Monday, January 25, 2016


When I decided to pursue my writing dream, I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting each morning, taking my hand, and guiding me to the computer. There, she would remain, offering words of encouragement until I produced my daily quota of words.

That was the fantasy.

The reality was very different.

I was unprepared for the tyranny of the blank page. While everything was in place—business cards, new computer, dreams of a runaway best-seller—my writing muscles refused to budge.

Hoping for inspiration, I researched the writing rituals of famous authors.

·         Alexander Dumas color coordinated his paper. He used blue paper for novels, yellow paper for poetry and rose-colored pages for nonfiction.

·         Mark Twain and Truman Capote write lying down.
  • Ernest Hemingway sharpened dozens of pencils before starting to write.
  • Willa Cather read the Bible before writing each day.
  • Before picking up his pen, John Donne liked to lie in an open coffin. (I wonder about this one!)
  • HonorĂ© de Balzac drank vast quantities of black coffee, ensuring that he could write all day and night.
  • Maya Angelou rose at 5 a.m., gathered her legal pads, a bottle of sherry, playing cards, a Bible, and Roget’s Thesaurus and checked into a hotel room (stripped of all stimuli from the walls). She would write 12 pages before leaving in the afternoon and edit the pages in the evening.
Eventually, I came up with my own ritual. Nothing too dramatic, but it works for me.

While having a leisurely breakfast is one of my retirement perks, I don’t linger over that second cup of coffee. If I choose to have more than one cup, I do so while checking email and social media. At nine-thirty, I start writing. My goal is 1000 words a day. At first, I used the oven timer to keep me on task, but that annoying sound reminded me of incessant school bells, so I invested in a bird clock. Each hour, one of my feathered friends, among them the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, and Great Horned Owl, chirp and remind me to pace myself.

Do you have a writing ritual? Please share in the comments.


Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.

When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.

As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.


Three thousand euros worth of pastries. Can you believe it?

When I agreed to import the pastries, I had no idea I would be subsidizing the failing Italian economy and helping Silvio Berlusconi stay in power for a few weeks longer. Left to my own devices, I would have gone down the street to Regency Bakery, picked up some pastries and just walked them over. But my mother and Aunt Amelia were adamant. The open house for my new career counseling office needed a proper launch, one that could only be achieved with pastries from a Sicilian bakery.

To be fair, both of them were horrified when they saw that final four-figure amount on the invoice and swore me to secrecy. While conspicuous consumption is valued in the Italian community, being taken for a ride is not, and we would never hear the end of it from Uncle Paolo who is still complaining about the ten cents he has to pay for a shopping bag at No Frills.

I watched my mother rearrange the amaretto cookies, stuffed figs, biscotti, and other delicacies that had arrived yesterday. She and Aunt Amelia had brought in their best silver trays and carts and spent hours—according to Uncle Paolo—creating a colorful Italian corner.

“Everything is perfect. Maybe too perfect.” My mother made the sign of the cross and mumbled a Hail Mary.


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In 2008, Joanne took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes paranormal romance, cozy mysteries, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne...


  1. Joanne, I love your ritual and reading about Mark Twain et al. Really interesting and motivating. Thank you for sharing, Maureen. Great post. Joanne is an author worth following! Best of luck to you both.

    1. Thanks Casi! I highly recommend your inspirational ABA (Authors Bare All) series and look forward to learning more about my fellow authors. :)

  2. Great post. Yes, I have my writing routine. The days I know I'm going to have a hard time settling into production (so to speak) are the mornings I focus on going through the routine "just right" like it was some magic sequence of when I had my coffee, or whether I did e-mail or Facebook first. I think a routine comes naturally for me by keeping my focus and know what scene I wanted to tweak or what I was going to have my characters do today. Once I start, it's just like a ball you push from the top of a big hill - it just keeps on rolling :)

    1. Hi Ashley, I agree that too much focus on being "right" can stifle creativity. Flexibility is key. Thanks for dropping by. :)

  3. I think I'm finally getting myself a schedule. Like you, I shoot for 1,000 new words unless I'm revising.

    1. Hi Angelina, Good to see you here! When I first started writing, I was in awe of authors (hares) who wrote 5K words or more each day. I'm more comfortable with my "tortoise" speed of 1K words per day. :)

  4. Great post, Joanne! I can't imagine laying in a coffin to gather inspiration, creepy :)
    I like to write at night after the house goes quiet, I guess it takes that long for my brain to kick into gear, lol

    1. Thanks Jacquie! I had trouble with the "coffin" inspiration as well. Like you, I also like peace and quiet which I have in the mornings. :)