Okay, There’s One Downside to Fountain Pens…

Why not end the summer with a small disaster, right?

I was quietly working away at my desk, handwriting a story I’ve been wanting to write for months.  I didn’t have any upcoming deadlines with my freelance work, the kids were all occupied, and everything was perfect.

Then my pen ran out of ink.  That’s not really a problem, since I keep several bottles of fountain pen ink on hand (and I’d love to have many, many more, like this one).  But just as I set my bottle of Noodler’s North African Violet on my desk and turned to the shelf to grab a secondary pen to fill, the cat jumped on my desk.

Taken during a much more peaceful time…

Now I should say here that I’ve let him on my desk before.  But I’ve tried to stop this habit, since Elwood has very little concern for what he might knock out of the way to make himself comfortable.  He oozes out over the surface of the desk, pushing aside my computer and my notebooks, sending my planner slipping down between the cracks of the furniture, and has even once spilled an entire (and rather large) cup of water in my desk drawer.  Then, of course, there are the necessary deposits of fluffy orange hair he leaves behind.

This time, the ink was the victim.  It crashed to the floor, cracking the cap and sending purple ink splattering all over the vintage hardwood.  The thin finish had no chance of keeping that dark liquid from seeping into all the tiny cracks.  My kids came rushing in when they heard the commotion and readily volunteered to help.  They brought paper towels and rags as we assessed the damage, discovering that North African Violet had splattered onto the rug and splashed onto the sofa.  We scrubbed drops of purple from the bottom of my desk chair and our feet and the fireplace hearth.

That was enough of a catastrophe, but amaranthine streaks on the kitchen floor (three rooms away) indicated that the mess had become mobile.  Two of my dogs, who’d been so faithfully resting under my desk at the time of the incident, now looked like they’d tried to steal an expensive coat at Macy’s.

Not my dog, but I was a little too preoccupied to take a picture…

Is there an upside to any of this, you may be asking?  Well, yes.  The dogs needed baths, anyway, and the ink came out of their fur better than it came out of anything else.  The rug is heavily patterned, so the hundreds of little purple spots aren’t all that visible.  And it’s always an excuse to buy more ink, right?

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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How We Stopped Using Paper Towels (Mostly): Minimalism, Environmentalism, and Marie Kondo

Several months ago, I did what a lot of other people were doing and watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  I was excited for this.  I’ve found great inspiration from cleaning shows before (like the ladies on How Clean is Your House?), and I was eager for some fantastic tips to keep my home pristine.

While I wish there had been more specific tips than the basic mantra of getting rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy,” it definitely inspired a wave of decluttering and organizing in my home.  Unlike the people on the show, I didn’t do it all in one week!  I’m still working on it, little by little.  It’s more of a lifestyle change than a one-time spring cleaning.  I attack a drawer or a shelf as I have the time, and I’m loving the results.  The areas I’ve Kondo’d are much easier to keep clean, and I never thought I’d be so happy to open my sock drawer every morning.

A month or two later, I happened to watch a documentary simply entitled Minimalism (check out the book that goes along with it here).  I might never have watched it except that I was on a documentary kick at the time.  It only strengthened my urge to get rid of all the extra stuff.  Why keep socks I don’t wear?  Why buy another knickknack to gather dust?  If I buy this thing I think I want, where am I going to put it?  The documentary really spoke to my need for less clutter (both physically and mentally) and more time for the important things in life.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not going too crazy with this stuff.  You won’t find me living in a “tiny house” or traveling across the U.S. with nothing but a toothbrush.

What really hit me while watching Minimalism was the idea (from one of the numerous people interviewed) that often the cheapest way to live is also the best for the environment.  I believe he was referring to having a smaller living space that’s cheaper on climate control and building materials (and therefore more environmentally friendly), but this really struck a chord with me.  I’m all about saving money and saving the planet, and it’s even better to do both at the same time!

I couldn’t say why, exactly, but the first thing I attacked was our paper towel usage.  With a family of five, we go through quite a few of them.  Just for the paper towels we use for napkins with meals, at $0.0139 per sheet, times five people, times three meals a day, times 365 days a year, we’re saving over $75 a year.  And that doesn’t even include paper towels used for cleaning!  Sure, we still buy paper towels for those times when they’re just the perfect solution for a problem, but our output is greatly reduced.  If the 315.41 million Americans who use paper towels (as of 2017) were to stop using them just for napkins at meals, it would save them over 4.8 BILLION dollars.  That’s a lot of cash, people.

For the environmental concerns, I’ll let you read this amazing article with all the details.

Okay, that was a long story to let you know we use cloth napkins and cleaning rags now, but it might not’ve happened otherwise.  Paper towels are just an everyday thing we don’t think about.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we’re creating less waste and saving money, and these napkins truly do spark joy in me every time I grab one.  This idea has led to several other small changes in our lives, which I’ll outline for you soon.

What are your feelings on minimalism, purging, and saving the planet?  I’d love to know, so feel free to comment!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: Island by Alistair MacLeod

As yet another selection from my bookshelf cleanout, I picked up Island by Alistair MacLeod.  It’s a collection of short stories (not my typical thing to read) that completely blew me away.

From the Cover:

The sixteen exquisitely crafted stories in Island prove Alistair MacLeod to be a master. Quietly, precisely, he has created a body of work that is among the greatest to appear in English in the last fifty years.

What I Loved:

Island is gritty, somber, and muted.  The stories are positively dripping with the tiny details of life, from the way a small boy remembers his father’s sweater to the grim details of a corpse found at sea.  Many of the stories carry themes of death and family relationships.  They revolve around occupations and how they form entire lives and even whole towns.  Island is all about small towns, the love (and burden) of family, coming of age, leaving home, and returning.

There’s only one reason you’ll want to put this book down, and that is to write.  It’s incredibly inspiring from a writer’s perspective, with stories that are poignant, moving, and excellently written.

“The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” was definitely one of my favorites.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:

As I’m sure you can guess, I have very little to say here!  Sometimes the stories were a bit too heavy, but that’s part of what makes them so amazing.

Rating and Recommendation:

If you enjoy short stories, if you want to feel all the feels, or if you want to be inspired to improve your own writing game, then I highly recommend Island.  5 stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Book Review: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

A beautifully-written book that grounds the reader in the lives of the past, To Defy a King is not mere historical fiction but a time machine.

From the Cover:  

The spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal, lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls out with the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered.

The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected.

Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone. Caught between the family she was born in and the family she married into, Mahelt is uncertain if she—or her marriage—will survive.

What I Loved:  To Defy a King completely immerses the reader in the past and paints a vivid picture of what it would be like in the thirteenth century, particularly for a young woman whose life is defined by what the men around her want.  The main character, Mahelt, must contend with this on a daily basis.

I was a little hesitant to start this book because it’s the fifth in the series and I haven’t read any of the other ones.  Fortunately, it didn’t seem to matter.  Everything was wrapped up well enough in this volume that I didn’t feel I’d missed out on anything.

To Defy a King is a rather lengthy book, and the characters are given ample time to develop and show off their depth.  It seems there is nothing that happens without a purpose, so there’s never a dull moment.

This way I would describe the tone of this book is tense.  I felt my entire body going rigid as I read because of everything Mahelt had to go through (but I don’t want to give away any spoilers here).  I guess this could be either a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a relaxing read!

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  The characters, especially at first, are a bit difficult to keep track of.  This is mostly in regard to the families of the two main protagonists.  There is a family tree in the front of the book, which helps, but I don’t like to flip back and forth.  Nor do I like to accidentally spoil something for myself and see when they die or get married before it happens in the story!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love historical fiction with a heady mix of action, adventure, and romance, then To Defy a King is for you.  Four stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion about an item when linking to it.

 

 

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Book Review: A Harvest of Bones by Yasmine Galenorn

A semi-spooky mystery with ghosts, supernatural powers, and cats.  What more could you need?

I’m presently working on reading through and cleaning out my bookshelves, and A Harvest of Bones was one of my recent selections.  I’ve been writing a lot in the mystery genre lately, so it’s always nice to do a little “research.”

From the Cover:  It’s harvest time in Chiqetaw, Washington; Emerald O’Brien’s favorite season. But this year, nature yields a most supernatural bounty. When Em and her sweetie, Joe, stumble over a bramble-covered foundation that has remained hidden for fifty years in the lot next door, strange events begin to occur. The cat vanishes. Will o’ the Wisps threaten to harm Emerald and her loved ones. And the ghost of a woman named Brigit and her beloved calico make themselves at home in the backyard. Now it’s up to Em and her friends to delve into the past, reveal the secrets of the dead and lay them to rest as they ring in the autumn with a harvest of bones.

What I Loved:  Like I said:  cats!  Okay, yes there are plenty of other good things about this book.  It was a nice combination of murder, ghosts, history, witchcraft, psychic powers, and everyday life.  The characters were mostly relatable and easy to keep track of.  The mystery in question was engaging, and while I had an idea of whodunnit about halfway through, all the little details were held back until the end.  And yes, there really were plenty of cats.

“Even a diary isn’t safe from prying eyes.  But a cat will listen, and keep her silence for you.”

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I grabbed this book at a library booksale with the thought that it was more of a cozy mystery.  A liberal sprinkling of cuss words and a dash of semi-steamy scenes made this not nearly as cozy as I imagined.  I wasn’t offended by any of this; I just didn’t really expect it.  Readers who prefer something a little cleaner might not be interested.

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re looking for a good mystery that’s a fun and easy read, I definitely recommend A Harvest of Bones.  I’m giving this book four stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion about an item when linking to it.

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Book Review: Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers

All the feels.

Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers is the latest reading choice in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’ve had it for years.  I’ve picked it up but never cracked the cover.  I don’t even remember where I got it, and I honestly wasn’t expecting much from it.

From the Cover: Everyone around Prudence Whistler, thirty-six, seems to be settling down. Her once single girlfriends have married and had babies. Her gay best friend is discussing marriage with his partner. Even her irresponsible younger sister, Patsy, is the single mother of a two-year-old. But when Pru panics at losing her mediocre boyfriend of two years-and begins to see the door to her traditional family life closing-she accidentally finds something even better: a new definition of family and happiness. First, it’s the crazy cat who moves into her apartment. Then come Pru’s headstrong sister and two-year-old niece. Then the niece’s dog, the sister’s ex-boyfriend, and, ultimately, Patsy and Pru’s widowed mother. With the strength of her modern new household, Pru musters the confidence to open the dress shop she’s always wanted in town-and discovers an extended family of sorts in the community of shop owners and devoted customers. It’s only then that she ends up with the man of her dreams. Endearing, romantic, and satisfying, Nice to Come Home To is a charming, crowd-pleasing debut.

What I Loved:  This is a book in which nothing happens and yet everything happens.  Pru seems at first to be the kind of person I wouldn’t like.  (I mean, she does have a complete aversion to her boyfriend’s cat.)  But as the story advances and I learned more about her, I began to see more and more of myself in her.  There were times when it was almost too real, as though Flowers had pulled my life into tiny pieces, jumbled them up, and poured some of them into this book.

Nice to Come Home To is about finding love, not only romantic love but self love and familial love.  It’s about learning to accept your own flaws as well as the flaws of others, but still never settling for anything less than you deserve.

The somber and occasionally depressing tone of the book really stood out to me because it worked so well for it.  When I was about three-quarters of the way through, I felt like my best friend was having a hard time and I was helping her through it.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  I wasn’t always a fan of Flowers’ style when it came to sentence structure.  There were too many commas for my taste, something that pulled me out of the story to ponder whether they were correct or not.  It’s one of those things that comes down to personal preference.

Rating and Recommendation:  Nice to Come Home To is an easy read and yet a deep one.  It delivers so much (deep characters, a cathartic pull of emotions) without demanding much of the reader.  If you enjoy modern fiction, I definitely recommend it.  5 stars

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion about an item when linking to it.

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Book Review: An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen

If you don’t know what it means to pick up a romance novel and not want to put it down, then you haven’t read An Affair with a Spare by Shana Galen.

I’ve really been trying to work through my current (giant) stash of books in my bookshelf cleanout, but when I saw this book on the New Arrivals shelf at my local library, I just had to get it.  I’ve been following the author on Facebook for a while, and though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I fell in love with the dresses!

From the Cover:

Rafe Beaumont, fifth son of an earl, uses his irresistible charm with the ladies to glean dangerous war secrets. Now he’s putting those skills to the ultimate test: capturing an elusive assassin by seducing his daughter. The problem? She’s entirely immune to Rafe’s flattery.

Never before has Collette Fortier met a man as attractive as Rafe. But her father’s life is at stake, and succumbing to Rafe would be disastrous. But when Rafe turns the tables on her, offering support and friendship instead of a fleeting affair, Collette finds herself tempted in ways she never could have imagined…

What I Loved:  There’s so much to love about this book!  It’s well-paced, with a good mix of events and evolving emotions moving the story along.  The characters are deep and well-established, so much so that even the side characters are easy to keep track of.  Their backgrounds support the choices they make and the insecurities they have.

The story shows a lot of inner feelings (both physical and emotional), but they’re mixed nicely with descriptions of the setting and the characters to keep the reader deeply rooted in the time period.

This being a romance, I have to say the steamy scenes are beautifully written, building the physical and emotional bond between the characters.  No cheap erotica here!

Collette, raised in France but now in England, occasionally references the mating habits of hedgehogs since she’d learned much of her English from a book about the subject.  She drops facts about hedgehogs when she gets nervous, and it adds just the perfect amount of humor.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  There’s really not much to say here.  The only thing I noted was a repeated phrase in one of the later chapters that was missed by the editor.  Can’t really complain about that!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you love romance, historical fiction, and lots of details about beautiful dresses, then An Affair with a Spare is for you!  I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series!  5 stars.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion about an item when linking to it.

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