The Nightingale Bones is Out!!


I am so excited to announce that my first novel The Nightingale Bones, a mystery that takes places in the hills of western, Massachusetts, is finally out!! It is available from Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble and all other major platforms, including order from your LOCAL BOOKSTORE. If you like ghost stories, love stories, or just a good red herring or two, check it out.
                                                                   The Nightingale Bones 3

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Ariel Swan

Balancing the Masculine and the Feminine

Last night my husband and I watched a number of B rate thrillers and then Before Sunrise, that film with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, where boy meets girl on a train to Vienna and they spend a single night together. I thought it was a nice balance between masculine and feminine entertainment. And this is my theme for the new year: balance.

As you may know, this film was followed by Before Sunset, when they meet again a decade later, and most recently Before Midnight, when they are married and dealing with life in their 40s. I haven’t seen the last, but I want to. I have only seen Before Sunset once, and this was perhaps the third time for Before Sunrise. It left me feeling good.

As a woman in my mid-thirties, without children, with creative ambitions, somewhat stalled, mired in desire, self-doubt, and a hunger for change I am afraid to commit to, it is comforting for me to look back at those times. It makes me remember that always the future is before us every moment, no matter how fleeting is important to appreciate.  I was struck how Delpy’s character was so open and honest with her feminine mind, both wanting to be strong and independent and at the same unafraid to show affection and ask to be kissed. She admits she will wonder who else he is sleeping with once they part, if she has sex with him, and says no, and then says yes, and then no, and then yes again. She asks, why do I have to make everything so complicated? He says, I don’t know and then kisses her. She is kind to herself and to him. She is warm. She is unsure and doesn’t worry about saying so, but she doesn’t dwell. These are all traits I wish for in myself. Now I look at the Hawke character and think he too is a bit ideal. He listens, he talks openly, he honest, he is patient, even while he is a little self-centered, a little arrogant, and a little insecure. They talk of how men and women are. They appreciate who each other is, because of course, they are only getting started. They discuss the way couples become tired of each other when that first night, that first month, that first year has turned into a drudgery of time. They understand their single night is a time out of time and yet they wish for more, but then walk away.

As the new year approaches, many are thinking of love and relationships. So, for me and for everyone, I wish for us to find that balance between the desired ideal, to embrace the traits we wish we could be to make ourselves and others feel free and pure and good, and to accept those traits that make us human, flawed and difficult, letting them be and letting them go. Because no matter where you are in your relationship cycle, the future is before you, and right now is the moment to make what you want it to be.

Day 105 – Dirty Old Men

I love this poem. It is so great when I find circulating out there thoughts and ideas that resonate with my own. Poetry is bliss.

The 365 Poetry Project

These celebrated dead men I find repulsive-
philanderers, drunks with silver-smooth tongues-
who kept a bit of the wrong spark, it seems to me.
Where rebel-young women pity horny old men
at the bottoms of bottles and bottles,
there is more indignance here- at this hunger
for the raw types of knowledge, the unsatiated lust
for bluebird flesh, so rare,
which neither can give to satisfaction.
Such temporary crossings in mismatched hells,
feeding and sucking deeper down into the end,
until just hardened, pristine eggs are left
for the dried-out addict corpses to tap,
consoled to costar in their making.

But which of these is to blame for the dragging:
the tormented easy-exit slaves
the ones who should’ve known?

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Introduction, Books, and Getting the Tree

This is my first Word Press Blog Post, newly escaped from Blogger. I have followed a bunch of new folks and will be visiting as many blogs as I can. If you are stopping by, please look around, and consider Following. I am a writer with slightly paranormal leanings. A little light magic, a real world witch or two, a clairvoyant and certainly a ghost here and there.

So, I have a question for you. Do you buy books mostly or are you a library patron? When I was small, and we were poor, my mother used to bring me to the library on a weekly basis. I remember taking the bus in the winter afternoons when it was already getting dark, just like it is now in Massachusetts. I remember being able to get an arm load of books, as many as I could carry. My mother is a reader and I have told my students time and time again that one of the best things she ever did for me was to bring me to that library. So, I have always been a library patron and just like when I was little, I am accustomed to leaving with an arm load of books. I read like a literary agent, the books scattered in every room. I pick one up and if I keep turning the pages, I keep reading. If I don’t I let it go. Well, actually, this is how I was doing things. This summer, I read Anna Karenina, and I had an old copy that fell to pieces and then I took one home from school. It took me a long time to get through it and after that, strangely, I started to feel rushed by the library. If there was more than one book I wanted to read from the pile I brought home, it was an issue to have to keep renewing it. I found that I returned books just to get them off my list of things to do. Also, I received a gift certificate to my local bookstore from a generous family member last year that had me buying books for months. Now, I would rather buy them. Which is of course much better karma for me as a writer, because buying books is what keeps novelists fed. Right?

I have been reading Donna Tartt’s not most recent book The Little Friend. I loved The Secret History and would actually like to read it again. The Secret History was about college students in an elite group of eccentric Classics study and whose extracurricular activities lead to murder. It was mysterious and intelligent and I loved its 90s flavor. So far The Little Friend is also intelligent and beautifully written with a mystery slowly emerging around the death of the narrator’s brother 12 years before. She has recently released another book, The Goldfinch, which I will certainly pick up soon. I just love her author photo too.

Somehow it inspires me and makes me feel writerly. Strange?

I am also reading Catch 22 with a group of fellow teachers at school. Never am I reading one book.

In other news, keep your eyes open for some guest bloggers who also write paranormal and scifi works, all represented by my lovely agent Victoria Lee of the Aponte Literary Agency.

What are you reading? Are you looking forward to the holidays? My husband is putting up the tree right now. It is dark and cold in New England these days, time to bring in the evergreen and adorn it with light to remind us that soon the sun will begin its return.

Thanks for reading.

And remember follow me at

Muse 2012

What I learned today at this year’s Muse and the Marketplace Writing Conference put on by Grub Street Writers in Boston:

1. Grub Street really does a great job in helping writers write and understand the market. I am consistently impressed, every year, with how much thought and care is put into the line up. The conference is big and it is grand. I highly recommend it.

2. Agents and editors are people too. I knew this already of course, but this year I signed up to eat lunch at a table with two agents, an author, and an editor. I thought it might be awkward, but all were warm and friendly. It was perhaps the most comfortable and chatty lunch I have ever had at the Muse. Rotating seats was a great idea too, as the four writers who were at the table to network got to talk to different people. I really think the lunch was the best event of the day.

3. Agents differ in opinion on a lot of things. I was surprised to see two agents disagree on the etiquette of the “no response means no” rule that is more and more common these days. One thought it was down right rude, where as the other defended the need to allocate time where it was most useful. I also heard variances about whether a writer should offer a genre at all or comp titles in a query. It does put a writer in a category that might influence the agent’s expectations, but then again if the comp or genre is right on, it might help.

4. I learned that there are debut authors out there who have gone through the slush pile. They experienced the same ups and down I know many aspiring authors do. It was really encouraging to hear their success stories and to feel understood.

5. Authors are much less critical of writing than agents, perhaps understandably so. I attended two “Idol” sessions, where writers submit one page anonymously and it is read in front of a panel of “judges” (authors or agents respectively). They listen and when they feel they would stop reading, each one, individually, raises a hand, two or three and the reader is told to stop and the group explains their reasoning. This was very insightful. The authors were much more inclined to listen to the whole page and then offer positives and negatives, as if they were in a critique group. The agents found fault almost immediately. This give a lot of insight into their mind frame and their process.

6. Lastly, I learned, or remembered, how great it is to go to a conference with other writers and people in the industry. It is rejuvenating and gives me a chance to connect with people who love the same things that I love: books and writing. What a great experience going to a conference is. It is worth it to put your brave costume on and to walk up to an agent and introduce yourself. It is awesome to sit next to an author you admire and talk to them not only about their work, but your own.

I highly recommend that anyone who is writing a book go to a conference like The Muse and The Marketplace. It can add definition, purpose, and knowledge to your endeavor.

X-ed Off, Yikes!, and Zzzzzz

I admit it. I am pooped. This whole A-Z challenge started with great optimism and high hopes and the challenge certainly lived up to them. My own personal world, not so much. I had some let downs this month and some rough spots, but I am getting my ducks back in a row. Although I am in a state of regrouping, tentatively tipping my toe in the torrent, it does not mean I can’t finish this thing. But I am going to cheat. Here goes:

X is for X that one off my list. Has anyone else who is querying come across this disclaimer on agency sites that the querant must acknowledge before submitting?

“Said Agency and/or any of its clients may have created, may create, or may otherwise have access to materials, ideas, and creative works which may be similar or identical to the Material with regard to theme, motif, plots, characters, formats, or other attributes; and (v) I shall not be entitled to any compensation because of the proposed use or use of any such similar or identical material that may be or may have been created by Said Agency and/or any of its clients…”

I know people still submit to these agencies, and perhaps it is totally kosher, but I shy away, even when there seem to be some awesome agents at “Said Agency.” Why do they include this? All the other disclaimers seem appropriate, but this just screams, “…in case we steal your story.” Which I certainly don’t think reputable agencies would do, but then why include this? What do you think a writer should make of this?

Y is for Yikes! I am going to a pretty big writing conference next weekend, The Muse and the Marketplace. I will probably blog about it. It is very exciting. The attendees get to hob knob with agents and well known writers. There are seminars and panels and talks and keynote speakers. You can meet with an agent for a manuscript consultation. You can eat lunch at an assigned table with editors, agents, and NYT Bestselling authors. It is awesome, but it is also really intimidating. This year my Muse friend is not attending. So, I am flying solo. I have made a plan to approach a few specific people and introduce myself, just to put a face (mine) to a name (my query). I am excited to meet one of my fav authors, Katherine Howe (check out her awesome website), and I am excited to learn about a whole lot of different writing related things. But YIKES! I have to psych myself up and put on my Brave Girl Costume. Do you attend any awesome writing conferences, or other special interest events?

Z is for ZZZZZ. Sleeping is so important and I haven’t been doing it well lately. In fact, I have noticed that many of my fellow bloggers and writers suffer from insomnia. Actually, a lot of my students do too. Why is this? Are we over stimulated with electronics? Is the modern world too fast paced? Are we stressed with information overload. I know too much and therefore I worry all the time. Are you a good sleeper?

So there you go. I did it. I made it through, with a little cheating. It was so great to meet all of you knew and interesting bloggers. Thanks for stopping by and visit again soon.

The Lucky 7 meme

I’ve been tagged by the awesome tfwalsh for The Lucky 7 meme. It is a fun little thing where you get to post 7 lines of your WIP. Just a nice tantalizing little tease. So don’t forget to leave a comment on my seven lines of DISTILLATION, which is having a good run with some agents right now (*visualize me praying it comes to a great end – I need the luck right now, I think*) After that, stop by some of the blogs below and don’t forget awesome tfwalsh, who I thank for tagging me in her meme.

A 7 line excerpt from my paranormal women’s fiction DISTILLATION:

“Why would anyone bury a child in their cellar?” I cried. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yes. It does to the old world mind, Alice.” Lydia crossed her arms. “There is an archaic belief that burying a still born child in the hearth will bring good luck to future births.”
I dropped my head into my hands. It was hard to focus. “But I heard it crying.” I sniffled, swatting at my wet eyes with a sleeve, trying to steady myself. “It lived.”
Lydia, who was gazing now out into the night, snapped her head around to look at me. “You heard it?”
I guess that’s a good place to hop in to the story. It is refering to the discovery of the bones, which is my hook.

Now for the basic rules of this meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

So, now I have to tag seven more people. And here they are:
Jayne at  A Novice Novelist
Brenda Drake Writes
Handling My Dream
Inner Owlet
Kate MacNicol’s Blog
JuneBug at My Blog
So there it is. Sorry if I surpised anyone. I am trying to get better at being less of a lurker. LOL.

What sets your novel apart?

Having recently a conference, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how a novel needs to stand apart from others in its genre. It is really unsettling, when you read a book and realize that it has such similar elements to something you have been slaving over for a few years and showing to only your writing group. But that’s how it goes. Ideas tend to trend, or so it seems.

So, I made a list of some books I’ve read in the past years or two that had something that set them apart, in hopes that I will find something in my novel that is not in theirs and be surprised I do have something, or perhaps brainstorm some ideas, not like theirs, from see what others have done.

Not in order of reading or release – all somewhat in my genre – some closer than others:

      • Her Fearful Symmetry – Audry Niffenegger – told from the ghost’s perspectiveHorns – Joe Hill – the devil is the hero – a familiar character in a new way
      • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters – the end has a twist – don’t want to give it away
      • The Lace Reader – Brunonia Barry – the end also has a twist – a psychological one – similar, but different that The Little Stranger – in both – what you think is happening all along is not what is happening. I think it is masterful when an author can trick the reader.
      • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane – Katherine Howe – historical narrative interlaced with a contemporary story
      • The Dead Path – Stephen M. Irwin – a fairy tale witch in a thriller style narrative
      • The Tooth Fairy – Graham Joyce – uses a familiar character in a completely new way

    That’s only some – I know there are more – and I would love to hear about books you have read that have something that sets them apart. WIP.

    It is daunting and intimidating to set out to think of something new and original. Isn’t it true that there is nothing new under the sun. I think those authors who have snatched up surprise should be applauded. A MS one has started at for too long, looks like old socks after a while, and I know that is why distance is important. But sometimes, if you look again, you just might find there is something unexpected in there. If not, you too might consider what isn’t out there and how you can bridge the gap.

Wannabe Me – An Aspiring Writer’s Reality

Today I thought I would show you some of myself. I am a writer, and I thought it might be nice to see some of what The Writer’s Life looks like over here. All of you of course have your own Writer’s Realities – and all of us are unique.I love seeing the process, the place, and the personality of fellow writers – published and unpublished. I find myself looking in the backgrounds of pictures to see what kind of counter top or wall paper someone has. I just like those things. I also love to see their yards and their pets. Am I weird? Well, yes.

So here I am:

Not a great picture – but – it is me. Ariel Swan writer of supernatural women’s fiction.
This is my wannabe writer’s reality.

This is my office – the table where I do planning and school work. I am home on vacation from the day job – teaching eleventh graders English literature and writing. I love to read and write and that is what I do in my free time. 16 year olds on the other hand – not so much. I wish I had a classroom full of students like me. You can see in the picture some grading I need to do – today.

I am an obsessive planner. (As a teacher and a writer.) I love organizing and putting things is order. Told you I was weird.

 I have started using art paper – long 12x 18 art paper – to look at my plot – as I am revising – and to lay out genealogies – which is a layer that has been added to my WIP – well not really added – it was part of the original idea – but something I chose not to do in the first draft. Now that I am revamping – adding oomph and more story to support my premises – I have added it back in. The trick is not to make it too complicated – but to use the family tree in points of interest only.

I am an avid reader of everything.
These are some of the books I have on my working bookshelf. Some of them I just reference for inspiration – others I look at to chart plot pacing that has worked. To Ride A Silver Broomstick one I use for witch knowledge – spells and herbs and such – which figures into DISTILLATION. There is also the Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions. And of course a regular dictionary which I use all the time. Somewhere in there is a Writer’s Market too – but now I use Query Tracker which is much easier as it is up to date and cross reference-able.

Although you can’t see me I am sitting at this desk right now. Spooky.                                                               My writing desk is a mess and every time that phone rings it scares the bejesus out of me- especially when I am writing a scary scene. Up to the right is an antique unframed mirror I found in an old garage when I worked for a General Contractor doing the books. I love antiquy things – especially old Dags and such. These also figure into DISTILLATION.
You can also see to the left the pile of my print outs – that is all novel stuff. Spread out it looks more like this:

All right – I cheated – I pulled out the files and the print drafts too. It is a lot. As I’ve said I’ve worked – hard – to make this story what it is. Maybe too hard. And now I am re-writing – which is different than revising. Some say I should put it away. But I mostly write in the summer – so I do get some distance. After this rewrite – and an edit – I will stop and move on. I am stubborn – what can I say. I want to get it RIGHT.
One last thing to see. I said I like seeing pets – so here is one of mine. My baby – Simone. Tortie Point Siamese and Princess Extraordinaire. I also have chickens.

So, that’s my Writer’s Reality. What makes up your Writer’s Reality?