Monday, September 15, 2014

What's in a Name?

Michael Di Gesu  is hosting a blogfest. The stories will be compiled in an anthology, and the funds raised will help Melissa Bradley  pay her medical bills from her cancer treatments. Here’s my story for the anthology. 

 What's in a Name? 

This story is dedicated to Abby.

I enter the all-too-freakin’ familiar hospital door ahead of Dad. Usually Mom takes me, but she’s due to have a baby soon. By the time I leave through these doors again--if I come out alive--the baby will not only be born, but they’ll be a new family of three.

I’ll be the outsider.

I rush ahead of Dad, like I’m looking forward to my stay at Camp Cancer. Instead of hikes in the woods and swimming at the beach, I’ll sit around a lot while they inject poison into my veins.

Mom calls it medicine.

Dad calls it “therapeutic.”

We all know what it is—my last chance to live.

I’m here for a clinical trial for Secret Drug #11, just like my age.

Nobody’s waiting in the lobby, for a change. I press the elevator button. The door opens like magic. I step inside and press the Doors Close button.

“Will!” Dad calls.

Too late. The doors slide shut.

He can take the next elevator. Or go home. I don’t care.

The elevator doesn’t stop until it reaches my floor. By then, I’ve recovered. If I’m going to be stuck here, I’d rather do this alone.

The familiar receptionist, Karen, greets me with her usual toothy smile. At least she doesn’t have lipstick on her teeth this time. “Hi, Will. Where’s your dad?”

I shrug. “I think he’s on his way.”

She faces her computer screen and types. “Why don’t you have a seat until he arrives.”

So much for doing this alone. I slump into a chair next to the desk. It’s only 9:00 am, but I’m ready to sleep. Not only does the cancer and all the poison they put in my body exhaust me, but I also didn’t sleep well last night. I chew on the inside of my cheek like I always do when I’m nervous. The metallic taste caused by the chemo distracts me. I wonder if food will ever taste normal again.

Dad arrives all harried a few minutes later. It satisfies me to think of him stuck on a crowded elevator that stopped on every floor while mine was empty and sailed right up. I won’t look at him and he doesn’t say anything to me as he plops my bag at my feet. It’s full of Sherlock Holmes books. Even though I’ve read them all at least ten times, I’ll go through them again. The pre-cancer me used to love to investigate, and I used to write articles for the school newspaper. When I grow up, I’ll solve mysteries just like Sherlock Holmes.

“Sorry I’m late,” Dad says to Karen.

She grins. “No problem, Walter. I just have a few more forms for you to fill out.”

I pretend to doze while my dad completes a zillion forms in a chair next to me. Leave it to a hospital to already make my dad fill out a dictionary-sized pile of paperwork and then make him do it all over again.

“Will.” Someone’s nudging my shoulder.

I guess I really did doze off. When I open my eyes, Dad’s still next to me. Standing in front of us is Dr. Abrams and Nurse Dan with a wheelchair. Maybe it’s because I haven’t completely woken up, but I forget to stay mad. “I’m not ready,” I whisper.

Dad’s brow crinkles. His eyes meet mine and he nods like he can read my thoughts. I’ve been avoiding these eyes since my parents told me I’d be stuck here. He turns to the doctor and nurse. “Give us a minute, please.”

They don’t back up all that much. Probably think I’ll bolt the first chance I get. I’ve already taken off once today, so I can’t do it again even if I want to. I really want to.  

Dad takes my puffy hand in his. Everything about me is puffy from the side effects. Now I’d have new drugs with new side effects. I’m so tired of this. Just so tired.

“You can do this,” he says.

“No, I can’t.”

He squeezes my hand. “Yes, you can.”

I look down, so he can stop reading my mind. “You’re leaving me here to… you’re moving on.”

“Will” Dad’s voice was as hard as his grip. “Don’t you ever, ever think that. We are doing this so you have a chance to live a long life. I’m sorry your mom can’t be here and the timing is bad. Your little brother is going to need a big brother.”

I open my eyes. “It’s a boy?”

The crinkle in Dad’s brow switches to around his eyes from his smile. “Yep. I was going to surprise you when he arrived, but it looks like you need to know now. And,” he takes a breath. “Mom and I want you to name him.”

I stare at Dad’s strong hand on mine. “Me?”

“It’s an important job, so who else would we leave it to?”

I rest my head on his shoulder. I don’t magically feel better about everything but if I get to choose the name, it’s a sign my family isn’t trying to get rid of me. The name I choose will affect my brother’s whole life. My parents named me Will, which fits me perfectly because in some versions, William Sherlock Holmes Scott is his full name.

Maybe, besides all the doctors I’m spending too much time with, I need a Dr. Watson. The character is a good doctor and friend to Sherlock—that would be a good start for my little brother. Watson’s first name is John. But John isn’t the right name for him.

“Dad, can I borrow your phone?”

I look up Watson. It means Son of Walter. My dad ‘s name is Walter! It’s fate.

I hand Dad the phone. “I want to name him Watson.”

Watson needs to understand why I chose his name. If I’m going to explain, I have to keep fighting this disease until I’m better.

Dad nods with understanding. That’s what I like about him—he doesn’t say it’s too uncommon or not practical or that I might not like Sherlock in a few years—like other parents might do. He knows me. And he knows I can do this.

I stand. “I’m ready.”

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Test of Time

The prolific Nicole Zoltack is here for a cover reveal!

Hi, everyone! This is Nicole Zoltack. I've written a bunch of romances, a lot in the speculative realm, and finally wrote a time travel romance: THE TEST OF TIME. And I adore the cover. It's beautiful. Wanna see it? Sure you do!

I could not be happier with it. What do you think of it?

BLURB: Katia jumps at the chance to go to England with her best friend after Rose ditches her deadbeat boyfriend. While walking through the market, she spies a large mansion and recognizes the guy out front as her high school friend Tony. Just as they start to reconnect, Katia passes
through times and lands in the arms of Lord Landon, who looks like Tony but certainly doesn’t act like him.

Soon, Katia learns that this 1815 is different from the one in history books. Trapped in a parallel world, Katia struggles to not fall for Landon but his charm proves too much for her. Just when she is about to confess her love for him, Katia travels through time yet again. The course of love never did run smooth and if Katia can’t figure out and master the test of time, she’ll never see or friends again, or worse, never be reunited with Landon.

So I'm sure you're dying to know the release date 
and luckily it's not that far away! THE TEST OF TIME releases September 9th! Be sure to grab it on the 9th!

it on Goodreads!

BIO: Nicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranormal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes, or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys. She enjoys riding horses
(pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead. To learn more about Nicole and her writing, visit her blog.

Friday, August 29, 2014


“A climactic scene should not come as a total surprise for the reader. If anything, it may come as a relief, because scenes prior to this one should have increased in tension and suspense, and become more emotionally dramatic for your protagonist, clueing the reader in that a terrible collision (literal or figurative) is on its way.”

-  From Make a Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld (recommended for the retreat)

Often, anticipation falls short of the actual event. Especially when we’re waiting for something big for months, the payoff can seem small in comparison. Last week, I saw Arcade Fire perform in Manchester, MA at the Xfinity Center, which is outdoors. The weather was perfect. The band was AMAZING. I ordered those tickets during pre-sale in November 2013. It took me 45 minutes of trying to order before I finally snagged a pair. And I’d already been waiting for the tickets to go on sale since the album Reflektor came out.  When the band finally performed, I certainly wasn’t disappointed. But somehow the excitement of the wait was as much a part of the concert experience.

Does that make sense?

I worried that when I attended the Revision Retreat run by Eileen Robinson and Harold Underdown at the Highlights Foundation that the retreat couldn’t possibly be as good as I built it up to be.

It would be my first formal writing retreat.  

Back in February, I wanted to take class at Salem State University. I needed a prerequisite, but the professor thought I was ready. So I received permission from the university. This would make it easier for me to finish my special education certification by May 2015.

The happiness was short-lived when I realized the second weekend of the course would take place the same weekend as the NE-SCBWI Conference.

Clearly, I couldn’t attend both.

In the end, my “hobby” had to take a backseat to my paying career. This epiphany hurt.

I still wanted to something. But what? I thought about going to another conference, hiring an editor to review a manuscript, or attending a retreat. The people who attended the Highlights retreats always raved about them.  They were more than I spent for conferences, so I hadn’t seriously considered them before. I checked with Harold and Highlights to find out if there’d be a revision retreat. Several times. When the dates were confirmed, I think I was the first to sign up.

Back then, shoveling snow, August seemed too far away.

I should’ve known all I had to do was wait for summer. What moves faster than summer?

On the drive to the retreat, I hit downpours and drizzles until I reached the NY border. The blue skies seemed like a good sign.

All I can do is gush about the retreat. I learned a lot at the tour of Highlights Magazine and Boyd Mills Press. Then we headed the 8 miles to The Barn.  They thought of everything. If you take a plane, someone will pick you up. We were given a bag of goodies. There are flashlights in the rooms, in case you’ll be out after dark. The accommodations are comfortable. They supply unlimited drinks and snacks any time of day or night. The chef cooks gourmet meals. Yoga if offered each morning. We took walks in the picturesque paths each afternoon. There are writing spaces inside and outside—designed for inspiration. 

Loft for yoga, writing, and critique sessions.

A deer-muse visited me outside my bedroom window.

But besides the accommodations and the food, what made the place special was the people. The staff working at Highlights, Harold and Eileen, and the writers made those 5 days critical to my revision process.  I learned a tremendous amount from the workshops and critique sessions, and other writers also provided invaluable resources. I got a lesson on how to use Scrivener. People set up impromptu critique groups. Best of all, we all had so much to talk about—both writing and non-writing related topics. During meals, I felt like I was hanging with old friends.

Those 5 days went by too quickly.

As I drove down the highway on my way home, I noticed it was 5:30pm. I sighed. Wonder what the chef is serving for appetizers tonight.

A couple of nights later, I attended the Arcade Fire Concert. In 1 week, I was lucky enough to have 2 amazing experiences. And the next day, my son turned 16, and he passed his Learner’s Permit test.

Maybe it’s like what Jordan E. Rosenfeld says in the book, Make a Scene. As writers, we want to build up to the climax so that the readers are in a high state of anticipation. Then that climax needs to pay off.

The excitement of the week has passed. Life goes on. School begins just after Labor Day.

But I keep the memories close. We knew each other for such a short time but all connected so well. And I found guidance for my manuscript, which has reinvigorated me (and my story). Best of all, I can use the tools I’ve learned for other projects.

I’m already saving my pennies in anticipation of next year’s retreat.

Writers, have you attended a formal writing retreat? 
What was your experience? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014


“Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon”
 - Song “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hay


I stare at the page—
My moxie has fled for
Prolific pastures.

What’s the point?
My pencil’s nub
Rubbed down by cliché.
Cracked in half by this

This pen bleeds
Ink ‘til it runs dry.
And rips this
Paper, wrinkled.
I ball it in my fist
Crushing, crinkled.

Laptop keys used to
Flutter under fingers
Like wind chimes.
Music no more.
I’ve lost the melody
Trampled the score.

Well-worn words
Mock me.
The lighted screen—
Like a moth I am drawn.

- Theresa Milstein

This poem is dedicated to the writers at the Revision Retreat  run by Harold Underdown 

UPDATE: I actually wrote this poem a few weeks ago. My critique experience at the retreat was actually positive, and gave me direction and inspiration + I learned some beneficial revision techniques. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August Artistic Aspirations

I want to tell you about 3 artistic endeavors that have inspired me this August:


                                                                   un-perfect moment

capture that perfect un-perfect moment
locked within that bring-you-back memory
and while you dance within those medleys
those blood-bond circles of life swirl
through the past and towards the future
you sweep away in a shared moment
as hot and sweet as summer’s breath

on the peripheries as fleeting as fireflies
sidestep broken fragments before they pulverize
while the evening’s a clock that no longer ticks
these frozen hands a blessing from time’s tyranny
hold on tight to the tumultuous melody
just like you hold on tight to your
tired girl’s hands for just one more song

  - Theresa Milstein


I’ve known the illustrator Nata Romeo for several years. Her artwork has always impressed me. She’s now illustrated a beautiful picture book. Cleverly, she left the animals black and white to encourage children to color them on the hardcover edition. And the pictures can be enlarged on the e-book edition in order to appreciate the detail.

Nata Romeo a.k.a ArtistaDonna, is the author and illustrator of her first children's book, titled Alphabet Wildlife A to Z. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she now brews and sprinkles her art and stories from the Philadelphia skies. She dreams that her imagination gets swept up into a massive storm, traveling across the universe and beyond!


This week, I’m attending the Highlights Foundation Revision Retreat.  
It's my first organized retreat.
I hope that the retreat's inspirations help me reach my aspirations.

Happy August!

Sunday, July 20, 2014



You don a bitter orange peel cloak.

Tangy lemon tingles tart on my tongue.

I scoop the grapefruit quarter sans sugar

And smart at the startling sour.

Acerbic is what you’re offering.

No fruit-shaped confections ladled with fructose

Nor strawberries smothered in unctuous chocolate.

I scour the bland baskets with scorn

While dreaming of syrup-dripped candy.

Bittersweet is what you’re offering.

Sneakin’ down the street for satisfaction.

Praying to Virgin Mary for my sins.

I scoop the saccharine confections.

Savoring that sickeningly sweet thrill.

Anything, but what you’re offering.

And I wait for judgment’s final wrath. 

- Theresa Milstein

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Descent

The Descent

One moment’s lapse
Wine crimson spilled

One rhythm
God’s proof a
Wretched life saved

Conduits to
Wash away
Your sins
Gold bronze and
Black as coal dust

Lips cracked desert
Won’t heal for
What ragged scars

Eyes hold malice
Not mine your
Future confined

Secrets shameful
Hands restrained
The binds when
Mourning calls chill 

Tart utterances
The wound you
Left gaped rage raw

One moment’s lapse
Embraced yet
Mind still adrift

- Theresa Milstein