OnceUponaTime My Storybook Site

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Enchanting twist of a fairytale romance!

November 25, 2016    


By ZetaZoo

Saved by a Dragon

by Sarah J. Stone

Out of an ordinary day, a chance encounter with the unbelievable, leads Amy on a curiosity chase. She gets caught up in a web of adventure with a dose of magic and she has to decide if she can give up everything to live with love on his terms, his place, within his clan.
Great sequel to Exiled Dragons by Sarah J. Stone!
Saved by a Dragon is the first book in what I hope will be a series. I wish they were longer, I want more of the story. I feel they are meant to be a short story series, but I really am hooked and would love a longer book.
Great Storyteller!

I received an ARC copy of this book and voluntarily reviewed. This submission is my own words and my personal opinion. ZZ

Six inspiring literary quotes to help get you through another busy work week!

We're already in the last quarter of the year and you've probably had just about enough of the everyday struggle of slogging through terrible traffic condition every time you go to work, among other things. Mondays always seem like a dark cloud looming over your head every Sunday evening – a foreshadowing of another busy work week.
What better way to push through another week full of reports, meetings, and deadlines than with a dose of inspiration from these literary classics?

1. I know that Mondays make you wish it's still the weekend. But since no one can go back to the past (nor stay there), just aim to be a better person today than yesterday.
Lewis Caroll, Alice's Adventures in Wornderland
2. It'is easy to fall into the routine of doing more, more, and more. But life is not always about the amount of work you have done or completed in a day. As long as you can honestly say that you have lived every day as if it's your last, then you're golden.
The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
3. Sometimes, our eyes tend to focus on the lengthy to-do list posted on our desks, which can feel overwhelming. Why not take your list of tasks and deadlines as an opportunity to test yourself: How do you work under pressure?
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
4. One of the best ways to get through a hectic work week is to stop playing the Blame Game. Every time you are tempted to blame the traffic, your boss, or your cat for the seemingly unfortunate events that are happening to you, take a breather and chill. Only you can decide what kind of person you want to be and what kind of life you want to live. So (wo)man up, and own your life.
Oh the places you'll go! Dr. Seuss
5. Whenever the blues get the best of you, take the time to look at work from a different perspective. Work is not just about doing. Your work is a part of you and your life. Just like when you were still in school, you can discover a lot about yourself by how you approach your job. So what have you discovered about yourself lately?
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
6. Dare I say more? If you have the habit of putting off tasks for tomorrow, then you will never accomplish anything. I am not saying you do EVERYTHING today, just focus on the most pressing stuff you need to do for the day. You'll be fine.
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review by Zeta Blankenship How to Make Victoria Sponge by Margaret Kazmierczak

Everyone loves cake but this book isn’t a recipe for making a cake, instead, you’ll get a recipe for making it through life.

The story’s main character and storyteller are Victoria Sponge. She wears many hats during the course of each day and the book is a type of daily journey of life’s ups and downs and how she embeds her faith and prayer to deal with life’s multitude of never ending struggles, sun up to sun down.

Wife, mother, woman, teacher, friend, co-worker, supervisor of the household duties, yes we all have walked miles in those same shoes and many others that arise in the course of living life. The story antics, the problems, the experiences were entertaining, heartbreaking, uniting, and healing. I connected with similar experiences in my own life, over the years. 

Vicki shares the same frustrations and joys; she just uses every opportunity to give praise or to seek grace, guidance, and love within her to adjust her attitude in every situation. Her day begins with waking and acknowledging another day with yes Lord, for whatever the day brings and she opens her heart with mindfulness of other’s needs. She ends the days with gratitude for all she has seen His hands upon that day and prayers to guide her through any failures.

She listens to hear God speak and when we too, open our hearts and focus our minds on Him we hear and feel His omnipresence.

Good read as a devotional daily journey!

I received this book for free. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

Click here to purchase your copy.

Click to purchaseAbout the Book

Victoria Sponge – a well-known cake? Maybe, but also a wife and mother of four children. Disorganized and chaotic, with obligations galore, sweet Victoria clings to God, her best friend who shares His amazing love with her. From tripping over a hoover left in the hallway to discovering her son’s desire to die because he is different, she journeys through her own Lent. Giving up is not an option, but saying ‘yes’ to God each day is. Tragedy and comical events follow Vicki through her week. Does Victoria Sponge rise through all the messiness that life offers or does she sink?

About the Author

Born in England, Margaret Kazmierczak loves storytelling, but dyslexia made writing difficult. After marrying and birthing three children, she finally got around to it. She and husband Peter live in Dorset, United Kingdom with two daughters.

pic-for-websiteGuest Post from Margaret Kazmierczak 

For those that know me cooking is not a talent that I am famous for. I follow the recipes, but for some unknown reason my cakes remain flat, albeit cleverly disguised with chocolate.

My friends were, quite understandably, shocked that I appeared to have written a cookery book. My friends let me introduce the Baker who inspired me to write, ‘How to Make Victoria Sponge’. His name is God the Father. This cook needs all the help she can get.

In 2010 God literally took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to become vulnerable. He took away my health and job. An active middle aged woman reduced to a shell. For two years I struggled to come to terms with my condition. Then one night I prayed and asked what I was supposed to do now? The message was simple, “write a book”. Well I could think up a million and one reasons why not to write a book. I declared them one by one but God the Father was having none of it. He reminded me of WHO was commissioning me.

To say that my reading and writing skills were on a par with my cooking skills was an understatement. So I stopped questioning and listened to His answer. “I shall give you the ingredients and you provide the humour and story outline with your life experiences.” So Victoria Sponge was born. Not a cookery book per se but a recipe for a closer relationship with God the Father through story and petition.

This journey took two years, a long time to wait for a cake to rise! The proof, however, was in the tasting which for some time was bitter due to rejection. Then a sequence of events happened one after the other and ‘How to Make Victoria Sponge’ was cooked, oops, birthed. I have been blown away with the face to face reviews in England of the book. A Methodist minister used it to empower her congregation, to show them how even the simplest things in life can lead to a prayerful response.

Victoria known as Vicki, married to Bob, is a normal woman with four children. The book looks at a week in her life and compares it to Jesus’ Lent week. Many issues are explored through the pages. Vicki Sponge could be you or me and the response to each situation, a solution to your own challenges.

Without the Baker this book would end up like my cakes! The writing of it helped me to begin a new life and I hope it helps you to do so too if you read and journey through its pages.

Blog Stops

September 29: A Reader’s Brain
September 30: The Power of Words (spotlight)
October 2: Bukwurmzzz
October 3: Artistic Nobody
October 4: Quiet Quilter
October 6: Mary Hake
October 10: Petra’s Hope
October 12: Onceuponatime



To celebrate her tour, Margaret is giving away a themed gift bag containing an apron, whisk, Bible, and a limited 1st edition paperback copy of How to Make Victoria Sponge! Click here to enter:

Friday, October 7, 2016


Book Review By Zeta Blankenship 

 The Bedwarmer's Son

 by Caryl McAdoo

            The journey of many years is told by the The Bedwarmer’s Son; to his white, woman, lawyer in a jail cell in rural Georgia, the year of 1928.
            His life story and the history of his family is crucial to his defense and his lawyer has to know the story if she is to save him from hanging for the murder of his white half-brother.
Originally, Miss Parmalee was sent as a second seat to his defense team. She was to do preliminaries for her successful, distinguished partner and honorary Uncle. She has only been out of law school for a couple of years and has only first chaired one trial. Mr. Sinclair and his grandson are insistent that she will defend him if he is to have any chance.
For months, she is escorted by a security team consisting of Mr. Sinclair’s grandson and family, back and forth from the courthouse and to a safe house. She is in danger from a divided town that is generations known by each other and their opinion on whether her client is guilty and how they think he should pay.
The Bedwarmer’s Son is an entertaining story that tells of the struggles that began with the family matriarch and onward to his life journey, being the first born son, bi-racial, and a former slave.
At first the southern slang, disturbed me and I didn’t think I was going to enjoy. I am a Southern raised girl with a heavy accent and a good dose of slang and we prickle easy.  I had to give it a chance to even out as the story proceeded in time and soon I was drawn in to the storytelling of Mr. Sinclair just as Miss Parmalee was hooked. His belief and faith doesn’t hit you over the head. It comes through with his mannerisms, speech, and actions. He shares his Love for the Lord by example to those who care to open their heart; there they can find the same assurance, with acceptance by faith.
Enjoyed the book very much! I’d love to read more of the family story.

I received this book for free. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

Bedwarmer FB 

About the Book

What if Abel had killed Cain? But there was no jury of his peers….

In 1928 Georgia, a black man who kills a white man is automatically guilty, but the bedwarmer’s son, an ex-slave, is no normal black man. Once his lily-white lawyer lady learns the truth, everything changes. Can she save him from swinging?

Will the bedwarmer murder the one she’s been bought to serve?    

From the antebellum South, come travel the dusty trails of Jim Crowe Dalton, Georgia with slave and master, saint and sinner. See if God is really big enough, if He truly cares about His children. McAdoo has done it again, this time in a brand new way. A delightful morsel for the palates of Christian readers world round.

About the Author

Caryl, praying her story gives God glory, loves writing for Christian genres–historical and contemporary romance, Biblical fiction, and mid-grade especially. In 2014, Simon and Schuster debuted VOW UNBROKEN, a historical Christian romance set in 1832 Texas, and Caryl followed with three additional novels. In April, LADY LUCK’S A LOSER (contemporary, mature, inspirational romance); September’s debut, HEARTS STOLEN (set in 1839-1844), book two of her historical Christian Texas Romances–a #1 Amazon Best-seller; and in November, A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS, volume one of her new Biblical fiction series, The Generations–also an Amazon #1 Best-seller.

In 2008, her high school sweetheart-husband Ron moved her to the woods of Red River County. Caryl counts four children and sixteen grandsugars life’s biggest blessings believing all good things come from God. Praying her story gives God glory, she hopes each one ministers His love, mercy, and grace to its readers. She and Ron live in Clarksville, Texas with two grandsons, Christian and Benjamen.

Guest Post from Caryl McAdoo

The Bedwarmer’s Son, my twenty-eighth title to be published, is different from any of my books to date, offering two complete love stories from two eras a generation apart.

How I came to write it is a very different story, too!

You see, I have a contemporary book in progress based loosely on the television show The Voice, but instead of the big new singer, my imagined program The Pitch is looking for the next big author! I started it in November 2013, but abandoned its 35,000 words shortly after Vow Unbroken debuted in March from Simon and Schuster.

My characters in The Pitch—three teams of authors and agents—attend writers’ conferences all over the country looking for the next great American novel with the voters being the readers across the country. For my story, I needed lots of titles, a few with skeleton story premises to make it work.

The Bedwarmer’s Son was one of those God gave me.

But it refused to be left there as just a title. The intriguing title demanded to be written.

And so, now I’m blessed that CelebrateLit is hosting a blog tour to celebrate its September release! Though definitely a historical, this novel is not in my Texas Romance family saga series, but is a ‘companion’ book to it. My readers will remember four-year-old Charley from Hearts Stolen, book two…then him grown up and the hero of book six Just Kin. Well, in The Bedwarmer’s Son, readers meet Charley’s son and grandson, minor characters in a chapter or two.

The story opens in 1928 where the title character, William “Billy” Sinclair II is on trial for the murder of his white half-brother Jamison. Alice Parmalee, his lawyer, finds the old man’s grandson, William “Will” Robert Sinclair IV quite handsome, good-hearted and generous.

In explaining to Alice why he killed his brother, Billy goes back to the story of his mother, the ‘owned’ bedwarmer, Jasmine. Of course, every time he starts, I break into the young slave girl’s point of view, and readers find themselves back in the mid-1800’s. I love her spunk and think you will, too.

I especially love The Bedwarmer’s Son’s opening line: “He sold us right before he married that fancy lady from England, then bought us back the next Spring.” It’s set on the fictitious Three Springs plantation near Dalton, Georgia.

 In my story, I used a word that in my growing up was considered on the same level as a cuss word. I would have had my mouth washed out for saying it. So conflicted, I asked for much counsel, and everyone agreed that for the story’s time period—to portray it correctly—it was necessary…but still hard for this lady.

On the other hand, I so enjoyed going back and forth between the two stories. There’s plenty of period racial tension—so common to the day—with the KKK unhappy about the pretty white attorney defending the old black man who’s guilty simply because his victim’s skin was white.

Of course, being a Christian novel, he and his grandson trust God and believe the Almighty sent Alice—an atheist who’s been taught putting any faith in an invisible being is nothing more than a fool’s errand. She’s been reared by a famous black attorney who volunteered to take Billy’s case.

At the end of the story, when Billy’s trial is over, I think readers may be cheering. I hope so.

I pray Jasmine’s and Alice’s journey will cause readers to draw closer to the Lord, while others might reconsider a few of the things they’ve been comfortable believing. That Holy Spirit will use this story to draw them deeper into their own relationship with our Awesome God.

Looking back, I can see God’s hand all over this story and its creation and cover…the whole nine yards. I can’t begin to imagine all the ways He will used it, but am convinced that use it, He will! I always say I am blessed and highly favored, and He keeps on creating the fruit of my lips!

I love story and the cover of The Bedwarmer’s Son (designed by Ruthie Madison Derby) that displays both dejection and hope, and melds the two historic periods. God has indeed blessed me and showered His favor over me. I pray it will touch your hearts.

Oh, and as an aside I spoke with Sandy Barela about over a coffee chat, I wrote Lady Luck’s A Loser back in 2001 long before The Batchelor ever hit TV. My story is a mature inspirational romance about a wealthy man inviting nine women to come live at his bed and breakfast—under the guise of hiring a manager for it—in order to choose a wife.

Hopefully if The Pitch becomes a TV reality show, I’ll get proper credit, considering this idea is published here and copyrighted in my doing it! 🙂 Laaaa!

Blog Stops

September 27: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
September 28: Karen’s Krayons
September 30: Simple Harvest Reads
October 2: Artistic Nobody
October 3: The Power of Words
October 5: Bigreadersite
October 7: Once Upon A Time
October 8: Bukwurmzzz
October 9: Under His Wings
October 10: Mary Hake



To celebrate her tour, Caryl is giving away all seven of her Texas Romance ebooks to a lucky winner! Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/a3fd

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sara Zarr on Goodreads


Your greatest creation is your creative life.

 It's all in your hands.

Sara Zarr

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's October - 14 Sayings About Fall and The Autumn Month

It's  time for cozy sweaters, apple pies, and Halloween parties — it is October.
There is nothing more cozy, than a fire with a gathering. Soon there will be pumpkins and mums gathered by our doors, the sweetness of candy corn, the sidewalks covered with leaves. and October fans who rejoice in the cooling fall air. Time for a pleasant hike, a good book by the fire and a hot cup of cider to enjoy. Welcome Fall and the tenth month of the year.

Here are 14 noted October quotes, aquired from Goodreads, the Quote backyard and BrainyQuote:

"There is not any season when such pleasurable and sunny spots can be lighted on, and produce so pleasing an effect on the feelings, as now in October." — Nathaniel Hawthorne

"September is dressing herself in showy dahlias and excellent marigolds and starry zinnias. October, the extravagant sister, has ordered a massive quantity of the most amazing wooded area tapestry for her grand reception." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

"October, tuck tiny sweet bars in my pockets and carve my smile right into a thousand pumpkins.... Merry October!" — Rainbow Rowell

"October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and riding rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts each morning and icy draughts that bit at uncovered hands and faces." — J.k. Rowling

"i am so pleased I are living in a global where there are Octobers." — L.M. 1st viscount montgomery of alamein

"October is crisp days and cool nights, a time to twist up around the dancing flames and sink into a great publication." — John Sinor

"All issues on earth element domestic in historic October; sailors to sea, guests to partitions and fences, hunters to box and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken." — Thomas Wolfe

"The clear light that belongs to October changed into making the landscape radiant." — Florence Bone

"What could be more pleasing than an October day? it be your birthday, Fourth of July and christmas all rolled into one." — Peggy Toney Horton

"candy October, fill with praise / rich and glowing as thy days / each poet's heartfelt lays." — Caroline May

"The end of the summer time is not the conclusion of the area. here's to October..." — A.A. Milne

"After the eager nevertheless days of September, the October sun crammed the world with mellow warmth ... The maple tree in front of the doorstep burned like a big pink torch. The okay alongside the roadway glowed yellow and bronze. The fields stretched like a carpet of jewels, emerald and topaz and garnet. all over she walked the colour shouted and sang around her." ― Elizabeth George Speare

"In October, a maple tree earlier than your window lights up your room like a fine lamp. Even on cloudy days, its presence helps to dispel the gloom." — John Burroughs

"October is the fallen leaf, but it surely is also a wider horizon greater evidently seen. it is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them as soon as once more." — Hal Borland

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Round and round, here she goes again...Zee

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Children's Book Review @BookTasters



  Pet-Friendly Francie Scores a Pooch: (A children's animal story about a girl and her rescue dog)

Pet-Friendly Francie Scores a Pooch:
(A children's animal story about a girl and her rescue dog)
(Volume 1)

By Kat E. Erikson 

Illustrations by Mariel Garcia

Children’s  Book Review

By Zeta Blankenship

 I enjoyed the book and the colorful illustrations, reading it with my grand-daughter, who is ten years old. We both loved the way Francie met her furry pal and how her quick thinking saved Scrimmy from pet jail.

We were entertained by the shenanigans that Scrimmy seems to always be getting into, he couldn’t seem to help being funny! He already had two strikes and we held on to hope with Francie that he wasn’t going to fail to make the team. The collar accident may be the last strike and there is nothing left they can do…

There are some great options in the book and connections that offer opportunities to help rescue a pet. Not everyone can have a pet where they live and this book gives hope to those who dream of a furry friend. There are so many ways to spend time, volunteer, and contribute.

I like that the basis of this story is true and in memory of special family m
embers to the author. The book is amusing, educational, and supportive of organizations that reach out to help those in need.

Great book!

I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Remembering Robin Williams

Patch Adams - 1998  Quote  

“What's wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we're going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.”

Stop the Indifference 
by Zeta Blankenship 08/13/2016

Society still considers Depression and Mental Illnesses, yes, that is what it is, a taboo. The disease that must not be named, sadly it exist with statistical facts that are heartbreaking.
The words depression and anxiety make us uncomfortable because anyone suffering is made to feel that they are wrong by social standards, they are hushed, judged, and treated indifferent, that is showing no particular interest or sympathy for and being unconcerned.
The epidemic of suicide rates in today's world has opened our eyes to understanding and the necessity of being able to communicate with each other from the heart, really listen to the feelings inside the words spoken. You may be the the one person who can make a difference in someone elses life. Be the helping light in a world full of so much need. 

Friday, August 12, 2016


A Perilous Question

By Barry Finlay

One innocent question asked by a teenager in Africa to an American stranger and the consequences of caring suddenly become an entangled, perilous journey of intrigue, life-threatening danger, and love.

I enjoyed the book and was drawn in immediately with the likable, main character Marcie Kane. I can relate to some of her experiences and why it was so important for her to get involved and try and help the girls Shoni and Irene.

The intrigue grew in intensity with each chapter as complications evolved from each action Marcie took and affected those who tried to help her with finding the girls.

An official visit to the local police station brings about an unexpected connection with an FBI Agent in Tanzania, Africa and the girls Marcie is trying to find. They join their resources together with the vain effort to locate the kidnapped girls.

Excellent Mystery with many unexpected twists and turns that keep you reading for answers!

I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. ZetaZoo

Monday, August 8, 2016

16 Inspiring Book Quotes To Help Motivate Your Job Search

Summer means reading on the beach! Hanging with friends on a rooftop bar! And, if you're a recent grad, weeping softly into a stack of job applications! (I know that most job apps are online these days, but you get the idea.) If you didn't come raring out of college with a firm job offer, then you're in good company. Lots of shiny new post-grads are spending their first summer in the "real world" sending out job application after job application. And it can be... discouraging, to say the least. But don't lose hope, because here are some motivational quotes from literature to help you su rvive the job hunt hustle!
Of course, you don't have to be a recent grad to be drowning in job search woes. No matter where you are in life, updating your resume is an unpleasant task. And then those websites make you enter your previous job experience all over again! Why are we uploading our resumes if you're just going to make us enter all that information again, website? The first few months of a job hunt involve a lot of rejection. Add to that the expenses of everyday living, plus seeing all your Facebook friends posting about their wildly successful careers in new media and, well... here are some quotes to remind you that it's all going to work out:
1. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan
2. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
3. All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
― Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
4. What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
5. Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
6. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
― Frank Herbert, Dune
7. People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.
― George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession
8. Life is full of screwups. You're supposed to fail sometimes. It's a required part of the human existence.
― Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride
9. Some people say, "Never let them see you cry." I say, if you're so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.
― Tina Fey, Bossypants
10. You can't write a script in your mind and then force yourself to follow it. You have to let yourself be.
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
11. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!
12. Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled. Listen to no one except the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn't always mean your parents. If you do that, you will be fine.
― Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
13. Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.
― Eleanor Roosevelt, The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
14. But I kept at it with the help-wanted ads. My standards were sliding swiftly. At first I had insisted I would only work at a company with a mission I believed in. Then I thought maybe it would be fine as long as I was learning something new. After that I decided it just couldn't be evil. Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil.
― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
15. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here's the thing. Your career won't take care of you. It won't call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget you birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It's never going to leave its wife. Your career is f*cking other people and everyone knows but you. Your career will never marry you. (...) If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.
― Amy Poehler, Yes Please
16. Hold fast to dreams,For if dreams dieLife is a broken-winged bird,That cannot fly.
― Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes
Images: stokpic/pixabay, Giphy (17)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

31 Quotes Every 'Baby-Sitters Club' Fan Probably Still Lives By


Hit Backspace for a regular dose of pop culture nostalgia.
Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacey. Dawn, Mallory, Jessica and Shannon. Abby. Logan!
If these 10 names don't immediately evoke images of sleeping bags, coiled telephone cords, side ponytails and so. much. denim, you are clearly not a literary child of the '90s. Because no young man, woman or child with a library card between 1986 and 2000 was unaware of the girl gang known as The Baby-Sitters Club.
Thanks to a Facebook post from the "BSC" creator herself, author Ann M. Martin, we were alerted to the fact that the very first "Baby-Sitter's Club" book, Kristy's Great Idea, just turned 30 years old.
That means the entire series, with even greater titles like Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls and Mary Anne's Bad Luck Mystery and Dawn's Wicked Stepsister, is roughly the age of the millennial ladies who grew up with lettered-block cartoons dotting the margins of their super-secret diaries.
To avid fans, the "BSC" series was not just about a group of friends (between 11 and 13 years old) who decided to start a local baby-sitting service in the fictional suburb of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Instead, the books served as textbooks for teenagedom, stuffed with first-hand experiences with friendship, school woes, sibling rivalry, first crushes, parental conflict, death, and so much more. Where would a now 20-something be without the mistakes and life lessons of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey and co.?
In honor of this blessed day, here are 31 quotes ― because we couldn't quite stop poring over "BSC" gems ― to help true fans celebrate the beauty that is baby-sitting.
-Kristy, Kristy's Great Idea
#1: "I'm like that. I think of something to say, and I say it. I think of something to do, and I do it. Mom calls it impulsive. Sometimes she calls it trouble. But she doesn't just mean trouble. She means trouble."
#2: "Well, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm not up to trigonomulus, or whatever it is she does. We can't all be scholars."
-Claudia, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls
#3: "So, was I ever glad when Claudia told me Kristy wanted to start the club! Friends at last, I thought. And that's just what I found ... They're my friends and I belong with them."
-Stacey, The Truth About Stacey
#4: "Just once I'd like to go to school wearing skintight turquoise pants, Stacey's 'island' shirt with the flamingos and toucans all over it, and maybe bright red, high-top sneakers. I'd like to create a sensation. (Well, half of me would. The other half would be too shy to want to attract any attention.)"
-Mary Anne,
#5: "I loved the beach, I loved the sunshine, I loved the eighty-degree Christmases. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to interrupt all that warmth with three other seasons?" 
-Dawn, Dawn and the Impossible Three
#6: "Things could get pretty messy." [Editor's Note: They do.] 
-Kristy, Kristy's Big Day
#7 "I have many interests: reading mysteries, baby-sitting, painting, and drawing."
-Claudia, Claudia and Mean Janine
#8: "My parents have let me get away with a lot of things fashion-wise, but they draw the line at two earrings in each ear. They said I would look like a pirate, although I, personally, have never seen a pirate with more than exactly one earring."
-Stacey, Boy-Crazy Stacey
#9: "We're very official and responsible."
-Dawn, The Ghost at Dawn's House
#10: "I started talking to this nice-looking boy who was hanging around on the beach ... We really hit if off ... I don't know if we'll really write to each other (as we promised), but it's nice to know boys aren't aliens from Snorzak or something."
-Mary Anne, Logan Likes Mary Anne!
#11: "Anyway, to get back to the snobs ― I'm surrounded. They're everywhere..."
#12: "I wondered whether the fly was a boy or a girl. I wondered whether flies have families. I wondered whether flies have family reunions, because family reunions are almost always picnics, and at a flies' picnic, how could you tell the guest flies from the regular, uninvited flies who just want to land on the food for a while?" [Editor's Note: This is, obviously, a metaphor for life.]
#13: "It's kind of nice to be somebody's favorite person. (But it's scary, too.)"
#14: "Being eleven is a real trial."
-Mallory, Hello, Mallory
#15: "I like hot weather, not cold, and health food, not junk. And I dress with style, but it's my own style. I'm very independent." 
#16: "If you think about it, ballet is just another kind of language, except that you talk with your body instead of with your mouth."
#17: "It's a little hard to explain him because I like him so much. Do you know what I mean? I mean that I think everything about him is incredible and handsome and wonderful, and that probably isn't entirely true. So I'll have to try hard to be realistic."
-Mary Anne,
#18: "It is not a nice life." [Editor's Note: "BSC" gets dark, too.]
-Stacey, Stacey's Mistake
#19: "My friends and I, by the way, are more than just friends."
-Claudia, Claudia and the Bad Joke
#20: "Once she's your friend, you've got a friend for life."
-Kristy, Kristy and the Walking Disaster
#21: "I swear, the mall is another world."
-Mallory, Mallory and the Trouble with Twins
#22: "It's funny that us six club members work so well together, because boy, are we different. We have different personalities, different tastes, different looks, and different kinds of families."
-Jessi, Jessi Ramsey, Pet-Sitter
#23: "In my head I understand all the reasons why things are the way they are."
-Dawn, Dawn on the Coast
#24: "Sometimes I think of my friends as family, too. Is that weird? I don't know. But my friends do feel like family."
-Kristy, Kristy and the Mother's Day Surprise
#25: "It's just so weird to see your own parents dating."
-Mary Anne, Mary Anne and the Search for Tigger
#26: "My room is only messy because I have to keep so many art materials stored in it."
-Claudia, Claudia and the Sad Good-Bye
#27: "Probably my best feature is my legs."
-Jessi, Jessi and the Superbrat
#28: "I adore Henry and Grace. There's just something wonderful about them ... They look out for each other, they stick up for their friends, and they try very hard never to hurt anybody's feelings."
-Stacey, Welcome Back, Stacey!
#29: "I only write when I feel an urgency, which is often."
-Mallory, Mallory and the Mystery Diary
#30: "Honestly, living with my mother is like living with a very tall child."
-Dawn, Mary Anne and the Great Romance
#31: "Why did we want to catch [the bride's bouquet] so badly? Because there's this belief that if an unmarried woman catches the bride's bouquet after the bride has tossed it, that woman will be the next to get married. Now Mary Anne and I are only thirteen, so we didn't have any plans to get married, but I still thought I should have caught [it.]"
-Dawn, Dawn's Wicked Stepsister

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

J.K. Rowling’s 10 Most Inspiring Quotes

From businessmen in first class to first graders reading by flashlight, there was a time not too long ago when J.K. Rowling, who turns 51 on Sunday, had everyone and their mother devouring the stories about a wizarding world she dreamed up on the back of diner napkins.
She's responsible for many of literature's most beloved characters, and she's inspired a generation to become lifelong readers, with many still returning to her words for inspiration. Let's celebrate the birthday of the author who made our Muggle lives a little more magical with 10 of her best quotes:
1. On the future: We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. (via 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination')
2. On self: "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)
3. On failure: "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default." (via 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination')
4. On values: "If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals." (Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
5. On advice to her younger self: "So given a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two." (via 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination')
6. On happiness: "If someone asked for my recipe for happiness, step one would be finding out what you love doing most in the world and step two would be finding someone to pay you to do it." (via Amazon)
7. On outlook: "The world is full of wonderful things you haven't seen yet. Don't ever give up on the chance of seeing them." (via Twitter)
8. On life: "Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates." (via 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination')
9. On courage: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." (Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)
10. On depression: "I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What's to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that." (via USA Today)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

12 Quotes From Authors To Remember When Starting Your First Book

When working on your first book, you're faced with an extremely daunting task. Regardless of whatever training or practice you've had in the past, it's still your first novel. At times it will be a highly enjoyable venture, but much of it will be excruciating. There are moments where you might want to throw in the towel, or where you'll feel completely lost. And when that happens just remember the wise words of the successful authors below — they hold the roadmap back to finishing your novel successfully.

1. "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." – Linus Pauling
As a writer, this is square one. It doesn't matter how gorgeous your prose is or how smooth your dialogue flows if you don't have an idea in the first place. Coming up with ideas isn't necessarily easy, but the best way to catch a big fish is to cast a wide net. And the beauty of ideas is that you can get them from literally everywhere. Every place you go, every person you interact with, and everything you read can contribute to your idea pool. Once that's full all you have to do is pick through your net until you find the winner. That's when you put pen to paper.
2. "In nearly all good fiction, the basic — all but inescapable — plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw." – John Gardner
There's a lot of talk about the importance of being original when you write, but there's something more important to keep in mind. At the end of the day, every story is the same. Someone/thing is trying to do something/one and there's an obstacle. They either overcome it in some form or don't — then the story is over. People have tried to mix up the formula in the past but very rarely are those endeavours successful. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, though, because this structure has worked for thousands of years. Don't anticipate that to change when you wake up tomorrow.
3. "Begin with an individual, and before you know it you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find you have created — nothing." – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The first entry talked about ideas, and new writers often confuse idea with plot. Now, it's all well and good if you thought of this crazy catastrophe that you've never seen done before, but it doesn't mean shit if your audience doesn't care about who it affects. Just take another look at the previous quote and re-read what it says about good fiction: it's about a central character. The problem (and challenge) is that you can't just pull some random stereotype out of pop culture and plop them into your story. Readers are going to see through that one dimension right away, because readers deal with real people every day. They know that real people are complex — so make your characters complex individuals. That may not be easy to do, but it is essential. So don't skimp on the complexities.
4. "Resist the temptation to try to use dazzling style to conceal weakness of substance." – Stanley Schmidt
Some writers hone their own voice through imitation. That kind of practice results in the writer picking up a lot of little technical tricks along the way. Those tricks — malleable diction, variable syntax, a long list of handy literary techniques — are great things to have in your back pocket, and they're often crucial to setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack. The thing is, they aren't going to culminate into a voice of your own. A voice develops by itself over time, and no amount of tricks will speed that process up.
5. "People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it." – Harlan Ellison
Some new writers are confused and discouraged when their story doesn't just flow out of their fingertips. They will see others pumping books out like crazy and even doing well with many of them. And it wasn't that hard to come up with the idea after a few months of planning. Why, then, are others hitting their groove while you're not? That's because they haven't hit some kind of magic groove — they're busy grinding stories out. The only way to write a story is to keep writing. There aren't any short cuts.
6. "Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it…" – Michael Crichton
You didn't think you'd only have to write your book once, did you? Not a single book comes to mind that's been published after a single draft, and that's because no one is that good. Even if you do manage to sell a manuscript on your first draft, it will be edited by the publishers. So save everyone the time and just work on it until you get it right. That might take a lot of drafts too, so dig in for the long haul.
7. "The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home." – John Campbell
This is probably the hardest thing for a new writer to come to terms with, and every writer has hidden the bulk of their work from everyone for fear of embarrassing themselves. That's perfectly fine and not every story is worth sharing with anyone. Still, you'll eventually have to get over that embarrassment and show someone something — and not just someone, but actual agents or publishers. Hell, even if you skip that and go the self-publishing route, your readers are going to see the story, right? So just rip off the Band-Aid and start sharing with those you trust. Even if the story isn't ready.
8. "Engrave this in your brain: EVERY WRITER GETS REJECTED. You will be no different." – John Scalzi
You're probably going to get rejected a lot, too. Most people do. The market is so saturated that even a good story can get overlooked among the dross. Just refuse to take no for a final answer. You'll get there one day.
9. "Only a person with a Best Seller mind can write Best Sellers." – Aldous Huxley
Not everyone wants to be a best-selling author and that's perfectly ok. But for those of you that dream about it, you absolutely need to be confident. If you talk about your book like it's not the next great American (or whatever literature-rich country you hail from) novel, there's a good chance it won't even come close. That doesn't mean you should go around running your mouth about how awesome you are, but you should be proud of what you've done. If you've written what you think is a best-selling novel, say so. If you don't even believe in your story, why would anyone else?
10. "Writing isn't generally a lucrative source of income; only a few, exceptional writers reach the income levels associated with the best-sellers. Rather, most of us write because we can make a modest living, or even supplement our day jobs, doing something about which we feel passionately. Even at the worst of times, when nothing goes right, when the prose is clumsy and the ideas feel stale, at least we're doing something that we genuinely love. There's no other reason to work this hard, except that love." – Melissa Scott
This one kind of explains itself, but it's arguably the most important piece of advice on this list. Never forget that you write because you love it. Even if you never make a penny from your stories, remember that's not what matters. If you do that, you'll definitely make it to the end of at least one novel one day.
11. "It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition." – Isaac Asimov
Remember when you were young and a particular book made you want to write? And even if the bug didn't bite you until later in life, no writer decided to write without loving to read first. That aside, the point is to keep in mind the effect your story can have on those that read it. Whether they're young or old, you can really change the course of someone else's life. Even if your book isn't lauded by the world as a literary revolution, you might inspire the person that does write such an acclaimed story. And for sci-fi writers, who knows? One day some of your ideas might become a reality because someone read your novel and couldn't rest until the ideas were real.
12. "There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." – Somerset Maugham
Last but not least, some advice that potentially negates all the rest. Everyone is going to have their own opinion on the best way to write and it's rare that everyone agrees on everything. So while it's good to keep the words of the successful in mind, don't feel stupid if you disagree. The only one who can say a particular way of writing works for you is yourself. And hey, if you manage to succeed in spite of what all the above authors have said, write us an email. We could probably stand to add you to this list.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Birthday! Celebrating George Bernard Shaw with ten of his wittiest quotes

Prolific Nobel Prize and Oscar winner was a rare wit, journalist, author, and iconic Irishman.
The only man in the world to have won a Nobel Prize for Literature ("Pygmalion") and an Oscar (for the screenplay of "Pygmalion"), George Bernard Shaw was a rare wit, journalist, author, and iconic Irishman.
Born on this day in 1856 his life's work includes over 60 plays, as well as highly esteemed works of journalism, essays, novels and short stories. He was also co-founder of the London School of Economics. He works engaged on many social issues including education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.
Here are some quotes from the great man himself, sure to inspire:
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
"A happy family is but an earlier heaven."
"Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time."
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
"Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance."
"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."
"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."
'Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance."
"Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable."
Shaw was born on Synge Street, in Dublin's city center on July 26, 1856 to George Carr Shaw, an unsuccessful grain merchant and Lucinda Elizabeth Shaw, née Gurly, a singer. He attended Wesley College, a Methodist grammar school, before being transferred to Dublin's Central Model School. He ended his formal education at the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School.
At 16 Shaw's mother followed her voice teacher to London, Shaw's two sisters going with her. He remained in Dublin and worked as a clerk in a real estate office. In 1876 he joined his mother in London. His mother's partner George Vandeleur Lee provided him with a pound a week affording him to visit public libraries and the British Museum reading room where he studied earnestly and began writing novels. His literary earnings remained negligible until 1885, when he became self-supporting as a critic of the arts.
In 1884 he joined the Fabian Society, turning his attention to politics. The society's goal was the transformation of England through a more vibrant political and intellectual base.
A year after he joined he began to get some writing work in the form of book reviews and art, music and theater criticism
In 1895 he was brought aboard the Saturday Review as its theater critic. At was at this point that Shaw began writing plays.
His first plays were published in volumes titled "Plays Unpleasant" (containing "Widowers' Houses", "The Philanderer" and "Mrs. Warren's Profession") and "Plays Pleasant" (which had "Arms and the Man", "Candida", "The Man of Destiny" and "You Never Can Tell").
They were filled with his signature wit along with a healthy dose of social criticism.
Around the period he wrote "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1898) his works came in to their own.
In 1903 he wrote "Man and Superman", whose third act, "Don Juan in Hell," achieved a status larger than the play itself and is often staged as a separate play entirely. While Shaw would write plays for the next 50 years, the plays written in the 20 years after "Man and Superman" became foundational plays in his oeuvre. Works such as "Major Barbara" (1905), "The Doctor's Dilemma" (1906), "Androcles and the Lion" (1912) and "Saint Joan" (1923) established Shaw as a front-line and popular dramatist of his day.
In 1912 came his most famous play, "Pygmalion," which won him a Nobel Prize and eventually an Oscar. Amazingly, Shaw turned down the opportunity to be an Member of Parliament and all other honors or prizes.
He died on November 1950 at the age of 94 while he was working on his next play.
*Originally published in October 2014. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Best Quotes from Love Between the Covers

Love Between the Covers, a documentary about the romance novel industry, went on sale on iTunes and Amazon last week after over a year of screenings and multiple years of filming and development. The film is an entertaining, accessible rundown of the romance industry, featuring interviews with authors, readers, and researchers.
Those who aren't familiar with the genre could learn a lot from Love Between the Covers. Those who are familiar could learn a few things too, or at least be reminded that Beverly Jenkins is wonderful and that they could have made an entire documentary about her. Someone should maybe get on that.
In the meantime, here are some of the top quotes from Love Between the Covers and thoughts on why they matter:
"I think all genres of literature circle around the same human emotions over and over and over…That can be happening in a novel about a Navy SEAL as easily as it's happening in Tolstoy."
– Mary Bly, author and professor of Shakespeare, writes romance as Eloisa James
"We don't see Ernest Hemmingway as formulaic, but every single one of his novels ends exactly the same way. So why does one get coded as realistic and the other get coded as hopelessly optimistic?"
– Deborah Chappel Traylor, Arkansas State University
Despite what we teach in high school literature classrooms, not all stories of humanity have to end in tragedy. Believe it or not, sometimes a happy ending is a more familiar part of the human experience than tragedy.
"Why does romance get sneered at? I'm going to give you the same answer everyone else has given: romance is sneered at because it's written by women, it's written for women, and it's written about women."
– Sarah Frantz Lyons, Editor, Riptide Publishing
"This is the one place where you will consistently see women's sexuality treated fairly and positively. Everyone is going to experience some sort of sexual exploration or satisfaction. The women will always win, and everyone will be happy in the end."
– Sarah Wendell, founder of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website
"And it's a fantasy, yes. But so are the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Arnold's never killed at the end of his movies. So why beat up women?
– Beverly Jenkins, author
There is good romance and mediocre romance and romance that just really needed an editor. But that's true of all books, and the particular disdain visited upon the romance genre certainly seems related to the fact that the genre is more focused on women than possibly anything else in art and entertainment.
"When I did Indigo, which was my third book, in '96, women were coming to the signing crying. 'There are no African-American historical love stories. We've never had anyone who thought we were beautiful.'"
– Beverly Jenkins
"And as I read some of the other pulp fiction books, it was always sad. And I never felt like my life should be sad. I didn't want to have to get married. I didn't want to have to commit suicide. I didn't want to have to do any of those things. I wanted to just be a nice, normal queer."
– Romance reader
One of the best things about romance is that is allows for happy endings, but it's so important that romance and those happy endings be inclusive. All people should see themselves reflected and represented in romance. It matters that everyone has a chance at a story with a happy ending.
"Honey, if you can relate to shape-shifters and werewolves and (laughs) …chameleon people, but you can't relate to an African American story, that's a problem for me."
-Beverly Jenkins
Jenkins is making a good point about an important issue here, but unfortunately the topic passes quickly. The fact that Love Between the Covers largely ignores the issues non-white authors face in finding success and industry support is by far the film's biggest flaw.
"By the time I retired from State Farm, I had written my first 53 books."
-Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson is in a class of her own in terms of prolific writing, but a lot of authors put out multiple books a year while also often holding down another full-time job.
"Non-practical romance is really annoying. Like when the characters have sex three times, I'm totally thinking UTI. The girl has a urinary tract infection."
-Romance reader
"I had bone cancer when I was 16 and I read romance through that entire year of chemo, which sucked. Hard. Romance has gotten me through the tough times in my life. Because when you can't get your own happy ending, reading that happy endings are possible…"
-Romance reader
"For me, coming from a divorced family and not having that (happy ever after) dynamic, It taught me normalcy and it taught me, you know, you don't have to date your married boss. You don't have to meet men in bars and you can demand, you can have a man who loves you unconditionally and treats you like a princess and I held our for that and I wouldn't settle for less and I demanded no less."
-Kim Castillo, Author's Assistant
All three of these quotes come from a conversation about romance among a group of women who are fans, hobbyists, and/or industry professionals. They illustrate the value of romance to readers as well as what they're looking for. Do readers want or need escapism? Sometimes, yes. But they want a Happy Ever After (HEA) that feels real. Love shouldn't have to be a fantasy. And a relationship can be great even if no one has sex three times in an hour.
Watch Love Between the Covers and post your thoughts in the comments.