3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring

Cole SmithThis post by Cole Smith


Looking for a few quick, easy ways to shake up your routine in the new month? Are you feeling creative cabin fever after weeks of winter? Since I work in a school, my patterns are cyclical: summer is sweet freedom, fall means migrating back to classes, winter is rest and self-care, and spring is time for awakening and energizing!

As the trees form buds and the green leaves of the lilies push out of the soil, I find this time of year to be perfect for shaking off winter’s slower pace. I like to find new inspiration. Check out these three ideas to freshen up your work and super-charge your creativity for spring:


3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring


Take a one-day retreat.

Even the busiest among us can find time to take a day to dream, plan, and create. A little preparation can ensure you’ve got an entire Saturday to yourself!



Get outside into nature.

Many recent studies have proven what we all instinctively understand: time spent in nature has a restorative quality. Immerse yourself in the great out-of-doors and reap the rewards.


Host a luncheon for other cooped-up Creatives.

If you’re feeling cabin fever, your fellow Creatives feel it, too. Opt for easy and have your pals over for a laid-back snack buffet. Or just meet at a local restaurant, preferably one with lots of windows 🙂



We spend so much time indoors, it can feel like an endless stretch from New Year’s to spring. Energize your creative routine by treating yourself to one or more of these fun activities. You’ve been working hard—now take a step back, a deep breath, and look at how far you’ve come. What’s your favorite way to revitalize your work routine?


* * * * * * *


Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest


Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com. Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, will be released on March 20.







This morning I planted a croton in a large pot, sat it on the plant stand, and decided that this colorful plant would be a welcome sight at our front door. I then went to my various plants scattered around the front and back yards; pulled some weeds; dead-headed the marigolds; cut back the impatiens; and then fed them fertilizer and water.


Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” I believe it also could be said, “Don’t judge your life by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” How am I living each day? Am I interacting with love in my heart? Have I been forgiving? Do I offer a helping hand?


Recently three of us were talking about our lives and the question came up, “What would you do over differently if you could?” One friend said, “There is not one thing in my life I would change,” while two of us said there were some things we would do differently. We cannot go back and change the past; we can only live in the present. However, we can learn from the past.


There are the three C’s of life: choices, chances, changes. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. (David Emerald from The Empowerment Dynamics)


It sometimes can be difficult to change when the thought, habit, or behavior has been with us for a long time. Even though any of those may not be bringing us any sense of peace, we hold on to them because they are familiar. Jealousy or anger are poisons to our daily lives, yet some of us find it difficult to let go of them.


This is where we can learn from plants, whether flowers or trees. They slowly grow, sometimes making their way through weeds, cracks, or hostile conditions. We need to make our way step by step, day by day, minute by minute to change and become more whole, healthier, and peaceful individuals.


One important lesson I learned as a teenager was that I must plant the seeds of love, kindness, and generosity now. My favorite Bible verse then and now is: “I must work of Him while it is light, for the night cometh when no man can work.” (John 9:4)


Bad, tough, or tragic things can still happen. They are the weeds of our lives, but if we live in the Light, the flowers of goodness and love will grow. Those are the seeds we want to plant.


                                                     Grow where you are planted.IMG_1125

E3Karen Ingalls is an author of three published books, two blogs, and many articles. Her two novels are about family dynamics, father-son roles, and unconditional love. She is an advocate for health/wellness, social issues, and ovarian cancer awareness. She is a public speaker, writer of many articles, and is involved with a variety of health/wellness organizations, and serves on the Patient Leadership Council for Tesaro, Inc. a pharmaceutical company.



www.kareningalls.blogspot.com (for authors and avid readers)



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNLHvrnlqRY&feature=youtube (Davida video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqCA6IN_aU (video review of Novy’s Son)


2012-02-15 11.24.27Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir (https://www.amazon.com/Outshine-Ovarian-Cancer-Karen-Ingalls/dp/1592984622/

Ingalls_DAVIDA_Frontcover_WebDavida: Model & Mistress of Augustus Saint-Gaudens    



ImageNovy’s Son    https://www.amazon.com/Novys-Son-Selfish-Karen-Ingalls/dp/1497330394/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_pdt_img_top?ie=UTF8






Chasing the moon and Mars…

Mike Staton
This post written by Mike Staton.

A few days ago NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, gave a speech outlining a vague blueprint on NASA’s goals for the 2020s. I expected much more concrete plans based on earlier press statements that the Trump administration wants to return Astronauts to the moon’s surface.

Here’s what I think will happen in the 2020s based on Lightfoot’s words and NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget of $19.9 billion. The space agency’s lunar Deep Space Gateway continues to be its flagship program for the next decade. One difference, though. Now the power unit of the gateway platform will be launched on a private rocket, not NASA’s SLS rocket. The power unit had been planned to be a secondary payload on the second manned mission of the Orion/SLS in the early 2020s. Maybe SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy will launch it.

This is NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will launch manned missions to the moon and Mars.

For the next decade and longer that’s going to be the mantra of NASA – partnerships with space entrepreneur space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Orbital ATK, and Bigelow Aerospace. Look at what SpaceX has been doing for NASA. Using its Falcon 9 rocket, it flies Dragon cargo ships to and from the space station. Sometime this year or next year it will began flying its Dragon 2 manned spacecraft to the ISS, helping rotate astronaut crews.

Orion image
Here’s the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts to the vicinity of the moon.

For the last few months I’ve heard that the Trump administration wants astronauts to walk once again on the lunar surface. Instead of money to contract with private space companies to build a manned lunar lander, the budget has called for about $1 billion a year starting in FY 2019 to develop ‘Advanced Exploration Systems.’ Part of that money will go to robotic lunar landers, small ones starting in FY 2019 and medium ones in FY 2022. Apparently the space agency won’t start funding the development of a large crewed lander until 2023 or 2024. The $1 billion a year will also fund the development and launch of FY 2022 of a power and propulsion stage for the gateway platform on a commercial launcher. Of course, that leads to another question… if we’re going to use commercial launch vehicles like Falcon Heavy to launch components of the gateway platform, why continue with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket?

Deep Space Gateway
Here’s the proposal Deep Space Gateway, NASA’s next big project. It would be placed in lunar orbit in the 2020s.

Falcon Heavy with its 5.1 million pounds of thrust can launch 140,000 pounds in low earth orbit. On the other hand, the SLS rocket with up to 9.2 million pounds of thrust can place 150,000 to 290,000 pounds into low earth orbit. The early version of the SLS will have 8.8 million pounds of thrust and a payload capability of 150,000 pounds to low earth orbit. For Mars missions, NASA will use SLS block 2 with the ability put up to 290,000 pounds into low earth orbit. It’s a monster rocket, but two or three Falcon Heavies can do the same job.

Commercial space lander
In the next decade NASA will contract with space entrepreneur companies to first land unmanned landers on the lunar surface, then manned landers.

Talking about Mars, NASA intends to begin planning “potential Mars sample return mission incorporating commercial partnerships.” A commercial rocket like Falcon Heavy could launch this large unmanned probe to Mars, which would likely include a rover and a return rocket to bring Mars surface samples back to Earth.

Now to the International Space Station (ISS). When it was first announced that the Trump administration intended to abandon the ISS, a groundswell of anger erupted from the halls of Congress as well as most space fans. However, a new internal document from NASA reveals that the space agency doesn’t intend to get rid of the ISS once government funding ends. Instead, the administrator hopes to turn the station into something of a commercial real-estate venture. The goal? To have other countries and private space companies to pick up the sack and “operate certain elements or capabilities” of the ISS so that NASA still has a platform to conduct science experiments. The FY 2019 budget calls for spending $150 million for NASA to start a new program to help commercial companies expand their activities in low Earth orbit. An industrial park in orbit? Maybe NASA should spend the money to contract with Bigelow Aerospace to build the next generation space station or low Earth orbit – a huge station made up of Bigelow modules.

The next decade should also see a Martian sample return mission, a prelude to a manned mission in the 2030s.

So there you have it… the hazy plans for NASA in the 2020s. The plan for the lunar gateway station seems firm, but a return to the lunar surface isn’t as definite as I thought prior to Lightfoot’s speech.

# # #

I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Lessons in Writing from the Compost Heap #writersjourney #amwriting

Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
Ronel Janse van Vuuren

  Posted by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

A few months ago I shared on my blog that someone tried to burn my property down.

Anyhow, ever since then I didn’t go down to the compost heap (who wants to see the depressing scar?). But in December I realised that things couldn’t stay that way forever. If I’m not going to make a plan, then it’s probably going to turn into a stinking heap of… Well, you get the idea. Armed with work gloves, sunglasses, and sunscreen, I went out early one morning and waded through the remains of the original compost heap and everything just dumped there from the stables, aviary, garden and kitchen. Giant, scary, spiky weeds grew over everything. The weeds from the Jurassic era towered over me – mostly because they grew on a heap higher than my hips.

I felt overwhelmed. How can I, someone who spends her days behind a computer, ever be up to this task? How will I be able to start a new compost heap out of all the “fresh” ingredients, sift through the remains of the old heap to use in the garden, start another heap with the almost-ready compost and not die of a heart attack or heatstroke before the month is done?

You think I’m exaggerating? The compost heap was 10 by 30 meters in length and breadth and between 1 and 2 meters high (excluding the prehistoric plants). And the average temperature was 30 degrees Celsius – except on the rare days when it rained (when it dropped to 20 degrees Celsius with icy droplets pelting you).

Terrifying for someone who spends most of her time in a fantasy world – in the safety of her study.

The first thing I realised was that my deadline of doing this in a month was absolutely unrealistic. If I wanted to do this – without dying – I had to readjust the way I approached this project. I couldn’t spend an entire day pulling weeds – my arms would fall off from the new exercise. I couldn’t shovel dung all day – I’d never eat again. I couldn’t sift compost all day – going uphill with a full wheelbarrow is murder on the whole body (the compost had to go somewhere and I thought this the perfect time to expand the vegetable garden). Yes, yes, let’s not go into my lack of focusing on one project at a time: when in the garden, everything is up for grabs.

Which is what happens when you write, too.

You have this project – a novel – and you know you have to write it in a certain amount of time. You also have to get it beta read, rewritten, proofread and whatever else you need to do for your choice of publication method. But… You also have to blog, use social media, connect with readers and writers, build your brand, and all that other stuff.

It’s overwhelming if taken on all at once. Just like that compost heap. But when you break everything down into manageable tasks – one block at a time – then you’ll accomplish your task without being crushed by anxiety and fear of failure.

Something else to think about: it takes months for compost ingredients to break down into a usable product. Sometimes ideas need to simmer, be plotted, rewritten (turned and sifted like compost) before it can be brilliant. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go entirely according to plan – the journey is just as important as the destination.

Have you ever taken on a task that you wanted to finish in a ridiculous amount of time? (I’m still working on that compost heap…) What did you learn from the experience? Do you have a compost heap?



Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing

The Best Books You Never Read

IMGP6507By S J Brown

The world is filled with unfinished manuscripts. They are stuffed in drawers, stored in a computer file, or sitting on a desktop waiting to be completed. Many years ago I joined a writers group. I admit some members were working on works that apparently weren’t that memorable since I don’t remember all of them.

SJ BRown 2

Then there are those few that stuck with me. One I know was a very well written manuscript. The text introduced me to another way of life among the pine trees of New Jersey. The author did a fabulous job setting the scene with few words.

Every word had a purpose and as a reader I felt I had been there with the little girls as they ran through the trees giggling. I could feel the fabric of their worn homemade cotton dresses. Their fear of the booming voice of their mother brought back memories from my childhood.
The author wasn’t sure she would ever publish it, but she was enjoying working on it. Sadly, “Ode to a Pine Tree” was never published, the author passed away before completing it.

SJ Brown 1Another member of our little group was working on a murder mystery set in 1965. As a retired lawyer he wanted input on the legal aspects of the manuscript. His attention to detail was astounding. Nothing and I mean nothing was included in book unless it was around in 1965. He researched everything from food, to cars, to hairstyles, to furniture and more.

SJ Brown 3One of the main characters was Native American and his beliefs played into the story. His lawyer was a down on his luck lawyer that believed his client was innocent. Proving that would be one of the biggest challenges of his career.
Within the story the author scattered tiny details. These details would come together in a surprise ending. Since the author moved out of the area before this book was published. I may never know if it was published. I do know it isn’t available on Amazon under the working title “The Crooked Knife”.

SJ Brown 4Unless you are a member of my family I am sure you have never read “Alice.” This is a book my mother worked on for years. Her chapters were hand written on a series of yellow legal pads. Mom passed away before her book was completed.
She wanted her manuscript to be a trip down memory lane for family. Although I did take on the task of placing Moms works on a typewritten page, and getting it printed, it has never been made public. My sisters and I decided to honor Moms wishes and print a limited number of copies for each of Moms siblings and of course a copy for each of her girls.

SJ Brown 5

Like many authors I have more than one manuscript in the works. Hopefully I will be releasing one of them in the near future. Meanwhile I am putting the finishing touches on another.

Do you have a project or two that has been percolating for a while? Maybe it is time to pull those pages out of the drawer, or open the file and make sure your book isn’t one that no one will ever read.

Thanks for stopping by.
Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367
Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com
Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

Cover 3-26-23


“Smart” Alec Things

avatarby Neva Bodin

“Are you sitting down? How can you sit down when your ketchup expired two years ago? What about the sour cream? Have you seen the blue-green fuzz covering it? And that mac and cheese you put in me 30 days ago? And don’t you ever wipe my shelves clean? Are you trying to kill everyone?  And I told you we were out of milk two days ago.”

“Wait! You put too much soap in! Those clothes aren’t that dirty! Let me measure it out. I’ll save you tons! And bleach…too much, you’ll rot your clothes. Are you sure you didn’t throw in a colored sock?”

“This is the office of your pediatrician, Dr. Short calling. We received a call from your child’s onesie. He is sporting a body temperature of 100.6. Have you checked on your child lately?”

As if telemarketers aren’t interruption enough, this may be our reality soon. (Well, in a manner of speaking.) It’s not enough that we have smart phones, smarter than some of us, but there are smart refrigerators telling us what we need to replace, and when foods have passed their expiration date.

There is clothing designed to monitor heart rate and body temperature and who knows what else. The clothing may call the doctor’s office to alert when there are abnormalities. I shudder to think of my abnormalities being bandied about. I can hear the call now: “I’m stretched to the max here! Tell this patient to go on a diet!”

And considering it may take a day or two for the doctor to get back to the caller, think of the lawsuits that will result, or serious injury because of slow response on the provider’s side! (Or my side seams splitting!)

Already, VPA’s or virtual personal assistants, are “helping” us with our lives. Common sense? Not needed. Critical thinking? Not needed. Experience? Not needed. Except for experience in how to control all the electronic devices we have.

We can speak to “bodyless” voices and ask questions, give directions, request music. Faceless communication devices are everywhere.

And I wonder, do we treat the “communication devices” with bodies as if they are faceless too? How many times do we, or others, concentrate on the iPhone instead of the “u’person” with us at the restaurant? In a group waiting for a meeting to start, how many people are thumbing their cell phones instead of making eye contact and asking the person next to them how or what their day’s been like?

I watched a couple with two children ages circa six and seven at a pizza place one night. The phones never left the hands of the parents, nor did I see their eyes focus on the children. The pizza was put down between bites; the phones weren’t. I never caught verbal exchange between parents and children. Surprisingly, the children never acted out. They were silent the whole meal too.

Perhaps we need to develop a VPA that monitors our social interactions. I can hear mine now: “You talk too much! Don’t you ever listen? Grab your iPhone, sit down, and give your friends a rest!”


Why Do David Baldacci and I Write?

  Posted by M. K. Waller


Why do writers write?  Anyone who’s ever sworn at a blinking cursor has asked herself that question at some point. Or at many, many points. ~ Meredith Maran

In Why We Write, twenty authors answer that question. Below are quotations from six of their essays.


I write because in 1962 I put in my application for a job working at the children’s department at Sears, and they never called me back…. Seriously, I write because it’s all I know how to do. Writing is my anchor and my purpose. My life is informed by writing, whether the work is going well, or I’m stuck in the hell of writer’s block, which I’m happy to report only happens about once a day. ~ Sue Grafton, author of A Is for Alibi through Y Is for Yesterday

I’m really not qualified to do anything else. At this point it’s so much a part of my life that I can’t not do it. If I don’t work I go crazy. And frankly, I have a family, and I need the money. ~ James Frey, author of The Final Testament of the Holy Bible


If writing were illegal, I’d be in prison. I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion. ~David Baldacci, author of The Innocent


The only thing that makes me crazier than writing is not writing. ~ Sarah Gruen, author of Water for Elephants


I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money. ~ Mary Karr, author of Lit


I write because I swear to God I don’t know how to do anything else. ~ Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto


This week my cousin Ann found something I wrote when I was about ten years old. It announces the engagement of her cat, Tommy, to Miss Kittie Kay Kat, and marked my entry into the world of journalism a la community goings-on columns in small town newspapers.

Relative legibility is courtesy of Mrs. Bessie Fricke, a marvelous fourth-grade teacher, who gave every student in class (except Bernard and Patricia) a B in handwriting the first six weeks, and spurred me to practice my cursive every day after school so that wouldn’t happen again.

So why do I write? Considering that I did this of my own free will, just for fun, I guess, like Mr. Baldacci, et al., I can’t not write.

And please forgive me, but I can’t not share this.

Note: The date of the wedding, October twelfth, happens to be Ann’s birthday. She’s a year minus twelve days younger than I. Along with her older sister, Sally, we rode bicycles and horses, swam in the river, and renovated an old chicken house–painted the outside white and pasted newspapers on the inside walls–to use as a clubhouse. I don’t remember having many meetings there.

Tommy Barber was an orange tabby. He didn’t have a middle name, but people in engagement announcements always have them, so I gave him one.



Mr. and Mrs. Alley Kat announce the engagement of their daughter, Kitty Kay, to Mr. Tommy Len Barber.

Miss Kat was the Fish Queen of 1960 and served as Duchess in the Trout Sellers’ Festival in 1961. Kitty Kay attended Kittie Kapers Elementary School and graduated from Catwell’s Girls’ High School. She attended the Feline Women’s College where she majored in English. Then she entered Katley Acting School, where she starred in “The Rat Trap.” Kitty Kay graduated from Cat Carson’s Finishing School in May of 1963. She is now employed as a secretary at Fishington Fish Markets, Inc.

Tommy Len Barber attended Cat Carver Elementary and later Kitolene High School. He entered Carvard University and was then employed at Cape Catnaperal . He is presently employed as a detective with the Fentress Cat Patrol for the Extermination of Rats and Mice.

The wedding will be held at the First Methodist Church in Fentress at eight o’clock in the evening on October the twelfth. The reception will be held in the church parlor.



Meredith Maran, ed. Why We Write: Twenty Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. New York: Plume, 2013.


I’ve published short stories, the latest in Austin Mystery WritersLone Star Lawless, and blog at Telling the Truth, Mainly. I write as M. K. Waller and as Kathy Waller.

The First Time

All the Birds I See CoverIMGP6507

There is a first time for everything. The first time most of us rode a bike without training wheels, we fell. That very first cup of coffee tasted bitter to a lot of us. Some people remember their first time experiences from long ago, others do not.

SJBrown Weather VaneI have had some interesting firsts as a wildlife photographer. The first time I saw a male moose in the wild I didn’t get the shot, but in my defense it was 4 am and pitch black out.

The first time I saw wolf in the wild I was in Minnesota. Jay and I had just finished lunch and were heading to a nearby refuge. As he drove Jay began yelling “Wolf, Wolf”. Silly me I was wondering why he was barking. As he brought the truck to a stop I realized he was pointing at a wolf on the edge of a nearby field. No I didn’t get a shot of him before he disappeared.

You might think you are seeing a pattern here, but the first time I saw an alligator in the wild I got the shot.

SJBrown AlligatorWhen Jay and I were in South Dakota I saw Big Horn sheep for the first time and got some nice shots.

SJBrown Big HornI have had other firsts because I am in the field photographing wildlife. I still remember the first time I held a wild duck. I was banning ducks with the refuge staff in Minnesota; Yes I had a few firsts on that trip.

SJBrown MallardThe first time I went to a writers conference I had more than one first. Before going to the conference I filled out my first grant application, and I got my first grant. This was also the first time I attended a workshop on character development, and sat in on a panel discussion about publishing.

Yes I took some time to hang out with the local critters while I was there.

SJBrown GooseThe first time I exhibited my work to the public led to my first published manuscript. Keeping your life filled with firsts keeps it interesting, and fun. Now it is time for you to go out and experience a few firsts of your own.

Thanks for stopping by.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

Cover 3-26-23




That’s a whole lot of reviews

Mike Staton
The post was written by Mike Staton.

Sometimes a number can stun a guy.

For example, 1,009.

That’s how many review of fellow writers’ chapters I’ve done since joining an online writers’ workshop back in 2003. And I’ve gotten many, many reviews from other writers for my novels’ chapters. How many novels? Let’s see – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin, Assassins’ Lair, Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep, and my current WIP, Deepening Homefront Shadows.

My OWW Page
Here’s my homepage on the online workshop. Reviewing other writers’ chapters earns me points I can spend to post my own chapters.

A friend told me about the Online Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror back in early 2003. I checked it out and joined. It’s hard to believe it has been fifteen years. The workshop has been a godsend for me. My writing has improved tremendously, and mainly because of the wonderful reviewers on the OWW.

Reviewers have come and gone. Some have even died. It’s been fifteen years after all. The ones I have now are priceless. They do quality reviews. I like to keep the number of reviewers at a manageable number – four or five. Now four men and women consistently critique my chapters for Deepening Homefront Shadows – Michael Keyton, Larry Pinaire, David Kernot and Robyn Wescombe.

Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep Front Cover-Final
I ran this Civil War novel through the Online Writers Workshop of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, getting the manuscript ready to submit to my publisher.

Currently, Keyton is writing an alternate history novel where Lucifer and his horde of demons are trying to use World War II to plunge the human race into an age of darkness. Pinaire is running a science fiction novel through the OWW, the story of the initial colonization of Mars. Pinaire is doing a traditional sword-and-sorcery novel where the hero is snatched from our world and dropped into a medieval one where sorcerers cast magic spells. Robyn Wescombe, my newest reviewer, is doing an alternate history novel where Immortals are copulating with human women to breed immortal children. I enjoy reviewing them, trying to help my online friends improve their writing – plot, characterization, setting and dialogue.

It’s really hard to believe that I’ve done more than 1,000 reviews over the last fifteen years. In 2014, I joined the Henderson Writers Group and tried a couple of in-person reviews. Someone would read a portion of a chapter for five minutes and fellow group members would critique as he or she read. I read a partial chapter once, and found the results unsatisfying. On the OWW, they review the entire chapter.

Larenia's Shadow Trilogy5
I also workshopped my fantasy trilogy.

When I joined the OWW, I was 51 years old. Today, I’m 66. Over those fifteen years, I managed to write four books and find a small publisher to publish them for me. Now I’m working on my fifth novel and currently running the chapters through the OWW. The first three novels turned out to be a fantasy trilogy. Now I’m writing another trilogy – this one a Civil War saga with fantasy and romance subplots. I’m really enjoying my novel-writing career.

# # #

I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Oh my, Valentine!

Cole Smith



Have you ever wondered about the origins of Valentine’s Day? Where did our favorite romantic holiday find its many symbols–the pink and red, the cards, the sweets, and the hearts? Is it really, as some suggest, a holiday cooked up by greeting card companies?


Valentine’s Day is an old holiday, with roots extending all the way back to third-century Rome and a Roman Catholic presbyter named Valentinus. Most of the facts have been lost to history, and all we really know for certain is that Valentinus was martyred and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. His alleged skull, ringed with a crown of flowers, is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It’s both creepy and Valentine’s-y, no?



Valentine's Key


Legend has it that on the night before he was to be martyred, Valentine sent a card to the daughter of his prison guard, for whom he’d performed a healing miracle. He signed the card “your Valentine”. Did that simple letter start the tradition of sending cards with the words “from your Valentine”? We can’t know. Some sources claim this young woman planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave. Its pink blossoms have endured as a symbol of love and friendship.


Probably, the St. Valentine we remember on February 14th is a composite of two or three men named Valentine, who were all active in the church at that time. There are many unverified legends associated with this figure. One is that he performed secret weddings for active military soldiers who were forbidden to marry during times of conflict. (It’s been argued Claudius never issued such a ban.)


Soldiers who were keen to marry their sweethearts in a holy Christian ceremony would recognize Valentine by the amethyst Cupid ring he wore. Since Cupid was an approved symbol of love during the marriage ban, the ring was a safe secret sign. It’s probably one reason the amethyst became the February birthstone, since it’s believed by some to attract love!


Another legend is that Valentine also cut parchment paper hearts and presented them to soldiers and other persecuted Christians as a reminder to uphold their serious vows and to remember the greatest love from Heaven.



Oh, Valentine!



It wasn’t until Chaucer published the Parlement of Foules in the fourteenth century that St. Valentine’s Day became associated with “courtly love”, and many of the traditions we celebrate today. That’s right, writers. Chaucer and his following created a holiday. Now that’s the power of a great story!


Romantic courtiers started to apply themselves to Valentine’s poems. The now-cheesy “Roses are red…” line first showed up in 1590, in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen!



Be My Valentine!


It didn’t take long to match sweet words with sweet treats, and the Cadbury candy company claims credit for making the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1868. Mass-marketed paper valentines showed up around 1847. And so it goes, even today.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or Pal-entine’s Day, I wish you all the joy, sweets, and sentiment the holiday has to offer. What’s the best valentine you’ve ever received?



Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.

Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest.