Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Inspired by comic books, part 2 by Toi Thomas

Image via Pinterest from the My Geekdom board
I’m so excited to dive right into this second installment of my “Inspired by comic books” series. I mean, I’m a geek and I love to geekout. This is just another opportunity for me to do just that, but don’t fret, I will be tying it all into my writing process in inspiration. In case you hadn’t figured it out, I’ll be talking a bit about D.C. Comics today. (If you missed part one, my intro to this series, please check it out).

In part one of this series, I gave a preview of the My Geekdom board I created on Pinterest. So inspired by the images I curated on this board, I wrote a blog series, over at The ToiBox of Words, called My Geekdom. In that series, I talked about all my geek inspirations, not just comic books. For your convenience and curiosity, I’ll link back to relevant posts in that series when applicable. You can check out the post, My Geekdom 03: D.C. Comics, right here.

Oh, but wait, there’s more. I also did an entire YouTube miniseries, specifically, on the comic book influences for my Eternal Curse Series. Check out episode: D.C. Comic Influences for Eternal Curse & a Yorkie (Influences #1-1) right here. For this installment of the series, however, I’ll be focusing on how D.C. Comics have influenced my writing in more general terms.

So, here's a very brief history of DC Comics for those of you who don't know. If you've ever heard the term the Golden Age of Comics they're talking about DC. The DC actually stands for Detective Comics but it was more than that. It was DC Comics that made comic books popular back in the 1930s. They are the creators of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Like any good entertainment entity, DC Comics has evolved over the years. What we see today in the comic books as a lot darker, a little edgier, and more realistic, even though we are still talking about characters with superpowers.

For me, DC Comics represents “the possibilities”. One thing that I like about the DC Universe is that it's not really real. I mean, yes, you can make a direct correlation between New York City and Metropolis or Gotham City and Detroit or Chicago but these aren't real places. There's a certain fantasy element that exists in the DC Universe that allows you to have a little bit of a disconnect.

When I think in terms of my own writing, I like the idea that I can create a world that's very similar to the world that I live in but it can still be a fantasy. In the universe of the DC Comics, there is a direct reflection of the world that we live in, but there is also this fantastical element that I think makes it a little easier to stomach. For me, I sometimes try to include elements that are very close to reality but are just far enough away so that it doesn't hit too close to home. I attribute that to my love of the DC Comics.

If you want to know more about specific characters that have influenced my Eternal Curse Series, please check out the video above. One thing most people who don't read comic books don't realize is that comic books have always been on the cutting edge. While mainstream Hollywood and TV shows of today are now showing more diversity and portraying hard issues in the recent years, comic books have always done this. Comic books have always found interesting ways to deal with issues of environmental awareness, racism, sexism (though they still have a way to go here), immigration, and more. And all of this has helped inspire me in my own writing.

Find out more about me,  my work, and my inspiration at the following links:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Inspiration part four - Art - by Nicola McDonagh

I love art and have done all my life. As a child our family would visit the wonderful Walker Art gallery in Liverpool. It is a truly awesome place. I never wanted to leave. Huge oil paintings by the Masters, giant statues and abstract pictures that blew my child-mind away, lingered in my head for days.

I often wondered what the people were doing in these paintings, and when I saw The Last Judgment by Bosch, I decided perhaps, it was best not to know.

I studied art school and would have gone to art college if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not all that good at drawing, so I did the next best thing, studied to be a photojournalist. That didn’t last long but I continued to be a photographer in my spare time, and my love of the visual image has stayed with me. Only natural then that I should turn to it for inspiration when I can’t think of anything to write about.

My last short story anthology Crow Bones, is entirely made up of art-inspired narratives. I chose some of my favourite artists, Marc Chagall, Edvard Munch, Picasso, and even, Banksy, looked at their work, and used the images to create characters and plot. Sometimes I was fairly literal, as in The Promenade, by Marc Chagall, where the image suggested the plot line, of course I let my imagination take off, but the core of the story came directly from the people in the picture.

He Flew Her Like a Kite

The dress was the colour of a bruised eye.

Agnes wore it like a wound.

Too small for her large frame it ceased to be a fabric robe and became a body hugging second skin. It squeezed and nipped her ribcage, trapping her frustration within its satin grip.

Other times, I saw something beneath the surface of the painting, and drew my inspiration from what I saw behind the image. In the story, Crow Bones, I was intrigued by Munch’s painting of two girls. One is standing on a balcony looking out to sea, the other is facing the same way but at first glance, it looks as if her head is facing the opposite way to her body. She stares at the onlooker with black swirling eyes. Wow. The story became quite complex, and ended up a sci-fi horror tale.

Crow Bones

‘There is a saying that when a twin dies at birth its soul enters the body of the survivor. When that being succumbs to the pull of no more, its dead sibling’s face appears on the back of its head. For a few seconds, the two are reunited in body as well as spirit,’ that’s what the birthing nurse, Reja said when she heard one heartbeat fainter than the other.

Thank you for reading my posts about what inspires me to write. Remember, inspiration comes in many forms, and how authors use it is as unique as the tale they produce as a direct result. May we
always be inspired to write!

You can learn ore about my writing here: 

All images royalty free

Monday, March 19, 2018

Kate Wilhelm – A Powerful Voice in Science Fiction and Mysteries

By Ruth de Jauregui

To be honest, until the passing of Kate Wilhelm on March 8, I didn't know she wrote mysteries. I was only familiar with her science fiction, particularly the amazing post-apocalyptic Where the Sweet Birds Sang (1977).

Wilhelm said herself that she was a housewife with two children and, while reading an anthology, she told herself, "I can do that." And so she did. More than 50 science fiction novels and 30 mysteries followed her first story, "The Pint-Sized Genie," published in Fantastic magazine. Her first novel was More Bitter Than Death (1963), a mystery, followed by her first science fiction novel The Clone (1965).

Wilhelm was a Nebula, Locus and Hugo Award winner. Her last work was published last year, Mirror Mirror was the latest in her Barbara Holloway mystery series.

She and her second husband, author and editor Damon Knight, founded the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. They also continued Knight's annual Milford Writers' Conference, where many now-famous authors interacted with their peers in a weeklong residential workshop and writers' conference.

Now that I know she also wrote mysteries, my "I have GOT to get that book" list just grew dramatically. If you haven't read Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, I highly recommend that you check it out. And when you're done, reflect on the genius of Wilhelm, one of the few women to write under their own names in the 60s, and her foreshadowing of today's ecological and climate changes. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

#KateWilhelm  #WomenInSciFi  #OurAuthorGang

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Our Guest Today is Jacquolyn McMurray #OurAuthorGang

Today we welcome Author Jacquolyn McMurray. So glad to have you with us!

Jacquolyn McMurray writes both contemporary and historical romance. She and her husband live on a macadamia nut farm on HawaiĘ»i Island where they feed a clowder of cats and a flock of hodgepodge chickens. Jacquolyn is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Greater Seattle Romance Writers, and the American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, Jacquolyn enjoys time with her family, reading, sewing and solving crossword puzzles. In her past life, she was an elementary school teacher.  Readers may reach Jacquolyn at her Facebook page

Emma Sanchez prides herself on raising her seven-year-old daughter without a man. She has a cabin to live in, a car to drive, and a minimum wage job that provides enough money for their basic needs, but with Christmas just around the corner, Emma can’t afford a Christmas tree, let alone a gift from Santa. She knows there are agencies that provide assistance, but pride stands in her way.

Cattle rancher, Hank Amaral, isn’t looking for a woman, but when he meets Emma and Ally, he considers the possibilities.  He enjoys spending time with them right up until Emma accuses him of expecting kisses in exchange for a few favors and a Christmas tree.

When disaster strikes the island, Emma and Hank must sweep pride aside and focus on safety.

In the aftermath, will Hank and Emma be able to give Ally what she really wants for Christmas?  

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Irish Monkeyshines #OurAuthorGang

photo courtesy of

Originally published in the March edition of the GBBPub Magazine
by Grace Augustine

“I paid ye my money, lad, now give me my pint.”

Aengus McCracken had been coming to this pub well over seven years, the same amount of time John O’Shay had been behind the bar. The man always ordered the same thing, a pint of Guinness, “black as it comes.”

“Aengus, I slid your pint to ye when I took your coin,” John replied.

“Well, lad, I ain’t got no pint.”

Aengus turned to the man sitting to his right, another regular, Conor Callahan, and elbowed him.

“Do ye see a pint in front of me, Callahan? Their ain’t no pint…and I paid for one.”

By now, Aengus was a bit frustrated. The more upset he was, the louder his voice. Soon everyone in the pub was listening to the man ramble on about not having his drink.

John drew another draught and slid it down to Aengus, making sure it hit his hand this time.

“That’s better, lad,” he winked and downed half the glass.

John knew he’d slid a drink down the bar to Aengus, but for the life of him he didn’t know why there was no glass, no evidence of it. He shook his head and continued drawing draughts and pouring whiskey for the patrons.

“Conor, can I top that off for ye?” John asked, the bottle of Tullamore in his hand.

“Never known me turn down a topper, have ya? To the brim with it, lad! Thank ye.”

John poured the rich amber liquor in Conor’s glass, right up to the brim, as asked.

There was quite a ruckus goin’ on, you see. A championship football game was showing on the television. The pub was divided and cheering for their respective teams. The noise level was such it was difficult to hear anything. John learned early on to just carry bottles to his customers and nod. If they nodded back, he refilled their glass…that included pints for Aengus McCracken, too.

Conor turned back to his drink after checking the score. He grabbed his glass and looked at it.  He knew he hadn’t taken a sip from that full glass of whiskey, yet it was nearly gone.

“John, what’s goin’ on, here?”

“I don’t know what to tell ya, Conor. You saw me fill the glass.”

The wee chuckle of a leprechaun was heard in the distance. followed by the whistling of a familiar Irish drinking tune,

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Tale of Kaimin and Kellar #OurAuthorGang

Rich Feitelberg

The wizards of Davenar attempted to put an end to war with a spell of peace and prosperity for all. The spell went horribly wrong, and the city was destroyed unleashing demons upon the land. Some humans survive to father other groups in later years.

In response the elves, led by King Argol leaped in action, mobilizing their forces to combat the new evil that threatened the world.

Let me pause here and explain that the elves were given a powerful artifact by their gods when they first entered the world. It is a magic crown, a silver circlet set with seven gems. The story of the crown’s creation is told as the Tale of Kaimin and Kellar. It goes as follows:

Kaimin and Kellear were twin brothers who lived before the making of the world. Kellear was ruler of water, oceans, rivers, and lakes. Kaimin was lord of the earth and crafter of jewels, silver, and gold. Together they shaped many lands. Yet both were sometimes quick to anger. And in that rage, Kellear would often flood the coast and Kaimin would cause lava to erupt, creating new areas of dry land and conquering the sea.
They argued constantly, like most brothers, over the smallest points: a length of coast, the course of a river, or the size of a lake. They seemed not to care so long as they argued. Yet they agreed on one thing — the beauty of Lothanna.
Lothanna, giver of fruits and flowers, trailed after Kellear and Kaimin and flowers grew where she tread. Now Lothanna’s beauty was second only to Elas’, Queen of the Heavens; and, early after the world began, Kellear and Kaimin both swore oaths of love to Lothanna.
Yet Lothanna could not choose whom she loved best. To help her settle the matter, she devised a contest: each brother was to demonstrate his love for her. Kellear made fine water sprays that caught the sunlight and created rainbows over Lothanna’s gardens and orchards. Kaimin crafted silver inlaid with seven gems, to create a circlet for Lothanna.
And when Lothanna saw the circlet, she loved Kaimin best. Kellear was furious and flooded the land with a great storm. He disappeared after that, preferring to be alone. And they say on cold, windy nights, you can hear Kellear’s lament of loneliness and unrequited love.
Lothanna gave the circlet to the elves subsequently and within, King Argol and the elves went to fight the demons. More on that in my next post.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fantasy Creatures and Worlds and a Little Writing Advice

 When writing the Palace of the Twelve Pillars trilogy, a need arose to create creatures and a world for them to inhabit. Now I know there are a lot of articles and lessons out there on how to build a world and I’m sure they are really good for some people, but for me not so much. Having said that I regret not planning my world and beings a little more.
I am a pantster. For those of you that are writers you know that a pantster is someone who does very little planning. They write their stories on the fly as it comes to them instead of outlining and planning every minute detail. Unfortunately, I have never been able to plot my stories out. Along with that the planning of a world and its beings are something that happens as I write the story.
At times this can be a big disadvantage, especially if it’s November and I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. In that case it definitely helps to have some sort of plan. That being said, the one time when I did try and outline, because I thought I knew where the story needed to go, my characters decided to strike the second week in. It wasn’t until I threw out the outline and let the characters tell their version of the story, that I was able to resume writing.
I started this post planning on telling you about the world and the races of people that make up Ramajadin, so now I will pick up that thread. First of all Ramajadin is similar to Earth in a medieval period. So no cars or technology. Swords and bows are used for fighting, people ride horses and dragons. Two glaring differences are of course, dragons and magic. I am not saying that magic doesn’t exist on Earth, but it definitely does exist on Ramajadin. There are rules regarding the use of magic and that is one of the things that creates conflict throughout the trilogy, as one of the protagonists does not want to abide by those rules, and the other who does becomes convinced that he didn’t, that he somehow broke the rules.
Here is an excerpt from the glossary I put together for the trilogy that explains the places and the peoples that inhabit my world:
Ramajaden- The fantasy world where this all takes place
Crato- country on Ramajiden
Mahorg- country on Ramajiden
Hyogo- A small, neutral island country in Takan Ocean to the north of Crato and Mahorg, also the prison.
Wryzburg- royal city of Crato, where the Palace of the Twelve Pillars is located, home to King Theodric, Queen Lilia, their children and grandchildren.
Tra Umu Forest- located in the northeastern corner of Crato, and home of the Kningrad.
Has a magic force field that hides the location of the Kningrad and the Cave of Njori.
Imherp- small territory in the Northeastern corner of Crato, ruled by Eyvindur and subject to Crato. The Tra Umu Forest is located there. The home of the Kningrad and location of the Sanctuary of Nine Dragons.
Freiberg- Freiberg was the royal city of the Kningrad, located in the Tra Umu Forest, in the far northeast corner of Crato. Since it was within the boundaries of Crato, King Eyvindur and the citizens of Freiberg are allies of King Theodric.
Thael- Small kningrad village that is guarded by magical spells so no one knows where it is.
Anna Mountains- Mountain range in the northern part of Crato.
Mt. Evercidara- is the Holy Mountain of Asha.
Cave of Njori- Cave located in the Anna Mountains, used for spiritual journeys
Jena- village on the border of Crato and Mahorg
Geissen- a village in central Crato, near Dietfried Academy
Grilwood- the Mantion nation located in the northeast corner of Mahorg.
Valkan Mountains- Mountain range in the northeast corner of Mahorg.  It is home to the Mantions.
Dun Dealgan- royal city of Mahorg, Palace of the Three Crosses and King Waldrom’s home is located there
Tralee- capital city of the Mantions in the Valkan Mountains. Cave complex that is home to King Shigeo and Princess Gudrun along with Wizard Melvane when he is not in attendance on King Waldrom.
Dundalk-mining village of the Mantions found in the Valkan Mountains. Mantions take captured people here to work in the mines.
Ndor Forest – Forest in the center of Mahorg it is said to be haunted and magic doesn’t work there.
Mt. Dablaya – Sidramah’s mountain, located in the Valkan Mountains.
Cave of Kobata – It is located in the Valkan Mountains. Followers of Sidramah go there to commune with their god.
Edenderry- A small Mahorganite village located in the Ndor Forest. Princess Gudrun, when masquerading as Lady Magda reports that she comes from there.
Harable Valley- valley straddling Mahorg and Crato where Waldrom and Theodric and later Waldrom, Brandan and Joachim battle.

Creatures and explanations:
Treaty of 856- Treaty reached between the countries of Mahorg and Crato in the year 856. The treaty forbids the use of the magic of Sidramah and limits the use magic of Asha also established peace between the two countries and the exchange of youth for training.
Adept & adept magic- user of the magic of Asha, magic is only used as a last resort to heal and repair, when all other means have been exhausted
Wizard & wizard magic- user of the magic of Sidramah, opposite of adept magic, relies on dark emotions of the user.
Mantion-aligned with Sidramah, short, muscular creatures with pointed ears, live in caves and work in the mines when they can’t find slaves to do it for them
Kningrad- usually tall winnowy creatures, aligned with Asha
Flaithri School for Adepts- School for adepts hidden by magic in the Valkan Mountains. Apprentice adepts are sent there to finish their training and study with adepts.
Dietfried School for Heraldry- School for young people of Mahorg and Crato. Any person displaying traits of a knight or adept are sent to this school for their initial training. Once they complete their training here they become apprentices for either adepts or militias.
That should give you a basic idea of what I’m talking about and how things fit together. Like I said above, most of this was thought of when I needed something; like a race or a city. I suppose some planning went into it, like that it would be a medieval setting as opposed to contemporary and the races of Humans along with the names of the characters were based on the countries of Germany, Ireland and Japan during the medieval period. The rest was pretty much come as you go.
So the moral of this story: While a little planning helps, for some people too much planning can be a hindrance. I will admit it does help to have some idea about things, but for this writer, not too many is the way to go.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

'FREEDOM!' The National Wallace Monument #Scotland #Braveheart #OurAuthorGang

"They may take away our lives, but they will never take away our Freedom..."
Braveheart (1995)

You cannot go to Scotland and not climb The National Wallace Monument ~ she says!
I have a little issue when it comes to heights, which for someone who spends an awful lot of time, climbing old crumbling spiral staircases in ruined castles, may come as a bit of a surprise ~ you have no idea!

This isn't the first time I have attempted to climb the Monument. The first time was about 18 years ago, and I made it to the room where William Wallace's sword was, by which time I was feeling sick, dizzy and had an irrational fear that I was never going to leave this chamber again. 

 William Wallace's actual sword!

Fast-forward to present day, and I found myself once again looking at that never ending spiral staircase. This time, I had a determined teenager with me who was going to reach the top, and she would do so, even if it meant dragging me up those steps.

Needless to say, it took a little bit of encouragement and a big dollop of patience ~ but hey, we weren't in a rush, well I wasn't anyway!

I think we all know who William Wallace is ~ if not, where were you in 1995 when Braveheart hit the big screens?

Now the locals call Braveheart "that comedy" as there isn't much factually correct with it. But, there was a battle between Wallace and his army of loyal followers, and the English.

Let's give the battle it's real name, which is The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Now, Wallace wasn't the only one who had been, shall we say resisting, English rule. There was a  Scottish nobleman called Andrew Moray who had been doing his fair share of harassing the English army.  Wallace and Moray finally joined forces, and they gathered their troops on the slope of rock, known locally as Abbey Craig and from their position they watched the formidable forces of the English army gather under the leadership of John du Warenne and Hugh de Cressingham.

The Scots were outnumbered. The English had somewhere in the region of 200-300 knights on horseback and 10,000-foot soldiers. The Scots had 8,000-foot soldiers and only 36 horsemen. The English were confident in their numbers. There was no way they were going to lose to this rabble.

Two Dominican friars were sent as envoys to negotiate the Scottish surrender. Wallace replied...

"Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle, defend ourselves and liberate out kingsmen. Let them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards."

The English realised that the Scots were not going to come to them. They were going to have to cross the River Forth and teach these traitors a lesson.

Richard Lundie, a Scottish knight, fighting for the English, said to his commanding officers...

"My Lords, if we go across the bridge we are dead men."

 Old Stirling Bridge ~ photo from Wikipedia
Warrene should have listened to him, but he was so arrogantly confident that this battle would be a mere sword exercise for the men, that he did not heed the warning. The might of the English cavalry crossed the bridge and waited in the loop of the River Forth, while Wallace and Moray watched and prepared the men and when the time was right, they seized the moment. The Scottish spearmen cut off the escape back across the bridge and the English army, floundering in the marshy ground, were slaughtered.

Warrene must have watched with disbelieving eyes as these rebels massacred his men. He ordered for the bridge to be burnt and he retreated to Berwick. It was a decisive Scottish victory, and it wouldn't be the last.

The National Wallace Monument was designed by the Edinburgh-born Glasgow architect J. T. Rochead, and it was built between 1861 and 1869. It is 67 meters high and has 246 steps. I feel sick just thinking about it.

But it is so worth the climb. Not only do you get to see Wallace's actual sword but the views across Stirling are breathtaking ~ but, I have to be honest, I was really glad to get back down again!

You cannot go to Scotland and not climb the Wallace Monument ~ and despite my fear of heights, I am glad that this time, I made it to the top!

First Published on Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots 18th October 2016

The Du Lac Devil (Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles)

Readers' Favorite Finalist 2017
IAN Book Of The Year Award Finalist 2017
Golden Quill Award Winner 2017
Chill with a Book Readers' Award 2017

BooksGoSocial Readers Choice Award Shortlisted 2017
The Grunter Award Winner 2017
Discovered Diamond  Award 2018
Discovered Diamond Cover Of The Month January 2018

War is coming to Saxon Briton.

As one kingdom after another falls to the savage might of the High King, Cerdic of Wessex, only one family dares to stand up to him — The Du Lacs.

Budic and Alden Du Lac are barely speaking to each other, and Merton is a mercenary, fighting for the highest bidder. If Wessex hears of the brothers’ discord, then all is lost.

Fate brings Merton du Lac back to the ancestral lands of his forefathers, and he finds his country on the brink of civil war. But there is worse to come, for his father’s old enemy has infiltrated the court of Benwick. Now, more than ever, the Du Lac must come together to save the kingdom and themselves.

Can old rivalries and resentments be overcome in time to stop a war?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Cover Reveal: Creepy Hollow Adventures

Audiobook cover reveal by
Erika M Szabo & Joe Bonadonna
The cover is ready for our upcoming heroic fantasy for children 8-17 audiobook.
The book is being narrated by a fantastic voice-over artist, Pru Markim 

Golden Book Award Winner heroic fantasy for children 8-17
Amazon b&w PRINT:
B&N b&w PRINT:
B&N color PRINT:

Nikki and her impish cousin, Jack, find a mysterious black pumpkin in the forest on Halloween. A wise talking skeleton, Wishbone, tells them that the ghosts of the Trinity of Wishmothers are trapped inside. The children offer their help, so the skeleton takes them on a journey to the realm of Creepy Hollow to retrieve the three wands he hid long ago in Red Crow Forest, the Tower of Shadows, and the Cave of Spooks. On her 13th birthday, Nikki discovers she has magical powers. Nikki and Jack return to Creepy Hollow. Plenty of righteous motivations drive Jack and Nikki: they protect the weak and confront evil. They conquer their fears and gain courage, and in the final battle against Evila and her minions they grow into the warriors they were destined to become.
"I’m unable to do justice to the wealth of detail and action Szabo and Bonadonna managed to pack into this book."
~Fletcher Vredenburgh
"Szabo and Bonadonna make a great pair. Their Creepy Hollow Adventures is a perfect starting point for young children making the leap from "kids' books" to "novels."

~S E Lindberg

Erika M Szabo
Erika became an avid reader at a very early age, thanks to her dad who introduced her to many great books. Erika writes alternate history, romantic fantasy, and magical realism novels, as well as fun, educational, and bilingual books for children ages 4-12 about acceptance, friendship, family, and moral values such as accepting people with disabilities, dealing with bullies, and not judging others before getting to know them. Erika also likes to encourage children to use their imagination and daydream about fantasy worlds.

Joe Bonadonna
Much like Erika, Joe’s dad introduced him to books, as well as movies and music, at a very young age. He was encouraged to write as soon as he could hold a pencil. While Joe writes mostly Heroic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror and Science Fiction for an older audience, he decided to reach out to a younger audience and write something entertaining, as well as educational. In collaboration with Erika, this is his first children’s book series.

#childrensbooks #MGLit #YoungAdult

Take Not For Granted What You Have by Grace Augustine #OurAuthorGang

 Happy March, everyone!

Clover photo courtesy of crestmedia

St. Patrick's day is only a few away! Whether you wear green or orange, or drink beer, rum or whiskey...may the leprechauns bring you the luck of the Irish and may you enjoy the day.  I know this paragraph may not go with the heading, but it will all tie together with patience.

I want you to pretend you are a high school from school books, soon to be free from parents if you attend college. You have no fear! The summer is filled with carefree days of dragging main (small town antics), stopping at the local drive through for a soda or ice cream, gathering at the park, going to movies, going dancing. 

Autumn comes and you pack your things. With a tear in your eye you set off on your new for the next 4 years you will be held captive to more school work, parties, drinking, and doing things you've probably never experienced. 

You suddenly realize that you had it pretty good at home, despite the rules, the chores, the parental thumbscrews. Peanut butter sandwiches and Ramen become your daily food choices and you walk most everywhere you need to go. You really put all you have into your college major, hoping for good grades, and a good job when you graduate.

Now, you are in your mid 20's...probably with a significant person, probably working a fast food job waiting for that big one to land in your lap. You approach life cautiously, yet you still have that no fear mentality. You're still ready to take on the world.

As 30 approaches, you decide marriage and children should happen, not because you want it...or maybe you do, after all...but because all of your friends are doing it and you don't want to be left out. Then it hits...something you never dreamed of, something you didn't plan on...something now that turns your life upside down.

The tragic loss of a parent, a sibling, leaves you numb and wondering what will happen next. This causes you to hurry your life even more...gotta get married now, gotta have kids now, gotta have that house...gotta have, gotta have, gotta have...and before you know it, you are in the middle of married life, children, mortgages, financial distresses that you have no way of digging free from...especially college loans.

You try keeping it all together, and you are failing, miserably. You have no time for time for friends, no time for family, no time to nurture yourself. You notice at the age of 40 as your children are growing how much time has passed and just how much you've missed because of the essential every day needs that got in the way of the ability to breathe.

At 18, you had the security of your parents and friends and other family members who truly loved YOU and cared for you. As you matured into that married person, you brought children into the world, a part of you, and taught them all the good stuff that you could so they could function on their own...just as you did. You valued your parents, but did you? Did you really take the time to get to know their favorite flavor of ice cream? Their favorite passion? How much they gave up for YOU?  Now, the children are gone. Hopefully, you are still with your spouse, and if you aren't, you've adapted to single life. Hopefully, your health is good. Hopefully you can still walk, run, take out the trash, clean your apartment, and have a social life.  

We have more in front of us daily that we don't see than should ever happen. We so need to open our eyes, notice the small stuff and really cherish it before it becomes only memories we can no longer do.  How does this tie in with shamrocks, you ask? Think for a moment of that photograph. What strikes you about it? What do you notice about it? Or, did you notice anything? What about the vibrant color? the clean fragrant air? the quiet surrounding you as you stand looking at that vibrant green, smelling that clean air?

March is National MS Awareness month. Aha, you I'm beginning to understand...yay you!  MS is an autoimmune disorder. The person's body attacks itself, leaving nerve endings exposed and spinal cord and brain lesions that prevent complete communication from your brain to the other parts of the body.
I have MS. I was diagnosed in 2003. Over the past 15 yrs. I've lost so much, but have gained so much more by paying attention to everything around me.  I challenge you to do the same.  Take nothing for granted, for you know not what the next moment will bring.  Love your life, your friends, and your family and stop being afraid to tell them that. Tell them how you feel while you can still enjoy their company. Drop what you are doing...housework, playing on the computer, etc. None of that means anything when relationships are at hand.  Take time to cherish the moments of quiet, of love, of laughter, of joy, sorrow and tears. Allow yourself to feel these moments before they no longer matter.

All photos used are property of the writer unless otherwise specified.