Living in the Moment: We Are Never Alone #MondayBlogs #alligators

Hello, dear friends. I’m still adjusting, indulging in what might be a few weeks or a few years of wishful thinking (not to be confused with magical thinking). Reality always wins out though and, for me, there’s only one way to deal with that. Well, actually a couple of ways. One way would be to pop in my earbuds, fire up my Audible app and listen to the latest fiction download while I knit. Unfortunately, the novel I am currently listening to is Because We Are by Ted Oswald. It’s a fictional crime story that takes place in … Haiti, inclusive of the 2010 earthquake. I say “unfortunately” because the story is often so sad. What utter poverty the characters live in! What mean lives the children lead, often fending for themselves as if they were adults, at risk for being killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time! And yet, there’s a crime, a murder that takes place and that the main character, Libète, a feisty little girl, is determined to solve. I still can’t get over how the author has ingeniously hooked and drawn me in, giving me no escape from the daily devastation of Haiti’s poverty by holding out that carrot of a crime to be solved, justice to be done. So I am hooked on this fantastic novel, but it often makes me sad and so … not such a good way to cope with Reality.

My other recourse? Well, thank goodness the temperatures have dropped to more fall-like, mosquito-slowing degrees. Recently, my husband and I took an outing to our favorite natural environment, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, to enjoy a sunset and a little star shine. Granted, this too is Reality but one that can get lost in the highly charged, people-laden, TMI universe unless you make the point to go there.

While my husband focused on filming light to dark for another in his series of time-lapse videos, I took my trusty iPhone and surveyed the area.

Venus's Belt

The Belt of Venus

This is one of the many scenes we were looking forward to: The Belt of Venus, or Twilight Wedgie as I like to call it. In the middle of the photo you can make out a white blob, or possibly a White Heron or Egret. Here is video of the large bird fishing for his (or her) evening meal. The video lasts about a minute.

It was a lovely evening. The few mosquitoes that bothered to appear were slowed by the cool temperatures and weren’t much of a threat. I didn’t even have to swat at them. I just blew at them when they got too close. There were gnats or no-see-ums but my head and neck were covered (it was dropping down to the low fifties) so they weren’t much of a bother for me. I was able to lose myself in recording the sights around me, dropping down on my belly to follow a line of coots off in the distant. Then up on the wooden planking that outlined the round bit of solid ground in the marsh, trying to get another perspective. And then my husband called to me, to look to my left.

We are never alone when we’re at St. Marks … and I’m not talking about the birds …

Strange as it may sound, this relatively young alligator made my night! He (or she) was as curious about me as I was about him (or her). He (for simplicity’s sake) lingered long enough that my husband worried that he might be a trash gator. I will never understand why anyone would feed a gator. Seriously, they don’t look like they need help getting food. But when I fake-tossed to him, he sidled off, moving a few feet further away so he could continue to look at me without threatening his own sense of safety. That was a relief. I like alligators as long as we’re not up close and personal with each other.

So, I’m curious. What do you all do when you’ve had enough of Reality and need a break? Oh, and before you ask, although I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016, I haven’t worked on my novel since before the election. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

Fascinating Development: Fascination Now Available on Amazon!

Hello, everyone. I’ve stepped out of my bubble to share some exciting news. Kevin Brennan has decided to make his latest novel–Fascination–available on Amazon. Yup, so for any of you who have wanted a copy of this crazy-road-trip novel but were hesitant because, well, for some reason you’d rather buy through Amazon than directly from the author (no judgement here), now your preferences are honored.  Click here to get an ebook copy for only $2.99.

If you’re still hesitant, read my original review of Fascination below and see if that doesn’t make you click on through to Amazon.

***

Mary looked jealously at the colorful display on her cousin Maggie’s laptop, her feelings deepening as Maggie scrolled through the novel, showing her the pictures included with the novel they were to discuss that night.  Even the stark landscape of Colorado was appealing with its white clouds, soft blue sky and camel-colored earth.  She smiled tightly, not wanting to let Maggie to even have a hint of her feelings, but still, she did enjoy her Kindle Paperwhite.  And, now that she thought about it, the black and white version of the photos gave the novel a darker undercurrent, one she could still feel under her skin.

“The thing about Brennan’s novels is that he always creates characters and stories that get under my skin.”

Mary looked up, startled to hear Randy echo her own thoughts.  It was as if he knew her better than she knew herself, much like Clive knew Sally better than she knew herself.  These two characters in Fascination, this latest novel by Kevin Brennan, were two people she wasn’t likely to ever forget.

Randy took a sip of his coffee and then resumed as Mary and her two cousins, Maggie and Melissa, gave him their attention. “On the surface of this novel, it’s a crazy kind of a road trip for a crazy kind of reason.  There’s a lot of humor in Fascination, with everything and everyone being fair game for a pun.  But there’s a sadness too, especially with Sally.  She is so naive and your heart just aches for her to understand what’s she’s doing to herself and the people around her.”

Melissa nodded her head a bit aggressively, as if to be sure that she would be the next to share her two cents.  But first they all had to wait for her to swallow a bit of iced lemon scone. “I’m not sure if she was really naive about Mason, her dead-but-not-really-dead husband.  I mean, at first, she thinks they have a good marriage and he doesn’t really do anything to give her a clue that he’s wanting to leave her.  Then when she realizes that his suicide was faked, she won’t let it go.  She has to find him, even though doing so might mean that she won’t get the $500,000 insurance money.” “And all because he wanted a kid, someone to carry on his name — Speck.” 

Maggie snorted.  She had to admit to herself that she didn’t have much empathy for Mason.  Her late husband Bobby had been A-OK when she told him, before they married, that she wasn’t interested in having children.  She had never felt the urge and tended to look at babies as if they were miniature aliens.

“Yes, it does seem extreme for someone to fake a suicide just so they can plant the seed, or speck, with someone else.  But that’s part of the appeal of Fascination, don’t you think?”  As usual, Mary was asking a rhetorical question.  “The characters are quirky, in ways that make you feel fond of them, but they’re also flawed.  And desperate.  Everyone is just trying to find their place in the world–“

“And with each other,” Maggie interrupted.  “Even Stan and Jack, the guys at the Fascination parlor that Sally frequents, there’s some kind of history there.  They have influence.  As she visits other parlors on her road trip with Clive, their names secure her safety as well as help her earn some cash.”

“Which not everybody really likes because she has a preternatural gift with that game.”  Randy smiled as he reached for a chocolate chip scone.  What he would give for a gift like that. “And don’t forget Warren Peeth and all those puns that Clive was so fond of making, almost like he couldn’t help himself.”  Maggie laughed out loud.  “I even found myself laughing out loud, or groaning depending on the pun.  Warren Peeth — that definitely got a groan.”

Melissa made a half-hearted attempt at stifling her own laughter.  “What about Berries Manilow?”

Randy snorted and then grabbed a napkin as coffee dripped from his nose.

“What about the Secret Society of the Mauve Maidenhead or those crazy, bald people at Homewood Place?  Poor Clive.  With his mutton-chop sideburns and pork pie hat, he was really out of place.”  Mary paused to sip her coffee.  “And yet, it was at Homewood Place where Sally and Clive had their confrontation.”  She looked down at her hands.  That confrontation had hit Mary hard.  “You know, sometimes … Brennan just catches me off-guard.”

Maggie and Melissa looked at Mary, their heads tilted toward her, as if beckoning her to continue.  Randy, sitting directly across from her, reached his hands forward slightly, as if making them available in case she needed to hold on.

“What I mean is, I’m reading this novel and going merrily along with these funny characters, this not-really-funny-but-actually-kind-of-funny fake suicide, this road trip of discovery and deception and potholes full of puns … and then suddenly it’s not funny.  I find myself trying to not cry.  I find myself arguing, in my head with myself, that maybe this relationship is just not meant to be.”

“Like with Occasional Soulmates.”  Maggie spoke softly, recalling the surprise but ultimately satisfying ending to that Brennan novel.

“Yes.  So like that.  But I had to keep reading.  The story was just too compelling.  But what a experience and as the story unfolded, I don’t believe it could have happened any other way. And I was relieved it happened as it did!”

“Oh, truly!”  Melissa broke in.  “Just like with his other novels, you get a bit scared, thinking “uh, oh, things aren’t going the way I want them to.”  But things go the way they should go, the only way they can once you understand the characters and their history.  Brennan draws his characters slowly, with a lot of subtlety.  And just like with his other novels, I felt good about the ending.  It really fit.”

“Exactly, and that’s what I really enjoyed about Fascination.  He takes the reader on a road trip, giving you experiences that you may never have in real life, introducing you to characters you wish you could meet in real life, and leaves you with an ending that is as much of your own making as his.”  Randy stood up and started to clear the dishes.  He felt like he was finally getting the hang of these book club discussions.

***

I hope you enjoyed this review. Here again is the link to Fascination on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Fascination-Kevin-Brennan-ebook/dp/B01MSLHUI5/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Happy Reading!

The Long Morning After

I have a splitting headache. I admit to having had one glass of wine too many last night and allowing my husband to talk me into watching early results of the election. Which meant that I also got very little sleep, despite his assurances that all would be well in the morning.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to live, how to get from one day to the next day. Do I encase myself in a darkly tinted bubble and pretend that nothing outside of that bubble matters? I think that would work only if I become a hermit and completely disengage myself from the rest of the world.

Some of you may think I’m being overly sensitive, that I’m taking these election results a little too seriously, that I’m missing the point. I know people–otherwise intelligent, educated, moral people–who voted for Trump mainly because they hated Clinton. They willingly voted for a man who exemplifies every possible ugliness of  human nature. You can hate Clinton all you want, but don’t try and tell me that Trump is someone for our children to aspire to. Unless, of course, you admire people who objectify women, mock the disabled, engage in cyberbullying, and promote xenophobia.

I can only hope that our system of checks and balances will keep the Trump presidency from undoing the progress (both economic and social) that our country has gained over the last few decades. I can hope, but hope hasn’t been very effective lately.

Comments are closed for obvious reasons, and because I have a splitting headache.

 

Cover Reveal: Second Chance Romance

Here’s two of my favorite writers in one post. L. Marie hosts a brief Q & A with Jill Weatherholt about Jill’s soon-to-be-released first novel. If you enjoy romance novels, especially those that warm your heart and lift your spirits, then head over to L. Marie’s blog and leave for a comment for a chance to win a preorder of Second Chance Romance!

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Hope you had a happy Halloween. I consumed copious quantities of carbs. How about you?

If you’re a follower of the blog of the awesome Jill Weatherholt, you know the history behind her debut novel for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. You can click here to read her blog post on the subject. But for now, feast your eyes on this cover!

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Book Blurb
Small-Town Daddy
Jackson Daughtry’s jobs as a paramedic and part-owner of a local café keep him
busy—but the single dad’s number one priority is raising his little girl with love and small-town values. And when his business partner’s hotshot lawyer niece comes to town planning to disrupt their lives by moving her aunt away, Jackson has to set Melanie Harper straight. When circumstances force them to work side by side in the coffee shop, Jackson slowly discovers what put the sadness in Melanie’s pretty brown eyes…

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WritingNotWriting #Mondayblogs #amwriting #amknitting

The title of my post is a riff on the fleetingly popular #SorryNotSorry. I’m writing but not really writing. I mean, I haven’t been writing but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. As usual.

What I have been doing is … knitting.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

This purple and gray wrap will soon be wrapped up and sent to a friend who has cooler temperatures this time of year than I do.

 

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend's birthday.

Just finished this cowl in time for a friend’s birthday.

 

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do.

The beginnings of a shawl for a relative who lives in a cooler clime than I do. And off to the lower left … my foot.

When in doubt, I knit. Not only is knitting a meditative practice, it is also quantifiable. It moves linearly (for the most part anyway). There’s a definite beginning, middle, and end to my knitting. I don’t (often) feel that way about writing.

I have also been studying Spanish, for the nth time since I was in high school. I’ve become a bit obsessive, loading countless learning apps onto my iPhone, logging hours on Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, and downloading videos on learning Spanish from The Great Courses.

And, yet, my fluency leaves something to be desired. Yo tengo tres gatos y un marido.

And, yet … with both knitting and studying Spanish I persevere. I make a knitting error? I just rip it out and start over. I stumble over my grammar in Spanish? I can retake the lessons as often as needed. But writing is different. When I hit a wall in my writing, everything stops and it feels near impossible to get going again.

Quality of writing seems so subjective. I can quantify the number of words I write, but I can’t speak to their quality. With knitting and Spanish, I can see a steady progression of quality as a beautiful pattern takes shape or my review lessons become easier.

The subjective appreciation of writing trips me up every time. And I’ve been working at it as long as I’ve knitting and studying Spanish.

Now, this post will continue on to a rant I wrote almost a year ago. I’m sharing it now because it speaks to my frustration with literary and popular criticism. I had just finished listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and needed to get a few things about the novel off my chest. If you haven’t read The Goldfinch and plan to, you might want to stop here since my rant includes some spoilers. If you have read The Goldfinch and loved it, you might want to stop here because I didn’t. The rest of you may proceed as you wish.

***

I’m a pretty sensitive individual.  I internalize everything.  Let’s say I wrote a novel titled The Goldfinch and not only was it published, but it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.  Sure, I’d be happy for the publicity and the money and probably both would be enough to keep me in a bubble, safe from the knowledge that most buyers of my novel couldn’t finish it, the awareness that some of those who could were not just disappointed but dismayed by it. All the hype, the publicity, the Pulitzer for a novel that is too long and too uneven and too clever.  Near the end of the novel, one character complains about “relentless tedium.” That pretty much describes the pace of The Goldfinch for me. At another point Theo, the narrator, says to a character, “It’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it short.” I laughed out loud at that line. Was Tartt poking fun at her own book? The novel is full of “relentless” litanies and extended dialogues that sound like something out of soap operas. You know the kind. Where the characters keep talking around each other and asking but not answering the same questions over and over until you want to scream, “Oh, just answer the bloody question!”

Only at the end does the reader learn that Theo has been keeping a journal all this time, since his “childhood”; yet, there’s never a mention of him doing so in the earlier parts. I found that so odd given how much this young man moved from one place to another, never once losing a journal apparently but also never mentioning his journals and what might happen if they fell into the wrong hands.

And The Goldfinch itself? I never really felt Theo’s connection with the painting that he claimed to have. Too often it seemed as if he had actually forgotten about it.  He’d have all kinds of adventures with his Ukrainian friend Boris, never once mentioning the painting. Then, suddenly, briefly, he’d describe how he thought about it all the time. And oddly, those descriptions always seemed to occur about the same time I had almost forgotten about the painting myself. Did Tartt have to remind herself that the painting was supposed to be pivotal to the story?

At one point, the reader gets the idea that Theo and Boris might be in love with each other, not an unimportant realization for two teen-aged boys. Yet, the idea goes nowhere. Theo has no problem taking up with women when he returns to NYC and eventually he forgets Boris until they have their odd reunion.

The pace picks up when Boris admits that he stole the painting which has now been stolen from him and he needs Theo to help get it back. But the plot is convoluted and the miracle of it progressing at all is simply because Theo has access to money. I know it’s a given in some genres, like romance novels, where the reader wants to escape into a world where money is not a problem, only love and lust. But this is literary fiction (I think).  Maybe I’m being a “reversed snob” but it’s a pet peeve of mine when a character who heretofore has been nearly destitute comes into a large inheritance and suddenly, money is no longer a problem. He can hop a jet to anywhere, stay in a luxury hotel for days on end, and never worry about the bill.  Boring.

And that’s another thing: Theo seems to suffer illnesses that go on for days, yet he doesn’t die. Somehow he always comes through, but these “relentless” illnesses were part of what pushed me to lose patience with the character. He is unsympathetic, perhaps even a sociopath, incapable of understanding anyone’s feelings but his own.  Often, there didn’t seem to be any there there with Theo.

Now, I actually listened to an audio version of The Goldfinch and I think that’s one reason why I stuck with it. The narrator was quite good and his rendition of Boris was wonderful. And I was listening as a writer, trying to hear how the story ebbed and flowed. I did enjoy many of the other characters, but overall the novel sounded to me as one in a series of drafts, not the first, crude draft but not the final, polished draft either. There was so much that could have been edited out of the novel without doing a whit of harm and, more importantly, doing it much good. Theo’s journal writing would have been a nice thread to have had throughout the novel.

There was a surreal aspect to the novel, which made me cast about for comparisons. Dickens did not come to mind as anything more than Tartt “borrowing” some of Dickens’s characterizations. What I kept thinking about was Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. In both novels, two naïve young men go astray, one is spurred by his desire to be among the better classes, the other by survivor’s guilt and his desire to numb it. Both commit crimes without seeming to have the full sense of their consequences, and both seem naïve to the point of being led about by the “wrong” people. But whereas I was struck by the timeless quality of An American Tragedy, with The Goldfinch I was only struck by how long it took me to suffer through it.  Oh, and that it got an effing Pulitzer.

Town Father is great book club material — and it’s on sale for 99 cents!

Dear Reader, do you belong to a book club? Well, here’s a sale for you and your fellow bookies (or book lovers, whatever): Kevin Brennan’s Town Father is on sale for 99 cents but only through Friday so HURRY! And check out Kevin’s post: he has questions that you can use to guide your book club’s discussion!

WHAT THE HELL

Front cover smallPick me! Pick me!

Starting today and running through Friday, Town Father is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents. I finally landed an EReader News Today slot!

And this gives me the opportunity to suggest that Town Father would make an excellent choice for book clubs. Don’t just take it from me. Author Carrie Rubin (Eating Bull) introduced the book to her club, which just wrapped up their discussion last week.

Carrie had asked if I might want to prepare a few discussion questions for the group to dig into, which I was delighted to do. I might have gone a little overboard with fifteen questions, but consider them a pick n’ choose menu. You can download a pdf here. (Caution: includes spoilers!)

If you’re in a book club and you’re looking for unique historical fiction about a Gold Country village made up of three…

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What’s the Worst That Can Happen When I Don’t Write? #MondayBlogs #amwriting

I don’t like complaining … in public, anyway.  And I don’t like making excuses.  Unfortunately, complaining and excuses seem to go hand-in-hand for me.  The thing about complaining is that there is always someone worse off than me, which should give some perspective.  And the thing about excuses is, nobody cares.  We all have excuses.  We all have reasons why we haven’t done this and why we’ll be late in doing that.

Lately, all I’ve been doing is complaining and making excuses: to my husband, my coworkers, my cats. Because of that, I haven’t been writing for my blog.  I want to, but when I’m being tormented by the demons of Angst, well, I don’t think my writing is very entertaining or fun to do.

You see, I have very little to complain about.  […]

In fact, I just deleted two whole paragraphs where I complain about … something.  This is my desire for privacy kicking in.  My deep-seated belief that some things just should not be shared publicly.  Not that anything awful has happened.  No, no, no.  It’s just the usual issue of balance and I’m not talking about yoga.

So let’s be positive.  Or, rather, let me in this blog post try to retake control of my life.  The thing is, I’m getting too old for this, among other things.  I want to slow down.  Everyone seems to want to speed up.  I want to simplify my life.  Everyone seems to want more and more things, more bells, more whistles, more distraction.  I want to minimize the distractions in my life.  And I write this after having sent out a slough (for me, anyway) of tweets.

Maybe I want others to feel my pain.  Maybe my use of Twitter and Facebook isn’t so much because I want to “connect.”  Maybe I just want to assault people with the same brain-numbing bombardment of tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions that I experience after one of my WP posts goes live.  But that’s not true.  For one thing, I don’t receive that many tweets, pokes, comments, Likes, and Mentions after any of my WP posts.  And I can choose when I respond, should I choose to respond.  So what’s the problem?

You see, there really isn’t any problem.  When I write down my angst, it suddenly seems so trivial.

A couple of decades ago when I was a doctoral student, I fell into a depression.  A mental one.  I once literally fell into a depression and sprained my left ankle.  It occurred about the same time.  Anyway, I digress.  I was seeing a counselor at the university, a wonderful woman recommended by another student.  During one session, she asked me what was the worst thing that would happen if I dropped out of the doctoral program.  How would it ruin my life?  I thought about it and realized that my life would not be ruined if I left the program.  I would be fine.  Although the program was a big part of my life, it didn’t contribute to my happiness … like my husband did, or my knitting, or my friends, or my cats, or my writing, or my walks in the neighborhood.  That one question changed my whole perspective.  I had control.  I could decide to stay, or to go.  I didn’t have to let the program rule me.

Eventually I secured a “real” job (that is, one with better wages than that of the lowly student research assistant), finished my coursework, and simply drifted away.  I admit I toyed with returning to the doctoral program on occasion.  But deciding not to return is a decision I’ve never regretted.

So, what is this about?  Just that I do have control.  I have some control over how things run my life, or, perhaps I should say, whether things do run my life.

I think of my counselor and that pivotal moment in her office, and I ask myself, what is the worst that can come of this?  What are my priorities?  If writing a blog post is not in the top five of my priorities for the day or even the week, what bad will come of that?  If I choose a morning yoga practice, reading The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen, grooming my cats (alas, they have fleas even with Revolution), going to the gym with my husband, and (finally) knitting while watching a movie with my husband, all of that ahead of writing a blog post, who is there to fault me?  Do you think I’m spending too much time with my husband?

Yes, there is so much writing I want to do.  I started working on a revision of Clemency a few weeks ago.  And I’m writing book reviews in my head.  But there’s time, isn’t there?  Does everything have to be done now?  Taking control means that I believe I have all the time in the world.  It means that I don’t live as if this day may be my last.  It means that as long as I enjoy what I am doing when I am doing it, then I am having a good day.  And if that means I don’t get to my novel that day, well, you know, I think I’ll live.

And what about you, dear Reader and dear Friend?  Have you found a balance between living your life and writing?  Share any and all secrets🙂

 

 

I’m experimenting here with trying to share a friend’s WP post and book launch through my phone. And without further ado, I give you Charles Yallowitz and The Charms of the Feykin!

http://legendsofwindemere.com/2016/09/15/legends-of-windemere-charms-of-the-feykin-live-on-amazon-fantasy-asmsg/

A sweet deal on Fascination: it’s twofer time!

Here’s a twofer for lovers of good reading: Buy Fascination from Kevin Brennan and get one of his other ebooks for FREE! I’ve read all of them and highly recommend each one. So hurry up and take advantage of this deal!

WHAT THE HELL

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summer’s over. Bummer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t catch up on your summer reading, and the hottest book this summer is — you guessed it — Fascination!

But to sweeten the pot now that Labor Day has come and gone, I’m offering readers of What The Hell a special deal.

Buy Fascination at any of the price points and earn yourself a copy of any of my other ebooks free. That’s right: it’s a twofer!

Pay at least $3.99 for Fascination, which I’ll deliver straight to your desktop, and select Yesterday Road, Occasional Soulmates, or Town Father in either epub or mobi format.

I realize a lot of regulars around here have already read the other three books, but I’m sure there are some of you who haven’t read all three. Or who haven’t bought Fascination yet. You can always give your freebie to…

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Naked Alliances up for Eversion Pre-Order and Paperback is Published

Line up, readers, S. K. Nichols has a new novel, Naked Alliances, featuring a crazy cast of characters that you might only find in Central Florida. You can get the paperback now or pre-order the ebook version which will be available later this month.

S.K. Nicholls

As you may have noticed, I’ve been off social media for a while. There were too many things on my mind and loads of work to get done. I’m packing to go to Michigan to see my new grandbaby…my first born’s first born. Really excited about that.

We also have a book. Naked Alliances is now available in paperback only and the eversion is up for pre-order. Yay!!!

4

Had to go this route this time. The publicist package we won at Sleuthfest came with a publicist who insists we have a book before she begins her marketing campaign. (I personally believe in a lot of pre-marketing, but she needed ARCs for reviewers and this is the only way to get them with CreateSpace.)

Mayglenn McCombs, the publicist, will be doing a blog tour, but I’d also like to set one up on my own. Anyone willing to help, let me…

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