Winter greeted us early two falls ago in what I like to call “Flinter” – a mash-up of Fall and Winter together. Snow began in October and never ceased until April. And to top it off? This was the second year it happened.

My son had just graduated from college and worked at Barnes and Noble while looking for a full-time job. Since he wanted to buy presents and save money, he told his dad and me to shop around the store and make a list for him. He could use his discount to buy presents.

When I found the puzzle section, the Thomas Kinkade Beauty and the Beast puzzle called to me. I always liked puzzles as a kid, and it might be a long winter again. It might be just the thing to distract me. I put it, and only it, on my list.

“That’s all you want?” my son huffed. “How about a book?”

“Well, I’m around books all the time so I wanted something different. It will be a great distraction when I need a break from writing,” I answered.

On Christmas Day, I got my puzzle and other gifts. I planned to start working on it in January and had the perfect place. The much-underused dining room.

As the snow continued to fall, I smiled as I knew I had a distraction. I opened the box and let the 750 pieces fall to the table. Where to start? I hadn’t done a puzzle in years. I panicked as I looked at those cardboard shapes staring up at me, laughing and challenging me to try to solve the puzzle.

I am an organized person, so the first thing I did was turn them all over to the correct side and study them. Nothing made sense. Nothing looked like the picture. Then it came to me. Start with the outline, the outer edge. So, I searched for all the flat-sided pieces and grouped them together. By the time my husband and son came home from work, I couldn’t wait to show them my progress.

“That doesn’t go there,” my son said.

“And the shape isn’t an even rectangle,” my husband replied.

At that moment, I knew I would never complete this on my own. It would be sitting on my dining room table twenty years from now. Then I noticed my son fixing the outer edge, and my husband hunting for pieces. We didn’t say it aloud, but it became a family effort to finish the puzzle.

I went to a craft store and bought a large foam board to work on. We sorted the pieces by color and recognizable shapes like trees, clothes or faces. The work continued for the month of January. One person would wander into the dining room and look for a few pieces, another would join them.

That’s when I realized choosing a gift of a puzzle was much more than that. It created another memory before my son leaves home for that very last time. The joking and the high fives when we completed a section will never be forgotten.

I recommend giving a large puzzle a try, with family or friends or neighbors or whoever you’re close to. You forget about texts and messages, the tweets of the world and pictures people are posting. It’s as if you’re immersed in another world, a throwback one, when people had to communicate with each other and work together.

Once we finished the puzzle, I had a great feeling of accomplishment. “No more puzzles,” I said. “One was fun, but that was enough.”

So, on this day, January 29, National Puzzle Day, remember these words. “Mom, I’m home! And guess what? It’s National Puzzle Day, and they were all 20 per cent off at the store.” His hand reaches inside a bag and pulls out not one, but a box containing four Thomas Kinkade Disney puzzles.

Happy Puzzle Day! 

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It’s Leap Day! Time to celebrate! My character from 29 , Lucas Montgomery, turns another year older today.
Last Leap Year, an idea for the story came to me. Lucas wasn’t going to be the focal point of the story. I wanted Allie Sanders to be the one to discover the secrets of her mysterious loner. She would be the one that had to stand up to her military brother and protect Lucas.
At the end of the story, she would be the one to make the most difficult choice of her young life.
It may have taken four years to complete and publish, but that’s only one year in Leap time.
29 is a great book for Leap Year or any other year, for that matter.
Happy Birthday, Lucas.

Find it here! 29

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Winter (3)

Remember that old song? Tea for two and two for tea? Or maybe I’m dating myself … That song was my introduction to tea when I was a little girl. My cousin bought me my first tea set when I was five or six.  Thrilled, I thought it was the finest bone china. The tiny cups and saucers are just a distant memory now.

I don’t remember when I started drinking tea, but I can recall the day I wanted to collect teapots. My mom had a teacup collection as a young girl and gave it to me. I displayed them in a case and thought a dainty floral teapot in the center would look good.

I scoured antique stores and fine china departments looking for the right one. I found a beautiful white pot covered in tiny pink flowers. The lid had a rose bud for a handle. I was hooked. I needed more. Collections were very popular back then. Kids had their Beanie Babies, and I had my teapots.

At first teapots were hard to find. Most of my early ones came from antique stores. Then suddenly they were everywhere. I had my pick of themes and colors. Finally I ran out of spots to put them. I knew I needed to stop.

As we all do from time to time, we change the décor in our home. Colors we loved were now out dated. Wallpaper became a no-no. A major overhaul took place, and suddenly, my teapots didn’t fit in with the new look. Some were tucked away, others sold. I swore off collecting, so no new ones were bought.

Guess what I did today? I scoured the web for a teapot. It has to be a certain color and design. To my surprise, teapots have jumped the shark. I shook my head at all the cat, owl and frog designs. A spaceship? Oh. No.

There are whimsical, funky, and creative teapots. The world is saturated with ceramic, bone china, cast iron and glass ones. My search finally stopped when I came to Tea Rex.

I won’t give up the search, but don’t plan to collect again. I need just one teapot, and when I find it, I’ll know it. The place of honor sits empty, waiting for the elusive pot.

Does it have to be a teapot, I was asked?

Yes, it does, for lots of reasons. To bring back memories. To remember my collection. And because I like tea.

 

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Nancy 5

I borrowed the title from a book I’m reading, Life’s Unexpected Adventures Volume One by Joanne Rawson. Those that love romantic comedies need to pick up this book. It’s full of short stories where the heroine gets into comedic situations and finds a way out through true love. Think ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ or Juliet Roberts in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’.

But I’m not here to talk about the book. I wanted to talk about life’s unexpected adventures. Writing a book put me on a new journey. When I joined my small press publisher’s author group, I didn’t think I’d make friends. Sure, they were supportive and helpful. They gave suggestions and some even read my book.

So did I expect to make friends? Not really. I consider them all author friends. I wasn’t surprised to be invited to “like” their author page.

Then some began to friend me. Of course, not all became real friends, but I see what they’re up to in their personal lives. I can connect to them in other ways than writing. I like that.

What I didn’t expect was to find a few good friends. One I’ve met, some I never will.  I once doubted that people could establish a friendship through social media, but it happened to me. Joanne Rawson is one of them. She’s originally from England but moved to Goa with her husband.

So how could Jo and I be friends? We live in two different parts of the world. Her lifestyle is certainly opposite mine. I don’t really know how it happened, but when Jo placed one of those Facebook posts – It’s the end of 2015 and it’s time to clean house on my friends list, are you still one? – I had to immediately answer “yes”.

Sometimes it’s the little things that let you know someone cares. She’s posted great finds at a mall and converted the amounts to pounds for her friends back home. When I said I had to look up the dollar value, the next time she included that, too, just for me. Jo leads an interesting life; one that I’m sure helps with her writing. If you are interested in finding out more about her books, click here.

And if you’re curious as to why she moved, here may be the reasons!

(Pictures courtesy of Joanne Rawson)

If I never wrote a book, I’d never have these wonderful people in my life. Some live in other countries, others are on the opposite end of the U.S. It’s a perk of the job I never thought would happen. Friends. Connections to people I’d never have met otherwise. I thought writers were solitary creatures, keeping to themselves. I found out differently through my journey.

Life’s unexpected adventure. That’s the only way I can describe this journey. And it’s been a good one.

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Last week I read an article about a new Christmas tradition. It’s called A Book on Every Bed, invented by Amy “Ask Amy” Dickinson. She began the project because her mother was a reader, writer and educator and to promote literacy. She admits she “stole” the idea from an author who talked about his childhood Christmases and how he received a book from Santa every year. Personally, I don’t think she really stole anything. She took something one family did and shared it with the world.

This is how it works. You wrap a book, and Santa places it on your child’s bed after they’re asleep. They wake up Christmas morning to find it. It’s a great way to encourage reading. If you have a reluctant reader it could be the jump start they need.

This could turn into a fun activity for yourself, too. There are so many great children’s books to choose from, you could have fun searching the classics or try a holiday-themed one. Of course kids love animals and sports, too. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’d like to take this project a step further. Wrap a book for anyone and leave it on their bed from Santa. Buy their favorite genre or get them started on reading. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a surprise from Santa.

And if you’re dealing with adults, you wouldn’t have to sneak in their room and place the book on the bed when they are sleeping. You could do it before they go to bed on Christmas Eve (or any time during the holidays). Wouldn’t you love to come into your room and find a present on your pillow? You open it up to find a great book. Then hop into bed and start reading.

Let’s help Amy get this tradition going. If you like the idea, pass it along.

And remember the ability to read is a gift. Don’t let it go unused.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

 

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My new series, 29, debuted last month. Four years ago, I began the journey of writing this novel. I wrote it after my first Waiting for Dusk novel and maybe I wasn’t quite ready to let go of those characters. The first draft was stiff and factual. Too much telling, not enough action. I’m always afraid to “go there”, that dark place that’s needed to make someone evil. I like people to be nice. I want to be nice. But in books, you need that character you can hate or look for ways to redeem him. It was a labor of love, and I want to share how it came to be.

If not for Leap Year, this book would never been written! During the last Leap Year, an idea came to mind for a story. I mulled it over and over in my mind before I began to write. The single thought had to be turned into a story. It’s been a work of love—written, rewritten, torn apart and started over again. When I finally felt it was ready, I entered the story in a competition. 29 came in fifth place in the Critique My Novel (now known as Ink and Insight) contest for unpublished manuscripts, giving me the confidence to continue.

Many characters in this book have special meaning to me. Some are named after students I had, another for a good friend’s son. As always, somewhere in my book I find a special place for the name Gilbert. Dad, your name ends up somewhere in my stories. That’s a promise. This time you’re a road, but I know you wouldn’t mind.

February 29 will never be thought of the same way again. Read 29.

XXIX

“They’re Roman numerals. I think you learn about them in fourth grade. You want me to tell you what they stand for? I think a big, smart, Army guy like you should know.” I gave him a quick smile, trying to give the impression of a bratty teenager. If he knew the reason I stalled, I’d be given a truth serum and tied to a chair.

Allie Sanders thinks life in a small town can’t get any more dull and boring. She plans to escape after graduation. After a bad break-up, she wants to sail through junior year without distraction. Then the mysterious loner sits down in front of her in AP English. He’s the guy she noticed last year desperately trying to stay invisible. She wants to know his secrets. He seems different, but not in a vampire sort of way.

Suddenly her much older military brother, Doug, makes a rare appearance. He takes a special interest in her life. Suspicious of his motives Allie holds back, never really trusting him. Doug wants what she wants—the boy she has come to love. No way would she let that happen. She’d go against family and friends to protect him—and his secrets—even if it ends up breaking her heart.

Do you love contests? Giveaways? I have 2 going on right now!

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November Sunrise (1)

It’s Thanksgiving week already. Time to give thanks. Time to reflect.

So what am I thankful for? The little things.

I get up each day and look at the morning sky. Whatever the scene, I try to appreciate something about it. The title picture is a November morning. The sun’s coming up in my backyard. The pink clouds were amazing and I couldn’t stop peeking out the window until they disappeared.

PJ steals my breakfast (3)

I’m grateful for this wee little bird who fills our home with joy and happiness. Sure she’s stealing my breakfast, but she makes us laugh.

August Shower (63)

I love that I live close to Lake Erie and can easily get there in a short drive. Maybe I don’t visit as often as I should, but am thankful it’s there.

Nighttime Visitor (1)

I’m thankful I can still be surprised by things. This deer looked like a statue standing in my yard. It was kind enough to stay put until I got the camera and captured the moment.

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I finally joined the smartphone generation and am grateful I can take a selfie – a poor one, but at least I tried.

Of course, I am thankful for friends and family, good health and a roof over my head. But the little things? It takes effort to stop and notice. Try it this week. What little things are you thankful for?

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As you know, if you read my blog, I’ve asked my author friends if anyone has done research for the setting of their book by actually visiting the area. Their experiences were something I wanted to share. Today I have a guest blogger, my author friend, Aubrey Wynne. She talks about her time in Chicago and how going being there helped write her book.Hope you enjoy!

Aw Darn, You Mean I Have To Go There?

Research can be time-consuming and tedious. It can also be fascinating and fun. As a history geek, I often get sidetracked with the interesting trivia I find in little known sources or while talking with experts. But whenever I can, I visit the destinations in my books.

When I began Dante’s Gift, I knew I wanted the contemporary couple to live in Chicago. I live an hour away from the Windy City and informed my husband we would have to make several trips in order to fulfill my research needs. “Darn it,” he said. “But whatever I can do to support my wife.”

My main characters live in the same city but opposite ends. Dominic lives in Lincoln Park, one of the older neighborhoods, while Katie is in the Lake Point Condos near downtown. Her building sits along Lake Shore Drive next to Navy Pier and is an amazing piece of architecture.

The hubby and I are both foodies. Alinea’s, located on the east side, is one of the most expensive and prestigious restaurants in the city. Winner of the James Beard Award for Best Service in the United States and the coveted Michelin 3-star rating, I could only afford to look at the building from the street. Meals average $400-$600 and tickets are sold a year in advance. A bit out of my league but definitely on the bucket list.

Heaven On Seven, however, is a “must-do” for lunch when visiting the city. Located on the seventh floor of the historic Garland building on Wabash, the atmosphere drips with New Orleans charm. This is my husband’s favorite restaurant and has some of the best Cajun food in the Midwest. The prices are reasonable and the service is excellent. But expect a wait—the locals love this place, too. I recommend the gumbo and jalapeno corn muffins.

The other location in my story is Benevento, Italy. I gave my husband that look when I showed him pictures of the lovely, ancient city. With a long sigh, he said, “Please tell me it’s tax deductible.” Yup! So, our summer vacation is in the planning stage… 

Check out the Chicago restaurants in Dante’s gift:

Alinea’s https://website.alinearestaurant.com

Heaven On Seven http://www.heavenonseven.com

Dante’s Gift

Kathleen James is far too practical for her own good. But on the most important night of her life, she gives way to romance and prepares for an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. Unfortunately, the evening doesn’t end the way she envisioned.

Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls from Italy. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.

Nonna, a wartime bride from the ‘40s, knows how precious love can be. Can her own love story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?

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About the Author

Award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule, and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding, and all things Christmas.

Her short stories, Merry Christmas, Henry and Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies received Best Short in the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice of 2013 and 2014.

Aubrey’s latest holiday romance Dante’s Gift, includes both a present day and WWII love story intertwined. It is included in the box set Christmas Pets and Kisses and sold as a single. Her true love is historical romance and Rolf’s Quest, the first in a medieval fantasy series, will release in 2016. Sammi’s Serenade will debut in the box set Valentine’s Pets and Kisses.

Website:

http://aubreywynneauthor.wordpress.com

Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/AubreyWynne/e/B00II8QD6G/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Newsletter: https://madmimi.com/signups/122105/iframe

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/magnificentvalor

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Aubreywynne51

Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/aubreywynne51/

 

Buy Links:

Amazon:http://amzn.to/1OTMBmL

B&N:http://bit.ly/1MFcvpM

Kobo:http://bit.ly/1LGmdse

iBooks http://apple.co/1N0XSSd

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26120629-dante-s-gift

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Holden Arboretum (1)After a two year absence, fall has made an appearance in Northeast Ohio again. It had become so depressing, I named the season Flinter last year. Get it? Fall and Winter mashed together. We had snow in October, cold, rain then more snow. The end of October was something to fear, not look forward to. The weather continued right into real winter and straight through April. Endless gray days were the norm.

Fall-Winter Nov. 12 (9)Fall 2013Fall Nov 13 (3)Fall 2014

Then a miracle happened this year. Fall came back! I can’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful colors, the fall trees and scenery. I had to share. My husband and I have gone to parks to enjoy the sun and autumn-like weather. The tree above (with the title) is from a beautiful park – Holden Arboretum. Below I share a few more from that park.

Holden Arboretum (6) Holden Arboretum (9)

Holden Arboretum (4) Holden Arboretum (21)

Now on to Garfield Park – a little closer to home.

Garfield Park (4) Garfield Park (7)

And finally my own backyard.

Backyard Nov. 2 (1) Backyard Nov. 2 (8)

Backyard (4)

Hope you enjoyed the show! Happy Fall!

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Recently I was asked to read a few chapters from a book someone wrote. They wanted to know what I thought and where they could get it published. I’m fine with reading other’s work and offering suggestions, so I agreed.

The topic was interesting and the blurb well-written. Then I started in on the actually book. After I finished the first chapter, I sat back in my chair. I pretended I was on the other side of the industry—an agent. My first thought was, “Wow, I wonder how many of these they see in a day?”

I would call the chapter I read a first draft. The book needed a lot of editing. Even if it had potential, I could see why an agent would turn it down. As the agent, I would ask myself, “Does the writer have the ability to make changes?” and “Is this all he’s capable of or is there more untapped inside him?” Taking on the client would be a long shot, and I have a strange feeling agents aren’t gamblers … anymore.

I want to believe at one time, agents did take chances and worked with new authors. It’s a different world now and the rules have changed. I feel if it can’t be made into a movie, forget about it.

Can this book be published? We all know the answer to that. Yes. Self-publishing is there for the taking. But don’t just write something and think it’s done. Don’t publish it and put it out there. In the “old days” when a writer was rejected by an agent or publishing company they added constructive criticism. Now it’s a form letter. No help there.So where do you get help before you publish?

If you wrote a book (congratulations by the way, it’s not an easy task), don’t assume it is done. You are your first line of defense. Call it your first draft. Now comes the hard part—editing. Read it over at least three times before any other human eyes see it. (Dogs and cats are fine.) Find beta readers. Parents, siblings, cousins, friends come in handy, and they’re free. You can also find many sites that offer (for a price) readers. Listen to them. Be able to handle their critiques of your novel. Take it to heart and work on the book again.

Study up on the English language. Spell check doesn’t catch everything. Know commas, quotation marks, italics and when to use them. Try not to use the same words over and over again. Do not keep using a person’s name in a sentence. Is your head spinning yet?

Yes, you wrote a book. You are excited. I know the feeling. I have been down that road and learned so much. Hopefully, I’m passing along that knowledge.

If you have it in you, you love every aspect of the process and can handle the rejection—then go for it, write that book and don’t look back. But remember, there’s more to it than just writing.

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Nancy Pennick wrote the young adult series, Waiting for Dusk, and is now working on her exciting new series, 29.

Learn more about Nancy

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