Tag Archives: wordsandotherthings

connections 

mother folds the rug back 
while father sweeps

mother stirs the pot 
while father fixates
on a crack in the ceiling

 anything but the way
my shoulders jackhammer
while i am begging him
in some devastated tongue

 to see me in some light, any light

they say a mother’s love knows no bounds
but what happens when your own mother
is so broken she cannot lift a hand
to see the way it looks so much like your own?

i am screaming with my mouth shut
and i’ve run out of bandages
to keep my bones from breaking
in one fragile swoop like some cheap trinket

i am grasping at straws made of sand
they turn to dust in my grasp
like this mirage that tries to
tell me i have a family

i kneel behind my son in damp grass
wrap both hands around his waist
point at whatever wonder the day is bringing

and i think: i’ve done this, haven’t i?
i’ve been on the other side of this
hands around my waist, so small
somewhere in the fog of another life.

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all that we cannot change

my son chases sunrays that filter in and

dance across our living room floor,

and my heart is heavy.

 

in all those late-night conversations

let’s have a child, let’s move mountains, create miracles

there was a should we? that lingered on my husband’s lips,

always.

 

life, I said. it happens all around us. it stops for nothing.

not even for the darkest of days.

we still love, we still create.

 

we chase sunrays,

shape happiness with shaking hands

 

drive cars and drink wine and laugh

and laugh and laugh

 

and then we cry for all that we cannot change.

 

but then we sigh, take another sip, compose ourselves.

hug our children and whisper I love you and watch

our favorite television shows and drown out all the badness.

 

I touch my son’s cheek

I dream of his future

still, I regret nothing.

 

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Spamalicious!

After reading hilarious posts about comment spam from my blogging friends Edward Hotspur (my left index finger keeps wanting to spell your last name “Hotsput”), and Curly Carly, I’ve decided to share the very few – but pretty funny – spam I received on this lovely Thursday morning (afternoon?).

1.) Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. WordPress Seo Plugin

 

Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention. But, I was never very good at math; how is my keyword density doing? It might be around 6%. Is that too much? Too many rules.

But wait…THERE’S EVEN MORE!

I just confused you with all of this useless information…BUT HERE’S A PLUGIN THAT WILL DO ALL OF THIS FOR YOU!

Huh?

 

2.) Another great site about this niche you can find over here sexdating!!! Let me know what you think about this site and i’ll subscribe to your blog!

Maybe I should check out this whole sexdating thing…I could use more subscribers…

 

3.) This website is realy nice! I just wanna say thank you for sharing this kind of sex-dating information with us.

You’re welcome! I know what I’m talkin’ about.

 

4.) Do you like the game tetris? Play Tetris online now!

Why…yes! Yes I do! Thanks!

 

Happy Thursday, everyone.

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Inside the envelope…

My story and a money order went inside an evelope much like this one.

Oh, you wanted to know what’s inside? Well unfortunately I can’t tell you just yet. My submission for the Writers’ Journal Write to Win! Contest has been signed, sealed and (well, almost) delivered.

First place receives $150; an honorable mention receives a 1 year subscription. Wish me luck!

Now it’s back to focusing on the novel thing.

On a side note, I attended a poetry reading in the hilly area of Wallingford, PA last night. It was (truly) a dark and stormy night, and a friend and myself climbed the winding hilltop to the Community Art center, a tiny building with an old-world feel. A bright, airy art gallery greeted us inside, amazing works of art staring out from the white walls.

Presented by the Mad Poets Society, local poet/artist Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore read from his self-published (and extremely well put together, for self-publishing) collection of poetry, The Puzzle. All of Moore’s books can be found and purchased here. You won’t regret it!

Moore looked every bit the part of a poet: maroon turtleneck, rounded glasses at the tip of his nose, a strong, intelligent voice and a bit of scruffiness around the cheeks. I was instantly amazed by his use of language, but was blown away while he read his last poem of the night, “Life & Death”, the wind and rain blowing about through the bay window behind him.

Here’s a preview of Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore’s poem, “Life & Death”, already dog-eared in my copy (found in his collection, The Puzzle):

“Death covered Life’s form with congenial curves and gradual movements

Life pushed forward, lifting one leg against Death’s weight

Death entered Life in a smooth silkiness and trembled

Life saw the window fill with Death’s light

Death shook the furniture and exploded inside Life’s body

Life moved around Death with slow melodious movements

Death glanced at the birds out Life’s windows fluttering away

Life saw light billow across Death’s sky”

 

Amazing stuff, is it not?

He signed my copy in doctor-like scribble: “For Nicole: Your smiling eyes and crazy blouse!” (Glad I wore my blouse with tubes of lipstick and colorful bottles of perfume all over it.)

Each of Moore’s books are adorned with his own collages, all of which he believes fit with the book they are assigned to.

After his reading, the small group of us that had traveled through the rain to hear Mr. Moore read chatted over cookies and vegetables, talking about our own writing and the weather outside. I had brought 5 poems with me, printed on neon orange paper (we were out of white, okay?!), and was convinced to read them in front of my intimate audience.

I’ve never read my own work in front of an audience (with the exception of my parents when I was maybe 5 or 6, and had written a poem about a ball or something similar) and have not spoken in front of one since a public speaking course about 3 years ago, but it felt good. It really did. I was received with smiles and a few small claps, and I enjoyed it.

So we survived the trip back down the hill and over the bridge, and I couldn’t be happier that we went.

Tonight at midnight I will be seeing Paranormal Activity 3! More on that later.

Happy Thursday!

 

 

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Completely avoiding the “shame spiral”

"You look like a poet!" It must have been the Molly Ringwald circa 1986 look that got them. (It's definitely the hat.)

I spent my Friday night – in extremely good company – on the beautiful campus of Rosemont University, celebrating the winner of the 2011 Marguerite McGlinn Prize for Fiction, the very humble and very friendly B.G. Firmani. Her story, “To the Garden”, is raw, passionate, and deserves more than one read. So, I highly suggest you become a member of Philadelphia Stories today, snag your copy of the Fall 2011 issue, and read B.G.’s story over and over again. 🙂 (And if you live in Center City or surrounding areas, you can pick up your free copy at these places. But really, become a member. Do it.)

The 2012 contest kicks off in January, so stay tuned. If you’d like to submit a piece to the magazine, go here for details!

OK – enough marketing.

I may have left Ducky at home on Saturday, but my Molly Ringwald hat and I had a fabulous time at the Philadelphia Stories Push to Publish conference, networking and learning the ins and outs from some seriously talented writers.

The keynote speaker for the conference – and also the judge of this year’s fiction contest, who chose B.G.’s winning story – was author Steve Almond. (Is it lame that I feel cool after meeting someone with an entire Wikipedia page devoted to them? Probably. Whatever.) Definitely quirky. Very funny. He wore a gray t-shirt under a plaid button-up, and I’d swear the word “boobs” was printed on that t-shirt. Hm.

He started the day off with a wonderful speech about avoiding the “shame spirals” all writers face, in the times when they think their work sucks more than it has ever sucked before, and there is no reason to go on. After being a New York Time’s Bestseller, he has gone on to self-publish several of his own books, enjoying the more intimate way it reaches his audience. For Almond, it isn’t about the money, something I can relate to and loved hearing from the mouth of another writer. (But if I could make thousands off one book, well duh…) Almond suggested finding “your audience in a natural and organic matter”. He loves the feeling of being the one to place his book in the hands of his reader. Love it!

He went on to talk a bit about the self-publishing experience, and reminded each of us to stay true to ourselves, and decide “the sort of publishing experience you want”. He also signed my copy of his newest book of short stories, God Bless America, as well as a pocket-sized book entitled Letters From People Who Hate Me (in here he scribbled: Make love, not hate mail!).

He is my new hero.

The experience continued with speed dates with editors and agents. In the first round I received extremely helpful feedback on some poetry from an editor at APIARY, a literary magazine in Philadelphia, and I plan on tweaking some things and submitting them. Next, I met with a very, very sweet woman named Rosemary, the editor of Philadelphia Poets Journal. She enjoyed two of my poems, and I am hoping to submit them in June, when the journal resumes accepting submissions.

My last speed date involved the first three chapters of my novel, and while I was under the impression that I was meeting with yet another editor, Liars Club member Don Lafferty informed me that she was, in fact, an agent.

Naturally, I went into panic mode. My novel is measly, definitely not finished and definitely not ready for the big dogs to be looking at it. But, I sat down, shook her hand, handed her my half of a typed page that I called a synopsis along with my three paper-clipped chapters printed on fancy resume paper, and hoped for the best.

I nearly fell off my seat, of course, as I took the card that she handed to me and mechanically tucked it into my folder, and I had already drifted into a different state of mind as I heard the words “powerful writing”, “I never do this”, and “I have a good feeling about you”.

And I’m pretty sure I was in “la-la land” as she told me to email her as soon as I am finished my first draft. Huh? Unreal.

Of course I ran outside and immediately lit a cigarette to calm my flailing nerves, and called my mother (the first person I always call in times like these). But, as I came down from my high, I realized that as wonderful as it was to hear those words, they don’t necessarily mean that she will still want my novel when it’s finished. But – regardless – it was inspiring, and a definite push to finish this baby.

After lunch I attended three sessions: “Writing and Selling Genre Fiction”, “The Joys of Small Presses”, and “Meet the Agents and Editors”, all of which gave me some great information that I scribbled down in my little journal.

I met a pro-golfer/part-time poet and mingled with novelists, flash-fiction enthusiasts, and lovers of historical writing.

I took more away from the conference than I would have ever expected, and certainly avoided any dreaded writing “shame spirals”.

Write on!

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“Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

He used to scare me most of all.

Did I get your attention?

Good.

Alvin Schwartz gave me nightmares at ten years old, and at 23, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark still makes me want my mommy. The illustrations – done by Stephen Gammell – are even enough to make one sleep with the light on. I recently discovered the boyfriend’s 25th Anniversary Edition when he said he finally, “remembered to bring my book of scary stories we used to read when I was a kid!” during our trip to the Poconos. Turns out, it’s the same book I used to read (and listen to on tape) with friends, curled up in  a corner of the library during recess or after school.

The Hearse Song was our favorite – and we memorized every line, of course – but nowadays, the book (and its 2 sequels) probably wouldn’t go over well with most parents, with lines like:

“A big green worm with rolling eyes

Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.

Your stomach turns a slimy green,

And pus pours out like whipping cream.”

I probably shouldn’t have eaten before writing this post.

“Hey kids! Who wants to sing about decomposition?”

“Oooooh! Me! Me!”

"A boy was digging at the edge of the garden when he saw a big toe. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to something."

How about the story of a slightly deformed young boy with a bent shovel, who discovers the toe of a man that was apparently buried in their garden, then gives the toe to his mother who puts in in their soup for supper? Now while I might read something like this to my child before bedtime, with some hot chocolate and a nightlight, most parents probably wouldn’t.

I've got dinner!

One of my favorites was always “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker”, the story of a boy and his dog who spend a night in a haunted house, where every night it was said that a bloody head fell down the chimney (not too scary, right?). I think I was more terrified by the fact that the dog could talk.

“For a while nothing happened. But a little after midnight he heard someone singing softly and sadly off in the woods. The singing sounded something like this:

‘Me tie dough-ty walker!’

‘It’s just somebody singing,’ the boy told himself, but he was frightened.

Then his dog answered the song! Softly and sadly, it sang:

‘Lynchee kinchy colly molly dingo dingo!'”

"Suddenly a bloody head fell out of the chimney. It missed the fire and landed right next to the dog. The dog took one look and fell over - dead from fright."

My God, never mind the fact that a bloody head is about to fall down the chimney, or what lynchee kinchy wolly molly dingo wingo means…THAT DOG JUST TALKED!

And as terrifying as these stories are, they are a sentimental part of my childhood (and the illustrations would make some amazing tattoos). I suggest picking up a copy of this book and reading it (not necessarily to your children) around a bonfire or in the dark with a flashlight and a bottle of booze.

And with that, I leave you with The Hearse Song. Memorize. Enjoy. Sing it to the kids who won’t get off your lawn.

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Why I Write

Joan Didion (then)

Am I a phony? A professor once told me, “When you pass up on a party or a Saturday night out with friends so you can finish a chapter, then you are a true writer”. It went something like that, anyway. Well, I write. And I enjoy writing, very much. And yes, I label myself a writer. But I still go out on Saturday nights, and I rarely pass up a party.

But should I?

The woman that spoke those words is also a published novelist. Maybe I don’t quite get it yet. Perhaps with an agent or an editor breathing down my neck, I’d be staying in on a weekend, too. But do these things matter? Should I be making more sacrifices for my writing, regardless of the notches on my belt?

I write when the sun is up. I get a few paragraphs down before going out. I weave my words and thoughts into my ongoing daily routines. Is that so wrong!? Maybe not.

But while I’m on the subject of questioning my reasons for writing – even my passion of the art – I reread an essay by author Joan Didion, entitled Why I Write.

Joan Didion (now)

Joan’s reasons lie in fact, and her mind’s inability to concentrate on anything else; she writes, because she must.

“I stole the title not only because the words sounded right but because they seemed to sum up, in a no-nonsense way, all I have to tell you. Like many writers I have only this one “subject”, this one “area”: the act of writing. I can bring you no reports from any other front. I may have other interests: I am “interested”, for example, in marine biology, but I don’t flatter myself that you would come out to hear me talk about it. I am not a scholar. I am not in the least an intellectual, which is not to say that when I hear the word “intellectual” I reach for my gun, but only to say that I do not think in abstracts. During the years when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley I tried, with a kind of hopeless late-adolescent energy, to buy some temporary visa into the world of ideas, to forge for myself a mind that could deal with the abstract.”

“In short I tried to think. I failed. My attention veered inexorably back to the specific, to the tangible, to what was generally considered, by everyone I knew then and for that matter have known since, the peripheral. I would try to contemplate the Hegelian dialectic and would find myself concentrating instead on a flowering pear tree outside my window and the particular way the petals fell on my floor. I would try to read linguistic theory and would find myself wondering instead if the lights were on in the bevatron up the hill. When I say that I was wondering if the lights were on in the bevatron you might immediately suspect, if you deal in ideas at all, that I was registering the bevatron as a political symbol, thinking in shorthand about the military-industrial complex and its role in the university community, but you would be wrong. I was only wondering if the lights were on in the bevatron, and how they looked. A physical fact.

And through those words, Joan reminds me that I am, in fact, not a phony. The older gentleman in the produce section, balancing himself with his cane, squeezing the oranges and shopping alone? I spend my time examining him with empathy; is he happy? Is he lonely? I wonder where he lives, what gave him that limp, if he’s widowed or simply following a shopping list his wife gave him. Oh, and look at the array of colors in the produce section! So bright, so cheery, such a contrast from this man’s solemn look.

 

And as I scale the sidewalks with my groceries, how did he become homeless? I toss a dollar in some stranger’s Styrofoam coffee cup and wonder where they got the marker and the cardboard to scribble out their sign. Where were you before now, in a time when you were taught to read and write? Did your family abandon you? Are you addicted to drugs? Why are you so lost?

My mind, as Joan’s or any other writer’s, cannot focus clearly on mathematical equations or the concrete things found in textbooks; it can focus only on what it wants, which is to tell a story with all of the things collected by my senses.

“Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost, the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote 10,000 words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew then was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

Which was a writer.

By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want to fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

I’m horrible at Math. I’m even worse with Science. I’ve weeded out all the things I will never succeed in; and what’s left? The only thing I’ve ever received praise in, is my writing. Fact. And even in my writing, there is more to be done. But it is the one thing that, to me, is worth the struggle.

So maybe I don’t write on Saturday nights, and maybe I’ll go out dancing instead of finishing that last chapter right away. But it doesn’t lessen my love of the art, and it doesn’t mean I’m playing pretend. And for me at least, drinking a few glasses of red and letting my characters sizzle on the back-burner is a great help when I return to the keyboard, refreshed and rearing to go. So I may not move as fast as some writers, but I always slave until the ending result feels worth it.

(On a side note – if an excerpt from my novel receives any sort of praise at the conference this coming Saturday, I may have to turn things up a few notches.)

And, by the way, here is…

Why I Write

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy is creative self-doubt.”

– Sylvia Plath

I write to feed an old fascination; an eight year old girl with pink sheets and a marble notebook tucked beneath her bed, floating in between a box of broken crayons and a book about a family of mice. I hail from a family of men that work with their hands and women that give birth to children they hope will become doctors and lawyers. But I curl up in the sunlight and knit together beautiful sounds and no one understands the satisfaction of my craft, or how it keeps a hole from tearing in the pit of my stomach.

I write to water my roots; to quench my thirst, to prove a point, for self-awareness, for every single person that has convinced themselves they cannot do the same. I will lead myself down the uneven path of an unconventional dream, unable to see past hints of early Spring blooming before me. I will unquestionably rely on my small hands to carve out my future. Walt Whitman said, “I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy” – I will run, jump, dive into pitch black, loved ones hot on my neck, driven by a whispering determination that will sometimes go silent and leave me with nothing at all.

I write because I can; it is an art of endless possibilities, a rare and precious outlet for undisputed chaos where I can scream and hold my head in my hands and disappear and reappear and shoot fire from my fingertips. In a world pregnant with mainstream, I curve my axis with a pen in my hand and the hard lump of unknowingness in my throat.

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Pickin’ in the Poconos

I thought cows were black and white? Hmm...

Ah, vacation. The weather was beautiful (on the cold side), and I learned to ignore my sniffles and coughs until the end of the trip. Now it’s back to reality (ugh) but thankfully back to keeping up with my blog. I was getting a little WordPress homesick!

On one of those beautiful days we decided to take a ride down the wavy mountain roads (much to my stomach’s chagrin), and climbed a rather steep hill to the strange, the odd, the very random 84 Country Store. Upon reaching the top of the hill, we were immediately greeted by this:

Hey...I know him!!!

I had no idea Shrek hung out in the Poconos! I’m sure there’s plenty of good eats out there, though. I was very impressed by his size, and the likeness is impeccable! And one of our friends caught view of him before we were even up the hill…

Behind Shrek we found even more handmade items, such as a giant pig whose back opens up for barbecuing, a bull (who was extremely lifelike right down to his…ahem… ) that doubled as the same, and the purple cow’s matching calf.

The cowboy equipped with his gun was one of my favorites; and the praying mantises were a reminder that I should edit that damn short story.

Shoot 'em up!

As we moved inside the store I was overwhelmed by all the scents that met me at the door. Apparently candle-making is very popular in the Poconos (as we learned in a candle store later in the week; literally wall to wall scents), and they had all the smells of Summer, Fall and Winter mingling in one room.

Among the candles were all the usual

These people really like to bedazzle their cows.

wooden signs adorned with “Live, Laugh, Love” and roosters and hens, painted in golds and reds and tans and ready to be hung in someone’s kitchen or bathroom. Then there were more cows, some Halloween decorations, and a nifty bracelet made out of can tabs that I just couldn’t resist. (The owner told me a woman makes them locally.)

Are they trying to tell me something?

The woman running the store had a thick New York accent and was sipping on a vintage bottle of ginger-ale as we walked in; she was also very warm, very friendly. Her father rocked on the rocking chair by the front door, cane in hand, and her daughter shyly followed us around as we explored some more.

I think I was more thrilled to find something that hugs my infant wrists.

Before taking off (we had lunch meat and beer to buy!) we checked out the Pepto-Bismol-pink shack that sat on one side of the hill.

Jackpot. This is where Mike and Frank would have a field day. Don’t let the dust hit you in the face on the way in: old (empty) bottles of Gin. A black-and-white portrait of a family no one knows. A rusty Schwinn. A dirty baby doll. The history

A bit too rusty to ride.

overwhelmed me. It was also a strange feeling to go from the bright pink exterior to the chilly, dark, damp interior. (But I would pick the inside of that building versus its ugly outer paint job any day.)

I also had the pleasure of running my fingers over this little baby:

My next tattoo?

Very cool, amIright?

We ran around in the tee-pee outside, and said our farewells to the homemade hot sauce and bars of oatmeal soap. If you ever find yourself in the Poconos, visit the 84 Country Store. Friendly staff and plenty of decorations for any Americana-style living room.

Nothin' but blue skies.

So now it’s back to writing, back to finishing this prompt for an October 20th deadline, back to figuring out what Joe and I want to be for Halloween. Oh, and deciding what samples to bring to the Push to Publish conference on Saturday!

 

 

 

And in other news: today is day one of my attempt at The Master Cleanse. Bring on the cayenne pepper and maple syrup…and lots of willpower (and lack of taste buds).

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A Little Hello From the Mountaintop

Not our exact view, but the internet on my phone decided to opt out of this trip.

I may not be able to breathe through my nose, but I’ll forgive the weather’s temperature and continue to enjoy myself. While a friend, her (almost) 2-year-old and I lounge inside trying to adjust the old-school antenna to catch a solid signal on a re-run of Judge Judy, Joe and another friend of ours are having boy time out back, complete with beer and a bow and arrow (not such a great combination…).

The Renaissance Faire was a rousing success, even with the $30 I spent on my German-style boot filled with their Oktoberfest beer. (Pictures to come in a later post, since the internet on my phone has not worked since we arrived here.) We caught a human chess match, a live jousting hosted by the Queen herself, and scarfed down bratwurst-and-kraut sandwiches.

Today began with a chilly nature hike, some cold medicine, and a pumpkin spice bagel smothered in pumpkin butter (truly amazing). I am enjoying the beginnings of October with a stuffy nose – but that’s alright.

More to come after vacation!

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A Very, Very Temporary Farewell

I am off to the Renaissance Faire on this beautiful, chilly morning, then to the mountains for a week of rest, food, more rest, more food, beer, and hopefully some writing. While I will be able to enjoy the posts of those I follow (internet via cellphone), writing a post that way may be a little difficult. So instead, I will live vicariously through the blogging of others until I am returned to my keyboard next week.

Also while away, I hope to complete my short fiction entry for Writers’ Journal, with the starter line: Inside the envelope…

I’ve been juggling several ideas and have finally settled on one.

A joyous and safe week/weekend to all!

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