Insights

My Seven Guilty Pleasures… #MFRWauthor

We all have ’em. The things we do that make us happy. Little things that put a smile on our face as we’re doing them.
Here are the seven things that I love that always make me happy when I do them:
1. Taking long, hot, sudsy baths.
2. Sitting on the deck in the summer in the warm sun, just enjoying the outdoors–with or without a glass of wine.
3. Speaking of wine….Enjoying a glass of my favorite–Moscato.
4. Eating chocolate… Anything chocolate.
5. Shopping! I love to shop, especially with my teenage daughter, who actually likes shopping with me.
6. Spending lazy afternoons reading a book or listening to one.
7. Binge watching Netflix or On Demand.
There you have the seven things I consider my guilty pleasures.  Name one of yours.

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The Things that Make Me Crazy When I Read… #MFRWauthor

Today’s blog challenge topic is to write about the words that make you go “ick.” Since I don’t like to write about these words–most of them are vulgar or just plain awful–I’m not about to spell them out on my blog….. Yes, I’m a prude. And proud of it! Well, at least you should be able to use your imagination to figure out what those words are with that confession.

Anyway, I’m going to change the prompt a little and talk about the things that pull me out of a story I’m reading and make me go “WTF?!?” There isn’t much I won’t tolerate, story-wise. I don’t mind if people die or animals are killed–IF it’s absolutely needed to drive the plot or is essential for character growth. But these things listed below will pull me out of a story quicker than anything, and unfortunately I usually can’t get back into it.

**I hate when a historical novel is too politically correct, meaning the author colors the characters’ actions/words with today’s standards. A great series of books that has never fallen victim to this is the Outlander series. Jamie Fraser is an amazing hero, but he acts and talks like a 18th Century man. And although Claire (the time-traveling WWII nurse heroine) probably gets away with more than most women would if they were married to anyone other than Jamie, he still views a man’s role in a marriage in what we’d consider archaic by today’s standards.

**Another thing that destroys a story for me is when details get messed up. I have nearly a photogenic memory when it comes to reading. My comprehension is my strongest skill. I don’t forget much. Someone told me once it’s because I actually read every letter and word due to my dyslexia which helps my brain to form a better picture of the story. Anyway when an author screws up their details, it yanks me out. For example, one time I read a book by a best selling author published by one of the big houses when the heroine changed clothes while walking along a road… No, I don’t mean she stripped and changed. I mean she started out her walk wearing a pantsuit and when her friend picked her up a  page later, she was wearing a skirt. It was so jarring because the author seemed to make her wearing pants matter by mentioning how much she despised that the dust would ruin them. Then only to have her get in the truck and fussing with her skirt because it’s short length made her uncomfortable. I was like “uh??” and reread the passage. That scene bothered me so much, I couldn’t forget the flub. I don’t think I ever finished that book.

**Head hopping! This irritates me to no end. I don’t mean a point of view change after a section of a scene. I mean paragraph one is in the hero’s POV and the next is in the heroine’s POV, then jumps back to the hero’s. Every beginning author is clobbered about this and are taught not to do it. But some authors seem to get away with it… Well, I’m not buying their books. even though most of them some of the oldest and biggest sellers.

**Stupid, lazy, poorly written characters and/or a paper-thin plots–I actually think these two things go hand-in-hand in most cases. I will admit, I don’t read many self-published books by newbie authors. I’ve been burnt too many times with buying a book or downloading a freebie because the blurb sounded good and the reviews may even be good, but the story wasn’t up to snuff. But I’ve read a few stories by established authors published by New York houses that have this distinction as well.

**The last thing that will make me stop reading is if the heroine is weak and mousy and/or the “hero” is a jerk. If he can’t say or think anything nice about the heroine and treats her badly–he isn’t a hero in my way of thinking. Being a jerk doesn’t make him an Alpha male, it makes him an asshole not worth the time of day of any woman. But usually the heroine is too enthralled by him, because she has no backbone, to see she should run the other way, not be daydreaming about how handsome he is and if only he’d look at her. I usually just want to shake the girl and tell her to go find someone else because he sure as hell ain’t worth it.

So, you tell me, what makes you toss a book across the room or hit the delete key on your Kindle?

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Songs that Have Inspired Me #MFRWauthor

Music plays a big part in all of my contemporary westerns, particularly country music. I don’t always listen to music when I write, but I often plan or plot my stories while listening. I’ve even gotten story ideas from listening to either a certain artist or from a particular song.

Sometimes I’ll even hear a song after I’ve written a story that makes me think about a certain character.

Here’s a list of songs that have either inspired me while/before writing or make me think of a character.

  1. 11 by Cassadee Pope, Album: Frame by Frame (2013)

This song makes me think of my heroine from Heartland. The song is about a young girl whose life is turned upside down when her parents divorce. The same thing happens to Emily as a child. Because Emily is a country-turned-pop singer, I almost always picture her singing it when I hear it.

  1. Black Tears by Jason Aldean, Album: Night Train (2012)

The first time I heard this song I instantly thought about my heroine from Gambling On A Secret. The song is an emotional ballad about a stripper and how much she hates what she’s doing and often cries her mascara off; hence the black tears. Charli from Gambling On A Secret had run away from home when she was fifteen and ended up working as a stripper in Las Vegas. The song fits Charli so much it could have been written about her.

  1. Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts, (the version I have comes from the Album: Greatest Hits, Vol 1, 2008)

Heartstrings was inspired by this song. The original title of this story was “The Long Road Home.” In the story my hero is trying to find his way back home—and to the daughter he never knew. The heroine also has a broken road ahead of her—she has to forgive the hero for leaving and herself for pushing him away. This song also inspired the song Seth writes with his teenage daughter in the story.

  1. Drunk On A Plane by Dirks Bentley, Album Riser (2014)

My currently out of print novella, Chasing A Cowboy (published in the anthology set Cowboy Up) was directly inspired by this song. I heard it one day not long after it was released as a radio single and instantly pictured a country singer groom jilted at the altar and going on the honeymoon alone… Only there’s a little less drinking on the plane and I send the run-away bride’s fraternal twin sister after the groom.

This last list are singers who’ve inspired the singers in some of my stories:Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Contemporary Western Romance, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Native American Romance, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing

Toby Keith—my hero Seth Kendall from Heartstrings is loosely modeled after a young Toby Keith. Crazy fact—I had never seen Toby Keith’s movie Broken Bridges (a story about a country singer who meets his daughter for the first time) until long after I wrote Heartstrings.  In fact, I didn’t even know the movie existed until a friend told me about it.  Then I had to see it to make sure my story didn’t too closely resemble the movie.  I was greatly relieved that, other than the trope, the two have nothing much in common. Well, except the heroes look like Toby Keith…

Heartstrings, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romance, Country Music star hero, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing, Heartsong, Heartland, Colton Gamblers, Singing to the HeartBilly Currington/Luke Bryan—these two singers both have inspired my hero Gabe McKenna from Heartsong… Only Gabe is dark haired, but he likes to shake his cute butt on stage like Luke Bryan does.

Taylor Swift/ LeAnn Rimes/troubled young artists like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears—A mesh-up these artistsHeartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Contemporary Western Romance gave me elements that made up my troubled young songstress Emily Kendall from Heartland. Like Taylor Swift and LeAnn Rimes, Emily has an amazing-crazy talent at a tender age. She’s only fifteen when she gets her first record deal and she blurs the genre lines—making as many country number one as she does pop. But like so many young artists, she marries far too young and begins using drugs—until she finds out she’s pregnant and realizes she has to get away from her pop star ex-husband.

 

Writers get their ideas from everywhere… Music is just one of the places where I find mine.
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Categories: Gambling On a Secret, Heartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out in My Garden…My Favorite Hobby #MFRWauthor

Besides writing, I love to garden. I have a substantial English/Cottage garden that surrounds my house and takes up most of my yard.  I also have a sizable vegetable garden and love to can the bounty that comes from it. I’m always changing something in it. Despite having a book to write this spring, I plan to rip things apart again and redesign some of it.  Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of my favorite place to be in the spring…

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Even in winter, I love my garden when it snows.  This picture was taken a couple of years ago.

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From February to November, something is always in bloom in my garden. These are commonly called snowdrops, the botanical name is Galanthus. Although they are not as gorgeous as tulips and daffodils, when I see them every late winter—sometimes even peeking their white flowers out of the snow—I know Spring is not far away.

 

 

 

 

These pictures show some of my favorite April to June flowers.

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spring, flowers, gardening contemporary western romantic suspesne authror Sara Walter Ellwood spring, flowers, gardening spring, flowers, gardening

 

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I love butterflies… In fact, the premise for my story Gambling On A Secret came from watching one of these guys break out of it’s cocoon.

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Here is a great shot of my vegetable garden… And what I like to do with the tomatoes–home made spaghetti sauce. Yum!

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Just a few of the many garden pictures I’ve taken over the years. These pictures were taken about 10 years apart.

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plantsI even bring the garden inside….

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And finally, here are a few photos of my gardening partner….

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Hope you enjoyed the tour.

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How I Met My Best Author Friend–@D’Ann Lindun @DLindun #MFRWauthor

I’d like you to meet someone who has been pretty darn important in helping me become published. Although D’Ann Lindun and I have never met in person, I still value her as one of my very best friends. We “met” on line back in 2010 on a writer’s Yahoo Group. I responded to something she said in what was becoming a heated subject, and she emailed me privately to thank me for standing up with her.

From this, we became critique partners and friends. I was pretty damned new at this whole writing to get published business and D’Ann had been trying for several years. She’s from Colorado and writes contemporary western romance, the same genre I found myself writing in… Thing is this Pennsylvania bred and born gal really had no idea what she was doing. I grew up on a farm, and for this reason, I found writing westerns more comfortable. After all, I knew what it takes to raise cattle–and chickens and pigs and, well, we raised a lot of different animals growing up–but not like how cattle are raised out west.

D’Ann saved my ass by setting me straight. I often say I know what I know about what it really means to be a cowboy, or cowgirl, from her. She taught me so much, and I owe her for that.

But my friendship, love, and respect doesn’t stop there. If it wasn’t for D’Ann, I may not have published my first western when I did. I was coming off a bad spot in my fledgling career. I had to fire an agent who wasn’t really doing anything for me. I was in the midst of overhauling the story that would become Gambling On A Secret, but had no real idea what I was going to do with it. D’Ann sponsored an editor friend of hers who worked for Lyrical Press (before the Kensington acquisition) on her blog where she was taking pitches. D’Ann emphatically encouraged me to pitch something. And at the last moment I did. That editor requested my manuscript and within a few months I got my contract for Gambling On A Secret.

The next time D’Ann helped my career was by asking me to be involved with the wildly successful Cowboy Up anthology sets. Through these, I became a bestselling Amazon author.

She has been a pillar of support and encouragement throughout the years I’ve known her.

She also is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are amazing and I would recommend them to everyone.

You can find her books on Amazon

D'Ann Lindun, Black Mountain Series, Contemporary Western Romance

 

 

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Categories: Cowboy Up, Gambling On a Secret, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sorry Editor–I’m Having Another Dyslexia Moment #MFRWauthor

I’m taking a little different approach on this week’s MFRW Blog Challenge prompt and talk about how my learning disability causes my most drastic editing mistakes.

Mistakes. We all make them and we all hate when people correct those slips. But as writers, we have to quickly get past this feeling. The process starts long before we get our work in front our publishing editor. It begins with our critique partners. Early in my writing career, I had a hard time not taking my critique partners’ suggestions personally when they pointed out what most people would think of as a silly mistake. Now, I actually love when either my critique partner or editor finds those dyslexic moments.

One of these moments is my occasional use of the wrong word. I’m not talking about using “there” for “their”, or “to” for “too”, I’m referring to my heavy reliance on Spell Check. We all know Spell Check can be a both a blessing and a curse. My problem is sometimes I can’t tell which it’s being.

I’ve always hated that sometimes language isn’t easy for me. I didn’t learn to even read until I was in fourth grade. This was when I was moved into special education classes for my learning disability. I’m dyslexic and I also have a similar speech disability. Sometimes the word I want to say isn’t what comes out of my mouth. I sometimes forget totally how to pronounce words or I garble up the syllables. I call it speech dyslexia, because it’s so similar to the way I see words on the page and in my head, which means, I never really learned how to spell complicated, multi-syllable words. Or, more precisely, I’ve had a harder time of it then most.  I’ve overcome so many of  learning issues extremely well, but  sometimes I just lose all my coping mechanisms and mistakes happen.

So, I don’t have just one common mistake that my editors find. I have several, but I think using the wrong word is my most common. The funniest being this example caught in my very first book. I wanted to use the word “inconvenience” but couldn’t remember how to spell it, so when I got the drop down list from Spell Check I picked “incontinence.”  I know, how could this mistake be made? Well, easy, often in these multi-syllable words, the letters jumble together and I only know what’s being said because of context.

For me reading has always been a challenge and writing sometimes an even bigger one… But just like I can’t stop the changing seasons, I can’t stop the stories forming in my head, wanting to be told to the world.

Thank the stars there are editors out there willing to catch my dyslexic moments!
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The Shows I Love to Binge On #MFRWauthor Blog Challenge

Wow!  Week three of the Marketing For Romance Author’s blog challenge and I’m still blogging!

Today’s topic  is about which TV shows I like to binge watch. I’ve started many shows, but after a few episodes, decided to move on.  Since getting Netflix last year, I’ve binged on more than one TV series. I suppose I’m making up for all those years I didn’t watch any TV at all.

So, here is a list of six shows I’ve binged on and couldn’t stop watching the past year.

Outlander—Hands down this is one of my all time favorite shows. The Starz show brings Diana Gabaldon’s marvelous time-traveling Scottish historicals to life and does the show with a great cast, amazing costuming, and fantastic settings—and let’s not forget Sam Heughan! I’ve seen both finished seasons three times now. Guess I’ll now have to binge on the books again while I wait for season 3… Dang how I hate Droughtlander!outlander-pic

The Tudors—I watched all four seasons of this HBO show over a period of a month last spring on Netflix. I’ve always loved English history. In fact, I did a research paper on good ol’ King Henry VIII, so watching this show was a lot of fun despite it not quite being historically accurate. Besides, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who plays Henry VIII) and Henry Cavill (who plays his best friend and eventual brother-in-law) are great eye candy!

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The Vampire Diaries—My daughter got me into this show. Interestingly enough, I’ve finished binging on all seven seasons months ago, but she still is only on season four or five. Doesn’t Ian Somerhalder have the most electrifyingly beautiful blue eyes? He could hypnotize me with a look any time.

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Dark Matter—The blurb for this SyFy show caught my interest and now I’m waiting for the next season to come on. It’s about the crew of a spaceship who wake up from hibernation and they can’t remember who they are or what they are doing. Then they find out that they aren’t the good-doers they thought, but are actually dangerous criminals. The show is based on a Dark Horse comic book by the same name.

 

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The Crown—My husband and I just finished this Netflix Original series and absolutely loved it. Claire Foy deserved her Golden Globe for her role as the young Queen Elizabeth II, even if I was rooting for Outlander’s Claire (aka Caitriona Balfe).

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The White Queen— Another great Starz production from a few years ago and is based on Philippa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter and is about three influential women at the end of England’s War of the Roses. I now want to read these books and can’t wait for the sequel series The White Princess, also based on a Gregory novel and about Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth—a bit of trivia: she’s King Henry VIII’s momma. Hey, I told you I love English history.

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So how about you: what shows do you love to binge on?

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Sorry, Family… I’m Working (How my family survives my writing) #MFRWauthor Blog Challenge

I often tell people I hold down two full-time jobs. I work a 40-hour-per-week day job and fit my writing career in around this. I easily put 40 hours per week “writing” (which includes all that goes with it—drafting new material, editing, promotion, networking, and a million other things). I spend at least two to four hours every evening and as many as twelve to sixteen hours on the weekends writing.  I do take days off and there are weeks where I barely write anything, but when I’m under deadline, in the middle of a promotional push for a new release, or the story is flowing then I’m not spending time with my family.

In the early days, when my kids were little they would sit in the den where our only desktop computer was and watch Disney movies. If they needed me, I’d stop working to take care of them, then I’d go back to writing when they were settled. My husband wasn’t as understanding. He’d often get mad at me for spending so much time “playing” on the computer rather than watching whatever TV show he wanted to see.

But never did my family suffer or lack my attention. I was there when the kids wanted or needed me. My husband had my attention when he really needed it—like when we had to talk something over or just for snuggle time. We ate (and still do) every supper together—at the dinner table, with no distractions. There’s never been a time we ate in front of the TV. We use this hour to talk about our days and to laugh together. I’m a neat freak, so the house has been and still is cleaned every week. The laundry is done and put away. I’ve gotten good at multi-tasking. I use this time while doing housework for plotting and planning.

Now, my kids are grown, or nearly so—my son is in his second year of college and my daughter is a very active high school junior. She and I spend a lot of time shopping and talking. We can talk about anything and everything. She’s easily my best friend (or rather will be when she’s all grown up). She likes to tell me stories that she’s come up with. My hope is someday she’ll become a writer, but for now she’s content with keeping her stories in her head. What’s funny is this is exactly what I did as a teenager… So, who knows.

My husband has since accepted my writing career. He’s gotten over my late nights and not watching TV with him. He’s gotten used to eating frozen pizza when I’m on a deadline. He’s even started cooking some himself. I think that now he believes all that “playing” on the computer has paid off. He likes my royalty checks as much as I do. In fact, not too long ago, he asked me when I’ll be publishing my next book.

Being a full-time writer with a full-time day job and a family is a tremendous joggling act. Sometimes all the balls are in the air like we want them to be, and other times they all come falling down on us… The key is to be able to pick them back up and get them all in the air again with the least amount of hardship.

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things #MFRW Blog Challenge

What are some of my favorite things? This is actually a hard question to answer—not because I don’t have any, but because there are so many to choose from.

Not counting the obvious things like my family, home, hobbies, and writing, I decided to make this a picture journal of six of “my favorite things.”

  1. Since I haven’t taken down my Christmas decorations yet, I’ll start with that. I love the Holidays and love decorating for them. One of my favorite decorations is the poinsettia. In fact, I consider it one of my favorite flowers of a long list of favorites.
  1. I love birds, especially cardinals. I love them so much that I have a bird garden and my office is decorated in a bird theme, which cardinals are a big part of.

 

  1. I know I said I wasn’t going to consider my hobbies for this list, which gardening is one of. However, I do consider my garden among my favorite things. Here, I’m sitting in the middle of my bird garden. This picture was taken about seven years ago, right after I planted it.
spring, flowers, gardening

Copyright: me

 

  1. Everything Star Wars. I first fell in love with the Galaxy Far, Far Away in the late ’90s when my husband picked up a discounted VHS boxed set of the Original Trilogy from a bargain bin. I would have been a kid in 1977, but hadn’t seen the movies until then—and it was love at first viewing. Since then, I’ve probably seen all the movies—including the Prequels and the animated Clone Wars movie—at least a two-dozen times. I’ve watched the animated TV shows, read over 200 books and comic books in the Expanded Universe, and even wrote over 40 fan fiction stories. Yeah, I’m a fan girl geek.
Copyright: Disney

Copyright: Disney

 

  1. Everything Outlander. This is a new one for me, but since I only first listened to the audio books a little over a year ago, I’ve listened to the series three times and watched the TV show three times. Yep, Droughtlander is killing me…
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Available on Amazon

 

Lastly—- My cat Penny.  Who really is a member of my family, but I couldn’t resist adding a picture of her. She’s lying on the same bench that I’m sitting on above in my bird garden. She loves tormenting the birds… Fortunately for the birds, she’s too fat and lazy to catch any of them.

Copyright: me

Copyright: me

 

What are some of your favorite things?

 

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A New Year, A New Beginning

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2016 was a tough year, and not because we lost so many Hollywood and music stars or because of who will sit in the Oval Office come January 20. It was tough personally and professionally.

I’ve been suffering from a major writing slump. I haven’t written more than a few thousand words since May and only finished two novellas and re-edited a previously published book for republishing. I’ve released five books in 2016—Heartsong in January, A Hunter’s Demon (a novella) and re-released A Hunter’s Angel in May, Sadie’s Fantasy Cowboy (part of Cowboy Time) in June, and finally Heartland in July.  Sure, this all looks like I’ve had a great year, until you consider, almost all of these books (save the two novellas) were actually produced in 2015 or before.

Personally, the last few months were rough for my family. My beloved father-in-law passed away unexpectedly in October, leaving a huge whole in all of our lives. I haven’t felt much like writing, and because of it, went days where I didn’t even turn on my computer.

On a more positive note, in April of last year I changed my diet, developed an exercise routine, and made sure I got at least seven hours of sleep every night. I lost almost 70 pounds and haven’t felt this good in years. You’re probably wondering how this is a bad thing.  Well, it’s not; it’s fantastic, but because I spent every lunch hour (time I’d previously used to write) and as much as two hours every evening exercising, besides not staying up to midnight, I didn’t leave much time for writing. I know I’m using this as an excuse, because I could have used that hour or so I used to watch TV to write, but my point is, I hadn’t cared enough about writing to eke out the time.

With the coming of 2017, I realized I needed to make some changes or I needed to quit. I’m not ready to do that. In fact the thought of quitting on my dream scares me to death. So, there was only one thing I could do. I needed to make some changes. It’s funny how things come along to help people do this, if they really want look for them. When a fantastic opportunity presented itself, I snatched it up like a life preserver in the middle of a churning ocean.

In the second half of the year, I will be releasing a novel in  Sable Hunter‘s Kindle World, HELL YEAH. I’m excited about this and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

I’m also going to write a novella that will be released either as part of a multi-author boxed set or as part of one I plan to put together with a few previously published works of my own.

I joined a blogging challenge, which will mean my neglected website and blog will actually see some activity. I also want to revive my newsletter, which has been all but abandoned. My goal is to send out one every other month.

This year will also see my continued life-style change. I’m hoping to reach my weight loss goal, which will mean losing another 70 pounds.

I’m excited about 2017 and can’t wait to jump in with both feet.

So, lift a glass to all of us having a happy, productive, and amazing 2017!

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