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Had dinner tonight at Hard Rock at Universal Studio’s Citywalk. Sat at the bar with a pink Cadillac rotating overhead and got to see Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Good times!

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Wednesday Night Writers’ Group Turns The Page

Last night was our final writer’s group meeting at All On The Same Page Bookstore.  The bookstore is closing this week.  Robin Tidwell, the bookstore owner, and I started the group over a year ago, meeting one night of every month from about 6pm to 9pm. In the beginning, there were never more than 3 or 4 of us – including me and Robin!  Over time, the group grew to as many as ten once. Last night there were eight of us, all regulars for sometime now.

We’ve always been an informal group, spending most of our time rambling on subjects not even related to writing or books. Someone always eventually read something they were working on.  We’d listen intently (though Facebook pics from last night’s meeting might make you think otherwise) and then we’d give feedback.

We’d sip wine and share our lives for a few hours.  It was a much needed affair for all of us in some way, or we wouldn’t have continued to come otherwise. This was the group I first shared Dickinstein with and read a few chapters in the editing stages; I bounced other ideas off of them as well from time to time.

Last night we each asked questions as if we were interviewing authors or writers.

  • Who are your influences?
  • What’s been your defining moment?
  • If you had to write a blurb for a memoir, what would you say and whose memoir would it be?

My question was, “What has been your most disappointing moment as a writer or author?”  It was a question that I actually didn’t answer out loud myself due to a lack of time, but my answer wouldn’t have been any different or more inspiring that anyone else.  Others said lack of sales or getting bad reviews, and I’d agree with them.

The influences question was an easy one.

And even the memoir question was fun since I’d just read a few this past year, even though I’m not usually a memoir fan. It got me to thinking about writing a slice-of-life memoir of my own thanks to some other advice given in the group.  Which slice would I pick?  That’s the next question to answer.  We all have a story to tell.

As for the defining moment, no one’s answer beat one new author’s reply who said our group had been her defining moment because she’d never shared her words with anyone until she found us. We were her defining moment.

Heartfelt, yes, but down deep that’s what a group like this is for. Whether or not a group’s purpose or expectations is clearly defined, put a bunch of writers in a room and the edges get blurred. But to be told in the end that the one true purpose of a group like ours had been reached is all that matters.

Hopefully, our group will move on.  We’re losing our quaint little space in the middle of a shotgun-style used bookstore, but there’s a back table in a Starbucks somewhere waiting for us.  With our purpose having been reached here, we’ll find a new one.

We’ll strive to change the life and words of another aspiring writer.  We’ll sip lattes and take bad Instagram photos of each other.  We’ll bitch about our bad reviews and our bad days. We’ll make each other laugh and smile.

We’ll read aloud and give advice.  We’ll make memories and write memoirs. We’ll stick together.

We’ll ask questions.

We are writers. We are travelers. We are friends.

Bad Dreams…

Originally posted on Gabriella West:

The quality of our lives has an interesting rhythm. We strive to make our lives better, lighter, and then at certain times we feel haunted and pulled down by darkness.

Certainly the horribly untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman this weekend had—and still has—the feeling of a bad dream. He’d talked explicitly about his addiction problems, but was always seen as someone who had beaten them LONG ago. But no, it couldn’t be as simple as that. I think of his films and then I think of what his last weeks or his last day must have been like, and it all barely makes sense. On film he’s in control, a master of his art. The consummate professional. To think of him lying in a bathroom with a needle in his arm, in an apartment littered with bags of heroin, just has the quality of … a bad dream.

But…

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365 of Me: 29/337

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Here is pic two from the sleepy winter garden. All of our outdoor pots are plastic. Over the years, we stopped buying potted plants that had to come inside for winter but we still like the look of pots in the garden. A fellow gardening friend shared this idea with me: Cut the bottom out of plastic pots and fill them with soil, placing them in permanent spots in the bed. This gives height to the bed or can elevate other plants over others. You can also use them to fool the rabbits! Here we have two pots we placed last year (we have many others). One has a small rose bush in it that rabbits were munching on before when it was in the ground. The other has spring and summer bulbs in it. Cutting the bottom out keeps the pot from freezing or holding too much water; roots can also grow deep for nutrients from the ground.

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For the rest of this week I will be sharing pics from our garden. I am always quick to celebrate a bloom or branch when it is spring or summer, and the garden goes neglected this time of year when it is dormant. So I snapped some photos to share. This is our walking stick tree, one of the first permanent plants we installed about four years ago when we first started landscaping the backyard. It will be covered in waxy leaves in a few months, hiding all those twisty branches that give it its name and character.

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

Originally posted on Bucket List Publications:

I read this post this morning and loved it! I don’t often share the work of others on the blog but this post was definitely “share-worthy”. Creating a bucket list lifestyle encompasses treating yourself right and learning from your mistakes. This post is a great reflection of those lessons.

Is there one of these that you do often? Are there several? Let’s let the good things catch up. 

Written by  Marc and Angel

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.

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It’s The Final Countdown! A Look back at my 2013…

keep-calm-it-s-the-final-countdownToday I’ve been reading all the Facebook posts from everyone looking back on their year and wishing well to others in 2014. It got me to thinking about my own year in review and how nice it is that we have technology like Facebook in our lives these days to help us, creating a daily recording of our lives (at least for those who use it and post on a regular basis) without us really even seeing it from that perspective. Last night, I went back to 2008 and read some of my very first Facebook posts and even looked up who the first person was that I friended.

But today being the last day of the year and all, I thought I’d take the time to recap how my year was. We’re usually tired and ready to move forward by now. The holidays have exhausted our minds and our bank accounts. The calendar on the wall has grown heavy and there’s a newer, younger one waiting to take its place. So, our minds are heavy with the burdens the year gave us. We are ready to start anew. There will be things to celebrate, but looking back on what made this year special (or not special) is worth celebrating (or at least recounting) too.

In January, like many, I began a “get fit” regimen and went back to the gym!  I also tracked calories religiously online using a site called MyFitnessPal.com.  I’d given up on using the site after about 9 months (not too shabby), but was still going to the gym three times a week until I got sick in October.

Then, the holidays hit and it all went down hill from there. I still managed to lose up to 35 lbs this year and have kept at least 22 of them off!  And yep, I’m hitting the gym and counting calories AGAIN starting next week. My goal for next year is to lose at least another 22!

In February, I signed a publishing contract with Rocking Horse Publishing to publish Dickinstein in October. That gave me something to look forward to the rest of the year.

In March, I got to go to Orlando thanks to a bit of travel I get to do with my job.  I had not been there since I was a sophomore in high school so it was fun even though I was there on business.  Despite getting sick upon my return, it was a nice “soul refresher” that I desperately needed.  I get to go again next March!

In April, I turned 37… Yep, that’s about all I have to say about that.

As May and June came around, J and I installed a new permanent vegetable garden in our backyard and set to planting. We also worked our herb garden again, and added several other new plants to the gardens and beds. If you follow my blog, you definitely saw many posts about reaping the rewards of our hard work outdoors. I’m already looking forward to next year!

July was not a good month as I lost one of my best furry friends. Avery, my cat that I’d had for thirteen years, had to be put down.

In August, I went back to school working on a BS Degree in Business Management all online through WGU Missouri!

September was pretty much devoted to my online coursework, and getting ready for the book launch in October.

October was such a busy month! It started with getting to go to San Diego for the first time thanks to another trade show with my work! And like Orlando, I got sick on the way back – a respiratory infection that would last for almost 4 weeks!

I also completed my third and final required online course for the semester, meaning now I’d get to work ahead since the semester wasn’t over yet. I picked College Algebra – Yuck! – but I wanted to get it over and done with.

My family made plans to come up from Tennessee to visit in late October to attend the book launch party. The party was a hit and Dickinstein was finally published and ready for readers to enjoy!

And a ghost story anthology that I helped edit was also released!

On top of all of this, we rescued a young cat named Elmer from the animal control center, hoping he’d make a good friend to our other aging cat of 13 years, BeauJour. Beau didn’t want much to do with him, but Elmer has still brought a lot of joy to our home.

November was another bad month for me. Despite the success of my book and Thanksgiving fast approaching, I had to say good-bye to my sweet BeauJour.  He missed Avery too much and age had taken its toll on him.

And then like it always does, there was Thanksgiving and Christmas and decorations to put up and gifts to buy and family to see and food to eat!  And there was Algebra! I’m so close to wrapping up this nightmare of a course, and I’m so happy about that.

So what’s in store next year?

I’m going to get back on track with losing weight and I’m headed back to the gym.

I’m going to write. I’m going to work on a newer project and I plan to start by writing it long-hand. More about this later.

The sequel to my second book, Stealing Wishes, is being published as an Ebook only through Exciting Press.  It’s called Feeling Himself Forgotten.

More travel with work…Dallas, Orlando, and Charleston.

I’m starting a new artsy project.  I used to love to paint and have decided to take up paper craft and incorporate it into my painting. Some of my supplies actually arrived today!

More school. My second semester starts February 1st!

Another birthday in April…that’s a given.

And finally, more gardening come Spring!  That’s to be expected too!

What do you have to celebrate from this year?  What are you looking forward to celebrating in 2014?  See you next year!

WordPress 2013 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December book news (free promo and a review)

Originally posted on Gabriella West:

As we come up to the winter solstice, I’ve enabled snow falling on my blog. Thanks, WordPress :) It may be corny, but I find it rather cute.

'The Captain and Claire' is exclusive to Amazon.

‘The Captain and Claire’ is exclusive to Amazon.

The solstice seems like a good time to fire up the Kindle with an erotic romance. My historical romance short, “The Captain and Claire,” will have a two-day free promotion on Amazon Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21. Reviewer Shannon Yarbrough called it “a superb erotic romance” and wrote, “Betsy is a bit inexperienced when it comes to sex, but then she meets Claire on board! Claire introduces Betsy to the Captain, and Betsy soon finds herself in the middle of an interesting ménage à trois, seduced by two lovers that each take her to her limits in very different ways. . . .There’s also enough naughty spice here to whet…

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RAK

10 Random Acts of Kindness: Part 2

On November 20th, I challenged myself to do ten random acts of kindness before the end of the year. I also challenged all of you to do at least one act and to tell me about it so I could share it here on my site.

A few of you went right to work and left a comment about your RAK or told me about it on Facebook – paying for the car behind you at a fast food restaurant or at Starbucks, paying for lunch for your coworkers, helping an elderly person who dropped their newspaper coupons in a windy parking lot, and more.

I promised that once I had reached the halfway mark that I’d share my own RAKs, so here they are:

  1. My first RAK was indeed totally random and is what inspired me to start this challenge. About three weeks ago, I had to have some work done on my car. J was taking me to pick it up and it wasn’t quite ready so we stopped at a Burger King to have dinner and kill time. A homeless lady was waiting by the drive-through window, and when we walked toward her to enter the building she asked us for money so she could get something to eat. I told her I didn’t have any money, which was true, but that if she came inside I’d buy her dinner. And so she did. She asked if she could order anything on the menu, and I told her yes. But she was humble and just got a large Whopper combo. She did not sit with us, and even finished before we did. When she got up to leave, she thanked me and I asked her if she had gotten enough to eat. She said she had. While standing in line, she’d told me about being sick and how she’d just got out of the hospital. She spends the night in a local shelter, but has to be there by 8pm at night. She was late one night and ended up sleeping out in the rain and catching pneumonia. It made me feel really good to do something for someone like this, especially with the holidays approaching.
  2. A week later J and I went to the mall to go to the movies. We were early so we had lunch at Chevy’s. Our server was supper nice and even made us laugh. She made jokes about her being the Chef too. She checked on us regularly, kept the salsa and drinks filled, and made the overall experience very enjoyable. She was definitely going to get a good tip, and when the check came I got an idea.  Our bill was only $28, so I tipped her $28 and wrote “Happy Holidays!” on the receipt. We got up and walked out before she even collected the bill. Sometimes not getting to see the person’s reaction makes it even better, like when Missy and Jacki (see comments on the previous post) paid for the car behind them at a drive-through window.
  3. That next week, I continued my RAK challenge by buying a coworker a muffin at a charity bake sale at work. I also gave extra money for the charity.  A small act, yes, but it still felt great and the coworker was very very appreciative.
  4. This one was really fun! A few days after the bake sale I put $1.25 in cash in an envelope with a note that said: You just got RAK’ed (Random Act of Kindness)! Enjoy a soda on me or pay it forward. I wrote “Are You Thirsty? Open this!” on the outside of the envelope and taped it to the soda machine at work.  About an hour later, I found the envelope still on the machine.  It had been opened and the money was gone.  But shortly after, I spied someone adding money to the envelope!  By lunch time, the envelope had been removed, but it was still fun to think someone actually did pay it forward.
  5. This one was an easy one, and something I try to do every year though it often gets overlooked.  Donate clothing! While swapping out my summer clothes for my winter wardrobe a week ago, I was shocked at the amount of clothing I have that I never end up wearing. I always swear I’ll give it one more season, but I know I’m never probably going to wear it again.  Not this year!  I parted ways with both summer and winter clothes I knew I was never going to wear again.  I even threw in two pairs of shoes I never wear. I usually always drop a bag of clothing off in a donation box each year, but this year I took two full bags.  I was proud of that and excited about the room I made in my closet.

So, I’ve got one month left and only 5 RAKs left to do.

Keep doing your own RAKs out there and keep telling me about them.  Pay it forward!