Author: audratrussell148

Novel Progress

So, I did it!  I emailed my novel, The House on Horace Street, to five beta readers.  I carefully selected these readers because I know they will be completely honest with me about any areas where my novel may need work.  And if you’re wondering if I held my breath each time I pressed send…well yes, I did!

I finished the novel as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge.  I let the novel sit for December.  Then I read it in January and did two rounds of edits that ended the last week of February.

One of my beta readers responded with some really great feedback that is helping me flesh out some areas of my novel.  This I am very grateful for.  My novel was a novella length, but with the suggestions she gave, I think it will push the length out to a regular novel.

I’m still waiting on my other beta readers to get back to me but I will just keep working with what I have so far.

I also wrote my query letter and synopsis for my novel.  Those are basically the pitch for my book that publishers use to decide whether they want to request the first three chapters of my novel or –gasp–the entire novel!

I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  But I’m ready for it this time.  I’ve got stories to tell and I know that my passion for my stories will come through in my writing.

I’m pushing forward and working on my goal every single day because I know my novel is going to be accepted for publication this year.

So that’s where we are folks.

The Six Hundred

Howdy, friends! I set a goal for this year to publish short stories every month to my blog.  Here is one I wrote about Bloody Sunday written from the POV of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Enjoy!


Bridges are a connecting route over an obstacle. I am the gateway to Selma from Montgomery. The day I was completed I was so proud. Before me, there was an old two-lane wooden swing bridge that carried mule loads of cotton. I replaced that old bridge in 1940 and was a sight to behold: a steel arch bridge with a central span of two hundred fifty feet and nine large concrete arches.

But my beauty was short-lived.

I remember it like it was yesterday. A moment born out of grave injustice and death. You know it as “Bloody Sunday”.  Indulge me as I tell you how it all began.

Since about 1963 there was a hard push here in Alabama for equal voting rights. Less than one percent of black people who were of voting-age were registered to vote and the KKK was fighting with deadly force against anyone who tried to help blacks get registered. It was happening across the country.

One day in a nearby town called Marion, a black man who was a deacon of his church and a civil rights activist, was brutally beaten, shot, and killed by Alabama State troopers while he was protesting the arrest of a fellow civil rights worker. He was trying to stop his grandfather and mother from being beaten by the troopers when one of them shot him in the stomach. He died eight days later. He was only twenty-six.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Folks in Selma had had enough and decided to march from Montgomery to Selma and the only way to do that was to go across me, the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Yes, that is the name of the person they chose to place across the top of my steel beam in large black letters.

The name of a man whose family owned slaves.

A man who was a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the most violent white terrorist group in Alabama.

I was all at once the link between Selma and Montgomery and a symbol of all that was wrong with America.

I was a beacon for tragedy.

The morning of March 7, 1965 was thick with tension. Injustice and justice were about to clash. Injustice was there on foot and horseback dressed in Alabama State trooper uniforms and riot gear. They were armed with billy clubs and tear gas, and their blinding hatred was fueled by the cheers of supporters flanking the bridge waving confederate flags.

Justice was there in the form of six hundred people armed only with love and sheer determination, to demand what they had been promised a century before: the right to vote.

The time came for the march to proceed. The six hundred waited peacefully for the signal to begin. The troopers stood in front of them, billy clubs in defensive position. The six hundred began to walk in a very thin line on my sidewalk. A voice over a bullhorn told them “it would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march.”

But the resolve of the six hundred was sure.

The troopers pushed back two of the six hundred leading the cause. I heard the troopers’ footsteps quicken. A flood of sounds followed: terror-filled screams of the six hundred, the cheers of confederate bystanders delighting in the mayhem, small explosions and the hissing of tear gas, the thud of bodies being trampled to the ground, the thwacking of billy clubs striking unarmed bodies with brutal force, and the cloppity-clop of horses’ hooves as the troopers atop them drove men, women, and children back over the bridge, swinging at them with clubs, whips, and rubber tubes wrapped in barbed wire. All the while the six hundred never fought back….and they didn’t make it over me that day, either.

The sight was atrocious.

The Alabama State troopers inflicted wounds so bad that fifty people were hospitalized.

Two days later, the six hundred turned into two thousand people determined to walk over my expanse but when they got to the bridge a man named King told them to disperse.

Things went back to normal for a while and the usual traffic went across me as if nothing ever happened. I thought maybe the six hundred had given up, thought maybe those troopers had beaten the dignity and determination out of everyone.

But I was wrong. I should have known that a people descended from those who survived the terrorism of slavery wouldn’t be stopped. Two weeks later, thousands walked over me. They didn’t just use the sidewalks this time. No, they filled up my entire expanse and flowed over me like a mighty river.  I cheered them on and hoped their footsteps were stirred old Edmund Pettus from death’s slumber and made him turn over in his hateful grave as he watched all those people – black and white – flowing steady and sure under his name toward victory.

Before Bloody Sunday, I was a symbol of oppression and hatred. Today I am a landmark of Civil Rights.

I wish I could tell you things got easier but it didn’t.  Death, hatred, and injustice continued to flow freely.

Shortly after they marched across my expanse, the KKK murdered a white woman named Viola Liuzzo. She had driven to Selma from Michigan and was shuttling some civil rights activists to the Montgomery airport. She was only thirty-nine years old and had a husband and five children.

But nothing lessened the resolve of the Civil Rights movement.

Fifty years after that day, this country’s first black president stood before me. He said Selma was a place where destiny had been decided. He said slavery and the Civil War and segregation and Jim Crow and the death of four little girls and the dream of a preacher collided here.

So I stand proud today and wear my name as a badge of honor, not because of Edmund Pettus, but in spite of him. I am a reminder that hatred and injustice are no match for the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised. I am the connecting route between injustice and justice.

I am the Edmund Pettus bridge.


The Year in Review

I can’t believe 2017 is over.

Another year has slipped by.

On this last day of the year, I completed my fourth online writing course, The Craft of Style. I enjoyed not only the instruction, but the feedback on my stories from other students taking the courses.  If you’re a writer, you know how vulnerable story writing is. You can’t help but take criticism personally because your stories come from you, they are you.  But my skin is hardening (in a good way) and I am learning to receive constructive criticism and use it to make my writing better.

I’ve seen my writing stretch and grow so much with these courses.  The capstone course begins in March.  That class is several months long, as opposed to only one month, and the assignment is to write an entire short story.  Though I have been writing short stories all year, I am interested to learn more about the craft of writing a short story and getting feedback from my writing peers.

This was a good year for me.  I dusted off my goal of being a writer, this time for good.  I wrote over forty short stories this year and sent them out to be published. I haven’t been successful yet, but I know it’s coming.

I completed the 12 Short Stories Challenge over at  I got a lot of great feedback from other writers and having a deadline each month helped keep me focused on writing every day.

In case you haven’t been following my blog, this challenge included getting a writing prompt each month with a specified word count.  You had one month to write your story.  On a specified date, you posted your story and other writers gave you feedback on it.  You, in turn, also gave feed back to other writers.

I got a lot of varied feedback on my stories.  I even wrote one on taking a knee, which had the most heated feedback of all.  But the fact that the feedback was so emotional means I did my job.

To really keep myself focused, I decided to make my own writing space in the living room. I found a Queen Anne writing desk on Craigslist and knew that I had to have it.  Something about it spoke to me. The woman that sold it to me was not only a Black woman like myself, but she is a published author.  That wasn’t a coincidence.  She told me that it was her mother’s desk and that it had good energy.  When I left, she told me to make her proud.  I plan to do just that.  This is my beauty shortly after I brought her home.  It’s much more…lived in….now.  Let’s just say it’s neat, but looks like a true writer’s desk complete with papers and lots of books everywhere.  But it’s my most happy place in the home.


That t-shirt there on the desk was my next accomplishment for 2017.  After a five year hiatus, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again.  I finished a really cool novel about the ghost of an enslaved woman who haunts a farm house.  I won’t tell you much more because that is the book I am about to begin editing.  I plan on it being my first published book.  But, I digress.

NaNoWriMo is done during the month of November.  The challenge is to write 50,000 words in one month.  That’s 1,667 words every day, no excuses.  I had already been working on the concept of the novel I wanted to write, so NaNoWriMo was the perfect way to flesh it out into an actual completed first draft.  There’s a whole post about me finishing the challenge here.  But here’s a photo of me on the last day of November, with my NaNoWriMo winner’s shirt on.

Another goal I completed was this website.  I am a writer and will be a very successful published author with a huge, devoted following of readers.  What better way to hold myself accountable to that goal than an author website?

I’ve even posted some of the short stories I’ve written here.  For 2018, I will be writing a short story and posting it each Monday.  I already have some story concepts written out.  I think they will make for some every entertaining reading.  Get ready to meet Penelope Nithercott of Ottertail Falls.  That’s all I have to say about that. 🙂

You may know that I’m a voracious reader.  This year I read 75 books.  I’m pretty proud of that. This was the first year I actually kept track of how many I’ve read.  I never saw the point before because I am always reading.  But it was cool to set a goal and see if I could meet it.  I said I was going to read 70 books this year and exceeded that goal by five! I set my goal for 2018 to 85.  Yay, me!!!

So, it’s been a really productive year.  I haven’t been published yet, other than here on my own site, but I know without a doubt that’s happening in 2018.

I’m excited about what’s on the horizon for me.  Come and visit me here often! Enjoy the journey with me. Leave me comments, too! I’d love to know who’s out there keeping me company.  A writer’s life can be a little solitary sometimes.

Well, here’s to a prosperous 2018 filled with miracles, opportunities, and blessings big and bigger!

Until I write again!




She Cast Her Cares Upon the Sea

That is me at a beach in Rhode Island.  I was watching the sun set and visualizing the life I am creating for myself as a writer.  It was such an empowering moment for me.  Whenever I get discouraged or tired, I look at this picture and remember what the woman in it was thinking.

So, today I finished my second assignment of my fourth class in my writing cluster.  This class focuses on writing style.  The assignment was to write a 600-word short story with a beginning, middle, and end, focusing on nouns and verbs.  Basically, making every word count and evoke imagery and illicit an emotional response.  Below is my creation.


Little fires spread through her shoulders, an outward symptom of her inner turmoil. Thoughts of worry have gone from the quiet whisper of a small voice of doubt to the rowdy jeers of utter hopelessness. Nagging ruminations of failure scurry ruthlessly and without permission through the folded corridors of her brain, smearing her mind with their creativity-stifling venom.

When these stubborn, tiny villains of despair refused to be lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of her positive thoughts, she got in her car and zoomed to the ocean. She is not content to sit in her car. Dire situations of the mind call for up close and personal contact with the majestic powers of lapping waves.

She stomps down to the beach and with a dogged determination to quiet her mind, she plops down on the sand just beyond the reach of the sweeping waves. She leans back on her hands and lets the coarseness of the sand scratch through her fingers. She pulls the salty smell of the ocean in through her nose and traps it in her lungs, holding it hostage there until her lungs fight back and push the air back out through her mouth. Over and over she pulls the ocean’s air inside her body to let its powers ooze like a soothing balm over the places that need healing.

Her tear-filled eyes set their gaze on the sun as it slides down from the sky and perches for a fleeting moment on the horizon, casting a shimmering yellow brick road onto the water revealing the path to a land of hope just beyond the sun’s gleaming yellow orb. And the tiny fires that tensed her muscles are extinguished one by one and allow her shoulders to release their hunch. The tranquility of the waves making their swoosh, swish, swoosh sounds beckon the tears gathered in her eyes to make their final ascent down her face.  They accept the invitation as if they hope to become one with the ocean, be a part of something grand and beautiful and larger than themselves.

Her body is now under the spell of the ocean and the sunset beyond it. All thoughts of hopelessness are silent now and she is mesmerized by the sunset, gazing hypnotically into it as if it’s a crystal ball holding visions of the life she visualizes for herself within its magical sphere. With the last fleeting moments of daylight upon her, she nudges a pen and small notebook from her back pocket, and with great purpose she begins to scribble words onto the pages, hoping to get them all onto the paper before the day’s dusk dissolves into the blackness of the night. There was a haze of doubt that settled on her brain like low lying clouds hovering over a mountain’s peak. But as her hand moves from left to right across the page like the carriage of a typewriter, the haze dissipates and her thoughts become vivid and crisp. She dumps all her cares onto page after page, her fingers cramping as they try to keep pace with the flood of words pulsing from her brain down through her arm and into her hand. Then her hand halts.

Her soul is exhausted but also rejuvenated and empty. She rips the small pages from her notebook and presses them together. She tears them in half. Then, as the final glints of the sun melt into the horizon she slides the pieces of paper into the lapping waves and gives the ocean permission to dissolve them into nothingness.


I hope you enjoyed that piece.  I can see where my writing muscles are stretching and getting stronger.  I will be applying everything I’ve learned so far to my novel that I finished during NaNoWriMo.

In January, I will begin my personal edits of my novel.  Once I’ve touched it up the way I want it, I will find a professional editor to go through it to get it polished and ready to submit to publishing houses.

I’m also working on the outline and character sketches for my next novel.  Slow and steady wins the race, dear friends.

Until I write again….




I survived NaNoWriMo!

I did it!!!  I made it! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  has come to a close and I finished strong! In case you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s a challenge every November to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Sound easy?

Try it.

By the way, please enjoy the randomly placed selfies of me in my winner shirt as you read.  🙂

That feeling you feel when you type the last sentence.

It was a long month but it was invigorating.  Not only did I work on my novel every day, but I finished the third class in a creative writing cluster course, wrote a small stack of short stories, continued to read books on writing, finished number book number 66 of 70 novels I pledged to read for the year, and even managed to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family!


I never once dreaded any of it.  The more I write, the more motivated I get.  Writers write every day.  It’s the only way to become better at what we do.  It’s the only way to push through the rejections we get (and I got a ton of those, too, during the month of November).

I’m a winner. My shirt says so and that settles it.

So, what’s next? Well, today I am going to work on the book summary and tagline for my novel. The former is basically my 30-second elevator pitch.  Those aren’t my strong suit, so I’m taking some extra time to get that done.

A tagline is that one-liner like what you see on a movie poster.  I will write a slew of those and then let my friends on Facebook vote for the best one.

The novel itself is going to sit untouched for about three weeks.  Then I’ll bring my fresh eyes to it and do my first round of editing.  After that, I’ve carefully selected some beta readers to test the waters.  I have a set of questions that go along with the book.  This will help me to see what works and what doesn’t.

After that, I find a professional editor to tear apart — I mean read — my novel.  Then I find a publishing house to publish it.

No matter how much you write, you must write more.

But I am going to celebrate a little bit today.  This was a major accomplishment!  And then I’m going to continue to write.

Every day.

Writers write and then write some more.  I even have a character scratching around in my head and I’m not sure who she is or what she wants but I’m going to storm write and she where she takes me.  To tell the truth, I’m a little sad that NaNoWriMo is over.  It’s nice to have that support from other writers.  This writing life is very solitary, and I don’t mind that, but every once in a while it’s nice to opine the daily struggles with other writers in the craft.

So, onward we go! I have every confidence that my tagline here on my website will be changing from “pre-published author” to “author” very soon!

I leave you with this quote that is one of many that seems to sum up this precious writing life:

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.” —Jim Tully, WD

Until next time, my beloved readers!

A final shot before I bid you adieu.



A Fall Haiku

I love fall.  The colors actually take my breath away.  I was driving home and saw this tree standing out among a sea of green. I pulled over and took a picture and as I walked back to my car I wrote a haiku in my mind.

Sap returns to roots
Making leaves die in color
Beauty in the change

Don’t you just love fall?

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

There is a smell that signals the arrival of fall and I anxiously await its arrival every year.

Pumpkin spice.

It has magical powers that make me feel like getting cozy in front of a roaring fireplace with a good book or a knitting project.

My first whiff of this nostalgia comes when I go into the craft store in September for some yarn for myself or sketch books for my daughter.  As soon as the doors slide open the smell swarms around me and grabs me by my nose and leads me right to the basket where the scented sachets are tossed artfully into a basket in the fall display. “It’s fall!” they say and since they’re only a dollar piece I throw three or four of them in my little red shopping basket.

At home, I put one at my desk, another on my nightstand, and another in the living room near my rocking chair. I save the fourth for emergencies. As I go about my daily routines, I catch whiffs of my little sachet friends.  I breathe in deep.  Ahh, aroma therapy at its best.

Pumpkin spice.  The perfect blend of cinnamon and Allspice with tiny undercurrents of nutmeg. It evokes images of families gathered around tables for Thanksgiving dinners; of trees displaying the warm, inviting colors of fall; of pumpkin patches and hayrides and faces painted for Halloween; of warm apple cider and sweet potato pie; of cozy knit hats and scarves.

Sometimes I smother my face in the sachet and take a deep breath in and I feel my soul exhale. I breathe in again and meditate on the things I want in life and envision myself already having them because the pumpkin spice makes me content and when I’m content I’m more confident.

I take long walks with the sachet in my hand and I watch fall paint its feelings on trees and bushes and fall flowers and I am grateful for life and the simple pleasures it sprinkles all around me. I feel as if I could grow wings and glide carefree on the invisible thermals that carry me left and right and down and back up again while I yell “woooohooooo!” as if I’m on my favorite roller coaster racing up and down and sideways and around and around. Nothing bad can touch me, no worries can weigh me down.

Yes, pumpkin spice is joie de vivre in a bag.


And So It Begins…..

Today is November 1st.  It’s not just a new month or the day after Halloween, it’s the first day of National Novel Writing Month, or as it is more affectionately known by writers, NaNoWriMo.

I participated five years ago and a novel came from it, but it wasn’t the best work I’ve done and so it remains buried.  But this year I am excited about the novel I am writing because it’s just a really neat idea.

So, I wanted to share some thoughts with my fellow writers who may be struggling with the thought of getting through an entire month of writing.  I am reading a wonderful book by Wayne Dyer.  In it he suggests that the reason we have failed at things that we have tried to accomplish before is not because “it wasn’t meant to be” or because “things just didn’t work out” but because we lacked one thing: being willing.  

He goes on to say that when we have a dream or a goal in our mind it’s already here in the now.  We just have to go about doing the steps to bring the thing to pass.  But we have to be willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what that means.  He also said that if we find ourselves hesitant to be willing to do whatever it takes, then we should reexamine that particular goal or dream because that hesitancy is your spirit self telling you that this isn’t the right path for you.


That was such a moment of clarity for me.  Here’s another one.  He said there is no failure only results.  When you set out to do something you get a result and you keep working at what it is that you want until you get the result you want.

So I was kicking myself for failing at other things when really two things were happening: I wasn’t failing, I was getting results, just not the one I wanted; and I wasn’t completely willing to put myself out there because it wasn’t really my path.

With writing, I had put myself out there, but then I let the rejections I received (a result) keep me from working until I got the result I wanted (publication).

Here’s another gem I read in a book called Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.  She said to look at myself as two individuals.  There is the pragmatic, logical person.  This person handles the rejection letters, the editor’s notes, the critiques from those we let read our work.  In effect, this person handles the “business” side of writing and creates a productive environment for the writing to take place.

Then there’s the creative person.  This is the person who lives in your mind and gives you the ideas.  This person has all the awe and wonder of a tiny child who sees everything in the world as new and fantastic.  This person is rather whimsical and doesn’t like to be given a routine by which to share his/her ideas, but when given a set time every day in which to write, will come around and eventually learn to give of him/herself freely.

The book goes on to say that the trick to being a successful writer is to build a wall behind which the creative person can grow at his/her own pace.  The pragmatic person deals with the day-to-day of the world and responds to it, while the creative person is allowed to stand behind the wall and look out on the world and observe it freely and use what it sees to create stories.

Another wow.

These two pieces of advice have really changed the way I not only approach my writing career but how I handle the hurdles that pop up from day to day.

So…am I overwhelmed by the thought of 50,000 words in 30 days? Not at all.  Why? Because my goal is to become a published author — a national best-selling published author — and I am willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

I’m not in over my head, I’m out of my comfort zone.  And that’s where the good stuff happens. 

So you may not be a writer like me but I’m sure you have a dream or a goal.  So I’m sharing this with you hoping that you will see your goal from a different perspective.  Speak kindly to yourself. Forgive your past failures. And remember there is no failure only results and you need only keep persevering until you get the results you want.






I am….

I write every day without fail.

I also argue with myself about writing.

I am a writer.

I’m not a writer.

I have what it takes.

My writing sucks.

I compare myself to published authors. I sigh. I get discouraged. I wake up in the morning hopeful. Some days end in triumph. Other days end in abject failure. I wonder if it is too late. I’ve given up on so many things but writing is my one constant through it all.

If I fail at this, what’s next? Have I no gift to contribute to the world? I didn’t choose to be a writer. It chose me. I have to be successful at this. There is no other choice. This is the gift bestowed upon me. I will use it. It will make room for me here. I will show the world my soul. I will not be ashamed.

I AM a writer.

I bleed words.


Why I Write…

Photo purchased from

I am a child of the 1970s who grew up in a blue collar section of a New Jersey suburb.

I clearly recall the first time I realized that the world saw me as different, as less than, because of the color of my skin.

I remember how that one comment snatched me viciously out of my childhood bubble. I remember questioning my worth, even though my parents told me over and over again that nothing anyone says changes my worth, unless I let it.

I didn’t know how to process this. I had so many emotions. So I sat down and wrote as fast as my little eight-year-old hands would let me. I remember how my rage poured out onto the page. I threw the paper aside and cried and then I went outside to play.

A few days later I happened to read what I wrote and I couldn’t believe those words came from me. That’s when I realized that there is this well of love and wisdom and acceptance deep inside me that knows exactly what to say to when I am hurting or sad or just can’t seem to make sense of what is going on, but I can only hear what it wants to tell me when I write.

So, I write to share my well with the world and that’s all there is to it.