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Snow Globe

In the world outside a double hung window, today is a bright and beautiful day!

What, you think not? Outside, there is a snow globe with the authenticity of a vintage card.

In the distance, a wind-blown plume rises from a snowblower hidden among piles of snow that climb higher and higher.

Momentarily, my heart plummets. Today it would be easy to hide inside my comfort zone, writing, baking, wishing to keep appointments but allowing the ever-growing snowbanks to hold me captive, and wondering how to out maneuver the polar vortex with its ever increasing onslaught of fluffy whites.

Cabin fever is taking shape.

A second Code Red Alert in two days demands that residents stay off the hazardous roads and prepare for sub-freezing temps. I consider my readiness to wield the snow shovel, especially considering a recent bout of tennis elbow. Why am I reluctant to go out into the snow globe? Judging by photos snapped from an open door, there are already sixteen inches on the ground and they are heavy with moisture. But wait. Another eight inches is coming! Shovel I must.

Little do I know that a spiritual revolution is also beginning to take shape. Breaking out of the cabin and roaring down an open drive is more than a dream. Motor freedom is critical to our survival in this modern age. So are sidewalks that are open to navigation.

This time I will defeat Mother Nature. I will keep the sidewalks open. How? By employing the best-kept secret I have to defeat overwhelming situations… a ‘can do’ attitude.

I don four pairs of thermal leggings,  three-inch-thick mittens with metallic ski liners, and check to see if my warming solution – brandy – still lives in an abandoned dishwasher, a cache maintained year to year only as a protective mechanism to guarantee that I carry out the hideously lonely job of snow removal. Retrieving a media device loaded with music from a table beside the door, I look back with reluctance at the warm, comfortable living room as if for the last time.

I am a woman on a mission. I can do this. Never mind that the music stops playing every time the headphones move. Restoring a music connection is a powerful thing that is easily done in a small moment. Disregard that the dishwasher containing the brandy is only abandoned because it needs fixing; the drain overflows on a consistent basis and floods the kitchen floor because the sink drain doesn’t work all the time. Then again, I have to disregard the image of a comfy, energy robbing recliner inviting me to snuggle beside the fireplace.

Comparing the snow emergency to other life crises that need attention elevates the driveway to top priority. I could go on endlessly listing potential barriers. Yet, having bolstered my ‘can do’ attitude with warm clothes and lively music to brighten my soul, I begin to shovel.

My commitment lasts for five minutes, until… voila, a hot new neighbor comes out to help. Two fellas snowplowing the drive next door see my plight and launch enthusiastically into the shovel brigade. Afterward they receive my warmest blessing, but none one of them will accept compensation beyond a simple thank you for their help and companionship.

Shoveling went well. Back inside in less than ten minutes, I forgot all about the promised comfort of sipping brandy. The dishwasher remains shut for another year.

I stare through a window at the now open driveway, closing the blinds halfway to filter out a bright glare. Slowly a realization breaks through.

From time to time, I need to step outside my circle of comfort.  I need to let go of my staunch independence, reach out, and let others help. Helping me meets their needs too.

There are times when all I have to do is approach a challenge with a light-hearted smile, ready to plunge in, do my part, and hope the rest falls into place. Sometimes this works, other times it does not. When’s it’s all over, though, I will want to have done my best to effect a positive outcome.

The point? Gloom and doom cannot get us down if we remember to look for a bright spot on the flip side of every challenge. Pitfalls often conceal payoffs. Everyday miracles abound in the pitfall zone. It is easy to overlook those blessings and other small, yet significant, life offerings that we find after climbing from life’s inevitable potholes. Counting blessings is another way of expressing gratitude, which, in turn, gives rise to strength and resiliency and a savvy knowing that even a kind and gentle spirit can handle bad along with the good.

Surrender to your life dreams that wait in the spectacular world outside the double hung window.

… Carolyn Tody

Quote of the Day ~ “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.” … Anne Frank

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Farewell Carol Wills ~ a Very Special Lady

Today we are saying goodbye to Carol Wills by celebrating her life. She was a well-loved British charter member and contributing author to the Peacock Writers. At the beginning of February 2014, she crossed into the realm of angels.

safe_imageCarol was an all around site administrator in the group, helping anywhere and everywhere to carry out the Peacock mission. Our angel was one of the original “four Yanks and a Brit,” published along with other initial Peacock Writers Janice Abel, Gwenna D’Young, Paula Shene, and myself, Carolyn Tody, in the first volume entitled “A Whimsical Holiday for Children.” Less than two and half years later, five Peacock Writer editions exist, a sixth is entering publication, and additional authors are donating their time to the series.

Although all members write other stories, books, articles, and blogs, we prioritize our time twice a year to compose children’s stories and poetry to donate to the twice-annual series. Symbolized by a peacock to portray the jewel-like facets of each author’s diverse creativity, these books help raise funds for children’s charity.

My friendship with Carol blossomed during the frenzied learning curve associated with publishing the first edition in 2011. We had met a year earlier on BookRix, an online authoring site that offers contests and other writing resources. Since then our relationship grew despite the great intervening pond, as we simultaneously reviewed our writings on internet forums that transcend distance. Then she grew quiet during her attempt to defeat the ultimate monster and thief of togetherness.

Carol loved to read – anything. She was married, with a grownup family, and lived with her husband in Chesham amid the beautiful Chilton Hills.

I will miss Carol’s kindness and pleasant sense of humor. Although I didn’t know her for very long, she is a great example of how some people come into one’s life for a brief period, establish a masterful imprint and then move on to a new realm where their special touch is needed.

This lovely lady is best known for her children’s books featuring adventures of Titus, a character who is actually a small bird. Sadly, there will be no longer be new Titus tales.

She also wrote short stories and flash fiction. You can find her writing at: “Women’s Words,” a blog she dedicated to the ladies: http://www.womens-words.com/, at http://purple-hat.blogspot.com/, http://www.shelfari.com/carol_wills, http://indieauthornetwork.weebly.com/, http://www.goodreads.com/, and at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Wills/e/B005PKRO22/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1391764175&sr=1-2-ent

Farewell is not forever…

“See what a little wishin’ can do?” I am so grateful for help given me tonight that I am mimicking words spoken by Jiminy Cricket at the conclusion of the nightly Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

These words sum up not only what’s happened over the course of the past few days, they show the incredible power of dreams combined with action. For some reason, wishes have been coming true more frequently for me these past few years.

At 7:30 pm last night I finally gathered enough energy to heft a shovel and clear a snow-clogged drive. I had waited until dark so no one would see me struggling with 5′ drifts, but there they were – two men attacking the drive next door with a truck blade and a snow blower. One of them saw me shoveling and raced over with his snow blower to clear my drive and a length of sidewalk. As I walked to their truck while they stowed their blower afterward, they said I owed them nothing and drove off! This is such a proud example of humanity in action. People helping people. Dreams in motion.

Earlier this week, I returned home exhausted from keeping up with younger members of a local ski club on a fast paced trip to the southern Caribbean. I had an injured foot I hadn’t told anyone about. We hired a driver, took volcanic mud baths, crashed through fifteen foot ocean swells over and over on a speed boat, shopped till we dropped (I bought a badly needed hat), snorkeled off a catamaran, danced a bit, took advantage of opportunities. Relaxing for even a moment meant being left out. In some cases that meant all day. It was continuous, hyper, extension. On return I wanted only to melt into the woodwork for a few days. Life rarely works that way for long, however. Trying to rest while keeping obligations met is a continual challenge.

Exhausted, and with no fresh food in the house, I warmed up canned soup with wilting Brussel sprouts and ate shriveled apples for a couple of days.

After a couple days of this, I stopped to meditate for a minute. I asked, believed, and gave thanks for whatever would solve my situation without going out of the house for groceries when it was time for recouping energy healthfully. I mean, in lieu of a stimulant like coffee or cola. Instantly I had an idea. Throwing together some frozen smoked turkey left from a Christmas celebration, frozen peas, diced tomatoes, Tuscan spices, olive oil, the ever-present Kalamata olives, and Mozzarella sprinkles from a forgotten bag in the back of the freezer, the resulting dish was pretty and very delicious. It made a nice meal instead of snacking all day.

Even though I am still recovering from a dream trip, starvation is no longer an issue. At least eight to ten meals can be made from only a few frozen bits of meat and canned elements. The freezer is a little cleaner now. There is room for fresh groceries.

Better yet, the snowy drive is passable once more! The intrepid human spirit triumphs again. Moreover, two snowy ‘angels’ touched the earth when they were most needed and promptly disappeared.

Yes, it is possible to see what a little wishin’ can do. Thanks, Jiminy.

by Carolyn J. Tody


The author keeping cool at Pennsic

Step back in time as fifteen thousand participants from around the world shake off modern customs and begin to filter into a mile-long encampment in western Pennsylvania. Ahead of each traveler a portal opens. Inside this magical time capsule is a ticket entitling these explorers to roll back history into the Middle Ages.

Whether this camp is your overnight destination or the first step on a longer journey – to the chivalrous heraldry of friendly battle reenactments or opening a doorway to period arts, sciences, and royalty – you will have plenty of company.

 

One hot day in early July 2012, Lady Genoveva von Lübeck sighs with satisfaction looking back toward her encampment. It is an enchanted place. Her enormous, hand wrought rainfly provides her with a private outdoor living space that spans two round canvas pavilions and several pieces of portable wooden furniture she created over the past year. Despite her many accomplishments in a short time, she plans additional improvements for 2013. .

Genoveva turns and walks through the turreted castle arch that serves as an entry to the Barony of Cynnabar. As she walks through the rising historical village she stares in amazement. Although this is only her second year of heraldic camping, it is the forty-first anniversary of Pennsic War historical reenactment. More experienced reenactors have as many as forty years of attendance.

For thousands every year, this camp becomes a retreat, a secret world away from the pace of modern life to a far distant time and place. Each day brings new participants from around the globe, their clothing and campsites largely reflecting the period of medieval life occurring worldwide between 600 and 1600 A.D.

If you had visited this site yesterday, you would have seen sparsely tufted, bare earth as far as your eye could see. Over here you might have spotted a permanent camp store and an office; over there you noticed an open barn.

Today, however, a medieval community is rising from the ground to form a global village. You are witnessing the daily growth of a paradoxical new world, juxtaposing homespun wearing apparel and makeshift armor against the occasional hidden cell phone linking its owner to the twenty first century technological age.

Genoveva in her new gown

Genoveva is only in her second year and the environment still seems a bit surreal, so shes wanders through, looking at the campground section by section. Marketplaces and eateries spring into existence. Long-established kingdoms breathe life into their compounds. Castle gates and reviewing stands are constructed by hand from components transported from great distances.

Soon an even more complex marketplace arises. Vendors erect awnings to display historical arrays of pottery, clothing and other themed accessories from every corner of the globe.

Pennsic University and its related colleges stake their massive tents near the heart of the marketplace. An entire book is published to list the vast variety of  classes offered over each two week event.

Emergency services brings in ambulances and creates a sprinkler system to cool the overheated, installing a large sign at the site to list daily temperatures, heat indices, and health warnings. Gatekeepers set up booths to validate traffic in and out of the campground. Handicapper services issues ECV passes and limited vicinity parking as an alternative to the massive, yet distant hillside.

Administrators take their places. Volunteers at “Troll,” the registration pavilion, enter data on specially outfitted iPads and distribute two huge, printed directories to each newcomer. A medieval world continues to emerge.

For Genoveva, this modern ‘old world’ bears some similarity to the Disney resorts to which she is accustomed as she builds her business. The olde world becomes tangible, complex and otherworldly, yet vastly different than Disney, and historical in every sense. It is awesome.

Author watching Pennsic battle

And so it is into this magical environment that I enter as Genoveva’s invited guest. The evening is already dark even though it is still quite early, and I have driven far to find this campground outside of Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. As I motor along the entry road, an unexpectedly new and surrealistic lifestyle emerges. I realize that I will learn more here than the eagerly anticipated Pennsic University classes on fiber arts, earthen kilns, silk painting, and the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy. My class list expands. So, I am about to discover, do my camping survival skills.

Although the vast Pennsic historical village seemed new to me at first, my vast background helped me relate, as it always does. A few years before, I had lived on property at another global village, known fondly as the Disney World complex. At the time, this entertainment giant offered widespread historical elements. With an educational leave from my professional career in my pocket and a ‘for sale’ sign in front of the house, I accepted an invitation from Disney University to intern in theme park management. Even though I was a decade or two older than some of the participants, I chose the immersion experience to live with roommates from Norway, United Kingdom, France, and Washington State rather than live offsite. In part, this meant sharing a room with a night owl and navigating my own daily commute to classes, on stage presences, and professional casting, sometimes riding a shuttle bus along with characters half in and out of costume. So, after being dropped by a shuttle at the airlock entrance to the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom, I navigated my way on foot, dodging pargo forklift trucks until I reached Costuming, where I donned my new street length outfit and wove in and out of pargos again until I located the particular stairway ascending into my ‘onstage’ role.

Disney University designed the classes, even though I reported directly to MSU. Besides studying business and joining Disney Management trainees in special DM development opportunities, I toured developing attractions in steel toe shoes and a hard hat, attended “evenings with” the directors of Imagineering, Animation, Audioanimatronics and others. At one point, my own interdisciplinary team designed a new restaurant for Space Mountain and presented it in costume to the theme park Vice Presidents. Other opportunities came through VoluntEars, Give Kids the World, ToastMousters and assisting in the development of the Spectromagic parade.

During each of my dinner breaks in the Magic Kingdom Tunnel’s own Cinderella Cafeteria, entrenched employees would seek my attention as a role model for change and ask how to live their own dreams. I hadn’t realized this would happen, but happily encouraged and coached them in the necessary action steps until they moved with great momentum into their dream careers.  I, on the other hand, barely rested during long months of enjoying my survival in this 24/7 world that never slept.

During that experience, Olde World Antiques in Liberty Square commanded a large part of my Disney presence. Sharing the Silversmith building and located directly across the moat from Cinderella Castle, the antique shop broadened my horizons with visitors from around the world. From here, I often joined in spectacular media events after regular park hours and watched presidents and media moguls venture next door to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern. European antiques filled this shop. Silver items hallmarked during the Middle Ages featured maker marks that the buyer taught me to read. Vintage jewelry filled display cabinets. Capistrano porcelain chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Artists demonstrated their unique specialties. I mixed many different perfumes from essential oils using an ancient book of recipes, bottling them in replica containers bearing the stamp of antiquity.

Least of all, I liked the silence of the Annex. More than once, as I stood here in costume behind the Annex podium, guests jumped in shock after mistaking me for one of the antique dolls lining the shelves behind my stand. But I did not have to worry; decorated masks, dolls, and vintage bears kept me under their constant vigil as I began to write on 2″ x 3″ break slips ~ at first, poetry about moonbeams dancing along the bridge to Cinderella Castle; then, about my frustration at being confined behind lacy curtains and not outside playing in the sun with guests; and finally, a story about the adventures of antique dolls escaping into the tunnels at night which thus began my current series.

My favorite visitor in the otherwise boring Annex setting was a Brazilian doctor, who closed his clinic for the first time to attend his daughter’s wedding; our fascinating conversation lasted over an hour. Another visitor was a British woman who invited me to visit her estate in England, because “we women must stick together.” During my daily commute through this vast, complex property, my internship experience became a less and less surreal immersion into a new world.

Now, here I was at Pennsic, entering a new “Olde” world. As I soon discovered, the international Pennsic War event annually draws participants from across the globe. Hosted by SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism is an international ‘living history’ group aiming to study and recreate medieval culture prior to the 17th century, primarily European. SCA provides participants with a way to learn beyond the textbook. The organization reenacts the richly detailed past from its current world headquarters at Coopers Lake in Butler County, Pennsylvania, a state richly steeped in history. “Pennsic” is a combination of ‘Pennsylvania’ and ‘Punic War.’

Since modern times spring from the past, knowing from whence we came can be of great help when attempting to understand the present and plan for the future. Pennsic kingdoms attempt to replicate the medieval period without a measure of the treachery, disease and otherwise harmful elements occurring during the Middle Ages. In this way, Pennsic reflects strong values in art and science, chivalry, heraldry, and valor found in various Period societies.

Chivalrous action unfolds in the heart of the Kingdom of Aethelmarc, which is one of nineteen SCA kingdoms throughout the world. My home state of Michigan is in the Middle Kingdom, and stretches from Kentucky to a portion of Ontario, Canada. Other Kingdoms include Atlantia, Meridies, Gleann Abhann, Ealdormere, Ansteorra, Calontir, Drachemwald, An Tir, West, Caid, Lochac, Artemisia, East, AEthelmearc, Trimaris, Northshield, Outlands, and Atenveldt.

During the Pennsic gathering, participants dressed in period apparel gather to socialize and shop, as well as craft, learn new arts, and indulge in the sport of honorable combat. No real conflict exists between the kingdoms. For the sake of calling it a “war,” though, the participants do pick competitive sides but only in a spirit of fun and friendship. In fact, friendly people provide the main attraction for participants whether they are returning for the first or for the twentieth time.

In most kingdoms, new kings and queens are chosen every six months after holding an arms tournament to select the winner. In turn, kings and queens recognize people for their service, arts, and marshal prowess.

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Lady Genoveva and Alexander

Titles are taken seriously. You may be a Lady or a Lord, a Baron or a Baroness, a Duke or a Knight, a King or Queen, but there are no peasants; everyone is respected as nobility. Participation is growing. Currently 9,000 to 15,000 global participants attend annually, regularly averaging between 10,000 and 11,000. Foreign guests quite often attend from such countries as Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, and Greece in Europe, Japan, Australia, and occasionally the Middle East, among others.

During the second week of encampment, four major battles occur. Contenders compete early on in the Town Battle for “last man standing.” In addition, the Bridge Battle and Champions Battle yield their “best” from each battle. Melee provides an opportunity for team combat.

High safety standards are imposed throughout. Combat is a chivalrous sport. Good armor and excellent sportsmanship make the use of single and two-handed “weapons” less dangerous than the game of football. Moreover, this remains true even during the excitement of hand-to-hand combat involving hundreds. There are many different types of siege weapons, including broadswords, maces, and nine foot long spears. Some combatants also enjoy using archery equipment or other smaller specialty equipment. Well before the battle sports begin, all weapons and armor are rigorously inspected, weaknesses are corrected to specification, and passed for use.

At the beginning of the War, teams choose their allies with an attempt to keep each side as even as possible. A battle plan is formed. Combatants in this sport are fighting for their Kingdom or household. Combatants practice, often warming up in pairs or units. Teams and units are varied. The lesser skilled Baronial Levy Units perform in large blocks, consisting of newer members or those who attend once a year. Elite units perform more complex maneuvers.

Marshals are present to ensure safety, but not necessarily to referee. Pennsic uses an honor system to determine its winners. Players are on their honor to say, “I was inflicted with a “kill action,” a hard enough blow to a certain area of the body to kill a person if this were a real battle.” The action may knock them to their knees, where they fight from that stance. They are also “killed” if they are hit in an appendage hard enough to lose an arm or leg.

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Genoveva in Tudor gown

There is a great deal at Pennsic to interest a newcomer. Clothing alone is enough to set in place a sense of the medieval world. Many outfits are highly elaborate; a great deal of talent attends this event, and many make their own apparel. If desired, there are also commercial outlets offering the components.

Numerous items are used to denote achievement. White belts, worn by Knights, are considered to be ‘black belts’ of the sport, an achievement usually accomplished only after seven to ten long years of training. Various crowns convey a bevy of different meanings. Kingdoms and Baronies award special medallions. Artistically illuminated certificates are completed by hand, then personalized in ancient calligraphy to acknowledge a new level of achievement.

Participants are motivated to attend in ways too numerous to comprehensively list. Some people enjoy the combat. Others like to be part of a group learning fascinating historical insights. Another prime draw is found in experiencing new techniques in arts, crafts, and science. Camping is also a sport many enjoy. But overall, people come to meet new friends or reunite with those they already know.

Newcomers can watch a tremendous amount of developing activity as it unfolds. On any given battle day, an elevated level of pageantry occurs when uniformed units form into lines and march onto the battlefield carrying banners. Spectators also hear the clash of weapons and shields. Most agree, however, that the most exciting time for an outsider is at the end of the event when the Friday Field battle ensues. At this time, large units collide, moving in mass to make or break the day.

In addition to happenings already mentioned, there are occasional stage performances. The Known World Players is one group that encompasses actors from all Kingdom chapters within the SCA and includes parts of the world that were known to exist during the Medieval period. Players are auditioned and cast a year before coming together to direct a play. During Pennsic XLI the performance was “Anne of a Thousand Days.”

There are also art and craft demos, primarily Blacksmith. Goods produced are not sold but smiths may entertain a barter or exchange of goods.

Lady Genoveva felt that her campsite bore improvement over her first year of attendance, when she crowded herself into a borrowed pavilion. Now she owns two. For the next few days of the event, I shared one of those pavilions with my seven-year old grandson and several dividing curtains. My space contained a closet rod, chair, and nice camping cot, which I made extra comfortable with an air mattress and a memory foam mattress folded in half. His portion of the pavilion contained a small canvas ‘Kidcot’ bed covered in a blue tent that enclosed the sleeping child. The remaining space in the pavilion was given over to an entryway with shelves and hanging organizers for storage.

Genoveva Pavillion

The morning after my arrival, I ventured out to view other campsites in our Barony. As I later came to understand, each Kingdom is a regional club within the greater SCA organization. Many of them had well-established territorial encampments around the vast campground.

Our site was located at the front of the Barony near a castle entry arch. I was surprised to discover that after assembling our pavilions, my grandson and Genoveva’s friend Gregor had dug the Barony firepit in front of our site. Actually, our campsite was in front of the firepit. Either way, I appreciated conversations shared around social centers in the encampment.

Our camp master assembled several helpful features in advance. Most prominent among them was a vast community awning and nearby hot and cold running water for a sink in the kitchen tent, water that was filtered three times for drinking. But what surprised me the most was an enclosed, open air shower tent with adjoining dressing room. Later that evening, I realized I could take a shower under the stars. The only drawback to the entire camp arrangement was a shared bank of portable bathrooms that sat just outside the entry to our Barony. Entering those on a hot summer day was akin to roasting in a sauna at my gym.

Several of the Cynnabar tents rose to a twenty foot high peak similar to “Genoveva Pavilion,” although others were square or domed. One was artistically handmade. Another was the ‘EZ up’ variety of awning with customized canvas sides.

Genoveva and Gregor had created the massive canvas rainfly supported by striped poles that spanned the front of  their pavilions and created a fine outdoor living space. The intense sun was no match for our shelter. Although it only rained on one of the days I visited, we were well protected during this horrific, battering assault. Under the rainfly, she assembled a dishwashing station and furniture she had built to fit together without the benefit of glue or nails, which included a six-foot table and four benches. Two high back chairs completed the group, one painted with her crest and the other featuring my grandson’s crest. Between them on the ground lay a large, Persian-style rug.

Her cozy interior contained a modular queen bed. Hats hung on hooks slung from the supports, as did canvas slings to hold shelves. Other features included a makeshift vanity table and desk. I was impressed to see her open a freestanding canvas closet and take out five costumes to lend me from many new ones she had sewn over the past year. There was also room for period clothing she made for Alexander and for Gregor, who was about to join us with his SCA-approved armor, ‘weapons,’ and a measure of chivalrous heraldry.

Even under this rainfly, summer temperatures mounted. Ice replacement became a daily chore using a collapsible borrowed wagon. Alexander chose to help out in this category with very little assistance, and this year he will be surprised to see that I purchased one for permanent use in the camp.

Alexander’s birthday cake of marshmallows and toothpicks

I stayed long enough for Alexander to celebrate his eighth birthday. Baking a cake in camp was challenging, so without prodding he designed a S’more cake constructed from marshmallows. On top of this we drizzled melted chocolate over graham crackers. We lost our birthday candles and instead lit toothpicks. The Baroness made a surprise visit to present him with his first scout knife which he stored in his treasure chest. Overall this was a very special celebration.

Soon, knights began to shine their armor and seek inspections for their weaponry. Some purchased new protective gear or replaced weaker armor for a safer experience. A vast array of ethnic flair appeared, including many outfits featuring chainmail. Feathered hats and shining helmets looked distinctively diverse, yet somehow provided symmetry to the field of color that flooded battlefield viewing stations.

A reenactment was underway. At home in the mundane world, however, a workweek was ending. New participants arrived to erect their campsites. Soon the Barony was so full that I could barely wind my way between tents to reach the open air shower in the evening.

My days were full. At a minimum, I joined classes and ate dinner with my family in the marketplace, shopping a little along the way. Fresh produce and other healthy foods were available for purchase among the abundance of period merchandise and crafted objects. I had plenty of opportunity to linger and talk too long with new acquaintances, but very little truly quiet time to write or practice any of a various array of my usual arts. We should all be so lucky.

At night, I occasionally watched Alexander as respectful social parties began to blossom all around the encampment honoring their Kings and Queens. Our campfire attracted an amazing number of fascinating storytellers from across our entire Barony.

When I left several days later, I took home fond memories shared with others, and incredible insights into the world that existed before my time. Spending time with family was my main motive for attending before I time traveled into the past. I found much more, however, after my daughter introduced me to Pennsic and the SCA, where I met interesting friends, other published authors, and artists who were expert in their specialties.

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Blackwork by Genoveva

My insider peek at Genoveva’s glorious creations was satisfying. Among those especially highlighted were her classes, Art and Sciences exhibition booth, and pavilion. There were also many other classes I journeyed through as well as my first battle reenactment intermingling thousands of combatants wearing finely crafted armor.

One of Genoveva’s blackwork students showing her work!

Genoveva is now a blackwork enthusiast. She is a period seamstress and maker of fine millinery. As Pennsic University opened its doors, she taught a well-received blackwork class. For the rest of that week, students sought our camp to show us finished work and earn the ultimate prize: a set of tools to fill the class project in the wooden box she bestowed upon them. A week later, she joined the many fascinating presenters who represented each historical period at the arts and sciences show, with her booth featuring a blackwork head covering and period garments. It was here at her booth that the local channel 10 television crew covering Pennsic XVI filmed an interview with Genoveva. Naturally, I filmed the crew filming her. But overall, it was fascinating to learn about arts and methods practiced during various historical periods.

I received other gifts during my stay. My daughter customized for me a large “platter” hat as protection from the sun. She fashioned this avant-garde, flat-brimmed hat from black wool, trimming it with feathers and dragonfly cutwork as a practical aspect of German period fashion in the sixteenth century. Her own red platter hat received nodding approvals whenever she wore it to marketplace. Returning from an errand one day, three artists asked her to sit while they sketched her.  I too benefited from her artistry because, as we walked along together laughing, a gentleman smiled and tipped his hat to me in the style of a bygone era.

Our peak experience arrived when Gregor joined us in Pennsylvania. He carried his armor bravely into battle, looking wonderful in a feathered platter hat. Genoveva also made him a new shirt with complex upper sleeves that were both folded and pleated.

We spent a day or two preparing for the first battle reenactment. When the time came for the first of five battles, the Barony of Cynnabar’s company of thirty joined the Middle Kingdom procession to the battlefield. Music played, drums beat, and banners flew. Our colors were red, black, and white. Over my long red dress, I wore a crested, cross-body banner (baldric) from right shoulder to left hip. I held my long skirt up to avoid tripping, using the same hand that held a parasol aloft as a sun shield. In my other hand I held a pewter goblet but my huge feathered hat dropped down, obscuring my eyes so that I had to push it higher with the water glass sloshing over as we enjoyed the thrill of partaking in pageantry.

Gregor von Holstein in armor

With taller contenders marching ahead, I could only see Gregor’s armor and huge feathered hat moving through the camp. Eventually, we ended at the field for pre-battle pictures; that was when Gregor turned around to step into the picture. Genoveva caught sight of the reenactment spirit reflected in his and others’ eyes as we waited for the battle to begin. For as long as I live, and probably longer, I will never forget the surge of beautifully armored men and women recreating history before my eyes.

The first battle of Pennsic XLI occurred on Monday, my last day at the camp. I left the next day to bring Alexander home. This year, Genoveva was Chamberlain to her Highness. Next year, the keyword is ‘more.’ She created a blog to feature articles about reconstructing sixteenth century clothing, and suggested an adjoining table with my artwork at the Arts & Sciences Display. In the future, she plans to meet and help more people who enjoy the event.

She has also begun to make more things, the first of which is a castle privacy screen. She hopes her queen will find this very helpful.

By 2013, she will make a wagon and cool garb. Her pavilion will have new finials, banners, and a mirrored vanity. Gregor will enjoy a portable chair and an armor stand. Alexander looks forward to learning more about tools and the discipline of knightly period valor for children. He enjoys a good blacksmith demo and anything involving engineering.

As for me, I’m researching the period aspects of miniature replicas, figurative clay, painting, fiber, and writing. I haven’t decided which to pursue, but am happy for a few months without the nightly temptation of delicious dinner with family at Beast & Boar. For Pennsic XLII this year, I am thinner and will join Alexander in ordering stirfry.

(Carolyn is Genoveva’s mother.  This recounting of my first experiences at an SCA event was recently published by Honor Before Victory.com)

phoneOriginally published at http://honorbeforevictory.com/pennsic-we-will-never-forget-a-recounting-by-a-first-time-visitor-carolyn-j-tody/

3x5OverToThe DarkSideWednesday Wisdom ~ DreamSculptr travel sense, Little Man with a Big Siren, and a question, so Angel doesn’t go over to the dark side in a few hours.

DreamSculpting Interactive is all about hearing from you what will make your dreams sing, and including that when sharing an upcoming guidebook I compiled for myself ~ a relatively playful process that worked well for me during the worst of my personal trials, and continues to do so.

First, though, I want to say that last night’s travel ambassador tour at the stadium clubhouse was awesome! Thank you CVB and stadium manager. I met fascinating new people and ran into friends with whom I swapped travel adventures, leading a friend to ask, “Why don’t you write about the many benefits of your adventures?” Would people actually be interested in reading this?

I told my friend, “I’m too busy adventuring.” (Well, publishing books and dancing around the art of ceramics,  watermedia, and staying alive, too). Then I remembered the safe, savvy, solo travel book I began as a spinoff from the sculpting my dreams book while driving coast to coast to ‘walk my talk,’ after finalizing a late bloomer degree that placed me firmly in the professional ranks back home.

Travel is magical. It transports me to other worlds and connects me to new people. As much as I love being caught in the lens, while traveling I am the one behind the camera. I love adventures, like those recently spent cruising from Paris to Monaco, through the Pacific islands, trolling the Caribbean, escapades on the Disney ships, and sailing on windjammers. Times spent enjoying Denali, calving glaciers, sweeping through Europe to study the arts, sleeping in a national forest outside the Grand Canyon, climbing volcanoes, residing on the Emperor’s moat in the elegant Akasaka Prince, riding the Shinkansen, homestays in “rural” Otsu, and drawing artwork for a ‘little man with a big siren’ after leaving Denver trailing a broken leafspring. Then there were times when I nearly died in the Hiawatha Nat’l forest, when the flooding Colorado River near Arches swallowed me, when I survived Death Valley without air one hot July, those insider observatory tours with my personal astrophysicist, a lockout on Olympia, and a storybook life as a kid along the Pigeon river wilderness and Rifle river while pulling porcupine needles from a dog’s muzzle, skinning rabbits, and petting a tame elk tagging at my heels. Other times, I faced a Yellowstone black bear, caught myself in a frenzied herd of  longhorn cattle, as well as earthquakes, tornadoes, and stampeding buffalo. I drove sheep, climbed mountains, learned 35mm photography far out on a Kaibob ledge jutting into the Grand Canyon without a railing, and hiked canyons with my brother. I’ve experienced amazingly spiritual animal encounters, escaped from a roaring inferno, unknowingly worked for a serial killer, endured my child being in the Rome airport during a terrible bombing, been guarded by a tiny Japanese woman with a parasol, survived the Great Sargasso Sea of Romantic Turbulence, broken through the glass ceiling, found personal discovery and generated questions, plus much more.

My travel hasn’t always been solo but lately much of it has. “Walking my talk” led to many people at Disney World and across the country freeing themselves from spellbinding circumstances to pursue their dreams.

This represents a lot of exhausting air, overland, train, and ship travel for a woman who, like all women, can be magnetic in person but must hide her charm when far from her sanctuary and yet still plan well enough to allow for spontaneous openings ~ for new people, new ideas, and insight.

Many benefits come from solo travel, whether you are truly alone or hitched to a flock of other travelers going in the same direction. I developed better radar, found moments when I forgot to guard my heart, formatted a better understanding of the world, and, of course, encountered events that required the intervention of my guardian angels. But they rose to the challenge. Now I know of new places to mention when friends ask, “what’s next?”

Preparation is key to safe, savvy solo travel. It is critical to know how to pack your bags, how to stay ‘invisible’ at times, and when to join in or merely observe. Safe transportation is a must, as well as preparing for emergencies that arise along the way ~ and that includes unexpected situations with a first time roommate as well as mechanical upsets and crises back at home base.

The truth is, I don’t know if I want to reveal poignant details of my life. I currently write stories and poetry for older children, young adults, charity, and myself. I’ve also published stories about amazing circumstances in several local editions and I’m working on a series of novels as well as in a collaborative studio.

So before I invest my time in developing what I did and why and how, I wonder if people are interested in reading these assorted tales? How has travel opened your horizon to new possibilities that help you realize your own dream?

I drew this picture while trapped at a campground outside of Denver on the flat, high plains ~ having just left behind the awesome beauty of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. There’s a key pad combination lock on that open privy door, and the drawing is entitled “Little Man with a Big Siren.” Ouch…TextrLilMan BigSiren

New Books ~

Previous Books ~

Small Towns Cover  Small Towns: A Map in Words ~

With full page spread Artwork by C.J. Tody, CTA                       

Published 9/29/2009 in print form by Writing at the Ledges and may be purchased at http://www.writingattheledges.com/. Contains my stories “Treasures Beyond Measure,” and “Eye O’ the Storm,” two romantic poems, and my artwork (right) as a map to the seven categories, or ‘sections of town’. Reviews ~Mittenlit: “…this isn’t your typical anthology…the writing is original, imaginative and revolves around themes ranging from “Corner Cafe” to “Country Roads”.  The 300 p+ book also has very good production values and the cover art is striking. I don’t think there is a typo in the book.” Ray Walsh, Lansing State Journal ~ “Treasures Beyond Measure” by multi-media artist C.J. Tody, is a nifty tale dealing with childhood memories.

Seasons of Life - Cover Front and Back    Seasons of Life ~ Published March 2011 in print by Writing at the Ledges and may be purchased at  http://www.writingattheledges.com/. Reviews: Ray Walsh for the Lansing State Journal: “Carolyn Tody’s “Music of the Wind” focuses on the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964, with very descriptive imagery of damage and destruction.”  In addition, the book includes  “Falling for Fall” and “Fireside Nights.”

Announcing the arrival of  three new books

~ This season, a variety of publishers included new stories in 2 new books with a 3rd coming ~

Product Details“Seasons Readings: A Collection of Holiday Themed Short Stories
Publisher: Lia Fairchild. Collaboratively written by contributing authors listed below.  Appeared in eBook form on Smashwords and Amazon December of 2011:  ~ http://www.amazon.com/Seasons-Readings-Collection-Holiday-ebook/dp/B006IUUIYE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1324440749&sr=1-1.   Price: FREE ~ Holiday Gift

-Home for Christmas by Lia Fairchild (Approx. 7,000 words)
-Christmas Without You by Mel Comley (Approx. 1,300 words)
-Legacy of Sandy Klausse by Valerie Maarten (Approx. 7,000 words)
-Jade Elephant Libby Fischer Hellmann (Approx. 3,500 words)
-Eleanor’s Christmas Surprise by Tania Tirraoro (Approx. 3,200 words)
-Christmas Rainbows by Melissa A. Smith (Approx. 1,300 words)
-A Basketball, A Storm Drain and a Choo-Choo Train by Sue Owen (Approx. 8,500 words)
Silver Bells by Carolyn Tody, CTA (as Cactus Rose) (Approx. 2,600 words)
-Kate and The Irishman by Mary Pat Hyland (Approx. 5,000 words)

Product Details“A Whimsical Holiday for Children: to Benefit Children’s Charities“.    The second book to appear on Amazon in eBook (and print) form in December 2011 was: http://www.amazon.com/Whimsical-Holiday-Children-Childrens-ebook/dp/B006MQ1A0K/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1324441545&sr=1-1  Paul & Paula Publishing. Price: $5.99 on Amazon or FREE in Kindle Lending Library for 90 days.

Collaboratively written by the Peacock Writers (a group of five authors for whom I coined a name, from the United States and United Kingdom, who focused their talents on raising funds to benefit children fallen prey to disabling circumstances or natural disasters. Each author contributed in the past by means of a group electronic publishing site. The new venture is designed to allow this dedicated group to donate more freely by releasing at least one annual collection.)  Charities will be chosen for the global impact upon children aged zero to fifteen.  Please support their efforts to improve this initiative.  Happy Reading!

This book contains a variety of original holiday-themed children’s literature, short stories and poetry imbued with whimsicality, a liberal sprinkling of holiday magic, and earnest desire to share the awe and wonder of Christmas with children from late toddler to early adolescence.  All proceeds from this initial publication will be sent to children’s charity.

Stories include:  Gingerbread Castle (Carolyn Tody), A Titus Adventure with Cedric and Santa (Carol Wills), Little Horse Wears Antlers (Carol Wills), The More the Merrier (Paula Shene) and Santa’s Secret (Gwenna D’Young).

Whimsical poetry includes:  Chocolate Town, Snow Fairies, and SnowBuddy (all 3 by Carolyn Tody). Surfin’ Santa and Santa Means (Gwenna D’Young)

  Eagerly anticipated:  “Voices from the Beyond,” a collection of true stories with the story “Winsome Spirit” by C.J.Tody written as CactusRose.   Italian publisher Annarita Guarnieri has joined Ink’nBeans Press since requesting the story and we are awaiting the outcome.

     New in March 2012 ~ A wonderful gift!

The Rain Cloud’s Gift,” The Peacock Writers’ Spring Renewal    Collection  is themed with rainbows, and is now on Amazon Kindle at:  (http://www.amazon.com/Peacock-Writers-Childrens-Charities-ebook/dp/B007QCST12/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1333662100&sr=1-2). Paperback (http://www.amazon.com/The-Rain-Clouds-Gift-Childrens/dp/1475110928/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1333662100&sr=1-2-catcorr)

This book will also be sold by BookRix.com, at:  http://www.bookrix.com/_title-en-gwenna-d-039-young-carol-wills-carolyn-tody-paula-shene-n-barry-carver-laszlo-kugler-chris-clarke-li

Eight authors contributed to this edition. For my gift, I wrote one story and a poem. “White Peacock” begins the tales of Brambleberry Lane along the border of the Patchwork Forest by continuing the Ginger of Witherworm Villa saga. The story introduces Grayson, a white peacock with restorative powers, and Rainbow Painter, a fairie who lives at the bottom of Ginger’s garden. By the time Ginger discovers Grayson hiding across the lane, the thief who stole his colors is long gone. His mate Tealfeather and her chicks no longer recognize him. Another peacock vies for her attention as Grayson and Ginger race against time to restore his pigment.  The journey to reunite the peafowl family results in unexpected twists and turns.  I also chose to write a poem about a Raggedy Rainbow that led a child to discover and reclaim long-lost wishes and hold them close while realizing his or her dreams. The Rain Cloud’s Gift will appear in early June 2012 at the International Book Expo America, held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC, for display with other books for view by industry publishing publicity professionals. An interview with the five original authors in edition one, A Whimsical Holiday for Children, will soon appear in the Literary Lunes online magazine.

Why did I offer the group the use of the name “Peacock Writers?”  In early December 2011 the first edition was going to press just as I was about to have major surgery for diagnostic purposes that included removing an organ. At that time I had already been through major health testing for a lump that appeared earlier in the year. Doctors treated me at two cancer centers in my city ordering tests I had never even heard of.  Two surgeries followed. Something needed to brighten the horizon and strengthen my faltering optimism.

That was when the brainstorm came forth: some of the most brilliant colors anywhere abound in the iridescent peacock feather. The newly formed children’s charity writers needed a name and a unifying theme. Why not the peacock? Throughout ancient and modern history the bird has symbolized renewal, rejuvenation, and purity of heart. The group agreed, and the Peacock Writers published their first edition.

Three days before Christmas, doctors determined that no cancer was ever found. While it was a terrifying and painful year for me, I am grateful for their loyal perseverance. Also for the removal of a ‘ticking time bomb’ in the form of what became diagnosed as benign fibroid tumors.  As for the opportunity to connect the richly colorful image of a peacock to a diverse and growing group of talented writers ~ I must say that each author has a heart as large as the royal fan displayed when the peacock spreads its feathers!

Resources for Writers ~

When it comes to writing, there are times we need a quick reference tool to help edit a new passage, design a cover, add background music, monitor social media posts, create a marketing platform, and perform other writing-related tasks.  I created a convenient list of resources shared by my many friends and fellow writers.  These are merely mentions, not promises, but you are welcome to try them.  It is also a work-in-progress with references yet to share, so feel free to check back later.  Please recommend new resources or comment on the features of those listed ~

Online Editing ~  http://editminion.com/

Epub Conversion ~  Free online epub converter ~ Convert PDF, doc and other types of documents & books to ePub format, the standard format for ebooks, supported by almost every reading device including iPad, iPhone, iPod, Sony Reader, BeBook, Nook, Kobo (for Kindle use .mobi), and Stanza:     http://www.2epub.com/

Covers, Photos, Banners ~ 

Covers ~ PhotoShop, PhotoImpact, PaintShop Pro, Publisher, Picassa. Free download:  Paint.com, Gimp (for PC)

Photos ~  Google Images, Weheartit.com, www.dreamstime.com/free-photos (Stock Photog & Royalty Free Images), http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/589290, photobucket.com, freedigitalphotos.net, Stockfresh.com ($1-20)

Banners ~   http://www.bannersketch.com/?pid=generator&pag=1&opt=2

Music & Playlisting ~ 

Mixpod.com, http://www.royaltyfreemusic.com/http://www.audiomicro.com/royalty-free-musichttp://freeplaymusic.com/http://musicbakery.com/http://www.seabreezecomputers.com/tips/freemusic.htmhttp://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/faq.html

Promotion

Book Platforms & Other Promotion on Book-related Sites ~  Twitter.com, Facebook.com, LinkedIn, AuthorsDen.com, Shelfari, Goodreads.com, Author’s den.com, Google+, BookRix.com, Amazon forums, Amazon Authors page, Amazon astore, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble/Nook, iTunes/iBooks, Kobo, Stanza, Epub, other writing-related sites and any book-related site including your website, blog, and email signature.

Funding platform ~ http://www.indiegogo.com/

Royalties paid for writing ~  http://www.wikinut.com/

Creating Book Trailers ~ MacIntosh: iMovie, PowerPoint    PC?: MovieMakersMagic

Managing Social Media

Social Media Dashboards ~ manage and measure multiple social networks, schedule messages, track mentions, analyze traffic  http://www.hootsuite.com and which others?

Create Custom Business Facebook Page ~ publish professional pages without design/graphic/coding skills ~ http://www.pagemodo.com/?r=free_footer and which others?

Writing ~ Spotlights!

Alexander, Kid Reporter ~ Takes you on a Boating School ride opening soon at Legoland, FL ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=U_U8mU6yMeM#!
PassPorter Travel Press Previews ~ Early previews of Legoland Fl opening soon, and all around helpful, exciting information! 10/11/11  http://www.passporter.com/blogs/?tag=legoland-florida
Pumpkin Season ~ I’m writing a Whimsical Escapade about NatSplat & the Pumpkin Patch Bash, and there’s nothing like watching this to set the mood ~ VIDEO: Behind the Scenes: Larger-Than-Life Halloween Pumpkins at Disneyland 10/11/11  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eRRP-J3-jI&feature=player_embedded

Give your lovely longings a powerful outcome!

Keep it simple…

♥¨´`’*°♪.
( Creatively`*•.¸_¸ . ♫♥*
`♥♪♫-´¯)  propel your dream! .¸¸.☆

What? Give your dream/goal a name: ________________________________________________

Why? List a powerful reason why you must do this: _______________________________________

With what outcome? What do you want to happen if you accomplish this pursuit? ___________________

What steps or pieces can you break the project into?_______________________________________

Where are you now on this dream’s radar? _______________________________________________

What would you need to do or change to get there? ________________________________________

Who or what can you enlist to help?  __________________________________________________

What dreams have already come true for you?  ___________________________________________

How can achieving those goals help you with this one? ______________________________________

If folks out there tell you that you can’t, simply turn around and say, “Watch me!”  Run through walls…a brick at a time. And watch where you step.  Send a trial balloon ahead to point the way.

Hello, Friends!        ‘Firelight’ was excellent in a worldwide poetry contest!

Writing poetry is a lot like dancing.  It’s a heartfelt sweeping waltz, a rollicking jig, a jazzy Charleston that makes it possible to get into deep, expressive imagery and soar rhythmically into the starry night of a storyteller.  Thank you,  from all the honorary residents of “Chocolate Town,” for stopping by.  You already know the way there – the winding path through the dark and distant snow is paved by a life well-lived, navigated by reading between the lines, and lit by following the light in your own heart.  Creatively ignite and propel your dreams!

Enjoy this illustrated book while it is still free, as have hundreds of other readers.   Meanwhile, I will be reorganizing and updating. You may download and/or ‘save to favorites’ (press the Star at end of book or below it,  if you have created a free account). It will then be yours, perhaps even after BookRix sales begin.  If not, contact me with the username you used for the save and I’ll try to gain you access.  I welcome your feedback, so please leave a short comment in the box at end of book and submit.  Thank you in advance!!!  Sending warm hugs,  C…

Firelight book cover Larger

Firelight ~ A Fireside poetry collection. Illustrated relationship musings woven into images of romance, endings, and new beginnings that soar on the powerful winds of change.  Click to read

Reviews for FireLight:

Amazing ~ So much emotion! I could read these over and over and I’m sure I will. I particularly like candles, yes they can burn down a house. Love that picture, too. Torn is amazing. And Melt Down is delightful. Such a range of emotion in these poems and so well done…blkhbask
Firelight ~ I enjoyed the imagery throughout your book! I loved the way you played with words that may [or may not] be ‘Olde’ English..and the panache that endured to the end..voted and kept as saved to my favorites!…ps
Word wonders!   I loved Snowfairies, wintry soul, Regrets, oceans, heart star:  you have a fine way with words: keep it up,…jlc
Touched my Heartstrings!  What a wonderful collection of poems and beautiful images. I loved Regrets and related as if I was standing beside the author…nutmeg
Very romantic ~ soft and beautiful collection of poems stemming from a sublime soul and a special heart. I enjoyed reading it…olfaphila
Very artistic ~ Love the way this book is presented. Although I’m not a poet I would enjoy having a copy of this to browse from time to time. Well done!…gmcas
Just Lovely!   I enjoyed your book immensely! Looking forward to reading more of your work!…llong
Firelight ~ A good ‘manual of the soul’ masquerading as a poetry book. Thank you for inviting me to read this wonderful work. Warm and satisfying, like a Winter meal.  (***** out of *****)…jmkarns
Delightful Poems ~ Very nice, poems … you’ve been busy! I really liked the “Bullies” poem. I also thought the background image you chose for your pages was very fitting…jlm
A magical tour ~ of lovely poems to warm a winter heart…rsp
Chocolate Town ~ Will you take me there to visit? Or do I already know the way?…season
Excellent. You’ve really captured the emotions of relationships, lost and otherwise. I think I’ll read this several times, I enjoyed it so much…tks
CactusRose ~ A fluffy throw, a warm drink and this book make for a happy time…quiltist
Beautiful photos and illustrations…dbs
Meltdown ~ Loved the way this title was written. The whole book was beautifully done and very enjoyable and snuggly to read…jw
Lovely ~ What a delightful work … I love the imagery…lh
Very nice ~ A lot of sensitivity and interesting connections…kc
Wow ~ This is a good poem book…mml
Good imagery and emotion in poems. A hard job done well…redcanyon

If you wish, while you are at the BookRix site, you may also join the social writing community, sign in,  and leave a short profile with or without a photo. You will then be able to ask questions, participate in forums, create ‘flip-style’ ebooks privately or to share,  join contests, and vote for your favorite books after reading contest entries.   Click to read Firelight ~ http://www.bookrix.com/_title-en-cactusrose-firelight

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