The Elwardain Chronicles II – the Story Continues.

If action and adventure are your preferred genres, then you’re going to love my epic fantasy The Elwardain Chronicles. In Book I, The Exile of Elindel, Elgiva, Godwin, and their friends worked together to save Elvendom from the evil that threatened to destroy it. Book II, Gateway to Elvendon, continues their story and is released today by Dilliebooks. Below is a little extract to whet your appetite.

His adventures in Elvendom left Godwin a changed man, and now bereavement has darkened his world.

In another dimension, a new Elvendom is threatened by the ambitions of a monstrous enemy. But who – or what – is the Dark Lady of Bletchberm?

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.
Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?


EXCERPT

His heart thumping in his throat, Godwin took in all the details of the goblin’s appearance. The creature was probably four feet tall at most and was wearing a sleeveless leather tunic and short leggings over his skinny frame. His arms and legs were hard with thin bands of muscle; sinews moved like taut wires beneath the scant flesh. Godwin fancied that the goblin’s skin had a sickly, greenish tint, but in the firelight it was impossible to be sure.

The goblin moved in an awkward manner, not upright like a man or an elf, but slightly stooped and with bent knees, as though on the verge of pouncing. The dome of his head was as bald and smooth as a pebble, and his very long, pointed ears were attached on either side like those of a lynx. His large eyes glittered like wet malachite and between them a long, sharp nose protruded with all the aesthetic attributes of a small parsnip.

The goblin’s large eyes widened as they swivelled in Godwin’s direction, making his stomach curdle in fear and revulsion.

“Only two of you, then?” said the goblin with a smirk. “Not much of a challenge, is it?” He beckoned with his sword and others of his kind began to creep into the circle.

Godwin glanced around. There were six more of them, each carrying a sword of a curious design, the blade like a thin, metal spiral with a very sharp point. A visceral fear welled up inside him at the sight of these weapons, but he didn’t know why.

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About the Author:
Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction but has also taken the plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

Stay connected with me on my website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Author Chris Pavesic’s Year of Conscious Consumerism

My Accidental Low-Buy Year

by Chris Pavesic

This is a difficult blog post to start writing. I’ve actually begun several times and scrapped the ideas because it didn’t seem right. I couldn’t get the correct words down on the screen. But here it goes. I hope it makes sense.

I’m a makeup and skin care enthusiast. I enjoy using products and comparing them. I enjoy researching ingredients and formulas. I enjoy reading about new products, watching YouTube videos about new releases, and talking about them with my friends. What I didn’t do last year was write about them very much.

It is true that I cut down the amount of posts I created in 2018. (I wrote a lot more in 2017). But that wasn’t the only reason. I didn’t write about makeup or skincare in 2018 because I simply didn’t buy much starting in March, 2018. (My birthday month.)

I was on a low-buy year without actually planning to be on one.

There were three reasons for this accidental low-buy year.

One: I purchased quite a few products in 2017 that I was excited to use. I had multiple products that filled the same purpose in my skincare and beauty regimen. So many that I started to feel uncomfortable with the number of items I owned.

It was a full year and, yeah, I still have items to get through. I had more than a year’s worth of “backups” for some products.

*Takes a deep breath.*

I had to let that sink in for a minute. A full year. I had too many.I’m not a minimalist, but I am striving to consume less. I did go through the KonMarie method for decluttering clothing, household items, and so forth. (If you followed her method: I still need to do sentimental items.) I even (gasp) got rid of some books. (Textbooks from my college days. They needed to go.) And I felt better having a more minimal wardrobe and less boxes of stuff stored in my spare bedroom and basement. I kept the items that “sparked joy” in those categories and haven’t looked back.

Two: Products don’t last forever. They expire. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it situation. I decided that I would use the products I had—ones that I was excited to use—before I purchased any more in that category. I did purchase a few items that I had panned (used up completely.) Lip balm made it into my cart because I have dry skin and live in the Midwest. (The struggle to have well-hydrated skin, especially on my lips, is real!) I also bought skin cleanser and shampoo because I developed an allergy to sodium lauryl sulfate and had switch to sulfate free versions.

Three: I didn’t purchase a lot of makeup products (eyeshadow, blush, highlighter) because I have ones that I enjoy. I have one face and can only use so many products in a day. If I bought something new in a category—an eyeshadow palette for instance—I would need to use it in place of something I already owned. And I enjoy the ones I own. The shadows are my favorite colors and formulas. Until I hit pan, or until the products go bad and I need to replace them, why buy something I might not like to replace an item that, in Marie Kondo’s terminology, “sparks joy” when I use it?

In case you are wondering: I currently have 8 eyeshadow palettes. I have tried more, but if something does not work well for me I pass it along to relatives. And in 2018 I didn’t buy any for myself. (I bought gifts for people. I don’t count those as purchases for me–although I keep the free samples that come with the orders.) Last year I completely panned one–the Too Faced Peppermint Mocha (pink) palette from the 2016 Christmas trio collection. It’s the one I used the most and it took me more than 2 years to get through it. Companies give you a lot of product in those palettes!

What did I really over-buy on in 2017? Face and body moisturizing creams, face products, and lipsticks. And I am using them up along with any samples I still have.

For the new I will continue my “low buy” project. I thought I would write about products that I have panned. Provide thorough reviews about products that are not new but may be undiscovered gems for my readers. Go through the large number of samples I have on hand and try items that way. Discuss new purchases when I eventually do make them and the reason why I switched from a tried-and-true product to something new. And discuss what the low buy year taught me along the way–and what I am (hopefully) still discovering.

I want to complete another low buy year and write about products mindfully.

I am interested if this topic is sustainable. If people will follow me on this journey. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or thoughts on minimalism, low buys, or conscious consumerism. Let me know if you enjoy posts of this kind. Please help to continue the conversation.

Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate your time and attention.

Chris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

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Avoiding Repetition in Your Work – Some Good Advice from Author Catherine Castle

I Have a New Castle!

by Catherine Castle

Have you heard the story about the goldfish? She was swimming in her bowl and passed the front entrance of the castle that decorated the small aquarium.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed. Then she went around the bowl again and spied the fortress once more.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed.

She went around again, and not remembering what’d she just seen she exclaimed once more, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, and again.

The moral of this story, beside the fact that goldfish have memories that only last for three seconds, is that you, the author, may forget you’ve written a particular piece, or pieces, of information in your story and repeat yourself. While you might not remember dispensing the information, you can bet, that like those of us who are laughing at this funny story, your reader will remember those words, phrases, and information that you’ve inadvertently added more than once.

Don’t get bent out of shape if you discover this in your work. It’s a natural result of writing a book over a long period of time. Most authors only write a few thousand words in any given day, and unless you’re writing a short story, blog post, or essay, it will probably take weeks, or months, before you’ve finished your project. With all the stuff that happens in between your times at the computer, it’s only normal you’d forget something you’ve already written, especially if you get in the zone and your muse or characters take over.

SO WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO?

Here are a few tips to help you catch those repetitions.

FOR REPETITIVE WORDS AND PHRASES:
• If you know you’re fond of certain words or phrases, and you use them a lot, make a list and do a search for them at the end of each day’s writing. A quick way to search is by using the find function of Microsoft Word. Type in the word, ask the computer to highlight all forms, and see how often you’ve fallen victim to repetition.

• Eliminate repetitive words and phrases as you go. By doing this you will make the chore less bothersome at the end of the book. A daily reminder of your trouble words will also help prime yourself to catch them as you work.

• Reread the previous day’s work (or even a couple of days work if you’ve been away for a long time) when you sit down to write. By keeping what you’ve written fresh in your mind, you will be less likely to repeat yourself.

FOR REPETITIVE INFORMATION:
• Keep a list of the important points/information you want to be sure to include in your story. When you’ve made that point, notate it, indicating where in the book you placed the information.

• Double check how many times your characters repeat a story or information. If the event or information they are revealing to another character has already been shown to the reader, if may not be necessary to repeat the whole story again. The author of Downton Abbey was a master at this technique. When something was being related to other characters that had happened in an earlier episode, he often had a one sentence referral to the incident. Enough to trigger the viewer’s memory, but not enough to bore one to death. For the written word, a simple She told him what happened at the skating rink and the character’s reaction to the story may be enough to get the point across without rehashing the information a second or third time.

• Consider becoming a plotter. When you draft your book’s scenes in outline form, chapter synopsis, or whatever works best for you (and follow them), the tendency to repeat oneself is reduced. Yes, you may still have to double check that you’ve eliminated those pesky repetitions, but you will find they are fewer and, hopefully, farther in between.

What tips do you have for eliminating repetition in your work?

Here’s a brief intro to my inspirational romantic suspense. I hope you enjoy it.

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicably attracted to him, he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them by making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion, and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.

Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.

Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Learn more about Catherine Castle on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out Catherine’s Amazon author page and her Goodreads page. You can also find Catherine on Stitches Thru Time and the SMP authors blog site.

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A New Home for The Exile of Elindel

Dilliebooks is excited to present their release of the epic fantasy The Exile of Elindel, The Elwardian Chronicles Book 1, by Carol Browne. This thrilling novel is filled with action and adventure and will keep you glued to your e-reader until you have finished the last page. It is a new addition to the Dilliebooks stable and will be followed by the next two books in the trilogy this year. Paperback format will also be available.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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New Release for Author Suzanne G. Rogers

NEW RELEASE

from the incomparable Suzanne G. Rogers! A Chance of Rayne, Book Four of The Mannequin Series is sure to become a favorite with all Victorian Historical Romance readers.

Although the Harrison daughters look almost like twins, one was born on the right side of the blanket while the other was not. Rayne is tasked with drawing in a suitable husband for her sister, Garnet, but soon discovers her quarry is a kindred spirit from her past. When Rayne refuses to deceive Lord Finch any longer, her father makes good his threat to exile her overseas, to New York City. Although Rayne is determined to survive, she is quickly ensnared in a web of vice. Without friends or resources, she is slated to be auctioned to the highest bidder at one of the most elite brothels in Manhattan. Can Lord Finch rescue his beloved before it’s too late?

Suzanne G. Rogers lives with her husband and son in romantic Savannah, Georgia, on an island populated by deer, exotic birds, and the occasional gator. She’s owned by two Sphynx cats, Houdini and Nikita. Movies, books, and writing are her passions.

Learn more about Suzanne G. Rogers on her historical romance blog and her fantasy blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be sure to check out her website for the Sweet Romance written by Suzanne G. Rogers.

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The Day I Discovered My Superpower

by Carol Browne

The day I discovered my superpower is a memory undimmed by time. It was a life-changing event and I doubt I will ever forget it. Some of the details are sketchy, though, like how old I was. I know I was in my first year of primary school so I must have been about seven.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I can still see the classroom, the table where I was sitting when it happened, and the chalk-smeared blackboard, but apart from the teacher being female, I don’t recall much about her. I regret that because I have never been able to thank this woman for making me aware of a talent I didn’t know I had. She set me on a path I am still following almost sixty years later.

It all started when I wrote a poem. Where did I get the idea from to do that? It’s a mystery, and it seems strange to me now that I even knew what a poem was, or that it should have meter and rhyme. I also wrote it in verses of four lines each. The subject was a crocus, something I must have seen and wondered at, but again I’ve no idea why this little plant should have inspired me to put pen to paper the way I did, nor why I chose to present the poem to my teacher. Having composed this no doubt unsophisticated piece of doggerel, that was that as far as I was concerned. I didn’t expect what was to follow.

I was at my table, scribbling away with one of those thick blue biros they used to hand out, when the teacher announced that Carol Browne had written a wonderful poem and it was going on the wall so everyone could see it. In fact, she advised my classmates to look at it if they wanted to know how to write a poem. She came over to me and congratulated me on my work and I was astonished, delighted and taken aback by this praise and recognition. As a shy and lonely child with physical defects only time would cure, I found myself suddenly elevated to a status I could not have aspired to in my wildest dreams. I never received validation for anything before but now I was worthy because of a talent not everyone else possessed. I could manipulate words. I could bend them to my will. I could do this because I was a wordsmith. This was my gift, my specialty. This was my superpower.

From that moment on I was a writer.

Here’s a brief intro to my latest release. I hope you like it.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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What No Mobile? Author Anne Montgomery Explains Why.

from Anne Montgomery

Hold onto your hats!

I do not now – nor have I ever – owned a cellphone.

Now don’t jump to conclusions and assume I must be an old technophobe. I’m well versed in both MACS and PCs. I can layout a newspaper in InDesign and use Photoshop. I am on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and have multiple e-mail accounts, a website, and a blog.

So why no cellphone? First, I’m a teacher who spends a great deal of time and energy trying to keep my students focused on lessons. Surveys show that teens 15 to 18 spend almost nine hours each day utilizing on-line media. Children eight to 12-years-old are logging about six hours daily. These kids are more anxious than their predecessors, with higher rates of suicide and depression.

Now let’s consider what these children might be missing with so much time focused on a screen. Other than the issues involved in falling behind in the classroom, many are not participating in sports and clubs, so social interaction is limited. I know people will argue that they are interacting with others on-line, but as a teacher of communication skills, I know in-person contact is much more important.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that children are addicted to their phones – as are many adults – are kidding themselves.

So, how do we get people to disengage? Dr. Michael Ungar wrote in Psychology Today, “(I)t would appear that at least part of the solution to our children’s cell phone addiction is to offer them equally stimulating and socially engaging opportunities to do things that produce the same brain rewards as … staring at a small blue screen.”

Ungar went on to say that the solution is “providing young people with lots and lots (and lots) of opportunities to stay engaged with each other, to participate in arts and sports activities, and to have safe spaces after school to hang out.”

Of course, we must get kids to buy into putting down their phones and, in my experience, that is almost impossible.

The other problem with phones is the damaging effect they have on relationships. Time reporter Mandy Oaklander wrote in her article How Your Smart Phone is Ruining Your Relationship, “Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone, and the distraction a phone affords one partner doesn’t make the other person feel good.”

Oaklander says phones are interfering with our relationships, leaving us anxious.

“It didn’t matter much how much a person used their device, but how much a person needed their device did. People who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships. People who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship.”

I think my aversion to cellphones is that I’m afraid of becoming like the people I see daily: heads down, consumed by the screen, unaware of what’s going on around them. Who hasn’t witnessed people at restaurants busily texting, ignoring one another? Or the mother, face in her phone, instead of talking with her children? Or, geez, those who feel the need to communicate from a bathroom stall?

I can’t help but wonder what is so urgent.

“Ms. Montgomery, how can you not have a cellphone?” my students often admonish.

“I’m not that important,” I say.

“What if there’s an emergency?”

“Call 911.”

“What if a family member is sick?”

“I’m not a doctor.”

My biggest concern is that it’s getting more difficult to live without a cellphone. It’s almost as if there’s a secret conspiracy to require everyone to get on board. A few weeks ago, I discovered I can no longer go to NFL games. All tickets work only through your phone. No more paper copies will be accepted. The league is determined to get 100% of fans to use their smartphones at the gate.

I sense this line of thinking will creep into use at movies and concerts and grocery stores and restaurants, so, eventually, I will be on the outside of society looking in.

I know what you’re thinking. “Geez! Get a friggin’ phone and join the 21st century.”

I know my time is coming. Still, I wish I wasn’t being forced to join the crowd.

What’s peculiar is that when I tell people I don’t own a cellphone, there is always a beat of silence as they examine me for obvious flaws. Then, oddly, many say wistfully, “I wish I didn’t have one either.”

Think about that.

Now, turn off your phones. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Walk your dog. Have a real conversation. There’s a world out there you can smell and touch and people with whom you can make eye contact.

Try it. You might be surprised.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

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Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

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Keep It Simple with Spiced Apple Oatmeal from Author Gina Briganti

by Gina Briganti

We have been trading lots of yummy recipes lately and I wanted to share one of my favorite breakfasts. This spiced apple oatmeal is perfect for busy people who want fast, delicious food without lots of shopping, chopping, and prep. That’s exactly why I love this recipe.

Plus, you can share it. I’ve given jars dressed up with a bow as gifts. I know friends who have made jars ahead and brought them on road trips and camping because they travel well. You can get the kids in on this, too, by having them put their mix into a jar. They can customize how much apple they add and what kind or get fancy and add a mix of different freeze-dried fruits.

Make sure you buy freeze-dried fruit that does not have sugar added to it. Freeze drying brings out the sugars and the fruit is sweet all by itself.

As more of us move to zero or low-waste lifestyles jars are making a comeback. Whether you’re a new fan of reusable jars or a pro, I hope you enjoy this quick and lovely meal. It’s gluten-free, there’s no added sugar, and it is packed with flavor. As written, this recipe serves one, but it is easy to increase for more people.

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Spiced Apple Oatmeal
½ cup quick oats
¼ freeze-dried apple slices broken into pieces
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups hot water

Mix all ingredients into a bowl. Stir and then cover.

Wait 5 – 7 minutes. It’s ready!

To give this delicious cereal as a gift, mix the dry ingredients together. Spoon mixture into a glass jar. Write out the cooking directions on a card and attach to the jar with a ribbon.

Keep It Simple: Permission to Illuminate Your Life Easily, Effortlessly, & Joyfully is a workbook I wrote to share the tools my clients and I have used for over a decade in my holistic health practice.

Tasty nutrition is one of the keys I highlight that will help you live a life that feels like a dream.

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Gina Briganti is an RWA member who writes fantasy and sci-fi romance in north Texas.

She also writes holistic health non-fiction because real life can be magic, too. Her credentials in holistic health include certification as a Reiki Master Practitioner and teacher, certification as a nutrition consultant, and a degree in holistic nutrition.

When she’s not writing, eating delicious healthy food, reading (follow her on Goodreads to see the massive variety she finds appealing) or making videos, she is spending time with family and friends. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, for exclusives and announcements that are shared only in her newsletter.

Stay connected on Facebook, Gina’s Amazon Author Page, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Cover Reveal: The Lighthouse by Clarissa Johal

COMING NOVEMBER 2019

The Lighthouse JPG Cover

BLURB:
Sent to cover the haunting of Pelican Rock lighthouse, Riley Murdock vows to write a historical piece instead. Ghosts aren’t real. And she wouldn’t ruin her reputation as a serious journalist by writing the contrary. Photojournalist Dillon Page is much too involved in the paranormal to her liking. Gullible and carefree, he’s happy to treat their assignment like a ghost-filled vacation. But Riley will discover there’s more to Pelican Rock than either expected.

Dropped off by boat, the two gather as much information as possible. But when night falls, the mood in the dilapidated lighthouse shifts. Unexplained sounds, fleeting shadows, and icy breezes keep them both awake. And when Dillon starts acting strangely, Riley fears something is going on that she can’t explain.

From the author who brought you bestsellers Poppy, The Island, and Struck, comes a haunting tale that will keep you awake long past lights out.

Author Website: http://www.clarissajohal.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Clarissa-Johal/e/B003KVTMPK/

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Latin – the Dead Language that Speaks to Us Today

I know I was lucky when it came to education. Not only did I live in the UK at a time before austerity when the state paid for all our equipment, I also got to attend a grammar school. That meant I studied Latin for about the first four years I was there. At the time I didn’t see the relevance; none of my contemporaries did. It was a dead language confined to history. Something for academics and librarians and archaeologists. A difficult study for an English brain not used to complicated conjunctions and declensions. The concept that nouns had to be classified into gender was bizarre. All the different word endings that had to agree with each other made my head reel. It seemed Latin was something you did to get a qualification—and I did. I achieved what in those days was called an ‘O’ Level. So, job done. Stick it on the CV with all the others.

Image by Desi Maxwell from Pixabay

It was after I left school that I learned to love Latin and appreciate its value as a linguistic tool. More than that, I understood its historical significance, how it helped to shape the modern world we have today. How many languages have Latinate words as part of their lexicon? How many countries, corporations and institutions use Latin mottos? I’m thinking of a famous one here, E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) which appears on the Great Seal of the United States of America.

Latin invaded Britain along with the Romans in the first century and it was clearly determined to take root as part of the language of the indigenous people because it became the language of the church for centuries. In 1066, when the Norman French invaded Britain, their Latinate tongue became the dominant language and married itself without ceremony to that spoken by the oppressed Anglo- Saxons. In this way, Latin moved up to another level and its words formed a large part of what was to become what we now know as English. People wonder why in English there are so many different words for the same thing but the richness of the language is a result of having input from so many other languages brought to Britain by a variety of invaders.

Image by Photos for You from Pixabay

So from a living language spoken by the Romans, to an elitist language used by the church and the legislature, it evolved in many ways, even giving scientific names to plants, animals, diseases and body parts! And now it is supposedly a dead language because no-one speaks it anymore except for academics and historians. And yet how can you call it dead when it is so widely used?

As a writer Latin isn’t dead to me. I can call upon my knowledge of Latin to help me work out the meaning of many words in use today. If I encounter an unfamiliar word, as long as it has had some truck with Latin during its evolution, I am likely to be able to recognise some part of it that will facilitate my understanding. Latin prefixes are extremely helpful: ex, inter, trans, sub, contra, for example. These are already pointing you in a certain direction. A submarine is obviously going to operate under the sea rather than above it! (And marine is also of Latin origin—‘mare’, sea.) Latin has also helped me translate words in other Latinate languages like Italian and Spanish, even though I’m not that acquainted with them.

Latin is timeless, as familiar in Shakespeare’s plays as in Hollywood movies. It has expanded its influence into popular culture without most people giving it a second thought—where would Hogwarts professors be without their Latin-inspired incantations? In the Marvel universe, what would Magneto be called without that ancient Roman language? (L. ‘magnes’?) All those horror films where the bad guys try to summon demons wouldn’t be half so dramatic if they didn’t use Latin to do it; likewise, exorcisms sound much more impressive in Latin. It is, I have come to realise, a rather beautiful language.

Versatile too. You can have fun with Latin. In The Handmaid’s Tale, ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) is grammatically incorrect Latin with some made-up words and was a joke Margaret Attwood remembered from school, but it struck a chord with her audience and people actually have it tattooed on their wrists!

Latin isn’t dead. It never really went away. Those ancient Romans gave us the gift that keeps on giving; even our planets are named after their gods and goddesses. Latin went global long before that concept even existed.

The question must be, did we absorb Latin or did Latin absorb us! Whatever the answer, Latin is here to stay.

Here is a little from my latest release for your reading pleasure.

BLURB: Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

Excerpt
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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