writing, editing, grammar help


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January 2018

I have been blessed with a wonderful family, supportive friends, and a community of generous and companionable fellow writers. They enable me to do what I love: write.

In addition to writing, I love to dance. I was a ballet dancer in another life and I still am enthralled by the art. (The small snapshot is the cover of a series of stories I wrote on Smashwords.com  It's called "Prima Ballerina.")

 I am keen on traveling, especially to Europe. I've been to Italy, France (twice), Greece and the islands (twice), Ireland (twice)and London, England. 

I read everything I can get my hands on, including poetry, but I rarely write it. It's just not my forte. For fun and escape, I find mysteries and detective novels irresistible.

Currently, I've just finished a terrific book by Peter Gilboy: The American Pearl. Tension filled, plot twists, great characters. Highly recommended.

That's all for now. As my late husband used to say, Stay Tuned.

February 2018

I am constantly learning, not only from my family, friends, and clients, but  from fellow writers, who so generously share their expertise and talents with me. I'm struck by the goodwill apparent in the writers' group to which I belong, as well as the seminars and workshops I've attended. Not all the arts boast such benevolence. 

If you're wondering about that little photo, it's the cover of my lighthearted mystery, Suzy the Default Detective. It's available on Amazon/Kindle if you'd like to check it out.

A final thought until next month:

We write because we must, I think, because we need to put down on paper all these feelings and emotions and sorrows in order to understand ourselves better. At least for me, it makes my life real to see it in black and white.

March 2018

March is always the month I look forward to. Maybe because it heralds spring in my mind (though not really to be counted on here in Minnesota), and also because my birthday is in this month. Birthdays are just numbers, of course, but the flip of the calendar offers promise. I've been writing a lot this month and submitting to various publications. On that note, I am thrilled to announce that GlimmerTrain magazine has given me an Honorable Mention for a piece I submitted recently: The Irish Bury Their Dead. I am  planning to attend a workshop at the Rosemount library on March 24. I debated about attending another in St. Paul but decided on this one because of the manuscript critique offered. I think we all need to spif up our writing and get out and network with others. I've also joined two book clubs to enlarge the scope of my reading. Otherwise, I'm stuck in the mystery-thrillers genre and need more literary  works to stimulate my brain. Next month I'll give you a few book titles that I've found enlightening.

Until then ....

April 2018

I have added a new section, "Archives," where I will occasionally post some of my new and older work. Click on Portfolio and click again on that header. The latest piece is The Irish Bury Their Dead, which just won Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train literary magazine. The background image (Hope it's clear--I'm working on it!) is a cemetery with Celtic crosses near the River Shannon. It's at the ruins of Clanmacnoise, which I visited in Ireland in 2012. Let me know what you think!

May 2018

After a looong siege of snow (in April!), we are all looking forward to warm weather and flowers, if that's possible. I looked out my window one snowy day, when visibility was zero, and I thought of something my late husband would have said (in his best Dudley Do-Right voice) : Spring came early to Canada.

I am doing a lot of editing and submitting for my own and others' work. Such productivity! I am also reading (and re-reading) some Lawrence Block and John Sandford as I wait for new books. My book club is reading The Miniaturist for our May meeting. I had read it before and recommended it to our group, so I am gratified we will be discussing it.

Good writers are invariably big readers, I have found. Here's to Spring and lots of good reading for all.

June 2018

This photo is my grandma, Adelaide Pinirini Benda. I wrote about her kitchen and the house in Duluth in another piece in my Archives (accessible under Portfolio). She was a strong woman who journeyed here from Italy with two small children, meeting my grandfather, Carlo, in New York City. I can't imagine how she felt alone, with no English, but hopeful for a new life in America. I can only remember her bravery and write about her lovingly.

Well, spring has finally emerged, although we're heading to summer now, with warm days (some would say HOT), but it's the way I love it. "What is so rare as a day in June?" asked the poet (James Whitcomb Reilly). I'd like to bottle them up and save them for the winter that's sure to come. But not for a long time. This was a perfect time to read Wintering by James Geye. It's a trek through the Boundary Waters of Minnesota in the dead of winter. One of those stories best read when it's pleasant outside.

"Summer afternoon." Henry James's favorite phrase. And mine, too. Enjoy!

July 2018

It's been a busy month for me: three of my children's birthdays are in July, and, when my husband was alive, we celebrated our anniversary in between. I spent the 4th with my oldest daughter, Lisa, who currently lives with her husband Jeff in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The photo you see is of me on the iconic Blue Bridge in GR, the site of many wedding pictures.

I've done a lot of reading this month, with mixed reviews. Wintering by Peter Geye, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and my favorite, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. The first two lack real characterizations; the main characters are not fully drawn and very stereotypical. And the editing lacks  are prevalent -- too many switches in POV and timelines that confuse the reader.

August is fast approaching -- too soon, too soon. When they announce the Minnesota State Fair's dates, the summer is over for me. I'll try to savor each day until then. Until next month, Cheers!

August  2018

Summer is flying so fast, I'm really late adding to my blog. Birthdays, anniversaries, book clubs, Uber runs (that's me) and heat waves that try one's patience. State Fair coming up and daughter Lisa will visit (yay!) and, if we're lucky, niece Julie B (double yay!). Labor Day at Michael's this year, Ryan a freshman in High School! He's grown a foot, I'm sure since June. I'm submitting a number of pieces to various magazines and picking up on the sequel to Suzy. I call this one Suzy the Super Sleuth. I think she's one of my better characterizations. I re-read The Art Forger for my book club, and enjoyed it more the second time around. Likewise, The Nightingale. Both terriric books. If you get a chance, pick up The Last Bus to Wisdom by the late Ivan Doig. A great read. Highly recommend that one. Until (gulp) September, then. Enjoy. Time is a fragile, fleeting commodity.

September  2018

Summer fled, and I'm late adding to this blog. The image to the left is a butterfly who dropped by to say hello. Butterflies remind me of my father, who died many years ago in late August. On a happier note, had a wonderful visit from my daughter in Grand Rapids and my darling niece from Texas. Lisa and Julie are buds from 'way back, but of course, all the kiddos enjoy this cousin. The State Fair was big on their agenda, but not me. I don't do crowds. This month I've been editing the sequel to Suzy the Default Detective. The new book is called Suzy the Super Sleuth and I hope to have it ready for formatting by the first of October. As I was re-reading it, I found myself circling "so," which seems to be a favorite word of mine. It's good to use the "find" feature on Windows to identify these overused words and replace them with stronger ones. If you're a writer, I'll bet you have some faves, too. Check your manuscripts for them, along with "was" and qualifiers like "very." Replace them with stronger, more apt words. It's worth the effort for a tighter piece. I am writing this on September 11, 2018, seventeen years after the dastardly attack on the Twin Towers. It's a solemn day for remembrance. God bless America.

October  2018

Well, here we are heading toward Halloween. Since I am obsessed with blues, my creative daughter Angie made these blue velvet pumpkins for me since orange just doesn't cut it. The photo doesn't really do them justice, but you get the idea. (Yes, that's a little golden peacock in the left corner -- I'm also obsessed with peacocks lately). I have even added blue to my gray hair, with good effect! The days seem to have wings on them, and I read recently it often happens as we age. The newest memories help ground us so we can focus on today and hold it fast. Lots going on in my life, including my darling Madeline Mae's move to NYC to be with her beau who is studying Public Health Management at Columbia (his second Master). My oldest daughter has a new job and will have the Twin Cities as part of her territory. Yay! The weather is turning colder and Kitty Kat and I like to curl up by the (gas) fireplace to read and watch Netflix. Just watched Room, and Fracture; entirely different subject matter but good nonetheless. Finished Underground Railroad for my book club. Also good, but difficult to read -- about the runaway slaves in the antebellum South. As an antidote, I read the new Charles Todd book, A Forgotten Place. Highly recommended. Next month we'll celebrate daughter Connie's birthday and Thanksgiving. And then...Christmas!  Stay tuned.

November  2018

 That thumbnail features my charming middle daughter Connie, whose  birthday we celebrate on November 28. We were out shopping and daughter Lisa snapped that at a local diner. I hope this birthday is calmer than her birth night - that was a rainy night that turned to ice. Snow may be in the forecast, though. It's Minnesota after all.

I've been reading up a storm this month: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik, The Venetian Affair by Helen McInnes, and Anne Cleeves' Trial by Fire. Cleeves writes the Vera and the Shetland myteries on Netflix and Britbox, and I have to say those are better than her books. I can recommend highly only Hannah's book.

Christmas decorating will start soon at our house. I keep everything up until after New Year's when my children tell me, "Enough, Enough, Ma! We'll have three trees this year, which I'll post in December.  Stop by for gluten-free treats and strong coffee (and maybe some wine) if you're in the neighborhood.

Until then, don't let the grey skies get you down.  

To all of you,  Happy Thanksgiving.

December  2018

 Well, finally! Christmas is almost upon us. My favorite time of the year. Love all the glitter and bling and fancy decorations and the ways the stores look. All of it! This year, all my kiddos and grandchildren will be here, too, although Madeline Mae will squeak in on Christmas morning. A delight to have her any time. My tree is full of peacocks and beautiful blue and green decorations. We're approaching another year full of surprises. I pray for good health and good fortune for all of my family, and yours, too. That's what important, the being together and loving one another. 

A blessed Christmas to everyone, and a very happy New Year.

January  2019

 I'm late! I'm late! January and the New Year descended on me too fast. I'm breathless at how quickly it's moving along. If you lived where I do, you'd understand. The days are mainly grey and cloudy, and when the sun shines, you want to marvel at that gold orb in the sky.

January brings my youngest grandson's birthday, however, so that's always a cause for celebration. This year was his golden birthday -- he's 15 -- as the picture shows. What a wonderful kid he is, too! He and I often have good talks in the car as I Uber him to various events. (Look at me, pronominalizing that word "Uber."  An apology to all English majors.) I am keeping busy with the aforesaid trips as well as my writing. Just submitted a piece to Creative Nonfiction and am keeping my fingers crossed. I won't know for weeks and weeks, but you know what hope does: it springs eternal.

Until next month (short!), keep well and keep your spirits high.

I'll end with a favorite quote from Camus:

"In the midst of winter I discovered in me an invincible summer."

February  2019

Despite what Punxsatawney Phil says, we in Minnesota know there will be at least six more weeks of winter. Thankfully, we've gotten through the Polar Vortex and are past it. February is a good month as winter months go: Valentine's Day; only 28 days in the month; and most important of all, my eldest granddaughter's birthday. (That's Maggie in the small photo.) Lots of reasons to celebrate. As I look out my windows and drive here and there, I see that Minnesotans drive grey cars. You can't see the proper color for all the salt and slush that's splashed on them. Come spring, we'll all head to the car wash for the reveal!

Keep the faith and your boots handy, but know that within a few weeks we'll turn spring. It never matters to me if it's snowing in April. I know it will melt. In the words of a favorite poet: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" Shelley got it right.

Take care--no slipping and falling at this late date.

Cheers, Maria


March  2019

March came in like a lion this year--although my son says like a Bengal Tiger. More snow, more ice, more slips and falls. I had a rather bad one, but it was inside, not out on the ice. Who knew? Fractured my left wrist, but it's healing slowly. At least I didn't need a cast.

March brings so many wonderful happenings, I can forget about the bad stuff. Daylight Savings with lots of light, official date of spring and lots of birthdays: my handsome grandnephew, a dear friend, and mine, too. (No presents, please, but flowers are always welcome! The bouquet in the picture came from my darling oldest grandchildren, Maggie, Madeline, and Noah).

Sorry to say I missed the big writers' conference because of my fall, but there's always next year. Several of my friends went and got great responses to their writing, so I'm glad for them. Lent is upon us, and I'm trying not to buy anything for myself. That's a negative, so the positive side is I am saying the rosary every day. It's a great way to meditate on one's blessings.

That's what I wish all of you: Blessings and Cheers. And Happy Birthday to Zachary, Millie, and me.


April  2019

April took me by surprise, and here we are, headlong into the month. In my part of the world, April can sometimes bring the proverbial showers and the ensuing flowers, but that’s rare. We have snow and ice right now. Talk about the ides of April!  Browning was probably right ("Oh to be in England now that April's there") but he was in Italy when he wrote that, not Minnesota! I added a new door wreath, though, just to show I have hope.

I am recovering nicely from a fractured wrist, another annoyance to be overcome. But it’s fodder for a story – the difficulties with simple tasks when one's arm is in a splint. Luckily, it’s my left arm so I can still type and drive. Easter is coming early and soon, and I hope the weather cooperates. I have a new yellow Isaac Mizrahi dress that’s been hanging in my closet, just begging to be worn. That’s kind of shallow, though, since Easter is such a joyful time after a long, cold Lent. The good thing about a long winter is the opportunity to read a lot. I am currently finishing up The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton, who does those long generational novels so well. Unfortunately, this one doesn't live up to her others. A couple of new books on grammar came out recently, one pooh-poohing the importance of correct punctuation, the other emphasizing the need for proper English. I guess we know which one I will buy!

Have a blessed Easter and try to salvage some of the spring!


May 2019

I am behind time this month (as my daughter, Lisa, reminded me). May and Spring have arrived, and it's marvelous to see GREEN again! As Catholics, the month of May is devoted to Jesus' mother, the Virgin Mary. As a kid at Holy Angels grade school, I and my fellow students (there were three of us in first through third grade) marched out to the statue of Mary, and it was a decided honor to see which of us would crown her with flowers. 

Last month was rough, with a painful back and much PT (and prayers), but I'm lots better. I've been busy scoring student work for an online project for Pearson, with another upcoming. Those checks that appear on my bank statement are as welcome as the flowers of May, tra la.

Enjoy the sun and warmth, wherever you find them.

Until next month ... Joy and Peace.


June 2019

I think summer has finally arrived, after a wet and chilly May. June holds promise, as well as the birthday of my elder grandson, the handsome Noah (see picture). I've been busy with projects for Pearson online scoring, but they're finished now. I also submitted a couple pieces to the Brainerd Writers website; it will take a couple months for the results, but it was a fun exercise. I have a beta reader for my revised Suzy ms, and will make adjustments to that before sending out any queries. I already have Suzy 2 in completed draft form, which I'll be happy to whip into shape if I get any positive feedback. I am looking forward to long afternoons on the deck, admiring our flowers. And then a brief trip to Grand Rapids, MI to celebrate daughter Lisa's birthday -- on July Fourth! Do take time to smell the flowers and enjoy the brevity and beauty of your summer.

Stay tuned...


July 2019

How did this happen so fast? We're into July, and I've not updated this blog. My bad, but it's a busy month: daughter Lisa celebrated her birthday on the 4th of July, and I was there for it. Then, daughter Victoria celebrated hers on the 9th of July, with son Michael's to come on July 30. Whew! We've dealt with some challenges this month also, but I'm confident they'll be resolved soon. I read The Storied Life of AJ Filkrey for my library book club, but was underwhelmed. Can't really recommend it. Too simplistic, too contrived, more like a short YA novel than an adult read. But that's just me. That season known as summer has arrived with 90 degree days. It's what we wait for all winter. Have a good rest-of-the-month and keep in touch. Cheers!


July 2019

How did this happen so fast? We're into July, and I've not updated this blog. My bad, but it's a busy month: daughter Lisa celebrated her birthday on the 4th of July, and I was there for it. Then, daughter Victoria celebrated hers on the 9th of July, with son Michael's to come on July 30. Whew! We've dealt with some challenges this month also, but I'm confident they'll be resolved soon. I read The Storied Life of AJ Filkrey for my library book club, but was underwhelmed. Can't really recommend it. Too simplistic, too contrived, more like a short YA novel than an adult read. But that's just me. That season known as summer has arrived with 90 degree days. It's what we wait for all winter. Have a good rest-of-the-month and keep in touch. Cheers!


August 2019

This month has a bittersweet feel to me. It's the last month of summer, and while fall is good here, it means winter is coming. Yuck!

But lots of good things in this month, too. First, my darling Madeline Mae (photo) has a birthday, followed by daughter Lisa's wedding anniversary, and then daughter Connie's anniversary. Cliche here: time flies. A busy month as usual. Some family health issues are resolving, thank God. Hoping to get back to my writing after a fallow period. Going to try a new software program (Scrivener) to get my second Suzy mystery in better shape. A steep learning curve, from the looks of it. But who doesn't love a challenge? Well, me with some technology, but I can only try.

Anyone ever try this program? Let me know!

Stay tuned ...


September 2019

The leaves are starting to turn, the nights are cooler, the State Fair is over, and the kids are back to school. It must be fall! Whoa, I'm late with this blog again. It's not a bad month. I reserve that epithet for January and February. My darling niece (photo) celebrated her birthday, my son is doing well after some heart surgery, which was scary for his mother, and the good news is that my oldest daughter will soon move back from Michigan to Minnesota. Yay! For the first time in a long while, all my kiddos will live in near proximity. Cheers!

I read several books this month, most just for fun (spy and thrillers). Read Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver for my book club, but was majorly disappointed. I get really annoyed when these well known authors take up their audience platform to preach to us. Just tell your story, lady!

Pleasant days to you all.


October 2019

Fall has officially begun, and we are putting out decorations, but our pumpkins inside are blue, to match the rest of our décor. Outside, we go with gold, orange and brown colors with some Halloween stuff on the front porch. It promises to be another busy month. My darling nephew Henry has a birthday, as does my son-in-law, Jeff (photo). He and my daughter, Lisa, will soon move into a townhouse near us, and that means all my kiddos are in the same area at the same time. Lucky me!

I’ve been doing some ms editing as well as reading up a storm. Our book club selection this month is J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. It’s a well done memoir of the culture that permeates the Kentucky and Ohio society, written by a young man who grew up in this region and overcame the obstacles that might have kept him mired in some small Appalachian town. We don’t often read nonfiction, and this was an interesting entry. I am also reading a lot of Swedish and Norwegian mysteries, which are darker and more introspective than the kind I usually pick. Enjoy Mandell’s (Wallander) books and a new one for me, Karin Fossum’s The Whisperer, which deals with the slow descent into madness of its female murderer.

Saw the new Downton Abbey movie, another well done piece, and we are looking forward to my grandson’s high school’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast. He enjoys the technical side of plays, but perhaps will try acting next year. Christmas favorites are making their appearance. A “mini Nutcracker” ballet is a must-see at the Lakeville Arts Center, while Dickens’s A Christmas Carol will be showing at the Guthrie here in Minneapolis. Can the holidays be far behind?

I have also been re-reading Lawrence Block’s books on writing. Both are compilations of his previous columns for Writer’s Digest, but the advice is as fresh as when they were produced in the 90s. Good advice for any would-be writer. Grammar and punctuation are extremely important, but beyond that, good writing principles are paramount for success. I recommend Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, and Spider, Spin Me a Web can help everyone from newbies to pros.

I would love to hear from any of you out there. Just email me and see what happens.



November 2019

I have been reminded that once again, I'm late with this blog. Mea Culpa. Well, October was busy, that's why, culminating in a wonderful All Souls Day ceremony at Michael's Church, with a traditional (Latin) Mass, and then a visit to Resurrection Cemetery where my parents are buried.

This month brings Thanksgiving, made more special this year because it falls on Connie's birthday! (photo) I've been reading about the power of gratitude and the benefits it brings. Much for me to be thankful for this year, that's for sure. My family of course, and included in that is my brother's wife Karol, my beautiful niece Julie, her husband David, and their boys, Henry and Zachary, et al.

Tickets in hand for Ryan's school production of Beauty and the Beast, plus the Guthrie's offering of A Christmas Carol. Festivities mount!

Hope your November is as full. Remember to say Thank You.




December 2019

Another Christmas, another year looming, snow and cold but still...family, all together this year (with the exception of granddaughter Madeline, in NY but heading home)! Birthday too for Angela (photo). My usual XMAS cards will soon be ready for the mail, but I note with sadness some missing friends. Grateful as always, however, for those that remain. An eventful year, with some issues I hope will not be repeated. I wish all I love good health, peace, and freedom from anxiety. 

Be of good cheer: the Christ Child will soon be here.

Cheers! Maria


January 2020

A new year, a new decade. Here we go!

This month is special because of my grandson, Ryan.  His sixteenth birthday! Where did that chubby little guy go? Now he's towering above me and is my protector and buddy.

January in Minnesota is cold and snowy, a perfect time for reading books by the fire (with the cat). So far I've enjoyed News of the World by Paulette Jiles; The Dutch House, by Ann Pritchett; a re-read of The Clockmaker's Daughter, Kate Morton; and I'm looking forward to the new Lee Child and Charles Todd books.

Almost forgot: On Writing by Stephen King. He's not my first choice as a fiction writer, but his memoir reads well with some good bits of advice for writers. Recommended.

A few storms to get through, but winter is moving along nicely to wherever it goes when spring arrives. Until next month, be of good cheer.



February 2020

A good month for us: Granddaughter Maggie's birthday, always an occasion for joy. She is kind, funny and beautiful. And an intrepid traveler who is planning a trip to the Far East as a birthday celebration.

We've had a pretty good month as far as the weather goes. And next month is Spring!

Read--and loved---Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles. Plus a couple of others not worth mentioning.

I hope you have a special Valentine to share love with this month. Not necessarily a SO, either. Just people you love and cherish.

Keep the faith.



March 2020

Welcome to spring! March means a return to daylight savings time, St. Joseph's feast day on March 19, and flowers from the grocery store until we can put out our own pots. The swallows will go back to Capistrano and we will look forward to Easter. In honor of all this, I've added a new photo to my home page. I'd love to hear from you to see what you're thinking about. For Lent, I'm trying to be positive and not get into the mindset of denial. So instead of giving up something, I'm adding some things: more prayer, more patience (hard!) and more meditations on my life. What's your story?

Cheers, Maria


April 2020

In these difficult times, I try to be hopeful and optimistic, but it's hard, isn't it? Last month I was looking forward to spring and planting pots for the deck and seeing family and friends, but now that's not going to happen. For awhile. Just awhile. It bothers me a lot that I can't go to Mass (no one can) and have to be content with the video on Sunday. No joyous Easter service, no fun family dinner when I get to hug my grandchildren. But it will pass, of that I'm sure. In the meantime, I'm missing all of you. But I'm not so bereft that a little online shopping can't help. So as King George said, "Be calm and carry on."

Love, Maria


May 2020

It's Mayday! and I am welcoming spring. Despite our enforced quarantine (some call it "martial law"), you can't keep nature down. The robins are busy, the trees are budding, and the markets are full of wonderful flowers to put on porches and decks. We've a colorful theme going on our front porch, and the yellow pansies are so happy looking. I am loving all the sunshine, too, even though the rain is all right.

I am teaching a great group of students at Academy college (Technical Writing), and that alleviates the tedium of being home so much. I have also read a lot of books, some better than others. I highly recommend Simon the Fiddler, by Paulette Jiles, who also wrote News of the World, and The Color of Lightning. This is also Mary's month, a good intercessor in our prayers.

Better days ahead! 

Love, Maria 

 <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44096517-the-other-woman" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img border="0" alt="The Other Woman (Gabriel Allon, #18)" src="https://i.gr-href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/29085.Daniel_Silva">Daniel Silva</a><br/>

My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3306695512">3 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />


<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/76543677-maria-murad">View all my reviews</a>

March 2018

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March 2018

March 2018

March has always been a favorite month for me, partly because it' means Spring, and partly because my birthday is in March.

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