Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Overview of Whisper My Name and the Aspen Gold Series

Her story is ripped from the headlines....

Read the series: Whisper My Name: Aspen Gold Series by Cheryl St John @_cherylstjohn_ @Gold_Aspen #RLFblog #sweet #ContemporaryRomance


Laurel Whitaker has spent her entire life burying her infamous past and becoming a normal person.

Joe Cavanaugh suspects she’s in trouble. His job demands honesty, and it’s his nature is to protect.

Will Laurel’s truth be her undoing…or his?

Whisper My Name in the Aspen Gold Series

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book heat level (based on movie ratings): G

She was the girl behind the headlines

Laurel Whitaker has been her name for fifteen years. Anyone hearing her true identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Spencer, Colorado is a great place to blend in among the tourists. But unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Sheriff Joe Cavanaugh looks out for people—his large loving family, his teenage daughter, anyone in his county who needs him. But the mistrustful young woman staying in the lake house beside his property goes out of her way to avoid his help, and that’s suspicious. Instinct tells him she’s hiding something…and attraction motivates him to uncover her secrets.

Facts:

Whisper My Name is book #13 in the Aspen Gold Series.

This is my second in this multi-author series, and I have at least five more stories plotted. I’m sure many more ideas will come to me. I’m enjoying the freedom of writing what I love. There are thirteen books so far, including those of my co-authors.

My characters in the series

I’ve written the stories of two Cavanaugh brothers so far: Dusty Cavanaugh and Kendra Price, as well as Joe Cavanaugh and Laurel Whitaker. My current work in progress is about Deputy Jericho Tanner and the woman he still loves. Audrey Knox left Spencer and made it big as a pop-country singer, but she returns in hopes of giving her daughter a normal childhood.

The overall theme of the series

Spencer, Colorado is a thriving tourist town, its main draw an exclusive high-security hotel where celebrities and well-known personalities can vacation in seclusion.

Please list the series titles below, in any order you prefer.

ASPEN GOLD BOOKS AVAILABLE
Dancing in the Dark – Cheryl St John
Call Me Mandy – Debra Hines
Ryder’s Heart – Lizzie Starr
For Keeps – Barbara Gwen &Lizzie Starr
Second Chances – Donna Kaye
Sleepin’ Alone – Bernadette Jones
Stay a Little Longer – Bernadette Jones
Speechless – Lizzie Starr
Close to the Heart – Debra Hines
Finding Hope – Donna Kaye
Fortunate Cookie – Lizzie Starr
Lonely Eyes – Bernadette Jones
Whisper My Name – Cheryl St John

I was under contract with a major publisher for 25 years. Writing the Aspen Gold Series has given me the freedom to write the characters and storylines with complete freedom and with all the energy I have for the stories.

Other recent books not in this series

My other most recent releases are American westerns, Tanner (Bachelors and Babies series) and Joe’s Wife.

Links to find all my books

Amazon Author Page: https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8


Where to buy Whisper My Name

Publisher Aspen Gold Books
Universal Buy Link https://books2read.com/u/brWz97
Amazon https://amzn.to/3hl5a5g


Cheryl St John Social Media

Cheryl is the author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9 star rating on amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.


Website http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
Blog https://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/
Twitter https://twitter.com/_CherylStJohn_
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CherylStJ
Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/cheryl_stjohn/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/cherylstjohn
BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/profile/cheryl-st-john
Amazon Author Page https://tinyurl.com/y6js92y8
Get to know the Aspen Gold authors better by signing up for an email newsletter https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k8k2i8

Monday, October 12, 2020

Were Your 2020 Goals a Bust? It's Never Too Late

It’s October already! It's time for apple cider and pumpkin-spice everything, to be immediately followed by Thanksgiving--and I expect there are already Christmas trees in the stores. Many of us will be glad to say adios to 2020 and move on. It's been a year we wish we could forget, but we had to live it to the best of our abilities and keep going.

I wrote and published two books this year, though I'd wanted to complete three. I'm not kicking myself however. I've given myself permission to take self-care days when I need them. 

During the year I often encourage followers to check back over their goal lists and see if they’re where they want to be. A lot of times when the excitement has drained from our writing or when we’re bored with the tedium of work and responsibilities, it’s because we’ve forgotten our dreams--or we've allowed other things to gain more importance. The distractions that monopolize our time aren't necessarily bad things; plenty of them are perfectly justified or necessary, rewarding even.

Of course there are mortgages to pay and kids to raise and groceries to buy and dinners to prepare, but tucking away our aspirations at the expense of our personal well-being isn’t healthy. Eventually we resent the things that are robbing us of personal fulfilment, instead of enjoying each facet for the richness it brings. Certainly there is joy to be found in the treasure of children in the dream of your own home and, but sometimes we pause in the midst of all that busyness to wonder, “Is this all there is?” There has to be more, and we yearn to find fulfillment within ourselves. That’s most often the time to reprioritize our busy schedules.

Often, sacrifices must be made to accomplish the things most important to us. It's up to you to identify what those sacrifices are and decide whether or not your goals are worth them.

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Look at the goals you set for this year. If you were in a slump, it's okay. Put it behind you. It’s not too late to get started on something new. Take time now to make a list.

Sit down and write five things that you dream of doing. Divide them into categories if you like: Family, Professional, Writing, Spiritual or Just for Me. Now select one that you will work on before the end of the year.

Make another list of the steps you will take to see that accomplishment come to pass. Now take those steps. Recapture your joy. We need to be participants in our lives, not spectators. We need to be passionate about our dreams. Sometimes simply revisiting our dreams is the kick we need to change our thinking and get us out of a rut.

Dream big and dream often.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C.S. Lewis



“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King

Friday, October 09, 2020

I love an angsty story!


I grew up watching the old television westerns, so those good-vs-evil and the-good-guy-wins stories appealed to me early on. I read extensively as a young adult, devouring Louis L’Amour and many other genres. The first two romances I read were by Lisa Gregory and LaVyrle Spencer—westerns with true romance! I was hooked.

 
When I really dug in and got serious about writing, I think my biggest hang-up was not thinking anyone would take me seriously. Who was I? I had a husband and four kids and wrote when they all went to bed at night. I had never taken a writing class, but I had read every out-of-date writing book in the public library. It was an immense joy to find the courage to join a group of writers and discover they were all people just like me, from all walks of life, and with a dream we shared.
 
I wrote Americana and westerns for Harlequin Historical for years, branching out into contemporaries for diversity and fun. After 25 years under contract, I gave myself a year-and-a-half hiatus. I promised myself from then on out I would only write stories I loved to write without the stress of contractual deadlines. I still write sweet westerns and contemporaries, and have most recently focused on the multi-author series Aspen Gold with my critique group. We’ve had great fun and have many more books planned.
 

I love an angsty story! The more angst and emotion, the better. If I don’t know how I will resolve the story people’s issues, then I know I’m on the right track—though I will want to pull my hair out at some point when all looks hopeless. I always figure it out.

 
My favorite thing is the ability to write books around the rest of my life without a daily 8-to-5 schedule. I’m able to have a full, busy life with family, friends and church and still write stories. If I want to go to lunch with a friend or take a day trip with my husband, I simply make up my pages on another day. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m pushing toward a book release, I write all day, every day—but that’s my choice and it’s rewarding.
 
It’s a joy to see an idea I came up with fleshed out, brought to life, sent out into the world and enjoyed by so many readers. I love hearing that what I’ve created brought pleasure to a reader, especially if the theme or the strength of a character spoke to them in a meaningful way. My stories are always about redemption and second chances, because that’s the cycle of life.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Listen to playlist that inspired me as I wrote Whisper My Name


Want to hear the music that inspired me as I wrote my new book that releases tomorrow? Here's a LINK to the amazon music playlist for WHISPER MY NAME!



Saturday, October 03, 2020

TEASER: TUESDAY IS RELEASE DAY!

WHISPER MY NAME

 The shredded paper burned quickly, the heat reaching them, and then the sticks caught fire, snapping and cracking pleasantly.

She watched, admiring how easy he made everything look. “The paper starts the sticks burning, and the sticks start the logs burning.”

“Exactly. Once the fire’s going well, you want to keep the screen in front of it, so sparks don’t fly out into the room.” He set the black screen in place.

At least she had an excuse for the warmth in her cheeks now. “That’s nice. Thanks for showing me.”

“You’re a quick learner.”

Now, with him looking at her and both of them kneeling before the fire, their nearness seemed awkwardly intimate. But what did she know? She felt awkward about everything, and yet this was the best awkwardness she’d ever experienced. He wasn’t looming over her or threatening in any way. He was one of the kindest, gentlest people she’d ever met, though she knew he was tough and aggressive at his job. That juxtaposition of strength and peace struck a chord and peeled away a papery layer of her fear and distrust.

She looked into his eyes. What did he think of her? The blaze now gave off enough light to highlight his features, the deep bow of his upper lip…the disquieting fullness of the lower one. He terrified her—or her reaction to him terrified her; in either case, her legs trembled, and she shifted her weight to rest with a hip solidly beneath her.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“Do you really want to know?”

“Yes.

“I was thinking you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. Strong, but feminine. Smart.” His gaze took in her hair, her eyes, her mouth. “And now your question made me realize that you don’t play games.”

“Games?”

“You don’t flirt. You look directly at a person. You hold a lot inside, but what you do say is out there. No games.”

“Not the sort of woman you’re used to, I guess.”

“You’re like no one I’ve ever known, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.”

She raised her eyebrows. “It is?”

“It is. What were you thinking?”

She rubbed her thumbnail against her jeans. “I was…I was wondering what you were thinking about me. And now I know. Possibly.”

“What were you thinking about me?” he asked.

His steady gaze called her out, so she turned and looked at the fire. “I was remembering the night we were locked in at the Herald.”

He didn’t press her for more, but adjusted his weight to a sitting position.

“You really think I’m beautiful?”

“I thought it from the first time I saw you.”

“Joe.”

“Yeah.”

A question was burning in her, the issue hotter than the fire. Her heart pounded, and she couldn’t believe she was going to say the words, but she couldn’t not. “Am I someone you would kiss?”

She made herself look at him to gauge his reaction.

His eyes seemed to darken even more, and the firelight reflected in their depths. “Seems like you’re fast becoming the only someone I want to kiss.” 


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Friday, October 02, 2020

TAKE A BITE OUT OF SELF-DOUBT

Writers: Do you have what it takes? What does it take?


Along our writing journeys, it’s not uncommon for writers to struggle with confidence. One of the things we can do to build confidence is to recognize and overcome self-defeating behaviors, like negative self-talk. Negative thinking can be detrimental to our performance, make us doubt ourselves and inhibit our creativity.

We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once our talent is validated by other writers and readers, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and to have a desire to learn and grow, but doubt can hold us back. We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy.

Being unprepared can leave us feeling inadequate, so reading, attending workshops and staying informed on the craft of writing and the market is another way to help us feel prepared. When positive thinking is paired with common sense, we can stay open to possibilities.

Confidence can be built by setting and achieving goals, so it’s pretty important how we choose to set goals and measure them. Short-term and long-terms goals should be realistic and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal like, “I will be published by this time next year.” Unless you’re independently publishing, a goal like that is out of your control, and the result will leave you feeling helpless or like a failure. Set goals with smaller steps. A long-term goal might be to produce a polished product for submission with the next ten months. Then set short-term goals to make it happen: Two new pages a day or two hours of writing a day for example. Perhaps take an online class or find a critique partner.

"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." – William Shakespeare

Most of us were raised in a competitive and comparative environment, where our achievements were profiled and graphed into percentiles; where we were matched up against our peers as a gauge to see how we were doing. It’s no wonder so many of us have self-esteem issues and doubts about our abilities. Thank goodness teachers, counselors and parents have learned to work in teams to choose learning methods suitable for children of all capabilities. Students are treated as individuals and encouraged to learn at their own speed and in the manner best suited for them.

Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes a project crashes and burns. Sometimes we have to do something wrong before we figure out how to do it right. And that’s okay—as long as we’re moving forward.

You have to be willing to make mistakes.

I know writers who never get started because they’re always planning, plotting and talking about the book instead of putting words on pages. Know anyone like that? There are writing students (not actually writers yet) who read every book on the craft and attend all the workshops and conferences and ask questions and take notes and plan, plan, plan.

It’s a good thing to be teachable and eager to learn, but you can’t learn to write until you put words on paper. The people who don’t get that far want everything to be perfect before it gets on the page – or they want it to come out perfect on the first try, so they wait until they’re good enough. Guess what? Ain‘t gonna happen.

You have to be willing to make mistakes. You have to be willing to write badly in order to learn to write well. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”
                                         - Peter T. Mcintyre

I’ve been a worship leader for quite a few years, and I always say to my team of singers, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it with confidence, and no one will know you didn’t intend it that way.” I have been known to sing the wrong notes or words, but I sing them with such authority that everyone follows along. Confidence grows with practice and with maturity.

I wrote a how-to-write book. It was a pretty big deal. Who was I to write a book that would be marketed beside admired and credible instructors? It was a lofty goal to write an instructional book, but I’d been leading workshops and teaching online classes for years, and I had a lot of encouragement from other writers, which built my confidence in my ability. I always ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Writing this type of book was something I’d thought about for a long time. It was as big of a step as writing or submitting my first book. My long term goal was to submit it for publication. My short term goals involved gathering my notes and thoughts, preparing the manuscript and getting feedback.

Imagine my delight when the publisher I had dreamed of made an offer. The process was so different from my other publishing experiences that it was a stretch. The editor of Writing With Emotion, Tension and Conflict told me I should be proud of this project. And I am. I did something I had only dreamed of doing.

I have high hopes for the future generations of students and young adults receiving recognition for intrinsic value. We should all know that our value lies inside of us, not in our performance.

Some things just can’t be measured. What makes one book better than the next or one writer better than another? Only perspective. Only the reader, when you get right down to it. Because story-telling can be so subjective, I might enjoy a book you can’t finish, and a story I think is drivel could land on your keeper shelf.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. Another writer can read your work and assure you it’s good, but that’s not a guarantee. There are no guarantees when you start writing, and that can get frustrating.

As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future.

 Take a man with a desire to run a hundred meter race. He buys a pair of Nikes, goes out and gives running a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? He didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that—and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, by stretching to limber up and then running.

Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he’s confident that he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace—bottom line in this business. The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride. Then share it and get feedback from people you trust.

So how can you grow your confidence?
Confidence is gained by successfully completing a task and recognizing the accomplishment—repeatedly. By acknowledging a success, your brain processes, "I can do this again."

We can’t nurture confidence if we don’t recognize or even appreciate what we’ve done.

Don’t ever demean an accomplishment by saying or thinking, “I was just lucky" or "Anyone could have done it."

Don’t look at a project as too large. Break it down into steps and accomplish them one at a time. If it’s helpful, record your page/time goals and accomplishments in your planner. Check them off as you reach and overtake each one. It’s like that joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”
One bite at a time.

Celebrate each success along the way.

Have a chapter one achievement award party or treat yourself to something special for milestones reached. Give yourself fun stickers or hearts on your calendar—something visual to note progress.

Learn from your mistakes. This might sound simple, but if one method didn’t work, try a different one. You can’t expect a different result from the same behavior.


“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holtz

 Confidence is conditioned behavior.

Many years ago a study was done at the University of Wisconsin. A scientist tied a mouse’s front feet together and placed the animal into the cage of another mouse. The mouse whose cage was being trespassed easily beat up the mouse with its feet tied.

After that happened several times, the scientist put mice without tied feet into the cage. The mouse who’d won repeatedly was so confident by then that it took on and defeated mice even larger than itself. Under ordinary circumstances, that mouse would have run when it saw a larger opponent, but it had been conditioned until it believed it couldn't lose. And it didn't.

Condition yourself.
Congratulate yourself.
Celebrate your successes.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  - Eleanor Roosevelt

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

"If you want confidence, act as if you already have  - William James


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Teaser: Whisper My Name

 


“I’m Sheriff Cavanaugh. Joe. I was on my way home and noticed the lights down here. The janitor was just leaving, and I asked him to hold the door so I could check out the place.” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “I’m not suggesting you have to leave, but the storm is picking up out there.”

“There’s a storm?” She glanced up at the windows, and indeed flashes of lightning brightened the blackness. “I didn’t realize…I didn’t even know how late it was.” She gestured to the files open on the desktop computer and her stack of notes. She’d been researching in the basement morgue of the newspaper for hours.  “I got lost in what I was doing.”

“You probably couldn’t hear the storm down here, could you?”

She shook her head. “No. I should be going.”

“Well, it was nice to meet you, Laurel. Spencer is a safe place, but if you’d like me to walk you to your car, I’d be—”

An ear-splitting crack and a bright flash of light cut him off. He turned toward the window, but she shrieked and backed up against the wall.

“It’s okay.” He held up his palm toward her. “Probably only a—”

The overhead lights flickered and went out, plunging them into darkness.

Laurel’s heart rate accelerated. “I have to get out of here.”

A loud hum sounded, followed by the creak of hinges and a solid snick as the door closed.

“Well, hell,” the sheriff said into the pitch black. The reconciled tone of his voice sent a shudder of apprehension along her spine.

‘Focus on the present, not the intimidating what-if possibilities.’ She was nowhere near step five of her therapy. The present was definitely intimidating. No amount of counting was going to settle her nerves at this point. “Wait. I have a key.”

She fumbled in her pocket and came up with the key the newspaper owner had given her. Groping the tabletop nearby, she found her phone, turned it on and used the light from the screen to make her way to the exit.

She stared at the door, ran her fingers over the surface. There was nowhere to insert a key. Frantic now, the key made a clink on the concrete floor as she yanked on the safety bar. She tried pushing it. The only portal out of this basement room was securely locked. She silently cursed wave after wave of internal trembling that took over her knees and made her hands quake. Flattening her palms on the cold steel, she gripped it in an attempt to steady the quakes.

“We’re locked in.”

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Saturday, August 01, 2020

NaNoWriMo is Only the Beginning



I can’t even imagine how many thousands of submissions editors get every year, many of them immediately after NanoWriMo has ended and enthusiastic beginners have a manuscript. Big mistake.

A lot of editorial submissions are from regulars—the publisher’s in-house stable. Some are from writers who’ve been trying for years to break into the market. And many are from hopeful first-timers. If it was you deciding which books to buy based on marketability and the amount of work required to prepare them for publication, how do you think you would select which ones to buy? Uh huh. The sure things.

Once you’ve given your story a foundation, developed your characters and written all those brilliant words, that’s when the real work begins.

Grammar and spelling are important, and most can be done with spell and grammar check, but not all. I’ve seen a lot of careless things slip by. If you want an editor to take you seriously and select your book from the mountain of others, you’d better make it shine.

Cut extra words. Take a break from your book and then come back with a fresh eye. Ask yourself if each scene moves the story forward and ties in to your theme. Remember that nothing is sacred if cutting it makes the book tighter and more well-written. The publisher’s word count in their guidelines is firm.

Some words simply need to go because they’re overused and unnecessary. Check for these: just - about - all - almost - always - anxiously - eagerly - every - finally - frequently - got - merely - nearly - need - never - not - often - only - so - that - then - very. You don’t need them.

Make sure your dialogue adds to character development, moves the plot along and creates pleasing white spaces on each page. Don’t leave big paragraphs of text anywhere. Each character needs to sound unique. Use dialogue to replace narrative and explain events, but don’t have people telling something they would never say—or saying something both people already know--just to get the information into the story.

How many times have you heard that you must show and not tell? Do you really understand it? Watch those adverbs and replace with action: She watched nervously is better shown as Clara stared wide-eyed, her lower lip caught between her teeth.

He didn’t want to go in. Better: Sam studied the wood-paneled door, the knot in his belly growing.

Change passive writing to active. Look for would, was and beginning—rewrite to make your sentence structure active. Active writing is the person doing the action, not their hands or objects. You want the focus on your character. The knife was thrown by John is passive. John threw the knife is active. His hands slid along her cheek is passive construction. He caressed her cheek is active. Simply rearranging words changes the focus.

The door blew open from the wind focuses on the door, making the door the subject of the sentence. The wind howled beneath the eaves and battered the door until it slammed open and clattered against the wall places the focus on the wind’s action.

Be specific. Use active, descriptive nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. One well-chosen word is better than three wimpy ones. Draw a vivid picture with the words you use.

Adjectives like big, little, cold and hot are weaker than elephant-sized, miniscule, frigid and scorching.

Adverbs such as quickly, slowly, loudly, and softly can be replaced with action and pictures: She ran quicklyShe ran so fast her blue tennis shoes were a blur.

Walk, went and ate aren’t as vivid (okay, they’re boring) as compared to strolled, sauntered, gulped or picked at. If Joe gulps his food, you’ve shown that he’s in a hurry.

These techniques become a habit if you practice them. If you’ve replaced the word went fifty times, odds are you’ll think twice before writing it again – even if you’re writing fast. Don’t cripple yourself by thinking it all has to be perfect the way it spills from your brain onto the keyboard and screen. We’re talking about editing for the sake of polishing your Nano manuscript. The important thing is getting it written. You can fix it later.

We have a not-so-glamorous saying in my critique group. “Puke it out, clean it up later.” You can fix crap, but you can’t fix nothing. And it’s okay to write crap. Everybody writes crap sometimes. But the other important thing is to edit, polish and rewrite until it’s not crap anymore. This is why none of us will be sending out our July Nano manuscripts in August. Right?

Once your manuscript as good as you can make it by your own ability, have someone you trust read it for you. Be open to their ideas and suggestions. And when you think you’re ready for publication, hire a credible line-editor.

We aren’t writers; we’re re-writers.