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  • I posted my first Cowbird story on February 28, 2012, five years tomorrow.

    I joined Cowbird because I had finished a first serious draft of my second novel, "Death Valley," and I had to wait for reaction from a publisher. I expected to be on Cowbird a couple of months, then return to the days of working alone, the loneliness of the long-long form writer. It did not turn out that way.

    The wait became attenuated; that publisher was not up to the task of the book; we parted company. By this time, early 2014, Cowbird had become a part of my daily life. I wrote freely on Cowbird, without the journalistic deadlines of my first career, or the months of intensive research for the radio documentaries I had done, in previous times. Or the commitment to creating the physical object, the book, on which I had been labouring. On Cowbird, I got to ferret through my photographs, from war, from travels; I returned to my art student roots, created digital paintings.

    Meanwhile, a new publisher, Wolsak & Wynn, in Hamilton, Ontario, accepted the novel for publication. I proceeded to rewrite the book, oh, about four or five more times. I had to take breaks from Cowbird. Yeah, the herky-jerky digital rhythm did not work in my brain and muscle memory when I had to find quiet mind to think about characters, and, importantly, to write not just a beloved series of short spurts, but a thing which made sense, as a prose river.

    Waiting a long time (years!) for reaction changes things. Fewer daily endorphins. More muscle-memory legacy of how to abide, to create the dreamed-of object. I was working for and with a small editorial team, in rigorous detail, in person and at a distance, by lurch and by lunches. I got to know that press team in all their roundedness.

    My book, "Death Valley," came out in May 2016.

    The real world pleasure & pressure began, of launches, readings, re-connections with old pals in and out of writing, travel to a festival or two, reading live on stages. Presenting with musicians, as I had with my first novel. Being in real space at a microphone, feeling the feel of a room, feedback in the eyes, the coughs, the chuckles.

    I've always been, on Cowbird, who I am, I never used a pseudonym. Still, going out into the world again, with my full senses and body to stand behind something I had created, was different. I began to miss that, on Cowbird. I began to wonder who in reality some Cowbirders were. I found that if I knew nothing about somebody, after years online, if there was no context, I began to lose interest. For me, cleverness with no context, isn't a good fit. Links, shminks, where is your neighbourhood? I need the sound, the smell, the body language, the laugh.

    Yet and yet....I have bonded with many a In many ways, Cowbird kept me going as I wrote my novel. It was a golden time. A golden lacuna I never expected.

    A lovely time, in digital amber.

    After I posted news about my book here on Cowbird, a few folks asked me if it was available as an e-book. Yes!:

    "Death Valley," published by Wolsak and Wynn is on iTunes, on iBooks downloadable on iPad, iPod, or Mac. In Canada e-book also on Kobo.

    The novel is, of course, available as a physical object -- (complete with maps of the characters' journey through nuclear sites in Nevada across Death Valley and into the Eastern Sierra of California) -- on Amazon, in bookstores, and from

    You can, as time goes by, check for news about my writing adventures & readings, at Wolsak and Wynn's public Facebook page, or Twitter account.

    I feel deep gratitude to the founders, the builders of Cowbird, Jonathan Harris, Dave Lauer, and to my early mentor Annie Correal.

    (Photo by Susan, of my fuzzy Jackrabbit, May 2016, Toronto. A talking gender-bending desert Jackrabbit is one of the characters in my book.)
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