Christmas Trees Around the World

My friend, Colleen, from Silver Threading, recently created a Christmas Trees Around the World challenge, which you can read about here.

It’s easy to take part. Basically, all you need to do is post a photograph of your tree and link back to Colleen’s post. On the 22nd of December she will create a wrap-up post displaying trees from around the world. Sounds like fun, right?

Here is my Christmas tree.

Christmas tree

I’ve collected a plethora of tree ornaments over the years, and get a new one every year. I have baubles from around the world, including Paris, Spain, Rome, Australia, America and Singapore.

Here are some of my favourites:

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Thanks for stopping by.


Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Jared Padalecki


Writer’s Quote Wednesday is organised by Colleen from Silver Threading, and is a wonderful weekly series in which bloggers share the quotes which inspire them. I highly recommend checking them out.

I’ve been struggling over the last couple of weeks. I haven’t made a secret of it, and I don’t hide my depression, but there are times (even for a writer) when it is difficult to put into words. It alienates me from my family, because they try so hard to understand. I hide behind a smile, as many of us do, and luckily, I have access to so much light; my daughters, my family and friends, this wonderful blogging community. I’m not blind to the gifts in my life, and even when things are bad, I am grateful for them.

I don’t know where the depression comes from. There’s little point in questioning the origins when it is simply a part of who I am. One of the hardest questions I ever had to face, was ‘What do you have to be depressed about?’ Sure I had a good job, wonderful children, a nice home, supportive family and friends. Yet the darkness surfaced at every given opportunity. It hurt because it actually made me feel selfish, or ungrateful, like I would choose to feel this way.

So when I read Jared Padalecki’s words in an interview, they resonated with me. Someone understood, and even though I know I’m not alone, this reinforcement helped me during a difficult time. The work Jared does, using his recognition to reach others, is truly inspirational. For those who don’t know, Jared plays Sam Winchester in Supernatural. He recently set up a campaign to raise money for an organisation called To Write Love on Her Arms – a non-profit supporting people through depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.


Thanks for stopping by.

In the words of Jared Padalecki ‘Always Keep Fighting.’


Writer’s Quote Wednesday – Hope Solo


Writer’s Quote Wednesday is organised by Colleen from Silver Threading, and is a wonderful weekly series in which bloggers share the quotes which inspire them. I highly recommend checking them out.

This week I would like to share a quote from Hope Solo. This is taken from Hope’s about page (

A two-time Olympic medalist and winner of the 2011 FIFA World Cup Gold Glove award, Hope Solo is widely heralded as the best goalkeeper in the world.

One thing I’ve learned through all the ups and downs is that if you’re doing things right, then you have a core group of people. Not just a core group like your homies or your buddies, but a group of people that has a good influence on you, who you respect and admire, and you know that if they’re on your side,  you’re doing something right – Hope Solo

It’s true that I’m an introvert by nature. There are times I need personal space; for reflection, for peace and quiet, to relax – various reasons. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy connecting with people. In fact, I love to collaborate and find strength in the groups I belong to. We all have people we turn to; those who meet a particular need. I’m not going to bore you with theories or start quoting Maslow, I merely wanted to share with you how grateful I am for the writing and blogging community I belong to. This community is one of my core groups; filled with individuals I respect and admire. People I go to for support, to laugh with, and to share a part of myself others rarely see. I can debate, rant, or even gush (as I am want to do) about my various passions. Even when I am at my lowest point I am grateful for that, grateful for you. So, thank you – to all my online friends.

Thanks for stopping by.


Writer’s Quote Wednesday – M. Barker-Simpson


Writer’s Quote Wednesday is organised by Colleen from Silver Threading, and is a wonderful weekly series in which bloggers hare the quotes which inspire them. I highly recommend checking them out.

I’ve been thinking about community a lot recently. Those thoughts came to the forefront yesterday when I remembered what happened on the 7 July 2005 which led to thoughts of 9/11 and the courageous acts around the world when disaster happens and we step in to help our neighbours. The fact is, in times of crisis we band together. We are one, supporting one another; loving one another, and offering the hand of friendship. There have been positive changes in the world recently, like the new Supreme Court ruling regarding same sex marriages. It fills me with hope that one day we can become the worldwide community we were meant to be; embracing our differences and our similarities. Accepting that each person on this earth is unique and should be valued – treasured even.rainbow flag Then there are our smaller communities, which also hold value. One of those communities, at least for me, is the writing community, and I feel so blessed to be part of such a supportive group. So my quote today, which is actually a poem, is dedicated to my friends within the community, to the friends I have yet to meet, and the larger community we all belong to.

Banded together

we share our hopes, dreams and fears

and we find great strength

Thanks for stopping by.


If we were having coffee – Family time

Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).
Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).

IMG_0987If we were having coffee I would start by catching up on your news because, though it’s only been a week, it feels much longer. I had a number of fun-packed days over the half-term break. My brother came for a visit and we caused more trouble than usual! It’s always great to see him, and I enjoy our banter; the insults, the sibling rivalry, the mile-a-minute chatter which he excels at. Seriously if you thought I could talk, Andrew holds the record! He’s been training hard over the last few months and it was good for him to have a break – I should have used him as a classical example of impish behaviour during my A to Z post yesterday!

The visit went far too quickly and I find myself missing him more than usual. Still, I have a dozen questions for my next Morgan and Fairchild book so it’s an excuse to phone him every five minutes and ask his advice! Not that I need an excuse but I’m not great at phoning people. Are you? I get lost in my own little world, so sometimes, if you’re not right in front of me, I forget to text or phone for weeks at a time.

If we were having coffee I would tell you I did something drastic today – I had all my hair cut off. It was getting really long, and incredibly boring so I booked an appointment for a new style. ‘Do something drastic’ I told my hairdresser and she certainly did! It won’t surprise you that I’m impulsive by nature, and this was one of the times when it paid off – at least for me. I like it, which is good because there’s no going back!

Photo 25-12-2012 13 58 46I would tell you that my daughter is sixteen next week, which is kind of a shock because it feels like only yesterday I was bringing her home from the hospital. She was almost born on my birthday, but she came into the world a few hours shy, and so she gets her own day! We are having a joint celebration, or so she tells me (she’s thoughtful like that). We’re staying in a swanky hotel overnight, getting pampered in the spa, and having a girly weekend. It was her choice, and we’re both looking forward to it.

It means I won’t be around next weekend, so I’ll have to skip coffee. I’ll try to check in with everybody, while I’m lounging by the pool, or having a pedicure, or between sips of champagne (bucks fizz for my little chickadee).

If we were having coffee, I’ll wish you a happy, happy week, and then I would dash over to Diana’s place to show off my new hairstyle!

Until next time.


Sister Sister – Weekend Coffee Share

Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).
Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).

If we were having coffee I would apologise for missing the party last week. You would probably raise a brow (Roger Moore style) because of the time – a pretty big indicator you expected me before now! But, hey, I’m here, and I’m playing catch up.

I’ve had a great deal of fun this week with the A to Z posts, and we would no doubt get that out of the way first. It is a big commitment and I’m writing my posts daily, but it’s going really well. As it’s Sunday tomorrow, and I’m having a lazy day. Well, when I say lazy day, I mean coordinating an Easter egg hunt, chasing my nephew around the garden, and waiting for my brother to arrive for his visit. But I’ll still have time to write a few posts for next week and give the impression I’m better organised!

It helps that Arrow is on a break next week. I absolutely love reviewing the show, but it’s nice to have a breather, and I have a feeling the last five episodes are going to be explosive – if the trailer is anything to go by. The anticipation is already building!

After catching up on your plans for Easter, I would share my own busy schedule. I haven’t seen my brother in months, so I’m really looking forward to his visit. We have lots packed in, plenty of family days to see us through until the next major holiday!

Today I spent the day with my sister and we always cause trouble. I love her humour, the way she understands me like no other, and can always, always make me smile. I’m rarely worried about the future because I know she’ll be there. I can see us years from now, still causing trouble, still laughing until we can barely move, still sharing our secrets. It’s a great image.

As it’s Easter we’d probably have to settle for just one cup of the good stuff and move on. But not before I hand you one of the cupcakes I made with the little chocolate eggs on top (in your favourite colour.) We would head on over to Diana’s place and catch up with everyone else, share the love, and then dash off with the promise to return next week.

Happy Easter everyone. Thanks for stopping by.


Finding a Writing Community – Guest Post by Karen Mann


Finding a Writing Community
By Karen Mann

We know writing is a solitary occupation. Writers are often introverts and like being alone. But most of us don’t want to keep our writing to ourselves. We write in hopes someone will read our writing. It’s important to find a writing community with which to share your work. If publication is your goal, you’ll want to get opinions and tips from other writers before sending out a submission or approaching an agent or editor. Here are some tips for finding a writing community that benefits you.

Find a writing group. Writing groups are usually 4-6 people who meet regularly and exchange writing. Members critique other members’ work, and members revise based on suggestions. Check your community news for local groups, or search online to find one in your area. Writing groups are usually free to join unlike the next suggestions.

Go to a writers’ conference. A writers’ conference offers various features, such as talks by authors, agents, or editors; mini-classes; workshops; manuscript critiques; plus connection with other writers. Writers’ conferences often have themes, such as mystery, romance, fiction, screenwriting, etc. has a list of writers’ conferences and events under Writers Resources.

Take a writing class. You may find courses through adult education, community colleges, or universities. If you take a class to improve your writing and find a community, enroll in a local class rather than taking an online class.

Join a writing association. Many states or large cities have writing associations that offer many opportunities for writers. Search for lists of writing associations, and you’ll find one near you. Associations often have conferences, classes, groups, and readings.

Attend an MFA in Writing program. MFA in Writing programs not only give you the chance to work with an author instructor, but also a chance to cultivate a community with others who have a passion for writing just like you. Low-residency MFA in Writing programs allow adults to improve their writing by earning a degree without moving to a college town. Each semester begins with a residency, usually 7-10 days, after which students return home to study through an exchange of writing, or perhaps online workshops, with an experienced mentor. Through an alumni association, MFA program connections last longer than you’ll be a student; they can last a lifetime. You’ll make friends who not only share your love of writing but also care about you.

Finding a community is essential to nurturing your love of writing. Take a break from the writing and find some writer friends—for critiquing, for a literary discussion, for sharing, or maybe just for lunch!

karenmannphoto-2Karen Mann is the author of The Woman of La Mancha and The Saved Man. She is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at Spalding University ( She is also the managing editor of The Louisville Review, a national literary magazine since 1976 ( Having lived in Indiana most of her life, she now lives in San Jose, California. See more about her books at

About The Woman of La Mancha:

coverauthorbuzz-2The Woman of La Mancha, a companion book to Don Quixote, tells the woman’s story of Don Quixote by recounting the story of the girl he called Dulcinea, the woman he loved from afar.

It’s 1583. An eleven-year-old girl wakes in the back of a cart. She has lost her memory and is taken in by a kindly farm family in La Mancha. She adopts the name Aldonza. She doesn’t speak for quite some time. Once she speaks, there is a family member who is jealous of her and causes a good deal of trouble, even causing her to be forced to leave La Mancha in tragic circumstances. Having to create a new life in a new location and still unaware of her birth family, she adopts the name Dulcinea and moves in the circles of nobility. While seeking her identity, she becomes the consort of wealthy men, finds reason to disguise herself as a man, and learns herbal healing to help others.

There is a parallel story of a young man, Don Christopher, a knight of King Philip and the betrothed of the girl, who sets off on with a young squire, Sancho, to find the girl. Christopher’s adventures take them across Spain and force him to grow up. Does he continue the quest to find his betrothed or marry another and break the contract with the king?

Both young people have many experiences and grow up before the readers’ eyes. Floating in and out of each other’s paths as they travel around Spain, will they eventually find each other and be together?

Bubbling over with excitment – #WeekendCoffeeShare

Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).
Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).

If we were having coffee I would be bubbling over with excitement because this weekend I’m having a tour for my new release, Heart of Fire, and I’m feeling the buzz. It might be caffeine too, this is my third cup of coffee this morning.

I would stop gesticulating long enough for you to tell me your news, and you would barely even notice the signing anyway, because you accept it’s part of who I am. And, let’s face it, there are more annoying things 😉 We would share the stories of your week, and chatter (hands and all) about new developments.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I’m looking forward to the big A to Z reveal on Monday, but admit I’m a little behind with my scheduling. At which point, you’d shake your head because you reminded me, several times, that I need to be caught up by April the first. I would remind you of…well, my personality, and you would laugh and concede the point. I’d quickly reassure you that your influence has paid off, and I’m more organised that I’ve ever been!

As my mind has turned to blogging, I would tell you I have a new contributor on Writing Room 101. This would lead to a discussion about cooperative working, as I enjoy it so much and you do too. I’d slip in the subject of Arrow because, what can I say, I take every opportunity to talk about the show and I love contributing at Sourcerer. As I also like a great segue, I would mention that I’m going to be contributing over at Comparative Geeks, which is a great site and I’m thrilled about the new adventure.

If we were having coffee you would give me a gentle nudge, because I have a busy weekend with the tour and I want to keep on top of that. We would then part ways, as we do have other friends to catch up with and a dozen other things to do. Still, we enjoy our weekly coffee time and say as much 🙂

Until next time.


Click here to join your other weekend coffee friends.

Be the light that guides the way #1000Speak

#1000SpeakCompassion is not only free, it is a gift from the soul. A precious smile, a light in the dark, a friendly ear, loving arms. To show compassion you must walk in another’s shoes. You must set aside prejudice, judgement and expectation.

Today over a thousand people will be talking about compassion; an entire online community with a shared aim. A desire to unite, to share the importance of love and understanding – to become a village.

I’ve read some wonderful quotes on the topic over the last few weeks, and one of my favourites is by Thich Nhat Hanh who said, Compassion is a verb. So simple, and yet effective, because in order to show compassion, we must take action – we must do something.

This wonderful community we belong to is worldwide, but for a moment, I’d like to take the subject closer to home. Often, it is easier to lend a hand to a stranger, than it is to those closest to us. My grandfather used to say ‘charity begins at home’ and I never really understood that before. Now I think he meant we must set an example.

if his road is longHaving sympathy for someone, the desire to take action and help alleviate suffering, it shouldn’t be reserved for the wider community. If someone we know has a bad day, isn’t feeling well, or just received bad news, then we should take a moment to consider how we might help. Do something to brighten their day, make them feel better, or simply be a shoulder to lean on. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have high expectations, especially of those closest to us, and those expectations can blind us to the truth.

if she is afraid of the darkSometimes, when we are in a situation, when it’s too close, it can be hard to take a step back. Our emotions cloud our judgement, our own hurts blur the lines. The fact is, we might not always agree or even understand, but we should give consideration to another’s feelings and show sensitivity. Setting an example for those closest to us means being tolerant, showing leniency and kindness – doing whatever we can to alleviate suffering. All these things speak of compassion.

if he is teased and ridiculedIn an age where we no longer go out of our way to help our neighbours, and instead cross the street just to avoid them, we should consider that every one of us is battling against something. A small act of kindness can make the difference. In a lot of ways we have forgotten how to communicate. Instead of picking up the phone we send a text, but what if the person on the other end would welcome the sound of your voice? What if that one simple act of kindness is as good as a lifeline on a cold and lonely day?

if she is bruised and brokenEvery person on the planet is different, it’s what makes us unique, and diversity is a beautiful thing. Our desire to help, to forgive, and to love, those are strengths we should allow to shine. So celebrate those strengths, and help others to do the same. We are all in this together.

in this world of darkness

Heart-shaped Candy – #WeekendCoffeeShare

Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).
Organised by Diana (Part Time Monster).

If we were having coffee I’d tell you I had to battle my way out the door because I got so much post this morning! Then I’d apologise for the poor gag, but I couldn’t resist because it was a standing joke with a friend of mine and I really miss her Valentine humour.

I’d offer you Valentine treats; heart-shaped chocolates, cupcakes, biscuits – a selection of delights for you to enjoy. I plan to eat a filthy amount of chocolate, but that’s nothing new there…it is the weekend after all 🙂

If we were having coffee I’d tell you I’m enjoying reviewing Arrow at Sourcerer and, of course, am thrilled the show is back! It has been a week of editing though, instead of writing. I’ve been applying the finishing touches to the novel I’ll be publishing in March (Heart of Fire). This one is under my pseudonym Nat Hobson as it is a contemporary romance. This would no doubt lead to a conversation about The Fractured, which is also complete and will hopefully be published in the next month or two. The only change on that score is the title. I’m going to name the series Fractured and the prequel (as it’s a novella and introduces the fantasy world) – Sealing the Deal. You’d no doubt raise a brow (so very Roger Moore) because I can never decide on the title and this is likely to change before the anthology goes to print!

While we’re on the subject, I’d tell you I’m including a sneak preview of Gina Briganti’s story Saunders’ Choice in my newsletter at the end of the month. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process of working with Gina to form the anthology, and can’t wait until I can share more on the novels with you.

As we seem to be focused on writing today, I’d of course ask about your week and how things are going. We’d also share what we’re reading at the moment, and our pride in this wonderful community we belong to. Callum, for example, just released a poetry collection, and I can’t wait to get my copy.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you I’m still nervous about the compassion post (#1000Speak for Compassion on 20 February). There’s just so much to write about on the subject and I’m tempted to plan. The thing is, I work better if I don’t overthink it, but I have a tendency to leave things until the very last minute. How I got my degree I have no idea – I did most of my assignments the night before they were due in! Still, I’m getting pretty good at outlining, so there’s hope for me yet. I love to hear how other writers plan, and imagine pretty, organised notes and files. I’m sure the architects among us would be proud of my development, no matter how chaotic my planning tends to be.

Well, I’ve rambled on enough. It’s your turn now, so I’m sure I’ll catch up with you again when I head over to Diana’s place and continue the Weekend Coffee Share. Gene’O is hosting today, so show him some love 🙂

Hope you have a fabulous weekend.