The Right Formula

Another author you wish you knew! Sue Marie St. Lee!

“To-date, the absolute most favorite story I have written is “Rhapsodie de Claire Elise” which appears in a mini-anthology released on Edgar Allan Poe’s one-hundred-seventy-first death anniversary. The four authors featured in this anthology present stories inspired by a particular piece written by Poe. I chose  “Berenice” for my inspiration. After writing this horror story, I feel that I have found my true writing formula — writing about a singular madman, not satanic demons.

In my story, Rishley Corvus Corax is a musical savant. He lives for music — composes opus and plays violin with the Philadelphia Orchestra. When the first woman ever allowed in any orchestra (1930 Philadelphia Orchestra) joins the string section, Rishley becomes fascinated with her brilliance. She seems to enhance every piece of music with her interpretation beyond what even the composer could have imagined. Rishley sets out to uncover the secret behind her magnificence and own it as his own. When he discovers the secret of Claire’s talent, Rishley flawlessly executes his plan to take and own it for himself.

Poe’s “Berenice” met with shock from the public at the horrific actions of his madman. Poe edited the story to appease the public but, the original story is still available. All these years later, I think that if my story had been published during Poe’s time, I’d have been burned at the stake! Yes, the actions of my madman exceed Poe’s madman but, you can decide for yourself.

While writing this story, I listened to my favorite classical composers, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff… This brought me back to a time in my life when I played classical piano — had studied for twelve years and then taught at the ripe old age of sixteen. Classical music played an important part in this writer’s life, it gave me a place to hide pain through playing the classics.

One other pleasure I took while writing this story is that somehow, my mind wrote to the “tune”, the  “rhythm”, of Poe’s style. I hope it carried through in my story. Here is a little excerpt from “Rhapsodie de Claire”:

…Even now, as I tell you this, a butterfly’s wings fluttering outside my window on the lilac bush are composing a sonata in my brain. It is a beautiful movement of complementary chords and scattered singular notes, airy and light, a bit breezy and free until I hear the praying mantis approach. Darkness finds its way into my arrangement as the butterfly struggles for its life. Bass chords pound out of tune while treble notes tinkle with great ferocity until they slow to a dying cadence. There, there it is, the final chord of this, the first movement of my sonata, Beauté Dévorée…

Thank you again, Julie, for the opportunity to be featured on your blog!”

My story, “Rhapsodie de Claire Elise” can be found here: Poe-ish Tales Forevermore,

Humanity Still Breathes Despite the Odds

Here is another author you wish you knew: Ikechukwu Obiorah!

Ikechukwu talks about writing his favorite poem.

“The Skin Bag” (published in Spillwords Press) is one of my faves. I cherish the poem a lot because it pounds cassava in the mortar of mystery of humanity. It totally forms the mental image of humanity that passes through a lot of mind boggling complexities of life and still draws breath. Though death dogs the footsteps of the air we breathe to live, humanity being so rational is aware of that yet struggles to survive despite the mind’s apoplectic attack that follows.

Life is a walking shadow loaded with beasts, is a reflection of reality that forms integral part of this piece. Humanity hasn’t given up with the notion that “Time is a monster that turns to a monster to fight a monster. The beast is a shadow on the wall of time.” For this reason, humanity still breathes despite the odds.

An image of a native skin bag I saw as a result of my unflinching research inspired this poem, ” The Skin Bag.” Sometimes, I just imagine about a particular image and write.

My blog is still under construction.

The Skin Bag

Learning Something New is Hard – Using “Blocks” in the new WordPress

So far I am not a fan of the new ‘block’ system I’m required to use in WordPress. I had just figured out the old system and now things, they are a changin’. Will I ever be able to keep up with technology? Right now I’m wondering if I even want to. Maybe – in time – I will change my mind.

All in Good Time

Another author you wish you knew: Bruce Rowe talks about his favorite story he’s written to date — “Grandfather’s Clock.”

Bruce: “Though I have other stories that are more bizarre, such as “Barbarous Inefficiency,” in Grandfather’s Clock I get to make an inanimate object come to life and take revenge on three siblings who knew what their father was doing to orphaned children and did nothing about it out of fear of forfeiting their multimillion-dollar inheritance.

The reason I wrote it is that I’m a big advocate against child abuse. Raised in an era where the statement, “I’ll beat you black and blue until the blood runs out!” was a prerequisite to a whipping with a belt, writing a story such as this is great therapy.

The inspiration and direction of the story came solely from the clock I found online. I was originally looking for a grandfather clock with two snakes at the top that would come to life and poison the siblings through a curse spoken by the butler, and then slither back to the clock with no one being the wiser. (The incantation I used in the story is a real one that is spoken for raising spirits. So I hope no one read it aloud. Lol.) When I came across the clock with a young girl scantily clad in a veil and two small babies carved into it I thought, ‘This is perfect’.  

So the old French saying, Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold, served its purpose for my story in that revenge is more satisfying when one has had time to prepare vengeance that is well-planned, long-feared, or unexpected.”

From Housewives to Who’s Who – It Only Took 33 Years!


Left to right: Gena Pontow, Debbie Sutton-Johnson, Dawn DeBraal and Julie Eger performing “Housewife Blues” in 1987.

A Her-story of Success

March 27, 1987 marked the first creative success for two Wautoma women who went on to be included in “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020.” Housewives at the time. And moms. Who formed a band, well maybe more of a singing group than a band because none of them were professional musicians, but no matter, it was fun. “The Reflections,” (Gena Pontow, Debbie Sutton-Johnson, Dawn DeBraal and Julie Eger) entered a talent contest and performed “Housewife Blues” written by Dawn DeBraal. The group took first place. They ended up becoming a favorite at local venues. Debbie eventually left the group but the others went on to perform for over two years, after adding percussionist Pam Schmude.

Dawn: “I started writing songs at the age of thirteen. Later, people paid me to do “Song-o-Gram’s” for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Julie and I are distantly related through marriage. My second cousins are her nephew and niece. When I moved to the area our friendship was instant. She was a singer, wrote songs and played guitar, our children were close in age. Julie was winning competitions for her writing in the Jade Ring contest for the State of Wisconsin. I loved how she could put words to pages. We would go on weekend retreats and write stories. I still laugh at our fun times. I was able to place as a finalist in the Great America Song Writing Contest, and my song, Make this House a Home, was accepted into the Habitat Humanity International Song Book. When the band folded, we both turned to other things like jobs. I did not find my true writing voice until I retired. I was wintering in Florida with my husband and I knew I needed to do something or one of us was not going to make it through the winter. November of 2018, I submitted a short story and got it published. I have been addicted ever since. To date I have over two hundred published stories in online magazines and nearly fifty anthologies. I was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize, a prestigious writing award, but didn’t win. Julie and I have written a book together, we hope to get someone to see it as the child we produced together!”

Julie: “I went on to create “The Original Voice,” a local venue for all types of artists but it ended up becoming more of an open mic for poets in Wisconsin. The venue ran from 2007 until 2018. During the end of The Original Voice I began to submit stories and poems to online journals, garnering acceptances of my work I never dreamed possible. I won reader’s favorite in the Cadence poetry anthology with my poem “Free Falling Eagles,” and a chance to have a collection published by Clarendon House Publications. I was one of three finalists in The Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge in 2019. Since the beginning of 2018 I have almost 150 published stories to my credit. Then I had an opportunity to co-write a novella with Dawn. It was the most fun, fast and exciting writing I’ve ever done! We are currently considering doing reviews of short stories written by aspiring writers. The writing life is never dull!”

Both Dawn and Julie submitted biographies to “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020” and their bios were accepted to be published by Sweetycat Press. Another success they could add to their resumes’.

Ironically, Dawn and Julie still live within five miles of each other. They keep writing, sometimes together, most times apart, always striving for new successes. The Covid-19 Virus slightly dampened Julie’s writing spirit, but she’s hoping that soon there will be a spark back in the tip of her pen. On the other hand, Dawn’s pen is on fire as words continue to fly onto her pages.

Julie and Dawn Whos Who


You can connect with Julie at these links:

Once Upon a Blank Page

You can connect with Dawn at these links:

slutty hotel picture of reflections

Last Reflection Gig: (Standing) Pam Schumde. From left to right: Gena Pontow, Dawn DeBraal, and Julie Eger

A Magical Writing Journey

pina office book 2Another author you wish you knew: Pina Leyland – What is her favorite story she ever wrote?

Pina, “This is a difficult question for me to answer. It is really hard to choose my favourite story from the 80,000+ plus words that I have had published to date. But if I must choose, then I would have to choose the first that was published: ‘Magia Nera / Black Magic’.

This is the first story that I wrote as part of a Graduate Diploma in Writing course at University of Technology Sydney in 2009, which was the first step towards completing a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. The story is based on one that my father told me many years ago, before he passed away. At the time I was interested in ‘magic realism’ and this story fascinated me because it contained ‘magical’ elements which seemed to fit that genre.

The story is set in Abruzzo, Southern Italy, in the 1920s and revolves around three central characters, all female: a young pregnant woman named ‘Carmela’ and her grandmother-in-law ‘Nonna Maria’, and a gypsy woman named ‘Marika’, who enters their home uninvited and uses ‘black magic’ to mesmerise them.

However, writing this story became problematic for a number of reasons. Basically, it was not considered ‘politically correct’ for me, an Italian-Australian, to write a story that reflected poorly on people of Romani/Romany descent and might be viewed by a member of that ethnic group as being offensive. This stopped me in my tracks and I almost withdrew from the course and gave up on the idea of becoming a creative writer.

But whilst I was grappling with the challenges of prickly feedback in my ‘Advanced Narrative Writing’ class, I was being introduced to Edward Said’s concept of ‘Orientalism’ in another class on ‘Theory & Writing’. Although Said had published his book in 1979, his work had failed to infiltrate the curriculum of my Sociology classes in the late 1970s or to filter down to me through the subsequent years of debates about multiculturalism and cultural pluralism, so his ideas were new to me.

I began to understand why my subject material was so sensitive. This led me to writing a Seminar Paper on ‘Orientalism, Wogs and Gypsies’, which was well received.  I decided that the only way I could tell my story was to weave in the ‘other’ point of view. And so, the ‘Marika’ character manifested, larger than life, and this gave the story more balance and earned me a Credit where I felt previously destined to Fail.

A number of people have since told me that they love the Marika character. She is so strong and sassy. She is one of the most colourful, if not the most colourful, characters that I have ever created.

And to continue in the vein of ‘firsts’, ‘Magia Nera’ is the first story to appear in ‘CONDOR: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group Inaugural Anthology 2018, published by Grant P Hudson of Clarendon House Books. This Anthology was the first of a string of Clarendon House anthologies of creative writing in which my work appears.  The story is also the first to appear in my own collection of creative writing, ‘Pezzi Pazzi / Crazy Pieces’, published by Clarendon House Books in 2019. This makes the story even more precious to me.

However, in the current political climate of ‘Black Lives Matter’, where racial stereotypes are being identified and stripped away (which I fully support), and in the context of contemporary debates about what constitutes ‘cultural appropriation’, it may no longer be possible to write or publish such a story.”


Abruzzi, Italy ~ circa 1925

Carmela wiped her brow with the back of her hand, careful not to get flour in her eyes. She stared out of the open window. It was a glorious autumn day. The early morning sun streamed through the vines creating patterns of light that danced a tarantella before her eyes. She hummed in contentment, patting the bump of her tummy.

‘Carmela, svegliati!

Nonna Maria sat in her rocking chair in the corner of the kitchen, overseeing the lunch preparations, as she did most days. The old woman’s gravelly voice shook Carmela into action. She resumed kneading the plump ball of dough on the little wooden table in the centre of the kitchen.

Marika stood in front of the mirrored wardrobe door in her caravan, gazing at her naked reflection. She didn’t mind what she saw, golden skin firm and smooth despite her age, a little bony perhaps, but still with womanly curves. She rolled her hips and shimmied and for a moment she was transported to another time, another place. That’s where I should be, she thought, in that smoky tavern, dancing with a jewel in my navel to a tune of my own making. She raised her hands and clicked imaginary castanets with her fingers in the air.

Bio: Giuseppina (Pina) Marino Leyland is a social worker, author and artist. She was born in Australia of Italian immigrant parents and currently lives in Wollongong. Pina was awarded a Master of Arts in Creative Writing by the University of Technology Sydney in 2011 and has a special interest in oral history and family heritage stories. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and publications of various genres since 2018 and her first collection of creative writing entitled ‘Pezzi Pazzi / Crazy Pieces’ was published by Clarendon House Books in 2019. She is now working on a second collection entitled ‘Pezzi Pazzi 2’, as well as several other writing projects.

Pina writes from a predominantly female point-of-view and although her stories are generally infused with an Italian–Australian flavour, she hopes that they have universal appeal. Her focus is on writing stories that no one else can write, particularly the stories that are whispered in secret, the truths and lies that are usually kept hidden to protect family honour and maintain ‘la bella figura’.

Pina’s writing has been described as ‘Charming, sensitive, beautiful…’ (Grant P. Hudson, Publisher, Clarendon House Books 2019), ‘funny, insightful and a great read’ (Phyllis Schinella, Sydney 2020) and ‘Insightful insane fragments fused with a gentle narrative style…’ (Dominic Zucaro, Perth 2020). In his 2019 review of the book, master storyteller Steve Carr wrote, ‘…to say that I was mesmerised by the stories… would be an understatement.’

Pina can be contacted by email:

You find stories written by Pina in the anthologies at: Clarendon House Books

You can find Pezzi/Pazzi – Crazy Pieces here.

Culturally and Character Driven

Carmen Baca

Another author you wish you knew – Carmen Baca answers the question—what is her favorite story she ever wrote?

My first book “El Hermano” will always be special for many reasons, chiefly because I wrote it 25 years before it published in 2017, because it’s about my father’s life, and because it made my dream of being an author come true. After that, I fell in love with short stories, inspired by the back stories of the secondary characters from that book. Now, many of my characters from one book or short story become the main characters of other works. It’s almost like this “family” of elders and people from my childhood want their stories told, so I oblige.

I’m proud of my second book because it taught me I can write horror and mystery; I never knew I could do that till I wrote it. The third book, a collection of short stories, is special because I used some of my culture’s folk tales and legends to create my own cuentos. The fifth is a new genre for me, something I didn’t know I could write either: a murder mystery with three plots told as a short story cycle. I write in diverse genres to keep writing fun and to challenge myself. It’s a big part of why writing is such a joy for me.

I have quite a few short stories I’m especially proud of for different reasons: “Guardian Spirit” because it’s about guardian angels and what they do for both man and animal. “La Luna” is another I’m proud of due to the imagery and tradition interwoven in the story. “The House” and “The Wallflowers,” two of my most recent hit close to home since both are based on true stories.

I write for several reasons—I love writing—every single step of it from concept to marketing after publication. The creative process of discovering characters and their stories is the most fun activity I want to do as long as I have life and an active, vivid imagination. I enjoy sharing my stories, and in my small way, I am trying my best to give a voice to my northern New Mexico Hispanic culture. Our traditions are dying with each generation; I’m endeavoring to keep them alive through literature.

You can connect with Carmen at this link:



Unbreakable Bonds

Jan McCulloch

Another author you wish you knew – Jan McCulloch answers the question of what is her favorite piece she ever wrote. Jan mentions her poem “Back Then.”

“This was my first ever poem so I was thrilled to have it chosen for publication by Clarendon House. The poem is about my wonderful old dog Dougie who taught me so much and was a gentle, loyal working sheepdog. There is a very special bond forged between these hardy working dogs and their shepherds. I am so lucky to have his daughter and his great grandson to work with today.”

I have read Jan’s poem and even though it makes me cry I can’t help wanting to read it again, it is that good! It catches you right in the heart.

Jan is the author of “A Little Dog’s Prayer.”

You can follow Jan at this link –

His Haiku Pack a Powerful Punch

Gary BushaHere’s another author/poet you wish you knew: Gary Busha answering the questions -What is your favorite book/story/poem you’ve written and what prompted it and where can folks can find examples of your work?

Gary: I have 16 mini books published through Wolfsong. at and other works at I’ve been writing, editing, and publishing for the past 50 years. As an editor at Western Publishing I wrote and edited several Trixie Belden series books aimed at girls in their teens. Don’t know what else to say.

Even though he doesn’t say much here, his short poems and haiku will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Gary Busha. It’s great stuff!

If you are a Facebook friend of Gary’s you can view his wonderful haiku, posted daily on his page.

You can find Gary’s books at this link:

Funny Guy on the Loose!

Warren AlexanderHere’s another author you wish you knew: Warren Alexander, poet, short story and article writer answering the questions of what is your favorite book/story you’ve written and what prompted it and where can folks can find examples of your work?

For the Lack Of An ‘N.’

I am working on a satirical novel about business. I wanted to compare a business meeting with a family gathering. As I was dithering about the similarities and differences of the two, I typed the word ‘diner’ instead of ‘dinner.’ The omission of one letter led to a full chapter that I had not expected.

This reaffirmed one of my basic tenets of writing. “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.” Those are the words of Chuck Close, perhaps the greatest living artist.

One mistake led to new characters, a much funnier idea than I originally thought, and what I hope is an engaging chapter. If I had not been working and failing, I would not have found success.

For the Lack Of An ‘N’ publication date: Unknown.

Warren Alexander  grew up in Brooklyn, NY and still lives in New York City. He studied with Thomas Keneally, Peter Carey, and E. L. Doctorow, among others at NYU, where he received his MA in creative writing

Short Stories
From Brooklyn to Spain by Subway
Inaugural issue-Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine, February 2019
The Call of Ice Cream
The Inner Circle Literary Anthology, December 2019

On Sewers-Inner Circle Writers Magazine, March 2020

How to Write Funny-Inaugural issue-Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine, February 2019

You can find other examples of Warren’s work at these links:

A Star in the Making

XimenaAnother author you wish you knew – Ximena Escobar – talks about one of her favorite stories.

I’m really excited about my story “The Making of a Star”, which is included in Black Hare Press’s Twenty Twenty, a 1920s themed anthology (release date 20th Feb). It’s a purely fictional story and not at all personal; the honest product of a smooth creative process. I knew I wanted to write for it because I’ve always loved the 20s and 30s, so I straight away had three different ideas I wanted to explore (all involving creative people as the main characters). One resulted in a story I’ve put in my Ximena folder, the second in “The Making of a Star.” (The third I haven’t written yet!) I wanted to write about an actress in her dressing room, so I did a bit of googling for inspiration and somewhere happened to read that the invention of modern nail polish was an off-shoot of car paint, when the owner of Revlon thought he’d put the amazing colour of a car on women’s nails….this reminded me of a haiku in “Poetica” by Pina Leyland… “Acrylic talons, the colour of Ferrari, ‘Slut Red’ he calls it”. And that was it, simply that the colour of my MC’s nails matched the colour of the car outside. I’d also watched and read about Metropolis and one thing led to another; I knew she’d had to get in the car at some point to justify the opening of the story, but also Pina’s theme is one I often write about. So the story wrote itself, from that point onward. And then a twist which I didn’t see coming… an accident. I do hope I still love it as much when it comes out… I can often over think things but this one flowed so wonderfully and was a joy from start to finish.

You can connect with Ximena here:

The Dreamer

Gary Wilbanks

Another author you wish you knew – Gary Wilbanks – tells about a story he wrote based on a dream.

Gary Wilbanks – My short story, “The Gift,” is out now in Mythic Magazine, Issue #12. The story was based on a dream I had. I don’t know where it came from, but I dreamed of falling in love with a girl who I could not physically touch for fear of killing her. I know that sounds horrible, but the story turned out quite lovely.…/dp/1945810408/