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Tri-con Day 2

IMG_4800A lot of great costumes today! Cosplayers were creative.

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IMG_4803Quailman from the cartoon Doug

IMG_4804Doctor Who scene – I was dazzled by the “Cassandra” (the floating face) prop

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IMG_4811I really liked this costume – she said it was her own original creation. A mythical deer creature? So pretty! Doesn’t she look like she’s ready to break out into a Broadway song and dance number?

IMG_4814The Evansville Public Library offered a free button making project. Also, one of the staff (not pictured here) is a fan of Cassie’s KiLA iLo comic. She was surprised to see Cassie, and to hear that we recently moved here.

It was a good connection! We donated a copy of our books to the library and it looks like we’ll be doing workshops there.

IMG_4842This dragon was here to raise money for the Make a Wish foundation

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IMG_4819Actress Cristin Azure chatting with cosplayers – looking gorgeous, ladies!

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IMG_4822Actress Cristin Azure interview session with the Shaw brothers

…and a selfie with the crew!

IMG_4821Enjoyed getting to know the lovely Cristin and her husband, but their adorable baby stole the show! I wish them all the best as they continue their creative adventures in acting, stunt driving (whoa!), and more.

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IMG_4829The beautiful Maleficent, otherwise known as our favorite cashier at our local Ruler Foods where we shop religiously for my family’s groceries! I tell you, we take food savings seriously. This girl could have cosplayed as herSELF and I’d have wanted a picture!

IMG_4830Maleficent and me

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This made me laugh! Although… I was worried when the T-Rex hopped up the stairs… whew, glad he made it

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IMG_4831Remember I mentioned earlier that the Evansville library was offering free buttons (that you design yourself)? Cassie drew Max from the Goofy movie.

She wanted to ask Max’s voice actor, Jason Marsden, to sign the sketch before it was made into a button.

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Jason Marsden, was kind enough to sign the sketch. The button turned out great! Cassie will treasure this – thank you for being kind to my daughter, Jason!

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This young girl, Melody Meador, was the master of disguises! She wore several costumes throughout the weekend. She commissioned Cassie to sketch one of Jason Marsden’s other famous characters for him to sign. Melody was so pleased that she gave Cassie a chocolate cupcake!

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That’s a delicious tip! Not a starving artist today!

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Tri-Con 2016

Tri-Con at Holiday Inn, Evansville, Indiana

Here we are, bright and early! (Well, it’s too early to be “bright”)

IMG_4756That’s me in the red coat (left) with my daughter Cassandra.

IMG_4759Cassandra, ready to pitch her KiLA iLO comic and Dramatic Mom (the comic we collaborate on – she’s the artist, I write the stories). I’m focusing mainly on my new art book FRED … the iPad is set up to display my painting videos.

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IMG_4765Cosplayers… ^ don’t know what’s going on here ^

IMG_4770<—–See, that’s my table. Right next to me was a magician.

He was busking for tips, working the crowd. By the end of the afternoon I knew his routine.  It was hard for me to resist blurting out the punchlines to his jokes. 😉

Let’s take a break from the table and see what other people are doing…

IMG_4775Eville J’s Creepy Closet – “Masks, props, and all things creepy”

IMG_4776Yi, yi, yi…

IMG_4777He said that’s a Trick or Treat bag! Clown alert… don’t look behind the franken mask if triggered by clowns.

IMG_4783These two were fun. I wanted to sing with them… their booth was much more fun than mine!

Mikey Mason – Comedy Rock Geek

IMG_4784Jacob Walker, artist

IMG_4785Kevin Brown, photographer – I wish the samples on the table had showed in the photo better. I like the Supergirl one, very cool. What a fun gift a photo shoot like this would be! “Beyond Reality, Photography with no Limits”.

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Greggo travels the world doing his game shows

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Enjoyed meeting actress, model, and stunt driver (tell us more!) Cristin Azure… Walking Dead zombie? I love meeting interesting people!

IMG_4792Comic creator Kyle Starks

IMG_4793Author/Director Bob Dixon

IMG_4795Actor and director Jason Marsden… our family loves him as the voice of Maximilian (Max) from the Goofy movies. I have fond memories of the Goofy movie playing in an endless loop during our 2008 family vacation… every time we got in the van, Goofy and Max would pick up where we left off. But, Jason has done much more than that… take a look at all of the shows you’ve probably seen him in, in his 25+ years career.

Besides all of this, he’s a nice guy. His table in the VIP area was in my direct line of sight. I watched him talking to teenagers and young adults who attended the convention, easily spending a good ten minutes or more in one-on-one conversation. He was genuine and warm. I’m sure his time with them meant the world.

See? It’s people like this who give us hope that there are still decent people out there!

And… he was gracious enough to offer up a picture with me in it. “Uh, sure!” (Goofy voice) <–that part didn’t happen, I can’t do Goofy. I can do a decent Mickey Mouse though.

IMG_4796Jason Marsden and I, just hanging out….

IMG_4797Cassie wanted a picture with Jason too, so I sent her back over with my camera.

That’s a great start to the Tri-con weekend, wouldn’t you say? We left early today (Friday). We’ll be back tomorrow for more.

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Why Indie?

FRED TV oil painting videos by Natalie Buske Thomas

August and September are a hazy memory. I was lost in the production of Fred, an interactive and funny book featuring my oil paintings. Fred is my life story summarized in a 40 page children’s book, told in my own style, illustrated by my art, and brought to life by multimedia. I love being an indie because I have the creative freedom to do projects like Fred.

But I almost took a different path.

About fifteen years ago I was in negotiations for a publishing contract. I was sorely tempted. After all, isn’t that what I’d always wanted, to be an author? But the publisher wanted me to commit to 50 booksignings and/or author events a year. I did the math. Hmm, the last I knew there were only 52 weeks in a year. I explained that I didn’t want to travel while raising young children. Unfortunately, the travel requirement was non-negotiable.

I thought back to when I went to Bouchercon, a convention for mystery writers, fans, and industry professionals. It was held in Milwaukee that year. We were living in Minnesota then – Milwaukee is a manageable day trip from Minneapolis. My husband dropped me off at the convention hotel, armed with my self-published mystery novels and a whole lot of moxie. Then he headed off to the science museum with the kids.

I served on a panel and I signed a few books. I thought I’d feel important, but I was instead lost in a sea of well established and traditionally published authors. I was snubbed by most, and then roasted online afterward. I didn’t take it personally. After all, writing is a competitive business and I wasn’t (yet) an experienced or trained competitor. The only thing I felt foolish about was my naiveté in thinking that these people were my colleagues. No, I wasn’t ready for prime time (then).

When the convention ended, my husband showed up with the kids in tow. My son was in a stroller and my daughter was walking alongside him. My daughter had never been to a museum like the ones in picture books and on children’s TV shows, the kind of museums that feature dinosaur skeletons. When she saw me, her eyes lit up and she immediately bubbled over into a steady stream of chatter about T-Rex’s and dinosaur bones and dinosaur eggs, and… you get the picture. She’d had a big day. And I had missed it.

So, no, Mr. Publisher, I will have to pass. My requirement to be home is just as non-negotiable as your requirement that I travel. However, had he been willing (he wasn’t), I was open to compromise, and that’s the part that scared me the most. After the travel issue, how many other things would I have been willing to compromise? I’d get the chance to find out.

Later on down the road, after a third baby and a private teaching career, I was in negotiations for a publishing contract for a different book. I figured the kids were getting older and I could handle the traveling requirements. But wouldn’t you know? There was another impasse. This time, the issue was with the main plot of my book. He said he “couldn’t get past it” and wouldn’t sign on unless I either changed it or offered him a different book.

I actually considered doing it. I don’t have a fierce love for my own writing, I never do. It’s the act of writing it that excites me. Shortly after I finish a book, or even before the final page, I’m already hooked on the next project. The point is, I don’t get upset when editorial changes are suggested. However, he wanted me to change the main plot. I couldn’t do that without re-writing much of the book, making it a different book entirely. My gut was telling me not to. If he was already leveraging me for radical changes before I signed t he contract, what would he expect after I signed it?

How much was I willing to compromise? Was I comfortable giving someone else veto power over my ideas? It’s one thing to give my book to an editor to find typos, grammatical errors, pacing issues, weaknesses in the plot, contradictions in the story line, or any other suggestions for improvement. Improving a work is a far different action from approving, or obviously disapproving of a work. While improving a book is a necessary step in professional publishing, approving/disapproving is a form of censorship.

How desperate was I for a publisher? After all, wasn’t I getting the hang of this publishing gig on my own? Those early days when I was snubbed and ridiculed by traditionally published authors were humbling, but I learned from them. I trained. I gained experience. I am now a strong competitor. Had it not been for indie publishing, I wouldn’t have learned what it takes to win. Now I regularly attend booksignings, public speaking events, and conventions. Sometimes I’m the host or the guest! No one’s laughing now.

I’m grateful for that nagging feeling in my gut that told me not to compromise. Today, I’m working on my 27th book, Birds Day. Besides being an author, I’m also an artist with oil paintings on exhibit. I wouldn’t be where I am today if someone had slowed me down, vetoed my ideas, and discouraged me from experimenting. No one believed in me as much as I learned to believe in myself.

Even when it was hard to keep the faith, I followed each creative twist and turn. One thoughtful Christmas my husband gave me a beautiful artists’ easel. I didn’t want to disappoint him, so I put it to use. In 2010 I painted my first oil painting and submitted it to a juried competition. I got in! My painting Savannah Reading in a Butterfly Garden was on a 14-month tour, part of a traveling exhibit to libraries. Encouraged by that warm reception, I painted several more works of art that were featured in gallery exhibits: Ron and Joy before the War, Irish Angel, Life Sustaining, and We are the Angels that He Sends.

Today I’ve painted dozens of gallery-sized paintings and dozens more story-board illustrations. I’m doing what I love to do, what I was born to do! If not for indie publishing, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to explore new ideas. And that’s not all! I’ve taken my book adventures a step farther: I’ve made them interactive via videos to watch me paint the illustrations. The art comes to life when the videos are sped up, like a short animated film. I love dabbling in film!

Well, as much fun as all of this sounds, as you might already know firsthand, being an indie is a lot of work. Coercing a computer to cooperate is a joyless ritual. And there’s always an unwanted-guest-who-never-leaves elephant in the room: that pesky issue of money. It’s not enough to create the work. I also have to SELL it.

Life was especially hard when my husband was unemployed for a year. The pressure on me to produce income was cranked up to “boiling”. But I’m not alone. Every entrepreneur and small business owner has this worry. Sure, the worry for some might not ever reach the boiling point, but few people can afford to dabble at being an indie publisher. And those of us who are full-time indies without a “day job” have a strong motivation to sell books!

As I write this blog post I’m multi-tasking. After every few sentences a notification alert tells me that there’s another message from my son at this college campus. He wanted me to remind him to bring his earphone cable. The chat moved on to other subjects. Shortly afterword I got the message “it was here the whole time”. I realized we were back to talking about the earphone cable. Then, he wanted to me to install a chat room on my computer. I followed his instructions. My computer went bezerk. The keyboard failed, making my cursor drunk with power. I lost control of the wheel. I had trouble even re-starting. Just now I was able to get back to this blog post.

Communication with my son resumed. “Did you try it?” he asked. I told him what happened. His response, “Oops.” See? I would have missed all of that, had I taken the other path. Who knows where I’d be right now; would I have had time to talk to my son on a Tuesday morning? What would my day have been like? Later this afternoon I’ll be cheerfully painting a goldfinch for my new book project Birds Day. I also have a lunch date for macaroni and cheese with my daughters. I want this day, my day.

I want it all: creative freedom to push books to the limits of my imagination, mac & cheese lunch dates with my daughters, and disjointed chats with my son. There are no limits, there are no rules. The ugly days challenge me. Well, if I’m honest, some days I’m defeated. But I get back up, even if it’s a slow climb. The good days inspire me. Whenever one project ends, it means that another can begin. I think I’ve plead my case to you long enough.

Why indie? Because I love it!

Dream big, God bless, xoxoxo - Natalie
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Bacon and Pistachio

Natalie Buske Thomas donating books to Newburgh LibraryI’m back, BABY! We left Ireland two weeks ago as of yesterday, my desk is a cardboard box, and my bed is an air mattress on the floor, but that’s no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. I got up this morning, showered with my mini hotel soap and shampoo, attempted something with my hair, applied makeup, and went on my first cold call to a library in my new town.

It was with a bit of trepidation that I entered the Newburgh Public Library – what reception would I have? WOOT! Meeting with Diana was delightful. We had a fabulous chat! She has the same passion for events as I do. I babbled at her for probably a good half hour and I could’ve stayed longer. I look forward to doing events at Newburgh. Thank you for the best, warmest reception I’ve ever had from a library cold call!

Indiana is good to me already! And, there’s… BACON!!!

IMG_4042Sorry, Ireland, “rashers” are NOT bacon! Bacon, oh how I missed you! This was the first food purchase we made.

But Ireland does butter BETTER…. I’ll dearly miss it. I could cry just thinking about it. Marie got me hooked on it and now… WHAT? Is it true? KERRYGOLD right there at my local Wal-mart!!!! And now in my new kitchen, natch! 😀

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IMG_4037Our friends Walter and Miki Estep gifted us with all of these goodies from the local Farmer’s Market! I was ecstatic to see the huge fresh tomatoes!!! After a second or two, my heart skipped a beat… I said, “WE HAVE BACON!” So… well, naturally…

IMG_4040BLT baby! That’s how we do it here in America. 🙂

IMG_4039I also put tomatoes on my homemade pizza… MMM!

IMG_4043IMG_4044IMG_4045IMG_4046Thank you for the dinner help, Walter and Miki!

Next, let’s go to their house…

IMG_4049The pretty home of Walter and Miki Estep

IMG_4053Fun times await! (Miki, me in the middle, Brent)

Visiting with friends helps with the transition period. We’ve had to accept Plan B in just about every area of our lives, including where Nicholas would attend his first year of college. You might recall that he’d received a scholarship for a computer major at world class university UCC in Ireland… but we couldn’t stay. Where would he go then?

IMG_4064Here’s Nicholas with Brent outside of Ivy Tech. Nicholas wants a rare niche major that few schools have. World-class UCC didn’t have it, as they are a university, not a tech school. But, even though Ivy Tech offers what he wants, when Nicholas signed up for his classes here, one of the admissions counselors had never heard of his major! No problem, someone else knew exactly what he was talking about, and even gave him kudos on his high SAT scores. 🙂

Nicholas was easily accepted into Ivy Tech in “Linux Server Administration”. The names of his classes all sound like gibberish to me, but he’s excited for school to start in August. (click on the photo below to see it large enough so that you can read it)

IMG_4095 (2)IMG_4065When Nicholas said that he was looking into Ivy Tech (on his own initiative), we were still in Ireland at the time, but we knew that we had to look into State-side options. I asked him if he remembered that my dad used to teach at Ivy Tech (and loved it!). He said he didn’t remember. Maybe on some level he did remember, or maybe this is another one of those strange “coincidences”. Nicholas has always had a special connection to my dad, even though Dad passed away about 12 years before Nicholas was born. It’s uncanny how connected their lives are (this connection is the inspiration behind the Grandpa Smiles picture book).

IMG_4066After only two years, Nicholas will be Linux certified and could be head-hunted. He plans to continue on with a university education though… unless he gets an offer he can’t refuse. 🙂  Which can happen… this kid is very, very good. Look at the photos below:

IMG_4076Can you guess what you’re looking at here?

IMG_4078He’s made vents for it…

IMG_4079Power supply sticking out of the box

IMG_4080All of the ports are conveniently accessible…

IMG_4077He’s borrowed a monitor from Miki to use with his desktop computer, that he brought to and from Ireland IN HIS CHECKED-IN BAGGAGE. He had taken his computer apart, wrapped all of the components in tin foil, and then reassembled it. He couldn’t keep the plastic casing, so he built a case out of LEGOs and it was fully awesome. I’m looking for the photo of it to share. That’s how his computer was cased while we lived in Ireland.

This time around, I suggested my cardboard vacuum cleaner box because our shipment won’t be coming for another couple of months (he has only a few LEGOs with him – just the stray ones that were almost left behind). The computer needed a few minor repairs while in Ireland – which Nicholas diagnosed for himself & he asked Brent to help him fix (required tedious soldering).

Anyway, any kid who can do this with computers, set up his own private server and home network, and -ahem- get us into trouble with Comcast for his hacking (<—he’s promised us not to do that again!), is a kid who is going places in the IT world. He’s taught himself coding and Japanese. I’m guessing there’s a reason for that, but maybe not.

Nicholas – we’re proud of you. It doesn’t matter to me where you go to school, only that you are able to pursue what you dream of doing, and that you are happily using the talents that God gave you. Congratulations on landing a grant! WOOT! Every bit helps!

So, we’re getting back on our feet again…

IMG_4091Miki couldn’t wait to give me the prize she won at the art store. All I need is a blank canvas and a brush – I don’t have to wait for my art supplies to come in from the shipment!

IMG_4089IMG_4087For now I’ve placed my new oil paints on the shelf (left in the house) with Marie’s bookmark.

Cassie found us a convention for October, so I better get busy if I want to display something new! And… she might have a job working for Apple! The Irish connection there has panned out after all (Apple Headquarters based in Cork). But we’re waiting to hear if she can still do this from the United States. It is a from-home customer service job, so it’s possible. Cross your fingers!

Brent is at yet another meeting with a school principal as I write this blog. He seems to have landed two part-time retail jobs to get through the summer. He’s still working on the teaching position, but we aren’t worried. There are many open positions and he’s interviewing well. It’s really all about which school is the right fit for him. I look forward to seeing where he lands. Finances will be tighter than a blood pressure cuff, but we’ll get through it.

And… our youngest child is happy… Her simple wish was to have a pet turtle. I’d told her that it would be a long while before we were back on our feet again and we couldn’t get a pet. Even if it was an outdoors turtle? Right, even then. Maybe someday….

Or, maybe God hears the secret longings of a young girl’s heart. Because, what do you think showed up at our door? Literally AT OUR DOOR!

IMG_4072Here’s “Pistachio”, Savannah’s pet turtle… who probably crept up to the house from the woods. This is the step off our kitchen, where we can watch him from the glass doors.

IMG_4073We’ve discovered that he’ll eat bananas. Now that he knows we’ll feed him, he comes to the step every day. I don’t know where he scoots off to when he’s not there. He’s surprisingly fast for a turtle. Savannah goes hunting for him.  Sometimes she finds him, sometimes she doesn’t. But so far, he always comes back.

IMG_4074Isn’t he beautiful? Savannah is enchanted by him. He’s exactly the pet she wanted! God moves in mysterious ways. It may feel like good things are moving as slow as a turtle, but when they arrive, they are beautiful… and sometimes turtles move surprisingly fast.

God bless & never give up – xoxoxo, Nat

 

 

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Comfort Zone

Brent’s teaching journey will take several months to play out, and until it does, what can we do to prove that we have a purpose in Ireland? More specifically, what is my purpose for being in Ireland? It isn’t good enough for me to simply want to live here. I need to have a reason. Otherwise, my odds don’t look good for getting permission to stay here after our three month stamp runs out. It’s time to break out of my comfort zone and promote myself with everything I’ve got!

It’s interesting how “carrot and stick” motivation works for me. I’ve managed to get pretty far with the carrot (imagining success and working toward it), but it’s funny how much harder I’ll push myself if my back is against the wall and I’m desperate to avoid getting struck by a big, big stick–a stick with barbs on it. I wish I could have been this ambitious when I wasn’t running out of time and descending into chaos, but, hey, the stick is effective. My 2016-2017 calendar is already filling up! Ireland has to keep me now, right?

Here I am before meeting Caoimhe at Friars’ Gate Theatre in Co. Limerick (thank you for the contact, Marie O’Halloran!).

Natalie Buske Thomas before meeting in Co Limerick Feb 2016I’m happy to announce that I’m now scheduled for my own show at Friars’ Gate – a month long exhibit of my art in February 2017!

Friars Gate Theatre Brochure

But wait, there’s more! Library events are in the works, I have complimentary tickets to the London Book Fair, and… I’m just getting started! I won’t make the cut for all of the things I’ve put in for, but I’m confident I’ll have a few more wins that I’ll be able to announce soon. Some of these opportunities are located in beautiful coastal areas and I’d love the excuse to go!

To add to all of this, I might be starting up a book festival in the upcoming year. I’m good at starting new programs and events, and I’d love to help. The book festival idea came about during a conversation with Marie when we were sitting at the car dealership, eating biscuits (cookies) and drinking coffee (temporarily breaking my ban on coffee).

Well, one thing led to another and Marie invited three of her friends, all named Mary, to our house for a party… where I blind-sided them with my stack of flyers, my hyper-organization, and my rabid enthusiasm. If I haven’t scared them off, the book festival will go forward and I’ll have another event to add to my calendar!

I might have won them over with the absurd amount of food I made (six platters of three different kinds of baked fold-overs: BBQ beef, cheeseburger, and pizza — homemade) and my magical from-scratch chocolate cake.  Hopefully the food distracted them from the committee planning chart that cast a glaring light on how much work it is to host a festival. We shall see!

Here’s the cake I made for the book festival planning party:
Book Festival Cake

But… As exciting as these live in-person events are, I won’t get far if I don’t create new projects, if I don’t market my work, and if I don’t keep up with the administrative part of being an artist/author entrepreneur. So, I’m plugging away with all of that as well.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m working on my first Irish landscape called “Tree on Rock Hill”. This is what the oil painting looks like so far.

Natalie Buske Thomas art studio

Natalie Buske Thomas oil painting in progress Tree on Rock Hill

  • I finished the first chapter of Mol, the next book in the Serena Wilcox Mysteries spin-off saga (sequel to Fender). Little Free Library Tour Natalie Buske Thomas River Falls
  • I’m planning to start on Dramatic Mom 2 for March. I look forward to putting that together. Writing the silly poems is a fun break from the intense work I usually do.
  • I wrote the story for a new picture book featuring my oil paintings. The book is called Fred: The Real Life Adventures of a Little Girl with a Big Imagination, about my childhood. For the Fred project I’ll need to complete 19 separate paintings. This feels a bit overachieving, but I know I can do it. I plan to start the first painting for the Fred book project next week.

I tell you, my brain keeps me awake at night. The money will follow as long as I take one project at a time, one day at a time. When things happen slowly, I need to practice the art of patience, persistence, and tenacity. I need to dig in my heels. I need to be stubborn. I need to keep going, no matter what. Most of all, I need to fight! How bad do I want this? The future is mine, if I want it. No excuses!

If I put my whole heart out there, good things will happen. I’ve slowly come to the realization that stepping outside of my comfort zone isn’t enough. A life of quiet confidence, stepping out on faith, and believing that the right people will appreciate me, is my new normal. Promoting myself IS my comfort zone. Because if I’m not comfortable sharing my time, talent, and heart with people, what is my purpose for being here?

I should be UNcomfortable with playing it safe and keeping my thoughts close to the vest. I should be UNcomfortable with underachieving and allowing myself to be snubbed, overlooked or forgotten. The time for a new comfort zone is long overdue. From now on, I am comfortable being fearless, I am comfortable being bold. My new comfort zone is UNstoppable!

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It’s a Mysterious Christmas, Serena Wilcox!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00029]It’s a Mysterious Christmas, Serena Wilcox! Look what Santa brought! Don’t forget to tip the elves… 99 cents for all 12 books. This version of the complete Serena Wilcox mystery series includes Christmas related commentary and backstory. Available through Amazon/Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords (any format).