Spring and a Fresh Approach

IMG_3152At long last, spring is here! I know, technically speaking it happened about ten days ago but with the crazy weather we’ve been having, who noticed? Aside from marking off another day on the calendar, it might as well still have been winter. Each day I get out of bed and look outside to a world of white, well, it makes me want to break out in tears. Don’t worry though, a few deep breaths later and I’m fine and ready to face the day.

But finally, I think Mother Nature is starting to catch up with us and play nice. Today, at least, the sun is shining and although the furnace is running as I type this little blog post, it’s actually not too bad outside. I wouldn’t suggest going for a walk without the winter coat just yet but I do believe that those days are coming soon. Saturday I even took a moment to fill the bird feeder with fresh seed for the multitude of birds that seem to have suddenly made an appearance. And of course, let’s not forget the daffodils. They have sprouted and I do believe that we will see flowers soon.

Hurray! In the meantime, I leave you with this photo which I took last month at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Without a doubt, I am dangerous being set free amongst all those gorgeous flowers with a camera. After all … you know me and flowers… This is one of so many photos that I took that day. Perhaps I will share a new one with every spring post I write.

Speaking of writing, this blog has been abandoned long enough and it’s about time that I renew my efforts to post. I’ve been writing a lot lately. I just don’t seem to take the time to talk about it. (Well, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.) But I would like to begin making an effort to post regularly no matter what we happen to discuss along the way.

For starters, I want to start a “Friday Feature” blog post where I will highlight some of my fellow authors. If you have a new release, I’m happy to help spread the word. Just want to connect with new readers? Give me a shout. Right now, my calendar is completely open but contact me if you are interested in being featured or interviewed and we’ll work something out. Thanks for helping. :-)

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Fall Family Picnic

Oct 079Every fall we make it a tradition to have a family picnic at Moraine State Park. This includes not just my husband, my kids, and me, but also my parents and my brother as well. We plan ahead of time who will bring what, nothing fancy, usually just hot dogs on the grill along with some pasta salad, and plenty of goodies to enjoy. That was the menu plan this year, at any rate. After we eat and catch up, we all head to the extensive bike trail for a long walk together. Inevitably, we end up at the play area for the kids to swing, climb, and go down the slides. And okay, sometimes the adults take part in this fun as well.

I’m grateful that we didn’t miss our annual picnic at Moraine this year and that we had such a beautiful day to enjoy it together. Of course, where I go, the camera goes too so I have plenty of photos to share of some of the sights that took my interest along the way. Oct 082 Above is a lovely view of the bike trail as we started on our walk. And to the right is a view of Lake Arthur. There were a lot of sailboats on the water. You can just about make out one in the distance in this particular photo. I love the way the water sparkles in the sun.

Oct 084My husband shakes his head and says, “You and flowers…”

Yes, flowers and me… I have a strange obsession with taking photos of them and if you could peek into the files on my computer, you would see that I have hundreds of them already and I still can’t help myself to take more every chance that I get. I love to capture them in photos, which is better than cutting them and killing them just for a few days of being pretty on my table. And yes, I feel this way even about the weeds and I always have.

Oct 086My kids adore their grandparents. We don’t see them as often as they’d like because we live many miles apart but when we do see them, it makes those moments even sweeter. I couldn’t resist stealing a photo of the kids as they walk along the trail with Grandpa. What do you suppose they are talking about? Are they discussing the caterpillars that we see now and then? Are they pointing out the color in the leaves? Or maybe, knowing these are my kids and my kids happen to be superhero obsessed, perhaps they are discussing the details of how Iron Man or Captain America would save the day? This is, after all, serious business.

Oct 110And then there were more flowers and once again, I could not resist. Even in the fall when everything begins to die, they are still beautiful, maybe even more so than in summer’s full bloom.

The days are getting shorter. The trees are even more vibrant than they were a week ago and many leaves have already fallen. I like to believe that I’m capturing every moment before it disappears and gives way to winter cold and snow.

And last but not least, I leave you with my very favorite photo that I’ve taken so far…

Oct 115The sun is setting over another fun-filled family day. My kids call these “wish flowers” because I told them that if they close their eyes and blow away the seeds, they could make a wish and it would come true. My oldest wished for more wish flowers because he loves watching the seeds scatter. Now, I think that is one wish that just might come true.

If you could sit in the grass and watch the sun set over the lake, pick this flower and make just one wish …

What would you wish for?

 

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Fall Into Autumn

Sept 118Every month and every season has something special to offer but October is my favorite month of all. I enjoy spring when the world comes alive again and everything is super green. I enjoy summer when the sun shines and we can get away with shorts and t-shirts. I even enjoy winter with its crisp, fresh snow, although I admit that winter could be a little shorter. I have often believed that I was born in the perfect place on earth because here in Pennsylvania, I get a taste of each season at its best.

Sept 086During the fall, I love to get outside in the Pennsylvania woods and of course, where I go, the camera goes too.  I took these photos during my last ‘hiking’ adventure with the family. We got off the regular path in the park and explored the trails. Great fun for the kids who lead the way. Great fun for me who lingered behind snapping photos at whatever caught my interest. An hour in and we realized that we had no idea where we were and how to get back out again. (oops) We didn’t panic. We pushed on and when the trail we were on didn’t appear to get us close to an escape from the woods, we abandoned it and tried to back track. Eventually we found our way out.

Now that the kids are at school, I have the option to get out on my own a bit more and I’ve started taking advantage of this fact by visiting the park three times per week to run. Okay, a runner I am not, but I am trying and I haven’t died yet. Sept 087I have discovered this is not just a means to try to shed a few extra pounds and get back in shape, but a wonderful opportunity to witness summer’s last goodbyes as the world transforms around me into autumn. Every morning that I park the car and head toward the path through the woods, I notice that the leaves on the trees have gained a little more color. The smell of fall is in the air. The sun may still be shining and the days may still be warm but there are the first hints of a cool breeze that promise frost that will only be a matter of weeks away.

The autumn sun is softer than the summer sun and when it filters through the trees, it makes the yellow leaves glow and the reds more vibrant. When the breeze picks up, the leaves let go of the trees and cascade down along the path like a golden rain. There is something almost magical about running through it. It makes me feel like a kid again. Remember when we would gather leaves into giant piles and jump into them? Sept 097

Sometimes as I run, I see the big, fuzzy caterpillars along the path – a sign of winter to come!

The park is a quiet place anyway but on a weekday morning, it is even more so. It gives me the chance to escape into my own thoughts as I walk or run, work out my next story, or just daydream. No kids to complain that they don’t want to walk anymore. No fighting. Just myself and the world around me and occasionally, the fellow walker that I pass along the way.

I know that eventually the days will not be as warm and we’ll wake up to frost on the ground again. Eventually the trees will shake free of all their leaves and I’ll be running over them scattered on the dirt path. Eventually it will even be so cold that getting out of the car and walking along the path will lose Sept 104its appeal. (But I hope that doesn’t happen.) In the blink of an eye, I won’t be surrounded by the vibrant colors and the smell of fall. I won’t come home to apple cider or see pumpkins and corn stalks outside the neighbor’s houses anymore. I will miss fall when it ends but in the meantime, I intend to enjoy every moment that I can.

I look forward to the trips to the farm and many more travels through the woods.

I hope that you will enjoy it right along with me in my photos.

What is your favorite thing about autumn?

Sept 126

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The October Challenge

writerSome of you may remember last year I attempted to complete a blog challenge created by Jane Ann McLachlan. I think I made it about halfway before I went crazy and aborted the mission. Well, October is right around the corner and Jane is presenting the challenge again. When she emailed me, my first reaction was no way, Jose, but I went to her blog anyway and I read the details of this year’s challenge. I reconsidered. Maybe I could do this? Maybe I could even have some fun with it?

Last year, the challenge was to write a blog post every day for the entire month of October and each numbered calendar day corresponded to that year of life. This meant we spent a lot of time reminiscing about years of life that honestly, I don’t remember very well, especially early in the month. (I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything memorable when I was a year-old, really.)  I struggle to blog to begin with so I felt as though I was grasping at straws a bit on that one. And teen years? Well, I just didn’t want to go there age-by-age.

This year, Jane’s challenge still focuses on memoir writing but I like the changes she’s made. For starters, instead of posting every day, we will only post on the odd days. This gives us not only a chance to catch our breath, but also the opportunity to spend a day enjoying the posts of other challenge participants. Great! Not only that, but each week has a theme where we will focus our memories. These include Childhood, Relationships, Secrets, Roots and Wings, and Gratitude and Regrets. Ooooh boy. I’ve already got a few ideas floating around in my head for these and I’m looking forward to sitting down and playing with them.

Want to join us? This challenge is a great opportunity to stretch your blogging muscles, whether you write memoir or not. Fiction is welcome, too. Want to spend a month getting to know the main character from your latest book? You can do that, too. Your memories don’t have to be real and whichever creative way you wish to express them is welcome.

As a matter of fact, if you’re interested in signing up to participate (why not?), I recommend that you visit Jane’s blog to read the details.

And then, join me on Tuesday as we get on your mark, get set … and go!

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My Summer Weekend Freebie

cover imageLast weekend I offered the kindle version of my first novel titled THE BETWEEN WORLD for free and I hope that everyone who snagged a copy gets a chance to read and enjoy it over the summer.

This weekend, I’m giving away the kindle version of my second novel, GHOSTS DON’T WEAR SILK STOCKINGS, for free now through Sunday. If you don’t have a kindle, you can download a kindle app so there are no excuses.

Admittedly, I have trouble giving this one away. I’m not sure what it is that makes readers so reluctant to give the story a chance. Is it the title? The cover? The story blurb? All of the above? If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share them because as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m planning to revisit my stories and find ways to improve them. I’m all for change.

And if you happen to read the book and have suggestions on how I can improve the story as well, I’m all ears.

In the meantime, Happy Summer Solstice! It’s official. Summer is here and it is hot, hot, hot. Time to pick up your kindle and head to the pool for a little relaxation. Happy Reading! summersun

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Dinosaurs and Naked Art

June 223Have you ever felt a strange affinity for a certain place for no particular reason? I have felt this longing for two places in my life – an area of Pittsburgh called Shadyside where I lived for several years after college and London, England.

Oddly enough, I’ve always considered myself more of a “rural” girl than a city girl. I would sooner surround myself by trees, flowers, and quiet than deal with a concrete world and the constant hustle and bustle but while London is considerably bigger than Shadyside, both are very much city dwellings.

I used to live in a third floor apartment in Shadyside right along Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest streets available and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. After all, I had everything I could need within easy reach and I didn’t need a car to get around. My neighbors were  mostly graduate students from one of the surrounding universities (Pitt, CMU, Chatham…) which is a far cry from the suburban life I have now. If they didn’t go to school then they probably had some affiliation with all of the hospitals in the area.

I guess I felt a little nostalgic cruising through my former life on Sunday because we took the kids to the Carnegie Museum which is only a hop, skip, and a jump from the world I used to call my own. I like the museum well enough and I had a fun time with the family but it’s difficult not to look around and reminisce about what I suppose we can now call “the old days”. I don’t think my feelings for Shadyside will ever really go away.

June 300

My Alma Mater

The Carnegie Museum is one that we haven’t braved very often since having kids. As a matter of fact, this is only the second time we have attempted to take them. The first time didn’t go so well. I suppose I can’t blame them. After all, our usual destination points usually involve a lot more kid-friendly interaction. When you are limited to mostly looking without touching, well, heck, that gets boring after a while even for a supposed grown-up like me.

They like the dinosaur bones, even if we did have to endure a twenty minute argument in the car on the way home over whether dinosaurs and superheroes are real or fake. (Apparently adult commentary on the subject is not welcome so there was no setting the record straight to save ourselves from this particular argument.) They liked the Ancient Egypt and the Polar exhibits. They even got to dig for their own dinosaur bones just like a real paleontologist.

June 291

We’re not convinced this is art, but if it is, I missed my calling in life. I could totally do this.

But then came the art gallery. Stu and I looked at each other and laughed when we suggested it. Not because we find art really all that funny, but because we knew what we’d be getting ourselves into as soon as we opened the doors to let our little whirlwinds enter the room. Guess what? We were right.

Within two minute (literally!) we had the guards on us because Matt picked up something that he was not supposed to touch. Oops. We spent every minute after that reminding them to look, don’t touch while they got increasingly hostile about being reminded – and still attempting to touch anyway.

“Is this art?” they kept asking.

“Yes, this is art.”

“Is this art?”

“Yes, this is art, too.”

“Art is boring!”

“Yes, it is. Look, don’t touch.”

“I”m NOT touching!”

June 293We almost gave up but then we discovered the secret to getting our kids to appreciate looking at this so-called art. The secret is finding the naked ones.

We like the naked ones.

Naked ones, however, do inspire fits of uncontrollable giggles so “look, don’t touch” soon is replaced with “Shhhhhhhhhhhh…”

And apparently, when you’re a kid trying to make the best of the tortures that your parents put you through, being silenced is just as much of a torment as looking without touching.

June 314I don’t blame them.

After our adventures in dinosaurs and art, we attempted to have dinner at one of former favorite spots, Fuel and Fuddle, but that didn’t work out so well. They don’t even have a kids’ menu. Go figure in the middle of a college town, right?

So, we got back in the car and journeyed back to suburbia pointing out the apartment building along Fifth Avenue where Mummy and Daddy used to live once upon a time, got on the parkway and headed back to our own little suburbia to have dinner at a more family friendly location close to home.

No naked people though.

 

 

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The Between World Free Summer Promotion

The Between WorldSummer vacation … ah, the joys of sunshine and screaming kids. There is almost never a dull moment at the Ingram House. The kids are thrilled to have freedom from school. I am frazzled trying to keep them from total boredom at home. We’ve already endured meltdowns in the middle of the produce aisle at the grocery store and running over fellow shoppers with the shopping cart. We’ve painted, we’ve ridden bikes. We’ve even started our workbooks.

Most importantly, we’ve refrained from killing each other.

During what little free time that I have, I’ve been planning a new story. With a bit of luck, I will start writing by the last week of June and finish sometime after the kids are back in school. It all depends on how much time I can spend writing while they are busy playing with friends and riding bikes or failing that, after I get them off to bed.

Speaking of books, THE BETWEEN WORLD is currently FREE for your kindle between now and Sunday. Check it out and spread the word!

Happy Summer Reading. :-)

 

 

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Sexy is a Bad Word

May 259

At the start of the school year, Matt came home to inform us that you aren’t allowed to say the word “sexy” in Kindergarten. For some reason, my kids got a chuckle out of this even though they have no idea what the word means.  It stuck. “Sexy” was added to their self-created list of bad words to say in the Ingram house right next to “stupid” and “hate”. (But of course, my youngest has no problem with exclaiming, “Jesus!”  or “Oh, ship!” when things go wrong.)

Of course, when you are five years-old and add something to the taboo list, it naturally follows that you will try to get away with saying that word as often as you can. Every so often I must endure, “Mummy! Sammy called me sexy!” as if this is the worst thing in the word that you could say to someone.

Oh ship, it’s hard to keep a straight face.

I’ve never felt the need to explain what it means to call someone sexy and I think it’s too soon to talk about the birds and the bees so when it came up time to have the dog neutered, I shouldn’t have been surprised when there were questions that I couldn’t easily answer.

Wednesday was Webster’s bad day. The husband dropped him off at the vet’s office on his way to work in the morning and picked him up later that evening. Of course, as fate would have it, Wednesday the kids had a clerical day off school so Webster’s absence was noticed.

In hindsight, I probably should have told them that Webster went somewhere else – I don’t know where – maybe he had a play date with his doggie friends? Maybe he had an important Super Dogs Meeting to attend? But without thinking much about it, I told them Daddy dropped Webster off at the vet where he would spend the day.

“Why does Webster have to go to the vet?”

“Because he’s scheduled for his surgery today.”

“Is Webster sick?”

“No, he’s not sick.”

“Is the vet making him healthy?” they ask looking at me completely perplexed. (Why oh why didn’t I just say yes and leave it at that?)

“No, Webster is being neutered.”

“What is neutered?”

Hmmm… how do you explain the hows and whys of neutering a dog to three kids that haven’t even been introduced to the birds and the bees? I was stumped and I really didn’t want to tell them what the vet was altering if I wasn’t prepared to give them a reasonable explanation why. Although, it’s been kind of obvious since Webster got home that he’s having issues “down there”.

“The vet is going to change Webster so he won’t want to find a girlfriend anymore.” (Weak, I know and I regret saying this.)

“Webster wants a girlfriend?” Matt clearly thought this idea was a bit crazy. Girls, yuck!

“He did, but he won’t anymore.”

“Why does Webster want a girlfriend?”

“Ummm… I’m not sure.”

Thankfully, the allure of playing outside, even if it was without their favorite furry friend, was greater than sitting around trying to figure out why the dog wanted a girlfriend and why Mummy and Daddy sent him to the vet for surgery to fix that.

I’ve got a funny feeling Matt won’t be telling me he has a girlfriend anytime soon.

In the meantime, Sam went back to school on Thursday and explained to his friends and teachers that his dog spent Wednesday at the vet because he had a girlfriend and he isn’t allowed to have a girlfriend. I suspect it’s time to sit down and have a little talk and hopefully undo the damage I’ve done.

Any suggestions??

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The End is Here

May 105It feels like only yesterday I waved goodbye to my kids as they got on the school bus. I blinked and what do you know, it is June already and school is over. What happened? It’s time to put away the backpacks and embrace summer vacation and all the fun (and fighting) that it will likely bring.

This is one of those points of the year that I like to sit down and think about goals, where I am, and where I want to be. I do the same January 1st and I will likely do it again when the first day of school begins. I like to reflect and ask myself since January, did I do everything that I’d set out to do?

Well, I’ve fallen short on posting on my blog, no secret there. Funny how even though I’m surrounded by a world of crazy little people and writing that I still fail to find anything worthy of sharing here. I really want to change that.

Summer Goal #1: Post on the blog more often!

I have been tossing around a couple of ideas to help on this one. For starters, I’m going to write about what we do over the summer and while we’re not the most exciting family in the world, this might prove entertaining, photos included. Secondly, I want to share some of the books that I enjoy to help spread the word for fellow authors. Every little bit helps, right? I’ve had others do this for me and I greatly appreciate it. I’m happy to return the favor. And third, I want to share more of what I write. I’m going to share a story as I write it and welcome feedback on how I can make it better. This will help me create a better story and hopefully entertain my readers in the process.

Since publishing GHOSTS in January, I’ve done very little in terms of getting the next book out into the world. I have several ideas floating around in my head but have spent little time focused on sitting down to put those stories to paper.

Summer Goal #2: Write that next book!

This will be a big challenge over the summer but even if I only manage to write 1,000 quick words in the morning, it still adds up. In the fall I will have more time to focus on rewrites and edits. Now I just have to decide which story gets my attention first – The young adult novel (potentially) about evil lurking in the hallways at Bridgetown High School or the paranormal novel about the ghost who helps a writer come up with her stories? Thoughts?

I have recently decided that my formerly published novels could benefit from a rewrite, especially THE BETWEEN WORLD, which still has so much potential. I feel as though I barely scratched the surface on that story and I’d do it justice if I spent just a little bit more time with it.

Summer Goal #3: Re-imagine THE BETWEEN WORLD!

Considering the fact that I’m already knee-deep in summer adventure with the family and busy with all this blogging that I plan to catch up on and new stories to write, goal #3 is going to a toughie. I might be biting off more than I can chew so I should probably stop myself here before I get too crazy. After all, I only have three months to fit all this in before school starts and I sit down to decide just how well I’ve managed to do what I set out to do.

As for the kids, well, wait until they find out that I have weekly trips to the library planned out for us and not only will we be reading a lot of books, but we’ll spend time creating our own stories as well. No doubt, whatever comes from the imagination of a 7, 6, and 4 year-old will be amusing and I look forward to it immensely. When we aren’t reading or writing, we will spend time doing pages from our new summer workbooks.

But don’t worry because it won’t all be work, work, work. Maybe we will take a trip to the beach via Washington DC. (Still working out that idea) and of course there will our annual trips to Kennywood and Idlewild in addition to outings to the local parks and lakes and maybe even a camping trip thrown in there for good measure. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, Happy Summer!

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C is for Characters and Connections

masks

When I was young, I developed an infatuation with the theatre and I decided I wanted to be a scriptwriter and actress when I grew up.

As a matter of fact, you might remember an earlier post about my first venture into writing which happened in fourth grade when myself and a couple of girls from my class decided to create our own play one day on the playground. I’m not sure what prompted us to do this. If memory serves, it was Melissa’s idea so maybe her parents had taken her to see a play recently and this inspired her to create her own? Maybe it was something we had talked about in class? I don’t know. It seemed like fun so I went along with the idea. I was always big into make-believe.

Our fourth grade teacher was impressed enough with our efforts that he allotted class time for us to perform our play in front of everyone. I don’t remember what our play was about and I don’t remember how big of a part I had in it but I do remember quite clearly falling in love the day I stood in front of the class even if I wasn’t sure exactly why I felt this way.

That moment sparked something inside me and ignited an obsession to write. I wrote pages and pages – all plays. In my mind, I fantasized about performing in front of my peers again although the other girls in my little group went back to jumping rope or playing tag on the playground, their careers on stage short-lived. There wouldn’t be any more plays performed in fourth grade.

It didn’t deter me. I kept writing. I kept imagining.

When the opportunity presented itself later in high school to study theatre with a small group locally, my parents agreed to let me go for it. I was always a quiet person so I’m not sure that many people believed I had much hope on the stage but I was determined enough to give it a try. As it turned out, I surprised us all, myself included.

I joined the group with big expectations … and a lot of fear. After all, the other kids in my group were far more outgoing, a little bit older, and certainly more experienced when it came to being on stage. Aside from my brief stardom in fourth grade, my stage credits went to torturing parents as my friends, cousins, brother, or anyone else I could coerce into engaging my obsession and I performed whatever I had come up with for the day.

I learned a lot about the theatre, not just acting but what goes on behind the scenes as well. And of course, the experience would not be complete without actually performing something. Our director chose a series of monologues written by students around our age called Sometimes I Wake Up in the Middle of the Night and assigned us each a character with our own history and experience which we as actors helped to create and develop. My character, Lisa, was the youngest of the bunch and the most naive.

Unlike most plays that tell a story and the characters interact with each other, our series of monologues meant that each actor had her own space on the stage and when it was our turn to speak, we took over the audience.

I suppose I could have been terrified and sure, on opening day, a part of me was. Family and friends would be attending. We’d made posters and shared them across the community. The newspaper wrote an article about us. When the curtain opened, there would be people occupying those seats, a lot more people than my fourth grade class. Those people had paid money to watch us perform so they’d have bigger expectations than a group of kids getting out of a math lesson. My director had her doubts that my quiet personality would fill the stage and so did I.

But you know what? Something magical happened what I stepped onto that stage. When the spotlight hit me, I came to life. I wasn’t nervous anymore. I wasn’t me anymore. I was Lisa and when I spoke about my loneliness and fears of the dark, the audience responded and I felt a strange connection that I’d only just hinted at before. By the time the spotlight went down after my first monologue and I sat in the darkness, I couldn’t wait until the spotlight returned to me so that I could continue to share my connection between Lisa and the audience. By the end of it, I’d impressed my director, my cast members, and the family and friends who’d come to see me and I’m pretty sure I’d done my part to satisfy the members of the audience that didn’t know the quiet Stephanie behind Lisa.

I’ve never stopped writing but every once in a while, I wonder to myself what keeps me going. After all, 90% of what I’ve written has never been shared and probably never will be. Being on the stage is very different from writing a novel but essentially storytelling is the same. The basic drive is bringing to life characters that will make the audience feel some sort of connection. On the stage, that connection is immediate. In a novel, I won’t know when you gasp or laugh or feel sad but I can hope that emotions still exist on the page. There is a dialogue that exists between the writer and the reader. In some way, our worlds come together and we share some common bond, even if it is only temporary.

Which books do you think have most successfully created connections with readers?

Categories: Family and Fun, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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