Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

posted in: Books, British, Entertainment | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series while listening to Confessions of A Serial Novelist by Alexander McCall Smith, an obscure audio offering in the OneClickdigital App. I downloaded it because I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency some years earlier and was curious to hear what nuggets of wisdom such a successful author as McCall Smith might have to share.

The recording turned out to be a one hour lecture given in New York City in 2006 and featured more humor than substantive advice on how to succeed as a novelist. (Although, perhaps that is a good lesson in itself. Perhaps humor is the secret to success as a novelist?) The highlight of the lecture came at the end: an excerpt from the second 44 Scotland Street novel: Espresso Tales.

44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is <a href="http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/" target="_blank">Edinburgh Castle</a>, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.
44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is Edinburgh Castle, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.

The passage was about a six-year-old boy named Bertie whose mother forces him to learn Italian and play tenor saxophone. This was interesting. I immediately checked the app for the 44 Scotland Street audiobook and downloaded it. While the passage McCall Smith read focused on Bertie, the series features a much larger cast of characters, some of whom are listed here on his website.

The first book of the series focuses primarily on the residents of the building the book is named after. (While Scotland Street is a real street in Edinburgh, there is no number 44.) There is Pat, a young girl of 20 on her 2nd gap year, working as a receptionist at an art gallery. Pat’s flatmate is Bruce, a rugby shirt-wearing narcissist with a passion for hair gel who works as a surveyor (real estate appraiser in the US). Across the hall is Domenica: world-wise anthropologist, widow, advisor to Pat, and friend to Angus. Angus lives on a neighboring street: a 50-something portrait painter and companion to Cyril, a beer and coffee-drinking dog with a gold tooth.

There’s also Matthew, the somewhat dejected owner of the art gallery Pat works at, who often enjoys long coffee breaks at Big Lou’s. Before Big Lou purchased Big Lou’s, it had been a bookshop. After the purchase, Lou moved all the remaining book inventory to her residence. She reads them whenever she is not running her coffee bar, giving rise to thoughtful and occasionally spirited philosophical discussions over coffee with customers.


With all the characters and funny storylines, I am reminded of Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. The books are fun to binge on, another thing in common with Downton Abbey! I discovered the series in August, four months ago, and I am already on the fourth book of the series: The World According to Bertie.

I have plenty more to say about the books, their author, and the narrator of the audiobooks, Robert Ian Mackenzie, but I will save it for a later post. For now, I will leave you with this interview with Alexander McCall Smith that I discovered from The Guardian. In it, he discusses the 44 Scotland Street series in his usual light-hearted and modest style. Happy Friday!

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Friday Reads: Inferno

Friday Reads: Inferno

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Today’s Friday Reads post is about Inferno by Dan Brown. We are big fans of Dan Brown, we have read all his books including his first two, which are lesser known, Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Inferno is the fourth book that follows Dr. Robert Langdon, a professor of religious iconology and symbology, and was preceded by Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol.

Inferno was first published in 2013 and we bought it immediately. The paperback edition came out in May 2014 at which time Dan Brown gave an enlightening interview with CBS This Morning, which you can watch below. From it we learned that Brown’s father was a math teacher, textbook author, and was known to write codes to lead his children on a scavenger hunt on Christmas morning. Brown’s mother was a very religious woman who was also the church’s choir director. This explains so much about Dan Brown’s writing.

 
In Inferno, we are once again taken to a world that is dark and mysterious. It starts with a Prologue told from first person; we are to assume that this is the villain speaking, as is the pattern with Robert Langdon novels. Next, we meet a confused Robert Langdon, sifting through fuzzy memories and scenes that do not make sense to him. He finally realizes that he is the hospital, but has no memory of how he got there.

In usual Dan Brown style, Inferno starts with action and keeps it coming through the whole novel. We are taken on a wild journey through Florence and we also get a history lesson, another Robert Langdon novel standard. In Inferno, Robert Langdon and Dr. Sienna Brooks, his female sidekick in this book, must decipher a modified painting of Botticelli’s Map of Hell. The painting was based on the first part of Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, Inferno.

The pair collect clues along the way as to why Robert Langdon is in Florence and why he has no short-term memory. We also continue the adventure of what the modified painting and Inferno have to do with each other. In the end, Robert Langdon must solve the clues and save the world. As with the other Robert Langdon books, Inferno is very long (480 pages for the hardback edition), but with all the action and suspense it really doesn’t feel like it.


One of the reasons we chose Inferno for our Friday Reads post was that today is the American premiere of the movie version of the book. In the movie, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Dr. Robert Langdon. He is definitely the perfect actor to play him in our opinion. Tom Hanks is probably one of our Top 5 favorite actors. In fact, we just talked about another of his movies in Tuesday’s postA League of Their Own. We have seen all of the Robert Langdon movie adaptations and we hope to see this movie soon. Here is the trailer, if you haven’t seen it yet.


Happy Friday and have an awesome weekend!

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Planner Stickers & FREE PRINTABLE!

posted in: Armadillo Amore, Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

November is almost upon us, which means that it is nearly National Novel Writing Month. If you have never heard of this event, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. This equates to 1667 words a day from 12:00AM November 1st until 11:59PM November 30th.

This event was started in 1999 amongst a group of friends in San Francisco. It originally took place in July, however it was moved to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” We have never participated in this event however, we might try this year.


We have created a FREE printable sheet to help you keep track of your daily and running word counts during National Novel Writing Month in a colorful way! Click the image below for the free PDF printable: NaNoWriMo Tracker!

Free NaNoWriMo Tracker Printable

As some of you may know, as well as being indie authors of three books, we are also sticker makers. We have an Etsy sticker boutique called Armadillo Amore, where we specialize in original, handcrafted fancy planner stickers. We have designed a collection of stickers to help you keep track of and reach your NaNoWriMo goals.

NaNoWriMo Full Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Stack Icon Reminder Stickers
NaNoWriMo Half Boxes & Motivational Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Typewriter Half Boxes
Typewriter Half Boxes
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers
Open Book Icon Reminder Stickers

This weekend we are having a 25% off sale using the code: GRATEFUL! We also have cute Thanksgiving and Christmas Stickers up for sale!

Armadillo Amore Planner Sticker Shop 25 Percent Off Sale

Happy Saturday everyone!

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Friday Reads: The Good Good Pig

Friday Reads: The Good Good Pig

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

It’s FRIDAY! Woohoo! We made it through the week and that means it’s time for Friday Reads. Today’s Friday Reads choice is The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery.

As you can tell from my previous Friday Read posts, I really like books about dogs. I initially picked up this book because the pig on the cover looks very dog-like, just oozing personality.

The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery is part memoir of the author and part memoir of Christopher Hogwood, the pig she adopts as a piglet. We join Christopher’s adventure starting as the sickly runt of the litter, and follow him all through his life until the ripe old age of 14.


Ms. Montgomery lives with her husband in rural Maine in a house that is over one hundred years old and has an accompanying mini farm. After they nursed Christopher back to health, he became mischievous and would escape from his enclosure. However, he wouldn’t just escape and stay home; instead, he would take a jaunt to town and thus, everyone eventually came to know him and where he lived.

I read this book while still doing my bachelor’s degree. My school work at the time mainly focused on cattle. I took this book as a preliminary education in chicken and pig behavior. Ms. Montgomery paints life with chickens and pigs as a classic pastoral romance. Once I got to graduate school, and I met chickens and pigs for myself, I discovered that Ms. Montgomery’s chickens and Christopher Hogwood were very unique.

My experience with chickens was, in a word, AWFUL. Montgomery’s chickens just chilled in her yard and in their coop. The chickens I met chased me, scratched me, tried to jump on my back and wouldn’t let me take their eggs. Furthermore, all the pigs I have met are noisy, flighty and not very willing to go in the direction you want them to go. Christopher seems like a saint in comparison!

I definitely recommend The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery! After reading it, my respect for pigs grew tremendously and despite my unfortunate real-life experiences with pigs since then, I still harbor a secret dream to have a mini farm of my own with a saint-like pig like Mr. Hogwood.

If you are also a fan of dog books, check out our two books: Scout and Malcolm, a middle grade adventure/mystery, and Woof Trekking: How to Road Trip with Your Pets. Have a good weekend everyone!

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Friday Reads: “The Silkworm” is a Sophomore Success for Robert Galbraith

Friday Reads: “The Silkworm” is a Sophomore Success for Robert Galbraith

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, British, Entertainment, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

After reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I moved onto Robert Galbraith’s sophomore mystery, The Silkworm. It is set in the land of UK book publishing, with agents, editors, authors, and publishers as suspects. The book is a bit gruesome at times. It does feel as though Galbraith is keen to shock readers, for the mere sake of shock value at times. This may rub some readers the wrong way.

Read my review of The Cuckoo’s Calling here.

However, the ending was quite good, just like with The Cuckoo’s Calling. One maddening thing that Galbraith does is have Cormoran tell Robin, his assistant, who the villain is without telling us. That really kept the suspense going! WHO DID IT!!!??? This little move made the ending a real page turner.

The book is over 400 pages, but I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Robert Glenister, so it didn’t seem very long. The characters are interesting and everyone looks suspicious. But more importantly, we learn more about the backstory of both Cormoran and Robin, which I believe is the real reason why readers enjoy any series of books – to get to know the characters in depth and become “friends” with them.

The Silkworm Review

As I was reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, I was comparing the text to Harry Potter. Last month, I wrote a post titled, Good, Evil, and J.K. Rowling, Post-Harry Potter, in which I tried to understand how/why Rowling’s mystery series has so much more evil in it than Harry Potter.

As I was reading The Silkworm, I started wondering more about Rowling as the author of Harry Potter compared to Rowling as the author of the Cormoran Strike series. It was strange to ponder how much of J.K. Rowling’s true sentiments about the publishing world are in this book. She is one of the biggest success stories in publishing history, and even she views the publishing world as dark and sinister?

Also, a big theme of The Silkworm is gender and gender-identity. It’s very current to our times, and I suppose it’s not really a topic that she could examine in such depth in the setting of a Harry Potter book. She also discusses things like Google Maps and indie-publishing. I was like, wait, J.K. Rowling uses Google Maps?

She’s the Queen of Harry Potter; she could be doing anything – living in a castle (wait does she live in a castle?), or entering a partnership with Jeff Bezos to try and make magic real, or perhaps the most obvious choice, writing a dozen more Harry Potter books. Instead she’s writing about gruesome murders! Say what?


I needed some answers, so I turned to YouTube. In a 2014 interview with Val McDermid, Rowling talked about her lifelong passion for who-dun-its, and shared that she actually viewed Harry Potter as a sort of mystery. Indeed, p-p-p-poor st-st-st-stuttering P-P-Professor Quirrell was an unexpected suspect/villain in The Sorcerer’s Stone. The interview was interesting to listen to and in it, she mentions how she picked her pen name.

Overall, the answer that I arrived at of “Who is the real J.K. Rowling” was thus: J.K. Rowling is just herself. She is not some fairy godmother living in the clouds. She’s a real human and an interesting one, at that. I’m happy that she made the brave decision to write mysteries, because if she had not, I would have not dared to read such grisly stories. There is something about facing one’s fears that really boosts the confidence. While I had previously enjoyed mysteries on television, I was not a fan of mystery novels. Now I am and it’s all because of Galbraith.

I did notice some Harry Potter connections in this book. First, there is a reference to Emma Watson, who is depicted on the cover of Vogue magazine. Also, Cormoran’s name is revealed to mean “Cornish Giant” and that seems to be a nod to Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper. Hagrid is part giant and has a Cornish accent. Cormoran is quite big and hairy like Hagrid, but the private detective is not a softy like the wizard with the pink umbrella wand. Others have drawn a comparison to Mad-Eye Moody, in terms of Cormoran’s temperament, and I quite agree.

Have you read the Cormoran Strike series? What do you make of it?

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Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week

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This week is Banned Books Week and its celebration has always been very fascinating to us. We spent a lot of our time growing up in the library and we also had parents that loved books. Not being allowed to read a book was a strange concept to us.

Banned Books Week was started in 1982 by the American Library Association “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.” You can see a list of the top 10 books challenged in 2015 here. The celebration was also created to support the freedom to read in the US.

On the list of top 100 banned books from 2000-2009 has both contemporary books and classics on it. It is also interesting that a handful of the classic books on the list were required reading while we were in school. ?

A few of our favorite book are on the top 100 list.

Number 1 on the list: The entire Harry Potter Series

Harry Potter being number 1 on the list was surprising, apparently a lot of people are against wizards and magic. We loved these books, just like a large amount of the world. We were so devoted to the books, we had to buy two copies of every book so we could read them at the same time. We also own all the audiobooks, narrated by Jim Dale, as well as the British editions, ordered from amazon.co.uk.

Number 21 on the list: To Kill a Mockingbird

This book was required reading in our middle school and we both loved it. The storytelling ability of Harper Lee was excellent even though the subject matter was difficult. Boo Radley was our favorite character. We have the sequel, Go Set a Watchman, but haven’t read it yet.


Number 23 on the list: The Giver

Mac read this book in school and found it intriguing. However, it wasn’t until after rereading this book and the other three in the Quartet a couple years ago did the series really strike a cord. The Giver Quartet is an ambitious exploration of conformity, rebellion, and freedom, which Mac highly recommends.

Number 32 on the list: Bless Me, Ultima

This was another book that was required reading in middle school. This book could be seen as controversial since it involves some mysticism and non-Christian spiritual guidance. According to Wikipedia, this book was the most challenged book in the US in 2013.

Number 94 on the list: The entire Goosebumps series

Before Harry Potter, there was Goosebumps in our lives. We loved reading them, even if they did scare us a little. We would wait and wait until the next one came out. The cover of Stay Out of the Basement really creeped Mac out, along with Why I’m Afraid of Bees.

Are some of your favorite books on the Banned Books List?

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Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

Friday Reads: Review of Lessons from Tara

posted in: Book Reviews, Our Work, Writing | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

A couple months ago, we wrote a review of Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt. It told the story of his cross-country move from California to Maine with 25 dogs, 3 RVs, and 11 volunteers.

Lessons from Tara is a follow up to Dogtripping. There is some overlap between the two books, but plenty of new material for readers of the preceding book. Earlier this month, I gave a list of my top 5 dog books so far and now, Lessons from Tara has earned a spot on that list.

In Lessons From Tara, David Rosenfelt details how his rescue dogs and their sunny outlook on life have changed his world view. Although the title specifically names Tara, she is not the sole focus of the lessons he has learned. However if he had never met Tara, then he wouldn’t have met or rescued any of the the other dogs.


Throughout this book I laughed at some chapters and also cried during others. I think that is what makes a great dog book because the book, like dog’s themselves make you laugh and at some point during their life, they will make you cry. While reading, I shed a tear each time he talked about the loss of one of the dogs and how it never gets easier. I laughed each time he talked about the antics of all of his dogs. I definitely laughed more than cried during this book.

I also enjoyed this book because he gave some insight about his life as an author. It was nice to read that he doesn’t spend hours and hours writing his novels. That was comforting to read since that is the way the we write our books. It is always interesting to hear the processes of other authors.

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Friday Reads: Top 5 Favorite Books About Dogs (So Far)

Friday Reads: Top 5 Favorite Books About Dogs (So Far)

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Growing up, we didn’t have dogs around all the time. The first dog we ever had wasn’t until we were into our teens. But ever since we got that first dog, I have loved books with dogs as the main character. I love both fiction and nonfiction books about dogs and today I wanted to share my top 5 dog books so far. My list is in no particular order and consists of 4 nonfiction books and 1 work of fiction.

Amazing Gracie: A Dog’s Tale by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff

This was the book that got me started on loving dog stories. The book is written by the owners of Three Dog Bakery. The story centers around Gracie, an albino Great Dane who is deaf and partially blind. Love, love, love this book.

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog’s Purpose was a book that made me both laugh out loud and had me in tears. The story follows the soul of one dog who is born and reincarnated four times throughout this book as different breeds of dogs and sometimes as a male and sometimes as a female. The dog’s soul experiences both the extreme of having no love at all to having an abundance of love. The twists and turns of this book touched my heart.

It was recently announced that this book will be made into a movie, starring Josh Gad as the voice of the dog. (Gad previously provided the voice for Olaf in Frozen). Watch the trailer below at your own peril, it will make you cry! (But you’ll be glad you did.)


A Big Little Life: A memoir of a joyful dog name Trixie by Dean Koontz

I will confess, I am not a huge fan of Dean Koontz. His books are too scary for me, however I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style in this book. I love how he tells the tale of how Trixie changed his life. It’s how I felt about our first dog, Mya (the retired racing greyhound we mentioned in yesterday’s post). In fact, she was the reason I decided to major in Animal Sciences.

Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure by David Rosenfelt

We have previously discussed our love of this book, you can read our review of the book here. The chapters alternate between the tale of their cross-counrty journey from California to Maine with tales of how Rosenfelt met his wife and how they ran a dog rescue together, saving dogs that few others would adopt.

Sight Hound by Pam Houston

This book follows the life of an Irish Wolfhound and a woman. This may be where my love of the breed came from and why we made Malcolm an Irish Wolfhound in our book Scout and Malcolm. Sight Hound is another book that both made me laugh and cry. Houston is also the author of some pretty funny works of fiction including, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Contents May Have Shifted.

Do you have a favorite dog book? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I would love to read it!

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Zodiac Gift Guide: Very Virgo

Zodiac Gift Guide: Very Virgo

posted in: Gift Ideas, Home and Garden, Zodiac Signs | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

People born between August 23 and September 22 are Virgos. Virgos are a practical bunch and they are very detail oriented.

Organized Intellectuals

Kindle Oasis

Most Virgos are bookworms and the newest Kindle would be an excellent choice for the voracious reader. If your Virgo already has a Kindle, maybe a subscription to Kindle Unlimited would be a nice present.

Journal with Embossed Bee

Many Virgos love to journal; they want to document their inner lives for future reference and reflection. Maybe even write the next great American novel!

Erin Condren 18 Month Life Planner

A planner is a perfect gift for the Virgo in your life. It is both practical and detail oriented. If your Virgo already has a planner, you could check out our Etsy Sticker Boutique for an awesome selection of planner stickers.

Clean Body, Clean Mind

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

A Fitbit is the perfect gift for your active Virgo, the data collected by the Fitbit will give them data that they can then analyze and refer back to.

Mailiya Wireless Sport Bluetooth Headphones 

A great set of headphones that are sweatproof and noise cancelling would be an excellent choice for your fit Virgo.

Gourmet Food Basket

Is your Virgo a foodie? A gourmet food basket could be the perfect gift to win your way to their heart through their stomach. You could also take your food basket on a fun birthday picnic.

Ozeri Pronto Digital Food Scale

A food scale is practical for the Virgo chef who likes to be as accurate as possible while cooking the perfect meal.

Practical, Precise, Perfection

Craftsman 230-Piece Mechanics Tool Set

If your Virgo is a handyman or woman, a tool set may be a practical gift to help them get their projects done around the house.

Black+Decker MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum

A light, handheld vacuum is a great gift for the Virgo to keep their home or office clean.

PAKULA® Women’s Short Sleeve Keyhole Back Lace Shift Dress 

A classic sun dress appeals to the Virgo woman. Keep it simple because she finds gaudiness appalling.

Virgo the Veterinarian

Virgo is the ruler of animals and veterinarians, according Rex E. Bills’ The Rulership Book.

Blue Buffalo Blue Bones Mini Size Dental Chews 

If you’re still not sure what to get the Virgo in your life but you know they love their dog, then maybe the way to make them happy is by giving them a gift for their favorite doggy.

FELINE GREENIES Dental Cat Treats 

Maybe your Virgo isn’t a dog person but has a lovable feline, then some fantastic treats for their cat might be the most practical gift.

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How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

How to Discover Inspiration from the Dictionary

posted in: Indie Publishing, Our Work, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Feeling bored with the writing you have been creating? You know you have brilliant ideas and can spin a good yarn, but maybe you just need a little boost of creativity, a little zesty zing. If so, today’s post will help reinvigorate your writing.

Step 1: Get a physical copy of a dictionary.

An online dictionary does not have that all important tangible quality. Large or small. Hardback or paperback. Writing is so wispy and ethereal. A physical copy of a dictionary with help bring some earthy weight to this airy craft.

Step 2: Thumb casually through the pages.

Flip, shuffle, and peruse, getting a feel for the weighty book. Relax the mind in a semi-meditative state, not worrying about where you are in the alphabet. Just relax.

How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary. It's like using a Ouija Board.

Step 3: Pick a word.

With dictionary in hand, hold with the intention of finding a good word for your story. Follow your intuition toward a page that feels right, then the section of the page that feels right. This can be a bit like using a ouija board. You can close your eyes, look away, or look right at the page as you land on a word.

Step 4: Deliberate.

Like it? Write it down and use it immediately or save it for later. Don’t like it? Look around the page for some other word. Still don’t see a good word? Start at Step 2 and begin again. How do I know if I like it or not? You feel connected to the word, excited and inspired. If you don’t feel these things then, start the process again.

We like to find at least 5 words in a dictionary session. Here’s an example of five fun words plucked from the dictionary using this technique:

1. Relish
2. Smudge
3. Iron Lung
4. Bucolic
5. Damask

Step 5: Enjoy the process!

Writers are among the most insecure people in the world. We can get so down ourselves before our stories ever even see the light of day. Writing should be fun and this process will help with that. Every writer grows as he or she writes more and more, developing a style that may sometimes feel redundant or repetitive as we try to express the story within us. Have patience with yourself. Writing is all about playing the long game. Remember what Gore Vidal said:

Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. ... I have 10 or so, and thats a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them. - Gore Vidal

 

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How to Discover Inspiration in the Dictionary

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How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

How to Find the Time to Write ANYWHERE & End Procrastination For Good!

posted in: Indie Publishing, Writing | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

J.K. Rowling famously wrote a great deal of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the Edinburgh coffee shop: The Elephant House. (Edinburgh is pictured above, fyi.) But you don’t need to be in a coffee shop to write.

You Can Write Anywhere!

We have been writing for a few years now and have found that inspiration can strike anywhere and any time. Here are some of the places we have found the time to write, even if that means just jotting down an idea:

  • Mall Food Court
  • Produce Department of the Grocery Store
  • Panera Café
  • The Car
  • McDonald’s
  • Doctor’s Office Lobby
  • Bruegger’s Bagels
  • The Library
  • Barnes and Noble Café
  • Home (Virtually every room in the house)

 
It doesn’t matter where you are. It just matters that you are there and you have is some paper (or a napkin) and pen. What’s more, smart phones make it easier than ever to be a writer.

You can record a voice memo. Or dictate a few lines of witty dialogue into your notes app. Mac particularly likes recording/dictating on her phone because she is a bit dyslexic and a bit hyperactive. So… availability of supplies is no longer an issue. What can be an issue is… YOU!

Mind Games

Once you decide that you can write anywhere, then you still have one major excuse: Procrastination. We’ve all been there. A couple years ago, we discovered it’s a common problem and one author has a solution.

In March 2014, we attended a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books called: “Workshop: Finish That Book” featuring Sophie Littlefield and Laura Fitzgerald. Ms. Fitzgerald handed out a particularly helpful worksheet set, all about “Passion and Productivity for Writers.” We found the third page most useful (pictured below).

You can get the full PDF of the worksheet set here.

Stop Sabotaging Yourself

We have all said, “It’s too hard,” or “I don’t have time,” or “I’m waiting for inspiration.”

Ms. Fitzgerald offers the deeper meaning of these seemingly harmless statements, and then most importantly, she offers alternative self-talk to help end procrastination for good. We highlighted these and offered a final takeaway, courtesy of Fifth Harmony, “Baby, I’m Worth it!”.

If you don’t take your writing seriously, you cannot expect other people to.

People say this all the time, and there’s a reason: IT’S TRUE! Now start writing anywhere and everywhere with a newfound confidence!

“Seize the day. Carpe diem. Make your lives extraordinary!” -John Keating, Dead Poets Society (RIP Robin Williams).

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Zodiac Gift Guide: Leo the Lion

Zodiac Gift Guide: Leo the Lion

posted in: Gift Ideas, Home and Garden, Our Work, Zodiac Signs | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Leo reigns from July 22 – August 22. This fixed fire sign is ruled by the Sun, and like the Sun, Leos shine strong and bright. The colors associated with Leo are warm: red, orange, and gold, so when choosing a gift, consider these colors first. All things gilded and extravagant are especially favored by Leos.

Leo Constellation

Leos tend to be confident and never shy from the spotlight, consequently their fashion choices are often bold. They don’t mind people staring at them, in fact, they love being the life of the party. Similarly, they never back down from a fight, as they are the most brave and courageous of all the zodiac signs.


Leo Constellation Astrology Gold Foil Art Print

Famous Leos include: Jennifer Lopez, Viola Davis, Mick Jagger, Donnie Wahlberg, and Amelia Earhart. Scroll down to view the 10 carefully chosen gifts for Leos below!

Jewelry for Leos: Gold is Best

 


Alex and Ani II Expandable Wire Bangle Bracelet, 7.25″

Jane Stone Best Selling Newest Fashion Necklace Vintage Openwork Bib Statement Jewelry

Books For Leos: Fellow Leo Authors


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two


My Life & Work – An Autobiography of Henry Ford


Clothes For Leos: Bold Choices For the Win


Lilly Pulitzer Women’s Marlowe Boat-Neck Shift Dress

The Mountain Undercover Kittens T-Shirt

Home Decor for Leos: Gusto for Glitz


Red Tree Chair Tree Of Life Chair Set

3 Pillar Candle Holder with Crystal Dangles

For Leo Pets: Social Butterflies Love Attention


Lion Mane Dog Costume

Binmer(TM) Summer Pet Shirt

For more gift ideas, check out our post: Mother’s Day Gift Ideas by Zodiac Sign:

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Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 2)

Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 2)

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Welcome back for Part 2 of Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help! Today, I will be discussing: Quiet by Susan Cain and Presence by Amy Cuddy.

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In Part 1, I discussed leveraging your local library for free books and audiobooks, as well as the possibility of achieving a calm mind through a calm body, as discussed in A Calm Brain by Dr. Gayatri Devi.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I recently discovered that I have spent a great deal of my life pretending to be an extrovert. This book opened my eyes to the fact that not only is to okay to be an introvert, but it is actually a bit of a superpower!

(Have you noticed that sometimes it is spelled “extrovert” and other times “extravert”? Read more about why on the Scientific American.)

I don’t need to be ashamed or fearful of being quiet anymore. It is who I am, and it is because I am an introvert that I am able to work independently, spend many hours working alone, and have the ability to leverage my own imagination, rather than depending on input from others.

This book really struck home for me. I give the book 5/5 stars. *A must read for introverts!*

Just last week, Susan Cain released Quiet Power, which applies principles from Quiet for kids and teens. I wish that I had found this book when I was a kid!

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

Below is Susan Cain’s TED Talk, which is definitely worth watching. My favorite line was “R-O-W-D-I-E; that’s the way we spell rowdy! Rowdy! Rowdy! Let’s get rowdy!” There have been so many times in my life when I had to put on my “Scooby Suit” (As labeled by Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies, on Charlie Rose. See the interview here.) in order to participate with everyone else, rather than just withdrawing into myself.

Thanks to reading Quiet, I feel much more comfortable in my own skin. 

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

A few weeks after reading Quiet, I came across this book. I will be honest: it was hard to read at first. I had seen an interview with Amy Cuddy on CBS This Morning a few months earlier and was excited to read the book. However, after 50 pages, I thought about quitting, mostly because the content did not meet my highly built-up expectations.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

The title of the book is Presence NOT Power Poses. (That’s what I thought the book was going to be about.) I continued reading despite my irritation and found that the book really picked up around page 100.

It stinks when you have preconceived notions about a book which then prevent you from fulling living in the moment, listening to each word. That’s what happened to me at the beginning of this book- I was NOT being Present. LOL!

I eventually got to the power pose section of the book, and it was all that I hoped it would be. I was excited to start practicing. At the beginning it was hard to pose for so long without feeling silly but I felt undeniably and inexplicable strong effects on my confidence level. Presence is similar to A Calm Brain in that they both investigate how the body can affect the mind. 

This book is about so much more than Power Poses. It is a holistic view on how to live in the now and get past your anxiety. I have started listening to it a second time and am enjoying it much more than the first. I give Presence 4.5/5 stars.

Below is Amy Cuddy’s now famous TED Talk! *But remember the book is about more than the talk.*

The next book I want to read in this genre is called Grit by Angela Duckworth. She has also given a TED Talk, which you can view here. I am excited to read it and have already placed a hold on it at my library.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

I hope you enjoyed these book reviews and that you are living comfortably in your skin!

Also, remember to go to the library! It is a fun place. 🙂


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Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 1)

Books on the Brain: Scientific Self-Help (Part 1)

posted in: Entertainment, Writing | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Every year, it seems there are more books merging science and self-help. I think this cross-over is fabulous because it allows non-scientists who have no desire to read scientific journal articles to access the powerful discoveries that scientists are uncovering every day.

Today and tomorrow, I will be reviewing three scientific self-help books. I listened to the audiobook of all three over the past few months, which I checked out from my local library.

Go to your local library! I didn’t rediscover the library until last year. I feel like everyone goes to the library when they are little, but then as they get older the library only seems like a place to study. Since I am done with school, the library is a place to find new, cool ideas. I love checking out audiobooks because the Pima County Public Library in Tucson offers two apps for listening to audiobooks: Overdrive and OneClickDigital. That way, you don’t have to fuss with the CD’s.

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A Calm Brain: How to Relax into a Stress-Free, High-Powered Life

The first book I listened to was A Calm Brain by Gayatri Devi, M.D. I was reading this book back in January, along with another excellent book: Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt.


Dr. Devi reads the book herself and has a very soothing voice. In A Calm Brain, she leads us on a quest to discover the secrets of a calmer brain, through work with patients in her practice in New York, her own life experience (both her grandfather and her dog play starring roles), and scientific research.

She gets into the detailed anatomy and physiology of a calm brain, which was interesting to me but may or may not be to you. The premise of her book is that you can induce calm through the vagus nerve. (Learn the basics of the vagus nerve at Mental Floss: 9 Nervy Facts About the Vagus Nerve.) The book made me want to get an inversion table, like the one below; using the table for about 15 minutes a day can help calm the mind by calming the body. I give the book 4/5 stars.

IRONMAN Gravity 4000 Highest Weight Capacity Inversion Table

While, Dr. Devi has not given a TED Talk, she has wrtten an excellent article about memory in response to a TED Talk by Deb Roy that you can read in the Huffington Post.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: Books on the Brain (Part 2). It will feature books by Susan Cain and Amy Cuddy.


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