Studio Tour: Debra Smouse

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

First and foremost, I am a lover of words and the stories they create. I write because I must allow myself to unfold my own stories on the page. I do this as a way to teach and support my coaching practice. I create courses to help folks get from here to there.  I wrote about about Creating a Life You Love and published my collection as a book.

Most of all, though, I write because it’s how I unearth my own truths.

My writing studio is set up in the lower level of our home. We have a “basement walk-out” and so each morning, I commute downstairs. While I can easily walk outside and watch the golfers or the geese, I work better down here than I did when I worked upstairs in a room that faced the street.

A peek into the door reveals this vintage desk. It was John’s father’s desk and before that it was his grandfather’s desk. I love it’s shape but most of all I love the energy.

Debra Smouse Studio Tour - 1

I scatter favorite photos and sometimes candles here. That lamp is one I received for Christmas the year that I was 12 and it has illuminated many of my words over the last thirty-six years.

You’ll see my art, most of which consists of photographs I’ve taken. Photos that have special meanings. Like the Cherry Blossom photos I took the weekend I met John for the first time…subsequent peeks of DC  and Central Park in the Fall.

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And to the left  of the door you’ll find the only recycled item in my office: an old TV stand serves as a space to store cards, stationary, and cuttings from magazines for future vision boards.  I am in love with these document boxes and these soft bins.

And, of course, flowers. I love having fresh flowers in my office.

During holy seasons or pinnacle calendar days, this sometimes serves as an altar space (like for my “Spring Altar“)

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Yes, I chose this room due to its lack of windows because like Mark Twain, I’m curious about the world outside and therefore prone to distraction. And like Twain, my desk faces the corner.

I love this desk, by the way. It’s the Bedford Corner desk from Pottery Barn and it’s the first time I’ve ever invested in this kind of piece for myself rather than buy the cheapest thing I could find or making do with a recycled item from elsewhere in the house. It was an investment in myself and my work in a writer that went beyond the actual dollar figure spent.

Purchasing this desk was a sign of commitment to this life here in Ohio. A commitment to writing. A reminder of love, belonging, and sanctuary.

I have everything at hand: My planner, my journal,  and computer (with a new monitor on my wishlist). Favorite pens and of course space for the necessities of life (coffee) and favorite photos. Each item here has been purposely cultivated because everything has energy.

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To the left of my desk is a matching bookshelf with a stock of Leuchtturm1917 Notebooks in a rainbow of colors…I like having extra journals on hand because you never know when you’ll need a new one. The letters I’ve received are stored here …. and on top, one of my favorite photos of John (taken on our 2015 Vacation) and a stack of files for various trips and projects.

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Above my desk is my cork-board, where I have a variety of inspirational quotes and cards mixed in with calendars and  little note cards outlining various deadlines for projects.

I wasn’t able to find a board that I loved, so I had this one made at a local craft store, choosing a light-weight frame that matched all the framed art in my office and having them wet-mount cork instead of art.

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My Bookshelves are across my from desk. These bookshelves are the only furniture I brought with me from Texas to Ohio when I did that massive de-cluttering in 2010….Reference books and loved books abound. Old journals. More photos I’ve taken and framed. The final few copies of the 3rd printing of my book.

Scattered about are sacred talismans as well. Like on my desk, each item has been cultivated for my space. I quarterly look at each book and item to see what needs to go.

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Because sacred connection is important to me, I had this custom rosary made by Lunaea Weatherstone . It’s a “Goddess Rosary”. I told Lunae that I wanted an image of the Blessed Mother and she created this lovely collage for the medallion

(email her for your own custom piece – or friend her on Facebook to get a peek at rosaries in progress waiting for homes)

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Books for coaching and living stand alongside tokens and reminders. The lantern to remind me that my role is to serve as a light and guide for my coaching clients….and a Buddha candle holder and heart-shaped stone to remind me of my responsibility to tend my own soul.

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Books by dear friends, prayer cards and crystals and candles…and some of my beloved Trixie Belden books.

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A photo of John and I fooling around in a photo booth reminds me of the joy and laughter and love we share…and here, also, are tiny talismans: a rose quartz, a butterfly from the roses he sent me on our first Valentine’s…and these sit alongside my favorite books on love and intimate relationships.

Not pictured: the dozens of candles that make their way into my space. I light them as prayers for sick friends and when I begin a new project. I light ones for specific intentions, in honor of specific souls passed, and as a beacon of light.

Virginia Wolfe said that a woman needs a room of her own in order to write…and I am so grateful that I have this room to serve me as my writing studio.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Dance by Kolleen Harrison

sacred dance

Nearly every morning my alarm sounds off around 6:38 a.m. I intentionally set it for this time so I can hit the snooze button at least once! During this time, between snooze and the sounding of the next alarm bell, I pray. I say several prayers I learned from my childhood, being raised in a Catholic household, and then I begin with a list of gratitudes. morning gloryI do this with intention and necessity before my feet even touch the ground and I am faced with “God only knows what” when I hit the kitchen and see my kiddos!

I have found this daily spiritual practice helps, (even if only for a short time), my day to go a bit smoother. By smoother, I mean, I feel it helps me to have more patience and tolerance. Once I am up and out of bed, slowly making my way towards some coffee with phone in hand, I go to a specific spot in my home where I can snap some photos of the sunrise. Often times these photos will coincide with a prayer for the day on my Instagram feed. This is not only a part of my spiritual practice but also a part of my creative practice as well.

My creativity has become a dance with the spiritual. They are both highly undiscovered abstractintricate parts of who I am and what I want my life to embody both inside and outside of my creative realm. One does not exist without the other. Whether I am taking photos, flinging paint for my next abstract piece, or journaling, Spirit plays a part. I have found approaching my creativity in this manner is a way in which I am able to express my truest self, where I am creating from my Soul Space. It has become the only way I know how to authentically create anymore and I do not see myself getting off this dance floor anytime soon!

About the Author: Kolleen Harrison

kolleenHarrisonbioKolleen Harrison is a creative living in the beautiful Central Coast of California.  She is the Founder of LOVEwild and Founder/Maker of Mahabba Beads.  Her passions lie in nurturing her relationship with God, loving on her happily dysfunctional family, flinging paint in her studio, dancing barefoot, making jewelry (that is so much more than “just jewelry”), and spreading love and kindness wherever and whenever she can.  You can find her popping in and out at or

On Loss and Rejoicing by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

alderforestcreek2I grieve the loss
of the riverine forest,
the alders Nature bestowed
after the great flood.

Yesterday they were cut down,
turned into firewood,
victims of the canker disease
sweeping the globe’s northern tier.

This morning I mourn their passing,
slowly survey my changed domain
and discover that in this loss
I have cause to rejoice.

Now I see the creek stretch
from above the bridge
to more than a mile downstream,
trimmed by young sycamores left standing.

On a snag high on the far bank
a bald eagle overlooks his kingdom
and air swishes freely through the new space
to cool my flushed face.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Brunch: Kite and String

Kite and String

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell


“What is it like,” I asked my husband earlier this weekend, “being married to someone with a creative personality?”

“Well,” he answered slowly (but then, he does most things both slowly and methodically), “it’s never boring.”

“That was very diplomatic,” I told him. “But not terribly helpful.”

Kite and StringHe pointed out that since he was in the process of hanging all the clean laundry that doesn’t get folded, he was being helpful enough for one day. “Anyway,” he added, “you keep telling me I suck at multitasking.”

“Well,” I responded. “You do.”  Then I turned on my heel and left the room, fighting not to laugh.

Last month, Fuzzy (that’s my nickname for him, though his real identity isn’t a secret) and I celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary. Our celebration was tame – we went out for breakfast – which may seem like nothing, but a lot of our first dates involved breakfast food, so it was appropriate for us.

Besides, we bought each other our big gifts – VIP tickets to Dallas Comic Con in June – back in February. Going to cons is something we both enjoy, and we’re comfortable enough in our mutual geekiness that we’re not embarrassed about it.

If you’d asked me, when I was seven, if I was ever going to get married I would have giggled and blushed and admitted that I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy, who was known to me, then, as Joe Hardy on the Hardy Boys television show.

If you’d asked me the same question when I was twelve, I would have glowered at you, and insisted I was never, ever getting married, but on the off-chance that I did we would have separate apartments. (Sometimes, I’m not sure that was a bad idea.)

I was never the girl who dreamed about getting married, had her wedding planned before she could construct complete sentences, or gushed over brides and babies.

At nineteen, I had this romantic notion of being a contemporary version of a foreign correspondent, traveling all over the world, sending thick, vivid letters back home, and having a succession of brooding, artsy lovers.

That didn’t happen, but I did date a musician for a while when I was twenty-one. He was older. And he was a mess. But every relationship teaches you something, and I came away from that experience with a great appreciation for jazz and blues and The Great American Songbook.

From the beginning, our relationship – Fuzzy’s and mine – was uniquely ours. We met online in a time when nobody was doing that, and the world wide web… wasn’t. We started planning a proper wedding only to realize we didn’t want to deal with the fuss, or our family’s differing religious and political views, or the fact that I’d just moved from California to South Dakota to be with him, and didn’t have a job (or health insurance) yet.

We eloped on a chilly Friday in March, in the courthouse where Laura and Almanzo Wilder’s marriage was registered (I was a life-long Laura fan, and became more of one when, on my first visit to South Dakota, the drive to the family farm took us, not only down the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway, but past DeSmet – the actual “Little Town” on the prairie.)

My mother refused to talk to me for a month after I told her, but then she sent us a box with some great gifts, and a check… and months after that, she threw us a fantastic party where we had a re-commitment ceremony in her front yard, and a pot-luck reception featuring a smoked turkey and the traditional wedding foods from several of her friends’ cultures of origin, in the back yard.

Holding HandsOver the years, our marriage has gone through several changes. For a while I made more money than Fuzzy, but he was proud of me for that, even though he often worried about the number of hours I spent at work. For the last decade, he’s been the primary wage-earner, and while he won’t admit it, I think there’s a part of him that secretly likes being able to be the provider.

Sometimes, I’ve worked at an office while he got to spend a couple days a week at home, and sometimes he’s worked over an hour away while I could walk to work. Today, we both work from home (which is why there are only two of us plus four dogs living in our five-bedroom house – we each need our own office), but he travels for work, and every so often I travel without him for one reason or another.

There are also things that have never changed: we’re both nocturnal, more likely to see dawn because we haven’t been to bed than because we just woke up; we still make each other laugh at least once a day; we both sleep better when we’re curled up together in the center of our bed (dogs permitting) than on separate sides.

I drink coffee, and he drinks warm orange soda. He wears shoes to the beach, and I’m barefoot as much as possible. I double the amount of walnuts in anything I bake because he loves them, and he brings me flowers every time he goes grocery shopping. I’m a Star Trek fan to the depths of my soul, while he prefers Star Wars, and he’s a Marvel guy while I’m a DC girl, but, at the end of the day, whatever we have works.

He still flirts with me, at home, in public, everywhere.

I still can’t get enough of his kisses, or his singing voice.

If there are times when his somewhat introverted, often pedantic, stoic, engineer self makes me feel like I’m actually married to the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m certain that my tendency to bounce from topic to topic, change my accent on a whim, and wander around the house talking to myself as I work out lines of dialogue for an audio drama I’m in, or a story I’m writing, makes him feel like he’s married to Sibyl.

So, what is it like for my sweet, loyal, list-following, spreadsheet-loving husband to be married to someone who has a creative personality? Here’s how I described our relationship to my friend Caroline (in Sweden) a few days ago – and how I describe us to most people:

I’m kind of like a kite – flying around doing all sorts of things – writing, improv, music, voice acting, podcasting – letting the wind take me where it will, and he’s the string, giving me enough room to fly, but still keeping me anchored to the earth.

Kite and String.

Me and Fuzzy.

Twenty-one years.

It isn’t always perfect, but at the same time, it totally is.

Kite and String Copyright: altomedia / 123RF Stock Photo
Holding Hands Copyright: worapong / 123RF Stock Photo


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Chasing the Charade by A.R. Hadley

“Are you ready yet?” He walked into the hotel bathroom, never looking better in his monkey suit, and stood near the sink.

tuxedoone“Tell me again why we had to share this room?” She held the curling iron to her head. “Couldn’t you have booked a suite with a separate bedroom?”

“We’ve been over this.”

“I know.” She sighed. “I just don’t understand your family sometimes.”

“We have separate beds.”

“Thank God.”

“You know my mother would die if she knew the truth, Casey.”

Lies. Of course. What does he know about truth?

“You have to tell her sometime.”

“Not today.”

“I should’ve … you should’ve said I was ill. There’s no reason for this … this charade.”

“My mother loves you.”

He had to go there.

Silently, she stared into the glass. Into his eyes. Her lips a hard pressed line, but her eyes soft and full of the love she tried to deny. She was unable to hide it though. She loved his mother. He knew that. And she loved him. Casey had wanted to keep the latter veiled, but it was too late. He saw her love — all of it, shining off the brown of her irises. The months long separation hadn’t changed the love she felt for him. It had not even cooled. Her love for him was hotter than the iron. The iron.


A mist ascended her scalp like incense. His attention diverted to it. He grinned.

She unraveled the contraption. “Funny. Right. I’ll fry my hair. Just what I need tonight.” The steamed hair coiled and bounced.

His smile turned into a lure at the end of a line. “I remember this dress.” He touched her sangria colored gown.

With both of his palms on her hips, she couldn’t help but glance down. She stared at his fingers, her eyes like crazy glue, unable to shift, but her mind still sharp as a tack; aware that if they had stayed together he probably would have never remembered the dress he fondled, and maybe he would have never coveted her again — in the dress or ever. Now the old dress, the decoration in her closet, their closet, the closet they shared for years, was a symbol, gathering a static dust like their relationship.

“Yeah?” she replied, voice cracking.

“Yeah,” he said, holding her hips secure while peering into her eyes in the mirror.

She tilted her head down. He waited for her attention, but her gaze would not return, and so he released her and turned to walk away.

“Where, Mark?” She looked up with a start and caught the back of his head in the glass. “Where did I wear the dress?”

“At the anniversary party … their fiftieth.” He drew near and stood at her profile. “God, you know you haven’t womanatvanity_istockphotochanged? You’re still the—”

“I’ve changed.”

“You don’t love me anymore?” His voice was tender in all the right ways, his touch impossible to resist. She leaned into it as he stroked her chestnut curls.

“Mark,” she said, shaking her head. “Love isn’t always enough.”

“What is?” he whispered.

“We will be late.” She pulled away.

“They can wait.” He gripped her waist again.

“You are part of the wedding—”

“I’m part of you,” he said. “You can’t take the me out of you.”

“You took it.” Her thighs began to tremble. “You … you took it.”

“Tonight,” he said, his voice a balm, “tonight … I don’t want this to be a charade.”

Casey tilted her face away and pressed her palms onto the counter. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Don’t pretend you love me, C.J.” He searched her shimmering eyes. “Love me … be with me.”

“I am with you,” she said, twisting her head toward him in a flash, eyes wide, avoiding his implication. “I’m staying here, aren’t I? I agreed.”

Mark reached up and touched his wife’s cheek, stroking it. His fingers were behind her neck and tangled in her hair.

“Be … with … me.” He continued to gaze into her eyes. “I want you.”

Casey momentarily couldn’t speak. No man had touched her since Mark had moved out, and he hadn’t even touched her in the months leading up to the departure. Now his hands and breath were on her skin, and she was melting. Melting. Damn him. He could be so charming when he wanted to. Manipulative even. Everything was always about the chase though, the charm and the chase, and now he was chasing her.

Am I the other woman now?

It was nauseatingly fun for a moment, and then the moment would be gone, and yet there was still something.

There was something to his proposition of sex.

It would be just sex, wouldn’t it?

They weren’t divorced, but they clearly weren’t together. In name only. For the sake of the family. Mark’s pursuit was interfering with whatever life he had begun without her, and he was coming between the contentment she found in being alone, discovering herself again — herself apart from him. But … she was alone, she did have needs, and he could meet them comfortably. She had been unable to bring herself to be with a stranger, and she didn’t want to date. God. Date. It was too soon. And maybe it was too soon for this absent minded sexual reconciliation. It would be a one night stand.

Yes, a one night stand … unless … unless he could somehow manage to screw that up too.

There was still the ceremony and the reception to attend. He had hours to screw up, and then they might have hours to screw — each other, and their lives into a twisted bunch of irrecoverable knots. Nevertheless, the arrangement was sealed when she agreed to the whole cockamamie scheme, attending the wedding of his sister, sharing a hotel room — sealed when she said her own I do. She knew now that Mark would never truly be gone or over.

He is Mark.

He was her Marky-Mark-Mark. Somehow he would forever hold a little piece of her heart the way he held her now against the counter — hands demanding her attention, green eyes admiring her the way no one else did, making her forget every lie, fight and malice in their marriage that brought them to the moment they existed in now. No. For once in her life she wanted the moment to be the moment. No past. No future. No next minute, day or hour. No consequence. Fuck consequence. She tilted her head toward him, speaking all of the lonely and necessity without saying a thing. She stared into his eyes and parted her lips.

About the Author: A.R. Hadley

ARHadleyBioA.R. Hadley has been a creative writer since elementary school, however, she all but gave it up after her children were born, devoting herself to the lovely little creatures, forgetting the pleasure and happiness derived from being imaginative.

No more.

She rediscovered her passion in 2014, and has not stopped since — writing essays, poetry, and fiction. A.R is currently working on a set of novels as part of a romantic trilogy, and also dabbles in penning short stories.

Day or night, words float around inside her brain. She hears dialogue when awakening from sleep. She is the one who has been awakened. Writing is her oxygen.

Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

New Moon Creative: Moon in Aries

What would happen if you were to commit to your own creative life each month? How would you feel if you nourished your own need to create? How excited would you be if you didn’t just create something, but also shared your creation with other people who were also stepping into their creative lives?

While all of us at Modern Creative Life hope that each of our readers is indulging their creativity (even if it’s in small ways) fairly frequently, we are also dedicated to the idea that we get to choose our own paths to creative living each and every day of the year, by writing, painting, cooking, or even making and artful arrangement of the books on our shelves.

As well, we believe it’s important to honor the cycles of life that form currents through all our lives. As part of our ongoing celebration of those cycles and currents, we will be releasing a collection of prompts to inspire you on your creative journey.

Since the New Moon is traditionally been a time of new beginnings, we’ll be sharing those prompts on the date of each month’s New Moon.

Here is our April (New Moon in Aries) group of prompts:

New Moon Creative Prompts - Moon in Aries

Write a poem, essay, or short story. Take a photograph and leave us with the image alone. Create a photo essay.

Post your creation in your blog and/or share your work on Social Media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all of those spaces. Use the tag #NewMoonCreative so we can find you. Leave a comment here (with a link) so we can read your words and lovingly witness what and how you are creating.

On the Full Moon (April 22nd), we’ll post a collection of the work that was inspired by these prompts and post them here, with links back to the full work (and you).

What’s Next? by Daryl Wood Gerber

Lake Tahoe - Setting of Daryl Wood Gerber's Book Girl on the Run

What’s next? What came first? Let’s see. I wrote as a girl. I wrote as a teen. I had teachers that told me not to and that I wasn’t any good, and sadly, I listened. I put aside my writing and became an actress. Luckily, I was pretty good and I worked a lot. I made a decent living. However, along the way, I realized in order to become a star, I needed projects, and the best way to do that was to write one for myself.

Typical me, I got right on it. I took classes. We read each other’s screenplays out loud. I learned. I studied. I wrote "Sparky"romantic comedies as well as thrillers. I was lucky enough to sell a show for which I created the format on television. But I couldn’t entice an agent to love my work and put me on the fast track.

Soon after, I moved out of state for my husband’s career. I couldn’t very well take a meeting (Hollywood speak for have lunch and chat about a project) from 3,000 miles away, so what did I do? I gave up screenwriting and decided I could still write…novels. But which genre? I loved mysteries. I loved thrillers. I wasn’t into rom-com. I decided upon suspense as well as mystery, and I started taking more classes. I joined Sisters in Crime and joined critique groups. I learned a ton!!! Then I submitted to agents. Over and over!! I was the rejection queen in my Sisters in Crime online group, the Guppies.

Finally I landed a contract to write the Cheese Shop Mysteries and that sealed my fate. I became known as a cozy mystery author. I followed that series with the Cookbook Nook Mysteries and narrowed my fate even more. I am currently known as a culinary cozy mystery author. I know cheese; I know cookbooks; I happen to be a cook. Presto!

Daryl Wood Gerber's BookshelvesNow don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I love my fans. I have a great career.

So why self-publish a suspense novel like GIRL ON THE RUN? Because I want to see if I can.

You see, I still love writing suspense. Love it! And I wondered if my stories would resonate with my fans. I have a pretty darned good fan base! Not to mention, I still have eight suspense/thriller manuscripts on my shelves (or in my computer), and I’m wondering whether there is a future for them.

So far, thanks to my early-reader fans (beta readers) I’m finding that Girl on the Run is resonating. They are delighted with the story. The reviews they have posted on Goodreads (they can’t post on Amazon until the book releases) have been enthusiastic to the max and extremely heartwarming for me.

Does this mean I’ll throw over traditional publishing? No! I really like being published by a reputable publisher. I love working with Berkley Prime Crime. They have been very good to me.

However, when I asked my agent to market Girl on the Run, which had a different title at the time, my publisher and a few other publishers weren’t interested for a couple of reasons.

One: It wasn’t as tightly written as it is now. I rewrote it after the publishers rejected it. I took their notes to heart, and I was brutal to my baby. I cut out 40 pages and a few unnecessary points of view. The result is a tighter read with a faster pace.

Two: I wasn’t a known suspense author. Publishers really don’t like to switch an author’s brand midstream. They want to buy the known commodity. So do fans. I am a cozy mystery author. Period. There will be plenty of my fans that won’t want to read Girl on the Run based on that alone. Sigh.

Caveat to my devoted cozy mystery readers: Girl on the Run does not have any bad language, there is no explicit sex, and most of the crime happens off the page. The story is about Chessa, on the run, in search of the truth. It’s not a cozy but it’s not spooky, scary, or gross, and no children or animals were harmed during the making of this book! There are no recipes included.

So, therefore, as a suspense author, I am starting over.

Lake Tahoe - Setting of "Girl on the Run" by Daryl Wood Gerber

I’m looking for a new audience or trying to expand my current audience. What is my brand? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s: I’m a California girl! I will set all of my thrillers somewhere in California. And I’m a thrill-seeker. I have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and hitchhiked around Ireland by myself. Definitely not cozy.

But let’s address the initial question: what’s next?

I have a few cozy mystery proposals with publishers right now. We’ll see if they want to sign new contracts. I have to admit I have enjoyed the process of self-publishing. It has been a blast!

And, as I mentioned, I do have more suspense novels written, but I will need to rewrite them, and I will have to be DWG girl on the run ebookeven more brutal than I was with GIRL ON THE RUN. So there is possibly another one to eight self-published suspense novels on the horizon. One a year? We’ll see.

FYI, my virtual assistant has been invaluable in this project! I could not have done it without her. I would have been pulling my hair out. She has taught me the ins and outs of social media and self-publishing. Everyone deserves her as a mentor!

Also coming up: GRILLING THE SUBJECT, the 5th in my Cookbook Nook Mystery series debuts August. I’m writing the 6th in the series, although I don’t have a contract for that yet. If I don’t get one, because who knows what will happen in this volatile publishing world, I’ll self-publish it.

My motto has become “One day at a time, one step at a time.”

Life has changed drastically for me over this past year. I intend to pay attention to what life has to offer, whether in my writing or in my personal life and family life, and I intend to to drink it in: One sip at a time.

Savor the mystery.

About the Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

DarylWoodGerberbioAgatha Award-winning and bestselling author DARYL WOOD GERBER ventures into the world of suspense with her debut novel, GIRL ON THE RUN. Daryl also writes the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, and as Avery Aames, she pens the Cheese Shop Mysteries.

Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote”. She has also jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and hitchhiked around Ireland by herself. She loves to read and has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky. Visit Daryl at

I have written so often, by Æverett


I have written so often about your voice, but the feeling

remains, ever present, like a ringing in my bones. The taste of

your words as they leave your lips, like honey on my

fingertips… I wish to hear your whispering words, close

enough to feel your Tongue. The music from your mouth

amoung the sighings there in silken sheets. The sighing of my

dying Lungs, you steal my breath, with only a sound, a

whisper, a word. Your verses only make it worse.


About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

For the Love of Letters

Late in the summer of 2015, I began a letter writing project with a friend. We chose to focus our exchange (mostly) Writing Letters in a Cafeon our creative lives and how everything else affected our ability to become more devoted to our creative needs and desires.

Eight months later, we are still exchanging handwritten letters around the subject of our creative lives and creative living on the whole.

It’s been an incredibly nourishing project and process. I’ve long preferred paper over email and cannot imagine why we didn’t begin writing sooner, yet it also forced me to take a good hard look at my need for instant gratification.

What happens in that in between times as I wait for the next chapter to arrive in my mailbox? What will she think of my letter? Was I too honestly naked?  How does waiting for an answer to a question make me feel? How does it nourish me creatively and spiritually?

I anxiously await the next letter. When it arrives, I savor it once and then again and maybe after a third (or fourth) reading, I pen a response. And then the process begins again.

Writing Letters early in the morning (with coffee)My biggest take aways from this process (so far) has  been:

  • The slower pace of letter writing is forcing me to slow down and is training my focus. In my inability to get an answer as quickly as my instant-gratification-trained brain would like, I am learning the virtues of patience in other areas of my creative life as well.
  • During the in-between times, I am anxious to not only receive the next letter, but more inspired to put my pen to paper and work on projects.
  • Writing letters has forced me to dig a little deeper, be more vulnerable, be more honest, and be a bit daring.
  • Since I began writing letters by hand (and writing in a paper journal), I more easily process my thoughts, emotions, and the world around me.

I’m not alone. Research shows that writing by hand helps us process information in a more conceptual way. While this study wasn’t about the process of letter writing, I can tell you that the process of laying open my dreams and fears on paper to a trusted soul via paper and ink has been a process that has helped me look at my creative life from a different lens.

The U.S. Postal Services has named April to be National Card and Letter-Writing Month.  The USPS’s goal is to boost written — and mailed — communications to build relationships through cards and letters:  “Touch them with a letter they can feel — and keep.”

Writing letters has been a loving way to tend my own creative life and my guess is that no matter who you are, taking a pen in hand and penning a missive to someone you trust would benefit your creative life as well.

If you aren’t sure who you would (or could) write to, might I suggest some options?

  • What if you were to write an open letter to a faceless, nameless stranger? Open letters can be good for the soul.
  • What if you took some advice from Chronicle Book and wrote one (or more) letters to the folks they suggest?
  • You know that apology you’ve wanted to make but can’t quite make yourself pick up the phone? How about you put it on paper and drop it in the mail?
  • How about writing little love notes to your significant other and tucking them into lunch boxes and underwear drawers?
  • What if you were to pen a missive to a younger version of yourself? Or a future version of yourself?
  • Write a letter to your muse or mentor (even if that mentor is long gone or fictional).
  • Write a series of love letters to yourself in your journal.
  • What if you were to write letters to various aspects of your life and yourself?

Susannah Conway is offering her “April Love” project with a month of love letters. She’s providing a prompt per day this month and in her words:  To practice love, kindness, honesty and probably a smidge of vulnerability, too. To find gratitude for what we have, where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

April Love

I’m not the only one here at Modern Creative Life that loves letters. In fact, we’ll be happy to take your letter for publication.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Create a Life You Love: Straightforward Wisdom for Creating the Life of Your Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. When she’s not waiting for the mailman, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Studio Tour: Bernie Brown

Modern Creative Life Presents Studio Tours

My stories are born in my head, hands, and heart; but some practical tools are necessary to bring those inner visions to life. I have a pleasantly cluttered desk where I sit and write and think and procrastinate. Favorite reference books rest close by: a thesaurus, a dictionary, and an emotional thesaurus – the best book ever!

Each main character in my novel has a file, and I track when and where scenes take place by making notes on a calendar. Pictures of my family and friends sit close by to make me smile even when my writing makes me frown. And when I really feel discouraged, I look at my brag shelf to remind myself of past successes.

And every writer needs a widow to gaze at while they are dreaming up plots and dialogue, good guys and bad guys.

Welcome to my writing desk. You’ll find me here almost every morning.


At my desk with my trusty Acer.

I can’t write a paragraph without these three books.


Other essential resources: character files, calendar timelines, and pictures of writer friends.



My brag shelf holds all my published stories and essays.


I look out these windows when I’m stuck.



About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Every Writer’s Resource, Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center. Get to know me better my website and connect with me on Facebook.