What A Wonderful Adventure…

What a wonderful adventure I had at Studio Moonfall today in Kenosha, WI. Thank you @donovanscherer for graciously hosting me and welcoming my tales to your wondrous bookshop! And a special thank you to the new readers I met today. My goodness – I won’t ever forget this sunny, welcoming, bookish day!

Friends! Special updates coming soon!!! What a magical season this has been! This author’s cup runneth over! How much I appreciate you all…

Stay Inspired!

Studio Moonfall Tomorrow: Sept. 19th!

Though I will not be dressed in historic garb (or will I?), I will be selling and signing my tales tomorrow at the very fantastic Studio Moonfall in Kenosha, WI from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Check out this awesome bookshop at:
https://www.studiomoonfall.com/
 @donovanscherer

All my best!

Studio Moonfall next Sunday, Sept. 19th!!

An exciting update to events! I’ll be a guest at Kenosha’s Studio Moonfall – Donovan Scherer’s House of Art & Story, next Sunday September 19th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.! Selling and signing my tales, alongside some other super fun vendors! And this bookshop!!! Be sure to check out this amazing place at https://www.studiomoonfall.com/

Gratitude for the invite @donovanscherer and I’ll be seeing you soon, Kenosha readers!

Stay Inspired!

Thank you, thank you!!


Friends ~ Thank you for THE most amazing Bristol season my little bookstore, The Quill and Brush, could have ever hoped for. Your generosity, kindness, ideas, smiles, laughter, and inspiration, were incredible this 2021. My 5th season was truly, a dream.

I wish that every tale that walked away with you, will entertain, lift, delight, hearten, and inspire. Such a hope, is what fills my heart and moves my pen! More stories are very soon on the way!

My next event – Evanston’s Maker’s Market – October 2nd.

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Just Two Festival Weekends Left!

Just two festival weekends left at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Don’t let the heat keep you away from these last magical days. I hope to see you at The Quill and Brush!

Stay Inspired!

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Offering just a little bit…

Do you know what fills my heart? Boxes of books. My books. The loves of my life. The works of my soul. The hundreds of hours spent to give them breath.


They may not look like much in the cardboard, stacked in their paper and plastic. But when I place each individually into someone’s hands, and they walk away, I somehow feel I’m doing what it was I’m here to do. Offering just a little bit of magic, love, happiness, adventure…This is what I have to give.


Stay Inspired

New Events, New Books!

I’m scheduling new events! TBC (to be confirmed). TBA (to be announced). I anticipate the release of Still by the November 20th event, so anyone coming out in their cozy sweaters may just snag a first copy. I’ll keep you posted!

As for 2022? I’m planning to make it an amazing year of new releases and events, and I’m taking you along for the ride!

For a list of my works, please visit: https://inspiredbyvenice.org/about/

Festival Cheer…

What an amazing season so far at The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! The energy this year has been incredible. Thank you for the support of every guest, all of your endless creative inspiration, and festival cheer!

Two weekends left. I hope to see you there!

The Quill and Brush’s beautiful sign was made by Cody Zibung.

I’ll be announcing some new event dates soon. Stay Inspired!

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #3

Dear Friends…5 more beautiful festival weekends yet to visit Bristol, and my little bookshop The Quill and Brush. If you haven’t stopped by so far, I hope you will for a bookish chat – and perhaps even leave with a fairy tale too!

But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing this summer – I hope you’re enjoying life and staying inspired!

Now onwards with our short series of what I’ve learned from writing books, which again, may be considered general thoughts for just about any craft!

#3

Arguably, the most important thing when writing a book, is the trust you must place on yourself.

What’s that mean? Well…

  1. If you think you’ll remember that great idea you had as you were falling asleep last night, no…you won’t. I’ve fumbled around in the dark more than once for a pencil and scribbled a note in the pitch. I tell you, whenever that thought enters your brain, write it down. Don’t trust yourself to remember, trust yourself to write it down.

2. If you think you’re going to recall to fix that sentence during edits later on, no…you won’t. Take a few moments to give that sentence a little love in the moment. Don’t trust yourself to remember to do it, trust yourself to make it your best, as you’re working.

3. Think that word seems like the correct spelling? That you can probably pass on by while you’re writing/editing? I wouldn’t. Check and make sure. Don’t trust 100% in your spelling skills, or that it’s probably correct. Trust in yourself to take the time to check the word. And that goes for the meaning of the word too. If you only knew how many times I was way off, when I thought I was right on.

4. Think you’re sure what history was really like, and you can paint your story with it and then call it true? Oh my goodness, it’s hilarious how many things I put down from my imagination, thinking it was historical. But they were really only theatrical ideas I’d gleaned from movies and reading. Not so much history at all. So, challenge yourself to find out the truth. It’s SO MUCH FUN!! Of course, you can write what you like in your book. You don’t have to be accurate. Have fun being outrageously incorrect if you like, because it’s your book. But if you dig something a bit more true to history (I often do), trust yourself to give some time to research and let go of your assumptions.

5. Trust yourself to read your work from different viewpoints, not just your own. How might someone, other than yourself feel, when reading your words? For example, I’d once phrased a paragraph that later made me reflect that it didn’t sound all that empowering for my young female character! And since my character might be an example to some young lady out there someday, I was quick to make edits. But it was only after I’d reviewed the words from a different view, that I’d even seen this. This isn’t an easy skill! We all come from our own voice and experiences. But trust yourself to give more time to reviewing your work, as another might.

I could keep coming up with examples on self-trust, but they are endless. So let’s just say this…

Each time I sit down to write, the most important thing is to trust that I have my own back. If I care up-front, what I produce in the end, is more likely to be what I was hoping for.

Thank you…

I just wanted to say thank you to each and every supporter of The Quill and Brush at Bristol, and to every reader. The positive reviews, the smiles, the wonderful conversations, the many new friends made. This has been an incredible season so far, and you can’t even imagine how thankful I am, for you.


My autumn writing bug is already biting. But it must wait! 5 more beautiful festival weekends still to come.

Stay Inspired, and all of my best.

Take A Journey…

It may have been hotter than is bearable this past weekend, but with all those special moments at The Quill and Brush, it seemed nothing at all…

6 more festival weekends at Bristol. I hope to see you there!

And speaking of heat…take a journey through a vast Egyptian desert in my supernatural tale, Ancient. For a description, read here.

Keep cool. Stay Inspired.

You, Inspire Me

I just wanted to say Thank You for an AMAZING first two weekends back at Bristol. The Quill and Brush was visited by so many wonderful readers, writers, old friends, and new guests. It was overwhelming in the most sincere and magical way.

You, inspire me.

7 more glorious festival weekends to come. I’m going to cherish every one. Be sure to come by for a visit! And perhaps a fairy tale too!

All My Best…

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #2

Hello Dear Friends! All of my well wishes to you!!

I’ve been focused on preparing for the opening of The Quill and Brush’s 5th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire for many weeks now. For such a simple little shop, you’d wonder what all takes so much time to prepare?! But let me tell you from experience, even the smallest of small businesses always has plenty to do!

Saturday I was up at Bristol with my folks, making sure all was prepped for opening day, July 10th. Man, those Bristol grounds are beautiful!

Yesterday, I tied up loose ends at home, including bringing out bins of costumes from storage. Hanging them up, I realized how real this all was. Just a few days more!

Who is ready for Bristol?! Rennies say hello in the comments!

But onwards with this mini series of posts about my experience writing books…

(Remember, I think much of these will apply to any creator.)

#2

Writing books takes guts and grit and nerves of steel. If you don’t have those, well, start pretending you do and don’t look back…

What do I mean by this?

First – Writing, editing, and completing a book alone, is very hard work. Hundreds of hours in solitude creating a single novel? Easily. You need to love it that much, and develop great patience. It will be more patience than you have, so just keep finding more. From where? I don’t know. Just do.

Two – You’ve got a lot of learning to do. Everyone does. Being a writer is a continual journey of development. And learning is often arduous and can mess with your confidence. Don’t let it. Just keep moving forward, just keep growing.

Three – What you write will never be as perfect as you want it to be. And I know I have an imagination that I can’t quite fit into a book. That’s hard to accept. But the important thing is whether or not you put your best into what you produce. And you know whether or not you did. Give your best, and you’re doing great!

Four – Giving your work to the world is provoking. That’s my nice way of saying, there’s a lot of emotions when a book is published. It’s exciting and I feel proud, yes. I can’t even describe how it feels to hold that first copy in your hands! But it’s also terrifying. Once you put it out there, it’s not yours anymore. A book has a life of its own for everyone who reads it. And that will bring out both scrutiny and praise, and other unexpected ripples. You must learn to embrace all of that. It’s scary, but beautiful.

Five – Writing books is lonely. But it has to be. It’s you – your mind – and the page. Of course, writing can be terribly exciting and entertaining! But it’s inherently a quiet endeavor. If your personality doesn’t like quiet and solitude (and even if it does), this can be a difficult part of writing.

Six – It’s possible you’ll do all the work, and yet not many people will read your book. Listen – the world is oversaturated with as many options in reading and entertainment, and other things to do. So this shouldn’t be a surprise. Rather, remember to write because you love to, and simply appreciate when others do pick up, read, and even go the extra mile of responding to, what you wrote. If you think of it this way, you’ll keep finding the rewards in writing.

If you’ve read this post, my guess is you love to create something, whether it’s a book, or otherwise. So here’s what I say to you. You just keep doing what you love, no matter what. Even if it’s small steps, or only for yourself, or just as time allows, or with its difficulties. It will always be worth it. And for those of you who have already reached the stars with your craft, keep going for the next universe!

Stay Inspired.

What I’ve Learned From Writing Books – #1

Funny. I know I’m a writer. I know I’m an author. And yet, after years, I still never really felt that I was, in my mind.

Why? I guess it always seemed like this journey was some sort of marathon. And I’ve no training in running. I was going to have to learn from scratch. Wear through a lot of shoes. Further, some of the ways I’ve approached authorship have been unconventional. I therefore believed I would have to run really hard and really far, to prove that I was a real runner. I believed I had to cross some important marker along the way (what that was, I wasn’t sure) before I could really call myself An Author.

This thinking was absurd, of course. But I couldn’t make my stubborn brain accept what it wouldn’t, until it would.


My newest novel Still, will be in readers’ hands shortly (more to come on that soon). But about a week or two ago, while working on edits, I knew. I’d gotten past whatever my imaginary marker was.

This book, it took a piece of my soul with it. And it was genuinely, hard work. I can’t even question myself now. I’m an author.

So as I considered my experience with Still, which will be my 17th title, I decided I wanted to share a bit of my book writing journey with you.

It’s no matter if you are a writer, or not. I think you’ll find my thoughts applicable to anything you have a goal to do.

Your journey may not look at all like mine, nor even your craft, but this is really about inspiration. At my shop The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, I meet authors in every step of their journeys. I learn so much from these conversations. So here’s what my experience has been…

#1

I thought I knew the English language well. I was wrong.

Here’s the fact. I LOVE words. I’ve always loved reading, and another great passion of mine was once public speaking. I love hearing how others use words to express a message. I love crafting words to express myself. I love reading words. I love writing words. I’m just nuts about it.

And though I never received any focused education in writing, I thought I understood the English language and the basic spelling of it decently enough.

I was wrong. But it’s so funny! In fact, I laugh at myself all the time.

  1. I write words that I thought were real. But it seems I made them up.
  2. I thought I knew what words meant, but am frequently surprised to learn my understanding was incorrect.
  3. I still have to look up some of the same words, again and again. Like lose vs. loose (even though it’s cemented by now…I think).
  4. I’ve occasionally gone wild, and yes, printed words in my books that are neither ‘real’ nor ‘perfectly applied’. And I’ll do it again. Because I’m creating art. My art. I can do what I want.

I like reviewing a ‘word of the day’. I find it so hilarious every time! They are always long and complicated-sounding, and I like to first guess what they mean and have a giggle inside when I find out what they actually do. I wouldn’t use even a small percent of these words. But it’s such a delight to learn about them anyway. And they remind me, I still have so much to learn about the English language.

What I know? We always have more to learn about our craft than we thought we did. But that’s what makes the journey awesome!

Stay Inspired.

Six Weeks Until The Quill And Brush Returns!

Good Day Good Friends! I hope this message finds you well!

I got two emails from my Mama this morning asking if I was okay. She does that when I get a little quiet – because she’s a good mom. So, I thought I better come up for air and just say Hello to everybody!!

You see, since the very second Bristol announced they would be opening this summer, I’ve been all hands on deck. Everything from car repairs (no breaking down on the way to Bristol for me – I don’t want to end up a damsel in distress), to vaccines (both round one and round two took me down – no joke), to writing nearly every evening after work (more on that soon!!), to getting all my small business odds and ends in order.

I’m still in the thick of it, so I might be just a little quiet for a few weeks more, but then it will be time to bring out the magic! AND THE BOOKS! HUZZAH!

Where’s the costumes! Where’s the glitter? Dust off your fairy wings! Where’s your hair wreath? Where’s your sword?! Practice your pirate yarrrrr! A whole summer of revelry is just around the corner, and I’ll be sure to share it with you here from The Quill and Brush!

Who’s coming to say hello at The Quill?! Say hi here – I can’t wait to see you there!

Bed, Cookies, and Books…

I call this photo…

Bed, Cookies, and Books

Pretty much all you need to solve most of life’s problems!

Stay Inspired!!

{I’m currently reading Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman – Great book, great author!}

What are you reading? Come say hello on Goodreads!


Come along with me…

Hello Friends!

I hope withal that this message finds you well and happy. Here in Evanston, the sun is shining and the birds have been veritably trilling. Several have been showing off. They’re going to get raspy beak by evening and will have to gargle with fountain mist. Or puddle water. I hear that works pretty good. That’s the go-to bird cure.

I’m just happy that they are happy – they make me happy – isn’t that spring song so lovely?!

Today, I digress. But I just wanted to say thank you, for reading.

Thank you, for being a part of Inspired By Venice. Thank you, for turning the pages of my tales. Thank you for coming along on my writing journey. Endless gratitude, to those who have made a visit to The Quill and Brush – my little bookshop at Bristol. Thank you all, for ambling along, with me.

How much I appreciate the inspiration.

I can report, a renaissance is taking hold. The writing bug has bitten. Ouch! I anticipate an outburst of works, to plan an event or two (as it becomes safe), and an uptick in inspired posts.

I hope you will come along with me

For, for all of you that have enjoyed my words – your support means everything.

It is only because of readers, that my characters, worlds, and stories, actually breath, live, and come to life.

All of your smiling faces at The Quill. The treasure of conversations shared. The ideas you’ve exposed me to! Hearing about all of your creative passions and aspirations. All of the feedback, book reviews, and encouragement. Your comments, your emails, your follows.

Please, keep it coming!

But most importantly – I appreciate you.


You can follow Inspired By Venice, via email or the WordPress button, on my main page.

Bonus fun!! Staying inspired on Instagram! @InspiredByVenice

You can also join me on Goodreads, or my Amazon author page, for book updates!

Have you read one of my tales? Your Goodreads or Amazon book review, is a gift that is sincerely appreciated.

And of course, if you are looking for a new adventure, for yourself, or for a gift, please consider being a fairy godpatron in the bookstore.


Time to go sharpen my quill and spill some ink!

Stay Inspired

It’s Time To Get Inspired!

Is it summer yet?

Heavens, I can’t wait for some sun on my face, on so many long and lovely outdoor walks. I can hear the Lake Michigan waves crashing as I giddily search for lake glass. And I can just see all of the tables of vegetable splendor at the farmers’ market. How I pine to throw open the windows to a beautiful breeze and cicadas on a summer’s night…

But back to reality. It’s only March.

But I’ve been thinking – and thinking very seriously – that it is time to get inspired. Like, down to business, inspired.

This is a pep talk to myself. And I’m making it public.

After losing myself in a Michelle-why-aren’t-you-working-on-your-projects? Where-has-all-of-your-drive-and-creativity-toddled-off-to? sort of void (the pandemic has played no small part – perhaps you can relate?) I think I’m finally getting my footing, and my goals back in line.

IT’S TIME TO GET INSPIRED!!!

First on the agenda – my mystery novel Still. New York City. A timeworn, venerated museum with many ancient displays…and shadowy corners to hide in…

Bwah-ha-ha!

I’m wrapping it up! With a dusty, creepy, page-turning ribbon. I can’t wait for you to read it. More soon…

Are you staying inspired? Don’t forget to take some time to dream, plan, and do, whatever it is you love.

Spring, lovely spring…

Welcome Friends! What’s going on in your world?

I hope life is bringing you health and happiness, wherever you are!

I just sat down for a quick lunch bite, but soon off to finish my chores. I’ve laundry drying, and some dishes and dusting yet to do. How the dust bunnies add up to be dust tumbleweeds around my house each week, is a particular mystery of interest.

I find dusting very satisfying.

I’ve also learned to be aggressive about chores. Get them out of the way, so I can play (a.k.a. – drink tea, eat cookies, and lay around reading).

I’m reading a book of classic short stories, by Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, Washington Irving, and such. Delicious. Absolutely delicious. The stories, and the cookies I’m eating while I’m reading, of course.

Maybe that’s why I sweep up so much from the floors. All the cookie crumbs.

But I just wanted to say to you all today, that I wish you a spring full of positivity, energy, fresh air, lovely blooms, blessings, and new beginnings. I really do.

Stay Inspired.

It Lightened My Heart…

Good Day, Good Friends!

What are you up to these days?

I’ve been quite focused on my work weeks, and in keeping my quiet little home life. Days of focus, simplicity, peace, and good health – this is my daily goal at present.

And also, to be consistently thankful for my blessings!

Some of my favorite things lately?

I’ve been fitness walking and then stretching in my living room some days – always followed up by a cold sparkling lime La Croix! I love my outdoor walks, as you know, and still traipse about in the snow and ice. But my indoor exertions have been a convenient, healthy, and inspiring lift to life! You know, there are so many videos online. I personally look for low impact, and positivity. These days, I’m not interested in giving myself miserable follow up soreness (no extreme exercising), nor in doing a session that makes me, however unintentionally, feel ‘bad’ about myself (my abilities, or level of fitness, or imperfections).

Let’s just say, I like to smile and feel silly and have fun when I’m swaying my hips!

I’ve also been enjoying reading, which I have been strongly craving lately. I anticipate reading more books this year than usual. I also crave the Bible’s words (Proverbs is my favorite – I nod at the wisdom in every verse). I’ve too, been delighting in several interesting programs and movies. I especially like those that expose me to new places, or experiences. Culture, or past events – things which I may never see, or directly understand myself, but get to learn something about. And, I am writing. Not a lot, but even slow progress gets you to your goal eventually! It is my hope that Still and Dragons At Dusk will belong to the world, and no longer to me, before long.

By the way, have you ever put sugar snap peas on your salad? Lovely. They are so fresh, crunchy, and earthy. I like to munch on a handful with my lunch – and then spend the afternoon with green in my teeth. That’s my pretty look.

Yesterday morning, I heard a bird singing outside my window. It was the song of spring, which if you have known decades of winter like I have, you can decipher. It didn’t matter the feet of snow on the ground, or that it is yet icy. The birds know what’s coming, and that song was filled with hope.

It lightened my heart.

Well, I’ve a bit of reading – writing – hip swaying – dishwashing to do before my Sunday is up. So I leave you with the wish, that you are keeping well and staying inspired.

All of my best.

Beauty Sleeping – Audio Chapters 1 – 2

Greetings Dear Readers! I hope you are staying inspired?!

Maybe I can help? Let’s throw some fairy dust!! You’re about to get glittered!!!

And chased by monsters

Ok – maybe the sparkle and beasts don’t make an appearance until after chapters 1 and 2. But since nothing inspires me more than an enchanted wood filled with ogres, maidens, witches, goblins, and terribly fierce dragons, I turned through a few pages to record the first two chapters of my Beauty Sleeping, just for you. This tale might be my most magical. A little eerie – yikes! But so, so, so romantic.

A story of eternal love.

Beauty Sleeping by Michelle Novak – The author’s reading of Chapter 1
Beauty Sleeping by Michelle Novak – The author’s reading of Chapter 2

Here’s wishing you, all the love and magic there is!

And forever, Stay Inspired.

If you would like to be a fairy godpatron to the authoress – please be sure to whirl your wand in the bookstore! Enjoy the adventure!

Peace and Good Will Toward Men

Good Tidings, Dear Friends!

Today, I am wishing you all of the peace and good will in the world. I hope for you a healthy and blessed holiday season, and a Merry Christmas too!

Today, after clearing my poor-little-cracking-allergy-ridden-throat to the best of my ability, holding back tickles that threatened coughs, I got my reading voice going. Because…I wanted to give you dear readers a gift.

At least, the only gift I have to give you today, wherever in the world you may be.

It’s the Christmas story, selections from the King James Bible. The readings are taken from chapters Matthew and Luke.

I know it’s been a terribly difficult year for so many. So, I thought, perhaps a listen to this Christmas miracle might offer peace and gladness. I hope you will enjoy hearing about the birth of Jesus as it is written, of the wise men, and that star in the sky. Of the shepherds, and the manger. Of praising angels, and God’s love.

It’s a beautiful story.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2:14 KJV

Luke 2: 1-39 KJV
Matthew 2 KJV
Luke 1: 26-38 KJV
Matthew 1: 18-25 KJV

The gift that it is, to be…

Greetings Kindred Spirits!

This morning, while running out for some necessary items, I decided I also needed some chocolate doughnuts. Needed them. I also grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, and some chocolate candies. Because, you know, I needed those too.

Humans. Aren’t we something? Ha!

{Starting Catherine Steadman’s Mr. Nobody. Her Something in the Water was a real page-turner. Loved it!}

Have you ever spent an entire day reading a book? I have. As if under a spell. Yes, I’d have been reading a good book, or splitting the time between several. But it wasn’t so much the book. Rather, the place I needed to be in at the time.

Just to sit very still. Very quiet. And give myself away to something other than every other thing we focus on.

I do this with writing too.

Is there something in this world that you do this with? Tinkering, gardening, cooking, binge watching (hey, it has its value)? Something that takes you to another zone?

As I took my evening walk yesterday, I thought…

I love being outside more than anything, at all, ever.

I just feel, better. And not that I’m feeling bad. It’s just, when I’m outside, it’s very right.

I say, thank God for shelter and modern conveniences. I embrace cozy. I love a full cupboard. A cushiony place to rest my head is a blessing. But you know, we weren’t made into that. In the beginning. We were formed in the wilderness. We are nature. And whenever I go outside, I feel it.

Once many years ago, I told my mother that if we ever knew the pending hour that I would pass, that I would want to be outside. You know, if I got sick or something. A lawn chair, the sky, and some trees. Just, outside. She said she’d do her best. I love my mom.

I know that may sound gloomy. But it isn’t. It’s spiritual. I simply share the sentiment, to illustrate what I feel, when I am outside.

What in this world inspires you that way? The sound of your family’s laughter? Moving song? A soul-warming meal? Painting? Running?

Isn’t it beautiful? All the different ways we can sense the gift that it is, to be?

Stay Inspired.

Happy Saturday!

Hi, Hi, Hi!

How is everyone doing today? I hope you are staying inspired?

If you’re a new reader, I just want to say welcome to Inspired By Venice! Be sure to say Hello! So glad you’re here.

In the news this week, I received a care package from my mama on Tuesday.

Doesn’t a care package just warm your heart? Whether filled with treats, or things needed, or in my case, office supplies and Covid survival goods (including a bundle of pink face masks…so I can feel pretty), it’s always a blessing.

Thank you Mom!

In said box, was a huge magnifying glass. Because I have that mom that just sends cool stuff like that!

The thought of smoking ants on the sidewalk crossed my mind (you know I would never – ever), and also a cozy reverie of skimming piles of dusty books fireside with said magnifier. I’d need a pipe, and some fuzzy slippers, and a cat or five, in this dream…

But then I thought…I will magnify all my bugs! So, the glass has an important purpose now. It’s my insect magnifying glass.

With this said, I think my bug book, however faithfully it has served me over the years, and how beloved it is, is not enough.

Christmas present to self – I need a spider book. To start.

You know, spiders are very aware of you. Maybe they think we’re monsters. Maybe we look good to nibble. I think some are curious (jumpers to be specific). I’ve had some pretty awesome interactions.

A jumper who was browsing my books.

Because, spiders like fairy tales too.

It’s true. This one told me.

In other news, and as I have stated here before, anything minty and chocolate is on my list of top favorites in life. Therefore, every holiday season, I go bonkers over the selection of seasonal delights.

These dark chocolate peppermint cookies from Whole Foods? Let’s just say, I’m going back to the store, I’m going to fill a basket, and become a pandemic toilet paper hoarder…only with cookies.

In other, other news…I’ve been a vegetarian for about a decade now! That’s pretty committed for a meat lover.

Yes. I said it. Meatloaf, bacon, and ribs are delicious. (Shhh…don’t tell the other vegetarians I said that). But I don’t eat it. In all these years, the few bites I’ve had has amounted to no more than a plate. And, at least for me personally, I believe my body thanks me for that every day.

I have a love affair with salad. It’s date night every night!

{An American Greetings card I’m displaying in my kitchen for some cheer}

In other, other, other news…Is there anything better than glitter? Can I just roll in a pile of glitter and run down the street skipping, and twirling, just once in my life? Just saying.

Well now, I’m off to other writing. I hope to get Still out to the world very soon. And I sincerely can’t wait.

Stay Inspired!

I’m a bit of a nuthatch…

Greetings Good Friends! How I am wishing you every good thing today!

Keep your chin up, I say! Keep your chin up!

I, am beat. Yikes! I’ve a literal mountain of laundry to do, but I don’t know if I have enough strength to stir today. My goodness. I think I’ve only enough energy to stir over to the fridge for something good to nibble on…HA!

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Last weekend, I received a sweet package from my dear friend Cira. She took an old flowered blouse of mine, the fabric of which I’d loved, and made pouches and masks out of it. Aren’t they so beautiful? Additionally, the light green zipper-pouch, as soft as velvet, was sewed and sent by my mama for my birthday!

Tell me that homemade gifts aren’t the best? Tell me I’m not spoiled?

I am envious of these ladies’ talents. Only, I’ve never had a stitch of patience for sewing. Pun intended. So, I’ll just continue to admire their talents while sporting my pretty new accessories!

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Someone special also gave me a book of birds for my birthday, the pages of which are magic to me…

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I love nature so much. I stopped the other morning to crane my neck straight back and have a conversation with a striped-headed nuthatch peeping and hopping upside down on the underside of a tree branch. My guess was that he was looking for insect snacks.

He didn’t really have time for me and said so.

I’m certain other pedestrians witnessed this and thought I was a nuthatch myself. Yes. Yes indeed, I am a bit of a nuthatch.

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Though I have my hands full with current writing projects, I am considering to write a book of true short stories. A collection of those magical, bizarre, and even humbling moments I’ve witnessed in my life, and what they’ve taught me or made me feel. Its purpose would be to entertain and inspire readers. An eclectic little treat. I may start jotting notes soon to form a path for the work…

Now, I know not all of you have the same passion for insects that I do (though I’m sure many of you must since bugs are so awesome)…but I’ve a special creepy-crawly tale for you…

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A few months ago, while at the kitchen sink, I witnessed an itty-bitty miracle.

A house centipede, of which I see commonly enough around my dwelling (and who sometimes make even me goose-bump), was lurking at the sink and got himself waterlogged to the point of mush. All his many long legs were a single drenched mass, and I felt poignantly sad for it.

Now, I have saved approximately one zillion little buggies from approaching death. True story. And, I have learned by trial that a corner of paper towel softly dotted to a waterlogged insect can transport it to a better location without squishing it. If it survives after that point is between God and the bug, but at least I did my best.

I thought I’d give this a go, but the creature looked quite pathetic. I may have even said a prayer for it; God loves all creatures, great and small, right?

It took a little while, maybe even a quarter of an hour, but eventually the creature dried out and unfurled. A little twitch here, a little twitch there. Ultimately stirring back to life to run away. I was sort of baffled, but also genuinely exultant by the happening! That bug had been in really bad, quite hopeless shape, just minutes before…

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But I tell you this, not just for the sake of the nearly implausible resurrection that I witnessed, and me so obviously fond of bugs. It was really just, such an inspiring show of resilience!

I know many of you are having a hard time. And even if you’re doing okay, there’s still no way to escape the global stress and worry. Many moments in these last months have made it feel like the whole world is drowning in the second coming of God’s great flood! And no matter where you live, there is no mountain peak high enough to escape to. It’s sort of a, come-what-may, wait-and-see time for the whole world.

Just wanted to say…like that little waterlogged dude…we have it in us. Hold your breath (not literally please), wait it out, keep your faith, keep your cheer, say your prayers, love one another, hug each other (or like…a mime hug from 6-ft. away), thank each other, uplift each other, help each other, laugh, look to your blessings and the bright side…

I am happy to report that I have since had two additional centipede saves, including that striped creature above, the other a baby centipede, neither of which I thought would make it. They really need to stop this daredevil behavior around the tub and sinks. It’s giving  me the nerves.

In other news…my mama bought me two beautiful new lipsticks for my birthday. The very colors I would have bought myself. I love lipstick. I really do. I had already been devising to pick out some for myself, a treat, but then these arrived in the mail.

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Just one problem. 

I can’t go anywhere without a mask.

I don’t even wear blush anymore (which I also love), because it only rubs off and sullies the face covering. So…do I just prance around my house wearing my new lipstick, even though no one will actually see it?

Sounds like a plan! Maybe I’ll just write a whole bunch of letters, plant a few good lip-sticky smooches on paper. If you happen to receive one of these letters, you’ll understand why (apart from the fact that I’ve always been a little eccentric). I was just finding creative reasons to wear my new birthday colors…

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In other, other news…eat your veggies. Just saying.

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In other, other, other news, I was gifted a bushel (what is a bushel?) of farmer’s market autumn apples last week. How lovely! Two weeks’ worth of sweet delights in my lunch bag. The giver is certainly, the apple of my eye! I’ll be sending them a lip-sticky thank you note

Stay Inspired.

 

Shadow And Light…

Welcome, Friends!

I hope this message finds you well and content. I am both, here enjoying some quiet time in the treehouse…

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You know, I have never considered the play of ‘shadow and light’ as an artist must. But sometimes, I notice it with the way the light falls in my house. I think it is such a beautiful thing…

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I’ve yellow and white walls with large windows. It makes the rooms glow when the light casts in so lovely and warm at certain hours of the day. I notice too, the shift of light with the seasons. But no matter the month, the effect is serene…

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I was given a lovely orchid for my birthday. So cheerful the pink and orange-yellow striped blossoms!

Orchids are like people.

Each so very different from another, every one special and beautiful in its own way.

They are also fussy and hard to please.

HA!

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In an attempt to vary breakfast away from blueberry muffins (a.k.a., wean myself toward less sugary options) I sat over granola and berries a few mornings. Though delightful, it only further established that I have a veritable addiction to blueberry muffins…

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Upon my leaving a window screen slightly ajar, a guest buzzed right through my living room, only to find herself crashed in a dusty corner. I, of course, came to the rescue, gingerly pinching cobwebs from her wings.

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When eventually encouraging her release by holding my hand out the open window, as if in a daze, she would not alight. Perhaps it was because she’d just undertaken a crash landing. Or perhaps it was because I am the bug whisperer and she was under my spell…

How did I know she was a she? We had a telepathic conversation and talked girl talk. About wing iridescence and lash extensions and stuff. It’s a bug whisperer thing.

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I was also given a ghost book for my birthday, which I have been slowly savoring each night. There is nothing better than an allegedly true ghost story. Why a book of Wisconsin ghost stories? Perfect gift. I’ve already read every Illinois ghost story ever published.

Which by the way, any recommendations for true ghost story books out there? I’m absolutely bonkers for them, and would love to hear your favorites to consider for my future late night readings…

Bwahhaha….

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I’ve been having dreams about Faire. Ambling in costume. Wandering the beautiful acres of summer and Renaissance splendor. I do sometimes, since this magical place has been a part of my life for decades.

This Labor Day weekend would have been the final weekend of my 5th season in my Bristol shop The Quill and Brush. Our beloved festival did not open this summer, for obvious reasons. The very right thing to do, of course. In fact, it would have been impossible to “Open wide the gates!”. Yet still, what a disappointment for so many…

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My writing focus in the forthcoming months will be narrowed to completing Still, my creepy mystery about the bizarre happenings in an old arenaceous New York City museum…

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Autumn is of course, the perfect season for devising chilling endings. Don’t you think?

Shan’t we just take a quick step down into the museum basement?

With that said, I’m going to go spend a little time in the shadows with Still now. As always, I love hearing from you! Your comments and salutations are always a light!

Be well. Love one another. Stay Inspired.

Color Me…

Good Day, Dear Friends!

I hope this message finds you healthy, content, and staying inspired today.

I’d enjoy your messages in the comments this go…I always care to hear from you!

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Our usual eclectic post here on Inspired By Venice today? My brain is uncollected and molasses after a long week, so I think random will work best. Often, that’s more fun anyhow!

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First, for all you readers of my tales…I have signed my contract for the 2021 Bristol Renaissance Faire. God willing, I will see many of you again at The Quill and Brush, a year from now.

I miss sharing my works. I miss the fellowship and conversations. I miss the magic. I miss you.

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I of course, don’t know what will happen. No one does. Progress to slow the virus is backsliding, and I can’t say when large gatherings will even be sound or permissible again. I personally hope, for a safe and effective vaccine soon.

Only time will tell. But for today, let us do our best to stay inspired

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I have decided to start a new collection. I am collecting feathers. No, I’m not worried about bird germs. I’m tired about being worried about germs. I’m going to pick up all the pretty feathers. And keep them. And collect them. And look at them.

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So if any of my friends or family find something special for me, please collect it. I will be delighted. And perhaps you, my friends here on Inspired By Venice, can help me identify some of them? The blue jay feather is my particular favorite so far…

The feathers will be joining my other passions for jumping spiders, lake glass, and found coins…

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I’m also at present, taking an interest in sidewalk animal prints.

I’ve discovered I know nothing about identification, as aware of nature as I thought I was. They all look like raccoon or black bird prints to me. Perhaps you can help me identify those too?

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My interests go to show that you don’t have to spend a penny to entertain yourself. I believe this to be a gift of being an only child. Inventing one’s own amusements.

I also believe in small delights, and taking simple, yet good care of myself. Here are some of my other current favorites…

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My closest know, or have at least observed over the years, that I can exhibit some sensitivities. It’s really just in recent years however, that I’ve even begun to acknowledge and explore this. I think sometimes, it isn’t until we are older, that we are more fully able to understand who we are, and how best to live our happiest and healthiest selves…

I was recommended the book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron. I have not completed reading it yet, but I’ve found myself in the pages. On the checklist for a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’, I meet many.

For instance, noise. It has always jarred me. Consistent and loud noises are the worst, and can quite untangle me.

Further, I used to believe that I favored one-on-one conversations, because I could make a deeper connection communicating that way. I’ve never preferred getting together with a group of friends. I now understand, it’s because when a whole bunch of people are talking, I get terribly overwhelmed. My feathers ruffle. I begin to exhibit impatience and irritation. Oh no!

Of all things, I thought this for certain, was an outcome of being an only child. That I wasn’t accustomed to cacophony. I’ve even been sometimes shamed, called selfish, for being less than easy going. Understandable response, sometimes warranted, at others unkindly.

But the truth is, God made me this way. I naturally do better in quiet, and that’s okay.

All of this to say…one of the beautiful gifts in life are the moments we can better understand and love ourselves. This also helps us to better understand and have patience, for others.

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Yet, what’s the favorite right now? Of course, the notion of growing in wisdom and grace. But also, these Sleep Pretty earplugs by Hearos! 32 NRR (noise reduction rating).

Let me tell you friends, a mouse could sneeze in the other room, and I will wake up. And this woman needs her sleep. A baby bird could peep outside the window, and stir me from fruitful writing. Construction noise? Well, that would simply be end game. Let’s just say, I’ve tried many earplugs. I sleep every night in earplugs. I’ve ordered special earplugs. And I wonder how they still haven’t invented the ultimate, and most comfortable earplugs yet. Most, aren’t all that effective.

C’mon, you inventors, you!

But the Sleep Pretty plugs…excellent. Best I’ve found.

Are you like me? Buy them. Hearos, I’ll be your spokeswoman…

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I’ve also recently discovered a favorite candy bar. Chocolove‘s peppermint in dark chocolate.

I’ve said it before…my mama must have been eating mint chocolate chip ice cream when I was in her belly, because I’m bonkers for mint and chocolate. This bar is good. Perfect, actually. This brand, very good. The salted almond butter in dark chocolate…heaven.

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What’s even sweeter? Their packaging has words of love inside.

Oh Romeo! I swoon…

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But a gal can’t live on chocolate alone. She must have her fruits and veggies…and her electrolytes!

Evolution Fresh organic cold-pressed juices have for years now, been one of the loves of my life. A green juice sets me right. When I need greens right now, a bottle of Green Devotion is a gift from Eden. Good stuff. The best stuff.

I’ll be their spokeswoman, too!

Love my veggies.

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And of course, nature will always be my favorite. Look how pretty…

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And precious…baby bunny…

Other current favorites?

Have you seen The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix?

Amazing!

Love, love, love it! If you need some magic in your life, it is so special. And, so exciting! It actually took my breath away, I was so concerned for the gelflings!

Side note; my mom called me a gelfling when I was little. She said I looked like one.

And that’s why I write fairy tales. Because I’m secretly part gelfling.

My mom said so. And moms always tell the truth. Like, about Santa, and the Tooth Fairy and stuff…

I also recently watched the Lenox Hill series about Lenox Hill hospital in New York City. This show humbled my heart so deeply, there are no words. Thank you, to our medical workers. Thank you.

I was also, so very touched by the documentary series, Love on the Spectrum, about individuals on the autism spectrum out in their search for love. This program was beautiful!

And of course, there is always the beauty of music. I ever enjoy classical, or electronic music that is emotive and atmospheric. Makes me imagine. Makes me feel. Like I’m running through a vast field of grass, or sailing a troubled sea, or floating into deep space, or peering out from a castle way up high, into a dark forest…

There are a handful of artists that I watch for, for moving new gems. Active Child, is one of them. Song Johnny Belinda makes me envision riding into medieval battle! Love it.

But today, I wanted to share Active Child’s Color Me.

Why? The lyrics.

Essentially, ‘color me’ any way you will, but I’ll always bleed red. For me, the song just captures the notion of being human. Beyond everything, we all just need love and compassion, and to be known for who we are.

Love that.

Stay Inspired.

 

A Man Pulled Up On The Side Of The Road…

Welcome All. I hope this message finds you full with good health, safety, love and light today…

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I am well. Though, it has been another few unusual and tense weeks. There is civil stress, both locally, and throughout the nation. And there is Covid. It hasn’t gone anywhere. As with everyone else, it’s just one day at a time.

God, please bless, heal, and keep us in your hands.

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As some of you readers are already aware, being revelers, vendors, and employees at Bristol, the Bristol Renaissance Faire (and my book shop The Quill and Brush) will remain closed for the 2020 season. It was announced earlier this week. In my view, it was most certainly the right decision, for the health of all…

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Of course, there is disappointment in it, for many. Bristol is a beautiful, magical outlet. The festival (and all of the hundreds of other canceled events around the nation) are also basic income, for thousands. As I packed my costumes away yesterday, and simply sat with all that has happened these last months, this closure was harder to swallow than I’d anticipated.

My Mom mailed me masks, which she made, and which I make use of every day. I am thankful. My Dad mails me books, which in reading, have been a recent escape. I am thankful. I am thankful to have family that think of me. It is a reminder to pay it forward, with small gestures that uplift others, when I have the opportunity…

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Yet today, I want to share something personal that happened this week. For whatever reason, I normally wouldn’t. I try after all, to keep things light here on Inspired By Venice. But I feel compelled. Perhaps because what I am going to say, may be important to even one reader here, someday, somehow. God works in mysterious ways…

A man pulled up on the side of the road, as I was walking with my groceries on the sidewalk, a few evenings ago. He offered me a ride home in his car. A stranger. I said no. He encouraged. I said no.

I need not offer more detail on the happening, but this…

It quickened my heart, the way a deer must feel when it knows it needs to run the other direction. I watched nervously when the car drove away, until I could not see it anymore, and then I wove through an alleyway home, to be sure I wasn’t being watched for where I lived.

This is not the first time. And maybe it won’t be the last. I’ve a few stories that will turn the hairs up on your neck. Was this individual a bad person with bad intentions? I don’t know. But what I know is, a stranger has no business offering me a ride in their car.

I shared this to say, when your instinct alerts you, listen. This may apply, in many other ways, than this. But if your gut is telling you something, listen. And carry yourself, the other direction.

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Have I mentioned I’m eating Chuckles for stress management?

Love one another, lift one another. Love and take care of yourself.

Stay Inspired.

Fill My Pen With Fairy Dust…

Good Morning Friends! This morning I’m dreaming of writing fairy tales. It is only 6 very short months until The Quill and Brush’s 5th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I am hoping to refresh my book display this year, and am anticipating multiple new tales to showcase within it. 6 months seems a long time, but it actually goes by heart palpitatingly fast when you’re tying up new stories! But, I love it. I truly and dearly love it…

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Still is coming along quite creepily. To all the fans of Veleno, another delicious thriller is just around the corner…

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One New York City museum…a bizarre string of strange happenings…always of course in some darkened, deafeningly quiet, vulnerable moment for the main character. Because what’s more thrilling than that? I’m having a blast

Dragons At Dusk by Michelle Novak

I’ve also pledged to craft a follow-up to Dragons at DawnI will be keeping that promise with some very grouchy and tameless monsters, and some brave knights to get in their way, in Dragons at Dusk…

Beauty Sleeping by Michelle Novak

And of course…copies of the sweetest, most magical, most adventurous little novella my brain could have ever imagined, will be waiting too…I absolutely cherish the newly published Beauty Sleeping

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I’m also considering some other short delights…we’ll see how much fairy dust is left in my pen before Bristol’s opening day, Saturday July 11th, 2020!

Stay Inspired!

Welcome 2020! And Some Musings…

Good morning friends! It’s 2020! Here in Chicago, it’s cold, but there is a layer of beautiful snow on the ground along with a sunny bright blue sky! I’m thinking of taking a bit of a walk later to take in the air, on this, the first day of the new year. I’ll have to bundle up!

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[I’m presently reading Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. The copy was courtesy of my dad (we snail mail each other books because we have similar reading interests). My dad nailed it. I don’t want to put the book down. An incredible, page-turning, true adventure!]

How did I bring in the new year? In my pajamas. I was chiding myself for not being asleep at that hour. I have a bedtime and all, which the holiday season has quite disrupted. 9 p.m. these days. 9:30 when I’m apparently feeling spunky…

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[My town of Evanston, on a sunny winter morning just before Christmas. The cold is nothing I find, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, and the crimson cardinals are merry about the trees.]

So midnight, yikes! But I thought since I was already up so late, might as well take in the moment! I was snacking on salty nuts and chocolates (which I am certain assisted in making my dreams especially erratic last night…I have a ‘no-eating-chocolate-before-bed’ policy too…which I’ve hurled out the window for the holidays)…

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[Is there anything better than tea, cookies, and a book, on a cold winter’s day? Can’t every day just be tea, cookies, and books? Can I please earn a salary sitting around with tea, cookies, and books? And maybe some coffee, and cats?]

And just as the 12 o’clock hour was about to strike, I closed my eyes and began a prayer, feeling that that was a nice way to bring in this new decade. I thanked God for everything I have, and welcomed whatever was meant for me in the coming years, and asked for blessings for my loved ones and friends, and for peace for all…

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[Want to know something quirky about me (besides everything)? Each morning before I leave my house, I look in the bathroom mirror, and smile. I swear. For quite some time now I’ve been doing this. A little self-encouragement? Starting out the day with a positive expression, no matter what the day may bring? A smile, to stay inspired.]

And then it was promptly lights out! Midnight had come and gone, to sleep I went!

Now, I don’t make resolutions. But if I were to form thoughts for what I want for myself in this new year, and new decade, they would revolve around…

  • New adventures: Whether near or far, I love new experiences. Let’s add more!
  • Being brave to change: Because the new that awaits me, can enrich my life.
  • Maintaining good health choices: Because that is the best expression of self-love.

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[I digress but, I noticed these itty paw prints cemented in the sidewalk when I was out for a winter walk. Do you see those adorable little nail prints on that left claw? Was it a raccoon? Bet he didn’t like that cement on his little toes! I find the most delightful things, when I keep my eyes open…]

Well, I’m going to spend part of today writing, so I better hop to it. But, I just wanted to wish you all, the very Happiest New Year, and all of the peace, health, and joy in the world. Welcome 2020!

Stay Inspired!

Inspired By Reading…

Hello All You Amazing, Strong, Creative, Funny, Wonderful, Weird People…oh wait, the weird one is just me! Ha! How are you doing today?! Staying inspired I hope! Do you know what was so very good for my soul this last week?

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Reading. I was under the weather Monday, and thus spent the afternoon reclining in bed with books. And then…I made some more time for some more reading this week, because, you know, I just wanted more. Like M&M’s. Or blueberry muffins. Or French fries dipped in aioli…

Reading breaks my brain. It inspires me. And do you know what else I found? It makes my brain hush up. I need that. Be quiet brain, stop chattering! I’ve decided to apply reading to my life like meditation, for its wondrous calming effect…

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This week, I finished reading Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, an inspirational book for women, a gift from my cousin Kerri last Christmas. Some of the uplifting advice applied not at all to me, or were lessons I’d learned a long time ago. Yet, other thoughts from the author had me nodding my head in affirmation, thinking, this is good advice. I don’t really read much in the way of inspirational books, but I appreciated this one for being just that. A woman, trying to lift other women, and that is always good. Right on, Rachel!

I also finished Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich. Her Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America was amazing, so when I saw another of her works at the used book store, I snatched it up. Like science writer Amy Roach, this author is an utter inspiration to me. Her research, her wit, her investigative reporting skills…I aspire. Both of these books are about why it can be so difficult, financially getting by in America. Neither book made me smile. Both increased my humility. Both remind me not to take anything for granted, and to be thankful for what I have. Very smart books, very good reads.

Now, I’m beginning Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Another work bringing to light, an American populace, struggling in poverty and pain. Though it is doubtful I will find much uplifting in it, some stories are simply important to read…

As the days are starting to get chillier, and the sky is growing darker sooner in the evenings…

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I’ve pulled out the tea kettle and am perusing all the books I’ve collected, yet have not had time to begin…

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With that cozy time of year returning, I can’t wait to read, and write, as many adventures as I can fit in this season!

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As a side note for all you book lovers and readers of InspiredByVenice.org, I’m a Goodreads and Amazon author, and would love your follow!

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Even more, if you have enjoyed reading one of my tales, I would so much appreciate your review! Your words, inspire me, as a writer. Thank you!

A Life Of Blessings…

Hello all my dear, dear friends! I know that it has been a terrible long time since I last sat down to share a tale with you! Oh heavens, months! Let’s just say, my summer was a whirlwind; it is always my busiest season! On the go, each and every day! But my stories have kept, and I’ve captured some photos of my adventures too…it is now the time once again, to share them with you…

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But first today, I want to send a sincere message of gratitude to each and every person in my life, who made my 4th season at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, so very blessed and wondrous. Each season, at my little shop The Quill and Brush, I take away so many special moments to fill my heart. I never forget what a privilege it is, to spend this time with readers and friends, both old and new. You give meaning, and great happiness, to my life. Thank you.

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Last Labor Day Monday, the final day of faire, and my birthday, Queen Elizabeth with her ladies and guards, did bless my little shop with a visit! I will share a larger post of it soon, for I received a special gift I want to show you…but I just wanted you to see my smile. That, is happiness. And that is the smile I always have at faire, when I meet so many kind, intelligent, witty, brave, talented, passionate, and generous people. Each faire day reminds me that my life is so full of blessings…

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Did I mention I’m still completely dazzled every time I see the Queen? The child in me, who was once upon a time so excited to meet Queen Elizabeth, will remain with me forever. But I suppose such fairy tale feelings are part of what help me dream up magic for my books!

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Update for the readers of my tales…

Beauty Sleeping will be available before end of September. I’ll let you know the exact day in a beat…

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Four fair princesses, a long time ago, in a castle do dwell. Their father the king, has disappeared, from just right where he fell. The queen, their mother, walked away, floating into the wood. A sorceress watches, from her dark weald, ’tis certain she means no good…

Will-o’-the-wisps, water spirits, and many strange flowers that sigh. Fairies, goblins, nymphs, and of course, tameless dragons that fly. A time from the past, filled with peril, strange conjury, and swords. Just take one step into this world, and the journey ’twill be yours…

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The world of Dragons at Dawn will carry on with a Part II., Dragons at Dusk. Coming later this fall…

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And, for you readers of the psychological thriller…I’ll be working on Still all winter. Available June 2020. My heart quickens

I’ll write again later this week…promise.

Stay inspired!

Ancient is Here! Enjoy the Adventure!

Hello All! Here’s wishing each and every one of you good health and happiness today! I wanted to share something very special today. After an almost two-year writing journey on this project, my newest novel Ancient, is finally here!

When I woke up this morning, one of first things I did was go to my computer to peek and see if Ancient was live, available to all. When I saw that it was, an instant little cry burst forth, tears spontaneously pooling. A total sneak attack cry that I wasn’t expecting. But it only took me a few seconds to understand the sudden emotion…

Writing Ancient felt a little different to me than my other books. Where before, I felt something like a puppeteer, moving my characters where I would, looking at them from above, or like a narrator, this time I felt like I’d taken the journey with my character. And this morning, when seeing that the story was now no longer just mine, I felt like I was letting go. Waving to Hem in the desert, as she disappeared like a mirage, out into a vast landscape of sand. Very bittersweet…

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For everyone who reads Ancient, it is a wonderful adventure, with a delicious pinch of romance, and many thought-provoking twists of the spiritual. Hem, a nomad in the wilderness of ancient Egypt, loses everything, her family and her life, and is left dangerously and desperately alone. This is her journey from out of darkness, and back into the light. I was with her every step…

Ancient can be purchased here in the U.S., and is available in Europe through Amazon.

When reading Ancient, remember to take along your water bottle and sunscreen, and do beware the asps and scorpions. Maybe don’t wear sandals. Just saying…

And as ever, my dear, dear friends…stay inspired.

Finding Inspiration!

Hi Folks! So, yesterday was beautiful! Warm, sunny, blue skies, lovely spring flowers lifting their heads…and today we have a blizzard here in Evanston. Crazy snow. I scraped all the icy muck off of my car to take a quick trip to the grocery today, and by the time I got out of the store, I had to do it all over again. I’d almost think this was unbelievable, if I hadn’t lived in northern Illinois all my life. I’m trying not to cry. Keep it together, Michelle…let’s stay inspired!

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Well, while having a sip of cold brewed coffee and a blueberry muffin today, the words God is Good went through my mind, and I really meant it. I’m very inspired by blueberry muffins. I love blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins are at the top of my list of things I love above all things. How can a mid-April snowpocolypse get me down when I have blueberry muffins?

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I’m also sorting through a box of costumes my mama handed over. Beautiful things that she made for me to wear to the Bristol Renaissance Faire many years ago. Most of the pieces I can once again (miraculously in spite of my insatiable love for blueberry muffins…and all things bread…and cheese) fit into. I’m going to puzzle together some fun costumes for this summer!

Hey RENNIES! How long until the Bristol Renaissance Faire opens?! Opening day, July 6th! I CAN’T WAIT! Huzzah!!!

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Speaking of the faire, I’m already so very excited that I’ll be sharing a handful of new tales with readers at my shop The Quill and Brush this summer! Who’s ready for some new reading adventures?! And for those of you looking forward to getting lost in my Ancient world…my author’s proof just shipped. I’ll be having a read of it later this week, which will better gage the exact release date.

Know what it’s like when you finish writing a book, and then the first copy shows up in the mail? It’s BETTER than Christmas morning, my birthday, and an Easter basket combined. Just sayin’…

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And now you can have a little laugh on me. So, anyone who knows me knows, that everywhere I go, a can of La Croix is in my hand. I love fizzy water. It is also on the top of my list for all things I love above all things. And, being a total quirkster, I enjoy lining my cans of La Croix up in the fridge. My own little army of fizzy waters. Love it!

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So this week, always having my La Croix all nice and in a row, I open the fridge and one can is like…way aways from the other cans. Hmmm…I live alone, so how’d that La Croix get way over there? I decide that I must have just bumped some things around and didn’t notice? So I move the can back and go about my day…

The next day, I go in the fridge and what? Another La Croix has taken a road trip. Another day, 3 cans have shifted. Being Michelle, I of course initially wonder if I either don’t have a La Croix drinking ghost, or if someone has been in my place. Yikes! (I only imagine these things because I apparently enjoy creeping myself out).

I digress, but it actually mentioned the paranormal in my horoscope the other day. And though I don’t believe in horoscopes myself, they really are quite amusing…

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[Image by Rirriz from Pixabay]

Truth is, my fridge is on the fritz. It’s making noise, which I assume is causing vibrating, which I assume makes La Croix cans skate across a cool surface. But what was fun about the La Croix mystery? It reminded me of the Sailing Stones in Death Valley, California! If you don’t know what those are, I entreat you to read about them! So, so fun! Science is so cool…

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[Image by Jon Sullivan on Wikipedia]

So I’ve shared a little bit of what’s keeping me amused and inspired. What’s inspiring you? My very best wishes to each and every one of you today!

A Stunning Story, And What Goes Bump In The Night…

Hello All! How are you? I hope that you are very well, utterly happy, and wonderfully healthy today! What am I up to? Being my crazy self as usual! Crazy for bizarre fun facts that is! I’ve got a unique one for you today! In fact, it’s quite stunning

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Ok, so here I am, very late past my bedtime one evening a few weeks ago. I’m burrowing under the blankets, and I want to read a few minutes before falling asleep. However, I don’t want all the lights on. What do I do? Well, my mama gave me this handy-dandy little camping lamp, just in case the electricity goes out. Perfect reading lamp! Especially when it makes you feel like you’re in a tent in some remote forest in the middle of the night, and you are reading a book about Sasquatch!

Do you know what one of my favorite things about reading is? When I read things in books that I’d never heard of before, which always provokes me to go look things up. Do you know how many times I’ve read something and said, Is that really true? Well, once I ask that, there is no going back. I have to put on my reading glasses and go check it out!

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Now, I haven’t read Jeff Meldrum’s Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science in its entirety, but I’ve read enough to say that I like the book very much. It takes a scientific approach to Bigfoot, speaking on an array of animal study topics. Such as…comparing known animal behaviors to observations made during Sasquatch ‘sightings’, analyzing those mysterious ‘vocalizations’ heard in the wilderness, determining whether skin imprints can be found in footprint casts (dermatoglyphics), photo and video analysis, etc. The list goes on. In fact, I found myself absolutely fascinated by all the forensic science! Broke my brain. But this post isn’t entirely about Bigfoot…

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[Image by CSTRSK from Pixabay]

Among the fun facts I was learning about the animal kingdom, there was one item in the book in particular that really surprised me. Learning about infrasound.

Ok, this gets good. We humans can hear sound within a range of Hz (Hertz), 20 Hz being our general low point. (Note, I’m not a scientist, so click on my links if you are so inclined, and you can learn more.) Infrasound is the sound that lies below our low point. Sounds in our environment that we can’t hear, because they are out of our range. I knew these sounds existed of course, but never thought much of it…

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[Image by David Mark from Pixabay]

What might cause infrasound? Nature. A rumbling earthquake. Blinding lightening. Celestial bodies passing overhead. A rip-roaring tornado. Men make things that make infrasound too…aircraft that travels so fast, it creates a sonic boom. Explosives! Those incredibly massive wind turbines…

Some animals are able to produce it. Elephants, and whales, use it to converse from miles away from one another. And other animals chat each other up with infrasound too, like alligators. This may be one reason why people have witnessed animals freaking out, or fleeing, before a natural disaster. Maybe they’re hearing something we’re not? Once I started reading about it, I found it all so terribly interesting. But this gets even better…

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[Image by intographics from Pixabay]

Though we can’t hear infrasound, you may feel those low level Hz. An intense reverberation? A dazed reaction? A feeling of unease? For instance, the tiger’s incredible roar (which includes low level Hz), can apparently arrest its prey, stunning it. Meldrum’s book asks (sparked by information folks have delivered after alleged encounters), could a Sasquatch do that?

Yikes! Can you imagine a mighty, growling call from out of a pitch-black mountain wilderness? An undiscovered species warning you away from their territory, using infrasound to trigger your fear? Ok, no more late night reading with a lantern for me…

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Further intriguing, some researchers have begun to explore whether infrasound might not be the cause for some of our feelings of discomfort when we suspect something is going bump in the night. A.k.a., “I sense there’s a ghost in this house!” It might just be the eerie feeling you’re getting from low level Hz vibrations…

Am I allowed to raise my hand here, and ask whether these Hz’s are man-made (a diesel engine in the distance), or whether it’s just that ghosts speak at a volume we can’t hear? Spirits having conversation at the level of infrasound. Bwa-ha-ha…

I just scared myself.

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[Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay]

Love it! Terror-inducing Sasquatch calls? Ghosts blathering during the darkest hours, or just eerie vibrations? Giraffes carrying on infrasound gossip that humans can’t hear? Science is awesome. And, it proves again and again, that anything is possible…

Bigfoot might just be out there.

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[Image by Rex Landingham from Pixabay]

By the way, the northern lights are an aurora, which can produce infrasound. Therefore, not only is this colorful, magical light display in the night sky beautiful…it’s also producing it’s own strange music, just out of range of your ears!

Stay Inspired Friends!

Ancient…An Audio Introduction!

Close your eyes and for a moment, imagine the stirring winds and swirling sands, just outside the door. Out there is an endless wild, and there are many dangers in it…

This night with Namma, Hem is safe, but it will not last for long. Still ahead of her, is a very great journey…out into an ancient world…

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Ancient, coming soon!

Don’t Save Anything For The Swim Back

This morning, ready to begin a full day of writing, I will share with you that my heart sunk. You know those days? The ones you look in the mirror and aren’t sure what you’re going to do with yourself. How will I accomplish what needs to be accomplished? Where will I find the inspiration? How will I find the focus? How will I have the energy? 

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For me, right now is the time to dig right back into my sole passion. Writing. Faire has ended, summer is done, my little book shop is now all closed up until next year (I will try not to weep…this season was incredible). And if I want to keep growing and sharing new works as a writer, I need to return to my focus. But in the last few weeks, I’ve been exhausted, fretful, distracted. Rest isn’t coming easy and writing not at all…

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Some might say, some do say, ‘just take a break’… ‘just take it easy’. I wish I could, but more and more in these last few years, I feel that writing for me is everything. It is, what I am. And if I’d like to continue to challenge myself in the ways I hope to, well then…the clock is ticking. I feel it, a big clock hanging over my head, and it is ticking loudly

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This blog, it is about inspiration. It is about what inspires me, with hopes that some of my words might inspire you. Now this particular post might not be meaningful to everyone, but for those of you who have ever wanted to achieve some goal very badly, I think you will quite understand…

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So where did I find my resolve today? To carry forward with what I had set out to do, even though I would rather just go lay down in a grassy field somewhere and sleep until next week? I reminded myself that I just have to do it, and that if I want to walk with my ambitions…no matter how unfocused and weary I am, I’m going to have to push myself to dive right back in, and swim hard. “And if you really want to reach your goals Michelle, then you’d best not save any of yourself for the swim back…”

But this self-talk comes from an inspiration from long ago. Back in 1997, then a young woman, there was a movie that inspired me so greatly that I was quite literally stunned when walking out of the theater. Gattaca. In this futuristic film, babies are designed for perfection, and anyone who is born naturally, are considered flawed and afforded few opportunities. The main character is naturally born, but aspires to be an astronaut, a position which only ‘perfectly’ engineered people are allowed. This ‘imperfect’ man must go to extreme lengths in order to achieve his goals…

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There is a scene that seriously struck me. The main character Vincent competes in a swim against his stronger, ‘perfectly modified’ brother. He wins in this swim, even though physically it should be impossible. And when his brother, incredulous at how Vincent has done this, asks him how, Vincent tells him, “I never saved anything for the swim back.”

Incredible. I remember thinking then, and I still believe it now…so that is how it is done. If you want something badly enough, you have to give it everything.

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In any case, I leave this post to focus and write…or should I say, swim.

Stay Inspired.

Do what you love, don’t skip a beat…

Three weekends out of nine have already passed for The Quill and Brush at Bristol. I have to say that this has already been the most magical and memorable season, thanks to each and every one of you that has taken the time to visit…

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In Bristol, every day is a festival day! And with each of these festival days, I take with me wonderful memories of summer, and carry them in my heart all year long. The friends that I meet, the music that floats through the air, the smiles and laughter that I see all around me. Enchanting!

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I’ve received such wonderful words, in person and by email, in these last few weeks. They have blessed my heart, and keep my quill inspired to scribble. Thank you to those who have reached out to say that I have inspired you. Know that you have inspired me just as much, and even more! And for all the writers out there, and to each of you who have chatted with me about your special talents and inspirations, stay inspired! Do what you love, don’t skip a beat…

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I wish that I could name each and every person that has already been a blessing and an inspiration to me this season, but it would make this post quite long indeed! For today, at the very least, I would like to especially thank two of the loveliest, smartest and kindest of women!

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This is Taylor! She was the very first person to purchase a copy of Veleno last season when it was newly published. Not only did she write a review, she also took the time to visit The Quill and Brush this season to chat. By the end of our visit (which made me feel very fortunate to be a writer), the conversation ended like this…

Me: “You are the reason I write.”     Taylor: “You are the reason I read.”

LOVE IT! Thank you Taylor!

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This is Priscilla! Priscilla picked up a copy of Venice two seasons ago. She had been to the city, and had wonderful memories of it, which she was able to revisit in my choose your own adventure. Not only did she write a review, but she also came back with a special gift and kind words to say ‘thank you’ for the story. I am very happy to know such a thoughtful, artistic woman…especially one who shares such a fondness for my beloved Venezia!

Grazie mille Priscilla!

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My very best wishes today, to every reader of Inspired By Venice. I hope that you are enjoying your summer as much as I am. I’ll be sure to share more of my adventures soon! Stay Inspired!

Ancient: Coming Soon!

There is a place where the sands run deep. High above, a scorching sun beams. Far below, the ancients sleep. Scorpions scuttle and the ibis stalks, Egyptians chant and the gods, they watch…

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Thirsty jujube leaves stir under the slightest breeze. A lost woman cries out, hands risen as she falls to her knees. Where will she go, how will she survive, now parted forever from her only tribe? 

Sleek statues stare and vipers slither. Incense streams like an angel’s whisper. Hem has a perilous journey ahead, with no choice but endure. Whether or not she will live, of that only the fates are sure…

The Itty Bitty Littles: Audio Chapter 1

Hello friends! I thought it would be fun to have a little story time! This morning, I recorded the first chapter of The Itty Bitty Littles (applying the theatrical accent I use at my tented shop The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire)…

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I will always remember what a pleasure it was when my grandma and I had story time when I was just an itty bitty myself. How we giggled when she read my favorite books! So I thought it would be a treat to share one of my tales here…

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If you enjoy this audio version of the first chapter of The Itty Bitty Littles, I’ll happily record and post the rest of the chapters so that you can hear the adventure in its entirety. Be sure to comment if you’d like to hear what happens next in the tale!

Waiting For Spring…

Here in Evanston, I’m sure waitin’ on spring! I’m awful tired of wearing a big coat with all my winter trappings and sloshing around through the snow and slipping around on the ice. I want some sun on my face, I want to wear my flip-flops, I want to walk through a garden! Know what I mean?! I’m doing my best to be patient!

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In the meanwhile, I’m working on getting back on the vegan bandwagon, and let me just say that lunch was pretty delicious today! Nowadays there are so many great vegan products out there to help you craft a satisfying and healthy meal, it just takes a bit of getting used to…

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Today I had two crispy Boca vegan chicken patties topped with melty vegan Chao cheese, a spread of Vegenaise, some crisp Pete’s Living Greens lettuce, sliced yellow onion and tomatoes. On the side, celery sticks and a can of cucumber melon fizzy water by Soleil! Just some of my favorite brands when I’m eatin’ vegan!

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In other news, I moved into a new home back in early January and things are quite cozy! I’ve figured out most of the quirks and charms of my new house and Tiddo the cat has adjusted with ease. One of my favorite parts are the large vintage windows that let in so much bright light!

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When Tiddo isn’t scratching up the furniture or racing around like the road runner, he quite enjoys the windows and light too. It’s impossible to believe that he is 18 years old, which means he’s 88 in human years. Let’s just say, he doesn’t act his age!

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In my new home, there is a charming nook for my writing desk. I’m still arranging my home office just how I would like it to be, but I’m loving this quiet little alcove to write in and it gives the room a little more space with the desk set into the wall…

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My newest novel is coming along swimmingly (out early July). It is a romantic odyssey set in ancient times. The title, quite fittingly, is Ancient. Tiddo frequently offers writing advice. He thinks there should be lots of mice in the story. I’m not so sure I can fit that into the plot, but if I devise to add a plague of some sort, I suppose mice could do in place of locusts or pestilence?

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And here’s a sneak peak of the cover art for Ancient before the title and author name are set into place. The screen shot doesn’t do it justice, but it’s really attractive. I can’t wait to share the finished cover and synopsis for Ancient, as the next few months progress!

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright! And some special giveaways!

Hello, hello! I hope that each and every one of you is feeling healthy, happy and inspired today! There was a lovely snowfall here in Evanston last night, which is making a cup of coffee and the view from the window quite cozy this morning…

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I attended a special holiday craft fair this week, a private event for the employees of a local science and technology park. It was such a festive, pleasant experience! There was holiday music playing, sparkly Christmas trees, friendly crafters and cheerful attendees. I believe a book or two might make it into a Christmas stocking!

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And speaking of stockings, Christmas is fast approaching. If you’re looking for a special gift for a youth…there’s nothing better than a book. Keep those kiddos reading, it’s good for ’em! Please consider one of my enchanting adventures this season to put under your tree…

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And now for some special giveaways! First up, this beautiful, hand-knitted pull-over cape/cowl by Andi Bilek of Kitten Crochet of Milwaukee, WI. There is a wondrous shop at the Bristol Renaissance Faire called Tangled Fibres, premiering Andi’s talents in knit. Before I had my own shop The Quill and Brush, and could spend the day perusing the shops, I purchased some lovely items from Tangled Fibres

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Take for instance these mustard, fingerless knitted gloves that I wear constantly when the weather turns wintery…

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And this delightful knitted throw that keeps me and Tiddo the cat nice and cozy…

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But I haven’t worn this knitted cape/cowl, and don’t think that it’s polite to keep it any longer just to look at. It should be worn and enjoyed by another knit-loving lady! Andi’s capes/cowls on Kitten Crochet run for about $165. Worth every hand-made penny! Gorgeous pieces! She makes other charming items too, be sure to check out her site…

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To enter to win this knitted piece, please make a comment below and tell us what your current joy of the season is. Peppermint lattes, holiday movies, festive radio tunes, visits with friends and family? What’s your wintery delight? I’ll choose one winner randomly one week from today, on Saturday December 16th, 10am Chicago time. Good luck you lovers of knit…

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As for my second giveaway today, 3 signed copies of my historic-fiction thriller Veleno are up for grabs on Goodreads. Enter for your chance to win by January 2nd, 2018. Here is the link, good luck!

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Here’s wishing you peace and good cheer, and all things merry and bright this season, wherever in the world you may be. Here is to your best health and happiness! God bless us all!

If you buy books on Amazon, keep reading…This is Nuts!

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Today I want to share something that I find curious, but also very icky. I think you might raise a brow yourself. Especially if like me, you purchase books on Amazon. Keep reading, this is nuts…

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Here’s the story. As many of you know, I’m a writer of tales. My books are sold on Amazon (as are most any author’s). I set the price for my books, and all of my short fairy tales and adventures (12 in total) are $9.95, plus tax and shipping. I make a small royalty on each book sold, my reward for my work, and a blessing to my income. As you see above is the ‘real’ listing for my book, The Fairy Woods

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As an author, I only make a royalty if ‘you the buyer’ purchase the full-priced copy for $9.95, straight from Amazon. But as you see above, there are other copies for sale. Those copies are from other sellers (not Amazon), who having acquired a copy of my book (usually used) can name their own price. I do not receive royalties for those copies (only the seller makes a profit because I would have received my royalty when the copy was originally purchased)…

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That’s cool. My complaint here isn’t with used book sellers. We have a free market, and selling used books rather than creating waste by only purchasing ‘new’ ones is good! In fact, most of the books I own and purchase from Amazon myself, are used. And any copies of my tales that make their way back out into the world, makes me happy!

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So what is the reason for this post? What do I find so quizzical? Look above.

GoldieLoxBooks here has taken an image of my book, and put up their own listing of The Fairy Woods on Amazon. Their post is completely disconnected from the one that is associated to my book (the one where you can see my listed price for $9.95, and those others who are selling it for less/used). GoldieLoxBooks has listed The Fairy Woods for $2,796.00, just a used-good copy no less…

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I have to tell you that this makes me feel as fierce as my sun dragon in Dragons At Dawn! Roar!!!! I noticed this phenomenon with the release of my first book, Venice. One day I unexpectedly spied that a seller was attempting to sell a copy of Venice for its weight in gold. I immediately dialed up and asked an Amazon affiliated representative, how such a scam was conceivable?! This must be illegal, right?! Apparently not. And they could do nothing to remove such a listing. If someone wants to resell one of my $9.95 fairy tales for hundreds of dollars, seems they can do so…

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Now I know you might be saying, “But who in their right mind would actually buy this book at such an excessive price?” Seems silly, right? But my question in return would be, “If it didn’t work from time to time, why are there so many listings for used books at such wild prices?” Occasionally a buyer might be remiss when they add a book to their cart, overlooking the price. Could you imagine being billed hundreds for a kid’s book, after your kiddo was picking out books on your Amazon account?!

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I don’t know much more. I haven’t reached out to GoldieLoxBooks or any other seller trying to offer one of my books for an excessive amount, to ask how it’s going for them. I wish I could believe that it was an ‘accident’ on the lister’s behalf. But I see it so frequently, that I question believing it to be an error. I’m guessing they have some irate customers demanding refunds. I wonder what the fine print on their return policies might be?

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Why, look at these book vendors selling my Once Upon A Star for $45.61 each! Oh my word…

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I’m shocked by this for the sake of reputation and propriety. It feels icky that any of my tales would be listed in such a way, and that any seller would use one of my books (or any other author’s) to take advantage of a buyer. But I can’t do much more than grow some thicker skin, and warn those who buy books online that there’s some nefarious looking listings out there! Beware…

Would love to hear your comments on this!

Come Say Hello At The Holiday Fair Extravaganza in Skokie, Illinois!

Hello, hello! The holidays are coming! Once Halloween passes this Tuesday, every store will be filled to the brim with decorations and everything to fill your gift list. Jingle Bells will be playing on the radio and those warm and fuzzy commercials tempting you to buy, buy, buy, will begin. Oh my!

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I always love the sparkle and the meaningful themes that this season is truly about. But don’t you feel like the holidays always come too fast and then are over in a flash? If only we could enjoy the merriment a little more, without all of life’s constant hustle and bustle, and stress. That is my wish to you, that you’ll enjoy this season to the absolute fullest, surrounded by friends and loved ones!

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I wanted to share a special event, with hopes that you’ll come by to see me! Just a few weeks away, I’ll have a table for book signing at the Holiday Fair Extravaganza in Skokie, IL. The event will take place at the Weber Leisure Center and supports local crafters and artists. Taking place on Saturday, November 18th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., there will be lots of handmade fare, hot drinks and baked treats! Good ole’ holiday craft fair fun to start the season out in the most cheerful way!

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I just had a sudden craving for some peppermint bark and a raspberry linzer cookie (or five). Linzer cookkieeessss…..mmmmm….nom, nom, nom. I digress…

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My books will be available for purchase, with hopes that some of my tales will make it into a stocking or two, inspiring some winter reading and adventure! I may or may not be wearing an ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ for my own amusement…

If you live in the Chicagoland area, I sincerely hope to see you there! Click here to see a list of my works, with many more harrowing adventures to come!

My very best wishes to you from the very start of this season of goodwill and cheer!

Veleno Giveaway on Goodreads!

There is currently a special giveaway on Goodreads for your chance to win one of three signed copies of Veleno, sent straight from my desk to you! The giveaway ends on Halloween at midnight…

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There once was a great Venetian palace. The name of which, everyone did know. Inside its walls dwelled an esteemed noble family. All revere, ’tis the House of Orso!

Its patriarch, a rich and powerful merchant. With a wife very clever, such a beautiful sight. His daughters, four, a precious gift. How unfortunate now, each should meet their plight…

Orso dead? Perhaps by plague! Mirella turned strange, a widow made.

Fina gone, for a courtesan’s life. Noemi must escape, or make a woeful wife. Mafalda will rise in a cold, cruel pit. Paola sent off to a nunnery, might lose her wits.

Venice’s year, 1575. Pestilence arrives, Venetians fear for their lives! But in Orso’s house, strong daughters were made. Yet can courage be enough, to escape the grave?

To check out my Goodreads author page, click here! For your chance to enter the Veleno giveaway on Goodreads, head here! Good luck and happy reading!

Not Your Usual Ghost Stories

In Evanston today, the weather is finally kicking into autumnal gear. There’s a chilly rain, the sky is dismal and the leaves are falling. My coffee pot just finished brewing and I’m ready to write…about something creepy. Bwa-ha-ha! With Halloween fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to share some spooky reads as I’ve done before [Halloween Treats For All]…

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I must first preface that I’m intrigued by reading people’s allegedly true accounts of their paranormal experiences. Do you like to scare the crap out of yourself like me? Then besides one of these reads, I suggest watching some episodes of Paranormal Witness. That show will have you sleeping with the lights on…

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And because I’m curious for reading accounts of people’s strange experiences, it’s had a little impact on my writing. My new thriller Veleno (which takes place during Venice’s plague of 1575) contains a few paranormal moments. These moments take place when a character is in extreme peril. Thus, I played with the question…was their experience real, or was it the mind’s reaction to stress?

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I was inspired in part by the spooky things people say have actually happened to them…

My dad and I regularly exchange books by snail mail. We also occasionally amuse ourselves with conversations about ghosts, Bigfoot, tales of coincidence, etc. It was a conversation about strange coincidences that had him send me a book about police accounts of the paranormal. The book was True Police Stories of the Strange and Unexplained by retired detective sergeant Ingrid Dean…

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I’m going to tell you frankly, these are scary accounts that are unique to paranormal stories. Why? Because police and emergency technicians are the first to arrive at the scenes where bad things have, or are about to, happen. They are also often out on patrol in the middle of the night, having to inspect strange calls. After reading Ms. Dean’s compilation of accounts, not only was I both a bit frightened and perplexed, but I’d gained an even greater respect for those who keep our community safe…

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Having found these accounts so unique, I decided to also read Cops’ True Stories of the Paranormal: Ghosts, UFO’s and Other Shivers by Loren Christensen. Yikes! I was terribly jumpy after reading this one…

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Take for example the first account…

Two police officers are on a high speed chase. The man they are following refuses to pull over and is driving recklessly. When entering a road tunnel, this man sadly loses control of his vehicle and crashes. The police pull up behind the wrecked vehicle just in time to see the man climb out of his driver’s side window and run down the tunnel. The police chase the man on foot for a distance. But then, the man disappears. Where did he go? The police search, no trace of the man. They return to the crashed vehicle only to discover that the man never left his car. He’s still behind the wheel, having passed away on impact. And yet, two officers witnessed him hopping out and running

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That gave me something to think about.

My view is that both of these books are for mature readers because they deal with some perilous happenings. With that being said, they both remained reverent when explaining real life situations. These accounts focus on the strange things police saw and experienced, rather than on people’s misfortunes.

These were not your usual ghost stories. Let’s just say, I’m glad I’m not an officer called out to investigate strange goings on in a desolate field in the middle of the night…

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I am also very glad that I’m not a truck driver out driving in the middle of the night…

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Since the police accounts were not your average ‘what goes bump in the night’ stories, I figured truckers probably see some strange things too. They do. No thanks!

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Imagine having to drive through dark, vast, desolate roadways for a living. All alone. Tired and lonesome. Keeping an eye out for deer, coyotes, or the rare hitchhiker. But wait…perhaps you’re not as alone as you think? Have fun reading Trucker Ghost Stories edited by Annie Wilder. Yikes! Super yikes!

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My dad just sent me this one. Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes by Dwight Boyer. He said after I read this book, I’d never look out over the lake in the same way again. I live just a few blocks away from the often turbulent waters of Lake Michigan, just north of Chicago.

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I would only suggest such a read if you are nutty for history, and for maritime history in particular. I read several of the historic accounts, and they are not so much ghostly as they are mysterious. Hundreds of ships have gone missing on America’s Great Lakes over the centuries, and the stories surrounding some of these vanishings definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies…

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You learn of the real people who were sailing, the wild storms and the dangerous feats they endured, and the strange facts surrounding their disappearances. I simply can’t imagine it. I could never be a sailor. They were beyond brave.

I admit that if I’m down near the lake on a stormy day, I now might look twice for any mysterious vessels floating by in the distance…

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Now if you’re inclined to give your brain a good shaking up, which apparently I do, there’s a few unique books out there about folks’ near death experiences, and of the doctors and scientists who are either working to support or debunk such claims. I’ve just picked up My Time in Heaven by Richard Sigmund, but have not read it yet. I have read Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences by Jeffrey Long & Paul Perry however, and it definitely offered me lots to contemplate…

Mind boggling. It’s all mind boggling…

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I can’t finish my brief list of the paranormal, strange, spectacular, spooky and harrowing without mentioning Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife by Mary Roach. Mary Roach is one of my absolute favorite authors. I’ve reviewed some of her other books here and here. This book takes a scientific view of life after death by reviewing those people, past or present, who have used experimentation to answer, What happens when we pass on? I recommend Ms. Roach’s books because she makes difficult science digestible, and is terribly hilarious and clever. Spook is not only entertaining and informative, but it will also have you looking over your shoulder for ghosts…yikes!

*Disclaimer: Be sure to read these books with all of the lights on. After reading, watch a Disney movie and sing along to the happy songs, so that you aren’t too frightened when it’s time to turn the lights off and go to bed.

Giveaways & Shout-outs! Let’s have some fun!

Hello, hello! I hope that you are well and happy in every way today! Mondays aren’t most people’s favorite, so I thought we could have some fun! How about we start with some giveaways?!

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There are two giveaways taking place right now for your chance to win a copy of Veleno, my newest tale, one creepy thriller filled with lots of surprises…Bwa-ha-haaaa!

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For your chance to win 1 of 5 copies on Amazon, click here to check out the giveaway. The Amazon giveaway ends tonight at midnight, so hurry!

For your chance to win 1 of 3 signed copies straight from my hand through Goodreads, click here to check out the giveaway! The Goodreads giveaway ends on September 26th (next Tuesday) at midnight.

Please share these giveaways, and spread the fun!

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The 2017 Bristol Renaissance Faire season has sadly come to an end, but we had such a wonderful season thanks to each and every one of you who visited us at our tented shop, The Quill and Brush. My folks and I can’t wait to see you all again in 2018 for our 3rd Bristol season! Huzzah!

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And for some more fun on this Monday, I just want to send out some shout-outs!

Hey Once Upon a Time Book Club! Thank you for sharing Veleno! I sincerely hope you enjoyed the read…my favorite part is the ending. Eeekkk!

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Thank you for recommending my books, and I hope the granddaughters are enjoying The Itty Bitty Littles, Princess Liliana and the Dragon, The Fairy Woods and A Magical Kingdom. May their reading time be filled with magic and delight…

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I also want to say thank you to Newton’s Travels, a charming family travel blog! There is nothing I love so much as travel, so sites like these are always an inspiration. Angie of Newton’s Travels wrote a charming review of the Bristol Renaissance Faire and shared a snippet about my books! With all there is to see and do at Bristol, I smiled ear to ear for this special mention above. Thank you Angie! Check out her post about Bristol here

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I also want to send a shout-out to fellow authoress, Danielle E. Shipley. Not only is she a prolific writer of fantasy and adventure tales, but also one truly creative and charismatic individual. Ms. Shipley read aloud some of my back covers so entertainingly at Bristol, that I wanted to read my own stories all over again. Too fun! Be sure to check out this local Chicago author’s books!

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I also wanted to share with you all today that my Goodreads author page, and Amazon author page are live! Please ‘follow’ if you’d like word of my new publications, or to see what books I’m reading and reviewing, etc. I am also accepting ‘author questions’ on Goodreads in case you feel like quizzing my brain!

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And one last shout-out…thank you to all of the readers that have come back to my little shop the last two summers to give me feedback and inspiration. Thank you to all the readers who sent an email or letter, to tell me what you thought about one of my stories, warming my heart. And thank you to each reader who wrote a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Those reviews are a precious gift to me as a writer, and keep me inspired! Please keep the reviews coming!

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I’ve just begun my newest novel, a romantic odyssey based in ancient times. My mind is already caught up in a place very far away, from very long ago. The research (one of my favorite parts about writing historical fiction) is already breaking my brain. Love it! A harrowing, swoon-worthy adventure is in the works. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Stay well, stay happy, stay inspired!

The Quill And Brush

Thank you to all those who visited our tented shop for the opening weekend of the Bristol Renaissance Faire last weekend! We were so happy to see many familiar faces, and are looking forward to 8 weekends more! Planning a visit in the future weeks? Be sure to visit us, The Quill and Brush on King’s Landing…

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Veleno, my newest novel, a historical fiction thriller, will be released tomorrow! I am very excited to share this harrowing tale with you all. I’ve read it twice since receiving my copies and it made me capitulate between near-tears, gasps, smiles, and goosebumps. Oh geez! I’ll announce when it is available, with its link on Amazon, and I’ll have copies for 3rd weekend at Bristol…

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But to give you a sneak peak…

There once was a great Venetian palace.

The name of which, everyone did know.

Inside its walls dwelled an esteemed noble family.

All revere, ’tis the House of Orso!

 

Its patriarch, a rich and powerful merchant.

With a wife very clever, such a beautiful sight.

His daughters, four, a precious gift.

How unfortunate now, each should meet their plight…

 

Orso dead? Perhaps by plague!

Mirella turned strange, a widow made.

 

Fina gone, for a courtesan’s life.

Noemi must escape, or make a woeful wife.

Mafalda will rise in a cold, cruel pit.

Paola sent off to a nunnery, might lose her wits.

 

Venice’s year, 1575.

Pestilence arrives, Venetians fear for their lives!

But in Orso’s house, strong daughters were made.

Yet can courage be enough, to escape the grave?

 

What’s New, Shelly-Poo!?

Shelly-Poo was my older cousin’s nickname for me growing up, a term of endearment. Shelly is short for Michelle of course. And poo? Well that word is added onto names sometimes as a sign of affection. “Oh, your little puppy-wuppie is so cutie-poo!” Oh goodness!

So what’s new, Shelly-Poo? Let’s see…

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Guess where I was today?! Setting up our shop, The Quill and Brush at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! We’re so excited for our 2nd season! Opening weekend is next weekend, July 8th. We have moved locations, but are still on King’s Landing. We can’t wait to see all of the friends we made last year, and all the new friends we are yet to meet! It is the 30th Anniversary of this beloved festival, and one beautifully tended park awaits you!

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Now, I do not consider myself clever with crafting/decor, but don’t you think the little ‘book case’ I put together to display my fairy tales is cute? I was pretty proud of myself…

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My business partner and artist mother Lita, will be displaying some lovely painted canvases this year, along with her illustrations. I don’t have a sneak peak for you here, but can say that when I first saw them, I wanted them all for myself. But then, we would have none for our sweet little shop! Come by, and peruse…

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Maid of Honour and The Mermaiden will be available starting first weekend!

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Veleno will be available for Marketplace Weekend (3rd weekend) through the end of the season. Official release date just around the corner (with convenient availability through Amazon). This one’s for mature readers only…

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In other news, I love cheese. The word love hardly begins to describe my craze for cheese. But being in Wisconsin setting up shop today, the very state that won the World Champion Cheese Contest in 2016, I was made a very happy woman. Ellsworth Garlic Cheddar Cheese Curds, Buddy Squirrel Cheezzzy Cheddar Popcorn, and Sartori MontAmore (the size of a small brick). I’m in Heaven. If you’re ever in Kenosha, WI, stop into Tim and Tom’s Cheese Shop. Attached to a sizable antique shop, and with cheese galore, it’s a field trip…

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In other, other news, I have a pet jumping spider who lives on my writing desk between my book Venice, and Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. He’s hopped out during 3 consecutive days of writing hours to keep me company. I must say, he has good taste in books!

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Speaking of great books, I’m currently reading The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Life Of The Last True Hermit. A true story…hermit Christopher Knight of Maine…written by journalist Michael Finkel. Order this book right now, and thank me later…it is too spectacular to put down…

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In further, further, further news…this vegetarian is still cookin’ up the veggies! Whatever I’ve got in the fridge. Look at those healthful veggie tacos! Summer is fresh veggie time! Love it!

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And, after all my veggie-loving years, I’ve gotta say that radishes are the apple of my eye. Read my previous ‘Swimming Radishes’ post here. I think I love radishes as much as cheese! Gasp! Is that possible?

Here’s to your daily good health and happiness, and to your taking delight in simple pleasures every day! Here’s also to the joys of an excellent read, and to the deliciousness of your table favorites! Best Wishes!

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

I’ve just finished reading another masterpiece by one of my favorite authors, Mary Roach. She’s a science writer and a New York Times bestseller, and one amazing researcher! Myself a writer, and as someone who geeks out on research and fascinating fun facts, I really admire her books and the enormous amount of time she must put into her works. You rock, Ms. Roach!

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Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal takes the reader on a journey through their own bodies. You put something in your mouth, you chew it up and swallow, and then it follows a path until it reaches the far side. It seems pretty simple, we do this everyday. What makes this book so fascinating however, is the breakdown of that journey…

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Did you know that the pet food you buy might be manufactured to please you, more than be what your pet needs? Did you know about the antibacterial and antiviral properties in your saliva?

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Do you know whether or not a goldfish could survive in your stomach if you swallowed one? Do you know what would happen to you if you were swallowed by a whale, like Jonah in the Bible?

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Do you know what terrible things happen to people who swallow drugs to smuggle them? Do you know what lengths prison inmates will go to, to smuggle items in their bodies?

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Do you know what would happen if you overate in gross quantity at one sitting? Do you know how life-threatening it is to walk past a manure pit? Do you know what a fecal transplant is and why it’s a miracle?

I didn’t either, until I read this book.

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Now, I must preface, Mary Roach’s books are not for the weak of stomach (ha-ha). The face above is the look I perpetually have as I read them. First, you’ve got to have your thinking cap on. Her books are science books, though she does an excellent job of breaking things down so that the topics are digestible (tee-hee). Her wit also makes the difficult concepts easy to swallow (giggle)…

But further, her books have a visceral affect. When I read her Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, I was jumpy and nervous whenever I picked up the book, like a ghost was lurking near. And when I read her Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, I perpetually had vertigo and became terrified of space. While reading Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, my gag reflex was constantly on high alert and I had difficulty eating my lunch.

This isn’t to dissuade you from reading her works, it’s more of a “Put your seatbelt on, you’re going for a wild science reading ride. Weeee!”

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Next up, Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and…

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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Because it seems I like getting my brain scrambled by science, and learning about things that freak me out! Read one of Mary Roach’s books and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Here’s to the great wonders to be found in a book, and to learning something new, each and every day!

The Itty Bitty Littles Giveaway!

Because the birds are chirping outside and the sun is shining…because the lovely seasons of spring and summer are just ahead…because giving is a special delight…and because it is a great joy to share my stories with you…today is the day! The day for a giveaway!

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Old Netty Nettles has lived all alone in the countryside, between vast fields and an enchanted forest, for many years. Comfortable in her cottage, she tends to her garden and is one wonderful crafter and cook. That’s why friends coming all the way from the village of Whistling Woods love to visit her!

But Netty’s hospitality isn’t the only reason friends come calling; she’s incredibly kind and one special storyteller too. Living in the wilderness, Lady Nettles has encountered some amazing creatures. Naughty fairies, a helpful brownie, one elusive water sprite, and even a grouchy dragon! But the most memorable day for Netty was when she met a brood of rascally itty-bitty-littles!

Be a guest in Netty’s cozy cottage, grab a treat and a good seat as she recalls her time spent with some very magical critters!

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To enter for your chance to win one free copy of The Itty Bitty Littles, please share in the comments where you last spotted an itty-bitty-little. Have fun with your imagination! Did you spy one running across your back lawn? Were several to be seen peeking out from a berry bush, where they were feasting along a nature trail? They can be mischievous too…perhaps one made a mess of your garden or knocked down your bird feeder? Maybe you even had a rare sighting of one in a busy city! But where?

One winner will be selected at random next Wednesday, April 19th at 10 a.m. Chicago time and announced here, and the magic inside The Itty Bitty Littles will be theirs!

Past book giveaways: [The Book of Dragons Giveaway] [A Delightful Giveaway]

Blogger Recognition Award!

I am absolutely delighted to be nominated by the very talented food blogger, Pooja Tameshwar of Smart Veg Recipes, for a Blogger Recognition Award! Thank you!

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As someone who tries to cook a mostly plant-based diet for my own good health, I enjoy perusing recipes that focus on the good things of the earth…

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I’m also ever fascinated by different cultures and cuisines from around the globe. That’s how I got hooked on reading Pooja’s posts! Not only are her veggie-based dishes from around India unique, pleasing to the eye, and mouthwatering, but she also writes insightful descriptions about what makes each dish culturally special. Be sure to visit her site!

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Blogger Recognition Rules:

  1. Write a post to show your award.
  2. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and share the link to their blog.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog got started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 15 bloggers of your choice for the award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to your post.

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How did Inspired By Venice come about? With the publication of my book Venice, a choose your own adventure that takes the reader on a journey through that enchanting Italian city! At the end of each chapter, you decide where you will go next! Enjoy the adventure!

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But books aside, I also wanted to share my passion for good food, culture, travel, history, nature and costuming…

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And of course…

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Tiddo the cat…

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What I share is meant to be eclectic, uplifting, inspirational, silly, informative. Most importantly, it’s written to brighten your day! Thank you for reading!

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My advice for new bloggers? If you have a passion you want to share and you start a blog, don’t give up if readers don’t show up overnight! Yes, writing posts is a time investment, and you may sometimes wonder if it’s worth it if there aren’t a lot of visitors to your site. Just remember that blogging shouldn’t focus on how many likes, comments, and followers you have. It’s about your sharing something unique with the world, just because it’s a joy to do so. Just keep writing, and you’re bound to inspire others, and gain readers, in time…

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My second bit of advice to new bloggers comes from me as a reader of blogs. I find it hard to stay focused when reading super long posts that look like one eternal paragraph without any pictures. I prefer posts that share a story that flows, keeps on track, and has a little eye candy! One of the hardest things for a writer, is to keep words succinct while still fully communicating your story. Those who do this best, are artists with the pen!

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And my nominations for the Blogger Recognition Award are (in no particular order)…

  1. The Third Planet
  2. La Venessiana
  3. Agreeable Things
  4. Fashion Through History
  5. A Cupcake For Love
  6. JessDidWhat
  7. SawaWorld
  8. Meandering With Misha
  9. Michael Philip Atkins Travels
  10. Japan etc.
  11. Melinda Little Blogs
  12. Lisa’s Project: Vegan
  13. The Wifey’s Corner
  14. Fed’s Life
  15. Getting The Picture

Thank you bloggers, for inspiring me!

A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel

I’ve just completed A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel. This book tells of the moving aftermath of a very serious car accident that occurred in Utah in 2006. Early one September morning, a young man was texting in his vehicle on the way to his job painting houses…

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With each text while negotiating slippery roads, the young man’s car veered into the oncoming lane and back again, as witnessed by another driver. It was during one of these moments of inatention and moving into another lane that the young man clipped an oncoming vehicle…

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Within moments, two men from this other vehicle lost their lives. They were both husbands, fathers, scientists and had many years ahead of them…

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Richtel’s book was not only emotional to read, but it also challenged me to ponder such things as the process of lawmaking, society’s differing viewpoints on policy, technology, and the human brain’s ability to keep up with our very fast-paced world…

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Ten years after that terrible accident, we have laws in place about texting and driving, as well as for the general use of phones in a vehicle. It now seems too, common sense to put your phone away while driving. But most of us would be telling a fib if we said we hadn’t broken these laws now and again (checking a text, taking a call), if not perpetually. Further, this accident was only one of many that has been caused by distracted driving while using a phone. People continue to lose their lives, over a text message…

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Deadly Wandering illustrates with more than emotion, but also science, how using your phone while driving isn’t the same as changing the station on the radio. It distracts attention on a whole other level, with risks comparable to driving while intoxicated…

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I’d encourage anyone to read this book for its applicability to our daily life. Not only does it take us through one story of family and loss that helped forge important driving laws, but it is also highly enlightening while discussing our adaptations to a world of technology. Alternate chapters will require either a tissue in hand (the personal story part), or your thinking caps tied on tight (the brain science part)…

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Whether or not you pick up a copy however, the main point of this narrative is to remind each of us to put our phones away when we drive. Be good to others, be good to yourself. My dinosaur-aged flip phone will certainly remain at the bottom of my purse with the spare bobby pins and pennies while I’m on the road; Richtel’s tale has certainly seen to that!

The Book Of Dragons Giveaway!

Because it’s November 1st and the season of thankfulness is upon us…because it is an unbelievable 74 degrees and sunny in Evanston…because gift giving is so much fun…and because one of my greatest joys is to share my stories…I’m feeling like today is the day for a giveaway!

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After his courage shines through during one unexpected act of valor, young Lambert finds himself knighted by the wise King Gerald of the Kingdom of Echoes. After five years of knightly training and surprising adventures, Lambert and his heroic brothers receive an urgent request from the King; all knights must go in search of a magical text that has gone missing from right under the King’s nose at Halves Castle.

This isn’t just any book however. It is the Book of Dragons, a text filled with magic. In the wrong hands, the peaceful Kingdom of Echoes could be destroyed forever.

As Sir Lambert embarks on his quest to return the book to King Gerald, he learns that its magic would be nothing without living, breathing dragons!

Join Sir Lambert, who with the true heart of an honorable knight will do anything to protect the good people of the realm. Even if it means he has to fight one ferocious red beast!

To enter for your chance to win one free copy of The Book of Dragons, please tell us in the comments what your dragon’s name would be if you owned one as a pet. Further descriptions, such as what your pet dragon looks like, its temperament or habits, would also be highly amusing to hear about (but is not mandatory). Have fun with your imagination!

One winner will be selected at random this coming Sunday, November 6th at 10 a.m. Chicago time and announced here, and the magic inside The Book of Dragons will be theirs!

Maid of Honour is Here!

I am so, so excited to share Maid of Honour with you! This wonderful story is adventurous, and so endearing. After holding it in my hands and reading it myself this week, my heart was filled with warmth by the time I reached the last page. Maid of Honour is a very special tale about bravery, humility and honor, and I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it!

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Every young lady of noble birth dreams of being selected by Queen Carolina to be one of her maids of honour. So, when Jane receives a missive inviting her to take her place by the queen’s side at Castle Wellstone in one week’s time, she is overwhelmed with excitement and pride!

It is a beautiful day when she settles into her carriage with her friend and handmaiden Katie, especially as a dazzling court, prestigious status and days filled with merriment await. Escorted by guards on horseback, she begins her journey thinking only of her future happiness. However, as their caravan passes through a thick wood, miles from home, a terrible fray breaks out. They are being assailed by archers hiding in the forest! Confused and afraid, Jane can only wonder why this sudden attack has come upon them, and whether or not they will survive.

A harrowing run through the woods soon leads Jane to discover the veiled truth behind sustaining peace in their kingdom. And though she never expected the need to summon such great courage in the face of danger, especially on this special day, her cleverness, kindness and humility will shine through. Jane is about to become a true maid of honour!

Available now on Amazon and Amazon Europe!

Abducted & Packing For Mars

I love books that strike my mind, challenge my intellect and make me look at the world differently. I’ve just finished Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan Clancy and Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach, and my brain has officially turned to pudding…

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These two books are completely different, but I’m sharing them together as both challenged my mind about what’s out there. I seriously dig science fiction, the wonders of outer space, pondering the possibility of alien life and what people are seeing in the skies…

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No matter my fascinations or beliefs on these topics however, one thing is for certain; I’d never want to experience it for myself. If alien life exists, I’d be too overwhelmed to meet it. And if I had the chance to travel into space, I’d never go. My feet steadfastly cling to my beloved Earth…

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I’ve always felt this way, but let’s just say Packing for Mars solidified my inclinations of terror toward space travel. Mary Roach is a brilliant writer. I also read her Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife last month and am thoroughly impressed by her writing style, the considerable research she can make palatable and her hilarious wit!

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Packing For Mars shares insight into the immense undertaking that is going on right now, to prepare for human launches to the ‘red planet’. Roach takes the reader through initial space exploration (American chimps and trained dogs from Russia being rocketed past the earth’s atmosphere in capsules) on through the many great trials that eventually brought men to the moon, and what advances have come since…

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Primarily however, this book is about what inconveniences, physical tortures, wild unknowns and abject fears astronauts must face when leaving earth. Every page I turned, I felt a sort of motion sickness and uneasiness, even though I wasn’t moving and all was safe and sound…

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Astronauts are up against cramped, airtight spaces, causing instant claustrophobia. Radiation is ever present beyond earth’s atmosphere, penetrating right through the vessel, making cancers in their futures a heightened possibility. Zero gravity brings with it, many human inconveniences and can harm the human body with long-term exposure. Leaving earth and re-entering the atmosphere are incredibly dangerous feats and every minute of space travel can become life-threatening from one minute to the next…NO THANKS!

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So why go? Why not just send more and more technology out into space to gather information, and keep humans safe where they belong? The only practical reason I gathered from this narrative seems to be that no matter how advanced technology becomes, humans have skills that only a human can have (such as being alive, cognizant of their past, having an understanding of place, time and feelings). Humans can problem solve in ways technology can’t, and can bring back information that is felt/experienced, rather than just ‘collected’. Further, for a human to have lived it, seems to be the undying purpose and pride in exploration…

But, what do I know? I prefer to stay at home where it’s cozy!

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However, according to Clancy’s Abducted, lots of folks don’t seem so cozy at home, believing they are being visited (and even abducted) by strangers not of this planet. Eeekk!

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Abducted isn’t necessarily an argument for or against the possibility of alien life though. Published by Harvard University Press (and its author being one highly educated psychologist hailing from that esteemed university), the book approaches this surreal topic far differently than I expected. It takes a look deep into the human mind.

After interviewing a great many “abductees”, Clancy makes the claim that abductions are all in peoples’ heads. Yet, her text doesn’t conclude that “abductees” are crazy. Rather, it leaves you reeling as you consider what the human brain is capable of, its depths and what places it can go…

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There is much, much more to both Roach’s Packing For Mars and Clancy’s Abducted than I have shared here. Therefore, if you are interested in any topic of science that these two books cover, I invite you to enjoy the read. If you dare to ride, they are both roller-coasters in book form…wheee!

Terrible Typhoid Mary

I recently read Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, just as voraciously as I consumed Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map (about a cholera outbreak in London in 1854 which I reviewed here). I make the comparison here, because both books give us a snapshot of how city officials, doctors and citizens were dealing with contagious disease during a budding time of medical experimentation and progress. And also because these diseases are in some ways similar…

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Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant, moving to New York City in 1883. She was employed as a cook for rich families, and was considered a clean and hardworking woman. However, in the families she worked for, cases of typhoid commonly arose…

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Typhoid is caused by bacteria that multiplies in the intestine after a hapless victim consumes food or water tainted with an infected individual’s waste. It comes with a dangerously high fever, extreme fatigue, terrible headaches and rashes, and an ailing intestine. It is a very serious disease…

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Mary Mallon was a silent carrier of typhoid. In rare cases, someone who has had the disease can continue to populate the bacteria and pass it on to others, long after they’ve gotten well again. Most survivors of the disease stop reproducing the bacteria after a span of time. In Mary’s specific case, she had no recollection of ever even having typhoid in her life. Most likely, she’d beaten a bad fever at some point in her youth, never knowing what she’d had…

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Worse still, she was employed as a cook. All it might take was one poor hand washing after using the water closet, and then prepping food in the kitchen, to pass typhoid on…

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In reading this retelling of history, I found myself both feeling sad for Mary, but also angry. When the connection was made that she might be a carrier, she refused to believe it or even speak with doctors sent to help her situation. She put up fierce fights, fled the scenes, changed her name. And partly, we can understand. At this time, experimental cures and unjust incarcerations were rampant. As far as she was concerned, she’d never had this disease and was not the cause of the cases coming down in the houses she worked for…

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On the other hand, she was made a fair offer. Change your profession and your freedom will remain your own. What did Mary do? She hid her identity and went to work as a cook in a women’s hospital. You can imagine the inevitable outcome. 25 people were struck with typhoid in this case, two died. She was caught and placed into permanent isolation…

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This book also gives us a snapshot into news tactics of the time. To sell papers, larger than life (and often false) stories were premiered. Mary was made a villain while men who were silent carriers and infected crowds were wholly ignored in the news. Presumably, this was because she was a cook, and as a woman, was expected to be utterly caring of others. This story also gives insight into how medical authorities dealt with (often poorly), odd situations such as Mary’s and how it impacted a patient’s freedom, spirit and health. (I certainly took a fright to how they tried to cure Mary of her typhoid. Eeek!)…

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I can hardly give this story justice here however. Therefore, I entreat you to read Terrible Typhoid Mary for yourself if you have any interest in medicine, city health and planning, late 19th/early 20th century American history, or the truly wild details surrounding one poor Mary Mallon!

A Delightful Giveaway!

Because today is a beautiful day…because it’s a holiday weekend…because I’ve still got one last festive weekend left at Bristol…today feels like a great day for a giveaway to share a little delight with you…

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Today, I’m giving away a copy of Delight! To enter, use your imagination and tell us what your fairy name would be if you were one of those magical creatures, and share it in the comments! I’ll randomly choose a winner on Tuesday, September 6th at 10:00 a.m. Chicago time and announce the winner! Here’s wishing you a delightful weekend!

My Pretty Venice

Absolutely charming! That’s what I think about My Pretty Venice: A Girl’s Guide to True Venice by Isabella Campagnol, Elisabeth Rainer and illustrated by Beatrice Campagnol. This lovely book put a smile on my face at the turn of every page…

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To begin with, I greatly esteem writer Isabella Campagnol who is the author of Forbidden Fashions: Invisible Luxuries in Early Venetian Convents which I previously reviewed here. With her being a fashion, textile, and decorative arts historian who writes on Venetian topics, who better to co-author a modern guide directed toward such themes, with rich history weaved in?

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What do I love about this book? First, Rainer and Campagnol have written an uncomplicated, selective guide to Venice, directed toward delights that ladies might enjoy. That hidden garden, that charming bookstore, a place to pamper your toes or find elegant trappings. However, it isn’t just dry information, it’s playful and delightfully accompanied by Beatrice Campagnol’s darling illustrations (also including illustrative, well placed photos by Lorenzano Di Renzo). A thoughtful guide for the travel-minded, adventurous spirit that is also endearing to the imagination!

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I really enjoyed the cameos and curiosities throughout the book as well, which retell interesting histories and share snippets of important ladies from Venice’s history!

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For you gals who love Venice (like me), or have a friend who does, My Pretty Venice is an absolute treat! Whether or not you’re heading to that magical city anytime soon, a flip through this book’s pages will sweep you away on your own little holiday!

The Mermaiden

Can you smell the briny air? Hear the seagulls screeching? See the sand crabs scuttling? Feel the power of the ocean’s waves? Won’t you come sit a moment with a mermaiden and get lost at sea?

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Bess lives in a cottage beside the sea in the village of Salty Row. Her father is a respected fisherman, providing fish to both the people of their town, and also the nobles who live nearby in a great castle.

Bess loves her life by the ocean, filled with wind and water. Especially on the days her father brings her along on his boat; his hardworking crew is a spectacle to watch, and how exciting it is when the fishing nets are pulled up, brimming over with curious creatures!

As Bess is soon to learn however, the good fortune and security always enjoyed in Salty Row is about to experience some turbulent waters! Of course, facing hardship isn’t easy. However, one captivating mermaiden with her tales from the deep, might just be the key to keeping Bess’s good spirits afloat!

Available now on Amazon and Amazon Europe!

Summer Storms, Sunny Smiles

What an adventure I’m having with my mother Lita (the artist) and step-dad, at the Bristol Renaissance Faire each weekend while we man our little shop The Quill and Brush (selling our books and art)! We are three weekends past, with six more to go. Though the weather has been mostly agreeable (even if beastly hot and humid), we’ve already met with several thunderstorms that had us covering our heads as we hovered inside of our tent…

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Because we are playing as village merchants from the 16th century, we can’t go about lunching on our regular 21st century fare, and using our plastic cutlery! The little picnic shown here is an example of what we’ve been nibbling instead (though I sort of cheated with the glass bowls)…

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Unfortunately last Sunday morning, a storm blew in even before we opened for the day and an intense wind billowed up our tent and flung my table away with a crash! Our delicious food, so nicely prepared, went into the mud and my glass bowls shattered…

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But the frogs sure didn’t mind the rain! This little guy hopped into the tent, surprising me when I found him hanging around under my table of books…

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And we see this busy dude each day, going in and out of his hole right next to our tent…

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And after another thunderstorm this last Saturday, this crayfish emerged (likely flooded out of his hole). That was pretty neat, for we don’t see these all that often…

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I rolled my ankle walking in the faire’s midday parade and have had a mean little sprain for over a week. We sweated buckets, got crispy in the sun, and labored with our bins, tables and tent. And I might have screeched a little as we covered our heads and huddled as the thunder and lightening boomed and lit the sky!

However, reward comes only after a challenge and my reward are the smiles I see when I share my stories. It makes my heart sing. And how happy I am to watch one of my books being carried away, knowing the delightful adventure that awaits the reader!

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I’ve been nursing my sprained ankle with good food, for I can’t imagine anything being better medicine? Delicious whole wheat pasta with veggies and parmesan shavings…

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Arugula salad with soft boiled eggs…

Salmon and roasted veggies, delicious! If you like roasted salmon, try this little concoction I spoon over mine…

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Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, seed mustard and honey! Oh heavens! When the fish cooks, this glaze hardens on the top and it is just wonderful!

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Outside the high temperatures have brought on one of the loveliest parts of summer, the cicadas’ song! Just snapped a photo of this handsome creature. Look at those pretty pink flecks in his wings! Magical!

Here’s wishing you sunshine in your life today, and many joys from life’s simple pleasures!