Views From the Road: Back to Nevada Where There’s No Hurricanes #MondayBlogs #Rockcandy

The good news is my home and hearth came through Hurricane Michael with some inconvenience but no damage, no loss of life or limb, nothing but a scary few hours and no power for a couple of days. Words cannot express the devastation that Michael wrought elsewhere. Frankly, it’s with relief that I turn my thoughts and my writing back to Nevada where there’s no hurricanes.

If you’re just joining me now, you can read earlier installments on my fun-filled vacation here and here and here and here. I have enough fodder for another two or three posts, then … God knows what I’ll do.

But I digress.

While in Reno, we visited the W.M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum (isn’t that a mouthful?). It’s a small, lovely museum but even before I entered it, I was taken aback by this “room”:

This sign was situated where I could view it best. Right next to the toilet.

Once a classroom, now a restroom!

You read that right! This restroom was once a classroom. I have to admit, the conversion was artfully done. I wish my bathrooms were as nice and spacious. And I’d love to have this radiator anywhere in my house.

If I approve of the restrooms, then I’m going to approve of the rest of the building. The Keck Museum did not fail to impress. I’m not a geologist, but even I could not help but be captivated by the beautiful minerals and jaw-dropping fossils I saw.

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The University of Nevada campus is lovely, with much of the original architecture still in use. I wish I had taken more pictures but I fatigued quickly in the heat. Still, I had to pause long enough to take a few photos of this oasis.

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In my next two or so posts I plan (oh, my, am I really using the word “plan”???) to share our trip to Grimes Point, my husband’s quest for the “Holy Grail” of time lapses (the Milky Way over Lake Tahoe), and a story about the kindness of strangers. Hope to see you all here again soon.

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Another Unscheduled Interruption #HurricaneMichael

Now if I were a planner, I’d have all my remaining posts on our vacation written, proofed, revised and scheduled. But “Planner” is not my middle name. My middle name doesn’t even begin with P.

A more disciplined person than myself would have used this day–oh, happy day off work–to at least write up and scheduled those posts. And no one would be the wiser. But “Discipline” is also not my middle name, nor does my middle name begin with D.

No, this happened instead:

I wear hearing aids. Fancy ones with little soft plastic detachable domes that sit in the ear. Yesterday at work, I pulled out my left hearing aid and saw that the dome was gone. I searched the floor, thinking it had fallen off. Nothing. Not worried because I have plenty of these parts at home. I go on with my day. Go to the gym to walk/run the treadmill while listening to an audiobook with my earbuds. Go home. Have dinner, a glass (or two) of wine. My left ear starts to itch and it feels like I got a chunk of wax in there. Later I try to coax out the wax with … you guessed it … a Q-tip. Nothing. Then my ear starts to ache. Too late I realize that the dome was stuck in my ear. I tried some ear drops to see if lubricating it would allow it to slip out. Of course, not. It’s too big. I tried flushing with water. I went to bed in a panic because, of course, it was already past midnight and you know, there’s a hurricane coming. I eventually fell asleep but the earache got worse. First thing this morning I called my doctor’s office. Forty-five minutes later I was there. Ten minutes later the nurse practitioner pulled out the dome with a pair of tweezers. Fortunately I hadn’t done any harm to my ear canal or ear drum, although I have to use prescription ear drops and avoid wearing my hearing aids for a few days. Whew! Although I do need them, I don’t like wearing my hearing aids and usually don’t wear them unless I’m going to work or driving (public safety … need to hear those sirens).

The best part of the story is it gave me an opportunity to get some cash, fill up the gas tank, and buy some more water before the last minute shopping mobs clog the streets. Oh, and I tried to put diesel gas into my Prius. Just grabbed the wrong hose but it took me awhile to figure it out. Sometimes I feel (and act) like such a flake.

Now, you should have read that “there’s a hurricane coming.” Yeah, Michael–that hurricane (

See the light purple? I’m in there.

Okay, so there’s a hurricane coming and I haven’t any blog posts scheduled (except now this one) and I’ll be falling off the radar for awhile … not literally I hope.

I expect power outrages, of course, but fingers and toes are crossed that we all get through this safely. We’ve had plenty of notice and even some practice with Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Since we don’t live on the coast (we’re about 20-30 miles inland), we are not being evacuated. We will be riding out the storm as they say, but it’ll be bumpy.

So think of us over the next few days. I know I have some good friends out there who have weathered events like this (pun intended) and lived to tell the tale. I won’t pretend to be fearless. Hurricane Hermine made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, and that was scary. Michael intends to be a Category 3.

I suspect that before the end of the day, we’ll all be huddled in the bedroom closet with Junior.

Mom?? Is Michael here yet??? MOM!

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Views From the Road: Reno, Nevada #MondayBlogs #travel

When we told people about our upcoming vacation, and that part of it would be in Reno, most responded, “Reno?! Why Reno?” Often I answered, “Why not?” When we lived in San Francisco, we spent our summer vacations hiking and camping around Nevada. My husband in particular is fond of the basin-and-range topography. We actually had wanted to stay in Carson City, the state capital, but I couldn’t find us a decent Airbnb. I must confess, I love Airbnb. I love staying in a neighborhood where I can pretend, for my short visit, that I live there. I love being able to eat-in instead of having to dine out, which of course saves a lot of $$$.

Greg suggested Reno when my Airbnb search in Carson City came up empty. Besides, we both noted, the airport is right there.

So after our excursions in California (which you can read about here and here and here), we took off for Reno, Nevada. Our drive across the state was longer than anticipated because:

(1) we woke to find our rental car had a flat tire and so Greg had to change it out with the spare, then we had to find a Budget place nearby and switch out the car. This was the Saturday before Labor Day, mind you, and getting service was no easy task.

(2) I-80 is a slog. Stop-and-go almost the entire 200+ miles.

Lucky for us, I have a friend along the way, near Auburn, and we were able to take a break and visit with him and his wife, their dog and transient cat in their very lovely home. Some of you know this friend: Kevin Brennan. Yeah, THAT Kevin Brennan! Woot! It was great fun to sit with Kevin and Sue and drink ice water (have I mentioned yet how hot it was) and talk about writing and politics. It would have been more fun if we hadn’t had that flat tire and been able to arrive in time for lunch. Eh, it was a wonderful respite nonetheless. Meeting Kevin face-to-face was the highlight of that day for me. We’ve been “virtual” friends for about four or five years now. It was nice to get a real hug from him instead of an emoji.

By the time we got to Reno, it was dusk, my husband’s eyes were itchy, and we were bickering about how to find the condo we were renting. We found it.

Our Airbnb condominium in Reno, Nevada

Our condo was on the seventh floor, high enough for Greg to do a day-to-night timelapse from our window.

Watch the video and you’ll see fireworks at the end. Seriously, fireworks. A block from our condo are several casinos. We assume the fireworks were some kind of promotion or entertainment. They definitely were entertaining for us.

Reno is an interesting city, definitely a work in progress. We met a friend of a friend who has been living in Reno for the last couple of years. She’s an artist and is very excited about the developing art scene. It was fun to walk around with her, but it was also hot and very, very dry. I have to admit, I felt unsettled, uneasy from the moment we arrived in Reno. While I know Greg and I are on the hunt for affordable living way west of where we currently live, I wished we had stayed in Lagunitas for a second week.

I never shook off my uneasiness. Some of it was a sense of foreboding, some of it was fatigue. Even though Reno is a walkable city, it was too hot and dry to walk much. But when we walked, I took lots of photos. The photos below are grouped by location rather than time.

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The Truckee River literally runs through Reno, bisecting it into North Reno and South Reno. We had a view of the river from our living room window, and it is a wonderful amenity. One late afternoon, I took off by myself to just walk along the paved path that follows the river. Here’s my favorite photo from that walk:

Truckee River going west.

Reno is investing in its creative potential. Whimsical metal sculptures, colorful murals give a lift to the otherwise grimy, gritty feel of the city, especially where the casinos are. The grittiness never left me, though, and thanks to the dry air, by the end of the week I was having nosebleeds.

Yeah, that bad.

We had more adventures ahead of us, some fun, some … not so fun. Tales of our time in Nevada will be continued so stay tuned.

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We’ll Always Have Messenger #MondayBlogs #ILoatheFacebook

A few days ago I took a Texas chainsaw to my Facebook friend list. I was teetering on a tipping point, the same tipping point that I’ve been balancing myself on for a few years now. I’ve come to loathe Facebook. Yet I still use it. Every time I decide that now is the time to delete my account and be done with it, someone I really really like sends me a Friend Request. And I simply can’t refuse.

But there are friends and there are … “friends.” For a long time the majority of my Facebook friends were family members, mostly cousins. Now, the thing about my cousins is that we are quite diverse, not just geographically but politically. Yeah, you know where this is going.

Shortly after Trump was elected I witnessed emotionally charged arguments on Facebook between cousins, people who were otherwise close and affectionate with each other. For some reason, people just had to weigh in if a cousin shared a news story or a meme that they didn’t like. Rather than just move on and leave the bickering to others, they would jump in with both feet. Being fairly thin-skinned myself, I was shocked and saddened by what I read (and, yes, I often made the mistake of participating). We had all been on Facebook for years and yet everyone, including myself, seemed surprised at how quickly these “disagreements” could escalate. Eventually everyone settled down, went back to their silos, probably turning off the “Follow” button so they could still be Facebook friends but not view whatever was going on in their friends’ or cousins’ lives.

Let’s fast-forward a little bit. There was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Plenty of evidence all around that Facebook was in the business of making money first and protecting users’ data … like never. We all got through that.

The political roller-coaster that our country is in continued, with motion-sickness pills being passed around and people slowly becoming numbed and adding insulation to their silos.

Then Kavanaugh. Need I say more?

All along I’ve been hating Facebook. I try to make it work for me but it never does. I follow and unfollow people, frustrated that I might miss some important family news when I don’t follow and then being inundated with memes and news items when I do follow. (By the way, I don’t get my news from Facebook. Just sayin’.) I’m constantly manipulating my so-called news feed so it doesn’t keep showing me the same darn post over and over again because once I’ve pretty much unfollowed everyone, all that is left are … knitting ads.

Back to Kavanaugh. I started losing my balance on the tipping point when a couple of cousins noted that they didn’t believe Dr. Ford. Fine, but who cares? Well, I care. Bigly. And the element of snickering snarkiness in the comments decided it for me. My life is simply too short for this kitty poop. So, you say, simply unfollow the person who made the post and the people who commented on it. Not so easy, because you see, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to Facebook. As another cousin described it, Facebook is like driving by the scene of an accident. You really shouldn’t look but you can’t help yourself.

I totally lost my balance when I saw this article in the Washington Post:

Interestingly, the Facebook account of another relative of mine was hacked into a few weeks ago. He wasn’t the only victim. Many people associated with his account got a message presumedly from him, only it wasn’t. I was one of those people. What might affect 50 million users directly exponentially affects a thousand times more.

With that, I revved my Texas chainsaw and unfollowed every one of my cousins. I didn’t want to play favorites. I didn’t want someone coming after me one day and saying “I always knew you liked so-and-so better.” And I love my cousins, really I do. I just don’t want to be Facebook friends anymore. We were cousins long before Facebook, long before Mark Zuckerberg himself was born. We’re still cousins. We’re still family. We don’t need Facebook.

I haven’t deleted my account. I belong to a couple of writing organizations that are pretty active on Facebook so I want to stay in for a while, at least to see if being involved in those groups is worth my time.

But if any of my cousins happens to read this, just remember, we will always have Messenger. And if you want my phone number, you can always call my mom.

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming … #bookreview #shamelesspromotion

Florida’s Emerging Writers, published by Z Publishing House, is now printed and available for purchase. I have a story published in this anthology and, yeah, I’m pretty proud of it. That’s about as shameless as I can get.

No wait. I can up the shamelessness of my self-promotion. Carrie Rubin (yes, THE Carrie Rubin. Author of The Seneca Scourge, Eating Bull, and Bone Curse) wrote a review of my story and others in the anthology. You can read her review here:

You can imagine my delight and gratitude when I read Carrie’s review. You can also imagine how choked up I got when a friend told me over dinner one night that he had read my story three or four times and then proceeded to talk about its meaning, in particular the part where Melissa and her mother June drive over the “railroad tracks, a hump in the road that made Melissa feel that she was going up a roller coaster.” My friend riffed on the idea of trains, how they come and go, the sense of traveling through time, these two women trying to visit a past that had already left the station.

If either Carrie’s review or my friend’s comments peak your interest in this new anthology of Florida’s Emerging Writers, please click here. Any purchase you make using this link will net me a small commission. (And my continuing shameless self-promotion includes peppering my post with the link for purchase.)

Thank you all for your support.

Yes, there is a cat in my office window. Why are you surprised?


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Views From the Road: Beaches #beaches #PointReyesNationalSeashore #MondayBlogs

After our weekend in San Francisco, my husband and I drove (or he drove and I rode) to Lagunitas, a small town in Marin County, near Point Reyes National Seashore. When we lived in San Francisco in the late 1980s, we would occasionally cross the Golden Gate Bridge and spend a day hiking around the park. Even back then, driving to and from Point Reyes took up a good portion of the day; so it was a real treat to spend a few days close by, wasting less time driving and spending more time in awe.

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Our first full day, we settled ourselves at Bodega Head: Greg to do a time lapse, me to run around and take still photos of rocks and waves. It’s when I’m in a place like this that I always ask myself, “why did we leave?”

I could watch this video all day:

A couple of days later, we went to Limantour Beach … because it’s there.

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Well, the beach is actually here …

Our final beach visit was Kehoe Beach where we stayed long enough for Greg to do a short timelapse.

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Here’s a nice panoramic video of Kehoe Beach:

And, finally, 31 seconds of Zen …

By the time we were fixing to leave Lagunitas for Reno, I was crossing fingers that by the time I retire, the housing bubble will have burst and we could afford to live in Petaluma. Just California dreaming … cue The Mamas and the Papas.


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Views From the Road: Mount Hamilton and the Lick Observatory #Mondayblogs #travel

Continuing with our late summer travels to California and Nevada, our next stop was the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. We had been to the Lick Observatory in 2012; traveling there from San Francisco is a day’s journey and given that we were staying with friends only for the weekend, we didn’t even think of going there this year. To our happy surprise, our friend wanted to go, had been wanting to go for a long time. Well, whatever would make her (and my husband) happy. We set off on a Sunday, after buying huge sandwiches from Gus’s Community Market so we could picnic at the observatory’s courtyard.

Mount Hamilton is 4,265 feet above sea level. Given that San Francisco is 52 feet above sea level, that’s some serious climbing by car. Mount Hamilton Road is a narrow, twisting 19 miles. I’d have taken pictures except my eyes were closed much of the time.

I did open them long enough to snap this photo, when we pulled over to change drivers. Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, I was not driving. At. All.

Just another 1,000 feet to climb. So close and so yet so far.

The buildings you see are where the astronomers-in-residence stay. Since most of their work is done at night, visitors are urged to be quiet when walking around the grounds since they are likely to be sleeping.

This video is a panoramic from the parking lot once we got there safely.

It was a lovely day as you can see, just some smokey haze to the south of us.

I didn’t take many pictures while at the Lick Observatory so I’m going to cheat and show pictures from our 2012 trip. Before I do that, let me tell you a little bit about James Lick, the founder of the observatory. He was born in 1796 in Pennsylvania. He was a carpenter. He fell in love with the young daughter of the wealthiest man in his town, a flour mill owner. When she became pregnant, Lick assumed that his beloved’s father would grant him her hand in marriage. Sadly for Lick, his beloved’s father wanted nothing to do with a lowly carpenter who would never amount to anything and sent Lick packing all the way out of town. Lick became a piano maker, a craft he was so successful at that he eventually opened his own business in New York City. When he realized that many of his orders were coming from Argentina, he moved there and became even wealthier.

Wars in South America eventually drove Lick back to the United States, but rather than the East Coast, he went to the West Coast, to a little town called San Francisco. The year was 1848. He arrived with about $30,000 in gold and 600 pounds of chocolate. He founded the Ghiradelli Chocolate Company with a friend from Peru. He tried his hand at mining gold but quickly realized that he would be better off buying land.

He bought a lot of land in San Francisco and San Jose. He built the largest flour mill in the state, supposedly larger than the one owned and operated by the man who had rejected him as a potential son-in-law. According to the docent at the Lick Observatory, James Lick made sure that his beloved’s father knew just how successful he had become.

Casting about for things to build with his wealth, friends encouraged Lick to build an observatory. He had been interested in astronomy since about 1860 and so it seemed like a good idea. Lick wanted to leave a legacy, and he truly did with the Lick Observatory.

Lick died in 1876, several years before the Observatory was completed. In 1887, his body was moved and he now rests under the 36-inch Refracting Telescope.

Oh, and what about his son? Lick had kept in touch with his former paramour and their son. When his son was a young adult, Lick sent for him, I guess to see what he was made of. Apparently he wasn’t made of much. Lick was so disappointed in his son that he purposely kept him out of his will. While that was unfortunate for the young man, it was most fortunate for all the public good that Lick chose to invest instead.

Here are a few scenes from our 2012 visit to the Lick Observatory.

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Views From the Road: Devil’s Slide and Mussel Rock

I recently returned from a two-week vacation to the West Coast and thereabouts. It was a busy but fun vacation, visiting friends and familiar places, making new friends and having new experiences. It was one of those vacations you didn’t want to end, but you knew it had to because: (1) you have a job you have to go back to (and that job finances your vacations) and (2) you don’t have the stamina you used to have. Oh and let’s not forget (3) your furry balls-and-chain, your cats who tend to puke over everything whenever you’re absent for more than a couple of days.

One of the first spots we visited when we arrived at San Francisco was Devil’s Slide in San Mateo County. Besides the dramatic coastline, Devil’s Slide has an interesting landmark: a World War II bunker that looks as though it’s about ready to topple into the ocean. The bunker is privately owned and, yes, there’s a fence warning of danger and trespassing on the site. But when we visited, people were  literally crawling over the ruin, graffiti artists had had their way with it, and we obviously got up close and personal … but not too personal. I didn’t want this to be my last vacation.

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You can find more information on the bunker here:

For those who like their waves live, here’s a short video. I actually took a lot of videos on this trip, finding them to be a more satisfying way to remember my experiences than gazing at a stationary image.

Next we checked out Mussel Rock. My husband had been reading Assembling California by John McPhee and this is how he begins the book (pp. 3-5):

“Mussel Rock is a horse. As any geologist will tell you, a horse is a displaced rock mass that has been caught between the walls of a fault. This one appears to have got away … green seas slammed against it and turned white. It was not a small rock. It was like a three-story building, standing in the Pacific, with brown pelicans on the roof … after a five hundred-mile northwesterly drift through southern and central California, this was where the San Andreas Fault intersected the sea.

“[…] there is granite under the sea off Mussel Rock that is evidently from the southern Sierra Nevada, has travelled three hundred miles along the San Andreas system, and continues to move northwest. As evidence of the motion of the plates, that granite will do.”

I don’t have any pictures of the “rock” itself, probably too distracted by this sight:

Looks like fun, but you’ll never catch me gliding. I’d probably puke all over the rocks.

Stay tuned for more fun and frivolity!

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Views From the Road: Teaser #Mondayblogs #travel

Guess where we went on vacation …

Guess what my husband did most of the time we were on vacation …

More on this and other adventures later. I’m still recovering.

UPDATE on my short story in Florida’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology by Z Publishing House — it’s now available for purchase! To get yourself a copy (because you know you want to), click here: Florida’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology. Keep in mind, if you use this link, anything you purchase from Z Publishing will net me a commission. Sweet. I like these people.

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Long Overdue Book Reviews: The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin #MondayBlogs #bookreview

As many of you should know, Carrie Rubin is the author of three novels: The Seneca Scourge, Eating Bull, and (most recently) The Bone Curse. I’ve already reviewed Eating Bull here. I don’t always read in order, that is, in the sequence in which an author’s novels are published. I read The Bone Curse before I read The Seneca Scourge. I also posted my review of The Seneca Scourge on Amazon whereas I’m just now getting around to writing a review of The Bone Curse. Check out my review of The Seneca Scourge here (and then pick up a copy while you’re there).

I wonder why my book reviewing is so idiosyncratic. Surely, I’m not a procrastinator. I don’t have a passive-aggressive relationship with writing book reviews. I don’t dawdle …


Well, maybe I do dawdle when it’s time to write a book review. If I do, it’s because I want to be sure I can do justice to what I’ve just read. If I’ve really enjoyed the novel, the characters and the story will stay with me, get under my skin, make me itch. The itching won’t relent until I’ve completed my part of the bargain.

The Bone Curse is the first in a series featuring med student Ben Oris, a guy so pragmatic that he almost loses everyone he loves because he doesn’t want to face the truth: not everything in this world can be explained by science. He’s not alone in his skepticism. I was skeptical too. While I enjoy thrillers, especially medical thrillers, it takes a deft hand to weave the supernatural into a thriller. Take it from me: Carrie Rubin has two deft hands.

The story begins with Ben getting cut by an ancient bone while visiting the Paris catacombs with his best friend (and unacknowledged soulmate) Laurette. The cut doesn’t heal, a nagging annoyance to Ben. What initially starts off as inconvenience quickly turns into horror as people Ben cares about start getting sick … and dying … from a grisly illness that no one can diagnose or cure. Before too long Ben realizes that it is contact with him, specifically blood from his perpetually bleeding wound, that precipitates the plague on his friends and loved ones. Laurette divines what is going on, that Ben was cursed by the bone in the catacombs, but to save her friend, she must convince him. She must convince Ben that he is cursed and that the only remedy is through Vodou. Laurette convinced this reader long before she convinced Ben … except I’m not sure that she convinced him entirely.

The Bone Curse is fast-paced, a true thriller in that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. You don’t want to put the book down. You want to know what is going to happen next and yet you dread that knowledge. You ask yourself, How many more people will be infected before Ben gets his head out of his pragmatic ass and do what Laurette tells him to do!? Or something along those lines.

This is what I mean about characters getting under my skin. I’m still kind of pissed at Ben for insisting on applying logic and science to events that were not even remotely logical or scientific. I think of how many doctors I’ve known who are just like Ben, and I understand the other aspects of this novel that resonated with me: the grueling pace of medical residency, the near-murderous competition among medical residents and interns, the godlike decision-making of the attendings. The Bone Curse is grounded in the world of science and medicine, a world where one expects to find answers, but in this novel, the answers are not what one expects to find.

That is why I look forward to the next installment in this series. I like Ben Oris. I like his dad, even his mom. I like his complicated relationship with his attending. I like Laurette a lot, more than Ben to be honest.

I really hope Carrie intends to publish another Benjamin Oris novel soon (no pressure, Carrie). I want to see Ben’s pragmatic bubble poked, prodded, and hopefully popped although I’m sure he’ll pull out a spool of skeptic’s thread and stitch up those holes before you can say “Vodou.”

Carrie has a lovely website where you can find more information about her and her books:

You can also find her on Twitter at and on Facebook at

Of course, if you want to cut to the chase and purchase her books, here you go:


Comments are closed so you can just click yourself over to Carrie’s Amazon page and start buying and reading.

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