Archive for February, 2014

Chapters into Scenes

old-typewriter-on-blue-background_21-68687390I read a lot of books on writing. I have to, since all I know about writing can fit on the point of a Ginsu blade. But I wanted to share one of the most useful things I’ve learned in the past few years. It involves writing chapters.

What is a chapter? Definitions abound, but I think it is a unit of story that covers elements important to the plot and/or development of character. It is the stuff books are made of.

One thing that has helped me is to think of a chapter in terms of a scene. A good deal of what we write in novels can be thought of as scenes we might see in movies.

So what are the elements of a scene and how can learning about them help our writing?

One of the most useful writing books I know is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981). First published in 1965, it is often overlooked in lists of writing books, and that is a shame; I would rather have it than most any other writing book on my shelf.

What does Dwight Swain say about writing scenes? He says scenes have three components: 1) goal; 2) conflict; 3) disaster.

First the goal.

Fiction is all about characters trying to achieve things they desire. These are goals. In the simplest terms, you have two fighters in a ring. The bell goes off. The goal of Fighter A, let’s call her the protagonist, is to knock out the other woman.

But guess what? The goal of Fighter B is to knock out the protagonist. So what do we have?


Fighter A will attempt to knock out Fighter B, all the while Fighter B is attempting to do the same thing to her.

Now, enter disaster.

Say toward the end of the first round, Fighter A gets knocked down. That is a disaster, and not a bad point on which to end a scene/chapter.

Sounds simple, right? It is. And that is why it’s so powerful.

The scene we just discussed, one with a goal, conflict, and disaster, is called an action scene. There is a second type of scene that Swain calls sequel scenes. Next time we’ll take a closer look at the elements of sequel scenes.

Randy Ingermanson has written a terrific summary of the main points of Swain’s analysis of scenes in an article called, “How to Write the Perfect Scene.” It can be found here:

Happy writing!

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , , ,

Article on Dual Diagnosis

Shattered Window

I was recently interviewed for an article on substance abuse and mental disorders that appears on The Fix, a first-rate, informative website that deals with issues related to addiction, including dual diagnosis.

The article entitled “Substance Abuse Issues and Mental Disorders,” by Jeanene Swanson, can be found here:

The article talks about the high rate of comorbidity of addiction and mental illness–fifty percent of general psychiatric patients also have a substance use disorder–and what might be done to treat the condition more effectively.

Your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated.



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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 24, 2014 at 10:38 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags: , ,

My Interview with Diane Denton


Diane with Oscar & Darcy matt

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in Western New York and have been writing, drawing and painting, since I was a child. I’ve always been most content in my imagination. From my teens I was obsessed with English literature and drama, began to dream and then plan to get to the UK. I made no secret of feeling something or someone would keep me there. The opportunity to cross the Atlantic came in my junior year of college and I spent the spring semester of 1974 at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, a 13th century Augustinian Priory turned Jacobean Manor on extensive grounds and part of a picture-postcard village by the same name. And, yes, I did end up living in England (in that same village)—for the next sixteen years, an experience that enriched and frustrated me, but which I’m so glad I had. I returned to the US in 1990 to a lovely rural area of Western New York where I live in a log cabin with my mom and five cats.


What are you currently promoting and working on?

My first published novel, a literary historical fiction, has been out since late 2012, released by All Things That Matter Press, a small publisher based in Maine who really honors an author’s voice and vision. A House Near Luccoli imagines an intimacy with the 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella, a talented and charismatic man of minor nobility who was a celebrity in his time. He not only produced an impressive body of work but also more than enough rumors and proof of his scandalous behavior, which encouraged sensationalized and often incorrect accounts of his life that for centuries eclipsed his accomplishments as a great figure of Baroque music.

I’m currently finishing up the sequel to A House Near Luccoli, which takes its fictional female protagonist to late Restoration England, actually to the village I lived in, the Wroxton Abbey estate having much political and cultural significance in the 1680’s. In the meantime, All Things That Matter Press has published two Kindle short stories of mine: The Snow White Gift, set in the 1930’s, and The Library Next Door, set in the 1890’s. I’ve also self-published A Friendship with Flowers, a poetry-journal featuring my own color illustrations. I regularly post poetry and short prose pieces on my blog.


What genre(s) do you write in?

For some the question of genre is an easy one to answer. For me, not so much. I suppose if I have to put a label on it, it would be Historical Fiction. But that is a wrapping that doesn’t reveal all that is inside the package. I like doing research and assimilating it into the narrative, but there has to be something motivating me on an emotional and spiritual as well as intellectual level. I don’t like being bound by labels because of the rules they impose and expectations they endorse. So far it has been characters, real or fictional, and their stories that have initially interested and inspired me to write novels and stories. The time period has been whatever it needed to be. The poetry in the telling is very important to me; moving the plot at the expense of the quality of the writing is not an option. I am sure that makes my work more literary than mainstream.


How many revisions do you make?

I’m an obsessive reviser, although I work slowly and methodically on a first draft. I’m certainly not a ‘let it flow’ at a thousand words a day writer! But no matter how I fine-tune that first draft, I know—even more now that I’ve been published and edited professionally—that it will go through much reworking before it is ready for publication. I haven’t yet completed a novel in less than two years. I despair of this sometimes, but every writer has his or her rhythm and this is mine.


What are your three favorite books?

There are so many, especially among the classics, but here are my very significant three:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is the one that started it all, in terms of my wanting to be a writer. My mother was given a large leather bound edition (with beautifully graphic wood-engraved illustrations) when she was a girl. She passed it onto me when I was ten or eleven and I was deeply affected by Emily Bronte’s writing and the story that had come out of her soul as much as her intellect.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I adore all of Hardy’s novels, which are so poetically descriptive and animated with fascinating, multi-layered characters; not least because he weaves such great tales! But Far From the Madding Crowd has always been my favorite. For me, it is one of the most significant love stories I’ve come across: about the steadiness and endurance of friendship as opposed to the impulse and fickleness of sexual attraction.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I never expected a contemporary read to propel me on my way to write my first published novel, but it motivated me to do something similar in a story where the ordinary meets the extraordinary and the insignificant finds a place in a story of significance. It was sometime after I first read it that I came upon ‘my Vermeer’, Alessandro Stradella, which then gave life to ‘my Grete’, Donatella. Girl with a Pearl Earring is a beautifully written work; that is, not least of all, always something to aspire to.


How do you keep sane as a writer?                                                

God forbid that I ever do, for then I might realize the insanity of writing and stop. And, while I breathe, I never want to stop. However, what balances and grounds me are the refuge of home, the rhythms of nature and simple everyday things like the purr of a cat, enjoying a meal and keeping warm by the fire. Gratefulness is a great way to keep my writing accomplishments, frustrations and goals in a healthy perspective. Well, that is a goal in itself, perhaps the one that is the most difficult to achieve.


Is there a style, theme or underlying message in your writing?

I suspect it might not be good for a writer to be too conscious of styles, themes or messages in the process of writing—especially in fiction, but poetry, too. When I share my writing I realize I’m giving it away to readers who bring their own perspectives, emotions and experiences to it. I’ve actually found it interesting and certainly satisfying to learn, through blog comments or book reviews, how others connected to or were affected by my stories or poems or even paintings, each in specific and diverse ways and sometimes as I never anticipated.

Saying that, a certain style and common motifs have begun to appear in my writing. I like the ‘small view’, focusing in on scene details or character expression and development like camera close-ups in a movie. There is a sense of isolation, even loneliness, of being in the world but not of it. I certainly have exploited the complexity and contradictions of creative individuals, their disciplines or lack of, their stirrings and how they sabotage themselves through doubts and distractions. Being a single woman for the majority of my adult life, I seem bound to highlight that ‘situation’, which is especially interesting in a historical context and even more so when it comes to women that are artistic. Mainly, I just hope what I write offers beauty, intelligence, feeling and soulfulness.


What obstacles, if any, have you encountered in being a writer?

There are those constant external obstacles like time, responsibilities, money and distractions. And, of course, age! I often wonder why it has taken me so long to find my stride with something that initially seemed to come so naturally. Of course there are the internal obstacles, too—insidious demons that insist I compare myself to others and what my limits are, and remind me of my self-doubt. Colette wrote: The writer who loses her] self-doubt … should stop writing immediately: the time has come for [her] to lay aside her pen. So, perhaps, any of the things that get in the way of or discourage one’s writing are really necessary to provoke one to improvement and perseverance.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead, who would it be?

I am currently reading a book called The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas, which features twelve celebrated women writers, including Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Madeleine L’Engle, Anais Nin, George Sand, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf. It draws from their own words to highlight the many aspects of their writing lives, such as rejection and acceptance, financial concerns, family responsibilities and restrictions, and the solitary existence all writers experience whether they welcome it or not. Reading this book feels like sitting down with these brave and imaginative women to reflect on the perils and persuasions of being a female author, so much of their insight and advice still relevant.

So, I guess my answer is that to have a real conversation with any one or number of these extraordinary writers would be very nice, indeed! I know that I would find much in common with them, understand my journey as an author better and certainly draw inspiration from them.


What is the one thing about you that you would like your readers to know?

That I value each and every one of them for giving their attention and time to the words I write. It has become a less and less daunting experience to share my love for the written word and the stories, poems and reflections that evolve from that regard. I have my readers to thank for helping me to become a less self-conscious and more committed writer; and, hopefully, a better and better one.


Published Works:

A House Near Luccoli (Amazon):

A House Near Luccoli (Barnes and Noble):

“The Library Next Door”: The Library Next Door:

“The Snow White Gift”:

A Friendship with Flowers:


Social Media Links:



Facebook Author Page:!/dmdentonauthorartist

Facebook Novel Page:!/ahousenearluccoli






Thank you DIANE DENTON for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.

A House Near Luccoli Cover

Synopsis of A House Near Luccoli

Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves. Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.


Excerpt from A House Near Luccoli

She took the green dress off the bed and pretended to wear it for a small stroll around the room. Then she walked into the hall as if out into the city; her city, at least, as it was also born of land and sea, formed by highs and lows, ruled by outer constraint and inner abandon, safe and sorry in disguise. Of course Genova had a conceit she couldn’t have, knowing its purpose and hiding or flaunting its features of beauty. Once she saw all its wonders and woes from the esplanade of Castelletto, the mountains closer and the Lanterna further away. Perhaps she made out her house; if not its signature portal of Saint George and the Dragon, then a signifying shine on its roof’s slant. It was a prestigious place to live depending on how she looked at it, whether connected up to a parade of palaces, across divides or down crooked stairways to the port.

She was patron and prisoner of a gated entrance and more rooms than the closeness of the surrounding dwellings allowed, aspiring staircases growing them similarly into multiple stories. She could have done without so much unused furniture, mirrors, and silver to be cleaned but was greedily accustomed to a tenanted wealth of paintings, tapestries, frescos, and stained glass not created for outside views.

“There you are. What are you doing?”

Donatella had barely reached the doorway of her bedroom, throwing the dress in, not caring where it landed.

“Oh, it’s so sudden.” Her aunt gave her a key and feather duster for gentler work than Nubesta carrying broom and bucket, hastening an end to the long vacancy of the third floor apartment, a little unnerving to step into its past. It offered another chore for the young maid complaining about wiping tall windows while Donatella removed furniture covers and thought of her mother sitting there, writing more letters than she ever received.

The girl opened a window and the room to the street below, a rag-waving hand jumping out. “Up here! Up here!”

Donatella felt a shiver that shouldn’t have surprised her, the bumping and cursing of the movers fading into music and poetry from La forza dell’amor paterno as performed at the Teatro Falcone on Christmas Monday 1678. She had worn the green dress, agreeing to excessive curls and anticipation, Nonna encouraging her to fan away smoke from the chandeliers and smile although her shoes pinched. After the first act sonnets fell from garlanded boxes for those lucky enough to catch them; as much enthusiasm when the opera was finished. That was Donatella’s last trembling in applause and first glimpse of its beneficiary too remarkable for humility as he accepted a gold tray of the taffeta wrapped accolades. He was as well presented in a long shimmering coat with flared skirt, accented with a looped and knotted cravat, an undressed wealth of hair changing the angles of his face as he bowed and then again. Obviously this was the legend of subterfuge, here and there, elegant and rakish, kissing the hand of Centoventi, goddess of the stage. He was clever and foolish not to worry she took exception at his as intimate approval of the contralto said to be the daughter of a cook, nothing but wisdom and faithfulness in his deepest bow and sincerest smile towards Genoa’s Prince and Princess.



The Library Next Door ATTMP Scroll

Synopsis of “The Library Next Door,” a Kindle short story

Books were Rose’s secrets. Reading was an easy distraction, friend to her curiosity and the only thing she was sure she wanted to do. When she entered the library next door, what was real and imaginary became indistinguishable, and she grew ready to reveal the future of her relationship with the written word.




ATTMP Holiday Short Image

Synopsis of “The Snow White Gift,” a Kindle short story

In Depression-weary times, a little girl’s wish for a special doll touches a stoic heart. Through sacrifice and pure intent, giving her what she wants results in disappointment but eventually confirms that love and patience can work magic.





Synopsis of A Friendship with Flowers

I originally created the poetry and illustrations in a small journal while I was living in Oxfordshire, England. I am so pleased that I have been able to preserve it to share with a wider audience. It was done with gratefulness for the flowers that graced and healed me with their beauty, wisdom, and playfulness.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 19, 2014 at 9:02 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , ,

My Interview with Mary Elizabeth Coen



Mary Elizabeth Coen_2543


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I am currently promoting my debut novel Love & the Goddess, while simultaneously working on another novel, yet to be named.

cover small 66k


What genre(s) do you write in?

Love & the Goddess is mainly contemporary fiction crossing into several sub-genres of travel, romance, humor and inspiration.

I love inspirational novels so it is always my aim to be thought provoking and nudge people out of their comfort zone. It is interesting to note that the inspirational genre is seldom listed as a separate category on book promotional sites. For that reason it is challenging to find my target audience and I know from reading reviews if the reader has understood the deeper meaning of my story. Many women contact me through my website to tell me they loved my book and found it very inspirational. I am always humbled by such thoughtfulness.



What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

I have had several different careers from working as a teacher to public relations consultant specializing in fashion. Those experiences come in handy when drawing up characters and setting scenes. As a teacher I taught Home Economics, religious studies and sex education.

I’m Irish and have the gift of the gab, which means I am a talker and love good conversation. I have also learned when to keep my mouth shut and lend an ear, so for some strange reason people tell me things they would never tell anyone else. Perhaps it’s because they recognize that I too have had my fair share of hard knocks in life and that enables me to have empathy for others going through similar trials.

Psychology was one of my undergrad subjects and it has been an abiding interest ever since. I especially love the work of Carl Jung and his theories on archetypes of the subconscious. My interest in goddess mythology springs from this and I love to find grounded ways of incorporating it into whatever I write. The human experience motivates me to write inspirational fiction in the hope others find a little solace, laughter or joy in what I write.



Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

I am self-published and delighted to be so. The Indie route has worked well for me as I am more accessible to my readers who write to me, with some having become friends through Facebook, Twitter and my website. I was unwilling to shelve the inspirational/spiritual aspect of my novel for a publishing house with an expressed interest. Of course I would love to attract an agent or publisher who really understands this book. The opportunity to work with a very experienced editor would be wonderful.



How many revisions do you make to something before it sees the light of day?

I did countless drafts of Love & the Goddess, where I restructured the entire novel. In between each of the earlier drafts I consulted editing services for advice and then got a final copy edit.  It is difficult to say how many drafts because even after it was finished, I continued to polish the writing. Finally, I need to let a book sit and ferment like wine before I go back to read it objectively.



Who or what inspires you to write?

I am inspired by mythology and love interpreting the work of psychologists such as Carl Jung and his theory of archetypes to weave into a story and echo the protagonist’s journey.

The Gods and Goddesses of the myths represented the eternally male and feminine qualities that pattern our lives. Each of the myths is different, with each God and Goddess having distinctly different traits, both positive and negative. The characters, though immortal, were always flawed and had similar struggles to us and the people in our lives today.

Modern story telling is still based on the same principles as myths and fairy tales. The reader must identify with the hero/heroine in order to have sufficient interest in following the story. I am inspired by the manner in which myths shed light on the human condition and our struggle to be whole in mind, body and spirit.



Do you have a set of writing goals that you try to accomplish each day?

Yes. I try to write for two hours each day but because I have other commitments that is not always possible. I suffer from fibromyalgia and though I considered myself 95% cured, I have recently had a severe relapse and that has interfered with my latest project.



Do you outline your stories or are you a non-outline person?

I begin with an outline but it changes as I go along.

I work with vision boards, using pictures from magazines and newspapers to provide a template image of each character. Underneath I fill in the details – nationality, eye and hair colour, height, weight, occupation etc. Next I get down to the finer details of idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and what generally drives each person.

I map each chapter and include the narrative arc, but after the first ten chapters the story begins to write itself as the various characters speak to me and tell me things about them. This is where the fun starts and I really get into the flow. I listen to my characters as they come alive. And as I re-write chapters, I learn more about them, visualizing them very clearly in front of me. I find myself saying “Oh really? I never knew you thought that way,” or “I never knew that happened to you!” Sometimes I end up in floods of tears or get into a party mood depending on what is happening with the characters.


What are your three favorite books?

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Jane Eyre by charlotte Bronte

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Who is your favorite author and why?

I love Paulo Coelho’ earlier books though I have not been quite so impressed with his work in recent years.

Coelho’s unique inspiration comes from delving into what Jung called the collective consciousness, a place we are all plugged into. In The Alchemist and Veronica decides to die, Coelho weaves together the shadow and the light common to all of us. The result is a simple inspirational story that taps into the soul of the world, helping to raise the consciousness of readers. In many ways Coelho’s storytelling has proven more effective for most people than reading a self help book. This is what I would love to achieve with a book and why I so love the inspirational genre.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

I would love to have a conversation with the author Oscar Wilde because the first book that totally enthralled me was The Picture of Dorian Gray. As a child I was fascinated by the magical realism in this story and the manner in which an idealistic young man became so corrupt. I would love to discuss Dorian with Wilde, because the character is such an enduring archetype very much alive in the corporate world today. I imagine I would also enjoy Wilde’s humor and extravagant gestures, not to mention his take on modern society.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Read loads of books in the genre that appeals to you. A good writer must spend as much time (if not more) reading as he/she does writing.

Write even when you feel blocked and even if it seems as if you are writing rubbish. Take time to do writing exercises. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones is an excellent book to loosen up with. I also recommend Stephen King’s book On Writing.


Please share your social media links with us:

Love & the Goddess Book Trailer:







twitter @goddessmeca



**Amazon link above transfers to the site for the country of residence.



Thank you MARY ELIZABETH COEN for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.


Header of Love & the Goddess


Synopsis of LOVE & THE GODDESS

Devastated from her relationship break-up, Kate Canavan is at a loss until she re-discovers a hidden painting of the triple Goddess from Greek mythology. Her interest in mythology and spirituality is re-ignited. A voyage of self discovery begins with internet dating using the names of each of the Goddesses in the triple myth.

When a health scare intervenes Kate and her friends go together to visit a famous healer in Brazil and a spiritual guru in Peru, where all three friends begin spiritual journeys of forgiveness, gratitude and learning to live in the now. But does Kate find love along the way?



What people are saying about LOVE & THE GODDESS

Ferdia Mac Anna (author of cult book to movie Last of the High Kings) says:-

“Funny, informative heart-warming and wildly entertaining. This novel takes the reader on an exhilarating roller-coaster ride though modern romance, internet dating, Peruvian Gurus, wannabes, has-beens and lotharios and brings them home safe and almost sound. This book rocks!’


“Love and the Goddess is a must read and doesn’t need comparing to any other title.

It is an emotional book, filled with humorous aspects and simply excellent writing.”

5* review by JGRWriter


“The story keeps you glued to the page as Kate journeys from Ireland to Brazil, to Peru in search of some peace-of-mind. In the same vein as ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Kate looks inside for the strength and love that she needs to face the world with a fresh start and discovers depth to herself that she didn’t know existed.”

5* review by Barbara from New York


Excerpt from Chapter 4:

Ella followed me. Leaning over the white Formica worktop she reached across to pick up the box of tea, inhaling the scent of Lapsang Souchong. “What’s your fascination with this stuff?”

“It reminds me of childhood. There was a storage shed at the back of our house where I used to go to read. It was filled with my father’s old furniture from his parents’ house, piled up in a sort of kamikaze mountain. As I climbed to the top, everything would slide and slip threatening to disintegrate beneath me. I could have killed myself. But I always felt elated when I finally got to sit up there.” I pulled down the teapot, warming it with water from the boiling kettle. “I used to curl up beside an old tea chest – it smelled of Lapsang and was full of old books, Greek mythology, anthropology, books on ancient civilizations and fairy tales. Sometimes I’d find tea leaves stuck between the pages. The scent of Lapsang brings me back to those magical worlds I read about.” I poured Ella her tea.

“No wonder you’re such a romantic, Kate. When I was a kid I read nothing but the Beano.”

“My father loved those books. He used to read to us at bedtime. I think he would have liked to be an anthropologist but he was afraid to follow his dream and did law instead.”

“Following the dream isn’t always easy. Look at me – with this recession, everyone is organising their own parties and launches.” Ella sighed.

“But you have a great client base built up.”

“Thank goodness, and as long as they need conferences organized in far-off places with sunshine and beaches, I’m there!”

We laughed.

“Here, come and sit down inside – are you shattered?”

In the living room, Ella eased her shapely legs into the velveteen tub chair as I took the sofa. She tapped manicured nails against her mug as she spoke. “You need a bit of fun in your life, Kate. Trevor’s crushed your spirit. Why don’t you have a look at one of the Irish dating sites and see what the talent’s like? A lot of people are using them now. You need to be careful though, you’re in a vulnerable place and men can take advantage, but you need to start getting out again.”

“God, Ella, aren’t those dating sites just the same as the personal ads in newspapers? I thought only people with no personality used them?”

Ella grinned at my surprised face. “Not at all. That thing of meeting someone in a pub or a club doesn’t work when you’re over forty. Everyone’s on the internet now. In fact, I’m thinking of putting up a new profile.”

“I never knew you did that. You never told me.”

She smiled mysteriously, “It never arose because you weren’t in the market for a man. Have you got the computer set up?”

“Yes. It’s in my bedroom.”

“Ooh, come on then, let’s have a look. Listen, I’ll open that wine while you do a search. We’ll need a glass or two to get us in the mood – go on ahead in and Google dating sites. I’ll be there in three minutes.” Seeing my worried expression, she continued, “Ah come on, you need a bit of fun in your life. What harm can it do?” Ella’s advice ran contrary to everything James and my shrink had said, but then Ella never went for safe and sensible if there was a fun alternative. Her enthusiasm reminded me of the good old days at boarding school when she was always up for a laugh. Seconds after I’d logged onto the site, Ella sashayed in with two glasses of wine. “How are you getting on?”

“I have to use a username. What’ll I call myself? I mean I’m not really going to use this, but I can’t use my own name.”

“Use some name you like from the myths you’re always talking about. How about the Goddess of Love?”

I smiled, glancing at her nervously. “I can’t use something obvious like Aphrodite. That could be misconstrued as slutty. How about Athena? She’s the goddess of justice, war and industry.” I bit my lip, thinking hard. “No. She’s too serious. Oh, I’ve got it. Persephone. I feel like Persephone right now – I spent a long time in the underworld, living under Trevor’s obsessive compulsive regime of constant cleaning.”

“Nice name,” nodded Ella. “Who is she?”

“She’s the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and Zeus, king of the gods. When she was playing in a meadow, Persephone was seized by Hades and carried off to the underworld to be his bride. Her mother was so distraught, she searched for her throughout the world with help from the crone goddess, Hekate. Demeter refused to attend the earth until her daughter was returned. In the end, Hades gave in but because the girl had tasted of the food of the underworld she was forced forever to spend half the year there. She comes back to the world in spring each year, bringing new life and new growth with her.”

“Hmm… Sounds rather depressing.”

“But the story ends with the spring arriving.” I was convinced it was the right name for me. “She was a victim and as vulnerable as I am. But it’s a tale of hope, with her growing into her role as queen of the underworld. Persephone’s return each spring shows her becoming a powerful woman as she helps her mother in nurturing the earth. The fact that she can walk between both worlds signifies her ability to balance her emotions – sorrow, loss and anger, set against joy, peace and serenity.”

Ella’s brow creased in a thoughtful frown. “Okay, I get it now. I took psychology in my first year at university. I think Carl Jung was into that stuff.”

“That’s right. I have his biography there.” I cocked my head in the direction of the book shelf.

“Type in Persephone, then. See if the site accepts it.” Ella took a sip of her wine.

I clicked. “It’s accepted. Oh, no… There’s a questionnaire before you can continue.”

“Crap, I forgot that bit. We’ll do that later when I’ve convinced you this is the way to go. Click ‘answer later’ to all questions. Same on the next two pages.” I did as Ella said and came to a page with the words “find your match”. “Now you can start a search.” Ella sidled in closer to have a full view of the screen. “Fill in the age group. What ages are you interested in?”

“Hmm… Trevor was fourteen years older than me, so maybe go younger this time. How about ‘twenty five to thirty five’?” I laughed at Ella’s horrified expression. “I’m joking!” I typed in forty four to fifty. Photographs appeared down the side of the page, with age and occupation stated opposite. The usernames and captions were listed on the right. It was quite a range.

“Click on him – he’s a fine thing!” said Ella, enthusiastically hauling my clothes off the bedroom chair and pulling it over beside me. “It’s quite addictive you know.”

We looked through nineteen profiles, which included photographs along with a list of what each man was looking for in a woman. Age, profession, marital status and whether someone drank or smoked were filled in along with what kind of relationship they were seeking: friendship, a date or a casual fling. Many of them sounded a bit overly serious and quite off-puttingly needy. I looked wide-eyed at Ella. “I can’t believe the number of men on this. And some are better-looking than you’d see around. Is it really that difficult for them to find the right girl?”

“Too busy to socialise. But we haven’t looked at what’s available in Dublin yet. Go on, do a search for men in Dublin. The choice is bound to be miles better. Then we’ll have a look at the women.” She reached for my empty glass. “I’ll top you up. Have you any nibbles?”

“Peanuts in the cupboard beside the fridge.” I started a new search. “You’re right, they are much better in Dublin!”

She was back moments later, grinning, bottle under her arm and a bowl in her hand. “Move over! I’m dying to have a look.”

“There’s still some strange looking yokes but I’ve saved six of the best in a favourites option. What’d you think?”

“God yer man with the dark hair is gorgeous. Oh, he’s a doctor.” She nudged my elbow. “Imagine if you nabbed him! You could swan back into the village with a younger, better-looking version of Trevor. Give him a taste of his own medicine.” She giggled at the pun.

“That sounds totally corny… But you know something, it would be such fun!” I was laughing. “But you know, I won’t. I mean, you said yourself it’s not the right time.”

Her face fell as the prospect of mischief seemed to disappear. “Let’s look at the women, age thirty five to forty five.”

I clicked on the next section. “God, Ella. Some of these women are fabulous. What are they doing here?”

“Kate, if you ask that one more time, I’ll punch you. I’m telling you, this is the way it’s done now. Everyone wants to be online in case they miss out on their perfect match. After all, you’re really widening your net here – anyone could end up contacting you. My sister’s friend Jennie is gorgeous and she’s doing internet dating. Do you know who she met?” She lowered her voice to a whisper.


“The owner of Blaze magazine.”

“You’re joking me. What was he doing on line? Doesn’t he date models?”

“There you go again, spouting prejudice. These sites are affiliated to all the main publications, so you never know who you might meet. Now before I leave I want you to fill out your profile because I know you will chicken out if I don’t make you.”

“Look, both James and my therapist told me to give men a rest while I tried to heal and even you yourself have said I’m vulnerable.”

“Avoid men? Are you mad? What you need is an ego boost and a bit of fun. I wonder how eagerly the pair of them would embrace celibacy. Now click on the profile page and I’ll help you fill it out.”

I did as she suggested and brought up the questionnaire, filling in answers to specific questions like what height, age, weight, star sign, marital status and occupation I had. When it came to the more general questions suggesting I write a paragraph about who I was and what I expected, my shoulders tightened. “ ‘I would describe myself as…’ What do I answer to that since I don’t really know who I am anymore?” I searched Ella’s face.

“Attractive, sociable and good fun, then list your hobbies,” she said, with a wave of her hand.

“No, that sounds presumptuous. How would I know if a man could possibly find me attractive or good fun for that matter? I mean some of those women on the site have a lot more va-va-voom than I could ever have.” I made a curvy gesture with my hands to indicate the female form. “As well as that, I’ve forgotten who I am. No, it has to be light-hearted or I can’t do it.” I paused and then began typing as inspiration came:


“Hi there, I’m an intelligent and creative yet slightly off-beat red-head with an adventurous spirit. I gave up my career as a Bollywood Star to pursue my real passion for ancient civilizations (I love mythology along with Incan and Mayan legends) but while I study that by night I work as a TEACHER by day to pay the bills. My friends tell me I’m attractive, sociable, a good dancer and great fun so they’ll remain on my Christmas list for at least another year. Have recently taken up Taekwondo and scuba diving in preparation for my future career as a Tomb Raider.”


“Great!” Ella’s eyebrows arched in amusement. “But it will confuse a lot of them –they’ll think you’re serious!”

“Sod them if it does. Under career, I’ve written ‘teacher’ so if they don’t get the humour, they can go elsewhere. Now, what’s the next part?” I peered at the screen. “My ideal man? Haven’t a clue. Let me think. Okay, got it.” I typed:


The man I’m hoping to meet has a laid-back attitude. He is active and fit enough to give me a run for my money, yet will always treat me as an equal. He will not only put up with my messy creative pursuits, perhaps he will join me in cooking for large gatherings of friends and family. I’d like him to dance with me, rather than march through the rest of our lives. An adventurous spirit along with a positive outlook would compliment me and in the process provide us with endless laughs and opportunities to broaden our horizons. If this sound like you, then feel free to get in touch.”


“Right, next you have to put up a couple of photos… Yikes, listen lovey, I’d better run. I wanted to make sure you were okay but I haven’t even unpacked yet. This was great craic and at least I got you set up. Will you take me internet shopping some time, since you know all the sites for discount designer gear?”

“That’s more my usual thing – instead of shopping for men!”



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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 14, 2014 at 7:26 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

Addiction: Toward a Long-term Perspective


As of this writing, four people have been arrested in conjunction with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. No charges were filed against one. Another was released on her own recognizance, and a third was released on a $35,000 bail bond. Only one remains in jail.

Yes, it is terrible that Hoffman died. But is arresting people really going to help the matter?

In a recent article on “All Things Crime” (click here for article), BJW Nashe argues that such an approach only exacerbates what is primarily a public health problem.

Indeed. And just for the record, addiction is a public health problem. For addiction is a disease. What does that mean?

The American Medical Association says a disease has three primary components: it is chronic, progressive, and fatal. Addiction meets all three criteria. It is chronic, in that it affects the body in a very adverse manner; progressive, in that it gets worse as time goes on; and fatal, meaning you can die from it.

And arresting dealers responsible for the death of Hoffman is tantamount to arresting retailers who have contributed to the death of a person by selling him or her cigarettes or alcohol. On a personal note, my mother died from smoking but never once did I consider seeking punitive damages against the retailers who sold her the cigarettes that led to her lung cancer.

cigarettes_2330326No, criminalizing the drug problem doesn’t help. Nor, in my opinion, does legalizing drugs. Fighting supply is not the answer. Curbing demand is.

But how to do so?

Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. But I do believe part of the solution lies in the choice that a person makes to use drugs–and alcohol and nicotine are drugs.

It has been my experience that long-lasting sobriety or clean-time comes down to creating a life from which you do not seek escape. This is the long and slow road to combatting the addiction problem. It is not pretty. It is not easy. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. But helping addicts, or substance misusers create lives for themselves from which they do not seek escape is the best hope we have in combatting the scourge of addiction.

 The devil, of course, is in the details.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 10, 2014 at 8:34 am

Categories: Addiction   Tags: , , ,

My Interview with Jennifer Moorman

Please welcome JENNIFER MOORMAN author of THE BAKER’S MAN


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I’m a southern writer currently working as a Publications Coordinator and Senior Editor at a publishing house. I am currently writing a novella and a novel that both take place in the same town as my first published novel, The Baker’s Man. I am also editing a YA novel, The Wickenstaff’s Journey, with a co-creator.


What genre(s) do you write in?

I mostly write magical realism novels, but I also write young adult fantasy.

What sets you apart from other authors in your genre?

Each writer has his or her own unique voice, and I believe my voice is distinct in my writing.


Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

I am a self-published author.


How many revisions do you make to something before it sees the light of day?

As many as it takes! Some revisions take a few months to complete, but I have one novel that has been in the works for years. Sometimes it matters what place you’re in your life, and as your experiences shift and change, you can revisit old manuscripts and bring new life to them.


Who or what inspires you to write?

Other writers, music that moves me, dreams.


Do you have a set of writing goals that you try to accomplish each day?

I’ve set a goal of writing 500 words per day. Some days I make the goal (or well more than 500), and some days I don’t. I try my best to reach the goal every day just to make sure I’m writing. You can’t say you’re a writer if you never write.


Do you outline your stories or are you a non-outline person?

I’m a bit of both. Most of the time I have a basic outline so that I know where the story is going, but I leave myself plenty of breathing room in case the story (or a character) takes on a new direction.


What is one thing about you that you’d like your readers to know?

I can’t whistle. I’m kidding. I mean, I can’t whistle, but what I’d like readers to know is that a lot of my stories come from my dreams.


What are your three favorite books?

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Who is your favorite author and why?

I love J. K. Rowling. Her work with the Harry Potter series is amazing. The story is so complex, weaving together from beginning to end. She created memorable characters, and I never get tired of reading the books over and over again.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

 Jesus. I have some questions for Him. I know He’d have the answers.


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading two books: The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon and Stubborn by Jeanne Arnold


What makes good writing?

A cohesive story, dynamic characters who give you a reason to want to root for them, imaginative storylines, good grammar


How do you keep sane as a writer?

How does anyone keep sane? I laugh a lot.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Hermione Granger


Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?

The Secret Garden was the first book I read as a child that made me realize I love to read.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

I sacrifice a great deal of sleep. But when you work a full-time job, you squeeze in time to write, even if that means getting up earlier in the morning.


What do you like best about writing?

I love creating stories that people enjoy.


What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Never, never, never give up. Keep reading as much as you can. Write every day.


Please share your social media links with us:






Thank you, Jennifer Moorman, for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.




Here is a synopsis and the prologue from The Baker’s Man:



In her enchanting debut novel, Jennifer Moorman invites you to a whimsical little Southern town where magic floats on every breeze and is baked into every cake. Moorman weaves the tale of a young woman whose grandmother’s secret—and the ancestry of her grandfather—are about to change her life forever. Anna O’Brien is sure of three things: there’s nothing she can’t bake, life is sweeter with chocolate, and her dreams are better left unspoken—especially to her mother.


For a while, Anna has been living her life according to the expectations of others, never stepping out of line, never following her heart. Her one consolation is continuing her grandmother’s legacy by running Bea’s Bakery. When Anna’s long-term boyfriend decides to move across the country without her, she is forced to face an uncertain future. After a long night in the bakery with her best friend, Lily, Anna’s humdrum existence rockets out of control when she follows a mysterious recipe left behind by her grandmother and finds Elijah—a handsome stranger—baking donuts in her kitchen the next morning.


Soon Anna is living in a world where she must deal with the repercussions of Elijah’s unexpected existence, while trying not to fall in love with “the dough boy.” Brimming with humor, love, and a sprinkling of magic, The Baker’s Man is an irresistible tale of friendship, forgiveness, and the enchanting possibilities of following one’s heart.




The older generation of townspeople still talked about that night in late July when the southbound train carrying sugar cane and cotton was late because the on-duty conductor had eloped instead of going into work. Two hours passed before anyone realized the train hadn’t pulled out of the station, and it took another two hours before a substitute conductor could be found.

So four hours later than usual, the train barreled through Mystic Water, blasting its horn at every crossing and waking everyone from a deep sleep. The train brought with it an intense summer wind that swept over the town, uprooting half the willows along Jordan Pond. It plucked sunflower petals and created twirling yellow tornados. It caused the sleeping birds such anxiety that they erupted into twilight birdsong and didn’t stop until about the time Bea’s Bakery opened for business.

Nobody slept that night, not with the train and the wind and the birds. More than half the town showed up at the bakery in desperate need of a cup of Bea’s Give-Me-a-Jolt Java, and that’s when they saw him—Joe O’Brien—looking like a man who’d climbed out of an Irish novel, broad-shouldered, red-haired, and green-eyed. He helped Beatrice behind the counter like he’d been born to be her partner.

Some said he’d jumped from the southbound train. Others said he’d appeared like magic. Everyone agreed they’d never seen a man look more in love with any woman than Joe was with Beatrice.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , ,

My Review of Tyler Johnson’s Tales From the Red Book of Tunes

Red Book of Tunes

Tyler Johnson’s collection of short stories, entitled Tales from the Red Book of Tunes, tells the stories behind tunes originally collected by fictitious thirteenth century musician Mil Harei, as he crossed the fantastical northern isles of Hollean. Each short story is accompanied by a tune allegedly set down by Harei in The Red Book of Tunes.  Interspersed throughout is an interview with Jiri Hansom Felding, fictitious editor of The New Book of Red Tunes, and professor in the Department of Folklore and Cultural Preservation at Highlands University, Telm.

The stories span the centuries: from Hollean’s distant past, to the present day. We learn much about the people and the place through the music and through the stories that seem to flow effortlessly from the mind of Johnson. From the first story, “The Standing Goat,” one is captivated by Johnson’s lyrical prose and his strong evocation of place.

The themes are universal: lost love, jealousy, fear, dysfunctional families, folk legends, yet they are set in such a way as to be unique. Though the setting is fantastical, the people who inhabit Johnson’s stories are real people with real problems that undergo some sort of transformation; we learn to care deeply about the characters in the short space dictated by the form.  And we feel the theme of each tune, deftly composed by Johnson, course through each story. For one doesn’t as much read these stories, as sing them, as they flow ceaselessly through the reader like the movement of contra dancing through the initiated.

One is left wanting more, waiting for the stories to continue, eager to step again into more tales, to be swept up by their powerful and melodious appeal.  An excellent and brilliant debut collection, Tales from the Red Book of Tunes is a must read for anyone who has ever been touched by the power of music.


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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Categories: Writing   Tags: , , , ,

Link between Severe Mental Illness and Substance Use Found in Recent Study

A recent study by the Washington University of Medicine St. Louis and the University of Southern California found a link between severe mental illness and substance use. Of the 20,000 individuals studied, 9,142 were diagnosed with severe psychotic illnesses. The data were collected over a five-year period. Among the findings:

–30% of those with a severe mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective             disorder) engaged in binge drinking (four servings of alcohol or more) compared to 8% in the               mentally healthy population

–More than 75% of those with severe mental illness were heavy smokers and 50% were heavy           marijuana users compared to 33% and 18% respectively, in the mentally healthy population

–Women, who, when compared to men, have lower rates of substance use, did not benefit from         any protective effect

–Participants of Hispanic and Asian descent, who typically have lower rates of substance use, did       not benefit from any protective effect

“Putting this on the radar as such a huge problem in this population of people with severe mental illness will help us both with the clinical treatment of the comorbidity and it will also help us researchers begin to understand the overlap,” Washington University researcher Sarah Hartz said.

To read more about the study, see:

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 4, 2014 at 7:10 am

Categories: Dual Diagnosis   Tags: , , ,

The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tremendous loss. The Oscar-winning actor gave a performance of Truman Capote that I watch periodically and will never forget.

But his death is more than simply the loss of a fine actor. It speaks of the scourge of addiction and the seriousness of this illness that has claimed the lives of so many people, both famous and non-famous.

Yes, Hoffman was found dead in his bathroom with a hypodermic needle stuck in his arm, and, yes, heroin was found in his apartment.

And I ask you this question: does the fact that Hoffman died in such a manner lessen your opinion of him as a person or as an actor?

If the answer is yes, I want to challenge that perception. Suppose Hoffman had died of a heart attack while eating a piece of cake. Or died of diabetes-related factors while eating a candy bar? Or had met his demise from lung cancer after years of smoking cigarettes, or had liver failure after decades of drinking?

Are these more socially acceptable methods of death fundamentally different than dying with a needle stuck in your arm?

No. Addiction is no less a disease than any of the other more socially acceptable killers out there.

But only junkies, low-lives, and losers die from drug overdoses, right? And those people have nothing to live for anyway. No harm, no foul.

The fact of the matter is that Hoffman had everything to live for–as did Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and Heath Ledger. The fact of the matter is that they were all extremely talented individuals who suffered in ways most people can’t or won’t imagine. The fact of the matter is that any of us, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic background, or religious views could just as easily be dead on that bathroom floor with a hypodermic sticking ignominiously out of our arms.

But I’m not an addict, you say. Well, good for you. The fact that you are not an addict is as good news as the fact that you don’t have colon cancer.

Let Hoffman’s death be a reminder that addiction can strike anyone. And let it be a reminder that addiction is a disease, one that needs to be treated just like any other disease.

RIP, Mr. Hoffman, you will always have a special place in my heart.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 3, 2014 at 7:27 am

Categories: Addiction   Tags: ,

Why I Read Good Books


The other night, as I searched the shelves of my public library for a novel I haven’t read by Zola my girlfriend turned to me and said, “You need to read trash.” Her point is that seldom do I read for “pleasure.” My idea of a good time consists of working my way through a classic, with maybe a philosophical treatise on the side for kicks.

Let me just say, I am a former academic. Oh, THAT explains it, you might say. Yes, I chose to pursue a higher degree and emerged tainted in ways I’m still trying to understand…and undo. I have a Ph.D. in Political Science (can you say, “Do you want fries with that?”), but a few years ago decided to throw in my lot with fiction because, among other reasons, the only thing that seemed real was fiction.

Because of my education I may not know much that is useful–I believe Ph.D.’s are at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to functioning in the real world–but what I do know is this: if you want to become a better tennis player, you have to play with someone better than you.

So, tennis anyone?

Now what in the name of all that is holy you might ask (and rightly so) does tennis have to do with literature?

The answer is that reading literature makes you a better reader and subsequently a better writer in the same way that playing tennis with a stronger player increases your skills on the court. Literature saturates your mind with fine dialogue and sound plot development, builds your vocabulary, and often leaves you thinking in more “writerly” terms.

Let me give another example.

Growing up I did not have good role models. What I saw was total dysfunction, and for a period in my life I had similar relationships. These days I am fortunate enough to spend time with my girlfriend’s parents, an amazing couple who have been married forty-six years. That is what I want to be exposed to. That is what I want to see modeled.

Every day I aspire to become a more effective writer. And I believe I become a better writer by reading people are who better at writing than me.

So for now I’ll stick with good books. Why waste time with anything else?

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Posted by Matthew Peters - February 3, 2014 at 6:12 am

Categories: Writing   Tags: , ,

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