Do you ever look into the deep green shadows of a primeval forest and wonder what those secret depths hold? Do you like to write about your new and inventive discoveries while sipping a glass of fragrant wine? Do you enjoy the creative process? Then I hope you will stop a spell, enjoy the adventure, and travel with me as we imagine the possibilities...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Review of "Grant's Little Read Book of Poetry"

Grant Peeples, songwriter, singer, and now poet, writes in soul-blood upon the pages of Grant's Little Read Book of Poetry with love, and anger. He does not mince words, but throws in double handfuls “along the roadsides of convention, and medians of mediocrity,” his disdain and hope.

In “Mowing down the Wild Flowers,” he writes:

In stagnant ditches or in dry and rocky washes,
    they may volunteer to thrive,
to dance in the shadows of lampposts, road signs and
    power wires,
and to wave a proud little glory that’s
indifferent to the insults
    of all that trashed contempt
    scattered there amongst the innocent
    rot of road kill

Gritty and raw, Grant’s poetry scrapes through thin public veneers to eviscerate the reader and force them to take notice. In “The New Southern Tableau,” he states:

Beyond the town,
    where once there was a woodland,
    now grows in rows
    the slash pine fields
    of future 2 x 4s and toilet paper;”

Each word is this slim book counts, holds weight, and paints pictures that fascinate. Inside the front cover of Grant's Little Read Book of Poetry, nests a compact disk with Grant reading his own poems, so the reader has options – read – listen – or both at the same time. I enjoyed this small book in all the above ways, but prefer listening to Grant interpret his art.

There is some foul language, so if it offends you, don’t read it, but you will miss out on a true North Florida artist. Peeples’ poetry is like the sweetest water, and bitterest lemon, smooth and rough, and filled with passion. Forty-three pages are not enough, and I sincerely hope this is not Grant’s last book of poetry.

You can purchase Grant’s Little Read Book of Poetry by visiting his web site:, or purchasing it directly from him at any of his concerts. Information regarding Peeples’ concerts is available at, and at

Having read this book several times, I feel like the last section in his poem, “The Well.”

Then I was done.
    And that one small sip?
        Well, I can taste it yet,
            and will

Imagining the possibilities,


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On The Road at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference

East Beach, Santa Barbara, California
There are no fat people in Santa Barbara, California. Everyone rollerblading, trotting, biking, skateboarding, pushing strollers and walking Fido is skinny. On this first day of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, I wait for the opening ceremonies by watching people parade down Cabrillo Boulevard. Gentle swells from the Pacific Ocean frame each individual as they pass.  There is no cottage cheese on these people. It is June 8th, and the high for the day is 65 degrees. In mid-afternoon. That’s right, Tallahassee – welcome to summer in Southern California, where writers like me spend six days learning to perfect our craft and trim the fat off our novel until the writing is as lean, strong, and beautiful as the folks sashaying down the Boulevard.

Begun in 1964 by Barnaby Conrad, the SBWC, Santa Barbara Writers Conference, oozes history. You can feel the ghosts of Conrad, Ray Bradbury, and Charles Schultz swirling around, and know they must be proud of the extensive work done by the conference committee. “We used to sleep on the floor back at the Cate School, when this thing first started,” Sid Stibel, a workshop leader, said. Stibel has attended every SBWC since arriving with Ray Bradbury at the first one.

Saturday morning - June Gloom
Daylight in Santa Barbara begins shortly after 5 a.m. with the sound of finches reminding me to put out the day’s offering of crumbs on the balcony’s rails. Salt scented breezes laugh through long palm fronds sharing the joke with cawing Ravens that the majority of tall graceful palms throughout California are not native, and are kept alive thanks to water which is also imported to this semi-arid state. Morning is the most peaceful time of day . . . until 9 a.m., and then, the race is on. Each day provides options for illumination – there are twelve morning and afternoon workshops – twenty-four different classes. I’ve chosen the Travel Writing and Interviewing Boot Camp, hosted by Jerry Camarillo Dunn, Jr. for the morning sessions. Dunn writes for National Geographic Traveler, among other publications.

In the afternoon, like many others, I switch it up among workshops, trying to learn as much as possible in the time allotted. If you can think of a topic or genre, the SBWC is more than likely offering a class on it. An attendee said, “I feel like I’m in a one of a kind candy store. Every day I have to choose which sweet to eat.” Precisely.
Four in the afternoon brings on the panels. Agent panel, first time author panel, editor panel, muckety-muck panel . . . I can’t stay away. Patricia Bracewell, author of “Shadow on the Crown,” and Karen Keskinen, author of “Blood Orange,” gave encouragement to authors who waited until later in life to write. Though different genres, a glimpse in their books has me anticipating a glass of wine and a bit of time to spend reading them.

At 5 p.m. we break for supper, then drag tired feet and minds to hear the evening speaker. Stephen Chbosky, author of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” began the speaker series. Someone from the audience asked him if he remembered the name of the first person he kissed. Chbosky answered, “My wife’s in the audience, and she’s from New Jersey. NEW JERSEY,” he spelled out each letter, “you know about New Jersey people. There was no one before her. No one.” He slashes a tanned hand across his throat. “Ever.”

Note the Zoo sign points to over 200 writers.
It is said that confession is good for the soul, so here goes: My name is Peggy, and I’m a Pirate. Pirate sessions are for the masochists, idiots who don’t know when to go to bed, or when to stop and smell the Jacaranda trees that are blooming in mounds of purple prose. There are two Pirate Sessions that start at nine and go until—. I made it to midnight one night, and when I finally slogged heavy-eyed to my room, there were stalwart individuals still reading their work and critiquing each other. Lorelai Armstrong and John Reed lead these critique workouts. The sessions are an addiction, and like other addictions, even though you know that the next day you will fight to keep eyes open and brain alert, the next opportunity you have to partake of the heady stuff, your trembling hand will reach out, and there you’ll be, parking yourself at the table with the other addicts, hauling papers out to read, and tuning eager ears to listen.

This is the halfway point of the conference. I look forward to the rest of this feast with anticipation and dread. Anticipation because I know I’ll learn so much that will help me with whatever I choose to put to pen, and dread, because I’ll miss the people I met here, miss Santa Barbara, and miss the different world that is Southern California.

Over the top of my computer, a pod of dolphins cartwheel a few feet off shore. There must be sixty or more of the creatures, joyful in their dance across the smooth water. The mammals are sleek and lean, like the people of Santa Barbara. They are examples of what the conference attendees are learning to do with our writing, use action verbs, make each word count, limit the ‘ly’s. In other words, getting rid of the cottage cheese.

Imagining the possibilities,

Peggy Kassees

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review of Jodie Renner's book: Style that Sizzles

Imagine the possibilities of your words having power, punch, and pizzazz! You can, you know, with the help of Jodie Renner’s book, Style that Sizzles & Pacing for Power, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction.

I’ve read many “how to write” books, and currently have four that are my absolute favorites. The top book on this list is Style that Sizzles and Pacing for Power. I feel so strongly about this book that I bought a copy for my e-reader, and six paperback copies. I like to share. (I was going to say something smart, like: “In case I want to read it more than once,” except Renner says in Chapter 12, “Take out any explanations or self-indulgent ramblings.” I’m so guilty of this.)

Whether you are working on your first novel, or have completed several, this book will help. In a concise and readable format, Renner shares with the reader tips and habits a writer needs to succeed. My first book maxed out at 141,365 words – and that is after I took a good 30,000 words out. It was like pulling teeth. Now, with the help of Style that Sizzles, I’m scooting through Menoly and Antoine’s novel, removing the dross and leaving the gold. Taking a scalpel to my writing is difficult for me, but Renner makes that task easier with examples that clarify and edify.

Chapter headings are informative and allow the reader to focus on the parts they need help resolving. However, I heartily recommend the novelist read the entire book, and then focus on specific areas.

If you are serious about writing and filled with the desire to be published, Jodie Renner’s book is the one for you.

Now, I probably shouldn’t say this, since she is a world-renowned editor, but, if you implement the lessons Renner espouses, pare your words, take away lengthy explanations and wordy phrases, when you submit your novel to your editor, it won’t cost nearly as much.

Information on Jodie:

Jodie's blogs with tips for writers: Crime Fiction Collective and Jodie Renner Editing
Facebook: Jodie Renner Editing 
Twitter: @JodieRennerEd
Member: International Thriller Writers (Associate), Sisters in Crime (SinC)

Hurry! Go buy the book. Pour a glass of wine or cup of coffee. Sit a spell, crank up your writing skills, and imagine the possibilities.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Appearances can be Deceiving, Or, Warning, You Could End up in My Novel!

What does a writer look like? How does he or she dress? You might say: “Go look in the mirror.” But that won’t do. Seeing my silly self does nothing to answer the questions of what an author looks like. Inside. Where it really counts, or at the very least, how the unsuspecting can have advance notice.

First Flight, from the Keltoi Pages
I like to go to writer conferences – they are excellent places to learn more about the craft of writing, publishing, and marketing your work. At conferences you also meet other authors. People who walk around like normal beings, but carry worlds inside their heads of marvelous invention. Worlds inhabited by dragons, and people who fly, and individuals who have pointed ears, who talk to trolls, commit murders, solve murders, love, hate, eat bugs, are bugs, ad infinitum. Worlds of fuchsia mists and pink tinged lightning, with islands that float in a sea of time instead of water. Oh, how I love the mind of a writer!

Yet, surely, there should be some kind of warning. I mean – here I am, wandering around with other authors who can twist time, and invent beings. I have a t-shirt that says: “Careful, you could end up in my novel.” Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. Everything a writer sees, thinks, feels, goes into a big cauldron, is stirred, and then the author sticks her pen into that pot and puts it to paper. Or they thrust their fingers in the pot and hit the computer.

Sopchoppy Stone Age and Primitive Arts Festival, February 2013
My son and I recently went to the Stone Age and Primitive Arts Festival held annually in Sopchoppy, Florida, at the Ochlochonee River State Park. On this day, clouds lowered until the only thing holding them up were white pines and cypress. A constant drizzle puddled the ground. We met many intrepid people determined to have a good time and share their efforts to remind modern folk that were it not for stone chisels, arrow heads, and other such primitive tools, we wouldn’t be here.

One individual will not leave my mind. He stands there, bowler hat shoved down on his head above a halo of wispy white hair sagging damply in the mist. His wide smile reveals a lone brown tooth thrust up from his lower gum. Watery blue eyes, slightly protruding, glint, and are filled with excitement. He has two people listening to tales of how he found the ingredients for staffs, knives, and stone and bone tools he’s made and offers for sale. When we reluctantly left the gentleman to go search among the other presenters, my son looked at me and said: “Mom, he’s so got to be in a book somewhere.” Oh yes, do be careful, you could end up in my novel.

Fiction Among Friends
So here’s the thing – what does an author look like? Shouldn’t there be some kind of indication that you are in the presence of a person who at any moment could take part of your essence, and have a being erupt from your brain like Athena from Zeus’ head? I guess having someone walk in front of the prestigitator of words shouting, “Warning! Warning!” and waving their arms wildly in the air won’t do. Maybe a nice blue aura circling the author’s head with holographic images of the writer’s characters and worlds swirling around in this nimbus for all to see. I like that. Certainly, this would garner immediate attention and provide adequate notice. Decisions must be made. And in the meantime, be warned: you could so end up in my novel!

Imagining the possibilities,