Litsy 7 Days 7 Covers #CoverCrush challenge

post imagepost imageIf you spend any time on Litsy (and if you don’t, you should!) one of the highlights of the past couple of weeks has been the #7covers7days #CoverCrush challenge. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – for seven days you post a book cover you love, no explanation needed. I love seeing post imagepost imageeveryone’s favorite covers, and I think this could be especially helpful for #indie authors who design their own book covers.

I thought I’d share the covers I chose with you. (Even though 95% of my books are in storage, I still had some great picks on hand!)

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IMG_20190922_160855Litsy is an awesome community of book lovers, kind of like if Instagram and Goodreads collided. They’ve also recently created a web version for anyone who doesn’t like relying on their phone to post.

So there’re no excuses anymore – if you love books and reading, this is the social media app made just for you! (The link will lead to my profile IMG_20190922_160622– if you sign up, add me so I can welcome you to the community and introduce you to other book lovers!)

What I love most about Litsy is that you don’t have to worry about being popular or what to say to people because everyone there has a common interest – they’re passionate about reading!

A Twist To The Plot

It seems that each year just keeps getting busier than the next – and this one’s been no different!

We’ve finally gotten settled after our huge move from the north woods of New Hampshire back to our home state of Florida, and boy does it feel good! The sunshine, the sea air, and salt on margaritas instead of driveways (who can argue with that?).

After years of having no window in my kitchen and an office that overlooked the driveway, the first thing I did was plant a butterfly garden. I’ve only broken two dishes so far, and only one resulted in an injury needing medical attention, so it’s definitely been worth it. (The pup’s definition of irony – when the human plants a garden so they can chase butterflies, then yells at him for chasing the butterflies. Pursuing a butterfly with a camera versus fangs is simply a lack of fun on the human’s part.)

I turned a new leaf in my writing and started penning YA mysteries! It was a plot twist I didn’t see coming (but should have). My first is finished and currently in the query process. My second is just around the halfway point of the first draft, and I’ve got more ideas than I could possibly develop, so I think I may have found my new niche! (Which means all the adult manuscripts I’ve written over the years may turn up free on Amazon – if you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter.)

I’m just about back in the groove of things, so regular blogging should recommence soon.

For those of you who don’t know, my main website www.shannonhollinger.com is no longer on WordPress. Stop by and check out the new look or sign-up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any important updates. Better yet, do both!

When Your Health Steals Your Words

Several years ago, my writing was going strong. I had a schedule. I wrote most days. I had a couple of completed novels, and was querying agents. I had a dozen requests for  full manuscripts. I was so close to fulfilling my dream as a traditionally published author that I could taste it.

Then, I lost my momentum. I lost my energy. I lost my words. Literally.

I put on almost forty pounds with no explanation. No amount of diet or exercise managed to make the scale budge. I couldn’t keep my train of thought, and oftentimes, in conversation, I simply drew blanks. I couldn’t think of the words I was looking for. Not a great feeling for someone who wants to be a wordsmith.

I’m no stranger to health issues. I was hit by a drunk driver almost twenty years ago, and have a laundry lists of ailments that cause chronic pain. But this time was different. You can force your body to work to some degree. You can’t force your mind.

My acid reflux got so bad that I barely needed to chew my food – it practically dissolved in my mouth my saliva was so acidic. Obviously I was somehow related to that dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park – the one with a frilled collar that spit on the guy from Seinfeld, blinding him with his acid spit. As much as I love dinosaurs, I don’t really want to be one! 🦖🦖🦖

I’m going to take a very long story and make it short.

I was on twice the maximum daily dose of Prevacid. They thought it was Celiac, and although I initially got better on a gluten free diet, the relief was short lived. Multiple invasive, expensive tests revealed no answers.

Then my mom discovered a food sensitivity test you could order online from EverlyWell. I took the test. And while it turns out I do have a mild sensitivity to gluten, I have an extreme sensitivity to yeast – both bakers and brewers – which is still in many gluten free products.

Going yeast free meant saying no to almost all breads. No wine, beer, or alcohol other than vodka, which supposedly uses all the yeast added during the fermentation process. No fruit other than berries. No vinegar, nothing pickled, no fun.

I immediately avoided all foods and drinks with yeast, while still eating some of the ‘by-products’. (Even ranch dressing and mustard have vinegar.) And I dropped over 30 pounds in six weeks. My energy started coming back. My confidence. And then, finally, my words.

It’s been about four months now. I still slip sometimes. Mainly unintentionally, when I eat out. My stomach will blow out to about seven months pregnant, but it goes back down in a day or two. I get foggy, but it clears. I forget the word I’m looking for,  but it comes eventually. When I sit down to write, the page no longer remains blank.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this post, but sharing is caring, and I hope this helps someone else. Not to mention that I’m so grateful that I’m able to write it – look, words!!! And I wrote them! I feel so much better, and I truly hope this reaches at least one person who benefits from this post.

(I’m not getting any kickbacks for sharing the name of the company that quite literally changed my life. There’s usually coupon codes online if you do a Google search for them.)

(If you or someone you know has a yeast sensitivity, make sure to check vitamins and supplements for the nasty little addition – it’s everywhere!)

#Thriller in the Woods #Book Signing and #Author Event

thrillerinwoods1-e1539282021408.jpgI’m fortunate enough to live in an area with an incredible indie bookstore and some fantastic local authors who are kind enough to indulge the local readership with awesome events.

When I heard that White Birch Books was sponsoring “Thriller in the Woods: A Night of Conversation with Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger,” I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Lisa Gardner launches her book tour in North Conway, NH each year. She’s a great speaker, super personable, and pens thrillers guaranteed to keep you on the edge thrillerinwoods.jpgof your seat! I try to attend any event where she’s featured, because it’s sure to be a blast! This time, the event was held at Theater in the Woods, and she brought a friend!!!

Lisa Gardner and Lisa Unger are both internationally best selling authors. They both write suspenseful thrillers. They’re both named Lisa. Put them in a room together and let the adventure begin!

thrillerinwoods2The event was in celebration of the release of Lisa Unger’s newest novel, Under My Skin, and the paperback release of Lisa Gardner’s novel, Look For Me.

The two authors had an incredibly interesting discussion touching on everything from their different writing processes, where they get their ideas, how they perform their research, how they got their start, and so much more!

Both women are wonderfully dynamic, and the conversation flowed with the natural ease of two old friends having a casual chat. I really enjoy attending book signings and author talks, and have met my fair share of bestselling authors in the process – I cannot stress how genuinely friendly and engaging these ladies are! If you get the chance to see either of them speak, do it! You won’t regret it! #TeamLisa

 

 

 

My Awesome New #Author T-Shirt

A few weeks ago I shared a great new website (https://literarybookgifts.com) that offers gifts for book lovers, as well as a promo code (SHANNONHOLLINGER20) to help you save 20% off your order. I couldn’t resist using the promo code and ordering a t-shirt for myself.

I love my new shirt!

Between the quality image and the soft fabric, what’s not to love! Since the website said that the shirts run a bit small, I ordered an x-large because I’m tall and hate anything too tight. It fits perfectly, which is great, because I’m planning on wearing this shirt all the time!

If you haven’t been yet, head on over to the website and check out what they have to offer! Feel free to share the promo code far and wide! If you order something, I’d love to know what and how you feel about it (I’m trying to pare down my Christmas wish list 😉 )!

 

 

Lost in the Land of #Litsy

In case you haven’t noticed, I read. A lot. I read when I take my dogs out, I read while I’m brushing my teeth, I read while I’m ‘watching’ a movie. Some people understand the compulsion to always have their nose buried in a book. Many do not.

memeMy reading addiction habit sometimes leaves me feeling awkward and inadequate on social media. I’ll read what others are posting, skim the conversations they’re having, but my possible responses don’t seem appropriate. “Never seen that show. Haven’t watched that. Ohh, I read the best book while that was on.”

I felt myself drawing away from Facebook. I gave Google+ a try. Found myself spending more and more time on Goodreads. Instagram was good for a quick fix, but really, none of these provided me with what I was looking for.

PhotoHuman connection, interaction, something that makes you feel in touch with, a part of the rest of the world. Then, about a month ago, I found what I was looking for. Litsy. A land of literature, where everyone loves books as much as you do. The sight, the smell, the very thought of the written page triggering emotions that, for once, are shared.

Litsy has been described as Goodreads meets Instragram, except you interact more, everyone is always super nice, and you never come across a ‘no-no’ picture. There are book pictures, book quotes, book review – seriously, the most this place deviates from books is when people post pictures of their adorable reading companions – also with books.

If this sounds like a place you’d want to be, you can get the app here. And because this isn’t the type of social media where there’s stranger danger, look me up @BookDragonNotWorm. We’ll be friends that talk about – what else? Books!

 

Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves

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lostriver1lostriverLast month, thanks to an awesome deal through Groupon, we went and explored Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in Woodstock, New Hampshire. This attraction features a series of over 1000 stairs leading you up, down, and through a glacial gorge notched into huge slabs of granite rock. Winding your way past a series of cascades, you can’t help but feel the weight of the passage of time upon the landscape. And while I wasn’t feeling the caves that day, (I proved myself enough at the Polar Caves in Rumney), there were a ton of tight, twisty little passages for spelunkers to explore. This is a fun excursion, easily lengthened by numerous hiking trails. While there, I highly recommend exploring the great towns of Woodstock and Lincoln, and taking in  the gorgeous views, especially if you find your way to the Kancamagus Highway.

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(More) Adventures in Pumpkin Carving

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Every year when I see those big, round, orange pumpkins hit the stores, I feel so happy. I have such big plans for what I’m going to carve. Intricate masterpieces, works of art, carvings that are downright spooky!

Pumpkin Carving:

Yet every year, that nasty, horrible thing called adulthood takes over. So many things to do, so little time, and the procurement of said pumpkins gets put off time and again until it’s the last minute and I only manage to get some decent gourds because I have unnaturally large arms and can reach the gems hiding deep in the center of the pulpy, rotting orange mass. Sigh.

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This year I didn’t scoop and carve until the night of Halloween itself. It was late, I was tired, and instead of enjoying what is one of my favorite once a year pastimes, I just wanted to get it over with. Double sigh.
It’s time to get kraken!… and carvin’!!!!:

So now that I’ve shown you all the awesome carvings in all their pumpkin glory that I wanted to do, it’s time to reveal my (lame excuse for a) jack o’lantern, while diverting your attention by telling you how it’s really quite a calculated move because I saw a picture of a moose eating a pumpkin and I figured that a moose wouldn’t be able to resist eating a pumpkin with a moose carved in it, so it’s all a part of my evil plan bwahaha. (Did you buy that story? Yeah, I didn’t either.) Once again, my dreams of pumpkin carving splendor must wait until next year.

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Groundhogs, Gardens, and Guilt

BillAbout a month ago I made a new friend. It was an inquisitive, furry little creature that moved in with the chipmunks under my porch. After a quick internet search, I confirmed that it was a groundhog and gave him (or her) what may be the most imaginative name ever for a groundhog, Bill Murray.

Having no prior experience with groundhogs, this is complete conjecture, but I think Bill Murray may be cooler than the average groundhog. Bill thought nothing of coming up on the front stoop and looking inside the house. Or hanging out in my flowers. Or the dog pen (which wasn’t the best idea on Bill’s part).

Bill2Every day, I’d give Bill my apple core. He helped himself to lettuce and strawberries from my garden. I didn’t mind, because I’d grown way more lettuce than my husband and I could eat, and I’d rather share with Bill than risk it going to waste. And Bill left all the rest of the vegetable alone. So ours was a symbiotic friendship.

Alas, it could not last.

Because Bill started chewing on the house, eating the wood trim away to make the holes he had dug in the ground bigger. Keeping up with an old farm house is hard enough without a saboteur in my midst. So the decision was made. Bill had to go.

Bill3I bought a live trap at the local farmer’s union. Despite the betrayal, this wasn’t a Fredo from Godfather moment. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Bill. I just didn’t want him to destroy my house.

Several days passed without Bill getting in the trap. The chipmunks ran in and grabbed the apple core out, minions bringing the loot to their bigger roommate. I had almost given up hope. I thought it would never happen. Then I took the dogs out one rainy night before bed, and I knew. It was the most inopportune time. I was tired. Cranky. I wanted to crawl in bed and get some sleep. It was wet and miserable out, not the kind of weather to leave a living creature trapped out in the elements. Sure enough, Bill was in the cage.

I loaded the trap in the back of the Jeep, my husband and I standing over the seemingly fearless creature in the cage. Bill looked at me with sadness and regret in his eyes. The house destruction was a moment of weakness, he seemed to say, it wouldn’t happen again. He put his little hand through the wires of the cage, as if he were reaching for me, his eyes never leaving mine. My heart broke. But my mind was made up.

The guys at the farmer’s union told me to make sure I took him at least 10 miles away, preferably over a body of water, to prevent his return. So my husband and I spent an hour driving him way farther than that out to his new home, the shore of a huge pond deep in the woods of moose country. If the area could support moose, (and the deer and fox we passed in droves), then surely a groundhog’s needs could be met, too.

I opened the cage along the edge of the pond. Bill stepped out, turned around, and looked at me. He seemed to be asking me not to do it. He could change, he’d be a better friend, stay out of the garden and be less destructive. I shook my head no. He slowly walked off, pausing often to look back at me, making sure I didn’t have a last minute change of mind. As much as it hurt, I stood strong.

I spent days wracked with guilt. Would Bill be alright in his new home? Would he be safe? Would he be overcome with crippling depression at the rejection, unable to get out of his groundhog bed in the morning?

Bill4A week passed. The void Bill Murray left in my life was starting to shrink. The pain was starting to fade. I walked into the kitchen, where my husband was eating lunch. He looked at me a moment, then suggested that I look outside. There, out front, was a groundhog. Apparently, I had just missed seeing the little face peer inside. The body looked a little bigger, the tail was pretty ratty.

Could it be? Had Bill Murray hiked over twenty miles to return home?  All guilt I felt immediately vanished, replaced by fear. Maybe even a little anger. How would I ever manage to catch him again? What would he do in retribution? Throwing open the door, I went outside to confront my nemesis. The groundhog froze, looked at me with fear, and bolted. Never to return again.

Was it Bill Murray? I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that Bill is stretched out, relaxing on a sunny pond bank, chewing on tender shoots and living the good life. I wish all the best for Bill. As long as he doesn’t come back.

 

Titanic Exhibit at the Portland Science Center

Hidden down a side street, and occupying the second and third floor of a building only a stone’s throw from the water, the Portland Science Center opened in the summer of 2015. I missed their first display, the popular Body Worlds exhibit that’s been traveling across the nation, but I was excited to attend their newest show that opened just this past weekend: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

After all, who can resist Jack and Rose and love that never dies and . . . oh, yeah, this isn’t about the movie. It’s about the actual ship and the tragedy that struck in the form of an iceberg on its maiden voyage in 1912, killing 1517 people. It’s about the artifacts that have been recovered, items that may seem mundane until you consider that they’ve been recovered from over 12,500 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. It’s about remembering those that lost their lives.

There’s not much I can say to elaborate on what you probably already know. I will say that the exhibit was an experience I’m glad to have not missed. The Science Center did a great job of personalizing the experience by issuing a replica ticket to each patron, with the details of one passenger on the back side. At the end of the exhibit there are memorial walls where you can discover the fate of ‘your’ passenger.

Also on display are replicas of the rooms, menus, and items provided by the shipping company for the comfort of its passengers, all examples of the separation of the classes on-board the ship.

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If you get the chance, step back in time and experience the short-lived history of the Titanic. It’s a truly humbling experience.