Be strong, have faith in yourself

This post is different from my usual posts. Today, may 31st, is no tobacco day, and I wanted to share my experience here from the time I used to smoke.

Like most people who got hooked, I was young (maybe a little younger than usual) when I tried my first cigarette, around age 14. At 15 I was a smoker, though at first, 3 to 5 cigarettes a day were enough for me. But like any addiction, as days became weeks and weeks months and then a year, the number of cigarettes increased to half a pack a day, sometimes more. By then I would do water pipes (shisha) as well, strawberry flavoured, sometimes cherry flavoured, sometimes apple.

Shisha:A bowl filled with water, hooked to a hose and tube. Atop the hose is a small bowl, filled with flavoured tobacco, covered with aluminium foil and heated with hot coals. Smoke gathers at the neck of the water bowl, to be inhaled through the tube.

By the time I was 17, I was at the peak of my life, enjoying being a smoker (yes, I knew it was bad for my health), doing a pack a day, with no signs of slowing down. By the time I was eighteen, I would smoke around a pack and a half, sometimes one or two more, sometimes one or two less.

But by then I had my doubts, and decided smoking wasn’t all that fun anymore, so I throttled back to a pack, then half a pack a day.

Between 18 and 21 I was oscillating between that half pack to a full pack, but never more, never less. And then at 22 I finally found the will power and determination to quit and go cold turkey.

I remember that morning in March when I decided that was that and stubbed out the cigarette halfway through.

I moved away that same day – different house, different city, different people. I changed my habits – started eating a full breakfast every day, avoided people who smoked, no more coffee and hot drinks, no more idle lazing around (so the craving wouldn’t occupy my mind).

The first month was the worst.

The headaches came first, during the times I routinely had a cigarette: in the morning, with a cup of coffee, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, before bedtime – basically, for the entire day. But I was determined, and so I held on. Slowly the craving… didn’t lessen, but it wasn’t as bad, the headaches not as spiky, or it could be I got used to it. And then a month turned into two, then three, then six.

The urge to smoke was always there, the need to light just one and settle frazzled nerves, to soothe anxiety, to fill in the habit I once enjoyed so much.

But I never gave in.

Three years later I started drinking coffee again, and the craving for one more puff would appear suddenly, but it was easy to ignore by then.

It’s been now 13 years, 1 month and 28 days since that last half cigarette.

I have dreams at night that I still smoke, and whenever I do, the phantom craving will be there in the morning, giving me a sense of nostalgia, the need to know the what if I gave in, or hadn’t moved away, or hadn’t changed my routines so completely.

Today, may 31st, is no tobacco day, and I wanted to share here that it’s possible to give it up, if you’re determined enough and believe you have the will power to be stronger.


Do you believe in magic?

Words are magic, simple scribbling’s on a page that can conjure worlds, dragons, murderers, love, laughter, tears.

Sometimes, we string thousands of words together to send the message across, sometimes a paragraph will do. Other times, a simple phrase carries the power of an entire book – like the title.

Sometimes when I’m writing, my brain conjures up a title from the deepest recess of my mind and sends it to the forefront like an offering. Other times, the deep lake is silent, a foe who’s given me the pinky finger.

Who cares, I’d fume, it’s just a phrase, and as long as the content of the writing is good, the title doesn’t matter. And then I remember the countless books I’ve put aside just because the title was less than appealing.

Do you believe in magic?

It’s real. Words have power.

I believe there’s something about titles, a certain magic to either attract or repulse the mind. Short, long, suspenseful, humorous, frightening. No matter what, titles have the power to trigger recognition and stir emotion.

A weak title could repulse the reader, cause him/her to leave the book be. A strong title, on the other hand, has the power to entice a reader to pick up the book, even if for no other reason than to thumb through the pages and take a second look. Sometimes a second look is all a person needs to decide if the book deserves the title or not, other times, the reader may just go on reading to find out the reason for the title.

I, for one, have put aside countless books, despite positive reviews, just because the title didn’t appeal to me. For one, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one book I’ve read nothing but positive reviews for, but that title keeps shoving me away. Other books, like The Cruel Prince, have enticed me to pick it up, only to realize later that the title sounded better than the book itself (apologies to the fans).

Some titles can be non-descriptive, a neutral phrase or word that don’t really tell us anything, but for some reason (maybe the author’s name) gives us pause nonetheless. That’s when the reader may flip to the other cover and read a blurb (another bunch of words strung together) to see what the fuss is all about.

Words have magic, be it a short phrase, a paragraph, or a string of thousands of words put together to paint an image. Like a drawing on a canvas, sometimes simple strokes can do wonders.

Putting one word after the other to form a sentence is a simple task – but the result, to tease the reader’s imagination into seeing what the writer wants the reader to see is what causes the magic to happen.

Do you believe in magic?

Let’s prove wordpress is the best – and a book review in the mix

Today, mixed in with my latest book review, I want to introduce a friend and a fellow author, who just started blogging. We’ve all been there – the new kid in the block – so we all know how frustrating and weird blogging can get.

Let’s give Sean a welcome here to wp and prove to him I was right and wordpress is the best community out there – he’s eager to connect!

Welcome Sean!

author profile

Sean Robins is the author of The Crimson Death Bringer (read my review below), a science fiction / space opera book, to be released on May 3rd 2019.

Here’s a little about Sean:

Sean is a fan of Marvel, Game of Thrones, Star Trek AND Star Wars and Jim Butcher. He’s a university / college level English professor originally from Canada, but has lived in various countries all over the world.


book cover


Book title: , The Crimson Death Bringer

Genre: Science fiction / space opera

Target audience: Teen and young adult

Publisher: Creativia

Print length: 354 pages


Book blurb:


The Akakies, a peaceful, technologically advanced alien species known as “the galaxy’s pranksters,” are under attack by the Xortaags, a vicious military race bent on conquering the universe. The Xortaags are deadly, but Tarq, the Akakies’ chief strategist and legendary shadow master, has a plan.


Meanwhile on Earth, Jim, a wise-cracking, movie-quoting, OCD-suffering fighter pilot, is about to propose to his girlfriend Liz when his childhood friend Kurt shows up at his house, injured and covered in blood. Kurt is a freedom fighter/super- assassin hunted by a brutal military dictatorship’s security forces. Soon after, Jim, Liz and Kurt’s lives are set to crash with a galactic war that threatens the very existence of the human race.


Can our heroes save humanity from the wrath of an overwhelming enemy?


The Crimson Deathbringer seamlessly blends breathtaking action sequences with mischievous humor. If you are a science fiction/space opera fan, this book, with its memorable characters, formidable antagonist and Game of Thrones style shocking moments, is written especially for you.


Want an e-copy of The Crimson Death Bringer? It’s your lucky day! Sean is giving a limited number of books away in exchange for an honest review, if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll arrange it for you.


My review:


When I started this book, I had 0 expectations, no idea of what I was going to find.

And man, was I surprised.

The Crimson Death Bringer is a mix of funny and clever dialogue, action packed adventure, with scenes that made me chuckle, bite my nails, and provoked a tear or two.

All while it kept me at the edge of my seat, trying to guess what would happen next. And no, most times I guessed wrong.


In this book, Sean Robins takes us into a futuristic adventure where aliens have come to conquer earth. Seems familiar? Add another alien race who decides helping humans will benefit them in the long run, and there you have it: A ruthless species who wants to conquer earth and treat humans as their slave-poppets vs. another alien race who are technologically advanced…. but are dubbed the galaxy’s pranksters and will need the humans to pilot and fight the enemy.

The result? Well, a complete disaster!


There are multiple pov’s in this book, something I know isn’t easy to write, but Sean pulled it off perfectly. His characters are well drawn, his descriptions clear and easy to envision.

And the ending will make you wish for more!


The Crimson Death Bringer is a compelling, thrilling and fun read that will keep you at the edge of your seat. Totally recommend it!


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Warning: Writing is bad for readers

Aside from cutting my free time short, writing has affected my reading habits in a lot of different ways, and they aren’t all nice.

Back in the day, I’d pick up a book and just read until I reached the other cover – I’d even read the copyright statement, acknowledgement, biography and, if included, the bonus chapter from the next book.

When my time got shorter and books got available with a bigger variety, the only thing that really changed was the fact that I got pickier. Back then, I didn’t mind if there was a typo, a plot hole (small one) or if some paragraph didn’t make much sense. I simply ignored the mistakes – because they happen, we’re human after all – and went on with the story. My rating of that book was the result of my overall enjoyment, meaning, I didn’t try picking the book apart – writing style, plot, character and so on; if I enjoyed the story as a whole, it meant that was a good story and that’s it.

Then I started writing. And so, I began paying attention to other author’s style, the way they described things, the tone of the story… you know, big and small things that appealed to the writer within. Now, everything’s changed.

For one, I’m always on the lookout for mistakes. The grammar, the spelling, the formatting – any typos. That should be a good thing, being able to identify others mistakes. For a writer, that is, and I like that I can tell the difference.

But, for my reader? It kills the reading mood. I still rate a book by my overall enjoyment of the story, but sometimes, if the typos are many, my enjoyment of the story dims, especially if I find a plot hole.

And when I find any typo on a best seller? I’m crazy enough that I do a happy dance.

What about you? Do you rate a book by your overall enjoyment of the story, or do you take note of the typos and then deduce stars from your rating?

By Chance book review

book cover


Author: E. Denise Billups

Genre: Thriller, suspense, psychological thriller

Pages: 479

Publisher: Creativia



Visions of the past are haunting, but future premonitions are frightening. Especially knowing the day and time of your death. When Tara McPherson enters her office Piazza the morning of December fifteenth, destiny stares her in the face. A 187-year-old vision begins the moment her eyes lock with a lurking stranger.


Tara McPherson was seven when she saw her first premonition. A vision so sinister, she repressed her clairvoyance. Thirty years later, malevolent Tom Spencer enters her life determined to exact vengeance against Alcott Home and Design’s Dream Team—Tara McPherson, Laura Alcott, and Leanne Davis. To save their lives, Tara must overcome her fear and recall repressed visions.


Guarded and levelheaded, Leanne Davis is Retro cognitive and sees essences of people’s past. Charming, empathetic, and the consummate Southern belle, Laura Alcott is Clairsentient and knows people’s thoughts before they speak. Compassionate and scrupulous, Tara McPherson is Precognitive and can see the future.

On Christmas morning when they open a mysterious gift, their secure world collapses. Never have the girl’s combined gifts been more critical than now. With the help of a supernatural presence from eighteenth-century South Carolina, they combined their powers to outwit their assailant. But they can’t change Tara’s vision. Doing so will cause greater consequences. The girl’s only choice is to accept fate or risk altering destiny.


My review:


Another great read!

I was hooked from the first – seriously, I had all the right “whys, whos and whats” to keep me turning page after page after page.

And then came the supernatural, mystical aspect and I kind of fell in love.

The theme is mysterious at times, suspenseful at others, a little creepy at some – but that’s probably because I’m a little faint at heart.

In some parts I’d think “oh, I know what’s coming” and then I’d be completely caught off guard.

And the ending? A twist I totally hadn’t seen coming.

The writing, as I’d come to expect is a mixture of simple and complex, a unique style I’ve come to enjoy from this author.

Totally recommend it!

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It’s terminal!


Well, maybe it’s not terminal, but it’s permanent. My diagnosis came through. I’m suffering from RISD. It may not be lethal, but it’s definitely frustrating.

This new illness – RISd – Revisionitis Intolerance Syndrome Disorder, means that my tolerance for revisions is very low.

So, because you won’t find RISD in any search engine, I’ll define it here for you:

RISD, or Revisionitis Intolerance Syndrome Disorder, is a chronic illness that plagues writers, often causing them to have little to zero tolerance to revise or edit their current work in progress. This disease can be mild, giving the writer at least a few hours to work on their wip, or acute, leaving the writer with no option but to work in bursts and fits.

There are stages for RISD, and this is how it starts:

1- Procrastination.

Every time I finish the first draft of a book, I flounder. The need to get the story polished is there, but I find a million other things to occupy my spare time with.

2- The loss of focus.

After the first stage, RISD progresses to the loss of proper focus. Sentences that need re-writing will go unnoticed, as well as details I’d know, but can’t figure out at the time unless a certain amount of rest goes by.

3- The need to desperately fall asleep.

If I keep on pushing, eventually I start dosing off. Sometimes I just grit my teeth and go back where I think the loss of focus began and start again. However, RISD is very sneaky, and things become so repetitive they turn into a lullaby.

4- Mushy brain cells.

Whenever I get determined to get at least a certain amount of pages done, I’ll force myself from that wonderful nap, grit my teeth, drink my coffee and force my attention right back where I’d stopped. And my brain cells turn into a soggy mush, or, depending how hard I’m working, get fried to the point I have trouble – for a second or two – recalling the names of my kids. Note: This final stage is the nailer. If I let myself get to this part, my tolerance for revisions are shot and I need to put my wip aside for a few days (weeks if the cells get fried).

**So there it is, my new diagnosis for a new illness in my long list of disease collection. My RISD is acute and it’s not fun. I have no trouble while I’m drafting a story, I can write well into the night. But when the revisions and editing begin, I simply lose my rhythm. I’ve learned that my tolerance level is anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

What about you, do you have RISD? Can you work on your draft, revising, editing and pecking away as long as you’d like, or do you have a limit?


Justice for Belle by Didi Oviatt Review

book cover

Author: Didi Oviatt

Genre: Psychological thriller

Publication: Expected May 15th, 2019

Kindle pages: 119




Ahnia has a very dicey past – one that is scratching under the surface, just dying to get out.


She’s hit rock bottom, broke and desperate to be on top again. When she finds herself partnering up with man she hardly knows, and who’s utterly untouchable, she’s forced out of her comfort zone and left to question her own sanity.


Will Ahnia and Mac’s dangerous decision be a success, or will she find herself in the clutches of an unforgiving force, brought about by her childhood sin?

In this nail biting thrill ride, no one is as they seem… and no one is truly safe with those they trust.




“Call me weird, obsessed, paranoid, twisted or whatever, but I have this nasty little habit of trying to guess what kind of killers people would be… if they were actually killers, that is.”


What a read!

I’ve never been inside the head of a killer. Never sympathized either.

But oh, was I torn on whether I should bet for the killer or the murder victim.

I read this book in one sitting – it’s a short novella – and I really needed to know what the twist was going to be. I had a suspicion halfway through the story, and although I wasn’t completely wrong, I didn’t get it right either.

The writing style was fun to read, while still being suspenseful with just enough information to make you wonder and want to keep going.

My only regret is that I didn’t get to know more about Mac at the end.

It’s a standalone short psychological thriller and I totally recommend it!






When Dreams Crash With Reality

Every time I try my hands at poetry, something morbid comes out. No springy flowers here.

This is just a little poem I wrote a while back. Hope you enjoy!


I thought I was unique, one of a kind, something new.

I thought I was different, always happy, never blue.

I was a determined person, and I had enough ambition to see my goals through.

I was a dreamer, and so I had many dreams I wanted to pursue.

I would see them to fruition and nothing and no one could block my view.

I had enough faith in myself; I believed that there was nothing I couldn’t do.

Oh, I was realistic enough to know there’d be obstacles in my path too.

But I believed if I never gave up, there was no problem I couldn’t outdo.

I was wrong, and disappointment came and decided to take root.

I learned that dreams are complicated creatures, full of phases and masks askew.

And that they don’t always come true.

Sometimes I can almost see the face of my dream, overcome a phase or two.

But I do know now that many dreams are built with nothing but hay and bamboo,

Strong at times, but easy enough to subdue.

Am I still unique, with all the dreams I never outgrew?

Inwardly, I still believe in the things I can no longer do.

But enough external obstacles keep me standing still, shackled, with my feet glued.

Sometimes I backtrack and try other paths, and here dreams have a different hue.

Sometimes, all I find are other obstacles, and here I falter and review.

Will my dreams ever realize, or are they nothing but taboo?

But a dreamer has nothing without dreams, and so I backtrack and renew.

Again and again I’ll take my cue, until my dreams finally come true.


I want to thank everyone who voted for my book, Heir of Ashes on the TCK Readers Choice award. And thank you twice to everyone who did it twice for the vote to register.

If you didn’t vote but would like to, votes are still open.

Check my last post for instructions:

And thank you!


Help me win this award!

So Heir of Ashes – book 1 in the Roxanne Fosch Files was nominated for the 2019 Readers Choice Award by TCK Publishing.


I’m here to shamelessly ask for your vote to help me win – link below.

To vote, please click on the link below and then go to page 8 – fantasy category and click on Heir of Ashes.


I appreciate the help!


If you have any trouble voting, leave me a comment and I can walk you through it.


Thank you!

Survival of the Fittest By Jacqui Murray

Title: Survival of the Fittest

Author: Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

“Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.”

Cover by: Damonza

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.

**Read on further for sample extract**

Available at:

Kindle US:

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Kindle AU:

My question to Jacqui:

How do you differentiate Xhosa (this book’s main character) from the human species that probably led to her extinction?

Homo erectus (Xhosa) was a brilliant creature, worthy of our respect and admiration. This species is the longest lasting human species ever. Where her predecessor chose flight over fight, she never did, always confronting her enemy , always believing that she could win.

But, sometimes, that’s not enough. Though she was tough, aggressive, and tenacious, like the alpha animals she defeated, a smarter human species was her undoing.

At least, lots of scientists think so. Truly, there are lots of theories.

Author bio:

Jacqui’s photo

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Social Media contacts:



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Author page:



Chapter 1

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

The People’s warriors had been away hunting when the assault occurred. Xhosa’s mother pushed her young daughter into a reed bed and stormed toward the invaders but too late to save the life of her young son. The killer, an Other, laughed at the enraged female armed only with a cutter. When she sliced his cheek open, the gash so deep his black teeth showed, his laughter became fury. He swung his club with such force her mother crumpled instantly, her head a shattered melon.

From the safety of the pond, Xhosa memorized the killer—nose hooked awkwardly from some earlier injury, eyes dark pools of cruelty. It was then, at least in spirit, she became a warrior. Nothing like this must ever happen again.

When her father, the People’s Leader, arrived that night with his warriors, he was greeted by the devastating scene of blood-soaked ground covered by mangled bodies, already chewed by scavengers. A dry-eyed Xhosa told him how marauders had massacred every subadult, female, and child they could find, including her father’s pairmate. Xhosa communicated this with the usual grunts, guttural sounds, hand signals, facial expressions, hisses, and chirps. The only vocalizations were call signs to identify the group members.

“If I knew how to fight, Father, Mother would be alive.” Her voice held no anger, just determination.


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