On Art, Baking, & Mindfulness…

2014-12-21 20.03.48

Christmas baking.

When I was in college (odd that it’s been so long, but it still seems like yesterday), I had an art professor who was…well, I’d just call him an artist now, but young as I was then, I considered him rather odd. He had (has? I have no idea if he’s still there or not…) a very low, almost hypnotic voice (which I’m amused to admit scared me a little back then) and an odd sort of speech cadence that forced you to pay attention (those of us who weren’t being lulled to sleep, that is…and yes, I paid attention).

In any case, he was very philosophical, and always very much into “mindfulness” and being “mindful” while working. The fact that “mindfulness” is a buzz word again and I’m hearing it often all over the place reminded me of him. It was a freshman level course with fairly simple assignments, or so I thought. I’ve never been much of an artist in terms of sketching/drawing, but I was proud of one assignment I turned in – I can’t remember what the fancy name for the technique is, but basically it was a copy-trace of a picture we liked onto a canvas in pen or pencil. I got the lines fairly straight, copied the detail, and I really liked how it turned out.

I can’t remember what grade I got for it, or even for the class, to be honest (I passed), but I remember watching his face as he looked at my piece, and the fact that while he didn’t say much, I could tell he found it wanting. And in that gentle way of his, he reminded me that I needed to be “mindful”…and then he walked off without saying anything else.

I truly had no idea what he meant back then. I thought he was referring to focus, and I was confused because I’d been focused while working on the assignment, in the sense that I was concentrating on getting it right.

That wasn’t what he meant, of course. And that’s probably why he found my piece lacking too. He’d wanted us to get lost in the work, basically. To focus beyond the superficial task, and focus on the feel of the pen on paper, how the subject made us feel as we brought it to life. You can tell when that happens in a piece of art, I think. When the artist is truly engaged with his subject, it shows in the execution.

Basically, he wanted me to get into the “zone” that I reach when I’m writing – that place where the story takes on a life of it’s own, and I feel everything the characters are feeling, see what they see, know what they know. That place that can alter my own moods just by what the characters are doing or seeing at the time. It’s…well, weird. And pretty amazing too.

I thought of that again while I was baking this weekend. I enjoy baking – I always have. And I had several things I wanted to make, so I knew I had to be very organized and I read each recipe first and decided on an order and made sure I had all my ingredients and a clean kitchen to start in. The logical, non-artsy part of my brain was fully engaged, in other words.

Then  I started mixing up batters. I paid attention to taste and appearance, of course, but the more I worked, the more I started…not so much “paying attention” as just really engaging with the different types of dough, and marveling at things like how the peanut butter cookie dough felt different, more satiny in my hands than the silky, bread-like softness of the Snickerdoodle dough. Mindfulness at it’s tastiest, you could say.

I don’t think being mindful is something anyone can tell or teach you how to do. It’s more something you have to feel your way into, and for a lot of us, that’s the scary part. Being open to it means being vulnerable and dealing with whatever emotions or realizations happen to come out, in a non-judgmental way (preferably).

Now my mind is falling asleep (it’s nearly 1:30am and it’s been a very busy day), so I’m going to schedule this and go let my brain rest for a few hours. If you feel like chatting, leave me a comment and tell me what being mindful means to you (yes, even if it’s something different – just keep it civil/polite, please).


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 50

This story is presented weekly in draft (unedited) form. Each installment is available for one week until the
next is posted. Miss one? Email me, and I’ll hook you up. Enjoy!


UHW_16

Under His Wing
Part 50

“It worked,” Xavier told Katie as she tried to get her bearings. “Unfortunately, Darius cloaked the manor, or that’s what he said anyway. I don’t even remember landing, just waking up outside the pod. He disappeared right after I made him bring you back.”

“Can he do that?” Katie let Xavier help her to her feet, her head spinning wildly. She groaned, trying to shake it off, but only making it worse. “Cloak the manor, I mean…”

Xavier shrugged. “I don’t exactly know what he can do, to be honest. I don’t really care. I just needed you two to get here. And now I need to find that manor so I can destroy it.”

“Why make him save me then?” Katie carefully glanced at the apparently barren landscape surrounding them, her head protesting at even the smallest movement.

“Because you might come in handy later, if your friends give me any grief.”

“That’s logical, I suppose.” She looked at him, trying not to sway as another round of dizziness hit her, though lighter than the last one. “So where do we start looking? How do we know the manor is even still here somewhere, assuming your little friend was telling the truth.”

Xavier cocked his head to the side, regarding her thoughtfully. It made her shiver, and she moved to take a step back but his hand shot out to grip her wrist.

“The gargoyle you’re looking for – he’s your lover, right?”

Katie pulled against his grip, resulting only in his fingers tightening over her skin and few more moments of mental merry-go-round.

“I think I’ve told you everything I’m going to.”

“Fair enough.” Xavier gave her arm a good yank, pulling her off balance so she fell into him, and then twisting her to face away, her back to his front, one of his arms around her neck.

Squeezing.

“We’ll see pretty soon,” he said, his grip tightening, slowly closing off her airway. “If he loves you, he’ll show himself soon enough. Otherwise, he can watch you die.”

“Stop,” Katie choked out, trying to pull his arm away from her neck. “I can’t…breathe!”

Xavier chuckled in her ear. “Flail a little harder, would you? I don’t think he’s buying it yet.”

Katie didn’t really care about putting on a show. What she needed right this second was air, and as he spun her in circles, presumably making sure anyone who was watching would see, she went lightheaded and nearly blacked out as she slumped in his grasp.

The dead weight must have been unexpected, because she felt his knees buckle as her full weight fell to him. There was a falling sensation, and then they were on the ground, rolling as the ground vibrated with rhythmic pulses beneath them.

“Enough.”

Katie knew she must be near death when Thomas’s voice reached her ears. She wanted to cry out to him, wanted to throw herself into his arms and never let go. Xavier’s arm pulsed hard once more against her neck, and she gave in to the peaceful darkness.


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Gone Writin’ & Revampin’…

GoneWriting

Nothing much to report on the reading front this week – the truth is, I just haven’t had much time to read lately (which sucks). And I’m trying to finish two drafts I’m writing, plus all the holiday stuff going on.

So, the Weds reading posts are on hiatus until January 7th. I’m not sure whether they’ll be back in the same format or not, but we’ll see what happens when I revamp the blog schedule over the next couple of weeks.

Until then, happy reading, and here’s wishing you many bookish gifts under the tree!

On Snail Mail, Big Bags & Journaling…

Christmas Cards

Cards waiting to be sent out…

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week…not angsting, really, just thinking about life in general, and some changes I want and/or need to make in the near future. Nothing huge or scary, just things I want to do that I’m not making time for now, and a bit of schedule rearrangement to make everything work a bit more comfortably (I hope). I’m actually pretty exciting about it, and three of those changes are what we’re discussing today.

Having missed sending Christmas cards out for the last couple years, I was determined to do so this year. There are a lot of reasons why I don’t get them done from year to year, but the main one is, I simply don’t make it a priority. And I’ll admit that for awhile, I just thought it was kind of a pointless endeavor without a newsy letter to catch everyone up on what was going on. But really, that was just me being a perfectionist, and also failing to realize that the card in and of itself is the point – sending something beautiful to people you’re fond of, even if all it contains is a quick wish for happiness and a signature. The card *itself* is the gift. It doesn’t need anything more to convey the message that I was thinking of that person in that moment.

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that, but better late than never, right? Incidentally, I have plenty of cards left, so if you want me to send you one, email me your address (or message me on FB, or whatever’s easiest), and I’ll get one out to you this week. My gift to you. :-)

In any case, while I was signing cards and affixing stamps that are worth *way* more than needed to actually send the cards just because I love the stamps and wanted the envelopes to look pretty (Merry Christmas, USPS), I got to thinking about snail mail vs email, and my stamp collecting hobby. The fact is, when it comes to actual communication, I will use email every single time, because it’s quick and convenient and typing is far preferable to handwriting for me at this point.

But. I actually love getting and sending snail mail, partially for the stamps/covers (what collectors call envelopes), and partially just because it’s really fun to get a personal, physical note in the mailbox – something that’s pretty, or funny, or tells you something about some other place. Something not junk mail or bills. Once again, the card or postcard is the point, not necessarily the communication included therein.

So…in light of that, I’m going to start up a mail exchange in January for 2015. I’ll run it simply right here on my web site, and basically anyone who sends me a card or postcard will get one back from me, once a month for the whole year. The only rules will be: only one piece of mail per person per month, no metered postage (it has to have a stamp or stamps on it), and no long letters, because the point is the card or postcard, rather than text. Just a quick note, and something beautiful, or funny, or informative to exchange. Heck, you can even send anonymously if you’d like, as long as you include an address for me to mail back to. I think it’ll be fun, and it will start a new branch of my philatelic journey. More details on that in January…

Handbags

My normal purse vs. the new green monster tote. Nesting bags!

In other news, I bought myself a really big bag for the first time since college (the beautiful green one pictured above). I guess it’s not super-huge, but it’s bigger than anything I’ve carried in quite a long time, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. Why did I buy it? Because every day for the past…I don’t know how long, I’ve been carrying at least two bags to work – my purse, and one for my travel mug and a water bottle. On snowy days, when I wear my boots, I carry a third bag for my heels. And if I wanted to carry my netbook or something like my new Alphasmart (Neo), I’d need yet another bag (my tablet fits in my purse).

I don’t like carrying even two bags…it’s unwieldy at best, hence my big bag purchase. It’s a really nice bag, with enough room to even fit my big laptop (though I never take it anywhere – it’s a beast), or the Neo, or the netbook, and my tablet, and all the stuff in my purse (or, it has a full section just for “purse stuff”, though my whole purse will fit in the center section), my travel mug & bottle, and even my shoes when I need them. On the occasion I have stuff shipped to me at work, this bag has plenty of room for smaller boxes too, so would still leave my hands free while I’m walking to and from the car. I could even fit a small crochet or knitting project in there quite easily with everything else. On the rare occasions I travel, it will be perfect for that too.

So it’s a fabulous carry-all, but the shape isn’t “quite” right, and if it was just three inches shorter, it would be perfect. I’ll be on the lookout for one with slightly better dimensions, I think. But I’m going to try it this week and see how it works out. Perhaps once I get used to it, it won’t feel so massive.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about this week is journals/journaling. I’ve been on and off about keeping a journal this year, though it’s something that really is beneficial to me more often than not. My main issue with keeping a journal is that I need to be able to write whatever I want, without fear that anyone will ever read it, and due to having people find and read my journals in the past, I’m more than a little paranoid about it.

I started the year with a cloud-based electronic journal, and then deleted that, knowing that nothing is ever really secure online. Then I decided to try paper journals again. After months of stashing them in different spots every time I made an entry, being frustrated not being able to write in them when I wanted because I didn’t have time to myself, and other equally crazy/paranoid/ridiculous issues, I’ve finally gone back to a non-cloud-based, password-protected electronic journal. I tell you what – I feel like a total crazy person with how paranoid I am about this, but there are things I need to get out of my head but that need to stay private. I’ve taken every precaution I can, but even so, I know it’s impossible to ever fully protect anything, whether in physical or digital format. Still, the benefit of getting those thoughts out of my head vs. letting them truly drive me nuts is worth the risk, and I’ve now mitigated that as much as I possibly can.

So, a few changes before the new year even starts, because why wait, right? Some of the things I want to change will require tweaks to my normal routines, and since that takes awhile, I’m happy to start early.

Have you started thinking about the new year yet? Any changes on the horizon?


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Talkin’ Books: December 10, 2014

Books Finished:
No Promises Required by Cari Quinn

Kindle Books In Progress:
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

Comic Books:
None :-(

This will be super-short this week…mostly because I’ve done very little reading. *sigh* It’s sad, really, though I did get a few chapters deeper in Invasive Species, but that’s about it. Lunch hours have been hectic, and so have my late nights, unfortunately. Don’t even get me started on the weekend, Christmas decorating and the dishwasher debacle…

No Promises Required was good…though I’d expect nothing less from Cari. Light BDSM references, but nothing that should make the casual reader cringe *too* much, I don’t think. Definitely worth the read, IMO.

Here’s hoping I can find more time this week, eh? A reader who doesn’t read is…well…a very sad reader. And I have comic books waiting! Sheesh.

What are you reading? Anything interesting?


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On Handkerchiefs…

I went through a lot of tissues in November – most of it for my watery eyes. When my eyes finally started feeling more normal again, I kept finding tissues in my pants pockets – remnants that I’d forgotten to toss out. Of course by last week I’d stopped carrying extra tissues again, so when the occasional watery eye happened (or when I was trying to put eye drops in at work), I wouldn’t have anything to blot the moisture with.

Which got me thinking about handkerchiefs. I started wondering why no one uses them anymore, except my grandpa (who uses bandannas, but same diff.), and one of the guys at work I occasionally see with one. I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman using a handkerchief, not even at a wedding or formal affair.

Naturally, I did an internet search wherein I found all sorts of different answers to the question, but it seems like the main reason women don’t use them anymore is a fear of germs. Which is somewhat amusing, considering all the women I see pulling a disposable tissue out of their purse and then putting it back in after they’ve used it to blow their nose or that of their child’s. Seems to me like fabric would work a lot better at “containment” in that situation than thin tissue. And it’s certainly no worse to put through the wash than one’s skivvies…

In any case, here’s one of the links I found most interesting – read the comments to get the whole convo:

http://www.diynatural.com/using-handkerchiefs-instead-of-facial-tissue/

All things considered, including how much tissue I go through just for eye “stuff” and light allergy snuffling, I do believe I’m going to get myself some nice handkerchiefs and start carrying them regularly. If nothing else, I’ll always have something to clean my glasses with. Not to mention dealing with the whole eye drop mess without having to use rough toilet paper from the restroom to blot up the excess moisture. If I have enough to carry a couple each day (purse & pocket), I should be covered. We’ll see how it goes.

I think while I’m at it, I might move to cloth napkins for meals as well. Hubby doesn’t like them, but I could switch fairly easily, I think. The less paper tossed out, the better, since there’s no reason I can’t deal with a bit of extra laundry per week.

It’s early Monday morning (1:00am) as I type this, as usual, and I have a sick dog again, so I’d best schedule this before he needs to go out again. Who knows what he got this time – it’s absolutely amazing just how little it takes to make poor Mica sick. Thank goodness it’s warmer tonight, though still cool enough at 35(f).

Hopefully he’ll be sleeping peacefully soon so I can too…


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Talkin’ Books: December 3, 2014

Books Finished:
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

Kindle Books In Progress:
No Promises Required by Cari Quinn

Print Books in Progress:
Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

Comic Books:
None :-(

Not much to report last week, so I skipped, and this week…well, the same, really. I feel like I need a good few days free for a reading binge, but I don’t see that happening soon. Bummer.

One in a Million was awesome, as are all the Lucky Harbor books, of course. I can’t remember if I have one left, or if this was the last one, but I’ll figure it out next payday. ;-)

Invasive Species is pretty darn freaky. And I’m glad I didn’t read it this summer. Though I did vacuum up a bunch of wasp corpses this past weekend, which kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies in light of the book, which I’m about half-through with. Ugh. *shiver*

No Promises Required is good so far…but I always like Cari’s books. If you like a little light kink with your romance, she’s one of the best go-to writers, and I believe she has a new book out just recently as well.

And I need a nice day to open the Harley Quinn Annual comic. Because it’s poly-sealed. And supposedly stinky. The comic shop guy mentioned pot. I bought too copies, naturally. ;-)

One to save sealed, of course. Sheesh. *shakes head*

And that’s pretty much it, I’m sorry to say. But who knows? Maybe this will be my lucky week, television going to the reruns again and all…


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On Gifts & Hair Color…

My dining room table is pretty well covered with Christmas gifts at the moment. Gifts for other people, of course, in neat piles, with checklists on top for the homemade things so I don’t get lost in what I still need to make for whom. We’re pretty well done, just a couple things to order online and that will be it for the year.

I think it’s interesting that for me, at least, the better you know someone, the harder it seems to get them something you’re confident they’ll like. A lot of that is, adults already have much of what they need, and they tend to buy what they want as well. Which is part of why I think gifts for adults at Christmas could easily be dispensed with altogether. Why not just make it another holiday celebrated with family, and leave it at that? My husband and I don’t exchange gifts with each other – we never have. We don’t at birthdays or anniversaries either. Why? Because if we see something we think the other person will like, we go ahead and pick it up for them, and just give it to them then. No need to wait for a special day – we just make that moment special, and move along.

I think the holidays would be far less stressful and more enjoyable for a great many people without all the gift hullabaloo, personally. Obviously, I’ve quit fighting it personally and just go along with it for peace & harmony, but it still kind of rankles, every single year.

*sigh*

In other news, I felt like I needed a change (not sure whether it’s vanity, or just a need for something different), so this past Saturday, I dyed my hair. I’ve only done that once before, quite a long time ago, and it was kind of an ordeal so I never even tried it again. I may have also gotten a slightly perverse pleasure out of people giving me crap about my hair turning white, and not actually doing anything about it (which clearly, they expected me to do). But enough of my brunette mop is white now that it kind of makes my whole head look “ashy”, and I figured maybe it was time to give the whole hair-dye thing one more try.

With a family history of a few cancers, I won’t use chemical dyes, so I ordered some plant dye (mainly henna & indigo, plus a couple others) last week. Saturday I proceeded to wash my hair, cover it in green goop and then a rather jaunty leopard-print shower cap, and sit around crocheting & watching TV with my husband for the next two and a half hours.

And it worked pretty well, really. Not nearly as much work as the last time I’d done it, and most of my white is now a lovely shade of copper while the rest of my hair is dark brown, as promised on the label. Something a bit different, without nearly as much work as I’d expected. Next time, I might mix a little auburn in for a subtle red highlight effect. We’ll see.

My before and after pics aren’t worth posting – the colors are all washed out due to poor lighting, and I suck at selfies, so I’m afraid you’ll have to take me at my word that it turned out okay for now. Maybe I’ll get a better pic next time.

One of the reasons I haven’t dyed my hair before now (except that one time) is because keeping your hair dyed requires maintenance. Hair grows, roots start to show, and before you know it, you need a touch-up. And it just keeps going on and on indefinitely, as long as you’re willing to play the game. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to commit to that. But I don’t think this will be too bad to stay on top of. One Saturday afternoon ever 4-6  weeks, and I’ll be…well…not white-haired for as long as I care to keep it up.

There was a nice, artistically-pleasing third thing I was going to jabber about, but it’s already 1:30am, which is my bedtime, and I still have to schedule this first. So…I’ll leave you with just two topics today, and you can create your own for the third, as you see fit. And by all means, feel free to share in the comments, if you’re so inclined!


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On Holiday Stuff, TV, & Stamps…

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the states, though I don’t think it’s really sunk in just yet. We’re not doing much, just going to my brother-in-law’s for dinner. If all goes well, it’ll probably be boring, to be honest. But he’s a bachelor who doesn’t cook much, and hasn’t ever cooked a turkey, so there’s definite funny-story potential there.

My only real plans for the rest of that day are to sleep in, make a nice egg & sausage brunch for hubby and myself, and probably work on crocheted Christmas gifts most of the day. Should be very relaxing, I think. I have a bunch of comic books that need to be put in albums for storage too…

Speaking of Christmas, hubby and I were actually in the mood to shop this past Saturday, so we braved the weekend crowds and got nearly all of our Christmas shopping done. Now I just need to finish up the crocheted items I’m making, and we’ll make a trip to the wine store and the candy store a little closer to Christmas, and we’ll be all set. I’m hoping to get the crocheted gifts done this week, so I can make some gift bags as well, but we’ll see. I do tend to over-reach a bit in the goals department, but we have plenty of gift bags if I don’t get them done, so it’s not a do-or-die type thing.

Dang it, that reminds me. I forgot to tell Mom I’d love a small tin of butter cookies for Christmas. I love those things, and hardly ever get them. A small tin would last me a long time. Must put that on my list!

Most of Sunday was spent on my butt in front of the TV catching up on some of the shows we missed last week, which would have been far more productive had I grabbed some yarn and a crochet hook. Instead, I decided to try to write this post, and considering I’ve deleted the whole thing twice and it’s now a quarter to one on Monday morning, you can guess how well that went. I don’t even know why I try…although now that I think about it, that’s not entirely true. I try because I think it’ll be more efficient, and give me more time later. But that never works – I need quiet and focus to think and write, and I can’t ever get that while I’m sitting in front of the TV.

TV and crochet (or knitting), however, go together like caramel vodka & apple cider. And I would have been that much closer to having my Christmas gifts done (and it would have been a nice break from the small screen, too). Ah well. We all make stupid decisions occasionally, eh?

We also went to a play this weekend – a local production called “Mauritius” that one of my co-workers was acting in. It was a lot of fun, and had a stamp collecting theme which is, of course, right up my alley. I’m not a terribly new collector, but aside from the inverted Jenny (which I’m slightly obsessed with finding one of the new upright errors), I wasn’t really “up” on the high-dollar/priceless stamp lore. So it was really interesting from that standpoint, as I learned about the Mauritius “Post Office” errors, and promptly looked them up online in Denny’s after the play when we stopped for dinner.

I haven’t had a lot of time to do anything with my stamp collection in the past couple of years, and I think it’s time I remedied that. I have a bunch of stamps to go through, catalog & put in albums, and it would be fun to set aside some time each week just to do that. Sunday nights might be perfect, now that I think about it.

So…lots going on lately, but in a good way. This week I’m working every day except Thursday, and I’m kind of looking forward to Weds & Fri being slow days at work so I can get caught up on a couple of projects I have going. The beauty of working around major holidays is that most everyone else takes vacation days. Quiet, uninterrupted work time is a rare and precious thing…

To all my US peeps, Happy Thanksgiving, and to the rest of you, have a great week!


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Talkin’ Books: November 19, 2014

Books Finished:
Moon Shine by Vivian Arend

Kindle Books In Progress:
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

Comic Books:
Harley Quinn #11

It’s been a good week for books/reading. As I mentioned last week, I finished the 11th issue of Harley Quinn after I finished writing/scheduling that post, and it was…interesting, what with Power Girl in the mix. I’m not sure I like her, but we’ll see. And then there’s the new guy, fresh out of prison. Harley seems to like him…

I also promised to let you know if I found the creepy in Invasive Species. Boy did I! If you read this blog regularly, you know we had an issue with paper wasps this summer, and I was stung several times. Those insects made life…interesting for three months, and I’m glad they’re most certainly frozen now. This book though…oh yes. This book brings back memories and then magnifies them times ten, and I’m not even a quarter done yet. Should be a freaky ride!

No freakier than Johnny the Homicidal Maniac though, of course. Read a couple more of those stories, and I just want to give the kid a scritch behind the ears. As you do, with pets…

As you can see, I then took a bit of a break from the freak-fest and indulged in the last Takhini Wolves series by Vivian Arend, Moon Shine. I actually had myself a little mini-binge last Friday night when the hubby had to work late, and read the whole thing before I went to bed. I’m sure it surprises no one to learn that when it comes to paranormal tropes, I’m a werewolf girl, and I always enjoy Vivian’s books. Never read one I didn’t, actually. And this one was just as excellent and emotionally charged as the rest. With a bonus bear-shifter included.

I also splurged on One in a Million, the last Lucky Harbor novel by Jill Shalvis, which was a major mistake, productivity wise, but man, I’m loving every word. So sweet and funny and heart-wrenching all at the same time… *sigh* I’m sad this is the last Lucky Harbor book, but she’s got more Animal Magnetism books coming out, and I enjoy those too. As long as she keeps writing, I’ll be a happy camper. And a less productive writer, but whatever. Writer’s gotta read…

So, like I said, good reading week. Hubby’s got a poker game this Friday night, so I’ll be on my own then as well. Maybe I’ll mainline Invasive Species while he’s gone…


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