Friday, May 31, 2013

My Good Life at Home with Kids

This post brought to you by Allstate. All opinions are 100% mine.

When we first contemplated the idea of me becoming a stay-at-home mom the notion was a bit scary. Would we really be able to make it on one income? What would I do during the day? and Could I handle having a kid ALL THE TIME?

We decided to make the leap and I'm so glad we did because now I'm living the good life at home with my kids. I get to be there for all the important milestones. I don't miss out on the funny things they say or the cute things they do. I get all the hugs and cuddles that they will allow me and I'm taking full advantage of that before they decide they are too big!

When things do come up like sick kids or school cancellations, I don't have to scramble to change my schedule or find someone else to watch the girls. I'm already available. This means that I can help out other moms when they have things come up and they will do the same for me. Having a community of moms is something I'm not sure I would have found if I was working. The Allstate Good Life page is filled with tips to help you navigate those little bumps in the road.

I love that my kids get me to do things I haven't done in years. I'm outside more. I'm dancing and singing more. I'm learning new things as I search to find answers to the never ending "why?" questions. I'm experiencing things for the first time again by seeing it through their eyes. They remind me of the joy to be found in the simplest things. I look forward to sharing new experiences with them and seeing how they change as they grow.

Sure we have our rocky days now and again. That is part of life. Overall though I would say life is pretty darn good.

How are you living the good life?

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Author Feature: Jason S. Walters

Jason S. Walters is an author, essayist, and publisher best known for running Indie Press Revolution (IPR), a distributor of micro-published roleplaying games. He is also one of a small group of investors that purchased Hero Games in 2001, and serves as its general manager. After owning a San Francisco bike messenger service for 15 years, he and his wife Tina moved to Midian Ranch: a homestead near the town of Gerlach, Nevada. It is also the location of IPR’s warehousing complex. They have a daughter with Down syndrome named Cassidy and animals too numerous to mention.

Connect with Jason: Blog * Facebook

Nakba: The Civilizing War Voume 1

A thousand years ago humanity’s dissidents fled, leaving behind a peaceful, unified world content to exist in a state of perpetual hedonism. Then a daring escape plunged civilization into chaos, forcing its rulers to expand outward to maintain order. Now all that stands between a newly imperial Earth and the rest of the solar system is a loose coalition of Maasai tribesmen, cloned feminists, shape-shifting humannequins, and vengeful Berbers led by the least likely hero in human history: a young woman with Down syndrome and a bad attitude.

Buy on Amazon: Kindle * Paperback

An Unforgiving Land Reloaded

In the desert life is hard. It can also be surreal. In the absence of congestion and convention, imagination takes you by the hand: or the balls. In this macabre collection of riveting tales, ENnie Award-nominated author Jason S. Walters grabs the reins of storytelling as if it were a wild stallion, leading the reader ever deeper into the physical and spiritual wasteland of the Black Rock Desert.

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee

I received a copy of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program.

Fan's of Debbie Macomber's Blossom Street series are sure to enjoy The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. I loved getting to know the people of Avalon and the book certainly centers on individuals and how their stories impact those around them. I was a little concerned when I started reading that I would feel that I was missing pieces of the story because I haven't read Friendship Bread but that wasn't the case at all. I was given exactly enough detail about each character and their history to become immersed in their current story line. I loved the between the chapters sections that gave us even more details about characters who weren't the focus of this book but had a smaller role to play in influencing events.

I do not scrapbook but the way Bettie describes scrapbooking makes me want to start! The scrapbooking wasn't the focus of the story but gave the women a reason to gather and share the events of their lives. Gee included enough scrapbooking detail and terminology for an authentic experience but not so much that it is overwhelming to people like me.

I greatly enjoyed The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society and look forward to reading Friendship Bread. I hope Gee plans to return to Avalon in the future as there are certainly many more stories to be told.

About the Book:

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

By turns humorous, wise, and deeply moving, The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society is a luminous reminder that the things we hold most dear will last a lifetime.

Buy from Amazon: Kindle or Hardcover

About Friendship Bread:

In the quiet community of Avalon, Illinois, Julia Evarts wonders how to move on with her life. Though her husband and five-year-old daughter give her an abundance of love, Julia still reels from a tragedy that has left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend. Meanwhile, across town, widow Madeleine Davis takes great pleasure in serving up delectable treats and cozy comforts at her tea salon—now, if only she had some customers to enjoy them. And famed concert cellist and recent Avalon transplant Hannah de Brisay finds herself at a crossroads when her career and marriage come to abrupt ends. The three strangers forge a friendship at Madeleine’s Tea Shop, and soon their camaraderie extends to everyone in Avalon in the guise of a unique and wonderful gift. But even as Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realizes the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister.

Life and loss, friendship and community, food and family: Friendship Bread tells a spirited, remarkably moving tale about the triumph of hope.

Buy from Amazon: Kindle or Paperback

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Blogger Development #ArmchairBEA Day 2

Design Credit: Emily of Emily's Reading Room
Today's Armchair BEA topic is blogger development.

For me that means
confession time:

I have been blogging for almost 5 years and I still have no idea what I'm doing. I started this blog on a whim and I've been flying by the seat of my pants ever since. When I have time to read and review that is what you see here. When I don't have the time or desire to write reviews, you get guest posts from authors (often including giveaways). I've tried to add some non book related posts once in a while as well just to change it up a bit.

I often feel like I don't really fit in with many blogging groups because my blog seems like it has an identity crisis at times. I'm not fully a book blogger anymore, although that is how I started out, yet I don't have enough other content to fit into a lifestyle or mommy blogger category either.

Although I've tried to tame it, my blogging schedule remains completely unpredictable. Other than blog tours which are scheduled in advance much of my blogging depends heavily on how much time and energy I have. My goal is to start some weekly features so visitors can know what to expect if they visit on a certain day. I even have a weekly blogging schedule written out but I haven't stayed true to it yet.

I've met two incredible groups of people who are helping me navigate this crazy blogging landscape in different ways. One is a group of authors and book bloggers who inspire me by introducing me to new books to read and by providing fantastic examples to follow. The other is a group of women bloggers in Indiana who warmly accepted this book blogger into their group. Many of these women run their blogs as businesses and give me something to strive toward. They are pushing me to move beyond my comfort zone and to think about how I can be more intentional in my blogging.

Today seems as good a day as any to set some blogging goals for the rest of the year so here we go:
  • Actually stick to my weekly schedule for blog posts. This doesn't mean I have to have a post on every topic every week but that I will keep reviews on review day, guest posts on tour days, etc. This also includes finally getting my children's book feature going.
  • Read and implement ideas from two books on blogging. I picked up My Blog Traffic Sucks! 8 Simple Steps to Get 100,000 Blog Visitors without Working 8 Days a Week (Kindle) when it was free a while back but haven't actually started working through it. Another one that I really want to read is The (Real) Truth About How Blogs Make Money: Tips and Tricks to Turn Your Blog Into a Business (without the BS) (Available at Bloggers Earn Bucks.)
I have a feeling that those two books will give me plenty to work on for the rest of the year to become a better blogger. Being part of blogging communities has been a huge support for me during the times when I have wondered if anyone was actually reading what I've been writing. It is amazing that I've managed to continue for as long as I have in such a random fashion.

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy

Hey blog peeps! It's me, Taylor.

So we beat the Panthers the other night. Didn't think that would happen. After the game, Dwayne came up on the court to congratulate me, and my dad started acting like a total jerk. I guess he wanted to congratulate me, too. He had never met Dwayne, and if fact, I don't even think Dad knew I had a boyfriend. I mean, why would I tell him, right? Anyway, he just started treating him like some little kid. I mean, doesn't Dad know that Dwayne is in COLLEGE? Hello?!!

I told Dad off later that night. Of course that didn't really set well with the family. I sometimes think they just want me to be this little wall-flower of a daughter. You know, just sit there, look pretty, don't talk, do the chores and get good grades. Well, I'm not going to do that.

Melanie told me the other day that I need to really be assertive with my family and start pushing back when they shove, because I'm at that age when they will either coddle me or release me. I'd rather be released. You know?

Well, Dad's been acting weirder than ever lately. He's been sneaking downstairs a lot at night. I went down once to grab a drink from the sink and he was behind the couch, just laying in this box. I had seen the top of his head from over the couch, and was seriously was just sitting straight up in this box, eyes closed, everything. Really freaky.

My grandpa's in town visiting now, and he and Dad have been real tense around each other, which isn't surprising. But I think I side with Grandpa on this whole feud thing since he hasn't given me any reason to hate him. Mom, of course is always trying to do the patchwork for us, and she's holding up well. It sucks that she's sick. It sucks that now is the time she has cancer, when I'm trying to break free from the family. I don't know, am I being selfish? Should I be there for her first? It's just that, if I show any interest or care, Dad jumps on it like a free sample at the grocery store and totally starts to take advantage of me opening up.

He tried talking to me the other night in my room, but I refuse to open up to him. If I do, he'll take that to mean that I still rely on him and need him. I was upset that Dwayne invited me to this college party, and I knew - I just KNEW - that my parents wouldn't let me go. And there's no way I'm going to bring that up to him when I'm that vulnerable, you know?

So, I don't know... I just don't see the lure in opening myself up to someone weird enough to go sneaking downstairs every night to go sit in some cardboard box. But then, sometimes, I think, I ought to give it a try myself.

Centipedes are everywhere now. Don't know where they're coming from. I check my bed every night for them before crawling in.

The Man in the Box
by Andrew Toy

Work provided Robbie Lake the perfect escape from his family. But his life is turned upside down when he is unexpectedly fired. When he finds a new way of escape through a cardboard box, everything changes. The imaginary world of his childhood has evolved in his absence and is now more savage and hostile than even he could have dreamed. Robbie is drawn in by the excitement of his secret world, but will the cost of abandoning his family prove too high?

Buy on Amazon: Paperback * Kindle

About the Author:

Andrew Toy lives with his wife and dachshunds in Louisville, KY. He is currently editing books of nearly every genre and is a writing coach for aspiring authors. He and his wife are trying to adopt their first child, and he is using the means of writing and editing to accomplish the goal of enlarging his family. Check out some more of his writing and upcoming books on his popular blog:

Connect with Andrew: Twitter * Facebook

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Who Am I? An #ArmchairBEA Introduction + Favorite Classics

I attempted last Armchair BEA for the first time last year and it was a spectacular fail on my part. I only managed to do three of the posts for the week and didn't have time to visit as many blogs as I would have liked. I wasn't going to participate this year but some bloggy friends (I'm looking at you Cabin Goddess and Girl Who Reads) inspired me to give it another go. This year I'm heading in with much more reasonable expectations of what I can contribute so I'm hoping that will increase the enjoyment of the experience this year.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

Hello! *Waves* I'm Angela, the Library Girl here at Library Girl Reads & Reviews. I'm a former librarian turned book blogger and stay-at-home mom. I've been blogging since before my oldest was born so almost 5 years at this point. I started blogging on a whim when I was home alone during the day, pregnant and bored. I was getting a lot of reading done but didn't have anyone to talk to and then I discovered book blogs. I can't believe I've kept this little blog going this long! I have times when life means that I read and blog less but I manage to keep coming back to it.

Where in the world are you blogging from?

I'm joining Armchair BEA from Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis is a big sports town with the Colts, the Pacers, and the Indianapolis Indians. We recently hosted the Superbowl and every Memorial weekend fans head in to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. This is all well and good for you sports fans out there but I prefer taking my girls to the world's largest children's museum, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis Zoo in White River State Park. I have also discovered a hugely supportive network of women bloggers in Indiana!

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I just stared reading Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks for the second time. It is the first book in The Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy. The final book, Witch Wraith, actually just got delivered today so I'm going to read the series straight through. (The middle book is Bloodfire Quest.) I'm always reading any number of books to Elizabeth and Victoria. Sometimes it is the same story over and over and over and other times it is a new book every night.

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

Well, if you have been reading my blog regularly for the last few months you will already know this but for those of you who are new: This year I have gotten involved with a non-profit organization that helps in distressed areas of Appalachia. The Monkey Do Project has a lot of initiatives which help provide food and other necessities to those living in rural poverty. Right now they really need donations to provide backpacks with books, healthy snacks, and school supplies to kids in Adams County, Ohio when they attend a health fair. For some of these kids this check up may be the only standard medical care they receive this year! Find out more at Pave the Path with Monkeys.

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?

I'm going to twist this question a little bit and tell you a couple of literary places that I have visited. I've walked Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond and visited Orchard House, home of Louisa May Alcott.

Design Credit: Emily of Emily's Reading Room

Sometimes I wish that I had more time to read the classics. There are some that people would expect that I've read but somehow I missed out on them at school and never got around to reading them on my own. These days it is rare that I feel alert enough to concentrate on a classic especially if it means adapting to the language and structure of times gone by.

Here are a few favorites:

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Closed: Summer Giveaway: $25 Amazon or iTunes Gift Card

Summer has officially started and it's time to get reading!

Win a $25 Amazon or iTunes Gift Card 

You could get this summer's funniest read:

How do you say “no” to a mob boss?
When bumbling hitwoman Maggie Lee is asked by her mob boss employer to kill a cop, she wants to say no.
When her sexy murder mentor, Patrick Mulligan tells her the cop in question is a guy she once dated, she REALLY wants to refuse.
But when her former date, Paul Kowalski tries to kill her, she changes her tune to “Hell, yes!”
Maggie and Patrick grow closer as they scramble to figure out what it is that Kowalski is looking for and what it has to do with her prison escapee father.
Maggie’s search is hampered by the presence of US Marshals hunting her father and her crazier-than-usual family.
Along with her snarky talking lizard, grammatically-challenged Doberman, and a pissy cat, she races to solve the mystery and protect her family. But nothing in Maggie’s life ever goes as planned….

Chat LIVE with J. B. Lynn 
Thursday, May 30 at 8 pm eastern
Twitter: #Hitwoman

Besides being a writer, JB Lynn is a compulsive reader, a runner (of sorts), an enthusiastic cook (who doesn't get the appeal of the Food Network), and someone who has an irresistible urge to eavesdrop at all times.

JB has a great love of her husband, dogs, coffee, purple ink, spiral notebooks, running gear, hot showers, and '80s music. Given enough time, all of these things will eventually show up in her books.

Connect with JB Lynn: Website * Twitter * Facebook

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A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. Giveaway is sponsored by the author.

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Four Paws: Scott Morgan on Being An Author

This is a sponsored post presented by Orangeberry Book Tours and The Quillective Project.

The Quillective Project's mission is to turn the power of the written word into an instrument of compassion, hope, and generosity by putting that power directly in the hands of organizations that share our principles. The 2013 Quillective Project is Four Paws, a poetry anthology featuring bestselling authors Scott Morgan, Ben Ditmars, Amber Jerome~Norrgard and Robert Zimmermann, with a "fourword" by Russell Blake. 100% of all proceeds from the sale of Four Paws will benefit The Dallas Humane Society's no-kill shelter, Dog & Kitty City. Your purchase of this book makes a difference.

Buy on Amazon: Paperback * Kindle

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author
by Scott Morgan

I’m not big on Top Ten Lists, but in this case I see an opportunity to tell aspiring authors some realism about living the life. Writers, after all, are dreamers by nature. I don’t actually like to be the bucket of ice water, but I do like getting people past their dreams and into their goals (which, as the cliché says, are goals with deadlines).

1. You need help.

No one goes it alone. To be a successful, working writer, you need people ‒‒ preferably a wealthy spouse who lets you follow your writing dreams without being a jerk about it. Wealthy spouse or not, you also need people to help you figure out how to write, find your voice, market an promote, spread the word, and help you build your base. It takes a ridiculously long time and more patience than most people have, but the more help you get, the more you will succeed.

2. You’re not a writer, you’re a salesman.

Writers today are independent businesspeople. They are entrepreneurs. They must know how to sell, how to promote, how to sell, how to market, how to sell, how to set up events, and, if I haven’t mentioned it, how to sell. It’s exhausting. If you just want to write for your own edification and don’t care about sales, more power to you. But you’re not going to make it (certainly you’re never going to get your story optioned by Hollywood) without being a really good salesman. Whenever you look at a crappy book that becomes a soaring bestseller, know that it’s not the writing that got it there, it’s the salesmanship of the author and his team.

3. Nobody cares.

A better way of saying this is, nobody cares until you make them care. That’s where sales comes in. But believe me ‒‒ nobody’s waiting on you, no matter how good your book is. And if anyone IS waiting on you, you’ve already established yourself fairly well.

4. You spend WAY more time doing everything BUT writing.

Related to the sales thing is the website maintenance and interviews and “hey, could you read my book” requests and countless other things (like Facebook) that get in the way. You will have to make time for writing amid the chaos that is everything else in your life. So the moral here is, want it. Want it very, very badly or it’ll kill you.

5. You’ll want to quit.

Like I said, if you don’t love what you do, it will kill you. If you do love it, it will still try. The more you love it the harder it will try. And some days, when you see no sales, no retweets, no repostings on Facebook, and no general interest in your existence at all, you will wonder why you bother. If you’re normal, you will see a scalding review of your work and it will make you throw a hissy tantrum like a six-year-old. You will look around and think “I have to go to accounting school or something.” Don’t. Accountants aren’t happy either.

6. You’ll make friends.

When you’re building that base of helpers, you will come to realize that you will make actual friends. People will want to come see you. People will be happy to meet you. They will share their lives with you. Embrace them. These people are gold.

7. You’ll make enemies.

Someone will always hate you. The more successful you are the more people will know your name. Some will hate you because you represent something they dislike. Some will hate you because you’re successful. Some won’t hate you but will find it hilarious to say nasty things to you. And everyone else will tell you that you shouldn’t care. I don’t care if you care or not. But I do care that you believe me when I tell you you’ll make enemies.

8. Have a hobby.

Have I given the impression that writing is hard? I didn’t mean to. I meant to give the impression that it’s ludicrously hard and potentially destructive to everything you hold dear. Which is why you need a hobby to help keep your sanity. Paint, cook, play video games, knit, whatever. Just get away from writing every once in a while.

9. Social media is vital and stupid.

You need to be on Twitter and Facebook and a bunch of other sites. And I don’t regret having been on them because I’ve made genuine friends and advanced my career. But Facebook in particular is the worst thing ever. Nothing but crazies, activists, and motivational placards. Still, you need it, so buckle up and ignore the stuff you don’t like. 10. You need a publicist and they’re expensive.

All that marketing you’re doing on Twitter and Facebook? Yeah, you’re marking to the same handful of people who are marketing to you. In essence, everyone in class has baked their own cupcakes and we’re all handing them out to each other. The cure for this is a professional. Someone who knows how to promote and market you. Of course, if most writers could afford publicists, they wouldn’t need to write for money, so don’t forget that the writer’s life is filled with hilarious irony like that.

None of that was meant to scare you. It was just meant to motivate you. Believe me, the sooner you accept the truth about writing, the better positioned you’ll be to make a career of it.

Scott Morgan is the bestselling author of Character Development from the Inside Out and How I Make A Living In Writing, and is also the author of two short fiction collections, Short Stack and Tryptic. His latest book is How To Be A Whiny Beeyotch: 71 Writing Excuses Meet the Back of My Hand.

Scott is the president of WriteHook (Write for the Jugular), an editing and writing services company for fiction and creative nonfiction. He also is a teacher, presenter, and speaker.

Connect with The Quillective Project: Website * Facebook
Connect with Four Paws: Facebook * Twitter

Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Deborah Carney: Photos of Buddha Beach

This is a sponsored post written on behalf of
Deborah Carney and The Indie Exchange.

Click picture for a puzzle game to reveal the cover.

Buddha Beach is an area on the banks of Oak Creek in Sedona Arizona. The area is considered to be near one of the vortex sites, near Cathedral Rock. Cathedral Rock is probably one of the most photographed places in the United States.

Buddha Beach got it's name because people that visit Oak Creek started building rock cairns that resemble little (or big!) Buddha statues. The Buddhas are created and then changed by others visiting the area, making it a living, ever-changing rock garden.

photo used with permission of Deborah Carney
There is a sense of peace that comes over you if you stop and absorb the energy at Buddha Beach, which is also referred to as Buddha Garden. Being on the shore of Oak Creek gives you the soothing sounds of the water as you walk and enjoy the Buddhas. At some points in the creek there are actually Buddhas in the water.

The water level rises and falls in the creek, so one day the cairns are all on the sand and another day they are under water. The location is not only a place for families to go and play, but it more often is a place where people go to meditate and absorb the energy. If you need to recharge your batteries, consider a visit to Buddha Beach on Oak Creek.

See more of Buddha Beach in the photo books by Deborah Carney. The first two volumes are currently available.

Deborah Carney has been a freelance photographer for over 35 years. As a prolific photographer with an eye for details her photos involve many of her favorite subjects such as butterflies, hummingbirds and macro images of flowers, wildlife and nature of all kinds. Her latest study involves the geology and natural formation of rocks and minerals in Sedona, AZ with the manmade stone Buddha’s paired with the sayings of Buddha himself.

With the onset of color ereaders, tablets and applications, Deborah was inspired to create a multitude of high quality photo books on a large variety of subjects.

Currently she and her partner Vinny O’hare are refuges from Hurricane Sandy living south of Phoenix, AZ where they frequently go on day long photo adventures and discover new and exciting things to photograph.

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Gallery * Pinterest * YouTube

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Note: All opinions presented in book and product reviews are my own. Opinions presented in posts authored by others reflect the view of the author only and not necessarily my view or opinion. If a product was given to me for review, the source of that product is noted in the post. Amazon and Book Depository links are affiliate links and I do earn a small amount for each purchase. Other affiliate links will be noted in the post.
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