Trying my best to write my first piece of fiction.

I realize that I’ve been far too quiet for the last few months. As a self-published author, my first job isn’t to write, but to advertise my books. Writing is actually secondary to marketing, selling, and publicizing my books. When Memoirs of a Future Ghost came out, I did everything I could think of. I contacted the local paper, scheduled a big book premiere/signing in conjunction with a ghost tour, did giveaways, advertised on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon. You name it, I did it. And, I don’t think I sold enough books to cover my advertising costs. Granted, it’s not about money, it’s about the art of writing. But, I would be lying if I didn’t put out there that a chunk of cash and/or notoriety would have been nice.

Recollections of a Future Ghost was released on my favorite holiday, Halloween. The year 2020 was supposed to be a fun, different sort of year for me. I had scheduled a couple of book fairs, my second book was in the pipeline, and I had planned trips to several different haunted locations to write about in my third book, Confessions of a Future Ghost. But, a worldwide pandemic changed all of that. Little by little, my world shrank. Book fairs and speaking engagements were cancelled, investigations weren’t even possible, Paranormal Georgia Investigations dissolved, and worse? Three people I loved passed away.

On Halloween, 2020, as I stood in my friend Stefanie’s shop, ready to sign books, my mother-in-law was being airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital, battling a major stroke. Three days later, she was gone and three weeks after that, we lost my father-in-law to cancer. My grandmother had preceded them both in September. Not only that, but after advertising my book, pushing my book signing, and doing everything I was capable of doing, I had three people show up. The whole day was heartbreaking in more ways than one.

Being a self-published author is a constant uphill battle. Without the backing of an agent and publisher, with said publisher’s marketing department doing all the heavy-lifting when it comes to letting the reading public know that your book is out in the world, it’s nearly impossible to get the word out. Word of mouth and reviews are a self-published author’s bread and butter while social media advertising is practically useless. Sure, creating an ad on Instagram nets you thousands of likes… and no purchases. I think I gave up on social media when I saw a “laughing” reaction to my second book’s ad on Facebook. Like, really? I spent years of my life on this book and you’re… laughing at it? The most frustrating moment was researching the possibility of having brick and mortar Barnes & Noble stores carry my book and finding out that they wanted ME to develop a marketing plan. Um, wow. Really? I’m a writer, not a marketing expert. Just order a couple of copies of my books for each store and stick them in the practically non-existent paranormal section of your stores, homie. Not only that, but I will typically sit down on the couch with a mug of coffee to catch up with the latest reality television or news and see that yet another vapid reality bimbo has been handed a wad of cash by a publishing house to spend hours on the phone with a ghostwriter, get their glamor shots taken for a book cover, and within a few weeks have “their” book make it to the New York Times Bestseller list. Or, see the son of a former president make it to the same bestseller list because a political organization bought enough of his books to fill a warehouse.

*Note to self: Get on a reality show. Join a political party. Get a book deal. Make bank.*

That’s not to say that there aren’t great stories and authors out there. Heck, I’m a member of a book club that sends out incredible books each month. Books that I would have never chosen for myself, but that are exceptional pieces of fiction, science fiction, biography, autobiography, and non-fiction. What I wouldn’t give to get in on the book club scene! But, considering that I’ve been courteous, earnest, grateful, and many other synonyms when it comes to contacting local books stores about carrying my book and receiving mostly silence or short answers in return, I’ve pretty much given up asking anyone to please read. It has come to me giving my books away to anyone who wants them.

And when those three people whom I adored passed away within the span of two short months, I lost all interest in even trying to “sell” myself and my books. January 1, 2021 was my last Instagram and Facebook posts and I quietly decided that I needed to walk away, figure out what I wanted to do with my writing, and how I would go about publishing my third book if I did it at all.

One night in February, I woke straight up out of a dead sleep with this crazy idea for a story. I had toyed with story ideas in the past. I had notes on sticky pads, various notebooks filled with random bits of dialog and ideas, computer documents and while I’ve saved some and tossed others in the trash, this particular idea is the one that has stuck with me and that I’ve worked on over the last two months. I haven’t written a chapter or a lick of dialog, but I’m outlining something that actually makes me smile. I’ve only revealed the story to one friend who got very excited about it and immediately exclaimed, “You should write it as a YA!” That’s Young Adult fiction for those of you wondering. That made me very excited and I ran home and changed the age of my protagonist and a few key details.

I have no idea when this story will be finished. I should have already completed the outline and sent the first few chapters to my editor, but moving to a new house and becoming a puppy mom tends to upend one’s life. Regardless, my office is completely set up and I’m back outlining as I type this. I’m excited about writing again. Someday, I’ll return to the subject of true ghosts stories and my personal experiences with said ghosts. But for now, that part of my life is on hold. In the meantime, I intend to write about monsters, both real and imagined. And hope that somewhere out there is an audience who will love it.

Our new puppy. Who is only a monster at mealtime.

Excerpt from “Recollections of a Future Ghost”

Old South Pittsburg Hospital, South Pittsburg, Tennessee – Photo by Heather Dobson

One of my most favorite places to investigate is Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Yes, I know, you’re looking at the name of that town and thinking, “Shouldn’t there be an ‘h’ at the end of that?” I also used to think that. But, truly, that’s how it’s spelled.

When I wrote Memoirs of a Future Ghost, it was originally much longer than what was eventually published. I broke it up in to two sections and the second section is what will be released on Halloween. That meant that some of my favorite chapters had to be held back. This is one of those chapters that I’ve been itching to share with you all. So, without further ado, here is a brief glimpse at the chapter “Old South Pittsburg Hospital” from Recollections of a Future Ghost.

“Jordan! Jordan! Jordan! Jordan!!” the shouts reverberated through the walls.

“What?! What?! What?! What?!” Jordan’s answering yells responded.

I muttered, “What. In. Fresh. Hell?!” Looking at my watch, I saw it was four o’clock in the morning. The sun was still playing hide and seek below the horizon, and I had just fallen asleep an hour before. Tucked into a queen-sized air mattress next to me was Tammy. I looked at her to see if she was still sleeping.  If so, the shouts were all part of a dream and I could drift back to sleep. But, she was as wide awake as I found myself.

“What on Earth?” she groggily wondered aloud.

The shouts continued from next door. “Jordan!  Oh, my gosh!  Wake up!” 

“What, Jeremy?” Jordan hollered back.

“Well,” I heavily sighed, “I guess we’re getting up now.”

We rolled off the air mattress, refusing to step out of our sleeping bags, waddling across the room, through the Jack and Jill bathroom, and into the adjoining bedroom, rubbing sleep from our eyes. We came upon my friend Michael, a guest on this evening’s investigation, still asleep in his sleeping bag on the floor near the bathroom door. An Iraq War veteran, it seemed that Michael was able to sleep through not just Jordan’s and Jeremy’s panicked shouts, but also whatever paranormal shenanigans had awoken them.

We glanced left toward the beds at the far side of the room to discover Jordan and his friend Jeremy, standing, running their hands through their hair, looking absolutely bewildered. Earlier in the day, Jeremy expressed excitement that he could experience his first paranormal encounter. Now that it had finally happened, he didn’t look all that happy. Tammy and I just stood there, staring, refusing to wobble any closer.

“What. The actual. F*ck, y’all?!” I asked, using my best disgusted mother voice.

Jeremy turned and was as pale as the white walls surrounding him.

“I had just fallen asleep, Heather, and I swear that someone came into this room and sat on my bed.”

I looked at Tammy, she looked at me, we both shrugged our shoulders at one another, turned around, and shimmied back toward our room, our sleeping bags hindering us, making us look like the slowest potato sack race in history.

Jordan and Jeremy followed us through the Jack and Jill bathroom and into our girls’ room.

“I had just fallen asleep,” Jeremy continued, dragging his sleeping bag behind him, “when I heard footsteps. In. The. Room. Something walked toward my bed. I thought maybe it was Michael or one of you. And then, I heard it walk right up to the bed and felt the bed dip when whatever it was sat down on the edge, right next to me. I opened my eyes, and there was no one there!”

“I swear,” Jordan said, “all I heard was my name being shouted, and I think I levitated out of my sleeping bag!”

I just shook my head and rolled back onto the queen-sized air mattress. Tammy gracefully joined me, and we both looked over Jordan and Jeremy who promptly announced that there was no way they were staying in their room for the rest of the night. As they made themselves comfortable on our room’s couch, Michael emerged from the adjoining room, bleary-eyed and bushy-headed.

“No way am I staying in there alone!” He plopped down on the floor and began softly snoring a few minutes later. It seemed our after-investigation sleep had turned into a slumber party.

“Welcome to Old South Pittsburg Hospital, boys,” I muttered, “where the nurses are still checking on their patients, twenty years after they all left.” And then I promptly fell back asleep.

I can’t wait for you all to read my next book! You can pre-order your own signed copy here or you can click on any of the links to the right of this post and order from another site.

Editor Extraordinaire, Wayne South Smith

My editor, Wayne, and fellow author, Sheryl, at my inaugural book signing!
My editor, Wayne, and my neighbor and colleague, Sheryl Parbhoo, at my inaugural book signing!

I started writing Memoirs of a Future Ghost in November, 2016. Just four short months later, I had written 25,000 words and declared it done. It was basically 25 blog posts of 1,000-words each with no continuity or cohesion. Not knowing any better, I figured it was finished and ready for an audience. As a former technical writer, I knew I needed an editor and, also as a former technical writer, I felt an editor would simply check my grammar and spelling and be done with it. As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t know any editors. But I did know a fellow author.

Sheryl Parbhoo, author of The Unexpected Daughter, is also my neighbor, and our youngest sons are best friends. It was over many mugs of coffee, driveway talks, and emails that I finally accepted that I needed her help and advice. And her first piece of advice was, “Here is my editor’s email and phone number. Call him. He is A-MAZING.”

With great trepidation, I did so, and it was the best decision because from that first phone call, I knew we would make a great team! What I didn’t know was how much my book would change, but also how much I would change as a writer. As Wayne stated when I asked him what were his first impressions of my book,

I enjoyed getting to know you through your memoir writing. I found you to be smart and wacky, and I related. You really impressed me by being able to face your fears and not only go to haunted places, but invite the ghosts to express themselves! So, your courage on both accounts wowed me. And your story was good, but the collection of blog posts wasn’t detailed enough. Since you write so well, I dove in and do what I do, guiding and asking for more.

And dive in, he did! Wayne wasn’t just my editor, he was also my coach and my cheerleader. Working in the field since 2003, Wayne brought a wealth of experience to my small tome and made it so much more than I thought it could ever be. When I asked him how he got started editing, he replied,

After a few years working on my high school newspaper, I joined the yearbook staff as a copy editor. It was a good fit since I was a Virgo striving for perfection. By mid-year, my fantastic English teacher, Mr. Driskill, told me I would be the editor the next year. I remember freaking out, saying, “I don’t know how to do that,” and he replied, “Sure you do! You’ll be great!” And that was that. The books won top state awards those two years, and I changed my college major from chemistry–An orthodontist? Really?!–to journalism.

No wonder we got along so well! Scientists who became writers! When I sent the first draft of Memoirs to Wayne, what I received back wasn’t marked through with red, critical notes lining the margins. What I found was enthusiastic notes like the following, “This works, but consider expanding it a little.  You seek the ghosts out.  Invite them into conversation and to appear…” and “See! This story can hold its own in a chapter! And then inspire others, creating momentum! Good job!” Of course, there were misspellings and grammatical mistakes, but for the most part, Wayne wanted to make sure I could create a story and focus on my book.  When I asked Wayne how he approaches editing books, he said,

I get a sense from the author of what they are going for, and I don’t let them tell me much as I want to experience their words. Then, I use my intuition and both sides of my brain to analyze and create as I move through the project. Reflecting with good communication, I nurture both book and writer when ready and as needed. And I stay present through all of it, doing my best not to have expectations other than for the writing to be crisp and vibrant, as well as the writer completing a book they are proud to put their name on and share with their audience. I’m very grateful for my clients and my work.

And here’s the thing, in addition to being my editor, coach, and cheerleader, he also gave me invaluable guidance regarding my book cover and internal design, connecting me with those who could help me make those visions come true! Of course, after reading my book about ghosts and paranormal investigations, I just had to ask Wayne where he would most like to haunt when he’s a future ghost like me!

Geez, just one place?! If that’s the case, somewhere fabulous where I’d have a welcoming audience, like the Fox Theater! But tell me: will the law of physics or whatever limit me, or can I easily move around? And, oh! Can I time travel?! Still, as fun as it seems, this sounds sorta lonely! Will you haunt with me?

Of course, Wayne! I see a future afterlife where we both haunt the tropics and grand theaters together, stopping every now and then to peek over the shoulders of budding authors, reading their words, and editing their manuscripts while they sleep, adding our own ghostly spice to their books!

If you, too, are in need of a guide on your writing/publishing journey, I highly recommend Wayne South Smith, editor, coach, and all-around great guy. I mean, he loves Depeche Mode. What else can you ask for?

Ghosts at Night

One of the most common questions I receive as a paranormal investigator is Why do you only investigate at night? Don’t ghosts haunt houses during the day?

And that’s a very valid question considering that the majority of our investigations happen in the wee hours when most people are sound asleep. My team and I typically arrive at our clients’ homes right at sunset, send them out for dinner and a movie, and blearily drive home, air conditioning blowing and the radio cranked, trying our best to stay awake before dawn has even broken.

Of course, Hollywood has popularized the idea that ghosts, poltergeists, demons, and various monsters only come out to “play” when it’s dark. That just naturally ups the scare factor because the human fear of the dark is both ancient and genetic. It’s a fear that I and my fellow investigators have worked hard to suppress.

But, paranormal investigators don’t always investigate at night. It all depends upon the clients and when their activity seems to occur. The majority of the investigations, though, do happen at night and I think I know the reasons why.


Most people work all day, five days a week. Mornings are spent rushing around getting the kids ready for school and getting ourselves ready for rush hour traffic and our jobs. Then, once home, it’s time to shuttle the kids to their various after-school activities, fix and eat dinner, and hustle off to bed. Which leads into…

Night time is quiet time.

Unless it’s Independence Day and everyone in town is setting off fireworks, the evenings and nights are the quietest part of our days. It’s the time when we slow down, settle in after hard days of work, and go to bed. When our environments are quiet, we tend to notice every creak and groan, every whisper and light flicker. Personally, I feel very safe at home, but when my husband is out of town on business, my senses are heightened and trust gets tossed out the window. The house I’ve lived in for nearly 20 years suddenly becomes a strange place full of odd noises and shadows and I’m convinced that every burglar in the greater-Atlanta area is trying to break in. Does this mean that ghosts are a figment of our imaginations? Not necessarily. It’s completely understandable that we only hear strange sounds when the sounds of everyday life have diminished.

Our audio evidence is better at night

I have found that when I investigate the paranormal, the most ubiquitous piece of evidence I collect are EVPs — electronic voice phenomena. In the almost-twelve years I have investigated the paranormal, I have only collected three pieces of video evidence, and countless pieces of audio. As stated above, the nighttime is quietest. Traffic is minimal and human activity is low. When the world is quiet, then audio evidence shines and I’m not constantly trying to account for every artificial sound I hear.

Our best piece of evidence DID occur in the morning!

During PGI’s very first investigation of Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, TN, we captured a door opening by itself… at 8:30 in the morning! So, yeah, that just goes to show that spirits can be up and at ’em in the morning, too!

Our lives are quiet at night

Let’s face it. I don’t get paid as a paranormal investigator. My fellow investigators and I all have day jobs. One owns a store, I write full time, another one runs a travel agency, and so on. Those Monday through Friday, nine-to-five jobs don’t leave a lot of time to investigate during the day. Not only that, but weekends are typically filled with family and errands. So, for us, as paranormal investigators, weekend nights are the best time to investigate! We have, though, investigated during the day. If a client says their activity seems to peak at three o’clock in the afternoon, then we try our darnedest to investigate at 3 PM. More often than not, though, investigations happen at night when it’s convenient for everyone.

Paranormal investigations aren’t about skulking around in the dark, shining flashlights in dank basements, scurrying through cemetery headstones, or traipsing through abandoned buildings. It’s about the search for the truth regarding the paranormal experiences people have in their own homes. I investigate whenever the clients asks me to do so, and if that means investigating at high noon or the dead of night, then I do whatever it takes!

Give it a month, maybe two

*Dusting off the old WordPress Dashboard.*

*A cacophony of coughs ensue.*

*Swiffer duster just isn’t cutting it.*

*Gets out leaf blower.*

There! That’s better!

Did you notice? I updated the banner photo! And my social media connections! And my Gravatar profile…

You don’t care, do you? I get it. Because what you’ve really been waiting for is a book!

For you, it’s a book. For me, it’s been a labor of love, a child, a best friend, a burden, a pain in the arse, and many more things. But, most of all, it’s been a journey. When I started writing nearly three years ago, I figured I would have this book published in no time. I had no idea that it would become so much more than just a book. I had no clue that this book would be written during not only one of the most difficult times of my life, but also one of the most joyous. I couldn’t imagine that it would grow from 50,000 words to over double that size. My vision of the book went from a collection of short essays to a cohesive story.

And then, it took a 90-degree turn.

My husband, a lover of all things Star Wars and George Lucas, looked at me one morning and said, “You know, this book is long enough that you could break it up into two books and then write a third so that you would have a trilogy.”

At first, I scoffed at him.

And then, I got to thinking…

Why not?

As of this moment, Memoirs of a Future Ghost, a 25-chapter journey into the beginning of my life and days as a paranormal investigator, is in the design process. The edits are finished, the dedication and acknowledgements have been written, and the cover photographs are in the bag. Wayne Smith, my editor, has signed off on what I’ve written and Paige Brigman has captured the essence of my book in photograph form. Now, it’s up to Lindsay Starr and Jera Publishing to make this dream a physical reality that we can all hold in our hands.

I don’t have an exact publishing date. Right now, it’s looking like July at the earliest, August at the latest. But, before summer is over, you will have my book in your hands. Next summer, you’ll all be able to read Recollections of a Future Ghost and then the summer after that, Confessions of a Future Ghost. Like Mr. Lucas, I will be the proud parent of a trilogy.

Now that you’ve all been warned, save your pennies! Because your summer reading list is about to get longer by one book!

Investigating the Paranormal – Book Excerpt

Whenever I tell people that I’m a paranormal investigator, initial responses vary between, “Ohmygosh! Can I go with you on an investigation?!?” and “Wow. Yeah. All the nopes.” People are always a mix of curious and terrified and I want my book, Memoirs of a Future Ghost to be bridge between those two emotions. I wanted to show the curious people how amazing it is to do this and also demonstrate to those who are frightened that hunting ghosts isn’t always scary. Sometimes? It’s downright comical.

I have a little gift for all of you today, thanks to my husband Tyler. He mentioned, “Hey! You should totally put an excerpt of your book up on your web site!” I hemmed and hawed and finally decided, “Why not?” So, I present to you “The Reality of Hunting Ghosts” – one of the many chapters in my book. It’s gone through a self-edit and a grammatical edit, but believe me when I say that my book is going through MAJOR content edits. This chapter will probably look completely different when it’s all said and done and you may not recognize this chapter when you finally have my tome in your paws. But, until then, enjoy this light-hearted look into what it’s REALLY like investigating the paranormal!

I’m sure you can picture this. Gary Ghosthunter with his perfectly-themed bad-boy tattoos is in his crisply-ironed black pants and Ed Hardy shirt. He swaggers into the latest historical site, found by his production team and paid for by a TV channel. He acts like he owns the paranormal activity occurring there. His television production crew sets up his Hollywood-funded equipment while his black-clad co-stars munch on craft services that serves food tailored to their dietary specifications. Over the course of several days, they have complete access to the location. They are handed the historical documents and information by a hard-working, little-recognized production crew. Witnesses come out of the woodwork to tell their stories of paranormal experiences because they might be on TV. During the several nights of investigations, Gary and his crew dramatically react to whatever shadow they see and noise they hear. They’re convinced that it’s a dark spirit and that they now have a demonic attachment. Muscles bulging, voice straining, Gary fiercely calls out whatever is there and tells it to go away and leave them alone. After all is said and done, the television production crew pours through the audio and video collected over, probably, four nights of investigations and they “capture” a class A EVP or a shadow figure on film. All of this is condensed down into a 42-minute show with the best reactions, the best stories, and the most compelling moments put forth for your viewing pleasure.

In real life, paranormal investigations are quite different. It’s 3:30 PM on a Saturday and I’m getting ready to meet my team for dinner. The location is two hours away and we’re carpooling, so I need to leave NOW to get there in time. I’m rushing around the house lint-rolling my team shirt because it’s covered in cat fur. I can’t find my flashlights because the kids got into my investigation kit and played with them. They even raided my stash of AAA batteries. I can’t even get out the door because I’m dealing with parental guilt because the kids have all whined, “BUT WHY DO YOU HAVE TO GO, MAMA?!?!?” and made me feel like the recipient of the “Worst Mom of the Year” trophy.

I finally make it to my fellow investigator’s home and we all pile into one car for the two-hour drive to a restaurant near the client’s location. We talk, laugh, discuss the case, and catch up on our lives. When we’re done eating at the restaurant (which is probably going to give my intestines a run for their money) in this random small town in Georgia, we load back up and trek to the client’s home. Once there, we find that the house should probably be on an episode of Hoarders and the client should probably be on Dr. Phil. But, hey, we’re here. So, we do a walk-through of the house, have the client sign some paperwork, and set up our self-funded equipment. During the investigation, we’re dealing with a dog in the back yard that is howling and a cat that keeps setting off our REM pod. There is dust everywhere and when we’re not sneezing, we’re trying not to sit in any cat pee because woo-doggies can we smell it. Meanwhile, my stomach is NOT happy about that burrito I had for dinner and while I might not be experiencing paranormal activity, my intestines make it sound like the house has 12 demons infesting it. In between EVP sessions, we hang out in the car, sucking down cheap coffee and local bodega honeybuns to try stay awake. Four hours later, we pack up and call it a night. We will most likely never step foot in the client’s house again because most investigations are one-off gigs. The two-hour drive back home is quiet, except for intermittent, “I SMELL CAT PEE!!!” exclamations from around the car. When I finally make it home, it’s nearly 3:00 A.M., I throw my cat-pee soaked jeans in the washer, and stumble into bed.

Two days later, I admit to myself that I need to listen to my recordings for audio evidence. I do so unshowered and in my wrinkled PJs, finally realizing I’ve captured exactly NO EVPs (except that one stomach rumble which would have made an AWESOME demonic growl and, yeah, Shawn needs to stop farting). A week later, I finish watching four hours of video footage from the client’s master bedroom. I’ve had to watch it in 20-minute increments because it’s so boring that any longer than that would make me want to weep and curse and cry. The only thing the footage showed is that, yes, that’s one dusty house and, no, that movement wasn’t a ghost but it WAS a raccoon at the bedroom window.

When we finally turn in our final report with no audio or video evidence and one personal experience involving a cobweb and an air vent, the clients are in no way appreciative because documented paranormal activity would have either A) Made them feel special because they love Ghost Adventures and they hoped having documented paranormal activity could pave their way to a guest spot on a paranormal TV show spot or B) Convinced them they aren’t crazy.

Two weeks later, we have a group meeting where we catch up on all our investigations, who has to still watch video footage, who is writing the final report, which clients are lined up for investigations, and who is calling which of them. We all speculate how nice it would be to investigate a clean house in the “Country Club of the South” community. Instead, it looks like we’ve got a 20-year-old single-wide near the Alabama boarder on tap for the end of the month. Two IR cameras are on the fritz, so we take up a collection for new ones. I remind everyone to make sure when they write a blog post for our website, they add all the “tags” to each post because we have no advertising budget and search engine optimization is the only way to get our site to show up early on the search engine lists. We discuss recording a podcast, trying to wrangle a date and time that’s good for everyone. We grumble that our operating budget is well below $200 a year and wonder how we can get a FLIR camera donated to us. We then remember that’s a fantasy, say our good-byes, and start the process all over again. AND WE DO IT ALL FOR FREE, with no TV production crew in tow.

That is what it’s like investigating the paranormal in the real world!

Make sure you leave a comment below and tell me what you think! And thanks for reading!

Occupation? Author.

Recently, I found myself filling out a form.

Side note: Honestly, adulthood seems to be a never-ending line of visits to the grocery store, the doctor, the gas station, the pharmacy, school activities, and filling out forms. None of it is fun. I wish, instead, that adulthood could be a never-ending succession of chocolate, visits to the beach, and quiet rainy days with books and friends.

You know how it is. No matter what the reason is for the form, the top is always the same. Name, address, birth date, social security number, race, sex, and occupation.


As a 12-year veteran of the stay-at-home-mom set, that one word can fill me with a mix of anxiety, shame, pride, frustration, and regret. Our American society simultaneously values and belittles those of us who choose to stay at home and raise our children. We are told that to be mothers is to have the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. Meanwhile, commercials tell us to go out, further our education in the wee hours of the morning through on-line universities, and our families ask us, “So now that the kids are potty-trained/sleeping through the night/in school, what are you going to do with yourself?”

Whenever this question is asked of me, I smile on the outside, but inside, I’m seething with irritation and silently screaming, “AFTER I GET DONE TAKING CARE OF THE KIDS AND THEIR NEEDS, I BARELY HAVE THE ENERGY TO EVEN BRUSH MY TEETH! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO THINK ABOUT A CAREER?!?”

So, for twelve years, I’ve paused over the “occupation” line, waiting for inspiration to hit, and then begrudgingly written “Stay-at-home-mom.” It’s not that I’m ashamed to be this, but I’ve always known I’m supposed to do something else, something just for me. But what? And when?

The writing bug hit me ten years ago. Friends of ours were living in Germany and they had started a blog in order to keep family and friends back in the US updated on their lives. I was the mother of twin two-year-olds and a baby and I was itching for adult interaction. And so, I started a blog of my own and then naively expected the readers to start pouring in. They didn’t. Shocking, right? It was crickets and silence. So, after starting my blog and writing a few posts, I finally started researching what went into gaining readers and discovered that if I wanted people to see my writing, I needed to go out and read. And not just read, but also comment, because blogs are a two-way street. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. You read my blog and leave your two cents, I’ll come over to your corner of the blogverse, read your intimate thoughts, and leave a comment.

And that’s how I became a writer with friends from all over the world. Except, I never admitted to myself that I was a writer. I still filled out the occupation line with “stay-at-home-mom” and never admitted to myself that I was writing upwards of 1,000 words a day. I was a writer, but because I wasn’t getting paid, it didn’t count, right?


Not when I wrote the 54,000th word of my book did I consider myself a writer. Not even when I created my author social media presence with this web site, a Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter did I consider myself a writer. It wasn’t until last night that I allowed myself to type “author” in the occupation line of a form I filled out.

You see, one of my favorite bloggers… ahem. One of my favorite writers died yesterday. I first met her eight years ago when I was a baby writer and blogger and even though she was one of the OGs of our online world, she was so very welcoming, funny, and irreverent and I immediately fell in love with her. I started reading her words on a regular basis, commenting, and seeing her at blogger meet-ups. I watched as her daughter struggled through a cancer diagnosis and ultimately won and I ached as she herself suffered a catastrophic stroke and yet came back fiercer than ever before. When Anissa passed yesterday, I was reminded of her daughter’s cancer fight and how she was supported by a Chemo Angel. I immediately looked up the organization and decided then and there that for Anissa, I would do this. I began filling out the volunteer form and there it was. Not necessarily an “occupation” line, but a “tell us about yourself” box. It was staring me down, daring me to type “stay-at-home-mom.” So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do.

I flipped that box off and typed the words “I’m an author.”

And it felt great.

Anissa was an amazing writer. She kept me in stitches each and every time I visited her blog or whenever I would get to see her in person she made me laugh. She inspired others and fostered the writing bug in upcoming writers/bloggers she met. She gave so many the opportunity to write for pay for her various web sites and when her name is uttered, she is spoken of in joyful tones. She was unapologetic and nuts and she was a writer. It’s because of her that regardless of my book being in a purple Office Depot binder or professionally bound on a shelf that I have officially announced to the world that I do this. This is my job. This is my life and my passion.

My name is Heather Dobson and I am a writer, an author, a dilettante, a scribe, and a word-slinger.

Thank you, Anissa. Thank you for this gift of clarity. I will never forget you.


My favorite poet is Maya Angelou. The day she died, I was devastated because I knew I would never again hear her voice or read new poems she had been inspired to write. Our backgrounds, our skin colors, our ages, were so vastly different. There couldn’t have been two more opposite people in the world than us.

And yet, her words resonated with me and still, today, when I pick up one of her poetry books, her words click. And now, I think I know why.

I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. It wasn’t until the age of the Internet that I was able to put a name to how I view myself and my accomplishments and understand that I’m not the only one who suffers from this.

From Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

See, even that definition makes me uncomfortable. Using words like their competence and high-achieving women, I’m thinking to myself, I’m neither competent nor high-achieving. I can’t even read an explanation of imposter syndrome without doubting myself.

I’ve got it bad, ya’ll.

Writing my book was surprisingly easy, because it was me, my computer, and my printer. No one was looking at it. Then, I began to turn over parts of my book to my friend Teri. I’m sure she was tired of me constantly asking, “Is it OK? Besides the misspellings and the grammar, do you like it? I mean, would you enjoy reading this book?” I can see her sighing and rolling her eyes as she typed, “Yes, Heather, I like it!” and the unspoken, “JUST SHUT UP ALREADY!” that probably crossed her mind.

The difficult part of this whole process has been sending out query letters to literary agents. Even though I know, instinctively, that I (like many other writers before me) will receive piles of rejection letters, I feel like this is just going to substantiate my feelings of being a fraud. My imposter syndrome will finally have validation. And that scares me.

Finding out that my writing idol Maya Angelou also suffered from imposter syndrome not only makes me sad, but also gives me hope. If she was convinced of her perceived failings, then maybe I have hope. But, it wasn’t just Maya Angelou who felt like a charlatan, it was also Albert Einstein. Like, seriously, my other idol felt like a cheat, too?! Imagine what all the sufferers of imposter syndrome could accomplish if we could shed this doubt about ourselves and go out into the world be who we’re supposed to be.

The logical, non-emotional side of my brain knows that through this whole process, no matter what happens, I will have succeeded. Whether I receive tons of rejection letters and have to self-publish or I someday watch Jennifer Garner play me on the big screen (SNORT!), I will have beaten my imposter syndrome. For the first time in my life, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone and doing what I never thought possible. I’ve had to accept that my 45 years on this planet has been me hiding from the world because I didn’t want to be seen as a pretender. But, where did that get me? Nowhere.

Someday, when you all read my book, I want you to be honest with me. Tell me if you love it, like it, or hate it. Don’t hold back. Even though my imposter syndrome will continuously whisper that I’m a faker, my writer will tell me that I’m brave and that I should do this again. And I will thank you.

Query Letters Abound


Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve sent out the first six query letters to five literary agents and one publisher. I like to imagine that my computer is currently acting like the post owls from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series and that, in approximately four to eight weeks, my inbox will look like the Dursley’s fireplace. And  all the emails will be acceptance letters, because we’re going to stay positive, people! (Don’t ask me what I really think is going to happen. Because it’s all doom and gloom up in my head).

I will say that this has been the most nerve-wracking part of this whole process. I’m very much a smart-ass. My perfect query letter would read something like this:

Yo, read this. Seriously. It’s the shizz. It’s got ghosts and scary stuff and cockroaches and inappropriate clients and a Mothman and cat pee and some aliens and more ghosts. HOW CAN YOU PASS THIS UP? You can’t. Seriously. Call me. Tomorrow. Let’s do high tea.

Don’t worry, that’s not my query letter. Thankfully, I wrote something much more professional. But, here’s the thing. I’ve written so many different versions of this letter, all in several different places, none of which were my home. The first draft was written at the local roller skating rink. A few days later, at the taekwondo studio, I scrapped the whole thing and wrote a new letter. I’ve gone back to it here and there, fixing a sentence, changing some words. And after polishing it off at piano lessons, I started my mass emails. This is what it’s like being a stay-at-home mother with author aspirations.

Just so you all know, after sending out those first few emails, I was shaking like a leaf from nerves. I even asked my daughter to hit the “Send” button on the first two emails in order to get me over the hump. Putting myself out there is the worst. My mind is full of images of agents and publishers, gathered around their computer monitors, laughing at my poor attempts. What ultimately calmed me down about the process was knowing there are other aspiring writers out there doing the same thing, writing their first query letters, or maybe they’re sending out their 100th letters, anxious and edgy, or cynical and disheartened. We’re all in the same boat. And that’s OK. Because I’m out here trying, something I would have never imagined doing several years ago.

I’ll keep you all posted on the results and will keep submitting through the summer months. Who knows? Maybe someone out there will love my book as much as I do and want to represent it and publish it for the masses. Fingers crossed.


My sunroom “office.”

I am a huge believer in the portability of a notebook. I absolutely love my MacBook Pro. It’s my second one in 12 years and I enjoy having the option of sitting at my desk with a traditional monitor and keyboard set up or traveling to wherever I want and writing elsewhere. In just my home, I have four favorite spots I like to write and it all depends on my mood.

When we bought this house 17 years ago and saw the sunroom, we knew that it would eventually make the perfect kid playroom. In the five years before we expanded our family, this sunroom was a quiet, bright place with wicker furniture and plants. Then? It was a toy-filled haven for our three little ones. As they’ve grown, our kids are less interested in toys and more focused on their computers and books and now the sunroom has morphed again into a family office. I like writing here when the kids are home. Even though, sometimes, Bubba’s need to play the same song over and over and… over can grate on my nerves, I like being able to peek over my monitor and see what they’re up to, listen to their gaming battle plans, and enjoy the view of the trees behind our house.

Family room. Across from the TV.

Sometimes, though, I want to write but I also want to catch up on my Real Housewives of <Insert City Name Here> shows, so I’ll crash out on the sofa just a few feet away from the sunroom. When I’m on the couch, I’m in the mood to write or do a little research, but I’m OK with the distraction from the TV. My brain is only half-engaged and I’m good with that. If you find me sitting here, it’s typically in the early morning, on the weekend, before the kids are up. I’m slurping coffee, slouched down in my PJs, switching back and forth between Pages, Safari, and Mail. And shaking my head at the antics of the women on the screen.

Tyler’s grandmother made this tablecloth. Totes beautiful!

If it’s a rainy, cloudy, dreary day, then you’ll find me in my dining room. I’ll leave the lights off and work in the diffused glow from the sun behind the clouds. Once the kids are at school and I’ve done a bit of housework, I’ll usually take myself into the dining room to enjoy the rain, watch the neighborhood, and hang out with my cat. Just out of the frame, in front of the large window, is his bed. He’ll glance up at me from time to time, meow at me, squint his eyes, and go back to sleep. I like to think he’s checking up on my progress and making sure I’m staying on task. If I’m in here, then I also have my Frank Sinatra Pandora station on full blast because sometimes I want to write while being asked to fly to the moon with the Chairman of the Board.

This is my spot.

Lastly, I love being able to write outside. Even if it’s cold, I’ll come out in a sweater and a blanket, plop myself down, and get to work. I can still pick up our wireless signal from here so if I need to look up something on the Internet, I’m good to go. Most of the time, Macy is out here with me, hiding in the bushes next to the stoop, spying on the neighbors. If my gardenia plants are blooming, then I’m taking in big gulps of air, smelling them while I write. As a rule, I don’t like the outdoors because mosquitos. And heat. But in the spring and fall? I love this spot and I love writing here.

Where do all of you like to write or be inspired? Share with me in the comments!

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