A Reading Challenge

Hello again!!

What a year 2016 was, and I’m SO glad it’s over. I’ve been quite absent on the blogosphere, but never fear! That was mostly due to many health issues that plagued me over the year and the corresponding depressive/anxious states that occurred alongside them.

I’m truly hoping to return to a more active presence here this year. Starting with…

A reading challenge! Created by one of my fellow bloggy/writing friends, John Guillen.

I did his reading challenge last year, as well, and I think this one will be even better! Last year I completed the challenge just by the sheer number of books I read (313), but this year, I’m planning it out a little more, so I have one book for every challenge listed.

I hope you partake! And go visit John’s blog ASAP! He always has something interesting to say about reading and writing and books. I’ve been a follower for years.

Happy 2017 everyone!

In 2016 I hosted my very own reading challenge for the first time. Of course I didn’t even complete it myself. So now I’m upping the stakes! Last year’s challenge included 20 books. This year’s includes 25. Branch out and read along with me as 2017 unfolds and I continue to diversify my habits. Take […]

via 2017 Reading Challenge Announcement! — Johnny Reads

Blogging Slump

That’s right. I admit it.

I’ve been in a blogging slump. I just haven’t felt like blogging lately, but I’m totally okay with that. I do miss my bloggy buddies as most of you are the reason d’être that I started branching out into reading and writing other things.

But I’ve been focused on writing, reading, more reading, tons more writing, and a little sleeping/working knocked in there somewhere.

On top of that, this week is my last week at my current contract before I head to Maine for the spring/summer.

I’m too stressed right now to be 100% excited because I have so much to do before then, plus I’ve been dealing with some medical issues lately–the last three months, really–but haven’t mentioned it to anybody until last week. And the docs don’t know what it is. So. Yay.

Anywho…

A quick update on my life: I’m 60-some books into my 115 book goal for the year, reading-wise, but that doesn’t include books I’ve already re-read since the beginning of the year. If I did, that number would be in the high 70s.

I did a complete 100k rewrite in six weeks and I won a couple auctions through a literary agency and am getting feedback on my query letter, first 10 pages, and first 50 pages, from three different agents. Squee!! I’m most excited about that. How often do you get that opportunity?!?!?!!

 

What’s going on in your lives, my bloggy pals? I’ll update with more pictures and try to get back on the blogging bandwagon, especially since I signed up for Camp NaNo in April to help me finish the second book in my MG fantasy series.

Hugs and happy writing/reading to all!

 

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
― Octavia E. Butler
“A normal reader reads to enjoy, a writer is in training”
― Bangambiki HabyarimanaThe Great Pearl of Wisdom

“You must write as if each word is a precious drop of blood, or a tear to be saved in a glass phial.”
― Chloe ThurlowKatie in Love

3 Quotes, 3 Days… Day Three!

For my third and final 3 Quotes, 3 Days challenge, it will take even more thinking and probing the depths of my memory to bring you a quote that I adore from my readings.

I believe I will choose a quote from the author that has most inspired me as a writer. Since I’m choosing quotes from books and since I’m a writer, it seems fitting.

But narrowing down the genius of L.M. Montgomery is a monumental undertaking.

Hmm…

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It was hard to choose, but here it is,

“In imagination she sailed over storied seas that wash the distant shining shores of “faëry lands forlorn,” where lost Atlantis and Elysium lie, with the evening star for pilot, to the land of Heart’s Desire. And she was richer in those dreams than in realities; for things seen pass away, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of the Island

I believe this encompasses my love for all things imagined, and one of the most inspirational books for me as a writer. I adore L.M. Montgomery, and if she were still alive, I’d do almost anything to meet and talk to her.

For my last day, I’m going to tag Herminia Chow over at aspiringwriter22. She posts beautiful poems, thoughtful questions, fun trivia, and generally makes me smile on a daily basis.

There you are! My three quotes in three days. If anyone else wants to participate, feel free!!! Tag yourself and be off! I love to see other peoples’ favorite quotes.

Cheerio!

3 Days, 3 Quotes… Day Two

Here I am on the second day of this challenge, and it’s even harder to pick a quote that I adore.

But I have to pick one, so it’ll be from “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which is a book I’ve recently finished and absolutely fell in love with.

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“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”
― Brian SelznickThe Invention of Hugo Cabret

LOVE IT!!! Because we’re all here for a reason.

I’ll tag Caroline G. Sibley for this challenge today! I always enjoy her posts, and she knows SO much about history, which is one of my favorite subjects.

See you tomorrow!

3 Quotes, 3 Days… Day One!

My awesomely awesome bloggy friend, Rachel, tagged me for the Three Quotes, Three Days challenge. I love being tagged for challenges because it gives me something to blog about when my brain is on empty.

Rachel is an amazing writer and always has endearing, funny, thought-provoking and soul deepening posts on her blog. So go check her out!

I’ve seen this challenge floating around, but didn’t exactly know the rules. Apparently you post a favorite quote, but in some versions it says to post a quote from a book, for three days in a row. One each day. And nominate one person each day to participate.

Easy-peasy, rice-and-cheesy, right?

GAH!

I love quotes, if you haven’t noticed, yet. I post quotes at the end of every entry to sum up what I talked about and emphasize the point. Or to provide witty repartee.

So narrowing my choices down to just THREE will be hard, but I think I know the first one. For the purposes of this challenge, I will limit my quotes to books only, just to help myself out a little bit. Maybe another time I’ll do quotes by my favorite inspirational (real) people.

And here’s my first quote!

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From “The Fellowship of the Ring” in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gandalf wisely says,

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Such a profound quote, and so simply worded. I could expound on its meaning for days, but I’ll just let you enjoy it.

My first nominee is E.H. Bates from BumblesBooks. She’s one of my very favorite bloggy buddies, editing pal, and overall great friend. Have fun!

*Since this challenge is about quotes, I will forego my normal quoting at the end of posts until this challenge is over*

One Year Down…

Since I rarely pay attention to things like this, I was pleasantly surprised when I logged in to WP today and received a message saying today is my one year WP anniversary! Wow!

I knew it was some time in February last year, but I couldn’t remember when. It makes sense now, though, because I set a goal for myself to finish my book (one of the rewrites of it, anyway) by Valentine’s Day of last year. I suppose, now that I’m in yet another rewrite, it didn’t matter much when I finished that last version, but it was a goal.

I also remember that I sent out my first query letter last year around this time, and one of the places I sent it to requested a website. Ergh… I didn’t have one at the time, so I deleted my entry until I got my site up and running.

Come to find out, that was the only agency that required a website in the application. I will not say it’s been all for naught, though, because I’ve learned so much from all of you. And even just from the process of writing posts and such.

I don’t have hundreds of followers, and I’m fine with that. That wasn’t my goal when starting this blog.

I’ve shared my opinions, learned a TON, and met some pretty awesome people. Some of whom I now consider good friends. You know who you are.

So, thank you for everything you’ve taught me in the past year. Here’s hoping for many more to come!

Happy writing!

The Great North

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Ahhhhh… Up North.

For those outside of Michigan, it may be a strange circumstance, but going “up north” is something that happens all summer long, and often into the fall.

People from downstate buy or rent cabins on lakes, in the woods, and travel there for a weekend getaway.

I’m not sure how common this is in other states, but in Michigan, nearly everyone goes “up north” for the weekend. Or know somebody who does.

Well, I am currently up north. The first location of my traveling PT job is in the northern part of the lower peninsula in Michigan. Tons of snow, lots of deadly icicles, pictured above at the cabin I’m staying at, and a veritable wonderland of outdoor activities.

Since starting this new job a couple weeks ago, I’ve written more in my gargantuan re-write than I have in the past five months. I knew that would happen. Surrounded by nature and natural beauty never ceases to inspire me.

It also helps that I don’t have internet in the cabin I’m staying in. (My choice).

Although the internet has many uses, it is mighty distracting for someone who procrastinates with her writing because she’s often overwhelmed by the enormity of it.

I apologize if I don’t answer people as quickly as I used to, or am noticeable absent from the blogosphere for days at a time. I can’t get on with my work laptop, so the only time I can use the inter webs is when I haul myself to a coffee shop or the library.

And, God bless ’em, but the libraries in small towns close at 5 or 6 o’clock most days. Well, for us working stiffs, that doesn’t do much.

How has everyone else been? Have you made any headway on your writing lately?

Something I’ve learned in the past few weeks… turn off Mr. Negative!

Writing is such a personal process, like all the other arts, and it is all too easy to have your own personal storm of negativity constantly brewing storm clouds over your head.

I know it’s hard, I struggle with this on a daily basis. But push that storm away from your atmosphere and close your eyes. Write whatever comes to mind.

Ignore the “that stinks” or “are you sure?” or “nobody will like this” comments that filter through your mind.

Open yourselves up to the immense creativity we’re all capable of. Don’t go with the common route that’s been established by so many other authors.

Search for new avenues and let your mind wander into places you wouldn’t expect.

And have fun!

Happy writing, friends!

“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“Try giving up all the thoughts that make you feel bad, or even just some of them, and see how doing that changes your life. You don’t need negative thoughts. All they have ever given you was a false self that suffers. They are all lies.”
― Gina LakeWhat about Now?: Reminders for Being in the Moment

Harry Potter World Trip

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It happened! I got to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Florida last week! Yeek!!

It was awesome, no doubt about it, and there just wasn’t enough time to see every little thing. I fully intend to go back again someday in the future.

Just look at that castle! A perfect recreation of Hogwarts from the movies, and it’s so interactive while you’re waiting in line.

If you don’t want spoilers for the theme park, stop reading here and just enjoy the pictures instead.

First, when my friend and I checked into our hotel, I was delighted to see it was designed to be completely 1960s. Look at the room!

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Neat, huh? I thought so.

And here’s my bed.

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I thought the colors and artwork and decor was fabulous. And our view wasn’t too bad, either!

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That’s a lazy river pool down there, and if you look closely across the pool, you can see another wing of the hotel and a little of what it looked like from the outside. I didn’t take a picture of it, but you could also see the top of Hogwarts from just outside the door of my hotel.

I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I’d intended because I just wanted to soak it all in.

Since my friend and I stayed at a Universal hotel (for much less than you’d expect), we got into the park an hour early. We were walking through Diagon Alley at 7:00 in the morning! Yikes! But totally worth it. Here’s the first shot of Diagon Alley in the early morning hours.

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I wasn’t expecting the dragon on top, but it was pretty cool, and you’ll see why in a minute.

We immediately raced to Gringotts because that was the newest ride. We stood in line for about an hour, only to have it announced that something was wrong with the ride. BOO!!! However, they gave us one-time-only fast-passes to use later that day, so we came back a few hours later and got to skip the line.

BEST RIDE EVER! Seriously, it was my favorite ride of the day. So interactive and a ton of fun.

Here’s some more Diagon Alley.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

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The hole in the brick wall behind The Leaky Cauldron.

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Another shot of Gringotts.

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Just another cool Diagon Alley pic. We also went to Knockturn Alley, but it was too dark (as it should be) to take pictures.

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And the awesome-sauce-ness of Gringotts:

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The dragon breathes smoke!! Sweet!

Many of the shops were similar in appearance, so I didn’t snap pics of them all.

Once we were done looking around there, we headed to Hogsmeade via the Hogwarts Express. At platform 9 3/4.

SQUEE!!!

Every single thing there is interactive, including when you wait in line and are on the train. So much to see and do, that you’re not really bored waiting for so long.

There are LOTS of animatronic robots of all sorts of HP characters, as well as visuals and interactive images of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

So, here I was! And yes, there is a way to take a pic as if you’re going through an actual wall to get to the platform. But the line was moving and I didn’t get a chance. Oh, well. Next time! 🙂

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And there she is! The Hogwarts Express!

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And the first picture of Hogsmeade Village:

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Before you ask… YES. I did get a butterbeer. And it was delicious! Beyond tasty. Yum!!

And here’s Honeydukes. I didn’t buy anything there because I was so full after lunch. But it was awesome seeing all the things in the books and movies for sale right in front of me.

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And again, here is the castle:

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This ride was fun, but man, did it make me feel queasy. And I have a super solid stomach on rides, but this made me feel a bit sick afterwards. It was a ton of fun, though. All of the rides were. I can honestly say there wasn’t one thing I saw or experienced that didn’t 100% live up to my expectations.

After a morning/early afternoon of rides and such, my friend and I shopped for a bit. I could have done some SERIOUS damage there, but I didn’t check any luggage on the airplane, so anything I bought had to fit into my carry-on.

I won’t go into everything I bought, but the thing I love the most is the wand. Of course. 🙂

Here it is:

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Sorry for the poor quality. I know it’s far away and dark. You can look it up online once you find out which one it is.

Can any of you guess whose this is? Hmm???

I’ll give you three guesses.

No. It’s not Harry’s.

No. It’s not Hermione’s.

No. It’s not Ron’s. Or Dumbledore’s. Or Voldemort’s. Or Ginny’s. Or Sirius’s.

Any other guesses???

All right. I’ll tell you.

It’s Mad-Eye’s!!!

Yep! I loved it so much, and it’s actually the heaviest wand they sell. The lovely witch who sold it to me said “Even a muggle like yourself could do magic with this thing.”

Ha! They were all so into their roles. Loved it.

Mad-Eye is one of my very favorite characters. I was bummed they didn’t sell Hagrid’s pink umbrella wand, because if they had, that’d be the one I’d have bought.

So, there you have it. A wonderful trip to HP World. It was a fabulous day and an experience I’ll never forget.

I can’t wait to go back!

Happy writing!

“I would like to be remembered as someone who did they best she could with the talent she had.” ~ J.K. Rowling

“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” ~ J.K. Rowling

“Secretly we’re all a little more absurd than we make ourselves out to be.” ~ J.K. Rowling

Top Ten Tuesday – Books To Give Away

It’s that day again!

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten list by the lovely people at The Broke and the Bookish is a topic that took me some time to think about. It was Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read X. Over at their blog, they picked historical fiction. In a similar fashion, I’m going to pick the Classics. Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read the Classics.

1. Shakespeare. Shakespeare, Shakespeare, ANYTHING Shakespeare! I know this isn’t a book per se, but he is my top pick for anything classical. I especially love his sonnets, but I know poetry isn’t for everyone. My favorite play is Macbeth, which is much darker and brooding than my normal taste allows for. I’ve never read anything by Shakespeare I didn’t like. I understand the classics aren’t for everyone, but I think we all enjoy a good spooky story. Macbeth is a great place to start.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Many modern authors have criticizes Jane’s writing, but she was a female author in the early 1800s… of course she’d write about love and gossip and scandal and family. Although Pride and Prejudice isn’t my favorite Austen book, it is the favorite of the general population. What I think appeals more to people who may not like the classics is the stupidity of the Bennet women and their antics. I’m excluding Jane and Lizzie, of course. It’s hilarious to watch these women make fools of themselves. The humor in that book, alone, makes it worth the read. 

3. The Divine Comedy/Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Instead of reading the actual work, which is quite difficult, I’d go ahead and pick up a modernized version of it so that it makes sense. When I first read it, I had to write down everything that didn’t make sense to me and look it up. Let’s just say it was a long read. But if you get, say, this version, it’ll be easier to read. Many current literary experts agree that the two most prominent writers of classical literature are Dante and Shakespeare. Dante’s work is dark and imaginative, and I always learn some tidbit about creativity and writing from it. 

4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I’m not really sure if he’s considered a classical author, but I consider him to be one. These books/stories are a lot easier for people who don’t like classical literature to swallow. They’re generally pretty short, and have a certain storytelling rhythm that’s repeated in each tale (the adventure/mystery happens, then the backstory is explained for the reason behind it). It’s fairly straightforward stuff, but fun to read and extraordinary in detail. If you know anything about Sherlock, it’s how smart he is and how much he notices every little detail. That comes through in the books in a subtle way, and it’s brilliant.

5. 1984 by George Orwell. I read this book in high school and was completely weirded out by it. I’m even more so now because of how much written in that book is now coming to fruition. Big Brother, indeed. He was spot on. It’s not a difficult read, nor is it overly long. One of my faves, for sure.

6. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This was my favorite book in high school. I couldn’t even pinpoint why. It was depressing most of the time, but such an easy and interesting read. It was originally a short story, but then later turned into a novel. For those who haven’t heard of it, the story centers around Algernon, a laboratory mouse who has experimental surgery to make him more intelligent. His changes are recorded and observed by Charlie Gordon, who is mentally disabled, and the first human subject in the experiment. What happens to Algernon eventually happens to Charlie, and it’s a testimony to the human condition and the morality/ethics of human and animal experimentation. I consider it a bit satiric, which I like in the classics.

7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a must read for everyone, whether they like the classics or not. Atticus Finch imparts some crazy good philosophy and is a moral hero for many people. It’s a quote-worthy book unlike many others.

8. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. For those of you who’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that he is one of my favorite authors and has influenced my writing the most (along with L.M. Montgomery). I wouldn’t recommend LOTR to people who haven’t read the classics because it’s much meatier and harder to get into. But The Hobbit is a fast read full of adventure, and it opens up the world of Middle Earth and all the wonder of Tolkien’s genius. 

9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. She, along with Tolkien, are the writers I admire the most. However, the story of a young orphan girl who has a tendency to rant on and on in long soliloquies is not for the faint of heart. It’s set in Canada in the late 1800s, early 1900s, and follows the hilarious antics of an orphan who gets herself into a lot of trouble because she’s so curious and full of life. She’s my favorite literary heroine, and always will be.

10. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Another gritty, morally enlightening book that puts things into perspective on how we treat people who are different than us. It’s set in Puritanical Massachusetts in the mid 1600s, so you can imagine how people acted and how they talked. But it’s not a long book, and there are a lot of good lessons to be learned. 

 

Wow. That was hard. There are so many other classic books I would love to recommend: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Secret Garden, Moby Dick, The Phantom of the Opera, Little Women, The Count of Monte Cristo… the list could go on for pages.

What do you think of my choices? Do you like the classics or would you ever consider reading them? Why or why not? I used to hate them, myself, but now I can’t get enough of them!

Happy writing!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award? Moi?

The wonderful Sara has nominated me for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award!” How exciting! I was pretty shocked to get this, mostly because I’ve been a bit absent from the blogosphere the last few weeks, but I’m honored to be nominated.

Very Inspiring Blogger

 

If you haven’t checked out Sara’s blog, you need to. And I mean NEED. It’s pretty faboo, so go on over and say hello!

The guidelines of the award are:

1.Thank and link to the amazing person who nominated you.

2.List the rules and display the award.

3.Share seven facts about yourself.

4.Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated

5.Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

These are some pretty sweet (and easy!) guidelines, but I’ve also seen other versions of this award that ask you to describe three things that have inspired you recently. So I’m adding that guideline to mine, as well, because I think it’s a great idea.

6. Describe three things that have inspired you recently.

 

The following facts shed a little more light on who I am:

1. I’ve been in choirs since I was seven years old, and sang in Carnegie Hall with my collegiate choir. Amazing!

2. I am not a caffeine junkie. Not. I hate coffee, can barely stomach tea, get heartburn from soda, and can’t stand energy drinks. I’m usually pretty zippy without them. 

3. I don’t nap. Or I rarely do. If I’m sick or have had less than 4 hours of sleep per night for a few nights in a row, then I’ll nap. Otherwise, I sleep like a rock at night. (Another reason not to drink caffeine).

4. My mom used to call me G.G. when I was younger, short for Gentle Giant (because I’m so tall), but I was ruthless playing sports. I guess that’s where all my violence and aggression ended up. It’s still like that today. I’m a gentle, sweet person until you get me playing a sport. Then I’ll try my best to wipe the floor with you. 

5. I’m what most people call an “old soul.” I do NOT understand my generation at all. (Yes, that’s a generalization, and yes, I realize not everyone is like that. Certainly not my blogging friends, but definitely the people I’m surrounded by). Growing up, I was amazed at how rude people were, and how little work they did while getting things I could only dream of. I’m very grateful to my parents (Love you, Mom and Dad!) for having instilled in me respect for others and a hard-working attitude. I got along better with my classmates’ parents than I did with my classmates. True story. Obviously, I was quite unpopular, but I’m very grateful for that. It’s a huge part of what’s made me creative and able to empathize with others.

6. I cannot wear the color red. I’m pale as a ghost 99% of the year. Even when I get “color” in the summer, it just fades back to marshmallow white. With red undertones in my skin, I can’t wear the lovely color. And it makes me sad. 😦 All you women who can wear red, wear some for me, okay? Same goes for hats. My head is too big for them. Literally. So slap on a fedora, or a beret, or a nightcap or something and tell me all about it!

7. The camp my MC attends in my MG fantasy book is HEAVILY influenced by the camp I went to as a child, as well as the camp I worked at for kids with special needs during the summers of college. If I hadn’t worked there, I’d have taken more classes and graduated early, but this was an experience that was unbeatable. The best and hardest weeks of my life each summer. 

There are my facts! Random and fun, right?

As for three things that have inspired me recently…

1. Watching a good (and young) friend of mine battle breast cancer with an attitude that can’t be beat. I’ve never seen anyone deal so well with such a hard diagnosis. She’s upbeat and determined to whip this thing. She inspires me every day.

2. The lengths to which a friend of mine is planning my stay with her in Florida in October. I don’t get to see her that much, but knowing how much effort she’s putting into the trip and my time there makes me realize how lucky I am to have her as a friend, and it makes me want to reach out to all those friends of mine I haven’t seen or talked to in a while.

3. The beauty of an afternoon thunderstorm. I love thunderstorms in the summer. It’s such a display of power and beauty. They’re always inspiring to me. 

I know there are many more interesting and thought-provoking things happening in the world that are inspirational, and the list could go on for pages, but I’ll leave you with those three.

My nominees for this cool award are:

1. Herminia Chow at aspiringwriter22. I think I comment on pretty much every one of her posts. We get along famously!

2. Kate over at Kate’s Bookshelf. She and I have a lot in common, and it’s cool to see the similarities.

3. Emily at BumblesBooks. She’s said it to me, I think I’ve said it to her: we’re kindred spirits in this bloggy universe. Emily, have we ever disagreed about something? I can’t think of one single time! 🙂

4. Sarah J. Carlson over at sjoycarlson. Another blogging buddy whose posts always hit me right where I need to hear it. 

5. Caroline Sibley at her lovely blog. She and I agree and chat about so many cool books and ideas. I’m never disappointed when I visit her blog. Love it!

 

There. I’m only nominating five bloggers. There are so many others I’d nominate, but these ladies hit the top at this time. I would have included John, but I know he’s nominated for a gazillion awards, so… you’ve escaped my clutches this time, John.

I look forward to reading their random facts and continuing to be amazed by my blogging buddies.

Happy writing!