A Friend in “Read” Is a Friend Indeed

When I was a freshman in a Chicago high school, back when raptors ran and pterodactyls flew, a typical Saturday routine for me was this:
• Walk two blocks to catch the 119th Street bus (avoiding raptors of course).
• Take that bus to 103rd Street and walk a block to my BFF Christine’s house.
• Catch another bus (these were the days of bus passes, tokens, and supertransfers, when students rode the buses cheaply) to 95th Street to one of our favorite hangouts (besides the mall).

What was that hangout? The Beverly Paper-Back Exchange. (Grammarians, please don’t come at me because of their decision to use punctuation in paperback.) We would spend hours combing through the shelves and would each leave with a paper shopping bag full of books. Note the price in the photo at the right below. All of their books were stamped with the store’s name.


Because this was an exchange, you could bring books for them to sell, which would net you a slight discount. Invariably, we’d bring back many of the ones we bought. (Half-Price Bookstore existed, but had not yet spread to the Midwest.)

Christine and I read a ton of Harlequin Romance novels, mostly acquired there, because our goal was to write romance books with a suspense element (ala authors like Victoria Holt). So, we also read mysteries, hence the Perry Mason books.


It was great having a friend who loved reading and writing romance stories. We analyzed the Harlequin formula: how the hero and heroine would meet cute, when the first kiss would happen, when the misunderstanding would come, how they would get back together. And since our imaginations ran wild, how many times the heroine would nearly be murdered. (This was back in the day, as I mentioned.) Also, how silly the hero’s name could be, and still, in our minds, sound cool and masculine. Steve Sacks O’Mony. Tyler Tall Endark. We had lofty plans to submit our novels to Harlequin for a ton of money. As I write this, I can’t help laughing because we were so sure we would hit it big as romance novelists.

Though Christine and I lost touch after high school, I managed to hold onto these two books, and the memories I made acquiring them.

Victoria Holt cover from Goodreads. Bus tokens from WBEZ. Supertransfer from the Illinois Railway Museum website. Other photos by L. Marie.

The Cost of Plagiarism

Last week, a post on Publishers Lunch, a daily email publication, jumped out at me, because the subject—plagiarism—was one I’d discussed with a friend. On the eve of the distribution of a nonfiction book written by a doctor (and possibly others, though only the doctor is named on the cover), the Los Angeles Times alleged that “at least” (quoting from the L.A. Times and a CBS News article you can access here) 95 separate sections in this author’s forthcoming book were plagiarized from Wikipedia, The New York Times, and other sources. I won’t name the author here, though the L.A. Times and CBS News do so.

I’ll pause here for a definition of plagiarism for anyone who needs it. Click here to see what Merriam-Webster says on the subject.

According to PlagiarismToday (an article you can read by clicking on the source name), the L.A. Times made the discovery during their “pre-publication review.” Whoops. 😣 😖

On the day I read the Publishers Lunch post, I saw the book listed on Amazon. After all, this was the day before its release. When I began this post (3-15-23), I returned to Amazon only to find that the book had been taken out of the list.

The author released a statement through his publisher that he had the book recalled, and would revise it, either rewriting the sections in question or giving credit to the ones who did.

Think about it: this nearly $30 book had been printed and undoubtedly an audiobook had been completed. All of those books that would have been sold have to be scrapped at the author’s expense.

Sobering, huh?

The subject came up because in my years as a book editor, proofreader, and copy editor, I have had to confront authors about plagiarism. I understand that deadlines place authors—particularly busy ones—under the gun. The internet makes plagiarism easy with quick access to encyclopedias, news articles, etc. Sometimes people forget to give credit where credit is due. Neither is an excuse, however, to justify the act.

The internet is full of articles of people who were caught—some after multiple infractions. Some were award-winning journalists.

The cost of plagiarism is steep, but not just in the cost of having to recall a book. “Borrowing” that sentence or paragraph from someone else can damage your reputation. I wish I could say that goes without saying. But the fact that plagiarism still happens means that it still needs to be said.

Plagiarism image from The Veggie Queen’s website.

Ten Years! Who Would Have Thought???😄😊

Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 10 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.

You read that right! A decade ago, February 19, 2013 (which means I’m officially late), I started this blog as a result of nagging a suggestion from my younger brother and a guy at church I hardly knew, but since I’d worked with his mother for years, that made us acquaintances. I didn’t know what I was doing. But now, here I am, ten years later.

I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Many people who are planners list their goals ten years out. They plan to be in a certain place or at a certain number (money, subscribers, whatever) that shows progress. I didn’t have a goal when I started the blog. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d last ten days blogging. I never fathomed ten years would pass and I would still be at it.

But here I am.

Consistency. Sometimes, that’s the goal.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

My first post: https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/no-dont-speak-2/

A TV? No Thanks

I’m used to the disbelieving, how-do-you-exist look that results whenever anyone asks me, “Did you see Such-and-Such program on TV?” and I respond, “I don’t have a TV.” One response to that response has been, “Oh. Well, you can have my old TV” or “I’ll get you a TV.” Eight times out of ten, either has been the response to my response. (Yes, I know some generous people.)

Having been the recipient of the old televisions of friends and family back in the days when televisions were heavy, blocky things, I appreciate the newer, sleekier, but still heavy wall-mounted versions. I especially appreciate the generosity of family and friends who readily offer to fill my TV-less gap. But my response ten times out of ten has been, “No thank you.”

I’ll pause here to give you time to fill in your theory about the why before I tell you. Maybe I’ll repolish my nails while you theorize.

Color of Choice

You’re back? Good. Okay, now I’ll tell you why. The reason is two-fold:
1. When I went to grad school back in 2010, I slipped out of the habit of watching TV, because I worked and attended school. After graduate school (2012), I returned to watching TV, which leads me to my second reason.
2. My television (an old TV given to me by friends) broke and I never replaced it.

Did that fit your theory? Did I surprise you? Disappoint you (if you thought I had some elitest idea of TV as the opiate of the masses and therefore to be avoided)? See, the thing is, when I was a kid, I watched two to four hours of TV, seven days a week. My undergraduate years interrupted that average, because I was too busy hanging out with friends studying to watch TV (although I confess that my friends and I commandeered the one TV in the dorm—I am dating myself—to watch The Godfather I and II, refusing all requests to turn the channel). During that time, I discovered that I could actually live without TV.

After grad school, I turned to Netflix, which I watch on my computer. So, I am not entirely without the means for watching some shows. After all, I saw the first three seasons of Stranger Things and two of Downton Abbey. But since there are few shows nowadays that I want to invest the time watching, I generally watch documentaries on Netflix. (But I have watched old TV shows like Columbo on Amazon Freevee.)

Several people (maybe about ten as opposed to the twenty people who told me I had to watch Downton Abbey back when I was in grad school and had no time whatsoever to watch until after I graduated) in recent months have told me I need to get Disney +. Maybe I will eventually. For now, I’m content to be that weird person who refuses to buy a TV.

You know what I enjoy in the evenings? Reading a good book. Watching movies. Listening to music. Hanging out with friends. Crocheting various projects. (Though many evenings lately, I’ve spent freelance editing.) While this means I can’t participate in any water cooler discussions, life still feels full and enjoyable.

Old TV from Amazon. Samsung TV from Walmart.com. Other photo by L. Marie.

“There and Back Again”

Hello and Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️❤️❤️! Having recently returned from a blissful four-day retreat at the Highlights Foundation campus in Honesdale, PA, I can categorically state that I didn’t disappear off the face of the earth as you might have suspected. I was going to state that this post is proof of that, but it might have been written by AI for all you know. 😊😊 Just take my word for it that I have returned. (Yes, the post title was borrowed from Bilbo Baggins’s book title in The Fellowship of the Ring. 😊)


A group of friends (my critique group) and I retreated to the woods to write, laugh, and eat scrumptious food. We met many interesting writers who were there for the same reason. Imagine that!

This was the first time in probably four years that I’d traveled by air. So, walking past the drug sniffing dog two by two at O’Hare Airport was new to me. At least that cut the time in the security line down to ten minutes!


Not so at the airport in Newark, where my time in the security line was about nine times that! I’m grateful I didn’t miss my flight. unlike some poor souls who cut through the line because they only had ten minutes to board the plane before it left without them. Some people jumped at the chance of purchasing a Clear membership to avoid the line. If you’re wondering about the difference between Clear and TSA Precheck, click here.

Other than that, a good time was had by all.


The rocks are in the garden of rocks. Many people left messages using the words on the rocks. I like the word cattywampus, so that is why this photo is here. 😊

Photos by L. Marie

Happy 2023! It’s Up from Here!

So, this happened a couple days before the end of 2022.

Yeah. 😷

I’m feeling better. Finally stopped coughing. I’m grateful for the continued lack of a fever. And yes, I have had five vaccine shots.

Just one of those things, I guess. But while quarantining, I’m getting a lot of reading done (see below), including a manuscript where I’m fixing a chronology issue (not pictured 😄).


I’ve also watched some old murder mysteries like Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun, and Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot mysteries written by Agatha Christie and adapted for the screen by various writers) on YouTube and Amazon Prime (free with ads) and episodes of a really quirky show on Netflix (Wednesday).

So don’t cry for me, Argentina. (Click here if you’re wondering, “What does that mean?”) I’m getting some rest. Probably not as much as I should. But some.

Hope you’re doing well.

Photos by L. Marie.

Critique Group

Someone reading this might think this is a post on critique groups—people who give opinions on manuscripts. I’ll get to what I mean by it. But first: there have been many TV shows and other media content that have been deemed controversial. And critics weigh in on the controversies in their reviews of said media. That’s their job. But what I’ve been seeing lately are videos devoted to explaining how awful one particular show is—how bad the writing is, how deplorable the characterization, etc. No, I will not name the show. I was struck by how much hatred the show has garnered by people who continue to watch it.

If I don’t like a show, I’m not going to continue watching it. Watching more episodes, at least for me, is a waste of time and also gives tacit agreement to its continuation. Maybe I’m silly, but that’s how I feel. Sometimes, however, I’ll give a show a second chance if someone close to me tells me that something shifted in the show and it’s worth my time to reengage.

Critics review films and TV shows because they love the media, though they might dislike a movie or an episode of a TV show. A reviewer whose reviews I really like (I won’t mention his name either) reviewed some episodes of the show to which I am referring. After stating what he disliked about it, he stopped reviewing further episodes of the show on his channel. If he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t continue to review it.

Jay Sherman, main character of The Critic, a show created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss and voiced by Jon Lovitz

Okay. I know you’re probably wondering at my obstinance about withholding information. The point of this post isn’t so much about a particular show that people hate but the fact that critique groups have spawned just to spread hatred for it. My question for them is, what are you building? We all know how easy it is to criticize something. It’s not so easy to build a world of your own.

I saw one positive review of the show by an author with multiple books in the genre. He was excited and happy to see the show. Perhaps he could be objective, because he’s already building his own literary landscapes.

That is what really stuck with me: someone who isn’t just hating on something, but is busy with his own work, yet willing to express positivity about someone else’s work.

I have to tell on myself here. I know about the many, many videos criticizing the show because I sought them out. I sat there watching several of them, wallowing in my anger about certain aspects of the show, just as I did when I saw a movie on Netflix that I disliked. I wanted to find someone who agreed with my perspective, who felt as angry as I did. But in those hours—literally hours—of watching content creators spewing their dislike, was I working on my own stories? Was I shoring up my world building so that my world feels as real as Narnia? Absolutely not. I was feeding something that wouldn’t take me anywhere.

One summer, I read over 100 middle grade books. I couldn’t get enough of them. I kept going to the library and pulling them off the shelf. I was hungry to build my own literary worlds. I needed to feed that with good books. After that, for two solid years I read nothing but middle grade and young adult novels. The only material for adults I read were craft books and books I used for research. All of this was fuel to take me where I needed to go in my writing.

So, in my contemplation of the critique groups of one particular show, I’m reminded to focus on what is needful for my writer’s soul. To focus on what feeds, rather than depletes.

What feeds you? What depletes? Feel free to comment below.

P.S. In response to Marian Beaman’s latest post, here is a picture of some trees in my area.

The Critic image found somewhere online. Critic sign from picpedia.org. Fall trees photo by L. Marie.

How Do You Keep Track of Time?

Some great posts by Charles Yallowitz on flashbacks (like this one) got me to thinking about timelines and story. Another thing that got me to thinking was catching a mistake in the timeline of one of my WIPs. Events I thought happened concurrently with the events of another character’s day weren’t lining up. Though I plotted the movements of each character on a calendar, something was missed. I needed to fix that.

Why does this matter? you might be thinking, especially if you don’t write novels. A story’s timeline affects the story events you include. If you claim a story happens in, say, twenty-four hours, but the characters do enough activities to fit a thirty-six-hour timeline, you’ll need to address that gap. Things get even messier if you are tracking the movements of more than one main character, as I was doing.

As a freelance line editor, I have had to check the timelines of many manuscripts. Only occasionally did I receive a typewritten timeline from the author. Someone gave me a handwritten note with dates once. Somewhat helpful, but not overly so, since I had to give the publisher a typed timeline that the copyeditor and proofreader could use—which meant I had to type it. Some authors didn’t have notes, preferring the “it’s all in my head” method. I’m not knocking that if it works for you. But does it work for your editor? One hundred percent of the time in the manuscripts I have edited, I have found timeline mistakes even in the most linear stories. Even if an author hands me written notes, I don’t just take those at face value. I check the notes against the events of the manuscript.

So, this post is kind of a PSA (public service announcement, since those initials stand for many things these days) asking you to please keep a written timeline if you are working on a fiction or nonfiction book with any type of chronology. If you have time to type your manuscript, you have time to keep track of, and type, your chronology.

You’d be surprised at how easily an author can get a sequence of events wrong, even with the use of time markers like “the next day,” especially if the author is coming up with events on the fly (and sometimes adding scenes between existing scenes) but isn’t keeping track of the chronology of said events. Imagine having to tell an author, “Your timeline is three months off” as I have had to do, which definitely meant a major rewrite.

I totally get that writing anything takes precious time. With some impossibly fast deadlines, you don’t have much time. And keeping track of a timeline is one of those drudgery activities that no one really likes to do. It’s like loading a dishwasher or a washing machine. But if you elect to avoid doing it, mistakes—like dirty laundry—can pile up. If your editor has to take the time to fix something you could have fixed early on, it becomes more costly, especially with freelance editors charging by the hour. So please listen to Auntie L. Marie and keep track of your chronology. Your editor (even that editor is just you) will thank you.

Clock from cloudcentrics.com. Project management image from getharvest.com.

Check This Out: Temple Grandin (The She Persisted Series)

I had planned to reveal the winner of Coming Up Short by Laurie Morrison this week. Before that reveal, I had planned to post the following interview at the beginning of the week. Alas I was a little under the weather. The best laid plans of mice and men as they say. So here at least is that second interview. Both winner reveals will have to come next week. Now, on with the show!

On the blog today is no stranger to the community: the amazing Lyn Miller-Lachmann here to talk about her book She Persisted: Temple Grandin, which was published on April 5 by Philomel and illustrated by Gillian Flint,. Lyn is represented by Jacqui Lipton.


El Space: What did it mean to you to write this book on Temple Grandin? How did it come about that you did?
Lyn: The authors of each volume of the She Persisted series share some aspect of lived experience with their subject, and I’m one of them. I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2007 and had already written a book published by Penguin Random House loosely based on my time in middle and high school as an undiagnosed outcast who would do anything to have a friend. That novel, Rogue, came out in 2013 from another imprint at Penguin Random House, Nancy Paulsen Books. In 2020, editors Jill Santopolo and Talia Benamy at Philomel approached my agent, Jacqui Lipton, and asked if I’d be interested in writing Temple Grandin’s biography for this series, and I jumped at the opportunity. She’s a hero of mine, and I’m honored that they asked me to write about her life and work.

El Space: Were you able to talk to Temple Grandin? What was your research like for this book?
Lyn: I didn’t talk to Temple to research this book, but I have met her. She was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Annual Conference of the American Library Association in Chicago, there to talk about her book The Autistic Brain. She signed her book for me, and I told her how she’d inspired me to speak out about my own experiences as an autistic person. In addition to reading her books and Oliver Sacks’s 1995 article in The New Yorker about her, I took notes at her keynote speech and asked her about the speech when she signed my book. In her speech, she said, “When you’re a weird geek, you’ve got to learn to sell your work,” and when I spoke with her, she encouraged me to promote my work based not on my personal charm but on its quality and how my writing can improve the lives of my readers.

El Space: How long was the process of writing?
Lyn: I wrote the first draft of this book in about six weeks, with another two weeks for revision. I had a short deadline and could meet it because the book was part of a series, and all the titles have a similar structure. In addition, I’d already read a lot of Temple’s books and seen the HBO documentary based on her life [click here for the trailer], so I had a big head start on the research. I have a journalism background, so general nonfiction and biographical profiles are easier for me to write than fiction, and I use the techniques of fiction, such as the hook and scene structure, to enhance my nonfiction.

El Space: What do you want kids to take away after reading this book?
Lyn: When Temple talks about being autistic, she uses the words, “Different not less.” People who are different—who think differently, who have different backgrounds and experiences—can often identify big problems that other people don’t see as problems, and they can find solutions because they look at those problems from fresh perspectives. For instance, Temple observed farm animals and was able to interpret the world from their eyes because of her experiences as an autistic person. I’d like young readers to embrace their unique ways of looking at the world and acknowledge the perspectives and experiences of those they may have dismissed for being different or weird.

El Space: Well said, Lyn! I know with some of these projects, authors and illustrators never meet. Was that the case? How much input did you have in the illustrations?
Lyn: The She Persisted series uses the same illustrator for all the chapter books, Gillian Flint, which gives the volumes a unified appearance. However, I like my cover and illustrations best because they capture Temple’s affection for the animals she studies. I knew right away that young readers would gravitate toward a cover that had her petting a cow. As far as input, I had a chance to look at the illustrations ahead of time and point out places that might be inaccurate or confusing, and several illustrations were tweaked to make them clearer.

El Space: Will you do more projects like this? Why or why not?
Lyn: I love the She Persisted series! It’s accessible, and the women featured have accomplished so much against the odds. Their refusal to give up unites them across time, place, culture, language, and area of accomplishment. Right now, when girls and women face the curtailment of their rights and opportunities in the United States, they can look toward these women as role models who encountered similar obstacles and endured many defeats before achieving their goals. The series has been renewed for at least another two years, and I’ve proposed a biography on a sports star who fled a totalitarian regime when her outspokenness led the government to restrict her participation in her chosen sport.


In addition, I have a forthcoming collective biography of 15 contemporary women directors, co-authored with Tanisia “Tee” Moore, coming out at the beginning of September 2022, titled Film Makers, part of the Women of Power series from Chicago Review Press, it’s for readers aged 10 and up. Like the She Persisted series, it focuses on women from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

El Space: What will you work on next?
Lyn: I’ve been working on several nonfiction projects related to the history of unions in the United States and around the world. In addition, I’m a translator of children’s books from Portuguese and Spanish to English, mainly Portuguese because there are fewer other translators from that language and a lot of great books published in Portugal and Brazil. I just picked up a translation for my first graphic novel, and I’m really excited about it because I love the story. More details to be announced soon. I’m also trying to finish a YA historical novel in verse set in Portugal, but right now it seems like I’m moving backwards because I took out one character in a love triangle, which means my plot has to be something else besides a love triangle. Writing is hard!

Thank you as always, Lyn, for being my guest!

Searching for Lyn? You can find her at her website and Twitter. Moonwalking can be found here:

Barnes and Noble

I’m giving away a copy of She Persisted: Temple Grandin. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winner to be announced next week sometime.

Book cover and author photo courtesy of Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Other covers from Goodreads. Movie poster found somewhere on the internet. Illustration photo taken by L Marie from her copy of the book.

Just Coasting Along

This kind of goes with what I last posted.

Back in the 90s, I took up inline skating because I thought it looked cool. One day, I up and decided to take a class and—voilà —I learned to skate and loved it!

I really needed these pads though.

I also learned to write a screenplay, because I wanted to learn.

In 2010, I decided to return to a graduate program, having quit one (journalism) many years before that. This time, I switched to writing for children and young adults (fiction/nonfiction) and finished the program two years later.

My hood

In 2018, I wanted more of a career challenge. So, I took on the challenge of developmental editing. Didn’t take a class. I learned by being thrown into the deep end through a freelance assignement given to me by a publisher to work with an author on a manuscript for eight months.

In 2019, I . . .

In 2020, I . . .

In 2021, I . . .

You might wonder how I would finish those statements. I was trying to think of a way to say, “I rested on my laurels” in a way that didn’t make me look like the poster child for the subject of a sermon I recently listened to—complacency. Before you run for the door, thinking I plan to tell you point by point what I heard, I brought that up because of the subject matter (complacency, if that previous sentence was too convoluted). And yes, I know we were in the mniddle of a pandemic. But I had a computer and a wifi connection. What was to stop me from learning anything?

Not that you need this, but let me give you the definition of complacency given in that sermon:

Complacency is a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

I can finally admit that I have been complacent about where I am and what I’ve learned so far. I didn’t think I needed to learn a new skill or improve an old one. Just telling you the state of things. Scold away if you want. But I want that to change. Maybe you feel that way too.

With that in mind, for my annual birthday giveaway—if you are a regular follower of this blog, perhaps you thought I forgot all about that this year—I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card (or whatever equivalent it has in the UK). Why? To stir you to learn something new or make some other change. That’s only if you want to. No judgment here. Maybe life is A-OK for you. If so, great!

Maybe you want to use it to buy a craft book (writing, gardening, needlecraft, art—whatever). Or maybe, because you’re stressed and want to change that, maybe you want to buy spa items or something else to help you relax. Maybe you’ll buy art pencils (which aren’t cheap) to start sketching again. Twenty-five dollars may not be a king’s ransom. But if it helps inspire you to take the next step to where you want to be, I’d call that money well spent. Winner to be announced sometime next week, hopefully. (I had a deadline last week, so I didn’t post.)

Photos by L. Marie.