Remember back in school how that first day after vacation some teacher would inevitably assign an essay on what you did during the summer? Consider this a grownup version: what I did during my five-week blog breather.

FIRST THING THAT HAPPENED? I revamped my webpage. Since you’ve likely never looked at my site, this piece of trivia probably means little to you, but it’s something I procrastinated about for months.

heroThis time ’round, I used website builder Weebly instead of dedicated web software. As a fan of white space, streamlined design, and simple navigation, Weebly suited my needs. It’s drag and drop, and I didn’t have to deal with WordPress’s CSS editor, which has already caused me ample heartache with this blog.

Fresh website launched, it was on to Halloween in Salem, a month long celebration brimming with enough activities to keep the most stalwart ghoul or ghostie busy. My two favorite events this year: An Evening with Edgar Allen Poe, presented by the superb Scarlet Letter Press and Gallery, and the Official Witches’ Ball held at the venerable Hawthorne Hotel. My costume for 2014? Dead Renaissance Woman. If you missed the pic on Facebook, you’ll find one below. There was a photographer at the ball, but digital rights are pricey, so you’ll have to settle for this selfie.

VR_HalloweenRandom fact: I am still scrubbing black face paint from the inside of my ears.

RogueWavefrontcoverFINALHALLOWEEN IS OLD NEWS. GOT ANYTHING AU COURANT? I do! The release of Level Best Books’ anthology BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES: ROGUE WAVE. I’m honored to be a part of this fine collection. In case you missed the earlier post and the sidebar widget top left, there is a Goodreads Giveaway underway (Giveaway underway? Eesh!). Enter by December 3, to win. I realize begging is pathetic but PLEASE ENTER!

YAWN… IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE? YOU’RE BORING ME. There IS more! A first peek at the cover proof for A TWIST OF HATE (release date: July 2015). Not certain how my publisher works these things, so there may be changes, but given that I have no plans for a cover reveal promo, I’ll share the proof now.

TwistOfHateFrontNo bait and switch here. The cover captures the heart of the story. Huge sigh of relief. I was terrified it was going to be an image of the Golden Gate Bridge or a Richmond, California tank farm.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED…
In early November, I had the incredible privilege of attending the inaugural Writer Unboxed Un-Conference here in Salem. I’m sure many of you read the brilliant Writer Unboxed Blog (if you don’t, you should start) and won’t be surprised to hear that Un-Con was extraordinary from start to finish.

No promotion, no egos or competition, no stalking of agents or editors, no pitching, no dwelling on “The Rules” or on social media. Un-Con was five days of inspiration focused on the universals of finding the way into story without ever disrespecting process or genre. It was what writers’ conferences aspire to be but never are because of the myriad of not-so-hidden agendas. Un-Con was geared toward camaraderie and strengthening our writer selves both on and off the page. The event hit on all cylinders.

WUunboxTo have Un-Con in my neighborhood was like winning the lottery. I couldn’t have attended otherwise. I took my meals at home and slept in my own bed. While I missed out on some conference activities because being home meant no eating out, no maid service, and keeping up with day-to-day chores, it was a tiny price to pay for such a remarkable and transformative experience.

I’ve attended a bevy of writing conferences, workshops, and even a couple of smaller conventions over the years, and I assure you, the Writer Unboxed Un-Conference was one of a kind. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. When was the last time someone wrote a song about a conference you attended? Un-Con can boast two: Valerie Chandler’s “Un-Con Song” and Jo Eberhardt’s “Breakfast in Salem.” Chew on that.

A slew of blog posts already exist about the marvel that was Un-Con. In an effort not to repeat what’s already been said, and because this post is already far too long, here, in no particular order, are some links to give you a taste of what made the event matchless. When I first drafted this post, I only had five links. We’re now at thirteen sixteen.

The Best Writers Conference May be an Unconference
~Catherine McKenzie/Therese Walsh Q&A

A Recipe for fear—and Its Antidote
~Kathryn Craft

Three Notes to Self from the Writer Unboxed Conference: Risk Aversion, Agency, Make a Mess
~Keely Thrall

Shedding Layers/Adding Layers—The Insights and Effects of UnCon
~Vaughn Roycroft

Writer Unboxed Un-Conference: Through-ness and the Power of Genuine Community
~Heather L. Reid

Writers, UnPlugged: Lessons from the Writer Unboxed UnConference
~Lisa Cron

The Writer Unboxed UnConference: My Own Moveable Feast
~Mike Swift

WU UnCon: A Conference of Connection
~Jo Eberhardt

Put Ninety Introverts in a Room and Watch Magic Happen
~Kim Bullock

The First Writer Unboxed Un-Conference: Unbelievably Valuable
~CG Blake

Drilling Down to the 3rd Thing
~Natalie Hart

Writer Unboxed Un-Conference and Un-Con Song
~VP Chandler

To Thine Own Self Be True
~Liz Michalski

Lessons from the UnCon: I Surrender. I’m Finally Ready to Be Naked
~Jan O’Hara

The Un-Conference Kitty
~Rebeca Schiller

A Haven of Writers
~LJ Cohen

Heartfelt thanks and hugs to Writer Unboxed founder, the amazing Therese Walsh, and the entire AWESOME WU Team for working their asses off to make the magic(k)*** happen.

Okay, enough gushing. Next time I’ll share how Un-Con changed the way I see myself as a writer, and I promise a less rambling post.

Last but certainly not least:

 

HAPPY [U.S.] THANKSGIVING!

 

Thankful

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. -Cicero

 

Your turn! Bring me up to date.
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***MAGIC(K): The art and science of projecting natural energies (e.g. will and emotions) to effect change. The process is natural, not supernatural. It involves building energy, giving it direction/purpose and releasing it.
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