whoever had done this had left a trail, trampled into the grass. If he didn’t follow it now, it might be gone by the time he got back here with more resources.

Gia knelt by one of the ewes, staring at the remnants of the slaughter. “Could you get me some more breeding stock? This… incident put a big dent in my herd.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He took one last look around the site. It had to have taken an hour or two to commit this crime, and yet the thieves had apparently done it in broad daylight. Why weren’t they afraid of being caught? “I’m going to follow the trail, see where it leads.”

Gia nodded. “Thanks. We’re taking the rest of the herd back to the barn until you get this all figured out.”

“Sounds prudent. I’ll let you know.”

Slipping on his hat, he climbed back up on Cassie and followed the trail across the stream toward the Anatov Mountains.

Author Bio

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.


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I haven’t disappeared

Sorry I’ve been silent for a while. Sometimes my To Do list proves especially formidable. I’ve temporarily subdued it, so I thought I was due to give a bit of an update.

A week from today will be the cover reveal for one of my Christmas stories, Summerfield’s Angel. It’ll also be up for preorder that day, so keep an eye out for that. It will be available in ebook and print versions, plus an audio version. This book is one of seven novellas–by seven different authors–each set in a different time and place, but involving the same angel ornament. All the books release December 2. It’s been a really fun project, and I hope you enjoy!

I’ll have another Christmas release as well, a short story as part of Dreamspinner Press’s Advent Calendar. That means you can buy the entire package and get a book each day in December, or you can purchase my story individually on December 1. The title is “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

In other news, two of my books released in French translations this month: Les lettres oubliées (The Tin Box) and Équilibre (Equipoise). Look for more French translations in the months to come, plus a new German translation.

Which brings me to my next point. In March 2019, I’ll be attending Salon du Livre de Paris and then Leipziger Buchmesse. I hope to see some of you there!

If you’re in the US and a writer–or aspire to be one–I’ll be leading a couple of workshops at the San Diego State Writers’ Conference. I’m looking forward to that!

I’m busily plugging away on several future projects. Redesigning Landry Bishop, a Dreamspun Desires title, will release in May 2019. It’s set in the same universe as The Spy’s Love Song but involves a new couple. I plan an eventual third book in that universe as well. I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to Love Can’t Conquer and Love Is Heartless. And Venona Keyes and I are working on the sequel to Running Blind. Next up after that will be a new story in the Bureau series.

Told you I was busy!

That’s enough for now. Have a good Halloween. And if you’re a US citizen who can vote, for goodness sake make sure you do!


The Spy’s Love Song blog tour

I hope you’ll join me for the blog tour for my new book, The Spy’s Love Song. I’ll be sharing some inspirations for the book–and some photos from my recent trip to Bosnia. Want to learn about the beer that saved a city? Then check out the posts!
September 25 – MM Good Book Reviews
October 2 – The Novel Approach
October 3 – Happily Ever Chapter
October 4 – Boy Meets Boy
October 5 – Love Bytes
October 8 – My Fiction Nook
October 15 – Two Chicks Obsessed
The Spy’s Love Song:
Jaxon Powers has what most only dream of. Fame. Fortune. Gold records and Grammy awards. Lavish hotel suites and an endless parade of eager bedmates. He’s adored all over the world—even in the remote, repressive country of Vasnytsia, where the tyrannical dictator is a big fan. The State Department hopes a performance might improve US relations with a dangerous enemy. But it means Jaxon’s going in alone… with one exception.
Secret agent Reid Stanfill has a covert agenda with global ramifications. Duty means everything to him, even when it involves protecting a jaded rock star. Jaxon and Reid’s mutual attraction is dangerous under Vasnytsia’s harsh laws—and matters get even worse when they’re trapped inside the borders. Romance will have to wait… assuming they make it out alive.

Holiday treat!

Look at this treat we have planned for you in December!

Each novella can be read as a standalone, but they’re all connected by one special angel.

(Oh, and want to know a secret? I plan to release my story in audio version as well–narrated by the very talented KC Kelly!)

The Christmas Angel Series

In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas Angel through the years. Whether it’s the 1700’s England (Eli Easton), 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk), post World War II (L.A. Witt), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday), or 2018 (RJ Scott), the Christmas Angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

Christmas Angel (Book #1) – Eli Easton

Summerfield’s Angel (Book #2) – Kim Fielding…/sh…/41718433-summerfield-s-angel

The Magician’s Angel (Book #3) – Jordan L. Hawk…/s…/41718440-the-magician-s-angel

Christmas Homecoming (Book #4) – Lori Gallagher Witt…/s…/41718469-christmas-homecoming

A Soldier’s Wish (Book #5) – N.r. Walker…/show/41730466-a-soldier-s-wish

Shrewd Angel (Book #6) – Anyta Sunday

Christmas Prince (Book #7) – Rj Scott…/show/41718495-christmas-prince

Upcoming travel!

My semester begins this week, which means lots of meetings plus the usual chaos of getting students settled into the right classes and ready to go. I’m extra busy, though, because on Sunday I’ll be leaving for a week in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), where I have a conference to present at.

Although I’ve been to the neighboring country of Croatia many times, and even lived there twice for short periods, I’ve been to BiH only once before, when I was able to spend 4 days in Sarajevo and Mostar. It’s a beautiful, fascinating country with a rich (and sometimes tragic) history. Mostar was the inspiration for Zidar, the fictional town in my novella “The Pillar.”

(Actually, I was in BiH one other time, while traveling by car from Dubrovnik to Split. Both of those cities are on the Croatian coast, but a little blip of BiH divides them, meaning you spend about 10 minutes in BiH as you pass through. They do check your passport and everything, though.)

I don’t think I’ll make it to Mostar this time, although I’m hoping for a day trip to some places in eastern Bosnia and western Serbia. Most of my week, though, will be in Sarajevo. That city is sometimes called “Jerusalem of Europe” or “Little Istanbul.” I’ve stood there inside an old Sephardic Jewish synagogue and looked out at a mosque, an Eastern Orthodox church, and a Catholic church. I doubt there are many places in the world where that’s possible.

What’s especially cool is that Sarajevo serves as one of the primary models for Starograd, the capital of Vasnitsya–which is the setting for my upcoming novel, The Spy’s Love Song. Vasnitsya is entirely fictional, of course. And while it’s run by a totalitarian dictator, BiH is most definitely not; BiH is a democratically-run republic (with a somewhat unusual governmental structure due to recent political conflicts). In addition, my imaginary city of Starograd was also influenced by other places I’ve visited in Central and Eastern Europe, including Warsaw, Budapest, Zagreb, and Prague. But when it comes to descriptions of what Starograd looks like, of the parts of the city built during the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, as well as the parts built during communist times, Sarajevo is the biggest contributor.

I will, of course, post photos. So if you’re not already following me on social media, now would be a good time to add me. My photos from BiH might make reading The Spy’s Love Song more fun.




So you wanna be a writer….

I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert on writing. But I’ve done a goodly amount of it (currently working on my 25th novel) with some degree of success. And lately a few aspiring authors have asked me for advice. So here’s my wisdom.

One thing to remember is that there is no One Right Way to be an author, no True Path to literary achievement. I know a lot of writers, and each one of them does things their own distinctive way. Some plot; some pants. Some write linearly; some skip around. Some keep to a strict daily schedule and word count; some write in fits and spurts. Some use fancy software. Some scribble in pencil in notebooks. I’d recommend new writers to experiment freely and see what fits them best. Plus, whatever works today, for this story, might not be the best fit tomorrow, for the next one.

Now, while there is no One Right Way to to write, there are many wrong ways. But you know what? If you find yourself lost on one of those rubble-strewn roads to nowhere that’s okay. The lovely thing about writing fiction is that no matter how badly you screw up–with some very few, highly implausible exceptions–nobody is going to die. The world won’t end. All you have to do is retrace your steps, maybe salvaging a few good words along the way, and head in a different direction.

Not only that, but every author strays down those wrong routes occasionally. I am positive that Shakespeare crossed stuff out now and then–or sometimes even threw his quill across the room and stomped on down to the pub.  At least once, Jane Austen must have stared morosely at a blank page, convinced everything she wrote was awful and nobody would ever want to read it.

There are two lessons I hope you can draw from this. First, don’t try to write perfectly. You won’t. You can’t. What you do is write something–best if it’s something you love to write, something that feels good in your bones–and then edit it. Take that lump of linguistic clay you’ve created and twist and reshape it until it’s something beautiful. Some lumps need more of this than others. That’s okay. Get someone, or better yet several someones, to help you with this process. People you trust to treat your clay with frank honesty.

The second lesson is the more important one. I said there is no One Right Way to be an author, yet there is one thing you absolutely must do: Write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Type into your word processor. Scrawl in ink in cute notebooks. Tap it into your phone with your thumbs. Calligraphate on parchment using the blood of thine enemies as ink. Whatever.

I estimate that I’ve written about 4 million words of fiction thus far. That’s… a lot. If someone pointed her finger at me and said, “You must go write 4 million words!” I would cry. I’d take a nap. I’d binge watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d sit down at my laptop and end up playing Solitaire or commenting on Facebook instead, because 4 million words is impossible. Yet I’ve written ’em–one damn word at a time. (While, I might add, working a full-time job, parenting two kids, and traveling often.) You can write 4 million words too.

I can give you other little nuggets of advice too. Such as cultivate friendships with other writers and read a lot in many genres and buy some good guides to writing. Maybe take some workshops. Maybe create little encouraging rituals or indulge in rewarding snacks. If you write genre fiction, consider attending cons. Find a writing buddy and make dates to sit at a coffeehouse and write; instruct your buddy to glare at you if you get distracted. Back up everything, often. Keep notebooks or files to jot down ideas that come to you while you’re standing in line at Target or sitting in a meeting. Keep the cat off your keyboard.

But those are optional nuggets. In the end, I have one word of rock-solid guidance for aspiring writers. WRITE.